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What makes an attentive partner?

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While watching the Joffrey today, I thought about why it is that I like seeing Willy Shives partner. I think part of it is that he is a genuinely nice guy. When he smiles at his partner, he means it. He is the kind of guy who just seems to like life. (Of course, I've only met him in passing, but these are the impressions I have of him.)

Which got me to thinking: can a man be an adequate -- not to mention great -- partner if his basic personality doesn't appreciate other people? Does a man need to have a generosity of spirit in order to present the woman well?

Or can a guy get by with great acting ability?

(Feel free to expand this conversation to women; I just happened to think about the men.)

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I hope a male dancer jumps in on this. But I wanted to add, that I think a well-trained dancer makes an attentive partner. He's got plenty to think about and do while presenting his partner at her best. You may be talking more about the look on their face, which to me is the actor coming out. I have seen Willy Shives in several roles, comedic and otherwise and I have to say, the guy can act!

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I wonder if the essential quality is the understanding that if she doesn’t look good in front of you, neither of you is going to look or be at your best. That might spring from personal warmth or generosity, but it could also come from a practical sense of what is right for the stage.

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A dance partnership is about the closest thing going to marriage. It's a two-way street, and demands a lot of free give and take between the partners. It's a lot more than mechanics; it depends on a real operating relationship between the partners. Everything remains fine to the audience, though, even if the actual relationship offstage is like Thomas and Goodie Carlyle, whose mariage à la mode included throwing china at one another. "The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle is proof of a benevolent God, who caused them to marry one another and not two other people, thus making only two absolutely miserable rather than four."

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I'll put on the first place the technique, anyway. The ballerina has to feel secure first of all, the same as her partner. After this acting skills and after this special "chemistry", which makes duets memorable.

Sorry, Alexandra, but the size of the hands plays secondary role, the same as amount of muscles. I remember Valentina Ganibalova, when she was assigned to dance with me the first time, complained, that my hands are too small. She took her words back after the performance.

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Antoinette Sibley is quoted in Daneman's bio of Fonteyn of being partnered by

Michael Somes:

"You literally did nothing. Oh, I mean nothing. He would take you through the ballet. All you had to deal with were the acting and the musicality - he did the rest for you. I have never known anyone like that - not even my darling Anthony"

The question still remains though, did Somes finish first or last? My take is that he largely retreated into the background rather than particularly shining in his own right.


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Somes is a difficult case, because World War II interrupted his career -- he didn't peform for six years, and was injured in the War.

Back to Treefrog's original question, which was about generosity of spirit more than technique, in reading interviews with dancers, there are some who, you can tell, really liked partnering -- and those are the ones I remember as being fine partners, from the audience's perspective -- and others who give perfunctory answers to partnering questions, and that's just how their partnering looked to me on stage.

There have been great partners who were also great technicians, but there have also been great partners who werre not. Then the question is, is this a personality difference? Or is it because of training. Are boys pushed so much into the medals race that partnering isn't emphasized for the potential medal winners? Or are they given the message that partnering isn't important, it's just the solos that are? If you don't get to run the medals race, as it were, does that give you more time to think of others? :yahoo:

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I've been thinking about this topic since Treefrog first proposed it. I keep coming back to the guys who seem to get more satisfaction from making their ballerinas shine than making themselves the Big Thing.

Obviously, what we see on stage is the result of may hours of working together in the studio, and there must be a lot of give-and-take on both sides for The Partnering to succeed. The ballerina knows, of course, that if she messes up, he'll look bad, but I think the level of mutual trust is the most basic element in the best pairings.

Conrad Ludlow was another large-handed, legendary partner, as was Peter Martins. They also were strong men with incredible reflexes. I didn't see much of Ludlow, and certainly didn't have the knowledge to appreciate his talent at that point. Martins was very cool temperamentally. But when I see Jose Carreno (medium hands) beaming at the incredible creature he is blessed to share the stage with, well, that just melts my heart. :yahoo: I want to be her.

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Yes! For the ballerina, nice guys DO finish first. And I think for a lot of audience members, too.

I remember a piece Walter Terry wrote once about The Stars during the Boom, "For Rudolf and Misha and Especially Ivan" -- writing about Ivan Nagy's partnering. I'll never forget the way he would simply touch the small of her back and she would rise in the air. I swear. And there was the sense that he enjoyed this aspect of dancing -- what Treefrog noticed at the performance she saw.

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Everything remains fine to the audience, though

Reminds me of an anecdote from Gore Vidal’s memoir, “Palimpsest.” He reports hearing Markova and Dolin hissing loudly at each other throughout one performance (“Put me down! It’s the third beat!” “Since when could you count?”, etc.) None of it was evident to the audience, apparently.

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