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Ballet Talk for Dancers

At what age is it appropriate for boys to partner girls?


dancingboymom

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dancingboymom

My almost 10 year old son just started dancing at a new school. He participated in the 2 week Summer Intensive that had a small performance on the last day. In the classical ballet dance he was partnering a girl. The extent of the partnering was his hands on her waist supporting her as she did a few turns, and a few times he had his hands at her waist as she jumped. I think it went well for his first attempt.

My question is what kind of partnering is safe/appropriate for a 68 lb. Almost 10 year old boy? I am asking because I was approached by 3 moms of little girls who would like me to consider having my son partner their daughters in the near future. Thank you for any advice you can give.

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Partnering classes generally begin with simple things such as learning how to walk with a young lady, how to hold her in one place with both male and female looking lovely in their poses. This can begin as early as 10, as long as the young people are of similar heights, builds and weights. If the young lady is too tall for the young man so many things can go wrong and I am not just discussing technically within movement. Confidence is a major part of partnering for both the male and the female. If one has the right teacher of partnering than perhaps this can work however, the "right" teacher is perhaps more difficult to find than in finding a professional ballet teacher.

 

If the parents in your school have visions of your son becoming, Basile, Siegfried or Albrecht next year, they are not using the best judgment. Speak with your son's teacher ASAP. Make sure there is an organized course of study for partnering, just as there should be in his ballet course. Generally speaking, mature partnering classes should not begin until both male and female are approximately age 14 however there are so many determining factors to be considered. Height, build, strength and maturity are required for what is considered "real" partnering classes. To do a pas de deux should require years of study.

 

There are age appropriate pieces for 10 year olds. Look on youtube for pieces such as the Vainonen Pas de Trois from the Nutcracker. You may also search for Vaganova Academy performances in their small theatre where they do annual demonstrations (for themselves) to show the work of the year and to give the students performing opportunities. If I am able to find the links, I will post them, with permission from the Moderating team, as you do not have enough posts for me to PM you.

 

Move forward cautiously so as not to "burn your son out" before he has even really started.

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Please share with the whole community if possible. DS age 12 has previously held hands in a character class. This year his teacher has indicated she would like to have him "add energy" to a young lady's jump. He has also been doing plank and other upper body exercises in his male only classes for several years now. I am trying to understand the normal progression for partnering.

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dancingboymom

Thank you vrsfanatic for your response. That is my concern, that it will be too much too soon. The girl that he partnered with was a little taller than him and also fairly new to pointe shoes, although she did seem confident, and from my untrained eye danced well. I will look on YouTube at the pieces you recommended to get an idea of what partnering at 10 should be. Thank you!

Edited by dancingboymom
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GTLS Designs

I posted this a few days ago in the Teachers Forum on nearly the same subject.

Posted 17 August 2013 - 08:41 PM

I have 3 teen boys, all around 15/16. They rang in height from 5'10" to 6'1". I started to introduce partnering at age 11 - basically to get over the 'icky' factor.

 

First of all, I've been giving them push-ups since their first ballet class. We progressed over time from holding a basic plank position to 5 push-ups, then 10, then 15.... I ALWAYS do the counting for them, making sure to watch their form.... and I'll admit that I don't count in a linear fashion (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9.5, 9.75, 10). This way they can build strength and stamina, reinforce proper posture/form, and I can push them exactly to their limit (9 & 7/8's, or 9 & 15/16th's).

 

Their first experience with partnering was 2 handed and holding hand to hand with the female (facing each other) and walking a full circle while she is in arabesque. Next, I went to the female holding one hand and his shoulder (his arm extended in a la second) and again walking a full circle. Eventually we went to hands on the waist, and again, walked a full circle.

 

Their first lift was a "pas de chat carry." The female did a glissade pas de chat, and the boys assisted the assent/descent. This developed the skill of timing a lift, while still giving the girl a LOT of control (they can easily land on 2 feet). Next, we did an "arabesque carry" where the female stands in arabesque and the male cradles the back leg in one arm and the waist in the front arm (the female can bring the bottom leg up to passe or keep it extended downward).

 

As the boys got stronger - particularly in their legs - we added entrechat six lifts (straight up, and straight down). I had the boys start this in 2nd position of the feet, so we could focus on proper bend of the knees, proper core engagement, and keeping the arms close to the body. This eventually led up to a shoulder sit (which requires a lot of timing).

 

Somewhere around the entrechat six lifts I started giving the boys handstands against the wall. Again watching for core strength and proper placement of the arms & shoulders. Once they built enough strength, they were asked to do a couple handstand push-ups (as many as they could - usually 2 or 3 <smile>). This lead to the boys doing an overhead lift... the female doing combre back with her legs in parallel pointed downward, the male lifting at the waist/lower back with his arms above his head ~ of course watching his preparation in the legs, core, and arms (and me spotting/assisting the female's upper body/arms).

 

All 3 boys can now do an arabesque press; it took 5ish years. By doing it slowly we built core strength, arm strength, timing awareness, and proper body placement. Of course they started very young so I had to be very careful along the way. I am not saying that you follow what I did - but I wanted to give you an idea of my process, so you can see everything that a boy needs to know before doing the more challenging turns/lifts.

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The ABT NTC recommends that boys be at least 15 when they start partnering classes--but that doesn't mean boys and girls can't learn how to dance together earlier. The Garland Waltz from Sleeping Beauty and the children's polonaise and mazurka from Paquita are two good examples.

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dancingboymom

GTLS Designs, it is great to hear that your group of boys started off slowly partnering at 11 and are now doing much more challenging moves in their teens.

 

Hans, I was able to find the Bolshoi children's mazurka and liked that very much. It reminded me of a character dance that my son was in this spring. Holding hands, and dancing together without the lifting.

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In Russia, young children, age 10 begin their partnering skills with the study of historic dance for a period of 3 years, 3 days a week, if I recall correctly. There are no lifts nor partnered turns in this age group. At age 14/15 they begin the study of character work for the initial 2 years, until graduation at 18/19, which incorporates more partnering skills however, again no lifts and no partnered turns at 14/15. At 15/16 the actual study of partnering skills begins. This is not to say that in choreography small partnering skills are required beyond their classroom knowledge. Again, I suggest you do a youtube search on Vaganova Academy and yes, also Bolshoi to see what the possibilities are at the various levels and age groups of study.

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dancingboymom

Thank you again vrsfanatic. I looked at the Vaganova partnering on YouTube and the boys looked at least 15 years old. I couldn't find any video of children at my sons age. This info you gave sounds like a good guideline.

 

My son's school is on break until September. When he returns, if there is more talk of him partnering, I will let the teachers know my concerns. My son was one of the younger boys at his old school and is now the oldest boy at the new school. I think that is what is sparking the interest in the girls mothers. The new school is different from his last in that he is coming from a Russian led, Vaganova based school that is only focused in ballet and character dance, whereas at the new school the main focus is ballet but they do offer extracurricular classes such as jazz and modern. This is the first school he has attended that enters competitions a few times a year.The mother's that approached me would like my son to dance with their daughters in competitions. I haven't had any experience with competitions so I really don't know what to expect there.

Edited by dancingboymom
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You do not want your son involved in competitions at age 10. Why the change in schools? If you changed because of a move, find another school! Sorry to be so blunt but to go from a non competition based school to a competition based school is not an upward path. Please read the advise regarding competition schools and competitions in general. Please give your son the opportunity to develop slowly and thoroughly.

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dancingboymom

vrsfanatic, I understand that it seems odd that I would remove my son from such a good school. It was a very hard decision. I am a single mother with 3 boys and I was commuting with my dancing son 5 days a week to bring him to all of his classes. As a result I felt it was unfair to my other two sons because I was unavailable to them.

 

I know that schools where the main focus is on competitions are not good. The school that my son is attending now isn't one of those. The main focus is ballet. The school has a very good reputation, and has produced several professional ballet dancers. Two of my sons teachers are currently soloists at a well known ballet company. One was trained at this school. I should also mention that my son can now actually walk to this school because it is so close to our house :)

 

Like I said I don't have any experience with competitions. I am curious about why they are so looked down upon in general.

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If a dancer wishes to go on to become a professional ballet dancer with a long (for ballet) career and the possibility of having a second or third career within classical ballet, one needs to be classically trained.

 

If classical ballet is not a goal, then a comp school is fine, provided you've found a place where the teachers "do no harm" to the students. Unfortunately, there are comp schools where the teachers are not well trained, even in their supposed 'genre', and injuries to the dancer can be the result.

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dancingboymom

Clara76 my son says that he wants to become a professional ballet dancer. My question is if his main focus is ballet would it be harmful for him to participate in one or two competitions a year? The schedule we have worked out for him is going to consist of 4 ballet technique classes, one boys ballet class, and one Jazz class per week. If he was going to participate in a competitions we would be scheduling private lessons to prepare for it.

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If this is YAGP or IBC or Prix de Lausanne, then no, it won't hurt him.

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dancingboymom

Thank you Clara76. The school does have a few students participate in YAGP. In 2010 a girl from this school was one of only 3 girls from the USA to participate in the Prix de Lausanne. I Don't know if if they participate in IBC. I believe they also do a couple "commercial" competitions, so if he is going to do competitions I will try to keep it to the ones you listed.

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