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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How important is Partnering


theyalldance

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theyalldance

My DS is 16 years old. We are evaluating our training options, and we are uncertain of what is expected and needed of him. We are very happy with our current studio and feel the technique is the best in our area. The only shortcoming is partnering. Our studio offers basic partnering such as assisted jumps/leaps, shoulder sits, and promenades.

 

My question is, at his age, how important is more advanced partnering such as lifts beyond press lifts? Are these advanced lifts necessary to get accepted for a traineeship?

 

There is another studio in the area that has a more intensive pas de deux track, but, the attention to detail in technique is slightly less.

 

DS is hoping to get a traineeship in the next year or two, and we want to make sure we are giving him the skills necessary.

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This is just my opinion, but most schools and companies with Trainee programs are aware that MANY schools have very limited advanced pas de deux opportunities. I would imagine that most places would be most interested in a young man's technique and then would assess his body musculature, proportions, and structure to determine whether he appears to have to physical attributes necessary for advanced partnering. I am also guessing that they can get a good sense of how well a young man can partner based upon how well he is able to "work with" a number of different young ladies in a more basic partnering class.

 

Although I am never one to suggest "studio hopping" I wonder if this might be a situation where you could approach your studio's AD with your concern and ask if he or she would approve of your son taking an advanced partnering class at the other studio one night a week if it does not negatively conflict with his other classes. Most studios are more than happy to have young men who are strong enough to do advanced partnering join their pas classes - perhaps the other studio would be willing to allow him to attend for only advanced partnering.

 

Otherwise I would be extremely hesitant to move from a studio with solid technical training solely for better pas opportunities.

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I too am speaking from my experience as a mom of a 16yo DS.... He has done lots of partnering work over time but very little of the heavy lifts. My understanding was that the risk of injury in a young growing body is an issue and that his time was better spent learning how to work with a girl (and not against her so to speak). He is considered an excellent partner by many teachers and girls but that isn't because of strength particularly, I believe it is because he has learned to read their movements, make them look good etc. The heavy lifting and catching skills will come based upon these things. Again, that is second hand knowledge from various teachers.

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GTLS Designs

It is my opinion that boys should be introduced to basic elements of partnering from a young age... Even just a polonaise where they hold hands and she is guided by him.



When my boys start to go through puberty I am very conscious of the skeleton not always being supported by the musculature. I do my best to avoid lifts where the boys does most of the work. Instead it might be a small support as she does a glissade pas de chat, or glissade assemble to the side. Nothing carried. Then we move on to what I call "cradle lifts" where the boy picks up the girl with his arms close to his body - she is usually in arabesque - but sometimes I'll have the boys scoop her up into a tucked position.



I usually start pirouettes with her doing a releve passe and he catches her waist... which leads to her doing a single pirouette with catch and then a double pirouette with catch. It takes the boys a couple months to develop the hand and arm strength to guide the ladies in a pirouette. I've also found that it takes about a year before I can add a whip turn and/or finger turns.



As soon as the boys have a spacial awareness of promenades, and the basic timing of a pas de chat lift, then we start working on higher lifts (entrechat six) and fish-dives. Eventually working up to overhead presses and more complicated combinations of lifting/catching a girl.



All of the skills take time to develop. If they do not have these skills by the time they are in a company, they are at a disadvantage. The boy who has developed the more advanced skills will surpass the boy who has only worked on technique.


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theyalldance

Thank you for your replies :)

 

finallykf: We have inquired about taking only partnering at the other studio, and while the partnering studio is willing, our studio is more hesitant. More based on outside issues than anything else between the two, and the hesitation isn't due to concern for my DS, but for individual interests. We can go to both studios, but would be passed over for the studio company, and performance opportunities.

 

GTLS Designs: DS is at a level where he can catch into a fish dive, finger turn, and assisted jumps. He can also press lift just slightly under 100 pounds. At the SI he is at now, he took a peek at the next level up and saw what they were doing in pas class. The class was doing bird seats, and shoulder seats where he catches the girl and sit her on his shoulder instead of just lifting her up.

 

What I don't know is how advanced he needs to be. It's not that he isn't getting any partnering, just not advanced lifting.

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GTLS Designs

The short answer is: as advanced as he can get while still being safe (keeping in mind that he is still growing).

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At some summer intensives, the guys have partnering almost every day with different groups of girls. You might look for that kind of program for next summer as a supplement to whatever you plan to do during the year. Summer partnering is a good experience, I think, because the guys often work with several different girls.

 

My son's 15, and at his intensive, he's been working on arabesque presses and some other lifts he's never done. He was kind of surprised at how advanced the partnering is. So the summer can also be a chance for a guy to learn some of the harder partnering skills from really experienced teachers.

 

I'm sure if you ask on this forum, you'll get a lot of advice about which summer programs offer what sort of partnering for the guys.

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By the time a young man and a young woman for that matter, is offered a traineeship, apprenticeship or company contract, he/she needs to have developed partnering skills or he/she will be passed over for parts in ballets. Of course the size of a young person has a tremendous amount to do with how much knowledge they will have, however as parents I suggest you understand, the competition is International in terms of job placement and all the European schools offer partnering skills beginning at a young age. As GTLS has stated, the basics must be accomplished from a young age. By 18, a working physical knowledge of advanced work must be well understood, if not yet accomplished with perfection. At least young men and ladies must not be afraid to attack the movements. Great confidence is necessary to attain these higher level skills.

 

Summer intensives are a nice introduction of course, but in order to compete with those who study partnering skills on a daily basis, young people need these skills in their home schools or go some where that will offer the necessary training.

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As a mother of a growing boy, it is very important you protect his developing body. At 16, their joints are not solid enough to hold the weight of most girls. I don't think overhead presses should be done until they are fully developed, speaking from personal experience. My son popped his shoulder out of place attempting a dead press of a girl much too large for him. You also have to protect him against overzealous rehearsal directors who don't keep their age in mind when casting their partners or choreography. We have had several issues with DS being cast with girls much too large for him to safely lift over his head. When I say too large, I don't mean body shaming at all! Height, as much as weight, can cause just as much as a problem. Also the girls' skill level also factors in to the size issue. Last show, DS son was cast with a lovely girl who was as tall as him and close to his weight. She was unskilled and didn't know how to help with the lifts (jumping at the right time, holding her frame, etc). There were absolutely NO overhead lifts happening in this situation. It frustrates him when he can't and I'm sure it doesn't make the girl feel great if she is too big for him to lift successfully. There was very little partnering at his home studio because he was the only boy and most of the girls were too big for him. He did, through mutual agreement, take partnering at another studio and helped out with their recital as well. It was agreed DS would not do any lifts that were unsafe for his growing body. He also got a lot of safe partnering experience during the summer intensives he has gone to. I would definitely encourage you to explore all of your options in getting your son safe partnering experiences.

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Dinkalinka,

 

I agree entirely about the caution. My DS has also been asked to partner girls who are too tall and big for him. The result was not injury, thank goodness, but exhaustion and anxiety that compromised his other dancing. I'm trusting that this isn't happening at his current summer intensive, which has a good reputation, but it did happen this past year, and I'm in the process of working out a better plan with my son's A.D. for the coming year.

 

I'm really curious, Dinkalinka, how did you negotiate limits with your A.D.? Did he or she decide there would be "no overhead lifts," or did you set this limit?

I've always thought parents should have say in what sort of partnering boys do, since they know the most about their boys' growth and physical development.

However, because of the sensitive issues of size in casting girls for partnering, parents often have no say whatsoever.

 

I know that miscasting and overusing boys for partnering happens at all sorts of studios and training programs, even very good ones, but the danger is probably greater at small studios, where an A.D. has only a few boys from which to choose. It makes me think that getting a partnering teacher outside of the studio could be an advantage. An outside partnering teacher who isn't invested in the next performance might keep the partnering at the appropriate level and not be tempted to do too much.

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GTLS Designs

I've always thought parents should have say in what sort of partnering boys do, since they know the most about their boys' growth and physical development.

However, because of the sensitive issues of size in casting girls for partnering, parents often have no say whatsoever.

 

I think it is important to understand that parents do not have a say in casting - no matter what the situation is. The Teacher/Artistic Director is there to make those decisions. It is their job to consider all aspects and decide what is best for the dancer and the production.

 

If you do not like how your dancer is being pushed (too much too soon -or- not enough), then you are welcome to move them to another studio that suits your preferences. With that said, you still do not have the right to tell the Teacher/Artistic Director at the new studio how to cast your dancer...

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Okay, let's leave the fraught "c" word out of the conversation. Thank you for the reminder, GTLS.

 

I still think we have a great discussion going on here about how parents can get the right kind of partnering training for their sons, and I'd like to hear what others think. Clearly, a lot of us are worried about injury or insufficient partnering training, and we probably have legitimate concerns. Even if we can't approach A.D.s about performance decisions, what can we do to get adequate training for our sons and to make sure partnering is safe? Switching to a better studio can't be the only answer; it's just not possible in every situation.

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In our case, after the one situation where his shoulder popped out of place, I only allowed my DS to work with people in our local area who cared about his physical well-being and who knew what they were doing. While I did not have say over which girl they cast as his partner, I absolutely had the right to outline the conditions of his participation. Before he ever accepted a role, I touched base to make sure everyone was on the same page as to what was safe for a boy his age to do given the partner at hand. I don't pretend to know anything about ballet, but I have enough physics knowledge to know that person of X weight and height cannot safely lift another person of the same or more measurements over their heads. If they did not agree or had little concern for everyone's safety, DS did not participate. There are only a few boys in our area who are old enough and skilled enough to partner. It is in everyone's best interests to keep them uninjured and dancing.

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Boydancermom

Our son is the only serious ballet boy in our area and last year he was recruited to perform in a local Nutcracker. His AD said a big fat "no!" - which I didn't understand at the time (I had visions of sugarplums in my head!). When I saw the performance, I saw why it wouldn't have been good for him - lifts, etc. Another boy had done it in the past and it just about turned him off of ballet. Boys have to be ready to do the big lifts and not all dance instructors understand that - especially those that aren't well trained. I'm much more "in tune" with this now and I'm glad for this thread.

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