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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Partnering Etiquette question


CakeMom

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Our studio doesn't have guys old enough for partnering classes, but this year they brought in a fantastic young adult to partner with my daughter for the spring ballet. He has been technically great and such fun to work with. I couldn't have asked for a better first partnering experience for my daughter.

My question is: Is there a proper etiquette in this case as far as her thanking him? Is it appropriate to leave a little thank you note in his dressing room or is that not done?

Thanks for you sharing your thoughts. This is all new to us.

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Well as a parent of a boy who does partnering, I am going to suggest another way to think about this. It is great for your daughter to have partnering experience but that young man isn't there just to partner her. She is also there to partner him. So I think the situation should be mutually beneficial, no need for her to formally thank him. It would be good if they both appreciated the experience and perhaps acknowledged that together. I don't mean to sound negative or bitter. I really don't. After several years of discussing this with many people, I have become sensitive to the idea that the young men are there to partner the young women. The pas de deux should be a dance of two. Not a dance of one with support from another. That's me on my soap box. :whistling:

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I, too, have a daughter, 15, with limited partnering experience and a studio that had no suitably aged boys to partner. Therefore, as above, occasionally for shows, boys or young men have been "brought in."

 

Thank you, Thyme, for your response, as it is an interesting and somewhat different "take" on this than I anticipated. I have seen this as a special opportunity for the girl involved, as they then get to learn partnering skills/technique that is not a regular part of their training, whereas my assumption (still new to this age and world - not a dancer myself) would be that anywhere the young man trains he will almost always have those opportunities and in fact would be expected to learn to partner on a regular basis as well as all the other skillsets he would be gaining in classes. She, on the other hand, if he needs to be brought in, gets limited exposure to this type of technique and training. I don't see thanking him as being grateful for him as a role supporting her (being seen as "just" a support for the female dancer to shine) as much as being thankful for him supporting the studio that is not his, so to speak, by being willing and able to provide opportunities that otherwise would not be available to this studio's girls. Yes, he also benefits and learns, but the reality would seem (to me) to be that by a certain age, he will almost always be able to have a partner or partnering wherever he chooses to train, but this is not so much the case for girls at many smaller or regional studios. The actual partnering learning the dance, etc. I see as a mutual experience for the two dancers just as you say. Definitely I see it as two dancers working together to produce a beautiful performance.

 

The thank you would be for creating extra time to rehearse at a different location, possibly doing multiple recitals at the same timeframe since he still has his own studio, and balancing all that with his other academics, etc., as well as the more personal aspects of the two dancers working together. As much as he gets out of this extra training opportunity, he still probably has to juggle more than she does by taking this on, and I think most high school girls and their parents know how hard it is already to fit everything in when ballet is your passion. :D

 

But also, on top of that, are there general guidelines for thanking a partner, whether at your own studio or for coming in? I know about the common tradition of taking a rose and presenting it to him onstage at the end of the performance, but I, too, wonder what other etiquette there is that people sort of learn automatically in the bigger pre-pro environments?

Edited by scrapMom
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I'm going to take a different perspective. Merde' gifts are common amongst dancers to give to other dancers who share the stage with them. If one has a guest that has been brought it, then it is perfectly proper to offer either a Merde' or a Thank you gift. I don't look at a partnering situation any different than sharing say: Snow merde' gifts to all the dancers who might be in Snow scene with you. Those gifts and thank you's are simply a way to say: Thank you for sharing the stage with me and allowing me to shine while I shared it with you. If a guest has been brought in, then that is even more the reason to give a small token. Yes, partnering is a 2 way street, but a bad partnering relationship can wreck a performance. So the thank you is for the time in rehearsal, and the time on stage where a dancer is allowed to be calm, collected and has full trust that someone is there to help him or her do their best on stage.

 

DD still to this day gives these little thank you's to company mates with whom special stage time is shared be that male or female. And she receives them as well. No matter how small, it's the thought of saying thank you that counts and especially thank you for allowing me the opportunity to shine on stage by being prepared, helpful, and simply who you are as a dancer.

 

Small tokens don't have to break the budget. It can be as simple as a hand written note or a few chocolates packed nicely. It is just the thought and the thanks.

 

If this is the lead role and flowers given on stage (with bows for the lead dancer), then it is proper to pull one flower from the bouquet to give to the male partner. Florists can "mark" the flower that is to be pulled and is not held in the banding of the rest of the bouquet.

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I want to echo that! My daughter was a trainee this past year in a smaller, professional company and this was what she experienced as well. She got to perform some partnering, soloist roles in a few performances and that is what she and the other dancers always did. Both partners gave the other a small gift as a thank you, the guys as well as the girls. These are dancers from all around the world too so this must be a pretty common thing.

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Yes, in our studio there is a tradition of "company gifts" during the big performances. My daughter and another friend shared the lead in their winter show, and we always hire a professional male dancer to come in (because we also don't have boys their age). My daughter included her partner in her company gifts, and I also went out of my way to thank him. In this case, because our girls don't have a lot of partnering experience, the male dancer came in early to spend the week rehearsing (but really helping to teach them partnering, so patiently working with them) so I think a thank you was warranted. It was a particularly great experience because the male dancer has come to do our winter shows for many years, so the girls have known him since they were little, and there was a certain comfort and trust level with him.

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I would err on the side of good manners and I don't think a note expressing that it was a great experience is a bad idea. I would emphasize the shared experience, as advised above. DS, who has admittedly had limited experience, has better memories of the partners who treated him as a participant and an equal vs. the foreign boy who was there to partner them.

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I agree with momof3darlings. Gifts exchanged by partners, especially when performing a major pas, are common. Candy is a great choice for a young partner. Gifts used to be tradition in our company, but my son has had too many partners in recent performances, so the tradition was turned into a secret Santa kind of deal. Still, the small gifts are traditional and won't be misconstrued.

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Agree with the others. During my daughter's ballet training and professional dance years, dancers always gave each other Merde gifts, small tokens of appreciation. Her male partners usually gave her a rose and she usually gave them a food item. Sometimes, it was something special she baked, sometimes a favorite candy or even foods like Slim Jims - whatever she knew her partner liked. When dancers knew the role was especially meaningful for someone, they often also wrote that person a personal note of congratulations.

 

It wasn't just partners that exchanged these gifts. Many, though not all, dancers baked or brought in some other food items for the entire group. Sometimes each got an inexpensive trinket.

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I have never heard of merde gifts but I think that is such a kind gesture. Also in my opinion, it is always appropriate to say thank you, so in this case a nice note is a good idea.

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this is such an interesting thread! I stick by my thoughts on the partner aspect of dancing which I hope I expressed ok. In regards to the opportunities a young man gets to perform a pas de deux, our experience is that this has been quite limited for my DS. Now maybe this is just our situation but certainly he gets practice with partnering different young women in class but this rarely gets to the point of performance (for many reasons). He certainly welcomes those few opportunities because as we all know, managing two people's stress levels is quite something! I have no experience of merde gifts but I think it sounds great if everyone is appreciated and acknowledged. As has been discussed in other threads, the young men need to feel that they are not 'brought in' for the young women. I think I raved on about this on some other thread where some unfortunate poster expressed how great it is to have young men around for their daughters. Sorry if I expressed this too bluntly but I still say that the young men have their own dancing to do, their own stories to tell and their own contributions to make to dance. A classic example of this issue in ballet are all the Youtube videos of famous ballerinas performing pas de deux with an unnamed male dancer. This really irks me (I guess that is obvious?). :whistling:

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For a pas, both partners give a gift, I believe. So the guy shouldn't be left to feel like he's a shoulder for hire.

 

I know where you are coming from, Thyme. But I think the problem you've observed isn't one that bothers the boys that much. It's something parents notice.

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So just to be fair, I asked DS what he thinks about this question. He was puzzled by the scenario of being given a present by the young woman. He said that it would feel odd to be singled out in that way given he would be dancing for his own reasons. DS thought that a sincere 'thank you' and being welcomed into the cast as a visitor would be more than adequate. So he didnt get all political about things as I did but he said it would seem awkward and too personal. The only situation where he could envision his partner giving him a gift directly from her would be if say, they were already friends and he was doing her a favour (like stepping in at the last minute when her usual partner couldn't dance). Then he thought dinner out would be appropriate!! HAH!! So yes we all have our own axes to grind in this stuff, that's for sure! :flowers:

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My DD had a pretty significant partnering experience with our student company for a performance about a year ago. She was just shy of 13, and our company had hired a guest artist to come to rehearsals 4-5 weekends and then perform with the girls. He had danced with a professional company years ago and now teaches at another studio in the area. I think he's almost 25 years older than my DD. The entire experience could have been awkward and nerve wracking for her because of the age and experience gap but he was incredible. He helped her (and the other girls he partnered) feel comfortable, and he taught and encouraged them. He made them laugh when it was needed and he gave them confidence when that was needed too. We didn't even think twice about her writing him a little thank you note at the end of the show; it was just something she felt she should do. It wasn't as much for the partnering itself but was more for the experience that he had helped create for her first pas de deux in a performance. She was so thankful for HIM so she wanted to express that as well as let him know that she hoped she might have a chance to work with and learn from him again in the future. I didn't even think whether it would be inappropriate, and I hope he didn't take it that way. She once wrote a goodbye/thank you note to a teacher who was guest teaching at our studio one semester who had made an impact on her. It was the same sort of sentiment.

 

As for what the studio/student company usually does to recognize our male guest artists...when the lead female dancers receive their onstage flowers, the men/young men receive a small box of chocolates.

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