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I'll be taking my first partnering classes at an intensive this summer. Since there aren't any guys at my studio, how can I prepare ahead of time? —Lucia
Partnering is a two-way street based on timing, cooperation and trust. For instance, during a press lift, the woman jumps at the exact moment the man hoists her body to help give him momentum. During promenades, she’s constantly negotiating her center of gravity with her partner so that she doesn’t fall off balance. It truly does take two, so there isn’t a whole lot you can do ahead of time.
One exercise you can practice with a classmate is a simple promenade in coupé or a low arabesque. Start by getting a feel for the grip. Have your partner hold out her right arm; take her hand with your right hand, creating an S-curve with your arms. Ask her to push up into your hand with resistance; at the same time, push down into hers. You should feel the muscles in your upper arms and shoulders engage. After playing around with the grip, take coupé on pointe and have your partner slowly promenade you. The resistance between your arms should help “lock” your position.
Another way to prepare is to bone up on your pointework. During a pas de deux class, you spend much of your time balancing on one foot. Whenever possible, practice balancing on pointe in passé, arabesque and attitude. Concentrate on maintaining the turnout in your supporting leg, and pulling up and out of your shoe. In addition, practice simple turning combinations (for example, bourrée forward to fourth position, single or double pirouette). Pilates or other core-strengthening exercises can also help increase your stability on pointe. While your partner is there to help you, he’s not there to prop you up or paddle you around—you want to dance as solidly as you would if dancing alone.