Married couple and former American Ballet Theatre principals Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky share their advice for an essential partnering element: fish dives.
Handle with care: Holding the ballerina in the wrong place can cause her a lot of pain. "I learned that the hard way with Irina," Maxim Beloserkovsky laughs. "I suggest wrapping the right arm around her hips, feel the bones. As low as possible, because by lifting, the arm will slide up." Depending on choreography, the left arm can go either over or under the arabesque leg.
Don't splay: It's the partner's responsibility to stay as square as possible. "If I turn en face," Beloserkovsky explains, "she twists open; it's no longer arabesque, and it completely distorts the shape of the fish." Dvorovenko adds: "Then the ballerina is leaning on her side, and she can't hold the position."
It's not over till it's over: As you lift the ballerina back up, "put her on her leg in a perfect arabesque," says Beloserkovsky. Then, let go of her back leg first, keeping hold of her waist. "She needs that support. You're not done until she puts her other foot down."
Tip: "Before taking her into the fish, lift her up so she can be off the floor," says Beloserkovsky. Irina Dvorovenko chimes in: "Lift the heaviest part, not the leg!" Beloserkovsky agrees this is a common mistake. "The majority of her weight is in your right arm," he clarifies.
Let him lead: "In arabesque, when your partner lifts you up, don't dive down," says Dvorovenko. In fact, lean back on him as you pick up your supporting leg into a high passé. "He's molding you into the right position. Stay close, attached to him, so you can feel his cues."
Support yourself: "The ballerina needs to hold her back," says Beloserkovsky. "The moment she lets go, she is twice as heavy." Dvorovenko agrees: "If your body is forward, for him, it almost feels like he's only holding your ankles. Arch your shoulder blades!"
Tip: A simple exercise can help build strength in your back. Lying face down with your abdominals engaged, lift your chest off the floor as high as you can, arching the upper back. Try with arms in fifth position for an extra challenge. Keeping your head and eyes up "helps you to hold this position," says Dvorovenko.
Work together: "Bring her body as close to you as possible," says Beloserkovsky. "The bigger the distance, the harder it is for both of you." Dvorovenko stresses the importance of moving as a unit: "When he lifts up, so does she."