Ballet Training

Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky Share Their Advice for the Perfect Fish Dive

Beloserkovsky and Dvorovenko perform a variation of the classic fish dive. Photo by Dave Friedman, Courtesy Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky.

Married couple and former American Ballet Theatre principals Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky share their advice for an essential partnering element: fish dives.

For Men

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.

For Women

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.

For Both

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."

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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"She is a supreme dance actress with an innate ability to bring the audience into her world," says NBoC artistic director Karen Kain. "Nan has always brought such a calm confidence into the studio and has been a role model for so many dancers I will miss her generosity both inside the studio and out." We spoke with Yu as she prepared for her final week of performances. She opened up about her initial culture shock upon moving to Toronto, her thoughts on artistry and why she chose Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow as her final role.

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