I so vividly remember the thrill of being placed in a level where I finally got to take partnering classes. Oh! How my classmates and I were all abuzz.
At first there was the excitement exploring another aspect of dance that’s so totally new, almost foreign. That then quickly, and very typically, morphed into a complete bundle of nerves served up with a side order of awkwardness. I mean let’s be honest, you have to touch one another, you are asked to gaze in one another’s eyes – not things most of us at a young age are comfortable with right out of the gate. But, oh, what fun to get lifted into the air!
Both female and male students alike have the same worries that stem from their lack of experience in the unknown world of partnering. Will you be too tall for your partner? What about too short? How in the world will you learn, much less master, the communication, timing and mechanics that help make for a successful partnership?
Even still today when I watch videos of some seamless pas de deux work, I’m in awe of how easy the dancers make it look. (Hmm, I wonder if I ever pulled that off? Need to check the archives on that one!) At times, I actually forget the man is even present. No offense, guys, but that is truly what you strive for – to make your partner look great and you to not be noticed! Will the strength be there in order to correctly and safely facilitate lifts? And, dare I say, NOT drop your partner!?!? There is nothing worse than being paired with a male partner who knows in his mind and body what he should be doing but doesn’t have the strength to do it. So frustrating! The sheer prospect of having this happen makes both the female and male dancer feel pretty inept.
Dancers nowadays must do more than just their pliés and tendus in order to meet the physical demands that ballet companies are asking of them. Companies want more. They want to see more. As a result, depending on one’s physique, injury history, or even the intensity of that day’s workload, cross training becomes an essential supplement in a dancer’s training.
For the male dancer, weight training and conditioning is imperative for partnering. Obtaining great upper body strength will not only strengthen your muscles, but it allows you to lift properly, therefore, ensuring a long career in dance – and your female partner will appreciate you all the more for it! Trust me on this one, girls. Being lifted above your partner’s head and thinking, “How cool. We’re doing it!” to THEN find yourself wondering and worrying how smooth your landing will be should not be a concern!
… So, how can you eliminate this concern?
You simply work to turn yourself into the ‘perfect partner.’ A key element of the CPYB Men’s Program is a cross-training program focused on strength training and conditioning. As if they won the ballet lottery, the men here get to take advantage of a very dynamic partnership that has been established between the school and the Gold’s Gym in Carlisle. With Gold’s Gym as the official CPYB Men’s Program Conditioning Affiliate, several men visit the gym 2-3 times a week for strength training sessions with the gym’s highly trained and skilled trainers.
When I talked to Jeff McKay, trainer at Gold’s Gym, he expressed how the gym is all about reaching out to the community and they couldn’t be more delighted by this new relationship with CPYB. After training others for 17 years, he finds the CPYB men to be at the perfect age to begin weight training and agrees that it will perfectly complement what they’re trying to achieve IN the studio. With a focus on wellness and longevity, Gold’s Gym has a large role in helping our male students become physically stronger and, yes, more powerful. This will in turn help to increase their confidence, stamina and technique. Can’t wait to see how all their hard work plays out on stage.
How about you? Hopefully, your ballet training already includes elements of strength and conditioning. Your future partners will certainly thank you. I’d sure love to hear what is included in your regimen to becoming the ‘perfect partner’ – jot your thoughts in “Comments” below.
Writer’s Note: Stop on over at CPYB.org and check out the partnering instructional videos in which CPYB faculty member and former Miami City Ballet soloist Bruce Thornton introduces you step by step to the CPYB methodology for beginning partnering – cambre, promenade, pirouette and lifting.