How To

10 Tips For Improving Your Pas de Deux Skills

Gonzalo Garcia and Sterling Hyltin showing off some pristine partnering in George Balanchine's Vienna Waltzes (Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet)

A pas de deux can be one of the most mesmerizing parts of a ballet. But a lot goes into a beautiful duet—and getting tricky partnering right takes tons of practice and training.

Struggling with pas de deux? Jared Nelson, Associate Artistic Director of the California Ballet Company, gave us 10 tips that all dancers can benefit from.

Put Others First

When partnering, make the safety and comfort of your partner is a priority. "Always take care of your partner first, then yourself. A man's tendu behind his ballerina can always wait until she is on her leg," Nelson says.

Watch Your Timing

Paying close attention to your partner will help keep you in sync. "[You need to have] a true understanding of a person's plie and matching them. Every person is different.

Increase Your Versatility

"The more versatile a dancer you are alone, the better an understanding you'll have of how to put someone off balance, and then back on," Nelson says.

Have Compassion

Recognize your partner's—and your own—shortcomings, and be understanding about them. "Understand your partner's ego and know when they're having a bad day," Nelson says. "There's no time to waste on who's right or wrong."

Practice, Practice, Practice

This goes without saying, but practice is always essential. "Don't limit yourself to partnering class," Nelson says. "Grab someone during your free time and work on a pas de deux. Getting to know many different types of bodies will help you understand how to make everyone look good."

Watch and Learn

Draw inspiration from older, more experienced dancers. "Ask for help and pointers, and truly open your eyes and see what works," Nelson says. "Then the fun of making partnering look easy will come to you."

Build Trust

Good partnering requires immense amounts of trust. "Trust is definitely earned, but when you develop that trust with someone, it'll allow you to really go for it onstage," Nelson says.

Let Your Muscles Do the Work

Building muscle mass will help you in all aspects of partnering. "Men, never stop doing push-ups. Women, you need to develop upper body strength as well, to push down as the man pushes up. With the demands of choreography in partnering nowadays, you never know what is going to be asked of you," Nelson says.

Be Humble

Never let your ego stand in the way of a good partnership. "You can always learn from someone else," Nelson says. "Don't be the one who thinks they know it all. Partnering is about working together, not bossing your partner around."

The Woman Is Always Right


Sorry, gents. "This is an old-school philosophy that I will always stick to, because it's almost always true," Nelson says.

Show Comments ()
Cover Story
(From left) Mean Girls dancers Riza Takahashi, Ben Cook, Kamille Upshaw, Jonalyn Saxer, DeMarius R. Copes, and Stephanie Lynn Bissonnette (photos by Erin Baiano)

Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.

OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.

Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.

Keep reading... Show less
Screenshot form YouTube

What do you get when a hoard of dancers collaborate to the catchy tune of "Love Somebody," by the band Frenship? The most epic dance party ever, of course! Said dance party was produced by the talented Michael Riccio, who's performed in feature films, including "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" and "Shrek Forever After."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider (Warner Brothers)

Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:

You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.

Keep reading... Show less

Think you're a true bunhead? Put your ballerina brain to the test!

Keep reading... Show less
University of Minnesota Dance Team (courtesy University of Minnesota)

They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.

Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.

These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.

Keep reading... Show less
courtesy ADCC

Are you a high school senior who's been accepted to a four-year accredited college or university program? Congrats! Within the 2017-2018 season, have you competed in events run by at least two of the organizations in the above graphic? Double congrats, because the Association of Dance Conventions and Competitions, or ADCC for short, wants to give you $1,000 (!!) towards college tuition.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Amanda LaCount (photo by Rich Clark Photography, courtesy LaCount)

From dancing in music videos (including Katy Perry's "Swish Swish") to performing on reality TV shows (including "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Voice"), 17-year-old Amanda LaCount is already conquering the commercial scene. If you've ever seen her dance, you understand why: She's a hard-hitting phenom with major stage presence. But in an industry where not having the "right" look can jeopardize your career, Amanda's also blazed her own path by accepting her beautiful curvy body the way it is.

Amanda's never let body-shamers discourage her from going after her dreams. She hopes that by breaking the "dancers are skinny" stereotype, she'll give others the courage to highlight their own unique features rather than hiding them or changing them to fit repressive industry standards. She's even started a campaign, #breakingthestereotype, to inspire artists of all shapes, colors, and sizes to dance for themselves.

We caught up with this dancing maverick to get her advice on cultivating body confidence in a world that's obsessed with the "perfect" body.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

All the dancers in my level auditioned for a prestigious summer intensive—but I'm the only one who got in. Now everything is incredibly awkward at the studio. I'm really excited about the program, but I don't want to make my friends feel bad. What can I do?


Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Via Instagram

Can't get enough of the dance party T. Swift throws herself in her "Delicate" music video? Take a look at the two making-of clips Taylor just shared on her Instagram, showing her practicing the vid's charmingly awkward choreography.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
#4: Pointe shoes are simultaneously the best and the worst things in the world. (Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Ballet is so beautiful...and SO STUPID HARD. Are you an aspiring ballerina? Here are 10 struggles you probably deal with every single day.

Keep reading... Show less


Want to Be on Our Cover?





Get Dance Spirit in your inbox