How to Deal with Problematic Dance Partners
Partnering is hard enough as it is: You're trying to untangle technical snafus and synchronize your movements with those of another dancer, not to mention building the delicate trust required to catch and be caught, lift and be lifted. Throw a hostile or uncooperative partner into the mix, and you might wish you could take a pass on pas de deux. But don't give up! We asked the experts for tips on how to solve partnering's "relationship problems" as gracefully as possible.
Help—My Partner Is My Ex!
The offstage romance has soured, but he's cast as the Romeo to your Juliet. Disaster? Not quite, according to Dr. Nadine Kaslow, resident psychologist for the Atlanta Ballet. "You have a history of being happy with this person," she says. "If you work through the underlying issues that ended the relationship, there's potential to build trust back." It'll feel weird at first, but make an effort to get to know your ex-love as a new friend and, more importantly, as a fellow artist.
Coons and Jordan Nelson in George Balanchine's "Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux" (photo by McKinney, courtesy Coons)
In ideal scenarios, being partners can strengthen a shaky friendship with your former bae. But you don't have to be besties to produce a great performance, either. "Even if the friction remains, the choreography, the music, the demands of professionalism, and the craft of partnering is beyond whatever's going on personally, and dancing well together has to take precedence," says Daniel Duell, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and founder and artistic director of Ballet Chicago. "Working cooperatively to have a good performance can help restore good feelings offstage."
Help—My Partner's Inexperienced and Scared!
With dance training's highly mismatched gender ratios, it's common for a super-experienced girl to dance with a guy who's done only a smattering of partnering (or vice versa), which can make for frustrating situations. But "it's incumbent on the more advanced person to take the other under their wing," Duell says. Kaslow suggests making "I" statements ("I feel like I'm being pushed backward off my leg"), rather than judgments about what your partner might be doing wrong ("Your grip is too intense"). If you want to give more explicit feedback, Kaslow advises conversation-starters like "The way it's worked for me before is if somebody does this," or even "I have some suggestions if you'd like to hear them."
If you're the one with only a few hours logged in partnering class, don't fret. "I have always learned the most about myself by dancing with less experienced partners," says Dana Coons, who dances in the Ballet Chicago Studio Company. "You learn to be a mentor, a better partner, and a better friend." Rather than worry you're holding your partner back, direct your energy toward communicating openly and consistently about the corrections and challenges you're tackling—together.
Help—My Partner Makes Me Feel Unsafe!
If a partner is touching you inappropriately, verbally belittling you, or otherwise scaring you away from dancing full-out, don't hesitate to bring a teacher, the choreographer, or another authority figure in to help. "My friend's physical boundaries were being violated by her pas de deux partner, and it took her asking other guys at the studio to talk to the partner before he understood those physical boundaries," Coons says. "If it ever gets to a point where you're in physical pain or you don't feel comfortable trusting your partner, pull your director aside and honestly describe the situation."
Daniel Duell (right) teaching pas de deux class at Ballet Chicago's summer intensive (photo by McKinney, courtesy Ballet Chicago)
Speaking up may feel difficult, but it's always better to air your grievances sooner rather than later. "If you wait until the breaking point, it's often harder for others to help the situation, because it's so entrenched in negativity," Kaslow says. Don't suffer in silence.
If you've tried everything and your partnership's still far from perfect, do your best to not personalize the difficulties. "Tell yourself this isn't a great fit and you're going to strive to do your best in this context, while recognizing that it's challenging," advises Kaslow. (The exception to this rule is a partnership that makes you feel unsafe, which you should never try to soldier through.) It might be awkward to confront partnering issues head-on, but trust that the discomfort will be worth it in the end. "Partnering is one of the most beautiful aspects of being a dancer," says Duell. "If you transcend the personal problems, your experience of partnering can really be a divine thing."
A version of this story appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Help—My Partner Hates Me!"
It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.
In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:
Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).
You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.
K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.
Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.
Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.
Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!
For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.
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Dance moms: Where would we be without them? We all know how much support and help they give us—in addition to loads of love. Here are 10 reasons real-life dance moms are undeniably the best.
It's the fall of 2018. As the Brigham Young University Cougarettes step onto the field at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, UT, a crowd of nearly 64 thousand erupts into cheers. The dancers take their places, and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air: Their reputation precedes them.
The music—Ciara's banger "Level Up"—begins, and unbelievable precision ensues. Eighteen dancers attack the highly technical choreography, which nods at viral social-dance sensations and continuously builds in energy. The school's mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, joins the team on the field, and the audience goes wild. As the piece ends, the sound in the stadium is deafening. The 16-time national-title-winning group has proved once again why they're the standard for college dance team success—they're just that good.
The extraordinary Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's danced in no fewer than five Broadway shows, can adapt to any choreographer's style. And before heading back to Broadway this spring in Moulin Rouge! (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), she's tackling the work of one of the most iconic choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse.
Garcia-Lee plays Adrienne in the new FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon," premiering April 9, which follows the romantic and creative relationship of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his muse Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Steve Levenson, and Andy Blankenbuehler serve as executive producers, with Kail directing and Blankenbuehler choreographing.
With the exception of performing on The Tony Awards, "Fosse/Verdon" marks Garcia-Lee's TV debut. "I'm really setting my sights on more on-camera work," she says. "Getting the chance to flex my muscles as an actress in this different medium, but still have the dance part, is all really exciting." (She's got real acting chops, too: While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she actually quit dance briefly to study acting instead.)
Dance Spirit spoke to Garcia-Lee about "Fosse/Verdon"'s epic final callback, how she got cast, and the transition from stage to screen.