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

10 Tips For Improving Your Pas de Deux Skills

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

Giphy

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

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

Margaret

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