Samuel Melnikov weight training to build strength for partnering (photo by Jonah Rosenberg)

Try These Strength Training Exercises for Stable Partnering

Safe partner-work demands you put in some time at the gym. Peter Frame—former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and founder of the School of American Ballet's strength training program—says, "Even advanced dancers forget about placement once they're lifting. They're doing the work, but you'll see shoulders and weight distribution out of whack." Want centered, controlled partnering? Grab a mat and dumbbells to try Frame's top three pre-partnering exercises.

Photos by Jonah Rosenberg. Modeled by Samuel Melnikov.

Lying Back Extension

"When you're lifting a partner, stabilization of the spine is the most important thing," Frame says. "This is a simple exercise to strengthen your back, preparing you to maintain a stable spine while moving your partner around."

1. Lie on your stomach on the mat, with your arms by your sides.

2. Focusing on your core, slowly lift your head and arms up off the mat. Don't arch your lower back, open your rib cage, or let your shoulders drift up.

3. Move your arms around to the side and then above your head to lift your torso up and away from the mat.

Advanced version! Try the exercise with a 3-pound or 5-pound weight in each hand.

Single-Leg Spinal Stabilization

According to Frame, "This is a classic way to build stability of the spine and strengthen the core."

1. Lie on your back with your arms on the ground and your feet and knees touching in parallel, close to your torso. Lift your buttocks and lower back by tilting the pelvis up slowly one vertebra at a time, with your arms resting on the mat.

2. Release one foot from the mat, extending that leg out so it's level with your other knee.

3. Bend your lifted leg, returning to the bridge position. Repeat with your other leg, 8 reps total.

Advanced version! Lift your arms off the mat, extending them in alignment with your spine.

Standing Shoulder Press/Bicep Curl

"This exercise brings spinal awareness, lifting and lengthening, and shoulder placement together," Frame says. "It mimics lifting a partner over your head."

1. Stand with your arms by your sides, holding 10–15-pound dumbbells (or whatever feels comfortable based on your age and strength level).

2. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle, engaging the biceps and maintaining shoulder placement. Do 8 reps total.

3. Maintaining the 90-degree angle and parallel position, lift the upper arms so your hands and elbows are in front of you.

4. Straighten your arms for 8 reps, keeping your rib cage closed and spine aligned. Your hands should be slightly behind your head and your elbows should be in your peripheral vision.

A version of this story appeared in the November 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "3...2...1... Liftoff."

Latest Posts

Photo by Brooke Fera

Enter the World of the Knicks City Dancers with 2 of Their Newest Rookies

Auditions rarely fail to deliver on suspense. But this? This was the nail-biter to end all nail-biters. Hayoung Roh and Chelsea McCloskey, both professional dancers based in NYC, had made it through what felt like endless rounds of cuts, both on Zoom and in person. Out of the nearly 500 dancers (from 30 states and nine countries) who'd answered the Knicks City Dancers' open call for video submissions, just 20 remained—McCloskey and Roh among them. "We were separated into six holding rooms, where we kept trying to figure out the math," Roh recalls. "How many girls are there in total? Who was called back?"

Finally, the women returned to the audition room to dance one last time—or so they were told. Instead, KCD head coach Alyssa Quezada dropped her bombshell: All 20 women had made the final cut. They would be 2021–22 Knicks City Dancers: the latest and greatest edition of one of the most prestigious NBA dance teams. "It was the biggest celebration and the coolest moment of my dance career so far," says McCloskey now. And that was just the oh-so-perfectly-dramatic beginning.

Chelsea McCloskey stands on her left leg while kicking her right leg up with her arms crossed, a smile on her face. She is auditioning for KCD. Chelsea McCloskey Photo by Tess Mayer

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search