Two Rules for Male Partners
by David Arce
In partnering classes, the first thing I tell male students is that their most important job is to make their partners look good. Only after their partners are comfortable and balanced should male dancers consider their own poses.
A male student should remember this rule even in simple exercises, such as a partnered piqué first arabesque from a B+ position with his hands on the female’s hips. In this case, he must watch her lower back and allow her to travel in piqué before he steps in behind to pose in tendu. If he poses first, and she travels more or less than he expects, he won’t be centered behind her, making both partners’ jobs harder. To be centered, the male dancer should place his standing leg next to hers as she piqués—imagining his standing leg and hers are the same—before assuming his pose.
I tell male students to keep their hands low on their partners’ hips—the lower the better.
To correct your students’ hand placement, tell them to rest their ring fingers on their partners’ hip bones and to use those fingers as balance points. This ensures the hands are low enough for the male dancer to make minor adjustments to his partner’s pelvis and keep her on balance. This placement also encourages a gentle touch, since the ring finger is the weakest finger and the male partner can’t squeeze very hard with it. If during partnering the male student continually reestablishes this grip, he’ll be able to move his partner’s whole pelvis with ease, instead of finding his hands riding up to her abdomen and lower ribs, a grip that makes his job much harder.
David Arce is artistic director of Juline Regional Youth Ballet and a teacher at Juline School of Dance in Modesto, California. He trained at Ballet Yuma and San Francisco Ballet School and danced 12 seasons with SF Ballet.