Eye Contact in Partnering and Safe, Silent Rolls
by Patrick Corbin
When teaching young dancers the basics of partnering, make sure to stress the importance of focus. These students can be easily distracted by the mirror or observers, and distraction can lead to dangerous situations, so teaching them to commit to and focus on their partners is vital. Tell them that when they are partnering, nothing but their partners should exist in their minds, whether onstage or in the studio.
Developing the ability to make and hold eye contact is a sure way to increase the duration of students’ attention. Try this exercise to increase focus. Have two dancers face each other and make and maintain eye contact. The task is to avoid “breaking” or laughing or looking away. It’s important not to shame students for breaking; instead, encourage them to regain focus and reestablish eye contact.
There are few things worse than sitting in the audience and hearing someone hit the floor hard. A noisy floor roll usually means that bone is hitting the ground with too much force. Teaching students the correct way to make contact with the floor when they roll from a standing position will help them to execute this common move effectively while avoiding injury.
The keys to safe, silent rolls are avoiding bony contact with the floor, keeping the center of gravity as low as possible, and controlling force and trajectory before touching the ground. Instruct students to make contact only with the fleshy parts of the body (such as the palms, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, or gluteal muscles) and to approach the floor with controlled force at a low angle that’s less than 90 degrees. These habits will allow them to perform any kind of roll safely.
Patrick Corbin, an assistant professor at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, has an MFA in dance, performance, and choreography from NYU. He danced with The Joffrey Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and his own troupe, CorbinDances.