Pivot Points and Partner Walks
By David Arce
After male students understand the basics of a partnered promenade (keeping the female dancer well balanced over her supporting leg, his hands as contact points on her hips), it’s time to work on their footwork in arabesque promenades.
The male dancer’s pivot point will be either his right or left foot, the same as his partner’s supporting foot. As he rotates around her, his pivot foot barely lifts off the floor and stays very close to her pointe shoe, his pivot leg remains as close as possible to her supporting leg, and his other leg does most of the work. Remind him to maintain turnout as he rotates. When his hip makes contact with her supporting leg, and his hands are low on her hips, this becomes a very stable and balanced position for both dancers. This principle works for promenades in other positions as well.
In classical ballet pas de deux, the male dancer typically leads the female onstage in a hand-and-waist position. When entering, assuming starting positions, moving through transitions, or exiting, the male dancer “drives” when partners walk or run together. Younger dancers need to be told this early and often to avoid battles over which dancer leads.
Instruct the male dancer to keep an underhand grip with his partner that is light yet confident. The real working hand for him is the one on her hip, and he can slow down or speed up their walking and running by lightly pushing or pulling on her hip. Often a young female dancer will grab her partner’s hand and try to pull him along—make sure to correct this. Finally, when partners walk side by side, the male dancer should stay slightly ahead, to complete the traditional picture of leading his ballerina.
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.