Thursday, January 24, 2008

Partnering Class at the Wilson School

With a male instructor, we get a lot of requests for partnering classes. Our first question is always, "Do you have boys?" The answer invariably is, "Well, we have one..."

How to teach partnering without, well, partners is a challenge. You may remember a year ago we had our first adventures in partnering at the Rhythm Pointe Dance Academy in Michigan. For that class, the girls invited male friends to support them. It worked up to a (rhythm) point, but it was not the ideal solution.

When our friend Juanita Wilson at the Wilson School of Ballet in Charlottesville asked if we could come up with a way to giver her students a taste of partnering, Valery decided the only thing to do would be to partner every single girl himself. That is what he did.

"Who next?" he'd say, and then the next girl would run up. It was quite the work out for his arms.

This was the first time the girls had experienced partnering and when they saw him turn and lift their teacher they gasped and giggled. They were nervous at first being held at the waist as they performed turns. One girl even batted at his hands like she was trying to shoo a fly.

"This is serious partnering class," he said, and the students quickly got over their initial inhibitions.

The idea behind the class was simply to show the students how it felt to be supported by a partner, so the combinations were not overly complex. The biggest challenge, though, was to convince the girls that they would not be dropped. The sensation of standing en pointe, or leaning, with the added support of a partner was unfamiliar and few of the girls were quite ready to trust this support.

"It's ok," he said. "I keep you."

A couple of the students, however, were able to trust this new sensation from the beginning. One student in particular seemed so natural that Valery asked if she had done partnering before. In all, it was an exciting class because it was unique and different and hopefully it was successful in giving a first taste of partnering to the Wilson School students.