I just received the December issue of Dance Spirit Magazine, and I found myself intrigued and just a bit outraged by an articled titled “Who Needs Him Anyway, A Close Look at All-Girl Partnering.” I showed it to Julian, who stuck out his lower lip in a big pout of dismay.
While at Ballet San Jose School he was too short to do much partnering. He’s finally getting tall enough at 5’4″ to possibly partner some of the girls at Teen Dance Company this year. So, the though of a trend towards girl-girl partnering was a bit depressing to him, to say the least.
The article discusses the fact that this a more modern approach to partnering:
“Traditional male/female partnering fits into stereotyped gender roles, where the woman is light and delicate, and the man is strong and powerful. Unfortunately, this is the 21st century, where girls can play soccer or cheerleader, be a science wiz or a homecoming queen. Same-sex partnering melts the traditional mold into something cool and current, where girls can be strong and beautiful at once.”
Okay, so that is true; I admit it. And at TDC, there is same-sex partnering going on…out of necessity. They’ve only got two boys. But still…as the mother of a male dancer, I’m going to take a stand and say, “I like opposite-sex partnering.” Call me traditional if you will. It’s romantic. It’s beautiful.
That said, I don’t mind the modern and contemporary choreography that uses both. But let’s not push for same-sex partnering. (Not that this article did, by any means. I’m being a bit over-reactive.)
I will say that the article had some good advice on using the legs in a plie when partnering, especially when lifting or catching flying bodies. And it discussed emotional differences, which are definitely there between the opposite sexes as well. Therefore, the article does have some good advice even for boys. I might mention, it does not talk about same-sex partnering as boy-boy….just girl-girl. Interesting.
You might find the cover story of Dance Spirit interesting as well. It’s about hoofer Dominique Kelley. He has become very successful not just by tapping but by using all his dance skills. Seems he’s a pretty well rounded dancer. At Ballet San Jose School we used to get mixed messages. Dennis Nahat told me in an interview for my book on mentoring boys that a dancer with some additional skills, even the ability to tap, was a more valuable company member. Yet, he and ballet mistress Lise LaCour both said that at some point Julian would have to give up tap and all other forms of dance he was studying and focus on ballet if that was the dance form he wanted to pursue. When I said he wanted to take more jazz this year and asked for time off to do that, LaCour refused. She didn’t think it would make him a stronger ballet dancer. (Well, you should see his muscle tone after three months of modern, contemporary, jazz, tap, and ballet – not to mention Pilates.) Anyway, that’s when we took a hike to TDC. Back to the point: Kelley seems to be living proof that being a jack of all trades gets you work. He’s been around the world as a tapper on tour at the age of 12, been in movies, on Broadway, and so much more…and not just tapping his way from gig to gig either.
So, I won’t be encouraging Julian to focus only on one form of dance any time soon. I do think it’s great to find one area you want to be really great at, and to let the other areas be your “lesser” forms. But, by all means, learn them all and be good at them. It seems to me that that is the way to a busy (which means successful) dance career.