Opening confession: I have never done any partnering work before. I've danced with boys, but never any pas de deux per se. That is, until very recently. I've choreographed a short ballet piece which tells the story of two lovers separated by war. A friend of mine and I are performing it for the first time in about two weeks. Needless to say, I am extremely nervous about this, but I've been having lots of fun partnering with Ryan. He's been teaching me all sorts of scary lifts.
Any readers who are experienced dancers will probably roll their eyes and say, "Duh!" to this post. I am only just learning how challenging and rewarding partnering work is, and many of you might already know all about it.
Obviously, there is so much trust required. I have to trust that Ryan can hold and lift me, just as he trusts that I am pulling up and not relying on him too much. However, I have never in my life felt so honest with someone outside my nuclear family. Ryan knows all my physical faults. He knows when I'm not balancing properly, and he feels when my frustrating left hip is tight. Despite feeling self-conscious about the revealing of all my flaws, I have no choice but to depend on him physically, otherwise our movements together don't work. This leaves me feeling very vulnerable, but that vulnerability is what makes our dancing beautiful, and helps to evoke the story of love I am trying to portray.
There are moments in our piece when me relying on Ryan more makes a certain suspension easier for him to hold. Pushing myself increasingly off-balance and trusting that he can balance me is a big 'leap of faith', as it were, but each time we pull off a balance well, our partnership is further solidified. The more we use each other, the better our ballet dancing is as a team.
I realise that I am not making any ground-breaking revelations here. Good teamwork is all about relying on each other to overcome individual shortcomings and perform well collectively. I've never been part of a team, though, that required such honesty and vulnerability on the part of the individual. Strangely, that vulnerability and dependence on someone else ultimately creates a very satisfying experience, and the satisfaction is selfless.
Partnering has enriched my dancing because it motivates me to work harder and pay more attention to my core muscles. It has also given me insight into how serious friendships and relationships really work. I have always been too afraid to depend on anyone outside my family. Now I share my most personal love, ballet, with a great friend who, despite knowing all my flaws, catches me literally and metaphorically as I fall.