Dance as a Universal Language

My partner Jacob and I doing a "fish dive"

In my last post in my "Summer in NYC" series, I discussed my first day at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive (If you haven't read it yet, go check it out!) In that post I talked about how, in partnering class, half of the boys did not speak English. In this post, I will elaborate on this experience, and what I learned from it.

So, my first thought as I walked into the partnering class honestly was "Woah, that is the most boys I have ever seen in a dance studio at one time". As I discussed in my previous post, there is generally a significantly smaller amount of boys than girls in partnering class, which results in having to share a partner with 5 or more other girls, and a lot of standing around waiting. Here, however, you only had to share your partner with one or two other girls, which meant we could get a lot more done in the same amount of time. The reason that there were so many boys was because a majority of them were brought over from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia to assist with the partnering classes. It was an extremely unique experience for many reasons, one being that they actually knew what they were doing when it came to partnering (a majority of boys in my area have little or no partnering experience) and another reason being that they didn't speak English.

My partner Chris keeping me balanced in an arabesque

The amount of experience the Russian boys had partnering was significantly greater than the experience of any boys I had partnered with previously. Most of the boys I had partnered with before this were much younger than me and training much less seriously, so they didn't really know what to do when it came to partnering. In my area, you will be hard pressed to find a boy over the age of 15 seriously pursuing ballet. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, boys are often discouraged from pursuing dance, especially ballet, in favor of pursuing something more "manly". They are made fun of at school, called names, and often end up quitting before they realize their true potential, which is extremely saddening. So, for all the boys out there in dance, please keep going, we need more of you! Also, male dancers are extremely, extremely physically strong and should never ever be looked at as "unmanly" (if you don't believe me, just google James Whiteside or Fabrice Calmels).

My partner Jacob lifting me in a jump (we did this in one take, so it is far less than perfect)

The other unique aspect of the experience was the language barrier, which turned out to be very minimal in some ways. When it came to communicating about technical things, like the combination or hand placements, the inability to communicate in the same language did make things a little difficult. There was one instance that always makes me laugh when I think of it. I was doing a turn with my partner, Igor, called a whip turn, which is where I brought my leg to the side before coming in for the pirouette as he turned me by my hips. After the turn, he started talking to me, but quickly realized I couldn't understand a word he was saying, so he called over his friend, Nikita, who was the only Russian boy who spoke any English. He said something to Nikita to say to me and, long story short, Nikita translated incorrectly and I ended up kicking Igor. So, yeah, it would have helped to speak the same language in that situation. However, on an emotional level, dance was the only language necessary. With every pirouette, arabesque, and hand gesture, an emotion was conveyed and a connection was built. There is an instant connection formed when you dance with a partner, a camaraderie, a feeling of mutual respect shared that is seldom developed anywhere else. It really amazed me that we could have an entire conversation without speaking a word, using only ballet to communicate.

My partner Jacob carefully setting me back down after the jump

This connection you form with your partner is key. You must be in perfect understanding with your partner in order to be successful, and you have to trust them entirely. The only way you can succeed is to relinquish a portion of the control you have over what you do, and put it in the hands of your partner (literally). If you are trying to do things by yourself, there is no point in having a partner at all. Once you let go, and just relax into their hands, you will find that your three pirouettes turn into ten, and your momentary balance becomes infinite. You must trust that they will do their part, and they trust that you will do your part as well.

This is one of the most beautiful and powerful aspects of ballet to me. You can put two complete strangers together, that don't even speak the same language, and they can form a personal connection within minutes. And when a ballerina is on stage, she can move an entire audience to tears with only her movements.

Thank you so much for reading about my partnering class! If you have any questions about it please leave them in the comments, click on the CONTACT tap, or email me at! Please check out some of my previous posts, I recently interviewed Gabrielle Sharp, Co-Director of Dayton Ballet II !

#ballet #summerintensive #nyc #mysummerinnyc #BoshoiBalletAcademy #partnering #boyscandoballet #art #dance #language #NewYorkCity #MarymountManhattanCollege #HunterCollege

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