Great Partnerships: The Legends
They made magic.
Memorable partnerships are the great miracles of dance. You can’t arrange them in a balletmaster’s casting dreams or a manager’s office. You can’t predict them. These relationships simply arise in the studio, rehearsal room or onstage, and when they happen, they should be treasured.
How do you know a great partnership? When the pairing adds up to more than the sum of the individual talents, when a man anticipates a woman’s every move, when one dancer seems incomplete without the other, when an aura envelops the room, when you exit the hall spinning fantasies about the couple.
Rules don’t apply, and you can’t generalize, either. Offstage partnerships do not automatically ignite in the theater. But temperamental compatibility matters; so do comparable technical skills and physical harmony—a marked contrast in the height of partners suggests comedy, not romance.
First, consider the contests of Olympians, the partnerships that aim to set bravura standards; anything he can do she can do better and she’ll die trying in the effort. Consider Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones in the Black Swan pas de deux, she stitching fouettés for days, he soaring for the stars, both revving up audiences with consummate showmanship. Recall Patricia McBride in “Rubies,” a thoroughbred showing Edward Villella how fast she can move and goading him to top her in Balanchine’s delirious version of the Kentucky Derby.
Memorable partnerships flourish when one member of the duo looks deeply into the artistry of the other and embraces his or her style, musicianship, and eccentricities. Among Natalia Makarova’s many superb cavaliers, I have always felt that Ivan Nagy deserved pride of place. More than any other, this underrated Hungarian danseur recognized and celebrated Makarova’s characteristic rubato, her seamless drawing out of phrases, and he adjusted his phrasing and attack to complement hers. Does anyone recall the way in which Jock Soto breathed like Wendy Whelan in the monumental Act II pas de deux of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Such matches of sensibility are rare. They are to be cherished. One recalls the nobility of gesture in a Giselle with Carla Fracci and Erik Bruhn. One thinks, too, of the youthful eroticism of Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable in Romeo and Juliet and Les Deux Pigeons. For playful lyricism, who ever matched Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell in The Dream? Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov transformed The Nutcracker from family fare into an adult dissertation on lyrical longing.
When did we start talking seriously about partnerships as a meeting of equals? We could date it from Rudolf Nureyev’s 1961 defection. We started appraising the male dancer for more than his gifts as a porteur. Then, Nureyev launched his partnership with Margot Fonteyn, the West’s most famous ballerina and 19 years older than her co-star. She exemplified the elegant British school of ballet; he was a fiery Tartar who could do anything faster and higher than other men. Yet, this confluence of opposites, this apparent mismatch of sensibilities, blazed its way into the history books.
Consider the career of Suzanne Farrell. At New York City Ballet, she and Peter Martins epitomized the coolest, loftiest principles of neo-classicism (think the pure whiteness of Balanchine’s Chaconne). Earlier in her career, during her sojourn at Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century, Farrell and Jorge Donn locked limbs in a partnership that scorched the stage—nothing aloof there. The moral? Alter one factor in the partnership equation and you write a different chapter of ballet history.
Where are the great partnerships of today? Blame their rarity on the jet-setting schedule of dancers, the performances planned years in advance, the emphasis on individual techniques and star turns at the expense of deeper emotional connections. Great partnerships will not, however, vanish. And when you see one, your heart, as well as your eye, will let you know.
Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.
At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.
When Sonya Tayeh saw Moulin Rouge! for the first time, on opening night at a movie theater in Detroit, she remembers not only being inspired by the story, but noticing the way it was filmed.
"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."
Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.
While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.
When Hollywood needs to build a fantasy world populated with extraordinary creatures, they call Terry Notary.
The former gymnast and circus performer got his start in film in 2000 when Ron Howard asked him to teach the actors how to move like Whos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Notary has since served as a movement choreographer, stunt coordinator and performer via motion capture technology for everything from the Planet of the Apes series to The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and this summer's The Lion King.
Since opening the Industry Dance Academy with his wife, Rhonda, and partners Maia and Richard Suckle, Notary also offers movement workshops for actors in Los Angeles.