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Enhance your partnering experience using imagery

This is an excerpt from Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance - 2nd Edition by Eric Franklin.

Using Imagery in Partnering

Finding a good image for partnering may happen through dialogue with your partner. Discuss what imagery you both like and see if you can enhance your partnering experience by synchronizing visualization. What happens, for example, if you both imagine a forceful geyser gushing up from the ground and helping with an overhead lift? On the other hand, each dancer may need to discover the imagery that works for him or her. Imagery that may be unfamiliar at first sometimes turns into one's favorite, too. New York-based dancer June Balish recalls learning a dance with many unfamiliar lifts from dancer Mayra Rodriguez of the Frankfurt Ballet. While June was hoping for technical, even mechanical instruction, she was only told, "You just fly." This advice left her feeling frustrated and inadequate. Eventually, she mastered the mechanics of the lifts, and after several performances of the work she realized that the lifts really did work best when she just flew. Once she had the feeling of flying, the lifts were never a problem.

For technical partnering, the images in the Contact Improvisation and Imagery section of chapter 5 are helpful. For example, breathing as a unit and connecting center to center are useful in all types of partner work.

Exercises for Partnering

  1. Mental rehearsal: Mentally rehearse your lifts with your partner. Imagine all the elements of the movement vividly: initiation, direction, force, timing, connection, space, and emotion. Notice blank spots or areas of fuzzy imagery. Focus especially on clarifying these moments.
  2. Self-talk for lifts: Talk through the lifts with your partner. Each dancer quietly speaks his or her actions at the same time or one shortly after the other. Speak rhythmically in the speed with which you will actually be performing the lifts. Mark the movements with your body as you speak. Notice inner resistance to performing certain movements, and develop mental confidence using self-talk and mood words. Keep at it to eliminate doubt and resistance without becoming careless. Think such thoughts as That was easy, It feels effortless, Beautiful timing, I love to fly, I am in sync with my partner, and We are one. Invent ideas and words that make sense to you and inspire you. Write them on a board where you can see them daily. Keep reading them until you fully believe them.
  3. Motion of your partner: As you dance, feel the motion of your partner. Imagine that your motions come from the same source and that they are motivated by the same intention.
  4. Light partner: As you are being lifted, see yourself as very light. You may prefer a metaphor, such as light as a feather, a cloud, or a floating leaf.
  5. Think, Jumping : The person being lifted up imagines the feeling of jumping up into the air, even if her partner is lifting her.
  6. Magnet on the ceiling: Both partners imagine the ceiling magnetically attracting the person who is being lifted. The ceiling pulls the dancer up and releases him or her at the right moment.
  7. COG over BOS to create balance: When helping your partner to balance or turn en pointe, imagine his or her COG perfectly aligned over the BOS.
  8. COG alignment in overhead lift:In an overhead lift, visualize your COG and your partner's COG aligned perpendicularly on top of each other (figure 16.2).
    COG alignment.
  9. Illuminating your partner: Imagine that you are a shining rod of light that illuminates your partner. As your partner moves and turns, your glow illuminates various sides of his or her body.
  10. Breathing styles: Practice a variety of breathing styles to find out what suits you. First use your breath consciously as you lift to create more force. Ideally you could make a brief sound as you exhale, such as "Ha," but not always during a performance. Then see if you can just let yourself breathe freely with the flow of your movement. Notice if you tend to hold your breath, which adds tension to your movement. Practice consciously observing your breathing during rehearsals. Try emphasizing the exhalation or inhalation at certain movements, and notice what works for you. As a next step, practice breathing with your partner - first just by observing each other, then in movement. Also, discuss with your partner how breathing has helped him or her previously.
  11. Exhalation: Imagine that the force of your exhalation helps lift your partner. Coordinate the timing of your breath with the timing of your lift. Mentally rehearse this action before you perform it. The person being lifted can also practice exhaling and imagine that the exhalation helps them to take flight.
  12. One sculpture:Think of yourself and your partner as one sculpture, made from one piece of material. Imagine the weight and volume of sculpture, its three dimensionality, how it is interesting to observe from all angles. What would an observer experience if they would see the sculpture composed by you and your partner (figure 16.3)?
    Partners form sculpture.

    Courtesy of Steven Speliotis

  13. Connections: Imagine many invisible connections exist between you and your partner. These could be invisible threads of energies, sound waves bouncing off your partner, or simple elastic bands creating a springy connection.
  14. Reflections: Imagine that you are each other's reflection. You are following each other's movements closely, but less with a sense of imitation than an effortless fleeting image on a mirror.
  15. Sculpting your partner (improvisation): Imagine that one of you is the sculptor while the other is the material. You can also be both sculptor and material simultaneously. Be an evolving sculpture that never exists in a fixed shape.
  16. Assorted sky hooks: The person being lifted can imagine an assortment of strings or sky hooks attaching to his or her body and gently lifting him or her into the desired position and shape. In Rejoyce by the Pilobolus Dance Theater, one dancer actually partners with another who floats above the stage, suspended by ropes and pulleys. Such flying actions are also commonly seen in performances by Cirque de Soleil.
  17. Creature: Perform improvisational movement to imagine merging with your partner to form one creature (figure 16.4).
Partners form a creature.
More Excerpts From Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance 2nd Edition