This is an excerpt from Dance Partnering Basics With HKPropel Access by Brandon S. Whited & Joshua Manculich.
Weight within a partnering context can be linked to its study in a technique class of many genres. Weight sharing is not unique to partner work. For example, the vertical sense of shared weight into the floor within a ballet class can be a useful tool and sensation to acknowledge in partnering settings. Modern dance floor routines require dancers to take weight into parts of the body. By asking students to acknowledge their own connection between weight and their center of gravity, they can then be ready for and acknowledge another person’s gravity and weight distribution.
Exercises that explore the functionality of weight sharing are key to creating a genuine connection for partnered explorations. Just like weight into the floor can propel dancers through space, weight in partner work can build reliable connections to then react and forge a greater range of choreographic and technical choice. As students further understand weight sharing with another person, they eventually sense the freedom that comes from nontraditional modes of support.
WORKSHOPPING: THE WALL
Dancers use a wall to experience weight on the vertical. First, they explore weight through the hands, similar to a vertical push-up. Then they pour their weight into the wall in a vertical alignment. How does it feel different from giving weight on the horizontal? Zoning into the trunk of the dancer, how is weight sharing different with variations in pelvic alignment (tucked, neutral, or tilted pelvis)?
In Practice: Weight Sharing
Objective: To give weight and receive weight using a shared surface area.
PICK AND WEIGH
Instruct students to pick three areas of the body and identify how they can connect and serve as areas of contact. Have students connect their selected body zones to their partner’s point or points of contact, plié, soften their knees, and then pour their weight into the point of contact while moving their legs and feet (base of support) gradually farther away from one another, which will increase the degree of weight shared. The direction of weight falling is toward (and through) their partner, with a wide base of support away from the other and the shared plumb line between partners running directly below the primary point of contact. Each partner’s plumb line runs diagonally up from their feet to the top of their head, angling in toward the shared plumb line. Figure 2.1 presents a visual diagram of these alignment dynamics. See the video resources on weight-sharing exercises for explanations of how dynamics apply in more complex variations.
Modifications and Problem-Solving
In weight sharing, communication is key for authentic giving and receiving of weight. From an outsider’s perspective, students may appear to have each other’s weight or perhaps one partner has more weight than their fellow dancer. Therefore, maintaining a verbal exchange between partners can be helpful in weight sharing. Encourage empathic thinking and questioning. Ask students to consider this question: How would this be different for my partner if I gave them more or less weight?
The instructor may aid in the nuanced exploration of weight sharing by observing and highlighting obvious challenges. In the receiving and giving of weight, students may tuck or release their lower back to give weight. A non-reinforced pelvic floor distributes weight across the body differently than contact with a dancer through a stable, connected relationship between the trunk and lower body. Weight sharing in advanced explorations can benefit from a reminder that touch and contact have varied degrees of effort, momentum, and release. By visiting exercise 1, Grasp and Clasp, and other examples, reinforcement of self-realized power and sensitivity can heighten and allow for authentic weight sharing.
Expanding and Advanced Skills
Once students are comfortable with falling into one another and stabilizing shared weight, more advanced variations can be explored. When balance and ease is found in a given weight-sharing action, partnerships slowly move their bases of support farther away. This increases the degree of weight being shared, challenges core strength to maintain overall shape, and moves toward lowering and rising into and out of the floor via weight sharing. Advanced variations include exploring the rise from and fall to the floor while maintaining weight sharing; locomoting across the room in a weight share, moving the feet in a shared direction; and revolving around the center plumb line, moving the feet around clockwise or counterclockwise. An exploration of weight share in which weight becomes less equal between partners involves one partner driving into the point of contact with more weight and pressure and moving the shape toward their partner’s feet, similar to a linebacker in American football driving into their counterpart on the opposing team. With less intensity and increased sensitivity, partners can maintain the weight share even with unequal degrees of weight between them.
Early exploration of weight sharing, shifting connections with smooth transitions, and rotation.