Duet – Strength and Technique

Many weeks ago (before the world of physical distancing), I had the opportunity to attend a dress rehearsal for a group of young dancers. Late into the day, a young dance pair took the stage for the first time to perform a duet.

As is typical in such situations, the male dancer (let’s call him Jim) was taller and older than his partner. The female dancer (let’s call her Susan) was by all accounts the better dancer. They performed their dance carefully and we could sense the tentative nature of their partnership. Near the end, Jim was to lift Susan then spin her downwards gracefully onto her pointed toes. But this is not what happened… in a feat of strength he spun her too quickly and she landed instead on her knees.

What happened afterwards was interesting. The surprise from Susan was quite visible… but she stumbled up and kept dancing. Jim seemed unmoved by what happened in the moment. When the number was done, their teacher stepped up and spoke to them (and – indeed – to the audience of supportive parents and peer dancers).

Teacher: “Partnership is the balance between strength and technique. Jim, you could pick up two Susans with your strength – but that’s not what’s needed here – you must be able to yield to her technique and together (that includes you Susan) control what’s happening. Susan, are you ok?”

Susan nodded. Jim looked (for the first time) affected by the outcome of the fall.

Teacher: “Now, do it again. Together this time.”

They performed the spin – still too fast but, this time, Susan was prepared and planted her feet on the ground to prevent herself from falling.

Teacher: “Better. Jim, you need to yield to Susan. Susan good work finding your feet. Again.”

By the third time, they had struck a better – but still tentative – balance.

A few things came to mind as I watched them dance. The first is how I wish all of us could have the gift of a good teacher during such moments in our lives. The second is how important it is in life to find the right balance between strength and technique. Consider…

Strength on its own will “spin you out of control”.

Technique by itself cannot perform “great lifts”.

Neither – on its own – is beautiful or purposeful.

Beyond this, the balance between strength and technique is the ability of each dancer to hold this polarity in balance and to yield and trust each other moment by moment.

To see, feel, and appreciate what this is like… take some time to enjoy some truly beautiful duets, like this one from National Ballet of Canada…

Then consider where in your life is there an imbalance between strength and technique? How can the one yield to the other to find trust?

And when mistakes happen, why not try it again?

Go gently.

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