World Ballet Day: Paul Clarke on Classical Partnering
2nd November 2022
After sharing his progressive perspective on gender-neutral ballet training earlier this year, we caught up with Ballet Tutor Paul Clarke ahead of World Ballet Day 2022, to discuss classical partnering, and pas de deux classes at Rambert School.
Q: How has classical partnering changed within Rambert School?
A: The success of the gender-neutral solo contributed to further thought about how the school might implement a more open and inclusive approach to other areas of student training. One obvious area was pointe work and then of course, pas de deux. These disciplines have, by definition, been stereotypically gendered. So, we decided to offer pointe work coaching to all students with the view that those students with little or no prior experience could progress safely into partial and full pointe work training. This has, of course, had some impact upon the pas de deux training. For example, we now encourage same sex partnering and include this within first year group choreography. This gives the classical partnering a greater parity with the contemporary partnering. Also to create consistency between the two dance genres, we now refer to the class as classical partnering. Having said all of the above, the core discipline remains the same.
Q: How are these changes enhancing training for the better?
A: It is really important that classical partnering skills are something that everyone feels they can be a part of. Opening up the ballet repertoire and breaking away from typical gendered stereotypes has given the students greater agency and freedom to be comfortable as themselves in an open and completely accepting environment. This inclusivity now runs through the entire student training programme which we feel can only be a good thing given society’s more enlightened stance on LGBTQ+ rights.
Q: Have you noticed a difference in partner work in a post-covid world?
A: It took quite some time, for obvious reasons, to reintroduce partner work into the time–table. When we were able to begin again, it felt like a very positive statement: We’re Back! Of course, this had to be carefully introduced as students hadn’t been on training with each other during the lockdowns so it was a gradual thing. The students have an inherent desire to dance and a great work ethic and our new approach to partnering work has been fully embraced by all.
At Rambert School, Excellence Come in All Forms. As the world around us continues to evolve and progress, we aim to mirror that in our training.
Photographer credit: Jack Thomson, featuring third year students