It’s not uncommon to hear dance teachers say that they believe anyone can dance. And when Lauren and Christopher Grant say it, they mean it. Not just dance, but partner: The Grants’ innovative partnering class aims to show beginners to professionals of all heights and sizes that they can be bases and flyers.
And they should know: The married couple met and spent eight years at Pilobolus, the daredevil company known for creating moving sculptures of stacked and balanced bodies. When they left the troupe in 2015, they got to work developing a class that combined Pilobolus’ unique approach to partnering with their own diverse influences from theater, ballet, hip hop and more, and soon became regular go-to teachers at Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway and Peridance.
It makes sense that their classes became so popular with dancers of all genres: Most dancers need to partner at some point in their careers, yet the foundations of safe partnering are often taught as an afterthought, or not at all.
The Grants not only want to give all dancers the tools that will help them confidently and safely conquer partnering wherever they encounter it, they want to bust myths about what partnering looks like and who can do it. “We like making new things, not just the same old ‘strong man presses a woman overhead,’” says Lauren. “We’ve seen that and love it, but what else is available? What’s inspiring to us is that it doesn’t matter your gender or your size—our skeletal system alone is incredibly capable.”
They also know that partnering can make a dancer feel vulnerable—especially in an open class where you may be paired with a stranger. That’s why they focus on creating a space that feels truly safe (you won’t find them filming combinations for social media, for one), and on slowly building trust amongst students throughout the course of the class. “When we start class, we’re just walking in the space, looking each other in the eye, giving high fives—we start really human and basic,” says Lauren.
After they’ve gone through some of these trust-building exercises and a warm-up, the Grants often find themselves introducing a playful partnering move—they call it “Superman Rock-and-Roll”—that’s appropriate for all ages and levels. “Because of the support of the floor for the torso, it’s user-friendly,” says Lauren. “We’re not putting our shoulders or cervical spine at risk.” The exercise also lays a foundation for more difficult partnering moves, by teaching dancers to stack their bones and take advantage of momentum and gravity.
“The beautiful thing about it is that it reciprocates—it’s equally distributed from the get-go,” says Lauren. “One person flies and one person is a base, and then we switch, and it just continues and continues and can build into a nice flow.”
“Superman Rock-and-Roll” Step by Step
Note: all images below are courtesy of the Grants.
Start with partners facing each other (feet almost touching), with a wrist-to-wrist grip. Decide who will be the first one to “fly.”
Though it may be tempting to pair dancers of a similar height, the Grants say that height mismatches are perfectly safe and can be a fun demonstration that the technique really works.
For the base: Begin by creasing at the hips to lower to the floor. As you lie onto your back, bring your legs up to place your feet at the hip crease of the flyer. Stack your feet (and their hips) over your hips, and your wrists (and their wrists) over your shoulders, supporting with strong legs and arms.
Safety tip: Have a spot gently guiding the flyer’s hips until dancers get comfortable.
For the flyer: Begin by bending the knees slightly, then committing your weight forward as the base lowers to the floor, pressing your hands into theirs and keeping your chest lifted.
“You have to get it just right,” says Lauren. “You have to commit enough but not overpower, and stack your bones and use gravity to assist the lift rather than just dead-pressing.”
Note the images below that demonstrate incorrect positions for the base and flyer.
Both partners bring their feet to the floor to switch roles (momentum can help the base get off the floor) and repeat the movement, continuing to switch back and forth.
Once both partners get the hang of it, try to find a flow. For an advanced version, use the exercise to locomote in a circle around the room. “Have fun with it and go for the ride,” says Christopher.
Watch the full video tutorial below.