In Experiencing the Art of Pas de Deux, professional dance couple Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Guerra demystify the physical, emotional, and artistic intricacies behind the art of two dancing as one.
“Wonderfully complete and instructive, written by two artists who have lived what they write about and are sharing their life experience from a deep and very human viewpoint. Bravo!”–Donald Mahler, former director, Metropolitan Opera Ballet
“Perfect for inspiring dancers who want to learn more about the art of partnering.”–Lauren Jonas, cofounder and artistic director, Diablo Ballet
“An effective and lively resource to add to a dancer and teacher’s partnering skills toolkit.”–Dean Speer, author of On Technique
Traditionally, the pas de deux was designed as an interlude during longer ballets and showcased a ballerina’s skills. The male was a guide to her movements and steps, an unwavering extension of the ballerina. Today the pas de deux occupies a central role in dances and the reliance on a male’s strength has given way to endless modifications. Respect, patience, intuition, and awareness are just as significant as technique and the best partners communicate through breath, eye contact, and musical cues.
In Experiencing the Art of Pas de Deux, professional dance couple Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Guerra demystify the physical, emotional, and artistic intricacies that allow two to dance as one. They examine key components often overlooked in classes and textbooks, such as how to build and maintain the connections necessary for a trusting and successful team. Illuminating pas de deux work from both male and female perspectives, they detail the specific responsibilities of each partner. Step-by-step instructions are provided for proper posture, lifts, promenades, turns, and even dance conditioning–and QR code–accessible videos provide brief demonstrations of new and complex movements. Each chapter also includes personal anecdotes, offering a rare and intimate look at how partners can support one another and discover the inner workings of the finest and most memorable dances.
Read our exclusive interview with authors Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Guerra as they discuss the challenges and beauty behind partnering work, and what it was like for them to collaborate as a married couple!
When did you know that you wanted to write a book about partnering work?
I knew that I wanted to write a second book after So, You Want to Be a Ballet Dancer?, and a book on partnering work seemed like a natural progression. Carlos and I were really on the same page in our belief that there was a need for a different type of partnering book—something unique, not just a typical textbook. A book that would delve into the actual experience of partnering, noting all of the in’s, out’s, and intimacies to be found, from both the male and female perspectives.
Do you think newcomers to this kind of dance underestimate the amount of work necessary to succeed?
Yes, in part because it is a ballet dancer’s job to make everything we do look easy! Really, it’s false advertisement! It also seems that we have become overly accustomed to quick results and instant gratification. Ballet is exactly the opposite. Partnering requires a tremendous amount of dedication, commitment, and hard work—all toward this unattainable goal of perfection. To succeed, dancers must be fulfilled by the process itself, reaping the rewards that lie within the actual work. Those who can’t find satisfaction within the daily grind typically get frustrated and eventually burn out. Perfection does not exist—the room for fine-tuning and improvement is infinite.
How can someone who believes they don’t quite match with their partner overcome that feeling and still master this art?
Where there is a will there is a way, and at the end of the day, partnering isn’t about either dancer individually. It is about cooperation, teamwork, and the art itself. Whether ideally matched or not, when two dancers focus less on their own insecurities and more on creating the best possible product, it will usually produce positive results. In the end, they are working toward a common goal, and that is what matters most. In our experience, a whole lot can be overcome when ego and doubt are left out of the equation.
Are there other tips you recommend to duos beyond practicing and discussing their routine that would help them work better together?
Remaining open to suggestion and to new ways of doing things is the greatest gift dancers can give themselves and their partners. Dancers who maintain a positive attitude will generally work well with others, including their partners.
How can a dancer be certain a partner is right for them?
Everyone deserves a chance, and you never know who may turn out to be your perfect match. Some dancers who seem ideally paired initially end up lacking chemistry, while others who had their doubts about one another end up building a fantastic partnering relationship.
What do you suggest when partners interpret a particular dance differently but must still come together to perform?
That’s exactly what rehearsal is for! Dancers should use their working hours together in the studio wisely—coordinating with one another to reach (often through compromise) a common and complementary interpretation of the steps, the story, and the music as a team. In doing so they will find they are on the same page long before it comes time to perform.
It might seem easy for one partner to blame another for a misstep during an important performance.
How can dance couples avoid these disagreements, and how can they bounce back?
The blame game is a total waste of time. Everyone makes mistakes. It happens to the best of us, so dancers should try to move on as quickly as possible! When partners really connect and focus on enjoying each other and the dance, small missteps seem far less consequential—even during important performances.
In what ways did being partners in both marriage and dance help with collaborating on this book?
Having danced together for years, this book allowed us the opportunity to collaborate in whole new way. Going back and examining our shared experiences, and exploring the differences in our approach to the work and to each other, both before and after marriage, definitely helped us to describe the intricacies of partnering relationships from a unique perspective. It was also pretty helpful to be able to break down the steps at any given moment in our kitchen or living room whenever inspiration would strike—much more convenient than waiting to get into a studio!
Did you learn anything new about each other while writing the book?
Yes, as a matter of fact, we learned that we each know a whole lot more about the other’s perspective than we give credit for. We also realized that we share tremendous mutual respect each other’s expertise—a great deal more than we sometimes let on in rehearsals!
What do you most want your readers to take away from this book?
We really want our readers to understand that partnering is a very difficult, but very beautiful art form in and of itself. Success in partnering will always depend on someone else, and while that can be incredibly frustrating, it can also be extremely liberating. There is so much more to a pas de deux and a partnership than perfecting the steps alone. Perfect partnerships aren’t born overnight, and sometimes experiences working in the most unlikely of pairings will turn out to be the best. Clear communication is necessary. For us, in spite of any obstacles we may face working together, we know the final reward comes on stage. We absolutely love dancing with each other. We wouldn’t trade our experiences for anything
in the world.
Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg is a former principal dancer with the Miami City Ballet. She has conducted master classes for Ballet Chicago and Ballet de Monterrey, among other companies and schools. She is the author of So, You Want to Be a Ballet Dancer? Carlos Miguel Guerra is a former principal dancer with the Miami City Ballet. He studied and worked with Fernando Alonso in Cuba, Ivan Nagy in Chile, and Edward Villella in Miami.