What are the challenges of a classical Pas de Deux?
Pas de deux (dances for two) lie at the heart of many ballets. They can be great technical showpieces, but they can also be dramatically emotional – and, of course, are often both at the same time. First Soloist Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Soloist Nicol Edmonds of The Royal Ballet discuss their experience of dancing together in The Nutcracker’s Grand Pas de deux. One of the most awaited moments (and there’s a lot of competition) in The Nutcracker is the Grand Pas de deux in Act II: visually stunning, musically gorgeous. It is part of the entertainments in the Kingdom of Sweets to reward Clara for her help in saving the life of the Nutcracker and defeating the Mouse King, and comes after a series of divertissements that includes the famous Arabian Dance, Chinese Dance, Dance of the Mirlitons (little flutes) and the Waltz of the Flowers. A pas de deux is a centrepiece that allows two star dancers to shine with their technique, communication of emotion and especially their partnering – the sympathetic way they respond to each other.
In classical ballets the pas de deux is usually for a male and female principal (and often between two lovers): here it is the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince. There is a general pattern for a classical pas de deux. First the two soloists enter and dance a slow section together (the Adagio), then they each have a solo number (called a Variation) and finally they dance together in a spectacular and usually fast conclusion (the Coda). Essential elements of the whole form draw on contrasts between the different sections in the choreography, characterization and, of course, the music.
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Photo on Top: Copyright Royal Opera House 2016 Photo Credit Helen Maybanks