Jim Nowakowski on the Things Your Partner Wishes You Knew

March 29, 2017

There are a ton of variables to address when dancing with a partner. And while every girl wants to make her partner’s life easier, there are some mistakes us ladies make without even realizing it. Dance Spirit spoke to Jim Nowakowski, former Houston Ballet dancer and competitor on Season 12 of “So You Think You Can Dance,” to get an idea of what your partner is actually thinking in pas de deux class.

1. You shouldn’t change your dancing just because I’m here.

It’s awesome to have a guy to support you—but you still have to maintain all your technique. “Be strong and on your leg,” Nowakowski says. “You can’t give up if you get tired, the same way you wouldn’t if you were dancing by yourself.”

2. Being a good partner doesn’t always mean having the biggest muscles.

Your partner’s strength matters, but only to a certain extent. In a classical context, Nowakowski says, “It’s more about weight shift and feeling if your partner is on her leg in pointe shoes.”

3. It’s important to spend time with me outside of rehearsal.

The better you know each other, the better you’re going to feel when you’re dancing together. Obviously, if you’re in a company setting you’ll have more time with your partner than if you’re, say, dancing on a reality show. But as someone who’s done both, Nowakowski affirms: “Partnering takes repetition and experience. If you’re professional enough, you’ll make it work.”

4. I need you to talk to me. A lot.

Communication is key. When Nowakowski was paired with dancers of different styles on “SYTYCD,” the two of them would talk about their differences, as well as the strengths they had in common. “Open communication builds your chemistry and reinforces the idea that this is a team effort,” he says. “Make sure your partners know you have empathy for them.”

5. I really just want to make you look great!

Real talk: Most of the time, the audience is watching the girl, not the guy. So the primary goal in every male dancer’s mind, Nowakowski says, “is to make you look stunning and feel comfortable and relaxed.”