How to Do Advanced Lifts in Pas de Deux

f you’ve mastered fish dives, feel great doing press lifts, and have perfected the transitions in your presage lift, you and your partner may be ready to dive in to some more advanced pas de deux moves. Try these stunning lifts, using the guidance of your teacher and the beauty of the moves for inspiration. They’re sure to wow the crowd—and your fellow dancers!

The Bicycle Lift

What It Looks Like

A fantastic and triumphant looking move, the bicycle is named for the action of the ballerina’s legs at the peak of the lift. In the Soviet Union, the bicycle was only performed by married couples, due to the fact that the ballerina must sit on her partner’s hand as though it were a bicycle seat. With the other hand, he supports her straightened leg, raising her high up toward the rafters of the theatre. This risqué move was deemed inappropriate for partners out of wedlock to perform.


The most difficult part of this lift is the entrance. The ballerina goes into the lift from a distance, running toward her partner. She should treat the entrance like a running shoulder sit: turning to face away from her partner at the last moment and jumping straight up. As she does so, he must get under her, immediately placing his hands and elevating her to the final position.

In order to exit the lift, the male must lower his partner straight down; it is actually easiest to drop her straight down and catch her by the waist before she hits the ground, so as to get her in the proper position for a landing.

Getting Past the Hard Part

The start is the most difficult part of this lift for both parties.

The ballerina must make sure to get enough momentum going into the lift to be able to really jump into it. Once up there, she has to be fully aligned, keep a strong core, and not tip forward.

Men will also find the difficulty at the peak of the lift as they try to keep their partner aligned and centered. They must make sure to keep the straightened arm strong and active—if it relaxes even the slightest bit, the ballerina’s weight will be tipped off center and forward, causing her to lose stability.

The Giselle/Boat Lift

What It Looks Like

A lift too difficult for some dancers to even attempt, the boat lift is a stunning portrayal of verticality. The ballerina is raised over her partner in a horizontal position, as though hovering above him from the heavens, with her legs bent and one arm stretched out in homage to the romantic era.


In order to enter this lift, the ballerina must get a little momentum by running towards her partner. Once close, she should then jump, attempting to actually jump not only up, but over him. He will catch her by the front of the hips and raise her up, using her momentum to assist the lift.

Exiting this lift is scary, but relatively simple: The male lowers his partner, tipping her from a horizontal to a vertical position as he arcs her gently to the ground, such that she’ll end upright on her feet.

Getting Past the Hard Part

The entrance of this lift is the most difficult part for both partners. They should first practice the feeling of the lift while lying down. To do this, the man simply lays on his back, arms outstretched from the shoulders. The ballerina enters the lift slowly by stepping onto his hands before transferring her weight to her hips, where he will hold her.

Once comfortable performing the lift lying down, the partners can practice with the man kneeling. The ballerina can then step into the lift with a little more momentum.

These preparatory exercises will ensure that both dancers are comfortable with the positioning of the lift, while at the same time minimizing the distance the ballerina would fall if it went wrong.

The One-Handed Presage Lift

What It Looks Like

This lift is a great move of bravado, demonstrating both strength and skill as the male lifts the ballerina overhead, then lets go with one hand. The ballerina will, in this rare case, be allowed to look down at her partner as the verticality of her line in the air makes doing so much less risky.


The approach for this lift is the same as it would be for an arabesque presage. The ballerina should do a preparatory relevé to sous sus to get centered and build momentum. From there, she lifts as though going into the presage, but tipped slightly downward toward her supporting leg. The male will, at the peak of the jump, let go of her arabesque leg.

Since this lift is very quick and not sustained, the exit should follow naturally. After letting go, the male should replace his hand on his partner’s arabesque leg to lower her down and control her momentum.

Hot Tip: Tutu Terror

Be careful using this lift with tutu intensive pas de deux. Rehearse with a practice tutu before performing, as costumes can cause spacing alterations.

Getting Past the Hard Part

The most difficult aspect of the one handed presage lift is in letting go while still maintaining control. To do this properly, the lift should be practiced at its normal speed, but with two hands. The male can start by just releasing his hand for a split second, gradually increasing the time as both partners feel comfortable.

The ballerina must make sure to hold her position tightly, even if it means having a lower working leg. This ensures that she is easy to lift and won’t slip away from her partner, taking a dive toward the floor.

Reach New Heights

These lifts are difficult, beautiful, and awe inspiring, so have fun with them. Just remember to have an instructor and spotters nearby as you attempt them. And always dance safe!

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