10 Most Memorable Dance Partnerships

Balanced Pose

Dancers all have their own grace and style, but dance partnerships often take on a life of their own. These dance partnerships, even though some of the dancers are no longer living, are immortal. The following are what may be considered the top 10 most memorable dance partnerships of all time.


The most famous ballet partnerships produce exquisite duets onstage, with all the passion and grace that embody ballet.

1. Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev

Fonteyn and Nureyev are certainly the most-loved and celebrated ballet partnership of all time. Individually, Nureyev and Fonteyn were each worthy of joining the ranks of greats like Pavlova, Nijinsky, and Diaghilev, but when Nureyev and Fonteyn danced together, magic happened onstage. Nureyev's youthful, brazen force, and Fonteyn's refined elegance made their partnership a success from the start.

One of their most famous performances is the ballet Romeo and Juliet. In the Romeo & Juliet balcony scene, you can see how perfectly these two dancers are able to work together. Onstage, they were more like one entity than two separate dancers.

2. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland

Two of the greatest ballet dancers in New York at the time of their partnership, Baryshnikov was an exemplary partner for Gelsey Kirkland. Kirkland, one of the 'Balanchine ballerinas' needed an extremely strong partner for her pas de deux numbers because of her virtuoso talent. Baryshnikov proved able to match her onstage as his own talents in ballet were extraordinary.Some of their most famous pas de deux are the ones from Coppelia, Don Quixote, and The Nutcracker.

3. Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine

Suzanne Farrell is one of the most famous ballerinas to pass through the School of American Ballet and join the New York City Ballet during the time of Balanchine. Receiving a full scholarship to the illustrious school, she worked hard to become everything that Balanchine was encouraging her to become. In Suzanne Farrell, Balanchine saw that certain je ne sais quoi that great ballet masters are always looking for. He assured her that technique was only the tip of the iceberg, and instructed her privately in order to hone her talents beyond simply having perfect technique. Many called her Balanchine's muse, and he created several parts in ballets with her specific flair in mind. She was a beautiful solo dancer, but some of her most breathtaking moments were when she danced with Balanchine himself. Upon retiring from performance, she opened a dance school that continues to teach the Balanchine style.

4. Marius Petipa and Carlotta Grisi

Grisi, one of the most well-known of the Italian ballerinas, was known for her partnerships both with Marius and Lucien Petipa, but her partnership with Marius Petipa led not only to beauty onstage, but also to choreographic genius. Grisi was the inspiration for the character Giselle in Petipa's version of the classic ballet Giselle. It was this inspiration that brought Petipa's choreography, and Grisi's exceptional talent, to an even higher level.

Stage Partnerships

Onstage, beyond the world of ballet, some performers are just meant to dance together.

5. Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison

In the 1950s, musicals began to take off, and it was not only for the exceptional singing happening onstage. Dancing has been a vital part of musicals throughout their history, and Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison made headlines with their waltz in My Fair Lady. Laced in anticipation of a relationship that is changing, the waltz is full of power. Set on the background of a beautifully costumed ball, in the grandest of ballrooms one can imagine, this dance scene had all the necessary elements to be remembered for decades.

6. Michael Flatley and Jean Butler

Many people only know the name Michael Flatley associated with the Irish dance sensation Riverdance; however, the show was created both around the male and the female lead of the show. Flatley and Butler choreographed a piece together for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, and titled it Riverdance. This dance number was met with such a positive response that the two of them decided to make a whole show out of it.

While Flatley left the show after only a short time appearing in it, Butler stayed with the show longer, with a new male lead, Colin Dunne. The show remained magnetically successful, but most fans remember the magic of the original show, starring Michael Flatley and Jean Butler. Both dancers are still dancing, but not together.

Film Partnerships

On the silver screen, countless dance couples have stolen the hearts of generations.

7. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Affectionately known as 'Fred and Ginger', Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were to musical movies what Fonteyn and Nureyev were to ballet. In this video of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, the grace and the passion are evident.

8. Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth

Gene Kelly is well known for his solo tap dance numbers, but he became famous originally for his work with Rita Hayward in films such as Cover Girl. While they don't dance as often or as fervently as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this couple has the same chemistry and is absolutely magical onscreen. In this movie clip, you can enjoy both their singing and dancing talents: Long Ago (and Far Away).

9. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey

In the 1980s, Dirty Dancing took the world by storm. Not only were girls attracted to the magnetic Patrick Swayze, but also to the idea of choosing one's future instead of having it chosen for you. The Dirty Dancing Finale is the culminating moment of the dancing, and of the story.

10. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

The hit movie musical Grease had many excellent dance scenes, but the ones featuring the male and female leads dancing and singing together are some of the most fun ones. This dance and song partnership is a classic that can be considered the inspiration leading to such 21st century musicals like High School Musical. All in all, it's the music, and the dancing that make this partnership so much fun to watch.

10 Most Memorable Dance Partnerships