everything is beautiful at the ballet


(FBP dancers Louisa Chapman and Dylan Giles in Mark Harootian’s The Daily Grind, photo by Cemal Ekin)

Two days into FBP’s (slightly surprise) 2-week layoff and I’ve already established a new morning routine:  After giving my boyfriend a lift to the train station so he can make his way to work in Boston, I make a cup of tea and sit in bed surfing the web before getting ready to head into the studio for a mini ballet class.  Uh, back up- did I just say surfing the web?  Yikes it appears I did…

Anyway, outdated terminology and all, my internet perusing has lead me to many strange and beautiful things (as it seems to do so often), but this morning’s find seemed like one I should share with all of you.

Journalist and founding editor of Next Avenue, Donna Sapolin, recently attended the SanFrancisco Ballet performance at Lincoln Center and was, as she put it, “utterly captivated”.  Sapolin immediately recognized the “great deal of creative intelligence, effort and teamwork” that goes into making ballet look so effortlessly beautiful and consequently realized that ballet dancers encompass all of the qualities that contribute to a successful career.  So she wrote an article about it.

In her piece for Forbes, Sapolin lists the 7 qualities required of professional ballet dancers that, if applied, would help any business thrive.  In short, these are her criteria:

1. Listen intently. Ballet dancers hinge every move and gesture on the musical score’s rhythm and emotion and the choreographer’s instruction. To do otherwise would result in failure.  We tend to forget how much we can learn by simply paying attention to others’ concepts and expert guidance, particularly in these tech-driven times when so much is competing for our attention. Lending an ear and being truly “present” to what others are saying are vital for learning new skills and absorbing valuable ideas at work. They’re also great ways to make your colleagues feel respected and spur their productive cooperation. So, lean in, make eye contact, speak less and listen conscientiously.

2. Take many steps. Top ballet dancers don’t think in terms of reducing the number of steps in the dances they perform nor do they believe they can cut back on their practice and rehearsal sessions and still manage to excel on stage.  There are no shortcuts to achieving excellence. Keeping your footing while spinning and performing gravity-defying ballet acts requires sustained focus, practice and perseverance. So does developing and executing elegant, simple and helpful solutions in other fields.  Continuous effort while holding the bar high also enable workers in other fields to create masterful products and services.

3.  Collaborate face-to-face. The ballet is all about direct contact between dancers, but that kind of partnership and collaboration is becoming a rarity in many other occupations.  Nothing beats face-to face contact and interaction when it comes to brainstorming, resolving problems and building both team spirit and a sense that ownership of one’s work matters.

4. Smile through it. Ballet dancers perform stunningly difficult maneuvers with total grace and a smile on their faces.  They want to delight the audience — a display of suffering wouldn’t help their cause.  There may be a lot to moan about at your job, but whining will not improve things. First, make the decision to be happy, focus on reducing your overall stress level and developing a more exuberant, grateful attitude. Then lend a critical eye to your own performance and do everything you can to improve it.

5. Show some leg. I love how ballet costumes swirl, swish and cling, highlighting the magnificent muscular bodies of the dancers while also revealing their emotional core.  In the workplace, it’s vital to reveal and tap into your humanity. This is especially true when you hold a leadership position. Expert skills and an excellent work ethic are important, but nothing will take you further than revealing your human side.

6.  Lend a hand, take an outstretched one. Ballet dancers lift, entwine, lean on and support one another. That makes them terrific role models for what we need to emphasize in our own work environments. We should cheer one another on, provide constructive feedback, collaborate and mentor one another with the objective of enabling everyone to reach their potential. We should also be willing to ask for help when we need it.

7. Stay active, keep moving. The ballet stage is filled with action and the dancers never stop practicing to perfect their movesYou need to own your body to own your mind. Energize yourself and your environment by prioritizing fitness. Sit less — prolonged periods of sitting steal our health. Keep learning new skills. And take initiative to move yourself and your work forward. Sustaining motivation is in large part a matter of visualizing your goals and breaking them down into smaller steps.

Read the full article here.

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