Ballet Builds Leadership Skills

Shellie Karabell’s blogs on leadership are often featured on Forbes.com so it’s exciting that a recent post of hers shared seven attributes why she thinks ballet can improve leadership skills in dancers. What a fantastic forum for ballet!

Ballet can teach some amazing things that most people don’t realize. Young ladies learn beautiful steps, movements and combinations, develop amazing core strength and balance and improve their posture and rhythm.

The skills that ballet promotes have increased its popularity with more than the young girls you expect to find in classes attracting as students even burly football players who are seeking to add ballet’s graceful attributes to their skills sets. And few know that Louis XIV (considered to be France’s greatest king) was as excellent a dancer as he was a military and political leader. Dance (at this point in history) was ballet and was taught to aristocracy. Louis XIV was responsible for making ballet a profession. He created an academy of music and dance (today’s Paris Opera and its ballet company) in 1666 so that dance training was available for non-aristocrats.

Needless to say, the benefit ballet offers to its students was recognized long ago. But let’s get back to today. There are some obvious lessons learned along with “the dance”: make sure you have the stamina to take on your task and plan for the time to rest and recover before taking on the next adventure. The intricacies of ballet teach the importance of partnership, the ability to handle the spotlight and pressure, and even that elusive sense that determination that is 9/10ths of any battle.

Karabell believes leadership skills flourish while learning ballet and shares her reasons for pinpointing these seven things:

  1. You learn to focus. Pirouettes require it. Dancers must “spot” in order to turn. Without spotting the dancer would fall on her face instead of spinning beautifully. By choosing a “spot” in the room or on the stage and keep eyes trained on it, whipping the head around at the last minute to find the spot again, the dancer can maintain control of the spin and where she moves after it. It’s a vivid way to illustrate what happens in life if you lose focus.
  2. You learn to do several different things simultaneously. Your feet may be doing one thing while arms do another. It’s the perfect example of multi-tasking. In ballet you even learn to make multi-tasking look effortless and graceful.
  3. You learn the role that repetition and rehearsal play in mastery. While hard work and skill drills may sound old-school, they’re proven. It’s absolutely true that practice makes perfect.
  4. You meet and learn about people from all walks of life. There are no races, religions and ethnicities in ballet. Everyone can and does learn it. It reaches an amazingly diverse demographic spectrum and favors none of them. It’s true diversity training.
  5. You learn to “present” yourself. This isn’t boastful, ostentatious or overly dramatic. It’s simply learning the posture and alignment that enables the body to move with grace and dignity. Proper alignment and posture has a positive effect on health as well. It’s the definition of putting your best foot forward for healthy living.
  6. You learn to finish. Even if you miss a beat or a step or lose part of your costume, you continue. You finish. You ad lib steps, vamp to find the beat and ignore the costume malfunction – whatever it takes to strike your final pose. You do not stop. You finish. This is real life – exactly. You finish.
  7. You know when to get out of the way. You don’t wait around after finishing your routine. You move out of the way. The next group will dance right over you. It’s not malicious. It’s just their turn. And you need to be out of the way. As important as knowing when to make your entrance is when to make your exit – in ballet and in life.

Think about what you learn from each of these ballet “lessons”. Successful leaders maintain laser focus, multi-task with efficiency, instill practice discipline, embrace diversity, develop a presence, finish every time and know when to leave.

Source: Forbes.com, The Guardian

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