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What defines a great leader? By Anaya Bobst

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14 Mar 2017

“Knowledge and passion. If you have someone on top of you that you can trust (…) who is not superficial, and (…) who has the art form as a priority”, they are great leaders, Yohan Stegli, Ballet master, Deputy of the Artistic Director of the National Youth Ballet, and contemporary variations coach at the Prix de Lausanne answered.

“You cannot clock in, clock out (…), there has to be a passion and drive there to always strive for it to be the best it can. A lot of the times I say, it is not about what is easiest; it is about what is best, within reasonable limitations”, editor-and-chief of Pointe Magazine, Amy Brandt said.

“Constantly trying to provide (…) motivation to (…) staff is important and I think for any leader, any director”, as well as being open, decisive, organized, and able to delegate, she continued.

Lately, I have been thinking about different leadership qualities due to my growing interest in rehearsal directing, choreographing, program coordinating, teaching, and facilitating discussions in dance. Fortunately, with highly active female leaders present at the Prix competition, I learned more about the challenges of transitioning from a dancer to a leader and some vital attributes a leader should have.

In a Daily Dance Discussion, Gigi Hyatt, Deputy Director of The School of The Hamburg Ballet and jury member this year, talked about her difficulties of becoming a leader since she was usually told what do and in what order as a dancer. It took a while to notice how her schedule could be different, and realized the freedom it provided. No longer identifying herself as a dancer was also hard, but once that attachment dissipated, she knew she had the choice of creating a positive or negative transition. Similarly, Sue Jin Kang, Artistic Director of the Korean National Ballet and jury member this year, explained how different dancing is from working as a leader. However, after a debacle as a cast E member of La Sylphide, she learned a great approach to work from and live by: to always be prepared. Moreover, understanding that one no longer is at the center of the work and how to recognize and delegate what others can do better, was a challenge for Loipa Araujo, Associated Artistic Director of the English National Ballet.

As an aspiring leader, I listened carefully to how Hyatt and Araujo emphasized how one cannot do, reach, or decide without passion. I agree — how could one lead and act upon mission and vision, without compelling enthusiasm? Araujo continued by stating that with heart and commitment, one needs to truly want to make the work all that it can be. Encouraging, she therefore brought up the question: “What will you do with what your teachers have taught you?”. Jin Kang talked about practicing to be your best self every day, which is something I have learnt during my dance studies, is crucial. Additionally, some of my main goals I have developed as a participant in the art form resonated with how she also described to treat life as homework, be open, listen to what art is, and balance art with life to make people feel something.

All three leaders concluded that if one practices honesty, courage, and is in the right place at the right time – go for the leadership role! Jin Kang stated that in order to have people´s support, it is also important to not be afraid of learning, making mistakes, or regretting decisions. As the student administrative assistant for the Chair of the Dance department and a demonstrator for a dance professor at Point Park University, these are some of the exact qualities I admire.

Anaya Bobst

Monthly blogger for the Prix de Lausanne