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Beyond Dance: If you cannot work with a will not work.

The American Major League Baseball outfielder and manager Casey Stengel once said, “Gettin’ good players is easy; gettin’ ‘em to play together is the hard part.” We would all like to say that we get along with everyone on our team and support each other wholeheartedly, all the time. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case; building genuine teamwork is something that must be nurtured and learned. As dancers, we take so much time to perfect our craft, but do we ever invest the time, understanding, and thought it takes to excel in this craft with others? We are never hired for a professional gig on our own; we will always be dancing WITH someone… So, the skills required to be a successful teammate are vital to our craft. However, when the feeling on the team gets negative, our first instinct is to jump ship and go “independent.” Those who do, miss out on critical learning opportunities highlighting the integrity behind teambuilding. The knowledge gained from learning how to focus on the strengths of others and growing together are undeniably essential in the working world. Professionals cannot simply quit when things get tough- we don’t run from our problems- we face them- we work through them- we talk- we listen- we learn, grow and move forward together.

In the professional world, one is much more likely to stay employed and rise through the ranks if they know how to get along with people and are a contributing member of a team. Contributing requires more than just having skills and talent, but also pulling and inspiring growth in others. Learning this skill is imperative, but not intuitive and most dancers don’t truly know how or why they have conflict on a team and there for cannot understand why they are so unhappy on their team. Most often it becomes the blame game- dancers pick each other apart for the things they see are ‘wrong,’ constant criticism for the lack of care of the values the team holds dear, or it is the most common I have found- “I just don’t fit in.”

Positively contributing to the team culture requires a synergistic approach. Synergy is that ever-popular corporate buzzword which simply means, combining our strengths to have a stronger, more productive, & more successful outcome. Focusing on the positive requires effort and creative thinking, but when one does, both inter- and intrapersonal growth can be seen across the board.

If you truly care about what it takes to be an amazing dancer: the hard work, consistency, strength, confidence, artistry, and detail orientation required ofa master dancer is not enough. You also must also be able to build, grow, and learn from others in your field, none more important than those who you dance with on your team. Take the following points into account in your growth as a dancer, to become both successful as an individual and a teammate.

1. Be Goal Driven- Identify the values of your team. What are the things you all hold dear? Stay true and honest to these goals. Those who stray from these goals tend to be isolated and seen as not reliable. Follow the Rules! Abide by the rules put in place to create a strong team culture. "Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” (Alexander the Great)

2. Learn the Dancers on your Team- If you can recognize the other personalities on your team and see the positives those personalities bring to the table you may be able to understand each other on a deeper level- and forgive the little things that could cause dysfunction on a team. Demonstrate tolerance for the differences of your fellow dancers and remember that you all have one commonality- A LOVE FOR DANCE. "Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal, and help one another achieve it.” (Bill Bradley)

3. Identify where you fit within this team- Are you a leader? Are you the choreography guru? Are you the one that works hard consistently? Are the one that demonstrates empathy to the outsider? Are you the one who brings fairness and balance to conflict? Once you know where you fit on your team, you can focus on bettering your job as a team player and creating boundaries that fit within the logistics of your team. Utilize your role to bring something positive to the group- something that can add to it, and not take away from it. Remember being on a team it is not ultimately about you- it is about the collective. “In order to have a winner, the team must have a feeling of unity; every player must put the team first ahead of personal glory.” (Paul Bear Bryant)

4. Work on the skills needed to contribute to the team- Sharpen these skills! Be the first one rehearsing, going over choreography, remembering/fixing corrections, responding to staff with eye contact, being on-time, being prepared, staying positive, giving 100% everyday not just for the betterment of yourself, but to better the strength of your team. If you are seen as a team player that is doing their part and contributing their share- you will notice a huge positive change in the culture of your team. Make sure you are always trying to increase your level of performance. Try to exceed the expectations of others on your team is a special gift only you can give. “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)

5. Be the one who is ALWAYS encouraging to others on your team- Being willing to demonstrate empathy for another on your team and share that understanding with others in the group gives a sense to other dancers that you are a team player and ‘have their back’ so-to-speak. You will be surprised, but when the time comes and you need a helping hand- you will probably get several. When a milestone is reached by a member on your team, be the first to clap for them- pat them on the back and say “good job.” Don’t be afraid to brag about the accomplishments of your team mates to others! Creating the environment of how proud you are of each other and your accomplishments just creates that genuine teamwork we have been talking about. “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” (Althea Gibson)

6. Demonstrate Gratitude EVERYDAY- Dance is a privilege and dance is expensive. Be aware of the opportunity placed before you-recognize what kids your age on this planet truly have the opportunities that you have before you every day. It is amazing how important a real smile can be- just a light up of the face when you see a member of you team can make the difference in their day- just by your simple smile… try it, it works! To show this gratitude you can be a listener of new changes, rules, expectations, and call times; most importantly of each other’s comments. Turn your body, make eye-contact, and respond when others on your team give feedback or ask/answer a question. Demonstrate to your team that you are so very thankful for the opportunity to learn alongside them. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend” and a group of people into a team. (Melody Beattie)

Being part of a team is not easy, and takes work- everyday. You will have setbacks, but fortitude and an optimistic, open heart will allow you to learn. The successful teams in the working world learn and grow from conflict. They were not born with this skill; they had to learn from facing challenges in their youth. They were encouraged to solve problems with communication, trust, and humility. This applies to every facet of life, let’s face it, not everyone will dance for a living- let’s get more out of this than just a perfect plié.

Just my thoughts…

Sara Palmer

Dance Educator/Choreographer

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