Leadership in the Studio

Jenasyn Baker

Leadership is defined as socially influencing and the efforts of others towards achieving goals. Notice the word influencing, not authority or power. Being a leader requires focusing on the behaviors, traits, all while keeping the focus on your results.

Growing as a teenager, and even now as an adult, I am often complimented on my leadership. What stands out is my attention to detail, compassion, and initiative. This is all thanks to being raised in a dance studio where these qualities of leadership are highlighted. We were expected to be leaders in the studio, not just in the competitive company. Leadership is valued just as much as dancing ability and talent. My studio’s leadership program creates weekly lessons on five character values: Trust, Serve, Love, Excellence, and Growth. Throughout my time as a dancer at my studio and as an original member of the leadership program, I found these five values quickly found themselves into my leadership skills, dancing, and life as a whole.

“There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM.” — Anonymous

There is no better way to learn trust than through teamwork. Without trust, a team can not grow and improve. Members must trust not only each other, but their teachers, peers, and importantly, themselves. Dance teaches you to be proud of accomplishments as a whole group, and your own. Without taking care and setting expectations for yourself, you can not show up properly for your team. Dancer and younger leader, Taylon Morgan, age 15, says, “I think that by becoming a better leader, I have been able to work better with my team, and we have all been able to help each other grow in dance with our leadership.” Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Dancers and young leaders form trust from young ages, and now, as their teacher, I watch that trust grow within every practice.

“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.” — Anonymous

Many times in life, especially in dance, others come before yourself. Personally, this was an obstacle for me to overcome as a leader. Although I am a naturally compassionate and empathetic person, my personal worries and feelings as a teenager would sometimes override. Like most high schoolers, I felt as if my problems were the end of the world. Now, I see these students work out their minor issues rather than stay sad about them. They are learning selflessness and putting others before themselves; a talent that, at their age, I wish I would have had. I think serving in a dance studio world looks a lot like Taylon’s experience. She says, “There are many ways that dance has helped me become a better leader. Not only have I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant and lead a class by myself, but when I am in class, I sometimes help my teammates with some choreography.” Our studio’s leadership program allows young leaders to become teaching assistants of all ages. For me, becoming a teaching assistant at age 16 taught me a lot about initiative and work ethic. For students like Taylon, she successfully serves and leads others such as students younger than her, as well as friendships and choreography with other teammates.

“Leadership is grounded in love...” — Glenn C. Stewart

It is hard to believe that loving what you do will never equal a day of work in your life. People should work towards what they love. Work for what they love. People do not stick with dance because it is easy, or necessarily because it is fun all the time. Dance is hard. A lot of the time, you are faced with disappointment. Learning leadership quality alongside growing my love for dance helped me want to work harder. I learned that you can not plant something and leave it be. You have to work, mend, and be patient with anything you want to grow. When I danced in high school, I learned that working towards what you love builds onto a lot of other leadership values such as self-confidence and compassion. Dancer and young leader, Olivia Maulsby, age 18, says, “When I reflect on myself, I love how selfless I am. This is because of the leader I am today. If you care what others think you will never be able to lead people, you will be stuck following people.” Loving yourself, and loving what you do makes all the difference. I believe to lead, one must also lead themselves to love.

“Excellence is never an accident…” — Aristotle

Arguably, the other four leadership qualities create a formula for excellence. One must trust, love, serve, and grow with their team and with themselves. Regardless of dance competitions, trophies, ribbons, and any other award, the best way to determine excellence is how much you see yourself grow as a dancer and person. Leadership within dance highlights this growth. Taylon says, “I am proud of my work ethic and how hard I try in class, but I still think that I still have a long way to go in dance and a lot more tricks I could improve on.” As Taylon’s teacher, I see her passion in everything she does. Not only is she great in dance, but in school and her relationships as well. What makes her a great dancer and leader is her focus, precision, and willingness to learn.

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” — Harvey S. Firestone 

Above all else, it has been an honor to watch myself and young leaders grow not only as dancers but as people. I owe much of my success to my dance studio for guiding me on the path of leadership. The world needs more leaders. I watch dance students grow every day as people by cheering on others’ achievements and constantly rooting themselves in becoming better people. Olivia says, “When being a leader you have to have confidence in yourself. As a dancer, confidence is one of the most important things. Also, as a leader, you must have determination and drive. To be a better dancer you must want to get better and continue to learn.” Confidence does not come easy. It takes baby steps and hard work in each of the five character values. Growing up dancing with Olivia, I have watched her failures, achievements, and every step in between. Through it all, she persisted. She never wants to stop bettering herself. 

I think many dancers and young leaders can learn from women like Taylon and Olivia. They truly show the five character values of Trust, Serving, Love, Excellence, and Growth. They reflect on themselves and love what they see. They are proud, but also step up to the plate when they know there needs to be personal change. Dance not only helps them become better leaders but leading helps them become better dancers.

By: Jenasyn Baker

Jun 9, 2021

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