The Dancer’s Skill Set©

Dancers learn by moving, not talking. They experience viscerally – directly through their bodies. There is a constant feedback loop that dancers are subconsciously and consciously engaging in. By experiencing their bodies so directly, dancers learn important skills about how to control themselves and their interactions with the rest of the world. These skills are transferable outside the studio and this is why dancers are often effective in other business sectors.  Embodiment is empowerment.


What is this Dancer Skill Set?


Dancers are present in their bodies. They listen with not only their ears but also with their tendons, bones and blood. They know when they are off balance. They recognize when they are not breathing in the most effective rhythm to produce the maximum effort. They can sense the audience’s reaction to their performance because they feel the energy that the audience gives off. Through a “skin sense”, dancers have an awareness of their fellow movers on stage and in rehearsal.


Dancers know their bodies and inhabit them -their instruments- fully. They know their capabilities and they “get” how to make up for any shortfalls that may exist. They trust their ability to make their movement work. They are present in their bodies. When a dancer shows up for performances and rehearsals or business meetings, he/ she is fully engaged and present.


Spatial awareness is second nature to the dancer. Because dancers know their own bodies so well, they also know what is not their body. They understand the area around them. They can judge the space between themselves and other people and objects without consciously thinking about it. Watch a dancer navigate down a crowded street or corridor. They are fluid and flowing and can quickly find the easiest path through all the obstacles. In the studio, they can visualize how many steps they need before they leap into the waiting arms of their partner.


Dancers understand how long it will take to get from here to there. Likewise, they understand what steps are needed to complete a project. They can flow around obstacles and find ways to remove barriers. They sense who to avoid, who to go to for assistance, how to place people around a conference table at meetings to create the most effective collaboration.


Adaptability is a dancer’s trademark. Flexibility is essential to the dancer. Sudden weight changes, slightly different hand grasps in partnering, and a slippery spot on the stage floor are scenarios that can change how a dancer needs to move, all in a split second. The dancer is able to adjust for the constant differences that occur each time a choreographed movement is executed. Keeping the body stretched and strengthened allows the dancer to adapt to whatever comes up unexpectedly.


This physical adaptability translates into a mental adaptability. A flexible spine and body allows the dancer to move spontaneously, react to new situations rapidly, and maintain equilibrium. They are open to change, free to try something new, and can initiate new possibilities. A flexible spine equals a flexible mind.


Dancers are quick studies. With an endless stream of new choreography to learn and assimilate, dancers must know how to learn rapidly. They must be agile and nimble in observing, mimicking, practicing and reproducing specific movements. This is sometimes an innate skill. However, most dancers become quick studies through increasing their powers of concentration and focus for observation and mimicry. They develop a strong discipline to repeat over and over again specific actions in order master and replicate a movement phrase.


Becoming a quick study means dancers learn how to learn. They know how to practice, to work hard, and to focus. They bring determination and energy to the task at hand and persevere. Dancers have strong disciplined brains as well as highly trained bodies.


Envisioning is integral to dancers. Dancers play an essential part in the choreographer’s vision. They must understand the big picture in order to make sense of the individual parts. They grasp the minute details in how to execute specific movements but they also see how each of these details makes up the whole. Dancers must focus on what happens in between the steps. Often the “in between” is ambiguous. The choreographer relies on the dancer to figure it out. The dancer comprehends that ambiguity is a source of creativity – a place of improvisation where a wealth of novel ideas and inspiration lies.


Thus dancers are not merely muses but also creators. They see what the end goal is and they can envision the path needed to get there. They are not afraid to find and face alternative solutions; they rise to the challenge when the path detours.


Dancers are entrepreneurs. Right from the start dancers promote themselves. They work on their technique, locate the best experts to learn from, find ways to show themselves to advantage and constantly look for the next best thing to engage in. Their service is themselves; their product is their bodies. They know they need to be as good as they can be, in order to win “market share”: a coveted role, a position in a company; the applause of the audience.


Dancers know that innovation and being market disruptive are key ingredients to success.


Dancers are part of the team. Along with being entrepreneurial, dancers must also be able to work as part of a troupe. Everyone sweats in a rehearsal. The completion and perfection of the dance piece is the object of all the hard work. It is a given that dancers will show up to rehearsals on time, ready to give their best and work collaboratively with their colleagues. No excuses, no exceptions.


Each dancer shoulders the responsibility of their individual dancing role plus the responsibility to help others in the troupe make the most of the group effort. Dancers understand that they are one jigsaw piece in the puzzle but the puzzle must be completed for the picture to become clear. Dancers are the ultimate team players while also being able to lead.


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©The Dancer’s Skill Set, 2010. Not for reproduction or reuse without the express permission of Sheila Peters.