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Dance leaders ‘ought to consider their language’

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Dance leaders should improve the language they use and help dancers feel more valued, according to experts in management and psychology.

At the annual Rural Retreats event run by Dance East in Ipswich, speakers including Northampton Town football manager Aidy Boothroyd, retired head of English National Opera Peter Jonas and professor of sports psychology Joan Duda delivered advice to 28 international artistic directors including Rambert Dance Company’s Mark Baldwin and Northern Ballet’s David Nixon.

Boothroyd said success in leadership comes from communicating well with staff and developing belief in themselves and others.

“We all have a passion for what we’re doing,” he said, “and sometimes that passion can take over and we don’t listen to what another person is saying or pick up on the group feeling.”

He said leaders should ensure their team members feel valued irrespective of their level of experience or skill and are encouraged to help one another.

“You can’t always have the top ballerinas but you’ve got to get the best out of what you have – and sometimes the more talented people can be the most difficult and challenging,” he said.

Nixon, who has been the artistic director at Northern Ballet since 2001, said the event had encouraged him to continue to take care over the language he uses when speaking with his company.

He said: “Dancers often used to be thought of as children and even now they are still sometimes called girls or boys rather than men and women or just dancers. I want to get to the point where dancers don’t think of themselves as girls and boys… They need to think of themselves as adults.

“Also it’s not always about the work, it’s about the way the work is performed,” he added, “so the more involved the dancers are in their thinking and the more grown-up they are, the better performance they’ll give.

Baldwin added: “It’s important to create a culture within a company so that dancers can talk to you [artistic directors] whenever they want to.”

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