Ballet Partnering Techniques for Business Partnering Success

pexels-photo-209948.jpegMalone University

April 4, 2018 |FOLLOWERSHIP

Ballet Partnering Techniques for Business Partnering Success

Leadership training has been championed as a key for personal success; learning to be a dynamic follower proves vital to organizational success. Followership is a remarkable concept. Essential followership techniques are emphasized in the methodological process of teaching ballet dancers to partner together.  Dancers are taught to generate frames, use improvisation, and to become experts in core focusing. These follower concepts require intense composure and connections with leaders.  The following lessons from the dance arena will help leaders engage team members in creating trust, demonstrating decision advocating, and developing intuition for strong personal and organizational partnering.

Framing for Trust

When teaching partnering to ballet dancers, the first lesson is to define the role of the leader and follower.  This moment in the classroom establishes who will be observing and who will be interpreting the signals of the movements first.  The initial dance leader generates a frame for creating trust.  The dancers are asked to be congruent when accomplishing the next several assignments and the frame is set to aid the team in creating motion past the simple definition of delegation. Both leader and follower work within the framed role to accomplish all tasks in synchronicity.  The follower learns to trust that the leader will set a reasonable tempo and the leader develops trust that the follower has a clear interpretation of the circumstances.

In Teresa Byinton’s (2010) research on mentoring relationships she clarifies that “creating a relationship of trust, clearly defining roles and responsibilities, establishing short- and long-term goals” is extremely effective for mentoring (p. 3). The individual innovation propensity of team members decreases when followers feel ambiguous about their role and responsibilities according to De Clercq and Belausteguigoitia (2017).  Leaders who to take the step of framing roles and responsibilities will help followers trust their pioneering ideas have a place in the business.

When lesson one is complete there is understanding of leader, follower, and specific responsibilities. A conversation has taken place that helps followers know the leader is interested in their interpretation and capabilities. Dancers are taught to generate frames because they are expected to be balanced, composed and synchronized.  Leaders can implement the usage of framing to clarify vision and timing for organizational success.  This will develop trust by revealing to followers that the leader is in-synch and that signal interpretations are accurate.

Improvisation for Decisions

Team imbalances are a natural part of organizational change. Followership offers the suggestion that leaders value this divergence and leverage with their followers for balance to be restored during decision-making. Dancers learn to use improvisation because it demonstrates decision advocating.  When the ballet leader and follower begin moving with seemingly vague movements, an opportunity for advocacy begins. The follower is taught to build on what they are given, and the leader is taught to respond by validating the movement and enhancing it with another.  Both ballet dancers are coached to remain composed as performers during the improvisation.  This technique and composition from team members in the business world allows organizational solutions to emerge which aids the decision-making process.

In an interview with the groundbreaking choreographer for Batsheva Dance Company in Israel, Ohad Naharin explains that the relationship with his dance technique and improvisation is reciprocal (Galili, 2015). The dancers’ improvisation plays an indispensable part in determining the decision of the production. Additional research on Naharin’s technique for partnering reveals, the dance “practitioner exercises individual agency in the attunement process of interpreting instructions and responding intentionally” (Melpignano, 2017, p. 113).

The proximity of ballet dance partners is customarily more kinesthetic and intimate than business leaders and followers; however, the illustration of ballet partnering from lesson two, learning improvisation for decision advocating–is virtuous for balancing the terrain of organizational change.  Followers who build on what they are given and leaders who respond with enrichments find better solutions.  Improvisation broadens the spectrum for decision-making.

Core Focus for Intuition

Advance usage of focus is key for dancers and business leaders. Several specific tasks involving the mission and duties of an organization will occur at once.  This requires intuitive synchronicity to keep followers focused and moving toward the vision and mission. Dancers learn to use a core focus for developing intuition. The third lesson in ballet partnering includes instructing the dancer to develop this core focus ability by horizonally focusing through their partner while maintaining an awareness of the partner’s core muscles of the abdomen and pelvis.  When the leader shifts his weight with the core muscle groups, it is a sign that he has committed to the movement direction. The follower then has the indicator she needs to implement the directive.

Hurwitz and Hurwitz (2015) imply that the partnering relationship has palpable consequences on how all actions are carried out.  They go on to explain “the core” suggests behavioral norms and strategy in addition to common core values and organizational vision (Hurwitz & Hurwitz, 2015, p. 194).  In an essay about viewing art, Pau Pedragosa explains, while talking about cubism, that a core focus of the eyes horizonally can offer “multiple perspectives on common space and shared time” (Pedragosa, 2014, p. 747). When dancers look beyond the tactile movements of the limbs and focus on the abdominal core they can see the leader’s indicators.

Once the third lesson in ballet partnering is learned, the process replicates through repetitive practice and leader-follower intuition is developed.  Leaders who introduce the tool of using a core focus for developing intuition will experience the accuracy of followers’ subsequent instinct. They can alter their path and followers will recognize what comportment leaders are promoting.


The view of relying on leaders to accomplish organizational success by scientifically delegating and tracking the tasks of company employees is heading for extinction. Followership is a “we generation” concept and it is happening now (Hurwitz & Hurwitz, 2015, p. 4).  Endorsing and training followership behaviors will kindle the personal, professional, and organizational success every leader seeks. Because ballet dancers are strong partners, their followership techniques of framing, improvisation, and using a core focus will also benefit businesses. Following ballet partnering prompts will help all leaders create trust, demonstrate decision advocating, and develop intuition with followers.  The result will be partnering success.


Byington, T. (2010). Keys to successful mentoring relationships. Journal of Extension48(6).

De Clercq, D., & Belausteguigoitia, I. (2017). Reducing the harmful effect of role ambiguity on turnover intentions. Personnel Review46(6), 1046-1069.

Galili, D. F. (2015). Gaga: Moving beyond technique with Ohad Naharin in the twenty-first century. Dance Chronicle38(3), 360-392.

Hurwitz, M. & Hurwitz, S. (2015). Leadership is Half the Story. Toronto, CN: University of Toronto Press.

Melpignano, M. (2017). Embodied philosophy in dance: Gaga and Ohad Naharin’s movement research. Dance Research Journal49(2), 112-114.

O’Conaill, D. (2013). On being motivated. Phenomenology and The Cognitive Sciences12(4), 579-595.

Pedragosa, P. (2014). Multiple horizons: phenomenology, cubism, architecture. European Legacy19(6), 747.

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