In summer 2017, I began taking burlesque fusion dance classes on a weekly basis (and pretty soon I increased it to twice a week). Since then, I’ve performed on stage three times… and I love it. It is hands-down one of my favourite things to do! As I was preparing for our most recent live performance this past December, I started thinking about what dance class can teach us about business.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Practicing a lot helps you make mistakes ahead of time
The more you practice, the more kinks you can work out. For example, one time when I was practicing taking a coat off as part of our springtime performance, the zipper got caught on my fishnet stockings. I’m much more careful nowadays to ensure my zipper isn’t anywhere near the flimsy fabric.
In another example, the zipper split while practicing removing my coat (apparently I have zipper issues, ha!), so I did some brainstorming for what I could do if that happens to occur while I’m on stage. If the first time the zipper split had happened in the middle of a performance, I think I might have gotten panicky. I’m grateful it happened during a practice round!
Similarly, in business, the more that we experiment with things and the more times we make mistakes, the more opportunities we have to learn from those mistakes and do things differently in the future to prevent those mistakes from reoccurring.
2. Presentation makes a difference
Burlesque dance looks far better when you’re dressed up in a great outfit. It’s fascinating to me that you can perform the exact same dance from one class to the next, but if you’re wearing heels and a cute outfit, the moves themselves actually look better.
I believe there are two reasons for this: for one thing, the outfit itself does contribute to the overall “feel” and “look” of the performance. But for another, when we look awesome, then we loosen up and get even more “into” the movements, and therefore we actually do a better job of performing.
This translates to business because potential clients and customers will take us more seriously and believe that we are more legitimate if we have good design and presentation. Plus, the better our branding is and the more we love it, the more confident we’ll feel and the more serious we’ll take ourselves, too.
Business lessons can be found anywhere—even in dance class! Apply these dance class takeaways to your freelance business today (via @Saganlives)
3. It’s okay to be scared
Sometimes when I’m on stage performing, I shake. My body gets nervous! But if I tried to wait until a time when I don’t happen to shake, then… well, that might just not ever happen. Even better? The audience often can’t tell that you’re shaking! And they’re so supportive and encouraging that it doesn’t matter if you’re scared.
When it comes to the world of business, you might be surprised that putting yourself out there and “doing it scared” isn’t actually so scary after all. Sure, you might feel nervous, but your clients and customers might not even notice that you’re scared. Do it anyway and you might just love the results.
4. Working toward goals is a great motivator (and helps us to improve)
Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy taking burlesque classes in general, and not just when we have a performance to practice for. But I love when we’re working toward the goal of performing on stage (or, in the next couple months, performing in a concept video), because it motivates us to continue practicing and honing our craft. It’s a reason to keep moving forward. And while I still have a long way to go as a dancer, I’ve definitely improved by leaps and bounds over the past year and a half since I started dancing. Having the goal of performing is, I’m sure, a major contributor to that.
Another aspect of this is that it’s important to have smaller and bigger goals. For example, a smaller goal of mine was to learn how to shimmy (and I’ve gotten decent at it!). A medium-sized goal would be to perform on stage, of which we do about twice a year. And a longer-term goal would be to perform in the advanced burlesque class, which is something I’ll be working toward over the next couple years.
How does this translate to business? You know I’m all about the bite-sized goals! When we set business goals—small, medium, and large—it provides us with the motivation to keep going even when it’s tough, and it empowers us to get better and better at our craft and as business owners.
5. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone… but have safety nets in place
Burlesque dancing is outside of a lot of people’s comfort zones—especially since we essentially dance in lingerie on stage. It brings whole new meaning to the phrase “putting yourself out there!” But the beauty of it is that we can appreciate how amazing our bodies are even more when we do that.
Of course, it’s also a good idea to have a “safety net” in place. Boob tape is a must when you’re wearing a low-cut bodysuit, not just to prevent things from slipping out, but also to help you feel more confident (and so that you don’t have to worry about anything slipping while you’re dancing: one less thing to think about is a plus).
In business, it’s a good idea to stretch our comfort zones, whether that’s in our marketing or the services we offer or something else entirely. You can create your own safety nets by putting back-up plans into place, just in case of a minor mishap.
6. Collaborate instead of competing
Burlesque dance classes are particularly fun for the awesome ladies that I’ve had the chance to get to know. I’ve made some wonderful friends through the classes, and it’s lovely to have so much positive support and encouragement!
There’s no sense of competition that happens with burlesque. It’s much more about working together and being there for one another. And if you happen to be dancing in a group routine and you’re getting into a “traffic jam” with one of your fellow dancers, then it’s simply a matter of discussing how to best work together to reduce the traffic jam. For example, if we’re all in a row and raising our arms to the sides, it would be easy to accidentally smack someone in the face. We reduce the chance of that happening by discussing which individuals in the line will be bringing their arms up in front versus behind each other’s bodies. It’s an easy fix!
Business should also be about collaborating, not about competing. There truly is enough room for everyone. If you find yourself trying to compete against someone else in business, ask yourself why you feel like you need to compete. What would happen if you worked together, instead? What would happen if you connected to discuss some collaboration opportunities? Your business could be all the better for it.
7. Balance things out between peers, teachers, and mentoring
In the dance classes that I’ve taken, everyone’s skill level (in dance in general, and also when it comes to specific dance moves) differs. This means that there’s a lot of opportunity to have balance between dancing with others who are about our own skill level, plus getting pointers from more advanced dancers (and, of course, our awesome instructor), and also helping out other dancers.
I’ve been in the position of being the most inexperienced dancer in the room where there’s a steep learning curve. Other times, when we’re broken up into smaller groups and practicing dancing off to the side while our instructor is working with another group, I’ve found myself helping a fellow student out. It totally depends on the circumstance and the moves we’re working on!
This is helpful to everyone involved because it ensures that we are stretching our own abilities. We can always learn something, whether it’s from those who are more experienced than us, from helping out those who have questions for us, and/or from those who are about our own skill level.
This applies to business, too:
- We push ourselves harder when we get tips and advice from businesspeople who are further along the path than we are.
- We help others (and look at things in a different perspective) when we teach and support those who aren’t as far along the path as we are.
- We enjoy the process and feel capable of continuing along when we surround ourselves with our peers.
If we only focused on one of these groups, we wouldn’t be as well-rounded, or as successful, as when we have some kind of balance between the three. Look around at the people you surround yourself with: are they all further along than you? Are they all where you were three years ago? Or are they all at about the same place as you?
You—and they!—will get more out of it when there’s variety. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone… and you’ll see what amazing things happen when you do.