Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Emotional Intelligence in Dance and Business

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), as defined by Robert Cooper in Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organization, is the ability to sense, understand and pass judgment on the emotions as a source of information and influence. It motivates us to pursue our potential and activate our desires. Cooper says, “the word emotion may be simply defined as applying ‘movement,’ either metaphorically or literally, to core feelings.”

This way of deriving movement from an emotion or attaching an emotion to a movement is of great interest to me. Dance allows performers to express their desires, values and aspirations in a healthy and physical way. With emotions attached to the performance, an underlying bond connects the audience to the performers and the work as a whole.  

This type of expression and understanding of EQ is important not only for dancers, but for all people −even those who work behind a desk all day. Exploring emotions through movement and understanding the underlying meaning has brought about EQ research in the business world. Understanding emotions though movement would help all business leaders recognize the emotions of their followers, allowing them to lead and react with the appropriate counter emotion. 

Unfortunately, taking dance class or even viewing dance performance that is thought and emotionally provoking is not of interest to today’s general society. Most people view art solely for the purpose of entertainment and escape. The challenge for choreographers today is to bridge a gap between entertainment and mind-engaging dance, to bring about a shift in the general dance-viewing audience.


  1. A society that values art and the experience of art-making (particularly collaborative art-making) can mine their experiences for use in their working and living. Right now we seem to be in a cycle of stripping away in an attempt to find a direct path from A to B. We certainly do it in schools, teaching to a test rather than teaching students to think critically within and between a variety of subjects. And I'm sure it happens in business as well. I think there is a movement to change this - my desire is to water and bring light to the movement in the hope that its roots will take hold.

    "Most people view art solely for the purpose of entertainment and escape. The challenge for choreographers today is to bridge a gap between entertainment and mind-engaging dance, to bring about a shift in the general dance-viewing audience." -- I'm constantly evaluating and reevaluating the way(s) to bridge this gap. Education is key - learning to value the engagement of the mind through the experience of moving the body and exploring the concepts of dance. Often times in education we train the bodies but not the minds. We don't prepare even dancers (let alone the general public) for viewing, accepting, engaging in dance as a form of mindful/soulful artistic expression. At the same time choreographers can bridge this gap by staying in tune with their audience and becoming accessible to them. Perhaps within the material/choreography - after all there needs to be a degree of relevance there, otherwise the work is like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest. Does it make a sound if no one hears it? Does it matter if no one sees or cares that it ever existed? However, it's a fine line between accessibility and pandering sometimes. Therefore, it is important to bring the audience up to speed, rather than (for lack of a better term) "dumb down" the art. My theory, I guess: Not all art will be "for the masses" but we can still give the masses the tools with which to approach and evaluate what they witness.

    I hope these ramblings make sense! Your post provoked thought, I'm just not sure if it was coherent thought! :o) Anyway, thanks for the read!

  2. Nichelle,

    Don't worry, you make perfect sense! I am glad you are trying to find a way to bridge that gap between entertainment and mind-engaging dance b/c, as you said, I don't think most teachers are. There is a great emphasis on teaching performance quality (taught by simply making kids smile) rather than teaching emotional intelligence. But performance goes beyond facial expressions and I think if more studios and teachers taught choreography classes students would understand that. It was only when I started choreographing and trying to teach others how to feel the emotion or meaning behind the movement that I learned the difficulty of teaching and understanding emotional intelligence. Once the performer is engaged fully in the meaning and emotion expressed in the piece the audience is more likely to feel connected to it.

    I'm so glad there are people like you out there teaching dance the way it is supposed to be taught and not "dumbing down" the art. I guess this is why I am such a fan of contemporary dance, because in its core there is an emotion behind every movement (most of the time). In most entertainment dance pieces, especially hip-hop (the way most kids in recitals perform it) there is no meaning there and that just becomes dull to watch.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! I hope I made sense in this reply.

  3. I was pretty lucky growing up to have had Creative Dance at my studio for more than just the preschool years. I didn't realize how lucky until I went to college and found that others were struggling with this new "emotional intelligence" aspect of dance. Many, like you, made the leap. Others never did and usually ended up dropping out of the dance program. My experiences as a young dancer inform me that it IS possible to combine quality training in dance with the exploration of expression, movement concepts, and composition tools applied in creating (and experiencing) dance art.