Dance is an Essential Business Tool

It was the start of my sophomore year of college. I’d just returned from Europe and was open to trying new things and conquering my fears. I’d always aspired to the ideal of the classical Renaissance man and felt the need to learn how to dance, but was afraid of looking like a fool. In a bolder moment, I signed up for a Ballroom/Latin/Swing hybrid class. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I had just made one of the most important business and social decisions of my life.

Where at the time I saw dance as a one-off skill to gain and perfect a hole in my path towards adulthood I’ve come to see it as so much more. Some of the perks are more self-evident: great physical exercise, it’s social, and it can be a wonderful gateway to meeting new people for romantic and platonic purposes. But, beyond that, there are added benefits that are rarely talked about. In this section, I’ll run through some of these and I encourage you to keep an open mind.

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Since I started in the fall of 2004 dance has become much more mainstream The demographics in dance classes have changed and the anxiety and fear about being categorized as overly effeminate among men has diminished. The ratio of men to women in latin, swing and tango classes has equalized as a result. However, it remains something that is, at least for most younger generations, still quite intimidating. At the heart of where that intimidation comes from, is also an insight into why it’s such a powerful learning space for our professional and personal identities.

It’s no secret that for the average individual public speaking is terrifying. After all, it flies in the face of our primal pack mentality. The last thing we want is to be the lone antelope separated from the herd. It’s like buttering ourselves up, adding salt, and then slapping on an Eat Me sign for a pack of wolves. It’s also not a shock for me to say that being a successful, well-connected, and competent business person requires the ability to socialize and be comfortable in social settings.

American universities are well recognized for their emphasis on public speaking and the added training they deliver. Many programs include public speaking classes supplemented by clubs like the Toastmasters. Not to mention the entire literary genre on how to give speeches and present yourself.

While these all have merit, none of them are fun or, for that matter, all that efficient. Classes don’t provide for any significant amount of practice, speech clubs are great but can be intimidating and hard work, and blogs take time and may tell you what to do but still don’t provide a satisfactory channel or support network to do it in. Cue the dramatic music, flashing lights, and let’s take to the dance floor!

At its very core, ballroom dancing and I use this term inclusively here of all partner dances that also have a social component, but particularly swing and salsa is all about relationships and presentation. While it might be possible, it’s pretty difficult to waltz or salsa without a partner. In addition, ballroom dancing has been used as the primary social mixer at formal social events for hundreds, and in modified forms quite likely for thousands of years. This all makes dance a must for the aspiring business professional and a surprisingly rich opportunity for self-discovery and development.

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