“It was one of the best courses I’ve attended during my exchange and highly relevant for my future career. The course has a unique concept that is a must for every student that would like to improve his or her public speaking skills.”
This is how an exchange student summarized the outcome of the Business Ballet course of autumn 2016. Yes, Business Ballet is a unique concept – and highly relevant. I’ve been convinced of its benefits from the very beginning when I started developing movement exercises to accompany language learning. This approach actually dates back all the way to 1996 when I was teaching French to primary school kids and came up with the idea of teaching Subject – Verb – Object and Irregular Verbs through dance. The chaos of having 10-year olds darting amidst old-fashioned desks did not hinder me from continuing my experiments, despite the occasional inconvenience of having small boys and girls climbing the walls. All these efforts paved the way for what much later emerged as Dancing English Teacher and Business Ballet.
Twenty years later I find myself teaching Business Ballet in an established business school. Last autumn I finally took my method to Haaga-Helia Pasila Campus, where I was given lavish opportunities to develop the concept further. Upon meeting the same students 4h per week, I could truly see a remarkable development in their performance skills and stage presence. Moreover, I had the opportunity to test the method with 140 students. Thus collecting valuable data on the significance of learning body awareness in business communication studies. On the whole, Business Ballet was well-received among Pasila students in the Finnish Degree Programme in Sales (Myynnin koulutusohjelma). Many approached me personally after lessons to tell me that I’m teaching the right things from the point of view of their future career: attitude, articulate body language and presence skills.
As teacher I’m a stubborn optimist – to some students it might have come as a chock that their English course was more about body awareness than sales negotiation and presentation vocabulary. For instance we spent two entire double lessons to practice walking into the room, finding the perfect spot in space and just saying your name. That’s all. Surprisingly many people do not manage to reach the end of their name in a convincing manner. They swallow it half way and sink into their body, thus signaling hesitance and insecurity. Even more people lack the courage to walk into an open space. One could spend months on practicing the perfect gait only. After all, would you buy anything from a person who tiptoes into your office and whose name you cannot catch? No, probably you wouldn’t.
Back to the unique concept of Business Ballet. A concept needs to be developed and refined. So far I have been quite much on my own, mainly supported by students and, on the other hand, by people I’ve met outside my daily workplace. I would need a team. So far I have my Dancing English Teacher blog and Facebook site as well as a rather amateurish website I put together very quickly. I would need a platform to share my ideas more professionally. Nowadays, I get occasional requests to give workshops to outside actors in business and education. For instance last week, to my great joy and surprise, I learnt that the Faculty of Law at Saint Petersburg State University is interested in my Business Ballet method. So something should definitely be done. Maybe this is the goal of the New Year: to assemble a team of people with a serious interest in developing body awareness in business studies. Yet, it might turn out to be challenging, since the body still seems to scare people. As if you lost professional credibility by bringing in the body into the discourse. I could have given up long ago, however, seeing a shy student becoming more rooted and extending into space after months of exercise, encourages me to continue to discover new ways of teaching body awareness.
P.S. On the course exam I had this picture of Trump’s women, with the question of how they could improve their presence. Some students suggested that they should take my Business Ballet course to learn about open focus and good posture… and correct positioning of hands.