Customer Wise: A choreographer’s insights for solid growth
Here’s a creative twist in our inspiring series of customer interviews.
Accomplished choreographer Alonzo King, who founded Alonzo King LINES Ballet in 1982, has amazing insights into starting and growing a venture — whether it’s a dance company or a business or a relationship.
Just days after National Small Business Week (NSBW), his ballet’s spring season — sponsored by Bank of the West — is set to run May 21-25 in San Francisco. I thought it would be interesting to get his unique take on some of the same questions we asked business owners last week.
First, a little background: LINES Ballet has developed into a world-renowned touring company. King’s San Francisco Dance Center opened in 1989 and has grown into one of the largest dance facilities on the West Coast. In 2001, King started the LINES Ballet School to nurture and develop the talents of young dancers, and he expanded to the college level in 2006 through a partnership with the Dominican University of California, creating the West Coast’s first Joint Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program in Dance.
Clearly, Alonzo King is a success story. I find his perspective in the Q&A below very refreshing, offering a new lens into building and growing a successful venture. I would love to see every business be so responsible about its role in the community!Q: Based on your experience starting and running LINES Ballet, what advice would you give someone starting a company or any venture today?
A: It’s really important that your vision includes others. If it is going to be a successful vision, it has to be larger than your organization, it has to be inclusive, and — this is a big one, and it’s definitely the future — there has to be some portion of your business devoted to eradicating some form of human suffering on the planet Earth. It just has to be some part of your business, some percentage. That equation is oddly selfish, but it works; the giving is cyclical, and then you have a return. It has to be inclusive.
An institution cannot sit in a community and not nourish that community. Your roots are planted there, and you are receiving the nutrients of that ground. So you have to also supply to that ground because you are using it.What are you most proud of when it comes to your dance company?
I don’t know if I can ever use the word “proud,” but I think it is affirming to see that people come into this organization and change. A large part of humanity becomes older without changing. But to see someone transform their lives and actually change, to see a habit-ridden human being come into an organization and change, is inspiring.
To work in the community with our BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) Program, with our LINES Training Program, with our public classes, with our outreach programs, and with our performances around the world — to see the impact that has on audiences, on children, and on communities, is also really affirming. That’s enjoyable to see transformation and to touch lives.Would you do it again (why or why not)?
Underneath your question there’s the idea of difficulty. There’s always going to be difficulty, no matter what you choose. If you think, “Oh, this would have been easier,” you’re fooling yourself. If you think, “Oh, this would have been quicker,” you’re fooling yourself. The lessons you have to learn and discipline that is going to come into your life are meant to happen regardless of what your choices are.
It’s like saying, “Would I have chosen another person?” The same lessons are going to come to you because it’s your deficiencies that have to be expanded. Whatever you choose, the lessons that are inherent within it are going to expand you as a person. There is no escaping that.
The point is you have to give something to the world. And it is helpful if you participate in a profession that you enjoy.
Learn more at the Alonzo King LINES Ballet site. You can also get a sneak peek of the new season in the video clip below: