Dance Leadership Tips From Anna Sarao & Arnel Calvario

Training Tips

Dance Leadership Tips From Anna Sarao & Arnel Calvario

Jessie Ma
January 23, 2024
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In the "Believe" Room of Boogiezone Utopia on Saturday, February 15th, an important lesson in leadership was given by Anna Sarao and Arnel Calvario as part of H4 (Hip Hop Has History, hosted by CSLA):

"We wanted to have this conversation, with hungry individuals who have enough humility to know we can always learn from each other. Not only do we have a lot of topics we want to talk about, but we want to learn from the new generations of dancers, as well! Everyone has something unique to offer."

Here are a few notable takeaways from their discussion!

1. Establishing your Brand & Mission

Every long-lasting, successful team is only able to remain resilient through any ups and downs, because they know what they stand for. In the beginning stages, or even now- know what makes your team unique, what direction you want to grow in. Even your team name is a part of the vision you embody, a constant reminder that each member is united on the team's collective purpose. This is basically the "branding" for your dance family.

Once you know what you stand for, you need to develop this idea into a clear and concise mission statement. In this mission statement, it is essential to:1. Explicitly state what you do, and2. Convey a spirit with the style of the writing. The language should inspire a certain feeling in all those who read it.

For example, Culture Shock International's mission statement (the "what"), is:

"Culture Shock ® is a Hip Hop dance organization dedicated to innovative performance, artist development, and community enrichment, revealing the power and beauty of Hip Hop culture to diverse communities."

The motto (the "who"), is:

"We are a troupe of individuals who, through the power of music and dance, cultivate self-worth, dignity, and respect for all people."

This sounds empowering and awesome, but it didn't explain what we actually did. Thus, the mission statement is necessary. The motto still serves as a good reference point for what we stand for, and it's highly encouraged you to remind yourself and internalize it- this is the glue that will hold everyone together.

Then our 3 forks of service (the "how"), is: Enrichment, Education, & Entertainment.

2. Managing Team Dynamics

Cultivate trust and respect.

Spend time with people- seek to understand who they are, what they need/want, and follow through on what you say. Trust is the foundation to ANY relationship, the only way any two or group of people can be united. You must earn this trust over time through words and actions.

Communicate appropriately.

Information-based communication is okay via text (i.e. "Rehearsal moved to 9 pm!"), but any communication involving emotion is best done face-to face. Texting just cannot convey tone or nuance or body language, and this deficiency leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation.

Choose love-based words and actions over fear-based words and actions.

Be direct and avoid being long-winded. Even a great message can get lost if cluttered with too much beating around the bush.


Connect with your members genuinely. Understand the intent behind the words, which may get lost in translation, especially if you are talking about an emotional issue.

Be present and show an active interest! Be devoted to the conversation and how they can leave it better than they entered it.

Have A Clear Sense Of Self.

"Your relationship with yourself will affect every other relationship in your life."

Becoming a leader begins when you come to understand who you are, why you do what you do, and what you care about. You can't start to expect anything from others if you can't set those expectations for yourself first! Clarity of values gives you confidence to take right turns, make tough devisions, and act with determination. Do not let your center be affected. YOU and your values serve as a reference compass for your decisions and challenges.

Show Commitment.

"You can't inspire commitment from others by showing a lack of commitment yourself." - Bishop TD Jackes.

Values drive your commitment. If you care enough, you will act accordingly and commit authentically.

Be a model for your team- as you keep doing things that are positively impactful, you will be the person they want to emulate.

Be Accountable And Responsible.

Positive reinforcement is always best practice! Praise people who do good work and remember to thank them for all things help the team operate successfully. Pay attention to positive things, instead of only punishing bad things.

BUT! This only works if there is an established structure with guidelines that are transparent. Everyone must first be clearly informed on what they should be doing.

The more transparent you are with your plans, the easier it is for the team to trust you. If you are clear with your intentions, even constructive feedback will be easier to take in because everyone understands that you're trying to help.

After giving constructive feedback, check in with that person to see how they are doing to reaffirm your good intentions.

See Conflicts As Opportunities To Learn.

There is no growth without conflict- it opens up difficult conversations that are sometimes necessary to reach a better resolution.

Establish a culture where all constructive discussion is solution-based. It's okay to disagree as long as there is a collective understanding that from that point on, you go forward for the best interest of the group.

Speak with each party individually to gain a clearer understanding of their intent and ideas to solve the issue

Pair each issue with at least a few ideas for solutions- don't complain just to complain.

3. Ingredients To Your Vision

POSITIVE ATTITUDE! Have an infectiously positive attitude. Make the environment so bomb and so enjoyable that people want to be there and make the most of it.

FOCUS. Keep your thoughts, words, and actions aligned with your mission and stick to your plan. Have fun, of course, but avoid too many tangents that veer too far from what you need to do.

INITIATIVE. Don't settle, don't be complacent. Be proactive, not reactive.

TEAMWORK. Know when to lead, when to work with others, and when to step aside.

TEAMWORK WITHIN THE LEADERS. Maintain a united front with your fellow leaders, by discussing disagreements privately and being clear and together when you are speaking to the rest of the team. establish clear roles, then allow each person to own their role, especially in front of the team.


"The first person you lead is YOU." - John Maxwell.

Model what you want others to do, even small things like picking up trash- they let people know that you are DOWN for the team.

But in order to be self-disciplined, you have to know why you're doing it. 99.9% of team leaders do not get a paycheck for the countless hours of work they dedicate to the team's success. Your personal motto for the team will push you to do even the most tedious things without hesitation.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly...

4. Take Care Of Your Soul.

If you don't take care of yourself and your spirit, then you WILL burn out. It will be difficult to keep yourself motivated to continue working for the team. That's why it's imperative to reconnect with the things that give you meaning, joy, and fulfillment. Whether it's journaling, talking to a friend, meditating, whatever- anything that brings you back to your center is supremely important.

What is the piece of advice that left the greatest impact on you? Share with us by leaving a comment below!