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HHBIC 2020

Embodiment in Entrepreneurial Learning: Dance as a tool for teaching entrepreneurial mindset

Volume 2 Issue 3

Published : 22.02.2021


The paper examines the use of embodied pedagogical methods in business education and entrepreneurial learning. The academic tradition of body/mind dichotomy and the absence of the body are discussed together with a reflection on the benefits of embodied awareness in business education. The discussion is based on the author´s two-decade long experience of employing dance- and drama-based pedagogy in teaching business communication at tertiary level. Students were interviewed on the impact of a dance-based method named Business Ballet. From the perspective of entrepreneurial learning, it is concluded that students benefit from preparing their bodies for pitching ideas in an embodied and convincing manner. When developing a curriculum for future entrepreneurship, there should be room for multi-modal methods and novel pedagogical approaches.

Keywords: arts-based pedagogy, dance, embodiment, entrepreneurial learning

1. Introduction

This paper addresses the question of embodied awareness in entrepreneurial learning. The finding are based on the author´s two-decade long practice of involving dance and movement as a pedagogical resource in business education at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Finland.

The starting point for the discussion lies in the assumption that both courage and stamina are demanded in entrepreneurship, in other words, a “doer” attitude. Moreover, being an entrepreneur is often regarded as a stressful existence and heightened embodied awareness or “body knowledge” may help coping with the quotidian demands of entrepreneurship. Yet, often the body seems to be absent in entrepreneurial teaching in higher education. In this paper, the mind/body dichotomy in western higher education is challenged by reintroducing the body into the business classroom. The initial question is: How can a dance teacher contribute to the development of entrepreneurial learning and which are the benefits of an arts-based pedagogical approach in a non-dancer context?

This examination takes place at the intersection of arts and business communication pedagogics, being anchored in a two-decade practice of implementing dance and movement teaching of foreign language communication at a Finnish institution of higher business education, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. The paper presents a dance and movement-based method named Business Ballet, developed by the author for the purpose of teaching embodied business communication skills. The discussion covers a dance-based pitching class intervention that took place at Haaga-Helia Start-Up School in autumn 2019. Additionally, finalists of the Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus Business Idea Competition were interviewed on the benefits of practicing Business Ballet upon preparing for their final pitching event in December 2020.

From the perspective of entrepreneurship, future entrepreneurs may benefit from embodied exercises in terms of heightened self-awareness, impactful pitching skills as well as interpersonal communication skills. Dance is an ancient form of human communication. Moreover, in dance improvisation based on contemporary dance pedagogy, there is no need for formalized technical skills while exploring authentic movement. At its best, this can be an empowering learning experience for a non-dancer. Snowber (2014, p. 2) summarizes the significance of embodied knowledge in the following terms:

”Embodied ways of knowing have a huge capacity to open up places of a visceral wisdom, which has the potential to connect heart, soul, imagination, mind and body. I have said many times, ‘we do not have bodies, we are bodies,’ and embodied places of inquiry open up a phenomenological understanding of who one is and who one is becoming.”

This understanding of ”who one is and who one is becoming”, as phrased by Snowber, would also be quintessential knowledge for a future entrepreneur. Thus, in curriculum development there is a call for developing alternative and multi-modal methods of teaching entrepreneurial skills in a holistic manner, where both the intellectual and corporeal aspect of human existence are taken into account.

2. Literature review

“Why are we not dancing in business schools?” A naïve questioned posed in earnest. This could be rephrased into a question on the absence of body in western academia. A literature review on dance in business and entrepreneurial education will turn into a review on the absent body, or alternatively, the marginalized body in education. From a practitioner´s perspective, dancing activities appear as a deviation from the traditional business school curriculum.

Over the two decades of working as university pedagogue, I have witnessed concepts such as “corporeality” and “embodiment” enter the academic discourse, however, there still seems to be a preference for talking about the body rather than being home in the lived body. In accordance with Cartesian dualism, the body “comes to play the role of the Other” (Leder, 1990, p. 126). In the position of dancer in a business institution, I am used to the reoccurring question: “What are you doing and why are you doing this?” When replying, I am facing a long tradition of marginalization of the body in the academia. As claimed by Leder (1990, p.127), a “certain devaluation of the body, either in the form of neglect, deprecation, or outright condemnation” has been prevailing within the Western philosophical tradition. In this tradition, the body is regarded secondary to the mind, and therefore scholars working with the body often find themselves in a position of replying and explaining their stance.

In western philosophy, body is associated with something unreliable and obstructive, as opposed to the clarity of reason. ”Body knowledge and body wisdom is somewhat of an endangered species in our world, particularly in the academic world,” as stated by Snowber (2014, p. 2). A dichotomy of mind over body appears to be prevailing in western academic tradition, where the body is “relegated to a secondary or oppositional role, while an incorporeal reason is valorized” in accordance with the Cartesian tradition (Leder, 1990, p. 3). Often, the secondary role of the body is concretely manifested in the quotidian organization of university studies, as exemplified in the two following examples: A management workshop based on Argentinian Tango and, secondly, the classroom layout of the traditional university building.

Occasionally, the academic tradition might be interrupted by an embodied intervention, however, these seem to be deviations from a general educational tradition. Particularly in organizational studies, the potential of dance as a tool for a practical approach to organization and leadership studies has been recognized and there are several examples of practicing dance in leadership training (Biehl-Missal & Springborg, 2015, pp. 1-10). An experiential management training method called Leading with Tango, explores leading and following through exercises related to Argentinian Tango (Roevens, 2016). Notably, when Professor Joseph Roevens visited Haaga-Helia UAS, his Leading with Tango dance workshops were offered as an extra-curricular complement to his more traditional lectures on management, thus placing a dance-based activity into a marginalized position in the organization of the schedule, rather than positioning it into the core of the visit: “And, he re-emphasises that this is not a dance-class, but a management training, that uses tango as an analogy for Leading & Following.” (Roevens, 2015, p. 2). This very act of re-emphasizing in terms of “this is not a dance class” is a manifestation of the secondary role of embodied methods. Why is there s need to convince the audience that dance can be used for knowledge acquisition?

Another example of the absent body is an investigation of the traditional classroom as presented by Foucault (1993, pp. 172-173). In the 18th Century classroom the students were classified according to strict criteria as well as assigned a fixed place in the room. This disciplinary and static school design was created by French educational reformist Jean-Batiste de la Salle, for the purpose om bringing order and control to teaching (Foucault, 1993, p. 173). Evidently, the body was secondary to the mind in such a setting. Today, in tertiary education, this classroom design, dating back to The Age of Reason, still seems to be the predominant model of classroom in university buildings. Apparently, more creative spaces are deviations to this standard, rather found in innovative start-up companies than in the academia. Thus, the body is made absent by the very physical classroom setting of tertiary education. In the case of the Leading with Tango workshop, the room had to first be cleared of multiple chairs and tables before there was space to move.

Forgasz (2015, p. 119), in her exploration of embodied pedagogies in teacher education, defines embodied perspectives in the following terms: “emotional, practical, aesthetic”, as opposed to being purely theoretical or entirely cognitive. A phenomenon is not only examined from a theoretical angle, but also by “feeling, doing and appreciating it”. Forgasz (2015, p. 134) acknowledges the complexity and multi-faceted ways of bodily communication and points out that many are “unskilled and unpracticed” in terms of communicating with their bodies. In other words, working with the body might feel alien and awkward for a student who is not connected to the body. Yet, a dance teacher´s body is tuned into perceiving the world in a holistic and embodied manner; the challenge lies in verbalizing the relevance of embodied learning for non-dancers. After all, the implications of “hierarchical privileging of mind/intellect over body/emotion are deeply entrenched in the academy” (Forgasz, 2015, p. 118). Forgasz continues as follows: Just as mind/intellect came to be synonymous with `the soul´, so too was it valorized in positivist scientific research traditions as the only reliable way to truth, which is understood to be both objective and decidedly disembodied.

In entrepreneurial pedagogy, there is a niche for discussing the body in entrepreneurship. Many successful entrepreneurs are admired for their embodied presentation skills and charisma on stage. When analyzing famous entrepreneurs, students often refer to their excellent presentation skills and stage presence. On the other hand, in the media we also encounter stories about entrepreneurs who fail; in these cases, the word fatigue often materializes in the discussion. Leder (1990, p. 90) presents the concept of dys-appearing body: “The body emerges at times when it is away from an ordinary or desirable state, as in times of pain and disease”. When an entrepreneur experiences burn-out, it might be as a result of not listening into the body for signs of fatigue; thus the body dys-appears in its dysfunctional state. Therefore, students who plan a future as entrepreneurs, would benefit from dance therapy exercises.

In the public sphere, entrepreneurship is often portrayed as an occupation that demands stamina and resilience. The Online Etymology Dictionary refers to the Latin word stamen as follows: “Sense of “power to resist or recover, strength, endurance” first recorded 1726 (originally plural), from earlier meaning “congenital vital capacities of a person or animal.” As suggested by the definition, there is a physical dimension to entrepreneurship. This is for instance manifested in situations such as pitching to potential financiers or working long hours to meet a project deadline. Another word that can be associated with entrepreneurship is inspiration. “In entrepreneurship, practitioners often witness and refer to moments of inspiration that have enabled recognition and exploitation of major entrepreneurial opportunities” (Wartiovaara et al., 2018, p. 548). Inspiration is a word that resonates with dancers, since the etymological meaning of it can be traced back to Latin spirare: to breathe; by adding the prefix in-, the word signifies to breathe in. In dance, the breathing body serves as the point of departure for any dancing. In reference to Thrash and Elliot (2004), Wartiovaara et al. (2018, p. 549) point out that individuals with “high openness to experience, work mastery, and high levels of creativity” are more likely to become inspired. Finally, Wartiovaara et al. (2018, p. 549) suggest that inspiration “correlates positively with both rational and experiential processing”. In other words, “both the mind and heart” are involved in the process. Notably, the choice of word in Wartiovaara et al. (2018) is mind and heart, whereas a dancer might prefer to use the terms mind and body. Why use the metaphorical heart instead of the intentional body “embedded in space”, as portrayed by phenomenologist philosopher Merleau-Ponty (2003)?

Embodied ways of processing knowledge are experiential and holistic in nature. For instance, self-understanding and openness to communication can be enhanced by dance-based methods. Why would we leave out the body from entrepreneurial learning, since a holistic knowledge of the self may have a positive effect on the capability to communicate ideas as well as to feel inspiration and creativity. Dance- and theater research may bring in new perspectives for defining body in communication. Dance researcher Preston-Dunlop (2014, p. 55) looks at dance in a phenomenological manner as a pre-reflective experience, naming it a “not-able-to-think-about-it-separate-from-doing-it” act, where mind and body are not polarized: “Dancing is feeling-thinking-sensing-doing with imagination.” Additionally, dancing together heightens the perception of the other. “Learn to empathise with the timing of other dancers, synchronizing with their time and energy” (Preston-Dunlop (2014, p. 66).

When introducing dance as method to non-dancers, one concern is to find a pedagogical approach that is not dependent on learning a specific dance technique. Accordingly, the basic-movement themes created by Rudolf Laban (1988), are still applicable in training non-dancers. These include basic themes such as awareness of the body in space and time, rhythms, the instrumental use of the limbs and body, as well as basic effort actions such as pressing, thrusting or flicking. (Laban, 1988, pp. 29-32.) More advanced movement themes would involve space orientation, group formations and expressive qualities of moods of movement, just to mention a few. (Laban, 1988, pp. 33-51). Upon preparing business students for pitching, Laban´s (1988, p. 85) concept of “Kinesphere” or “sphere of movement” is applicable for making the student understand the direction of the message in space. Preston-Dunlop (2014, pp. 124-125), trained in the Laban method, illustrates kinesphere in following poetic terms (Preston-Dunlop´s layout of text):

The body´s three dimensional compass
radiates out to right and left
to forward and backward
intersecting with the vertical.
The primary directions,
The dimensions and the diametrals,
are a starting scaffold
around which the dance architecture is built.
They make a kinesphere grid,
a map to be used.

A dancer, actor or singer would never go on stage without a bodily warm-up. Should we not expect the same from an entrepreneurial student preparing to pitch? Based on my observations, students tend to respond well to preparatory acting- or dance-class exercises. Chekhov (Tjechov, 2014) developed an acting method with emphasis on embodied understanding. Accordingly, this method is also applicable to non-actors for demonstrating the impact of the body in communication. Notably, when working with the body in a non-dancing environment, Forgasz (2015, p. 134) emphasizes the importance of verbalizing the reason for an embodied approach: “a logical-rational explanation can sometimes be the key to opening students up to the possibility of engaging with other modalities”. Over the years, as language and dance instructor, I have learnt to ensure that the students be given a short theoretical introduction on embodied methods before moving on to doing concrete exercises. In the Chekhov technique, actors are looking for something called Psychological Gesture (PG), in other words, how a role is manifested in the body shape and expression of that particular role. Chekhov invites the actor to work with the PG of the body before turning to the intellectual aspect of the role (Tjechov, 2014, pp. 85-101). Similarly, in pitching classes, I would ask students to explore the PG of a business professional or an entrepreneur.

Against the examples presented above, what is the position of dance in the business curricula? As claimed by Biehl-Missal and Springborg (2016, p. 3), rather than regarding dance merely “as a superficial metaphor”, there is a need for concrete experiences of dancing. As previously exemplified by Leadership Tango in management training, dance and movement-based interventions often appear as a complement to pedagogical methods regarded as more “serious” and “significant”. Yet, alternative and experiential methods may open a tacit understanding for the theory as well. As stated by Roevens (2016, p. 6) on Leadership Tango: “It is a viable alternative or an addition to classical leadership trainings.”. Finishing on a personal note, as participant in Roeven´s workshops in 2013 and 2018, I remember learning something vital about myself in terms of leading and following, implicit knowledge that I can still retain from my muscle memory.

3. Case Business Ballet: Tourism Business and Entrepreneurial students´ perception on embodied methods

For this examination, I have chosen to introduce my Business Ballet method as an example on how dance pedagogy can be implemented in practice in entrepreneurial learning. The Business Ballet course was first introduced in 2014 on Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus, with the purpose of exploring ways of employing dance-based pedagogical tools in the business classroom. The name of the course was derived from my long-term professional experience as ballet teacher and foreign language instructor. The basic principles of Business Ballet are presented in a video produced by Haaga-Helia for Learner´s Toolkit course: these include positioning in space, posture, articulate gestures and active gaze (Kiviaho-Kallio, 2019).

The discussion is based on a group interview with seven students in the International Tourism and Events Management program at Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus as well as a telephone interview with the Community Manager of student-empowered XES, affiliated with Haaga-Helia Start-Up School. Both interviews were conducted in February 2021. Additionally, a former student, currently working in London for a leading global research and advisory company, contributed to this paper by answering the following question: How did the Business Ballet course affect your perception of embodiment in business?

It really changed my perception of embodiment and I realized straight away that the insights and feedback from Pia on my embodiment – more specific: my use of space, voice and body language would be a valuable asset for my career. An interesting conversation with a former HR director of a global firm during my master’s studies in Germany confirmed this. He explained to me that companies need to invest a significant amount of money in (senior) management to train them on embodiment, body language, voice intonation etc. in order to enable them to deliver the message in front of a larger audience and to keep the audience engaged. It is a skill quite some professionals need to work on. He confirmed that the fact that I could get first-hand training on this during my studies is a valuable competitive advantage to students who did not. (Student from 2016 Business Ballet)

As implied by the answer above, heightened body awareness holds an instrumental value for a business professional. The former student also gave his view on the use of body in his current professional life in London, answering to the question: How is body-awareness manifested in your current position?

I engage on a daily basis with c-level executives and my work requires me to present to clients on different locations. The tips and tools learned from Pia during her Business Ballet course are still more than relevant in my day-to-day job. I recognize easier pitfalls and pay attention to my tone of voice and body language. These details are extremely important in order to establish sustainable long-term relationships.

To conclude, I believe that the role of body-awareness becomes even more important in leadership functions. You act as a role model and you can differentiate yourself from the competition by leveraging your knowledge and skills on body-awareness. (Student from 2016 Business Ballet)

The above example exemplifies the importance of body language and voice prosody in business communication. Naturally, these skills could be learnt at work from observing the communication style of senior colleagues. However, by introducing body awareness during business studies, students become more susceptible to picking up small signals in non-verbal communication, thus being better equipped for communication in work life.

4. Business Ballet for preparing student for Porvoo Campus Business Idea Competition

For this paper, seven finalists of Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus Business Idea Competition participated in a reflection on body work in their English business communication classes. In autumn 2020, these students were in their first semester of International Tourism and Events Management (TEMPO) studies and they took part in regular embodiment interventions during the period of August to December 2020. The purpose of bringing Business Ballet exercises to the English lessons was to prepare the students for oral presentations and the Business Idea Competition pitch in particular. TEMPO students were the only ones on Porvoo Campus to receive extensive coaching in embodied awareness by a dance teacher. Eventually, the two finalist teams, consisting of four member each, were awarded first and third prize in the competition finals.

In the group interview of 15 February 2021 on zoom, the learning outcomes of the dance and movement-based lessons were discussed and, generally, the students noticed a shift in their perception of the body. A student with a lot of previous experience in presentations, referred to earlier studies on presentation skills where attention had been drawn to “eye contact, hand gestures and pauses, mostly upper body work”, whereas in the dance-based pitching class, the focus was rather on the “alignment of the body” and “full-body work”. Another student added: “You told us how to stand” in reference to the correct alignment of hip and feet, thus avoiding the tendency for women to keep the feet too close as opposed to a well-grounded 2nd position parallel in dance. There were also observations on the ensemble and chorographic aspects of a group pitch involving four team members. As observed by a student in reference to speaking on the stage in the Porvoo Campus lobby: “The biggest discovery was to be aware of all the people that were on the stage and then actually paying attention to the proper layout, I didn´t know that it mattered that much to align a good symmetry.” This observation was backed up by a member in the same team: “In this competition it had three other people on the stage and you helped us be more aware of our energies and how they all interact with each other and basically how to create harmony and synergy within the group.” Apparently, being prepared in the body also helped the students to handle the pressure of the Business Idea Competition finals: “Before we went to the stage, I was freaking out.” Yet, “that kind of open body language really helped display confidence that I needed to get through.” Finally, a student from the winning team concluded in terms of body alignment: “the tips you gave us helped me breathe better on stage.” This had to do with the equal distribution of weight on both feet as well as being made aware of a contraction in the chest that hindered breathing effortlessly.

The group discussion revealed an awareness in body work and an ability to verbalize physiological reactions when pitching. Naturally, a dance teacher has a trained eye to spot problems in posture and space awareness. Moreover, he/she is used to talking about the body in a candid and straight-forward manner. In the reflection, students referred to these personal instructions given in class: “For me a great thing that I learned about, was your approach to this body presence, like I really much enjoyed having all these people in the classroom and having them step up to the stage and actually forcing them to do what you are telling them, despite all the (maybe) shame that might actually come up.” With “shame” the student was referring to the difficulty of changing physical habits into more effective ways of performing. A fellow team member continued: “Or then you say okay, `don´t walk like that, walk with more confidence´ […] Instead of just telling how to do it, you show it and you make students do it the right way. That´s how we have learned.” The students also seem to appreciate the fact that the embodied exercises were done in the moment, thus helping them to improve their performance on spot. They also understood the importance of addressing the body directly and immediately by concrete verbal instructions, something that might feel uncomfortable for a non-dancer. Overall, students regarded the regular dance-based interventions as beneficial to their development as business professionals.

5. Business Ballet for teaching entrepreneurial mindset

The second example is related to an isolated Business Ballet intervention in November 2019 as part of the Developing Entrepreneurial Mindset course at Haaga-Helia Start-Up School. The course objectives were described in the Haaga-Helia study guide as follows:

“You will analyse yourself as an entrepreneur and learn to understand entrepreneurial lifestyle. By taking the first steps to define and develop the idea towards feasible business, you will start building your own entrepreneurial path. You also analyse and start to extend your entrepreneurial network during this course.”

The course contents include the following items:

  • Me as an Entrepreneur
  • Entrepreneurship as a lifestyle
  • Customer problem and value proposition
  • Idea description and prototype creation
  • Network analysis and interview of the entrepreneur
  • Cost structure and revenue streams
  • Pitching your idea to the entrepreneurial society

Upon examining the headlines, there appears to be room for a discussion on embodiment in entrepreneurship, especially, Pitching Your Idea is a performative event where body awareness would be an asset.

Based on my long-term experience of performance workshops, one specific technical improvement in body language might be the key to stronger stage presence. As in a regular dance class, the teacher needs to work with one challenge at a time. To exemplify, if the student has a tendency of collapsing on the hip, the teacher can demonstrate the benefit of standing well-rooted on both feet. Another example would be a habit of lifting the heels when speaking, thus making the message less grounded. In this particular case, the teacher would ask the student to slightly bend the knees and spread the toes inside the shoes in order to get a firm grip of the floor. In sum, the examples above demonstrate a basic correction that might have a big impact on the quality of a stage performance.

In order to assess the long-term impact of a short intervention, a telephone interview was conducted on 12 February 2021 with the Community Manager of XES 2019-20, a Haaga-Helia based community of entrepreneurial-minded people. The interviewee held a dual role as participant in the Business Ballet workshop as well as organizer of a monthly pitching event named Do you even pitch arranged on Haaga-Helia Pasila Campus. The workshop was organized to prepare students for their final pitch of their business idea for the Developing Entrepreneurial Mindset course. On the question on how the interviewee perceived body work in general, she defined the Business Ballet workshop as fun and playful, bringing a remedy to people who feel nervous about pitching. Moreover, she claimed that many pitching classes are very theoretical, presenting “bullet points on how to pitch” instead of showing how to pitch in a “concrete manner”. In this respect, she regarded the approach of the Business Ballet workshop as opposite: instead of looking into the theory of pitching, the participants went straight into practicing embodied pitching techniques. This type of workshop makes you aware of the body in space and such awareness helps to ease the anxiety of pitching, as you feel “more comfortable in the body.” From the workshop, the interviewee recalled the concrete suggestion of distributing the weight on both feet instead of leaning to one hip and she has subsequently been adopting this piece of advice in her performances. Another memorable image was that of “the live skeleton being pink!” In challenging situations, it is somewhat uplifting to know that inside your body you have a pinkish skeleton to support you. Accordingly, one significant benefit of arts-based pedagogical methods is having a different, more poetic, perspective being introduced to students. As dance teacher, I have been inspired by the experiential anatomy of Body-Mind Centering: “The mind is like the wind and the body is like the sand: if you want to know how the wind is blowing, you can look at the sand.” (Bainbridge Cohen, 1993, p. 1).

Finally, in her role as organizer for the Do you even pitch event, the interviewee had the opportunity to listen to the pitches of her fellow Business Ballet workshop participants. She could spot an improvement in the use of space and the level of feeling relaxed on stage as compared to previous pitchers who had not taken the Business Ballet workshop. Especially, there was a visible difference in awareness of how to optimally position the body when speaking to an audience. As a conclusion to the interview, the XES Community Manager would have welcomed embodied intervention throughout her business studies at Haaga-Helia UAS.

6. Discussion

As an outcome of the Business Ballet workshop for TEMPO as well as entrepreneurial students, participation in the workshops resulted in more focused and impactful pitches in the final pitching events. Based on the results of the interviews, students saw a value in preparing the body for stage performance. Movement concepts used by Laban (1988) and Preston-Dunlop (2014) could also be drawn from the students´ personal observations on feelings in the body during and after the workshops; they used terms like “alignment”, “symmetry”, “harmony” and “energy”, concepts that a choreographer would employ when working with a dance ensemble. Additionally, students also mentioned breathing and feeling relaxed in the stressful pitching situation. Having taken part in the workshops, they were able to analyze their physiological reactions when performing on stage.

When being able to voice the feeling in the body and having tools from performance technique, students can overcome the discomfort of performing on stage and instead focus on the delivery of the business idea itself. Thus, the body stops being an obstacle but becomes a tool for making the verbal message stronger, as seen in experienced public speakers. Significantly, pitching is an important skill for future entrepreneurs, since an impactful pitch together with a feasible business idea might result in financing, whereas the content of a good business idea, yet impaired by poor delivery, might not get across to the audience. This is especially the case when starting a business; there is a lot of competition and the most confident performers tend to get the attention. Feeling home in the body may be regarded as a starting point for confidence and this, in turn, can be trained by making students perform embodied exercises.

Overall, the interviewed students regarded dance-based methods as a vital addition to more theoretical ways of teaching pitching skills. The Business Ballet workshops were generally perceived as playful and eye-opening and students did not mind the candid and concrete instructions presented by the instructor in terms of body work. This might be a result of a long experience of coaching non-dancers; as instructor, one needs to be sensitive to how much an individual student is ready to work with the body. If a student is feeling detached from his/her body, a dance-based method might turn out to be counter-productive. Therefore, it is recommendable that a qualified dance teacher be involved in the planning and implementation of embodied interventions for business students.

Finally, the therapeutic aspect of dance was briefly mentioned in the literature review, yet, this question was not covered in the interviews, where the focus was on the instrumental impact of dance-based pedagogy for the purpose of enhancing presentation skills. On a whole, in a competitive and stressful reality, the therapeutic value of dancing together should not be overlooked. As mentioned before, the ability to “listen into” is an important skill for the overall feeling of well-being in human life. Even here, dance could be justified as a method in a business school.

7. Conclusion and Recommendations

Twenty years after starting my teaching career in a business university, I still find myself explaining to students and colleagues about the significance of body in business. Yet, this tradition of revaluating the corporeal sphere goes far back in history, as demonstrated by Leder (1990, p. 127) when referring to the role of the body in the history of Western philosophy: “Aristotle in reply to Plato, Marx in reply to Hegel, Merleau-Ponty in reply to Sartre” . Similarly, in the 21st Century, a dancer finds herself explaining about concepts such as embodied awareness in an attempt to be allowed access to a slot in the business curriculum.

A discussion on embodiment in a business curriculum gives room for further questions; how to involve embodied knowledge in preparing students for a career in business or entrepreneurship and how to develop a multi-voiced curriculum where the body is included as an integral part of learning? The reflections presented by the interviews provided possible openings for future research: there seemed to be a genuine interest towards alternative pedagogical methods on a more regular basis as an integral part of the studies. As dance practitioner, I am looking for a fruitful dialogue between disciplines and ways of communicating pedagogical experiments to the university community. For individual practitioners, there is an impending risk of pedagogical innovations remaining in a marginalized position due to a lack of organizational structures for sharing experiences. In other words, what is not immediately comprehended is dismissed as “otherness” and thus not regarded as relevant. Finally, an inter-disciplinary dialogue might open up for new ideas on how embodied learning could contribute to developing future competencies for business life.

In conclusion, when developing a curriculum for future business and entrepreneurship, there should be room for multi-modal methods and novel pedagogical approaches. In entrepreneurship literature, concepts such as motivation, passion, inspiration, and creativity emerge. Arts-based pedagogical methods may open new perspectives on the self and the world for business and entrepreneurial students, since artists are trained in creative expression. Additionally, a holistic understanding of the body/mind prepares the future professionals for the demands of 21st Century entrepreneurship: agility, resilience and an ability to see connections between different phenomena. In sum, all these qualities can also be explored and understood through the involvement of the body in the learning process, where the focus is rather on the sensing and feeling of a phenomenon, than conceptualizing it through words.

Summing up in the words of Rae Johnson, presented at the 2019 Gender & Work symposium at Harvard Business School:

“The body is not and […] our physical senses are not these untrustworthy, infantile, unreliable, problematic things that are only good for carrying our head around. Right? But in fact, our bodies are who we are. And we lose a big part of who we are, and we lose a lot of the richness of life, when we agree to allow that part of ourselves to be marginalized.”


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