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Dale Merrill, Dean, Professor of Dance, The Hartt School

My art form is dance. Weight in my art form equates to a quality of movement. Certain movement qualities have more weight, others have less weight, and each have their own beauty. Movement exists on a spectrum from being bound at one end to free flowing at the other.

This applies to leading an art school as well. I continuously work to find ways to get rid of weight and move toward a free flow state. People tend to impose weight on their leaders. I try to give it back to them so they carry their own weight. The challenge is to support my people, and be empathetic without taking on their weight. Leaders fail when they try to take on the weight of everyone.

In partner dancing, both partners carry their own weight. A person can hold their own weight in their own skeletal system, and using a combination of momentum and force, they become much lighter to lift.

I’m a control freak and I’ve always been a control freak. As a result, I had to learn very early on how to differentiate between what weight I could take on and what weight I wasn’t going to take on. I had to acknowledge that my control is limited. I’m not responsible for other people. However, I’m here to help. I’m here to help facilitate. I’m here to help connect.

People take on weight when they’re ready, and everyone is ready at different times. It’s like teaching. You can say, “Point your toes,” again and again and again. A student won’t respond until they’re ready. Eventually, they do. I lead in a similar way.


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