The Leaders Corner - Branislav Henselmann, Ballet BC
Branislav is intense, thoughtful, and widely read and travelled. Our conversation spanned a wide range of topics including power and who wants it, gender salary differences, and his thoughts on good leadership. He believes in authentic, flat leadership and prefers to let others shine and lead. As a leader he needs to be fully committed to the cause and certain that he is solving more problems that he is creating.
Originally trained as a dancer in Munich, later deepening his studies at conservatory level at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London, Branislav also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University. He has been recognized as one of Business in Vancouver's Forty under 40 in 2014.
And yet Branislav prefers to be surrounded by those who want to fulfil their potential and who are motivated by continuous learning. He feels that supporting young leaders to take on more responsibility is essential to our sector and actively mentors and champions his younger team members.
The concept of shared leadership is something he lives with every day, and credits to his co-leaders Artistic Director Emily Molnar and Board Chair Dr. Kevin B. Leslie.
Leader: Branislav Henselmann, Executive Director
Organization: Ballet BC
Tenure: Since July 2012
Leadership or life motto:
“When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.” - Robert Fulghum
I don’t see challenges, just a myriad of opportunities. Incredible opportunities opening doors for our upcoming projects, such as our final show for the season, RITE, based on the legendary Rite of Spring, featuring some of Vancouver’s finest: Emily Molnar choreographing, Omer Arbel designing and Jeremy Schmidt composing. Or the start our 30th season this summer, as we are opening one of the most prestigious dance festivals in the world, Jacob’s Pillow, leading to performances in Vancouver – and many abroad – for a year of celebrating the extraordinary talent in this city.
How would you describe your leadership approach/brand/philosophy?
Pragmatism and non-conformism, constantly embracing ambiguity, insisting on collaboration and peer-driven participation, and hopefully, along the way, creating meaning, shaping identity, and ultimately, adding value
What book are you reading now?
The End of Wall Street” by Roger Lowenstein
Who would you invite to a dinner party, alive or dead?
Right now, the guests would be Hannah Arendt, Peter Sellers, Slavoj Zizek, Grace Jones and Woody Allen.
What is your greatest fear?
Living in fear. Fear paralyzes.
When did you last cry at work?
Our recent Ballet BC tour took us to Montreal for three nights, performing at Place des Arts, on a stage that had seen some of the most preeminent artists in the world. First night of standing ovations - not just at the end of the evening, but after each of the three performances - was quite overwhelming and humbling, but when the same ovations happened on the second night, seeing the smiles on our dancers’ faces, and knowing that all the hard work by so many extraordinary people was so deeply acknowledged and appreciated, was just too much. I guess you can call those tears of joy, happiness and gratitude.
What do you value in your colleagues?
Imagination, wit, honesty, dedication, loyalty and steadfastness. Above all, though, generosity of spirit.
What is the best gift you have ever received?
It must be the gift I’ve received from my parents – ubiquitous humour and utter non-conformism. Also my first box of Laduree macarons.
What still surprises you?
The difficulty that is continuous work on reduction of noise that constantly surrounds us, as we are aiming to distinguish between the “want “ and the “need” - and once successful, discovering the wonder and beauty in small things anew. Both in personal and professional life.
As someone new to Canada, how do you feel about curling?
What is this “curling”, everyone speaks of?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
#littlehandcslapping (personal way of expressing immense excitement and/or delight).
What would your super power be?
Healing. Failing that, telepathy.
What impact do you want to make on the world?
It’s the collective impact that counts. So perhaps, within my abilities, help those around me to fulfill their potential, and by doing so, unleash their innate ability to change the world one baby-step at a time. To quote Martha Graham:
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open... “
Or, as summed up so wonderfully in the cult film, Paris is Burning:
”If you shoot an arrow, and it goes real high – hooray for you!”