April photo

Using dance as a learning platform for business, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is collaborating with more than 60 tech startups inhabiting 1871, a newly created co-working space in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

ArtPlace spoke with Jason Palmquist, Hubbard Street’s Executive Director, about the project.

ARTPLACE: What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you have had during the course of your ArtPlace grant? Describe how this came about and why it was special.

PALMQUIST: Over the course of the year, we’ve had a number of wonderful successes in our work at 1871. Performances in the space have been engaging and well attended, the series of videos we created have turned out beautifully and have been widely viewed, and 1871’ers have enthusiastically attended each of Hubbard Street’s Harris Theater engagements this season.

We’ve had less success with our “learnings” – these sessions were designed to give immediately usable techniques for the entrepreneurs of 1871 on a variety of topics. Our first two sessions, “Lead” and “Innovate,“ didn’t feel like they had the impact we imagined when we developed the platform. The space we were using felt overwhelmingly large and sterile – and the discussions felt timid.

Then March 20 happened.

We decided to change things up when we scheduled our learning session on “Collaborate,” changing both the schedule and the location. Our original priority in scheduling was consistency – our performances and “learnings” at 1871 had, to this point, primarily taken place at the end of the workday (6pm) in the auditorium (the largest meeting/gathering space at 1871.)

For “Collaborate,” we met in one of the classrooms at 1871 – a much more intimate space. We also scheduled the event during the workday – 9:30am. The smaller space fostered conversation – and the earlier time encouraged greater engagement by teams. In fact, one of the members at 1871, Paul Caswell of Weave the People (http://www.weavethepeople.com/) brought his entire company.

The dancers of HS2 adapted to the limitations of the space (carpet is not the best surface for contemporary dance) – and were fully present, sharing their personal perspectives on collaboration with the group.

In the end, one of the participants commented, “I could never figure out why someone would sit and watch dance, but now I get it. You have a convert!”

The magic of the morning was not lost on the business consultants we’ve engaged to construct these learnings. Thea Polancic, one of the ClearSpace partners leading the session commented, “It was really beautiful.” “Some of the things people shared were just amazing! I think we caused breakthroughs this time – a real milestone.”

As we rapidly approach the end of our residency, it was particularly gratifying for all the pieces to fall into place.

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