Courtney Rizzo, MBA Class of 2015
“You can’t get this anywhere else!” Christina Connor, EVP of Stern Culture Club, said after the event. By “this,” she was referring to professional classical dancers showcasing their work a mere five feet in front of you.
She is right. There is nowhere but New York, and nowhere but Stern for that matter, where one of your colleagues, Elyssa Dole, is a former classical ballet dancer, and she invites you to a rehearsal studio to observe the process of the bright young choreographer Emery LeCrone in a inspiring evening presented by Stern Culture Club.
To be exposed to the diversity of thought and experience that comes with living in New York City is a reason many of us site for coming to Stern. As Dole said in her introduction to the showcase, “When we first came to business school, at orientation, Professor Luke Williams told us that cities are places where ideas collide. Tonight is dedicated to the merging of two worlds and two mindsets, and it is the merging of disparate ideas that leads to innovation.”
Those two mindsets are business and the arts, and their merging is the core of Stern Culture Club’s mission. While it is always fun to go see a show with a group of friends, this goes beyond attending performances. As Dole sees it, “We as a club aim to move past exposure and appreciation, and to a place in which our skills and ideas can be shared and developed as a result of these sorts of interactions.”
Pierre Guilbault, one of the dancers, expressed during the reception, “We need business to make it possible to do what we do as a dancer. We need marketing, publicity, a venue, and someone to help run what we are doing and find the money to make it happen. I don’t want to think about all that when I’m performing!”
As LeCrone was getting the last minute details in place before the showcase, she noted, “I learned so much from working with Elyssa on this project, especially about logistics and marketing.”
Guilbault and LeCrone have identified here the reason Culture Club hosts such events. Managing an arts organization takes both the right-brain creative types and the left-brain managers, and the best companies are where there is cross-pollination between them. “These business students will be in the position to work for and fund the arts,” another dancer Sarah Atkins explained, “so it’s important to have a dialogue about passion now.”
To her word, the dancers gave an incredible display of passion. Sitting along the perimeter of the rehearsal studio, the audience was able to see the focus of each dancer’s gaze and every preparatory breath that led into emotional movement. Hearing LeCrone introduce each work from her perspective provided an extra level of engagement.
To get a glimpse of what the experience was like, look up “Forcelessness” on YouTube by Sarah Neufeld, the violinist of Arcade Fire. LeCrone choreographed Neufeld’s music video for two of the dancers performing that night. It is a perfect example of how modern and beautiful and collaborative the arts can be, all in the face of shooting in five hours in a Harlem studio without air conditioning.
To receive information about other such magical events, become a member of Culture Club. Consider this your personal invitation from club President Elizabeth Lewis:
“We are in our first year of operation and are thrilled to bring events like these to the Stern community. Upcoming tentative events include a tour of the Judd Foundation, a trip to the Armory Show and a private tour and performance at Juilliard with fellow MBA students from Columbia and Harvard. If you are interested in being part of these events, we would love to have you join us as a member.”
Like the Emery LeCrone showcase, the upcoming events are sure to bring not only a new literal perspective (I’ve seen a lot of performances in my time, but never anything as intimate as this, and certainly not for $5), but also a new intellectual perspective on how culture and business fuel each other. Dole summed it up best when she said, “At tonight’s event the business and the arts worlds collided in a real ‘New York moment.’”