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Taylor Hosts Dance And Design Thinking Retreat

Taylor Hosts Dance and Design Thinking Retreat

Taylor Center staff and colleagues participated in a design thinking capacity-building retreat on December 9, 2019 at Taylor’s Warehouse District location. The aim of this active and experimental workshop was to build design thinking abilities by introducing participants to several movement-based techniques and approaches to use in their work. These approaches focused on the themes of building empathy, creative risk-taking, future thinking, and fostering collaboration and leadership.

This workshop tied into the strategic priorities of the Taylor Forward strategic plan of:   

  1.  Community: Taylor staff and community partners, such as members of the Playbuild Community Board, came together to collaborate on design thinking activities and the movement-based exercises. Workshop activities were aimed to grow greater understanding and empathy within the Tulane and New Orleans communities.  
  2.  Organizational Capacity: The workshop built the design thinking capabilities of Taylor Center staff, helping everyone understand how to incorporate design thinking mindsets and new design thinking strategies in their work.   

The Facilitators

The all-day capacity building workshop was co-facilitated by Aleta Hayes, lecturer and Embodied Leadership consultant of Stanford University’s and Faculty & Dance Coordinator of the Department of Theater and Performance Studies and Lesley-Ann Noel, Taylor’s Associate Director of Design Thinking.  

Aleta Hayes’ teaching includes pedagogically innovative classes combining embodied research, theory, and practice and performance, channeled through the lens of dance and movement. In 2009 Hayes founded a cross-genre and dance-driven performance troupe including dancers, musicians, visual and spoken word artists, called the Chocolate Heads Movement Band which has performed at Stanford TedX, Bing Concert Hall and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In her work at the, Ms. Hayes explores concepts like leadership and risk-taking through movement, as well as the intersections of performance, architecture and design.   

The Workshop: Dance by Design

With two morning sessions and three afternoon sessions, the workshop was comprised of: 

Session 1: Embodied leadership and creative risk-taking  

Session 2: Building empathy through difficult conversations and using design thinking to support and promote difficult conversations.  

Session 3: “The Thing from the Future” future-focused DT-based workshop  

Session 4: Movement-based session on sharing and presentation  

Session 5: Closing reflection, key takeaways, how to apply this in other work.


The movement-based session, photographed below, is based on the concept of using dance and choreography to build design thinking ability, in that dance and music are great unifiers and equalizers, and in a comfortable dance setting we are able to (eventually) take creative risks. During this exercise, attendees of the workshop learned to take creative risks and to listen to, to lead, and to follow their dance partners, demonstrating creativity and management principles through dance.



Lesley Ann remarked, “Aleta worked with participants to get us comfortable, then helped us create movements. We did trust and leadership exercises like where we had to lead a colleague who had their eyes closed, or we had to ‘sculpt’ them – i.e. move their bodies into position”. 

Taylor Senior Program Coordinator, Samantha Fleurinor reflected on her experience, “For me, the workshop highlighted the ways seemingly unconventional ideas can come together for an amazing experience. Dance complements the experiential aspects of DT and allows people to practice iteration, collaboration prototyping through body movement. I loved that the workshop highlighted the ways dance can enhance creativity in other spaces.”

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