Image by Bernardica Svaguša

Your Soft Skills Ecosystem

Do you have an instant attraction to some of the soft skills on the map? Do you feel that some skills are reliant on others or that you need a cluster of soft skills at any given moment?

This is your soft skill ecosystem. An ecosystem is a network of soft skills that interplay and grow with each other. Soft skills are not isolated. Most likely you prioritise specific soft skills that reflect your interests, needs and values.

Values are beliefs and opinions that guide the choices you make. They distinguish how you identify yourself and shape the way you develop relationships, handle challenges and define goals.

The way you draw on a collection of soft skills in relation to your values will guide your approach and focus your intentions when working with your dance participants.

How you discern the relationship between the softs skills you value, the context you are in and the choice-making of your actions while you are leading your dance practice will have an impact on the growth of soft skills in others.

Here you can reflect on the values important to you in your artistic practice and how they relate to the development of desired soft skills.

Let’s Turn to Your Body

Here is an audio guide to provide you with a moment of embodied processing in relation to the theme of the chapter.

Reflective Task

What orients your practice?

This reflective task will help you recognise and acknowledge the values that orientate your dance practice. It will help you identify the soft skills that align with those values and to focus on the needs of a particular context. This alignment in yourself is important in order to effectively bring soft skills out in others.

For the following questions you may like to write down your answers and return to them as your thinking and practice develop.

  • Do you hold certain beliefs that guide your participatory practice? Are you motivated by interests in representation, desires for fairness or to address those who are often on the margins of society? If yes, describe the attributes you associate with those values (i.e. compassion, integrity, transparency, humility). How do those interests relate to the soft skills you focus on activating through your dance practice?
  • When have you altered your practice due to the needs of your participants? What was gained?
  • Is there anything you wouldn’t do? Are there any lines you won’t cross connected to relations with participants and other stakeholders?
  • Do you have a list of actions that you always follow? Do any of these actions concern the wellbeing and situation of participants and other stakeholders?
  • What would you like your practice to be recognised for?
  • Go back to your answers from the previous chapter and the soft skills you identified in relation to your dance practice and various contexts. What would you alter or give focus to now in light of your answers here?

Ways to identify and set intention

Thinking about your answers to the above questions, how might you complete these sentences:

  • Soft skills I use most are…
  • Soft skills that are most important to me are…
  • Soft skills being used by the participants are…
  • Soft skills I would like to develop more are…
  • Soft skills I want to focus on in my next session with the participants…
  • Soft skills I want to focus on over the duration of the project…

Collecting soft skills with your dance participants

Here is a physical task, written as a score, that you can do with your dance participants and collaborators to practise building up soft skills together. Throughout you will find some questions to help everyone identify the soft skills practised and to open conversation on the soft skills each value. 

Duration: 30 minutes. 
To be done with a group 
Needs: a roll of string cut into several pieces 3-4 metres long, a notebook, a space large enough for the group to move around in and someone to read the score below out loud.

The Score: 

  • Take the time to look at all the people present, observing each person in the space.
  • Greet each other. 
  • Walk through the space and choose someone to be with
  • Take the time to observe your partner, their face, how they are standing. Take time to breathe together. 
  • Take a piece of string with your partner. Facing each other, place the string at the height of both your noses or mouths.
  • Move apart from each other until the string is taut.
  • Begin to move in the space and find a dance together without relaxing or dropping the string. Change directions and heights. Take risks. 

As you do this exercise, can you observe how you negotiate the other body in front of you?
Do you want to be a guide all the time?
Do you leave space to be guided? 
What non-verbal information are you exchanging with the person in front of you? 
Can you identify sensations in your partner?
What about your own sensations? 

  • After experiencing this for a while, bring your attention to the architecture you are making with the strings – both with your partner and in relation to the other strings in the room.
  • Take some time to build this space together. 
  • Once the architecture is satisfactory to you all, stop moving.
  • Look at the common construction. See the space you built and sense the other bodies that make up this architecture.
  • What is your place in this architecture?
  • When you have observed all this information, let go of the threads altogether. 

Take your notebook. Come back as a group to take time to ask yourselves the following questions:

  • How did you negotiate with the rest of the group? How did you build the collective architecture while still keeping the string between you taut and not letting go. What strategies did you use? 
  • Can you name and write down the soft skills that you think were central to this exercise? 
  • What values emerge for you in reflecting back on your experience of doing this exercise? What became important to you?
  • How might your strategies and the soft skills used relate to the values you identify? 
  • What action could you add to this exercise to go further in the experience with this group? 
  • Can you come back to this practice and take time to note the changes as you repeat it? How might this exercise change with a different group of people, perhaps with different needs? What do you need to take into consideration in terms of principles and values?