Having a positive mantra is a great resource as well since our minds are good at playing tricks on us. We have a choice as to what to think, and it starts with the refusal to surrender to negative thoughts. By strengthening our mind “muscles,” we can embrace our anxiety and ask it to step aside for a moment while we make room for the positive. With so many global changes, we should keep in mind that we can’t always manage anxiety alone. If none of the common suggestions help, ask for help. Having a partner, a friend, or a group of friends who can sweep you up and hold you for a while is a great antidote for anxiety.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Debora Balardini.
Debora Balardini is the co-founder of the award-winning organization Group.BR which is New York’s only Brazilian theater company. Balardini is an entrepreneur, theater performer, director, producer, and educator. Taking a leap from multiple nominations for contributions to original theater productions, she proudly accepted a 2019 Essence of a Boss Award and was honored at the 39th annual Gralha Azul Awards.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ever since I was six years old, I knew for sure that I wanted to be on stage. I was not sure about what kind of art I would pursue, whether classical dancing, acting, or music. I had the urge to share expression, and so I followed that intuition and always pursued any type of creative path on stage. Dancing was my first contact (ballet, tap, and jazz), and a few years after that, acting became a passion among all the others. As the years went by, I was able to learn different concepts and techniques in dance and theater acting, and a lot started to fall into place. Dance became a recourse for movement in theater, and the practice of physical theater became stronger. Acting, directing, coaching, and producing for the theater are now my strong mediums, and I am happy I followed my intuition from an early age.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I was 24 years old, I was called to dance with a troop in Japan. There were many other interesting stories, but this one I consider a rite of passage from my quiet life in my native city of Curitiba, Brazil, to a life of adventure that would teach me so much about relationships, career choices, and life in general. I went from a sheltered life to an autonomous life in less than a year. For the first time, I was alone and having to make decisions for myself. I soon moved to New York after six months in Japan, and life was never the same. Living as an immigrant in a country where I don’t speak the language, I went from cleaning houses and babysitting to finishing my studies and leading a life full of art, like I always imagined.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
My first advice to my industry to thrive and avoid burnout is self-care: Take care of yourself first. It may seem a little selfish, but with so many global changes and with the rise of COVID-19, we’ve come to the startling realization that the only way to make it through is by putting on our own oxygen mask first. When I am working with actors and directors on the business of art, there are three foundational career components at the root of success and happiness: balance, craft, and the business. Without balance, an artist lacks a mind-body connection and confidence, something they need before approaching the work or business. Hatha yoga practice and philosophy influence my approach to my life and work. What I’ve learned is the practice of rituals for the body and mind is essential to any human being. Rituals help us avoid burnout and keep us in tune with our intuition as well as open a spectrum of choices bigger than we can imagine. And when we see the possibilities, we can navigate with a clear mind and take full ownership for what is yet to come.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Creating a culture that encourages the lines of communication to stay open creates a fantastic work environment. (I am not just talking about communicating memos and sharing things on social media.) Communication has to do with clear expectations, intentions, and transparency. When we state our unique work styles and what we expect and need from staff and creative partners, they can do the same. This working agreement can be seen as a building block of relationship building. Once trust is established (and fostered), it may be easier to avoid miscommunications and to work through typical challenges that arise in the workplace. My personal style is ambitious, driven, and passionate about every opportunity project I work on, with bouts of stoic leadership that read more like aggression. I’ve found that communicating with transparency from the beginning is a gamechanger to avoid assumptions and defenses that can prolong challenges and slow progress. As a creative, I’m not here to impose my own ideas as the best ideas over all else or to go down a rabbit hole of doing everything myself in the name of tight deadlines. That’s not collaboration, and it’s also not realistic. I put my heart and soul into everything I’m working on under the caveat I’m glad to be acknowledged for my contributions but I don’t want to individually own a body of work made possible by a team. After many approaches over the years, once my job is done, now I expect a good production will take on a life of its own. It’s important to understand how and when we are needed and to identify post-production grief, which may inspire reflection and vulnerability. With a great team and collaborative partners, it’s important to question that together.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Oh, my dear universe…so many books, so many different lessons. I can say (for now), The Symposium, also known as The Banquet, by Plato. It is essentially a book about love that takes place at a party in ancient Greece. It questions all sorts of relationships and what love is or is supposed to be. Should love be praised? What is the purpose of love? Plato is not one of my favorite ancient authors, but these questions about love always intrigued me, and it definitely resonates with so much because love is the fuel to happiness, I think.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
Step 1: Once I began to integrate Hatha practice and philosophy into my life, the answer to how to effectively support those around us who may be feeling anxious became crystal clear. Breathing. With anxiety, we tend to run short on breath, but when one person puts breathing into action, it’s for themselves and the world around them. Even a few deep, mindful breaths can result in clarity.
Step 2: Creativity: Tap into it — we all have it! By cultivating creativity and nurturing our artistic side, we are allowing ourselves to process, dream, and exercise our voice and our point of view (even if it is just singing in the shower, doodling, or appreciating art, design, and theater). It’s critical to create and support the arts as it saves lives — we can’t afford to deny that any longer.
Step 3: Volunteer. Donate your time to an organization or support a local small business or a friend. Sharing is the ultimate collaboration. It helps us exercise mutuality, develop trust, and heighten our commitment to live the lives we want to live and create community. It becomes incredibly clear that you are not alone, and by helping others, you are actually helping yourself too.
Step 4: Set goals for yourself. Organize your thoughts and ideas. (It helps to know your love languages.) Once we have a plan, we can exercise some control over our lives and make progress and hopefully peace.
Step 5: Take ownership, and embrace the journey. The blues can happen, but the question is, does it help us for them to take over? In our time passing through this life, we have the great opportunity to help humanity grow and evolve. Once the initial shock and sorrow subsides, we can transition out of the types of fears that hinder our growth and take responsibility for our power to choose what life offers us right now.
From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain? What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Again, breathe! Be open to staying present and making discoveries. Reconsider different perspectives about the subject by listening to other opinions or experts. Our own opinions or limiting beliefs may well evolve and grow. Moving the body (dancing, yoga) is wonderful. Our bodies hold secrets that we can’t even imagine. Having a positive mantra is a great resource as well since our minds are good at playing tricks on us. We have a choice as to what to think, and it starts with the refusal to surrender to negative thoughts. By strengthening our mind “muscles,” we can embrace our anxiety and ask it to step aside for a moment while we make room for the positive. With so many global changes, we should keep in mind that we can’t always manage anxiety alone. If none of the common suggestions help, ask for help. Having a partner, a friend, or a group of friends who can sweep you up and hold you for a while is a great antidote for anxiety.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Favorite Quote: “Find your place and you will find your voice.” (Enrique Pardo — Pantheatre/Paris)
This is a quote from my dear master voice and theater educator, Enrique Pardo. The concept isn’t casual. It goes much further than the norm. The first time I heard this, it was incredibly foreign to me, but as time passed, I applied it to everything in my life. It opened up my understanding of the concept of a “place” or how we relate to the world around us in art and life. I was invited to discover how this applied to a physical place, a conscious or subconscious place. With that one mantra that I couldn’t get out of my mind, I reexamined my place as an immigrant and my place as a woman who embraces her Brazilian, Afro-Brazilian, and Indigenous-Brazilian roots. I became incredibly aware of my place and how my position related to those around me — even my place as a human being. The rhetoric that wouldn’t let this concept rest became, where does my body want to be? My art and my life opened up. The place sets a path for when and how I want to land my voice — a voice in speech, a political voice, my woman’s voice, to voice my opinion, to voice a sound or song…voice, voice, voice. These two elements are very physical, and they do start with the physical body, but they go beyond and take a metaphorical aspect and can be applied everywhere.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As humans have discovered throughout history, nature is stronger and bigger than we are. The god we should worship is nature. I would start a movement that helps humanity understand and respect the laws of nature more profoundly. Supporting humanity’s ability to cultivate knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual life focused around nature as opposed to a set of moral codes that another human wrote that excludes select groups would be the focus. Everyone has their own style of leading their lives, but if we observed and tuned in to nature more, we would know what it is asking of us and when it’s no longer an ask. We’d access and follow our intuition more as a society. We are part of nature, but we somehow keep disconnecting and instead exercise daily complacence out of pure habit. In a way, as tragic as it is, COVID-19 is forcing us to go back to some old ways of doing things. It is forcing us to go back to our backyards and connect with plants, it is forcing us to check on everyone, and it is forcing us to be humans again.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!