Artistic director Emily Molnar on the definition of success

Four years ago Ballet BC was on the brink of collapse. Enter artistic director Emily Molnar, who’s reinvigorating the company (and audiences), one performance at a time.

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Ballet-BC-artistic-director-Emily-Molnar
Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar. Photo, Michael Slobodian.

Who: Emily Molnar

Occupation: Artistic director and choreographer, Ballet BC

Age: 40

Lives: Vancouver

Hometown: Regina

Education: National Ballet School of Canada

When did you start dancing?

I was one of those very active children who loved to move, and it was my grandmother who said, “You should put her in ballet.” I began classes when  was six and loved it so much that I went out and bought a pair of pointe shoes right away. When I was 10 I left home to go to the national ballet school in toronto; at 16 I was accepted into the National Ballet of Canada.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m responsible for all the season’s programming. i connect choreographers and designers and negotiate all the contracts, and i am heavily involved with the marketing and fundraising. i’m also in rehearsal for six hours each day; i usually get home around 10 p.m.

Who inspires you?

The courage of the people around me inspires me; the people daring to think bigger, to do more.

How do you define success?

For me it’s not monetary, it’s happiness. it’s asking myself: Did I achieve what I wanted to? Did I really push myself? Did I face my fears? It’s finding that really deep sense of accomplishment and happiness with oneself.

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Emily Molnar in rehearsal. Photo, Michael Slobodian.

Key strategy for turning Ballet BC around?

I thought, what if growth isn’t about expansion but contraction? Then I started eliminating anything that wasn’t relevant to our vision. We ended up working with less money but in more meaningful ways. To increase our audience we started open houses and sneak previews, invited bloggers to the theatre and studio, had post-show receptions for audiences to talk with artists and rebranded to look more contemporary.

How do you maintain work-life balance?

I really have to thank my partner of 10 years. I couldn’t do what I do now and push myself if I didn’t have that balance of love and support at home. Another part is making sure to carve out a little time every day to find stillness in myself — I will meditate for five minutes, go for a walk or do yoga.

How has your leadership style evolved?

I used to be my own worst critic, but over the past four years I’ve learned to stop doubting myself. I feel a stronger sense of my abilities, and that’s opened up trust and patience within my work.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given?

Probably to play it safe. Bad advice usually comes when people are giving their opinions out of fear.

What do you love most about dance?

In the studio you can have a group of people that don’t speak the same language and in 10 minutes they’re touching, laughing and dancing. That’s our workplace; we have to communicate non-verbally. I feel very lucky to have this as a profession; it’s one that teaches me about relationships and the world.