With over a decade of experience under her belt, Dacquiri Smittick plays a key role in successful dance performances: managing it all. As the fourth interviewee in our blog series, Smittick tells us how she empowers her team as they tour around the world.
Over the past half-century, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has toured worldwide and performed for an estimated 25 million people. The many hours of practice by the dancers, however, is just a fraction of the work that goes into each performance.
Dacquiri Smittick has helped make sure the rest gets done since 2001, when she started as Tour Merchandise Manager and assistant to the Company Manager. Smittick, currently Company Manager, will soon assume the role of Director of Production and oversee all of the operations for AAADT. Being in charge of the logistics of global travel and setup for 50+ people throughout the year means she has to bring her A-game to her communication:
“In some sense, I’m trying to promote a ‘culture of communication,’ between management and the crew and the dancers. I get the best out of my team by creating an environment of positive feedback, encouragement, and information. And we try to show everyone that management is trying to get them as much information as possible, that we’re not holding anything back from them.”
For Smittick, giving positive feedback and encouragement itself rests on first enabling her team with information:
“It’s a big deal to me to make sure people are informed as much as possible with what they need. By equipping them with the facts, my team can do their job to the best of their ability. We’re touring for the majority of the year with a lot of moving parts involved, and everyone needs to be able to go about their work without doubling back and asking questions I should’ve answered from the get-go. If I broadcast as much information as possible, I’ve equipped my team for the day – they have everything they need to make it all work. That way, they can focus on their dance or on getting the stage ready. That’s the kind of environment I like: it’s really just this idea of information as power. As long as everyone has what they need, they’re powerful in the position that they have. I think that’s the foundation of any type of motivation you could give.”
Her long-time mentor Calvin Hunt, the former Sr. Director of Performance and Production, gets the credit for being primarily responsible for her emphasis on information-as-power:
“My boss was big on equipping everyone with the proper information so we could do our jobs. He wasn’t a micromanager, which was great. I found that the best way to have a boss – and I always aim to incorporate that into my management style too – because it gave me the opportunity to do what I needed to do and learn from my successes and failures. Instead of micromanaging, he would talk to me afterwards. He would either say that what I had done was a great way to do something or that it wasn’t. Most importantly, if I had made a mistake, we’d talk over what the problem was and how to do better.
“He empowered me with all the tools I needed to be able to do my job to my best capability. And a large part of that was giving me information. Whenever I asked a question, he was always open to answering without saying, ‘Well this isn’t really in your lane.’ It was more like, ‘You need this information to be able to do your job. You need to be able to communicate this to other people, so therefore I need to tell you.’ He taught me that style of management. I’ve tried to keep that in mind in the roles I’ve had and to equip my team with the proper information, so that when they have to speak to other people about what needs to get done, they can speak confidently.”