I was brought up in a family where trying to change the world was a profession. I’ve long ago learnt that it’s an activity that needs careful handling. If you end up frustrated all the time with the people you’re trying to change, it’s probably you as much as the world who needs changing! Two people who featured in last week’s Sunday Times reminded me of lessons I’ve learned on my own world-changing journey.
The first person was Dominic Cummings – in a profile published prior to his appearance before a parliamentary select committee this week. Dominic, it seems, is a man who believes in his own vision of how things should be – first of all with Brexit and now in the government, in parliament, and in the civil service. But despite being, in the words of his friend quoted in the article, ‘incredibly moral’, Dominic has failed. We probably haven’t heard the last of him, but for now, it seems, his vision lies in tatters.... Like a lot of people who aspire to change the world, he seems to want to be the hero of his own drama.
A woman with a lot of experience of being the heroine of her own drama is Dame Darcey Bussell. For over 20 years, Darcey distinguished herself as the most famous British ballerina of her generation with the Royal Ballet. More recently, she has become a household name in the UK when she became one of the team of judges on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – the Saturday night ballroom dancing competition preoccupying British TV audiences since 2004.
Darcey’s latest world-improving brain child aiming to raise spirits and funds is The British Ballet Charity Gala - a dancing extravaganza at the Royal Albert Hall next week in aid of struggling dance companies. Darcey hopes it will give fees and opportunities to dancers whose careers have been becalmed in pandemic doldrums.
So – what insights into 'world-changing' can Dame Darcey’s brain-child offer?
Do what makes your own spirit dance - if what you’re doing to change the world is not an expression of who you really are, don’t bother.
Laugh at yourself. ‘I probably didn’t know what I was getting into,’ she says of the Gala.
Keep your passion alive and believe in your product while understanding that not everyone naturally shares it! – ‘Dance is a real dose of medicine,’ she says. But also, ‘People don’t understand how brilliant it is.’
Keep in touch with a variety of worlds.. ‘Darcey herself,’ says her interviewer, Sarah Crompton, ‘is like connective tissue’. Her article describes Darcey’s wide reach in the world of dancing. She has contacts in the classical ballet world, in the world of popular dancing and among young dancers whom she mentors.
Understand how different people learn and give them small tastes of the benefits – ‘One of the most rewarding things is ...getting the young off the streets and just experiencing dance,’ she says.
Understand that people don’t change if there is no hope – and hope comes from building relationships not isolation. ‘Dance is a wonderful way of connecting people and giving hope,’ says Darcey.
One of her ways of connecting people comes from the exercise of her creative imagination – putting together her vision and others’ gifts to make something which transcends them both. What Darcey conveys is joy in collaborating with other people. Dominic Cummings and all of us with world-changing aspirations would do well to take a leaf out of her book!