Gina Gibney is CEO and artistic director of Gibney, a $6 million organization that occupies two locations of prime New York City real estate, with 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces. But when Gibney first founded her company of five dancers in 1991, it operated out of one studio. The story of how everything went wrong that could go wrong, and yet the organization rose to became one of the liveliest dance hubs in the city, is a fascinating example of judicious risk taking. When faced with the choice in 2010 to cut back and play it safe or to take a risk and grow, Gibney took a leap. She did that again in 2013 when she had the opportunity to take over the lease of 280 Broadway in lower Manhattan, now the main location for the Gibney organization.
In August, Gibney joined Dance Teacher editor at large Karen Hildebrand at the Unity 2020 Virtual Leadership Conference to discuss what it takes as a business leader to succeed—particularly in a year like 2020. Here are six takeaways from that event:
1. With every big leap, there is a letting go.<p>When Gina Gibney committed to leasing her first studio space in 1991, her role immediately became more complex. Now, not only was she making work for her own company of five dancers, she was the one responsible for scheduling space rental and keeping the floor clean. It meant giving up a certain amount of artistic focus. "Over the last decade I have hung up my choreographic tool belt and I am now the artistic director of an organization and a business person," she said. "I have some regrets about that but I think it's been a worthwhile sacrifice."</p>
2. Sometimes it's not what you want to do, but, rather, what you need to do.<p>When Gibney was approached by the City of New York to take over the lease at 280 Broadway after a beloved NYC dance studio, Dance New Amsterdam, went out of business, she almost said no. There were many challenges with the space and it required a major renovation. But Gibney knew that <em>someone</em> would take over the space. If it wasn't her, it might be a commercial tenant, and she felt strongly about preserving the space for dance. "There was a need for someone to rescue the space, but it was not a risk that I sought," she said. "It was probably the most difficult thing the organization has undertaken."</p>
Gibney has been called the dance community's benevolent landlord.
Buck Ennis for Crain's NY Business, courtesy of Gibney