What do ballet and baseball have in common? Plenty, according to former ballet dancer-turned-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Earlier this week, Emanuel compared Jackie Robinson West’s march to Little League’s national championship to his own experience as a ballet dancer during high school at New Trier.
“I don’t know whether these kids are going to go on to pro ball. I didn’t go on to professional ballet … But do not tell me they did not learn the skills of life,” Emanuel said during an interfaith breakfast with ministers and community leaders for the Chicago Public Schools.
“They had fathers and mothers involved in their lives. Aunts and uncles and neighbors ran practice. Coaches got involved. For all our kids to live up to their full potential, we in this room and outside of this room must live up to our full responsibility.”
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That wasn’t the last of the ballet and baseball comparisons.
“Ballet taught me discipline. And I want to be honest, it taught me how to take criticism. Those are skills for life. It also taught me how to take failure and pick yourself up,” Emanuel said.
“Because the kids [who] lost to [Las] Vegas came around and gave Vegas a lesson the next game.”
In his book, “Brothers Emanuel,” the mayor’s older brother, Ezekiel, talked at length about how ballet became a turning point for his younger brother.
“Dance probably was the first place Rahm was really rewarded with success for being passionate and intensely-engaged,” Zeke wrote.
“In school, Rahm couldn’t surpass me no matter what he did, so he decided not to compete. This led him to not try very hard and to dismiss intense academic work. Indeed, he probably dismissed doing anything zealously until he discovered dance.”
Zeke Emanuel described his brother as “one of the few males” at the Evanston ballet studio where he studied with a New Trier buddy. The friend, identified as Darcy Goldfarb, described their ballet teacher as a “taskmaster” who was “merciless” in her demands.
“She sat on the stool and would clap her hands and say `No! No! No! That’s all wrong.’ Rahm would beg her to let us try again. He would give her that smile and she would.’ [She would say], `All right. From the top.’ She taught us to be very disciplined,” the book quotes Goldfarb as saying.
“I think it gave Rahm a sense that, if you really poured yourself into something, you could get an amazing result.”
The same could be said for Chicago’s boys of summer from Jackie Robinson West.