By Jessica Hopper
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is known for his pitbull brand of politics and White House savvy. While some of his political know-how was shaped in Washington, Emanuel said that years of ballet training have influenced how he operates in the political realm.
Emanuel left his job as President Obama’s chief of staff to run for mayor of his hometown, Chicago, Ill. He’s now six months into his term and said that his experience as a ballet dancer helps him as mayor.
“You can’t be a dancer and not have discipline and you can’t succeed in politics, in my view, if you’re not disciplined and driven,” Emanuel told NBC News’ Harry Smith.
Emanuel, 51, began taking ballet classes as a child. He was so talented that he was offered a scholarship with the prestigious Joffrey Ballet. He turned it down to attend Sarah Lawrence College. He now serves as an honorary chairman of Joffrey Ballet’s board.
Emanuel said that dancing taught him how to “think through a set piece of telling a story,” which can be helpful in politics.
“Dance is about space and how to design it and politics, somewhat, has a choreography to it,” he said.
Emanuel has referenced his dance background when advocating for arts funding in schools and when meeting with potential investors.
“I was trying to work something out to get an investment in a school,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m a former dancer. I’m unbelievably flexible.’”