Embracing the pivot even when it’s a pirouette: Kara Medoff Barnett, Exec Director, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) (Episode 135)

With Kara Medoff Barnett
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Show Notes

The 80 year old American Ballet Theatre (ABT) is one of the oldest Ballet companies in the country. In a typical year, it draws some 300k people to in-person venues around the world. Audiences experience the magic of the company’s incredible dancers, the costumes, the choreography…and they are transported.  But, these are far from normal times. After cancelling it’s 2020 season, the ABT has announced the cancellation of its 2021 season of live in person performances as well.  

How does an organization survive when it’s largest revenue source comes from in-person venues? And when one of its most enduring legacies is a commitment to live, in person performance? 

It requires a massive pivot, not to mention a culture shift for all involved. My guest today is Kara Medoff Barnett. She is the Executive Director of the ABT and she is leading that massive pivot and the innovation required to keep the ABT running. She’s also one of only a few women at the helm of major ballet companies. 

Kara has held this role since 2016, after charting her career in theatre production, but in many ways it’s a very different assignment than the one she accepted five years ago.

This episode is all about innovation, collaboration, unbridled optimism, and an openness for potential.

In this episode with Kara, you’ll get her take on:

  • how to honor tradition while embracing innovation;
  • making the decision to hit pause v. continue moving forward;
  • how to build unique collaborations (and why that matters);
  • the innovative power of diversity of thought and experience;
  • how to build a digital presence from the ground floor;
  • how to manage a unique workforce whose work requires in person collaboration during COVID;
  • how to find and embrace new revenue streams;
  • how to look at challenges as opportunities for innovation;
  • and so much more!


Kara’s thoughtful optimism, coupled with her open-minded focus on collaboration, growth, and innovation have enabled the company to chart a new course — one that’s likely to leave them better positioned than before covid. 

She’s the embodiment of that age old saying in entertainment, “the show must (and will) go on.” 

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Until next week! xo

American Ballet Theatre on YouTube