Roxane is no stranger to San Francisco’s tech community, and as a LinkedIn employee, she’s a major advocate for women in the field. She’s also a lifelong ballet fan and Principal 8 series subscriber at SF Ballet. Who says you can’t be both?
When did you first discover ballet?
I started dancing when I was a kid, learning both ballet and contemporary. I was lucky to grow up in Paris where my parents took me to attend dance performances, including at the beautiful Palais Garnier. We had a tradition to go for special occasions, such as celebrating my birthday or holidays. We would always dress up, often bring a friend, and read about the ballet ahead of the show.
When I moved to San Francisco a few years ago, I started taking classes again. I rediscovered the pleasure of dancing and realized how much I had missed it. I looked for opportunities to attend dance performances and was delighted to find out that San Francisco was home of one of the top ballet companies in the USA.
So you started as a member of The List. At what point did you realize you wanted to subscribe?
One of my friends recommended that I subscribe when I told her that I was buying tickets for every single program throughout the year!
What I love about my subscription is the flexibility, the ability to choose good seats, and the great value for the money. I pick the Tuesday nights because my husband plays sports so these are my ballet nights during the season. An evening at the ballet is now as affordable as going to the movies–but much more interactive and fun! I get to see the classics and discover new works from modern choreographers.
So do you prefer to go the ballet alone? Or do you bring along friends?
I always buy two tickets, but never know in advance who I will bring, which is exciting! At the beginning of the season, I ask my friends and colleagues if they want to join. They don’t necessarily know about all the events and opportunities that SF Ballet offers – some are passionate about dance and arts like me, some are less knowledgeable and can be intimidated by the ballet world. I’ve had the privilege of bringing friends to see their first ballet and share my passion with some of my favorite people!
So what are you most excited about in the 2020 season?
I’m most excited about A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m a diehard Shakespeare fan and have read/seen the play a couple of times but have never seen it danced. And I cannot wait to see the costumes!
Let’s talk about your professional realm. Where do you see parallels or overlap between the tech and art industries?
They both change people’s lives, obviously in different ways. Arts, culture, ballet–they enable people to discover something new about themselves, to connect with their emotions and imagination. Tech has introduced products and services that change people’s personal and professional lives.
Although very different, I believe that both worlds benefit from diversity, inclusion and belonging as it brings different perspectives and ideas to the table.
In dance, even if you’re classically trained, it’s interesting to have a background in contemporary work or other disciplines, such as acting.
At work, I have observed diversity, inclusion and belonging as a common trait to high performing teams, whether it’s diversity of members (coming from different backgrounds, education or life experiences) or diversity of thoughts and approaches to solve problems. This is especially true in tech; if you are building products to serve everyone, you need to represent different points of view.
I also find the intersection between tech and ballet very interesting. Thanks to its unique position being located in the tech capital of the world, SF Ballet can shine light on the challenges of an increasingly connected world, but also benefit from tech much like society in general. Last year, [Wheeldon’s] Bound To reflected on the use of and addiction to cell phones. And as a dancer, you can use technology to improve your technique and interpretation by watching videos of your own or others’ performances.
I also love that tech makes art more accessible to everyone. When it comes to ballet, I can easily research upcoming performances, learn about a dancer/choreographer, or watch a company class during World Ballet Day!
You’re an advocate for women in tech. Can you talk about some of the challenges women face, and how you’re working to create a more inclusive environment?
Overall, the tech industry is less diverse than it could be, and it can be hard to have access to mentors and sponsors. That being said, these challenges are applicable to all types of diversity, not only gender diversity.
Personally, for the last few years, I’ve been a part of the leadership team for Women at LinkedIn, which is one of our 8 ERGs (employee resource groups). Our mission is to create an inclusive community that empowers and inspires women to own and grow their careers while being their authentic selves. To advance this mission, we do everything from skills development trainings, to community building and networking, and volunteering. It’s the best feeling when I hear from employees who attended one of our workshops that it helped them create a more inclusive environment in their team or get a promotion, or when I receive a thank you note from a non-profit after a volunteering campaign.
You’re also on the advisory council for CURRENT, the new young donor group at SF Ballet. Tell me about that.
We’re launching the new program very soon. Our goal is to drive more young patrons and donors to SF Ballet. I’m excited to build a community that shares my passion for ballet and introduce the incredible work of SF Ballet to a wider audience. I think this is important for younger generations to support and contribute to the arts world.
So what do you say to those around you who are intimidated by ballet?
Are you up to connecting with your imagination, escaping to a magical place and dressing up for the night?
Before taking my friends to a performance, I send them an article or the Pointes of View podcast so they have some background about the piece. When we arrive at the Opera House, I give them a little tour; we snap some pictures and I tell them about the plot and what to watch out for. After the show, we discuss it: What did they enjoy most? How was the music? Was the style rather classical or more modern? Can they connect the story to the historical context or to another art piece? But most importantly, WHEN ARE WE COMING BACK?
A misconception is that you need to be a ballet expert and know everything to attend a ballet, but that’s not the case at all! Although, I do think that you’ll feel a greater emotional or intellectual connection to the piece if you are aware of why/when it was created and what the plot is. Something else I hear is that you should love everything you see. It’s okay to dislike a piece. If you go to the museum to see an exhibition, you will not necessarily love 100% of the art. It is part of the journey to build and refine your taste.
And finally, tell me something surprising that’s come from your involvement with SF Ballet.
Last year after a performance, I shared a ride with one of the dancers from SF Ballet, Ludmila [Bizalion]. She was the loveliest person ever, and offered to give me a new pair of her pointe shoes when she found out I was practicing ballet because we wear the same size. We realized that her husband is French, too, and went to business school with my husband. We’ve all become friends since.