Nadine Lee moves around a lot. and each time she relocates, she chooses where she lives based on proximity to three things: transit, Whole Foods, and a good ballet school. The new CEO of Dallas’ transit agency began studying dance after a health scare in her early 40s prompted her to pursue a childhood dream. “I always wanted to dance, and I never really had a chance,” she says. Lee used a Groupon deal to begin classes at the Colorado Ballet Academy while working for Denver’s Regional Transportation District, where she led the development of the Flatiron Flyer Bus Rapid Transit. Roughly 10 years later, ballet has become not only a passion but a priority. “I will pretty much drop everything else to go to dance,” Lee says.
She moved to Dallas in June to lead DART after five years with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Her immediate goal? Define, quantify, and improve the DFW rider experience. “If we don’t take care of some of the fundamental needs that people have when they think about traveling—things such as speed, reliability, and safety—at a very base level, then people don’t even think about transit as an option,” Lee says. Only a few months into her new life’s ride, Lee’s schedule is already jam-packed, and ballet offers welcome respite. “Going to dance class, I can’t really think about work because it takes so much concentration to do what we’re doing on the dance floor or at the barre that it allows me that release,” she says.
Lee spends about six hours a week at Contemporary Ballet Dallas, perfecting her flexibility, balance, and technique. An engineer by training, she loves the structure that ballet offers compared to other dance forms. “I feel like if you get the foundation, then you can do anything,” she says. Jumps, especially tour jetés—in which the ballerina does a high leap, kicking her legs through the air to create a half turn, and lands with one leg lifted—are Lee’s favorite. “It’s just such a fun thing where you feel like you’re throwing your body up in the air,” she says. One day, she would like to get en pointe. “It’s a big milestone,” she says.