Kate Lieberth, the guru of dance at Google, starts every work day waiting for a company-run bus.
At a bus stop not far from her Oakland home, she boards one of about 100 buses that Google operates in the San Francisco area and takes a free ride to work in Mountain View, Calif.
Google shuttles about 4,500 people a day, including Lieberth, to its facilities in the Bay Area on 30 routes.
On her way to work, she uses the free Wi-Fi connection to read email and schedule dance instructors for the week.
“It’s way more productive,” Lieberth, 32, said of working on the bus ride to the office rather than driving — and getting stuck in traffic.
About 75 minutes later, she arrives at Googleplex, the name given to the company’s main campus, and continues her work day as a corporate dance instructor. Later, she’ll ride the Google bus home.
Welcome to the world of the Internet giant’s “Global Dance and Fitness Manager.”
Since February 2011, Lieberth, who retired from professional ballet dancing at age 28, has been in charge of all free dance classes at the sprawling Googleplex. She teachers four or five free ballet and barre classes, supervises 15 part-time instructors and manages another 60 dance classes held at other Google facilities in the United States.
Lieberth, daughter of Akron Deputy Mayor David Lieberth, believes she is the only person working full time in corporate America teaching dance classes and supervising other instructors. They teach about 200 group exercise and dance classes a week to employees around the world — all free.
Google, best known as the world’s largest Internet search engine, this year is rated as the No. 1 place to work by Fortune magazine. It also claimed the honor in 2007 and 2008.
The company offers a wide array of benefits to its employees, known as “Googlers,” including free bus transportation, free food and coffee and even paid naptime at “nap-pods” inside Googleplex.
Google says the goal “is to create the healthiest, happiest and most productive work environment possible that supports the peak performance of our employees and inspires well-being.”
The extensive fitness program includes everything from walking to yoga, kick-boxing, tennis and soccer. Dance classes run the gamut from salsa to ballet and swing.
Stanley Silverman, University of Akron associate provost and dean of Summit College, said the type of perks and benefits at Google are being offered more and more by “small entrepreneurial companies as opposed to typical large” companies.
By offering such a wide variety of benefits, employers hope to get employees more engaged with the workplace — and with their co-workers.
“That leads to higher and higher job satisfaction, and higher organizational commitment,” Silverman said. “In many cases, they are very talented people — and they have many other opportunities.”
Lieberth applied for the job through a Craiglist ad soliciting resumes for a “full-time administrative position with an emphasis on dance.” She had no idea the job was with Google, where 33,000 people work worldwide, about one-third of them at the Mountain View facility.
Lieberth said people who run companies “are learning very quickly that the more wellness they can offer their employees, the healthier their employees will be. And if you are healthier, you cost less.”
A passion for dance
Lieberth’s love and passion for dance started as a toddler.
When she was 3 years old, her father took her to see the Ohio Ballet at a free summer concert at Akron’s Forest Lodge Park. His wife, Lynne, was pregnant with their second daughter, Emma.
“I came home and I started dancing all over the place,” Kate said, and she recalls telling her father something she never forgot: “I can do that.”
After getting the dance bug at such a young age, she took a class at the old Grace School on Exchange Street, and at age 11 began taking ballet at Nan Klinger’s dance studio in Cuyahoga Falls.
Lieberth danced with the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet while a student at Our Lady of the Elms. Two summers while in high school she attended the School of American Ballet in New York City.
She later attended the University of Utah, where she studied dance and performed with the Utah Ballet.
Career stops after an apprenticeship at the Richmond Ballet in Virginia included the Ballet Memphis, in Tennessee; the Oakland Ballet, in California; and four seasons with Company C Contemporary Ballet, in Walnut Creek, Calif.
After retiring from professional performing, she taught privately at various schools.
Dance, being an art, “fulfills a very special need,” Lieberth said. “Art in general kind of makes your soul happy, and to have that opportunity at work and to finish our work day before you go to dinner and kids, to stop by the dance-plex and dance for an hour, people go home less stressed.”
And employees who take a dance class come to work happy “because they have this benefit available to them in the day,” she said.
Lieberth, who still takes dance classes during her own free time, said that while dancing professionally was terrific, teaching is wonderful as well.
“I am probably a better teacher than I was a dancer,” she said. To be able to have a “passion like ballet and then to be able to communicate a passion and give it to other people — so other people love what you love — is a huge reward,” she said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.