Ep #43 Find Your Stage with Joe Lanteri

Ep #43 Find Your Stage with Joe Lanteri

 
 
00:00 / 00:57:15
 
1X
 
 Usually Joe Lanteri is the one making the introductions, but this week, I get to introduce you to him! The one and only Joe Lanteri!  Joe is the man behind the most renowned training studio in New York City, he started one of the first (and certainly the finest) traveling dance conventions, NYCDA, and he is the founder of the foundation responsible for over 3.5 million dollars in college scholarships to young dancers across the country.  Joe. Is. The. Man. And in this episode we get to find out what the man stands for.  Joe talks about making decisions, the value of money, the value of working hard and he makes a strong point about priorities.  Grab a seat (and a notebook) and ENJOY!  

Show Notes:

Quick Links:

NYCDA: http://nycdance.com/

Steps on Broadway: https://www.stepsnyc.com/

NYCDA Foundation: http://nycdance.com/foundation

Outliers:https://amzn.to/3595MXQ

The Creative Habit: https://amzn.to/35cC04i

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello, Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. Or welcome back if you are returning. My name is Dana. This is words that move me and I’m jazzed that you are here. This episode is super special to me for so many reasons. We’ll get into it. But first, today I’m celebrating a big win. But when I’m celebrating is that I have scheduled myself at vacation. And if you are listening to this on the day of its release, I am on that vacation and loving it, man. Even just talking about it now, I feel relaxed. I hope that you are finding time and space to relax as well on that note, actually, what’s your win this week. What’s going well in your world.  

Alright. Awesome. Congrats, stellar job. Keep winning. All right. Now let’s dive in. If you are a person that knows of me through NYCDA, which is the dance convention that I’ve taught for for years, then you are really in for a treat. If you do not know of me through NYCDS, you are also in for a treat, but if you’re a dancing that came up through conventions, and if you’re convention days were a movie, then my guest today is the voice of your movies trailer. I guarantee it. Today, I am joined by Joe Lanteri, the founder and CEO of NYCDA one of the first and finest dance conventions out there, If I do say so myself, he is also the executive director and co owner of Steps on Broadway. One of the largest and most renounced studios in New York City. Joe is my boss. Joe is THE boss and Joe is much, much more. So buckle up and enjoy this conversation with Joe Lantieri. 

Dana: All right, Joe Lanteri, we are finally doing this. Welcome to the podcast. 

Joe: Thank you, Dana Wilson. You know, I am honored to be sitting here and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that I am nervous, but I’m excited to do it.  

Dana: Oh, I understand. Right. When you commit something to digital foreverness, there can, there can kind of be a nerves. Um, you and I can talk though, forever. So let’s treat it as if we were on a convention weekend that had no classes and we had nowhere to run off to. 

Joe: How interesting would that be? Right. 

Um, sort of maybe like what’s happening now as a matter of fact, convention weekends with no classes,  

Right? We’re on pause. Exactly.  

Man, okay. So it’s par for the course on the podcast, all of my guests introduce themselves, let us know what you want us to know about you.  

Uh, so my name is Joe Lanteri, as you mentioned, and you did allude to convention. So let’s start there. I am the founder and executive director of the New York City Dance Alliance. I say that with much pride and the New York City Dance Alliance foundation, um, I’m a new co owner and maybe not so new anymore co owner and executive director at the Steps on Broadway. Uh, we also have a sister company for New York City Dance Alliance called Onstage New York. I’m the producer and executive director of the Chita Rivera awards. I wear way too many hats in my life, but I cherish and love them all.  

Joe, you forgot to mention in that very illustrious bio, that Dance Magazine has also named you one of the most influential people in dance period.  

First of all, I don’t think about that. And to mention it, it’s not like it was at the top of my brain and thought, Oh, I’m not going to say that. I just wasn’t even thinking about that. You’ve done your homework because

I will say that I will say that 

I don’t think about that whatsoever. And yeah, I am. I’m very honored that dance magazine made that distinction. So I’m not sure where it came from, but I’ll take it.  

Well if I had to guess, I would say it’s because you make big, big changes. You do big business, you run big organizations, you do big important work, and I’ve been inspired by you for as long as I’ve known you, which I should mention is a long time. I’m not going to say exactly how long cause I’m a classy broad. Um, but I, I attended NYCDA as a young kid. And I remember looking up to you, I’m at stage like, wow, that’s it, man. And then I, you know, graduated, pursued a career in dance. I remember you called me one day and offered me a position as a faculty member on NYCDA. I wish you could have seen my face. I wish I had a photograph of that moment. Um, a very, a very prideful moment for me. And then the last 10, how many years of working together, um, On NYCDA. So I should let everybody know that because I’m going to say a lot about how NYCDA is one of the first, definitely the largest and certainly the best convention on the face of the planet. But I am biased of course, because I call it home. You guys are definitely my family and I’m so proud to be a part of that team. Um, so big businesses, big changes and, and you must be constantly making big decisions. So I want to start here cause it’s something that I personally am really interested in in my life. How do you make decisions?  

Great question. You know, and if you want to know the truth, I try desperately not to let the enormity of what I have going on in my life overwhelm me and I try and go back to the root of it all which often speaks to whether, whether it be the mission or the original vision or what I consider to be the integrity behind it. So if it’s something to do with, for instance, NYCDA, and it’s interesting, we’re having this conversation because I often say this now at Steps, because I’ve taken that mentality there. If I’m unsure of what that, how to make that decision. And this is the God’s honest truth. The first thing I asked myself is how will this affect the kids? How does this, and I’m being honest, how does this affect the dancer? And I start with that and I look at the impact on the dancer and based the final decision on that piece.  And I think, you know, in the conventional world or in the dance world in general, even in the open class world, you know, uh, people get into the mindset of counting heads. They look in a room and they count it. And it’s, I think it’s unintentional. I don’t want to think that it’s, you know, people intentionally go in there and do that, but they count heads and they think that that’s what this is all about. And it’s really not, you know, it has nothing to do with that. It really has to do with why is that class? Why is this organization? Why does it exist? And at the end of the day, it really is because you are investing in that group of dancers. And so that’s how I make the decision.  

That that’s a beautiful answer. And the beautiful segue actually into what I want to talk about next is, you know, you’ve, you’ve been teaching for a very long time. You’ve been running these enterprises for a very long time and I am constantly reminded. And I tell people all the time that you do it because you love seeing students succeed. And I don’t know how else you would be able to still be doing it if you didn’t get some kick out of that. But you’ve seen, I mean, how many students come up through NYCDA over the years?  

Well, we see 15 to 20,000 a year we’re in season 26, you do the math. I mean, that’s, that’s crazy. I mean, even for me, that it’s crazy. And if I had to be really honest, I already had a whole life and a career and saw many dancers and all that before NYCDA in fact, that’s, that’s what sparked me to want to start NYCDA, cause I already had a lot going on. So  

Yeah. Okay. So let’s talk about that for a second. What are the differences and what are the similarities of running, you know, your life in a performer sense and your work in the sense of all of these, you know, these institutions that you’ve built.  

That’s a great question. And it’s, um, it’s almost challenging a little bit, cause I, I, I feel so far removed from that person, um, which is interesting, cause I still live my life with the energy. Like I was when I was 25 years old and doing all of that, but I will, I, but I do have an answer. Cause I think the answer really is, is that you have to know what you offer and you, you have to have the confidence to put it out there. Uh, whether you are standing at an audition or launching a new enterprise or a new business, you really do have to know, uh, what you stand for, what your strengths are and that’s what you present and you can’t dwell on the naysayers. You can’t dwell on the negative. You can’t dwell on the challenges you chip away at those one day at a time and you just take those baby steps forward.  

I wish there was an audition for me to go to right now because I feel all puffed up by that. Um, okay. So let’s, let’s talk foundation for a second. So you started the NYCDA foundation 10 years ago. And how many millions of dollars in scholarships have you awarded since then?  

So the foundation itself, yes, we started in 2010. We made our first awards in 2011. And to date we’re at about roughly three and a half million dollars, which was a humbling and daunting number to even utter. Those words is kind of an amazing thing, but we’re at about three and a half million dollars.  

Okay. Well it makes sense to me then that you have developed this reputation for being a person that’s very pro college. But what I want to say right here and now and loud on a microphone is that you are a person that is pro success, whether it’s college or in another direction. Um, I, myself, as an example, I don’t hold a college degree. Many of your other faculty members don’t. Yet, I feel tremendous support and encouragement in my ventures, in my work. Um, and I know that you provide that to other students that, that don’t pursue dance in college. Um, so I just want to give you the floor to talk about how you would encourage somebody who’s thinking about the decision, you know, making that seemingly daunting decision. I say that because it wasn’t very daunting to me. I just knew. But what would you say to people weighing their options between dancing college and jumping right into the workforce?  

Um, first of all, I appreciate you making the distinction that we are not necessarily only about college. Um, I do think the majority of dancers that I meet, uh, based on where they are themselves at that point in their lives might benefit from continuing with a structured program of some sort that makes them accountable. They have to get out of bed every day if at a certain hour. And you know, I do think college has its benefits in almost teaching you a work ethic of what might be expected of you. Once you do have a job and show up every day and put in an eight hour to 12 hour rehearsal process day in and day out. Um, but I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone and yourself being a perfect example. And we could go down a long list of people that I think are incredibly talented that I admire tremendously that did not go to college and have done wonderful, wonderful things.  Um, but I do think from a maturity standpoint, a lot of people would benefit from building their community, uh, starting their own network and investing in themselves in those four years. So I think that the foundation has taken off from the college standpoint because I think parents like hearing the message of we are investing in dancers. We, and we are promoting education and supporting the arts. I mean, that really is the trifecta of what our foundation is all about, but I do get often misquoted that Mr. Joe says everybody has to go to college, which is totally just not the case. And in fact, we are trying to develop new things. You were involved with our dance discovery showcase, which we launched is one of the, one of the silver linings. They came out of this whole COVID situation where we started this mentor program, which came with a scholarship. It was supported by the foundation and that money is not meant to go to college. It’s meant to go to training. So we are pro training. We are pro you’re not done at 18, regardless of how much success you may have had enjoyed in the convention/competition arena. You are really just beginning. The truth is you are, that’s your foundation that that is your that’s your base, but you’re now going to step into a professional setting, which is going to require you to really continue to train and learn so much more. And some of it is just learning in life experience, you know, not only do is in the classroom  

Or even, or even on set, you mentioned, uh, building your own calendar, being accountable, being responsible with your time dollars and your dollar dollars, um, networking, all of those things. Yeah. That, that sort of structure is certainly not, um, already in place, you know, outside of a college environment, there’s no systematic way of climbing that ladder into being a working person. You just kind of close your eyes and jump

To be really honest Dana. You know, especially as a teacher and as a teacher at steps for all those years and being in the hallway with all those dancers that are waiting to take my class and overhearing conversations, and some of it is about not, you know, why am I not? Why don’t, why didn’t you get a job or why didn’t, you know, all of the things that come with pursuing your career? Um, I think for some people, their big plan at graduation is, my best friend and I are going to move to a big city would whatever city that might be, and we’re going to get an apartment together and we’re going to dance and as great as that might be, that’s not entirely a plan of attack. You know, that’s not really, that’s not enough. That really is not, you know, and the other, the other thing I’m going to interject, just because I said those words, the other misconception is because we are the New York City Dance Alliance is that we expect all of our dancers to move to New York, which is ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Again, you are a perfect example of that. You know, what we stand for is a standard of excellence and a level of training that you are then supposed to take that and go do whatever you want with it and thrive and flourish and do all of that. But wherever you go, you’re going to be held to a standard and your training is going to is going to resonate. And that’s why that’s, that’s who we are, but not because we think you have to be in New York, do it wherever you want to go, wherever, wherever, follow your heart, go find your stage. Those that, that is a direct quote for me. I use it all the time. Go find your stage.  

I love this quote and that is another beautiful segue. Joe, you would think we had had a rehearsal. I’ll tell you what, um, you’re famous for your talks. I hear them ringing in my ears ever because I’ve been hearing them since I was a kid. And you know, we’ve been working together for years and years now and I they’re so meaningful and I’m glad that people are willing to step away from the steps for a second and just give a strong verbal message, like no interpretation, this is what’s important to me and any alumni who is listening, anybody that’s been on a Dance Alliance weekend, who’s listening knows exactly the talks that I’m talking about. Um, and in those talks, one of the things you say a lot in addition to following your heart is to invest in yourself. I would love to know how you invested in you when you were on the come up as a dancer. 

I think that’s a great question.  And I will start by saying, um, when I use the words, invest in yourself, very little of it has anything to do with finances. It is not, it’s not about, you know, spending extra money or call it your even college tuition, as much as I do think colleges part can be part of that investment. But I think it’s really learning to find your path, um, to answer your question about my own journey, uh, both as an individual, as a performer, as a budding teacher, as an entrepreneur, all of those things, my greatest investment in all of those things was surrounding myself with incredible people. And that circle your own personal family that you develop and that you grow with, that is one of your greatest investments because that they’re there to support you. They’re there to support you in the great times and you all you share in that celebration, but they’re also there to support you in the difficult times. We are living that right now and not to go into a COVID place on this beautiful conversation that we’re having. But what a better example you being part of that family that I have, and you understanding many of the conversations that we’ve had in the last six months, uh, we couldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for that, that to me is really the essential investment that we all need to make. Um, especially in our industry because our industry allows us to get caught up in our head and get caught up in comparisons and get caught up in the cattiness. And I work, I, my whole life have worked very hard to not buy into that and not to not to go down that path. You know, I, you, you, you joke about, or you mentioned my speeches. Um, my talks, I often, I often carry characters, might characterize myself as being a little corny quite honestly.  Um, and I’ve owned it. I own it. I absolutely own it. Those, those talks, I have genuinely come from a heartfelt place. They are a little borderline. The world is the world should be sunshine and roses. Um, I consider myself, uh, one of the most, you know, um, positive. Uh, there is a, there there’s always a rainbow. There’s always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That’s just the way I live my life. And I think for some people that’s difficult because they’re not that way. And they’re, they’re the, I call them the eye rollers. What a hand goes on. A hand goes on a hip and the eyes roll back. And I can’t do anything about that. And that’s one of those moments where I stay true to myself. I know what I want the moment to be. I know what I want my message to be. I know what I want a kid to feel. Um, and one of the most rewarding things for me is when I, you know, if you know me well enough that in that moment, when I’m talking to a room full of the older dancers, that’s also the moment where I take a quick break and go change my clothes and come back and we’ll do the whole end of the weekend. I will have dancers run after me. I will have parents run after me, grab me by the arm, tears in the eyes and just say, thank you for what, for whatever, whatever came out of my mouth at that moment, not preplanned. And just having even one person wrecking, have that effect, then I’ve done my job. Then I’ve done my job.  

Um, sort of as a followup through those pot of gold glasses, that’s what I’m going to call. I’m sticking to it. What do you see as being, um, kind of a hopeful result of the COVID moment on the dance convention world specifically, but maybe broader even dance education in general?  

Um, I think it’s been interesting for me now. I’ll be honest. I have yet to teach on zoom. Isn’t that interesting? I’ve not 

I didn’t know that! 

And part of it is because this whole thing that whole quick change has been so overwhelming that I have really been wearing my business hat as opposed to my dance teacher hat. Um, but the dance teacher in me does, has been a part of hundreds of zoom classes and situations and events and things like that. Um, so I’ve learned and watched and observed and seen a lot of what goes on. Um, I think, and again, not to sound corny, but I think we’re seeing dancers step into an ownership of the situation. Uh, definitely an accountability for themselves when they’re now alone in a room, they are not able to hide behind 30 people in a classroom or 300 people in a ballroom. They, they, they are accountable for their work. They are accountable to show up and I applaud the dancers even for showing up. When I think zoom burnout and being hours on a device, all of that is real. It is understandable and real. And yet there are many dancers that have embraced what this now is. Embrace this reality and have basically said, I’m not going to let this deter me from following my passion, my dreams and my training. So I’m going to make the best of it under these difficult circumstances. And I think that characterization for those people, that’s, what’s going to remain. I think in general, I think zoom and virtual learning has brought the world much closer. Um, you know, scheduling for myself, scheduling guests, even to teach at steps or even some of the intensives and the work we’re doing again yourself, a perfect example. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to bring you in its steps like right now, because we’re in different coasts, but now you can teach a guest class at steps and you have, and it’s been great. Yeah. I don’t think that’s gonna go away. I really think that, that, you know, we have numerous international students that take class at steps, people from around the world, uh, travel to New York and take class, and now they’re able to continue to have that feeling from their home. So I think that that’s going to stay with us. I really do.  

Thats awesome and I hope so. To me, that really is that it’s massive that the change that’s happened in the last eight months is tremendous and it’s important. And I think it needed to happen because the cost of entry to training with top tier professionals was A. you had to be in the city where the top tier professionals were. B. they had to be not working on other projects. C. you had to have enough money to take the class, to actually buy the class package or get in the room. And, you know, big cities like New York and LA are expensive and they’re not easy to get to for everybody. And I, I do believe in the value of in person exchanges, but I also believe, and I know you’re with me on this, that you’ll get out of it, whatever you put into it, if you are, if you are open to having a transformational experience on a zoom class, you just might. And so now the cost of entry to having those experiences is wifi basically. Um, which is still not everyone, but I do think it’s a massive change and I think it, I think it’s awesome.  

But I want to just piggyback on what you said. You were only going to get out of it, what you put into it, and if you can only give 50%, then you can’t expect to get 300% back.  

That’s massive. Okay. I know Joe, the executive director pretty well. I know Joe, the human being pretty well. I wish that we grew up together cause I would’ve loved to be training with you. You mentioned earlier that you still have the energy of a 20 something. Who’s like, you know, grab your coffee and take eight classes and then go to an audition and then go to a show that same night. And I just wonder if you could give us a peek into your world, maybe a cross section of your time at USC, um, a college day, Joe, what did your life look like?  

Wow, wow. Uh that’s um a flashback, but a welcome flashback. Cause my days at USC were amazing and um, I’ve had the opportunity to go back and visit the campus since the Glorya Kaufman School has happened at USC, under Jodie Gates. And besides the fact that they’re doing amazing, amazing things, it was surreal for me to walk down the street and find that building, which is literally four buildings down from where I used to take class every morning. Um, I was not a dance major, there was no real dance program at USC at the time theater. Right? I was a theater major. Yes, but I was the first year, uh, John Houseman who developed an acting program at, at the Julliard school left Julliard and moved to Los Angeles because at the time he was filming the TV series Paper Chase, this is really now dating me.  But, um, he started the BFA acting theater program that I became a part of and any, uh, movement classes. And I’m saying movement, because they’re not dance classes per se were movement classes for actors. But the fact that I lived in LA was my introduction to the Dupree Dance Academy. And you’re smiling as an LA girl. That’s where I took my first dance classes. And you’ll appreciate that. The two people that I credit the most for jazz are Carol Connors and Jackie Sleight because they, they were my, they were my two go to teachers and I didn’t know what I was doing. It was very difficult for me because I looked like I should know what I was doing when I walked in and my jazz pants and leg warmers in my little dance outfit at the time. Um, but the room was filled with the scholarship dancers of the day who were the best dancers in Los Angeles at the time.  And, uh, it was extremely intimidating, extremely humbling, but that was after an entire day of acting classes, voice classes, um, Feldenkrais movement, all the things that were part of our program, scene study rehearsals. And then if I could sneak a class in at seven o’clock at night, I would get in my car and drive to Dupree’s and take class. I mean, so I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything, but it is funny again, I just going back to my visiting the campus in the last couple years, since the Glorya Kaufman school, uh, there is a church down the, down the street for four buildings down from where Glorya Kauffman is on the USC campus. There is a church and in the church basement, there is now a coffee shop that has a little outdoor landing. Um, it’s got these beautiful iron iron and glass doors. Well, that’s where I took class every morning and that, and it’s still set up very similar now that it’s a coffee shop, but it’s still very much resembles what it looked like when I took class, except that the wall that had my mirrors now has been built over. And it’s part of where I guess they, their pantry, but the bathrooms are the same. The entrance is the same. It’s all exactly the same, but it’s, it is a, it’s a coffee shop.  

So cool. I love this. Um, alright. I, I wanted to go like three different directions a little while ago. Um, it’s hard for me to stay focused cause I really, really could talk to you forever. Uh, you talked about setting a high bar, keeping a high bar and having high expectations delivering at a really high level. And I cannot think of a better example of a high bar than our NYCDA uh, national finale gala night. I have seen, and I am not just saying this. I want to be clear. I haven’t seen some of my favorite dancing period on our stage at closing night gala. Specifically. And I w I am prepared to get specific. Um, Jermaine’s Fivey and Cindy Salgado dancing their duet from Dark Matters. Um, I really cannot wipe Ida Sakis. Uh, the year that she won title, I cannot wipe her solo away from my memory. It is it’s, it might be my favorite thing that I’ve ever seen at NYCDA And I tell her that, and she’s like, no, and I’m like, um, I also very distinctly recall, um, the ball, the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria, Danny Tidwell and Melissa Hough. Um, I remember sneaking into that ballroom when they were rehearsing their closing night solos when they were handing over their title. And it just brings tears to my eyes to think about all those, all of those moments. So I know this is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. Um, yeah. Could you share some of the moments that really stand out for you and  

Well, you’ve hit, you’ve hit quite a few. I mean, I think, I do think Ida Saki was groundbreaking, uh, literally breaking that fourth wall. And I mean, she really, uh, took on that moment in a, in a different way than anyone else we’ve ever seen do that. Um, the, the, I will be honest and I don’t mean this in an offense of anyone that has come thereafter, but the days that the Waldorf were a very, very special time, uh, part of it was just where I was in my life. Part of it was the evolution of what we were doing as a company and watching that success start to happen, that there was a true understanding that we were trying to do something different and you’re exactly right. That it, it, um, it manifested itself on that stage. And you saw it, uh, one of the things, one of the, uh, Melissa Hough and I’m being honest in her day, I had never met anyone like Melissa, and she knows, I’ve said this publicly before she knows this to this day. At that point in time, I had never met anyone that was as versatile, as dedicated as technical. Um, just as special as a Melissa Hough, you would think she was a hip hop dancer. Oh no, no, no, wait, she’s got point shoes on and she’s a point dan-. Oh no, but she’s got tap shoes on. And she was a tap da-. I mean, she was phenomenal in everything that she ever did and her final solo as a dancer, she came back many times as guests. Those are all beautiful, but I don’t know if you remember the Stevie wonder in a chair. Do you remember this? 

I don’t 

Mia Michael’s choreography. 

I don’t. 

Oh my gosh. I wish I almost should have prepared it to have, we should have shared screen. I should have prepared it for you.  

We could get a live feedback of me just like choking on my own air.  

Well, you know, audio visual presentation, uh, it was, it was a very, very special, very special moment.  

Have you shared that on your Instagram throwbacks?  

I have in the past, I could probably, you know, we’re probably due to do go back and find some of those things as well, but that whole, that whole era, Melissa, Danny Tidwell. Well, of course Travis Wall, uh, the list goes on, the list goes on and on and on. And there was something really magical about being in that particular space, which also in many ways, defined New York city. It was a Waldorf Astoria. It was the grand ballroom of a Waldorf Astoria in New York city where presidents speak and things like that. And here we had some of the most talented kids from all across the United States, you know, come to perform. It was, it was special. And it’s exciting that you were a part of that and that, that has remained with you. I mean, really it was very special.  

Absolutely can cannot forget it. Couldn’t, wouldn’t, don’t want to ever, let’s talk about it daily. Um, let’s talk about talent and kids for a second because you know, maybe it’s the training. Maybe it’s just, there’s more exposure. I’m seeing more young people dancing now, but am I alone in being absolutely jaw on the floor at what young dancers are capable of right now and how are they doing that? Like what’s going on.  

It’s amazing. I think, um, you know, with all due respect to all of us, kudos have to go to the local dance studio and what they are doing and the decisions that they’re making, uh, because obviously they’re doing great things, training their dancers at those studios and deserve all of that credit for making that happen. Um, I think that the world and the internet and television, which has embraced dance over the last decade, uh, has exposed dancers just so much more. Um, and as much as I’m not a big social media fan and that’s a whole separate, separate topic, 

Oh, don’t tempt me. 

And as much as I do get, I do have my concerns that it, it pushes what we do to not the best place, if I had to be very honest, um, when done right, the, the level of exposure does have a positive can ha can have, can have a positive effect on what we do. And it allows each generation to learn from the generation past and take it to another level. And I, I think you’re absolutely right. What we see young dancers do is phenomenal.  

There’s so much to talk about, um, on the subject of social media specifically though, I did want to pop out. Joe’s point of view is very clear. He’s seen both sides of the spectrum, both the joy and the pain that can be brought on by literally having a global audience in your pocket at almost all times. Now to find out where I land on social media, you will definitely want to go check out episode 10, where I really, really unpack, um, my views on the socials. Granted that was before I saw the social dilemma.. I stand my ground enjoyed episode 10. Now I want to back up a little bit because when I asked Joe how he’s invested in himself, he mentioned that very rarely was that investment, a monetary type of investment. And I wasn’t surprised by his answer there, but Joe and I actually went on to talk quite a lot about finances. And let me tell you that is an episode unto itself. Um, so we’ll jump back in now to a part of that conversation, but know that future episodes have money moves all over them. I want to talk about money. I want to talk about money, words, and words that move me, but for now let’s get on with it and let’s get right back to Joe.  

Let me share this because we’re just talking honestly. And, and, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re delving into my past in some way. Um, I have to give all props all thanks. Uh, cause I’m pretty good with money I’m I have a good, pretty good financial, uh, mindset. And I thank, I am a product of my parents. Um, and many people don’t know this, but my parents were Italian immigrants. They didn’t speak much English whatsoever. They never really assimilated to this country. Uh, they remained old world, uh, to the day they all the day to the day, they both passed away. Um, and they’ve given me so many incredible gifts. One of them being my ridiculous work ethic to a fault, but one is understanding the value of money and the value of working hard for what you have and then taking pride in that. And, uh, in that ownership of, I I’ve earned this, you know, um, and I have, they had that pride because they came with nothing and, um, in my own way as well, I’ve I, you know, I’ve built my businesses from nothing. I, I, you know, just from decisions and I invested my own money in making it happen. So I’m right there with you with the financial planning. And I often sit down, we’re walking, we’ve never done it, but we could, we should do it at some point. I have often taken part in financial conversations amongst our people, you know, just in terms of like that next step or what do you do and how do you do it and all of that. 

I would love that. 

but it’s an important part of all this  

It’s so important, you know, and that there is more to it than work hard and save. That’s where I’m so curious and excited to learn and to take some next steps. Um, okay. I do want to ask. I would be, I would feel awful if I didn’t, it feels terrible to say to somebody what’s next for you when their plate is so full, but I, I, I guess I’ll reframe this question to be what excites you most right now.  

Good question. What excites me most, very honestly, though, is opening a new door and finding yet a new opportunity, uh, frankly for the kids, you know, um, I will share this with you and I’m saying this completely off the record, but on the record that my next, uh, desire that I hope to launch as things settled down and we’re going back to the foundation is something more to do with diversity and dance scholarships that we really collectively as an organization, as an institution, as, as a country, really support that movement to a greater extent. Um, and I think this is the time the, the, the society is demanding it. Um, I don’t think that we’ve been far from it ourselves and all the time that we’ve been doing what we do. Um, so it’s not a new message for us, but maybe it’s time to be louder. Maybe it’s time to use our voices in a different way. Um, and I think creating more scholarships in that diversity realm is important to me and had, had, have started having some conversations, frankly, in terms of how to pursue that next.  

I am so glad to hear that I’m absolutely tickled by it because it’s you’re right, the world is demanding it. Um, but that’s not why you you’ve mentioned already. That actually is your message has always been your message, um, to open doors, to people, to encourage greatness, to provide tools, to do that. Um, so the message is the same, but the audience is everyone. The audience is truly everyone. It’s got to be everyone because if it isn’t, who’s, who’s getting to draw the line in the sand or hand out the numbers like your first, your second, your third. I am so excited at the potentials of that. And congratulations is going to be amazing.  

I do think our, our audience has always been everyone. And I think our alumni, our past our, you know, our previous recipients already speak to that, but I think to underline it, is important. I think that’s the difference. I think we, we go, okay, we’ve, we’ve all in some ways we’ve already been doing this, but we really want to show you that this is important right now.  

Joe is really underlining his statement here. And I want to double, triple, quadruple underline and highlight that message because yes, our society is demanding inclusivity and equity, and yes, it is about damn time. But I think that a lot of businesses and leaders believe that they’re already doing a fine job of this. As Joe mentioned, and he’s not alone by any means, many companies truly believe their audience is everyone. And that their message is for everyone. But as Joe put it, maybe it’s time for that message to be a little louder. Maybe it’s time to underline it. Maybe it’s time to put it front and center. How could you do that in your business? How could you do that in your life? Take a moment to pause and think on that, like actually hit pause, take all the time that you need. And when you’re ready, I’ll be here, ready to get back into it with Joe. 

Um, I, I wanna talk about routine for a second. Um, because I know that a lot of people listening, uh, don’t only aspire to be incredible performers, but they want to run businesses. They want to become an entrepreneur to stay as connected to dance and dancers. As you have, while building out brands and taking existing companies to new levels. What is, what is your process? Your, Hmm, it’s hard to break it down to a daily thing. Cause I know it is so much bigger. It’s like all of the steps leading up to this are, would have helped you to be able to do this, but is there a part of your day, or is there a thing that you do that might help people, um, not recreate the work that you’ve worked, but perhaps it’s, perhaps it’s a lesson that you learned that helped you to do what you’ve done?  

I’m not sure. I would wish that on anyone, frankly, Dana, but, um, you know, do you want to hear something funny that resonates with that question years ago, I was having a conversation with our friend Andy Blankenbuehler. And, uh, this is probably pre Tony awards for Andy and we were discussing that he had just read Twyla Tharp’s new book, creative habit at the time. And I remember him sharing with me that what he took away from that book was that she dedicates two hours a day in a dance studio to do what she does and that two hours. And I think that has to be nonjudgmental time. Just time that you just get in a room and do what you do. Have you ever read The Outlier Book

By Malcolm Glad…Smith haha 

Or go back and read, or just read the pieces about the 10,000 hours? Because he attributes to some of this to literally just the fact that people dedicate this much time to a sole thing. And that speaks to success. That would speak a little bit. I don’t consider myself any more talented, any smarter, any more resourceful, any more gifted. Um, I’m not afraid of the work. And if you, you ask the question and put it in under the phrase routine, my routine very honestly is I get up in the morning. I go right to the coffee pot. I splash water in my face. I go right to the coffee pot, pour a cup of coffee. And I come right to this chair to, this is my home office to this laptop. And I start to work. I look at emails. I, I, um, I’m very hands on.  I look at all the finances what’s coming in. What’s going out where, where things are going. That’s how I start my day. Um, you are, you, you are benefiting from me actually stopping and taking a shower today because the time during this COVID time, I am apt to, I actually have a shirt on, I wear sweat pants, which I have one from the bottom down and just a white v-neck tee shirt and just go to work. And I like that routine. It serves, it serves me well. And for me personally, I’d have to learn to carve out different times of my day to get things done. And one of the things, if so, if we’re really going to talk about this, one of the things that I’ve learned from my own process and everyone’s process is going to be different. It’s two things. One actually is there are, there’s no such thing as a priority because at the point that you, for me, this is just for me at the point that you make something really, that much more important, those things on your ever-growing list that are at the bottom of your priorities. You’ll never get to those. They will forever continue to fall off that list because other things continue to get higher and higher on your priorities. So something that I like to do, and I refer to it this way, I like to plant my seeds early in the day. So before I came to you today, I already put out 15 emails out in the world in different directions for different things that I’m hoping by the time we get off of this call and we wrapped things up today, I will have a handful, half a dozen responses later this afternoon. And I’ve planted those seeds for my day. I do that every single day. Yeah, for me, it’s it’s um, on Sundays, if I’m home, um, I am a spiritual person. I go to church. So if I’m not traveling, I’m at this point in my life, I like to go to church. I like to, I like to give time to God. I like to, I like that. To center myself that way. Um, and in evening time is entirely about my husband. He gets, he gets all that time. He deserves every moment of that time. I don’t check my email. I don’t sit with my cell phone in my lap. I don’t, I don’t do any I don’t my cell phone. Doesn’t sit by my bedside at night. I’ve already devoted so much time of that from 6:30 in the morning to probably 6:30, 7:30 at night. So unless we’re working on a huge project, that is a crunch. And then we all have those where you do work around the clock. I’m I do. I give that, give my business those hours. That’s my routine. And nighttime is my personal time.  

I love your nod to repetition, to focus, to doing the work as well as setting the boundaries and saying in this time no work will happen. And I think that might be the real key to that recipe. Um, I do want to give a little pushback is something I’ve been thinking about on the subject of this 10,000 hours idea. And I had a conversation with Andy a few days ago, we got really into it. It was our first catch up in a while. It was awesome. Um, I think that the notion of 10,000 hours, that it takes that much time of which you you’ve already invested 10,000 hours. I’m sure Andy has Twyla Tharp also, especially if she’s logging the hours that she says that she is in that book. But if that is the case, if it does require 10,000 hours to really reach a degree of extreme competency or mastery of a thing, then I at 35, I’m not very motivated to do anything else.  If I don’t think I’ll be great at anything else, then why would I try? Um, I’ll answer my own question. When I say that here’s my belief. I believe that 10,000 hours I am working to invest. If I haven’t already in being an excellent mover, contribute to the 10,000 hours, that will make me an excellent teacher. That will make me an excellent movement coach. That will make me an excellent coach coach. That will make me an excellent parent. That will make me an excellent entrepreneur. That will make me, I think there is a lot more, like I joke about this and I’m going to have to put it on a T-shirt at some point, Chloe and I, Chloe was my guest in episode three. And the title of that episode is Dance Lessons are Life lessons. And I believe that to be true, I’ll say it till I die. Joe’s like co-sign  

Preaching to the choir here. No doubt.  

Yes. So what if those 10,000 hours are not kept in individual buckets, dance bucket, teacher bucket, theater director bucket, entrepreneur bucket. But what if this all just one big bucket and I think it can be really discouraging to think of a career transition as being, wow. I’m starting back at hour one. You’re not starting back at hour one.  

I agree. I fully agree with you. I mean, we learn, we take all of that. Why, why do so many, uh, performers go on to be so successful for the wrong it’s because they have logged those hours? You know, I will just in, um, speaking about the book, the outliers, the 10,000 hours is actually just one example of how they talk about how people get to where they are. So it’s not logging in 10,000 hours, but I agree with you. I think those 10,000 hours contribute to who you are as a person. Um, it’s the, it’s the aggregate of all that you’ve done. Not strictly just that one field. I agree with you. We’re the same.  

Um, how much, Oh, there is a saying I’m going to get it wrong. Um, hard work, beats talent, beats talent, but Oh, what is it?  

Talent doesn’t work hard. I say it all the time. 

This is true. There’s a variation on this same sentiment. That’s like hard work, beats talent. If talent doesn’t work hard, but if somebody talented works hard, get the hell out of the way. And I think those are the people that you attract and I’m so happy to be, um, witness to them and among them. And man, I just think the world of you and this world that you’ve built for all of us dance-lings . Um, so with that being said, is there anything else you would like to commit here to digital forever furnace today?

You know what, for me, it really is. It’s piggybacking on what you just said. I do believe that we as a community and I forget dance, first of all, I believe strongly that we’re a product of our choices. I believe that I think there needs to be ownership in our lives that we’ve, we are, we are where we are because of some of the decisions we made in our past good or bad own them learn from them, move on and you know, be where you are. But I, I will underline the need to surround yourself with wonderful people, uh, people that are there to support uplift, uh, nurture, teach you I, as a, as a business person, I say all the time, I’m excited to hire new people that are going to teach me something. I love that, you know, I, I love that. So it piggybacks a little bit on what you just said.  Um, I feel blessed to have you in my life, frankly, I feel blessed to have all of the NYCDA team, all the different people that, that really, that the paths that I’ve crossed. I live my life in a way that if, if you’ve, if I’ve invested in you in some way along the way, then you will always have that little special place in my heart. Um, because it comes back. It really, it really does come back. And so this is meaningful. The fact that you even asked me to do this was very meaningful to me. So I, I thank you. I do time for you anytime Dana, you know that I would, I would make time for you.  

Thank you. I appreciate it. And I’ll be totally transparent and honest. I, from my earliest, you know, in brainstorms of the podcast and guests and topics and things, you’ve always been on my list. And I’ve reserved you for about this far in my podcast journey. Cause I wanted to get better at doing this before we did this. I was like, I’ve got to have my setup dialed in. I’ve got to be a good question asker. I’ve got to be a good listener. I’ve got it. I, I, I know you hold a high bar and I love that about you. I see the value of doing that. And I don’t think that we underdelivered today with this episode. I think that we overdelivered.  

You are incredibly gracious and generous. Cause I, I, I live my, I live my life with my feet really on the ground. So I do appreciate all your kind words I really do. And I, and I’m grateful to be a part of it, you know, and whatever I can do, you know.

I appreciate it. I appreciate it. Um, perhaps there will even be a small series of NYCDA podcasts. We yeah. What a, what an incredible group of people doing really incredible work. Thank you again for all of it. I’ll talk to you soon, Joe.  

Bye. Thanks so much, Dana. You’re the best. Thank you. 

You’re Welcome. You’re welcome.  

Well, my friends, how is that so much inspiration, so much information. I will absolutely be linking it to our NYCDA tour. cchedule two steps itself to the scholarship foundation and so much more in the show notes of this episode, please do be sure to check all of that out. I hope that it has instilled in you a sense of confidence and capability and furthermore, a sense of responsibility  to invest in yourself and the people around you. I hope to see you soon at an NYCDA near you. And of course I hope you keep it funky. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.  

Thought you were done. No.  Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #42 WTMM X CLI with Heather Morris

Ep. #42 WTMM X CLI with Heather Morris

 
 
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Heather Morris and I talk about how dance lessons are life lessons…AND THEN we dig into all the things dance didn’t prepare us for.  We talk about our paths that have landed us where we are today.  We talk about success, failure, and we laugh through everything in between.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Heather Morris: https://www.instagram.com/heatherrelizabethh/
CLI 2020 Experience: https://2020-experience.clistudios.com/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcasts where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello? Hello, movers, shakers, friends, and family at this point, really, truly some of you guys that have been with me from the beginning, it really is starting to feel like family. I see you out there. Well, of course I don’t actually see you. My field of view is almost entirely dominated by a microphone and a pop filter. I don’t actually see you, but I so appreciate your engagement on social media. Over at words that move me podcast on Instagram is one of my favorite places to connect with you guys. I’m seeing such awesome daily doing out there. If you are new, by the way. Hi, hello and welcome daily doing might be a mystery to you as of now. That’s probably because you haven’t listened to episode number one or episode two strongly encourage you take a moment, go check those out. I mean, it’s not essential listening, but that doing daily is definitely at the heart of the words that move me podcast community. I see you daily doers out there. I feel you. I appreciate you so much. All right. I’m jazzed as always about this episode. So I want to get into it, but first wins. Oh, by the way. Yes. If you’re new, I start every episode by talking about wins. I think it’s very, very important to celebrate wins, especially in the creative fields where our work is a reflection of ourselves, our human values, our emotional state and so on and so forth.  And we are especially critical of our own work. We’re critical of our work. We’re critical of ourselves. It definitely pays to celebrate your wins. Even the small ones, especially the small ones. Man, they are money in the bank. So let’s invest together. Today the win that I am celebrating is that I am taking responsibility for the living things in my home. Let me explain. I do not have any human babies or children or teenagers or adults actually, for that matter. I don’t have any pets. What I do have are plants. And what I don’t have is a very green thumb. Historically in my life It’s been hard for me to keep plant objects alive. Maybe it’s part of me. Maybe there’s a hint. Maybe I consider them objects, not living beings. Um, I struggle with plants. It used to be because I was in and out of town a lot I had a pretty irregular schedule and then the COVID crisis. Okay. Can’t use in and out of the house as an excuse. So what is it really? I think for me, it was that I simply didn’t know what to do or when. What’s too much water?What’s not enough water? When should I mist them? When should I wipe them? It just was also overwhelming. So I’ve committed to doing a little research, figuring out what I’m doing and keeping my plants alive. And let me tell you what I am loving this journey. I love that the plants in my home are green and not yellow or brown. I love that they’re all perky and lifted. Um, and I love learning. So I’m learning about plants right now. I’m learning how to keep them alive. And the next phase of this, which I’m so excited about is going to be to grow my own food. Now I’ve got training wheels. I’ve been using a little hydroponic, um, kitchen, pod grower thing for, uh, it’s called Aero garden. Total. Disclaimer, not advertising, not paid to say that, but I love my Aero garden. I grow, grew, growing. I am growing, um, basil all of the basil Thai basil, Genovese basil, all the basil. Love the Basil, um, mint, chives more basil. The Rosemary didn’t do so well. I’m not gonna lie. The Rosemary didn’t do so well. Um, basil.. Is that really all I’m growing? What else do I have over there? I can’t. Oh, dill and basil. So I’m growing the basil in the hydro, in the Aero garden, and then I’ve been transplanting them outside when they get too big to keep their in their little pods and Holy smokes, the garden, the herb garden is taking over. Someday soon I am going to be growing food.  You watch it happen. I’m announcing it here. You heard it here first. So I’ve been so enjoying caring for the plant beings in my home. Um, I’m counting this a win because I’m now seeing and feeling and thinking rewarding thoughts about my ability to keep things alive, my ability to take care of things other than myself, which by the way, pretty darn good at taking care of myself. Um, but to extend that care, to see the fruits, no pun intended of my research, my focus, my labor, if I could call watering labor, then yes, feeling good, counting it a win. All right, that’s me. Now you go, Oh my gosh. I just thought of an awesome pun. I usually say, what’s going well in your world, but I’m going to now say what’s growing well in your world. Do you like what I did there? All right, but really what’s your win. What’s growing well in your world. Take your time.  

Amazing. Keep winning, keep growing really truly I mean it. Today I am sharing with you an interview that I did with the one and only Heather Morris. This interview was conducted in partnership with my dear friends over at CLI studios during their 2020 dance experience this past summer. And Heather and I got to sit down and chat one-on-one. This is the first time this had happened in a really long time. Heather and I moved to LA around similar times. I believe. We would see each other, always at the studio, in class, pretty regularly at auditions. And, you know, we were a part of that come up together. And then I had the absolute pleasure. And so did the rest of America in watching Heather come into her own as an actress, performer and full fledged movie star. Thanks hugely to her role on Glee as Brittany. Now, watching Heather in Glee is one of my favorite favorite things, truly like I wish you could see the smile on my face right now, just thinking about my favorite Brittany moments, but sitting and talking to the person that is Heather Morris was as exciting as it was grounding. I say this because this is a very genuine, honest, open and thoughtful person that has been both student, performer, teacher, mother, so many of the things and so giving so willing to share her experience and her lessons learned. I do want to mention that this podcast was recorded before the death of Heather’s dear friend and colleague Naya Rivera. So if you’re tuning into this episode to hear more about that, you will not find it in this episode, what you will find, however, is a ton of information and inspiration about navigating this Wild West of an entertainment industry. Especially if you’re a person who is interested in nurturing a family and having a life outside of a studio. In this episode, Heather and I talk a lot about paths and how the thought that there is a fork in the road, a moment where you have to choose one thing or another is really usually just that. A thought, not the reality of our worlds. In this episode, Heather and I talk about how our life’s paths are more like trees than actual paths. Take a listen and see if you agree. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Heather Morris.  

Dana: I’m Dana Wilson. This is Heather Morris, and this is the first ever words that move me and CLI collabo cross cast. 

Heather: How does that feel? 

Dana: It feels really good. I feel very good about it. So excited. I’m excited. And I’m glad that you’re here. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for being here and talking to us today. I have to admit I’m a little embarrassed that we’re friends and have been friends for so long, but I will be asking you these questions as if I’m, I don’t know you and I kind of I’ll be learning you. I’m very excited about it. Yeah. Okay. So you just taught jazz class. Yes, it was awesome. I saw you going to the ground and coming back up. Great job. And you made it, um, so other than being a jazz teacher here at CLI, just tell us everything that you want us to know about you  

Heather: As a teacher or just in general human, beside being a teacher and like human being? Heather Morris is two different people because I am a Heather Morris but I’m also a Heather Hubbell at home. Oh my goodness. Isn’t that crazy?  

So you you’ve kept your professional name?  

I kept my professional name, Heather Morris. Um, it was just, I mean, financial reasons, maybe, you know, you have to pay and I’m like, whatever, let’s just leave it. People know me that let’s keep it there, keep it simple. And, but I did marry and take my husband’s name, Taylor Hubble. So I am now Heather Hubble, which I love that name kind of obsessed with Heather Hubble. Yeah.  

I really love doubles. BB L E. My husband is R E E T Z. I love it a double. So we lucked out, both of us. 

Yeah. Um, so I don’t know. I think like we, um, I’m at home right now. We’re trying to start our own YouTube channel. I’ll I’ll tease it called Hubble Home. So I’m kind of bringing my Heather Hubble home life into the reality into people’s minds, into people’s hearts. Um, cause they know Heather Morris and of course I’m goofy. Just like, you know, we both are very goofy people have a lot of fun. Um, so I’ll just bring, I’m bringing people into that lifestyle. Um, you know, I, I like to be consistent. I’m a consistent person and I like to have fun. I like to be, I’m an adventurer. I like to go places. I get really like mucky when I’m stuck. You know, like when I’m somewhere for too long, I get really antsy and I want to like move. I got to get out of the house. I got to do stuff. That’s kind of the person I am.  

So how’s quarantine going? 

Quarantine.. Actually It’s good for me. It’s learning, it’s learning. It’s helping me learn to take breaths and take moments and really practice sitting still, especially for my children, because my oldest is just like me. So he likes to nonstop walk around the room, nonstop, chatting, but talking, you know that like when you like keep talking, when you’re moving, cause it like makes your mind go. And I’m really trying to like figure out how to communicate with him. Like that might not be your best self, your best route. You know? Like as you’re getting older, let’s maybe like learn techniques to just have conversations without riling ourselves up. So,  

I’m all for techniques. I’m all for conversations. This is a match made in heaven.  

It’s hard. So I’m teaching myself at the same time that I’m teaching him like learning. Yeah. Let’s finish up this conversation. Let’s move to the next. We don’t always have to plan out our day because sometimes when you plan things out too much, you don’t end up enjoying it. So yeah, that’s kinda my quarantine life and now we’re traveling. They’re done with homeschool. So I went to Arizona, I went to Sedona. I saw the beautiful weather and the beautiful rocks. And now we’re going to Del Mar for summer week vacation.  

So you’re moving. You’re still you’re out in the world and you’re yeah,  

My husband knows me enough. Like he knows that we go. We got to get out to do stuff. 

I love this. Um, one of the things I talk about a lot on the podcast is this concept that dance lessons are life lessons and your sons are not dancers, correct? 

No. 

Okay. So how are they learning the things that we learned in dance, like how to communicate, how to be in touch with yourself emotionally, how to manage your time and schedule and listen to authority and all of the things that I value most, I think I learned from dance. So how are they, how are they learning and how are you teaching the things that you value most that you learned from dance? 

Yes. It’s really funny that you mentioned that cause existentially, I’m thinking about that throughout everything that I’m doing with them daily. And maybe sometimes I feel too outside of myself when I’m talking to them like this, where maybe they might not understand my words. So really trying to water and dumb our conversations down to like this works, but what would help it work better is if we did this, like that’s, it’s hard to communicate that young age. Um, but that’s a really good point that you brought that up because there are life lessons we learn listening to authority is huge. So with my second one, he is a real pistol and he loves to question authority, which is great. It’s good to just, you know, those memes are like, it’s good to question. It’s always good to have opinion. Yes. To an extent  

And,  

But give and take, Ooh, that’s a good one with my oldest is he’s not a good give and taker. That’s kinda what I’m looking for right now is he likes to talk and talk and talk and it’s constantly maybe taking from somebody, but I’m trying to teach him with his friends to stop, listen to what they have to say, then respond. Yeah. How hard is that? Well, not crazy. Like trying to teach your six year old that like, yeah.  

It’s, it can be definitely hard. I just stepped on your toes as I did. Like, how do you share space? This is another dance lesson that is a life lesson. You see somebody freestyling in a circle and you – you develop this sense of when are they wrapping up? When can I start to head in? How do you share space? How do you, I mean, I think a social distance is an incredible skill that a dancer I’m noticing are not as good as we thought we were about. Um, distancing something. Cause yeah, I, I think dancers are close types. We like to be close.

Like to be close with, like to be touching my kids for some reason really understand it. They will wear their masks maybe because I will wear my masks so definitively they will. Yeah. Um, but yeah, yeah. But the distance thing is really interesting.  

Oh, I think dancers, I think dancers are a remarkable period, but I also know a lot of people get similar training from being a part of a sports team or something like that. Sports was not a part of my family, but your husband is a baseball player. Yes. And are the boys?  

Yes. They both played baseball and we were starting flag football. Well, we’ll see how that goes. My oldest is kind of a, he’s emotional. So, you know, I don’t know. It’s a flag, which is fine, but once they start to get into the touch, that might be, um, a one and done. Maybe  

Interesting! I can’t wait to find out. 

Yeah. We’ll see how it goes. 

Okay. Question for you outside of the parenting mode, what dance training. Cause you you’ve been dancing for what like 

32 years

Since, since the Dawn of time

I was seven months old. 

Um, so I would love to know since you’ve had such a multidisciplinary career, what was something that dance didn’t prepare you well for?  

Ah, good question. Something that dance didn’t prepare me well for, I would say into the acting space was I wasn’t prepared for my own opinions. I was never taught to give my input. I was never taught to have my own voice as a dancer. You’re really taught to mesh your voices, kind of shut up, do your job. And that’s what I grew up doing. And then I got put into a spot where I was spotlit. If that’s a word spotlit

Um, spot spotlighting, spot  Spotlighted. I think  

I was in the spotlight, but I didn’t quite have the voice. So it felt like this whole new thing for me, I didn’t know how to use my actual voice. I didn’t know how to let my ideas like sputter and go, I mean, naturally conversationally it’s easy, right? Like we can sit here and chat, but then I went into, uh, interviews for a camera and I didn’t know how to like express myself because I was never asked to. So I felt really uncomfortable in my own skin. During interviews, I felt like the attention was too much. I was never used to that. I was never somebody who grew up on the third of three girls who people asked me things. I was always just kinda like quiet in the corner. And then you get to, um, people wanting to know more about you. And I always like in a shell, shy, not loving the attention. So it took a while for me to like break through and feel like I could use my voice and express myself just as I am and not feel embarrassed about it. You know?  

What gave you that training?  

Uh, I think just time, I think.. Americans have this funny way about ourselves where we like to a lot of fun. It was a lot of funny where we like to learn the hard way first. And I’ve noticed it about times right now, maybe with the COVID pandemic, we’re learning the hard way first because we want to feel good about ourselves. And I think I learned the hard way first. Um, and I was just doing all this press or I was just going for it, not thinking twice. And then dumb me would watch the tapes back later. And I’m like, that doesn’t sound like me. Who was I answering for? Like, that’s not my persona. Like that’s not who I’m representing. I just was kind of like filling this spot, I guess, to fill the time that’s I guess that’s really personal, but it’s how I saw it. So then I took a step back and I didn’t do any of that stuff cause I felt so uncomfortable because I was giving such a fake voice off. Hmm. Um, yeah, I dunno. It was kinda my voice, but it was fake and I just like would listen to myself crazy. So I learned the hard way with mostly everything. And I think I’ve done that my whole life.  

And it sounds like you were able to remove some of this notion that you should be happy or should be a certain way all the time. And when you embraced that. No, no, no. It’s not all that all the time. Then you were able to step into it.  

Yeah. Once you watch other actresses who really embrace themselves and like are just cool and happy and fun. Yeah.  

And, and, and sad and dark and broken and hopeful and all of these.  

They are not always Perfect. Yeah. And they don’t care. They really don’t care what you think. Not to the extent of like F you, I don’t care, but like, this is my time. Let me, let me recoup and then I’ll come back and we’ll be a better, um, so that was the hard way.  

That’s awesome. I love this. That’s very powerful. And that’s a good segue too into my next question. Something I want to talk about is this idea of a creative path or a career path. And visually in our minds, we see that as being like an actual path, like a hiking trail that goes that way, or it goes that way. So you have these really limiting thoughts of like college or dance or acting or dance or acting or family. And you’re a person that’s been able to really keep, um, a flexible path in your career and in your life. I think it’s really unique and admirable and special and cool. So I would love to hear about the interests that guided you on, on one direction and how you were able to, um, be in more than one place at once. 

Yeah.  That’s really interesting because it’s not planned. It’s never planned. You do make a plan and it never falls into place the way you want it to. But in the beginning of my career, I went to college for a whole year because when we would sit in class with Mark Meismer and whoever, and they would say, raise your hand and tell me if you want to be an, a dancer. And I would never raise my hand. It wasn’t in my cards. I was not interested in being a dancer. It, it didn’t pay enough. Um, it didn’t seem like it was fulfilling. Maybe because I was just like, starting out learning technique.  

Or because you subscribed to the idea of the starving artist. Sure. This thing that like, if you want to do that, you can’t have other things.  

Yeah. Right? Yeah. You’ll live at a certain level. Um, which money was never my thing, I don’t know, but so I never want to do it, went to college for a year and found out that dancing was actually the love of my life, aside from my husband, but it was the love of my life. And since then I pursued acting because I always had wanted to act when I was growing up. And I thought, why not? I’m out here. I’m going to study it. I’m going to do it because dance still, to me, wasn’t my end goal. I thought acting could be. Um, and just like dancing, acting is really tough. There are a lot of people out there and they’re all searching for not 20 spots in a gig, but they are searching for one spot in a gig. So I’m auditioning with 50 people, 30 people.  Yeah. Maybe I have a name doesn’t care. Me, guarantee me a spot. Maybe they want, um, you know, a different ethnicity. Maybe they want whatever it is they’re looking for. So living it at the time, living through it, going through every emotion and not settling and giving myself a limit to it, not saying, okay, I can’t do this anymore. Has helped me find the, the paths I want to go down. Because I love the arts. And I like to come up with ideas. I love to create, I don’t care if it’s not successful. If it is a good idea, I know it’s successful and I’m going to keep going for it. 

Um, Oh, this is great. 

So I just keep exploring things. If acting’s not going to be it right now, if I’m not going to get those jobs, I’m still gonna write stuff and I’m still gonna, I want to be a producer, like more than anything. I just have seen it unfold with everything I’m doing. I love to get people, artists, writers, directors, together, and making a really awesome project. 

I love this. You’re stoking me up. It’s very exciting. And you’re also answering questions that I had downstream. One of which was, I mean, you’ve in your career from, I mean, you have a podcast of your own with Ava Bernstein, shout out whatupgirl dancer, but also voiceover feature, film, stardom, super acting, dancing with mega pop stars, uh, reality type TV shows Dancing with the Stars. And So You Think also way back, way back in the early times, um, and TV and all the things. So you’re answering the question my, that I had in mind was what, what is the next creative rock that gets lifted and looked underneath? Is it producing? It’s also the channel with your family. 

Absolutely. Yes. YouTube we’re like, okay,  We’re having fun with that, but that’s also its own thing. Right. You know, you have to edit it 

and you’re fully,

I’m fully involved hands on. Yeah. We’re doing it ourselves.  

You also mentioned, even if it doesn’t make money, you’re interested in doing artistic things. Yes. So what makes a successful artistic endeavor for you? What makes it successful?  

What makes it successful? Um, I think if people are passionate about it, which is very broad. Yeah. I, you just, you have to have a good attitude with your projects. A lot of people will come into work and maybe they take like past trauma from other jobs and they bring it to their jobs, whether they’re in it for the right reasons or not, they might not seem like the right people to work with. And I think listening to that doesn’t seem like the right endeavor for me at the moment. Cause I’ve been there and done that. And that’s just, it’s not a fun workplace to be in. Really hard to say no, but it’s good to stick up for yourself. Um, so I just think that people are in it for the right reasons. It really grounds it.  

So you keep your finger on the pulse of group energy and like the feeling of a project? 

Yeah. You can’t, I’ve tried to carry things for  Myself. I’ve tried to be the only one doing stuff. And it just takes so much  

Out of you. 

This is why they say it takes a village, takes a village,  

Not just at your home. So I have a home life and then trying to balance producing or writing or editing, whatever it is. It’s like, it’ll just end up taking too long, you know? 

Okay.  So let’s jump back to past them. Cause that’s like eight different paths. I think that the imagery of the fork in the road is dangerous and limited. I much prefer to think of paths and creative careers as being like a tree. And you start climbing up the creative tree and out here’s dance branch and dance branch is close enough to acting branch. So you could even like jump from this branch to the other one. 

But You don’t have to let go. You don’t see that branch. 

Yeah. You can reach right across and grab it. And, and there’s a great Shirley McClain quote that I am afraid I will botch.  

Um, she says that she likes to live. She likes to go out on a limb because that’s where all the fruit is. So you can stay very close to the trunk and you can feel pretty safe here. Or you can branch out as we like to say, and you go to the ends of the branch and you find like, Ooh, I really, really like this. This is fruitful. This is beneficial. This is success. This feels good. And then you can also decide, Oh, you know what, college I’m going to go back over here. And I’m going to try this LA thing for a second. Yeah. And from the LA branch, you can look at acting, look at improv, look at making a family, finding a different thing. And I think that’s so interesting to see somebody without a plan. That’s so good at having a structure. That’s having this, climbing this creative tree and being able to make things work. Even without it being mapped out. It’s not a path that can be map it out. It’s a tree, it’s three dimensions.  

I don’t understand how people can, people can dream board and have a map. And they’re still like living their life. Good. I can have a map because if I have a map, I stick too hard to it. I had this tattoo on my shoulder that says, let go, because I’ve just learned the hard way of grasping something too hard. Um, and then you kind of like, you lose everything you loved about it. Yeah. So I, I really learned to let go

The let go, analogy doesn’t work quite so well. Or the leg, let go, quote, doesn’t work quite so well with the tree analogy. You should hold on the tree. But if you hold onto the tree, okay, here it comes. So if you’re on this tree, this career tree, and you’re out on the branch on the very end and you look over at family tree and you’re like, man, I kind of want to do that thing and kind of want to have a family. Then you can do the little spider monkey thing or sugar glider or whatever it is, where you let go and you jump from this tree and you can be like, and be in a new place.

And Hollywood make you feel really bad about that. Yeah.  

Will it? Tell me what Hollywood would make you feel?   

I feel like not that I’m suppressed, but that because I chose to take a break and I’ve because I’m always trying to find other people that are like me or just take people’s stories and liken it to mine. I I’ve noticed people who’ve done that. Who’ve gone to have a family. Who’ve taken a breath who felt overwhelmed with work because God knows it. Working in the industry is so tough. 16 hour days working on a set six days a week. Most of the time, because you end at like 5:00 AM. I like to sleep. I’m not, I just can’t work that hard. So I needed a breath when you need a breath. And all these people in the industry go to take a breath. It’s like an iron door closed behind our back, trying to get back in. And that’s a challenge is trying to get back and challenging to switch my brain on to say, okay, how do I get through this iron door?  This is probably a learning experience for me that I’m supposed to be taking, because maybe there was some traits about myself that- that how I was working before that weren’t right in that moment. And I needed to get out and step out the door, work on them so that when I do come back in and they’re fixed so that I can work the right way for longer periods of time. Do you know what I mean? So I don’t feel burnt out.. 

You develop skills and know how to set boundaries, how to work smarter, not harder. This is the sweet spot always. And that line kind of wiggles and is a little different on every project. I’m curious about this door. Um, because I think that a lot of people listening are probably people interested in breaking into the industry, not necessarily reentering, although some perhaps as well. And I’m wondering how you would relate the door that you’re knocking on now to the one that you had to knock on to get into the industry?  

In the very beginning, I think there is a naive, um, and a naive outlook we have when we’re first coming here at a younger age that we maybe don’t have one we’re growing a little bit older, maybe in our thirties, in our thirties, we have settled into ourselves. We’re not questioning at 18, 19, I was exploring everything. Um, I was willing to give up dong sure. I took every class. There was, I just want it to be in class. We were always in class together. I loved class and I’m not a person that’s gonna talk your ear off. I’m not going to try and pitch myself to you. I’m not going to give you my best part of my personality to wow you. Uh, I just, I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m not like that. I feel weird doing it. So I’m gonna go prove myself. I’m going to go take class until I’m blue in the face. Even if I’m not good at that particular class, I’m going to go back and I’m going to learn how to do the movement. Like the teacher wants me to do it. I’d say maybe the same for acting roles. So when you’re going into meet with casting directors, not the class per se, but when you’re going to meet with casting directors, they want to get to know you and they want to feel you personally. Um, and they want to give you adjustments and they want to know, you can take it just like a dance class. If a teacher comes up and gives you an adjustment and you don’t do it, they’re going to be like, I don’t want to work with that person. 

Theres no time for that. There’s no time for that. 

You need to hire someone and you need to get it in a second. So if that’s the hurdle, you need to jump to be a dancer that you want to be. Maybe start working on that now. Like if you get adjustments, you don’t have to do hard every time. Maybe you work on like the specifics, the, the, what is it? Like the, all of those adjustments. Yeah.  

So, so I think what I’m hearing is that when you’re younger, you’re able to make adjustments quickly. So knocking on all the doors is actually fun and it’s exercise. And now you’re like, listen, I’ve done my exercise. I’ve done my training. I am here. I am full. I am complete. But you also know that this, this whole student thing and progress is forever. Like you will always be evolving and always be changing. And that door just might not be the door that you really want to be opening. 

Maybe it’s ready for me when I’m 50. Exactly. 

Oh my gosh. 50, 50 year old Heather.

50 year old, Heather

I think that if 50 year old Heather came knocking, I would open the door and I would have like teams of, of welcome party behind me. Yeah. I love this.  

Yeah. I always keep my eye on. Like, there’s always  

The long game. Super important. I love this. I love this like multilayer approach to getting stuff done. There’s like, you get stuff done today on the ground with your kids. You’re teaching, you’re doing this thing. Yeah. In the longterm. You’re developing this, this project, whether it’s a YouTube channel or producing this something else, that’s like, kind of now ish, because you gotta be working on it now. Otherwise it will not happen, but it’s also not here right now. And then there’s this 50 year Mark. Right? Okay. Talk to me about that. 50. What are you doing there?  

Listen, comedy like 50 is just the prime 40s maybe, but like 50 is just prime, especially in women. Right?  

Live our lives and be loud and make jokes. No

Nobody cares anymore. 

Or people care and it’s just that caring. And it’s like, I don’t know. I’m very interested between the fine line between grief and comedy and the older you get, the more real stuff gets right. You see, um, you’ve seen more tragic things. You’ve experienced more trauma. You, the people in your life, maybe passing on, maybe getting divorced, maybe losing children or you know, loved ones. And that like that’s life out there. It’s not necessarily better life. Just because you’re older. We may be like a fine wine, but we aren’t a fine wine. We don’t necessarily get better with age. So out there, you need different tools that help you deal with life as it gets that way. That’s why the funniest people in my life are Toni Basil, who is 75 years old. She might be 76 by now and my parents. And I just like tap. I love talking to people that are older than me. I love talking to you too. Don’t get me wrong. But there’s like, there’s a perspective and a way of coping a way of inviting things, specifically humor into your life.  

And what is it about young people feeling like a threat? That again, like younger, younger people, when you’re younger, everybody seems like a threat to you. I never felt that way, but I always sensed it from other people.

Interesting. 

That was a, it was always weird. Maybe more so than acting because it’s so limited. It’s very competitive. Dancing, It’s so inclusive and everybody wants to hug each other and we’re kind of all in it together. And then you like go into a smaller box and you become this actor. And like, it just seems like everybody feels like you’re a threat to them. And 

And we’re,  We’re in this together, this human thing. So how can we think more like our future selves right now? Because I’m telling you what we don’t need any more competition. We certainly don’t need any threats. We don’t need to be threatening anyone period. So how can we invite future us that, that, that future selves that are funny and compassionate and smart and, um, all the good things.  

Yeah. It’s tricky because when you are a teen into your twenties, you hear scientifically your mind is not fully developed and that’s a big hurdle. And whenever I do, um, these cameo things, you can do these, uh, celebrity cameos, where somebody will pay you to do a video. And they’re younger. And I’m always telling these kids, I’m like, y’all are going to feel threatened, or you’re going to feel like people are judging you or people are looking at you. Maybe they do make comments. But what I need you to learn right now is that your mind might not be fully developed. Always remember that so that you can trigger your brain to go. My brain’s working this way. Let’s work around that. Yeah. Let’s steer our, our reaction to a positive one, or just mind your own business  

Or mind your own mind at the very least. I think there’s kind of circles to what you were saying about talking to your sons, how you have to explain things to them in a way that they will understand, right. And how old are they? Six and four. So here we go. This is the lesson today. Everybody gets the lesson today. The lesson is, if you can parent yourself, if you can parent yourself with compassion and curiosity, the way that you would talk to a five-year-old talk to yourself, treat yourself with kindness, treat others with kindness. That is how we have the future that we want to have. And that’s how we have it. Now  

You heard it first guys. 

Wow. Thank you, Heather. I wouldn’t have got that on my own. That was very much a collaborative roundabout that we came across. Yeah.  

Its true, you gotta be so gentle with yourself. Yeah.  Yes. Be kind, be kind to yourself. Be kind to other people, Respond to haters with kindness, you know, Sarah Silverman, she does she’s on Twitter. Have you ever seen her responses? So when there’s a troll and someone’s very unkind to her and calls her something, she gets their information and she finds out how to help them. She, if they are suffering from something, like say, they said I don’t, blah, whatever. And she finds out she’ll direct message them. Find out details about these people. Maybe they’re overweight or something like that. She’ll get them like medical help. Like she’s like respond to negativity and find the kindness. I just love that. This is awesome. Once I found this out about Sarah Silverman, I’m like, Hmm. I wish.. 

Has that changed the way that you absorb or not absorb that you handle haters? 

Yeah. Kill them with kindness. 

Its funny my mom has said those words for my whole life, kill them with kindness is my mom’s famous words. But it somehow takes like, watching that in practice for you to actually be able to be like, Oh, like  That. Yeah. Aha. 

Yeah. Cause it’s easy. Our primal selves are, you know, like you’re gonna fight me. I’m gonna fight you back  

Survival. This is what we’re, that’s what we do. That’s how we’re human. But we can do with kindness because we’ve evolved. We’re solving. Exactly. Okay. Guys, be kind, be good. And definitely keep it funky is something that I say on the podcast and in my life. And when I was watching your class, I was like, dang. She’s funky. Thank you so much again for being here. Thank you everybody for tuning in.  

I loved it. Thanks for joining. 

See Ya!  All right. My friends there, you have it. The one and only the extravagant, the phenomenal, the very, very real Heather Morris. I hope you soaked up a lot of goodness out of this episode. And I hope that this episode has made you want to go climb a tree, be safe, be smart. And of course keep it funky. I’ll talk to you very soon.  

Thought you were done? No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website. theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most important, you have a way to become a words that move kickball, change kickball to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #41 Your Voter Checklist

Ep. #41 Your Voter Checklist

 
 
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This episode is a voter checklist!  NOTE: If you are 18 and have figured out how to order food online, you are absolutely capable of registering to vote.  If you have ever done a jigsaw puzzle with more than 11 pieces, you are capable of following this checklist.  Furthermore, if you are a person who is interested in freedom, it is your duty to follow this checklist.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

https://www.vote.org/ 

Pledge to register to vote: https://www.vote.org/pledge-to-register/

Become a poll worker: https://www.eac.gov/help-america-vote#section-sign-up

Check registration: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/

Register to vote: https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote/

Register reminders: https://www.vote.org/election-reminders/

Polling place: https://www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/

How to Vote in Every State: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7SMwipBlDwBPEwxq8QD8sw

Ballotpedia: https://ballotpedia.org/

Make your voting plan: https://www.ballotready.org/

Track your ballot: https://ballottrax.com/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello. Hello and hello. Welcome to Words That Move me. I’m Dana. And this is my super tired voice. Today was a seven hour zoom day. I was in seven hours of audition callbacks and man, no, man. I’m speaking at my computer screen apparently is something that I do not have much stamina for. I’m working. I’m learning, I’m getting better at it. And I am so stoked about the subject of this podcast today. Tired voice or not. I am here with some important information.  

If you are listening to this podcast on the day of its release, October 3rd, 2020, then voting day is exactly one month away. And you may be a little overwhelmed right now by all of the pressure, not just to vote, but to make an informed vote. You may be thinking “God, everyone is telling me to vote, but nobody is telling me how.” Well I am certainly not going to tell you how to vote. And by that, I mean for whom you should vote, but I’ll leave that up to social media. Kidding. Not really. I did just discover that advertisers spent $1.4 billion on digital political ads during the 2016 election. Whoa, honestly, though, that makes sense. Think about how much time you spend on the internet. How much time do you spend scrolling? That’s where you spend your time. That’s where they’re going to put their ads. I guess it makes perfect sense. Which brings me to my win for the week. My win this week is that I learned a lot by watching the Social Dilemma on Netflix, highly, highly recommended. Yes, some of this information may be common knowledge by now. It’s not really a secret that there are teams and teams of engineers, whose job it is to ensure that you will spend more time on their platform. Yes, these are people who are working explicitly to make social media more addicting. Oh man, Oh man, we will probably be getting into that in a future episode. But for now I want to hear about your wins. I want to hear about what you are learning right now. Let’s hear it. That doesn’t feel right. Does it? It doesn’t feel right when I don’t say what’s going well in your world. What are you learning in your world? Yeah, that feels right. Hit me. 

Alright, great. Rock on, rock steady, keep winning. Okay. This week we’re talking about how wildly important it is to use your voice, to make your own decisions and to know not only how, but by when you’ll be casting your vote, this election. Warning and full disclosure, this episode is going to make me sound much more together than I actually am. I have a research assistant. Her name is Riley Higgins and yes, she is the best. And yes, I have a research assistant. I have a research assistant so that you don’t have to have a research assistant. Consider this episode, your voter encouragement assistant. And my first piece of encouragement is this. It is honestly no harder to Google your questions about voting than it is to Google best restaurants near me. Really, really, truly. If you have ordered food online, you can absolutely register to vote and become a well informed voter.  Listen up people over 18 people under 18. You’re up next. Here we go. If you remember one thing from this entire episode, remember vote.org All of the important information is there in one place, vote.org And then if you remember two things from this episode, remember, A. vote.org, but also remembered that it is really cool to vote and it’s even cooler to be an informed voter. So let’s get into it. 

Step number one, to get the most accurate information on how to vote, visit your state election office website, just Google your state’s name and election office website. There you have it. Step Two, to register to vote at. Yup. You guessed www.vote.org/register-to-vote On that website you can also check when the last day is that you are able to register to vote in your local County. If you are in LA, then the last day to register to vote online is by Monday, October 19th, 2020, to register my mail.  Your mail has to be postmarked by Monday, October 19th, 2020. If you’re in New York, you must register online by October 9th or by mail host marked by October 9th or in person on October 9th. Again at vote.org You can check when the last state is that you’re able to register in your local County. Go while you’re there vote.org Step three, double check to make sure that your registration went through. You’ll do that at vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote So practical, right? Easy peasy, lemon, squeezy vote.org Am I registered to vote? You got this step four. You can add yourself to a list that will remind you of upcoming elections from now until forever because let’s face it. Yes, this election is super important, but every election is super important. Let’s go! To make sure that you’re registered for reminders. Go to you, guessed it. vote.org/election-reminders That takes us to Step five. If you’re able to vote in person, look up your local polling place. Do not leave this to the day. Have a plan. To find your closest polling place. Visit vote.org/polling-place-locator  Again, super logical, totally obvious. And if you go to vote.org, all of this is literally right there in your face, but I’m going to say it because I don’t want anybody to tell me that I didn’t say it. So here I am saying it. vote.org/polling-place-locator Now you know where to go to find your local polling place. Alright, step six. And this one is technically optional, but listen up. Cause it’s also technically really important. There is a national shortage of workers to help at these polling places. So if you are able become a poll worker, guys, don’t take that the wrong way.  The best way for you to volunteer, to work at a polling place near you is to go to www.eac.gov/help-America-vote#section-sign-up that’s eac.gov/help-america-vote#section-sign-up That is how you can volunteer to help at your nearest polling place. Super important, super cool. Step Seven mail in your absentee ballot. There is a deadline that’s different in every state of when you can request your absentee ballot and a deadline for when you have to mail it in, it must be post-dated by November 3rd, no matter where you live, but your deadline to request the mail in ballot is different depending on where you live. Usually you would need a reason to request an absentee ballot. Like I’m a dancer on tour, but because of COVID almost everyone can request an absentee ballot depending on their state. In some States you’ll automatically be sent a mail in ballot in LA, you must request an absentee ballot by October 27th, you have to return it by mail postmarked by November 3rd, or you can also return them in person at a polling place near you on November 3rd, by 8:00 PM. If you’re in New York, your absentee ballot has to be requested by October 27th. And if you’re returning it by mail, it has to be postmarked by November 3rd, you can of course return it in person on November 3rd and in New York you have until 9:00 PM. Awesome, amazing. So important. Moving on Step eight, if you don’t know if you’ll be voting in person or by mail, get a mail in ballot. This gives you options and we love options. This gives you convenience and we live convenience. If you decide to vote by mail, you can. And if you decide to vote in person on election day, you still can. Even if you’ve already received a mail in ballot, either you will exchange your uncast absentee ballot for an in-person ballot or you’ll complete your absentee ballot and hand it in in person. If you forget to bring your absentee ballot with you, you may be able to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted only once your election officials verify your voter status. The deadline to a completed absentee ballot hand delivered is Tuesday, November 3rd, by 8:00 PM. If you’re in LA or 9:00 PM, if you’re in New York, okay, Step nine. We’re getting so close to the end. You guys, if you are in college, every state is different, but you may be able to vote in the state that you’re going to college in. So check with your college and check with your home state as well. Super, super important. All right. Step 10. Most States have early voting this lets registered voters vote on specific dates before the election day.  So just do that because one of my favorite people on the planet, Marty Kudelka says ‘early is on time. On time is late and late is fired.’ It’s important that you know that the election is already underway. Statistically, most people still vote on November 3rd, but there are a ton of ways for you to vote early. If you are informed vote.org alright. Now for my  under 18 years, step one, and you guys only have two steps, how about that? Step one, some States actually allow you to preregister to vote so that when you turn 18, you are automatically registered to vote. Is that the coolest thing? I think it’s the coolest thing. I think that’s a very cool thing. Step two. If your state doesn’t have that option, then vote.org has a pledge to register page and they’ll remind you when you turn 18 to register and how you can do it. So yes, even if you are under 18 vote.org is the place for you to go so that you can make sure you are preregistered or at least pledged to register to vote. Okay. Now that we’ve talked about the, how let’s talk about the, what, this is not just a presidential election, although that is certainly what is getting the most buzz. Local elections and amendments are up for vote in this election who represents you locally has a direct impact on the way you live. So make sure you’re researching your federal candidates, your state candidates, your local candidates and your judicial candidates. These are our favorite websites to help you understand what is actually on your ballot. ballotpedia.org

That’s B A L L O T P E D I a.org. Rockthevote.org That’s R O C K T H E V O T E.org and vote411.org That’s V O T E the number four, the number one, the number one.org. Also you can get involved with local candidates by looking on their websites. You can also find the virtual town halls where they might be speaking about specific issues. And you’ll also be able to ask questions in those forums. How amazing is that actually be there, actually get the answer to your actual question. That is available to you. All right, wrap up summary, vote.org is the place. Also, if you’re a first time voter or an anytime voter who wants to feel a little bit more supported and their knowledge and understanding of what is going on right now, How to Vote in Every State is the YouTube channel for you. They give very clear information on the how to vote, but also how to be informed, how to digest political ads, how to do your research, how to follow where the money is coming from.  So, so valuable. All right, everybody, that was me serving as your voter encouragement assistant. And right now I would like to encourage you to take the rest of the time that you would have spent listening to a full length podcast to go through this checklist, visit the websites that I’ve mentioned and call or text a friend, to tell them about everything that you’ve learned, help somebody. If they’re struggling to get this done, do it for yourself, do it because you have a voice do it because it matters so much more than ordering food online. All right, my friends, that’s it. Go use your voice and go keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #40 Partnering Solo with Taja Riley

Ep. #40 Partnering Solo with Taja Riley

 
 
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This episode shines a light on talent, transition, and  trauma.  Taja Riley and her alter, Kim Visions, join us to talk about our responsibility to create (the work of our dreams, and a legacy for the future), but we also discuss our responsibility to dismantle… our stigmas around mental health.  Please continue with curiosity and compassion… and enjoy!

Show Notes:

Quick Links:

Mental Health Resources:

National Institute for Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health: https://dmh.lacounty.gov/our-services/

Mental Health America Alternative Medicine: https://www.mhanational.org/complementary-alternative-medicine-mental-health-conditions

Mental Health Services (CA) https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/Pages/MentalHealthPrograms-Svcs.aspx

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello everybody. And thank you for being here today. I’m Dana. This is words that move me and I’m jazzed about this episode. Yes. Um, if you are new to the podcast, I start every episode with wins. I’m going to tell you mine, and then I’m gonna leave you a little bit of time to tell me yours this week. My win is that I have graduated from a coach certification program. Yes, I am now a certified coach. My area of interest and specialization is in career coaching specifically for individuals in art and entertainment, which if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, should come as no surprise to you. Um, if you’re curious about what career coaching is, what coaching is in general or what it might look like to work together, head on over to theDanawilson.com/coachcurious, that is theDanawilson.com/coachcurious. Okay, that’s my win. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.  

Alright. Nicely done. Way to go. Congrats. I’m proud of you. Keep on crushing it. Okay. Today I am joined by my longtime friend, Taja Riley and her alter Kim Visions. In this episode, we get to learn about the Riley record industry, Royal family, and we discuss mental health. I learned so much about stigmas that most of us carry around mental health disorders and the importance of really personalized treatment. Really. I actually learned the importance of listening, and I hope that you enjoy and learn from listening in on this conversation with Taja Riley and Kim Visions. 

Dana: I’m so excited to be doing this thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. Um, I, this is, this is common practice. I like to have all of my guests introduce themselves. So have at it my friend. What would you like us to know about you?  

Taja: Okay. So my name is Taja Riley. My parents gave me that name. Um, but I have also discovered there’s another person that would like to be introduced that I, um, I guess the host of her name is Kim Visions. And, uh, she may answer some of your questions today, but I’ll always refer to, this is what Kim is saying because I am in the driver’s seat so.  

Dana: So lucky to be the recipient of two guests, but only one email, one email thread, um, welcome Taja and welcome Kim Visions. I am so excited to get to know you. Um, I’ve been watching Taja grow up on a stage, um, as a competition dancer, since what, like, I think the first time I watched you dance, you were probably 12, maybe 13. And, um, men that, that entire time I knew it was very clear that you are a force to be reckoned with on the performance level, on a creative level, on a technical level I might add. And, um, I, I’ve always been fascinated with your work. You are captivating to watch. Um, so I might might just start if we could, by talking a little bit about the way that you grew up, um, which was as a competitive dancer or a studio kid, as they are affectionately known, I watched you grow up on a competition stage. I knew you more or less in and out of, you know, studio workshops, summer intensives, things like that. But eventually we became colleagues teaching for NYCDA. We spent every summer for how many summers in New York city, Midtown at that Sheraton every year for nationals. Um, your trajectory, so many nationals. Um, but your trajectory has fascinated me. I’m hoping you can talk a little bit about your training at Denise Walls and how that prepared for you for the quote real world. And what does real world look like?  

Taja: Okay. So real world back then, I started training at Denise’s funny story, very quick one. Um, but I started training at Denise’s when I was seven. I used to go to this other studio. I’m not going to name the name just in case they’re listening. Um, but, um, it was tech rehearsal day and my mom got me and my sister’s surprise tickets to spice world concert. And it was like, this is like the day before the show. And I was like, I’m not missing Mel-B or Mel-C. There’s just no way. And, um, we went and we went to tech rehearsal and then we were like, you know, we have to leave early because we have to get ready for the concert and they were not having it. She was like, if you walk out of this though, you ain’t coming back no more. And that’s literally what happened. I said, I said, okay, um, you clearly don’t have my best interest at heart. I would really like to go see SpiceWorld. And I went and we got kicked out of his studio,

What a fateful day 

but it was thanks to the spice girls. You know, I found Denise’s and it really was, we were out of like a place to train me and my sister. That’s why I’m saying we, and, um, my dad was rehearsing at Denise’s at the time doing his stuff for black street. And, um, I guess it came up in conversation one day, Denise brought it up and she was like, “you have daughters?” like, cause he said, he mentioned something about us and she was like, you have daughters and you have not brought them to the studio. And she was like, live it. And so he was like, okay, okay, okay. I’ll talk to, I’ll talk to Donna. That’s my mom and my mom ended up bringing us in and yeah, I just like, from there, I think, uh, Denise and the whole faculty at the studio just kind of fell in love with us. We became those regulars and um, yeah, I mean, I, I had like three recreational years and then moved into the junior company, which is what Denise wanted to test out. And I remember just feeling so electric about dance just from, from that time that like, you know, when people are like, when did you start dancing? And I’m like, uh, well, technically I say like seven, because that’s when I was on a comprehensive level where I was actually taking things in. And it’s also when I started dancing at Denise’s. But, um, but yeah, like I remember like this feeling, it was, um, it was it’s raining men. That was the, that was the dance. And I remember like they gave me a little solo to, no, it was 1999. It was 1999. It was 1999. And they gave me a partnering solo.

Wait, what’s a partnering solo?

Okay. A partnering solo is when they ask you to partner with somebody, but then it becomes a solo. 

I love, Taja, you might have just named the episode. Partnering Solo with Taja Riley and Kim Visions. You heard it here first. Okay So that’s when it kind of jelled for you. When you really felt like a dancer?

Yeah, it did. It really felt like I’m a dancer, but it was even more than that because I felt, I think because my music is my first love. Like I was born on the same day as one of my dad’s concerts. So I do think that there’s such a musical, um, tie that I have outside of the fact that my family’s a music entertainment family. Um, but I was also the kid that did not have rhythm. Um, my dad was actually very embarrassed by me and he was like, Oh my God, Donna. He was like Donna, Oh my God, I can not have a child that has no rhythm. This is just so this is not good. Like he was like, you have to throw her any and everything. So my mom put us with four instruments. We were in the choir at school and we did dance and I did gymnastics and it was rhythmic gymnastics that I had to do because I had to get musicality.  

We can’t just be having you on those parallel bars. You need to be parallel bars on beat 

On beat on beat.  

I had no idea that that is how your relationship with Denise Walls started. So that’s fascinating. So Taja’s, dad is Teddy Riley. He is a legend to put it very simply. Um, he produced Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. He is credited for pretty much single handedly, creating new Jack swing, which is one of my favorite genres of music and dance. Um, he and his group Black Street brought us No Diggity, which is for the record. Like if you really had to ask me for one song, like if I had to listen to one song over and over and over and over again until the end of time.  It would probably be that. 

No way 

Close sec. Well, yeah, It’s a tie with a superstition by Stevie wonder.  

Okay. Okay. Yeah,  

A fair up toss up. But I would love to see those two songs do get out by the way. Okay. Anyways, so that is Teddy Riley in a nutshell. So let’s talk a little bit about other than him, um, at first being suspicious of your rhythm, what is it like growing up with a music mogul dad and how did that shape your relationship with dance and music?  

You know, it’s funny because well, the entertainment industry, as you know, it’s, there’s so much, it’s a whole nother, it can be high school sometimes it can be this workplace of a community or a village that you find, but it can also be very like cutthroat in terms of relevancy. And I know that there’s like this inward battle with even people that feel like they, um, have a place in the industry or they feel like they have to stay 

On top

It’s the battle of now I have to stay on top and how do I stay on top? How do I one up my top? How do I one up myself? How do I one up my competitors? How do I bring something different to the table? And then also you’re probably collaborating with people and passing on your formula. And then those people that you’re, you’ve actually helped and, you know, through God or whoever you answer to divinely, they, they become a competitor. And so, and they become like, you know, obviously, um, it’s just, it’s just a, it’s just a, it’s a constant cycle of try, try to survive, try like it’s that rat race to try to survive. And with doing that, uh, some people’s priorities, you know, are simply that, that those are the top priorities for them because it actually is. They feel like it is the excuse for what they, what they call their priority, which is family, you know? And so for my dad, his belief was I believe to my perspective, right. Um, I think I saw and observed that he wanted to provide so much for my family, that he, you know, dove into a zone of his work and, and that allowed him so certain doors to open for himself, even certain doors to open for us. And in, in a way that’s kinda like your, your trust fund, right? You’re uh, as you, as you get older, that, that cushion, um, that allows you in a, in like a Royal family, it’s like you you’re underneath that family. So you automatically have that favor, you know, um, or people automatically see you in this light or this class or this cast system. Um, so in that way, I think it was a great help. But then in other ways, you know, did I ever really play ball with my dad? No. And I’m like a tomboy. So like sports were my thing. I’ve never played a soccer game with my dad. I did get a chance to share moments with him at like, you know, the movies and going bowling and, you know, different like really, um, like family outing type things. But it did seem a lot, like he was very focused on other things, you know, and I don’t blame him for that. I think that, you know, we’re all human and we’re all just trying to figure it out. And I think whatever is passed down from the other generation, we’re also trying to learn or separate ourselves from that, or try and try and up that ante. And I think for him that was his major priority, but he kind of lost sight of, you know, maybe the, the extra personal time he could have spent what that said though. I think he, um, is teaching me so many new things now, you know, as an adult and, um, he’s still my dad, but he’s not, it’s not the same kind of responsibility of like, you know, pick me up after school and make sure I get my lunch on time. Yeah. Yeah. It’s more of like, uh, there’s a nurture that comes into play where I’m realizing that, um, this is an even bigger coaching and mentorship than I could’ve ever desired from myself because music and entertainment is truly where I need the tutelage, you know? And he has so much to offer that in terms of, even if I were to just go on the internet and search through him and see his interviews and see the things I can still get that coaching. And then I have the extra personal time backstage, you know, 

I’m so glad that you mentioned that not only does he have so much to offer in terms of being a mentor in the field of music and entertainment, but he is actually also your dad. So he has a lot to offer and he has a lot of interest in you, right? So many people, especially today, the climate for mentorship programs is, is, is thick. Like this is a, it’s a time when people are able to be training. It’s a time when people are capitalizing on their experience, their education and their interest in connecting in a deeper way. But could any one of those mentors offer their mentee as much individual care, compassion and genuine interest as your dad gives you? I mean, he’s your dad. So maybe, maybe yes. Maybe no. It’s very interesting that I hadn’t thought about that in terms of a mentor, mentee relationship, your dad is invested in you because you’re a part of the, the family band,  

The family band. Yeah. No, but you know, I love the guy. I love that guy. And I think he’s great. You know, I think he, what he does is absolutely it’s astonishing to have this sense. Like, there’s this one thing that I can’t shake. I haven’t been able to shake over my entire careers that I don’t know my whole, my dad’s whole discography, like from top to bottom. But if I were to ever hear a song on the radio that was either influenced by him or created by him, I know instantly. And it’s like a, it is a second sense, but not a second sense. I think it’s six. Maybe it’s a six. I think, I think we have five senses. If I’m, if I’m correct.

Some movies try to tell you there are six and that the sixth one is love or, or something, but I don’t know.  

Never heard of that one. 

That’s what I think. The movie,  Um, Oh, what’s his McConaughey. Matthew McConaughey the movie about space. Was it called? Not, Oh God, I don’t interstellar. I think that movie was trying to tell me that love is the sixth, sixth dimension and that if we’re going to time travel, we talk to each other through love and connection and bookshelves. That’s what I walked away from that movie with. But that’s neither here nor there have you seen it? 

I have not.  

That’s why you’re confused. Go check that out. Check that out and tell me I’m wrong 

I will. I will not probably tell you you’re wrong. I’ll probably agree with you  

Well dang it now I’m wishing I haven’t tainted your, um,  

Oh, it’s fine. I’ll probably forget. I’ll probably forget while watching it. And then when it occurs to me, I’ll be like somebody said something about bookshelves 

This reminds me. Yeah. Okay. You’re going to love this. Okay. I’m sorry.  

I sideswiped us. I got distracted. I feel like, you know, on the subject of your dad and his signature, his musical signature, he’s very clearly left a legacy and imprint on the industry and on the sounds. Um, but you know what I was, as I was researching, um, you and your dad, matter of fact, I discovered something I did not know. And I think many people don’t know that your dad is actually the first African American producer to use, uh, to actually produce K-pop and bring it to America. And so I, his legacy is even deeper than what I knew or expected to find out. Um, so my question for you let’s get back to you is what do you want your legacy to be? What is the imprint that you are making that will last long after  

I think what’s really important to me, because I feel like you leave a bit of your legacy in everyone you encounter. Right. Um, so I think for me, it’s just to be an example of my core values, you know, continue to be that example. And I think, I don’t know, I have this like big desire over all of my other desires to, to be the matriarch of my family, you know, um, of the family that I create. And that’s like, I want to love to be able to look back on grandkids and great grandkids and know that, you know, I built a solid foundation with either just even me through me or with me and my partner or me and my village, or, you know, me and my alter, who, whoever is entangled in my life, that I’ve been able to create multiple generations or have a hand in involvement in multiple generations, watch them grow, watch their process and have been able to live it and be present with them. Um, I think that in itself, if I can remain present in every moment, whatever legacy I end up creating in the end will be something I’m like super proud of. Um, I don’t know if that answers your question and I think I generalized it. 

Spot on. It’s beautiful. 

Just want to keep it open. 

You know, I think it’s, to me, If I were to, um, write the Twitter version of that answer, um, if, if your dad put his fingerprint on, you know, his time in this world, it was in music and when you do it, it will be through a network of people and you have a network of gifts, a huge variety in ways of expressing yourself. Actually that might be a good place to go next. Um, you DJ, you teach, you perform at like insanely high levels in an insanely diverse range of styles in terms of dance. Um, absolutely. I mean, I, you are, you’re one of my favorite dancers that there is,  

Oh my God. What. That is like the biggest compliment ever! 

Oh my gosh Taja watching you is such a ride. It is such a ride. It is. I think maybe my favorite reason if I could really back myself up here in saying, why is that when I watch you dance, I watch you experience your dance as opposed to just demonstrating or performing your dance. I’m watching you experience very viscerally. And that is a quality that I’m very attracted to. So you are definitely tops my friend, but you do so many things in addition to performing, um, as I mentioned, the DJ-ing, the teaching, you assist you choreograph a question, what is your favorite mode for creating?  

I don’t have one. You know what, like I read somewhere that they say that when you wake up, the very first thing that you want to do is what you were born to do. But I feel like every 24 hours, like something, something, it just changes. Re-invent updates. You know, I think I find if I can say for right now in this particular phase that I’m in, I think I find the most, um, enthusiastic for me is definitely just conceptualizing, creating a full idea and then trying to make it as interactive and immersive as possible, of going into the dimension of my mind. And I think that that is like, it’s, it’s so challenging for me. And it’s equally pleasurable for me to experience because I really get to get very clear on what it is that exists in my frame of mind, my perspective in my, like in the metaphors, within the metaphors of what I’m trying to mean and what I might mean for that moment and what that could mean for other people. Um, that is, yeah, I think that, that, that’s where I’m at right now, but yo give me two, two decks. I will be DJ the most delicious set ever in the world. You know,  

That’s a great answer. I feel like that question is a setup and anytime you set up, when people ask me, you know, cause I, you know, I love to edit. I love to capture, I love to choreograph. I love to teach. Um, but I think what you’re like, what you’re shining your light on, is that any opportunity that you get to do, all of them is really the sweet spot. Like yeah. That’s, that’s the coolest and it sounds like, and I, I don’t, I know you’re not able to say too much, but it sounds like you’re working on right now, exactly that a project where you can call on all of your many interests and talents. Um, what are you able to say about where you’re working on?  

Right. Okay. 

So don’t get in trouble.

I can’t get in trouble cause I’m the boss and that’s why it’s really fun. But, um, but what I can say, cause you know, like, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen fyre festival, but nobody wants to fyre a festival. Right?  

Except the the internet, the internet had a heyday with that. The internet loved that internet loves it.  

Netflix loved it. And I think Ja Rule loves it as well, but yeah, but yeah, I mean, like getting away from that, um, but what I, what I am creating right now started off as just a project, even like a few years back that was just portions of other projects, all coming together in one. Um, I can say that, you know, originally this started off with two meetings, um, I had gotten approached by a digital platform, um, and that digital platform gave me the opportunity and the permissions to create my own virtual event. And, uh, immediately after like I had another meeting with, uh, a VR company, um, that decided to move forward with me and forming a relationship and green-lighting um, my dance VR video game concept. So I basically, I sat with it for a while and hadn’t, I had a conversation with my sister and she was like, ‘Taj, you’re so good at everything, but you’re so ADD’ like really, like, she was like, you should just pick like one thing and I’ve had a couple people tell me this, that like, you know, I will start in, you know, consume myself with one idea and then I’ll just like float to the next.  It’s like some segue, you know, to, to another idea. And then another idea is born and another idea and I love ideas. I really do. But she was like, ‘if you just put all of your focus and attention on seeing this one idea all the way through, she was like, everything else, you pick that one idea that it’s going to be that, that base and that foundation for all these other ideas to STEM off of.’ And I just kept going back and forth in my head. Like, but like, but both of these, like I wish I could get both of these to work. Cause I think both of them are great. And what ended up happening is I decided I will combine both of those ideas into one and treat my development stage, um, as my show and as the event. So on a subconscious level, I’m teaching other people how to play my video game before it comes out.

Interesting. 

I think that’s like the most fat I can give you  

You certainly piqued my interest. Um, and it sounds like you are creating a solo duet. 

That’s what it is, another partnering solo. 

So you’re bringing two ideas together to be one thing. And I understand the challenge of focus in that way. When, when you are weaving so many different ideas together, it takes extreme attention and focus. But my friend between all of the things that you are and find interesting, I cannot wait to see what this partnering solo becomes I’m so excited 

Oh my God, I will say this because she will not let me live it down. If I don’t mention that this is not my idea alone. This is an idea that actually is very much coming from her mind and her dimension and her vision and what she’s given me in her, meaning Kim. Um, and I’m still on that journey of figuring out what, what exactly this walk is, mentally, spiritually for me with this other voice that I tendency here and this other. Um, yeah, I don’t know if you want to segue into that a bit.  

I would love, and I hope that we can segue with some compassion. This is my first time talking about, um, a person with a person that is an alter. Is that perfect? Is that the correct word to use? Do you consider Kim an alter ego or, um, what, what’s the verbiage I should be using?  

I would think, I would think it was an alter ego, but funny thing happened, right? Like couple of years ago, um, which, you know, I was in a, I was in a cult and um, I got out and it was a pretty deep way, um, that I got out and there was a start over restart that happened. I do believe in a lot of ways that when that night occurred, that there was a rebirth or a transformation, I just feel very far from any of the other previous lives or phases that I have gone through. Um, as a person, I don’t really feel connected to those, that persona or that part of myself anymore. Um, I feel a different energy and I think a lot of my friends have shared that it is different. Um, even the way that I look is very, very different. Um, when I did actually start seeing a trauma specialist, they shared that this is my brain’s rewiring. The brain is so powerful and it wants to protect you. It wants to make sure that you are you’re good.  

Dana: This is where the conversation gets real. Now I may be a certified coach now, but I am not by any means a neuroscientist, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a behavioral scientist, or even a person that knows what is best for people who are dealing with trauma. I don’t have the tools, the training or the experience to speak to the way that our brain handles traumas. But I am a person that thinks it’s tremendously important to shine a light on discussions about mental health. In the next part of our conversation, Taja talked about the way that she got out of the cult and the things that she experienced afterward. I’ve edited that conversation to be age appropriate for my young listeners, but in the edited portion of the interview, Taja talks about having difficulty, recognizing people, not eating, not sleeping gaps in consciousness, sensitivity to certain materials and textures and even colors and various other experiences. If you or somebody that you know are experiencing something similar, I don’t personally have the tools to help you here, but in the show notes of this episode, I’m including links to the international society for the study of trauma and diassociation. I’m offering links to resources where you can find professionals or more professional help visit the department of mental health at dmh.lacounty.gov That’s a great resource, especially if you are in the Los Angeles area and don’t have insurance. Other resources are MHAnational.org for complimentary and alternative medicine, as well as the national helpline for substance abuse and mental health services. That’s SAMHSA.gov All of those resources will be linked in the show notes of this episode, along with some recommended reading from Taja and the mental health center locator, that’s www.nimh.nih.gov One more time. That’s the mental health center locator, N I M H dot N I H.gov. I hope that within those resources, you are able to find someone you can trust and that can help you. All right. Let’s jump back in now with TaJa and Kim. 

Experiencing one of my first episodes was so catastrophic for me in terms of my emotional intelligence and where I felt like I was, but like, I literally went through a weekend where I could not use my hands. Like it was preventing me from that. And after coming out of that, um, and getting a sense of, okay, you’ve got to do something about it. Having a crying moment is not going to help. How do we, how do we, uh, navigate this? What, what do I need to learn? How do I need to get educated, um, to define, and, or even, I don’t even need to define it right now just to collect right. And ha take data, take inventory and examine things that maybe I’m adding to the pool. That is, that’s making me go into this crazy time, you know, to a point where I’m locking myself inside my door, you know, like I’m locking myself in my room at night, so I don’t go traveling that’s that’s not okay. You know? 

And with that data, did you take all of that information you’d collected and seek help or, or get medical attention? What was your, you know, what does that help structure look like for you right now?  

Yeah, I mean, at first I wanted to find somebody that could spiritually keep tabs, you know, and going that route without God in it, for me. Um, I thought worked out, but I, I don’t think I actually found what I was looking for in terms of receiving that truth. I dived into, you know, the trauma specialist route after months of being like, I’m not going to any hospital for a number of reasons. One because of the whole COVID experience that we’re going through. And then on top of that, I’ve always felt squeamish about, you know, being treated or being diagnosed, AKA, somebody speaking something on your life that you, you feel like you can lose power. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve heard friends of mine that even with Denise, you know, hearing, hearing a doctor tell you, you have cancer is way different than you saying to your body there’s something weird. I need to go fix it. And yes, sometimes learning that information from other people is helpful, but there’s something about multiple people knowing that and thinking that, and being in agreement with that, that can change your, your recovery process or change the energy towards getting better, finding health. You know, somebody gives you a certain title. You feel like you have to act that certain way, or you feel like you have to prove that you’re not acting that certain way. When people say that you’re crazy, anything that you try and demonstrate to them to prove that you are otherwise makes you crazier, to me. Like, yeah. And I think that just even the term usage of disorder, that’s what makes me squeamish. It’s like, it’s like saying moist, like it’s really about, you know, you’re like, um,  

Dig into that. You’re saying .. Are you saying that the word disorder makes you uncomfortable the same way that the word moist makes you uncomfortable?  

Yes.  

Yeah. It is not my jam. That way. I’ve got three words that drive me nuts, but are you saying that it’s the sound and the like the look of the word disorder or what it means?  

I think it’s, I think it’s what it means. I was thinking the feeling in terms of how moist makes me feel. Um, but, but in terms of the actual usage, I have a problem with people saying disorder. So I I challenged, it was saying, if I do I experience, I am experiencing these symptoms right now that you would put in this category of dissociative identity disorder, but I’d like to refer to it as if I’m, if I have that multiple personality that I’m multiple personality proficient, or I’m a multihyphenate human being that is hypersensitive to triggers. You know, I feel like for anybody that is dealing with their mental health, and I would say, I would venture to say, everybody’s dealing with their mental health right now. And, um, it could be in a, in a, in a place of, you know, trying to figure out what, what is the key to happiness or success in isolation, uh, even that, um, on a mental level, it’s a lot to handle. I just think that that’s where I’m at right now, but the usage, the usage of the way people position things, sometimes I think could use a little re-up, a little update, you know, and I think it’s time we’re at a place where people are, are experiencing the reform, you know, of many things, you know, so

I think reforming and reevaluating language and terms, um, the way that we speak, the way  that we address each other, I think so much of this is, is necessary. And I think that even when it comes to like the DSM four like describing conditions, medical conditions, I do think there’s language changing all over the place around certain things. Um, I’m glad to see language changing. I’m glad to see human beings taking advantage of our, uh, self-awareness and this, like this evolved brain that we have, where yeah, we are actually able to think about thinking, like, we can think about our thoughts and we get to decide what we make certain words mean, but you can see the problem where if everybody had their own meaning for every word, we, all of a sudden are a completely disjointed, broken community that can’t connect on anything. If we don’t know what anything means or what it means to you is different than what it means to them. And what it means to you today is different than what it means to you tomorrow. And how do we move forward?  

Dana: How do we move forward? When language is always changing? How do we understand each other? When words mean different things to different people? Are words neutral or are words and their meanings set, rigid, binding. And in that ultimately powerful, I don’t know the best or the right way to answer those questions today. But if I’ve learned one thing in recording a weekly podcast, it’s that words are important. Especially a word like disorder. The public stigma towards mental health disorders has built a pervasive barrier that prevents so many people from access to jobs, education, and even prevent some people from engaging in mental health care. Again, I’m not a brain scientist. Again, I am not a brain scientist or a scientist of any sort. I am a dancer. I am a choreographer. Yes, I am a coach. But I think that to say this discussion is none of my business or not my problem is a disservice to myself and to others. This conversation with Taja and Kim has reminded me that I can be a part of a peer support system. I can share resources that connect them to professional support systems, and I can evaluate and dismantle my own stigmas around mental health. That is my personal goal. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask for a world that is completely free of judgment, but I do think we can help each other find more freedom by being better listeners and encouraging personalized treatment. 

Dana: This, this quest for freedom to me, begins with awareness. And it sounds like you are doing the work to become aware of your, uh, your feelings, your experience of this life. It’s, it’s cool to hear you writing the empowering stories and taking stock, collecting data on what you’re experiencing and using all of your many gifts, tying them all together to create value in this world. Um, and I’m, I’m so interested. I’m very curious in what it is that you’re experiencing, um, you know, sensationally in your body, but also mentally and what’s going on in there. And, um, man, I’m, I’m inspired by your journey. I’m very interested in it. I think I’ll be going to do some more research myself, man. I just thank you so much for sharing so openly. I really appreciate,  

Taja: Of course. Yeah, no. Um, thank you for being open with me so that I could do that and have that platform. I really appreciate it Dana and, um, everybody out there stay safe. Okay.  

Yes. Thank you, Taj. I’ll talk to you soon.  

Yeah Bye!

Alright. Everybody. That is it for me today. I am so glad to have had this conversation and so happy to be sharing it with you. Again, don’t forget to check the show notes for all of the helpful resources that I’ve mentioned. And if I have missed any, if you are a person that has found support in other ways and places, I would love to hear about it. A great place for us to be in touch is over at words that moved me podcast on Instagram, I look forward to hearing from you. And of course, I look forward to talking to you. Thank you so much for being here everybody, talk to you later. 

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally. And most importantly, now you have a way to become a word that I remember. So kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #39 Holding the CREATIVE Space

Ep. #39 Holding the CREATIVE Space

 
 
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Either you KNOW an overactive listener, you ARE an overactive listener or BOTH!  This episode is dedicated to the importance of neutrality and HOLDING THE SPACE (for yourself, for others, and for the project!)

Show Notes

Quick Links:

The Overactive Listener by Caitlin Reilly: https://www.instagram.com/p/CEpuG81pnQs/

Dr. Katrina Ubell’s Podcast: https://katrinaubellmd.com/podcast/

Man Talks Podcast: https://mantalks.com/

In the Heights: https://www.intheheights-movie.com/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers. Like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello. Hello, everybody. Welcome to words that move me. I’m Dana and I am so stoked that you are here. I’m stoked to be talking to you. Number one, because the subject matter of this episode is near and dear to my heart. I think it’s very important, very valuable, but number two, because right now I am talking to you from my homemade podcast booth, which I have appropriately named the pod. Um, my husband and I worked on it together. And I think it sounds really great. I dunno, you tell me, I would love to hear some feedback either over @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram, or you are always welcome to leave a comment on theDanawilson.com/podcast Also, if you’re digging what you’re hearing, I’m not sure. I think, I think my listeners are pretty split 50, 50 half of you guys over listening on Spotify. And half of you are listening on Apple podcasts, but if it sounds great, if you’re digging what you’re hearing in terms of quality and content, please do leave a review and a rating. Download these episodes, keep them with you all the time. I do so appreciate it. Your reviews and your ratings help other people find the podcast more easily so it really is so, so helpful to me and to the community. Appreciate that. Um, okay.  If you’re new, let me introduce the format of the show. I usually begin every episode with wins. I think it’s really important to celebrate what’s going well in all of our worlds, especially in times where it might seem like nothing is going well. It’s important to celebrate your wins no matter how big, no matter how small. So this week I will start by celebrating my larger than a bread box size win, which is my podcast studio. I’m so jazzed about it. It feels so good. So glad to not be crammed in my closet, ruffling against items and jackets and, you know, rubbing my shins up against this awkwardly sized step stool so that I can be at the right height to reach a microphone, the pits. Um, now I am not crammed in a closet. I am actually standing very comfortably in front of a closet and inside of this awesome booth that reminds me of my husband and all of his many talents. So that is my win today. Now it is your turn. What’s going well in your world.  

Oh right. Congrats. Keep winning. I’m so proud of you. All right. Now in episode 36, the assistant, I talked about how to be and how to have a great assistant spoiler alert. There is really just one thing that you need to do on both sides. And that is have a great relationship. I actually do give some specific steps to achieving and maintaining that relationship and really all relationships truly in that episode. So if you haven’t heard it think about tuning back into episode 36. Um, in that episode, I also talk about a few of my assistant fails, like big ones, big, big learning opportunities that I share with you so that you don’t have to learn the hard way. This episode is a branch off of one of those stories. So last year in 2019, while I was working as an associate choreographer on, in the Heights, under our supervising choreographer, Christopher Scott, he mentioned to me one day, not in a good way, not in a bad way, but just as something that he noticed that I give very noticeable feedback sometimes verbally, sometimes non-verbally is it possible to do both simultaneously?  It’s true. I’ve noticed this about myself even before he said the words, but once he said it, it was like somebody had just held a magnifying mirror right up in my face and my head is nodding blatantly. Um, yeah, I, I, I do think I kind of report the news constantly with my body non-verbally and with my voice, if any of you have taken class with me, you know, that to be true, I’m a pretty vocal class taker. It’s obvious when I’m loving it. Um, and it’s obvious when I have questions. I love asking questions during class. I do try to ask them at appropriate times, but when Chris gave me this feedback, I started to notice it more and more often. I nod a lot. I smile. I grin really, really big when I’m in favor of, or in agreement of what’s going on, or I hold really, really still, if I’m not in favor of, or don’t understand exactly what’s going on.  So I started noticing, noticing this about myself and in other people a lot. And then I saw this brilliant human on Instagram. Her handle is at @hicaitlinreilly I think R E I L L Y. So that’s at H I C A I T L I N R E I L L Y. I found her thanks to my assistant and technical director, Malia Baker, Caitlin has this parody impression of the overactive listener. And I was like floored by it. I’m like, yes, this is a thing. And I have thoughts about this thing. I’ll be sure to tag Caitlin’s Instagram video in the quick links of the show notes of this episode. So if you’re interested in finding that, go to the show notes too, to check that out. So when I saw this very masterful piece of comedy, I knew that this is actually a pretty serious thing. And I have thoughts about it. Let’s dig in to being an active reactor and how to hold this space.  

Alright, Most of the relationships in your life, like the ones you have with your parents, your friends, significant others, teachers and so on and so forth are not focused on objectivity. Those relationships, typically very openly without pause, either show agreement or disagreement or approval or disapproval likes or dislikes. When I say show, I actually should say demonstrate perhaps the demonstration of agreement or disagreement is verbal. “Oh my God. Yes. Oh totally. Oh my God. Yes.” Or, “Oh God. No. Oh my God. Why would you think that? I can’t believe he just said that.” Or perhaps it’s nonverbal the shaking of a head or the crossing of arms either way, be it verbal or nonverbal disagreement usually causes discomfort that we either avoid or embrace super shout out. By the way to episode 30 with Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey, where we talked about how to disagree with people that you love.  Oh my gosh. So good. Well, all that to say, I’m learning a lot about conflict. I’m learning a lot about how my dance training can help me to see opportunity in conflict. I’m learning a lot about how to manage unwanted feelings that crop up around conflict, like guilt, regret, feeling misunderstood, et cetera, and okay, sorry. I’ve gotten sidetracked. Most of the relationships in your life are not rooted in objectivity. Most of our training tells us that it is good to agree with people and to be agreeable, and that it’s bad to disagree or be in conflict as a result. So many of us are trained into this physicalizing and verbalizing of our agreement, our approval, our being pleased and our pleasantness. And this might not be a bad thing, but there are certainly times when it isn’t the best thing to do this episode zooms out to really observe the effects of that verbal nonverbal feedback and it considers the alternatives. One in particular being neutrality, the alternative to being an overactive listener is holding the space. You may have heard of this phrase, holding the space, um, because it’s actually become a bit of a popular saying, but what does it actually mean? One of my favorite podcasters, Dr. Katrina Ubell has a great episode about holding the space. It’s episode number 157 of her podcast, weight loss for busy physicians stay with me here, and it is called holding space for yourself while you lose weight. Okay. Again, stay with me here. Don’t get distracted. Doctor Ubell’s podcast is geared towards physicians and weight loss, but the concept of holding the space can be practiced by everyone and applied to darn near any conversation. Dr. Ubell, his episode is a fabulous place to continue learning about this concept. If it’s interesting to you, and if you want to hear more after this podcast, her podcast is also an exquisite resource If you’re interested in weight loss or finding freedom in your relationship with food, yes. Even if you are not a busy physician. I think of the phrase, holding the space as kind of a modern, more specific way of saying ‘being a shoulder to cry on,’ you’re allowing a safe and open space for somebody to discuss something difficult or painful. Sometimes involving tears holding the space is a specific practice, but it’s not by any means. One specific thing that has one specific definition. To explain holding the space. I’ll describe, um, kind of a hypothetical situation here. Imagine that a friend has just gone through something awful. Perhaps let’s say they’ve lost their job. And they open up to talk to you about it. Not holding the space in that situation might look something like you saying, “Oh my God. Yeah. You and like half the country, I completely understand Trust me. Like the exact same thing happened to me. And I’ve been unemployed for like all of quarantine and I totally blindsided me. I know how you feel. I mean, I feel awful. I am right there with you and here’s what you need to do. Let me just tell you, you need to stay positive, pull up your big girl pants and like, get your resume together. You should definitely go on unemployment like now and blabity, blabity, blah,” you, you get the picture. This person may be very well intentioned, but this is definitely not holding the space. When you’re holding this space, you’re listening more than you’re talking. You’re not distracted. You’re not giving advice. You’re not making it about you. You weren’t even trying to make the other person feel better. You’re simply honoring the, they are feeling right now by listening and staying present and gently holding space for them to be exactly as they are.  

How does that sound to you? Does that sound like holding the space might be really challenging? Does that sound difficult to you? The process of keeping a neutral zone for your friend to sort of be not neutral in. Dr. Ubell describes holding the space, like holding a really big pillow, kind of with your arms out in front of you really gently, really light doesn’t require much effort. You know, kind of like the way you would hold a big empty box. It shouldn’t require much effort from the listening party, but here’s the real caveat. The real important part is that holding the space requires no effort from the other party. If you’re the person holding the space, the person in this space shouldn’t need to worry at all about holding you. In Dr. Ubell, his episode, she mentions another podcaster named Connor Beaton and his podcast called Man Talks Podcast. Connor describes holding the space as holding a metaphorical bucket for someone else to mentally and emotionally vomit into. Well, me and my seven year old humor really do find that quite appropriate. It doesn’t take much effort for me to hold this bucket for you. Go for it mentally and emotionally spew into this. High five If you just caught my Wayne’s world reference. Alright, So holding the space requires that you listen to hear people’s thoughts. It also requires that you manage your own thoughts and don’t make the moment about you so that the person in need of the bucket doesn’t need to hold the bucket for you. So that’s how you hold the space for others, but you can also hold space for yourself. This can be sticky because if holding the space is not making it about you, then how do you hold the space for you without making it about you, but it’s you, that’s in the space and you’re holding the space for you? It’s kind of a mind trick, but believe it or not, you can allow yourself the space to mentally and emotionally spew without telling yourself “Ew gross, dude, pull it together, Ugh, how could you let that happen? You’re so sloppy. Yuck.” So for me, holding the space for myself usually starts with a totally judgment free download a thought download, a thought dump or a kind of a free journaling. Usually I do this with pen to paper. Sometimes it’s fingers to keys, either way It’s a stream of consciousness writing without any judgment, whatever crops up comes out. Then I read what I’ve written and I hold the space for the person that wrote those words. I hold the space as if person who wrote those words was my best friend. I get curious. And I ask questions when it’s appropriate, I get compassionate, and I use kind language with myself. Now, whether you’re holding space for yourself or for someone else, holding space requires clean thinking. Now you’re gonna make judgments. You are a human being, and that is what we do, but it is possible that you can make judgments and set them free and get back to holding the bucket. You don’t need to use your hands to hold your judgments, use your hands to hold the bucket. It’s possible that you can make judgements and not voice them or show them physically. So now we’ve talked a little bit about holding the space for someone else and holding the space for yourself. I want to broach a new subject, holding creative space. In other words, holding space in a creative setting, be it a rehearsal, a brainstorm meeting, or even an interview. New ideas are presented as as little seeds, sprouts, tiny hatchlings, little fragile, but full of potential. Not fully formed yet, in those early stages. Ideas have no walls and they have no ceilings. And when you give a verbal yes or no, or even a nonverbal, “Oh my God, I love it.” Or “no, not quite working.” You wind up putting up walls and setting the ceiling for that tiny sapling of an idea. What happens if you just let that seed fall into the ground and hold the space while it sprouts? Yes. You can give it a little water by asking questions that reveal what it might become. Yes. You can ask it. How do I help you grow? But you don’t need to immediately claim what that seed will become. A big evergreen, a tomato plant, a basal plant. You guys all know I’m super fond of the basil. So here’s the other thing about showing your approval right away. And I’m speaking, especially to myself, as I say this, because I am actively working on this is when you respond with kind of an all in attitude at the suggestion of an idea, it can be kind of suspicious. Who in their right mind would fully agree and jump on board with something that’s not even be, that’s not even been fleshed out yet? That’s not even sprouted. You know, it, it can be a little bit concerning. In addition to that, one enthusiastic nod turns into another. That can limit the type of questions that get asked. If any, at all, speaking of nods of when somebody has presented a tiny hatchling or a thought, an idea, and you nod in approval, it’s very likely that you’re nodding in approval of what you see, not what the person has said. As the idea is new, It’s possible that they’re not even seeing it fully yet either. Now that can be risky because from that point on, you’re claiming that idea’s yours. Mine not theirs. Great not better. So how can you help hold the tiny seed, the little hatchling, the new idea and care for it as ours, not yours. How can you let it be best? Not just great, because let’s be honest. Some very early ideas are great, especially those first reaction, gut impulse, Holy cow, listen to this ideas. Yeah, they probably are great, but you might be keeping a great idea from being even better by putting your exclamation mark at the end of a sentence that could be an ellipsis. You know what I’m saying? What happens if you let it be open-ended. Now here’s the tricky part, when you’re in a creative, especially in a collaborative situation, you’re likely expected to not just hold the space, but to step into it and contribute. So one of the most important things you can do as a collaborator is check the temperature of when you should be holding space and when you should be jumping in, okay, these are the two questions I like to ask myself. The first question is, am I being asked for my opinion, if no, then keep holding the space. If yes, then go ahead and jump in. But immediately after deciding to step in to this conversation, I asked myself the second question, am I leaving room for other people’s opinions? See, even from the inside of the creative space, you can still hold space for other ideas. I like to think of this as like a swimming pool. It is definitely possible for more than one person to be in the pool. But if one person is splashing around like crazy person, then it makes it hard for other people to be seen and to be heard and to well swim. So let’s get out of that metaphor and let’s jump into another example to kind of illustrate the difference between leaving room for other opinions and not leaving room for other opinions. Let’s say that, um, collaborator A says, “Ooh, what do you think about breaking into a tap section right here?” They say, what do you think? So I’m taking that as an opportunity to share my opinion and opinion that doesn’t leave room for others might sound something like this, “sick that would be so dope. Yo, you have to get Chloe Arnold. Nobody is better than she is. It has to be Chloe. That’s it period the end.” or something like this, “maybe. Ooh, um, maybe, but they’d have to wear sneakers or something soft in their feet because otherwise we’d have to buy mics to capture the sound and then get hardwood flooring. And really that’s just a total mess. And like kind of out of our budget.” that’s an example of not leaving room for other opinions. Here’s what it would sound like if you were leaving room for other opinions, collaborator A says, “Hey, what do you think about breaking into a tap section right here?” A person who’s holding the space might say, “Ooh, I love that idea. Is there a world where it’s like kind of a golden age of film type song and dance soft shoe thing? Or I don’t know what other styles call to you?” or we could take the yes and approach one of my favorites. And if you’re not familiar with the concept of yes, and you might journey back in time to episode number 15, where my seaweed sisters and I talk a bit about our creative process and how we have kept holding the space for each other for over six years. Alright. So a Yes. And approach to an answer to this question. What do you think about breaking into a tap section? Might look something like this. “Ah, I can see that as being a super grounded and soulful moment. And could it be done with plastic cups on our feet instead of traditional tap shoes that might give it the quirk and the comedic element that is at the heart of this piece?”  I’m saying yes. And I’m contributing an additional idea. I love asking questions. Like, is there a world where, or is it possible that we and I love playing? Yes. And. Can you see how holding the space even from inside the creative space, affords that creative idea to become ours? Not mine. It leaves no pun intended a room for the idea to grow into something. Instead of committing that idea to its current state, a tiny little seed. Now, trust me, it’s easier said than done. I think it’s pretty clear the value of holding space in a creative setting, not just from the outside, but from the inside as well. One last thing I’d like to include is that you should have a plan for what you might do and say, and think if creative space isn’t held for you.  In that moment, hold it for yourself. Try not to get distracted, keep holding space for yourself, especially, but also for the room. Collaboration is really quite simple, but it’s not always easy. Trust me. It’s much easier said than done to hold the space in a creative setting. I am not a master of that, but I am committed to practicing it. And this is the great thing about holding space. You can practice literally any time, whether you’re in conversation with someone else or with yourself or in a room, creating a work. The other great thing is that the more you practice in one area, be it holding the space for yourself or someone else or in a collaboration. The better you get at all three, because they are more the same than they are different. Just like us I imagine.  

And with that ladies and gentlemen, I will bid you adieu. Thank you so much to listening. Thank you for being open to holding the space and please, as this is a concept that I am absolutely working on myself. I would love to hear your feedback about this episode, about any tricks or trials that you’ve encountered in holding space, especially in creative collaborative circumstances. Again, please leave comments on Instagram over @wordsthatmovemepodcast or leave a comment on the website, theDanawilson.com/podcast And um, let’s see what else? Oh yeah. Don’t forget to keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball, changeover, patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #38 WTMM x CLI with Joshua Smith

Ep. #38 WTMM x CLI with Joshua Smith

 
 
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Joshua Smith has an interesting view of the industry, validation, and fame. This episode diggs into all that and more.  We go deep on dance as an art/ sport, the Black Lives Matter movement, Daily Routines, personal style, and GRATITUDE.  I can’t wait for you to hear this master-peace of an episode. Enjoy!

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Joshua Smith: https://www.instagram.com/dancer_boysmith/

CLI 2020 Experience: https://2020-experience.clistudios.com/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello, Hello, good people. And how are you? I’m Dana. And this is words that move me. Welcome back. If you are a regular and welcome, welcome If you’re new here, I am so stoked to be talking to you today. And as always, I am jazzed about this episode, but of course we’re not jumping right in. Oh no, that would be rude. It’s like dancing. Before you warm up, I’m going to give you this warm up. This is where I’d like to start today.  Today, I’m starting with my win, which is very common practice here at the podcast. We always start with a win, but this win comes with a very deep and personal story. Six years ago, my two best friends, Megan Lawson, Jillian Myers, and myself created I’ll call it a whimsy. We created a whimsy that we now call the seaweed sisters. We are a dance… Well, you know what? I’ll take that back. We are a trio. We are a trio that dances. We are a trio that makes things. We are a trio that teaches. We are a trio that performs. And now I can say we are a trio that inspires. Here comes the, win just a few days ago, I got a FaceTime call from my sister. I’m always very excited when those happen. No offense, SIS, but I’m even more excited when I hit accept and it’s my niece taking up the full frame, not my sister. So my niece is seven. I believe. Well, seven and a little bit more than a half. I think she turns eight in January. She called me as if she was like producing a film. She said, Dana, do you have a minute to talk? I was like for you. Absolutely. And she goes, I have a question. I think you’re going to like it. I was like, okay, I can’t wait. And she goes, how did you do the seaweed sister’s video. The one in the pool. The first one, I was like A. I love that. You remember my group, the seaweed sister. She’s been watching these videos since she was born B. I’m so glad that she knows that the first one was the one that happened in the pool. Although on a technicality, we’ve done two that involved pools, but only one that involves a pool with water.  I digress. Number three. I love that. She wants to know how I made it and that she thinks I can tell her the answer to that over a FaceTime call. This is great. I say, why, why do you ask? And she said, well, well, Charlotte and I, Charlotte is her sister, my niece, who’s younger, Charlotte and I are creating her words. Exactly Charlotte and I are creating the fishy sisters. And we would like to remake your seaweed sisters video. So I’m going to need to know how you did that. And I was like, amazing. This is great. Okay. Well, first you’re going to need, um, costumes. So we talked about what her costumes are going to be. She showed me all of her available leggings, which by the way, were many good job sis, that kid is stocked on the legging front. Um, she showed me the color options. I told her, she’s going to need to make a swim cap with a hot glued rhinestones on it. I told her she would need adult supervision for that. Um, she was very excited about the costuming. I asked her if she was prepared to do the moves, she was like, Oh yeah, the moves. I’m not so worried about the moves, but how did you actually make the movie? And I was like, well, that’s, you’re, you’re probably gonna need some help there with, with that as well. You’ll need a camera operator. And she says, what’s an operator. And I said, camera operators, the person that operates the camera, they control where it is and how it moves and whether or not it’s on and recording. And she goes, Oh, okay. That can be my mom. And I was like, nice. Okay. So we’ve got a camera operator. I can send your mom a shot list. And she says, what’s a shot. And I say, a shot list is basically a recipe for the movie. It tells you what you need and how much of it. And when to put it in. And she was like, okay, great. So you can send us the shot list in the mail and then I’ll do the costumes and we’ll do the dancing. And we will make the fishy sisters video. And I, this conversation, I don’t know how, but it wound up lasting, It was like 30 minute conversation. We got very specific about how she will be remaking the seaweed sisters as the fishy sisters. I’m counting this away in a, because I’m completely smitten that I have a niece that’s interested in making things and B because I know we forget it. Sometimes I have to say it here, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And I couldn’t be more flattered that my own blood, the magical Emilia is going to be flattering the seaweed sisters by creating a remake of the seaweed sisters. First video. So thrilled, please do be on the lookout. I will gladly be sharing that on the socials over at words that move me podcasts. And on my personal probably I’m DanaDaners on the gram. All right. That’s my win. Had to get it out. Thank you for listening to that. Now, what is your win? What’s going well in your world in particular, who and what are you inspiring these days? Obviously I’m open to any answer. The answer to my question was a seven year old. I’m here for all of it.  

All right. My friend, congrats and keep winning. I’m so proud of you and I know you can do it forever. Okay. Let’s get into this interview today. I’m so jazzed to be sharing this conversation with you guys. This was part of three interviews that I did in collaboration with my friends over at CLI studios. Over the summer, they had a 2020 dance experience. And during that 2020 experience words that move me and CLI teamed up to hold these three interviews. I talked to Heather Morris, Dexter Carr. And today I am sharing with you the conversation that I had with the one and only Joshua Smith. Josh is a person that I had been admiring from afar for quite a while, but he and I had never met before this day, before we actually sat down and had this conversation, I was a little nervous. I’ll be totally honest, but Josh was completely open, so friendly, so warm and so tremendously insightful. I was, I was wrapped. Top-to-bottom so engaged and so excited. So I hope you are too. I hope you get a lot out of this conversation. I know Josh has a lot to offer, um, tiny little backstory on Josh. He’s born in Durham, North Carolina. He moved to Atlanta when he was young. He has absolutely made his mark on the entertainment industry by performing with mega stars like Usher and Chris Brown. He actually won the 2019 soul train award for best dance performance in Chris Brown’s video, No Guidance. He is an outstanding teacher. He champions a healthy mindset. He champions hard work, and I am just so thrilled for you. Let’s not wait any longer. Enjoy this conversation with Josh Smith. 

Dana: Hi everybody. I’m Dana.

Josh: I’m Josh. 

Dana: And this is words that move me on CLI how lucky are we? We’re so lucky. And so are you, I might add I’m I know I’m saying that at the top of the interview, maybe I should have reserved that until the end, but, um, I think you’re in for a treat because I feel privileged to be sitting here talking to you today. Josh, I’m so excited. Um, I want to start with this. I know your other half Lindsay. She and I have had, I have had the honor and the pleasure of working with her before, but our professional paths have never crossed. So answer me this is the dance world big or is it very, very small? We like to say it’s such a small world, but I’m like, how has this never happened?  

Josh: I think it is a small world. I think just, uh, it’s different avenues. You know what I’m saying? Cause I’ve definitely heard about you and definitely seeing you around for sure. And I think he just different pathway, you know, different artists. We are different. However, we go, so he never got to meet, but this is the perfect time. And we’re here.  

Dana: It is. I’m so excited. I have a million D questions and they’re all right here and I should have written them maybe somewhere else, but that’s risky. So let’s start at the almost beginning. I won’t go into birth, but, um, I understand that growing up, you were very athletic soccer, football. Am I missing anything?  

Josh: Baseball, basketball, you name it? I ran track for a little bit. I was on the step team. I was in band and I was a drum major.  

Dana: Just a couple of extracurriculars. Thanks. Alright. So when I grew up, I, my only extracurricular was dance and I feel a little bit shortsighted in my experience of like team building and learning myself. And I, I really kind of have become sort of an indoor cat more or less. So I’m always really curious when I hear the discussion about dancers are athletes and dance is a sport. I’m curious about that, cause I, because I’m not an athlete I well, or am I, I don’t know. I’m asking you like, where do you stand on dance as a sport and dancers are athletes,  

Josh: Dance is definitely a sport. And definitely because we have the same traits and characteristics between the two, you know, you have a coach, you have a choreographer, you know, you have people who are on a team, you know, whether it’s a camp or it’s a team. So where it’s togetherness as we both, we all have to go through these eight hours and there’s regular rehearsals or practice four hours. So the togetherness of it, it’s a team aspect. And then we do have to stretch and keep our body warm and all that we do high magnitude like moves and impact on our bodies is so much. And, uh, it very, very, very, very close. So I do consider dancers as athletes, for sure. Like it’s, it’s a, the same similarities, tough times, blood, sweat, tears, you know, and we, we run it together and that’s how you gotta do it. So if you think that way as a sports, which you are an athlete, then that’s what it is.  

Dana: Don’t give me too much confidence. Now you might see me on a field of some sort like, no, I can do this. I’m an athlete. Trust me, tombe pas de bourses. Um, okay. So what is different? Could you put a finger on a difference between a dancer and an athlete or are we just straight up 

Josh: You know, I guess it’s different because a basketball player and a football player, not the same, you know, and you’re an athlete, but it’s different magnitude and impact on your body. And I think with that being said, like soccer is more endurance than physical. You know, it is physical, but it’s more endurance, but football is very physical. And the thing about dancing is different genres are different, uh, style of dance for quiet. That b-boy is more physical. You know what I’m saying? And ballet is physical, but in a different way, it’s more a up core, so, and very on your legs. Well, so when you think about it in that way, in that aspect, you know, it’s different, but, um, there’s different way of going about it. Right?  

Dana: Right. I like that. I think there’s so many different, you know, dances and artistic expression. It’s nuanced, it’s subjective. It’s not even from one style to the next is not the same. You’re reminding me of a mantra that I, that I harness with my fellow, my two best friends, Megan Lawson and Jillian Meyers, shout out the seaweed sisters. We have a saying, um, our saying is strength is not our strength, but in every sport strength, isn’t the value. Um, it’s focus, placement, endurance, all the things that you just mentioned. So that is cool. I like to now think of the seaweed sisters as athletes as well, even though, even though strength is not our strength, we have different strengths.  

Josh: Shout out to y’all because y’all are amazing. 

Dana: Thank you so much, man. 

Josh: Lindsay was he was giving me a .. rundown, I knew you got, but she gave me a rundown on the seaweed sisters. And I didn’t know about that.  

Dana: You got research, you had research before you came into the interview as well. No vice versa. Okay. Okay. Speaking of research, I learned that you want a soul train award in 2019 for No Guidance for Chris Brown. That’s a, that’s a very cool, very prestigious thing because soul train, obviously this is not something that people have decided is new and important, but been around for a very long time. Um, my question is broadly, what is your relationship with external validation? Because a lot of people seek the awards, the credits, the, you know, the relationships and having a credit like that, having an award like that is a pretty big deal. Was that ever a thing that drove you?  

Josh: That’s a great question. Um, honestly how my mentality is, I think that, uh, I always looked at it like, yes, I want the awards and I want some know some feedback and people to see my name, but honestly not really, you know, I’m not that type of guy, but not really because even now within my stage of my career, which I’m honored and like so thankful and blessed to be in, you know, I’m not really in the forefront. I don’t, you don’t really see my face too much. I, I do teach when I want to teach. I’m not a teacher of saying that I just want to teach because I just want to get some money to go around the world and teach, see my name. I love teaching when it feels right for me and everything I teach is probably what I’m going through at that moment. So if I teach a ratchet piece, because I want to have fun and not really thinking about doing moves. And sometimes I might, this one, I felt, uh, empathy for so much and you know, vulnerability with this piece I just made and I wanted something way more relaxed to calm my mind down. Cause I didn’t want to have to fake on camera. I don’t like faking anything. So, you know, I, I, I take that with my own personality. I don’t like faking anything. So I don’t seek validation. I like, I go kind of street smarts and I’m really I’m. I was raised in the streets with it and have great family. So not in a bad way, but more so I had street smarts in the sense of, I liked to think. People will know you when they need to know you and the right people should know you. So my whole thing is maybe not millions of people know who I am, but the right people are knowing me because they keep asking me to come back around. And that’s what I want to get to outreach to. You know what I’m saying? They know the people who want to be inspired and thank God they’re inspired by me. I want it to bestow it to people. And everyone knows you can fall in between whenever you get there.

Dana: It’s beautiful. Put a Bow on it and ship it. That sort of speaks to the notion of quality over quantity and being driven by the substance or the process even of the work instead of the end result itself. Yeah.  

Josh: Yeah. You can’t know a lot of people do the work and I want to say a lot, but I know people tend to work for the outcome. Oh, I know there’s going to be great. People are gonna love me. Oh my God. Like, I’m going to get this love, but it’s like, to me, I want you to love it. Not just because of me. I want you to love the work in its entirety. So then when you do realize its me like, wow, Josh, you did that. But I don’t really like shouting out to telling people, look at me, look what I did. Look what I choreographed. I did that. No, I want people to get their credit even assistants So whoever is involved is you’re right. You know what I’m saying? Just as my right. 

Dana: That’s a really good segue. Something I hadn’t planned on talking about this really important to me is crediting your team. Um, I know that you kind of came up through ranks as being a dancer and an assistant. I would love to know what your experience was in getting credit for the work and how that’s affected the way you credit the people on your team.  

Josh: Yes. Um, so, uh, when I started, no, I started with a crew when I moved to LA. I’m not originally from Atlanta. A lot of people think that it’s like a side note, but I’m from Durham, North Carolina research research right there. So Durham, North Carolina. And, um, I moved to Atlanta and I had a crew collision crew, Jeremy Strong, and a couple of people was in that and Cody was affiliated Cody Wiggins. And uh, you know, I had good people surrounding me the whole entire time. And loyalty is a big thing for me. Cause I will be loyal to you. And if my friends or whoever you work with, we know you can be a millionaire and I can still say no, if it doesn’t feel right, you know what I’m saying? So, and I got into the Jamaica Craft, my mentor, fix it, big homie friend, all that great stuff.  

Dana: And so talented. 

Josh: Like that’s like, you know, a big, big homie of mine. And uh, she taught me law too. You know, as much as she didn’t her career and what she’s continues to do, she, um, trusted me and she showed me the ropes. She showed me what it means to be really a dancer and be a dancer with power. She doesn’t, she told me, I had my manager, China who taught me to say the power of no. And, and saying that don’t look and seek people who will you think are already made it. And you’re getting to that place. When you get to that place, I have to leave my team behind to go meet this person. When all you should really do is bring this person with you to meet each other. So then for, because you know, for a fact, this person has made it already, but this person has rolled with me the whole time. So loyalty is a big thing with me. And then when my loyalty, Jamaica has taught me that and uh, she always held me down. She never did no weird, nothing crazy. Like when this job it’s a job, when she hit me and I said, add for advice. And she was very secretive. Cause he wasn’t like, she was not a person you can get around in Jamaica. Right. When I got around her, if she installed so much knowledge, you know their stuff so much ambition, you know? And like I had it already, but she just said, you know, you’re talented and never let anyone take that away from you. Like not even me, like go as far as you can inspire people as you can. She, the one who told me the right people would see you, even if it got to take four years, cause it’s four or five years ago, nobody really seen me. I was still, you know, I was dance for usher. I didn’t live in LA. I was still going, but no one really knew me, but that’s what I, like I say, no, it’s cool. The attention, not on me right now, but when it is, I’ll be ready.  

Dana: I love that attitude. That’s awesome. Thank you for that insight. That’s super cool. Yeah. I, I like to think of the notion that it’s lonely at the top as kind of a lie I would like for it to be very, um, crowded and friendly at the top. I think that that is the top that I want to make.  

Josh: I tell people all the time there is room at the table, man. But the good thing to know is, is when you get there, you earned it. But now it’s about holding it. Keep it don’t show it. Don’t talk to me. Why aren’t you? Yeah. You are under a lot of people earned this seat, but do they get to stay here? Longevity? A thing for me, I don’t want to be I’m young. I’m still 28 now. I mean, I said 28 I’m 27. I want to be 28 years here, but I’m 27. And like, um, I think that, I know I have a long way to go. We know people who I do look up to is Rich & Tones and Fatima and Jamaica and hi-hat, these are people who have longevity. These are people who, their generation, another generation and generation after that, they’re still here. You know what I’m saying? And that’s something that I wanted. So I don’t live for now all the time, which I have to do more, but I’m more so like I want my name to be great for years to come. So  

Dana: I’m going to ask a question now, what’s your plan for that? How do you, how do you achieve that? Um,  

Josh: I’ve been trying it so far, I don’t have the right answers for that, but being a good person, training really stunning and really knowing who and knowing that it’s time with this, but knowing who you are, you know, like I never tried to be perfect or within relationship within, you know, dance. I’m very, very open book. I’m very like, I like to base myself on with, you know, even my own demons or whatever it’s and find me. So if I know I can be the better version of myself and truly be the better version, don’t have to worry about Limelights or personas or you know, all that good stuff. I’ll be okay now eventually I will make it there. So I don’t know when I will make it there.  

Dana: I believe that you will, by the way you’re talking right now and I want to be there at the end too, right? Yes. Longevity is so important to me. One of my mentors and inspirations is Toni Basil. She’s 76 years old and could roast me right now like me and my 30 something year 34, a few days ago, self, 

Josh: Happy belated birthday! 

Dana: Thank you. Thank you. Um, and, and I think part of Basil’s secret to success is persistence. Every single day, she dances, even when she doesn’t want to dance, she does. And I think that that’s something speaks to what you just mentioned about bringing all versions of yourself might not be perfect today. It might not be happy today. It might not be the coolest moves today, but continuing to show up is how you continue to show up. It’s simple as that. It’s nothing earth shattering, no simple, not easy though. Simple, not easy. Um, okay. I’d love to segue into like perception and persona public, um, public presence, maybe dare I say social presence. Um, one of the things that I really admire about you and the way you use your voice, not just in your choreography, but in the social platform is that you’re not afraid to talk about things that are important to you. Yes. The black lives matter movement is tremendously important to you and to so many people. Thank goodness. And we’ll find out we’ll find out yes. If this is something that can be important to everyone. Yes. But, um, I, in this process of learning the world that I live in and becoming really working to become more culturally sensitive when I watched dance, like when I consume dance and when I make it, and here’s what I’m learning that takes time. I mean, it’s very easy to scroll and watch a piece. Yes. But if you want to be sensitive, what you’re watching culturally, racially and otherwise, yes. You are asking, who is this person? Where is this person from? What is this person experience? Where is this person going? What, what does this mean? Like, what does that mean? What does it mean when this person kneels versus when this person kneels, what is the meaning of a movement? So then you have to like, you go, you wind up looking. So a scroll is now taking three and a half hours. I get why people don’t do that. It’s a lot. And, and it doesn’t even, you might not necessarily wind up at right or better, or, but, but it’s responsible and it’s an important time to be. And also we do have time arguably to be doing that. So my question is that was a very long winded way of asking your question, is what might people think about your work on a scroll and what might they learn by going deeper? Okay.  

Josh: Okay. Well through dance or just on my page in general.  

Dana: Oh man. Let’s talk about dance,  

Josh: Dance. Okay. So hopefully when you see, when you scroll through my stuff quality. Cause I, I strive for that. You know, I I’ve danced as we all dance for years, but I’ve tried hard, I can say to not master, but in a sense perfect my style, you know, and I’m moving away that I will love for you to be like that. It’s nice that you know much about this guy, but he looks good.  

Dana: Achieved, achieved party of one because when I watch, I’m like, nice. Really? Truly like that word probably happens a lot. Yeah.  

Josh: I like that. Just be like, Oh, nice swell. Okay. Then after that, I will hope that you will feel to want to know even a little about me by, because I like to details. Like, even if it’s the slightest thing I like to, why do you, like you might see, you know, I realized that I’ve seen Josh’s clips that he wears all black a lot. Why is that?


Dana: Great example, great example.  

Josh: It makes you dig in deeper and it makes you want to see more about me. Like, cause I am like, again, open book. I like wearing my beard, whether it’s clean or not. No, I had this beanie. Why did he have this been here?  

Dana: I’ve I’ve heard the beanies of thing. Why, why do you have the beanie on all the tests?  

Josh: It was when I was on tour with usher, uh, I was finding myself as a dancer. That’s when I really found just so you know, that’s when I really found myself, like right after that tour, um, as a mover, I had Kento, I had Yusuke. I had Antonio Hudnell, I had Marvelous. I had Quita, you know, Ashley Everett, you know? So it, it was like a lot of power Naeemah, you know what I mean? And um, we did yoga and all this things and it was like, it was just very togetherness. And um, I found my style and uh, I don’t want to drop the question. Tell me the question one more time. Sorry.  

Dana: Um, Oh gosh, no, I lost the question. Specifically. The beanie, is there a story? Why is it the, what is it? Is it a signature? It’s a thing. Yeah,  

Josh: It’s a signature for sure. And I found it on tour after tour and I was, I used to wear like a towel.. on my pocket. Every time I go on stage, because you know, when you go on carver, doesn’t really give you the freedom to be like, this is where whatever you think is fly. So Jamaica was like, you scanned kento. They had really a box of shades. Yeah,  Like 30 pair of shades. And that box every night, they changed different shades. What they want to wear with that outfit. So she was like, Josh, if you want to wear a towel, whatever, whatever do your thing. Cause she told him about Swoop back in the day and he used to wear his gloves. You know what I mean? So like, it’s like, what is your sauce? When you step out to make you feel like that’s going to be the best you when you’re on stage. So I had a towel and then eventually I see Tone and Tone used to wear, his, his, uh, his hat regular though, you know, regular stuff. And he’d have his towel tied up tights on. Cause he came from the ballet. Right. He was very like protecting his body. I got to stay warm. So I was like, what’s my little niche. I like, and I don’t want to be a gimmick. But I just want my own little sauce, you know what I’m saying? It belong to me. So one day I had my beanie up in the house now I rolled it and I kept rolling it. And I wrote up high, like a little sailors hat. I was like, I’m not mad at it. So I did it a couple of people, a couple of years, people was like, why you got your hat like that? I’m like, Hmm. It didn’t eventually everyone caught on. And now it’s weird. I didn’t start it. But I see people now like there’s hats that made like this now, like, and people ask me, where do you get your hat from? I said, to be your supply store, a gas station really.. I just rolled it up certain way. And then rock it. So it’s been stuck ever since.  

Dana: I love it. I love it. I think there’s something so unique about dancers and getting to feel this like very this like in your body difference, depending on what you’re wearing.  

Josh: Oh, that’s a big thing. I mean, it’s a big thing right there. You can be in rehearsal for three months and then you go on stage. He was like, this is what I’m wearing. I lost all the feelings.  

Dana: 20/20 Experience is a perfect example. I love a loose pant. I mean, borderline put me in a burlap sack. We’re good. I just space and air. And then all of a sudden I’m in a high waist, high crotch it, all of it. And it really, it changes. It changes things, um, in the way you feel. But it also changes the visual, like your center of gravity is now high, different shapes. Look good up here. Then the shapes that look it down here. So it’s a part of it and it flatters the outline, the silhouette. I love it. It’s great. Okay. So we’re back though. The tough, the more, not tougher question, because ask answering questions about your signature and your style is not easy and finding your signature and your style is not easy. I don’t mean to downplay that at all, but um, I’m wondering when people dig deep on you, what is it that you want them to find? What is it that they find now? And is that what you want them?  

Josh: I want them to find that honestly, first off I’m a genuine person. You know, that’s what, that’s just what I tell. When I talk to people, when I dance, I’m very vulnerable and I want you to see that I’m a genuine person. And I see that. I take my craft very seriously. And to know that my whole goal is to inspire. My dad taught me back in the day. He always taught me this. I had a story and I won’t go too long in it, but pretty much saying your gift is not for you. You’re gifted for people. God gave you the gift to make people smile and make people happy. So no matter what, whenever you do in your career, if you keep that in mind, you can never lose. So that’s what I’ve tried to give up on my Instagram and my dancing. And when I talk to people, I give so much energy people. How can you give so much energy all the time? You always, so I say, because it’s not for me, you know what I mean? It’s for, it’s for the people who can’t do it for the people who want to do it for the people, even when I was in that stage in my life. And I wish I could be there. Cause you know, you tend to get to a place and you’re like, dang, I still need to get to this place. But it’s like, did you remember when you wanted to be in this place right now? So, you know, I kind of always go back to that and tell people, look at me in genuine light and know that I love what I do.  

Dana: Ugh, thank you for sharing that story. That’s so important. And I’m glad that we had time. I think we have time for one more. Um, in, in my research, um, I discovered that you have a favorite quote. I am a masterpiece that is trying to master peace. Yes. Would you be so kind as to share with us anything you’ve learned in your quest for mastering peace? 

Josh: Yes. I got it tatted on me, man. 

Dana: Let’s hear it. Let’s see it.  

Josh: Yeah. So it’s back here, you know, you really can’t see, I know you can’t see it too much, but I got that quote, my masterpiece, trying to masterpiece because you know, within our own right, we are artists. No, I am an artist. I am sensitive about my art and I love what I do, man. And like, I’m a massive piece that we all are in ourselves and God has given us the right to feel that, you know, no one can take that away from you. And like that goes to parenting. I had great parents who made me feel that love that no one else can take that from me and trying to match the peace because I am an Aries and I’m a fire sign and I can get, I am very passionate so I can get to a very high level of aggression, you know, because out of my passion, but knowing that I want to master peace, I want to be able to be levelheaded and, and, and think clearly and move with purpose. You know what I’m saying? Move with purpose, move with a divine plan, move knowing sometimes I’m not going to have the answer. That’s why I’m a masterpiece trying to masterpiece  

Dana: Trying emphasis. And that’s a constant, right? Because the moment you’ve achieved it, something is gonna happen.  

Josh: And that’s why I kind of remind myself, like I’m trying to masterpiece, you know what I mean? That’s the thing. That’s the biggest thing for me, because I don’t want to handle relationships or friends or, you know, business offer like, you know, anger or upset. Because back in the day I used to just get upset and I just cut people off. I don’t want to talk. I’m cool. Like, cause I’m not a loner, but I’m, I’m comfortable. So comfort with myself for being alone. I’m comfortable being alone. I went through enough in my life that I’m like, I respectfully bow out. We don’t have to be friends. We don’t have to be here. We don’t have to do work. I’m okay. I’ll make it. I’ll find a way to make it. So I don’t want to have to leach or you have to leach you off of me. We can stop it. Now. Now I’m saying, but now mastering the peace that knowing that relationships are good and talking through things is the best way to do it because communication is key  

Dana: With, with a person. But also the self was so like, if you, it sounds like you were a person who’s okay with being with yourself. And if you can master like peace within, you’re more prepared to achieve it, receive it out there in the world from other relationships. Yes. That’s awesome. I think it’s the, I think it, it should be, could be everyone’s right?  

Josh: Yes, man. Like, you know, I think everyone, we, if we move non selfishly, like, and just know that everyone can be great within your own, right. Doesn’t have to oversize and overstep. You don’t have to move that way. You know what I’m saying? And I know sometimes within not feel the industry, the, it can get very tricky, right. But everyone can move a certain way to get to a certain place, you know? And that’s why you got a room at the top. There’s always room.  

Dana: We have to like change this, this imagery of it being a mountain with a peak and a flag. That’s one person’s flag to being like, Ooh, what if it was just an, also a mountain, but upside down,  

Josh: Upside down,  

Dana: Ascending is going to be way harder. Cause you’re in an inversion. But I, yeah, I think that that’s possible. There’s the saying I’m going to botch it. I’m not going to get it right. Um, but one, one matches flame does not take away the light from another, like this match being over here and bright and lit doesn’t mean that this one is going to be dim, light it up, let there be light illuminate. I think that’s another one that my husband has gifted me. Light is the best disinfectant. And I think that in this time we’re shedding light on a lot of things and  

Josh: Which, which needs to happen. And these are steps they need to happen. Black lives does matter, you know? And like, I’m just going to put this out there. You know? No one wants to say that no other lives matter. We say that because like you said, you might not know the generational, like depression that we had over the years that I’ve experienced because I am from the South. So, you know, I’ve like no cultural and police brutality and all that stuff. Since I was like 13, you know what I mean? As a black man in the world. So no I had the police talk and even me now talking to my friends, knowing that they didn’t have the same talk that I would have grown up. So  

Dana: The conversations is training and experience  

Josh: The same experience. So just to say that we all have love for each other. We just want to come at peace with everybody in the world and live our life exactly how everyone knows can live that life.  

Dana: Yes. Josh, thank you so much. I have nothing left to say, except for, thank you. Thank you for being here and being open, um, for somebody that I’ve honestly not before today, shared word in person words, right? I feel like we could do this for a very long time and I hope that we get to, I would love to spend more time with you and Lindsey. I’m such a fan of your moves. They’re so nice. And it’s really nice to get to know what’s what’s beneath them as well.  

Josh: Well, it’s the kinjaz 

Dana: Yeah. We’re going to throw it to the Kinjaz. There’s a cipher. Josh and I are going to go. You guys should go. I think it’s a very exciting time to have dance and have community and you can feel connected even at six feet distance. You can feel connected even on the other side of your computer screen. Um, and I’m excited actually now to be digging deeper because you mentioned people not knowing, not having known you before. And I love a deep dive. So where could I go to find more of you Josh  

Josh: Thats the bad thing, I’m horrible at social media. I’m just now I’m about to get my YouTube started out.  

Oh, okay. But we’ll be on the lookout  

Josh: And we don’t look out my damn, uh, my Instagram Dasher underscore boys Smith. That’s pretty much on Twitter and everything else. Uh, watch out for any upcoming projects. I do have old clips that you could probably look at on YouTube, but ask me, y’all gotta go dig on that.  

Dana: You’re going to dig on that. You know, I’m going to dig on that. Yeah.  

Josh: Hey Dana, I appreciate you, man. Thank you so much.  

Dana: She’s lovely talking to you and thank you CLI thank you everybody watching and listening. I had a ball. Let’s go cipher. Let’s do it. I wore the wrong shoes for sure. Definitely going to have a blister. If there’s a lot of dancing, I should have made my signature thing. Socks, really comfortable socks. That’s my signature. Move that way. I’ll always have them. Okay. Enough enough on me. Thank you so much, Josh. We’ll talk to you later! 

Dana: All right. All right. I hope you got as much out of that conversation as I did. I absolutely loved hearing Josh talk about the relationship between being an athlete and being a dancer. I thought it was fascinating to hear him talk about his relationship to the public perception of him, his work and social media. I also loved hearing from Josh about the importance of activism in his life and using his voice and in supporting his community. To me, this is a hugely important part of our work as artists, as makers, and especially as teachers. So cheers to you, Josh, thank you so much for being such a great example for all of us and thank you all for listening. Enjoy the rest of your day afternoon, night, whatever it is. And of course keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon.

 Thought you were done? No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a weight change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #37 Marveling with Marguerite Derricks

Ep. #37 Marveling with Marguerite Derricks

 
 
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Even if you tried, you could not duplicate the career of Marguerite Derricks, but with this peek into her thought process, you’ll want to try things you’ve only ever dreamed of…and you may walk away with a new definition of success.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Marguerite Derricks: https://www.instagram.com/margueritederricks/

Marguerite on the set of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIP1IsfjWv4

CLI: https://www.clistudios.com/

KC Monnie: https://www.instagram.com/kcmonnie/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.

Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I am so excited that you are here and I am so excited about this episode. I really cannot emphasize enough. This is a gem. Get ready to be inspired. Um, before I get into this interview with the fabulous Marguerite Derricks, I will start this episode as I always start, but this one comes with a warning. I always begin with wins because I think it’s very important to celebrate. What’s going well in your world.  

I want to be very clear. This week’s win is not a copout. This is really truly my win. And when I say this, I mean this episode and this day, this day is my win this week, because in the course of this, you know, this the last 24 hours, I have experienced actual pain and embarrassment. Um, I started my day by falling. You guys, literally hands and knees on the concrete fall. I fell down on the ground. Um, and that doesn’t happen very often because you know, dancer coordinated, but I really ate it today. I hit the deck. There was a guy with a leaf blower who actually like ran over and tried to help me up. But social distancing it’s okay. I got up on my own and I didn’t even spill my coffee because I know what’s important and what should be protected.  But I, you know, I don’t know if you can recall the last time you actually fell, but there’s this flush of heat in your body. I started sweating it. I was really checked in like, Whoa, what a Swift warmup. I don’t think it’s possible to actually get that warm any other way than a real true, honest fall. So I ate it. I felt embarrassed. I felt pain. Um, I felt low literally and emotionally. And then I experienced some extreme technical difficulties in the moments leading up to this interview with Marguerite that I had really prepped for and was planning in my head, the way that it would go down. Of course, nowhere in my plan was zoom difficulties. I really thought I’d had that figured out, but alas, I fell. I had the technical difficulties and then I had this conversation with Marguerite. Tremendously inspiring and informative, and wow, just took me on a ride. So today’s my win. Because today I experienced the full realm of human emotion. Well, maybe not full, but a wide spectrum. And that just feels so great. So that is my win today. What is yours? What’s going well in your world.  

All right, let’s do this today. Marguerite and I talk about gratitude. We talk about readiness. We talk about climbing and when it’s time to jump and we talk about setting the bar high. Marguerite is much more than a choreographer. True fact. She actually carries the title producer of dance. She is a teacher. She is a leader and she is an example of what is possible. She brings the marvelous to all that she does, and she’s been doing it for a long, long time. So please enjoy this conversation with the marvelous Marguerite Derricks.  

Dana: Alright. Yes. Marguerite Derricks. Thank you so much for being here today. I’m thrilled to have you. I’m so thrilled to get to talk to you. Oh my goodness. 

Marguerite: Thank you. I’m really happy to be here. All right.

It is par for the course on my podcasts that my guests introduce themselves. So have that. What would you like us to know about you? 

Oh my gosh. Well, my name’s Marguerite Derricks and I’m a choreographer sometimes producer aspiring director, um, at one three Emmy’s um, currently, well, I was currently working on season four of the Marvelous Mrs Maisel season four of GLOW before we hit this lovely pandemic. Um, but I work in TV and film and commercials and videos and Broadway and Vegas. So I get to do it all and I love doing it all. So I guess that’s it. 

That was a gorgeous introduction. Um, and I love the way that you have framed our pandemic as lovely. I think there are a lot of hidden gems in this moment in time. Um, I understand the magnitude. I understand that it is awful in so many ways, but I also do see tremendous opportunity in this moment 

When I say lovely, um, you know,  I try to find lovely every day, I guess, you know, um, it is horrific cause a lot of people are suffering. Um, and you know, so I, you know, I feel there’s so much going on right now. That’s so heavy. Um, but I do every single day, I wake up with counting my blessings and finding gratitude in the day and in my life. And, you know, trying to find a lovely, I guess for sure. 

I love that. Um, I did a little listen to the podcast that you did with Tony Selznick, um, the Hollywood dance project you mentioned in that episode, starting your day with gratitude. What does that look like for you? Is it a mantra a meditation, a journaling moment? What’s the process there? 

I wake up every day and I start, I just, I give thanks for, I just start counting my blessings, remember, my dear friend, Doug, Doug Caldwell always ended everything with counter blessings. And so I, I wake up and I start to pray out loud and just think to give thanks for everything that I’m blessed with. And then I go and I press go on the coffee machine and I come back and I say, my prayers, I literally get on my knees. And I say my prayers and I put it my intentions into the universe. And then I there’s, um, I open up my, my phone and there’s, uh, two books or like they’re daily inspirational books that I’ve been reading the same two books over and over for about 10 years. They’re both from Joel Olsteen and they’re, you know, just one is a daily, you know, their daily blessings, but there’s something interesting about it. It comes from, “Your best life now”, um, which was a book that my friend Tyce Dirorio gave me years ago when I was going through a really difficult time.  So these are like scriptures and little verses from your, uh, your best life now. And it’s so interesting. I literally, as soon as I finished the book, I started again, but it’s very interesting on the days that I read something I’ve read before that all of a sudden has so much meaning on a specific day for me. So I, that’s how I start every single day. If I have to go to work at 5:00 AM I get up early so that I can do those things. And I, I don’t ever miss a day. And that’s how I, I kickstart my days is with gratitude and prayer and, you know, intentions, manifestation. Yeah

That’s super powerful. And I’m sensing a little bit of an overlap. I did read a long time ago, Twyla Tharp’s the creative habit. She mentioned being a creature of habit and a person who religiously does certain things that put her in this space where she’s able to create freely and create freely, but also create on demand that creative muscle is exactly that. So I think, I think perhaps gratitude also is a muscle. The more you practice it, the more accessible that is for you.

For sure. Absolutely. And I’m, I am definitely a creature of habit. I do things the same way. Always like sometimes change is almost jarring to me. Um, so there is something I think for me, that’s empowering about that.  

 I’m so curious. What are the things, what are the, the habits? The alwayses

Well, just, just how I start my morning. Like it’s, it’s you could almost, you know, it’s almost like Groundhog Day. You saw me wake up every day. You would go, Oh, you could say, okay, now she’s got a, you would know what to, what exactly what it is that I do. It’s a ritual 

Opening sequence of all that jazz. 

Exactly. It’s a, it’s a, it’s my spiritual ritual that starts my day. And then, you know, the, the, you know, I create, I have a, a certain way that I create, like, I like to start, like there’s an ABC and D to how I do each job. Um, yeah, I’m just kind of a creature of habit. I find things at work and I get very comfortable with that.  

Well, the things that you have found that work work very well because you’re at work is some of my favorite, some of the most memorable dance on screen that I have ever seen. And this is not to discount the live shows as well because La Reve is one of my favorite shows in Vegas, but my husband is not a dancer. He is an engineer, he’s an optical specialist in lenses, cameras, camera displays, arrays, all sorts of technical things. When we met, he didn’t know who Justin Bieber was, who I was working for at the time, very far removed from the entertainment industry. And when he asked who I was talking to today, I was like, if you have seen movies, like more than one that have dance, chances are Marguerite choreographed that movie, or one of those movies and the breadth of your work. And in addition to the different, you know, the amount of work itself is incredible. You’ve been working as a choreographer for 35 years and not just in commercials and not just in music videos and not just in live shows, but I call it a diversified portfolio, which is one of your keys to longevity. And we’ll talk about that in a second, but, um, I think the most memorable dance that I’ve seen on camera is likely yours. So I wonder what is the most important thing while you’re making and do you seek to make something memorable or, or are you seeking to make it something else. 

You know, I, I never, I never approach a project with that in mind. I never think about it being memorable or it like ha like escalating to a certain place. I try to, I just try to find something magical about everything that I do. Um, and I, I really, you know, serve whatever the project is. Right. And I work really hard. I do a lot of research. I try not to repeat myself, although I’m sure I have many, many times. Um, but I never really think like, Oh, this is going to be, you know, memorable, or this is going to, people are going to talk about this for years and years to come. And it is, it’s always surprising to me some of the things that are, and some of the things you think are going to be super successful, they’re not. And then the thing that you think is just this little thing that you did is it’s just like, it’s, it’s huge. Like when I did that gap commercial, that GAP, Gogo commercial, I became a, like an overnight celebrity and literally it, it opened up more doors for me. Then my three Emmys did, that GAP commercial, a 60 second commercial, a little spot. I did big movies with big stars that I thought were going to be very successful. And then along came this little indie film, Little Miss Sunshine. It became this thing, you know, so I now, like I’ve learned early on, cause I, I got really hammered, you know, not just me, not me, but me because I was a part of it. I felt very hammered early on when I did Show Girls and Striptease, I felt, I felt the pain of even though Showgirls then turned around to become a whole different thing. Um, but when they came out, like I, early on, I learned, you know, all you can do is your best, and then it’s not in your hands anymore. You know? And after, after Striptease and Showgirls or Showgirls and Striptease then came Austin Powers and that was so, so hugely successful. Um, and I didn’t know, like the first Austin Powers was an indie film. I think I got paid a nickel and a dime for the first one, you know? And, um, but you know, so I learned early on and I’m so grateful for that, not to expect anything, um, to do my best and to have a good time doing it, to really try to like, enjoy the process, which I’m learning more as I get older to really kind of like take it all in and breathe it and just go like, Oh my God, like, this is so amazing. Like, I, I think when I first started, I like, you know, it kinda, I got on a roll pretty like once it started, it started, I was doing always like three, three or four movies at a time. So it was hard for me to go look what I’m doing, look who I work, you know, like it was just, I was just hustling and getting it done. So I’m in a different space now where I breathe it in and I, I kind of like try to like go, Oh my God, look what I get to still do, you know? But yeah, 

The, the first thing that I’m relating that to in my mind is my wedding day when everybody’s like, breathe it in, just take a moment and pause and just breathe it in. It is such a big, exciting day and a big, exciting moment. And I think if I were to practice that type of excitement, as often as you are practicing the exciting role of being, living your dreams or the exciting role of being first in command of this massive dance number on this massive project, then yeah. You would probably get more practiced at that moment.  

It’s just a part of the gratitude, right? It’s like, you know, really just, just because it all, everything goes by so fast, like your wedding day, it probably felt like a second to you, you know? Um, so life goes by really fast and you know, the more we can slow it down. And I think maybe that’s one of the lovely things that we can come out of this time with this, because we are all slowed down to almost a stop right now. And, you know, I, I hope that, um, when we go back to the life that we know, however, that’s going to look that I hold onto some of this, of this kind of like being in the stillness and you know, like I lived in my home for 20 years. I have enjoyed my backyard. I never went out in my backyard before I have friends. Like people come over and say “such a beautiful backyard.” I’m like, yeah, it is. I, I never really came out here before, you know, so just enjoy the simple things and, you know, to just take it all in. And I think that I know, Oh, I I’m always the first one rush. Like when, like the minute I’m done with work, I rush off the set. I don’t think I’ll be rushing off anymore after this. I think I’ll stick around and, you know, just like take it all in. Even when my work is done and just watch everybody. And I don’t think I’ll be rushing out anymore. I know that’s something that’s going to change on this when I go back.  

Oh, that is a beautiful sentiment. I love that thought  

My dancers are not going— like dancers are not going to believe it. Cause they know. I, I always say like, well, we’re getting ready to do the last shot. Okay. I’m going to say goodbye now because it won’t be that anymore. I think I’ll slow it down. And you know, like, like maybe do at the end of the day, how do I start? The beginning of my day is slowly leave and count the blessings and the gratitude as I’m ending the day.  

Oh, I love that. Taking stock on the, on the, in and out. Um, uh, my several years of life on tour with pop stars, we, we call it a quick out, after the show, you don’t even have time to shower. Well, I still consider the baby wipe head to toe a shower, but I’ve embraced that. I brought that into my social life. Occasionally like guys, I’m doing a quick out tonight, I’ll see you later. And there is something effective there, like efficient, trust me, I can talk a podcast is exactly where I should be living. I could talk forever goodbyes. A quick round of goodbyes can take an hour and a half. So I do see the value of a quick out, but I really like the idea of taking stock in and taking stock out. Um, so this, this thought of being grateful in this thought of taking pause and taking a moment to witness yourself doing the things, um, that’s powerful to me. I really I’m right now, 34 years old transitioning from being primarily a performer to primarily not a performer. I am many things. Podcast hosts, choreographer, movement coach, um, movement director on several projects, which I love that role by the way. But I really right now am interested in the power of our thoughts and how those guide our actions. So on, on your podcast with Tony Selznick, you talked about a lot of the actions that keep you in this position of continuing doing a thing and continuing to love it. You talked about a lot of the things that you do that have perpetuated a career of longevity. For example, being really diverse in the type of work you do. Commercials, TV shows, award shows, um, Vegas, movies, all the things you talk about being prepared and being a champion of having all the options. You talk about understanding money and understanding how productions are looking to dance team leader, as a guide for how much time things need, how much money they require, how many dancers does that actually take if we want this and how do we, this you’re the person with those answers.  Um, and this is so great. I love the actions I love like, Oh, just listening to the way you talk about your team and how you utilize time. And, and people is very inspiring, but I would love to know some of the thoughts that keep you in your, in your ongoing love of dance. And is it always been love? Is it, has there ever been love, hate moments of, of this thing in 35 years?  

Nope. Never, never hate. I think I’ve always loved what I do and I still, I still do. I know there’s a lot of people that, um, they want to go to a different level. So they, they, there becomes this negative thing about the thing that they love.  

Mm. The level that they’ve been. Yeah.  

Yeah. So like, you know, wanting to go here, they hate where they are and I don’t, I still love what I do. I still love, I love being with dancers. I love creating movement. Um, I love what I do. I do want to do other things, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving what I do and going, well, I’m not going to do that anymore. I did that when I was a dancer, I stopped dancing to be a choreographer. I felt at the time that I started doing choreography, that there weren’t, it was way different than it is now. There, there, there were only that the top dogs there, weren’t a lot of young choreographers coming in. That wasn’t a thing. So now it’s a thing it’s like, you know, they’re there, there’s a more openness to young choreographers, you know, now than what there was then.  So I felt like I had to stop dancing and just go into choreography to be taken seriously. And, um, Debbie Allen has never forgiven me for stop dancing. She’s always tells me, you know, we got to get you to dancing. I’m like, Debbie, if it’s in a rolling chair, sure. I’ll do it. But I honestly, I’ve never regretted it. Um, I loved dancing, but I, I think that I, I do know that I was meant to do what I’m doing now. I was doing it as a young girl. I just didn’t realize what I was doing. I didn’t, I didn’t know that I was choreographing, but I was creating dance. So I never thought, Oh, I want to be a choreographer that just happened. But when it happened, I went, Oh yeah, this is what I’m here for. This is why I’m here. Like, it just fits so well.  

Oh, that’s a power thought. This is why I’m here. This is why I’m here. 

Yeah. So that, that I knew that right on. And, um, it makes sense the way I’ve been guided through, you know, through magical moments by the universe, you know, big disappointments that led me to, Oh, pushed me onto the track that I was supposed to be on. I always tell people, you know, have a focus in a dream, but be ready to really open it up because, you know, you may think you’re going down this road, but this road over here might be so much grander that you just didn’t even see it. So, um, you know, by just, I think by just, just keep moving and keep doing your thing and being open to a shift, there’s been a lot of shifts in my life. There’s been things that I’ve thought, Oh, that is going to be it, that’s going to change my, no, it wasn’t that it’s always the surprising things. So I try not to attach myself to anything anymore. Like I don’t, Oh, this is going to be huge hit. Is it, you know, you never know, Hey, I did so much TV. I think Maisel and GLOW.  

are The first TV shows that I’ve worked on that have gone beyond one season. 

Really?

There  have been so many TV shows like bunheads and shows that I love so much. They were the first. And now they’re both in season four. I just remember thinking, hearing of like, you know, shows that would go on for three or four seasons going, Oh my God, that would be amazing. Cause I really love doing television. And I love being on a TV series where you really, you know, you get in there and you, you know, the characters, you know, you get to know, you know, the voice of the show and like with Maisel and GLOW, I know the voice of the show, I am part of that voice. And I, I just remember always like, Oh, that would be so cool. You know, to have a TV show that goes longer than a season. And you know, I’m feeling that now. And you know, I never knew it would be Masiel and GLOW You just don’t know what it’s going to be. Right.  

Follow the lead. Um, I heard a BTS interview or video that you did on the set of Maisel and you, you mentioned that the first step in that process for you and there all the processes will be different, but on Maisel your first step is always to talk to Amy, the director and Dan the producer. So my question is what, what will your first step be when you are the director or when you are the producer, what’s the, what’s the first step then when you’re just, when you are driving.  

When I’m when I’m directing, I will have a really good long talk with myself before I get to set.  

So the same, the same first step, different audience.  

So my first step will be, you know, um, having that, you know, I’m a team player and I really do believe it takes it. It, you know, it takes a village, right. To create greatness, and it would be, um, surrounding myself by, you know, some great, great, great talent. And I think it would be, I would then be an Amy and Dan’s position where I would be talking to my people and getting them on board with my vision. Um, so that would be the first step. I would just be sitting in a different seat  

Or sitting with a mirror. I love this. So on the subject of teams and the importance of like having a really solid team, you have a rep reputation for using A plus plus talent and for running a tight ship, if you are not A plus, plus you can’t hang. And I respect that. I think that is brilliant. And I am not the same. That’s not to say that my team isn’t A plus plus, but I’m so interested in error in humanness, in, uh, the mess ups in being exposed um, my taste in art is very rarely the modern, sleek, pristine, clean, minimal. It’s the thing that has like, you know, epoxy dripping out of the side, or like a smudge over here. And it looks, it looks homemade or manmade. Um, I know because I know a lot of the people that work with you a lot, your work is polished, pristine, exquisite, but your process, your working with you is human and, and open and accepting, and kind of like this, this homemade feeling, this, we are a team we’re doing this together. I am wondering personally, professionally, how you navigate that balance for yourself, the maintaining of this ridiculously high standard simultaneously nurturing the team, being a teacher, a lot of like your, your you’re training, your dancers and your assistants. You’re, you’re teaching simultaneously as you’re creating.  

Absolutely well, that’s, that’s the thing. It’s that? I I’m number one. I am a teacher and I love teaching and I, I keep that going at all times, no matter how busy I am. Like when I’m in New York shooting, Maisel on my days off, I’m at Broadway Dance Center, teaching class, I’m a teacher. I love teaching. Um, I think it probably is the most joyful thing that I do. And I think that I am a great teacher. I know that that’s where my, I really have greatness. Um, and so that’s where I find my team. All of my assistants start in class, you know, they start in class and a lot of the dancers I hire, I’d meet them in class and it’s in class where it’s, it’s a more loving, nurturing space, it to see how I work and really get to feel the way I want my, the movement to be, you know?  And, um, they get to know me and I get to know them. That is always the beginning for all of my, all of my assistants. My assistants are, I mean, A plus plus plus plus plus plus plus like they are, and they’re insane and they’re wonderful. And, um, they’ve been doing this, there’s this thing that I’ve just really started to recognize and acknowledge. I’ve always recognized it, but I’m really speaking on it. Now, my assistance train, the new assistants that come in and they’ve been doing it since the beginning of time, you know, Michelle Elkin, she trained Jen Hamilton and Shea Spencer. They trained, you know, they, they just pass, they pass it along and they, they, they send, cause they know all my choreography that I do starts in class. Everything that is on film that I’ve done was in a routine that I did in class.  Le Reve is a routine I did in class. A lot of those, I created 15, 20 years ago when I was teaching so much and I had this teen company at Tremaine. And, um, so they, they have old videos that they send each other so that they know my background and the stuff I did because they know, Oh, I’ll go wait. There was something I did in Sarah Smile that would be great here. And then boom, we start doing the old routine and you know, then we start to flip it and change it and use it. So, um, then coming to class and knowing like this summer, I’ve taught nine classes at CLI and for the first time, in a long time, I had the time to go in and create new choreography for class. And I’m so excited to take all this new choreography that I have now, this ball of choreography.  I can’t wait to put it on film. 

That’s awesome. 

That’s all I, you know, I’ve had the time to really go in and, Oh, it’s just, that’s been probably the most joyful time of, of the pandemic for me is getting into the studio with my assistants and creating new class choreography. Cause I know it’s gonna go on film. I know it’s going to go on stage. Um, and yeah, so it all, it all starts for me in the classroom and I’m teaching and learning. I learned from everybody that I teach. So it all starts there and it’s, it’s such a more relaxed atmosphere that auditions and you know, really a place for us to all really get to know each other. Yeah.  

Oh, that’s awesome. And I cannot wait to see, I did drop in on a couple of your CLI classes that looked like so much fun and I can’t wait to see those sweet moves manifest on some silver screen or some cell phone screen somewhere. Um, okay. So from, as you take from your classwork, put it out there in your, whatever. I mean, they’re both professional work, so it’s weird to say classwork versus industry or, um,  

It’s definitely.. people view it differently, but yeah. Yep.  

If I were to cross section your early class material say 30 years ago or 20 years ago, and something from this –  from this past summer, what do you think would be the biggest difference between these, these two moments in your creative vocabulary, your movement vocabulary, or maybe the easier question if we want to segue with an easier question is what’s the same? What is your work? Always  

Technical and strong. Yeah. Yeah. Technical and strong, um, lines, clean lines, you know, um, and you know, really heightened and pushing, but making it look easy and effortless. You know, I like, I look, I, especially when I was doing CLI my assistant Lonnie and Bobby, like wholly, they were sweating, they were working their butts off. It was not easy, what they were doing.  

They are so capable. They are so good.  

They did it, it looks so easy, but I know how hard it is. I think the best thing that ever happened to me is when I, um, busted up my knee early on in my career in my early thirties, I blew my knee out. I had major knee surgery and I had to learn to choreograph without using my body for a while. And then I stopped using my body and I just saw, saw things in my head. So I like, I’m like, can we do five turns? Like I never could do five turns, but I can choreograph five turns. Do you know what I’m saying? So I took it off of what I could physically do into what these two young. So I think that’s, what’s different. The ability of the dancer as they’re, as they’re getting higher and higher, I’m able to do higher and higher  

Well said. And Holy smokes. Yes, I am constantly, I’m shocked. I mean, a triple pirouette at when I was a junior coming up in competition was like, wow. And now holy smokes. Like it’s, it’s unreal. The things that these young dancers are capable of. And so cool.  Mmm,  Where do I want to go next? I could, I could tell a story. This is a fun one. So because the dance world is small. I know a lot of people that have worked with you very closely, KC Monnie is a good friend.  

I love him so much. 

I Love KC Monnie so much. And, uh, so we were having a chit chat as I was preparing for this. And he was like, you know, Marguerite gave me my first job. Right. And I was like, no, I had no idea. Well, you’ve been that for many people, which is actually contrary to what most people say about, which is you only hire people that, you know. Nobody would have their first job with you. If you only hired people that you knew. So I think that’s very cool. Number one, number two, KC mentioned that when he walked on set, I’m gonna abandoned my family friendly language just for a second. Cause I have to quote him specifically, I’ll bleep this out. But KC said, “I was scared as ** ***” I was like, I bet you were.  You know, we talked a little bit about what that project was for him. And then he said at the end of it, I felt truly loved and supported. And in that moment I knew that it is not just your work that I admire, but the way that you work, that I admire. And I think that probably speaks to the longevity as well. If you’re able to create a space like that and you’re able to come with all the rest of the, the technical preparedness, the, the knowledge, not just what it takes to do something great, but the knowledge that you yourself are great, but you’re sharing that greatness with your team. I’m just like, Ooh, that is a sweet spot for me. Um, so I’m wondering if you could maybe talk a little bit about what your dancers mean to you and how they get from, I guess you mentioned class as an entry point in a big way, but you do hold auditions occasionally. What is it that you look for in your dancers?  

Well, you know, once again, like I love well-trained dancers. I love strong technical dancers, even if, you know, like just really, I love well-trained dancers. I just, I just do, um, and KC is all of that. Um, and I like people that are respectful of, of, you know, that there’s sometimes, you know, you have an audition, I’ve know dancers that will go to an audition and they show you one thing and then they walk into rehearsal and you’re like, I’m like, who is that? You know what I mean? So I want whoever I, whoever auditioned for me, that’s the person I expect to come to my rehearsal. Um, I always on time, I’ve always early looking at the clock. The minute it hits, I start I’m so efficient with time. I don’t like to waste time. Um, so I, I want really wonderful dancers that, you know, have a great work ethic and I love to have fun, but I like to get the work done.  I’m super intense day one. Cause I like, I want to please Amy, like if I’m, if I’m doing something for Maisel, I want to get it done, film it, send it to her, get her okay. Or get her notes. So it’s day one is like that. And then we glide, then we have fun. We have breaks, you know, we get to know each other, but day one is like really important to me. Um, so any dance, any dancer that has worked with me knows that about me. They know I come in prepared. It’s always usually choreographed. So they’re not standing around while I’m trying to figure out 8s and very efficient that way. So I like, I like to dancers that come ready to get it done. Cause then they might be done in an hour. They’re getting paid on a side contract for 12 an hour. You know what I mean? And then we can have lunch together, whatever. Like I just like to get the work done because I, you know, there’s people that I want to show it to and, you know, get approval by it. All of that. Um, you know, I was different when I was younger. When I, when I first started to choreograph, I was, uh, a hard-ass I was young. I was, uh, hiring my peers. So there was I, there was a wall that I put up. I was known. I used to wear dark glasses all the time, even though they were prescription, like I always had this wall up. I don’t have a wall up anymore, but I think there’s something lovely about my urban legend because people dancers come in and they know they gotta get it done for me. Like, yes, I am a sweetheart. And I do love you. I love dancers. I love them. And I would do anything for them, but I expect everything from them. And so knowing that like Amy, Amy, we do, we’ve been doing a lot of interviews, uh, you know, lately. And she talks about me as like this little blonde sargent girl, you know, like, you know, like there’s nobody, you know, like, you know, she gets it done. Like I like, I’m not mean I don’t have to be, but people, but people respect me so much and they know if it’s not good, I’m gonna let you know. And I’m not going to be happy with that. I don’t need to scream. And like, and humiliate, I’m not that kind of person, but I expect greatness because I bring greatness, but we can have fun and I can be loving, wrapped all around that. And anybody that’s worked with me more than once knows that about me, my dancers they’re like my army. They protect me. I remember I was doing the Emmys one year and I had Brandon Henschel and I can’t, I remember what there were a couple of my guys, I was, I was dealing with Conan O’Brien and he was nervous. They were like, they were standing at the door to make sure like that. I don’t know. Like I just remember seeing them stand there to make sure I was okay. I don’t know

Your angels 

Angels. So dancers know how much I respect them. They know how much I really do love and care about them. And yes, if I love working with you, you’re going to get a call. I’m going to give you jobs. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to hire somebody new. But if you are in my circle and you’ve been an angel to me, why would I not hire you again?  Like KC Monnie you know? And sometimes I’ll say, guys, you might come into the audition. You’re going to get the job. But, but there’s always room for new people. But you know, if people are mad at that, I’m sorry. Like they’re like Amy Sherman Palladino has hired me for bun heads, Gilmore girls and now the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and we have a relationship and she knows that I know how to get it done. She says one word to me. It’s like, uh, like having to say, talk to somebody for 10 minutes, why would she want to go there? She’s got this person that’s in her brain that knows. So that’s how I am with dancers. Always room for new, especially with Maisel because I’m in New York and I’m starting to get to know all the New York dancers, which is great. And I got some angels there now. I have so it’s just, um, there’s, that should be for me, any dancer should want to be somebody’s angel because that’s a relationship. And then you can count on my people that have worked with me. I’m sure when they hear I have a job, they probably perk up because there’s a very good chance. If they’ve worked with me before that, I’m going to try to get them the job because we’ve had a great relationship and I know what they’re going to do on set. I know what they’re, how they’re going to be in rehearsal. Um, that’s a beautiful thing. And you know, if you, if you have a good experience and you do a good job, you deserve that. You just, and not every job, I can’t like guarantee them every job. Cause sometimes it’s a typecasting thing. But if I can, I do, if there’s something wrong with that, then I’m just going to be wrong. 

That me tearing up Marguerite, you’re dropping the, the, um, uh, what are they called? Dramatic pause.. soundbites. Good Lord. That was tough 

Right now. The word. And.. is sometimes I can’t find it. 

I’m searching. I’m searching. Um, it’s funny. I do the same thing in podcasts as I do in the room when I’m creating, I search with my eyes up here. Like that’s apparently where I look for them. 

I always look off to somewhere. Yeah, yeah. 

Like it’s there. Yeah. That’s funny. Um, I really love what you just said about expectations and respect. High expectations equals high levels of respect. And I really love the idea and I’m faced with this. So often, almost every time I positioned myself with, well, it’s either this or that in this, in this case. Well, you’re either a softy lover friend of all dancers who doesn’t, you know, run a tight ship or you’re the drill Sergeant that you mentioned, and you are reminding me as I get reminded all of the time that it is not an either or conversation you can have and be both.  

Yeah, absolutely. 100%. 

That’s so refreshing and inspiring to hear. And to see that example, 

When we walk in the room, we all know that we have a job to do so all of those dancers that know me, that I’ve worked with before that I’m very, like, I call, I’ve been calling KC every couple of weeks just to check up on him through this time. I’ve been calling a list of my dancers just to check up on them cause I care about them. But when we go, when we walk in that room, we are all there to work. And like, you know, KC and those people that are close to me, they got their eyes on me. Even if I’m working with a different grouping, KC is focused. Like what can I help her? Like they all become my assistants. They all be. They all, I get that from them. They’re there. So they, they, they care for me and they take care of me. And I, I do the same for them. It’s it’s a mutual respect. 

Yes. And this idea that when you do well, they do well. And when they do well, you do well. I do not understand how you could be disrespectful or use demeaning language in a rehearsal process. Although I have been in there as it happens and I’ve heard terrible stories and I just don’t understand how that has a place still  

Look it. Nobody deserves that. I think that, you know, um, we have a choice whether we put up with that or not. And I understand sometimes you need the job, so whatever, but I, I, I don’t, I don’t think anybody deserves that. And I would hope that they could just flip it off and walk out the room because it’s nobody’s deserves that. 

Well, Hey, with more examples like you, then I would say that the time is running out on that end of the, on the spectrum. Um, okay. I have one more theme that I would love to talk about. Although I think people are getting way more than their time dollars worth in this conversation. So I want to talk about readiness because you’ve done a lot and you’ve done it in some kind of unusual ways. You did act as an assistant for a short time, but you didn’t necessarily, you know, like find the artist that it worked with and just stuck that out or like find me a person that you assist well and just assist them forever or come up through a really successful company, you know, from the core to the principal, to the, you know, those traditional ways of getting places. I don’t think were your ways of getting places. So I’m wondering how you navigate the moment or how you make the decision between when it’s time to fall in line and climb the ladder. And when it’s time to just jump and try something you’ve never done before.  

Hmm. I don’t know the answer to that. Actually. I think that I’ve been, I I’ve been climbing the ladder by whole career, but it’s been a steady climb. I always like, yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know.  

Well, we can, we can find out together we can be a buddy system because I’ve always got my finger on the pulse of like when to jump and when to climb.  

I mean, right now during this time, my son and I have are creating some projects together. It’s cool. Yeah. I was supposed to direct a movie last year that he came in and was helping me. We were like really flipping the script upside down and, and we worked so well together and the project fell apart and we looked at each other and we’re like, well, let’s just come up with our own. So we have a couple projects right now that we’re developing and I think I’m ready to jump, but you know, um, yeah. So I guess I’m ready to jump, but I’m still, I don’t know that a lot, I guess I’m, I guess I’m, I’m I’m as I’m climbing, if this, when this thing goes, I’m ready to jump so  

Well, there, it goes to the saying, one of my favorites. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. So if the entire time you’re climbing, you’re ready for the ladder to be gone.  

Cause I used to, I there’s something that I said that somebody thought was genius. I don’t know the thought behind it, I think is important right now. The difference right now with all of the young choreographers that are working, it’s different now they’re not climbing a ladder. And so I fear that they’re jumping and they may fall off the other side because there’s something about climbing like that, you know, building, working your way up, just that the wealth of knowledge and this, the situations that you have to make you get through, like, as you keep going up, you’re ready for the next level because you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re taking it step by step. I fear sometimes some people that get there too quick, they don’t stick around for 35 years. Tell me how many choreographers are still at the top of their game. After 35 years, there are some, but there’s not a lot of them. So that’s what I would rather do the climb, the climb has been a blast and a good time, man. Like I, I have loved everything that I’ve done, you know? Um, it’s a blast. So  

Like a beautiful hike and less like a, like a cargo net. That’s terrifying.  

It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s really beautiful. So I think there’s something wonderful about that. But if you do have a desire now what you did now, I jumped here was my big job, 23 year old Marguerite and the back of the addition, like a lion back and forth. Should I audition? I don’t know. Should I addition? I don’t know. I was starting to work. I wanted to become a choreographer. I was a couple of jobs as a choreographer and I would still go to the auditions and I, cause I was on the fence and then I finally just took the leap and that was, that was my big leap. I haven’t, since then I’ve been climbing the ladder, you know, I found what, like what my real purpose was and it’s just been a joyful like journey for me. So that was my big leap was when, early on, like I was a really good dancer, but I was ready for something else.  

Uh, and, and willing for whatever pain might come along with falling. 

That’s right. 

That’s something I’m working to practice in my, um, in my daily practice, I call them downloads. Um, I suppose you could call it a meditation or like a, a free writing exercise, just like a check in with myself, really focusing on my willingness to feel all the fields. And this is a perfect moment to be doing right face to face with a lot of discomfort and uncertainty and, and, and, and um, and so I’m really learning the value of simply being willing to experience a fail or a humiliation or, uh, um, a missing of the mark, like so down, what is the worst thing that can happen to me in that case? The worst thing is that I feel a bad feeling though, we’re saying, is that, yeah, that’s it like, even if you told me that the worst thing is like, well, you lose your friends still.  It’s just a feeling of being lonely or you could not get hired again, that’s a feeling of being unrecognized or useless or incapable. Like those are all, this is just feelings. If I’m willing to feel all the feels I am unstoppable. So from that place, I can jump when I’m, when I’m willing to be okay with whatever feeling happens, where wherever, whenever, however, I land 

Thats a beautiful way to put it. 

Willingness. Hi, well, um, I’m exercised. I feel great. My face is numb and tingly in certain places from just having been smiling for an hour. Uh, is there anything else Margaret you’d like to add or, um, that my audience really truly is a mixed bag of creative types. Some of them are dancers have been dancers for a long time. Some of them are in other areas of entertainment and art. Um, some of them have left dance and are coming back, I think, as a person who wears many hats and has a tremendous amount of passion. Anything else you might say to people who are looking for information and inspiration in, in this moment? 

I think, you know, just never give up, you know, manifest, put out, put out into the universe, what it is you really want. And this is a good time to get quiet and really see what it looks like. You know, what is it that you really want and, and manifest it and just don’t give up, like, there’s, it may come in such a different package. You know, it may come in like in such an odd way. So be open to the delivery of your dreams, but don’t give up dreaming.

And on that ladies and gentlemen, we will round it out. Thank you Margaret so much for your time for your wisdom wisdom and for your work. That is so great. And I just can’t wait to see where it goes from here all the direction. Oh my goodness. I can’t wait. I’m so excited.

It was my pleasure.  

Okay. What did I tell you? Good one. Right. So insightful so wise, and I really was taken aback at how willing and ready Marguerite is to share at all times her, her insights, her wisdom, her experiences, um, her wins. I really, really loved what she had to say about building her team, a team that supports each other. Thank you all as listeners. Thank all of you listeners for being a part of my team. I hope that you got as much out of that conversation as I did. And I’m going to go ahead and venture a guess. You’re going to want to download that one. That is a conversation that I want to have in my pocket at all times. If you’re digging, what you hear, don’t be shy. Please share and leave a review or rating if you’re loving what you’re hearing. Thank you guys so much for listening. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, night, week, month. All of it, keep it funky. Everybody. I’ll talk to you soon.

Thought you were done. Now, I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now, so kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #36 The Assistant

Ep. #36 The Assistant

 
 
00:00 / 00:29:08
 
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Whether you ARE an assistant, HAVE an assistant, WANT an assistant, or want TO BE an assistant, this episode is for you. The (many) roles and responsibilities of assistants are often not discussed out in the open. Well, I’m here to start bringing this conversation to the forefront.  What makes a great assistant? When is an assistant NOT an assistant? Let’s talk collaboration, ownership, and all about assistants!

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Watching Smiling: https://www.instagram.com/p/CELBTJXFv27/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello. Hello and hello. I am Dana and I am jazzed that you are here today. I’m stoked on this episode because it is dense. It carries a lot of value in a little bit of time. So whether you are an assistant or a person who has an assistant or a person who is looking to have an assistant, I think you will get a lot out of this episode, by the way. I think we all could use an assistant at some point.  

So this episode truly is for everyone. So much value so much goodness, but first let’s talk wins. This week, coincidentally, I am claiming a win. That is a video project I created in collaboration with my podcast assistant Malia Baker. She choreographed it, I directed and edited it. And it is a video homage to Louie Prima and Keely Smith called “Smiling.” It was influenced by the golden age of movie musicals and our cast and crew was golden to truly such an awesome time capsule of a project. I loved every part of making this video and, um, man, we, we shot it just days before the lockdown was enforced and I’m so proud to be sharing it with the world right now. I think it carries a very important message and a handful of very fun surprises as well. So check that out. It lives on my Instagram @DanaDaners and also on Malia’s personal page. She is @MaliaBaker. Get into it. Do your face a favor, give a smile. Okay. Now speaking of your face and your smile, what is your win this week? What’s going well in your world.  

Okay. Awesome. And congrats. Keep crushing it. If you are listening the podcast chronologically, you have just emerged from four back to back episodes about auditioning. This episode is coming at a very timely time because I want to acknowledge that auditioning for work is not the only way to get work. In fact, possibly the most fruitful way that I introduced myself to the industry was as an assistant, an assistant choreographer to be specific. Now I opened this episode by talking about my win with my assistant Malia Baker. That was unintentional, but coincidentally, very, very appropriate to this episode. Now there is a hot button conversation happening in the dance world right now. That’s probably happened in other industries forever. Um, sort of as language changes and our professional landscape changes. This conversation will continue to happen. Probably forevermore. The subject, broadly is the roles and responsibilities of assistants. Is the assistant the person that gets the coffee is the assistant. The person that remembers the steps or teaches the steps or cleans the steps or contributes steps? Question Mark.  When is an assistant, not an assistant, what makes a great assistant we’re digging in to all of it. So buckle up.  

Alright. So I have been an assistant and I occasionally still assist for about 15 years, world tours, movies, commercials, music, videos, award shows you name it I’ve assisted on it. I’ve also danced and assisted on the same project, which can be really, really challenging. I’ll explain why, as you’re about to find out the role of an assistant is very, very broad. And the role of a performer is very, very specific. Sometimes it can be challenging to have the bird’s eye view and the worm’s eye view at the same time. All right, let’s talk first about what an assistant does. Well, as I mentioned, it’s always a little bit different, not just from project to project, but from boss to boss, from person to person. So let’s consider what assistants might do. They might, depending on the project or the person, edit video, edit music, go pick up coffee, go pick up lunch, take lunch orders, book studio space, manage and coordinate schedules. That’s a start, but they always, they always facilitate a vision. They facilitate the creative vision of their boss or of the project that they’re assisting on. 

Now let’s talk about the different types of assistance. A personal assistant, for example, might organize travel, like actually book the flights, the cars, the hotel reservations, they might run personal errands or organize a personal schedule. I have known personal assistants to actually buy the Christmas gifts and birthday gifts for their bosses, families and friends. Um, I’ve even known of a boss who trusted their assistant to decide on their future home. Yes. Like the house they will live in the assistant went and saw it and said, yes. Very wide range of responsibilities there for a personal assistant. And of course it depends on the person. Let’s talk now about a choreography assistant, a choreographic assistant or a choreography assistant or a choreographer’s assistant might be a moving body in the room during the creation process and during the rehearsal process. Occasionally they’re responsible for retaining the counts in the choreography, teaching choreography, cleaning choreography, even giving feedback on the choreography itself, If asked. I have also used and served as a technical assistant, this is a person that might film, edit and upload tutorial, videos, rehearsal videos, so on and so forth. Those are just a few examples of titles and responsibilities of assistants. I could really go on for probably a day about the things that assistants do. So why don’t we actually shift our focus to this question? When is an assistant not an assistant. First of all, I want to state that I see assistants as collaborators and possibly the most important part of the team. My assistants know my every move. They know my schedule, they know my values, they know my vision, they know how I like to work. And it is their job to work, to facilitate my vision. In the choreography space on a choreography team, by my definition, an assistant is responsible for facilitating a creative vision. That may mean tactical tasks, physical things like setting up the studio, organizing the schedule, organizing video footage, tutorials, et cetera. It might even mean systematic work, streamlining a process, making sure that things go smoothly with that being said to me, the moment an assistant crosses into another realm of collaborator is when they’re asked or expected to contribute their own creative vision for the work. I know many choreographers are totally okay with feedback when it comes to their choreography or process, but this is not the same as bringing a creative idea to the table. I’ll give an example. I know that many choreographers are okay, and even encourage getting feedback from their assistants. Feedback, for example, on things like weight transfers, transitions, or even presenting a step like, Ooh, it might feel better to ball change right left instead of left, right, Because my weight is already on the left side or, Ooh, I love that step. It reminds me of this. Or to get into that turn, it might be better if I start from this position instead of that one, that way I can move quicker and give you what you want, which is covering a lot of distance in a little bit of time. To me, that’s very acceptable and expected feedback from an assistant. And to me, that is absolutely not the same as bringing a creative idea to the table. To me, when a person is asked or expected to bring their own idea or vision, they are an associate or possibly even a co choreographer, not an assistant. An example of bringing a creative idea to the table might look something like this. Is there a world where instead of our hero woman being in love with peanut butter, she is actually in love with a frog that turns into a can of peanut butter. Example of creative vision, opposed to facilitating the creative vision and wow frogs and peanut butter, Welcome to my mind. Welcome to my very creative mind. 

All right, now let’s talk about what makes a great assistant. I’ll give you a hint. What makes a great assistant is also what makes a great relationship. That’s really what we’re talking about here today. The relationship between boss and assistant. In my book, these are four qualities of a great assistant. Number one ESP, mind reading capabilities. In the event that you do not possess mind reading capabilities, which none of us do. Um, here is a great way to read somebody’s mind, ask them what they think and write it down. Great way to read somebody’s mind is to actually put it on paper, get a clear idea of expectations. And then you are so much better set up for success. 

Another quality of a great assistant to me is somebody that has a good memory and mindset for not only managing information, but mining it. This is a person who knows how to ask the right questions. This is a person that knows where to look for information and how to get it and how to organize it. Another quality of a fabulous assistant. It sounds weird to say this, but customer service. The assistant establishes the flow of the project, the flow of information. And oftentimes when people think back about how the project went, it will be the work of the assistant that they remember, that they walk away with, that they think of as being either remarkably positive or not so much. Oh, here’s my favorite. My favorite quality of a great assistant is somebody that over delivers, under time. I love looking for the habit of somebody who over-delivers, because that’s a quality that I seek in my own career. And I like to think of my assistants as an extension of myself. If I do, they do too. 

Moving right along, let’s talk about how to be a great assistant. There are notions that an assistant is akin to a servant role or a secretary role. If you are an assistant, what if, instead of believing those stories, you chose to believe the following. What if you chose to own your work and not do their work? What if you owned the value that you bring? What if you facilitate the zones for genius? What if you make the space and maintain the space for brilliance? What if that is your job? Instead of doing the jobs left undone by others, you make the space, you maintain the space, you make the zones for genius. What if instead of getting walked on, you wanted to grow. What if you wanted to be the best at what you do, not the second best to your boss, but the best you, this is abundance mentality.  This is ownership, and this is very attractive. 

Now I could not talk about how to be a great assistant without asking you to pay attention to the details, study, to learn the likes and dislikes of the person that you’re working for. And I don’t just mean what things do they like and dislike out there in the world, but what qualities do they like and dislike about themselves? Where can you supplement and help enhance the person that they already are with the person that you already are? For example, do they like knowing people’s names, but are terrible at remembering them? Do they have a preference for the way that tables and chairs are set up? Do they have a vibe that you can contribute to? Do they love the snacks that you brought? do they have any food allergies? Do they prefer their music loud or quiet? Do they like hearing your opinion? Do they work well with tech or do they get easily frustrated with tech? Are they an iPhone or an Android person? Do they prefer large or small groups of dancers? What are the tough parts and flow states of their process? In general, if they mentioned liking or disliking a thing, make sure that you note it, but don’t wait for them to say it. Most of this stuff can be very easily perceived if you are perceptive. 

Alright. I think it’s really, really important as an assistant that you manage your mind. It’s important to remember that, although yes, you may be working for someone else. You are also a leader. People are looking to you as number two, to establish the tone. They’re looking to you for cues about what is trickling down. So be responsible for the way that you lead as well as the way that you follow. Lastly, I kind of touched on this before, but represent your boss. Try to show up always as the best version, not only of yourself, but of them as well. This preserves your relationship with them, as well as the relationship you have with yourself, show up as the best version of you. 

Alright, now this might be sort of an unexpected spin on this episode, but I do want to talk about how to have assistants from the perspective of somebody who’s been one for 15 years, and now has a few of my very own. First don’t expect anyone to read your mind. You’re welcome assistants. For those people that seek to have the help of others. It is extremely beneficial to know what you want. It’s even more beneficial. If you write it down, say what it is that you want ask for exactly what you want. Now, to me, the first phase of a boss assistant relationship is establishing trust. I usually do this through a series of simple tactical assignments that an assistant can follow through on these are measurable they’re visible sometimes they’re actually physical. Make this order, pick it up, set up these chairs in this certain way, post this specific post at this specific time.  

It’s very simple to see if these markers have been met. As the trust is established, as those markers are met, then the relationship between assistant and boss turns into one, that’s less about simply doing things and more about ways of doing things. Now you can delegate the process of getting things done, not just ask people to get things done for you. This is where real true collaboration comes into play. This is where you build systems together based on what works and what doesn’t work. Creating a process together and tweaking it together. Keeping a tight feedback loop is a step in the agent boss relationship that sometimes is expected to fall only on the assistance lap, but I see this as being truly a collaboration and when done well, this is a make or break step that can truly multiply your results your output exponentially. And here is why when you delegate a task to somebody, especially somebody who wants to do the task well, it’s usually met with a hundred questions at that point, you might be telling yourself, by this point, I might as well have just done it myself. Well it’s possible, but it really, really pays to invest in these systems and in finding ways to answer these questions early on so that you don’t have to later. Here is the critical step. I asked my assistants to come back to me, not only with their questions, but with what they think I would answer to those questions that helps me not only get to know them and the way they think, but it helps me get to know the way they think I think, and somewhere within that, I might even be presented with an idea that’s better than my own ideas. I love this step. Here’s an example. If I ask somebody to book a rehearsal space for me, I tell them the dimensions of the studio that I need. I tell them the hours that I need the studio and the preferred location, but perhaps they come back to me wondering what my budget is, instead of just saying, what is your budget? They might say, I think you’d prefer this budget, but these are the price ranges available. I love this answer because it shows me that my assistant has an idea of what they think my values are. They think that I value money in a certain way. Now, perhaps they’re wrong. Perhaps I value being very, very frugal when I rent rehearsal space, but it’s possible that I don’t consider money at all. I will pay any dollar amount as long as the dimensions are correct. There is adequate parking for example, um, and it’s within five miles of my house. Like maybe those are my values, but by responding to me with the answer that they think is best, then I’m informed of, of perhaps a blind spot that my assistants and I have in our understanding of each other and our values. This is essential. This step, I really, really strongly recommend this. I really also recommend that you treat your assistant as the most important part of your team.  Take care of them, take care of them financially and otherwise. This is the person closest to you and your work. It’s essential that you hold them closely with care. 

Alright, now, speaking of care and holding things closely, I have decided to much debate that I would like to share with you. Some of my assistant fails. Yep. I’m telling you all about the times that I have fallen so that you don’t have to fall down to. My first story is when I was assisting the one, the only, Toni Basil, who is still a dear friend and mentor of mine and a dance legend. I might add if you’re not familiar with Toni Basil strongly encourage, you hit pause on this episode, go do a little research. And then come on back. I was assisting Toni on an award show. I believe it was the Soul Train Awards.  And I believe the year was like 1600 BC. It was a really long time ago. And I remember the director of the award show asked Toni a question. Toni paused and seemed like she was struggling to find the answer. So I answered for her because the answer to this particular question was right on the tip of my tongue. I did not exercise any restraint. I jumped in with all of my enthusiasm and willingness to answer and speak for my boss. Holy smokes. She was standing right there. A fully capable, fully responsible fully.. Did I say capable? Yeah. Toni Basil is one of the most capable human beings. I know she knows this industry and several industries I might add inside and out. She is, as I mentioned a legend and I thought it would be a good idea to speak for her. When for two seconds, she took pause to consider her answer. Oh yes, this was a fumble. And I knew it immediately. When Toni Basil’s daggers in her eyes shot back at me and almost physically zipped my mouth for me. I remember I wanted to just crawl into myself and die and never speak again. Instead I apologized and I’ve learned pretty well. Although my instinct to talk quickly has helped me in the past. It’s also hurt me time and time again. Take pause, consider, and always let number one, speak first. A piggyback lesson on that is that it’s also good practice to let number one, have the last word too. All right. Assistant fail number two. Oh, this one is cringy. I was assisting Marty Kudelka on a project for Justin Timberlake. We’re hiring dancers. I remember a table full of headshots. Some of them, my friends, none of them were me. Um, we’re discussing the people that would be the right fit and it fell on my lap to hire the dancers for the job. That means call the agents, make the official booking and make sure that the dancers have all the information they need to start work on the start date. Well, start date rolls around. We begin rehearsal and Marty looks at me and he says, we’re missing a girl. I look at my notes. I look at my outgoing email. I’m like, Nope, this is everybody. And then Marty said to me, yeah, but where is dancer X? My gut sank and hit the floor was I really that sloppy that out of like eight dancers. It wasn’t even like 56 dancers. It was like eight dancers. Out of eight I missed one. Oh my gosh. That’s definitely failing status right there. That is an assistant fail. Marty was extremely gracious. And let that one slide. I absolutely have not lived it down, but for that project, we made seven out of eight work.  

Holy smokes. Do I still feel awful about that? So awful about that. Compassion, Dana, compassion. It’s okay to mess up. Okay. This one’s subtle, but I think it’s very important while I was working with Christopher Scott on, In the Heights, he pointed out to me one day that my feedback even nonverbal is very, very visible. I’m the guy that likes to report the news. I speak quickly. I speak my every thought, usually, podcasts, very appropriate place for me to land. But even in the room, the thing that I learned from Chris is that yes, especially in an associate role, my opinion is valued, but Dana, come on. It does not need to be given 100% of the time. I remember Chris making a joke about the bill of my hat, being my tell, that he could see it from across the studio, either nodding vigorously up and down or holding very, very still. The nodding bill of the hat obviously would suggest that I am in favor of this idea, this take, this pass. The stillness means I’m not buying it. Now. Here’s the important thing there oftentimes as an associate, as an assistant or as anyone other than the director, your opinion is not the most important thing happening in the room. I am constantly learning the value of being neutral, the value of allowing people, the space visually and audibly and otherwise to have their own opinions. Before I attempt to change the temperature of the room with mine. Exercise, it is my exercise, neutrality. Look out neutrality. Here I come. Wow. What a goal? Huh?  

All right, everybody. I hope that this information is useful to you. Whether you are an assistant or someone who has an assistant or someone who is looking to have an assistant. And because there are so many different ways of working together because I’m an assistant and I have one, I would really love to hear your feedback on this episode. So head over to Words that move me Podcast on IG to leave a comment on this episode, and don’t forget to subscribe and download these episodes If you’re loving and finding value here, please share it. Let me know that you’re digging the goods and please don’t forget more than anything to keep it funky. I appreciate you go have a funky rest of your day. I’ll talk to you very soon. 

Thought you were done, No, I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website though. theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have moved over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #35 Special Guests and Special Stories (Audition August Episode 4)

Ep. #35 Special Guests and Special Stories (Audition August Episode 4)

 
 
00:00 / 00:33:55
 
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To round out #AuditionAugust I sat down and answered some listeners burning questions about auditions. I also asked some of my favorite movers and shakers to talk about their favorite audition experiences!  Are you ready to be auditioning? Are you ready to be WORKING? After listening to this episode… I hope so!

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Audition August Registration: https://www.thedanawilson.com/workshops 

Hannah Douglass: https://www.instagram.com/hannahdlaine

Kim: https://www.instagram.com/kimgingras/

Ava: https://www.instagram.com/avaflav1/

Dexter: https://www.instagram.com/dextercarr/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers. Like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello. Hello everybody. And welcome back to words that move me. I am Dana and Oh, how about also welcome if you’ve never been here. Welcome. Welcome. I am so jazzed to have you listening today. Um, I hope this podcast finds you well. I hope it finds you happy and healthy and if happy, fails, I hope it finds you human and healthy and you know what? I’m here for all life. Actually, if you’re not even feeling human today, if you are feeling more like plant matter or a geode, I will accept all of it. Welcome. Welcome as you are. I am as always thrilled about this episode, because it is a little bit different from your average. Um, in general, I like to think that they are all different than your average podcast, but this words that move me up episode is truly, truly different. Um, simply in format. Today is our fourth and final installation of Audition August half of this episode is going to be dedicated to questions and answers. Those questions were submitted by my personal clients. And from you listeners via Instagram questions about auditions specifically, the other half of the episode is going to be super special, firsthand audition stories from a handful of super special and very talented guests, that also happened to be friends. Ava Bernstein Mitchell, AKA Ava Flav, Kim Gingras, Hannah Douglas and Dexter Carr. I mean, wow, this is quite an episode and I want to get into it, but you know how we do here.  We begin with wins. 

Oh guys, I’m celebrating a special win. I am celebrating that words that move me. Podcasts has found itself in Apple’s top 100 performing arts podcasts yet again this week, actually last week. But this week, by the time you’re hearing this, I guess at spot number 83, now I am not privy to the witchcraft and wizardry that determines the ranking of podcasts on Apple. But I am certain that I could not, would not have achieved that very coveted 83rd slot without all of you. So thank you so much. I’m so glad that you’re here. I’m glad to have you, and to those of you that have been giving feedback via social media and on the website. I’m so grateful for that always and now, regardless of what Apple thinks of my podcasts, I’m getting some awesome feedback and some critical feedback too. I appreciate all of it. Thank you so much. All right. If you are digging the podcast, I should say some good next steps for you might be to share it with a friend, leave a review or a rating, and of course, download it and make sure that you’re able to have it with you whenever you find yourself in podcast, ready time, be it with or without your wifi. Okay. Now the important part, what is your win this week? What’s going well in your world.  

Congratulations. Happy, win to you. Please keep winning. 

All right. Let’s dig in to these Q’s and A’s, I got some really, really good questions from you guys about auditions, so thoughtful, um, so thought provoking and I’m actually really, really excited to begin. Let us begin. Oh, by the way, I should say that these questions were submitted via Google forms. So I’m not actually sure who asked them there were submitted anonymously and I will answer them anonymously right from my mouth. Here’s where I’d like to begin, listener asks 

“What would you say to someone who was training in dance took a few years off to focus on an alternative career, but has started retraining during quarantine and would love nothing more than to dive back into the audition slash dance world.”

Alright to you dancer in her early thirties, I would say go for it. I would also say listen to last week’s episode where I talk to Meisha Goetz and Tim O’Brien from Clear Talent Group. They talk a lot about the lay of the land that we’re looking at now heading into, um, the post COVID work era and our industry is slowly starting to turn on kind of like a dimmer switch, less like a regular on off switch work is extremely slow right now, which means it is extremely competitive. It might be a tough time to catch your footing, but it will be a fruitful time eventually. Um, and from my personal point of view, most of the audition breakdowns that I’ve been getting, especially lately are looking for real people. The majority of the work that’s happening right now is not, you know, in person award shows, it’s not tours. Some of it is music videos, but most of this type of dancing is, um, TV, episodic, film, and commercial. Those are looking for usually real people, not backup dancer types. So for you, I would really encourage, um, to get in there, get your materials in order, headshots, photos and really good video links. Um, if you have a relationship with an agent already awesome, if not keep your eye out on the casting networks to be self submitting. This is the time for video submissions. It is a great day to be self submitting today and every day. 

All right, next up, “I have heard a lot of stories about people sneaking into auditions, just out of curiosity, not like I would ever try it or anything.” 

This person’s cheeky. “How are some people just able to sneak into private auditions and what would happen if they got all the way to the end, asking for a friend angel emoji.” I love this question. I love it so much. And I am going to leave it to my dear friend, Ava Bernstein Mitchell, to answer this question with her special story coming at ya in just a few moving right along. Ooh, we have a poll “technique versus style.  Which one is more important to you at an audition? Of course it depends on the project, but for you personally, meaning me Dana director, choreographer, or person behind the table, which one do I side with? Or which one do you side with?” This is a great question. In fact, I Dana the person on the other side of the microphone am going to be bringing you an episode entirely dedicated to this conversation technique versus style in a knockdown drag out battle who would win? Well, dear writer, dear listener. I think you’re already onto the answer to this question, which is it’s different for every project. I know certain choreographers prioritize and champion style. I know certain others that prioritize and champion cleanliness, um, this, this ability to replicate, duplicate and do exactly as I say and exactly as I do. I personally, Dana am a fan of personal you and your style. I really love to see individuality. It’s something I champion with my work and it’s something I really look for in my team. So that is my answer. Bring on your style. All right. 

Ooh, here’s another good one. “How important are looks AKA hair, makeup, clothes, et cetera. When you are at an audition?” I will answer again for myself, not nearly as important as your, your talent is numero UNO, but oftentimes especially because there are many, many humans and usually not a lot of time, your hair, your makeup or your clothing can become a quick and easy identifier a way for us to remember you. So although your talent is the most important thing you can bring to an audition, your hair, your makeup and your wardrobe are really, really easy way to become memorable. Hair, makeup wardrobe. Yes, important, but only fractionally compared to how important your talent is.  

Okay.  Ah, this is great. “If an audition asks for all black attire, what would you wear to stand out?” Oh dear writer slash listener. Please do go listen to episode 32, where I talk at length about exactly this. Okay. Next step. Next step. “How much research should you do on a project before an audition?” Oh my gosh. This is the fun part for me. I love research. I love digging. I love learning. I love trial and error. This is just a process that I so get into my recommendation is as much as possible before you audition for a project, you should. Absolutely. If, if nothing else have researched the choreographer, if there is one attached or the project itself, um, this is something that I could spend hours doing. But if you are limited, I’d say you get the tip of the iceberg in 15 to 20 minutes, but this is like bare, bare minimum. The more you can dig in, the more prepared you will be. Even if nothing else, you might simply enter the room differently, feeling prepared, thinking that you had done your homework. There is really nothing like the feeling of walking into the room, knowing that you didn’t do your homework. I am all for anything you can do to avoid that feeling. Okay moving on. “Are agencies, signing new talent via online submissions?” Yes, yes, absolutely. Yes. Off the top of my head. I know that at least Go2Talent agency is signing new talent. Okay. Next up. Ooh, this one’s a doozy. It’s a, it’s a bundle.  

Okay. Listener asks “In response to the Instagram posts going around saying that Instagram is your new real slash resume. Has Instagram really become the dancers new reel?” Okay. I’m going to give you guys a little bit of context. I pulled up the, um, posts that has been circulating around Instagram. I’m going to read it to you now. It says this
“To all of my dancers. Please, please show your versatility on your IgE page because when you’re sleeping, having your coffee… I am quietly trying to submit you for a gig. Yes. I’m sharing your profile privately. And when I have to literally search your page and scroll all the way down to show the client, some sort of versatility, it makes it hard to push for you. Please spread the selfies in between and add some content that will get you booked.” All right. So that’s the post that this writer is referring to. Now let’s listen to that question. One more time. Has Instagram become the new dancers reel? So that I would say yes and no. I don’t think anything will ever replace a good, reel, reels show many, many different projects, preferably your best work with one click with one view, no time scrolling in between, but in some ways Instagram can do one better because where a reel  stops, right, Where it ends. Instagram does keep going. You can have an endless feed. I mean, maybe not actually endless, but close to it. You decide the same listener asks. Do you need to have separate IG accounts for personal versus professional to that? I would say no, probably not. I would actually say you don’t even need an Instagram account. I can say that because I know plenty of dancers that are plenty working that don’t have an IG account. Is it helpful to have one? Yes. Is it more common to have one probably. But do you need? No. I would definitely recommend anybody with questions about the use of social media. Go back and listen to episode 10. It’s called your social media storefront and a really, really dig in to my relationship and several different types of relationships you can have with social media.  

Okay. Here’s another good one. “If you’re new and don’t have high quality content, is that still good enough to post or should you wait until you have the good content?” If social media is the new audition, then it doesn’t serve you much good to wait until you have good content so that you can get booked so that you can have good content. It’s this which came first, the chicken or the egg conversation. To this listener I would say it is not out of your reach to create good looking content. If you have a phone in your pocket and something to prop it up against, you have the sunlight, you have your body, you have your talent, get your talent out there. Just hit record and share. B minus work is still above average. It’s a great place to start.  

Alright. One more question on this subject in this post “They say to show versatility on your page. What does that mean?” I really love this question and I’m going to answer it like this. If you’re a person that wants to be doing work, like what you see on TV, then post yourself dancing styles, similar to what you see on TV, put out into the world, the work that you want to be doing to that I would also like to add. It’s not always about being versatile. Sometimes it kills to be a specialist. If that’s you, if you specialize at one thing, show me that one thing. Show me you are the greatest at that one thing, if you’re a person that desires doing a lot of different types of work, then yeah. Show that you’re able to do different types of work. And that doesn’t just mean dance. Go take a look at the special skills section on your resume. If you don’t have a special skills section on your resume start considering what sets you aside, bring that, bring those special skills, bring those talents, bring those interests to your social media as well, because it isn’t just about how well you dance. It is about who you are. People want to work with people who do good work and people really, really want to work with good people. All right. I hope those Qs and As Aid, some of your Qs, and I hope that you are ready with a pen and paper because you have a lot to learn from these special stories coming up. On your mark, get set, grow. Oh yeah. I said,  grow.

Kim Gingras: Bonjur! My name is Kim Gingras And I like to share this one audition. I will never forget. So we’re in 2011 and it had only been a few months since my move to Los Angeles. When a friend told me about this upcoming audition for Nicole Scherzinger from the pussycat dolls, which was very exciting because I knew their music well, I loved her style. I love the whole empowerment female in heels, a type of dancing. But I was a little worried because I never received a memo from my agency. So since communication is key, I reached out to my agent to clarify what the audition was about, why I hadn’t gotten the memo, if I could possibly go. And they nicely explained that it didn’t fit the specs that they were looking for. So an audition always comes with an audition breakdown and I didn’t fit the characteristics. Fair. That’s totally fair, but I wasn’t ready to walk away from that opportunity. I just knew it. I felt that in my gut, this was something I needed to show up to. So I found out who the choreographer was for the job, which was the amazing Jaquel Knight. And I had a connection with him through years back in 2008, when we were both in the cast of the Monsters of Hip Hop showcase. And I decided to reach out to him and he is so sweet and so kind and openly welcomed me to the audition. He’s like, yeah, just show up at this time. No problem. I got you. And he sure did. So I showed up over there and I mean, it was such an amazing experience. This audition lasted hours. It was dancing after dancing and so much sweating and people were getting cut. We had to stay longer. And Nicole showed up at some point. Then we all had to dance by ourselves, the entire song for her to watch. I mean, it just went on and on. I feel like we ended around like midnight or something. It was just so exciting. And I booked the job and not only did I book this right there, music video, but it turned into my first appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, American Idol. So you think you can dance, my first European tour and then nine more years of friendship and opportunities when Nick and the team, like what, I mean, she’s just the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve gone to Vietnam, Malaysia, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, together. And I’ve gotten, you know, amazing lifetime friendships through her and the team. So the moral of the story here is you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Of course I had to quote Wayne Gretzky cause I’m Canadian. But in all seriousness, I know we’ve all felt this fear take over us in specific situations where in reality, we had that little voice inside telling us this is for you. Go for it. So let’s be a little more daring. Let’s listen to that little voice inside. Let’s take chances. We owe it to ourselves.  

Dexter Carr: Hey, what’s going on? Y’all my name is Dexter Carr. I am a choreographer dancer in Los Angeles, California, and this is my crazy audition story. So when I had just moved to Los Angeles, I was getting a lot of open calls from my agency. I was getting calls that had like literally 300 people in a room, all trying to audition for like three spots. So I was going because you know, that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You pound the pavement, you hustle, you move, you move, you move. So I went, one audition in particular was for an artist that was very, uh, eclectic and liked a lot of drama and like, you know, things and extra and lace and all the things, all the, all the, all the things. And uh, if you know anything about me that I have that side, but it’s not, it’s not something that I’m really, you know, like that’s not my go to, and especially not at that age, you know, moving here like six, seven years ago.  

So I’m walking into this thing, thinking that, like I got to really come up with something. I got to pull something. I got to really like try to, you know, and that’s the energy in the room. Cause I already knew what the energy and the room was about to give. Right? So I come in there with like a little rip tank tops of ripped jeans and some boots and a bandana tied around my head. I’m like, yeah, this is it. This is edgy. This is the edgiest you’re going to get. I walked up to the parking lot, which is where all of the dancers were waiting to go inside. And the first thing I saw, we, God, I’m laughing. Cause I’m, haven’t told the story in so long. The first thing I saw was somebody with, um, wings, wings on like the size of Victoria’s secret angel wings.  Like, you know what I mean? Huge wings. And then somebody else had their face painted one color half and then there are other, and like people got like weaves for this that were like down to the floor. And I was like, Oh wait, wait, wait, I missed the memo. I thought I was really doing it. I thought I was really going to be able to, you know, you know, rub elbows with these people. But no, no, no. They have surpassed me and we haven’t even gotten in the room yet. We haven’t even learned one step yet cut to, we all get in the room and you know, the choreographers is letting us know what the job is, how many spots there are and what he’s looking for. And basically what he said is that he wants a star. He wants somebody that comes in here and grabs the attention. Now, mind you, like I said, I’m in all black and some boots. So I don’t, I don’t have a leg up. I don’t have a leg up on the competition with this. When it was time for my group to audition, I was of course, in a group with the person, with the wings. And when I tell y’all they finished the choreography, which you know, choreography happened, boom, I’m set. I’m good. I’m clean. I’m probably not doing a lot. I’m probably not making a lot of choices. It’s probably not doing anything. You know, that’s like, wow, bam. But I’m getting through the choreography right. Time to freestyle. The person with the wings takes the wings, walks to the center of the room as if it is a runway flaps the wings in front pushes them back and struts all the way down to the table and literally stares at the people at the table. Now these wings are so large that it does hit you or move you or give you a gust of wind that if you’re not expected, may topple you over. Which is what happened to me. I literally like was not expecting these wings to come at me. And I looked up and I saw them and I fell over needless to say, no one got kept other than him. So moral of the story is if they say edgy, go, go for the gold go. Like no, no fear go for it. Y’all yeah. Thanks for listening to my crazy audition story.  

Hannah Douglass: My name is Hannah Douglas and this is my audition story. So I have plenty of audition stories, but the most memorable for me is the very first audition. I was fresh off of Edge scholarship. I was 18 years old and it was for the Celine Dion world tour, which is so major. It was Nick and RJ. It was everybody who was, anybody was there at the time. And I was nice and green. And I remember loving the choreo thinking. I was killing the choreo in my little scholie corner with my friends and, you know, going over it over and over and over, and then going in a group with a bunch of OGs and then just like fully losing it and completely blanking. I basically stood there. It was a full tragedy and I just freaked out and it was, it was terrible. So I got chopped ASAP, obviously. Left and just couldn’t believe it.  And then I remember the next day going into Edge and seeing Bill and bill was so excited, Bill Prudich, he’s the director of edge, the edge scholarship program. And he was like, you know, guru dance guru and cared so much about our journey. So I was, you know, kind of embarrassed to see him. Cause I knew I was terrible, but he was like, how was your first audition? And I just broke down crying. I lost it. I just lost it. And he was like, okay, so you should probably move home because these are your options. You either cry and break down right now because you got told no once or you get it together and you move forward. And I will never forget that moment in my life because the idea of moving home was just not an option for me. I mean, I love my home, but I just, I was so determined to just do better.  And Bill saying that reacting that way was, you know, the option was to move home. Just really rocked me to my core. And I had an audition four days later, I think for Seal, for Dancing with the Stars. And I went in hearing Bill’s voice in my head saying, you know, move home or just figure it out basically. And I booked it and it was simply because of that mindset shift, which I’ve carried with me literally the last 14 years of my career. You know, you either choose to be rocked by who you’re surrounded by and you know, the, the caliber of the job in your mind, or you just do what you love to do to the best of your ability. You’re not going to be right for everything, but you can shift your mindset to the point that you offer the best that you have in that moment.  And because of Bill’s wording to me that day, I will never forget that feeling of being hold. Like basically you just figure it out, you know, or you, or you leave because that’s the alternative to just break down every time you turn you’ll you’re told no, or just do your best. So, you know, that week of auditions really shaped the rest of my life because I had one of the worst auditions I’ve ever had in my life. And then just four days later, the best auditions I’ve ever had in my life. And it was just because of a mindset shift. So that is what I try to carry with me forever. Still, you know, 14 years later is how mental this game is and that’s what gets you through. And so, yeah, I’m forever grateful to Bill and forever apologetic to Nick and RJ for that tragic audition. Um, but also grateful for the lessons I learned. So that’s my story.  

Ava Bernstein Mitchell: What’s up? This is Ava Bernstein Mitchell, and this is my most memorable audition story. I want to take you back to 2006 when I auditioned for Justin Timberlake. So let me preface the story with, at this time in my life, dancing for Justin Timberlake was my dream job. It was on the top of my wishlist. It was, it was it for me. And also I had met Marty at a hip hop intensive workshop. I would say, I don’t exactly know how much before, but it could have been a year. It could have been a few months, but I had met Marty and he said this to me and I’ll never forget after class. He was like, ‘yo, you’re dope. We’re going to work together someday.’ And I’ll never forget it. So I carry that into 2006, when it was all the buzz around town that Justin Timberlake was coming back. He had been gone for four years. So everybody knew this audition was coming up. But the thing about this audition was it was a picture submit only, which means Marty or whoever his team was, were picking pictures of the people who could attend the audition. First round goes around, I’m waiting. People are like, Oh yeah, I got called. Did you get called? You know, you know, everybody talks, I wasn’t called in. So I call my agent. I was like, Hey, was my picture chosen? You know, I really want to be at this audition. She’s like, sorry. No. And I was like, Oh, okay. So I let a few days go by and you know, still everybody’s talking about it, call again. I’m like, Hey, just checking to see if you know, my picture was picked and I really want to be at this audition. She’s like, no, I’m sorry.  You know, just, it just wasn’t on the lineup. So again, I waited a little bit longer and then I’m like, I need to be at this audition. So I called my agent and she says again, no, I’m sorry. It’s just, the people have chosen. They’re actually doing a sign in. It’s a whole thing. And I’m really usually a rule follower as what I do. And I respect the construct, uh, that is audition process and whatnot, I just try to be respectful of it. So, but I said to her, I I’m going to go. And she said, well, if you do go, don’t tell them we sent you. And I said, okay. So that was that. So day of  the audition comes a crash, the forbidden crash of the audition. And I was glad I did. It was all the hype was all the rage. I just remember there being a line outside then getting in and seeing all the familiar faces, your peers, your friends. We had a great time. I specifically remember though from this audition, cause I do have a bad memory sometimes, but this image is imprinted in my mind is that I remember auditioning and Justin sitting next to Marty and I’m right in front of him and his piercing blue eyes are just looking dead at me. Like I can’t get out and he’s just watching me and I’m thinking like, Oh my gosh, I really just have to, like, I just have to do me. I just have to go off. You know? And sometimes that can be very nerve wracking, but I honestly think, I just felt so deeply that this was my job that I was supposed to be there. That I really just enjoyed this moment. And I kind of remember what I was wearing. I was so basic. I had on some like loose jeans that were like a tie at the ankle, uh, with elastic at the ankle.  And I had a gray tee shirt on it. Might’ve been a ACDC gray T-shirt like, I don’t even know. I don’t know. It seemed like a good choice at the time. You know, I wasn’t like sparkly and glitzy and glamorous. It was Justin Timberlake. Let’s be honest. So I think it worked anyways fast forward to, I don’t even know, maybe it was a few weeks later. Maybe it was a few days later. I get the email that I’ve booked this job, which entailed at the, originally it was for a music video. Then it was for, you know, the VMAs then it was for tour. But I think at that time we did know that we were being booked for the tour if I remember correctly. But when I say it was the greatest feeling, but I shared this story because for two reasons specifically why this is a very significant story. is that Un-officially I was the only one from this audition that booked this tour.  And I say that meaning anyone else who was involved was either assisting him or part of a previous tour or chosen ahead of time. You know, that is what I mean by that. And I was the only person who one was not invited to, who didn’t have a relationship with Marty at that audition who booked it. And I’m very proud of that. And secondly, sometimes you just got to break the rules. Sometimes the rules are meant to be broken, but you have to use discernment. And you also have to know when that time is because you don’t want to just be out there running them up. But in this particular situation, I knew that was job. My spirit told me I just had to go for it and I’d have no other way. So cheers to being a rule breaker and cheers to going after your dreams.  

Dana: All right, everybody, I hope you enjoyed those stories. I hope you learned a lot from this episode and I hope that you head into this new and slightly different audition season, audition life feeling informed and inspired. Thank you so much for listening as always keep it funky. I’ll talk to you later. 

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, we have a way to become a words that move me. So kickball, changeover to patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and all right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #34 Talk to My Agents with Meisha Goetz and Tim O’Brien (Audition August Episode 3)

Ep. #34 Talk to My Agents with Meisha Goetz and Tim O’Brien (Audition August Episode 3)

 
 
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Tim O’Brien, the founder of Clear Talent Group, and Meish Goetz, (Co-director of the Dance department and much more) join me on the pod to give their side of the audition story. Look out for some interesting takes on the role of the internet in auditions, and learn exactly what agents do! These two offer real talk, and real wisdom about a real tough market. Communication is key in a creative industry. Listen to these agents and walk away supported, informed, and inspired!

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Clear Talent Group: http://cleartalentgroup.com/about/

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello, Hello, Hello and welcome. This is words that move me. I’m Dana and I am as always jazzed about this episode. This is week three of audition August and I have not one, not two. Oh no, yes. Two. I have not one but two incredible guests that are going to offer some tremendously valuable insights on, um, the dance market and what that means for auditions. And auditioners. Um, I do want to jump right into that, but first wins.  

If you are new to the show, we start every episode off with wins. I tell you mine and get yours ready because you are up next. Okay. Today I am celebrating a future win. Go with me here. Today, I’m celebrating that a year from today, August 19th, 2021. The podcast has reached 100,000 downloads. Ooh. Oh my gosh. That feels so good to say that I’m so proud of my future self. Okay. I know what you’re thinking. Probably two things actually. Number one thing. Wow. That’s really silly and very bold to proclaim such a huge goal so publicly, and then celebrate it before you actually achieve it. Oh my gosh. That’s going to hurt so bad when you fail. That might be what you’re thinking. Um, well, if you are thinking that, to you I would say yes, it is bold to proclaim such a huge goal so publicly. And yeah, I might fail quote fail, but I’ve been practicing being willing to fail publicly for over 15 years now of working in TV film and on stage, I am a pro at being willing to fail publicly, but just imagine how bad I would fail If I didn’t tell you the downloader that my personal goal is to reach 100,000 downloads. That is what is really silly. And now that you may see my point, you might be thinking, all right, okay, how can I help? Well, if you dig what you hear, then keep it with you. Download the podcast. If you’re using Apple podcasts, this might not be as easy or intuitive as I wish it was. It’s certainly not as intuitive as they think it is. So if you struggle downloading the podcast, DM me, @wordsthatmoveme podcast on Instagram or contact me at my website, theDanawilson.com at very very least, it’s a perfect excuse for us to be in touch. Okay, now you go, what’s going well in your world.  

Killer. Congratulations. I am so glad that you are winning. Please do keep it up. Actually. I’m so glad that we’re talking wins right now because this episode has some really valuable insights about wearing your wins and shedding your losses. Okay. Let’s get into it. As the entertainment industry starts to turn back on, think dimmer switch, not on off switch by the way, how dim is it? Oh, we’re going to tell you exactly how much less work is coming through the pipeline this summer relative to recent years. And what does that mean about our responsibilities as dancers, agents, creatives, or even as consumers of dance, whether you are a seasoned pro new to the game or simply a dance fan. This episode is for you because today we’re talking to talent agents, specifically two of my agents from Clear Talent Group. First step is the lovely Meisha Goetz She has her hand in the dance choreography and digital departments over at clear talent group. And we are also joined by the president of CTG himself, Mr. Tim O’Brien. He is joining us with many, many years of experience and an Eagle’s eye view of this COVID moment in our history. These two offer real talk real discussions about a real tough market. And I think you will walk away feeling informed and inspired. So let’s get to it. Enjoy Meisha Goetz and Tim O’Brien from Clear Talent Group. 

Oh my gosh. I’m so excited. Thank you so much for joining me today. This is Audition August where we seek to demystify the almighty audition, and if we happen to eliminate other dark corners of the industry, then so be it. I am joined by the lovely Misha Goetz and the one and only Tim O’Brien. Hello. Hello. And thank you for joining me. Hello.  

Tim: Hi, Dana. It’s good to see you.  

Dana: It’s. It’s good to see you guys too, albeit on a two dimensional surface. Yeah. Um, all right, so it’s it’s podcast tradition here to have my guests introduce themselves. Uh, why don’t we go ladies first? Meish..

Meisha: Sure, um, hello. My name is Meisha Goetz and I am one of the co-directors in the dance department at Clear Talent Group. And I also am an agent in the choreography department as well as the digital department. 

Dana: Awesome. All right, Tim, who are you?  

Tim: Hi, I’m Tim O’Brien. I’m the president of Clear Talent Group. Um, prior to that, I was a professional dancer for 10 years, and then I started one of the very first, uh, departments dedicated just to dancers a long time ago and, uh, have evolved into now owning my own agency and having, um, a wonderful group of agents like Meisha.  

Yes, and a wonderful group of, uh, talent, which includes me as a matter of fact. Um, alright, so I have a billion questions for you, both and, um, probably some semi sensitive ones given the sensitive nature, or maybe I’ll say unusual nature of our industry right now. Um, but I would love to talk about obviously auditions in the before time and the auditions that you guys are seeing go out into the world now, um, while productions are certainly under different limitations than they normally are. But before we dig into that, um, Meisha, could you talk through, this is a tough one. Could you talk through the very broad strokes, the, the flow of information and the flow of actions, the flow of tasks that happen from the minute your phone rings and the person on the other side is looking for talent to the moment when the talent is cashing their check. 

Meisha: Yeah, absolutely. Um, Broad, broad sense. Our job is to provide a service to either our clients or to the buyer on the other side. So when we get a phone call, we are trying to collect as much information as humanly possible. So that’s pretty much in simple terms, the who, what, where, when and why. So we’re collecting rates. If there’s a spec, if there’s a choreographer attached, um, and then from there it can go in two separate directions. They could either be requesting a submission from us, or it can go straight into an audition process. So in which it’s an open call, whoever fits the specs is getting the audition. Nowadays, we’re not having in-person auditions at all pretty much. So it’s all pretty much either direct booking, right? Direct bookings right now, or submission based. So this is when let’s just say, we’re going to go to go down a submission path. We’ll put together a submission, we’ll email it to the buyer. And a buyer is a producer, a casting director or choreographer. From there, we send this submission, we wait on selects. We may send a followup or two to make sure that they received.  Once we receive this selects, then we are sending out the audition. I’m sending out the audition, we’re making phone calls to make sure that you receive the information if we haven’t heard from you. And then we’re going to text you. And from that point we formulate a list is then back to the buyer of who is planning on submitting their self-tape and they, and this state of the world. If anyone decides not to self-tape, that is our opportunity as agents to potentially pitch people that weren’t selected. Sometimes it’s a hit. Sometimes it’s a miss, really just varies. And then, then it’s just the waiting game. You know, you’re getting submissions, you’re making sure that they’re following all the instructions properly because that’s a shoe in if you’re not. And then from there, you know, the review process becomes on the buyer’s side, we wait for a booking, but prior to the booking, we’re getting avails. And then sometimes the avail goes into a hold. And then from the hold we’ll receive the booking, where we get all the details all comes together. And that’s my personal favorite part is of course, making a phone call to the clients, letting them know that they booked the job. And then the job happens, right? The best part, the job happens from there. We, if it’s a nonunion job, then we are collecting hours. We’re asking our clients, if there’s hazardous conditions onset, where did you have to wear your own wardrobe to make sure that we’re invoicing properly. And then from there we’re really money chasers every week we’re falling, you know, sending followups to the production companies to make sure that they’re getting paid on a timely basis.  

That was so all encompassing. I’m very impressed and very clear. Thank you for that. Talk through it.  

Tim:  If I may just interject during that process is so important for the dancers to stay in contact with their agents. There’s so many times we put out calls and emails on a Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning, the staff has to come in and start chasing down the people that didn’t respond. And, uh, it can, it says the word I, that you always have to think of when you’re dealing with your agent, when we’re dealing with both the buyer and the talent is communicate, communicate, communicate as a choreographer, Dana, you know that the worst thing that can happen is you think you have your eight dancers and you book your eight dancers and you’re excited. And you know, I only to find out that one of them isn’t available. And, uh, so we try to avoid that at all costs. And the only way we can do that is by communicating. So I just can’t say enough about how important it is for the dancers to communicate with us so that we can represent them properly.  

Right? Communication must be the most important part of this agent dancer relationship at every moment at every, in between stage Meisha of the, of the talk through, you just gave it every moment that information changes hands is an opportunity for there to be a misunderstanding. Um, it’s just like, honestly, it’s a pretty big game of telephone. 

Absolutely! And I think what that experience the best is when clients were saying is communicative. And if they do have questions that we have created an environment for our clients, that they feel open enough. So whether that’s a text or call or email to make sure that when they walk through the room, they’re complete understanding the best of abilities, what job they’re about to be representing.  

That’s crystal clear. That’s awesome. Um, I do want to draw some attention. You mentioned that on a nonunion job when you’re collecting hours and keeping track of hazardous conditions, that’s really on the dancer to be recording those details on the job. I think that’s something that not that most dance studios don’t prepare their dancers for is to how to not only deliver the dance goods, but to also be receiving information about what’s happening on set what’s in alignment with the way things should be going and what isn’t. And, and then of course, the way to ask for those things to be, um, you know, reconciled. Yes. Um, okay. Tim, let’s zoom out a little bit if we could. I’m so curious and I’m slightly afraid to ask, um, relative to say last summer around this same time, how much work is coming through the pipeline right now in 2020? 

How much is coming through the pipeline?  Um, not much. It’s, uh, I think, uh, especially in the live event world Broadway is totally shut down. Um, all kinds concerts are really shut down. You might hear about some body doing something at a drive in movie, which is a cute idea, but it’s usually, you know, occasionally you see that kind of thing. It’s a very tough market. It’s it’s I hate to give percentages, but it’s probably 10 or 20% of what it was last year. I mean, the last couple of years as you started this whole podcast was market. The business was really doing well. Dance has become extremely popular. Um, not just on a TV with the reality shows it’s been in movies and television and concerts, and it’s, you know, it was a great market and it’s just, you know, the brakes are on and, uh, you can’t, you just can’t, nobody’s going to be sitting shoulder to shoulder at staple center watching their favorite pop star is not going to happen.  So it’s been hit pretty hard. And I think, um, that’s, that’s a reality that I don’t know about you, but when we first had our meeting at Clear Talent Group, I think on or about March 17th and before we started working at home, when I do go to the office, now we still have St Patrick’s day decorations. I mean, that’s what it is. I’ll start. Wow. And we thought, well, this could be a month, you know, maybe it’s six weeks. And then, then it became, it’s going to be three months. And now I think it’s really going to be 2021. And with the vaccine that we’re going to start getting back to normal. And I do think, and I know we’ll get back to normal, but yeah, we can’t kid ourselves. The market is, uh, slowed down enormously. And, um, I think it’s important. That’s why we, you know, we’re one of the few agencies that has a dedicated influencer department and, uh, the timing was good on that. And we’re trying to encourage our dancers to do all kinds of creative things, um, such as Dana Wilson started a podcast. Yeah. Um, so yeah, the answer to the question is this it’s off. I would say it’s off by 80% at least. It’s just the, market’s just not there. And then we are getting some movies and some, uh, episodic TV shows that are kind of giving us a heads up. Um, but that’s become like, uh, that, yeah, we’re going to start shooting in August. And then in middle of July, we’re going to start shooting, It actually is going to be September. And then, well, it’s going to be October. And then you start hearing about people saying it’s going to be 2021. Um, they just, you know, look, what’s happening. You have to, you know, I think it is important for dancers to pay attention to the world. And unfortunately this pandemic has been a huge wake up call that you do have to pay attention to the world and to our community, large and small. So yeah, it’s a, it’s not a good market. Now you have to, you know, as a dancer, I think you have to, we’ll get, I think we’ll get into this, but you have to keep your chops up and be ready for when it comes back. But, uh, you just have to start thinking of creative ways of, um, of not just working and generating income, which of course is important, but also keeping your sanity. You know, so yeah, to answer your question, uh, the market, um, is not good.  

Copy that. Um, so can we talk about where dancers are landing in the market today? I think dance is having a bit of a high point when we look at things like Tik Tok and all of the shows, the dance shows on TV, um, uh, movie musicals are having a bit of a comeback moment. I think dance is very cool to be a dancer right now. Um, Tim, could you talk about specifically in the digital space, the role of a dance influencer, like internet seems to be really helping dance. Um, how does that help you as an agent and how might that hurt you as an agency? You know, the, the role of the internet and how my dance and dance influencers, um, be affecting dancers themselves in the digital space?  

Well, I think that, um, with dancers working as influencers in the digital space, it’s a whole new market and anytime you can open up a new market, it’s great for your industry and then this case for the dance industry. So it gives a lot more, uh, there’s more options for dancers. Uh, there’s more ways to, um, to monetize your talent. And, um, so I think it’s a, it’s a, it’s a win, win. It’s a win for the dancers. It’s a win for the agents. How could it hurt? Um, the one thing about anytime we get into new markets, when music videos first started, and now with this, there’s a bit of a wild, wild west that happens. And, uh, producers, some of them not experienced, some of them very experienced will want to work directly with the dancer, with the influencer in this case. And it’s, it’s sounds like something that your agent tells ya, and, but it’s true.  And that is a producer. Any producer will deal with the dancer or the artist in a different manner than they’ll deal with the artist representative. So you do get a percentage of influencers that want to do it all on their own, or they want to know calling an agent when they get in trouble. Well, maybe they didn’t get paid or the money wasn’t when it was supposed to be. Um, so I guess that’s how it could hurt the dance market is, uh, they’re, they’re, they’re then can become a race to the bottom if, uh, if, if, uh, if we’re not careful, but generally I think it’s really good for them. And I think it’s good for us. And, uh, it’s an exciting new world. It’s, uh, you know, uh, right at the top of the news today, you know, the, president’s talking about getting rid of Tik Tok, which is just shocking. Um, but, uh, so I think it’s a win, win, and, uh, but like anything else you just have to proceed carefully and, uh, and rely on your agents. We’re here for a reason. We’re here to help dancers. That’s my mission in life is, you know, how can we help dancers make it a better world for dancers and improve not just their income, but their working conditions and to make sure they’re being treated right. And their images are being misused. So it’s all good. It’s all good.  

It’s all good. You’re bringing up some really important, um, parts of your responsibility as an agent and your roles as an agent, which I think some people might not have considered. I think in the minds of many, the agent is the person that gets you paid, but it’s so, so, so much more.  

Um, I have though heard of a few projects and it kind of blows my mind that things actually still are happening, but I’ve heard of a couple commercials where they’re working remotely. They will quote location scout, somebody’s home via a zoom call where the, um, the talent walks their laptop through their house showing this is where my bed is. This is a window. This is, you know, my kitchen. This has this much space. It’s five feet from here to here, 12 feet from here to here. And then the director will decide, okay, move your bed over to the other corner. So people are shooting like talent, The dancer is becoming the set decorator. Um, like they’ll receive a package in the mail, that’s a lighting kit and they’ll set up their own lights. They’ll set up their own camera. They’re given a tripod, they have to balance the tripod.  They’re given an iPhone or some other camera. What I’m seeing in the few examples that I know of, of work still happening, where the talent is becoming responsible for almost all parts of the project. There’s still a voice on the other side directing them. But wow. Um, I can’t imagine somebody who’s new to the game. Being able to take all of that on without knowing some basic camera terminology and onset language, without being able to speak with a director and take direction, be inside enough to deliver an awesome product, but outside enough to be taking direction, moving the camera, moving the light, doing all these things. So as the amount of work has gone down, is it safe to say that it’s so competitive that this might be the hardest time to catch a break? 

Yeah. I think you brought up a lot of really important topics. Um, First I want to touch how you mentioned how dancers are having to become their own set designers, creative directors through this process. And I will say that, you know, us as agents have had to adapt to that as well as they’re taking on new roles of being their own makeup artists, and hair artists, we had to adapt on our side to make sure that we’re asking for that digital compensation because of the time spent on those things. 

And resources, right? Like actual my makeup, actual my hair equipment, actual my space, like my actual space. So, so those talks are happening in the negotiation. Those things are being accounted for. 

Absolutely. And as they come up and that just once again, bringing up communication is so important for the clients to communicate with us that these things are happening because otherwise there’s no way of us. We’re not there. There’s no way of us knowing that those things are happening. 

Okay. So,  

Uh, Dana, if I could just interject on the other question you said, is it harder to get for a dancer to get a break? And I’ll answer a lot of this. Um, as agents, when we discover a new young talent and we really want you, you, the choreographer to see them, um, there’s nothing that is the same as getting them in the room. And how many times have you gone into a room and you have your favorites, you have the people you like, and you see that one person and you fall in love, you see them and you think I want to hire this person. They’re, they’re ready. And they’re, they’re talented. And they’re beautiful. And you kind of, as the day goes on in your audition, you, you actually created almost an emotional attachment. You want to give that person the first break. That’s really hard to do digitally it’s If we’re going to submit 20 self tapes you’re as the choreographer, you’re going to be, you’re going to be drawn to those people that, you know, can do the job, right. Even if they’re all in different rooms somewhere, and that’s the final shoot you were talking about commercials, just pay attention to how many commercials. Now it’s not 20 people or 10 or five people in a shot. It’s five shots of individual people. So, so it’s much harder I think, to get a break. Um, and so it’s tough. It’s a tough market. And that’s why the, especially the younger dancers, they really need to stay on their job, which their job definition right now is stay in shape, uh, take digital classes, um, make sure your pictures are ready because there’s going to be the day. And I think it’s not that far away. I think early 2021, where it’s going to take off again. Cause once we can start shooting, I mean, I have you watched everything on Netflix yet. Cause I’m getting close. So they need, they need, uh, they need material to go on Netflix and Amazon and Apple TV and Disney channel. Um, and they don’t have it because they’re not shooting. And so when things do start, my advice is be ready. But in answering your question, yeah, it’s hard for a young dancer to get a break, right. There’s less opportunities. And um, and there’s less ways to get at.  

Yeah, I’ve heard actually a few choreographers use this term. I know Calvit Hodge has used it. And so as from Jamal Sims and they say, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. And I love that.

It’s such a good quote, such a good mantra and thing to repeat. Um, especially in moments like this, where it is so tempting to take a little bit of a COVID vacation co-vacation, if you will. Um, I really like Tim, what you said about the need for more content. It didn’t dawn on me until this moment that the rate of consumption of media right now is probably higher than it’s ever been before. There will be huge demand for fresh new material enter talent. Right. So that’s really important. I think to remember,  

Just think of some of the jobs like, um, we have Zach Woodley is not in Utah doing high school musical. Um, but they’re not, I think, I don’t think they’re halfway through the season. They need a season. So when they can, they’re going to start shooting. Um, and uh, little mermaid came back from London. Um, movie’s not done. Those are just the projects that had started. And then if you start thinking of the projects that want to start, it’s going to be, I think, and I hope I’m right. I think it’s going to be a bit of a boom town that, um, once you can shoot, once we do get a vaccine and uh, we can really get back to work. I think, um, in our business it is going to be, it may be a, like a slight dimmer switch turning on. It might not be a full light switch, but it’s going to go on and it’s going to start burning bright, uh, at some point and it’s going to be a lot of stuff out there ready to go to work.  

Cool. I, I think that is a very hopeful thought. I will choose to keep that thought. Um, I do want to, I do want to circle back to what you mentioned around the audition, however, how nothing can be a substitute for that in-person in the room face to face exchange. So I hear you loud and clear, but I do want to add another angle, um, especially, and this is from the talent end of things. Actually, I love being asked to self submit to self-tape because I get to control all of the things I get to decide If I do 45 takes. I get to decide where my light is. If I change my outfit six different times, based on how it looks on camera. I get to choose the edit. I really enjoy that element. Um, and perhaps this is because I’m a person that has a decent technical aptitude for video editing, music editing, et cetera.  But, um, I’m wondering if there are any things, any elements, be it in the audition or otherwise that are happening now that you think won’t go away. Like the self-tape is, has always existed, but was used much less. Will it be used more? Is it useful? Is it helpful? Is it cheaper than renting space and having a massive cattle call, um, is, is the talent using their own lights and doing their own hair and makeup going to be something that stays because it’s cheaper. Is it visibly that much worse than the alternative? Like what, what things are we seeing now that you think will stay even in the new normal? 

Yeah, I mean, to be completely honest, I think that we were already straying less and less away from open auditions. There were hardly as much open auditions from when I started at the agency to right before COVID hit. So yeah, I think that concept is going to be more and more, at least it’s going to be more submission based, more direct bookings and more, um, select auditions. So private auditions.

Dana, let me ask you as a choreographer. Um, if, if you look at self-tapes, cause I think earlier on if we people would send us tapes and we would look at that tape and decided where we wanted to see them in person, this was back in the good old days, about five years ago. Um, uh, as a choreographer don’t you want to see, I mean, if you have to kind of separate the people that you know, and you work with, you have a relationship with, or that you’ve seen and you admire, from the people that you haven’t seen. So if you see somebody who submits a self-tape, uh, do you want to see them in person or do you want to, are you okay with just seeing the self tape and saying I’ll hire that, that person.  

You know what? You’re bringing up a great, an excellent point. The answer for me is both. I love a first round, like first like massive dump of video submissions that I can scrub through very quickly determine, you know, it’s true. What they say on performances. Start big, finish big fill in the middle. I will, I will watch the beginning of somebody’s submission and the end. And if I need any more information, I’ll go look for it. But that saves me a lot more time than, than inviting one at one at a time into the room or five at a time into the room teaching a two minute combination watching a two minute combination, like that takes a lot of time. And I actually, I don’t so much mind having the scrub process takes far less time, but then at the end of that scrub process, you’re right, Tim, I want to see the human and I want to know how they interact because it’s not just the talent that matters. It’s the directability, the energy, the relationship, the openness of the person to really get the job done, which is less obvious in a video submission than it isn’t.  

And sometimes it’s behavior in the room. One of the funniest auditions I ever observed, uh, the choreographer at the very end, uh, was getting ready to take a group of 10 dancers on a tour. And he was really ruminating and trying to make those last decisions. You got 20 people in the room, you’re trying to pick the eighth and he’s looking at it and he’s talking to his assistant and finally he looks up and um, I’ll use a different word, but he said, can I get the hands of the jerks that are out there? You know who you are? He didn’t use the word jerks. Um, he said, you know who you are. You’re the one that’s always, you know, making trouble when It’s not necessary. Can I just get your hands? And all the dancers kinda just looked at each other. I thought it was a hysterical.   

Did anybody raise their hand? 

Nobody raised their hand, nobody raised their.. but you understand the point. You’re trying to get a vibe. You’re trying to get a feel, especially when you’re going on the road or when you’re doing a movie. Look how long you were In the Heights when you’re choreographing that it’s, it’s, it’s a family you’re together every day. And it’s important to be able to pick up the vibe of the people that this is so important to be comfortable in the room you like to work with the people you like to work with. And so one of the challenges for a dancer is how do you become one of those people that people like to work with? 

Yes. And how do you get that across if you are that person that, but they don’t know it yet. How do you genuinely genuinely translate that, um, in an audition experience or in a self tape, even, um, how does that come across? How do you actually.. 

Yeah, I mean, it’s like right now, when I’m at the market or wherever with a mask, I almost want to tell people I’m smiling in this conversation.  

Who was I just telling this? My smiles have now transferred there in my whole body when I’m wearing a mask, my body smiles and I just bounce so that people know I’m kind. Um, it’s so funny that you mentioned that. I was just saying that it’s so funny. Um, okay. I love this story, Tim of this, like getting down to brass tacks, asking the room. Okay. Be real with me. Who, who are you like, how do you behave? Um, I’ve been in the room when similar, awkward in the audition room that is. When similar questions are asked as like this narrowing down of people. And it can feel very, um, uh, dehumanizing to an extent actually I think auditions are in general. It’s not uncommon. And I think it will be addressed. Um, when we see our world get back to normal, at least I hope to see this change. Um, a little bit less black girls over there, white girls over here. No, no, no, honey, you go, you go with the Brown girls. Okay. Red heads over there. It’s it’s like very extremely dehumanizing and insensitive. Um, I hope to see it change. Um, but I’m curious, Meisha, do you have any other, um, hopes for the way that auditions will change moving forward? 

Yeah. And I think that you brought up a really great point and I think that we are starting to see that change just this week. Uh, casting directors are changing their language. When they’re asking for submissions with, please tell me we’re done with ethnically ambiguous. Yes. I haven’t seen ethically ambiguous in the past week. I would say, 

What does it mean?  It’s almost like sending me people are there ethically I don’t know, right? It’s almost makes no sense. 

It seems very hurtful in a way to me to just say, okay, others, you others versus like you actuals you real things. You, you identities. 

You know, in the past have been asked to revise our submission because what exactly what that statement is, what exactly is ethically ambiguous? So we could submit and they could be like, Oh, we didn’t ask for this. 

Interesting. 

And then you’re like, well you, what, what are we supposed to be getting off of? So I think people are at the end of the day, right now, it’s a positive change that we’re seeing. And for example, there was a submission and they said, people, humans they are starting to use those type of terminology, which is refreshing to see 

Opposed to women or men?

Exactly.  And the end of the day, we’re all humans. 

So I love this. I love this so much. Okay. I’m so glad to hear that. Agents are starting to see a positive shift in the language of audition notices and casting breakdowns. I am jumping out here because I want to share a teachable moment, no matter what your job title, agent, casting director, teacher, talent, public figure, or private figure. You are a leader to someone, someone is looking to you for what to say and how to act. People in those leadership roles. And again, that means all of us, all of us are a leader to someone, people in leadership roles must demonstrate an effort to be culturally sensitive and progressive. It is our responsibility to employ the language and the actions that reflect the values of the world that we want to live in. The world that we are creating. If I’ve learned one thing since starting this podcast, it’s that words are important. Yes, words fall in and out of fashion. Yes, they hold different meanings in different contexts. Yes, I will almost certainly wish I had used them differently, but they are important. All right. With that said, let’s jump back in and hear Meisha demystify and decode some common audition language.  

I have seen a handful of times, some very coded language come through on audition breakdowns, which is what the buyer is asking for things for example, like dress, body conscious or looking for ethnically ambiguous people. Could you demystify what those words mean? Or, and are there any others that you think might be easily misunderstood? Any, any kind of code language that somebody new to the industry might not speak yet? 

Yeah, I think that’s a really great question. And sometimes, honestly we are trying to figure it out ourselves, but I think what’s really important is to understand the artists that you were making that submission for or the brand that you’re making that submission for. So body conscious going into a Beyonce audition is going to be completely different then going into a Ryan Heffington for example, body conscious audition. So, and that’s what our clients can and should utilize us for is I will have clients text me outfit options to make sure that what they’re auditioning in is going to be best represented and that they’re not going to walk in and be like, well, you said body conscious, but could mean literally pretty much anything that is form fitting to you. It doesn’t always have to mean I’m going to be wearing minimal clothing. It could just mean, I want to see your lines, our job to determine what that means for this specific project that we’re working on. 

Okay. Love that. So there’s this element of like, if, if communication is mom, then dad is like research, right? Talk, get the information and then research. Do your homework, figure out what that means in this specific instance. 

Absolutely. And I always see the most successful dancers that I have seen are the ones that if you’re going in for a commercial audition, per se, that you’re researching the brand’s history, that you are looking at previous brands that the in previous ads that have been ran by the company and see what direction they’re moving towards, tried to base your decisions of what you’re wearing and how you’re going to walk in from your research. And we’re here to help you with that research as well. 

Oh man. Oh, I used to be a person that fast forwarded through commercials. You know, I loved my shows and I wanted to just be in the show. But since I started working in commercials and since I’ve had the help of a handful of commercials in making a down payment on a home, I now watch commercials very carefully. And I really enjoy the things that I learned and observed. One of the things that I’ve noticed about commercials is almost always, you’ll see wedding rings on lead people. Married people apparently are trustworthy. They make good decisions. We want to be like that. Another thing that I noticed, and I, whenever I teach audition workshop or audition skills in, in any of my classes, um, I ask people for the last time they saw a belly button in a commercial that was not for Pepto Bismal or Tums, yet most of the dancers, I know when they go audition for a commercial, they’re wearing a midriff shirt. I’m like really? When was the last time you saw that happen on the commercial? Not very often. So I think when auditioning for commercials, yes. The idea of body conscious is certainly more conservative than if we’re talking music videos. In which case I cannot recall the music video where there was not visible belly button. Okay. So know what you’re going in for big, big thing.  

Um, okay. Let’s, I’d like to open to both of you, and this is like the kernel of what I would love to, for my listeners to walk away with today. What do your clients that are consistently working consistently do and what do they not do that keeps them working? 

I think the dancers that are consistently working are the dancers that take their career and they put it as, as dancers you are your own business entity and the dancers that have a business mindset and take their careers as such are the ones that tend to be most successful successful. So the do’s and the don’ts, I think we touched upon this in, at the end of the day, people want to be around good people, kind humans, people that they enjoy being around. And that is priceless. There could be the most talented dancer in the world, but they don’t have a good attitude at the end of the day, that’s is going to get around danceville. Like I used to, like I like to say dance world is very small and it can be extremely damaging to a career. So be a good human, keep your relationships up, stay in communication with your team and treat yourself as you should as your own business. 

Tim, do you have anything you’d like to add to that?  

You know, I always say look for when I used to audition and if I didn’t get the job, which happens all the time, um, less and less as life as went on. Um, anyway, I like to, I would make a point of going to see, see that show on TV to see who they did hire. I would even sneak into studios to watch them rehearse, to see who they hired. Cause I wanted to know, okay, why did they hire that guy and not me? Um, but at the end of the day, the dancers that work all the time, if you look at them, they’re really good. They, they are really good and not just really good technique. They know how to perform on camera. They know how to, uh, to act in the room. It’s like what you were talking about with self-tapes. They know how to self-tape they’ve taken the time to learn this.  

And, and it gets back to also being somebody that people want to work with on a personal level. So I don’t know really it’s there’s people you’ll see them and you’ll see them in every job. And you think, and you don’t even have to think about it. It’s like, well, of course they got the job they’re perfect. And that can change from job to job. Um, one movie is definitely different than any other and you know, sometimes it’s just not your job. It’s yeah, there is no really other explanation other than, you know what, it’s not your job. It just didn’t come down your way. So you’ve got to move on.  

I love that you brought that up and I love that you’re a curious person who, who will follow up on the project instead of develop this, um, like scab about the project, right? You get cut. And then all of a sudden that project becomes the worst and you didn’t want it anyways and you know, forget them. And you don’t go back to look at it because it might be painful, but you look at what it was and you learn and you, you learn from what you might do differently next time. Um, it’s one of my favorite things when I’m auditioning, when I’m in the room to not watch the talented people auditioning, but to watch the people on the other side of the table and what they’re watching, I really like that you brought that up. I think it would be good practice for the dancers that are listening to, um, try as hard as you can to not develop the scar or the scab that will keep you from looking back at that project that you did not get that you thought that you would, but instead go back and look and say, Oh, okay, what, what was that? And why was that not me? Knowing that the answer to that is it’s okay, that it’s not me, but you can absolutely learn from that. If you go look,  

I love that you said that. And one theory of mine and I, you see it happen. Um, because we, we often have our clients and we want them to come to us and say, “Hey, you know, I’ve been to five auditions and I get to the end and I don’t get picked, or I don’t get to the end.” Um, and the advice I see it happen where people, they take their last audition, the last loss, the last rejection to the next audition. And if you’re not careful, I love that. You said, there’s there scabs or whatever you want to call it. They, they take that loss and they start owning it right. Instead of shedding it. And you have to just, it’s so many times you tell somebody, Hey, you did great. It just, this wasn’t your, this wasn’t the time for your, we had somebody else that was, um, you know, that was better.  But if you take that loss, if you take it personally and you drag that to the next audition and then the next, and then the next, and then what you have on your hand is a desperate, depressed dancer. And nobody wants to look desperate and depressed. Um, you have to take, um, you have to take joy in, into every audition and that’s what you do so well with everything you do. Um, you have to enjoy it. Why else are you dancing? You know, you’re dancing the emotion and the joy of it. So you have to be able to express that. And if you’re going to kind of lock down those feelings and own them, it’s going to be more and more difficult,  

Right? Especially if you are dancing in the commercial industry where the whole point of commercials is to sell the idea that life, with this thing, with this pop star, with this product, with this brand, whatever life with this thing is better. You’re more joyful. You’re more happy, which I do think is kind of a damaging attitude as far as mental health is concerned. But it’s, it’s part of what we’re asked to do is like demonstrate life with this thing is so great before I had Skechers. I didn’t dance, but when I have Sketchers on life is great and I’m joyful and all the things. So the, the capacity to be happy and joyful and resilient is definitely an attractive quality. Anytime I’m looking to book a dancer, um, fortunately for me, it’s part of my disposition to be joyful. I’ve actually gotten some criticism on that. Like Dana, could you please stop smiling? Um, but yeah, it’s to not bring Tim the word you used, the thing is so, so important, desperate. And after being knocked out of the ring so many times, it can, especially at a time like today, when many of us have gone without a job for so long, it may be hard to walk in the room without that tinge of desperation. But I think, again, I go back to asking, when was the last time you saw a commercial or a music video where the dancers behind the product or the, or the person looked desperate? Like that’s not a look that we seek. Um, the other one that I use as an example, when I’m teaching audition techniques is fear. Like when was the last time you saw somebody looking afraid behind Beyonce? Actually never like, that’s the look that doesn’t get you hired. So although it is usually the feeling somewhere underneath all of that being afraid is normal in an audition, but it’s certainly not the thing that you’re selling most often  

I think you have to approach it as a skateboarder, approaches his ride down the hill or a skier or a, you know, any of those challenges. Is it scary? Yeah. It’s a little bit scary, but you know, it’s a blast, like a basketball player getting into a game. You have to approach it as like, you know, I’m going to kill this and I’m going to have a good time doing it. Um, I used to love auditions. I hate getting cut, but I love auditions. 

That’s awesome. Um, Meisha, do you have anything else, any other audition stories, whether they’re your own or stories that you’ve heard, um, coming to you via clients that might be inspiring or otherwise very entertaining. 

Yeah. Um, honestly, there’s so many that come to mind. When you say that question, it’s hard to pinpoint one experience or even my own experiences in, you know, auditioning. But I will say there is seriously nothing better than hearing our client’s experiences after an audition. And that has been unfortunately, a little eliminated during this time because we have an open door policy, pre pandemic, where clients would audition. They come in, they’re sweaty, they’re telling their stories and you’re getting to know your clients better. And that’s the joy. One of the many joys of our job. But one time specifically, this is probably more recent. I would say was there was three audition. There was two major auditions happening at the same time with a major job taking up. I think there was 40 girls booked on this project. And one was a super bowl audition. One was a Superbowl commercial audition. And then one was for a major artist music video that 40 top industry girls were booked on. And they were all happening at the same time. So we were, I mean on a high, right? Like this cannot get any better for our dancers. And then you receive the times and the locations, they’re all the same time and they’re all spread across LA. So at this point we’re like, Oh my gosh, what are we supposed to be doing? So it was a thrill. I will have to say very least because thankfully the choreographers actually all work together. You know, you hear the buzz of course. And you know, dancers started asking the choreographers, Hey, can I leave for just 10 minutes? And that specific choreographer, right? 10 minutes, that specific choreographer that was holding a Superbowl audition said it was his last audition for the next four years. So everybody was like, I need, this is my chance to be at this audition. I was getting time changes for these auditions every 10, 20 minutes call times were changing for the music videos. I mean, it was, I woke up at 6:00 AM and it was just non nonstop and that whole day clients in and out, and that’s as the best. That’s what you, what you want for your clients.  

Can I interject right here? Dana? One thing I want to make a point to the dancers is how invested we as agents are in your careers and you could see it or hear it in Meisha’s voice when she was talking about that. We, we don’t represent people that we don’t want to represent. It’s we believe in you. We want you to work. That’s our mission in life is to help you find your way in this crazy career that we’ve all chosen. Um, so when we recommend somebody for a job is because we know you is the right person for the job, and we want you to get that job. And so when, when they come in and their heart’s broken because they didn’t get the job or they come in, because they said, they’re so excited, cause they did get the job or, you know, whatever it is and happens where we’re just totally into it and totally committed.  And it’s, it’s, uh, we live through you guys. So it’s, you know, you are our passion where we’re in this business. You can’t be a dance agent without being passionate about it without loving dance and loving the dancers. And, uh, I just, I just want dancers to know that we are, we, we believe in you, we are with you and we just want only success for you. And, and we also understand that it doesn’t always come that way, so we want to figure out, okay, what’s way around it. How are we going to get to that point? So just want to say that,  

Oh, I’m so glad that you did. And in fact, I cannot imagine winding winding off. I cannot imagine going out on a higher note Tim, that’s a brilliant sentiment and it must be true. I, I don’t know how you would sit through how many emails a day on average, do you think  

Hundreds 

Hundreds, hundreds of emails a day without being passionate and wanting to see, um, your client succeed. And I certainly do feel that enthusiasm from you guys in, in being a part of your team, um, feel so tremendously supported. And, and also I’m so glad Meisha that you shared that you mentioned this, the open door policy. I hadn’t really considered the side effect of the pandemic being this, um, the bright spot in your day of seeing my face, uh, experiencing the joy or in some cases, the terror of an audition, um, that, that piece of the agent/client relationship is missing right now. I hadn’t thought about it. I’m glad you brought that up. I think it’s a good reminder for everybody who has an agent right now to check in with them, tell them, hello, tell them a story from your life. And, um, and for all of those dancers seeking representation, um, don’t hide, put yourself out there, put your work out there. There will be a need for you and your talent. Um, and hopefully that need will be coming soon.  

Okay. Well, Dana, thanks so much for inviting us on your podcast. Um, you know, I’ve been a fan of yours ever since it was a Dancer’s Alliance meeting that you were heading. And I remember thinking, I love that woman. And I went up to you afterwards and just said, I just think you’re great. And uh, I always thought you should be in commercials. And you know, 

I remember this, this was before I was at Clear Talent Group. And you introduced yourself to me afterwards. I think you said, I think you said, who are you? Which I think is how I started this call with you. So how appropriate is that? Um, well, I, I feel seen, thank you guys so much and thank you for talking. I hope that everybody listening learned a lot as I know I have, and I just dropped my, um, uh, Fanny pack off my chair. So that made a great noise. We’ll we’ll go out.  

All right. Thank you. Thank you.  

You guys. I miss you miss they good. Stay good. Stay healthy 

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a board member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast  to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.