13 Apr Ep. #120 Movement is Life with (Superman) Shaun Evaristo
How do you develop your personal style in dance? Today my guest Shaun Evaristo, choreographer for Miquel, Pharrell, and many many more, talks to me about where he got his signature style from. Who does it come from? How do you describe it?
Shaun talks through his process of finding himself as a dancer/choreographer and as a human. Get ready to dive deep on the topics of freestyle, process, and going through a difficult grieving season. Enjoy this wonderful conversation with Shaun Evaristo.
🔥Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Learn what goes into developing and mastering personal style
- Understand how to maintain you artistry while going through a grieving season
- You’ll fall deeper in love with dance
- WTMM Membership Join Here:https://www.thedanawilson.com/wtmmcomm
- Shaun’s Website: https://shaunevaristo.onuniverse.com/
- House of Blues Performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eliL66j7cM
- Clown School: https://www.theclownschool.com/
✒️ Powerful Quote from This Episode
Vulnerability is power. So everything I do really stems from an honest place of where am I at and where can I share that honesty even if it hurts. – Shaun Evaristo
Emotions are the fuel of life. -Dana Wilson
Nobody can do your feeling better than you can – Dana Wilson
I don’t think I have this one interest. I think I want to blend things. – Shaun Evaristo
Movement is life… and I must keep moving -Sean Evaristo
Soon enough the work that I put in with bare fruit. – Shaun Evaristo
As we evolve we fall in love with different parts of the process. – Shaun Evaristo
🕺About Shaun Evarsito
Shaun Evaristo is a Filipino-American professional dancer and choreographer. He began his dance training in his living room, watching tour performances and music videos on TV. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, he created a dance group with his family in their garage; where his love for the arts and movement was genuinely cultivated.
Shaun began dancing professionally at 18, and made the big move to Los Angeles at 21. Since then, Shaun has been involved internationally in the dance community — whether it be teaching, creating, mentoring, or creating events to promote and support the arts. He has helped develop artists from the ground up, especially in the Korean pop industry.
Shaun has had the opportunity to work with artists in the United States as well; most recently touring the world as a backup dancer for Justin Bieber. All of these experiences have helped shape who he is today, through travel and personal connections made along the way.
[5:45] Meet Shaun Evaristo
[9:15] Shaun and Miquel
[16:00] House of Blues Performance & It’s Process
[23:24] Who Influenced Shaun’s Style
[26:30] How Emotion Plays A Big Part in Shaun’s Style
[36:59] Being A Student Back Then & Now
[40:27] Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Freestyle
[46:27] Grieving With Dance
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Keep It Funky!
Intro: Welcome to 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, Dana Wilson, and I move people. I am all about the tools and techniques that empower tomorrow’s leaders to make the work of their dreams and live a full life while doing it. So whether you’re new to the game or transitioning to your next echelon of greatness, you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, Hello, my friend. Welcome to the words that move me. I’m Dana. And I’m stoked that you are here because Wowza, this is a special one. Riley Higgins who edits this podcast says that this episode feels a little bit like listening in on two good friends, catching up at a coffee shop. So if you’re interested in eavesdropping on a conversation, this one is for you.
Because one of those friends that you are listening in on is Shaun Evaristo. When you’re listening in on Shaun Evaristo, you know, you’re listening in on something different, something very unique, something extraordinary. Oh yes. My friend, you are about to hear some top tier nostalgia, vulnerability intimacy, some of my favorite things. And as if that wasn’t enough <laugh> we also are digging into the concept of style. We talk about free. We talk about Sean’s signature style and all of the reasons why he is the dance world’s Clark Kent/Superman. I’m convinced of this <laugh> 100% convinced. It’s all very exciting. It’s all very good. I it’s all very personal and heartfelt, man. I almost can’t wait. But first we celebrate. We start every episode here at words that move me with wins. And today is no different today. I am celebrating, having so much fun teaching dance class with the seaweed sisters last week at Tmilly uh, on Tuesday, we had a fabulous class.
Thank you to anyone listening who was there. Um, Megan Lawson is, is holding down a regular time slot every Tuesday from 12 to two at Tmilly and occasionally the sisters one or two or all three of us, uh, will drop in for that. So if you are in LA, um, you should be there. <laugh> keep an eye on the socials. Uh, if you are not already go give a follow to the seaweed sisters on Instagram and of course, to the individuals themselves, Jillian Meyers and Megan Lawson, uh, for more class update info specials. Oh, that is another thing I haven’t talked about this in a while. When you are a member of the words that move me community, visit wordsthatmoveme.com. Um, but when you’re a member, you have access to what I call the class dispatch. The community keeps each other informed of all the awesome training opportunities, classes, workshops, et cetera that are going on, not just in LA, but also in New York. Um, we’ve got community members all over the place. So come join us. Jump on that class dispatch. Uh, okay. That was me. That was my win seaweed sisters. Love it. Now you go, what are you celebrating? What is going well in your world? What do you love?
Congratulations. Keep on winning. I’m so proud of you. I think you’ve got this. You are doing it. Keep doing it. And now if you don’t mind, just pause what you’re doing and fully invest in this conversation with Shaun Evaristo. I am smitten with it while you listen to it, I’m gonna go listen to it. Also, we’ll both be listening to the same thing at the TA at the team time. We’ll both be listening to the same thing at the same time. Um, and I’ll check back in with you after enjoy Shaun Evaristo
Dana: My friend. Uh, I could, I could talk to you about anything under the sun. I think for a very long time, we could talk about at things, but today I would love to talk to you about style. Um, I think it’s safe to say that your style of dance, of business, of communicating, um, all three are very special. They are emotional, they are sensitive, they are thoughtful. They’re so sincere. Um, and man, I’m honored to have you on the podcast. So excited to talk to you. Welcome.
Shaun: Thank you very much. That means a lot, uh, what a awesome intro. Thanks Dana.
Dana: <laugh> um, well it’s only gonna get better from here because you’re gonna take the floor next. Um, I would love for you to introduce yourself in a way that seems fit for you right now. Just tell us anything you would like us to know about you
Shaun: <laugh>. I haven’t prepared anything. I, my name’s Sean AO. I love dance. I love, um, connecting with people. I love helping other humans and just finding my way through the world, uh, especially in this timeframe, you know? Uh, it’s been so interesting. So yeah, I I’d say as far as any type of intro, uh, outside of who I am, let’s say who I work for or stuff like that. Are you, do I need to say those things as well?
Not if you don’t feel the need, um, <laugh> I’ve had guests give me the full resume. I’ve had guests say I am a human being.
Uh, if it, I don’t know for those is maybe that may not know me, uh, on here. I guess it’s important for me to share a few things. Uh, I, uh, created movement lifestyle, which was, uh, a studio and a, a lifestyle brand that was created, uh, for the community. Um, and that was one of the things that I have, um, yeah, just feel very proud of. I also choreographer creator, I worked for many people and also created for many folks, uh, inside of the K-pop realm J-pop realm and yeah, just, I guess, other parts of music. But, uh, so some of the artists that I really, really enjoyed working with was, uh, Miguel or Pharrell. Um, these are like two people that I look up to very much and also enjoy their music and just to be able to be in the same room as them was just awesome. So, uh, yeah, I mean, I honestly can go more, but you know, these are just, uh, really awesome things in my life that I feel happy to, to share. Uh, and, uh, I guess one last little tidbit, uh, uh, which I didn’t say ahead of time, which is, uh, yeah, I’m originally from the bay area, San Francisco. I gotta represent, um, born and raised and I gotta represent my garage and the unique company, this is a company based out of daily city represent straight up <laugh>
Yo, I love this intro. I’m smiling ear to ear for this whole intro. Thank you for sharing these parts of you. Um, I am glad had that you mentioned Miguel specifically, because when I think about, you know, recording artists and pop performers in general, um, who, who, who have a strong voice in pop culture, there are a small handful of those that I immediately associate with movement, or specifically with a person’s style of movement, JT and Marty Kalka in my mind, inseparable, synonymous, same thing with Ryan Hevington and CIA. There are couplings of sound and movement that just, that become linked in my mind and your movement partially because of our history, but your movement and Miguel’s sound are eternally bound in my mind. They like his sound equals your shape, speed, style texture. And I just like cannot get enough of it. I can watch it all day long. Um,
Oh, that, I mean, that means so much, you know, I, uh, especially to say my movement is connected to his sound, which is very cool cuz you know, that, that in itself, you know, we’ve worked together only once and that was our, uh, through TUI actually, uh, I assisted toge on that project, uh, and she brought me on to help and, and assist and how wonderful it was. It was just to meet and work together. But, uh, I think there’s a lot of people that follow my work and would also say the same thing that they listen to a lot of his music and see a lot of my movement or at least try to move in, in that fashion. Uh, which is really interesting. <laugh>
Okay. What is that fashion, if you had to give it words, how would you explain it?
Oh man. Uh, how do I even begin? Uh, that’s even difficult for myself, you know, <laugh> all I know is that, uh, you know, like my wife she’ll be like that’s so you <laugh>. And I think there’s, there’s a few things she makes fun of me so much. Uh, also because I’m, I’m kind of, uh, I don’t know how you say, I, I guess I have a little bit more of a serious demeanor at times, but she, that’s why she likes to make fun of me <laugh> and she’ll take all the, these nuances that I might do with my wrists or my jaw or my lean. Uh, and she’ll do them randomly, uh, just to make fun of me. She’ll be like, <laugh> at any moment, you know, I can turn and then she’s there like doing this
Little, doing Shaun.
Yeah, yeah. Really though. Really? Uh, I dunno how to explain it. It’s like if you tilt like one direction, like in the left of the right and then you kind of guide yourself in that area and Ooh, yeah, she, she says this, this is part of, uh, this is something you do that has a lot of power <laugh> it’s so it’s so strange.
I love that she has recognized it can, can give it words and can explain it and do it and like show it to you so you can see it on, on someone else. But I think, I think Aya is onto something because I might say that one of the key components and one of the like signature elements of your style is nuance. Like almost imperceptible. Like I is a master of the craft as well, so she can see it and explain it. But to a non dancer, it would be hard to say, oh, it’s his wrists or, oh, it’s his jaw or, oh, it’s his lean. Those things are so you know, nuanced. Yeah. An untrained eye might graze over it and not, not be able to point out or call out that’s what it is. And I think there’s a lot of nuance in the way that Miguel sings in his composition, in his production. Um, so that makes sense to me that that those two things would line up. But I would also add sensuality, um, without being like overt and aggressive sexuality. That really stands out to me about
My, my mantra is vulnerability is power. So, uh, everything about what I do really stems from an honest place of where am I at and how can I share that, um, that honesty, uh, even if it hurts or even if it makes me uncomfortable or makes someone else a little, yeah. It’s like showing this vulnerable side of, of me. Uh, I wouldn’t say at all times, you know, just, just, it’s just taking blips or moments like slides from myself and say, okay, this is the right temperature tone at this specific point in time. And yeah, I like stitching these things together.
You are an excellent curator of the slides of your life in the slides of vulnerability and emotion. Um, and while we’re here, I suppose it, we might as well since we’re on the topic, um, you and I got to be dance partners, thanks to you. <laugh> asking me to be your dance partner. Mm-hmm um, in one of my favorite all time performances that I have ever done in my life. Um, but I got to perform with you, uh, and a couple of my absolute favorite dancers, uh, who will get into in a second, but we, we got to perform, or we created a duet to sure thing by Miguel and performed a couple of times, actually one lives in infamy, infamy, infamously, one lives on the internet. <laugh> on YouTube in infa. Is that correct? Or does that mean bad? Does that mean not good? <laugh>
I, I have, I have no clue. I, I
Will wait for it. We’re gonna look it up. Infamy definition, a state of being well known for some bad quality or deed <laugh> I take it back. Um, so what actually happened was only one of those performances was captured and lives on line in perpetuity forever. Um, and that was a performance we did at the house of blues, um, for our friend TKs birthday. Yeah. So that chapter of like making that thing with you and performing that thing and then sharing that thing or seeing that thing on YouTube in the early days, like this is before every class is footage was posted there. Um, and then also kind of resurgence of it. Uh, a couple months ago you reshare it on Instagram and we had this outpouring of like, like enthusiasm and support and people saying like, that piece was massive in my dance journey and, and that, like, I remember being moved by it all at once all over again. Um, I would love to just talk about that blip in time. Uh, cause it was special to me for, for so many reasons. Um, but yeah, I just I’ve already scrambled my way around it. I’ll I’ll toss to you. <laugh>
Caught it. Uh, yeah. How could I explain that? Other than in, uh, alignment, you know, um, where you were at in your life, where I was at in my life and I think you caught my, like, we caught our friendships at the right time. Um, I know that that was a really very funky place for me internally. And it was really, uh, I think I was in pain. I was hurting just looking for friendship and looking for connectivity and yeah, I found some of that through you, you know, and okay, here we go. Friendship’s aligned. Let’s make, let’s do. And mm-hmm <affirmative> I don’t know. I’m not the most, uh, like I, I think I’m an out extroverted introvert. I don’t know if that’s how you say, but I feel like data. I feel like you are an extrovert and you are able to pull, um, a lot of that energy out for me to just, Hey, let’s, let’s go out.
Let’s do, let’s make let’s let’s play. And that really pulled me to get out of whatever, um, funk, you know, some weirdness that I, I was feeling for myself and I have this piece, I’m like, Dana, how can I evolve this? I have this thing coming up and you are the person that I see to do this with, you know? And, uh, it was such a amazing process cuz I got to see how you could morph something, especially me at that time was so exact or needed. Uh, it specific I’m still specific, but uh, different from how I was back then. I was very specific in the way that you were able to take specificity and really, uh, expand, not just the, the words of it or the lyrically, but on all aspects, you know, we’re able to, I mean, if you really look at, uh, the videos, you know, we could do a breakdown, you know, I could say like, this moment would not be this moment without what you are handed right there. Or little nuances like that really, uh, a performance and uh, yeah. I mean, you are a master at that, um, like 100% and uh, you know, I, I also, I think there’s something in your hands, your fingers, Dana, that are so special. Um, and yeah, I mean, if you look at that performance, which is years ago, you could still see that it rides till now.
Yo, thank you for that. My, my husband, uh, calls them mermaid hands he, he sees it too. He says I have the best wrists and hands in the business.
I love that.
I, I love my wrists. I love my I’m glad that I’m glad that they’re receiving a shout out. <laugh> um, well, I, I remember a couple rehearsal days at the old millennium, um, before, like I think you had just caught me up to speed on the first verse, which I mean, I definitely have favorite choreography in the world, but when it comes to favorite favorite choreography in my body, that first verse of sure thing is <laugh> high on that list. I love how it feels to dance it. Um, and I could probably recall it right now. I think it lives in my bones somewhere. Wow. But I remember it’s cool. Right? There’s like that information is stored somewhere. Um, yeah.
I, I remember an early rehearsal phase or an early rehearsal day that we had where you invited Marty Kalka to come, who I was assisting a lot at the time and you and I both looked up to in this big, tremendous way. And I remember feeling like the heat of his approval expectations, what he thought, what he, blah blah. And I remember feeling like I, this is what it must mean to like really put yourself out out there. Cuz I had tried to do right by him and do good work, like do his work well for him. But when it wasn’t his anymore, when it was mine, when it was yours, when it was ours, it was so different. That feeling of being watched, um, was like massive. And I remember feeling like, oh, I’m grown up now because I’m sharing with this person who I admire something that doesn’t have anything to do with them. It’s mine <laugh> or it’s ours. And we, we, we made it and we can take his, uh, thoughts, opinions approval or leave it. But I really felt like tremendously proud and very aware, um, that like there was a difference between doing something that was for someone else and doing something that was not <laugh> like doing something that was for us. So that was a massive moment at that chapter for me, which really that was like heavy duty Marty chapter. And
I think I would love to add on, on that in just a sense that I, I feel that I wouldn’t be what I am without looking at Marty. You know what I mean? I, I feel, even though I didn’t come from his training stuff, of course I would take classes, but I never developed underneath him. I feel still feel cut from the same cloth. Uh, if someone would ever tell me like, uh, you know, where did your style come about? Uh, I would point to that guy <laugh> first off and then to develop my own, uh, kind of branch from, from, from whatever he was kind of creating and then to say, okay, with this branch, now we’re gonna show you like what this looks like. And you know, of course it’s just like nerve wracking, right? To, to show someone, you look up to you, your work, your yes, creativity. And along with you who you obviously work with him. So it, for me, it was, ah, I hope this is good. <laugh>
Exactly. But like it was that it was like, I hope this is good, but matched by like, I know this is good and I hope you think it is too. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, definitely. Um, and I think he did, which we’ll follow up on that, but I’m pretty sure he loved that shit. <laugh> um, oh, I’m also working on not swearing as much. Dang it. Sorry. I’m pretty sure he loved that. I’m pretty sure he loved it. Um, okay. So you mentioned like Marty is one of the places you would point to when it comes to like the references for the style that, you know, your, your signature thing. Is there anybody else comes to top of mind for your crews that you grew up with? And
Uh, if I can, uh, just share across the board, uh, I would have to say Jason Wright, I’d have to say super Dave, uh, and then I’d have to, uh, kind of like that line for me was very important, especially in terms of, uh, moving to Los Angeles. Right. And then prior to Los Angeles, I’d say, uh, jab, walkies, and then you go to the bay area. I would have to say, uh, there’s a group prior to jab walk’s named mine tricks. So, uh, they were, it’s like jab walk’s before mine tricks. I used to watch them growing up. Uh, and yeah, there were huge there’s, there’s a bunch of bay area crews that really impact me mind over matter chain reaction. These are all teams that I grew up watching. And then there’s like this sort of this SoCal scene, like PAC modern, uh, Kamo.
These are all like, as I was kind of growing up. Uh, and then this is prior to the move of Los Angeles. So I think I would take all these elements and say, okay, this is essentially where I, I pulled some of, uh, my information from as a student mm-hmm. But, uh, I think where I differentiated from everybody, uh, really came into, when I was able to tap into my emotion, find out that vulnerability is a power for me and really separate myself. Not just like, oh, I’m different from you, but more so, oh, this is something that I have that like, no one can take. This is really like from my life and I really can utilize this. Um, and no one, I don’t care what anyone’s this, you know, this is mine. Yeah. So, uh, yeah, that’s like a quick snap, uh, shot all across some of my influences, you know, uh, into understanding how they get, how they input it into my life and then how I was able to kind of, uh, step away from, from those influences
Mm-hmmman. Thank you for sharing that. Um, no problem. I, I, I agree. I think emotions are like the fuel of life. They are so wildly important and to be able to understand them well enough to sh to embody them and share them visually on your body, in your body. Yeah. That is a superpower, my friend, and it can’t be taken away and it can’t, nobody can do it better than you because they’re yours. Like no one can do your feelings better than you can. Yes. So that is, it is such a, a, a unique and special superpower.
You know, I, uh, had a, it was like a while back, but I had a talk with Jill just through text, I think. And we were just talking about Jillian Meyers. Sorry. It just, uh, yeah. How our, how our old videos that we did together were just so emotional, like two emotional we’d like cringeworthy, where we’d look back at the work and be like, what’s wrong? Like, why, why are you so sad? Like, like, we’ll go back to the videos of the work and just, I can’t believe we felt like, but it was such angst at that time, such like, oh, well this is where dances at the moment. And we wanna do this. And like, although of vulnerability and emotion is a superpower for, for myself, <laugh> I can go back to say, okay, yeah. Now we can dial it down a little bit. I mean, it’s like, when you first know your power, you’re just like shooting the power everywhere you go and creating destruction. <laugh>, you know, it’s kind of like that. You’re just so reckless with, with, and then finally, of course, after years you’re able to like really hone in on, oh, okay. This is, this is how to utilize it. Like, yes. Yeah. <laugh> yes. But those, those videos back then, oh my God. I was like, I laugh at them, but I also honor them at the same time. Yeah.
They were essential to, to getting you that understanding of your superpower. Yeah. It’s like truly Shaun and I know we said this. Okay. So shortly after you reshare on Instagram, the sure thing piece, um, we, we jumped on the phone and we’re like having like who the, uh, the decompression moment, the nostalgia. Oh my God. And I, we were talking about, I don’t remember what exactly it was that led to this, but something about that vulnerability and intimacy on stage, which also like, that was another reason why that was a huge moment for me to be anything other than cool on stage had never really been of interest for me, but that was different. Like that was being intimate, being vulnerable, being, being like, you know, something other than like powerful in charge. Cool. Like that was a huge shift and awesome. Wow. Um, and as we were kind of unpacking that together, I don’t know how, but oh wait, do remember you mentioned being a nerd for dance.
Yeah. You’re like, yo, I’m just geeking out over dance right now. Like I’m in the chapter of my life where this is is different. This is different. But the thing that’s the same is I’m a nerd for dance. And I realized in that moment, I was like, yo, you are like Superman. You’re like Clark Kent in the glasses. And like, you know, doing the like nerdy normal guy thing. <laugh> but then there’s this like phone booth transition, as soon as Miguel comes on <laugh> or as soon as you enter a dance studio or, you know what it’s, as soon as music starts playing where you become the super hero. And now hearing you explain that chapter of your superhero story, which is the discovering of the power, there’s always that chapter or that, um, sorry, I’m not a big comic book person, but there’s that like story? That’s like, it’s outta control. You just found you got bit by the spider and now you need to learn how to use the web or like, right. I obviously I’m out of my element in this analogy bit. No, with you, there’s always that chapter where the superhero is a fumbling mess with their power and it’s essential to them mastering.
Yes, absolutely. I, I wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have been, uh, what I am today without that mess, you know? And, uh, I think there’s, uh, I want to, uh, kind of send it back to our conversation and on that phone call too, like I also, uh, like I wouldn’t have the style, a movement that I have now, or the way that it, that it feels or looks without the mess. Right? This is without some of the knowledge, there was a lot of gaps in my knowledge as well. And as much as there were gaps and I learned how to fill them over time through, uh, training and knowledge and whatnot, I wouldn’t have made the movements Cho the movement choices I made, if I did know them, you know what I mean? So I almost wanna just understand and sort of honor that like the mess is, was truly a, a part of it, the unknowing, the, yeah. And, um, I mean, not in all cases, is that good, but in this case it was like, it was really important for me to not have that correct way to do something. So that way I could make this sort of phrase that way, cuz otherwise it wouldn’t have been what it is, if that makes it any sense.
I think it does. And I think, I think you’re, um, kind of circling in on one of the things I wanted to talk about, which is technique because I, I often, if I’m having a conversation about style, usually technique will come into play at some point. Um, but your like your early days of dancing, um, relative to probably mine, because I grew up in a dance studio from age three, um, was less about technique. Um, so maybe there were gaps in your training that left room for your superpower to grow. Yeah. And then as you evolved your taste, like your eye for like, whoa, that’s great. What is that? And somebody was like, that’s popping. And then you were like, I wanna get good at that. And so the technique evolved from there versus I think a lot of people’s experience with technique is it’s there at the beginning, you start at the bar doing Demi, Demi grand.
Yeah. The superpower comes later. Maybe, I don’t know, I could be making this up. But from the outside, looking in, it looks like your superpower had so much room to evolve and to drive. Um, I’m not saying that you weren’t technical because you were the control. Holy hell. I, I don’t actually know sometimes how you were able to stay unless you have like sticky stuff on the bottom of your shoes. <laugh> but your, your control is as far as I’m concerned unparalleled. Um, but I don’t know. What would you say to that? Like the relationship between technique and style in your evolution as a superhero <laugh> Where does that fit into the superhero story?
I know. Uh, so I would say like my, my first I’ve gotta track it back to my first hip hop teacher who is, uh, Allen frees from San Francisco, mine over mattered. A lot of his movement was all groove. So I would just go to his classes, just take the train and, and learn. He he’s tall, huge. And he would just stand over me and watch and make sure I’m doing something right. And, and like, I loved it because it just got me to push my level. I obviously, uh, you know, was scared and you know, but then pulled up and I think that’s very important because that was a really great base for me to sort of start with. Um, but stylistically, you know, I didn’t have teachers around me constantly, so it was often lock myself in the garage, uh, and, and bigger movement, like things out, movement, phrases, uh, figure out a music video that I see, or maybe the way someone might rap.
You know, I remember watching Buster rhymes for the first time on like, uh, cable and it, you know, just the way that he would, uh, come back and forth to a camera. I, I would practice not the movement, but the nuance of how he would tilt his head or bring his hands forward. Uh, like you name it I’m of course, then you would go from a different music video of bus runs and you would see Janet Jackson or, you know, and then I would start to see these different elements. Oh, I don’t have to just follow this one style. I loved pop music. You know, I loved hip hop. I grew up with hiphop music, but I also loved pop. And from pop, I found musical theater, it was like this crazy world, just start to open up. And I, I just really understood that. I don’t think I have like this one interest.
I think I want to blend things and I like this from here and this from here. And I, in some way, I see myself as a, as a scientist, you know, mixing different things together and, and seeing what feel feels right. And not just, uh, what, what it, what it looks like or stitching things, but really like making it natural, uh, or having it come from me naturally. Um, yeah, without getting too wordy, just, I love being able to play around with different things. So that’s where the technique would come from. That’s where the blending would come from and not everything would be correct at the time, but, uh, yeah, I think it was a part of the process.
Hmm. Number one, I wish that we grew up training together cuz I think we would have, have had very much fun. Um, but number two, I’m curious to hear about how much of a role freestyle played in your training process. Because I remember when we started dancing together more often and, and creating together freestyle was such a huge part of your world and it was a huge insecurity in mine. Um, and working so closely with Marty, I felt it was really under the microscope cuz freestyle is also a huge part of his world, like his creative process, but also kind of the culture of his group at the time. Yeah. Um, so I, yeah, I would love to hear more about that.
Yeah, absolutely. I, I wouldn’t say, uh, I, I was a part of the freestyle scene. I would say that my freestyle really came from the club. Like I, I love going to the club in the bay and I love coming to the club in LA. You put me in another environment and the that’s where I learned social day, you know, I mean how to just get down and, and enjoy yourself and not necessarily freestyle to, to battle, but to, to show what you have, you know, to feel good in that moment when you’re listening to the music. So I think that’s where a lot out of my freestyle kind of come from is just us dancing in the club, finding friends and, uh, yeah, that, that is what freestyle was for me. Um, and that just sort of translated into my work. I would make things based off of free styling first and then pulling from those elements to, into choreographic sequences.
And that I think that element, um, played a part as I continued to grow, whether it was professionally inside of choreographing for artists, I’d still freestyle in order to make sure that I put sequences together for them, or if I teach for a camp there’s always, you know, freestyle sessions or, or parties to go to. So for me, that just felt so natural to get into. I never really, I’ve never jumped into the battle scene. I think that’s a whole nother, uh, space that I have a lot of respect for, uh, in terms of mentality and the way you enter. And it’s just like a high level of respect that I, I would rather, uh, support those that want to do that. Um, but you know, put me in a aside room down
Um, I love and I cosign. Um, but I wanted to jump back to a, a word, a keyword that you just dropped and the, and a huge mentality shift for me brought about by you. Um, because yeah, freestyle and my lack of confidence in that realm were hugely, it like took up a lot of real estate in my mental chatter, in my dance life. And then I remember a, a drive, you and I did a little road trip to Vegas, I think to perform that duet. But I can’t remember now, is that what we were doing? Oh,
Had to be that for sure. Okay.
Um, and we were driving, just talking out dance, listening to music and, um, freestyle came up somehow and you were like, well, all it is is show and prove like that’s what it means. And I was like, wait, what, what, what, sorry, I’ve heard freestyle defined like 85 ways. And none of those were less than 250 words. Like how did you just sum it up? Been two words like that. You said show. Yeah. Yeah. And prove, yeah. You show your skills and you prove that you love it. And when those were the only two restrictions, it absolutely took the lid off of what before was just this stifling pressure for me to be the dopest from 360 degrees. Right. Like if you’re, when you’re in a cipher, it’s not just about like, you know, being the best performer or looking good from a Perin from like, you know, it’s like it really, to me, that was a tremendous pressure, but you poked these two little holes show and prove, and oh my gosh, I’ve been dancing since I was three. I absolutely have stuff. I want to show you. I have skills that I want to show and I love it so much. Oh my God. The proof part that’s easy. So that was like hugely liberating for me. And I have to thank you. Cause it really changed my,
I, I, the crazy part for me is I really feel that I’m still constantly developing that side of me. Like I it’s, I, I would say for both. Right. Like I love choreography as much as I love, uh, freestyle. But when I think about you Dana, like you saying that you have, uh, kind of hesitancy inside of stepping into freestyle. I mean, if I were to just say the word improv, I think that’s something you might be used to. Right. Mm-hmm. And for me, when I made that correlation that, oh, improv, they just call that improv. It is the same thing, different people word it as freestyle, but, but it’s the same. I think there might be difference in terms of like a cipher and mm-hmm, like the way that, um, like another world might share, but mm-hmm, relatively improv and freestyle are like the same for me. As, you know, maybe somebody can tell me otherwise and, and I would gladly change that. But in my, in my mind, in my heart, I, I, I see them as the same, you know, in improv we’re, we’re responding to sound, I right. When we’re utilizing what we have in our body vocabulary, we’re connecting that body vocabulary to the emotion that we have and then, uh, letting everything align and letting the music sort of take us for that ride. Right. Um, yeah. That’s I don’t know. That’s the way I see it. <laugh>
I think it’s a beautiful way to see it.
Hmm. Thanks. <laugh>
I we’ve talked about that subtle difference before on the podcast, a little bit improv freestyle, are they interchangeable? What is the difference? And I think you nailed it. You’re like there there’s something about the atmosphere or audience or culture, the, the circumstance in which those two things happen right. Is, is, is, can be different. But also there are things about it that it, that are the same, no matter what. Yeah. Uh, a former guest on the podcast and a dear friend of mine, Arden Flint explains that, uh, a CIR goal is like the shape and humans can stand in a shape, but it is a cipher when those humans are active participants yes. In what is being shared. Um, and I, I do think that’s a hugely defining factor. Um, and I love to think about that. I love to feel it I’m so glad I’m no longer petrified with fear.
Um, when I step into, uh, a circle or a cipher, yeah. I feel like much more at ease. Having, having to focus on one thing or two things, if it is show improve, or if it’s simply being, or if it’s emotion or if it’s discovery or exploration, yo Sean, I started, I have not finished and I hope they don’t kick me out. But I started taking clown classes online during the pandemic. And one of the exercises we had to do was be simply be on camera for five minutes, no less. And you can’t have a timer. Like you can’t have your phone on you while you’re doing it. You can’t set a timer, use your internal clock gauge when that five minutes is up. And if you didn’t make it to five minutes, start over, but just be, and experience whatever it is that you’re experiencing. I stood in front of my camera for nine and a half minutes just feeling my feelings and it’s crazy to watch. And it’s also personal. I will not be sharing it, but it was a tremendous experience. I think you might really love
Wow. That I’ve never heard that before. That’s I feel like that would be a really crazy experience. <laugh>
Well, truly the only two things you are thinking of are time and your emotions,
It was, it was wild, so much fun, really love. I’m
Sure there there’s so many things that passed through that, that nine minutes or that five minutes. You, you know, I I’ve done an exercise where you, uh, you know, you stare at, at, uh, someone into someone’s eyes for X amount of time. Right. And kind of ride that you might go within that moment is, is crazy. Like even just you staring in the mirror for, for two minutes, that’s pretty intense. <laugh>
Super intense. This is the part of the podcast we call cheap thrills. If you are looking for a good time on a budget, <laugh> geez. Call a friend and ask him to come over. So you can look into each other’s eyes. Um, okay. So, but speaking of emotions, this is an interesting kind of plot twist. Another direction that our conversation, our, our nostalgia conversation went was like, you know, just a catch up on friends. Like, how are you what’s up? And I think both of us and both of everyone on the planet had dramatic highs and lows in the last two years brought about by the lockdown and all of its ripples. And, um, you, you mentioned you called it a grieving season and I thought that was beautiful, poetic and true in that like, yes, right now it’s fall or like right now it’s winter and it is cold as hell. Yeah. And it also intrinsic to like calling it a season means that there is a change on the other side or there is something else out there. Um, I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your grieving season if you’re open to it. Absolutely. Um, and tell me a little bit about the season you’re in now.
So grieving season for me, uh, uh, yeah, it, it, it was a long ride and I guess just to give a snapshot of it, you know, after the studio closed, I really just, uh, focused on how can I just take time to heal? How can it time to reflect? And let me turn off all the, the water here that’s running. You know, I think that’s the best way for me to put it. You know, if I had anything running, I, I would try to start it again and like, like, okay, no, no, let’s turn this off. You know, it would’ve, it would get quite overwhelming to try to start something because the world was still up and down. I mean, it still is, but mm-hmm <affirmative> in that time, it was very much so, uh, even more uncertain in some capacity. And for me, I just, yeah. I said, okay, let’s take a moment, shut it all off. And then I took time to just, yeah. Focus on the most important things. The most, the smallest things that would bring joy, you know, walking who, who would’ve known <laugh> yep. Wow.
Wow, Wrists hands. Yes.
So profound, just, uh, just walking on the block, you know, and really finding the joy and the smallest things. And it sounds very cliche, I guess, but it really had an imp packed on me because I didn’t take, I wasn’t somewhere else as I was doing that, you know, I really found a way to just, this is where I am right here, walking my dog, nothing else is tuning in. I’m connected to this, or I’m walking for myself after I’ve walked my dog. I will take a walk, you know?
Just like, okay, let’s just walk. And, uh, not running away from anything, not actively doing something, just focusing on taking the time. Right. I think toge has this phrase take the time that time takes that, that time takes the time, time takes something along those lines. And, uh, I love that phrase. Just, uh, yeah. I, I just took the time to be and, and grieve and I, let it happen is, is what that season was. And now I think from that point, it, it was a lot of realization that I have a lot of missing gaps. Like there’s a lot of gaps between, uh, like what I want to do and where I’m at currently. So in that grieving season came student season mm-hmm <affirmative> and it was a switch of, okay, that happened. So what, you know, it was that question, you know, me asking myself and it really felt like I’m facing myself, you know, looking at me like, so here you are, what do you want to do now?
And, you know, sometimes I wouldn’t answer other times, I’d try to get up. And it was just all of, of a sudden this lock into place let’s take this energy and, and learn. So I started learning about so many new things in this time. I feel so filled to be a student again. And not that I stopped. I think I just was so filled, uh, with so many things in my, from, you know, ML to teaching, to all these things, responsibility over responsibility. And I forgot about me. I really forgot about me. And a part of me was helping other people that was like really large. Uh, and I think I let that overtake me and I didn’t realize that until I let it all go. Right. And once, you know, universe go, I don’t know, just took away what ML was. And then I had to condense it down to ML is a philosophy it’s, that’s it that move his life and I must keep moving.
So then I used that to continue on, to move and be a student that I, I started raining again. I took classes, I trained with friends back into my back into foundation and, you know, I’d ask questions, just like, uh, you know, teach me, you know, how do you, how do you do that? And that was so awesome because this young version of my stuff started to appear. Uh, when I, I was 18, I, I went to Japan, uh, my first time. And, uh, there was this building that had reflection and at night at a specific time, all these people, you know, you’d see the business, people get out and then you’d see all the dancers start to come in because the business closes. So the whole building is wrapped around with, with, um, windows and all the dancers use it as mirrors, um, to practice their set or just Toyer together without the, the windows.
Um, but everyone would have their own corner of some sort. I say that in, in that sense of, of, um, in my season of learning, um, I started jogging and running and I ended up being at this place, down the street here in Pasadena. And it, it was the same setup. It was like calling to me, says it was like, Hey, Sean, remember that 18 year old self that, uh, would just train like everybody else, you know, uh, just go into the, the mirror or see a, a reflection on a building and just start dancing.
Yeah. It’s calling to you again. So it that’s what happened is I just started training by myself and, uh, I’m telling you not drills, just like drilling again. And then I would call friends like, Hey, I’m practicing. I wanna practice this. And then they would come and drill with me, or I would learn something from them. I remember, um, yeah, like one of my friends Halima, she came him over and she would teach me some movements from her culture that had to deal with my hips. And we were just drilling inside of that space. It was so wonderful cuz I’ve never done that in my life. I was like, I’ve never moved like this. It’s perfect. And then we would take the next, uh, part of the session to freestyle utilizing that particular technique. And um, yeah, that season then turned into spring and here we are, like, things are moving. Life is movie. Uh, you know, now I can really feel that, um, soon enough, the, the work that I will be putting in will bear fruit. Yeah.
I I’m excited about everything you just said. Especially the unsaid part art, which is you can spend your whole life dedicated to dance in many different facets. Right? You can start a dance brand, you can be a dance teacher, you can be a dance choreographer, you can be a performer and there can still be things you’ve never done movements that your body has never done after all of that dedication. That is so freaking cool to me, a little bit intense kind of daunting, but I love it.
So thank you for reminding me of that. So important. Um, and it sounds like you really have succeeded. It’s a, I am hesitant to use that word cuz there’s no failure in this specific instance. I don’t believe that that is even that there is an a side of the coin, but it sounds like you managed to keep the parts of dance that worked, keep the things that youand turn off everything else. Um, or quiet, quiet the other parts or like honor them and leave room for them to exist. But like in the instance of having a business, God, I know there’s nobody who loved their business the way that you do. I, and when it became like not an option, you can’t just like change your mind about that and think like, well, no, I still can do that thing. I mean, you really, some of those choices were made for you. Um, and it could have killed everything I think, but it sounds like you rescued the parts of dance that you love and there will be a, a, a summer season. Like there will be we’re walking into spring. Yo it’s hot. It’s in my house right now. Cuz I turned my AC off to do podcast. Woo. She sweat <laugh>. Um, and I can relate, I think I’ve had a, I’ve had a sad season relative to me, especially I’m a freaking be sunshine, shimmer, jazz hand. Fantastic.
Yes, you are
Much of the time and it’s been, uh, a sad season. I can, I can relate with you specifically on the drills part because they were, they, it was never really a big part of my training drills. Um, and I, somewhere along the line, probably because of my lack of drilling <laugh> that I thought that the most magical, respectable, you know, special about dance was like the storytelling of it or the fun of it, or the being able to, um, introduce joy into the humdrum lives of anybody who doesn’t dance. Like I thought there was this like that, that was the part I was meant for and good at and wanted and
Good at it though.
<laugh> thank you. But when I, when I found out that I didn’t feel that way, it felt like lying to keep telling that story. Yeah. To keep like subscribing to that being, you know, the most magical thing and most important about what I do that was conflicting for me. So I had to, um, like you said, kind of turn things down or turn things off and just say, okay, not that right now. Okay. Not that right now. I love this part still. And I found in drills, like I love moving my body. I love challenging my mind and body relationship. Like, can my brain learn the pattern? Can my body do what my brain says? Can I do it faster? Can I do one half of my body doing one thing? And the other half, the other thing just doesn’t have to be fun or smart or witty or social commentary or relate the, in a special way to the music or evoke any emotion from an audience is just moving so that I can be moving. And, and that was mm-hmm, huge for me. I’m so glad that drills exist. I never thought I’d be the person that says that, but I am.
Uh, it’s so interesting. Right. Just, but I also think as, uh, we evolve, right, we, we fall in love with different parts of the process. And I, I, you know, that’s something to remember is that like, you’re gonna love this part of like dance in one way, but you know, you’re not gonna love it the same way the whole time it’s gonna evolve. I mean, you might even grow outta love of that part and that’s okay. You know, but there’s other spaces for you to fall in love. And um, I think that that’s where dance is so expansive. It’s if you choose it though, right. Because I could easily say, okay, that was my run of dance. Um, thank you, ML. Thank you. Dance. Thank you. All of it. Peace out. No problem. And that’s cool. No problem. But I still felt a calling, you know, and I think we’re, we both still feel a calling as being nerds of dance. Right. , you know, I love, I love Marvel. I love star wars. I love all that stuff. You know, I love but dance. It all comes from dance and uh, this is gonna sound strange. But part of the reason I even love star wars or Marvel is because of how much I love dance. I, I love finding like these weird connections between it all. Uh, it’s so strange, but it, yeah. Nerds of dance. <laugh>
Yo, as far as I’m concerned, you are dance’s Superman Clark Kent Superman. I can’t, I can’t, I honestly, I really, we could continue, but I can’t think of a better place to wrap it up and put a bow on it than that. I think you are a superhero. Thank you so much for being here. My friend.
Thank you. I appreciate you too.
Dana: Oh all right. My friends. What do you think? Did you enjoy listening in on two homies catching up and geeking out over for dance? <laugh> I’m grinning ear to ear, man. When I listened back to this conversation, I genuinely grinned ear to ear the entire time. Um, I loved flashing back to rehearsing for sure thing, with Marty in the room, watching and being so learned about his, uh, his take on it and feeling ownership over a special thing. Um, I really, really love what Sean has to say about freestyle and about keeping the parts of dance that he loves, even though, um, a part of dance that he loved very much, that relationship has changed. Um, I think maybe my biggest takeaway when I listen and when I think about Sean is that it really is both the small stuff and the big stuff that makes us special.
That gives us our signature style, the small stuff, as in like the way that he leans or the way that I move my wrist or the way that he uses his jaw, like that’s the small stuff, but the way that he grieves the way that he makes time to heal, the way that he protects the parts of dance that he loves and is will to release the rest of it. Like that’s big stuff. And that all factors in to your personal style, the style of the way that you work, the style of the way that you communicate the style of the way that you move. It really factors in. It’s very, very cool for me to think about kind of daunting. I might, you know, I might go back and listen to this just one more time. Um, but right now I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do right this very second. I am like, literally cannot wait. I’m I’m recording this into a microphone, staring at my computer and my fingers are hovering over the keys. Ready to take me to YouTube <laugh> so I can watch some early emotional Sean Ariso and some like early two thousands hiphop videos. That’s where I’m hit edited. That’s what I’m doing. Uh, you can feel free to join me no matter what you do though. Please keep it exceptionally funky. And I will talk to you soon. Bye.
Outro: This podcast was produced by me with the help of many; Music by Max Winnie, logo and brand design by Bree Reetz, and a big thanks to Riley Higgins, our executive assistant and editor, and also massive thanks to you. The mover, who is no stranger to taking action, I will not stand in the way of you taking action. I will not cannot stop you from downloading episodes or leaving a review and a rating. I cannot keep you from visiting thedanawilson.com to join our mailing list. I will not ban you from my online store for spending your hard earned money on the cool merch and awesome programs that await you there. And of course, if you want to talk with me, work with me and make moves with the rest of the words that move me community, I will 100% not stop you. Visit thedanawilson.com to become a member and get a peek at everything else I do that is not a weekly podcast. Keep it funky, everyone.