22 Jun Ep. #130 Progress and Process with Toogie PT.2
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This week is MORE Toogie. This is the first half of my two hour conversation with the sensational Toogie. We talk about her move from Miami to Los Angeles and what her process looks like choreographing for stars like Dua Lipa, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, and more. This episode is not to be missed so dig in now!
This week is MORE Toogie. This is the first half of my two hour conversation with the sensational Toogie. We talk about her move from Miami to Los Angeles and what her process looks like choreographing for stars like Dua Lipa, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, and more. This episode is not to be missed so dig in now!
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: My friends, hello, welcome. This is words that move me. This is part two with Toogie and I’m Dana so excited that you’re here because our interview, uh Toogie and I speaking together to each other over screens <laugh> was too full and way too fun for one episode. So we split it up and this is part two, which actually serves as a great introduction to Toogi
So if you’re starting here with part two, work, keep on listening, but do be sure to check out last week’s episode, where we talk all about the differences between movement directors, movement, coaches, and choreographers. We also discuss the role of art in service of the grieving process, um, and the process of her work titled Metanoia, which begins it’s run tomorrow all through the weekend at the Odyssey theater here in LA. That is June 23rd through 26th. If you are in LA, get your tickets. If, if you can please be there. Um, but if you can’t, especially, if you can’t be at the show, please consider donating to her fundraising campaign for the show. It will be the first link in our show notes so that, um, if, if you are down, if you are able, you can help her help pay her team. Uh, very noble cause and her team is truly the cream of the crop.
So check it out, check them out. Um, let’s see. More announcements. Yes. Quick warning about adult language here in this episode, um, you know, me and I think that’s, it let’s do wins now, shall we? This is a big one. <laugh> if you have been following the pod for any amount of time, more than two weeks or three weeks, <laugh> you know that we are celebrating our fiscal sponsorship through the dance resource center. And last week we had our first annual screening and fundraiser event and y’all, I’m on the verge of tears because it’s so exciting to think about something for so long. And then for that thing to actually happen <laugh> so I’m celebrating the event. Um, I’m celebrating the works that we screened five films, Smokestack Lightning by Charissa Kroger and Eric Schloesser Blueprint by Brandon Mathis and Quizzas by Hok.
We also premiered the new seaweed sisters film. Can you hear the excitement in my voice? Um, I am so tickled by this project. Uh, we call it Night At The Sea*ter, see what we did there. Sea ter. Anyways, uh, this is the new seaweed sisters project we made with our friend machete, bang bang, and our dear friend, Danny Madden helped out on so many levels and, oh, it is fun. Um, and then of course our first ever WTMMCOM production Eight Counts: The words that movie, this was a collaborative film made with the help of several of you, people listening, like words that move me, podcast listeners, um, and WTMMCOM members, WTMMCOMM of course being the words that move me community are members. Um, y’all eight counts has been a work in progress for nine actual months. And last week our little art baby was born and I could not be more proud of her.
Um, there’s enough to unpack there for its very own episode. So I will stop right there with this one. Um, it really does take a village and we really did it. I am counting, oh, see what I did there counting, uh, I’m counting our first screening and fundraiser a major success, huge win. Thanks to all of you. Um, thank you for your support. And if you were not able to be there, you can still support by donating to words that move me via our fiscal sponsor, the dance resource center, um, which let me just demystify for you. What that really means is that you donate to the dance resource center. It is tax deductible, a tax deductible donation, and then they keep a small percentage. Cut me a check. It is a win, win, win. You win for supporting your community dance resource wins because they help so many artists and our organizations. And I win because I win always haven’t you heard the podcast I’m winning every single week, whether big or small, and this was definitely a big win. Um, thank you again. Okay. That’s me. That’s what’s going well in my world. How about you? Tell me, hit me. Shout it from the rooftops go. What’s going well in your world.
Yay. All right. My friend, congratulations, balloons, confetti trombones, marching bands. You are doing it. I support you. Keep winning. All right, now let’s do this. I y’all. I love this woman. I love this woman. Teresa “Toogie” Barcelo is a star, a a, a bright and shining light. <laugh> in this creative life that we have. Um, I’ve always admired her and respected her as a dancer and as a choreographer. And now with the, um, kind of bigger, broader picture I have of her background, her values, it is all making so much sense. All the love, all the respect and all of the interest in what is coming around the corner from Toogie and for Toogie actually, and for all of us, thanks to Toogie so really exciting stuff. I’m not and choking on my words because I’m so excited to share with you this conversation with Toogie Barcelo.
Dana: So here here’s where we might begin. I feel like I kind of accidentally made a podcast about learning <laugh> I thought I was making a podcast about dance and choreography and creative career things. But the part that I’m most interested in is learning how other people learn and then me actually learning and sharing the things I’ve learned. It’s like, it’s, it’s big for me. So I would love to hear about your kind of early training days, specifically, the stuff that you learned, then that prepared you for what you’re doing now.
Toogie: Wow. I love, I love the tapping. Oh yes. The tapping of
Good part of me sometimes does wish we filmed the podcast because all of my guests have such exquisite body language and my face. Oh it’s oh, tell stories
Toogie: Also. Exquisite,
Thank you. Very activated. I usually get in like whenever I do self tapes or, um, uh, actually auditions in general, if there are callbacks and if they’re virtual, which most of them are lately I get, um, yeah. Could, could, could we see that again? Just maybe a little less, um, up here.
Oh, how dare they.
Usually I’m like, I get that a lot. Here we go. And I try to dial it back, but really it’s hard for me. Okay. Back to you.
Yeah. Well, it’s very natural. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, it’s not a, it’s not a for, it’s not a force expression or an exaggeration it’s it just is a natural, uh, your face muscles are just my face, like engaged and activated in part of your life.
This just my face. This is just my face. That’s what we’re gonna call the episode. <laugh> this is just my face with Toogie. Yes. Nice. Um,
So my training, yes, my, I can’t talk about my training, uh, without talking about the most important dance teacher I ever had. My mother, uh, really, uh, incredible flamenco. Yeah. Mainly flamenco dancer, but also did like all of the classical Spanish did ballet dance, modern, um, was a, uh, uh, just a incredible mover. Danced performed with me in her belly, uh, all the way through. Wow. Um, so the wiggles, the wiggles began at the embryonic stage. Uh <laugh> and as soon as I got out, she was, you know, pointing my little feet, my little biscuits.
Oh my gosh. Tiny toy toes. I’m losing it in it. <laugh>
Yes. And actually the, my first memory of learning, my first memory of learning, anything ever in life is a memory of my mother squatting down in front of my stroller and moving her hand, like displaying her fingers and twirling her wrists around, um, and singing this little song, uh, about this mother Wolf and her five little baby wolfs in Spanish. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, and I remember like in the memory, I see my little, I see my little phalanges creep up, uh, to meet hers and I’m, I’m imitating this, uh, this like hand dance of hers. Uh, and yeah, it’s, I, I it’s really just like, obviously I was learning things before that, you know, the sound of her voice mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, you know, food tastes and how to, you know, crawl and things like that. But actual memory of like, oh yeah, this is that time that I learned this one thing. Um, so it’s like hand my hands. My hands are just kind of like the, the part that
A huge, a focus the first, yeah. The first focus.
Yeah. The awakening of, of the dance in my body, when was through my hands.
Um, I would love to take that tender and beautiful moment and let you know, probably something that you will never be able to forget. One of my favorite words to mix up in Spanish is Wolf and I mix it with lips because LA Laos. Yes. <laugh>. So I’m wonder mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> so I’m wondering how different that song might be. If it were five lips, <laugh>
Five play lips. Oh, that’s amazing.
Um, sorry to now I do see the Wolf with like gigantic Big red lips. Yeah. Yes. Big juicy cartoon.
Hey, which actually that’s I haven’t seen it done. So mm-hmm <affirmative> there we go. A gift, a creative treasure born in this moment.
I will cherish it forever and ever. Thank you
Um, you’re welcome. Thank you for that offering. And that reminder that I have practiced to do, I would love to know about how freestyle influences your movement and what part of your training that held. Because I think when I met you, my idea was that you were a freestyle dancer. Um, and, and I I’m, I’m sure, I, and I honestly, I don’t remember the slice of the dance world that I met you through, but that was my thought. I, I thought that you were a freestyle dancer. Um, and it was only after getting to know you a little bit more. I became aware of how much more you are. Um, but did that play a big part in your early days?
Absolutely. Again, um, coming from a, uh, Latin culture, you know, we, we dance, we dance till 4:00 AM. That’s what we do, um, from it doesn’t matter if you’re a tiny little baby when it’s Thanksgiving or the night before Christmas or whatever birthday party, anybody’s birthday
For the Juanita, like, uh, you’re up, you’re up dancing, um, uh, till, till, you know, late, late, very past year bedtime. Uh, and you are you’re. Yeah, just, it’s just such a big, big part of how I, how I grew up. I remember, I remember my sister Rosa teaching me, teaching me like salsa and her room. Um, because I, you know, I like next family party. I really wanted to be able to like, get down Ooh. To do it And To be a part of the, the Big kid thing. Yeah. Cuz I was, I was doing, I was part of it. I was like in my own little body, like bopping around and, and you know, probably like just two stepping and maybe doing some flamenco. I mean, my, my, but I bet the wrist figures were going. Yeah. The Wolf, uh, my mother at my kindergarten grad, my mother choreographed a classical, uh, Spanish dance solo for my kindergarten graduation. So I was, I was dancing. Okay. Okay. Um, but I really wanted to like get the, the Cuban, like the Cuban salsa going, um, and uh, and then growing up also dancing and like free styling, cultural dance was my savior. I, I went to magnet schools where I had to, I love telling this story because, or this little bit of information, because I sound like an old lady. That’s like, I used to hike 10 miles up hill to get your, the snow and the hurricanes.
Um, yes, no, but I used to get up at like four o’clock in the morning as a wee little wee little child, uh, hop on a cheese wagon on a, on a bus, uh, ride for an hour to a very far place, a train station, get on a train, take the train to another train station, get off the train, get onto another cheese wagon. And then that would then take me to my school. So I was traveling, um, to get to school because it was my only access to a free dance education. Um, at a, at a much younger age, my mom would, she would barter, um, she would trade mm-hmm <affirmative> she was an amazing seamstres. So she would trade costume making and she would like clean the studio so that I could take ballet class. Um, but then when I got into like middle school age, um, I was going to these schools that were like super far away and in like, not that great neighborhoods mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and, uh, there was a lot of bullying.
There was a lot of racism. There was a lot of things to, to deal with of, uh, kind of like kids looking at me being like, you don’t, you don’t look like us, you don’t belong here. Um, uh, a lot, a lot of, uh, sort of like identity, uh, angst, because I was like being bullied and being called white. But I, in my mind, I was like, well, but I’m Latina. And that was, there was like a difference between those two things. So it was really, it was, uh, yeah, it was intense. And then my, my sort of weapon of choice was dance, cuz I would kind of just like keep my eyes down and not, you know, not really like try to engage, uh, and then wait for those opportunities to show that I could dance because the moment that I showed that I could dance, that I could like, you know, I could wind and I could booty shake and I could, like, I could do all the, all the dance, all the cool dances that, that things changed for me. They were like, oh you were, oh no, wait, you could dance. You’re cool. Mm-hmm <affirmative> you okay? We don’t hate you anymore. So it literally was like my, uh, just like social savior. Uh, yeah, my ticket to like don’t beat me up. I can, I can like move, move my butt. Really good. Oh my
Gosh. Check this out. Gosh, watch this. Watch this. Accept me please. Oh, wow.
Yeah. Uh, yeah. It’s like wait till the booty music comes on at the dance and you are good. Uh,
Thank you for sharing. Yeah. I don’t even know. Wait, what, what was the, what was the oh freestyle? That was
Freestyle. Oh my gosh. I got, I went with you. I went with you on that bus and that trained on that other bus. I and, and also, um, I think it’s not an uncommon dance story. I think dancing for acceptance showing yourself. And in this case, freestyle, shout out Shawn Baro for helping me understand this freestyle is show and proof. You show your skills and you prove yourself or you prove that you love it. And
Yeah, you prove how hard, how hard you work.
Yeah. I think even non dancers can see that and they accept that. Is this kind of strange currency mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm, <affirmative> not that that should be the case. Like should do we have to know how to dance to be accepted by God? But I, I, oddly enough, I don’t think that’s an unusual story, but thank you for bringing me into that. I, I used dance for friendships, for sure. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I, I remember very clearly wanting to fit in with any and all groups. And there were, you know, I like, I fit in with the theater club because dance, I fit in with the cheerleaders because dance, I fit in with the palms because dance, I fit in with my black friends because obviously dance and I actually got kicked out of the activities hall for doing the seawalk when I was in, when I was like a sophomore.
I love you for that.
<laugh> <laugh> I, that I, I was trying like, it was my ticket to be in and to be cool.
Yeah. To be like, no, I know, trust me. I’m I’m cool. Like watch this, you, you don’t, you don’t wanna hate me, right. Like that now. Okay. So that, that definitely tracks. Now talk me through how you landed in Los Angeles all the way from Miami. I actually do not know this.
Yeah. I, so I was, I was in, I was gonna new world, uh, in Miami to, to arts, uh, college mm-hmm <affirmative> and I to, I tore my caps. I was going way too hard. I was like 8:00 AM, ballet, fifth position re petite. Laro just, uh, and also doing Robert Battle repertory and also doing the west African, uh, rep pieces and, and just like, you know, and Then showing improving outside of that as well. And then showing up for yeah. Out and then no kind of PT, no yoga, no body care, No cross training. Um, horrible, horrible diet, horrible. Just like, you know, just eating rubbish. Uh, uh, so yeah. Um, injury took me out and I, uh, I had always, I had always been like a closet popper. Um, like I was, I was down to like, Yeah, this is how I know you actually. Yeah. Yeah. I, I was down to like dance and freestyle and also in the other lane of dance, uh, that is the like dance training, official dance training lane. Um, from middle school, my teachers were teaching improvisation, um, and composition and, and like we were being asked at a very young age and, and, uh, to like create and be creative and, and, uh,
Yeah, that’s where our stories are. Not the same. <laugh>
Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah, no, I, in hindsight, I see how lucky I was to have the teachers that I had in these schools. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, because the curriculum obviously was, was like really, really, uh, diverse mm-hmm <affirmative> and I think that’s something special to Miami and the way that, uh, they teach arts there. Totally. Um, but, uh, yeah. Had always been a C a closet popper. I knew I didn’t have the technique and that’s why I was a closet popper because right. I was cool to like freestyle hiphop and like, um, what they, what the kids call nowaday is twerking <laugh> um, there’s your grandma showing and <laugh> yeah, yeah. Uh, was twerking before it was called twerking. Um, but with popping that only happened like literally in my room locked door, I wanted it so bad in my body. It was such a magical way of moving to me, but I knew I didn’t understand the technique and I hadn’t met anyone that understood the technique.
Um, so you came to LA to meet the electric Baloo. <laugh>
Actually legend was the LA based popper that, that, um, I, I first laid eyes on my boyfriend still in Miami at this time, my boyfriend, uh, B boy named Rudy Golan. Well started as a B boy now as an incredible like actor writer, actor theater, artist writer. Extraordinary. Yeah. Yes. Shout out Rudy, uh, shout out Rudy. Yeah, we, we share actually, um, some mentors, uh, Rudy and I, um, uh, and so Rudy kind of like peeped that I was a closet popper and he was like, you sh you should do it, you know? Yeah. And, and I was like, yeah, I, I wanna do it. And he was like, oh, check this out. I think it was like a 2000, 2010 freestyle session footage of legend getting down where
Gonna find it. I’m gonna, I’m gonna find it. I’ll put it in the show notes.
Woo. I had never seen something so funky in my life. This the musicality. I, yeah. I, I’m not sure if I have the year, correct. Might be 2011. Might be 2000. We we’ll find it we’ll back and forth until we find it.
Totally. Yeah. Okay. Um, I can’t wait to see it.
And I just was like, that lit a fire in me. And then Rudy introduced me to, um, the coolest dude, uh, popper in Miami anonymous and his kind of like the crew, like I started meeting like the poppers of Miami mm-hmm <affirmative>, which was just like a couple dudes and no women. Absolutely. No, no women. Mm-hmm <affirmative> just a couple dudes. And I was like, cool. Yeah, let’s get down. And it was amazing because NAMS was like, you already doing, he’s like, as far as dance, you don’t need to change anything. You just need to learn how to hit Uhhuh. You just need some, some like popping technique and just add the popping on top of all the crazy actual on yeah.
Yeah because, the, the range, I’m sure the fluidity, the musicality, but I mean, like I’m with you, by the way. I think locking was definitely my, my first introduction into like funk styles, for sure. Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> and it’s, it is a natural match for my personality. Absolutely. I love popping. I love it. Bug style. I mean, come on, come on. Yes. So magical. It’s magical. It’s amazing. And it’s a wiggle, you get to booger around <laugh> but then have tiny explosions happening all the time. Yes. So it was the tiny explosion part that you needed that you, that you needed to refine. Yes. And truly that takes time, like the actual, rapid fire in a muscle. There are those of us who have it naturally like sprinters versus long distance runners. There are like by nature differences, but you can train your muscles to start firing and releasing more quickly. Yep. And is that what you did? Did you just go in on training?
Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. I, I was, I, every, every moment opportunity, I, right. I was injured, so I wasn’t in school anymore. So I, my TA my, my calves were torn, so I was laying in bed, practicing my arm hits. Yep. And my waves mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and I was like, this is, this is my time. This is my moment. When else would I get to focus on just getting my arm muscles to like rapid fire? Uh, whoa. At like, so I literally just laying in bed, you know, just like <laugh> Roger. Yes. Yeah. Listening to funk music, just like brown <laugh>.
Oh, I love this image so much. Oh my goodness.
Um, yeah, really LA happened because as far as like life track goes mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, I was tired of, I was doing a lot of like dancing in Hmm. And on Univision and working at strip clubs and go, go dancing and just doing, doing anything I could possibly do in the realm of dance mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, to make money and survive. Um, but I was, I, it was eating at my soul. I was like, what am I doing with my fancy artsy Fary dance education. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, like in these worlds, you know, um, which all the worlds overlap and inform each other. I know this now, but I felt very, uh, I felt, I felt like Unsatisfied with this normal place. Yeah. I felt unsatisfied with the kind of options of being a woman that were being presented to me, like a woman. Right. I like, I was like UN you know, dancing on Salva Delante, which is like this, this, you know, uh, TV show, the kind of a host. And, but the guy, the guy is like a dinosaur, he’s like 170. Um, and all the women on the show, like, even if they’re doing this, like interpretive dance, it’s like, you’re wearing like a bra and booty shorts. And you have literally drag face on like cake, cake think. I, I just felt, it just didn’t feel, I was like, I, this is not a, this is not what I want out of a dance career. I wanna be, I wanna be creative. I wanna, I don’t wanna just like, do steps. I wanna, I wanna make, I wanna create, I wanna, I want something different. And so I actually was on a job with Tanisha Scott and dancing for Sean Kingston. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and the gig was, uh, Sean Kingston was performing live on. So you think you can dance. And, uh, and that was my first time I came to LA and I was like, oh, I fell in love with the Hills. Like we were driving through silver lake. And I was like, what is this place? <laugh> like the Hills and the succulents and the cacti and the flowers. And mm-hmm, <affirmative> just the, the like topography, the, the, the place itself, the actual land mm-hmm <affirmative> um, the weather. Oh, yes. Uh, and the people there was, there was brown people there, like, you know, like there was, there was all kind, there was like brown, yellow, pink, all Kinds of people, all kinds of people. There was diversity.
This, I love
And I was like, I can do this. I can, I can make this because I had done New York. And that was that Also all kinds of people though, but way less trees, less flowers, less Hills, less Uhhuh. Mm-hmm <affirmative>
Yeah. I need the trees. The trees are as important as the people. Um, I, I actually talk to them probably more often than I talk to people.
Um, <laugh> I love this. I love this so much on the subject of communication. You’re like, no, I talk a lot. It’s just not, not, not to people.
<laugh> just not out loud. It’s like telepathic, uh, uh, yeah, there’s a, there’s a beautiful PHUs tree right outside of my window, in my living room that I sit in front of that window and meditate every morning. Um, and I just sit and observe the tree every morning before I go into my meditation. Um, yeah, it’s really, really it’s my tree friend.
Oh, right. Uh, I have a tree friend outside my place. We’re not that intimate though. I’m gonna get to know it. I’m getting get to know it. <laugh> Yeah. Yeah. It’s a living thing, you know? Absolutely. It’s it’s uh, yeah. There’s definitely energy to be Exchanged there. I’m gonna take a photo. I’ll share it to you. I wanna know. I wanna know what you think of this tree. I’ll take a photo.
Yeah. I wanna see this tree.
Okay. So that is how you landed here. What year was that?
- And I wanna say the job was 20 2009 because I moved in 2010. Okay. And I worked cruise ship job to, um, to pay my student debt mm-hmm <affirmative> and gather a little bit of, of money mm-hmm <affirmative> to, to, to make the move. And so I worked on carnival cruise ships. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, as a like, party motivator, which was hilarious. Oh, I would like go to a party. I, I wish you just on my face. Cause my jaw slapped the four just now. Not that I don’t think you motivate a party, but I don’t think you motivate the type of party that one might find on a carnival cruise. Wait, what are the, what is the job description? Exactly. Like talk me through what that looks like. Cause I can’t see it <laugh>
So, uh, yeah. When people say I worked on a cruise ship, they think I was like part of the show. They like stage show. Yeah. No, that was not my job. My job. It was me. So this company was pairing a popper and a bra and, and a B person, a B boy mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, so we were like a duo team and we would make up routines and, uh, uh, very like busing kind of energy, but we would go to these parties and we would like get dance circles going. We would like hide a party. And then we would like, get the party going. We would go in. And we would like bust our little routine. Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> like, you know, mixing some, popping, some locking in there a little bit of, a little bit of like rocking and stuff, you know, like I wasn’t trying to do Headpins or anything, but, um, and then, you know, people would be like, woo. Oh my God. And then we’d be like, yeah, cha Chala. Let’s go bitch.
Oh my God. I love this so much. Um,
And we would chat our slide, MENA electric slide, all we would do all the line dances, all the party dances, um, with all of the PE the, the, the jolly drunk people. Yeah. On these cruise ships. Yes.
For money. You did that for money
Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah.
Yes. That is an option.
It is. Yeah, it is. Uh, and so, and so I did, I did that and, um, and then got back to Miami and was just like, now is the time mm-hmm <affirmative> I need, I need, I need to change, uh, my environment. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, and I need to, and really the creative energy, I didn’t mention that about LA. Mm. It is tangible mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. In, in the air, like there, you, the creative energy in this city, uh, was really inspiring. And I just was like, I, I think I’ll be okay here. Like I, I think I can, I think I can craft the vision of the, the kind of life that I wanna be living here. I feel like, I feel like I can, I can do that. Um, yeah.
And do you feel like you have momentum?
Yes. Okay. So not to bring out like the, the magazine clipping moments, but I am aware that you are one of Billboard’s top 12, most iconic choreographers of the decade.
What are, what a weird number, right? 12
Top 12 of the decade. It’s not even like top, top 10 of the decade or top 12 of a year, like 12 months, but like no top 12 of 10 years, but work either way. You would’ve still made the cut. So <laugh>, even if it was top 10, if
It was 10, I have not been to good.
I, well, actually I don’t know what the number order was of these choreographers, but I will say it doesn’t matter because in my eyes you’re like, we’re a hundred percent, top three. So let’s, let’s dig into that’s so sweet. Like I, so you worked very closely with Heidi Ducker, for those of you, for those listening, who do not know Heidi Ducker site specific very, very well funded, um, art dance. I’m just gonna stop right there because it isn’t company dance in the traditional sense of the word with a, a repertoire and, you know, theater style performances, it’s immersive, it’s site specific. It’s a thing. Um, was that a place that you found yourself in pretty early in your Los Angeles experience? How did that evolve into being so entrenched in what I call the commercial world? And then I would love to talk a little bit about what commercial means to you. Um, but yeah. How, how did that trajectory work for you?
I, yeah. Whew. Hmm. So I’ll just start where I remember. Um, good. Haven’t traced the dots all the way back. I did a video. I dunno how I’m not remembering how I got connected with Jacob Jonas mm-hmm <affirmative>, but Jacob Jonas invited me to be part of a video project. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, and this is, this is early. This is early. This is like maybe like two years in mm-hmm <affirmative> into LA mm-hmm <affirmative> my first two years were very much popping battles, popping battles, get down, get down, cipher cipher, go to the club battle at the club, go like I was living that life. Um, I think that must have been
Speaker 0 00:39:07 When I first saw you and it was just like, damn.
Speaker 2 00:39:11 Yeah, I was, I was really immersed in the freestyle community. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because I felt like I needed to catch up. I was like, I’ve been training dance since I was a tiny little like baby, but this popping, this magical, this magical dance form only exists in this community, in this realm. And these secret, it feels like a secret city compartment or something, little places you gotta go find it. Yeah. Um, mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah. So I was like putting, I was paying my dues. I was like entering all the battles. I was going to all the practice sessions. I was going to all the jams. I was like really, really, um, and dive diving deeply into this community because I, I had so much respect for the roots and for where it comes from. And I wanted to, I wanted to give it the time that I had given so many other dance forms. Um, I wanted to embody it in, uh, put those hours in mm-hmm <affirmative> um, but uh, I sidetracked Jacob Jonas video. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I am at I’m in the we’re we’re there, we’re making the video and we’re in this like hike with a, with looks like a war bunker, like a decrepit war bunker, like really cool site. Can’t couldn’t tell you where we were in some mountain with some, uh, interesting structural elements. Mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, um, and Marisa LIBO was one of the other UHT,
Love Marisa. Yes, absolutely. Love Marisa. I have Marisa to thank for bringing me into the site specific mm-hmm <affirmative> specifically the Ducker site specific world mm-hmm <affirmative> um, because I had done site specific and immersive, uh, performance in Miami mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, uh, working with Okta Campos, huge, huge influence in my artistry in my life. Uh, really amazing Cuban German queer performance artist. Uh, that is, yeah, really, really was a big ingredient in the, the sauce. That is, that is me right now. Um, but, uh, yeah, Marisa was also on that shoot mm-hmm <affirmative> she saw me doing my thing. Uh, you know, when Jacob was like, okay, now you go, uh, like <laugh>,
Uh, and I was like, whoa. Okay. Uh, and I was doing my thing. I think I was like engaging with some, like a hand railing or something. And Marisa came up to me after, after she saw me dance and she was like, do you do site specific dance? And I was like, oh yeah, I love site work. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and she was like, I, I choice for you. <laugh> yeah. Yeah. She’s like, I I’m part of this company. Um, it’s a site specific company. We never perform PR we never perform on stages. We only perform in the real world. Um, it’s very collaborative, uh, creative process and really, uh, Heidi working, working with Heidi. I, I, I danced with her, um, for about two to two, about two, three years into dancing with her. Heidi asked me to be associate artistic director. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, uh, we just co-created really well. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, she, she provides ample space for her dancers to, um, collaborate, to be themselves, uh, to, um, create the, the, the language mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, uh, and, and I, Dan and I dance with Heidi for seven years. So I got to practice making, uh, consistently there was one year with Heidi where we did 32 productions in one year. Like we were popping them. Whoa
Mm-hmm <affirmative> yeah, that was my second jaw drop of the interview. That’s tremendous.
It’s insane is what it is.
Yeah. That’s yeah, it’s actually nuts. It was fun. <laugh> <laugh> but that was awesome. And, and hugely, um, like a, a great exercise to be cranking out and delivering and starting processing and finishing a work, like to get to practice each of those three steps that often, I mean, I start stuff all the time. The finishing comes around far less often. Mm-hmm <affirmative> but like, wow. That’s exceptional. Okay.
Yeah. Cool. Yeah. So there was, there were things that were, is like, oh, we have two weeks for this, but then there were things where like, we have a rehearsal for this mm-hmm <affirmative> we need to create an hour worth of material, uh, in one or two rehearsals, you know, it like really conditioned me for the way the industry works Industry works, which is no time ever No time, but create something absolutely amazing here. Thank you. And yeah, I got great practice for, for many, many years of just being able to create quickly mm-hmm <affirmative> um, uh,
Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. That makes total sense. Yeah. And so was it after you stopped working with her company that you started the more commercial stuff, and what would you consider commercial? I have a pretty easy definition for myself that commercial work or the commercial industry is in the context of dance it’s dance that is made to sell something, whether that’s an album or an artist or a Carl’s junior burger or Amazon prime <laugh>, it’s like the, there is a you’re dancing to sell. So it’s called commercial dance. That’s the way that I explain it to myself. Would you explain it differently?
I mean, that’s a great definition. I, uh, I agree with that definition. I think it’s a very clear definition of what’s actually happening. <laugh> but if you were to ask me that question without hearing your answer, I would say it’s work with funding. Mm mm-hmm. <affirmative> It’s work with the budget.
Okay. Would you say that Heidi’s work was that as well then? She is when it comes to like being recognized as a force in the dance and, and fine arts community, I think she’s up there in Los Angeles specifically, and her, her work is mostly grant funded. I’m assuming I could be totally wrong though.
Okay. That, see, that is the thing like, uh, and I, maybe I should add big budgets or bigger budgets when I’m talking about commercial, commercial funding,
Right. Um, numbers.
Uh, yes. Heidi is a great grant writer. She has an amazing team. Uh, and, um, yes, grants are what are funding, the dance company, but those are not big budgets. Those are, um, Yeah. Relative to our, to our music videos of the day.
Yeah. Like, I mean, there are, there are price tags on music videos, although probably not what they used to be. Yeah. In the, in the TRL days. Yo, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched, you know, the mojo.com. There’s like a, is it meet mojo? I don’t remember what it’s called. Some YouTube channel mojo, something that does like top five best X or the 10 things you didn’t notice about. Y there are all these lists and they, they do, um, most expensive music videos of all time. I’ve watched it like 14 times, cuz I’m always blown away. The budgets of music videos in the prime in the moment like Backstreet boys, Janet and Michael, um, like that type of world bananas. And still today, your big players, multi, multiple millions of dollars for a three minute music video. It does blow my mind a little bit. But um, yeah.
Okay. So that’s a space. You found yourself working a lot and I don’t mean to toot your horn, but I’m gonna toot your horn. Like the most, the, like the biggest names of our time. Harry styles. Dua Christina Aguilera, Miguel. Oh my goodness. Katie Perry, just to name a few. These are people that you not only worked with, but made, I will use the word iconic, even though billboard used it first, uh, iconic, really, really memorable lasting stuff. And I will tell you this and I am flattering you right now and that’s okay. Cause I like to flatter my guests. I work with a lot of up and coming young dancers. I love sharing what I’ve learned. I love helping people. I love helping the navigational process of, you know, transitional times and becoming a working person. It’s very interesting chapter to me. I’m also very interested in transitioning into new careers. That’s where my attention is right now. Like choreographer into director or choreographer into producer. Like I’m very much about these chapters. Anyways, there was a time when I was talking to young people a lot. And when I said, what kind of work do you want to be doing? And I cannot tell you the number of times I heard your name come out of people’s mouth. Like I wanna work for Toogii. I wanna dance for Dua Lipa. I wanna work. I wanna do toy’s choreography.
And I, and that to me is iconic. That’s like when, when people outside of your sphere seek you out as being the destination, they want to land at, I’m like, that’s pretty freaking cool. I really, really dig that. And I’m sorry, I should have told I should have just hung up and called you immediately.
<laugh> but this, the, the jaw drop is on this side. <laugh>
How do you feel hearing that? What do you think?
Uh, I, I feel warm. I feel warm and, and uh, uh, yeah, that’s a lovely thing to hear. Uh, have definitely never heard that before. <laugh> um, that’s really cool.
Yeah. And I hope they do. And I think there are, I think there are a handful of them that will, if you continue doing what you’re doing, I don’t know if, if you know, pop star world stuff is still interesting and appetizing to you, but the work that you’ve done in that space is,
oh, makes me wanna spend more time with pop <laugh>. So yeah.
Well, I’m sure they will. I’m sure they will because that isn’t, that, that such a, a huge factor in, um, manifesting and getting to where you wanna get, you just have to talk about it and you have to, um, speak it into existence. And, um, uh, so I’m sure we’ll work with those people at some point. Uh,
Let’s go. But yeah. Uh, and yeah, I definitely am still interested in the, the like in this pop pop world. Uh mm-hmm <affirmative> I feel like I like <laugh>, like I snuck in isn’t the right word, but I like Jedi, I think I Jedi mind trick all of, totally these, all of these people, because, uh, that I work with, uh, not, not the artists themselves, but like the ways that I get, like the people that actually make the choices of like making those connections and mm-hmm <affirmative> and things like, uh, but to answer your question from before I started working, I started working commercially, uh, while I was still working for Heidi, because it wasn’t something that like, oh, I, I switched lanes and then I was good. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and I could just be in that other lane, I definitely needed in order to financially mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, survive.
Speaker 2 00:52:11 I still needed to do all the jobs I could possibly do. And so I stayed working for Heidi basically until it became difficult to, to do both, um, to do both. Yeah. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I, and I, and I, I rode that, that split, um, as far as I could mm-hmm <affirmative> and then just got to the point where I was, there was no time for self-care. There was no, no time to breathe. There was no time to, you know, I just was to nap <laugh> yeah, there was no time to nap. Uh, and so I, uh, parted ways with the company, um, but still have, have love, uh, still that most of the dancers that are now dancing for Heidi are, uh, dancers that I brought into the fold mm-hmm <affirmative>. So I still feel very much connected, um, to, to that, that, that community.
Cool. Go back to the Jedi side door entry, the sneak attack, how you, how you’ve gotten, how you’ve found yourself, um, such a pillar of the pop circuit Is so funny.
I just made that up, but that’s like, when I say the name and when you, I mean, iconic, iconic, iconic, I’m sorry, but like, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to over. I don’t wanna, like, I don’t, I, Hey, okay. Well then let’s just keep moving through it. Um, is that, do you think that way, because your come up is less traditional or like, where does the Jedi part come in? Because through my veil or through my, through my eyeballs, it’s like people who wanna do something fresh and different look for fresh and different people. People who want a sure thing hire the sure thing. And that’s fine. That’s usually what they get and that’s fine. But when I see artists like Miguel or Harry styles, or Duaa, who were looking for fresh and new, it doesn’t seem like you pulled any witchcraft to land there. It seems like all you had to do was be yourself, but again, that’s from the outside looking in. What was your experience of that? Like,
Yeah. I mean, I, I think I say that, I think I say that like, I’ve put a spell or I’ve done some kind of BIA or something because I didn’t, I didn’t really have any exposure to choreographers that were successful in the industry and also doing their own like, sort of, uh, I guess what I’m trying to say, everyone that I saw, all, all the examples that I had to look at as far as like successful choreographers in the industry, they had a style mm-hmm <affirmative> they had a aesthetic, they had a, you know, a stamp they had like, this is how, this is how I choreograph. This is my style. You can look at choreography, um, and be like, oh, that’s so and so, um, and, and, uh, and that, that’s not my approach. So in, in collaboration, my, my intention is never to get someone to move just like me, because that’s impossible. So it’s kind, it it’s a,
Well, you’re blowing my mind right now. My friend, I love this. Um, like the goal was actually to not have a signature,
The, yeah, the goal, my, the goal was, was to create the best thing I could with the colors provided like with the ingredients and the people and the context that I was given mm-hmm <affirmative> right. Um, so that’s why I feel like I’m an anomaly. I see. Makes sense. Yeah, because my process is so different than like then what you normally see, like the job title, usually the job description you see in a, with most choreographers. Um, I feel like I don’t do that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, so that’s why I’m kind of like, um, uh, that’s awesome.
Do you mind, do you mind if I ask a question about that about process real quick? Yeah. And I hope she doesn’t mind, but, um, you are in process right now. And I wanna talk about your, your upcoming work, your first evening length show in a very long time called meno. Am I saying it right? And Jillian Myers is in there in, in the, in the dance scape. And, um, I’ve been hanging out with her a lot lately and we check in after rehearsals or I’m with her before she goes, and I’ve just asked, like, how’s it going? And she’s like, so good. I’ll tell you what, there’s no like force there’s no, you have to, we must, let’s go push, push. And she’s like, it’s so refreshing to remember that there are ways to get things done to get results and great results that don’t have to do with pushing. Is that your way in pop world stuff as well?
Wow. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. So even when there is a, a commissioner, a budget, a deadline, a shoot date, a call sheet, that’s your way is, is how would you call it? What would you call it?
I wanna nurture, it’s like a nurturing creative process. It’s a collaborative, creative process. Uh, there, it, it blows my mind. I’ve from a very young age, never responded well to being, to, to being pushed. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, to being yelled at, to being, um, uh, fear mongered into <laugh> into the right formation. Um, that energy that is very often the choreographer energy mm-hmm <affirmative>, mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, you better get the counts, right? You gotta get the boom sky mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, didn’t work.
That, that made me shrink when, when I, I definitely was on the receiving end of that kind of leadership mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and I didn’t, I didn’t feel like my glow was at its brightest when I was, uh, when I was in those situations, I felt like I shrunk. And, um, yeah, people are always gonna do a better job if you treat them with kindness and if you see them, and if you see, uh, how uniquely they show up as an individual into a space, and if you care about how they feel and, um, uh, so I that’s how I, that’s how I like to create yes. Work hard. Mm-hmm <affirmative> yes. You know, right. Right now with Miguel, I’ve been, I’ve been teaching him some like popping drills and some technique and, you know, and I’m like, bro, bra, bro, you gotta, you gotta do these drills every day. Mm-hmm <affirmative> you gotta do ’em every day that, because you’re, you’re the neuro the neuro circuitry, the, the, you know, like time needs to get wired in and, and it takes time and you have to be consistent and you have to show up and you have to keep practicing. Um, so it’s not to say that I’m, you know, that I, that I, that I don’t facilitate or that I don’t like, um, have some sort of discipline to work hard. Uhhuh Uhhuh. Yeah. Yeah.
Rather, maybe you invite them to work hard, make space for hard work and lead with hard work, but it doesn’t feel like punishment.
No, I wanna inspire you into being amazing. I don’t wanna like pressure you into being amazing. Um, so yeah, I, I very much show up that way, uh, in, in the pop world. And I think it, it can, it really serves people at a specific, like time in their lives, you know, like, for example, with DOA, when I first worked with DOA in the new rule with, for the new rules video, mm-hmm <affirmative>, she was like surprised at my approach at how, until I was to and how she was traumatized. She, she had, she had worked with choreographers before that had like put fear in her mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and, uh, so I think that my more gentle collaborative, um, caring approach really helped her gain some confidence and be like, oh, I think if I work with this person, I, I can, I can get better at moving.
I can, um, you know, move in my videos and on stage and find a way where, cuz my thing is always like, I want to amplify you. I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna cut copy paste. Mm-hmm <affirmative> me onto you or my ideas onto you. I wanna, I wanna come into the creative space with you and co-create a physical vocabulary, a language that amplifies your glow, that, that those little nuances that only you do that move in that way that you do it. I wanna do that. And yet maybe some people might make fun of you. Uh, but other people are gonna be like, that’s iconic and then you’re gonna turn it up and then you’re and, and then you’re gonna make it a thing. Then it it’s gonna be like, oh the, the move. But it went on a journey, right? Like mm-hmm, <affirmative> sometimes there’s early adopters. Sometimes there’s early haters. You’re gonna, you’re gonna get it all in that mm-hmm <affirmative> when you’re like that, uh, level of, of in the public eye, you know, it’s just part of the territory. Totally. But some people, my approach doesn’t doesn’t work for them. They want someone to be told
What to do <laugh> to be afraid. Yeah. They, and they want someone to, to like push them to do what they need to do. Like they want that militant very structured, traditional way of pushing. Um, and that’s okay. You know, I actually feel like do a transitioned. Like when she, when she was, we worked together for several years and then she got to a point in her dance journey. Mm-hmm <affirmative> where she was like, I want someone that’s gonna push me harder interest now. Yeah. And, and I was like, you go boo. Cool.
You graduated go the next chapter go.
Yeah. Like I, I have served you. That’s cool. We have served each other. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and like moving forward, nothing but support and love for you. Like very cool. Uh, and yeah. It’s uh, and then, you know, there’s, there’s like people like, uh, I, I love working with Alicia keys so much because she’s in a space where her wisdom and her, her experience has brought her to a place where she’s like, I wanna surround myself with people that make me make me feel good. I like remove all the toxicity from my life. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I, uh, I have agency, I wanna take care of myself. I, you know, she’s like on her grown woman shit, you know, and, and, you know, and exercising her, her power in making those decisions.
Yeah. And so it’s so wonderful working with her because like, I have a specific like moment in mind where we, you know, so I’m still telling people what to do. I’m not just like, I like, I’m still choreographing, still, uh, doing, directing, um, in a, in a way, uh, that that very much is, is telling them what to do, but it’s telling them what to do with, without the need to remove themselves. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it’s, it’s a, I want you to meet my ideas with your ideas. Right. Um, and <affirmative>, and so it’s like we did, we were, we were filming this YouTube documentary that we were doing together and, uh, she was doing a performance to, um, the song, uh, is it insane? And the, the story, the narrative behind the song is just this like woman that is obsessed with this man and cheat and it, and it’s kind of like driving her insane and, and, um, and he doesn’t want her, you know, it’s just like very novella, very mm-hmm <affirmative> drama, mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, drama, um, intensity, you know, we were, we were, went in the process.
We were tapping into like Nina, Simone energy and, um, like these very like dramatic, uh, feel gravity, gravity emotion, like, Ooh, deep feelers. Yeah. Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and I remember when we shot that, uh, you know, I’m like standing a couple feet away from her, with my megaphone mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, you know, just like directing her as she’s performing, giving her cues. And, um, and she, when, when we cut, she like looked, she, she was sitting on the floor with this, like, uh, the kind of like broken apart piano mm-hmm <affirmative> around her. Um, and she like looks up at me and she’s just like, I like how you talk to me. And I just was like, I was like, yes, I love you so much. You get it, you get it. You, but you could tell she was like in an altered state. Oh
You know, like, oh yeah. And I just was like, yes. Yeah, you, we went there, we went there.
You took her to a place. She was with you the whole way. Yeah. Didn’t like wasn’t kicking and screaming in the passenger seat. She was like, I like the way you drive I’m buckled in. Yes. She I’m with you. She went there.
Yeah. She went on the journey. In her dream state on the way back. She said, I like that. Thank you. I love that, that moment. That immediate right after, like right after the show. Right after a take truth comes out right there. Yo it’s incredible.
Yeah that’s awesome. Yeah. And it was for sharing. She’s still in the, she was still in the, that space of transition. Right. You know, you like go into performance and you go into an altered state and then you’d have like a come the come down mm-hmm <affirmative> before you’re like a regular human being again. And that was like the first thing that came out of her mouth as she finished, she looked over and said that, and I just felt so loved and seen and appreciated by her, uh, in that moment. Um, but yeah, I love that. So, so much gold. I have all the, all the love. Thanks for you. And Toogie, I’ll text you soon.
Thank you, Dana.
Dana: All my friend that is it part, two of Toogie, which felt like part, one, such a solid introduction to her. And what made LA the clear choice for her in terms of where to live and where to make? Um, I think that episode really informs us about how she makes, um, in her way. I simply adore that took you was a cruise ship party starter for money. And I hope that anyone listening out there might be encouraged by having a new calling because <laugh>, I didn’t even know that was a thing. And that is a thing. Uh, I also am. I’m still scooping my jaw off the floor about 32 productions in one year. There’s just, wow. I just said the word, just if you’ve seen eight counts, the words that movie, you know, that this is unacceptable. I digress. There is something to be said for that rate of production, the amount that you learn when you produce that much, the amount that you grow when you produce that much, the amount of fatigue when you produce that much and how you really can get better at you when you practice making, even when you are tired, you get better at making when you’re tired, like, like that muscle gets strong, not encouraging that we all be tired making or, or chasing burnout, but I am just again with the just, wow, I guess that ought to tell you how, um, uh, how awestruck, how actually baffled I am, uh, by that number.
Holy smokes. Waza let me see. Uh, what else did I love? Ooh, I love the idea of not having a signature, being a strength. I think so many of us dwell on and beat ourselves up for not having one thing when used correctly, not having one thing really can be a strength. I love this, this perspective. Um, I also thought it was very interesting to hear about toy’s parting paths with DOA and finding that blissful post performance altered state with Alicia keys. Um, I think it’s, I, I think we find ourselves exactly where we should be. And it sounds like that’s where Toogie was and is when she works with the people she works with. So I AMPI inspired by that inspired by adding more breath to my life and work more, more calm. And of course, more funk. I hope you do as well.
Get out there into the world. Y’all keep it very funky. And I will talk to you very soon. Oh, do not forget this weekend. Metanoia January 23rd through 26th. Get in there. This is huge. This is important. I cannot wait. I have tickets. I don’t remember which night, but I hope I see you there. Be sure to say hi and, um, yes. Now I’ll talk to you later. Bye.
Outro: This podcast was produced by me with the help of many music by Max Winney logo and brand design by Bree reets and a big thanks to Riley Higgins, our executive assistant and editor, and also a 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’ll 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 peak at everything else I do that is not a weekly podcast. Keep it funky, everyone.