Ep. #57 Making Good Choices with Galen Hooks

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #57 Making Good Choices with Galen Hooks
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My guest on this episode is one of the reasons I am hopeful for the future of dance… and for the world!  She is bright, wise, beautiful, and  a master of her craft from a young age.  Today, we are joined by Galen Hooks!   We dig into The Galen Hooks Method and making “good choices” on the job, activism and the responsibility of artists, and the value of following your gut. So, get your notepad ready because this is exactly the kind of heavy lifting that can leave you feeling lighter and brighter!

Quick Links:

Dancer’s Alliance: https://www.dancersalliance.org/

VMA Nominated Choreography Camilla Cabello Havana:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ0mxQXmLsk 

Galen’s River https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pHYxx9dY_U 

Galen’s Love on the Brain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MsXwbZvE58

GHM (Galen Hooks Method): https://www.galenhooks.com/train

Transcript:

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 dance, I choreograph, I coach. And the only thing that I love more than life is sharing. So if you are someone who loves to work and laugh and you’re looking to rewrite the starving artists story, then you’re in the right place. 

Hello, my friend, and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad that you’re here. How are you doing today? Today, I am doing I’m feeling hopeful. I’m feeling hopeful because I think change is good. I took a walk and I took notes on the interview from this episode under a clear blue sky from the bleachers of an empty baseball field field. Is that the right word? Diamond, baseball diamond, baseball court, baseball stage. Um, anyways, that setting was indeed quite a change for my standing desk at home. I do think change is good. Um, also I might as well mention that I’m recording this on an inauguration day. It is the first time I’ve actually watched an inauguration top to bottom, and I’m so glad that I did, um, for many reasons, but namely, because I got to witness and be tremendously moved by the words and the movement I might add of Amanda Gorman. Wow. Listening to her and watching her calm, steady, and graceful hands. As she spoke, turned me into a puddle on the floor, but not like a boggery wet ooey gooey puddle, but like a titanium indestructible puddle on the floor. So strong and yet. So full of tears is, is how I felt. This episode will air one week from today. And I will probably still be in complete awe of Amanda, um, especially her in that very moment. I simply think she’s outstanding yet, I think there are more like her and that is why I’m hopeful. Speaking of more like her, bright, wise, beautiful and a master of their craft from a very early age today, we’re joined by Galen Hooks. Galen is a friend and a leader, and I am so excited to be sharing this conversation with you today because wow, if this podcast really is about navigating your creative career, then consider this episode a compass. Please enjoy this conversation with the fabulous Galen Hooks. 

Dana: Galen hooks my friend. Welcome to the podcast.  

Galen: Hi Dana.

Thank you so much for being here. I’m simply thrilled about this and oddly embarrassed that as friends, this will probably be our longest session of talking uninterrupted in years.  

Galen: We have not talked in a very, very long time and so this will be a great catch-up  

I’m so I’m so excited about it. Um, okay, so this is how we always begin with guests on the podcast. I would like to ask that you introduce yourself. I know that this can be a daunting task, but, um, let us know anything that you would like us to know about you.  

Um, so I’ll just kind of introduce myself in a way that for anyone listening helps you understand some context for whatever I do talk about. My name is Galen Hooks. Um, I am a VMA nominated choreographer. I started working in the industry when I was seven and I have known nothing, but the entertainment industry I’ve worked with over 70 artists, if you’re kind of old school, you might know me from the Neo videos or Janet, or even LXD. But because this is the age of social media, some of you might have learned about me through some viral videos like river or love on the brain, et cetera. Um, and now in addition to doing industry work, I have the Galen hooks Method, which I might even have some alum who are listening to this, but, um, I do the Galen Hooks Method, which is made up of several kinds of experiences from 2 Day Really intimate intensives to regular length masterclasses, lectures, live events. Um, it’s global, it’s open to everyone and I am glad to be here. Dana, thank you for having me.  

Ah, it is my absolute pleasure. Um, so yes, 70 plus artists, Holy smokes, really to list your dance and your choreography credits would require a double episode, probably a back-to-back. Um, and so I’m not going to get into that and I know that we’ll talk about dance eventually, but I, I want to start by talking about your work as an activist and how that has transferred into the Galen Hooks Method. Um, so could you maybe start by talking about those 10 plus years that you Chaired Dancer’s Alliance? Yeah, so I do  

What I didn’t mention in my beginning spiel is I for 10 years, I was, um, both working with Dancers Alliance and serving on the board at SAG AFTRA us. It was like, that was at sag before sag one sag, AFTRA, and, um, worked with AFTRA at the time closely and was a liaison for the agents and just did tons and tons of activism. And during that time, um, Dana, as you know, because you were heavily involved, we spearheaded unionizing music videos, and Dana was instrumental in helping us unionize, what I think was the only tour.

Unfortunately I think you might be, you might be right. 

The biggest, like win and lose at the same time. Yeah. So, yeah. Um, so I spent a very long period of time being an activist in the community and helping with helping make, I guess when I say activist, I think now how do I explain this?  We made really, um, tangible changes in contracts and unionizing, and that was always my really driving force was making actionable change. Um, so of course now the Baton has been passed as it should be two dancers who are now currently working. Obviously I don’t work as a dancer anymore. Um, so when I do the intensives, um, I have Industry sessions for the Galen hooks method and Non-industry sessions. And so the industry sessions are for professional dancers and there’s another session for aspiring choreographers. And in both of those instances, it’s just important to, uh, make sure and practice people know how to apply concepts like what’s happening in your contracts or how to deal with your agent or what to do If you get in a sticky situation, basically in the, in the sessions, I’m able to communicate the things that we would typically do in our DA meetings. And then for the choreography session, it’s really kind of bananas how even like our colleagues now and people who are my elders as choreographers still don’t know answers to a lot of questions because there isn’t much codified language for choreographers. So we’ll go through everything from what your rate should fricking be, which like I get calls all the time from my friends asking.

Oh I’m so sure you do 

Like when I think about it, a lot of, I consult a lot of people on their negotiations, like on what to ask their agents for and what to ask their manager managers for not to say that that’s a form of activism, but it’s like a daily kind of dealing with negotiations and rates is still a huge part of my life, even though I’m not working with an organization, but in the GHM creative session, we go through the basics like what your rates should be to more, um, uh, applicable questions. Like if you are hired as an assistant, and you’re asked to contribute creatively, what should you do to do you get paid to run an audition? What, like all kinds of things that even now working choreographers don’t necessarily know the answers to. Um, so that’s kind of like on the dance end, but then really I, we, the dance industry has, I don’t know, fractions the right word, but it’s split off into even more kind of bubbles than I think had existed when we were doing DA. And so my, I know that I have an immediate community of people who I can activate as people and citizens as well, I guess. So certainly like an element of just human activation has come into play and definitely in the past year. So, uh, you know, we got people to register to vote and to phone bank for Biden and write letters to the George Floyd family and, um, you know, raise money for the actors fund or feeding America. So there’s kind of like this, the sense of activism has expanded beyond dance, which is wonderfully fulfilling for me. And just nice for dancers to be able to come together in a non dance sense as well  

On like on a human plane. 

Exactly. 

Yeah. I love this, but we’ll have to adjust your bio slightly to include the title of unofficial consultant to all on all things. Um, well, okay, so let’s flash back a little bit. You mentioned the music video negotiations and the touring negotiations. That was certainly when we logged our most time together. Yes. Um, and I became aware of how much work is done behind the scenes and in other organizations that, um, dancers Alliance is a Non-Union organization. And by the way, if you are not familiar at first listen with Dancers Alliance, I will absolutely be linking to the DA website in the show notes. That should be your next stop after you listened to this episode. Um, but from my experience with, with organizing, I learned, I think if I had to boil down a takeaway that education and outreach must be almost constant in order to make a lasting impact. Um, and I think that that’s what you’re doing with the Galen Hooks Method is pretty much around the calendar doing that education and outreach. Um, w what, what else did you take away from that time? Any like big life-changing lessons learned from doing all that work in organizing  

The —, when you try to articulate the amount of work it takes to organize. And I think now people, one fortunate thing is that people are getting a tiny taste of what it is to organize in just going to protests. And I think like the stamina that it takes to consistently care about something is so underestimated by people who get riled up and want to make a change. And I want to kind of like put for anyone who’s listening. I wanna just put this in the context of if you’re listening and you feel like you recognize injustices, whether it’s you think your rate should go up or whether it’s racial injustice, um, and you have an inkling of what, you know, needs to happen to fix that injustice. You’re gonna hit multiple steps around the way where you just get so freaking worn out.  And when I say I did it for 10 years, most people burn out after like a month. Like, you know, this Dana is like, you get really excited and jazzed about, I want to change. I want to, I want the rates to go up, whatever it is. And then you book a job and then all that goes out the window. So for me, like I, a lot of the time I spent, which by the way, just in case this isn’t clear that people working for Dancers Alliance, it’s like 100% volunteer work. You don’t get paid. It is absolutely on your own time. So whether it was when Dana and I were working with DA or the people that, you know, currently are working for DA, they are doing it in the spare time that they have in their lives. So I would be in China, I’d be in Europe, I’d be at like 4:00 AM organizing PowerPoint presentations, and, um, you know, doing phone calls with SAG and it’s like, you have to have, it just takes so much mental stamina. So, and I, and I think, you know, I started the intensives before kind of this huge wave of intensives that currently is taking place. And I think a lot of people, it takes a lot of stamina to do something like an intensive. And whether it’s, whether it’s the activism with Dancers Alliance or whether it’s the Galen Hooks Method, I’m not doing it for the sake of saying I run a business and I do these intensives. And like, there wasn’t, I didn’t, I had no intention of the Galen Hooks Method becoming a thing, I do it because I care. So I’m able to continue doing it because I care. And that’s what it takes that level of stamina, not to say that other people that do intensives don’t care, but you have to have a huge amount of care and desire to make a difference to keep going after the initial excitement has worn off because 99% of the work that goes into these things is not fun. It’s not sexy. It’s not like cool stuff to do. So I certainly that’s a long winded way of kind of reminiscing on that time of the, uh, music, video negotiations or the tour negotiations. Um, there’s like, there’s so much like literal tears. I remember talking to you Dana, and it was it’s so emotionally fraught, and you want to quit at so many points because there are so many hurdles along the way. So the mental and emotional stamina is absolutely imperative for any cause to continue forward.  

You need a strong why. You need to have a strong why, like you have to know exactly why you’re doing it, and if it is money and if it is a reputation or, uh, you know, praise, uh, that won’t be enough, for this type of work, it’s simply won’t be enough. Um, so what would you say now is your why? Like, what is your North star at the moment with the program and in your, and in your creative life?  

It’s jeez,we, so we are recording this like a week after the Capitol was stormed, not even a week. And, uh, uh, it’s such a change, I guess, for me of my North Star, because what happens every day for us as people is we used to it’s a grab bag. So I, I don’t think I’ve ever had a, an exactly enumerated North star or mission statement or why that’s kind of written out. I have a really, I really listened to my gut and know when I’m going in a direction that feels right. And I really know when I’m not so kind of, it’s like every day I wake up and it’s like, what, what’s happening in the world today? And I follow what feels right to do with the time and energy that I have to give to make things happen. So I, I genuinely do not have a, an exactly specified North star other than like, what, how can I best use the, uh, like assets that I have to do something for people. 

That is huge. And that makes total sense to me. Um, now my brain is offering me this image of not a due North, like not a North star, not a, not a one mission statement or mantra, but just a compass that works really well. I think, I think you have a strong moral compass, which is probably why most people come to you, um, for advice or consultation, help negotiating things that, or negotiating or navigating things that they haven’t done yet. So that’s, that makes complete sense to me. And I love it. So let me, if we could talk a little bit about the Galen Hooks Method for a second. Um, I know that you work with professional dancers, like varying degrees of experienced dancers, um, and I’m sure that some of my listeners are alum and I’m sure that a lot of my listeners would be interested in training with you. So I’m wondering what you think is the biggest difference between a lay person dancing and an aspiring pro dancing and what could they learn from each?  

Hmm. Um, let me just for good measure, explain each of the sessions because it’ll help with my explanation. So they’re from, from like beginner to industry, the sessions are GHM light, which is for absolute beginners. Uh, you can’t, you shouldn’t be advanced. And that one that is for a hobbyist basically. And then there’s GHM classic, which is a mixed levels one. So that one, I will have absolute hobbyists with professional dancers. And it’s about artistry. GHS pro is only professional dancers. Creative is for aspiring choreographers. And then game plan is for the people that are trying to get a game plan to work in the industry. So when I’m doing, for example, GHM classic, which is the mixed levels, hobbyists and professionals in the same room, honestly, the approach is exactly the same for every single person in that room. And everyone is at a literally the same equal playing field. So my approach to teaching them is absolutely the same, whether they’ve never danced a day in their life or they’re veterans who have done it for 20 years, if it’s a pro session, I guess this is how I would answer it like the pro session or any pro master classes that I’ve done or audition intensives. Anytime I’m dealing with people who are trying to work and are taking their career seriously, it is like no nonsense and very high, high stakes. Um, but if I’m working with a room of only beginners, then obviously we’re going way back to basics. So I guess the way I’m answering that is if I have a mixed group of people in the same room, everybody has dealt with the exact same way, but if I’ve got only beginners, I’m dealing with them one way and only pros is the other way.  And they’re both like, I think what I’ve loved is being able to be so high stakes with the professional dancers. I think like, you know, when we, when you work with an actor, I’ve had, both of us have had experience working on film, TV, commercial work, where you’re working with non-dancers and that’s kind of like I’m, I’m used to in my career working with absolute beginners who don’t speak the language of dance. So it’s less of like a switching teaching wise with those people, but what has been so awesome is being able to just crack the whip with professional dancers, because on a job it’s like, um, the way that I’m training professional dancers is much different than the way that I would treat them on a job. Um, so it’s really fun. I think on both of our ends, whether you’re the student, or for me to have like a different way of approaching teaching professional dancers,  

I think I’m just now wrapping my head around this, like training for professional work can be professional work in the  like you can be treating mat training moment as the professional moment. And for many of the dancers in your program, it is. In some senses, I’m sure the thought behind, at least some people’s head is this is an audition. This is a person who works all the time and I’m in front of them day after day after day. And every day I show up is if I treat it as a day on the job, I’m maybe that close that much closer to being on the job with Galen. Um, it, w w is that a mindset that you would recommend, or do you think that, or what would you recommend for people coming into your program is being the most beneficial mindset? Like how will we get the most out of it?  

I’m honestly, the, the pro session is not, none of these sessions are meant for you to work with me. That happens, and I’ve hired many of my alum following their sessions, but that’s not the goal. So the pro session, I’m trying to get you to work with everybody. Like of every dance style of every genre of choreographer. So we’re, the mindset is to be adaptable, to be smart. You know, everyone talks about being a smart dancer, but you don’t understand that or see it in practice until you’re thrown into the lion’s den. And like, it’s really, you can’t, if you can imagine Dana, like trying to prep for doing the traffic scene in La La Land, but you’ve never been on a set before. There’s not really a way to prep for how to deal with all of the elements that happen unless you are thrown well, you can’t learn except for, from experience.  

You will not know how to do it until you have actually done it  

Until you’ve done it. And you learn so much from doing. And so the a lot of people will ask beforehand, like, what should I prepare? How do I like come into this thing? And you’ve got to just come in as a blank slate, because the learning is not in prepping for the session to come in with the right mindset, you come in with a blank slate and I, or each person in the session, because they are very small capacity, 15 to 30 person sessions, every single person in that room, I’m customizing the training I’m giving to you based on where you’re at. So you can just come in having just like woken up and rolled out of bed, and I’m going to adjust what’s happening based to where you are. Um, so there’s not, yeah, but the bigger picture of what you’re saying is like, yes, you should, a thousand percent like come in being professional and, um, presenting yourself in a way that, for me, as Galen Hooks, that I go, like, I like this person and I’ll recommend them. I think that’s the other thing is that I’m recommending people the same way that people are hitting me up all the time, asking what to negotiate for the contracts all the time. All the time, people are hitting me up and I’m sure hitting you up. We all hit each other up going, do you know a blonde? I’m my blondes are all booked. I need a blonde. So I’m recommending people all the time. So it’s, it’s not just in my intensives, but any class you take going to Carnival going to Starbucks, when we’re able to go places again, like you should always be aware of the hiring potential of the interactions you’re having with anybody, not just me.  

Uh, fabulous, fabulous advice. Um, and also I took a tiny note. Cause as you were talking about not until you’ve done it, I was remembering all of the hundreds of times master teachers or my own teachers have told me and all dancers, they think this is the thing we all often hear. Um, make good choices. Hey guys, just make good choices and good is so relative. And also when you’re coming up, you haven’t established your taste yet necessarily. So you might not know, you might not know what a good choice is or a much less how to actually make it. So giving a place for people to practice good choices or experiment, good choices or audition good choices and bad choices. I think that’s so valuable.  

Do, do you mean creative choices? 

Yes. Let me just like, or like dance, dance choices, bad choices, body choices. 

So that, that’s so interesting. I’m just gonna like respond to that because I, I don’t this isn’t to contradict what you’re saying, but 

Oh, do it bring it yes. 

Just to explain how it, how, uh, how I would, um, plant in somebody’s head who’s listening. I don’t operate in thinking of choices as a dancer or artistically. So what, what I, what I think a lot of people what’s holding back a lot of aspiring dancers is that you’re not thinking about if we’re in a rehearsal setting or not in audition setting, you’re not thinking about serving the job. And so, um, if you’re going to be making dance choices, you’ve got to be thinking of what the job is calling for. And the way that people are training right now is, uh, it’s holding back the choreographer from being able to get certain jobs done, because the choices people making are making are in a bubble and in a vacuum of what they’re excited about creatively as their own individual dancer, but they’re not choices that make sense for what’s being called for in the shot. So take what Dana’s saying about making choices and being creative and having the space to fail, which I want to say in the pro intensive, that is not the place to fail. It’s the, it’s not like I just want to be really clear in case anyone signs up for it. It’s not a, it’s not the pro intensive specifically is not a nurturing environment because I’m preparing you for what it’s like to actually work on the high level jobs. So I guess what I’m trying to articulate is it’s incredibly important to do what Dana is suggesting of making those creative choices, but there’s the people who work all the time, make those choices, knowing what the shot’s supposed to be and knowing what the choreographer is asking for.  

Uh huh. Um, I think there’s tremendous value in that. And I think I’m learning like are a bit of the difference in uni in, in our training, on the come up. Um, you know, you spent a lot of time assisting and working with Marguerite Derricks, she runs a very tight ship. She knows exactly what she wants, but I have spent equal maybe more. I don’t, I would love to see hourly side-by-side catalog, um, of time with Marty Kudelka who like packages improvisation and hires and works exclusively exclusively with people who he knows will default to a freestyle or, or a, um, an, an unplanned moment that is in alignment with the vision. So that’s what I would consider a good choice is one that is an in alignment with, uh, what the job is asking for. 

Right, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. 

And then I think if we also zoom out a little bit, and this is a fun, this is a really cool thing. Actually, I’m excited to talk about, um, I, I have developed over the course of the podcast, a community of doing daily doers, they are people who have taken on the challenge of making a creative work every single day. Several of them are in the two hundreds by now, 

Oh my gosh, 

More people joining every single day. And the objective almost solely the objective of that project is to claim agency over your own work is to not have to answer to anyone and simply make something every day, not necessarily because you’re inspired or because you have an, uh, an inner creative voice that you want to get out. But simply because you said that you would, it’s strengthening a creative muscle and putting the power back in your own hands in an industry where we so often give it away to the choreographer or to the casting director or to whoever.  So, um, to give us a full, like 360 degree view of good choices, I think good choices serve the project and you, and I don’t think that a dancer should ever have to sacrifice, uh, their anything for a project it’s the dancers choice if they would like to be there. But so many people, especially at the end of a one year plus pandemic are thinking, Oh, man work would be real great right now I will do whatever it takes, including put my, um, creative impulses in the, uh, in the sidecar. But I think it’s really interesting. I really do. I am. I default to nurturer in all of the, in my, in my teaching and in the podcast and in this project where, where people are doing daily, I find it so easy to get critical. In fact, that’s probably the number two reason to do it is it really helps combat the perfectionist syndrome. If you’re trying to ship a creative work every single day, certainly not all of them will be perfect. So it’s a really interesting muscle to strengthen, but like if, is creativity called for on a professional job, I think it depends on what the professional job is and who it is that you’re working for. So often offerings are, you know, being a person that has good ideas, um, good instincts and good offerings can be a thing that gets you the job, but equally, probably an equal amount of the time. It could be what loses you the job.  

Yes. Yeah, yeah. That the wa I think that the only thing I’m distilling down is you have the context of knowing, knowing what choices serve the job and don’t, and what I see sometimes now is because how do I, like if you’re making those choices outside the context of being on a job, sometimes, sometimes there’s a misunderstanding of what making a creative choice means. Um, so do we, so it’s, it’s wonderful that you’re having people practice that creative muscle so that when you are, when it is asked of you, because although, although I assisted Marguerite, certainly there are times when, if you, if you work with Jamaica Craft, she’s like a thousand percent asking those creative choices from you. So it’s so important, like taking that ability to do daily, and then having that added layer of like, when you’re asked to do that on a job, then it’s, it’s being creative in, in the confines of a job is creative in, uh, in and of itself. And that’s like exciting that you’re getting people at different juices going, because, you know, doing daily without limitation is different than doing it on a job. And it must be much more, uh, easy for people to do it in the confines of a job if they’re used to doing it on their own so much.  

Yes. I think you’re totally spot on in, in taking on a daily creative challenge. You like you plant yourself in the pilot seat of the, of this like creative cockpit and in front of you, all the dials and knobs and levers are there. And one of them is like the sensitivity to read the room or the ability to look to the person who is, uh, who, who is leading the room and like dial up and down all of your creative knobs and levers accordingly after like, you know, checking the altitude and whatnot. Um, I’m going to go ahead and walk away from that analogy now. Cause I know nothing else about aviation. Levers. I think we’ve got a lever in there. Um, okay, cool. So I, I love that I’m fascinated with like the ways that we can be, um, aware of what’s being asked and meet that, meet the expectation through practice, right. Through training through yes, definitely through experience, but also through just a willingness to like do it and maybe do it wrong, but do it over and over again until you get it right. Um, a question about how you devised the Galen Hooks Method. I think your experiences are so vast and so many from being on big screens, huge artists, tremendous audiences to being a producer, not just of your own works. Um, one of my favorites of all time still is Campfire Vaudeville. Um, but then you also went on to produce larger scale productions for the Voice and so on and so forth. So I guess, um, I, I guess what I’m wondering is how, Hmm, let me, what am I wondering when I, when I imagine you creating the Galen Hooks method, I see you in your bat cave hovered over a beautifully lit drafting table, like spreadsheets and flow charts and like your actual Batman in my eyes, and you’ve got Fox and you’ve got Alfred. And then like in this den of, of brilliance, um, is that how that happened or was it a trial?  

That’s a very romanticized version. No, not at all.  

Leave, leave it to me to make a romanticize, a very, very dramatic Marvel action version of everything.  

Um, like I kind of alluded to earlier, I didn’t intend for it to be something. So it started as audition intensives because I was running auditions and felt just terrible for people who were getting cut for reasons. They had no idea about that are very easily fixable. And because I was a dancer for so long when I became a choreographer, almost like, are you for real? Why doesn’t anyone tell us how to audition? This is criminal to me that we’re like spending all of our lives training and then like our hair is not right. And that’s why we’re getting cut. So I started doing audition intensives, and it was just called Behind the Audition. And then I started doing heals intensives because heals became a thing. And obviously when I was dancing as a professional dancer, there weren’t heals classes. You just like booked the job and they gave you heals and you danced it. But, Um, I really saw a, um, I saw the desire for people who wanted to dance in a heel, but not dance in the way that most heel classes were taught. So I was doing heel heels, intensives. And then, so the people that were doing the audition intensive were then booking jobs based off of what they did in the intensive. So then they would say, what should I do on the job? I don’t know what to do in rehearsal. I don’t know how to sign my contract. So then I did an onset intensive. So the Galen Hooks method, quote unquote, we came what it is because I was actually sitting with our friend, Amanda Balen and we were, I was just kinda like, it’s, it’s an approach to the entire industry. And because been doing this since I was a child, I have like a, a way that I philosophically approach the industry that I recognize is just my way of doing it. So it’s my, I call it the Galen Hooks Method, because this is my one approach. And I know that there are other, there’s not one way to do this. So this is just my way. Um, but it was not concocted it as like I want it to be, I just hadn’t. I had no intention and I still have no intention of, you know, it of like building an empire. It’s all just out of a desire to fill what I see are gaps in how dancers are trained. And certainly now, because I, you know, it started off as though everything I’ve named so far is completely industry-related. And now there are sessions that have absolutely nothing to do with the industry, because I’m just kind of following, as I said before, I follow my gut. And so I don’t have things that are really pre-planned. So I even in a year, I don’t know what the session, I mean, by the end of this year, I don’t know what the sessions will be because, uh, everything changes and the format of the sessions change drastically over the years and what we do in the sessions change. So the, yeah, the, the making of it was not, was certainly not in a proverbial Batcave kind of like thinking about what I want to do and making it a strategic. It, none of it was strategic and none of it is strategic. And I’m very thankful for anybody who signs up because I’m just doing what feels necessary in the moment without any kind of expectation that it will turn into anything, anything, or that people will come. So they, it, anybody who comes, but yeah, that’s kind of the Genesis of it.  

Okay. I think that that is also a very romantic telling of it. I think it’s beautiful that this, like keeping a finger on the pulse of a what the, what your community is looking for or needs or could benefit from, and then also keeping the finger on the pulse of where you are, what you’ve experienced, what you have to offer. I think that makes all the sense in the world and is also beautiful. Thanks. Um, okay. So I’ve known you to be like, in, in the past, you have a extremely strong voice and we already talked about the strong moral compass, um, but I’ve known you to be somewhat introverted. And I know that a lot of the people that I work with are the same and that they believe that that somehow might keep them from building a global brand or from, um, you know, being a person that can be comfortable in a spotlight. So I would love to hear a little bit about how you manage, um, popularity and dare, I even call it celebrity and being a front runner.  I think it’s, you know, you know, it’s funny actually let’s sidebar for a second, a hundred years ago. Um, when I, I don’t remember if these two things lined up exactly, but might’ve been around Camp Fire Vaudeville time. I roughly, um, I was working on a YouTube series called More than Moves and it was, yeah, the talk show. It was my dream that it’d be like, uh, like the Chelsea Handler of dance, except for, I say, I swear slightly less often. Um, when, when I, when I like headed out into the world, creating that show, my mission was for dancers names to be household names. And that was it. I was like, I want people to, to, I want Galen Hooks and Travis Wall and like my friends and myself to be names that are known outside of our little, you know, dancer universe. And then I made three episodes and ran out of money and they’re all on YouTube. I would’ve done it very differently now in retrospect. But I think that maybe partially because of those three episodes, but certainly because of our community and pop culture where it is right now, dancers names are household names. And I don’t use that word too lightly. I think that dancers are celebrities. Um, and I would count them among I would count you among them, even if that makes you uncomfortable. Um, but do you feel pressure of a limelight or w what’s your kind of take on dancers as celebrities?  

Um, I do. I definitely, I don’t take myself that seriously that like I do what I do in spite of having limelight on me. And I definitely, I realized recently that my, what excited me about being a professional dancer was not performing or having an audience or working with celebrities. I just fricking love doing choreography. Like I love the act of having choreography put on me and trying to perfect it. And so I re I’m like, I really have never enjoyed, um, attention, I guess. So, so I recognize that, for example, if I, if I, um, I’m teaching a class and I demonstrate the routine that the students will learn how I want it executed if I demonstrate it, because I would think like if I took Wade’s class and Wade never demonstrated the choreography, it’s like, if you see him do it, you’re like *****,   Like I recognize that there’s that like, that’s as much kind of attention as I enjoy having on me. Um, and I’m.. Dancer’s Alliance, for example, you know, there’s PowerPoint presentations that I did with a thousand people out in the audience and a lot of public speaking. And I think a lot of people would go for, for so many people. You’d rather do a dance solo than have to publicly speak. And I have zero fear of public speaking if I’m speaking about something that I really care about. And so doing something like teaching classes or doing the intensives, I am extremely introverted and don’t like attention on me as a person, but I really love and can speak all day about things that I care about and know inside and out. So it’s kind of, I don’t know if that helps like paint the picture of, in spite of the, I’m not doing it because of, um, having people listen to me, but in spite of that, I’m able to communicate things that I care about and that I know will help people.  And with both Dancers Alliance and the intensives, it’s, I’m doing it, knowing that the person listening is going to take that information and do something with it. So it’s for it’s to help people. Um, yeah. So I, I recognize that like most other people who there are a lot of dancers who are celebrities, uh, and I think that’s totally fine. There are a lot of people who they want to be professional dancers because they want to dance in front of thousands of people and have a crowd cheering. And that’s, uh, so yeah, there are different levels of dance celebrities these days, I guess you would say. And if that’s what you want, I mean, people are making like amazing careers out of it. So I guess it’s a great thing on balance.  

I like this concept, um, in spite of something, not because of something with regards to, uh, shall we call it the limelight or, you know, mass mass appeal or vitality, maybe I dunno, maybe is a better word. Um, but that’s, it’s a good moment for people listening maybe to take stock and pause, um, to figure out, you know, why? Their, why not to bring it back to the why? Um, and then of course, like take a moment to think about what is it that you could talk about for hours on it and what, what is the cause that would get you up in front of a thousand people and have you unfaced like, what is a thing that you are that passionate about?  

That’s a great way of putting it Dana. Yeah.  

Okay. My friend, I am going to pop out right here to recap before we launch into our next segment. I want to underline where Galen and I landed in our conversation about making choices. I think it’s important to highlight that a good choice is one that is in alignment with what the job is asking for and making that choice is really all about dialing up or down, really being in charge of the command station there, um, of dialing up or down, not necessarily on or off, but really fine tuning your creative impulses and keeping your finger on the pulse of the room. Um, in determining when, and how much of that is asked for, is called for, is needed. I also really loved what Galen had to say about her volunteered time with dancers Alliance and SAG-AFTRA and the intentions and mental and emotional stamina that are required to make changes. So circling back to where we started the episode today, I suppose change is good, but it likely won’t be fun or sexy or cool to make it happen. At very least it won’t be that way all of the time. So as you look out there at the world and see the ways that you would like for it to change, ask yourself what are the thoughts and the things that will keep you going along the path of making those changes. Galen. And I went on to talk quite a bit about the insurrection that took place just a few weeks ago. On January 6th, I confessed in my lack of confidence that another painting or statue or eight count is really what our country needs right now. Um, and I, I asked her, are artists responsible for making change today? And if so, how do we do it? So let’s jump back in and hear what she has to say.  

Right? I think artists, I, as a, my own individual person, regardless of being an artist or not, don’t feel that I have the right to say what other artists should and shouldn’t be doing. I certainly don’t think every artist and not even every dancer right now has to be, um, has a responsibility to be doing something different because they’re an artist, I guess I would say like, if, if it were, what do we as citizens? What are we responsible for right now? That’s, uh, then that is a much different thing. But I think as an artist, what I have, okay, I, prior to last year, I never did anything choreographically, creatively, that was topical. There was, it was never like, um, if it was about gun violence, I would never like a piece about gun violence. Um, and if I did have an opinion about something, it was always very metaphorical. And I think, I didn’t realize until last year, how important, for example, the, I have a duet routine that I put out called best part it’s to it’s to the song best part. And it’s a duet. And in the class, this was, this was the final class before the lockdown. And I really wanted to make sure that people felt okay, dancing with a partner of the same sex if they identified that way, or even if they didn’t, but just having people of the same sex dance together and in the class, it was, that was like, one of the hardest thing was to convince people, even people who do like they’re like fricking married to people, the same sex, and they wouldn’t feel comfortable in the class, just dancing with that partner. And in putting out the class video of that class, I didn’t realize how important it is to share art in moments that don’t feel like it’s appropriate to do so, because if you haven’t been exposed to seeing two people of the same sex dance together, it’s exposing you to that in a way that’s so much different than if you even see it in an acting scene in a movie it’s different to see a level of intimacy that, um, people did in, in those videos, or I guess my point is the value of just art without it being a political statement was definitely brought to the fore front for me last year. And so I think for you, Dana, it might not seem important to see another painting or another combo, but for the next person over that painting or combo might help unlock something for them politically, that that piece of art wasn’t even meant to unlock for them. And what it doesn’t mean is that everybody has to just be making like a new combo to the new Ariana Grande song right now. Like that’s not, if you don’t feel called to do that, that’s not an efficient use of your time, but if you feel called to do that, then go ahead and do it. I think the problem is if you feel like you are pressured to do that, when really in your heart, you’re like, I want to go to this protest, but I need to make this thing that is absolutely irrelevant right now, because that’s what I need to do business wise. I don’t know if that, if that, like  

I got gotcha. That makes total sense. And I do feel callings at this moment. I also feel confusion. I also feel anger. I also feel pride and it, and sometimes I feel those anger and pride, like simultaneously it’s, it’s quite an experience. Um, but  

Sorry, I don’t want to, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I just realized that what you, what you, what you expressed about not wanting or not needing another painting or combo at the beginning of all of the, I think like probably in the weeks immediately following the George Floyd incident, I, I, you know, for, for my entire life, I’ve loved dance and loved making things and loved choreographing. I didn’t want to do Jack ***. It was like, none of this is important. Why like, why should I be dancing right now? Why would I make up a routine right now? This is not important to make up eight counts right now. So I totally empathize with the feeling of like, well, what are my skill sets in this moment that actually will make a difference. Um, but I just wanted to pinpoint that, like, I totally understand the conflict of feeling like what we do as artists. Isn’t important, unless it’s a, maybe either if it’s a statement about what’s happening or that we need to put that aside to do other things that are, that do seem more important, but I also, um, sometimes the art that people makes helps others escape from what’s happening and that can be valuable in doses as well.  

Right. Right. Thank you for adding that. Yeah. Um, like an, an eight count might not get an eight count. Might not keep people from breaking into the Capitol building, but so, so maybe we don’t need eight counts, but what we do need is strong, capable artists that are able to follow their instinct. And in order to do that in order to be big and strong in order to get big and strong, we must act when we are compelled to do so. And we make when we are compelled to do so. And, and on the subjects that we are compelled about. So simple. Yeah.  

Yeah. I definitely on the basic question of like, are artists responsible, um, artistically, and I don’t know if that was your question, but I just want to say like, some people are, their skill is making fun, like popcorn dance for us escape into, you know, like I don’t, I wouldn’t expect every dancer to have to change what they’re doing artistically to reflect the times. Um, so if you’re out there and you feel bad, because I think a lot of people do feel guilty for continuing to create when the world is imploding around them. Um, you can, you can go make up an Ariana Grande routine, but it doesn’t mean that that prevents you from then getting on your computer afterwards and phone banking or helping, you know, people vote for the Georgia, if you can do kind of both, they’re not mutually exclusive.  

Thank you for adding that as well. Holy smokes, Galen, so much knowledge and so much passion for what you do and for sharing what you do. Thank you. So, so, so much for sharing with us today. I think we could continue on for hours. I know you’re a busy lady, um, and we’ve got to get out into the world and make, make some good stuff happen. Um, so thank you so much for joining me. I really hope that we get to talk more as human beings on and off the air in  2021. 

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. It was lovely catching up. And, um, these are complicated, uh, topics that I’m sure I did not articulate properly. And I’m thinking off the top of my head as we’re talking, but they’re, they’re important things to talk about.  

Thank you for, thank you for putting yourself out there and for, uh, for sharing. Yes, these aren’t, these aren’t easy questions, even, even questions about things that we know and love like your program. It’s always, yeah, it, it does take great care and you are a person who cares greatly. So thank you again.  

Thanks for having me. 

My pleasure, my pleasure.  

All right, my friend, I hope that you are as activated by that conversation as I am. I hope you’re reminded about your ability to make change and your ability to make good choices. And I hope you were inspired to follow your compass. I think there’s a lot to celebrate from that episode and, and from the world at large. But today I am going to close this episode out with a very personal win. Today, I might cry while I celebrate my win. By the way, I am wearing a sweater that my mom knitted for her dad when she was about my age, my Grandpa George passed away a few years ago. And of course that brought much sadness, but today I’m celebrating the joy that I find in things that can be made, loved, and shared for literally generations. So through tears. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Grandpa George. I promise I’ll take really good care of this adorable sweater vest. Whew guys. Yikes. This has gotten to be a pretty heavy episode. Huh? Well, feel free to lighten it up or to go deep with your win today, but it is that time me with your win. What’s going well in your world. 

Thank you, my friend. And congratulations to you. Please keep winning. You know, I plan to speaking of that, actually, we really do have a lot of future wins coming up on the podcast. Next week is going to be an awesome episode. We’re taking a deeper dive into commitment, and I’m really, really excited about February and Black History Month on the podcast. So don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss a thing. And also don’t forget to keep it funky. Very, very important that you do that in this ever-changing world. Always be funky. I’ll talk to you next week. Bye  

Me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating. Review your words, move me. Number two, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops and so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

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