Reshma Gajjar had to be my first interview back after vocal cord surgery no doubt about it. In this episode, Reshma and I discuss the importance of humanness in dance and how silence and meditation can help to achieve it. She also speaks about how stepping away from dance helped her change her definition of success, and how her ethnicity has both helped and hurt her at different times in an ever changing industry. As the entertainment industry changes, one thing is clear: Reshma will always show up, and she’ll show up directly in the center of the venn diagram that represents all things natural, and all things magical.
Another Day of Sun (La La Land Opening Scene): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVVqlm8Fq3Y
Inheritance Bombay to LA (Reshma’s Vintage Shop): https://www.instagram.com/inheritancebombaytola/
“Work Song” by Hozier: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH7bjV0Q_44
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hey Friend, how are you doing? I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad to be talking to you with my six weeks post vocal cord surgery, voice, I’m learning so much about breadth and pitch and modulation and in general, not misusing my voice and I’m excited to be practicing with you here today. I’m even more excited to share my conversation with this week’s guest, but first wins this week. I am celebrating that. I got, I bought, I bought myself a record player. Yeah, vinyl let’s go. I’m so excited about this in my silent recovery, I spent a lot of time appreciating music and experiencing sound with great focus, tremendous focus. So this desire for a record player didn’t necessarily come from wanting the unique sound that a record player and vinyl records actually produce, but rather wanting to not lose focus. Every time I click through Spotify or iTunes on my devices in general, I find that one click leads to three clicks, which all of a sudden becomes 30 minutes of standing at my machine, my laptop, or my desktop, or, or hovering over my phone. While I scrub and in general, get distracted when the goal was simply to listen to music. So now with my record player, I dropped the needle. I drop into what I’m hearing. I drop into my body, the end hands-off ears on body glides into the zone. I am obsessed with this. It has many favorite thing. That is my win, my record player. Now you go, what’s going well in your world. What is spinning your world around? See what I did there. I’ll be patient, hit me. Congratulations. I am stoked for you. Keep winning, keep spinning, and then find yourself some stillness because today’s guest is both a riot and a rock, which I guess makes her a rockstar. Maybe I would call her a rockstar. Yes, she is solid. She is fluid. And in this episode she shares some golden insights that I think will help you to unlock a humanity in your art. We discuss subtlety. We discuss silence and the guiding principles that have led her through a most incredible career that just keeps going and going and going and going and getting more interesting and getting more. Awesome. I will stop there and I’ll start introducing you to the lovely Reshma Gajjar. Oh, and that reminds me, make sure you listen to the very end of this interview because her name is well, actually, I’ll just let you wait and find out for yourself. Enjoy this conversation with Reshma.
Dana: Holy smokes. Reshma my friend. Welcome to the podcast. Hi.
Reshma: Hi. Oh my God. I get to hear your voice. This is so such an honor to hear your new voice. Be one of the first
Dana: You are the first podcast interview
Reshma: To interact with the voice!
Yes. How do you feel about that?
Reshma: So I’m so like I’m flattered. I can’t believe that I was the one that you wanted to speak to first.
There is no other one I’ve been wanting to speak to you since the day of the surgery. Um, and, and, and all the days before actually, um, we’re, we’re going to get into all of the reasons why this is the perfect first interview with my new voice. Um, but first, first, first, will you please introduce yourself? I think that everyone listening should know you, but they may not. So this is the part, the hard part where I ask you to tell us anything you want us to know about you. That could be bullets off the resume. It could be your favorite color. Um, but I’ll, I’ll let you drive what cha you got.
Okay. I am a first generation American. I am of South Asian, Indian descent. Born from two immigrant, cute parents. Um, I’m a performing artist. I’m a collaborator. I started my career as a tour dancer touring with pop stars. And then I moved into working in the industry. And now, um, I dance and also act in films, television commercials, music videos. I also love art and being immersed in the art world side of things. When the opposite of commercial industry, I love being part of the art industry. And so I also participate and perform live performances with like companies or immersive interactive theater. Um, I love fashion. So I like doing shoots and fashion films. During the pandemic, I started a tiny little shop in my backyard called Inheritance Bombay to LA which Dana contributed to.
Um, couple pieces. Yes.
Beautiful pieces with great stories.
Well, actually explain, explain this shop. I know what the shop is. What are you selling in this shop?
I sell stories and I, so, um, vintage second-hand loved clothing curated by me. I’m a meditator. I’m a fan of old people. Um, I’m a Muppet and I’m currently also officially a filmmaker.
I am celebrating you so big and so hard. All of those elements of you are some of my favorite elements to find in humans. Um, and think you embody them all in a beautiful ratio. Um, do you know what did today?
I watched the opening scene of La La Land
Was coincidental or
No, no, that was deliberate. I, I was preparing I I’m a big fan of you. And if you do not know Reshma you actually do because you’ve seen La La Land guaranteed If you’re listening to this podcast. Um, and Reshma is the introduction. She is the introduction to the introduction of the highway scene, uh, that we call traffic, um, Another Day of Sun and I watched it this morning and I cried because number one, all of, I mean, not all, but so many of my favorite people, I had honestly sort of forgotten you set it off so beautifully, so naturally. And I feel summer heat when I look at you do that performance, but I also feel really cool. I’m like, oh, I’m with the cool girl. I’m going to be fine. Um, but then you’re joined by Hunter and then you’re joined by DMO And then rejoined by Jillian, Michael comes out, Liz Imperio comes out. I mean, Nathan Prevost who was just my on-camera husband and
Oh my God. This list is long, this list is long. And the shot was also long. The shoot was long, it was long. And this is brilliant. I could talk about La La land for a long time. I’m not going to, but I am going to talk about how grateful I am to have shared professional space with you. Um, La La land was the first time I think that we worked together also Hosiers Work Song choreographed by Jillian Myers. And don’t, you dare forget that Kinzo short film
I will never forget
Choreographed by Megan Lawson and looks were so on point on point 100%, be sharing some photos. Um, but that’s absolutely the tip of the iceberg. In terms of your work, you mentioned you toured for pop stars, including Madonna. Um, you are in a few of my favorite movie musical dance scenes, 500 days of summer, which I also watched recently American beauty.
Oh My God. Oh my god.
So all that to say you have a career that I think anyone, but especially my listeners would envy. And this is a podcast about creative careers. So will you, um, start us off or continuous us off, I should say by sharing some of maybe the guiding principles that have helped you make your moves, the, the, the ideas, the lessons that have helped you navigate your career.
So I find that I found that in my career, the thing that I knew that was really important to me is that I wanted, well, one I wanted to work, right. And in the beginning it was really challenging for me to work. It was very challenging because, um, I can only assume it was, um, how I looked and I don’t, I don’t think that the industry was fully receiving people of color of, of my ethnicity and the, our stories weren’t being told. So we weren’t part of the narrative. And, and even though, uh, dance jobs can be diverse. I was like the most ethnic and maybe a little too exotic. So there was a long period of time where, when I came to LA and started auditioning that I found challenged, I was very challenged in working. And, um, one of the first things that I realized was I was defining my success on work. And that was the first thing that I realized. I was like, oh, this is, this is a little bit a recipe for suffering and disaster. So I, um, after having a moment where I like quit and moved to India and gave everything up, um, to, uh, do social work and give back because I was like, wow, this job, this career path is so it’s all about the self. And I’m like, I can’t do that. I have to, I have to, I have to do something outside of myself and like, let go of all of, all of these things that were like causing me to one, not like the craft that I had trained my whole life doing because the business aspect was getting in the way the not working part. And, um, so I like totally let it go. I gave it up. And, um, in that process, that whole journey, I realized that I needed to define my own own, like my own definitions of success had to make my own definitions of success. So to me, that meant that I am a performer. I am all the things that I am if I’m doing that thing. So it doesn’t matter if I’m working and making money doing it. I can work at a coffee shop. That’s fine. As long as I am in class every day, working on the craft, loving this thing that I love so much to do. And so that was a first thing that I did. And when I let it go and went back to the basics, I think that’s when, um, things really shifted around me too. And I think that also was, um, something showed up was timing that as much as you can, like really work towards something. And I am a hard worker, I really believe in being a hard worker. There’s a level of professionalism that I really believe in and hard being hardworking is one that like, um, I really abide by, but that can get exhausting sometimes. And then you can question like doing all this hard work and like nothing’s coming out of it. And like, what I found is the work is never lost. There’s just this really magical thing called timing that like lines up and you don’t have control over that. And so there’s like, that doesn’t mean you don’t work hard. You still put in the hard work, but you let it go and you allow for the timing to happen, which is what happened. As soon as I define my success, I changed my, my outlook. It happened to be, I didn’t do this, but the world was also shifting in a way and it all kind of lined up. And then I started working like suddenly, like Madonna was like one of the first people who like hired me. I mean, there were others who hired me before that, but big job because of my ethnicity. And like, it was this whole, like this interesting thing where I’ve been faced with my ethnicity being, uh, helping me and also hurting me and finding who I am and all of that. Um, another really, really big thing for me has always been showing up and I think showing up has spread out. And what that means, this is the long range as far as like what showing up means. But in the beginning showing up was like, I’m going to go to every audition. Like I don’t care if they even want someone like me, I’m just going to show up. I’m going to say yes to all my friends. I’m going to do say yes to all the projects I’m going to say, yeah, I’m going to show up and to show up to class, I’m just going to show up. Really good at showing up and then fine tuning it to now where I’m on another side of my career and showing up, it’s still showing up as one of my like principles, because now, even though I’m not having to show up so extremely in that way, because I can now I have thankfully, um, more opportunities coming to me. I can make choices. You know, I’m more in the control control seat aspect. Um, showing up now looks like for me, that representation matters. And so I have to show up because, um, people need to see people like me, people need to hear my stories. And so it’s just interesting how the showing up is still there, for me, it just, isn’t a different way.
This is a beautiful kind of peek into a long timeline of somebody who’s found. One thing that, which is showing up and even while the world changes, the showing up is never the wrong thing to do. The showing up is the right thing to do. And the way the world shows up will change. But the fact that you show up does not. Um, I think that that’s a lovely takeaway. Um, I, I want to talk a little bit about how you show up. I think the showing up on its own can get you very, very far, but the how you show up also is extremely important. Um, I’ll approach this subject through the lens of style, um, personal style, dance style, style of communicating, um, style in humor, like your, the things that make you laugh, the way you share your laugh, the way you, uh, not only curate the vintage closing in the shop of your backyard, but you curate the experience when you’re around people, by the topics of conversation. When my husband and I started dating and he started spending more time with dancers, he’s a non dancer. Um, he, he noticed very early on and he tried to ask in a very gentle way. Did you notice that dancers almost exclusively talk about other dancers? Most of the time, the subject matter is people. And that makes sense to me because people are our material. We are the, you know, the medium that we work in is, is bodies in space and time. Um, but I noticed when you and I started like socializing that very rarely were we talking about people, we talked about our experience of the world, our feelings, emotional arcs, things that we’re interested in, not people that we’re interested in and ever, you know, ever since our, since the beginning of our friendship, when I look back at conversations with you, I can’t name one where we were like talking about the people. So I think that you’re, I think that your style, and this is again, I’m going to, I promise I’m going to make a point. I think that your style is equally human. Like, I can tell that you’re interested in humanity, very human things, but also you must know this, you are a magical being, you are whimsical. And like etherial and this kind of magical thing. So what I notice about the opening land of the opening land of la la scene, the opening scene of La La Land is that I think you are the center circle of the Venn diagram that is natural and magical. Like, if you want whimsical realism, you get Reshma. If you want somebody who is like, yeah, natural and whimsical in equal parts, I think you do that very well. Um, is that how you would explain yourself? Is that how you would explain your style?
So, um, well first I just want you to know that there is a, post-it literally on my table that says you are a magical creature.
That tracks. Yeah.
It says in quotes your mind just gets in the way and
I wrote that down because someone told me that and I, I didn’t believe them. I’m like, I’m not a magical creature. She’s like, you’re, I love that. You’re telling me this right now. I had to write it down on a post-it note. And sh and that person told me your mind just gets in the way, that’s it? Like, if you move your mind, you will see that you are a magical creature anyway. Sorry. You know? Okay.
I’ll take that. That brings up. That brings up a secondary question, which is how do you move your mind? What does that look like for you?
You know what, I’m struggling with that
Struggling with finding out, Yeah.
No, moving the mind. It’s like, I’m the muscle. And so it’s, uh, that’s why the post-it’s here. Because someone told me that my mind is getting in the way and I don’t disagree. And I think it’s a muscle that I have to remind myself, remind myself. Right. I’m a magical creature
Thats cute. I see what you did there. Yeah. Okay. So is, is, okay. Back to the original question. Now, the style in which you dance, or would you explain it?
Um, you really explained it so nicely. Um, I definitely feel like it’s grounded in it’s grounded in reality, but there is a level of, um, lightness to it at the same time. And I feel like my, I think that was the style that I really like is grounded in humanity, but also is telling a story. So like there’s intention. And that is actually what moves me is when I watch is what I, what I like is what I want to, uh, emulate. Right. And I’ve seen many performers, dancers and actors, we all have, and there are incredible technicians out there who are, to me are like Olympic athletes or, you know, super heroes. Um, and then there are performers who like move you, right. And they move you not with their head, like down, like get their leg, kicking their head, or the technicality like that. That is like I said, Olympic athlete, athlete move, moving me. But someone who moves my emotions, like moving my emotions versus moving me into awe, right. A superhero will move me into off, but like a performer that moves me to my emotion and feel something and connect is the kind of performer I and style I want. And so I always try to remind myself of that when I’m moving. That there what’s the intention, what is, who am I in this? Like? And so it is really grounded in humanity because I want to relate and I want to connect. And I want people to feel connected and that they’re not alone or all the things I want to be that connector, you know? And I think that all kind of came from when I was younger, my sister told me I was really intimidating and it hurt my feelings.
And so it became your life’s work to be
The most connective approachable.
Yes. And that’s exactly the turning point. I never, I never forgot that she was like, oh, the reason why boys don’t talk to you or like, you know, it’s, or just, you know, people are just really intimidated by you. And I immediately felt frustrated by that because I’m like, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just being myself and like, what am I doing that’s intimidating. Like, I don’t want to push anyone away. And in that moment I was so young. Like, it, it led the trajectory of my personality because I, that is when the Muppet was born,
That is when Muppet Reshma was born. And I was like, okay, I still want to be like an authentic, um, version of myself, but I want to be like an approachable version of myself. And so I, you know, kind of turned myself into a Muppet because I think Muppets are adorable and I love Muppets and it just happened naturally. They didn’t think about it and like, be like, I’m going to be a Muppet. I just, I naturally just like became a Muppet,
Explain, explain your muppet self is, you know,
Um, ex I mean, I think I was always expressive, but I just mean like, um, open and like, and, and loving and cute. And yeah,
You’re, you’re hugging the air. She’s hugging the air times since we started talking about the Muppets
A Muppet. I don’t think a muppet is intimidating at all right?
Wow. I mean, I don’t think they are. Yeah maybe the cookie monster, maybe only because only because they might steal my cookies, Oscar, the grouch is not the most friendly look, very cuddly.
You know where I’m going with it.
So I think it’s very interesting how this is a great example of how the stories that we believe about ourselves really shape our lives. And that was such a huge, impactful moment for you. Yeah. Okay. So your sister said, you’re intimidating. You created a Muppet version of yourself who champions love. Embraces otherness and humanness and all the people, so that never, could you be feeling that you are excluding anyone, um, that yeah. When I watch you dance, it does feel very inviting and inclusive. I think, you know, when you talk about the people who really move you to me, when I watch a performer that makes me want to do what they’re doing versus makes me want to sit down and behold where they are doing that is like, that’s the mark of a magician to me of a magical performance.
I agree. I agree. That is exactly right. Because I will watch a ballerina. Right. And I will be awestruck, but I will want to stay in my seat and watch them. Right,
Right, right. Yes. Want to applaud you with my jaw on the floor, but yes.
Yeah. Jaw on the floor, mad respect, like I said, Olympic athlete, superhero person, but I don’t want to jump on the stage and do that. But yeah. People who do that to me, where I’m like, I want to be in that, I want to do that. I want to be in that next show. I want to work with that person. I want to, that is, that is usually someone who was moving me from a different place than the technicalities and, you know, steps and, um, skill, high skill level. It’s something beyond that. It’s subtle. Sometimes, sometimes you don’t even, it’s not like this. It’s not theatrical you know, it’s something super subtle.
Yeah. Let’s talk about subtlety. Something that I’ve noticed lacking in, uh, the upcoming generation, the art of subtlety and sometimes, I mean, with face sometimes, I mean, with hands or wrists, sometimes, I mean, with the whole body, there can be a very subtle shift that manifests in the entire body that is very subtle. Um, and I’ve been working lately on several projects that call for real people dancing or real person range of motion dancing or real people, slightly elevated to be dancing. And it’s difficult for a lot of the younger generation to achieve. Very difficult. I think the most readily accessible example, I will call back La La Land you in the car. In the opening scene, you have very specific choreography to unbuckle your seatbelt. You have very specific choreography with the sunglasses. There are counts. You must be a professional dancer, but you must not dance those things or before the movie even starts, we will have been taking, taken out. You establish the tone of the film with that subtlety. How did you learn how to do that? And do you have any tips for people to do that? I think it, if I could, it would be stopped taking dance class immediately and go outside and watch people in the world or take an acting class and find out how much you actually dance all the time to portray a normal person who has moved to be dancing is a completely different skillset than to be a performing dancer.
Yeah. It is a skill set that is being asked for more and more and has been for the last, like, I don’t know, 10 years, I feel like I’ve been seeing that a lot, but it’s interesting because like, what you said was you have to be a dancer to do that job. People can’t not, they, they want normal, real people, but normal will, people cannot hit a mark I mean, no offense. I mean, maybe they can, but with the training, we are trained to hit marks, consistency, um, you know, counts and all of those things mattered. I mean, they matter, and time is money. And when you’re on set and you have to hit the mark and everybody else is allowed to make mistakes, but except for you as the performer, everyone else camera can make mistakes and everyone’s okay, everyone, but the dancer or the actor needs to kill it in every take. Like they have to hit their mark. And, you know, depending on, you know, you want to be the last reason why they need to do the take again, you know, and, um, you have to be the consistent one.
Do you attribute your strength in subtlety to being acting training and what acting training do you actually have? I’m actually, I have a gap in my knowledge of you in this area. I know you were an Edge scholarship kid, but what supplemental training do you have?
Um, so I actually, what’s really interesting is I took Theater Arts in college and I saw it. There was a moment in time where I really was considering acting at the beginning and I took an acting course in college and it was really traumatizing. And I thought, oh, wait, this feels really toxic. I don’t know if acting is for me, actually, this is what acting is. I don’t want to do this. I’m very protective of my, like health mentally and physically, um, which is why as a dancer, longevity was really important to me. And I was like, not trying to like, you know, do things that I felt would harm my body. You know, it was very smart about like, okay, I’m going to be, um, know how to look like I am full out like full out bleading on the dance floor, but also holding a space or an energy for my body to know when, to really disperse the energy and when to bring it in that I think comes with time and experience learning when you really need to bring it and kill it and when you really just killing yourself and that just only harms you and then your longevity of your career and is not so long because now your knees are shot and no one else cares about your body except for you. And you have to be the advocate for your body. I don’t care about what anybody says, but if I don’t want to jump on the trampoline in heels, I’m not jumping on the trampoline in heels, someone else wants to figure that out, you know, skeleton crew that out, go for it. But to go back to the, to the, the subtleties of being an, being a person who is asked to be pedestrian, that scene was definitely like riding the line of being a performer and a human at the same time. And they really wanted the human aspect. And what I do is take, I literally have to take the dancer out of me It’s like, I remove that identity out of me, um, and just focus on who I am in all of it. And so I know that sounds simpler than it is because it’s not that simple. It is really hard for dancers, right? How, how do dancers take the dancer out of them? Well, for a long time, I only identified as a dancer. And so therefore everything I do the way I sit, the way I walk, the way I dress a dancer, but I’m like, okay, no, let me expand my identity a little bit more. Who else am I, what else am I, I, I, I’m not just a dancer. I had to expand my identity. And so by doing that internal work, it kind of started to move on the outside of me. When I started to find out other parts of me, I was able to take it out of my body. It was like an energetic thing. And so the other identity started to take over. So I don’t, I don’t walk and dress and do anything that, that says screams. If I’m walking down the street, she’s a dancer, right. But once I start to dance, it’s like a magic trick. It’s like, and I can check this out. You didn’t see that coming. You know what I mean? And so feels like a fun, like surprise instead of like someone being able to like, know that I am a dancer. And so that started to happen around the time when I One was starting to get more work that was asking for that. And I wanted to be an actor more, also start acting all those things kind of started happening at the same time. And, um, yeah, I don’t know if that really answers the question. As far as acting training, I found an acting method called the Barrow group that teaches out of New York, but because of the pandemic, it was all on zoom. And so the silver lining of being during quarantine, they started teaching online and I was able to start taking those courses. Um, I was, I’ve been training, um, the Barrow Group method, which is basically like a way that empowers the actor with tools to, um, be their most authentic self in these moments. And so it’s more about script analysis than it is about character analysis, because this has us in these situations. Right. And we all can relate to any of these situations that we’re given in scripts. I really love being empowered with the tools. Yeah. And it’s not about the teacher or the teaching or anything like that. It’s all about the tools. They’re like, literally give you a tool belt tool belt, and then you can pull from it what you need in the moment.
Don’t tell me, they literally gave me a tool belt because I will sign up. I love a utility. I have a utility vest that I wear when I clean my house. It’s actually like a tactical vest. It was a gift from my brother-in-law it says Chef. And it’s meant to be a joke, the chef
You don’t get a real tool belt. Yeah, I wish that’d be amazing.
It like, it’s powerful enough to think of it as such.
Yes. And, and what I also loved about it is that it’s so clean. Like it’s so squeaky clean this method. There is no, like, there’s nothing that feels unhealthy about it. Like I go back to me being like, I’m very protective of my health. Um, yeah. It, it just, it’s never about what’s good and what’s bad. What we liked, what we didn’t like. It’s, what’s different. That’s what we’re talking about. Do to do the same scene twice. And let’s talk about what’s different. Not what’s good. What’s bad.
I love, I love what’s different versus what’s right. Or what’s wrong. It leaves so much more room
Because Art is.. So like everyone has their own opinion about some people
Its so subjective in every single way. And so perhaps the ways in which we learn it are as well, but tools that help things to be clean in a world that is, that can get very muddied with all the different techniques and rights and wrongs and do’s and don’ts and absolutes really nice to have something that works. My favorite acting teacher in LA, his name is Gary Imhoff I shout him out all the time, says that technique is whatever works. I love that. I love that. So many different things that work. Um, I wanna circle back really quick, something that you said, um, rang so true when you talk about being a magician. I remember having learned in my, in my stint as a magician’s assistant, uh, I was never a magician.
I would love to be a magician’s assistant.
You could see it. I did. I assisted Wade Robson on Chris Angel’s believe show so I was around magic and very much loved the Illusionist and the Prestige. Do you remember those films? I think they both came out the same year. Anyways. I, you probably know where this is going, but there are three parts of a magic act, I’ll call it an act. Um, I, I hope I get this right. The pledge, the turn, and then the prestige. Um, and the pledge is where you show something normal. And I think that’s the part that dancers miss, and that’s the part you do so well, you present like in normal person, right. And then the pledge is, but watch me turn it into something else. And then the prestige usually is it goes back to normal or it shows up somewhere else. So again, the opening scene of La La Land and it’s like, not only do we all go back to normal, but you see all of LA something else, and then you find out it’s winter. Like there’s, there is a, there is a punchline at the end, but I think you’re right in that, by expanding our identities, we stand to gain more turn and more prestige than starting off as what we’re, what we’re saying. We’re going to turn ourselves into.
So starting from this most human place somehow makes the dancing, the turn and the prestige
That what makes it more magical and also more connecting to others because then they see themselves in you. And then they’re like, oh, I connect with that. I relate to that. And then also, I don’t know, there’s a level of believability that they could also be that, you know, or do that, you know, which is great.
Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. We want people to believe in can-do versus sit and watch me do. Yeah. Um, we, by we, I mean, you and I, I think we relate on that. I don’t, I don’t mean to speak for the entire collective of dancers in the world, but it’s something, uh, I feel kindred with you on that. Okay. Let me be very real. This is the mark of a master because when you’re watching La La land, that can look really simple. Real girl, real car, real sunglasses, real battement. But let me tell you something, those aren’t real cars. Those are prop cars reinforced with two by fours. Those aren’t your sunglasses. That’s not your dress. There’s a massive camera, three inches from your face. It can be hard to remove the dancer and just be a human. When all of the visual stimuli, the audible stimuli are telling you that you’re a freaking dancer.
And let me tell you like, um, that yeah, the, the why I love being a dancer first always is because there are things that being a dancer trained me to be that will advance me in all aspects of my life that have nothing to do with dance. That benefit me and I’m will forever be grateful to being a dancer because it is the ultimate super hero power. And, um, one of those things as being like a major multitasker in the moment, and that, by the way that car, the door was jammed, the seatbelt was jammed. I had to like figure out I was having voices and like three, three different voices telling me different things
Where you wearing ear wigs or no?
I had like, uh, I had, um, like I had something in my, I think, sorry. No, there was like a mic in the car, but also, I mean, they ended up using different, um, audio, but they had mic and car and then I had a musical director, a director, and the choreographer telling me three different things. And then, um, I had to, yeah, the battement, I had to be very specific angle. It could have had to be at a very specific height, not to like, it was like a very specific angle. I had to hit that mark exactly with my hands. Exactly. He wanted it very specific. And then my, the glasses, yes, didn’t totally fit. And then I had to throw them into the window without looking at the window with the window open and they have to land in a certain place and hit the mark and then remember all the lines and then also find my human in all of it. There was a lot.
And then, and then you had to have pulled that off and then every person down the line since then had to also know that many things y’all please go watch. It’s just truly, I cried watching it this morning because I remembered all of those things and I remembered making it to the end, pull the door and hearing somebody’s door closed slightly late and just shrinking knowing that we would ultimately be doing it one more time.
That Also is like, another thing I love about dancers is that, like, there are moments where we take turns where it’s like, it’s such a group effort. It is such a group effort. And then there are moments where you have to also shine whether or not you want to, you have to shine and knowing like when you have to shine and when you have to blend, right. And when you have to work hard together, you know what I mean?
What is your metric for achieving that? How do you do that?
Um, I mean, I take it off of the, the director usually. Yeah. I feel like I can tell by the story that’s being told, like what’s important because the story overall is more important than anything else. And so the story that’s being told is the most important. It’s not me. It’s not us. It’s not anything. And then how do I make that story come to light? Like how do I participate in making that the most important thing? So in that moment, if it means I have to shine, then I have to turn. I have to, even if I’m uncomfortable or I don’t feel like I deserve it or whatever. And then there are moments where I’m like, oh, this is where I have to, we have to be unison. Like we cannot mess up. We have to close the door at the same time. Don’t mess it up no matter what you do. And it’s no, it’s everybody’s fault. We all go down one for all, for one, and like being humble and hardworking enough to blend too, you know? And like be together, dancers are the best.
It’s so much. Yeah. It’s so much. I love dance. I love being a dancer and I love dancers. Okay. Let’s shift gears. I would love to talk about silence. Um, last week’s episode on the podcast, I talked about the things that I learned in my, uh, 21 days of silence. There were two exceptions. I’ll be real. I was on my patio one day in a big June, June bug flew at my face. And I swatted. And this is maybe five days after my surgery, swatted my hand. And I said, no, thank you with this tiny, tiny little foreign voice. And I was so upset that this June bug provoked, oh, not like, ah, but three actual, fully formed words. No, thank you. Anyways, outside of that, I did well with silence. Um, but I want the listeners to know before I had my surgery, I called Reshma because I know that each year you participate in a silent retreat. Could you tell us a little bit about what you do and what, what it entails?
So I I’ve been for the last like 10 plus years have been studying meditation from a Himalayan Monk. And, um, it’s a Vedic, indigenous oral tradition. Sanskrit, All of it is like comes from the source. And every year we find a place in nature. You know, whether it’s like in the mountains or another like retreat center, because there’s no like property that we, that the nonprofit that this is all kind of run through has, and every year for 10 days, sometimes a little bit more, sometimes a little bit less. Um, we, we review our practice and then learn more. If we are at a level where we can learn more. And in that, in those 10 days, part of the retreat experience is that you’re in complete silence. And the reason why is so that the teachings can go in deeper and deeper in silence, and it really works. And, um, I remember, um, when I, when I say silence, I mean, like, there’s no phone, there’s no books. There’s no music. There’s no eye contact,
No communication, because communication is not silence. So no eye contact, you know, no speaking, no body language as a dancer, like not being able to be like, are you going in the bathroom? Like pointing that’s communication, no, nothing. So completely going in going totally inside. And while you are doing that, you’re also in class. I mean, the teacher, the monk who is teaching he’s speaking, but we’re not speaking if we have a burning question and it better be a burning question, just kidding. You know, maybe you can write it down on a piece of paper. You can add, you can give, you know, but these are like, you don’t, you know, when we’re talking about Himalayan Monk, you better have burning questions because questions just lead to more questions. Dana, let me tell you, I’ve learned that hardcore.
Actually, that was my biggest misconception about my 21 day journey is that I would have an answer at the end. I was like, oh, this will be great. I’ll know. So much all come out as this, you know, actualized person with a plan, um, with answers and you, yeah. You said it. Questions begets questions.
Yeah. And what’s beautiful is the more you meditate, you learn discernment. And then the discernment allows you to answer your own questions. And so this is a long process. Meditation doesn’t happen overnight. This is like, like lifetimes. Like I’m not going to master this. I suck at it. Kay. To be honest, like I’ve been doing it for years and I’m not trying to put a judgment on it. So I take that back. There’s no sucking at anything. It’s just, again, here I showing up, it’s coming back again with meditation, because there’s so much for me, it’s so subtle. And with my craft, it’s not subtle. Right. Except for when we talk about the dance acting like taking the dancer out, those types of things, scale
The scale of perceptible performance versus like the work, the work is not subtle. You are working so hard.
Right. And in meditation, it’s all about subtlety. You could feel a little bit like nothing’s happening. Right. Cause it’s so subtle. And, um, I had to really work hard on again, defining my success. Right. I, these themes keep showing up. It’s not about the successful meditation that day. It’s about, there’s no such thing anyways. It’s never going to be, I mean, the goal is for it. You to consistently find it every day. Right. But for me, it’s always about showing up. So if I showed, I show up every day and I sit down. Now, if I’m sitting for five minutes or an hour, that is, I can only show up and then see what happens. And I’m not gonna put a judgment on it, but I’m gonna always show up for myself. Because for me, meditation was like me marrying myself. It was like, my first marriage is like, I, why am I such a bad wife to myself? I don’t show up for myself. I don’t like, I can’t even sit with me myself for like two seconds. Like what kind of, what the, what kind of partner, what kind of partner my, to me. And so meditation became my first marriage to me being a good wife to myself. And so I show up every day, no judgment what happens. Happens.
Thank you. Um, I remember when first I came to you, I was expecting to leave with tips, like how to make it easy, how to get the most out of it. And you said, Ooh, how does one prepare someone for a life without speaking, when that person loves to be speaking? And I was like, yep, I’m asking you to do something hard. And I didn’t even realize the depth of the retreat that you go on. It Inspired me. Again, I was ex I was expecting, you know, a plan like meditate once in the morning, eat this for breakfast journal this many pages, read this book. Um, go on a walk that’s this long. I really had this urge to calendar and schedule my days. And your, uh, our conversation really inspired me to take it one degree further to disengage from more, to engage more with myself. So I stopped social media. I only checked my email twice a day. I deliberately did not try to communicate. Um, my mom was going to come be with me post operation, and I love her more than anything in the world and actually asked her, I think it would be better if you don’t. I will try to communicate with you and the thought of trying to talk for 21 days versus allowing silence for 21 days. And that was a no-brainer. I was like, Hmm. I would like to allow this to happen. And I am glad that I did. I am very curious. And if you send me some information about your retreat or your type of retreat, um, oh 100% seek that out during a non post operation time of my life and maybe listeners would too. Um, but one of the things I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that you mentioned, uh, that day that we talked, uh, okay. So two things from that conversation that I wanted to bring up and allow you to share or expound on or not. Um, you said that when you can’t talk to anybody, you get louder to yourself. I definitely experienced that. I would encourage all of the artists listening to engage in vocal rest, or a vow of silence. If you are feeling out of touch with your voice, your values, your taste, uh, your sense of direction, it really gets turned up when you turn other things down. So we’d love for you to talk more about that if you want to, but also you mentioned something called the law of nature. This, that no itch will last forever. If you find yourself sitting in meditation and something’s bothering you and you really want to tend to it, if you don’t, it will go away. But if you do, you’ve broken the, your, your, uh, what is it that’s been broken. Watch me try to explain this thing. I know nothing about. Could you talk about the law of nature?
Um, you know, it’s that thing that like this too shall pass and like sitting, I mean, there are, there are meditations that are training you to literally burn burn, um, and sitting in your, sitting in your pain and watching it. And I think even this morning, I was just talking to Miles about how, like, I’m understanding my meditation more and more and how it’s like reflecting life and like, with what’s happening on, on the outside in the world and what’s happening inside of me. And like that idea of just being like a witness and like witnessing and it being a separate thing. And, um, knowing like for me, I just am like, there will always be something if it’s not that my leg hurts or that like, oh, I have to like, oh, write that email or, you know, whatever else is distracting me physically, or emotionally, there will always be something. And so if there will always be something I can’t stop that, but what I can do is like right now, take a second to just not worry about that and just be the, be the witness of like, okay, my, my leg is burning, but it will pass. And I will, it won’t, they won’t hurt in like two seconds. Just watch, just watch the pain. It sounds really, it’s not easy at all. I’m I know what I’m saying. Feels like, I mean, it’s not easy, but you can do it. It takes practice. Like it’s, like I said, like meditation is so hard, but it’s also not hard. It’s literally just a muscle that you just keep showing up to exercise, um, and turning almost disengaging and turning off the exercise of like taking things away and like, and going in, and, and as far as the, um, as far as the, you mentioned the first thing, which was yes, when you get quiet and you go into silence, your voice gets louder inside and that’s for better and worse. And so the things that are coming up that are loud can be things that like, you’ve like put aside and you don’t want to look at anymore, or also things that are like screaming the truth of you, like what you said, like, if you are lost or you need direction or anything like that, going silence means both of those things are going to come. Like all the stuff that you maybe have been avoiding, but also the things that you are looking and searching for, but all of those things are the truth. And so if you’re trying to find the truth, yes. Some of the truth is ugly and hard. And so you have to be prepared to face it, but then the reward is, you’re also getting things that you wanted, which is a direction and knowing who you truly are. And so they both have
And being a partner to yourself.
Yeah, exactly. And, um, you know, it’s totally, absolutely to me worth it to, to, to, uh, to deal with the loudness. And I think that’s also maybe sort of what I think you mentioned at the top of this, what you’re experiencing coming out of your silence, that like, you’re, you have to choose, there’s a level of choice and control over, like how much you want to exercise your voice. And that, to me feels like how I feel when I come out of silence that like, I don’t want to speak unless it’s value adding, like, I’m, there’s a lot of noise. There’s a lot of noise out there. There’s so much noise. And so let me just speak with what adds value. That’s it value adding
This is you curating the space. Yeah. Deciding editing first. Um, my husband also taught me he more or less put me through art school and introduced me to the notion of gesture, like gesture, gesture, drawing, but also gestures like in a painting, a stroke, a splatter, and there being no neutral gestures. And I think the same is true in dance, or at least I try to create from that place. It’s intense. Like when you think about the function of a preparation before a pirouette what does it contribute other than a foundation for a pirouette, is there a way to have, you know, something that’s not simply there to serve something else, but something that’s contributing, not distracting. And, uh, I, I’m noticing now more as I’m in voice therapy, which y’all, it’s been a journey, um, being, becoming more mindful of my pace, my breath, how I’m speaking, um, and what it’s supported with, uh, these are all things that I’ve been thinking so much more about now, thanks to this event, this life event of mine. Um, but I was actually shocked at how quickly I went back to talking a lot. I, when I was silent, I was like, oh, I love this. I, by the end of it, I was like, I could do this. I enjoy you
You fall in love with it
Yes. I loved it. But as soon as I was around people again, um,
It just so easily go back to it. Um, so when you’re in, you want to like, when you’re in it, you want to be there forever because you know that when you come out of it, it’s going to be like so fast,
It moves fast, but there are things we can do to slow down, even when other things are moving quickly. I simply, for me, it’s simply taking breaths. Even if the sentence isn’t complete. Um, I was in back at a few past episodes and I’ll probably listen to this one too, and be like, breathe already, take a breath. So it’s an active practice I’m showing up for it. Thank you for being inspiration in that. And in so many ways. Um, and with that, for the voice, I probably should wrap it up and, um, contribute in other nonverbal ways for the rest of the day. But thank you so much for sharing your insights, your wisdom, your magic tricks. And Reshma where can people find more you, if they’re in LA, could they find the shop? How, how do we get more of you?
Hey, um, well, I have a website which is basically my name.com. I have Instagram was basically as my name with the handlebar and I have the shop, which is called Inheritance Bombay to LA, which is exactly how you’d find me on Instagram. Um, it’s separate, it’s a separate account than my own personal account. And the shop is in Highland Park. And currently it is by appointment only, um, to keep everybody safe and feeling good. And it’s all about connection too. So, um, I like to connect if that is what you’re seeking and if you’re not seeking connection and you’re just seeking vintage, then I’m like, get it. It’s all curated to however you want it to be. But I am, I am totally open to all the things. So yeah, those are, that’s how you can find me.
Incredible. Thank you for, thank you for being here. Thank you for being my first guest back.
Dana. Thank you for having me. I am so happy to be here. The feeling is mutual.
Thank you so much, my friend. And also, have I been saying your name wrong the entire time we’ve been friends?
No, you have not. You have been saying it the way I’ve been saying it. This is a whole other podcast. Dana. I could go on and on. I actually had to think about how do I say my name
Interesting, how does that make you feel
Because I mean, it makes me feel all kinds of crazy. I basically even say my name wrong my whole life. And I, my name is Reshma and my mom actually calls me Resho. She says Resho. And um, growing up first generation American it’s spelled R E S H M a. So I’m like phonetically that’s Reshma. So I don’t know, mom, why are you saying my name wrong? I never said that to her, but I always was like, oh, she says it with an accent. That’s cute. Can we talk about how absolutely ridiculous that sounds like I was like, oh, she has an accent. I don’t. I say my name Reshma that’s how it is, right? Oh my God. When I realized Dana that I was like, appropriating my own name, you don’t even understand the identity crisis that I’ve been having around my name and how important, I mean, this is why I’m like, this is a whole other podcast because like it’s a word, syllables sound vibration. It is the name that everything has reasoned for. It is its existence. And Reshma is actually the way that it’s technically supposed to be said, but because I’ve always said, Reshma not thinking like, oh, I’m not, I wasn’t like it. Wasn’t coming from a place of embarrassment about my culture or my heritage. It was just, that’s just how you would say that in a R E sh- ma, like it was coming from that place. And then I don’t know why I had a disconnect with the way my culture and my family were saying my name. I just, I, maybe I chose. I also, after a certain point, I was like, I just, the way it like the way it sounded, it sounded like me and everyone called me Reshma and then it like kept reflecting back to me and it felt like me. And then when I had the moment where I was like, no, I’m the asshole in this situation. And now I have to choose, do I choose the name that is correct? Appropriate, like the appropriate pronunciation from my heritage and the way it’s supposed to be said, or do I choose the name that they both hit me in a different place in my heart, but they both are my name. Like Reshma is still, like, I identify as Reshma is like, what feels like also another part of my identity, like completely like a familial, like, like different place. And then Reshma is like my identity and like who I am in the world. And so this whole thing has been causing me all kinds of chaos and I’m like, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. And so I’ve just kind of been like going with the flow with it and like kind of slowly introducing it. And what happened is the other day I did it like a year ago on Instagram. I was like, it’s Reshma I fit it on like an Insta story. And I don’t even know how many DMs I got. Like, I’m sorry, what your name is? Reshma Like, I tried to be subtle about it, but it’s so not subtle that people heard it. They were like, your name’s Reshma I was like, oh my God, it’s not something I can just sort of try and like, introduce it into the world without an explanation. There needs to be an explanation. Cause it sounds like a totally new name.
We could have a party, a re-introduction.
So I don’t know Dana, I’m trying to figure it out, but I know I have the right to choose. So I’m like, I can choose, like I even asked my mom I’m like, do you like, what should I she’s like, do you bill, like whatever you want to do, like a beautiful thing. And I’m like, okay, well I’ll just like, I’ll just choose.
There you go. You found the third option. You don’t have to be one or the other. You are actually both. Totally both.
Well, my friend, what do you think? I think we will certainly be following up with Reshma in the very near future. What a gym? What a gift? What a rock star. I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did. And I really do hope you go watch that opening scene from La La Land, actually watch the entire movie, but if you’re really up for a challenge, maybe go try to recreate Reshma’s performance from that opening scene. I think that you will find walking that line between natural and magical is much easier, said than done. Certainly much easier talked about than danced. So good luck with that. May the funk be with you? The subtle funk, the very funky funk. Go be gone. Get out there, keep it funky. And I will talk to you soon. Bye