Ep. #80 Respect the Technique with Kara Mack

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #80 Respect the Technique with Kara Mack
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In this episode, Kara Mack (dancer/ choreographer/ movement coach/ producer, founder and CEO of Africa in America) talks about how she builds bridges.  She builds bridges from education to entertainment, entertainment to agitation, and pop culture to the many cultures of the African diaspora. Kara artfully advocates for individual responsibility and the harmony of our society.  If you are looking to find your place and learn how important we all are in the music OF LIFE… this one is for YOU!

Quicklinks

Africa In America: http://africainamericamag.com/

https://www.instagram.com/africainamerica/

Kendrick Lamar Grammy Performance: http://premierwuzhere.com/videos/watch-kendrick-lamars-performance-at-the-58th-grammys/

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana. This is words that move me. I’m stoked you’re here. I am so stoked to be sharing this conversation. My guest today is the one and only Kara Mack. Kara is such a gift. Um, I don’t even know where to begin. She is the founder and CEO of Africa in America. She is a dancer, choreographer movement, coach educator, um, a self-proclaimed forever student. Uh, so she and I are kindred in that way. And she’s a producer, a mother, um, I mean so much more. You’re about to find out and I’m willing to bet you are also about to learn a lot, but first let’s talk wins. I love starting every episode with wins. And today I love letting you know that my win is one of those unique and special moments where work and play get to overlap. I’ll be traveling to Phoenix, Arizona for NYCDA nationals, and I get to visit my dad. If you’ve been listening for a long time, you might’ve even heard from my dad. He was on a father’s day episode. Um, you’ve probably also had the chance audibly meet my mom, but I don’t get to see my dad as much. He lives in Phoenix and I’m excited to visit, see a little bit what his world is like and, um, uh, get to teach a bunch of young dancing’s as well. So when, When birds stone, that’s what I’m celebrating today. All right, what is going well in your world? Hit me.  

I’m proud of you. Stoked for you. Keep winning. Now let’s dig in. This episode is a call for reverence. It is a call for respect. In this episode, Kara and I really dig into the importance of African Diaspora movement and music being recognized and celebrated technical forms, not hobbies, not electives, not extra credit. And certainly not something that you slap on the special skills part of your resume. After you’ve taken two quote African classes. Kara, will talk a lot more about that. She’s also going to talk about entertainment and activism, education, Oh, it’s beautiful. She also goes in, and this is important on the harmony that is society and how important we all are to this song called life. Oh, y’all it goes deep. So buckle up and get ready to enjoy the absolutely incredible Kara Mack,

Dana: Kara Mack. Welcome to words that move me. Thank you so much for being here.  

Kara: Thank you for having me, Dana. 

Dana: I am thrilled to get to like talk to you for an hour, but also really, really excited to share you with my listeners. Um, I, you and I have had not met in person until just a week ago, and I’m assuming you will be meeting some of these listen type listener types for the first time. Uh, so I’ll start by simply asking you to introduce yourself and tell us anything you want us to know about you. 

Well, I am a very simple person, so hello everyone. My name is Kara Mack, and I just like to call myself a Black Renaissance woman. So that incorporates everything that you need to know about me. 

You Better Renaissance. And what better time to have a Renaissance woman on the podcast, then the actual Renaissance. This is the in, in so many ways, um, an awakening for arts, uh, cultural awareness and awakening, and also like the actual circumstances are things are opening. Things are happening and I’m so glad that they are happening with you is a part of our lives, a part of our world. 

I appreciate that Dana, thank you! 

Oh my pleasure. Trust me. The compliments are only just beginning because the more I learn about you, the more I love about you, uh, I would love to start by talking about Africa in America. You are the founder and CEO, um, of, of this. I’m going to call it a resource, but please correct my language. I’m not sure what to call it. Actually. It is a very all encompassing entity. Could you,

Brand 

It’s a brand. Okay. Could you talk a little bit about Africa and America? What your vision was for it back in 2014 when you started and, um, what, you’re, what you’re up to now?  

Well, basically I started it in 2014, but it happened within my heart, like many, many years before the actual like first event. And the reason why I started it was twofold. So first from the aspect of being a dance teacher in dance academies and the respect, or I should say lack there of lack of within dance academies, within my experience for any style under the African Diasporic umbrella, I’m saying any style. So in the beginning you have particular people that have certain respect, but then they may get busy and they have to put other people in charge who decide that it’s only ballet, modern, jazz that needs to be required. Now the other stuff are electives. So with me year after year after year, trying to tell them, Hey, you guys, we being adults that mentality trickles down to the students. So yes, they are going, you know, you do sign 25 students up for my West African class. But because of that mentality of you already saying that that class is an elective, I am not going to consistently have 25 kids in my class whenever it’s supposed to, because they already know based off of how adults roll, that these are only the top three are the only things that you need to know to be successful in America as a dancer. So, so damaging. So with that being, you know, starting off just seeing that in me having to pull away from the academic side, now I’m traveling overseas and actually introducing myself to continental Africans or other Africans in the diaspora, and they’re looking at me like, hold up, where did you learn our stuff? Because they had no idea that it is been here since the fifties

Here being.. 

In America.So they’re not understanding how I’m dancing and doing all of that stuff. Like as if I was living there. 

Oh, Was this, uh, in your view, a compliment to you and your teachers and your 

Yes, but also just, just blown away by how we in the diaspora still. So divided still like, you know, we’re in our different places. So when I came back, I said, what could I do to be a bridge? And to also from the beginning to the end, say, respect the techniques, respect the techniques, respect the techniques. So that’s why I put in started 2014 Africa in America. Even the logo of the Africa is in between the A andA Africa and America, because I’m African-American yes, but it is about the bridge and the foundation between those continental Africans and the diaspora. And how can we begin to educate? So I started educating through of course, bringing master drummers, master dancers, having master workshops so people can be exposed to it. Then I said, I’m going to have an annual, original work showcase specifically for African Diaspora music and dance, because I see REDCAT I see all of these original work showcases, but whenever they see African Diasphoric movement, they look like, what, why are you doing this? I don’t even understand it. So I don’t understand your original work. And why did you submit? So I said, Africa and America will produce our own original work. So I give choreographers and composers every year for seven years straight. I did this at Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Feliz. So I’ve dealt with in one showcase over 25 different artists on the stage, because when you bring a choreographer, they are bringing their dancers, they’re bringing their music. So all of the city, whoever, you know, follows Africa in America, you get to see an original work showcase specifically for these styles. So you may get Panamanian, you may get Afro-Brazilian, you may get, you know, it’s so much stuff that just happens on that petite stage at Barnsdall Gallery theater. So then I took it further. I said, okay, how can we, you know, just keep it in people’s faces. I said, oh, clothing line, t-shirts stretch pants, all of this different. So I just began to evolve as the years went on and here we are in 2021, just like you see everyone like respect the technique T-shirts all of this stuff. And I’m just like, yeah, respect. Cause it’s not my group. I want to shine a light on everybody who does this and takes it seriously and who’s professionals at it so that people can understand like, Hey, the same way that you respect certain styles, just, just, you know, have empathy in your heart to say, okay, I just didn’t know about that. So now let me educate myself about that. And then you will see that the same blood, sweat, and tears that you had to put into pointing your foot, you have put into lifting up your legs and do something that’s the West African. So simple.  

I see respect the technique being naming a technique versus assuming it’s a hobby or assuming it’s a, a past time, uh, cultural dance. Uh, um, I want to say folk dance folk being of the people of a place. Uh, right. So this is, this is claiming space as an essential form and wow, as, when you’re talking about a teacher’s responsibility to embody and, um, exemplify what they’re teaching and the importance of what they’re teaching. If a teacher demonstrates that West African styles are not important, if they demonstrate with their language and with, you know, with how they move in the world, that that’s a, that that’s a hobby that it makes total sense that the students would too. And the more I learn the student that ever the perpetual student in me, I see African Diasporic movement and music as being like the basest base level of our food pyramid. This is like a nutritionist trying to tell a young person to eat their veggies and fruits and grains with a candy bar hanging out of their mouth, or like eating only drinking, only soda like this. To me, it’s, it’s that foundational. It is the base of our food pyramid. And we are suggesting that it is a snack or a, uh, uh, a sweet treat for, you know, when we’re, when we’re wanting to feel like we can get our toes wet in the cultural arts, it just is so much, 

That’s exactly What it is. That’s exactly what it is. Like you couldn’t have said it any better and it’s frustrating.  

Well then we’ll stop here before I can say something stupid because trust me, I’m new to this. I am, I am learning so much every day. And thank you for being such a willing and compassionate teacher, but it just, yeah, this is, this is why I’m excited to have you here today. I want to hear more about this. I want to, like you said, being able to humble down and say, oh, I didn’t know that, oh, I didn’t, I didn’t ever hear that. I have never seen that. Isn’t anything to be embarrassed of. In fact, y’all, if I have anything to do with it, Kara Mack will be doing a lot more work in the world that’s making you feel like, you know, nothing. Okay. So African dance Africa, the continent is a continent was just say that right outright. This is not a country. This is not a one type of people. This is not a one type of dance, but, um, I’m, I’m hoping that it becomes more integrated in our dance institutions and in our, you know, curriculum for building dance. But I also hope to see more of it in pop culture. And that is what I want to talk about next. If you are not totally tired of talking about Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance in 2016, can we please talk about it?  

No problem. Because honestly, that was the beginning of like, who is this chick and where did she come from? Type of vibe. So going ahead and ask away any questions you have.  

So first of all, if you haven’t already seen this legendary performance, Kendrick Lamar, 2016, I think he won like five Grammys that year. So that oughta, yeah, he came with heat. Um, please watch, I’ll make sure to link to the performance so that you can watch it and watch Kara getting down. Um, but in this piece, we, we get to see black men in chains, in prison jumpsuits. We get to see a very stark, deliberate and artful, but not subtle line between the incarceration of Black men in America and Africa period. It’s people, their resilience, their bravery, their energy, their fight, and seen side by side. This is one of the most impactful pop performances I’ve ever seen. And I call it pop. Not because that’s the style of music. It is, but because this is mainstream, this is the Grammy’s, this is network television. This performance was brought into the homes of middle America and a bunch of Americans that had that probably possibly, probably would rather have not seen that that night. 

I’m so happy. You know, that Danna.  

Well, I got, I got rocked. I was uncomfortable as hell watching that performance. It was loud, but I think that there is, I have always strived in my work. If we’re talking about bridges to bridge entertainment and education, I just think, and we’ll talk about more about teaching in a second, but I really think that you could do a quick sneak attack and do a lot of education under the veil of entertainment. Sesame Street is a beautiful testament, but that’s not all. I think we can really make education entertaining and get a huge payoff from it, but backup what that performance did was entertained and agitate at the same time. And that is harder. And I can only imagine the number of meetings and discussions and approvals and permissions and the number of straight ups forgive my language, but ***k you, I don’t care what you say. This is what we’re doing. I can only imagine how much of that was going on behind the scenes. I have now talked for 20 minutes about this performance and not asked a single question. 

I love it. I’m just over here. Like I don’t have anything to answer. You just totally got it in your head. That’s hilarious. All right, I’m still listening. 

Okay. Okay. Okay. I would love to know about your involvement in that creative process. I’ve only shared one creative space with you and then one training space with you, which both of which I’m eternally grateful for, but in this creative space, you, you brought a lot of context and a lot of history, a lot of your knowledge to the room I’ve been in rooms where that isn’t always welcome, whether that’s because of the leader at the top or whether that’s because of simply not there being enough time. Like we, we, we have four hours to get 40 people doing the same thing at the same time. We don’t have time to be educated right now. We’re, we’re assuming point blank that everyone in the room is educated if we’re on this gig. So what I would love to know is on that gig, did you serve a similar role to the role that I’ve seen you in, which is delivering the context, delivering some history. So was your role in that process? Similar? Did you serve in a, in a similar way?

I served as, uh, yes. I would like to say first to answer. Yes. I served in a similar way, but also deeper, um, flowers to Fatimia Robinson for being a particular leader that allows me every time that I work with her to actually give the reason for why I’m doing a certain movement, because she understands that first of all, this is a new movement for you quote unquote seasoned industry dancers. You have not seen this movement. So while you’re trying to figure out the movement within your body, that’s why we’re here for all of these hours. It’s not you being here for all of these hours, trying to, you already have the movement and you’re trying to get spacing, or you’re trying to find out what is your reason behind this two-step. No, you actually first have to get the movement. So I’m here having, you know, a semi African Diasporic bootcamp. So at the same time, I now have to explain to you why I’m doing the movement. So you won’t look confused and simply doing the movement on stage. So if you don’t have a leader, that’s giving you that space and opportunity to do it. I think. And I, and I would S I say, think because a lot of leaders don’t lead like her, which is sad to say, but some leaders will say, you know, get the movement and I don’t care look confused on stage, but it’s your choreo, that’s your name attached to it. So with, Fatima, it’s like, yes, Kara, tell Kendrick, while you’re doing this, tell the dancers why she doing? 

She’s no fool 

Shareway share away. So with that being the aura and the vibe that I was under, I had the space and opportunities to create whatever movement that I wanted. She gave, she just said, go, I didn’t even know actually what was going on. I didn’t know who the artist was. I just know that I was brought in to do a job. And then over time, I started to see the weight of that job, who that artist was, but it was just Kara, just move, you hear the music, just move and now teach these dancers what you just did. And so even within that, Dana, I didn’t tell my family or anybody because you know, the industry, like you, you can love it one day. And then the producers and everybody come later that week and it just like scratch all of that dah, dah, dah. But once we made it to the Staples Center and I saw that it still remained, like I was like, are you serious?  

Massive, it was massive! 

Massive. And then to think that none of us even knew that he was going to do the whole continent with Compton ending. We did not get any of those visuals yet. So imagine us in the back, like looking up at the monitor and him in it and it, and it, and it, and it it’s the continent. I was like, are you serious? But I even told him when we left, um, one of the rehearsals, I said, are you ready? Because remember it was right after, Beyonce’s Superbowl performance, 

Formation 

The formation with the Mike, Michael Jackson with the black power, that whole thing. And a lot of people was giving her flat, like that shouldn’t be at the super bowl. What is she doing? Black this way? And then the black yeah. Heavier. So it was very Ooh. And so when I saw one, yeah. And when I saw what he was leaning towards, I’m like, you’re going to the source and you’re putting it on the Grammy stage. So I asked him, I was like, are you ready for it? And he shook his head. It was like, he didn’t expect me that, you know, ask that question. But it was like him letting it sink in. And he’s like, yeah, yeah, I’m ready. Cause I it’s, like, I felt the weight without even seeing any of the visuals, any of what was going to be presented on the video. None of that, just the movement and just seeing like how it began and how it ended. I said, wow, are you ready? He said, yeah. I said, okay. But I had no idea, Dana. I, no idea it was going to be is be big and impactful as it was like, first I was telling you, like, it was because of social media where people that are professionals in these styles, it’s like, no who did that choreo in front of like, who did that part? And it was just like, wow, that’s, what’s up. All of my people in Cuba, all of my people in Brazil, all of my people in different countries, in West Africa that saw that Grammy performance, it was like, put it in the comments, Kara Mack, Kara Mack, Kara Mack. And I was like, wow, that’s what’s up. All right. So I understand my responsibility and I have to continue going down this particular path in my life.  

I’m so glad to hear that people said your name and people wrote your name and people read your name. My followup question is a tough one. It come, it’s coming up a lot lately. And I’m glad that it is because I think it’s an important distinction to make where you a contributing choreographer on that job, or was your role a dancer or was your role assistant or what, what was your title?  

I would like to say for that particular job, I was, I was a dancer, but I also contributed the movement that you see in front of the bonfire. Like that particular part. Yes. I contributed that. Um, and yeah, like within the industry, I’m happy to say that Fatima, uh, also Adrian big ups to Dubs, um, Charm, just different people that were witnesses and can account for, uh, the work that I put in. I’m very, very, very appreciative for them. Cause I respect all of them very much, but it’s very true that with other people in other circumstances, they do not get that same just due, so yeah. I’m happy that these conversations are coming up as well.  

I think it’s, um, a broader conversation in the education of what the choreography department brings to a project. Not necessarily just being eight counts, as you mentioned in this case, it was history lessons. Yes. It was steps. Yes. It was even your body doing the steps, but it was context. It was information. It was, I mean, I’m assuming I can, I can only imagine a borderline religious experience in that room every day. Yeah. Um, and, and I think that some, some audiences know that, most of them don’t some productions know that many of them don’t, many of them don’t know that choreography is a department. They think that’s one person, one choreographer. And the thought that one person could control I’ll use that word for lack of a better one at this moment could control the 40 people that were on stage. Nope, no,  

No. That’s with me learning all with me, learning over the course of time, like Fatima’s also been a great teacher. Um, just shedding, so much information on my physical body mentally and spiritually is the fact that no, even if someone asked me to do all of that, I wouldn’t look at them like you have lost your ever loving mind, like the things that you have to do in coordinating with different, um, departments with the clothing and then with the props and then with the lighting and what is the artists going to wear? And it’s just like, no, absolutely. So everyone who’s listening that is what comes with that particular role as choreographer is not stepping in a studio and saying 5, 6, 7, 8. So yeah, if you didn’t know now, you know,  

Uh, super shout out to not my last episode, but the episode before, when I sit down with the choreography team, from In the Heights, it really was when they say it takes a village in our case, at least a small apartment complex of people to get that done. But then, but one of the things that we talk about in that episode is that the structure of the choreography, the organization and the collaboration of the choreography team is one thing. And it does get to shine in that movie, holy smokes. But what really shows up on the screen is the spirit of the dancers. That’s the one part, the choreography team can’t deliver on the day. Yes. You know, we can, we, we are involved in casting. We have discussion with music, with set with all of the other departments, but on the day it’s dance team, who’s supported by choreo team that gets out and gets the word out. That’s like a, we are important, this matters. And so I, I see that performance is a beautiful example of that. The dancers on stage. I mean, I cry. I think about Marv, I think about watching you dance. It is so.. Calling it impassioned feels small. It feels it’s like possessed. It is something such a treat for, especially for an award show. Um, but I, I just, I think the world of that performance and I’m in awe of your role in it, I’m so glad it exists. And I want everyone to watch it five times.  

I want to share one, um, special moment for me. Um, I’ve shared this before, but I want to share it on your platform. When I shared, uh, with Kendrick, uh, the part of the choreo where we do a circle around him, he in the beginning thought that it was like, oh, it’s like spirits around me and I’m scattered. And I’m trying to find my place. And it was the moment that I was like, no, Kendrick, that’s not, this is a rhythm Sandia, but it’s, Lamban the song Lamban, which is lifting up the oral historian, which is the Griot. And I said, Kendrick, you are African-American’s oral historian. So we’re doing this movement around you to lift you up and to give you energy for what is your role. And so he just got quiet and he said, you know, basically it was like, okay, okay. And automatically I saw a change within him. And during that performance, it’s like, oh wow, I get it. Like, it’s like claiming my responsibility and claiming my role for what I’m supposed to do. So now I’m gonna just take this a whole mile past what I thought I was gonna present on a Grammy stage. So yeah, that moment was special to me because he really thought he was just like, oh, it’s, you know, things around me. And I’m trying to figure, as I know, there’s nothing to figure out. We are here only to uplift you and to encourage you for you are our oral historian. You are our Griot.  

Thank you so much for sharing that. Yeah, that’s awesome. That makes me want to go in one direction, but I’m going to go another direction then I’m going to circle back. Okay. I got Google maps pulled up there. They’re like, you are not on the fastest route. Do you want to take another route? And I’m like, no, I want to stay on this route. Let me, let me keep going. I had Moncell Durden on the podcast over the summer of last year, and I took a few of his courses, um, Intangible Roots, which was awesome. And then he did a collaboration series with Passion Fruit Seeds. I learned so much one of the, um, one of the themes that I liked learning about the most and was embarrassed and ashamed that I had not heard of sooner was the notion of a Ring Shout and what happens to the dancer who is in the center? The, the geometry obviously is very significant and very important there’s of the land there’s of the godly there’s of the water. Um, and there’s this notion that the person in the center maybe mounted by a spirit. And I asked you a similar question the other day when we were jamming, but I asked Moncell this question specifically in a ring shout, this moment was not about dance. This was not about show and prove. This was not about anybody’s sick skills, or it wasn’t about like even attracting a mate. It wasn’t about being the dopest and getting the best dancer or the best, you know, whatever. It’s not about this. It is a religious experience and in learning more and more, and the depth of those roots becoming more aware of, um, the, the Pantheon of Orishas in Yoruba culture, I’m learning the importance of religion of spirituality. And so I asked Moncell, is there space for atheism in this dance? Is there room for other gods than these I know there are hundreds of Orishas, but we hear specifically about a small handful of them. Like, is there room for what I think of that God in the dance, or could a person I’ve asked eight questions now, could it, could a person still authentically embody the dance without believing in those gods.  

To first answer the question, um, the same way that I answered it when we were jamming, you first have to come with the honor and the respect of what is the tradition. So there are a lot of people you may have dancers that are professionals in these styles that may be a Buddhist. They may believe, you know, in so many different, uh, like other different religious and faiths, like yeah, but the reason why they are professional within the music and dance styles is because of the respect and the honor of what those people do. Because once again, we’re not talking about styles where everyone that is within that ethnic group is now wiped off the planet. Those people are living and breathing, cultivating. They’re still living their lives as we are doing this podcast right now. So you have to just dig deeper in those types of, you know, worldviews and concepts. That’s outside of a Westernized structure of, oh, this is what I do. So how can I put what I do onto you?  It’s not in, it should not be about that, at all. It should be, as it 

Because is in Western!

Exactly, it should be about the total acceptance for what it is now, you, within your own spirit have to make choices. Once you see something and experience something for what it is, you then have to ask certain questions of yourself, not turning it into which a lot of westernized people do. Here are some suggestions that I believe can make your brand better. And that’s we treat, we treat styles musically, and movement-wise like their brands. So we don’t look at it as I know the roots and I’m being creative. It’s now like, no, I’ve adjusted it properly. It is now my signature. And now you will call it by my name. Hmm,  

Man, when you put it that way, it is a very, uh, an unsavory thought 

And it has been done so much. So to, to, to finalize and complete that question, you can do, you, you can do you freely. However, when you come with now, this passion, because I believe Dana with you, especially, and to all of the listeners who have this passion to learn certain things now, or even before that, you probably can’t even explain, no, you move on that passion. You move on, what’s moving your spirit. Now in your head, you probably define things a certain way and that’s totally you doing you, but I’m also a believer in you being moved by your passions. And, and I’m just sticking to that. Whatever you want to call that, call it, whatever vocabulary, word, whatever title it’s all on you. 

I’m going to call it pineapple. 

If you are, if you are a pineappling in your heart, then you better go down that pineapple road. Because in the end, honestly, when you are at that age where it’s like, yeah, I have done it. And I am complete. You won’t feel complete because you know, within your heart that it was so many things that you were passionate about.  

You know whats incredible. Can I tell you what? Oh, it’s incredible. As you are giving that beautiful speech about passion. I was fondling my neck, my necklace, which is a blue ceramic heart. It is a keepsake that I have had since my first trip to Los Angeles as a preteen. Well, I guess I was technically, I think I was 13 or 14. I was taking my first dance class at millennium dance complex. My heart was so wildly on fire for dance. I went across the street, there was a little boutique and I think I’m pretty sure it was supposed to use this money on like food. And I found this necklace and I fell in love with it. And I was fondling it in the little bead that’s in the middle of the heart just fell out, but I’m not going to make that mean. I’ve lost my passion for them. I can see it. It’s on the floor. Find some gloom. It’s about eternal heart. Okay. So what I would like to add to this notion of respect and honor, because I, I, I want to ask an ignorant question, but I’m going to stop myself. 

Don’t say ignorant

Um, uh, a poorly formed question. How do you know you have reached respect and honor? How do you know that? Like, okay. Uh, I took Moncell’s workshop over the summer. I respect and honor. That’s not it. So how do you know, how do you measure that point and how do you know that you’ve arrived?  

It is actually a great, great question. When you, uh, when you showed up in humble yourself and you just receive when it’s not about when it’s not about you. And I say that, meaning there are a lot of people that already assume when I say, when it’s not about you, it’s like, oh no, but I am a humble person in class, I do fall back and I’m pretty quiet. 

I I I I

You, and you hear that, I, you hear it. And it’s like all of the, the attributes of how humility looks to them comes out as a defense, to what I’m saying. Like, you know, when you’re totally invisible in the movement and the music is the only thing that matters. You as a person, me as Kara Mack, when I’m receiving information, my history where I was born, how old I was, my, my credits, what I will be doing on the day after the class. None of that matters. None of that matters. Like I am fully in the moment so much that I have disappeared into the space of whatever is occurring during that time that I’m receiving that information. It could simply be in a studio in Hollywood, or I could be out on the beach in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, I’m in that space. I don’t need the attributes of what it looks like to be in the earth and to beat, to actually be in the earth and be present and be there to receive information like we have it, people have gotten so, so, so, so, so Westernized that we have to create the visual to make us seem like we’re connecting with the universe. No, if you’re really connecting with the universe, you can connect with the universe wherever you are.  

And you’re likely not on your phone  

And just, and simple things like that. So that’s when you know, like, okay, that is the beginning of my learning because I’m a forever student. I’m going to be learning until, you know, you see me physically no more, but that is the beginning of when you begin to actually learn when you’re totally out of the way when you’re totally, totally out of the way. And someone has to point you out and say, okay, Dana, I see that you’re now ready for blahzay, blahzay, blahzay, blahzay, blahzay, not you taking it upon yourself to say, now I see myself I’ve been in these classes for so-and-so it’s no, no. In those moments it can be a child that point you out. It doesn’t have to be the head of a company or a head of a production. It’s the spirit spirit recognize a spirit. 

In fact, it’s probably to seek that type validation from that type of moment is even further in the, in the, in the opposite direction of the selflessness that you are, uh, speaking of.  

Yes. 

Well, that is certainly a lot to chew on and possibly the best answer to the best question that I almost didn’t ask. 

No, I love that question. It’s not an ignorant question. I don’t, a lot of people ha a lot of people that are artists need to get back to that because for some reason, we we’re now living in a society too, that really, really belittles art just period to make us seem like we carry no responsibility. When we are the movers and shakers of society. We are politicians, artists are politicians, politics, economic, cultural, any type of title you want to give. arts moves things in certain directions, people that were invisible 10 years ago, 20 years ago are now visible because of artists. Because of artists. So we have to claim or take back that power within all of us. So as dancers, as musicians, as visual artists, whatever you do, you have to take that back. And then when you start to get that confidence back, then you will be able to see how it’s easy to disappear and just soak up, just be a sponge, bring respect, and honor to whatever new experience that you’re experiencing at the time. It’s going to be easy because you understand that the power that you have,  

It’s going to be easy because you think that the process is one that is fulfilling versus one that is exhausting. And I’ll admit with full humility that in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I felt like catching up was impossible. I felt like the amount of research, respect, and honor I owed I couldn’t in my lifetime pay. And, and so that feeling is kept me from doing it for a short time, this idea that I could never respect enough or honor enough, or right the wrongs enough. And that’s not useful. In fact, I really, I think that there’s a similarity here. Um, and I’m, I’m getting foggy brain. So I’m going to try to put it as concisely as I can. When you think it’s a responsibility, a joy, an honor, a pleasure to lead in this way, then the respect and the honor comes free flowing versus trying to muster it and trying to meet a deadline or certain mile markers of having done enough. It’s simply what we do is simply what we do and then. Should we choose it? Which is a responsibility, but go, go, go.  

I just think that majority of the stress will just fall off all of our shoulders. If we see that we are not the only ones that are doing what we’re doing, when we have a bird’s eye view and an aerial view to the people that are in different geographic locations all over this world.  

Oh, I see. I see. Yes. 

If we just, I, I can, uh, I contributed, uh, to think about the definition of poly rhythms, poly rhythms, we African Diasporaic music and dance showcases polyrhythmic things. So think about just dig deeper on poly rhythms. Poly rhythms encompasses different rhythms. That’s happening all at the same time,  

Multiple, simultaneous, responsible.  

Now imagine if one person falls off their rhythm, if one person chooses to copy someone else’s rhythm, or if someone chooses to leave that rhythm, the ensemble falls off. So an African Diasporaic music and dance. It’s the artists as the individual, understanding the responsibility of the fact that if I don’t contribute what I’m supposed to contribute, let’s go deeper. If I don’t do my purpose, then this whole community, community, ensemble, group, falls off because of me not contributing anything. The society is making us to believe that when we don’t contribute anything, it doesn’t matter. They’ve been successful at doing that. If someone gives five part harmony and this one part is off, no one is focusing on the fact that four other singers are still singing on key. They’re saying this five-part harmony is off. Look at that in life. How important is that one person in that poly rhythm in that five part or six part or seven part harmony, even three part harmony. That means that your life, the part that you play matters. So don’t overthink about how much you’re giving. Just freaking give, just give don’t let systems tell you that you don’t need to give because your contribution, whatever it is, doesn’t matter. That’s a lie. That’s the point. That’s the last. So you don’t carry the weight of it, all of it on your shoulders. It’s other people in the ensemble making this beautiful music right along with you, and you have to pay attention to every role that’s being played all at the same time that you’re giving your little. And then you look at it like, oh, I don’t carry all of this on my shoulders. Oh, it’s not my responsibility to do everything because I feel so much coming from my spirit due to social injustice, things of that nature. No everyone is doing it.  

That’s key. That’s key. Weightless does not mean responsibility-less. It means my responsibility. Exactly. Which relative to the big picture is small. But if I choose to not carry it for fear of the whole load, then none of the, none of it gets it  

Then the systems are successful and they can keep on doing what they’re doing because here is one person out and I’m still gonna take, yes, that’s the way I turn everything into music. Sorry. That’s not, no 

I’m with it. This is great. And I, I love the way that, that you did that and brought some broader context, you know, zooming out to a global versus a dance scale. But, um, it, because it is, it dances is life and life is dancing. This is it. This is why we’re here because I’m fascinated by that. And that, and that learning dance lessons really makes me a better human and being a better human makes me a better dancer. All of my out there, life experiences that show up on a stage in a performance or even in a brainstorm even pre-performance stage. All of the humanness is very helpful to what I do. Um, but I, I, uh, I’ve derailed again. I’m excited what I wanted to, what I wanted to shout you out for what you just said. This was a great teaching moment for all of the teachers who are listening is you brought context to help something stick. It’s more than making an analogy of two things that are unlike and saying that they’re alike. It’s helping me understand and making sticky a concept that I was struggling with. That’s what you just did. And it sounds like that’s what you did in the room with Kendrick, where you got to understand that regardless of how much time is offered or regardless of who is leading that additional understanding any additional understanding, any additional context, not only helps things to click faster, but it makes things last longer. And if we’re here to make a long lasting change, then it’s got to be sticky. These lessons that we’re delivering and these lessons that we’re learning and this art that we’re making has to be sticky. Yes. So thank you for making that sticky lesson for me.  

Practical lesson for all you dancers, the reasons why you should search and find other styles, other classes to take disappear in it, learn it, get soaked up in it is because dance is a language. The only way that you, you call yourself proficient in any language is once you’re able to comfortably in that language, say what you mean and mean what you say. Without that, you’re not proficient in that language. So if you call yourself a dancer, I don’t care if you love one style over another. If you’re, if you lean towards, I’m just saying a professional dancer, I believe that you would want to have as many vocabulary words for you to express yourself as you can, instead of your sentences being structured. I went to the store. I would like my sentences to be structured Yesterday as the light shines so bright in Los Angeles, California. I took my bike down to the store and met Mr. John, who said, that’s the difference between an amateur and a professional dancer. So that’s on a practical sense, vocabulary. Up your vocabulary. So then you can be able to get the jobs that you want and be successful at it. Up your vocab. Thank you,  

Please. Up your freaking vocab with the base of the food pyramid, not the top of the food pyramid. I’m dying. Okay. So on that note, Kara, where can we find more of you and your training? Um, I’m absolutely going to be linking to Africa in America. Yes.  

Well, as you said, Africa and America, that’s both on Instagram and Facebook and Dana knows I’m a private person. I, I personally, for me, I’m not the person that uses social media is like the resume. I’m all like, here’s my kid. And we went to the park. That’s like my personal Instagram. So sorry for you guys or looking for like choreography videos every two days for me and things that, no, I don’t do any of that. So you could get any update from me at the Africa and America, um, link. But if you want to send me a request because you’re very interested in my private life, it is @MackKara

I love this so much.  Um, okay, Well, thank you for that beautiful conversation. A peek into your experience. Um, as an educator, as a performer, as a choreographer, as a person who understands pop culture and rich, rich culture, I am so grateful for your time. Thank you, Kara. 

Thank you. Dana much, love, peace and blessings to everyone who’s listening and continue to support this Chica, Dana your hilarious. 

Oh my God. She’s laughing. Cause I’m just dancing in this tiny little corner where I try to record my podcast. Very small movement. Kara, we’ll talk to you again soon. Thank you again for being here. Bye. 

My friends. That was something else. Wasn’t it. I love Kara’s thoughts on responsibility. I love the way she encourages a well-rounded vocabulary. I love the way she teaches and I love the way she underlines the importance of respect and how to know once you’ve found it. Um, here’s one of the things that I really loved the most she says in bold font, I could tell she was speaking in bold font. Don’t overthink about how much you’re giving, just freaking give. So thank you for giving us gold Kara Mack and thank you all for listening. I so appreciate you now. Get out there and give and of course keep it very, very funky. I’ll talk to you soon. 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 or review because your words move me to number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit the dinners and.com for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #79 Revelations and Life After Rejection with Karine Plantadit

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #79 Revelations and Life After Rejection with Karine Plantadit
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I have been a fan of Karine Plantadit  since I saw her perform at the Tony awards in Come Fly away in 2010 (FYI she was Tony Award and Drama League Award nominated for that role) AND THEN we got to work together on “In The Heights”!  I jumped at the opportunity to have a conversation with her because it isn’t hard to tell that she is as strong in mind as in body.  She is delightful and insightful and she blows my mind (and my heart) wide open in this episode.  In this episode, Karine and I talk In The Heights, we talk Buddhism, we talk process, we talk goals, and flash flood warning… there are tears because we also dig into professional and personal heartbreaks.  Life after rejection. It might sound dreadful, but when you are talking to someone like Karine… even tough subjects can feel like a glass of cold water on a hot summer day… So get ready to drink up!  

Quick Links:

Karine Plantadit: https://www.instagram.com/karineplantadit/

https://www.karineplantadit.com/

Kamochi Method: https://www.instagram.com/kamochimethod/?hl=en https://www.kamochimethod.com/

Karine in Come Fly Away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O47sYsUBnp0

Vance Joy “Lay it On Me”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXXD1QxpiswReese’s Puff Commerical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QApHEIXHNTw

Transcript:

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

Dana:Hello, hello, my friend, and welcome. This is words that move me. I’m Dana and wow, have I got a treat for you today? Um, so you know that feeling when you get to meet your heroes, uh, if you don’t, I’m going to explain it to you actually better yet. I’m going to just let you listen to it. This episode is it, this episode is me meeting a hero. Wow. Let’s see. Okay. I have been a fan of Karine Plantadit since I saw her perform at the Tony awards, um, with Come Fly Away, back in 2010. Oh, back in 2010 and I will 100% be linking to that performance. Um, a YouTube link because it’s so great FYI. She was nominated for a Tony award and a Drama League award for that role. And then several years later, we got to work together on In the Heights.  She is the brilliant dancer that is straight up punishing Abuela Claudia on the train during Paciencia y Fe. Um, if you have not seen the movie yet, please, please do, and keep a close eye out for Karine. And if you have seen it, you know what I’m talking about guarantee, but go back and revisit that anyways. Okay. So not long after the premiere of, In the Heights, Karine slid into my DMS on the gram. And she asked for my number to ask me a question and I immediately choked up, like maybe I was in trouble or I did something wrong. I was sweating instantly. And then she called me and it was so warm and delightful and insightful. And she told me about an ongoing series of conversations that she is having on her Instagram live. Uh, she calls this series. What’s Good with Karine? And she asked if I would join her as a guest. Um, so after I collected myself off the floor, uh, in, in true improv fashion, I said, “yes, and can we record our conversation for my podcast,” told her all about the podcast. She said, yes. And then we talked for a really long time about dance and life, and what’s going in the world. And after discussing some of our personal and professional heartbreaks, we decided that the topic of our conversation would be life after rejection, which kind of sounds dreadful. But when you’re talking to someone like Karine, even tough subjects can feel like a glass of cold water on a hot summer day. So get ready for this one. But first wins today. I am celebrating the summer solstice, which was this past Sunday. I’m sorry that we’re falling a little bit off on our schedule. I’m recording this before you will hear it. But on Sunday we had our longest day of the year and I celebrated more than the solstice itself. I am celebrating that. I joined today’s guest Corinne and her partner Mochi. They go by Kamochi Method on Instagram. We’ll be linking to that in the show notes as well. Uh, anyways, I joined the two of them for 108 sun salutations. And that’s a big win because I haven’t done a pushup or a chaturanga or a forward fold. Well that many forward folds, I haven’t done that in a long, long time. So I was sore on Monday, but I also felt focused and fantastic. Big win! 108 sun salutations. Whoa. So that was me. That’s my world. Uh, what is going well in your world? What are you celebrating today?  All right. Congratulations. Rock on. I’m so proud of you. Keep winning. Okay. Let’s get back into it. So I was very excited and a little bit nervous, which are pretty similar feelings in my body, uh, for this conversation with Karine. And then as the conversation was happening, I was having complete revelations. That is a happy accident of word usage because Karine is a former principal dancer for the Ailey company, I digress. In this episode, Karine and I talk in the Heights. We talk Buddhism, we talk process. We talk goals and flash flood warning. There are tears. So get ready and please enjoy this conversation with Karine Plantadit

Karine: Welcome everyone. This is What’s good with Karine? It’s been a moment I haven’t been around, but I’m back. And I’m back with such an incredible light. I had this incredible opportunity to meet Dana when we were on In the Heights shoot. I don’t think I knew Dana at all. Like it wasn’t a, it wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t like a new of her, but I should have known of her because the moment I met her, I was like, I’ve got to be in the presence of this woman all the time, every time. So we were able to connect and then I started to look at what she does and we started to talk and Dana is here today. 

Dana: Karine my Queen! 

Karine: So yeah, I don’t know where to start with you. I don’t know where to start. You make me, you make me feel so, um, bubbly inside. And if you’re bubbly..

Dana: Let’s go!  And you, you know what? You look like sparkling lemonade on a hot summer day. I’m glad to bring the bubbles and be met with bubbles. And my earrings are making noise on my little ear dongles. So I’m going to take those out. Um, okay. So earrings aside, thank you so much for having me. Thank you for reaching out to have this conversation. It blew my mind to receive a message from you saying, Will, you have a conversation with me? Because I cannot tell you every moment on set that I watched you dance. I was like, I want to talk to this person. I mean, I could watch you dance for ever and ever and ever, but when you weren’t dancing, you were meditating. When you weren’t meditating, you were reading. I can tell, I could tell that this was a mind that I wanted to meld with. And I’m so excited to have the opportunity to do that right now, even over the virtual, the the pixel pixel verse, or  

It doesn’t even let okay. The pixel, I think we had to learn. Um, we had to learn how to move beyond what the eyes were seeing, you know, during, I think that’s one of my biggest learning is that what if, what if I were to close my eyes? Can I reach Dana? Right? It can, because I really had to learn this on, in a hard way, because during the pandemic actually left my mom in France and I was here and she’s dealing with Dementia. She’s dealing with very difficult, you know, Alzheimer’s dementia, all those, um, crazy challenging aging disease. And I could not be there for her meaning physically. So even though I was separated from her, I was like, my love for her is so grand and vast that I was like, I have got to figure out how to transport the love of mine through the ocean, Atlantic ocean, moving through France, going into , going into Mougins in the nursing home. And I have to hold her head. She has to feel that she has to feel. And I feel Dana that you are that kind of person that is looking. I don’t know, like the way I saw you were was there was a precision that I appreciate with you, but there was a looseness, but I am wanting to go in your brain, Dana and your heart.  Can I come? Can I come in? Okay. Come in. Okay. So we got to go factual first. I want to go factual. Okay. I want to go super factual. Let’s go. Where do you, where did you start dancing? What’s the story with the dance part of you? 

Okay. The dance part of my life begins at a dance studio in Aurora, Colorado, which is where I’m from. At the age of three. I had an older sister who was already in dance, and it’s possible that my mom saw a convenience in having both of the kids in the same place at the same time. So we went to dance. That is what we did when I was a young person. I spent all of my, um, my life in Colorado up until my teenage years. And my training moved from the studio that I started at as a tiny dancingling to a dance studio called Michelle Latimer Dance Academy. Shout out to any Michelle Latimer alums that might be listening it, shout out to Michelle herself. I owe this beautiful life and my relationship with dance to her. She, she watered the seed and nurtured this, this plantling that became dance for me in a beautiful way. So, uh, yes, I, I started my relationship with dance at three, when it was more like babysitting or daycare, it was more like playtime. And then, you know, increasingly over the years, got a little more serious, got a little more serious, got a little competitive, got a little, um, um, inspired by the introduction of the idea that this could make money someday. And then I fell in love with the idea of dance for a living. I saw many people do it successfully. I saw many people fail at it, and I was determined to succeed at it for myself, which terrified my parents mind you. Uh, I moved to Los Angeles at 18 to become a backup dancer. That was the big goal. 

And, um, did you have, uh, Did you have someone that you wanted to? 

Yes, I was, I know I was obsessed with NSYNC. I was very much in factuation. In fact, in fact, I was infatuated with Justin Timberlake, um, the music video for Like I love you changed the game for me, everyone was just so cool and sexy and without trying, and, and, and as a teenager, is there anything better than being cool and sexy without trying like that was the goal? Um, so that, that was it for me. And I was very fortunate in my timing. And in my placement, I met and befriended Marty Kudelka, who is one of JTs best friends, and also his long time choreographer and collaborator co-creative director. Um, Marty and I, uh, began a friendship that is one of my most cherished to this very day. Uh, I started assisting Marty on various projects. And then one day we were working on a commercial gig of all things for Reese’s Peanut butter puffs cereal. I remember the day very well. And he, he got a phone call and he was like, hold on one second. He takes this call and then he hangs up the phone and he looks at me and he’s like, yo, are you ready? And I was like, are we going back in what’s up? What are we doing? And he was like, that was JT. He’s going on the road. Do you want to help me? Will you help? And it was like WTF yes, count me in. So that, that was the beginning of my, um, uh, that was my first tour. I was, I turned, I was 19 when I met JT. When we started, we did a, a fashion show. I went on tour while I was 20. I turned 21 on the road. Um, and, and that was the beginning of what is still a very special work and human relationship for me, 

Just so, so incredibly inspiring. 

You know, when people say success is when opportunity meets preparation, I think if there’s so many more things than that, and I do want to take a pause, as I know that people listening are looking to model their careers after ones like mine, if not mine, oh, one, one that might be like mine. And it’s, uh, for me, this notion of success of being successful is much less about, uh, the person that you work for, or the person that discovers you or, or the job that you do and more to do with what you think success is. I think that success is doing what you said you will do. And I said, I wanted to be a backup dancer, so hell yes, you better believe I feel successful in what I have done in my life, but I also feel like a failure when I say I will take the trash out and I don’t because to me, success is doing what you say. Well, you will do. And failing is simply not doing what you said you will do. And trust me, I have failed plenty.  

Yes, yes. I’m loving that. I, um, I have, um, something about, you know, success and failure or. I feel, I feel Dana that a lot of time, uh, when I see success is oftentimes I feel that it has a lot to do with me looking at something and maybe not being, uh, I’m learning to not be attached by the end of project, but how in the journey I move, I move in the way I deal with people over the time I deal with my own, um, lesser self during that time, did it have a little more, hold on my lesser self or a little more, a little less listening. And following my lesser self along the way of my journey, because sometimes I feel that you can actually get, I’ll give you an example shape, but I’ll give you an example. One of my dreams and the reason why I came to this country when I was 16 I saw the Ailey company in Paris, I’d never seen such a thing in my whole life Dana. I literally, I was 16 or 15, 15, and I just came from Africa. I was in France. Then I was studying dance a little bit. Like you were also in, you realize like, wait, I can make money out of that. I can, I can actually, it can be my job. I can just be that I can just, that’s my job. That’s my first time. Yeah, the first time I saw this was for one I, saw Fame, the bootleg tape of Fame in Africa. That was my first moment where I was like, that’s a job. I was like, that’s my job. But now fast forward to the Ailey company, I saw the Ailey company. And I literally, at that moment, my life just like for you, like you knew that was a game changer. That video that you saw for me was watching the performance of Ailey in Paris and my eyes and my heart, my skin, my soul saw the current come up and I saw this, right. So I never came back down. I was like, wherever they are in the world, I will be like, the clarity of this could not be clearer right now, fast forward I joined the company and I joined them. I joined the company and the first year in the company, I actually wasn’t happy. I had succeeded, but I had an idea of what that was to be in the company. I had an idea that, that that idea does not always match what is, 

Oh, very rarely because we are not fortune tellers. 

Exactly. So, so all of a sudden, you know, I was in the company, but I had to do some work within me now, the real work of me, not just, oh, wait a minute, see success and happiness can be very different.  

Oh, my friend let’s talk. All right. Yes. Yes. Oh. And the assumption that success equals happiness is a dangerous one because you can live your whole life chasing success, the thing, or the company or the job, or the relationship, or the amount of money that you associate with that and land there and feel very unsuccessful. So in, in my pursuit, I’ve sort of rewired, um, become much less interested in being a successful person and being a person that lives a full life and is a professional at feeling both sides of the spectrum. The hell, yes, I’ve got this, I’m winning. I’m great. I’m the envy of all my friends. I’m fulfilled. I’m happy. I’m all the things too. I am the scum of the universe. I am an imposter. I am, I mean, really not worthy. Um, that’s one of my favorite ones. Uh, and, and I’ve gotten to be very good at feeling those things without taking them out in action. Sometimes I just sit and feel them without resisting them or pushing them away. Like, no, that’s not appropriate. I shouldn’t really do that right now. Don’t do it. And, and, and I’m getting better at not avoiding them altogether and ignoring them, but honoring them. That’s, uh, that’s what I am. That’s the, that’s the journey that I’m on right now is like honoring the full spectrum of feels. That’s what I’m, that’s what I aiming for.  

Wow. Dana. So, so I, um, in the, in the real mother of the pandemic, I have been talking a lot about, I think a lot of us have been able to go inward where you just talked about that place, where we could no longer fake it. And because it crumbled. The ***t crumbled clearly. Right. It went down, it crumbled at a level that I don’t even think Dina, that we actually know the real impact of that crumble.  

The ripples will be going far, far beyond. 

Yeah. Yeah. Was there during the, was there during the pandemic for you? Um, a specific moment that you can go back to and take us with you. Was there a specific moment as for your career first and for you as a person second, that was very, um, one of those shifts where you, you knew you shifted at that moment. I don’t know what that means, but was there a shift? So first we between Dana career, was there a shift in your career during the pandemic and the way you saw your career or what you think of your career or what you, what you, what you discovered maybe even, so that’s the first part.. That’s the first spot you should  

Do that? Is it for a living? You know, if dance doesn’t pan out?  Um, no big deal. Okay. So to answer, okay. That was the first part. I’ll take the first part first. Yeah. I had several, oh **** moments over the quarantine. A handful of them were around my career. Most of them were around my personal life and relationships and the value that I place in relationships. And I do want to circle back to where you began the conversation about feeling connected to your mother, even from a distance. Um, but I’ll, I’ll put that in the parking lot for a second. Just don’t let me forget, because that was a beautiful sentiment. I don’t think we rang the towel dry on that. There’s a lot of value in, in that discussion. Um, but one moment of clarity that I had came shortly after I was a part of, um, an NYCDA, which is the company that I, the convention company that I teach for the founder of NYCDA is Joe Lantieri, who is also the owner of Steps on Broadway, uh, a pillar in the dance community to say the very least. And he, he worked to build something special for graduating seniors over the summer. Um, he built sort of a, um, a mentorship opportunity for the graduating seniors who were missing. Um, I say missing, but who did not get an in-person graduation, did not get a senior year at nationals moment. And so he built this mentorship opportunity. And what I, as I sat on a question/answer panel of this mentorship program, I realized that this is a, obviously a unique time for all of us, but to be a graduating senior, to be embarking on what is already a difficult transition to navigate from student into workforce or from student into student under a parent’s roof to student under college roof. Um, that must be a really difficult, uh, um, bridge to cross, even when you can see clearly it’s scary, but for these graduating seniors, it must’ve looked on fire like and missing planks and like, do I really go, I don’t want to go out there. So I knew immediately. I was like, I have to create something that, that can help guide and give tools to the class of 2020. And with the help of my two assistants, Malia Baker and Riley Higgins, we built a 12 week course in two weeks. It sold out in no time. It w it w I, I didn’t even, I announced it. I didn’t even make offers. I didn’t even ask, Hey, are you in? I said, this is what I’m doing. And the people came because there was need. And that was a beautiful moment where I realized that making money isn’t about booking jobs, making money is about creating value. I saw there was an opportunity and I felt that I could contribute value. And that’s what I did. That was a very empowering moment. It was, it was, it came from me, but it was selfless and it felt so good. Um, so that was a big pivot. Um, the other pivots that came from me came, came for me during this time were about my awareness of terrible, terrible social injustice in our world. Um, the assumptions that I have based on my lived experience that are wrong, that are lies that are not only untrue, but un-useful, so I got to do a lot of deconstructing of my beliefs and rebuilding them, um, to be more in alignment with the world that I want to live in someday. And we’re getting there slowly. We’re getting there. And,  Um, I, yeah, that’s, I hope I answered the question. I’m getting fogged very now, but 

No, no, no Dana  You talked about it. Like you went into the career part, you talked about, you know, making money, uh, versus just thinking of creating value. And that is one of my biggest, oh my God, this is one of my biggest, uh, gem for my heart, from my, my way of living life. The moment I started to know that, oh, wait a minute. It’s actually about creating value. It’s not about anything else. Then, then he changes the game of whatever you’re doing. The moment I realized that I was, I’ve been a Buddhist for like, I don’t know, 30, maybe 27 years or so. And one of the big thing was like, for me, as I started to perform, I said, but I don’t like, what, why am I dancing? What is going on with me? Wanted to just kick my leg up and twirled around. But when I started to practice Buddhism and I started to understand that, wait a minute, no, no, no, no, no. That’s my way of creating peace. I am an artist for peace. I, all of a sudden doing a tondue was like a tondue, like a weapon for peace. 

You know, it’s crazy. When you say This, I’m seeing you tondue and it’s a knife. It’s a sword in the sky. That’s like peace justice, but I’ll fight for it. Fight for it. 

I will Fight for it! It took me. It took me a moment to realize when you saw that creating value, that I realized that everything that we are about as artists, because of the impact that we are in the world, you see, look at you, you know, with that kind of energy, you are performing as you know, with, uh, with Justin Timberlake. And then let’s fast forward. You are on the set, of la la land at that moment. You change the space. You see, because in your mind, you’re about creating value. So, so the space will never be the same. It can only be implied an imp. And because we touch so many people at once, we are extremely powerful as artists. That is why we have to be centered. You cannot, we cannot, we cannot let that opportunity to create value, walk away from us because we’ve got too much power. Yeah. 

You better be careful. You’re, you’re stirring up some hot watery eyes over here. It’s a tremendous honor. And it is a responsibility that you can think of as heavy, or you can think of it as light, like a tondue like, you don’t need to put any weight on that toe. You can tondue with such force and power and determination and will and value that it becomes meaningful. You know what? This is crazy. I love this, this loop. I did an episode on, on my podcast. It was my last episode of the year, 2020. And in that episode, I had asked every single guest from the entire year, the same question, and everyone had to answer that same question. No one answered it the same. It’s a beautiful, I mean, the question has no answer. That’s why I ask it. But the question that I asked is what is the difference between style and technique? And one of my favorite answers to this question, I’ll just skip all the really exciting answers that I got. I’ll jump straight to my favorite is the technique is the what? And the style is the, so what. It’s like, so what you can point your foot. So what, what, what’s the point? What’s the difference? What does that make me feel? And when you, tondue you make me feel something? There is a, so what it’s like, so what come here. So what back off. So what, like, you are invoking a reaction with your action. There is a, so what behind it? Um, and so that’s that I, that I think is your part of the value that you bring. I think you are an exceptional technician that should not go without saying, but what, w it’s clear to me that you’re doing work behind the scenes of the technical side and it, it shows in, In the Heights, it shows when I see you on stage, it, it shows, it shows in the way you communicate. Holy smokes. Wow. I’m just, I’m floored right now in fan growing game.  

I wanna know. I want to know Dana, what gives you inspiration? Like, what is the, where, where do you look at for us? So beautiful clip. I don’t even know what that was. It was in your reel. And he was this beautiful people, people in which I adore, it was outdoors with people And I think there was this movement that went like this.  

Yes, there was a music video for Vance joy directed by Mimi Cave, who is a woman that you would adore. She is a dancer as well. And she is a brilliant director, Mimi cave, MIMI CAVE. Shout out, Mimi, love you! And, um, she had a beautiful vision for this, uh, for this video. It’s gorgeous. I’ll send you a link in this episode when it becomes a Words that move me Podcast episode, this conversation, I will link to that performance in the show notes. Um, but because Mimi understands dance and movement, not just of a body, but of a camera and of the wind and of the grass, I think beautiful opportunities, beautiful art come from people who understand beautiful movement or, or painful movement. Oh, that reminds me of a question for you. Um, but that’s what that was. And the inspiration that I got from that came pretty solidly from the piece of music and the treatment that made me put together. Um, we get to see in that, you know, tiny, tiny little music video, a lifetime of a love, a romance, a young love, an elderly, an older love. I love at the end. I love that’s gone from being two people to being one person. So I explored themes of alonenness, loneliness of support of having to support yourself in a way that you’ve never had to support yourself before of, of being used to a limb or a way of walking and then that becoming gone or broken. Um, so that I get a lot of my inspiration from, for my industry work from what’s presented to me in the first place, the song hugely. And usually there will be a visual treatment of some sort. Mimi’s tone and palette is so specific and beautiful, uh, that it just looking at it on a page, puts me in a place in my head. And when I’m in that place in my head, my body comes to meet me there. And that’s how, that’s how that video happened. Okay. Now I have a question for you. Can I turn the, can I turn the microphone for a second?  

Turn the microphone let’s move on. Yeah, I’m all yours. Go ahead, cheri. 

Okay. Yeah. So I, I, I think that I am very interested in Buddhist principles and I think that a lot of the work I’ve been doing, um, in the past probably three years of my life is just working on, um, not wrestling with reality on catching myself when I hear myself saying it should be different, or it should be some way that it isn’t. And that lands me like sweaty on the mat, just wrestling with life and unable to see solutions, unable to be kind with myself. I’m just like down there fighting. And so I think that there are, I don’t know much about it, but I think that there are, uh, I think that I’m probably very much in alignment with a lot of Buddhist principles, but what my question is for you right now is, and wow, this is me just showing my complete naivete right now. But I think there’s a notion of not struggling, um, in, in the Buddhist practices to not struggle. And I’ve also found a tremendous value in conflict lately. So what I would like to know, like I, I’m learning how to have conflicts with kindness, with curiosity and with an outcome that is favorable to both, both, um, uh, fighters, I would say yes, creating value. But my, my question to you is in, in your practice, where, what is the role of conflict?  How do you view conflict? Is it valuable to you?  

Wow. What a great question.  

Uh, I, I’m sorry. It took me a while to arrive at it. 

Good. Oh my God. It’s good. Dana. So, so conflict in Mahayana Buddhism is not separated from Buddha-hood Buddha-hood actually is in every single thing that you see, including the conflict. So there was a moment where a long time ago in, in Buddhism, where you have to go up the mountain and you had to clear your mind, you have to levitate and you had to just feel the breathe and just, you know, like that was Buddha-hood. That was it. You know what I mean? Or for some people at the time, if you’re a woman, you could not be a Buddha. And there was another time you had to go upside down in a tree, not eat for 30 days. And then you’re rich. And then, and then there was a game changer. Bam! The moment will, the teaching came to a head it’s called the Lotus Sutra where at that moment, the Buddha actually admitted that he had prepared the mind of everybody for this one particular moment. So we could prepare so people could understand that everybody was a Buddha. What does that mean? That simply means that everything has Buddha-hood capacity, which means that if, if the world says that we have like 10 worlds that we travel through. So from, from hell to any malidy, to anger, to rapture, to learning, realization, and then you go up to Buddha-hood, right? So you will think they’re like this up on top of each other. And people will trying to climb them up all their lives going like, oh shit, you know, it’s karma, struggle. I’m like, damn, I’m going back down. And then the lotus sutra  came in at that moment where it was revealed that in each of those 10 world, there was Buddha hood because Buddha would is first.  You are a Buddha. You are divine beings, all levels. That’s the base. That’s the base. That’s where you start. So from that point of view in the conflict, the greatest part about the conflict is that you can actually start to in meditation, in chanting or whatever, you can start to see the enlightened side of the conflict. What is, and that’s the real question. See, what is the enlightened side of my anger? What is it? Because then I can gear. I can gear my focus towards the enlightened side. I can’t say I’m not angry. Like two days ago, three days ago, I was a raging, darling raging. I was like, I am falling apart right now. I could feel the red. 

 I’ve just recently started throwing things. When I get mad, never in my life. Have I been a person that reacts in that way? And now that I’ve done it, a couple of times, you better look out, I’m looking for things to that. I’m looking for things to throw. It’s amazing. Okay. Carry on. You were raging.  

Oh, no. Dana truly? No, but the moment where you realize what it does, rage, anger, any of those, what it actually does to the body and the soul, because it’s in yoga practices, we call it Visha. Visha is an, it could be an obstacle to your enlightenment because if you keep it in, that’s where you’re going to stay. So let’s see, I am raging and I’m furious or whatever, and I’m not doing anything about it. Then I’m going to ripple that into the world, in my thoughts, my words and actions. So from that moment, I become a base for anger and violence, right? So creating value at that point is gone. That’s gone with the wind. So we’re not saying which I love, I’m not here to say I’m a Saint. I’m not feeling those things. No, no, no. Oh no, no, no, no.  I am angry. I’m an angry. I have an angry nature period. I got pissed. Many times I am coming from an angry family. That’s the karma that I’ve chosen to transform, but this is not where it ends. Once you start to practice Buddhism, or you start to have a serious practice on your mat, on your cushion, you get to actually be part of the process. The process is not taking you in. You’re not becoming the victim of the process anymore. 

You are the one processing. 

Yes, yes. You are the one processing. And in that moment, if this is your Buddha nature, processing the situation, then you know, you’re going to be one level up. You see? Yes. 

You’re in the empowered position. 

Yes. And now you can make a decision. We’re all included. We’ll have them all included because by the time this is so interesting to me because once we leave this earth, once we’ve left the shell that we came in with, first of all, there is no going back.  We’ve already spent the time, everything that we are doing, there is no time to go back only going forward. So if you are making drama, if you are putting violence in the world, that is what you’re leaving behind you. It will, it will actually leave after you, you know? So it’s like, when you turn around and you’re like, oh my God, what am I leaving behind me? You know, as, as a trail. Yeah. As a trail, as a perfume, you know, do you want it to smell like garbage? And you want like a fierce garden of Magnolia? You’d be like, yeah, baby, Dana passed here. Look, you can see, smell that. Right. 

I love, you know, it’s crazy. You know, it actually is crazy. I’m going to break the third wall for a second. I just saw, we’ve got Leslie grace in the house. Shout out, Leslie Grace. And I was just thinking, as you were talking, as Leslie showed up, I smell her perfume on me. And it’s one of my favorite smells. We just got to have a hang in person as, as human beings out in the world. And I love the smell. And I think that choosing to think of our value as being something that isn’t always touched, felt, held, but seen, heard, smelled a calling on all of the senses that will be there long after the matter that is my body’s gone. That is power. That’s awesome. And that just all came together in one moment. So shout out, Leslie love you so much.  

Shout out Leslie! Very happy to meet you, and though, you know, I don’t know you are already smelled, you that’s amazing. Right? Because they  

I’m trying to waft it. I’m trying to, I did. I did a spin. Oh my gosh. So, um, yeah, we’re all over the place now. We kind of got, oh,  

It’s good. It’s good. It’s good. Let’s I want to wrap up about this thing that you spoke about, which is conflict. What I, this is what I felt, you know, when I was with you In the Heights where you were the quality of your entering the space, you see, there’s a moment that proceeds, uh, before we enter the space in all the, all the communication that we’ve ever had as human being, there is an aura that comes before the person is visible. And so it is so powerful because when the person is already welcoming the process and wanting to include all the people around as equals and that we get to, we get to bow. You actually, I would just want to cry for it. Do you know what I mean? Because I remember the first time I met you, Dana, that you, you literally walked into that space. There were many, many dancers and some of us, we knew each other. Some of us did not. It’s a big cast, huge cast. So for, for the quality being able to deal with all the different, uh, what’s the word, um, personalities that are there being able to deal with the needs and the demand of the production, the amount of time that is there for us, you had professional on the set. So obviously there’s certain things that are going to be working very fast. I would love for you to talk to me about the swimming pool scene. 

Oh my goodness. 

Can you, can you choose, share with me because I, I mean, I wasn’t in it, but I watched, I watched it. 

There were, as you can imagine, so many moving parts in that world sections within sections, multiple people in different sections. You know, you’ve got some people that are lounging ladies on the, um, on the kind of risers areas there that are also in the ballet section. You’ve got people that are in the ‘yo ma it’s me check my ticket’ section that are also in the, uh, noodle section or the jazzy section and the front everybody’s in the… So a lot of it was like managing who goes, where, what we can shoot when, what we’re setting up while we’re not shooting that because those people are working right now. And these people, it was, it was a puzzle like so much of, of this work is, is placement and structure. But the part that I cannot understate is that structure is only a part of it. Spirit is the rest of it. And that was such a spirited group of dancers and the crew that was there to get it done. Um, that was a terribly challenging day. And I use the word terribly on purpose. It was cold. It was raining. That is some movie magic that y’all are beholding on that screen. It looks like 102, the shoot day itself was like a marathon that seemed impossible. Yeah, it was hell in the middle part, but I, I, I really commend Jon, Chris first and foremost for keeping their finger on the pulse of the demands of the film and the safety of the dancers. There were moments that it was difficult to sit like, can you really do one more? Can you do one more? And we really had to be listening. Um, so that that’s how the day went, but the preparation for the scene a lot lighter, because it was spread out over some time we would put in, we would put in eight hour days in a dance studio and then all get in a car or on a train and go to a pool that was a part of an apartment complex. And just, you know, in, in sports bras and whatever bathing suit, we may or may not have Eddie Torres Jr. shout out for swim sweats. Cause Eddie never had a swimsuit. He would just jump in that pool in his sweat pants. Um, please, please stay tuned for more of that story. But, um, we would go and, and workshop, just try, like, can you jump out of the pool at five feet of water? Can’t how much of your body comes out? Okay. What if we have two feet of water, can you get your knees up? What if, um, you know, to, oh, uh, this is a fun tidbit that I don’t think we’ve talked about yet. I am a big fan. If you’ve seen on Instagram, I have a 360 degree camera. It looks like a fisheye and that’s, that’s hovering 12 feet above the earth. What it actually is, is like a three-foot, um, monopod, AKA selfies stick. And, uh, and the camera on top of that has to 180 degree lenses on it. And there’s software that stitches the two images together to make it look like a spherical image. So I was able to use this 360 degree camera on the end of a monopod to capture what looks like an overhead shot. So we could mock up the, uh, the feeling of a Busby Berkeley shot without having a jib, without having a crane without having an actual camera overhead. Um, and so that was an extremely helpful tool in figuring out the geometry and the, you know, the overall aesthetic of the overhead shots. That was really cool. Um, and, uh, the other, the other thing in there was like, what’s possible and what looks great and what can be sustained take after, take after take. Um, and I think I want to also just shout Chris out again for being really good at knowing when to push for something and ask for it and when to fall back and say, okay, that’s not worth it. That, that move isn’t worth it versus like, no guys, this, we, we must do this. We come on, you’ve got this and is, is encouraging and nurturing and helpful, but really just has his finger on the pulse of what is worth fighting for and what is worth changing, you know? Um, so that’s how that’s

This is, this is incredible because, you know, we all know about watching something that there’s, something is behind it that was able to support see to me then a lot of work, you see the tip of it underneath is that famous iceberg situation. The underneath part is what you will never see, but without the, underneath the invisible work, that tip won’t be showing.

Ooh, the less massive down there, that’s not showing that’s my friend. I never even considered that when, when it comes to the iceberg theory, oh, we had a lot of mass underneath. There’s so much movement, so much creation process that, that the audience will never see.  

But even that I feel that you know what that scene, oh, I mean, there was so many incredible over the top. Every single one of them were just phenomenal. If any of you have not seen In the Heights, please go see it. This is not, this is an historical landmark at the rebirth, right at the rebirth of New York city about going so deeply to the Latinos community, the Dominicans from head to toe, it is beyond any talks about dreams. It talks about this element, literally being able to, no matter what we talked about that journey right now, particularly attaining the dream the way you see it, but don’t ever give up on your dream. I mean, it is not possible. And I think said this, Dana, I want to very quickly, we talked about the art of life after rejection, a little bit of it. 

You and I did on our, we, we talked more about specific rejection moments on our preliminary call, which y’all were not invited to. Sorry about that. Um, but yeah. Do you want to, do you want to try to touch on that? I think it’s really important.   

I want it, yeah. I want to touch on it because I think that we are in a space right now where maybe we think differently about what rejection is today because of what would experienced or maybe we have, um, another reaction about what react rejection was or is today. So I would love to.. what is rejection? What is rejection for you? 

Okay. To me, rejection is a feeling in my body that I get. When I think someone doesn’t want me thinks I’m not good, thinks I’m bad or won’t accept me. And if you notice, and as I’m saying it out loud, I’m noticing that all of those things are outside in it’s all they versus me. And the only time, like I I’ve, I have disliked my body before I disliked my talent before I’ve been unsatisfied with both of those things before, but I’ve never rejected myself. So for me, the re— the feeling of rejection comes when I think that other people don’t want me, don’t like me think I’m bad. Think someone else is better. And the feeling is like a foot, like somebody wearing a big shop boot on my chest, pushing it away from something that I want. It just feels like someone pressing on me in the opposite direction of the thing that I want. That’s what rejection is. And it’s an awful feeling. I don’t like feeling it, but I’ve gotten to be, I’ve become a professional at feeling it. And I know that the worst thing about it is this pressure in my chest that isn’t even real. And there’s no boot. There’s no person there’s no, actually that’s really just in my head, but that’s what rejection feels like. And I’ve, I’ve, I’ve heard the word no, in my career way more times than I’ve heard the word yes, come on board. And that’s why I say I’ve become a professional, but I, in the end of 2019, I experienced my most, my longest lasting and my most intense version of this feeling. And I felt it because I thought it should be different. I thought that this job should be mine. And because I had spent so long imagining myself on it and preparing myself for it, I really believed that the fact was that it should be mine. And what I came to believe over some nurturing and healing, and a lot of journaling is that if it was mine, it would have been mine. It’s it wasn’t mine. It just, it wasn’t mine. And I, I only thought that it was so remembering that remembering that I own so much, I own my talent. I own my history. I earned my, I own my appetite for knowledge. I own my car. Like, there are things that I own. I have plenty and I, I don’t need to. Um, it’s, it’s lovely to imagine yourself on the job. It’s, it’s an, it’s an audition tactic that I recommend all the time. Like being able to put yourself there in your mind helps you to show up in body that way. It’s risky, because you might find out that you were wrong, that you don’t, you know, again, you’re not a fortune teller. You don’t belong there. So it’s a tactic that you can use that has some risk. It’s like using a knife. Like you might cut your finger and it might hurt, but it’s also really helpful. Cause you can get through the thing. So to me, thinking that I should be somewhere, I can see myself there. That’s a helpful tool that can hurt sometimes because you just might find out you’re wrong and there’s nothing wrong with being wrong. There’s nothing wrong with predicting the wrong future. It’s just like, it’s like get up off the mat. Don’t wrestle with reality. That, that, that thing, that thing that just wasn’t yours. I don’t know. I’m dying to hear your take though, because I’m sure.  

No, no baby, you went in, you were, then I love it. Now you went totally in the eye. Oh my God. I, um, there is a beautiful saying, um, in the Buddha’s word are, uh, enjoy what there is to enjoy suffer where there is to suffer no matter what, continue to chant numb, whatever people are doing. So there, this is the notion. A notion that I believe in is that rejection is also coming from a very, um, oftentimes comes from your inner child, um, seeing it through the eyes of the inner child. And I think it, I mean, for me, it touch, it can touch upon not being loved, as simple as not feeling, feeling loved. Right? So a job, um, the day we, we kind of realize that our jobs are not our identity. Ooh, let’s talk about this big moment.  

Let’s talk about that day. 

You know what I mean? That was all of a sudden, you’re like, wait a minute. I really want it because I’m going to kick some ass in it. That’s what I think I’ll ever, but that’s not my not, it might not be good for my life. And if it was good for my life, entrusting, the universe, entrusting ones life, then I would be in this moment during that thing, I remember my first, first job Dana. I signed my first job here in America with 17 of so excited. It was my first dancing job. I barely spoke English. It was a horrible company. The worst contract I’ve ever had in my whole career. It was a disaster. It was, uh, it was, uh, it was a trickery. It was bad shenanigans. They were like stealing money, not paying us. It was a horrible. Per diems were not given.  I was literally crying everyday, going like X cannot be the profession that I sit. I want it to be part of my mother came at that time. We were performing in Germany. It was a fake name they were using. I don’t even know what they call themselves anyway, all fake, all wrong, all twisted. So my mom came to watch the show and I was like, I told her, I was like, that is it. This is, this is what I’m closing shop right now. Cause I’m not doing this for my life. And then she looked at me and she had such an incredible, you know, tell she was like, this is just the best that could have happened for you to have the worst right at the beginning of your career. So you can now feel and smell what is smells like. And you will never take a job like this again. And I had to take that in and go, okay, so I have to continue. And just going to be ok, I’m going to finish it off and I’m going to turn back, but that will remain what is one of my biggest memory of now knowing I can smell the shenanigans in production and I’m like, bye bye. Bye.  

That’s interesting. That’s interesting is like the rejects. The idea of rejection dancers think happens to them, but we have the power at any point to reject the circumstance that’s presented to us and say never again, thank you and walk the other direction. So it’s, it’s like, I think the feeling of rejection is compounded. If you, if you it’s unbearable, if you reject yourself, if you stop being your advocate, if you stop having, But if you say that’s it. Yeah. If you, if you say I’ve got my back, they’re missing out. That’s okay. Bye. I reject you. No thank you to your no thank you.

BINGO! Exactly, exactly. But it’s day now go go. It takes us. It takes us to also take that moment of self where you go back to listening and hearing what you are really about and what kind of value creating you are making. And you want to make in this world, because this is the real compassion. Because at the end of the day, we get like, you know, we get 12 hours where we can actually create amazing things. And I see it most of the time, even more so now I’m like dreams are real. Like, like I had a dream Dana of being a mother, right. I’m 51. So I had a dream of being a mother and I lost that dream. I was in a relationship where the dream became nothing at all. Literally was listening to someone else’s dream. And then one day someone came around and woke up that dream, like ignited it back. It was my choice to go yay or nay to go no, no, no I’m done. This is, this was a long time ago. But now I had to listen I had to sit myself down and not have the courage to hear the whisper first of my dream. And to let my ear open enough that I will hear the sound and then I will hear the cry of it. And then I would hear the singing of it. And then I will hear the yelling of it. And I will be like, you know what, I’m doing it. Um,  

You are keep going. 

So, no, I mean, just, we talk about dreams and we talk about presence and we talk about, so for me, even as a woman to say to myself, no, you need this and that and that. So you can be a mother where all of a sudden, all that was out. And I was like, but the dream is still talking. So what are we going to do? Yes. So you know what? Well, that’s called egg donor sperm donor. Let’s go, you know what I mean? Let’s get this done. You know what I mean? So now the shift, the real shift and today for the artists of today, just like you as a young human being, as a light in the world, it is about your dream. So I say to you, like whatever, you know, this moment, like 2019, whatever, that was all about. The learning, the learning that was behind of being able to hear also to be able to heal yourself when you get punched, right? You get that punch like bam, you like, whoa. And then another one, bam, whoa. So you’re on the ground now where that’s where it start. It starts there, but it starts with a dream. It doesn’t start. It doesn’t start empty. So people today, wherever we are as destabilized as we can be, we actually more stabilizing our dreams. So go, listen, listen to the dream, right? . I want to see you. What is your dream Dana? What is your dream? Let’s go, we’re going to end up like this, by the way. So you get to, you get to like, shout it out, a dream, a dream. And you just need to, you know, there are many dreams just share me. Uh,  

Yeah, you’re catching me on a day. This is good. This is a brilliant thing to be asking me because I feel like a dream that I’ve only taken tiny steps towards because I’ve been telling myself that it’s, that it relies on someone else. Are you ready? My husband is the person that I love in the world more than anyone else. We don’t desire a human baby to, to, to share as our life’s work, but a space and a life together that is as much ours as it is individually one or the others. And in up until now, the space in my brain looked like a building that was half dance studio and half workshop. But what that my brain was doing is just putting four walls around two people’s things. What I would love instead, my dream is for us to have one thing that is ours, that may or may not fit even into a building, maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a new technology. Maybe it’s a product. Maybe it’s, uh, I, I don’t, I can’t yet see, you know, you spoke about Alvin Ailey having this clarity. Like I know I have to do that. And when you know, what you want to do is not that hard to find the steps to take, to get there. Same was true for me in becoming a backup dancer. And it took me a while to reorient my goals. After I had accomplished that one. When you, you talk about like identity and becoming wrapped up in your work, I had a few years where I was like, if I’m not a backup dancer, then who am I? And I’m finding myself in a similar position now where I am aware of my power and I am aware of my skills and my skill gaps, if I can just imagine, or even invent something out there that is ours. I am certain I can make it happen. And I am certain that he will meet me in an effort at very least. I don’t know if our vision will be the same. We’re two different people with two sets of eyes. But, um, I know that he will meet me in my effort.  

Um, oh my gosh, listen, I cannot wait to see the shape of this. And a lot of today, like we were talking about right at the beginning of the, of us talking, it’s not in the eyes, that sees, but I think it’s in the heart that is like linking in that, that we can’t really see it. So sometimes you can’t see it. All you can do is close your eyes and continue to walk towards the whispers. 

Quiet down, listen to the whispers. Yeah. I also like to rage. I like to party. I like to dance. I like to music and, and you’re right. Sometimes it’s like, what’s the whisper saying, what’s my child, the inner child saying,  

You know, and, and I believe that you so extremely in tune. So your light in the world as a very specific mission. Right? So it’s really about also like when you surrender, like you, you, the way you do choreography in the space that you can, like, you can just, you know, take the time to be with the shape. before the shape shows up. You know what I mean? Like it’s like, that’s that space that is so magical. Right? I have no doubt. No doubt my friend. Well, listen, 

We could go on. Trust me. This is might need a part two.  

Hello? Dana Wilson. 

God, you my friend. Thank you so much for opening this conversation. Thank you for, for asking the good questions and bring in the good answers. And you, your gold, your, your you’re, the sun, as far as I’m concerned. Thank you for shining your light on the planet.  

You know what? Talking about the sun, Summer Solstice is on Sunday  

Is that why I’m sweating profusely? 

I’m doing 108 cents salutation. Yes, please. Yes. Please wish you all could see my face. If you’re listening to the podcast version of this, those of you that are in the Instagram live right now, or like Dana, Dana, close your mouth. We can see your tongue. Dana, close your mouth, I see your tonsils. Okay. Collecting my jaw. I will be there for that. 

We’ll see each other very soon. If not on Sunday, but other time I appreciate you so much. I don’t know your husband, but I say hi to him. Nonetheless. He is a very smart man. He knows a thing or two about a thing or two about having chosen you as a life partner. Wow. Wow. And him and you for him, both obviously for him the same. I send you all my love. 

Thank you. I’m receiving it. I talk to you sending love and thank you to you. I love you. I love you, darling.  

Wow. Yeah. Yep. Here I am. I don’t have much to say my friends. In fact, I might just take it from the top one more time and repeat that episode on back right now. Um, I would love for you to find a more Karine. I would love to have more of her in my life. So I will 100% be linking to her socials and her website in the show notes to this episode, please go see In the Heights, watch her do her thing. Get out there in the world, keep it exceptionally funky. And I am going to keep it bubbly and keep it right here by listening to this episode again right now because wow, I’m speechless. Okay. I’m out of words. Keep it funky. I’ll talk to you. 

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, if you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating because your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #78 Teamwork Makes the Dream Work with the In The Heights Choreography Team

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #78 Teamwork Makes the Dream Work with the In The Heights Choreography Team
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When people watch the In The Heights movie and ask me “How did you guys DO THAT?”… I’ll spare myself the struggle to explain it, and simply send them the link to this episode.
I’m thrilled to be joined by the film’s choreographer Christopher Scott , my fellow associate choreographers Ebony Williams and Emilio Dosal, the associate Latin Choreographer: Eddie Torres Jr., and his assistant Princess Serrano AND our choreo team assistant (AKA the glue that kept us all together): Meghan Mcferran. This episode is more than a peek into our process… It is a seat at our table.  This is a time capsule of memories and lessons learned  that I will cherish forever.  I hope you enjoy this episode and if you haven’t yet, be sure to catch In The Heights in theaters and on HBO Max!

Quicklinks

New York Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/16/arts/dance/in-the-heights-dance.html


BTS Video Package: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNbvu5gIVfY

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hi friend, welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana and this is it. The time has come and the time is now the moment that at very least I have been waiting for. The rest of the, In the Heights choreography team will be joining me on the podcast today. And I am so, so, so excited to share this conversation with you. Um, I’m hoping that you’ve seen the film already In the Heights so that you have a bit of context for what we’re going to dig into. If you have not seen In the Heights. No worries. No judgment. And also, I don’t think there are any spoilers in this episode. So do keep listening, but please get to a theater or support on HBO Max, please, please, please go see this film period. I’ll leave it there. And I’ll, I’ll um, leave you on the edge of your seat to hear this conversation for just one more second, because before we get to the conversation, uh, we’re going to do wins. If you are new to the podcast, I do wins. I start with wins. This is something that I do. So I’m going to celebrate something that is going well in my world. Then I will yield the floor to you. You will take it away. Um, I think this is, this is something that is important. So I go, you go, um, let’s see. This week, yeah, I think this is it. This is, well, I know this is it. This week, I am celebrating the New York times article featuring the, In the Heights choreography team written by Gia Kourlas , um, Man oh man. I could talk about it forever, but, um, I’m about to let the choreo team speak for themselves so I will leave it at that, that article is so beautifully done. It is a beautiful peek into, uh, the family that is the, In the Heights choreo team. I think you’re going to really, really dig it. If you are interested in checking out the article, I will 100% be linking to it in the show notes of this episode. So check that out and enjoy. All right. That’s my, when New York times no big deal. Very, 

I’m stoked for you. Keep it up, keep winning. All right. Are you ready for this? I hope so. But before we dig in, I’m giving an audio disclaimer, here. As I’m sure you can imagine. It is not easy to get the seven of us in one place at one time, let alone a quiet place at one time. So we are welcoming you to our zoom room and we appreciate your understanding of the less than stellar audio quality. Uh, we aren’t the audio or music department after all. We are the dance department and we are so, so, so proud of that. So pull up a chair and enjoy getting to know the choreo team from In the Heights. 

This is Christopher Scott, Eddie Torres Jr. Ebony Williams, Emilio Dosal, Princess Serrano, and Meghan McFerran enjoy. 

Dana: What the heck In the Heights choreo team. Welcome to Words That Move me.  

**Cheers** 

Um, this is the first time I have ever podcast interviewed more than two people at once. So number one, thank you for that. But number two, y’all are on the heels of one of the biggest films of the year broadly. So I know we’re all in different places, doing many things. Thank you so much for being here right now. I’m thrilled to talk to you and I’m thrilled to share a little bit of what our experience of making this film was about. Um, I do have, I have two goals for this episode. Number one, it is my goal to create sort of a time capsule, a place for us to put our most precious memories of this time and these people and these places. And just kind of talk about what happened because it happened really fast. Um, and that does feel sort of like a lifetime ago.  So that’s a very selfish thing of me. I just, I want to have that for myself and I want to have that for us, but I also know that I have so many people listening, maybe some listening to the podcast for the first time that are simply dying to find out how we did that. So I do want to talk shop. I want to talk a little bit of the nuts and bolts of how you make a movie musical, how you Chris, assembled this team, how we all showed up, how we might do our work differently in the future. Now having added a whole lot of tools to our tool belt. So we’ll get into that. But first probably the hardest part of this whole thing is going to be this. I’m going to ask each of you to introduce yourself and simply tell us what, what you want us to know about you. It doesn’t need to be your credits. It could be. Um, but we’ll start with Chris and then, uh, I’ll just call them out from there. Chris, what do you want us to know about you? 

Chris Scott: Oh man. Um, I want you to know that I am, um, changed from this movie. I think, I think the most, and I know that we’re going to talk about all that stuff. And I was like, well, maybe I’ll say something more personal about like my personal life, but I’m like, no, really, you know, this movie really changed me and affected me. And, and, and I’m looking at, everybody’s face on this zoom moment. I know you guys will just hear our voices, but it’s like, you know, it’s just really cool. Like, like seeing everybody’s face that, you know, helped to change and shape me. Um, so, you know, I think that’s what I want people to know about me is I’ve been shaped. Every job you do, kind of shapes you. And I really feel proud to have been shaped by every job I’ve done and none more than this one. Um, and I’m just really grateful to be here to talk about it.  

Dana: Word, Yes.  Eddie you’re up. 

Eddie Torres Jr: Hi, my name is Eddie Torres Jr. But my real name is <inaudible>. Okay. So yeah. Um, I’m, I’m blessed. I am blessed to know each and every one of you it’s been, it’s been, uh, almost two years since we’ve been United, right? I mean, it’s just really, it was a blessing to have crossed paths with everyone on this team. And I tell Chris, and I tell all of you all the time, but for those who are listening, meeting them has just really changed my life. And we’ve become family since then. And everything has changed for me in the best possible way. My dream was to always represent, um, cultural arts, not just of course street dance, but cultural arts and just get that as respected as any other form of dance, because we really deserve that. And that’s what my passion was for In the Heights is really putting everything on the map, representing everything authentically and, um, yeah, just pouring my heart out to each and every dancer to all of you that are listening. And again, thank you that I’m Eddie Torres Jr. 

Dana: Yes. Eddie George Jr. Moving right along. To your right Eddie Torres Jr the lovely Princess Serrano. Princess, tell us what you’d like us to know about you. Hi  

Princess Serano: Hi everyone. My name is princess Serrano. Um, a lot of people think that my running is a nickname, but it’s actually my real name. And what I want everyone to know is that I truly believe everything happens for a reason. And I’m excited to see what happens with this movie. And I’m excited to see what happens with all the choreography team where life takes us and everyone that was in the movie and watching the movie so  

Dana: Lovely. I love this. Um, all right. Ebony, what would you like us to know about you? 

A thing that I think is important for people to know about me is that I feel like I’ve been in a space where as artists, um, we’re always giving so much of ourselves. We don’t always feel validated by the things that we have done, you know, or are doing, um, not in, uh, in the most genuine space. And I feel like for this, because it’s such a, uh, a big project that celebrates something more than just you it’s, it’s so important. It’s about a community about, um, a culture. It’s the importance is just bigger than just one person, um, or your history or your own past traumas. Um, I feel like I’ve grown so much from it and I feel like I’ve had to face so many of the things that have absolutely gotten in my way or made me afraid or made me doubt. And a lot of this gave me a huge sense of Paciencia y Fe, and I’m so happy and grateful for it and grateful for the room and the people that are a part of my life now based on and through this journey. So, um, I guess I want people to know about Ebony Williams, that Ebony Williams again, and still, and forever is growing, is changing and evolving and okay with that. And we’re grateful for every piece of that moment.  

Dana: Let’s go. Okay. Emilio Dosal, what would you like us to know about you?  

Emilio Dosal: Hello I’m Emilio Jesus Dosal um, you know, um, just, uh, I’m just a short little Hispanic boy from Houston, Texas, you know, I never, uh, I never found myself to have an identity and, uh, to be quite honest, when I, when I started this process with In the Heights, uh, I found myself seeing who I am and who I want to be. Um, and I feel really grateful to have been in a place like New York city to find myself, um, and now moving from New York city going everywhere, I go to find myself a little bit more, has been a wonderful experience. And, um, and, um, that’s what I would take as a me.  

Dana: Thank you for that. I’m so glad you’re here. This is great. All right. Last, but certainly not least miss Meghan McFerran what would you like us to know about you?  

Meghan McFerran: Hi everyone. My name is Meghan McFerran. I am a dancer and a celebrator of movement. The number one thing since I was so little is just to use movement as a celebration of life. And so through auditions, through classes, through dancing my whole life, that’s what I saw movement as a celebration of yourself that you’re here, that you can move your body, that you can inspire others by doing that. So through my experience and my passion of celebrating, I was able to meet mentors like Ebony Williams, who, um, brought me to this place where I was able to get this job with In the Heights and meet all of really special people who continued to use movement as a celebration of life. And that’s literally what we did every single day. And what I continue to now do as an entrepreneur every day is to use movement, to celebrate who we are as people celebrate our differences, celebrate dance.  

Dana: Yeah. That was a beautiful wrap up. Okay. So, bye. Thanks. Um, uh, we’ll continue. Only because I know there’s a lot of good stuff to come, but I’d like to ask one more question to the whole group. Um, and that is, again, it’s a selfish thing, and this might be challenging to pick one, but I’d love to just drop in the time capsule, your favorite moment during the rehearsal process or shoot, or the, the premiere process, which was like a week long of parties and events and things. Um, but what’s, what is your favorite highlight from the, In the Heights chapter of your life?  

Chris Scott: I could start. I mean, honestly, it’s not that hard for me in a weird way. It’s funny. It’s like there was so many great moments like that. The biggest highlight of the experience for me was shooting Carnaval del Barrio. Um, it was just surreal, man. It was like a crazy experience. Even the audition, the rehearsal for even rehearsing for, it was like really special, that that might even have topped actually shooting it just because it was such a beautiful thing. And, you know, I remember it being one of the scariest ones because it’s like a seven minute long number, like eight minutes long. It’s really long. And we didn’t have a lot of time for that. You know, John knew, he was like, okay, well, if we’re going to spend the time to do 96,000 at the pool, we’re going to have to give somewhere.  And we looked at the calendar and I remember it was like, John was like, I think it’s kind of all. And I think we just have to keep it, make it raw. Like I think it’s okay to be raw. It’s okay to be a little like, you know, run and gun. Like we’ll figure it out if we have to on the spot, even for certain parts. So there was something about that freedom and that expectation, knowing that it was going to be raw and be real that ultimately kind of transcended everything. It became like not a rehearsal, but it really became, uh, like this crazy, beautiful moment in life, the celebration of culture and ancestry, and like just like spiritual. And it was like, you know, you couldn’t have called it from the beginning, I think. But when we were in that room, you know, I’ll never forget the moment we did. One of the, the tape we did one of the first run-throughs that we did really stands out to me. Um, you know, because we had two pieces, we had the beginning piece and then we had the ending piece, but the whole like, uh, you know, moment with Gregory, you know, um, with Sonny, we didn’t even rehearse, but when we press play on that, that, uh, you know, that track, he just jumped up and started doing it. And it was one of those things where you realize like, oh, this number is going to be incredible because these actors, they know what this moment is. And they’ve been dying for this moment. They’ve been waiting for this moment. So we got to live in, experience it with them. It wasn’t a rehearsal. It was really like this crazy, surreal moment in life that I remember thinking like, wow, this is what happens when music can really like hit you in the soul and, and, and push a story forward and just push actors to just be in the moment. And, um, it was like watching a improv. I mean, it was, it was really, really special. I mean, Lin’s like crying, everybody’s crying and, and, um, yeah, that was that’s my standout,  

Dana: Mine is the same. And I’m going to guess everyone else’s is to show of hands,  kind of all everyone in the zoom room. Yes. The, the shoot day was untoppable, but Chris, yes. I agree. The rehearsal process for that number, getting to spend time with, with each group that gets represented, getting to hear the side conversations, um, watching people wear the flag, hold the flag, share the flag. It was a truly, uh, a remarkable top to bottom. And I think I’m glad that we landed on this moment because this kind of segues nicely into a nuts and bolts question. I think one of the challenges that almost everyone who’s aiming to make a movie musical will face is the challenge of achieving a feeling of spontaneity when you absolutely must be planned. Like you must know where the camera will go. You must, you know, people don’t just spontaneously do the same steps at the same time.  So how do you marry absolute authenticity and a feeling of spontaneity with preparedness like that? I think is one of the biggest challenges that we faced on this project and carnival in that, in the case of that number, the answer was in the music and in the people. Like the, the challenge of planning was more playful than challenging. And when you have a cast as talented as our cast, when you have music as supportive as the music that we had, I’m not going to say it was just like show up and it’s great because it was, we got very strategic. We could run that whole eight minute number top to bottom and we did, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t as challenging to bridge the gap of, and now we dance as some other numbers can be. Yeah.  

Chris Scott: Can I shout out, Eddie Torres Jr and Princess? I mean, really when you’re talking about that, it was like their talent. I mean, they’re incredible. Like it jumps off the screen, the entire film, like you feel privileged to be in the same room with them. Cause they’re all just so they could do the whole movie on live if they had to, you know what I mean, from top to bottom, because that’s just who they were. Um, but you know, Eddie, I remember a big, big thing with this number was like, it was casting those dancers and you know, how important they were to it. And, and every single day we were casting up until really the day of rehearsal. I think even we haven’t rehearsed a little bit and they were still getting where people could make Eddie find, we need more. Um, I’ll pair that too. It’s just like, you know, Eddie’s and Princess, their knowledge in the different Latin styles, knowing what this, uh, moment really needed because in the music there’s stuff embedded. But then also I think Eddie went above and beyond with the Latin styles. Like when we all saw, you know, the Colombian style, the Caleño style, you know, it was like crazy. So, you know, Eddie, um, you know, that was really like a key factor. So I don’t know where that came from. How you, how you did it sometimes I’m still like, how did you find everybody? I don’t know  

Eddie Torres Jr: Dana I’m sorry. I would love to just piggyback off of what both of you just said, going back to the actual, like making it work strategically, but free. I mean, it was easy when you’re under pressure to get things done quick, like we’re talking about, we didn’t have like a week or two weeks to call these people in. It was like Eddie call who, you know, now for tomorrow, they need to be here and they need to represent, and then it’d be down for the cause. And that’s who, everybody who showed up understood that from the get, and that, that, that energy walked through the door, like ready to go. That’s what really happened.  

Dana: Thank you for bringing up the idea of, of a time constraint being a helpful factor. I think all of us in the room right now wish we had had more time, I think, relative to other films of the same scale, like the same footprint, um, rehearsal time would have been more, but we got so much done so quickly. How, how did we do that? Yes. A lot of it is like the right people, having the right people in the room, massively important, Eddie, your community, Ebony, your community like this, the right people came together. Um, but man, if I could have given us one more month, I really would have. 

Eddie Torres Jr: It Would’ve just been fun. 

Dana: It Would be just more fun. Yeah. Maybe not even better,  Maybe not even better, but more fun.

Chris Scott: Um, and can I piggyback on that too? And just say, you know, for me personally, I knew very early on how little time we had with, but it’s weird. Cause I wasn’t like freaking out to be honest, like John might think there might’ve been like a lot of stress, but to be honest, getting you guys as a team was really everything. And I’m not saying that lightly. Like it was really like once I, when I knew I was like, okay, I got to have Ebony Williams, She’s going to be there for anything, contemporary ballet Afro like all those, all these styles, like we’re going to cool. We’re good. Emilio. I know. It’s like, you know, we’ve done this for how long now? Like, you know, when you have a team of people that you’ve worked with, like that, you know, Dana, you were a piece of the puzzle that walked into the room and it was like, oh, this is perfect. Like you clicked in like nothing, you know, from skeleton crew. And it was like, beautiful. We have a partner storyteller with us that’s versed in like, I don’t even know how many styles you can do. But every, every day I was like finding out a new one, you know? And then Eddie and Princess, like, I really do, you know, this, this whole kind of campaign afterwards, you know, I’ve always been like very passionate about making sure that you guys there’s light on you guys as well, because I know as like the head choreographer or whatever it’s, it’s, it’s been, uh, I’m going to have my shine at it. I’m speaking of shines, but you know, but I really do like, and it’s not lightly that I say  you guys as a team, you know, really deserve everything because that’s how you do it. There’s no other way. It would have been impossible. If there’s one thing I wished outside world could get a peek into. It was really the, what, uh, what our dance studios look like. Um, you know, I think the amount of prep that we had being able to in, in, in like a divided way, and then we all come back together and it was really something beautiful that, that nobody really gets to see, you know, and it’s not, I don’t know to me, it was like, it was stressful, but I’m looking at these faces right now and having you guys, um, you know, and Meghan, even just having this piece of the puzzle, because coordinating this, that’s another thing too, like people will never understand, you know, I really do feel responsible to educate people on what a team does in the choreography realm, because it’s not often talked about and it’s not often seen. Um, but you know, like Meghan was brought on to this team is like a, you know, like, like a PA, but it’s not, it’s not what she’s doing. She’s coordinating these massive numbers. I mean, there’s over 200. How many are we at? Like 280 dancers or somebody that you told me the other day you can go through in that, because it’s, I was that many, people’s that much to coordinate, you know, we’re a department, we’re a huge department. Um, you know, and that that’s really a big factor I’m going off now. You know,  

Dana: I’m glad that you mentioned that it’s something that I like try to talk myself through all the time, because I’m stuck between believing that time is this fixed thing that I cannot change or multiply or divide in any way. But when you stack talent, you actually do multiply time. Like that’s what having a team is all about. So it might feel like we don’t have enough time, but there are ways to multiply time. And it’s by dividing talent, it’s by stacking many things happening at the same time, um, in different places and, and, and towards different, uh, on different tasks towards the same goal. And that’s, yeah, that’s how, that’s how we did it.

Chris: What a bunch of talent we stacked, boy, cause there’s a team. Let me tell you something, the talent on the zoom right now.  

We stacked. Uh let’s um, I’m coming to you then Meghan, cause I would love to know your answer to this question you probably received if, okay. So if we hired 288 dancers, you received at least 10X times that emails, while you were working on this project, you were, uh, like helping us rent space. You were coordinating people’s schedules. You were looking to see if anybody had aunties and uncles or, or grandmas that were available to come shoot with us. Like you did a lot of, um, uh, structural work and helping all of the pieces fall into place. And what I would love to know is what you think the hardest thing for you was to do and how you did it.  

Meghan McFerran: The hardest thing for me to do was probably honestly keep communication with Chris on everything while he’s working so hard in the rehearsal room with all of these dancers and I’m on the phone with Warner Brothers, coordinating everything on our end agencies, production dancers. And when me and Chris found time, it was awesome because we were like, boom, boom, boom, get this done, get this done 15 minutes. But then when he’s doing his thing in the rehearsal room and I am doing my thing here, it’s hard to connect the pieces and be like, wait, but we need this to happen tomorrow. And I’m like, well, I’m going to need a few hours. Cause this I, the processes happening. And I am out here out at my computer and we just can’t make this happen right now. We can make it happen. Oh, trust me, our team’s going to make it happen. But it’s not at that very second. So that was hard day in and day out because it was like a daily thing. There’s a dancer that needs something. Production has a question about what props we’re using. And I’m like, great. And what I learned and what kept me going through is just to keep calm because it’s like, you know what, yes, we believe in this team from day one, we’re like, we’re going to make this happen. We are fine. But being able to stay calm when I’m getting texts at two in the morning when I’m getting emails post 12 hour rehearsals emails about this and that I’m happy to answer because we’re here and I know that this team is going to get it done. But I think that that initial connection of phone, emails, computer versus dance, rehearsals counts, choreo, and trying to fuse those two together was hard. But we did it.  

Dana: Yeah, we did. I think that was something not a lot of people consider. Like when you have an eight hour rehearsal day to get steps done, where do the magical hours where you have to be communicating with wardrobe team, communicating with music team at communicating with studios to find rental space, talking with casting over at Telsey. Yeah. Like where you have to make time and find time we are time multipliers. This is what we do. Um, okay. Emilio, I’m coming to you next because holy smokes, you are in damn near every scene of this movie. And you had your hand on the choreography of, I mean, I think we all really did hands-on all pieces. At some point there was nothing that none of us were involved in, right? That’s not how this movie got made, but you’re in almost every scene and you were in every single rehearsal with us for all of the other scenes. So I guess what I am wondering and what I am assuming, people who are listening are wondering are, what are the tips? What are your tricks for being on both sides of the camera? How did you wear both of those hats at once? 

Emilio Dosal: I mean, I don’t, I don’t know if there’s necessarily a trick. I can just tell you that on my end, I just didn’t put a lot of pressure into it. I feel that in many cases, even though I’m a little older now, I still have a very naive sense. And so I try not to look at things as like they’re so, um, you know, huge. And if I fail this and I failed everything right. And like, oh, I have to get this done. I have to get this, I gotta do this. I gotta do this. I don’t apply that sort of pressure. I just kind of like, it’s kind of what I say to everybody. And everybody knows the saying, it’s like, it’s too easy. Right? Because technically what I’m trying to tell myself is is that if this is as hard as it gets, that’s pretty good. And so being on camera was the easiest part of my day If I’m gonna be quite honest, because that’s where I get to perform. That’s where I get to do the thing that I, I absolutely love doing. That’s what I went to into dance for I’ve always been a showman. I’ve always been a performer. And then being behind camera and, and running back and forth, um, actually was exhilarating. Um, I enjoyed the process. I wanted to do it more. Um, and yes, there was, there was stress and, you know, there was a lot of times where I felt overwhelmed. Yes. But that would always come back to it being just too easy. You know, again, it’s, it’s, it’s what you make it. And so I’ve just found myself really in a good place when I would go back and forth to each one. Um, if I wasn’t behind the camera watching to help safeguard and make sure that it looks right. I knew that my job being in front of the camera was to make sure that spirits were up, that we were good to go. I kept every dancer enlightened, ready to like move forward and keep it pushing, you know, because it does get exhausting, you know, as you, as you’ve heard, we do, you know, eight to 10 hour days on concrete and grass and train stations and all the elements. And I just found myself being that person that, you know, what, I have this infinite amount of energy that I need to evolve to my peers so that they can feel enlightened and remember what they’re doing, you know, we’re, we’re on a film showcasing ourselves. I would, I would suggest to everybody who is going to participate in that sort of work, um, bring a little bit of naivety into it, you know, have fun, be, be that inner child that was naive throughout the whole thing. It’s not a bad thing to be naive in those circumstances is actually quite exhilarating. Um, and it gets the job done job done really well. And honestly so much more exciting to be honest. 

Dana: Too easy. Thank you for that as an important moment to like call on perspective. Right. Um, and that can a perspective shift like that could really take something from feeling impossible to actually feeling easy by shifting the way that you’re thinking about it, a more childlike, uh, approach. I appreciate that. Um, okay. So, uh, Chris, we have done a few, um, screenings for like dance community and there’ve been Q and A sessions at the end. You and John, You and John talking together is one of my favorite things to eavesdrop on you understand the way each other make. And I think you’ve grown to be making in really complimentary ways. I think this film is a huge testament to that. Um, but one of the questions, uh, one of the questions that has come up, I think in both of those screenings is how did you find this team? And you spoke specifically about the first conversation you have with Eddie and how it, it turned into an education. Like it didn’t, it didn’t, it wasn’t an audition or an interview. He sat and he, and more, he, more or less schooled you. I mean, stop me if I got the wrong interpretation of that.  

Chris: 100% 

Dana: Um, so what I would love to hear from you, Eddie is if you remember that conversation, if you remember for sitting with Chris, um, if you remember what you told him and if you would share it with us today,  

Eddie: I mean, it’s something that I actually kind of repeat every day just to remind myself and keep it in shape. So I’m glad this is my practice today, basically. Um, you know, when Chris, when Chris and I first met, it was in Brooklyn and we met at this office where he was discussing me possibly dancing in the film, you know, and we just got into a good conversation, you know, first time meeting each other. And somehow we just, you know, we sat down and we were just talking about what I do. And I was saying, Hey, you know, what I do is something called Mambo. And it basically is the truth behind what we call salsa. What we know is salsa. And he’s like, what do you mean? And that led into a whole beautiful conversation, um, which we had to get a pen and paper and draw this triangular slave trade, which dates back to the 15 hundreds. So basically we were just talking about how the Spanish conquistadors, they went to West Africa, took these people and sent them to all different parts of the world, right? So basically you have two sides of the coin, the slaves that were sent to the Caribbean, they allow their music on Sundays. They allow their cultural practices. So out of that was birthed many rhythms, you know, on the, on the, in music. So that’s why we have Bomba y Plena, which is all singing and just drumming, you know? And so, and on the other side of the coin, you have the slaves that were sent to the new world, which just like the US they took away all of the drums. They took away their names, their religion, everything. And by that, we lost Africanism in general. So out of that, they put these slaves to work in plantations. And out of that was born the classic blues. So we had a full-out conversation with drawing with every single detail and showing how all of this evolution created, what we know as salsa, which again was created, by Fania Record Label in the 1970s, basically just to, um, market the music better, you know, they wanted better business and they wanted more popularity of this music all over the world, which they succeeded they did, that they did that 100%. And it’s a, it’s a, it’s a success. The only problem is we lost a lot of that. You know, that pure knowledge, the roots. Each rhythm has a dance and you have to respect that. And not only that, but when you put it all into one, you know, it’s just not what it is. Salsas not a rhythm, Salsas not a dance. But on the flip side, we have cha cha, cha, which is a rhythm and a dance, Mambos is a rhythm and a dance that’s song, you know?  So, and w why was this all important? Because this whole film needed a foundation to work off of. We needed roots in every single scene and the music itself, you know, you have the clave right from the beginning of the movie, you have the clave, which is an instrument that was born on the slave ships in the 1500s. So right away, there’s evidence of this beautiful history that we have, but it just never got the chance to be told in its raw form and its authentic form. Chris basically opened the door up to a whole culture that needed to have been seen and heard. I’m talking about specifically Mambo, you know, my family, they worked their whole lives for this moment. You know, my aunts or many of our ancestors have worked for this moment. And here it is, Chris gave me not only me, the opportunity and Princess, but he allowed us to cast you know, a lot of these people in Carnaval, which was so much fun, right? We had to call every Viejito, which is an old man and, or an old woman. We called every single old dancer that we knew. We call the youngest of the babies. And we called all cultures literally to come in to gather in one room. And that’s why it was so fun because I mean, now I’m going into carnival for a second. You didn’t have to really do much. And these people were just happy to be there. They were happy to celebrate their culture. We just, we just said, Hey, who’s Puerto Rican, boom, you have a group. Who’s Dominican. Boom, you have a group. And a lot of, a lot of them, I mean, we’re all related. We all have these, these bridges to each other’s culture. So anyway, just because it became a very natural, organic process and it was just so it was so natural, I would say. And not, not, not that we had to sit there and practice and technique and know this was just like a, Hey, I like that move. This is something we do at the house. Boom, let’s do it here. But again, it’s just, again, rewinding for a second. I know I went on a tangent, this, this film, and it means so much to so many communities, so many cultures who never, ever, ever felt represented. And I’ve gotten so many beautiful messages from people I don’t know people, I haven’t people, I do know who I haven’t heard from years to people that I speak to on a regular and just exchanges in the street. Honestly, just the other day somebody was like, oh my God. Yes, I thank you. And I was like, for what I think for, thank you for, you know, I feel I’m proud to be a Latino and proud, you know, I feel represented even my neighbor, I don’t even know her.  She said, congratulations. And I’m like, and she’s Puerto Rican. She’s like, that’s what we need. You know? So it was we again, and this is just Carnaval but we have so many scenes, so many cultures that are represented in this one film. And that for me was all I ever wanted. 

Ebony: Absolutely. But I think that’s what brought the authenticity. I think that was what it was because we had to rely on the spirit of the people because it does, that’s what makes up the community, you know, like if we had to literally take every piece in every inch of everything and say you be this, you know, like when it’s really in their soul, then it would make it, would’ve made it so dry and technical. It’s just, it’s in them. They were born with it. And so all we had to do was allow them to shine, you know? And that’s you, you say that all the time in the salsa, like, Hey, do the shines, what does, I mean, Eddie you can speak on that part, but like, you know, and I, I think that that’s what made it great is that we just had to really rely on the soul of the people. 

Eddie: Ebony I love you, you know, how I feel,  You know how I feel about you Ebony. I love you so much. And again, that’s, that’s even without Salseros, I would be in front of b-boys and other hip hop dancers and, and, and just telling them, Hey, listen, the undertone of everything, what we call Latin is African that’s. The, that’s what, that’s the full root of all of this. Basically I was telling everybody that I knew on set, listen, do you know that we’re, we’re connected? We’re not separate. Um, you know, the vision is just what that’s, it’s just by style, which I’m not a huge fan. I don’t like the idea of being divided by styles because at the end of the day, we all have the same root, anything that has a drum is African. Anything that has a beat is African. Period. Doesn’t matter, RNB, jazz, hip hop, whatever you Salsa, uh, Mambo. That’s what we all had to understand and bring to this film and through ourselves. So really we wanted this to be felt this wasn’t something that was always pretty, this was something that needed to be felt. And we fought for that. We went for blood  

Dana: I love this notion that learning not need to be a cerebral thing, but a physical thing, a felt thing. And I did really feel like I was learning every day, learning from you all the time, Eddie learning from each of you every day. Um, and maybe this is a good segue actually, uh, Princess, you, I think you are the youngest of the choreo team and you were still in school while we were working on this film, learning so much in, in two different modes, right? Like in the, in the four walls of an institution and also in the real world, if we want to call the movie world of real world on a movie set. Um, so I would love to hear what were your most unexpected areas of growth? 

Princess: I love that question. Oh man. That’s I feel like there were so many, first of all, I just want to start off by saying that, um, since I was in school, Monday through Friday, and at the time I was a freshmen, I was at school Monday to Friday and I had to ask my professors, can I miss class? Like I won’t be in class the whole semester. Can I just turn in work? And this was like, I cannot believe to this day that I was able to miss an entire semester and I had to email everyone and tell them, Hey, I’ve been given this opportunity. And this is a dream that I would, I would be crazy to pass it up. Like, can you please consider me giving out, I would go the extra mile to show up when I can, and I will reach out office hours. I will do whatever I can just give me this opportunity because it’s something that I can’t give up this is my passion. And all of them understood that. And they were able to allow me to go to rehearsals and miss class, which I, I can’t believe it, you know? And so I went into rehearsals. I went into, you know, with you guys to practice and on set. And I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that I was there for a reason. And I learned from every single person in this movie. And I think the most important thing that I learned was to was to no matter how hard something is just, you’ll never grow or learn how to deal with that until you throw yourself in the water. And so you throw yourself in the, in the fire, you’re, you’re never gonna, you’re never gonna learn until you, you just have to do it.  

Dana: Thank you. Thank you for that. I really hope that all of my school goers listening are inspired by your story. And I hope that any professors or admins who might be listening can see the value of exceptions for exceptional people. And speaking of exceptional people, Ebony, you’ve been in damn near every pocket of the dance world, that there is from Broadway stages to concert stages, to music, video hall of fames. I’m referencing single ladies, but it’s not the only one, um, to on-camera in films and now behind camera in films. So what I am dying to know is what is your favorite place to be and where do you want to be next?  

Ebony: I love this question because I don’t have a favorite. I wish I could say that I have a favorite, but really all of those things make up Ebony Williams. Um, I’m not one thing, honestly, I don’t think anyone in the world is one thing. So, um, yeah, I, I love a piece of all of that. And I have hopes to be able to make possibilities for younger artists to be able to do the same thing, um, to feel like they are able to jump into creative portals. Cause that’s, my goal is to make creative portals that set free and allow them to not feel like they have to be put in a box ever. Um, so that means chorea, choreographing, directing, um, acting more. That’s something that I really, really want to do. I am also an actor and I feel like most dancers are because we have to be. Um, and that’s something that I’ve been stepping myself into quite a bit. I’ve been training and acting classes and just doing all the things that will set me forth so that I can do new things, new challenges, and, uh, you know, be a new Ebony every day. I think it’s important for us to try to reimagine ourselves. And that means that Ebony yesterday is not Ebony that’s today this Thursday here with you right now. And I hope tomorrow is a new piece of Ebony. So yeah, that’s where I’m at. 

Dana: Yes. I love that you loved that question. And I loved that answer. I know that a lot of people listening have subscribed to the idea that they need to pick one thing to be or one place to put their talent. And you’re such a, an exquisite example of that not being the case. You can put all of your talent in so many places, so congrats and thank you for that. That’s fabulous. Um, all right. Y’all I w I think we could talk for hours and maybe someday a part two will happen, but for now I want to do one more round Robin, the Twitter version, if you could, one thing that you did well, and one thing that you would do differently. If we got to do this all again, I’ll start. Um, one thing I did well, um, I, I did become a person who was better with names and it’s true. I don’t know as many as Meghan McFerran, but I did a pretty good job in the retention of names. I was surprised in my past has been a huge area of insecurity for me. And I knew that in making a movie that is about the people of a place, that it would be helpful to invest in the people of the place and to call them by their name. Um, one thing I would do differently, man, I Eddie, having you in a room for six months and walking away, feeling like I would probably still drown at a club, makes me feel bad. I wish I had practiced the social dance. We, we, we built a movie, we planned it, we structured it. We strategized, we organized, and I don’t think I walk away feeling like a better social dance partner. Um, and I think, I think, I think I got really good at listening to voices, but I would like if I did this again, I would like to get better at listening to my body to become a better partner.  Um, and to spend more time with the social elements of these dances versus the, the organizing and the, the building, like we had to build it. And then in building this movie there wasn’t, or maybe this is just what I was thinking, but there wasn’t a — this isn’t the Twitter version. Let’s be honest there. I didn’t, I didn’t build, I didn’t build a technical foundation for myself that I wish I had, but we built a damn good movie. So that, that is what I would do differently. I would steal you away for at least 20 minutes every day and, and dance with you. 

Eddie: Dana, actually remember we, we, although we were super busy, right? We had to divide and conquer like Chris said, We did have that beautiful moment of the waltz, and that was one of my earliest days. And I remember Emilio, um, but one of the first people, first people that pushed me into the, into the fire, into the flames, you know, between Emilio and Dana, you both really pushed me to like, you know, for me, my first movie, I want everyone to know that right now, it’s my first movie ever. This was something that I was looking at the whole choreo team. I was studying you all as I was choreographing and learning.  

Dana: I know, that’s why I have to ask. I have to ask that I want to make an example that we should all be doing that and celebrating ourselves all the time. And I love that reflection. Um, okay. Ebony, what did you do well, what did you, what did you do that you loved?  

Ebony: I do think that I listened well to the things that I need for my future. Um, I recognize a lot of the spaces in which I need work, and I think that was really important to me and for me. Um, things that I would do differently would be number one, be kinder to myself. I would say a similar to you similar to you. I would say that I, as someone who’s always been looked at as a versatile artist, because I have been in several pockets of the lands, um, I think I would try to investigate deeper some of those spaces, because I think that what I have done well is be a good chameleon in a space, but that’s because it’s out of survival, you know, I think living in the moment and finding spaces to enjoy it instead of just go and making it work and figuring it out, I think I would find more space of joy, um, in the moment, you know? So that, that also a part of the memory forever not taking any of those moments for granted  

Dana: Well said. Beautiful. Um, okay. Uh, Emilio, what do you think? What did, what did you do well? What would you do differently if we got a second pass?  

Emilio: Uh, I’ll keep my short, uh, what I did well is, uh, I just, I went hard every single day. You know what I’m saying? I left everything on the table. Um, um, I’m not that kind of person that’s going to come in and do, you know, the easy feed I’m going to go hard every single day. And I’m going to apply that because I want to be the example every single time. I want to be the smallest, the fastest, the most joyous and the most exciting every single time I step in the rehearsal space. And I did that. So I’m excited. I’m happy for that. Um, if I were to go back and redo it again, I would honestly go to more light feet events, but I I’ve only went to like two and I really wish I could go back and go to more events and immerse myself more into the culture of light feet and Harlem, and be a part of that because it is something that I truly love right now. And, um, you know, yeah, knowing that the Mecca is there, New York, I really wished I, I got to take advantage of that more.  

I hear you, my friend. I hear you. Thank you for that. How about you, Meghan?  

Meghan McFerran: Hmm. What did I did? Well, I know this one. Uh, I made sure that I gave every dancer a hug in the morning when they came in and I did it every single day. And I think it set everyone up for no matter what was going on. Like we were about to step into like a 12 hour dance day and people are freaking out. Like they might’ve just been called in at three in the morning by me and having no idea what they’re stepping into. Like, what are we doing today? I don’t know I’m here. And I was just like, hi, gave everyone like a good three second hug and was like, let’s go.  

Dana: Um, and something you would do differently.  

Meghan: The diversity of people that we worked with, and then me being on production side dancers, side cast side, I think I could have fit in one really important, special question that I could have asked each person that I worked with in order to learn more about literally everything, film, dance, cultures. I wished that I had written down just a single question every single day that we either rehearsed or once we’re on set and just was like, Hey, been meaning to ask you this. And I could have learned I think a lot.  

Chris Scott: Yeah. You can ask the questions right now because you still got to text people. You gotta, you got everybody contact info, you can reach out. The movie is over, but the relationships are there forever. So get those questions together and then shoot them off. 

Dana: It’s so true. Yeah. Yeah. Group, group texts, please. Um, okay. Princess, what do you think?  

Princess: Um, something I did well would be just going with the flow every day. It was something new and you just have literally just go with the flow. And so something I would do differently would be to voice my opinion more. Um, I feel like I was a quiet most of the times and I wouldn’t voice my opinion. And then someone would say something I was thinking, I’d be like, damn it. You know

Dana: It’s one of the it’s, it’s one of the things that they don’t teach in school in any dance class is the knowing when to talk and knowing when to shut up and dammit, I am still learning it every single day and sometimes its the hard way,  And y’all have been there and seen it. And, you know, but having your finger on the pulse of your voice and the temperature of the room is something that I think is a obviously very valuable, but B takes time to, uh, to really become sensitive to.   

Eddie Torres Jr: I love that you said that is, can I go? I want to go, yay. Okay. I know I answered, so, okay. So something I know I did. Right, right. So I know for sure when it came to representation, I know I did a hell of a job representing every single part of the Latin choreography that I could, I would literally, cause I I’ve been, I’ve been preparing for this moment. And then when I finally get the chance to do that, um, and you allowed me also like really just go full out with all the dancers and in certain parts of the, of the process, I’ve just, I couldn’t be more proud of course of them, but just like, I never thought I would even do this. I never thought I would be able to lead a whole community to, to a glorious representation of our dance, you know? And, and that for me is it was beyond what I ever dreamed of to be honest, you know, and then something I know something I would, I would change. I would, uh, I would always bring, if I could, I would have brung swimming shorts to every damn rehearsal, because there was, uh, there was some mean ass times, man, I, it was rough for me. I did not have no swimming shorts and I could not flunk out of rehearsal. And Chris said, we all need to be there at the pool. You gotta be there. So I’ve, I remember every single time I would go to the pool and I would look at everyone and everyone’s so prepared. Everyone was so prepared when we got there, they had some nice, cute shorts, swimming shorts, and you know, I would just roll my sweat pants up, just slip into the corner. And my, my, my sweatpants look like, yo, it looked crazy on the water and nobody  

Dana: Yo swim sweats.  Yo that’s, that’s a, that’s a corner of the market. Eddie. You could be the first Kanye did leather, leather sweats, you got swim sweats. You got, you have an angle on the market. And the commercials, you know, would be fabulous. The dancing would be great. You know, stop it.

Chris: I thought this podcast was sponsored by NYC mambo swim sweats Is that right?  

Dana: It is now we’re doing, I will be photoshopping flyers. Don’t you even use it? 

Eddie: Well, the worst part was how it got revealed. That was the worst part. Like I was, I was okay. Rocky, my sweat pants on the water. Um, until one day we were in the pool. I think I had gotten away with it at least twice. So I’m like, this is great. And we’re all dancing in the pool. And for some reason I battment, my right leg up and then I put it back down and Chris looks underwater. He’s like, wait, what? And I’m like, shut up. He’s like, wait, nah, hold up, everybody what’s. And I’m like, bro, stop please. And he starts dying, laughing. And I’m like, you’re just, I’m giving him that look. I’m like, please, please do not do not. And everybody I’m talking about, like everybody looked under water just to look at what I was wearing. And there you go. I had a thick ass pair of sweatpants on that were rolled up to my upper thighs, suffocating my legs. It was, it was so embarrassing.  

Chris: That’s so beautiful and so brilliant. And there was no way I was gonna let that go man.  One of the highlights I was between that and carnival, I was like, I couldn’t really decide what you want to say. Um, I won’t count them all, but that was a close second.  

Eddie: No, real quick, because this is also the ending of Carnaval was insane. Insane. We were all like, I think we were all bleeding, gut blood was gushing out of our knees from Rudy’s elbow and everybody was crying and laughing and celebrating and jumping. And, but that for me,  

Dana: And that was after everybody got wrapped. Like nobody went home. It was the hottest day. It was the smallest area. There was the, the holding area where was holding area that day,  

Eddie: 181st street.  

Dana: So we, yeah. And just nobody left at the end of a what? 12 hour day, how long was that day?  

Chris: It was the longest death that I was like 14 or 16. It was crazy. It was like, as long as they get a year with the sun, like the sun. Wow. It was crazy  

Dana: That that is why that moment  

Chris: When we were over time. And I remember the, you know, David and Nick say shout out to him to, you know, our producer, um, for letting us stay. Cause a lot of times they don’t want to do that because it’s like, well, we got a ton of money. Like, let’s go, you guys gotta go. 

Dana: Um, thank you for saying that, 

Chris: To stay on set to celebrate this huge moment. You know, it was worth every penny to him and I, and I’m just so grateful that he did that. He did let that happen as it was so necessary after a day like that. And you need those moments like otherwise, why are we doing this too much hard? And if you get shut down from those molds is so important to a film like this, when we so hard to make,  

It was essential. That moment was essential. I’m so glad you brought that up. Thank you, Chris. What did you do well? 

Chris:  I think I Did this well. Um, I think it took me a while to really understand how important it was. And I think once I understood it, I started to do it even better. So I think listening was like a really big deal as a choreographer for this film, because like, you know, I knew, I already knew like when Eddie came in, like we talked about it when he came in with him, I knew like anything cultural is like, no, you, listen, you listen to, who’s telling you from a culture. Like I knew that going into it, there would be other incidents where it’s like, I would have an idea that I’d want to try And one of the actors, for example, well, I don’t know. I don’t connect to that or whatever. And in my mind, I’d want to just like, I just want to do it. But then like I started realizing, you know, what? These actors are like super brilliant. They’re really smart. They’re really talented. Um, so I, I like kind of, there was like a moment I remember shifting and I started every number I went from just like having my ideas and the ideas that even I talked about with John, you know, we’d have ideas together. Um, and I would just like try stuff or John would give me room to play and whatever. And I remember like around like No Me Diga, for sure. I remember being like, it’s really important to listen to the actors and give them room to, to, to explain to you what they think even before you really get into the rehearsal. So I started doing that everywhere. I didn’t make like a big deal about it. I wasn’t like, okay, this is what I decided doing it. And like, Hey, what are you like when you think, and you know, there’s gonna be moments where, like I had my thoughts that would, um, I’d want to, I want to have the space to try and everything. And then, you know, you just find the balance or whatever, but, um, you learn really quickly as a choreographer. Like when you’re in it with these storytellers, you know, everybody, all the actors, everybody’s a storyteller when you’re making these films and should treat everybody like that. And when you hear what they say, they will give you gold. Like there were so many times, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re sitting next to Anthony Ramos in a bodega, and you’re, you’re going to try to give him things to do in a bodega. Sometimes the last thing is just let him tell you what happens in about like, how he feels in a bodega, because Anthony Ramos knows what it’s like to be in a bodega, you know, more than I’ll ever understand. So I think that was one thing I really started to do better. As the, as the time went on, it’s something that I’m proud of eventually like, like listening to Abuela Claudia, you know, Olga explained Paciencia y Fe, you know, I’ll never forget that rehearsal. It was like a big one. I tell all the time, I’m like, you changed my life that I know. And, you know, I would just never forget that day of like, I started to explain the number to the dancers and like within 30 seconds I was like, wait, I just stopped myself because now here’s Olga her first day. So I’m like, oh the, do you mind, would you explain what the sensor that your face is about?  And she’s like, sure, she goes into this thing. And she says, you know, I’ll tell you, Chris, when you get to be my age, you stop thinking about the future because there is no more future. Everything comes up, becomes about the past and the decisions that she made that led you to where you are today. And I was like, oh my God. I mean, well, that’s what the numbers I saw. I didn’t even understand really the, the root, the heart of this number, you know, and that’s what it became. And then, and then you just listen and you listen to me and just everybody, um, you know, but at the same time, it’s kind of the same answer to what I could do better. You know, I think in a, in a weird way as like now that I have that like, perspective and I’m like, oh, I’m proud of myself.  Like having those moments of those revelations, you know, I, I would, I could go on, you know, if I could go back again, it would just be from day one. That’s all. I would just really start the process like that. And just, um, you know, because I think for me it was helpful. I’m, I’m a builder. Like I like to build off of things and build off of people. And the more information you have, the more you can build, you know, some people aren’t like that. Some people want to have their, their moment, their time of ahead to just create blank space and then, and then adjust as they need to. But I really do love, um, as much input from the beginning to really just shape and mold something that, that, that, that everybody kind of has a voice in, because I think, you know, that’s when one everybody’s invested a different way, you know, and, and everybody, um, it brings everybody to the same page a lot quicker because you can’t have somebody performing choreography that they don’t understand because it comes from your mind. It’s just beneficial. So, you know, that’s not too complicated. Does it say, you know, I think my, my something I’m proud of myself that I did well, I think ultimately is also the thing that I could go back onto it and even better. And there you go,  

It makes so much sense. Yes, yes. 100%. This is what I wanted. This is what I needed. Uh, well, thank you all so much for a lovely walk down memory lane, uh, ****  eating grin on my face from ear to ear for over an hour. Um, I really appreciate you doing this and it feels great to still be sharing this thing and still be learning from this thing. Like we learned every single day on the job. So many things. And now every day that the movie is out there in the world, we’re learning different things about how it’s received. We’re learning different ways about how to, um, how to do work moving forward. Like what a tremendous gift this has been. And you all are a gift in my life. Thank you so much. I don’t have words. Appreciate you all tremendously. I love you.  

Well, there you have it. And there, I have it a time capsule of one of the most precious and important chapters of my life. Um, and also a peek into our world of dance in nights. I really hope that you enjoyed that. I hope that you watch the movie 180 trillion times, and I hope you get out there into the world, into your community and keep it very, very funky. Thanks everybody for being here. I will talk to you very soon. 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 or review because your words move me too. Number two thing, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #77 Times and Rhymes with Tyce Diorio

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #77 Times and Rhymes with Tyce Diorio
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Emmy award winning choreographer, Tyce Diorio and I cover A LOT in this episode.  We talk about finding and being friends in a dog eat dog world, we discuss our processes and passion for movement coaching, and of course we talk In The Heights (in theaters and streaming on HBO Max NOW!)  Like so many, I have looked up to Tyce for years, and this episode feels a whole lot like sitting down with my hero… and then winding up having a pillow fight and braiding each other’s hair (yes, games will be played!)!  It’s pure fun, ease, and openness.  ENJOY!

Quicklinks: 

Get Tickets to In The Heights Here: https://www.intheheights-movie.com


Katie Holmes “Get Happy” So you Think Piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNV4VxIVW7I


Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello, good people and welcome to Words That Move Me. I’m Dana, I’m jazzed that you are here and I am so, so, so excited to share this conversation with one of my favorite people in the biz, Mr. Tyce Diorio who I have known and looked up to for years and years, because if you do not already know Tyce, you are about to find out his career is truly remarkable, um, and vast, so wide reaching. Um, and finally two summers ago, Tyce and I got to work together on In the Heights, which we’ll get to chatting about in just a second. But first let’s do wins! Let’s do wins! Because In the Heights is my win. This week in the Heights, the film is in the world. Please go see it. If you are healthy, if you are comfortable, go see it in a theater because dang it this is the stuff the big screen was built for! I’m  Celebrating in a crazy way inside and outside being a part of the production. More specifically the choreo team that put more than 280 dancers on the big screen. Many of them for the very first time I’d like to add, I genuinely don’t have words, which for those of you who listen a lot is, you know, is saying a lot. I don’t have words, um, to explain my gratitude or my pride in being a part of this project, but I will try to find them soon because an In the Heights choreo team episode is coming through the pipeline. So buckle up. It’s going to be so great. I’m very, very excited. I hope I have more adequate words to explain the way I feel about this project. And of course, we’ll be talking a little bit about the process, but In the Heights is in the world. That’s my win. Please go see it and share this, win with me. Um, if you’ve seen it, then heck that can be your win too. But if you haven’t seen it, I’m dying to hear what is going well in your world. It’s your turn. 

All right. Awesome. Congratulations. I’m so glad that you are winning. Now. Let’s dig into this Tyce Diorio Ooh, where do I begin? Tyce is a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor and also in the business. But as you’re about to find out that is balanced with tremendous kindness, a gentleness that is difficult to find in this industry and also an appreciation for the simple things like, you know, genuine human connection and friendship. So for those reasons, this episode is strong, but also super, super soft. And you will 100% on a stick around for the laugh attack at the end of the episode, because Tyce and I have a gift that we would like to share with you. And it’s so much fun. You do not want to miss it. Your quality of life is about to go so far up. So get ready and enjoy this conversation with the one and only Tyce Diorio 

Dana: Tyce Diorio! I am so excited about the conversation that is about to ensue. Thank you so much for being here. 

Tyce: Thank you For having me. I’m a fan,  

Dana: Um, mutual fandom. I love mutual fandom. Um, most of my listeners, people who know me probably know that I really love versatility and it is possible my friend, that you are the most versatile guest that I have ever had. Um, I think, you know, from being an educator to a movement coach, to a choreographer, to still being a dancer, um, even still dancing in films, shout out In the Heights, which we will definitely get there. Um, but you choreograph for TV, film stage and beyond. Uh, that’s the very small nutshell. Now I’m going to ask you to do something. I ask all my guests to do some of them hate me for it, some of them it’s awesome. But I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself and simply tell us anything you want us to know about you.  

Tyce: Hi, I’m Tyce Diorio. I am a dancer, I’m a choreographer and I’m a really good friend.  

Dana: And it’s important that your listeners know that. And I will co-sign or back that up with this strong, friendly stamp of approval.  

Tyce: I say that because it’s really important to me, you know, through dance, you know, I have an amazing tribe of people here in Los Angeles. And so, yeah,  

I think that’s a really great place to start actually, because I only recently learned that you’re born in Brooklyn. Um, and I have a lot of listeners in New York and I have a lot of friends in New York as we’re speaking of this. And I know it’s a goal for so many to become bi-coastal. Yeah. I’m so curious about how that happened for you and any words of wisdom or tips that you might give somebody who’s who’s eager to live that life.  

Yeah, I mean, growing up in New York, as you know, New York is so fast paced and like, you know, New York and LA are like the leading capitals of dance. So being in New York city, uh, growing up that way, it w you know, it came from a local studio, danced in Manhattan, went to the high school performing arts, the famed high school, performing arts, you know, I was the lucky guy just to be there. And, and, and so, you know, and I have theater right in front of my face. So I, I just, I immersed myself in all of that, as one would do, being in New York city, taking advantage of all the, all of the privileges that came along with that coast. And so, you know, um, I, you know, obviously in New York city, you have to like sing, you have to dance, you have to act. And so it just, it was just no choice. And you have it all available to you. And so many amazing people who, who do that and who educate and who can be a mentor and who can inspire. So, yeah, I spent most of my life in New York City, and we learned a few things about, you know, dance, being a dancer. We learned there was no stability. You know, 

You are the stability, you have to find your core, you have to find your leg because you are the center of a very, uh, spinning world. It’s important that you know how to spot.  

Absolutely. You know? And so, yeah, I, I mean, and then I came to LA and because I was so intrigued by Los Angeles. And  

Was it just curiosity at first that that brought you out?  

I was on a television show early on, and I had seen what Jackie Sleight was doing for a male dancers. And I, and I was intrigued because I had never, I mean, I was dancing like, you know, New York Dancers dance, we go into a class, we dance our it’s an hour warmup. Do you know what I mean? And, and it’s just very different. It was very different. And it was like a rivalry rivalry between New York City and LA at the time, and who’s better and all that stuff. So I came to LA, I saw Jackie Sleight and I saw the way, you know, like Bill Bole was dancing and Bubba Carr and all that Aaron Cash and all those incredible people. So I came to LA and I just jumped in the water. 

Oh my gosh. I love that Jackie Sleight is part of that origin story. She’s part of mine as well. Um, I was a young convention dancling when I first met Jackie Sleight and I will never forget her, her teaching style, her way of engaging people with words, as well as with her movement. I am still riveted by her to this very day. She’s got to come on the podcast.

That woman has so much 

Legendary. Coming for you, Jackie I’m coming. Um, thank you also for dishing out some more legendary names. I hope our listeners are taking notes and doing good Googleage after this. Um, well, I’m thrilled that you, you wound up here. I wonder if our paths would have crossed otherwise, but, uh, you and I met through, I think we met personally through a mutual, uh, that’s a made up word, a mutual friend, Melanie Benz. And I think that speaks to like the interconnectivity, the importance of relationships in the industry, because it wasn’t work that brought you and I together, but work has come since then. Um, and I love that about what we do, but I think it’s unique. You know, I think in other industries, let’s say the skill is truly the most important thing. And I don’t know that that’s true for our industry. I think that on par with that is personability, professionalism, um, um, uh, uh, contribution to the process. Um, so I, yeah, I don’t know what I, I don’t, I don’t think there’s a lesson there. I guess what I’m encouraging in people is that if you’re a good person consider that, a credit on your resume, because it is helpful in the long run.  

Absolutely. A hundred percent. I think, even though I came from New York, I came to LA and I instantly met some of the greats. Like I ended up crazy enough working with Michael Peters and like, you know, Paula Abdul, yada yada, yada Vince Patterson, all the greats. And it was, I just felt like my path and I think we all as artists or dancers and we get, we get coupled up with the right energy. It’s like a matched energy. I feel so it’s like what I was putting in and what I was desiring, all the, all the, the people that came into the pathway were direct matches for me. So I think I knew about process and I, I, I loved process because it is the most important, so I wasn’t results driven. So that was really good. And I, I managed to maintain and stay that way. And through today, you know,  

Uh, yes, I do know. Um, okay. I want to talk about this idea of matching number one. I want to talk about you matching with Paula Abdul on star search. Um, is that not how you got your break? Was she, how, how did that moment work?

I was on star search, uh, you know, um, and then Paul Abdul, funny enough was one of the judges. And, um, I was, but I wasn’t on as a soloist. I was on with like two girls. So, you know, that was the connection. And then I went back on star search as a soloist, and then I had won the whole thing. And then I came to LA and Julia McDonalds set up a private audition for me and Paula and I went into a room with her and she, she put on our music and she made me dance. Right. And improv right there. 

How old were you at the time? Do you think it was, 

I was 18 or 19. Yeah. Wow.  

Does it feel oddly full circle to now be involved with a show? Like, so you think you can dance and giving that first break moment to so many dancinglings  

That was, that was an interesting, uh, connection and believe it or not that connection. And I say it all the time. That was because of Marty Kudelka. It was Marty Kudelka actually recommended me. He was on Marty was on the first season, I believe. And, um, and I was in New York actually doing, I’d been in Los Angeles living, but I went home. They asked me to do Chicago for a few months. So I did Chicago for like six months. And so I was doing that and having a great time and got a call from Nigel Lithgoe and Jeff Thacker and said, Marty, Kudelka recommended you to choreograph, um, a Fosse piece. And so I flew out to LA on Marty’s recommendation, and I never forgot that because, you know, truth be told, not everybody is, is, um, uh, giving enough to recommend people in our industry. And that’s just kind of the truth of it all, but I don’t, I don’t, I just come from, oh, Hey, you have to call so-and-so. You have to, this is that I come from that. So it’s, you know, so it’s not uncommon to me, but, uh, Marty Kudelka really showed that, you know, um, because our connection with Janet Jackson and then, and how he ended up working with her, you know, um, after I had done some work with her on tour and, and videos and stuff, so,  

Thats Right. I’m so glad that you mentioned him and are singing his praises because it reminds me, I think his name is possibly the most mentioned on the podcast. Um, and he is the person that extended a similar kindness to me. Um, and, and many, many, many kindnesses actually throughout my career, I safely can say, I wouldn’t have this career without that person at all, not even close. Um, Marty is, you know, people call this a dog eat dog world. And although Marty is my dog, there is, there is nothing dog eat about that person that Marty gives credit where it is due. He’s the first to, uh, to share space and make space for other people and their talent. Um, I’m so completely grateful for that. And I actually wonder, do you remember what season that was that you,  

So you think I went on the first season. My first show was the finale of the first season. So I went and did a Fosse piece, and then they brought me back season two, and they were like, can you do contemporary? And I was like, yeah, can you do jazz? I was like, yeah, Broadway. I was like, yeah. And then I, I did, like, I did an African Piece and, you know, and when you talk about versatility, I just throw it back to my, the way I trained at my dance studio, my local, the local dance studio. I went to, we were doing all of that at 10 years old. I mean, I had an African dance teacher named Luanis Luanis from Africa and we were dancing. So all these things, all the tapes are still in my mind. So it never leaves you what you were exposed to from your dance studio. And I think that’s so important, you know, cause we all come from dance studios and you know, they give us that.  


Well, not all of us, but most of certainly most of the people listening to this podcast, do I think they’re like me, you know, you talk about finding your people. And I think, yeah, like attracts, like, and I, I grew up a studio kid as well. No African in my dance studio, unfortunately for me. Um, I’m, I’m very jealous of that because the more I learn about what I do, the more I learn the roots and all of it stems from African people. Um, and I am mesmerized by that and I’m always eager to be growing and learning and also sharing and making space for people to get excited about that. Be introduced by that. Um, I think it’s a gift to be exposed to many styles that early on, especially African, um, I do want to ask though, because this comes up a lot with friends of mine and it was a part of the story that I told myself early on is that it was not a good thing to be a generalist that LA especially loves a specialist. We’re not looking for somebody that’s decent at all styles. We’re looking for the best Krumper and the best Popper and the world’s greatest B-boy like those were what the castings were looking for at the time that I moved out here anyways, which is way, way back in 2005. Um, but did you ever struggle with being categorized a generalist or not as a specialist or were you really just that good at everything?  

You mean me as a dancer? You mean me as a dancer? Right. I came to LA and I feel like, um, I was a certain kind of dancer and I w and I think in all of the projects that I, most of the projects I did, I was probably, I was always singled out for a feature or this, or I could, you know, I, I feel like I brought more to the table than just dance. Cause I felt like coming from New York, you were always telling a story and you were always acting and you were always like there was purpose. So it was, you know, it was celebrated, I think, you know, by a lot of different choreographers, you know? So I felt lucky. I felt lucky  

You’re echoing a few sentiments from a previous episode with Miguel’s Zarate where we were talking about the value of not fitting in. And yes, it’s great to be a specialist, but let’s remember how special it is to be you who’s exactly from where you’re from and exactly exposed to all the things you were exactly exposed to. And that, that made exactly you and holy smokes. I’m so thrilled that I know you and get to dance with you. Um, so let’s talk about that. Okay. Oh, wait back up, back about book before we go forward, we go back just one second on the subject of Marty Kudelka one of the graces that he extended to me was asking, uh, if I would like to collaborate co-choreograph a piece for, so you think you can dance with him is the only time I ever choreographed for the show, we got to work with Jose and Comfort who I, adore and we had an absolute ball. And I remember meeting you on the show. So you must have been there in season seven. 

Yeah. I, yeah, I’ve done a lot of seasons.  

I actually know that you’ve done a lot of seasons because I know that you’ve done 13 seasons.  

Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I, I, yeah, I’ve done a lot.  

Um, I suppose I could ask for outstanding moments. Do you want to talk at all about your Emmy win or is it,  

That was absolutely wonderful and sort of crazy, but just to wrap it up in a, um, brief little story of that, I’ve  

Always for a second, I thought you were going to say wrap it up in a tortilla. Cause that was the shape you were making tiny little burrito out of it. This is what it would be into  

I’m into it and I’m totally up to it. Um, no, I, I think maybe, uh, I don’t know, dancers might be inspired or anybody could be inspired by, um, I always saw myself. I always have these movies in my mind. I think I always saw movies or like this mini movie in my mind. Like I always knew I was, was going to dance with Janet Jackson or I knew I had, but I knew that I was walking up some stairs. I knew I, I saw this movie in my mind. I was walking upstairs and I, I had this gold award in my hand and I was speaking about all the people that I, you know, that helped in that process and, and that, and, and yeah, I didn’t know it was going to happen at, So you think you can Dance, but, but it ended up happening and it was a beautiful, magical moment.  And, um, yeah, and the fact that I was able to create a library, I, you know, I, wasn’t a choreographer when I got on the show, I, I actually landed that, you know, television show and I just so happened to be dancing the Fosse work. So they felt like I could do this Fosse piece. And I did that. And then I just, I kind of just stayed in each moment and I didn’t really get ahead of myself. And I was just kind of like, yeah, I can do that. Cause I knew I just needed to work on my craft and at least find a little tiny voice of as a choreographer. So I did that like a lot. So I took every episode they gave me and I just worked on it. And so eventually it paid off and I started to find a little voice in there. And um, yeah, and I, I met so many people like, you know, Chris Scott, who we’ll get to who some of the loves of my life at, at, uh, so you think, and we all, you know, Sonya Taya, Stacy Tookey all these beautiful people, all of them, you know.

And, and what a great way to make your muscles as big and strong by helping others to become big and strong. I I’ve heard, you know, a lot of experiences from the show, from the contestants point of view. And of course it’s a ringer, of course it’s a challenge. That’s the point, it’s a competition show and it is also a reality show. So circling back to, it’s not always, no, if at all, about your talent, um, which I remember being so frustrated about that show in the beginning when I was, when I was younger, when I was like contestant age, I hated that about the show. And I was like, that’s not real life. If this is, if this is a dance show, the best man or woman or person should win. Um, and then I noticed that this was about America’s favorite dancer and those aren’t always the same person,  

Right? Yeah. You know, and from the choreography standpoint, you know, the choreographers are in this, uh, um, little pit, like, you know, we’re, you know, we all want to do well. We all want to, to rise to the occasion. So it’s, there’s the dancers. And then there’s the choreographers because yes, it is a reality show. It’s television, you know, it was about the pieces that they performed, you know, and the connections between all of us, like I had been there from season one, you know, and all the new choreographers and the great people that I ended up meeting, like Nappy Tabs and Chris, you know, they’d come in and they’d be like, oh my God, I like, or what are they going to say about my number? And I was like, and I remember telling them that because I had been there a bit and went through that same thing. And so I felt it important to say, Hey, listen, you know, they can say what they want about your number, but the truth is is that you leave here with that, that’s your work and next week, no one’s ever going to remember what they said. So it’s like, you just stay, stay, stay with you. You know? So, because I have learned that I’ve learned that, um, early on there, cause it’s, it’s a daunting experience because  

For sure. And I think that actually spreads beyond that show into, into everything. I think the, the work is what people remember. Um, I’m thinking about myself, like YouTubing specific numbers from that show, I would scrub right through all the chatter at the beginning and I would not stick around for the chatter at the end. Um, I thought that I was alone in that, but I don’t think I am. I think you’re spot on. Um, so maybe let’s stick on that theme for a second on the subject of competition. Um, we talked about the choreography worlds being kind of a dog eat dog world. And we are a community. We are an industry that’s working desperately to organize and find ourselves a home, find ourselves some, some semblance of collective bargaining somehow. Um, and it’s challenging to do when, when there isn’t a sense of unity. Um, I know it’s possible because the dance community did it. And I came up through the dance community, which was also dog eat dog, tremendously competitive. And I think there are more dancers than choreographers. So if the dance world could do it, I think the choreography worlds can do it. Um, but I would love to hear your thoughts on competitive nature within our industry. Is it useful? How do you manage it? 

That’s an amazing question. I’m glad you asked. And, um, I guess after, after, after 2020, um, but even before that, I think for me, I think I was starting to formulate. I’ve never, you know, I grew up, you know, in the competitive world for a little bit, you know, I, I maybe did competition dance world for like four years, you know, and I grew up competitive and you know, I’m competitive with myself, but I do remember being like seeing some great dancers, like male dancers when I got to LA and never, I never felt the better you were and the more talented you were, I was like, we’re going to be friends because I, I need what you have. So I re I never remember being like sharky about any of that ever. The better you are, the more talented, the more we were going to be friends. And I have so many friends that are so, you know, talented and have all those great qualities. So, um, I feel about competition in the industry. I feel even after last year, I, I think, you know, we all have a whole different perspective on life in the world. And so many things that I just decided like, yeah, I know, no, no. 

Yeah, no, I’m not going to do that. Oh,  

I mean, I mean, I’m an adult, but like, I don’t, you know, I just think like, to be competitive and, you know, it’s just, that’s just not important. It’s just so it’s so not important. It’s so 10 years ago, 

it’s not in fashion, 

It’s not even important. Oh God. Like even more so now it’s just, yeah. And especially the industry being as hard as it is, you want to add another layer of a layer of competitive newness on it. I just think it’s, doesn’t serve it. Doesn’t serve me. That’s for sure. You know, and having to like, yeah, just all the things you have to do in this industry, like, you know, putting the pressure on yourself or, you know, feeling like I have to achieve this by this. I I’m like no, none of, none of that, none of that is important at all. You know? Cause again, it’s really about process. It’s about connection. I think it’s about, um, you know, just get, getting, losing yourself in your art and, and, and not being so results driven because that’s, that only can equate to one thing and, you know, and just, and think, think about all the artists you love and that you admire and respect. I think it’s really important too, that you know, that the, the, the artist meets the person to, you know, like where the artist meets the person. Cause it’s like in our industry, as long as we’re talking about industry and the, the reality of it is, is, um, you see things on a TV screen or, um, you know, on, on your phone and it looks as if it’s a certain way, but that is not the reality. The reality is, is it’s not everything is, as it seems is what I’m saying. So when you, what’s great, is that when you meet an artist, whether it be an actor, a singer dancer, choreographer director, yada, yada, yada, that the person actually meets, uh, the artists they’re as great as a human, as their artistry, you know? And I’m just keeping it real. I I’m just trying to keep it real just because we’re having a conversation. So we’re going to talk for real about, yes,  

Let’s go! There are a lot of smoke and mirrors and that, and actually, and nobody’s trying to hide that it’s an industry that’s based on making things look like something else, the actors are doing it, the set designers doing it, the lighting team is doing it. There’s no mystery. Like we are in the business of making something that isn’t what it is. Right. So really useful to be what you are to know who you are, so that you can do that with, with clarity and go home and get a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. However, it was that you spent your day before that point. Um, okay. So now let’s get into talking about how we got to spend some of our days during the summer of 2019. Um, you, you talked about finding a friend in Christopher Scott, and you talked about, you know, the pressure of being on. So You Think You Can Dance the pressure of having a great number. And I think that Chris is somebody who balances being a friend and being a professional who has a seriously high bar of expectations. Um, during the process, it was like no end to achieving the dream. Yeah. It was very rare that he felt like we’ve got it even up to the days before the shoot or during the freaking shoot. It’s still like trying to make it that much better. And one of the, one of the ways I remember you coming into play of this film is we were casting this number. That’s very special number in the film called Paciencia y Fe and we, uh, he, he wanted real looking humans, different ages, different sizes, different shapes, but like real looking people that have magic and charisma. And he said, Tyce has to do this. Tyce would be so perfect. Um, and this was, you know, not a, not an easy or natural step for you. I’m sure you were in the middle of other projects and life and work and things. So how was it that, how was it that the project came to you? How did you feel about doing it and what are your thoughts about the process?  

Well, um, wildly, you know, I’m wildly a fan of Chris Scott because it’s, it’s so rare. Um, Chris is, is rare in this industry. And so when you find those golden nuggets, you hang on to them and we really connected at So you Think as people, as people and we just really respected each other’s craft and artistry, so that was good. And we just became friends and then, um, cut to, um, you know, I, I had been choreographing at the time. Uh, well I worked with Taylor Swift for about nine years, you know, on yes,  

That’s right. That’s an overlap. Okay. Yes.  

And I, um, and we had Chris come in on the 1989 album and do like two or three numbers. Um, and so we connected even more there. And so, uh, it’s always been a, uh, uh, like a love fest, like just, you know, and so I was in New York and I got a call and he was like, Hey, um, I think I saw, he might’ve seen from my Instagram that I was in New York or whatever. And I was like, yeah. And he had mentioned, he’s like, I really want you to do In the Heights. And I was like, oh, okay. I was like, I was like, definitely. Absolutely. And the dates ended up working out. And so of course always, always always know, you know, like when, when there’s an opportunity to dance and it’s people you love and admire and respect all day every day. And I’ve always done that, you know, as like somebody who’s got a project and they asked me, you know, you’re more selective now that you’re, you know, you know,  

Now that the cartilage in your knees is wearing out.  

I mean, listen, thank God. My knees are good, but you know, it’s like, but I just, I just, um, I love to dance. So, and I love to be with good people that dance and create, so,  

Oh, we had so much fun and you’re going to be so proud Mayor LaGuardia.  

I’m sure. I’m sure it was amazing time. It was amazing. You were so brilliant and perfect as always. And it just like damp that in for sure. It’s like a process and process of that was so beautiful and so great. It was run so well, everything was just, it was just such a great experience, you know? And I, I definitely will remember that and, you know, and I got to meet Ebony Williams. And so I was so like enamored by her. I was like, wow. And then I watched her dance and then I was like, wait a minute. I was like, hold on everybody. 

Yes, everyone. Hold on. 

Did everybody just see that? I was like, we’re not just gonna like keep talking after she just did that. What a amazing dancer.

Incredible there is. I’m convinced nothing that she cannot do.

Wow. Now and I saw her in, um, um, jagged little pill.  

Yeah. Okay. So you’re a unique person. Well, you’re unique in many ways, but you’re unique in one specific way, which is that you have been a Broadway dancer who has also been in Broadway film adaptations. I am so curious because I don’t have, um, I’ve workshopped, I’ve skeleton crewed, a few shows for Broadway or off-Broadway to become Broadway shows, but I am so curious to hear your thoughts on what the biggest difference is in terms of being a dancer in each of those spaces, because you take In the Heights, for example, with a few tiny script changes, it’s the same show that was on Broadway as it is on film, but what’s the difference for the dancer. I would love to hear you thoughts.

To be honest with you when I was in New York working on that film, particularly it did, it felt, um, like a product exactly like a Broadway show. What made it feel that way? Well, because there was so much because you’re, you are dealing with a theatrical piece that has a, you know, it’s a script with song and movement and all the things, all the elements. And for me, I was, I was, and as being in New York and with all those beautiful New York Dancers, um, I just felt like, Hmm. I mean, with the difference of there’s no, there’s no live orchestra and you know, it,  

Or a live audience.  

So, um, for me, I mean that particular experience was unique to its own because it felt, it, it felt like we were working on a Broadway show for sure. Yeah, definitely. Because it was just so, um, you know, well thought out and just had so much purpose and  

And so much plot. There are so many stories to tell. Um, yeah. And everyone did it. Every ensemble dancer was dancing the story of a main character. Um, and in many cases it also is their story in, in our case, how lucky did we get to have such giving dancers talent in general, who brought themselves their struggle, their success to this process? I mean, I get chills thinking about it. And when I tell you you’re going to lose your mind. That 191st street tunnel, uh, you taking that step into that line, in that hat, in that fit, shout out, Mitchell Travers come on, killed the wardrobe. It’s one of. Paciencia is one of my, uh, one of my favorite parts of the film. It really feels like the heart to me. I hope that you love it.  

Um, sh I’m sure. I’m sure. I mean, it was like when you see the trailer it’s, um, in the casting and you hear the music, it’s like all the, all the elements have to come together seamlessly. So that it’s one thought. And that I felt like, I felt like when I saw the trailer, it’s like, you know, you just know, like, you know, when I’d walked down the streets in New York and I’d go see shows all the time you go in, you hear the overture, whatever you’re listening to, you, you know, you’re in the presence of greatness right away. It doesn’t take long, you know, especially in theater, because there’s so much, there’s so much of the puzzle that goes into making that one overall piece and picture and thought. And so I think in the I’m I know that with In the highest, and I will say I was highly impressed, highly impressed with John Chu and his, and the way he walked by and addressed and spoke to dancers and people and the way, and I was like, it starts at the top  

Trickle down.  

And he, like, he came over, we were on the train and he was like Tyce. And I was like, what, how do you know my name? And so like, just, and this is where, this is where I go back to saying where the artist meets the person. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m talking about because not everybody, not everybody is that human, you know? Yeah, it’s true. But John Chu was, I don’t have enough words.  

I, uh, I love the way he leads and damn I love the way he makes movies. Um, okay. So I, while we’re kind of, while we’re on the subject of character and working on, on movement, that’s human, right? That, that part of the film is a very human moment with a backdrop of beautifully crafted contemporary, and honestly, a gorgeous collision of styles of movement. But the moment itself is a human moment. The backdrop of dances is it is inhuman in a very beautiful way, but I, I, a part of my work that I really, really love is working as a movement coach, much less to do with 5, 6, 7, 8. 1e and a 2e and a. And, um, but I love story. I love characters and I love non-dancers. I know that you also movement coach, and I would love to hear a little bit about your approach to being a movement coach. Um, you’ve worked with Cameron Diaz, Megan Mullally looking at my notes, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Christina freaking Applegate, who I simply adore Queen Latifa, Toby McGuire. I mean, come on. Um, so yeah. Are you, are you open to talking a little bit about your approach to that kind of work.  

I absolutely love, love, love working with actors and, and just, um, you know, I mean, working with Toby McGuire, let’s just say, you know, he’s an such an actor’s actor, so, you know, but, but the great thing about actors, as you know, it’s like, I love approaching it from that perspective. Do you know what I mean? So it just, I always say when I’m teaching, it’s like we have to lose the dance in order to get to the dance, you have to lose it. You have to be willing to lose it. And it’s very hard for a dancer, especially a dancer to lose the dance because we train to dance. But when you’re talking about a story and you’re talking about why are we all here? What is the point for us to all be here? And when we’re looking at this movement, why are we looking at it? Because it can’t be because you do it well, you have to come at it with, what’s your, what’s the reason for moving? What made you want to take that first step? What is it about the music? What is it about the story? What is it about you, your intention? What are all the things that make you, we want to see you? Yes. So, so I try to approach it that way. And you know, I’m working with Katie Holmes, who’s a dear friend. And I mean, I remember working with her very closely and, um, she wanted a dance. She wanted to dance more dance, and then we had done a couple of TV shows and, and then, um, I actually had this great idea put her on So You Think You Can Dance with a bunch of guys and Nigel gave us some funding to do this. Um, and I recreated Judy Garland’s Get Happy. And so, and I got to direct it. And so it was absolutely beautiful. So,  

Oh my gosh Tyce! We’re going to link to all of the performances that you’re talking about in the show notes to this episode. I haven’t seen that. I cannot wait to see that. I cannot wait to find it and share it with the world. It  

It was a wonderful moment. And, and, and working with someone, I love Katie Holmes. I love Toby Maguire. And, you know, and even Taylor Swift, who is a, um, a recording artist, a writer, uh she’s, you know, and working with her in movement. It’s like, it’s so interesting because she’s not, she’s not a natural dancer. And, you know, she would tell you that, but, but what what’s, so, and I’ve worked with her for so many years and I’m fascinated at, and I wouldn’t change a thing because she is such a storyteller, such a storyteller. So when she moves at, when she approaches something, she’s always like, well, why am I doing that?  It’s and she really is such a great artist. I mean, such a good writer. And so it was really, I loved, loved every second of every album and tour I’ve ever, you know, and we’ve always done great work together. And so I, I, um, I love it. And Megan Mullally is, is completely different. And Megan is like, you know, she’s like, okay. And I love people who are interested in how the dance gets made. She called me, I wanna, I want to know how you’re gonna approach this. Let’s talk about it. She’s like, because the way I dance is not the way everybody else dances. And I was like, amazing, great. We’re on a, we, we’ve got a, we’ve got a base that we can work with. So it’s sort of, she’s like, and, and, you know, each person comes with their own set of ideas that adds to the it’s a real collaboration. And, you know, I mean, it’s, and it’s, I think it’s all, it’s also as well. It’s all in the communication too. It’s all in how you communicate, how people are going to move and why, and, you know, because it’s a very haunting experience for some people to move, right?  

Oh, they’ve got ideas about what choreographers are and what dances. And I don’t know who is responsible for this, but somewhere along the line, dance and choreographers became terrifying for many actors. I don’t know who was, who was responsible for that, but it’s, that’s the thing that happened for sure. I see one of my, one of my many roles in being a movement coach is like deconstructing what those beliefs about what is dance and what is a choreographer kind of breaking those down to be far more human. Yeah.  

When someone walks into the room, whether they dance or don’t dance, or, um, I usually, I usually take how they walk, how they talk, how they are in life. And then you go with that grain. And when you’re approaching movement with someone, because you don’t want it to be scary, you don’t want it to feel like they’re, they’re having to like, like climb up at it and like not achieve it. And you want to empower people, you know? So you highlight how they walk, how they talk, how they behave, how they are in it, just in life and how they speak. You know, I, I always find that it’s helpful that you find out who they are and how that works together with the movement, you know? And, and so that’s always helped me tremendously.  

Thank you for sharing that. I think we overlap in our, in a lot of ways there. Um, one of the things I love most is explaining, you know, you talk about the importance of communication, and I love the creative challenge of explaining dance in non dance language. Um, it’s a creative, it’s a way for me to actively be creating when I might not be creating phrases per se, but, uh, creating new pathways in the brain and new ways of understanding a thing. I might be explaining a step in a way that I have never thought of it before, because this person doesn’t know the way that I’ve thought of it before all of the ways that a pas de bourres used to make sense to me, I’m now getting to question in order to help it make sense to somebody who’s never heard about it. It’s some of my favorite words. I love it.  

And I’m sure you do it so well. I mean, yeah. I mean, I, I got to see you work up close in, In the Heights, which was amazing, you know? And so you’re like a force and I got to dance right opposite you.  

Oh, I, yeah. I didn’t mention that is one of the only two numbers in the movie that I got to perform in and how much fun. Yeah. We have, uh, we have a moment you and I walking dead on towards camera. It is a very fleeting moment. It happens extremely quickly, but there we are. That’s our, it’s our, um, secret, secret duet where we have a lot of people around us. Um, okay. Well, I, I know that your time is valuable. I do want to do one more thing at a time valuable. That was a weird thing to say. I know your time is valuable, but I could talk to you for five hours. Um, I’ve noticed that five-hour podcasts only do well If you’re Seth Rogan, I always say Seth, by the way, Joe Rogan, that will tell you what kind of podcaster I am. I’m the type of podcast or that doesn’t know Joe Rogans name.  

It’s all perfect. There’s nothing you can say, Dana.  

That will not be perfect. Okay. Well, I’m so glad you said that because do you know how I want to close out right now? I’m grinning so hard. I’m about to cry.  

No, no, I know. I know what you’re going to do. What you’re going to do. Okay. Go do it. It’s like. 

I saw Will Loftis last night and I told him that I was going to be with you today. Immediately. He was like, it’s like the, 

I just had a heart attack. Okay. Give me, give me a word. I’ll start with your word. Um, cup. 

It’s like the cup without the water. It’s like a mother without her daughter.  

You so good. Its like a candle. 

No, you have, have to start, right? 

I have to start with the last part. I got you.  

Start with a word that I finished with. Oh. And then make the, um, it’s like, I don’t know. It’s like a cup without the straw. It’s like a courtroom without the law.  

It’s like the law without the judge. Its like the steeple without the justice. You have to rhyme!

Yes. I know. But you have to rhyme. The last one has to rhyme the second one. Oh man. Okay. So for everyone that is confused right now, this little rhyming game is the game that on the night we were shooting Paciencia y Fe shoot, which turned into a morning shoot because they were lighting the 190 first street, uh, tunnel. They were lighting it for probably six hours. So we were all in a holding area and Will freaking Loftis starts playing this rhyme game. And he is so very good at he’s extremely good at this game. Um, and Tyce, you were newer to the game and I cry, I cried off my makeup, laughing at how willing you were to be playing this game that you were not any good at. And that spoke to me. And I think that that is a life lesson that we could all glean from. You can have so much fun and you can be the life of the party and still be new to something.  

So hideous said that, and I’m like, why? Everybody’s a rapper And like, oh my God,  

Do you want to try one? Do you want to try one more?  

Yeah. Okay. Always. I should practice for the rest of my life. 

Here’s how it goes. The first word. And the second word are related. They’re related, but they don’t rhyme. And then the third word is not related at all to the second word. It doesn’t rhyme with it either, but it is related to the fourth word and the second and the fourth word must rhyme. Second and fourth must rhyme. Your first word is my fourth word. Whatever my fourth word was, we’ll go super slow.  

Yeah. Or how slow, like turtle slow.  

I won’t even keep a rhythm by the way. The rhythm is the fun part. The rhythm picks up. And then, and then your Will Loftis and you’re actually a rapper. Oh, he’s so good. He’s got to come on the podcast. We’ll do a full episode of, of just this game. Okay. Uh, blah, blah, blah. Okay. We’ll go. Thematic. It’s like the podcast without the host. It’s like the breakfast without the toast. Yes, yes, yes. Okay. Now toast to you. 

It’s like the toast without the jam. It’s like the it’s like the, um, wait. It’s like the, oh God. Yeah. You know? Oh, skillet without the spam. 

Yes. You’re frying the spam. I get it. So right. You did  

Okay. Okay.  

Okay. I’m kind of on your tip now. Okay. Yeah. So you had spam spam to me. It’s like the spam without the salt. It’s like the milkshake without the malt. Malt is a tough one. Malt is tough. I would have definitely, probably won that round malt malt.  

It’s like the malt. It’s five o’clock apparently it’s fine. Yay. It’s five.  

We made it to five. It’s like a malt. It’s like the  

Malt without the,  

You can use, you could, you might use ball like a multiple, like a melted milk,  

Milk ball. Like the mall without the ball. It’s like, uh, it’s like the, the school without the hall. Okay. Now I got you. Dana, 

You Got me. It’s like the hall without the lockers. It’s like the electric shock without the shockers. I don’t know that didn’t make sense. Does that makes sense at all? I would have lost that round. It’s like the electric shock without the shockers, whatever. Tyce It’s five o’clock it’s time for us to park today, but not forever. I’m so excited to see you again. Soon. Let’s go see In the Heights together. I would love to be like elbowing you in the ribs for, for an hour and a half. That’s what I want. Um, so thank you again for being here. I just had a ball. I smiled the entire time. My cheeks hurt. 

That was amazing and terrifying all at the same time. 

Are you sweating? I always sweat. Sweating. 

Sweating. So fun though. So fun.  

Fun. Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to set a schedule for us to meet and play that game. And then just without telling Will we’ll be like, Hey, Will, do you want to have lunch? And then we’ll meet we’ll for lunch and we will crush him.  

Okay. So now I’ve got a little, little seed of good things to come because you taught me now slowly. You also were playing and all were excellent. Oh,  

That’s true. You jumped into the deep with us. Yeah. Oh God phenomenal. All right. My friend have an amazing rest of your day. Thank you again for doing this. Bye.

I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Tyce. And I really hope you take this rhyming game and become a master of it because it is genuinely so much fun hours, hours just flying by and makeup melting off from tears. So much fun. Don’t piss off hair and makeup. You don’t want to be that guy. Try to preserve your makeup as best as you can. Um, all right. Y’all, that’s it for me. I’m going to get out into the world. I am going to encourage every single person whose path I cross to go see In the Heights in a theater. So Latin people receive only 4.5% of speaking roles in films like dialogue in movies, only 4.5% of it is spoken by a Latin person. Yet Latin make up 40% of the audiences that is so wildly out of balance. And as frustrating is that is to me right now in this moment, I’ve got this kind of like super, super sad satisfaction, knowing that studios listen to dollars. And so if people show up at the box office and the box office doesn’t lie, studios will see that people want these stories. People want to see these people in leading roles and people will pay for representation. I think that is the ticket. If you can, if you’re healthy, if you feel safe, go see In the Heights in a theater and bring as many people as you possibly can. That’s me asking you straight up because the box office is where you, the audience member get to ask for what you want and you ask for it with your ticket admission. That’s how you do it.  So please go out there, go see In the Heights. And of course go keep it exceptionally funky. And you know what else though? Keep it saucy because holy hell the sauce, the heat that comes from that film. Oh, yep. You’re not ready. Or maybe you’ve already seen it. You are ready and you just want to keep filling the cup. Please go, go and go again. All right. That’s it. That’s it for me really. But I want to keep talking about it. I’m going to reserve for Choreo team episode coming so-so so soon. Thank you guys for listening. I hope you’re great.  Thank you guys for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

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 or review because your words move me too. Number two things, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, That’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #76 Monkey Bar Thoughts: Connecting who you ARE to who you want to BE

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #76 Monkey Bar Thoughts: Connecting who you ARE to who you want to BE
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You know how they say “it ain’t gunna happen over night”… and stuff like that?  Well, some things DO happen overnight… but changing your mind and changing your LIFE usually doesn’t.  This episode is all about how you can be making BIG changes in your life gracefully… like a monkey!

Quick Links:

Self Coaching Model Free Guide from Brooke Castillo and The Life Coach School: https://thelifecoachschool.com/self-coaching-model-guide/

Episode 4 “Stop thinking like a Caveman” : https://www.thedanawilson.com/podcast/ep-4-stop-thinking-like-a-caveman

Episode 17 “The Process of Processing” :https://www.thedanawilson.com/podcast/ep-17-the-process-of-processing

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana. This is words that move me. I’m stoked that you are here and I’m also sorry in advance. If you can hear my actual stomach grumbling, as I record this episode, I’m very hungry. I probably should just eat something, but also trying to stick to the calendar. I know I can make it. This episode is short and sweet and so valuable. I’m really excited to dig into it. But first of course wins. We’re going to share some wins. I, today am celebrating my first callback on the auditioner side, not on the auditioning side of whoa, this got confusing really fast. This will be my first callback as talent since the pandemic. My first zoom call back, I guess I should say my first zoom call back as talent. Since the pandemic began, I’ve held a handful of others, um, as a choreographer. So looking for talent, but the zoom tables, the screens have turned. Is that what we say? The screens have turned. I am so excited to get to manage my mind around some nerves and in general, just to be dancing in my living room. I’m excited about that. I’m so excited to get, to have a callback where I don’t have to pay for parking or risk being late. Did you hear that? Beep I still have to fix that beep. Um, yeah, I’m excited to have a call back in my living room. This is going to be awesome. So that is what I’m celebrating today. What is going well, your world.  

Awesome. I am stoked for you. Congrats. Keep winning. Now let’s dig into this shall we? We’re talking monkey bars today. It’s kind of, as I mentioned a technical day, um, and I want to introduce you to this concept. This technique that has tremendously helped my professional life and yes, also my personal life. Um, but it has nothing to do with you dance stomach grumbles. It doesn’t have anything directly to do with dance, I should say. And, uh, yeah, I call the concept monkey bars or monkey bar thoughts and before monkey bar thoughts will make any sense at all, I must introduce you to, or reintroduce you to the thought model also called the self-coaching model or sometimes called the CTFAR model. Well, it is a lot, but it is also simple and so effective. So let’s go. 

Um, okay. Where to begin. I first mentioned the thought model on the podcast way back in episode 4. The episode is called Stop thinking like a Caveman.  So if you’re interested in not thinking like a caveman, if you’re interested in the thought model, if this peaks your interest, go take a deeper dive into that episode, episode four. Um, but I also encourage you to visit the show notes to this episode where I am linking to a free guide from Brooke Castillo, um, and the life coach school, which is where I picked up this handy-dandy tool. So check out the show notes, check out episode four for a deeper dive on the thought model. Um, but I’ll give you a little backstory here. Brooke Castillo is a master certified coach instructor and the founder of the life coach school. Before I go any further, I’d like to, uh, to give you a little disclaimer, Brooke would be the first person to say that the idea behind her thought model is not entirely original. It is. It’s not completely hers. In other words, she did not invent this notion. Um, probably since the birth of, I want to say time, but I’ll say philosophy. I’ll just say since like ancient times, we have known that us human types are emotional beings and that our emotions are what drive our actions and what causes our emotions, the meaning of, or simply put the thoughts that we attach to any given circumstance. So this idea of awareness of authorship, of our thoughts to encourage new emotions and land us with different results is not a new concept. In fact, it is the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy also known as C B T. So while Brooke Castillo didn’t invent the concept, she did develop a universal formula or model for using these ancient ideas to help us use our minds to live the lives and make the work of our dreams rather than to passively allow our minds to work against us quietly in a deep, deep, dark, dark corner somewhere.  So to really boil it down in Brooke’s words, the basic premise of the model is that the circumstances of the world are neutral. They’re not good, they’re not bad. They don’t make you feel good. They don’t make you feel bad. It’s our thoughts that create our feelings and it’s our feelings that create our actions and it’s those actions and inactions that create our results that create our experience of the world. Okay. Boom, broad overview, the model. Oh, one more disclaimer, all models are wrong. Some models are useful. This is one of one of my favorite catchphrases and I do, I believe it’s true. All models are wrong. Some are useful. I am including, um, the model that I made of the geography of Colorado when I was in grade school, PS everybody wanted me on their team when we did projects at school because I loved a diorama and I loved a foam core poster board. And I love those tri-fold like foam core board. I loved glitter pens and pens in general, hot glue, guns, moss, eye glitter, like you name it, little toy figure buffaloes, all of the things. Anyways, my model of the geography of Colorado was wrong, but it was useful in helping me understand my state. So similarly, in the case of the thought model, it is possible that our lives are far too nuanced and dynamic to whittle down into these five little categories, circumstance thought feeling action result, but it is a very useful place to start.  

Here’s how I see it. Being able to separate circumstances from thoughts is a critical step towards empowerment, accountability, and autonomy. And in my work in this industry, I have saved time. I have saved money and I have undoubtedly saved relationships by applying that first step alone, just simply separating thoughts from facts, tremendously useful. But when I understand all five lines of the model, the circumstances, thoughts, feelings, actions, and results. I have a way of understanding my life, all of it. And yeah, maybe it is overly simple, but in an extraordinarily complex world and time and specifically industry, I really love simple tools. So that’s that, um, I use this model when I coach, I also use it in my daily life to better understand my experience of the world and all of the C’s T’s F’s and A’s and R’s that are in it. So there are two ways of using the model. Number one is to understand where you are now and by where you are. I mean, who you are now currently, the other way to use the model is to understand where you’d like to be. In other words, who you would like to become. Now, it’s really important that I mentioned neither of those two people is better or worse than the other. Neither one of those two people, your now self or your future self are more deserving or less deserving of love and success. They’re simply thinking differently.  

Here’s a little example of an unintentional model that came up in a real session. Recently, the circumstance was the entertainment industry. The thought that this person was thinking was I can’t get my foot in the door. I can’t get my foot into the door of the entertainment industry. Thinking that thought I can’t get my foot in the freaking door. I added the friggin thinking that that made them feel discouraged. And when they felt discouraged, they isolated themselves. There’s just one of them. They isolated themselves. They closed off, they had a tendency to over scroll, like way more social media than their usual. Um, they circulated in negative. Self-talk just kind of basked in beating themselves up. Uh, they did not train. They did not network. They did not reach out for help when they were feeling discouraged, they did not create work. The results of those actions and those inactions is that the feet don’t move.  When you choose to think, I can’t get my foot in the door and you feel discouraged, your feet don’t move. Of course. Right? Of course, naturally that makes total sense. I mean, it’s not desirable probably unless you desired from footing, but it totally makes sense when you think I can’t get my foot in the door and you feel discouraged. You act a certain way and your feet don’t budge. You don’t step forward. You don’t step out and that’s okay. Unless you are a person who wants to be moving forward. In which case you could apply a more intentional model, something that might look like this, the circumstances, the same, the entertainment industry. But what if you could choose a thought like I am ready to gain experience. Hold that thought I am ready to gain the system. I feel brave when I feel brave, I engage. I prepare. I probably prepare before I engage. I prepare, I engage. I connect with other people and I connect with myself. I get moving. I ask questions. I don’t waste time. And the result is that I learn a lot and I learned it fast. I gained knowledge and I gain experience. Boom. So can you see that that dramatic change in result comes from ever so slightly changing the thought?  Yeah. From thinking I don’t have any experience, which is relative. Somebody else could probably think that you have that you’re well set up to engage with the entertainment industry. But when you choose the thought, I can’t get my foot in the door, you get discouraged, you disengage. And when you think a thought like I am ready for experience, you get revved up, you become eager, you feel different feelings and feeling like brave or determined can be tremendously useful, especially in pursuit of a creative career in the entertainment industry, uh, right about now you might be getting tempted to inspect and change all of the thoughts that you’re thinking that are leaving you with undesirable results. And I feel you, but before you go jump on that train, before you go on, like the thought remodeling, I have to underline. Coaching is not about changing the way that you think it is about awareness of the way that you are thinking and the way that that affects how you feel, behave and experience the world.  

Honestly, the meat and potatoes of this work of these tools is awareness. So can you see how the unintentional thought of, I can’t get my foot in the door affects your results? Can you see how thinking a different thought like I’m so ready for experience changes the result. Can you see that the entertainment industry hasn’t changed at all yet? Your experience of it has tremendously. That is the awareness that I’m talking about here. That is the awareness that I, that I hope to bring it, teach and encourage in all of my friends, family, clients, all the people, this type of awareness and authorship and agency is simply it for me. That’s what I’m about. Okay. Awareness number one. Number two, second most important part of this coaching stuff is the feeling right? We know thoughts are important. This has been made clear, but this work is not just about awareness over your thoughts and it’s certainly not about changing all your thoughts so that you can feel only good feelings. I wouldn’t even call brave or determined a good feeling. Those feelings feel heavy and tight in my body. Those are not warm, light, fuzzy little feelings. This is not about feeling only good feels. This is not about good vibes only. So over good vibes only is about having the tools and the support to process all of your vibes, all of the feelings to feel the feelings, instead of eating them, drinking them, scrolling them, shopping them, gossiping them. You simply feel them simple, not easy sometimes. Uh, if you’re interested in this processing feeling stuff, by the way, go ahead and dig back into episode 17. The process of processing is the title of that one, uh, for a really fun example of one of my favorite tools of processing emotions.  Um, and definitely hit subscribe here by the way, because in upcoming episodes, I’m going to be dishing out some new tools for feeling feelings. Um, sounds like so much fun, right? So much fun. 

Okay. So now we understand the model. We understand how it’s using coaching. We understand unintentional and intentional models, and we get that feelings are important. Now let’s get to the good stuff let’s get to, to the monkey bars. What like 45 minutes later, sorry guys, here we are. We’re doing it. In our example about the entertainment industry. I can’t get my foot in the door versus I’m ready to gain experience those thoughts. Aren’t total polar opposites, but you might find yourself in a thought model situation where your unintentional model and your intentional model are polar opposites. You might find yourself, um, feeling like the person that you are and the person that you want to be could not be further from the same person.  Enter the monkey bar thoughts. They are, what help you connect these two people. They are what help you become your future self. Um, and furthermore, they’re what get you to believing that thought instead of just circulating it over and over in your head, believing by the way, to me is thinking one thought for so long and so deeply that you hold it to be true. You might hold it to be a fact. And sometimes it does feel that way. Now sometimes the space between believing the unintentional thought and believing the intentional can seem uncrossable. For example, if I’m a person that thinks I hate my body, it may seem impossible to think. I love my body. I call that space between my unintentional thought and my intentional thought the river of becoming, and sometimes those waters are rapids and I will need a good strong grip on some monkey bar rungs to get me from one side to the other.  

Now, in this example of hating or loving my body, Monkey bar thoughts might look like this. The unintentional thought, of course I hate my bodu is just an arm’s reach away from thinking I’m becoming a person who is kind to my body, which might just be yes, small reach away from a thought like I see that my body works hard for me, which isn’t so far from something like, I love that my body can get stronger, which isn’t too far from something like my body can do incredible things, which is probably not far away from something like I am becoming a person who loves my body. I can marvel at my body. I appreciate my body. I see my body. Thank you body, which isn’t so far from thinking, I love my body. Now that’s a pretty natural progression, right? It seems a little more doable with those intermittent handholds, but here’s the important bit.  Each one of those thoughts leads to a slightly different feeling and those slightly different feelings lead to slightly different actions. And over time you act newly. You actually, you actually I’m sticking with it. Become a person who loves your body. Not simply a person who can meditate on a thought like I love my body. That is big. The other big, big, big bit that I want I want to be sure to call out right now, is that in real life, it’s actually way harder to go backwards on monkey bars than it is in your head. That is to say that along the way, along your journey, across these monkey bars, over the river of becoming your brain may or likely will offer you that old thought again, you might even be on your third rung out in your brain. In, in this example might offer you, I hate my body.  That thought might show up like three, four or five monkey bar rungs out. And when that happens, I like to put myself in a dance studio, not an actual dance studio, a metaphorical mental imaginary dance studio. And I like to think of my thought patterns like choreography. I remember that I get really good when I rehearse a lot. I can do the thing very, very well if I’ve rehearsed it many, many times. So it’s no wonder that I’m good at the thought. I hate my body. I’ve been rehearsing it for a really, really long time. It’s, it’s easy for me to do it. And it’s hard for me to make changes to it. Can you feel me on that? Do you know how hard it is to make a change to a dance that you’ve been dancing for years? I’m talking to all my tour people out there, um, versus something you just learned, of course, because choreography that you rehearse over and over becomes like muscle memory.  And I think that the same can be true for the way that you’re thinking. So when this happens, when my brain offers me an old thought, like I hate my body. I like to walk into the studio, start rehearsal and kindly remind myself, oh yes, that is the old breakdown. I remember that. I remember being really good at that. Yes, you are crushing that old breakdown, but we are making changes to that. Now we have new music from the MD. Um, I mean musical director, not doctor, and we’re giving that section more punch. We’re going to update it. We’re going to make it more effective. We’re going to make it more danceable. Uh, we’re just, we’re making that breakdown better. Don’t worry. We have plenty of time to rehearse. You’ve got this new breakdown. Let’s go. And genuinely, I’m excited about learning new choreography. I’m excited about mastering new choreography.  That is like, that’s a train I want to get on new different evolved, better. Let’s learn the new breakdown. And let’s also be kind when we mess up. Of course I messed that step up. I’ve been doing it the other way for a really long time moving on. So that is how I handle moving forward across the monkey bars, by giving myself my, my self plural by giving myself reasonable bites in terms of my thought work, reasonable bites in terms of my evolution of thinking bites that I can believe in versus bites that I can repeat over and over in my head and still somewhere think is a lie because they aren’t backed up by the feelings and the actions that make them believable. So give yourself good, strong monkey bar thoughts, give yourself as many as you need, watch your feelings evolve over time, watch your actions change over time and watch yourself become your intentional self, your intentional model, the person that you want to become.  And if you happen to move backwards in the monkey bar, thought if your brain happens to offer you the old unintentional thought, be kind, remember that you’ve been rehearsing that choreography for a very long time and it is okay that you be very good at, at doing it. And then it’s also okay to learn new choreography, to change, to give yourself time to rehearse. That is monkey bar thoughts. And that is me coaching you, I guess, on the podcast for about 30 minutes. I hope that you enjoyed, I hope that you find monkey bar thoughts and the thought model as useful as I have. And of course, I hope that you go out into the world and keep it very, very, very, very funky at all times. Okay. I got to go eat. You guys are great. I’ll talk to you soon.  

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 or review because your words move me too. Number two thing I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com  for links to free workshops. And so, so much more.  All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #75 Being Creative Idiots with Smac McCreanor

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #75 Being Creative Idiots with Smac McCreanor
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What do Tik Tok, a hydraulic press, and my favorite city in Australia all have in common?  This week’s guest, Smac McCreanor. In this conversation, Smac and I dig into TikTok, commercials, building creative spaces, and living the lives of our dreams, so get ready to giggle, take notes, and maybe even tear up a little bit, because … This woman lives to laugh, she is strategic AND silly, and she knows how to turn 1+1 into 1 million.  Wait, sorry…more like 1.5 million. 

Quick Links:

Smac on the gram: https://www.instagram.com/smacmccreanor/

Smac on Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@smacmccreanor

YT of her remake Britney Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQk1lzbtzyo

Ryan’s Back Flip to the Head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8kFJIt6xtg

Transcript:

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

Dana: Welcome my friend. This is Dana. This is words that move me. And this is a truly special episode because today I’m sharing a conversation with a person that I have adored at a distance for a very long time, but only really shared time and space with them. A few, uh, very cherished times. My guest today is Smac McCreanor. You may know her as the hydraulic press girl. You may know her as a Tik TOK star, but if you know her at all, you know her as many, many things, because she is many things. She is a very multi type and a man she’s talented, she’s smart. She’s savvy. She’s seriously funny. And she’s also super, she’s also super generous in sharing her experience, um, this entertainment industry thing that we’re doing. So y’all are lucky ducks to be listening in on this conversation. Now, if you know me, which some of you may not, but most of you do, if you know me at all, you know how much I value humor and play in my work. Yes. Play in my work. I really do think that is the sweet spot. So of course, I’m excited to share this conversation because I think Smac is giving new meaning to playful work. And I’m so jazzed about that. I’m so excited to share, but first wins. If you are new to the podcast, this is the part where I share a little personal victory sometimes it’s big, usually it’s small, uh, because I think it’s really important for us creative types, AKA perfectionist types to take a few minutes out of our day of criticizing and scrutinizing and analyzing to recognize what is straight up going well. So first all go, and then I will yield the floor to you. So get your win ready. Uh, today I am celebrating a play date with my fellow Seaweed Sisters. We have some things special up our sleeves, um, and that was a really evil laugh, but, uh, that we are not so evil surprise actually does not fit up a sleeve. That was misleading to say that, um, our special new project does not fit up a sleeve. Unless of course it would be a very big sleeve. Um, and all of this conversation about sleeves is reminding me of a joke that I have is a very good joke that is now probably ruined because I just ruined it. But I’m going to tell it anyways, because I think it’s a win in and of itself. Where does a king keep his Armies? Where does a king keep his armies? Obviously he keeps his armies in his sleevies. Too good. It’s too good. Okay. So today I’m celebrating really good, bad jokes and also the seaweed, sisters, new work in the making, all right, that’s me now. It’s your turn. What is going well in your world?  

Congrats rock on. I am proud of you keep winning. Okay. I probably should also mention if you are not aware who the seaweed sisters are or what I produce, I should really say what the seaweed sisters are. Um, they are, we are one of my favorite things in the world made up of two of my favorite people, Jillian Meyers, Megan Lawson, and me. Um, and if you, if you don’t know, you can absolutely go find out the Seaweed Sisters on Instagram and also on YouTube, but not on Tik ToK, which is a perfect segue. Let’s do this today, Smac and I talk tik-tok we talk social media at large. Um, we talk commercials, we talk contracts, we talk creative spaces and we talk living the lives of our dreams. And I don’t think we say the word influencer even once. I think I could be wrong, but I don’t think we say influencer. So there’s that, so go ahead and, um, grab your favorite snack bonus. If it’s from Australia and enjoy this conversation with the one and only Smac.

Dana: Holy freaking smokes, I am really, really excited to be just, I’m really excited to hang out today, virtually not really in person, but with the one and only Smac McCreanor Hello, welcome to the podcast, Smac.  

Smac: Hello, everyone.  

Dana: I’m so excited. I’m sweating already, also wearing a long sleeve turtleneck and that was not a smart choice. Um, okay. Smac, I think you and I have only technically overlapped like in the workspace. Um, one time, which is Kat Burns’ Raggle Taggle Dance Hour where I was absolutely smitten by your performance. Um, but I’ve been a long time fan of yours and an admirer of your work and of you as a human. So I’m really thrilled to be getting to chat with you today. Thank you for being here.  

Smac: Thank you so much for having me all my God. You’re legendary. I love you so much.  

Dana: The love is mutual. It is, it’s palpable. I feel it in my armpits, in the form of heat. Um, okay. So the – the, the workflow here on the podcast, every episode starts at the same. It’s troublesome for some, but I ask all of my guests to introduce themselves. So w what is it that you would like us to know about you?  

Smac: Wow. Hey everyone. My name is Smac. I don’t know. I’m giving away my secrets already, but my real name is Sarah. Sarah McCreanor,  Sarah Mac, Smac. I get that question a lot. So I’ll just put it out there, but I’m an Australian dancer, actress, comedian, artists, photographer, business owner, I guess, choreographer and creative director and chocolate lover.   

Um, co-sign on so many of those titles, but can we loop back really quick to business owner? Talk to me about it.  

It is, it’s just been a COVID. It thing, like Covid had changed everyone, hopefully for the better, in most sense. But, um, so as you know, Ryan, who’s my boyfriend and a dear friend of yours, and he’s, he sends his best wishes to you right now. 

Shout out Ryan Conferido whats up. Oh, we love it. It’s so great. We really we’re really big fans. I mean, you’re, you’re a bigger fan, Is a given, but wow. Okay. So you and Ryan, its a given. 

Uh, we are creative idiots and just basically I’ve rented spaces before to like, do my own production work. And so is he, and just together while like let’s design a creative space, like a studio production space that people can rent from us and do all the creative work in, and also we can use it for ourselves. Um, and so that became a business and we just like invested in this last year. Um, coincidentally the same day we opened business was the same day that LA shut down for COVID. We literally had our opening night party, and then we got that like notification, how, you know, everyone got one and it’s like, Hey, Go Home,  I’m like all happy opening business day, gosh, like the worst timing ever. But we had no idea what was going to happen. We didn’t know how the year was going to pan out. Obviously everyone was just on edge a little bit. Um, so we did what we could and just went with the flow, but it honestly worked in our favor because both Ryan and I work full time in the creative world and taking on this business was a little bit scary because it’s full-time as well. And we’re like, we just started a whole new career path right now, just on top of our lives. Um, and with COVID, since Hollywood shut down, it actually gave us full time to just focus and just start all this from scratch and like, figure it out.  

Nurture this little infancy of a business that you had.  

It was such a big learning curve. And I loved every step of it. I’ve always been, if I can toot my own horn, I’ve always been a little bit business-minded and obviously Ryan is a genius in every way everyone knows it. Well, we kind of just stumbled upon this and I guess figured it out and cause I haven’t caught up with you. Um, we signed another lease for a second location just a few weeks ago. So straight after this, I’m going to go paint some walls and like we’ll finish renovating for a second location.  

Hell yes. Yeah.  

Just switching career paths right now, switching, adding on a career path. 

Adding on exploring or rounding out on an interest that used to manifest in other people’s spaces, the interest is the same, right? Exploring for yourself and facilitating exploration for other people, which in your own ways, you and Ryan both do, you’re like tremendously influential in your, in your fields. And I think you’re really encouraging people. You make work that is accessible and helps. I in, in my view anyways, helps people to feel like I want to be making, um, I, my husband is in rapid prototyping. He’s a machinist. He is an optical engineer. He is also many things, right. He’s like Ryan in that way. And one of our biggest dreams is to have a live/work space together. Um, you don’t live at the studio, do you? Your, is your space different? And by the way, we can definitely cut this part. If you don’t want people to know where you live.

I live at so-and-so street. Um, no, I mean, It would be awesome to have, I mean, I think that’s a lot of artists kind of dream living scenarios and absolutely I’d love to have that. At some point we started a small obviously, cause we’d had no clue what we’re doing, but um, yeah, at some point to be able to just have a place where I can live, create, eat, sleep on my, that is like great,  

Wake up coffee, be making. That’s the dream. I, I really, I’m excited to pick your brain about having big space and all of the things that that means. But I think maybe, maybe my biggest question is this sounds like a dream. What parts of it are a nightmare? Like what could you prepare me for? What are the dumpster fires that I might walk into that you could help me to avoid? 

Okay, well, I’m gonna  Start by saying I’m I’m someone that just always goes with the flow. So I, I think, uh, something I like about myself as, I really don’t try to get upset certain things because I’m like who cares, whatever. No worries, Hakuna Matata, because everything usually works out. So I’m like, okay, cool. Um, but in saying that the thing I was most nervous about just, and it’s purely just an LA thing is the traffic. I was like, I don’t want to get in my car and drive for an hour to go to another place that you know, but, um, I’ve never experienced it. I’ve been in LA for like 10 years now. And you know, we’re always in traffic every day going anywhere. And this was the first time in the last decade that I’ve never been upset about sitting in traffic because I’m going to my own place. I’m going to a place that I love that I built. So  

Because you’re going to a place that you love traffic no longer carries a wrath over you.  

No, not at all. And like, it’s kind of weird that that was the biggest thing. I was not looking forward to just getting to the place it had nothing to do with place the business, the stress that it might cause. Um, but I was like, oh gosh, the traffic is such a chore, but it hasn’t affected me in a bad way at all. Cause I just am excited to go there. Um, and then I guess the other thing that was that you could probably relate to a lot is, um, just scheduling because our lives all over the place, any type of creative artist or, um, you know, freelancer as well is like, you’re just always on call. You’re always on hold. Some people have multiple agents and stuff like that as well. So you don’t always get a full say in things. And I was very nervous about that. And the best thing that came out of COVID is that that part stopped for me. So I got to take a break and just kind of learn how to do the business side of it. And now it’s merging back together and sometimes I panic, but it’s always a good problem because it’s usually things overlapping, right? So it’s just managing that. But like, that’s why we have a team like me and Ryan together can manage it fine. Like we just was such a good tag team in that way. We’re just lucky that we can work well like that. And just, we both have similar schedules where we can just pick up for each other and yeah. 

That is a dream. Congratulations and keep winning. That’s massive. Oh, we do wins on the podcast by the way, every episode includes like a micro win and that win, like having a partnership that is business and beyond is such a massive win. Ah, good on you. Good on you. Oh, which brings us back. Okay. So now I’m moving back to move forward. Okay. You’re from Australia. You mentioned that, but you’re from Brisbane, which is probably my favorite city in Australia. Yes. Um, I’ve been there twice on tours and I know Sydney has its thing and Perth is super charming and like people have their favorites, but Brisbane is my favorite. It is also where Wade Robson is from, was born. And he’s a very special person.  

Yes, he absolutely is. But I met him when I was a kid because the dance studio, I grew up to where I grew up in, uh, doesn’t actually like exist anymore. It’s motion to something else is where he used to dance, but not for a long time because I didn’t ever cross over paths with him. But it was like the claim to fame kind of thing, where it was like, for sure, probably once took a class here, but it was like a thing. And he came back when I was a teenager or tween and did a master class. And this is me in Brisbane, a little Bogan Aussie kid didn’t know anything about anything anywhere. And I just remember he picked, he pointed me out and he like made me dance by myself. And I was like, oh, I was like 12. So he, uh, I really liked him.

I love those moments. Um, okay. Jumping ahead. In time you live in Los Angeles, you are a person who works in with, with different paint brushes, be it as an actress, a comedian, a full-blown dancer. You did have the, So you Think You Can Dance moment, which I thought was phenomenal. I don’t know what your experience was with the show. And we can talk about that if you’d like, or we don’t have to, but it feels like you’ve had your hand in a lot of different, um, you know, parts of the entertainment industry. Is there, is there one place that you love to be working the most?  

Um, okay. I think because it was something I had never experienced until I moved to LA I am a sucker for the commercial industry, I mean, I guess I think this is where like, as a dancer, you know, it’s really typical that way behind someone it’s like the whole backup dancer vibe. Not that that’s bad thing at all, but once I’ve booked my first commercial and I was like, oh, um, I’m kind of the main thing here. My ego just went, okay,

This is all I want to do forever. Thanks. 

I love it. I’m always trying to be that person, you know, like I, I like to entertain people. I like to make people laugh and I think I just had a really good first experience with it. And then as it went down the path and the flow started to get real nice and I don’t know how it fell into that, but, um, it was just commercial after commercial for a little bit there. And I was like, this is a real, really nice. Yeah. 

I could do this for my living. And you did. And you could do that for your life.  

I really could. And you could, and I will,  but I’m a bit of a scatterbrain. So I think I love how short all of those jobs are. Sometimes it’s literally half a day. Sometimes it’s a week. I’ve not really done a commercial it’s more than a week, honestly. So I love little pockets of jobs and gigs, and it’s always a different scenario. And I kind of love that  

Pockets of gigs that keep filling up. Even after you’re done working, we talked, uh, in a previous episode, I had Money March on the podcast and we talked about residual structures and how,  

I listed to that! 

Oh did you?  

Absolutely. Because I am a sucker for all that stuff. And I have learnt stuff from experience, but even just listening to you, break everything down again, I was like, gosh, there’s just so much that people don’t know about and that I don’t know about. And it’s how do we even find all this information from you obviously,  

From words that move me podcast, go check us out. Uh, thanks for being here. Um, well I’m glad that you listened to that and if you haven’t go back and check out if you, the listener not you, Smac, haven’t uh, then go back and check out Money March. Cause we do talk a little bit about the nuance of the difference between commercial or TV/Film, uh, or music, video contracts. Very cool stuff. Glad to hear that. Now let’s talk about how you can take a love for the commercial industry and turn it into its own little sub career by doing whatever the hell you want on social media. And I might be a little too liberal when I say that. I don’t know if that is actually your approach, but that’s what it looks like when I watch your stuff on social media. I’m like, she’s doing exactly what she wants to be doing. And that’s attractive because all of us inside want to be doing what we want to be doing. And most of us aren’t, which makes people like you all the more attractive. Um, so I want to talk a little bit about social media. Um, today’s a big day for me.  

Oh my God. What’s happened. Oh my god, you downloaded something?  

I got tik-tok today.  

I’m going to wake up my re my pet bunny by clapping so loud.  

I downloaded tik-tok today. Okay. Well, okay. Let’s start. Let’s start. So here’s what I want to do. I want to take two different points of view. Let’s say that I just downloaded tik-tok today. I have no videos, no uploads and no views and no followers. What do I need to know?  

Okay, well, um, there’s also two parts of that as well. Cause what do you need to know as someone who has potential as a creative or just someone who’s working, because it matter for you because you’re not just a lurker, you’re someone who..

I’m excited to engage because for a long time and people listening, people who’ve been listening for a long time, know this, I’ve got thoughts about Tik Tok dances and the trends and challenges and things like that. My thoughts were not really helpful. Most of the time they were just kind of grumbly to boil it down, My thought was tik-tok celebrates mediocrity. I celebrate excellence. I can’t reconcile these two things with just a little bit of thought management. I can absolutely reconcile these two things. You can be excellent on tik-tok you are proof. So I’m thrilled at the possibility of that. And I can also decide that I don’t like it after having been in it. Why would I decide? I don’t like it from the outside and just say no to something forever. 

I think thats the first thing, people go into some sort of pressure, like, okay, I’ve got to become famous tomorrow. I’m like guys chill out. It’s going to happen at some point or it’s not going to happen at some point. Just have fun.  

Just have fun. Just do the things that are exciting for you. Yeah. Okay. So I’m a lurker. I’m not here to watch. What do I need to know?  

Okay. I think, um, I always try to tell people, because I do get people asking me just for general advice across the board. 

I’m sure. 

Yeah. Cause everyone’s like, should I just do these trends? I’m like yeah, you can go into this trend, but just like darn do something that is not enjoyable because it’s just, unless you’re making fun of it, which I do sometimes. But like literally if you all sit in there watching cat videos all day long, do a cat video, like do something that you enjoy watching because otherwise, what, what is the connection there? Because why are you doing it then? So obviously we’re dancers, we’re creatives it’s makes sense for you to do something that’s movement-based if you liked doing it. Um, and I think tik-tok what I love about it compared to other social media in the past anyway, is that literally anyone can get rewarded acknowledged, viral if that happens. 

Yes. This is, this is a core belief of mine. I believe that dance is for everyone. Yeah. I don’t love dance. That is elite and exclusive. I like part of the, part of the charm. I think of the Seaweed Sisters and what we make together is that it is human dance and creature dance, and it is not “dancer dance” necessarily. We’re still trying to figure out what exactly it is, but yeah. Dance for everyone. Okay. So, uh, at the beginning I was not a fan of Instagram, either. I had similar thoughts about Instagram. I don’t need this. It’s going to destroy all my time that I have and whatever. Um, and then I realized that what I was actually avoiding was shipping like producing. I was really good at having ideas, not great at making them happen and certainly not great at sharing them or getting feedback about them.  So I wanted to improve this, you know, this creative workflow, this life cycle of an art baby. And I decided to do a video every single day on Instagram, I wound up doing like 400 and some, and eventually I saw like, you know, I left, my rule is always be rolling. Like I have footage upon footage upon footage. I got very good at knowing myself on camera, knowing places and other people and boundaries and the frame like boundaries of the frame and boundaries of other people and of myself, um, and of my audience even, oh my God learn so much. Can’t even, can’t even explain how much I learned if you’re listening to this episode and haven’t listened to others, go back and listen to episode one I go in on my doing daily year, but towards the end, I caught myself in between takes, hating what I was doing, but people have a good bull ***t meter.  

I think for the most part, people love, things are authentic and, and that are exciting to the person. And so if you’re not excited about what you’re doing is not going to hit. So I think right now I’ve got like six different interests that I want to play with. And I’m just not sure what to do. So that’s my next question. This is totally selfish. Do you have to do one thing? Do you have to choose that you are the funny YouTube collaborator person or you’re the hydraulic press girl or you’re the, um, Jacket kick girl, or like what?  

Um, yes and no, it either way it can be brilliant. Cause I’ve seen it happen both ways. I’ve seen it happen both ways with myself because sometimes I go through a month or I do one thing and it has gotten me amazing opportunities because of it. And then sometimes I do different things every five minutes and I get amazing opportunities from it. And I’m like, cool. So I think, um, you’re obviously smart enough to know how to brand yourself. You already are a brand, you already have everything. You have all the resources in that sense. Um, I think Tik Tok is the perfect platform to not overthink that. It’s very rare that people are just going to your profile to look at the whole thing. It’s they just come across your videos. Yeah. Cause people were videos without having to follow you. That’s the difference between at least in my head that made difference between Instagram or the old instagram and Tik Tok is that Instagram only people who follow you are seeing your work. So it is kind of like Instagram seems at least for Cray, uh, for creators, it seems a little bit more like a professional standard. Like I absolutely make sure every single week on Instagram, I post something that shows, um, my face because I book work off my friggin image. I have something that’s dance related. I have something that I’m speaking in. I have something that’s a bit more professional looking like even posting a commercial I’ve done just so. If anyone looks at it without even having to scroll, they can see all the five or six things that I try to represent in myself. Tik tok, I think it’s like, you can really get rewarded for just doing it. Doesn’t have to be a pattern at all. But then you’ve obviously seen people who have done just the same thing taken off and yeah, I it’s just such an experimental thing.  

Oh, I love, it’s a playground. 

It’s a playground. And it’s really good because if it doesn’t work out, it’s like not going to hurt you at all. Like if someone doesn’t see your video, you’ll like, okay, cool. I’ll just make a new one.  

Wow. That I didn’t, I didn’t ever consider that.  

I think just like, like people don’t care enough about how much you might care about your work. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s how I treat it for myself because I’m like, Hey, this is fun, but I never go, will people like that song choice though. I go, I don’t care. I love this song because people don’t care,  

Lower stakes higher reward. 

Yeah I think take talk really thrives in that sense. And I would try to, if you were really trying to push yourself and your maybe a main struggle is you are not comfortable just sharing. If you’re really wanting to push yourself, just be like, okay, this week I’m going to share, um, two videos a day, three videos a day and five videos an hour, whatever it is, they don’t have to be anything important. It doesn’t have to be polished. It doesn’t have to be rehearsed. Just try something because that’s what people like watching. It’s literally like a reality TV show. Not every scene is perfect. So just do it just like Nike, it, just get it done. Just post it. Don’t sit there, rewatching it too many times. Just press post.  

J P P just press post. Just go. I, that was maybe one of the things. One of the most rewarding things about my year of Instagram, because I knew I would just be doing it again. The next day, the release part got really natural. It was way less precious than I had been treating things before. But at that point you’re right. The, I think what Instagram is used for has changed dramatically. That is even an understatement. Um, but it, yeah, it is like this living, breathing resume, get to know me place. And I love the idea of that, being that, and then having a freaking playground to go play at it’s something that I, that has truly been missing in my life is this idea of play. I know I’m not alone. Um, but the Seaweed Sisters fragmented during COVID. We were all in different places. The places where we play were all shut down. So all of a sudden I found myself shockingly doing quite well because I also have a business brain that I love to nurture and, um, kind of a home body that didn’t get to really thrive until 2020. And I a thirved like no pants and lots of plants. That was sort of my, my 2020, I had a great time. But at a certain point I found like, oh, I haven’t really played in a while. And in one month I like purchased roller skates enrolled in clown school, like fully enrolled in clown school and was shopping for a dog. I was like, all the play, give me every, all of the play. Um, so adding, Tik ToK to my play plate feels totally appropriate and I’m thrilled about it. Okay. So now now second perspective. Let’s imagine that I’ve been on tik-tok for a long time. I have 1.5 million followers. What do I need to know? What does that person need to know? 

I think the main thing that people realize once they start getting a following is that the journey of consistent likes is just like ridiculous. It goes up and down. It’s not going to happen yet. So as much as it annoys me, like even yesterday, like I might post something in an hour, I’ve had things grow to 5 million views in an hour. Yesterday I posted one and got a hundred views in 10 hours. So it can like super drastically change. And it’s just the, the playground of the algorithm. So I think, um, like as much as it can dishearten you just like, just let it out. Don’t think about it. I catch myself sometimes being like, well, cool. But you know what? I’ll just post the same video tomorrow. See what happens cause no one cares, because literally no one cares. 

Oh, the experimental element of it really speaks to me.  

I, you know, for me personally, I approach a lot of things with humor. The fact that I might post the same video of myself seven times in a day with like, you know, kind of making fun of myself. Sometimes that’s worked. Cool. Thanks Tok Tok. Like it’s, it is absolutely the best platform in my opinion, to just make a fool of yourself if you’re down for it and then yet fully experiment and just like, just, just no worries. Yeah. It doesn’t like, it’s almost, it’s better if it’s less polished, it’s the rehearsal room and then Instagram can be the stage  

That makes total sense. I love it. Um, okay. So on this subject of, of kind of on the subject of comparing those two, I have a question about ownership and credit. Um, and, and I saw you post something recently. It was a screenshot of somebody’s DMed you saying “like, please stop with the sponsored content it’s annoying” and you’ve responded, or you said something to the effect of, ‘sorry, I don’t get to decide when Instagram sponsors my content.’ Then that sparked, that was like a great living, breathing example of this question that I get all the time does Instagram own my stuff or do I own my stuff? And I’ve done a little digging, but please weigh in. If I, if I’m wrong on this. I think that the bottom line, um, is that social media is a public venue. It is public space. So although you, the creator does retain the copyright of let’s say that image or that video, um, because we’re engaging in the space, we’ve accepted the terms and conditions we’ve agreed to Facebook’s, non-exclusive transferable, sub-license royalty-free worldwide. They can use that wherever the ***k they want newness of it. So is that what has happened to your posts? And do you, are you aware of when that happens?  

Well, okay. This is a very specific one. Um, there’s definitely so many versions of this, but this one, the reason I repressed that is also because I’m always self promoting myself. And that was a way for me to be like, Hey, yeah, I’m getting paid to do this. This is a job I’m doing, ah, ha playing the game where I’m like, oh, but, um, what that translates to, but I love telling people about this kind of thing, because this only happened to me a month ago, so I’m like, anyone can do this in my opinion. Um, but I’m now in a contract with official Instagram. So that’s why they’re using my videos for their sponsored ads. But I was honest when I say, I don’t know which ones they using because yeah. We’re on a contract where they, um, I’m creating certain videos for them. And at the moment they’ve got maybe like 10 or 15 videos that I, that they have access to use, but I don’t know which ones they’re going to use and where they’re going to pop up, but it’s a contract, so I’m fully down with it, but that’s, that was that specific post. But then there’s the, in our every day, even this morning, like a bunch on Tik ToK, I’m always getting sent. Um, people it’s really cool that like the past year I’ve kind of got this following web people are recognizing me in my specific videos. So if people see people post it, that isn’t me, they’re like, Hey, that’s Smac. And I’m like, that is so cool that people are like recognizing me that way. And it’s definitely humbled by that, that people go out of their way to be like, Mmm, that’s not your video. I’m like, dang, those people are cool. But I’m seeing that like all day, every day, my videos circle around the internet and people are reposting them. Obviously my name is not attached to it. And I think you can be really upset about that. Or in my opinion, the videos that are going viral, are kind of videos that people aren’t doing.  

W-what are you talking about specifically? Those things.  

Yeah. Different random videos that I would’ve just done that completely. I don’t think about too much, but the hydraulic press videos that has become a series that I’ve just kept going because it’s  

Evergreen. It’s evergreen. I mean, sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off. I get excited about those videos. I think I’ve watched all of them and I do have my favorites. I can sum it up by saying anything where your shoes fly off. But I remember my husband showed me the hydraulic press channel when we lived in Sunnyvale. So this must’ve been 2015, maybe that channel on YouTube popped up and he’s a machinist and I’m a mover. And I remember watching it and be like, oh, that’s great. That’s so funny. I could watch this all day. And then I did, but I didn’t get up and move to it. That is where that is. That is where one plus one equals a million. You have a hydraulic press crushing stuff. That’s one. And that’s really awesome. And then you have an incredibly aware and talented, physical being recreating it with her body. And that is 1 million, like that’s one plus one equals a million to me. That is, that is nothing better than that. Um, I just think the world of those videos and of you for having the, whatever, whatever it was that got you up off your ***, into a pink outfit to embody like unicorn horn or something. 

Yeah. It was a fluke, but I’m not mad at it. You know? Cause usually that’s what I mean, like with the whole experimental thing, that was a split second, I had a five minute window to film something. I was like, I just want to quickly film a video because I’m going to be sitting down for the next five hours. Um, and I was like, I just randomly have a lot of outfits. I have a lot of block color outfits for audition. Perfect. No branding on it. And I love that kind of stuff. So I was wearing like a full, I was wearing a yellow shirt and a pink and pink pants. And obviously the hydraulic press videos, the original ones are so viral. And I always see people duet them. So it’s side-by-side videos and they’re doing their reactions and they go viral just from people watching it. They’re not even talking nothing. They’re just watching the video that’s next to their face and they go viral and I was like, huh, I’ll just be the hydraulic press. And it took that long to think of it. I did it, I did uploaded it done. So I’m like, I don’t think it through or anything. I just watched it. I saw it melt down and go up. And I was like, that looks like a frickin yoga move easy.  

That’s Floor Bar. I know this, I know this,  

But yeah, it really is. But then that’s the kind of stuff that at least for me personally, those are the videos and other things that are kind of in a similar nature that have gone everywhere. They’re on the front page, front page of Reddit. Like even some random celebrities like reposting them. And even if my name isn’t on there, I know that if the time happens where someone important needs to find out who it is, they can, but yeah.  

Thank you for that. Thank you for that insight. That’s, that’s a really empowering position. Um, and also thank you for staying on track. This subject was credit. I forgot about that. I it’s something that’s very much at the forefront of my mind right now, um, In the Heights is about to come out. I was one of the Associate Choreographers. Chris, the choreographer, Chris Scott, um, is really, really adamant about, you know, sharing credit and making sure that people are aware that this was a team event. Um, of course he was steering the ship and I just, I really so admire how much attention and effort he’s putting into sharing this credit. And, um, I just, I, I don’t know enough yet. I’ve fully watched two videos inside of Tik ToK today, but I don’t know how that works credit or captions or like there is no place to know who started that dance. 

Is really wishy-washy, which can suck as a creative because I’m all about being ethical. And I sometimes spend hours or days finding the person who kind of came up with something and then six months later you find out they stole it from someone else and you’re like, damn it. I gave them credit, and they didn’t even think of it, but like, 

Which, and it makes you wonder there’s a purity spiral of credit. Like if we’re really gonna get granular about it. 

Exactly. Everyone’s inspired by something. My hydraulic press videos were literally inspired by the hydraulic press video. But I think just because of my position and like what we know as professional artists, um, I love giving a hundred percent credit where I can, well, I mean, if I can’t then I usually just don’t use that idea life. It’s not mine. I don’t want to use it. Or I love the, this is what I love about Tik ToK and Instagram. Now the duet feature means you can put the original video next to you, which is why I started recruiting because I was like, I could just do this or it worked in my favor that you can see it side by side. So I actually love doing duets because then I giving credit by capturing the name and visually give them credit to them, which I, I really liked doing that just to be someone who wants to give them credit.  

Oh, I love that. Okay. That’s good to know that that’s a good newbie newbie lesson. Um, okay. I want to do a quick little burnout round. Um, the first question that I want to ask is actually, maybe not a burnout question. This is kind of maybe a hard question. If somebody asked me this today, it would take me 45 minutes to answer. Um, but I would love to know what do you want to do the most?  

Oh, you know what? My whole entire life is just make someone giggle. That’s it. I really don’t. I, the two things I’ve always thought about since I was a kid, cause I’m really, haven’t leveled up in terms of like my, what I do or who I am. I’ve been like this since I was about eight and I’ve always been doing this stuff. So I love it. That’s I literally, I just love being an idiot, a professional idiot.   

A creative idiot. I really like that. I like that. Even more than creative director, because let’s be real. Yeah. Well, some creative directors at the core are creative idiots. It’s  

Title yourself, whatever you want. So, so,  

So this is it. You’re doing it.  


I’m happy with this. I really am. I’ve been doing it for so long. Like, I mean, even when I chat to my good friends from Australia, like when we were all teenagers, they’ve sometimes pointed out being like, man, you’ve never once changed because even back then when I was 16, I was like, guys, we’re doing a music video to toxic in the car park right now. Like put on your outfits. And I have videos of that on YouTube. Like I just was always that person.  

Well, I will be sharing that in the show notes to this episode, FYI. Can’t wait, can’t wait. Um,  

But yeah, so I think I’ve always just loved making people laugh. And the other thing that I love just from my own experience, um, because we all idolize people and I would love the, to have an impact on someone, the way that my idols have impacted me to the point where the reason I am today is because of like these two comedians that I grew up watching Lano & Woodley. They’re a hundred percent the reason why I do anything. And I’m like, if I could just somehow spark that motivation to someone, I don’t want any credit for it at all. But I’m like, that is awesome. Cause they gave me this kind of sense of freedom to be a fool. Like they, I just love them so much. And if I can, I’m tooting my own horn a little bit here, but just because I just, it gives me the feels. But these, um, people that I idolize, like the fact that later on in life, it came full circle where they were then watching me perform and were congratulating me on my career. And that is something that I’m like, I, since that moment I’m like, okay, I’m done. I have, my life has made, I don’t need anything else. I am. I’m fully content with that. That’s something that I’m like, that feeling is really special to me. I know it would be just cool to know that like maybe someone else is trying to do a hydraulic press squishing routine because they saw mine  

100%. They are yes. 100% there. Um, okay. So if, if you’re tooting, then I’m going to toot, because you just reminded me of an incredible story that I don’t think I’ve shared on the podcast before please. So I’m 34 now, which puts me squarely in the midst of NSYNC and Britney mania when I was like going to concerts for the first time and stuff. True story. Okay. Who is your first concert?  

Kylie Minogue  

Work. Mine was Ricky Martin. So basically same.   

Okay. I love that. Yeah, exactly the same.  

Exactly the same concert that we went to. Um, okay. But I really, really loved NSYNC. They were it for me, I knew people would get into fights about Britney or Christina. I didn’t really, I mean, I love, I love Britney, but I didn’t really get into that. But if you tried to tell me, the Backstreet Boys were better than NSYNC, I would literally fight you. Now, in hindsight, I’ve worked with both groups, love them both adore all PS. JC was always my favorite and JT knows this. I have made it explicitly clear. He was so full out. I just love, I love full out anyways. I would. I watched bye bye bye and every, I watched every single music video and every VMA or live performance had them all on VHS studied within an inch of their lives. And then when I performed with JT, uh, during his MTV video Vanguard awards, he brought the Boys back and they did a little bit of, of Bye Bye Bye. And I was helping Marty out on the project and it became my job to help recall Bye Bye Bye. And there was a moment where the gentleman from NSYNC asked, can we, can we film you doing that so we can rehearse. And it was just like, oh, I have no idea how full sir. Like I watched you, you’re watching me. I I’ve learned this from you now. You’re learning it for me. It was the wildest strangest I had to. I had to like, I had to take a seat later and just recall how, how, how you just never know. You just never know. 

You’ll never forget. You know, I love that.  

Yeah. I’m dripping now I’m so sweating so much. Um, okay. Now we get into the rapid fire round. This question that came up in last week’s episode, which was Live episode I did with the zoom audience. And uh, the question is you are on a desert island, stranded for perpetuity, as long as all of your contracts are and you get to have eight songs. Oh my God. Eight songs. I know guys. So I was so mad at this question.  

Eight songs, Boogie Wonderland, Shake your Groove Thing, Bohemian Rhapsody, 

Why did I not have any queen on my list? Technically not true. Cause I had Christine and the Queens, but it isn’t. Okay. Keep going, keep going.  

Um, I would say the song Sarah, Fleetwood Mac. Oh, okay. I’ve done Four  

Sick. Is that what you were named after?  

No, I was named after my mom’s dog, so fun. Um, but I do love what else? My mum she’s like, yeah. I had a dog named Sarah. I was like, cool. Thanks. Love it. I love animals. That’s fine. Okay. Well what else? Oh. Oh, you know what, if, even if it doesn’t exist a song that Ryan plays piano at or anything just him playing piano. Um, three more. I totally lost track. Yeah. Uh, the theme song of Lano Woodley, which is the comedy duo that I love. And, um, this is so weird. I’m thinking of the jingle of a commercial. The other thing I don’t want to use that one. Nevermind. 

Oh no, not hot pockets.

No, no. It was definitely an Australian jingle and I can’t even remember the brand of it. So I can’t use that. Um, oh my God. I have two more. I’ve done disco. Um, I feel like I need some like eighties. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I’m probably gonna put in some Spice Girls.   

Wow.  

Don’t know which one, maybe probably Wanna Be,  

Unless you wanted to do the ballad. What was their ballad? Two, two into one. Is that what it was called to become one. 

I don’t have time for slow songs on a desert island, 

You’re busy, cramped.. You need the energy

Maybe. Um, um, my gosh, I just want to look at my playlist is only eight songs anyway. Um, I’ll be listening to the same music since I was born. That’s why I don’t know any,  

All throw backs. Okay. I’m going to give you one more. Cause I completely lost track. What are you?  

Well, I mean maybe ABBA something ABBA.  

Okay. I’ll take it. Same question. But with dance steps, you get to do a dance steps again for, for evermore. Okay, cool.  

I will do a, uh, just a great pose. Cause I don’t like using energy, but I love a pose. Um, I would probably do the worm, um, a front walkover, just basically all my freestyle moves  

The book. The book of moves.  

The book of moves. I’ll put my jacket kick even. That’s not a dance step, but it  

Definitely is. 

What have I done? 

It’s an arabesque.  

Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much.  

And your hip is down by the way your placement is ACE. It’s done.  

Geez. I feel like, can I just put in like a simple, like touch step bounce kind of want to do in my life? You know, like a step click, but a bit uncoordinated and dorky. Um,  

Got it. So less swivel in the hips and just more vertical, this more vertical, but  

We like that. More mom vibes, no offense mums. Um, geez, what else?  

I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a serious relationship with pas de bourses and Rond de jambs I can’t freestyle. If I had to pay someone a dollar while we’re on the subject of credit. If I had to pay someone credit for every time I do a Rond de jambs or a pas de bourses would have no dollars. I would have no home. Yeah. Fully in debt, like, like Ivy league debt for using those steps. That’s it for me.  

You know what Tik ToK has made me realize that obviously I use the same eight steps over and over. Yeah. This is my eight steps. Um, and I always do a pelvic thrust and whether that’s comedic or serious, I always do one. So we’ll put in a pelvic thrust, but it wasn’t a creepy. It’s never like perverted club scene style, unless that was what it called for.  

In which case, if it was called for, you would do it.  

Um, I think I have one more move and like, I can’t, I can’t do it, but I just, like, I really loved my boyfriend. So I’m going to put in Ryan’s a backflip to his head move and it would probably end my life If I’m in the desert island. But I would end with a bang  

Kamikaze, it would go, go out with a snap from  

Beap bop done. Okay. 

We’ll  also be linking to a clip of Ryan doing this movie. I can find a clip of him doing it like 9,008 times back to back, back then  

Its in the, the old, um, intro for, so you think.  

That’s him. That’s the move. That’s it  

In my bedroom when I was a kid watching the first season in Australia, which I didn’t really watch it that much, but all I remember was that. And that’s when I started to learn headstands in my lounge room, I was like, oh, Hey Ryan,  

And now he’s your boo cup business partner done. But wait, you can’t tell me that you do not also remember Blake McGrath’s shoot the duck forward jete thing. Oh yeah,  

Yeah. I do. I was more, more into doing the headstand because for sure energy, for some reason  

All about conserving energy, like minimum input, maximum output, that is what you do tremendously well, and I, that celebrate the  

Laziest hard worker ever. 

It’s an excellent thing to be. 

Yeah. I love it. I love being that kind of person.  

I admire it. You inspire the shit out of me. I was so thrilled to have gotten, to talk to you about these things that I’ve always been curious about and so many more. So we’re gonna, we’re going to wrap this up here today, but you and I are, have, have plenty of making to do and plenty of catching up to do. Congratulations on the new space. I can’t wait to see it. Oh my gosh. You and Ryan  

You have to come over and we can do Tik Toks together. 

I’m extremely down and unlike my husband, I love painting. So if you need a paint partner, I’m happy to do that with you. I could do it all day long. I love it. Oh gosh.  

Well I’m going there right now. Not that you have to come right now, but also because I was obviously telling Ryan I was doing this and we just want to hang out with you. So please.  

Okay. Thank you. So, so, so much. 

Thank you so much. Bye bye. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that. Chat with my friend Smac and I hope that you begin preparing for the day that someone asks you for the eight songs you would choose to listen to in perpetuity forever, as you are stranded and probably sunburned on a desert island somewhere. That is it for me today. I hope that you dug this episode. If you are digging the pod, please go leave a review and a rating. So super helpful to me. But the most important thing to me is that you go keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon. 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 or review your Words Move Me too. Number two thing I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops and so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #74 Sex, Sensuality, and the Spice World of Miguel Zarate

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #74 Sex, Sensuality, and the Spice World of Miguel Zarate
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I love boldness, otherness, and a full spectrum of “sexy”… so, in a word, I love Miguel Zarate. In this episode, Miguel and I go from zero to 100 in 1.5 seconds.  We talk pronouns, sexuality, our own artistic identities, and we go IN on what it means to be “sexy” in an industry where sex sells.  So… grab a glass of wine and some ear muffs for the little ones, and ENJOY!

Quick Links: Miguel’s Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/mzarate

Transcript:

The artist in me was that a point where it was either create your art or go nuts. 

I think putting yourself in that world as a human before you put yourself in the world as an artist, 

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. 

My friends, My friend, this is Dana. Welcome to Words That Move Me. I have a treat for you today. I cannot wait to share this conversation with my very special guest. The one and only Miguel Zarate, And I mean, holy smokes, I really, I kind of want to jump right into it, but I also want to honor the format. So I will start with wins. And I’m also excited about my win this week. My win this week. Well, my win today actually is that I went to the nursery and I don’t mean human babies. I mean, plant babies. I bought some new cactus/succulent soil, and all of my little succulents will be getting repotted this week. I bought new pots for my spider plants, which were they spider plants kind of like to be root bound. But I mean, the roots have been like springing out the top of the soil now for months.  So they are getting an upgrade. I got a couple of new friends because I couldn’t help myself. And really I went in and I feel great about it. So I’m celebrating my plant mommess today. Um, and I am, that is like absolutely top win of the week. My house is becoming a plant house and I am becoming a plant person, a person with a green thumb and a person with a lot of ceramic pots. By the way, if you are in the Los Angeles or Sherman Oaks area and you need some pots, I think I will have too many after this trip because my papers are growing. Okay. That’s my win. Now you go, it’s gone. 

Well, congratulations, keep winning. I’m so jazzed for you. Okay. Now, speaking of jazz, you know, me, I love a segue. I am jazzed about my guests today.  Miguel has been a friend of mine for a very, very long time. We could talk for a very, very long time. And in this very short conversation, relative to past conversations of ours, we go pretty deep. Um, we talk a lot about our roles in this industry. As we perceive them, we talk a lot about our experience with sexuality, otherness, the colors of the sexual spectrum when it comes to being sexy and attractive and sensual, and the difference between all of those things. Um, we talk about owning our work, producing our work, any harm in not paying dancers and as if that weren’t enough, the notion of art being the highest luxury that there is. So, uh, buckle up and get ready for the flame, the fire, the volume, the spice. The wonder that is Miguel Zarate, Enjoy.

Dana: I know this is exciting. This is really freaking exciting, Miguel Zarate welcome to words that move me. Thank you so much for being here. I’m really excited.  

Miguel: I’m more excited. Thank you for having me. I was feeling a certain way that I hadn’t been asked yet.  

You know what? This is kind of a sidebar, but a sidebar before the pre bar, before the post bar, before we’d go to the far bar, which is actually the Far Bar, oh God, this is confusing. Sorry. Y’all, we’re really jumping into the deep end. Miguel and I met at a bar in Los Angeles called the Far Bar years and years and years ago. And we had a conversation that went far. Like we covered religion, sexuality, the industry, our childhoods, like we went really deep. And so ever since I started a podcast, I’ve been thinking about you and I’m so glad it is happening now more than ever, because I have some things that I want to talk about and I have things that I want to congratulate you on. And before we do any of that, because it is tradition here on the podcast, I would love for you to simply simple, sometimes not so simple. Introduce yourself and tell us whatever it is you would like us to know about you.  

Miguel: Okay. Well, my name is Miguel Zarate and um, I consider myself before anything else, um, a gay Mexican man and an artist. I used to identify more so as a choreographer, uh, or as a dancer. But, uh, I feel like that’s that, isn’t who I am and that, that really narrows what I do. And, um, I think I truly am an artist living an artist’s life and I have different mediums. I believe that’s the word. And, and whenever they come into my spectrum or my mind, I therefore create the art based on that. And sometimes it’s movement. Sometimes it’s film, sometimes it’s my clothing. Sometimes it’s my hair. So I Miguel Zarate and I am a gay Mexican man. Who’s also an artist. 

Uh, love that introduction. Thank you for that. And I’m, I’m glad that you started there because where I wanted to start is by kind of telling you, which I think you already know, but I love to just say it outright. Um, I know that you’ve danced for big artists, and I know that you’ve choreographed for big shows. I don’t see you as fitting the classic description of dancer or choreographer. And I do see that as a strength. Um, and I think that a lot of my listeners identify with that and agree with that. I really think my listeners are the uniquest snowflakes and I think that you are too. Um, so what I, where I sort of wanted to start is ask you if you see it that way, do you see yourself as fitting in? Do you see yourself as standing out? How do you perceive your role in, in this whole life thing?  

I love that question to be honest. And, um, it’s changed. It’s changed throughout the years, as I would hope I would hope so for most people it would change, you know, but the industry, when I came into it, which was in 2006 was very narrow minded and they reminded me of it every single day. I was reminded and constantly told at the beginning of my career that I was not the mold. And I did not look like a dancer. I did not dance like the dancer that they perceived me to be. And that honestly, it just, it felt very closed doors and it wasn’t even like, it felt like I took upon those feelings. They, the doors were closed on me for a really long time. And I was not allowed to be who I am now professionally for a long time. I say this respectfully, but I, I had though I could dance like “a man” And I say that with quotations. Um, I never wanted to, but if I wanted to work, which I did because I loved dance and I had a big ego that needed to prove that I could be a working dancer.  

And also you wanted to survive with money and buy food and pay rent,  

Literally live the dream. Um, I had to learn how to dance like that. And I had to not even learn, learn as something I didn’t have to learn. I had to decide that I was going to dance like that slowly but surely within the jobs and within people who started picking up on my magic, uh, in, in the rehearsal process, people like Jamal Sims early on, uh, really were like, what are you doing? Like, you’re, you’re stifling yourself by not being you like, just be you and the jobs will come for you. Um, but, but you’re, you’re the same way. I feel like you’re extremely talented. Like you’re you’re next year and I’m going to narrow it down. You’re an extremely talented dancer. So when you have the gift of dance, you can really do it all when you’re not working based on the talent that you possess, it hurts, it hurts and it gets into your head and you start, you start questioning yourself because you see these jobs and you’re like, but I’m that talented. And it doesn’t stem from ego. It stems from fact, I’m that talented, Why aren’t I working?  

How did you answer that question for yourself? Why am I not working?  

I, I, I finally had to accept that I was different. I didn’t want to be different. And that stems from childhood. A lot of people see a big personality when it comes to me, but I never wanted this from a young point in my life. I knew I had a big flame and I wanted to dim it down all the ***ing time because I just wanted to fit in and be normal. So it was hard. It’s been something that, that I just had as a dancer, had to be like, okay, I know your Latin Miguel you’re not a leading man. You are not the heartthrob, which was a hard pill to swallow.  

You know, what’s funny about that pill that you’ll never be the leading man is that add a couple years, add a couple of probably hugely transformative experiences. You know, getting to know you moments and what I see now, as you’ve evolved as a creator is you placing yourself in leading roles in your work. I see you as a leading man. You’ve made way for yourself to be that for yourself, without waiting for the industry to say, ‘we’re looking for a big flame as the leading man, we’re looking for a gay Mexican man to be a leading man.’ This is, this falls under the heading. Um, I like to call it anyways, instead of fake it til you make it, you make it till you make it. You just make the work that you want to be doing. 

Yes. And it came out of default.

Explain.  

I was annoyed that I wasn’t getting cast it. I was annoyed that I wasn’t being put in the roles that I should have been put in. So like you said, I had to put in, I have to put myself in them, but it felt it wasn’t as glorious of a feeling at first it felt like a, like a bootleg version of what I really wanted, which was the Janet video and me next to her, or which was the Brittany video and me next to her, you know, but what the ***k was I supposed to do? Wait, I couldn’t, I couldn’t anymore. The artist in me was that a point where it was either create your art or go nuts. 

Wow. I, you know, that might have, that might be the title of this episode, create your art or go nuts with Miguel Zarate.

I love that, check it. 

I do too. And you know, what awesome is that I perceive your style is having an element of urgency, but you are so cool. So I want to talk a little bit about that. Um, I want to talk about in, in my experience of the commercial industry, we’ll talk specifically about the music industry. A lot of my earlier work was dancing for pop stars and I perceived the king and queen of that world were cool and sexy. If you were a male, you needed to be cool. And if you were a woman you needed to be sexy. And the pallets that painted both of those two worlds, the cool and the sexy were very limited.  

It was no spectrum in there, black and white. 

And it’s, it’s, it’s getting quite a bit more colorful now, but I really felt that I had to flick my hair a certain way or boost my boobs a certain way or cinch my waist a certain way. And I had, you know, I talk about him a lot on this podcast. I had an acting teacher, I was in an acting class and I was, did a scene where I maybe I was playing. I think I was playing a hooker in the scene, which is like me being a hooker is about as believable as Julia Roberts being a hooker, which worked for her. So  

Yeah it did, I look at it now and I was like, that was so Disney, but I love Disney, but that’s your real hooker. 

But that’s pop right. That’s pop. She was the digestible bite. Anyways, I was sitting in that chair and we somehow we became talking about woman-ness and things. And, um, I, I opened up about my experience on tour, which was feeling less woman than the other girls, because of, you know, how much attention they got or how good they were in their heels, or how small their waste was, or how big their boobs were. And my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff. Thank you so much for reminding me of this. He said, boobs are boobs. Elbows are elbows. Skin is skin, hair is hair. They don’t have anything that you don’t have. You don’t have anything that they don’t have when it comes to the physical anatomy between you and this woman standing next to you. Those are the same parts. I’m again, I’m still very much learning. My identity is woman. It happens to be how I was born and I’ve wrestled and embraced it differently throughout my career as a commercial industry dancer. But that was a hugely pivotal moment for me. When I realized there’s no like difference between sexy hair and my hair, like hair is hair. Hair is hair. And my skin is my skin, my loving myself, and my enjoying myself is what makes something sensual or sexual. So I want to talk about sexuality. That’s where we’re going. That is what’s up. Okay. Um, number one, I just kind of a broad and baseline question. Do you consider your work sexual  

A hundred percent. I, I am driven by sex, ever since I was little. That is insane. My work, my identity, even my movement from a young age was always sexually based, which is why I gravitated towards Madonna and Janet early on because their work was too. So I felt seen, I was like, oh, I want to do that. I want to express that. Um, for a lot of people, sex is shocking. And for me it’s refreshing. So it inspires me. It doesn’t shock. It inspires me. So, yes, to answer your question, bluntly, all of my work is inspired by sex.  

That makes total sense. Um, now the question that I, that I wanted to ask on this same subject is around this notion that if you haven’t had sex, you don’t know how to be sexy. And I think a lot of teachers will say the opposite. They’ll say you don’t have to have sex to be sexy. And there’s a lot of confusion. Like there’s a lot, there’s mixed messaging around this. I would love to get your take on sensuality and sexuality and how that manifests in movement.  

I do believe that, uh, dance is, is movement. So I don’t necessarily believe that you need to have sex to move your body in a sensual way. I think that should be taught through your dance teacher, um, through moving your hips through your culture. What I will say is that once I had sex, my movement did grow. It did, it did take on a whole other spectrum of a feeling and the way I emoted it. And I think it’s because it stemmed from a personal experience. It was no longer me mimicking a move or mimicking a feeling. It was me now actually touching base with something I had experienced and felt firsthand, and now implementing it into the movement or into the phrase.  

I think I agree to me, the biggest difference is that sensual and sexual are different. I think sensual is feeling yes. And I think from a dancer, that is what I’m really asking when most people say I want it to be more sexy. I think what they mean is I want it to feel different or I want it to feel something else. So I think maybe as educators, myself included something I’d like to change my language around is this notion of dancing sexy with the idea of sex in mind, or being a sexual object or being even a sexual person. Think we can just be people that feel ourselves. 

Absolutely. I, I want to be, I want to be honest. I always use sensual the word sensual, rarely do I use the word sexual, unless it stems into sexuality, but when I’m teaching and I’m doing a move, I always say it needs to be central because I believe that sensuality is inviting and it’s not.. Though dances for us, it’s for an audience. So you want to invite your audience into what you’re doing. So if it’s a sense, if it’s, if it’s sexy, it needs to be sensual in order for it to read and come off sexy. But I use the word sensual or hot, like make it hot, you know, like not spicy enough, hotter. I want you to be hot, like take the leg out in Tendu and really take the leg out.  Cool. 

So I, we talked a little bit about the spectrum and the palette that we use to paint sexy or sexual or sensual. Um, I prefer otherness and this is because I got bored of the palette that was offered and that I was painting with. Um, and I started really enjoying otherness and I, and, and boldness. And I see you as representing both of those. Um, how do you paint, like how the colors that you have are bright, bold, and it sounds like they’re coming from they’re deep in you. You said that, that you’ve been this way since you were a kid. So how might you encourage someone who hasn’t felt in touch or driven by sexuality to paint with a broader spectrum?  

I think you have to be honest with yourself first. Like if you’re not, if you don’t enjoy painting sexually, then you don’t have to, your work can stem from something else. You know, it doesn’t have to be sexy in any sense of the way I could look at your work and think it’s harsh or think its silly or fun or charismatic or unique. Um, but I make a conscious effort to paint with sexual brushes because that’s what inspires me. Now, if you feel like there’s a sexual being inside of you that you want to release, I do think, and this might sound like well, but I do think you have to dive into the world of sex. So I think allowing yourself to have the type of sex that you want to be inspired by in real life helps. I am a gay man and I have great gay sex. And I have it because it fuels a lot of my scenery in, in my films. I want to, I know the sex isn’t real on camera, but I want to try to produce as real of sex gay sex that is, um, that I experienced in real life on film. So for me, it’s like, I think putting yourself in that world as a human before you put yourself in the world as an artist, 

Yo, I’m so glad you said that. Um, I’ve been working lately, uh, just over the last two years, I’ve designed and created programs for graduating seniors only. So the, they may be graduating from college or from high school, either one at that point in your life. I think the next steps, even if you’re crystal clear on what you want to do in the long run, you don’t, you’re not crystal clear on where you put your foot next. I love working with this demographic. And one of the things that comes up a lot when we discuss auditioning or mock auditions, is that if these dancers are interested in a career in entertainment or the industry as we’ll call it. Because sex sells, it will almost certainly come up once or twice. And you’re right. I love that. I love that. You just brought up that there is other than sex. Like we talked about the range of the spectrum of sexy colors, but in work, there is also, there’s plenty else to paint with, right? There’s as you mentioned, there’s silly. There’s fun. There’s scary. There’s grit. There’s you know, all the colors, but if you are engaging with the entertainment industry, it is likely that you will need to be attractive at some point. And I’ll say attractive, not sexy, um, 

A hundred percent and you can’t be ugly and be on film unless it calls for that. And when I’m saying ugly, I don’t mean like, I don’t find, it’s not a taste. It’s not a, oh, she’s the ugly, like a four equals ugly, a 10 equals hot. It’s not that. It’s finding yourself hot when I dance. I’m not, if I go to a gay bar, I’m not the cutest. Like I’m not stereotypically cute. I have really hot friends. So when we all go to a gay bar, they get picked up on more. Cool. I understand why, I’m not taking it I’m not taking it to heart. Like, but when I dance, I’m the sexiest mother ***ker ever, because I believe it because when I dance, I ooze it. It is real. Yeah. Yeah. 

Yes. I get it. I get it. And I’m so glad that you said that and there’s something I do want to ask this question. I think what you’re touching on is paramount. The thought I am hot comes before feeling attractive and comes before anyone else will find you that way. 99% of the time. I can’t, I try not to talk in absolutes because I’m sure there are examples of the, of alternative, Right? But I think specifically for young people who are finding themselves in their sexuality and finding, they’re finding their palette, that they want to paint with the, they feel, and they’re not making this up. I mean, I remember my agent telling me that I needed a sexier headshot. 

Yes. 

Like I, that that was required yet, yet. Oh gosh. Yet when I, when I tried to be the color of sexy that they were asking for, I looked miserable. I looked so unconfident. I looked so insecure. I looked afraid. And to me, fear is like the kiss of death in an audition. It is not an attractive quality other than sometimes like a scared dog I want to care for. But I do not want to hire and put on stage behind Justin Timberlake. Fear is not the color that you want to paint with at the audition or in your headshot, like the way you’re putting yourself forward. And I love the notion of finding yourself attractive and knowing where that comes from for you. It comes from movement or dress or styling. Um,  

Well for wearing an outfit to auditions, because when I used to audition, you would wear like rehearsal clothes, like, like baggy ass sweats, t-shirts. And I would come and full on denims with no stretch. Cause there was no stretch in a denim in 2006, I would like, let’s keep it real. And there was no urban Outfitters also in 2006. So I would go to thrift stores and find really unique individual pieces. And I would wear them specifically to these auditions because I felt the most me. And when you feel the most, you, you present your best self and I needed to present the entire fantasy because I was trying to get hired. You know what, for the most part, people behind the people behind the table don’t have an imagination. Very rarely do they have, if you don’t feed them your product, they’re not going to think, oh, we can shave his head in wardrobe, he’ll look the part. No, you got to come as the part because they don’t have a lick of imagination. So I would come in these ***king clothes, sorry, I’m cursing too much. I would come in these clothes full on outfits. And people would look at me nuts. Like, what is he doing? But once they saw me dance, they were like, oh, actually he dances like what he dresses like. Now, now whether I was right for that job or not, I presented who Miguel was. And hopefully that led to another job that suited me, but I wasn’t willing to dress like everyone else was dressing and not to rebel, but because I needed to put my best foot forward. And that was my best foot forward was to present as close of an image of who I was.  

Thank you for that. Thank you for being an example of that. Yeah. It’s very encouraging and it’s, it’s contrary to a lot of people are taught and told, which is fit in, fit in, fit in. Um, there, there are many instances where, as you mentioned as your little boy self that’s, all you want in the world is to just fit, to fit in with the cool kids or to fit in with the booking kids or to fit in with. And you want to do all the things you want to get your head shot by the person who did their headshot. You want to, and I, I get strategy, I get strategy, but I feel singularly. I feel like one, one special snowflake. And so, you know, it’s amazing too, when I watch your work, I see someone doing that and it makes me not want to do that. Not what to fit into your world, but to go create my own.  

Thats the only  thing I want people to receive from my work is the, uh, yeah. Is the permission to do them, not the permission or the desire to want to be part of my world, unless you really do. Right. And if you fit in great, awesome. Let’s connect. But all I want people to see is like, damn he is so himself. That is so inspiring. I want to be, myself. That’s all I truly want from, from my audience when they look at my work.   

So then I think based on that, I think I know the answer to this next question, but it seems like you work with the same group of people a lot. Like you have your tried and true. What is it that you look for in, you know, your team?  

Okay. I’m very specific on that. Let’s go let’s here. Okay. First of all, I stole this idea from Andy Warhol. I’m obsessed with Andy Warhol from a young age, like early, early high school. I was introduced to Andy Warhol and it changed my world and he had superstars. So, so I was like, Hmm. If I, if I have personalities around me, that people get accustomed to, they become famous as I become famous. So it’s like a brand you’re branding yourself. I’m big on branding too. What I’d look for in a dancer is an individual. I don’t need you to be clean. You’re obviously going to be clean because you’re an amazing, okay, let’s be, hold on. Okay. You have to be a phenomenal dancer. Number one, number one, because I pride myself in the art form. I love dance and I will not back down from that. I love movement and I love dance. And there is a bar and there’s a bar because we’re calling, we’re calling ourselves professional dancers. It’s not dancer. It’s not fun. It’s no, no girl professional dancers. So there’s a bar. So first and foremost, you have to be at my bar at my level of dancing, period, period. Second, you have to have a look. If you can’t stand alone, if we can’t walk into a party and the attention goes to you and not just to me, I don’t need you next to me. You need to be a star. You need to be able to pull focus. Because ****h when I walk into a room, I pull focus and I’m not trying to have an entourage. I’m trying to have a group. I’m trying to have the spice girls. I need everyone to play their part. So I don’t need you next to me. If you’re not going to be something else besides me, because I’m the only Miguel. So you need to be the only Brooke or you need to be the only Boi Boi, you need to be the only Denzel. You are no use of me creatively. If you’re not going to bring you. So that’s the second thing. Third thing. I need you to have a fully established look. I need you to be someone. If you’re the hot blonde bimbo, I need you to be the hottest bimbo ever if you’re the most emo kid in the planet who only wears black and has the heaviest eye makeup. I need you to be that person all the time. Like I need you to know who you are and what, and like, you need to have a look. You need to have an identity. I’m not the best at building dancers. I need self already. The the self of the dancer needs to be already fully established.  

It’s funny. Um, I’m going to call you on this. This is a perfect remodeling of this audition scenario that you just created. The person on the other side of the table. A. might not have any imagination at all, but what’s likely is that they don’t have time or budget to turn you into whatever it is that’s the world they want to create. They’re waiting for someone to say, I’m the world. Your spaceship wants to stop us on this planet. Yes. So are you, you’re not interested in building a world. You’re looking for aliens from other planets to come like, take a space ride with you. 

Yes. The only  counter argument to that is that at my age, till this day, I still teach a weekly class. So if you really want to be a part of my planet, I will train your ass fully.  So if you come every week to my class and I see that you really want it, I’ll, I’ll start laying in on you like change. That that should not be your hair. Do this. Like don’t ever make that choice. That’s not who you want to be because that’s not what you’re presenting. It sounds harsh what I’m saying. Like, I look for this and if you’re not already made up, then I’m not going to work with you, but I’m also holding an audition every week in my class. So if you really want to work for me, I’m giving you the opportunity. It took me three years of religiously taking Tovaris’s class three times a week at Edge to dance for him. I was unwilling to not dance for him. And it was at a time where he was not working like that. There was no jobs. And the first time he asked me to dance for him, I had gone to his class religiously three years, and there was like a little, a little rinky-dink mustache, Mondays performance. It wasn’t even real. Wasn’t even for a real artist. And I had a teaching gig that weekend for four grand and I lied and canceled it. I lost that a $4,000 to dance on a little rinky-dink stage with Tovaris, because that was my goal was to finally dance for that man. 

What I love about what you’re talking about now is like, you started this call saying that you have many different mediums. And then we start talking about paint, brushes, and all the things. And what I am hearing from you is that you fully do things differently. You direct differently than you teach. Like when you’re assembling a team around you, you’re looking for fully embodied characters, a cast and crew of wild and outrageous talent. Yet when you’re a teacher you’re shaping, you’re guiding you’re mentoring. You’re maybe even like parenting in some situations like in that tough love type of type of way, or styling even like beyond. And when you’re a dancer, you also are different. Yes. It, and I love multi. I think it’s true that we can be different in different places. Yeah. 

We should be, or else life would be is so boring. And that’s, what’s weird too, is that I feel like lately, especially during the pandemic, like people hold you to a certain standard and like, no, Miguel, Miguel does this. No, no girl, Miguel gets to decide who, what Miguel does. And Miguel does a lot of different things at different times around different people. And like Dana, like, you’re my real friend. So you get the best side of me. And I don’t own, I don’t, own the best side of me to everybody. So I don’t need to be the Miguel that I am with Dana. Who’s my real friend who, who goes back 10, 10 years deep. When I meet the girl who’s in my class the first, first time, you know, it’s like, people feel like you need to be Miguel consistently. No, I don’t need to be Miguel consistently. I need to be honest with Miguel and the Miguel around  

This is nice. Here’s one of my favorite things that I’m learning right now is the, this idea of a false dichotomy, which means like a or B, like you can either be consistent or not be consistent. And I think that’s a lie number one, which let me give me a moment to back this up. Like I decide what the values are in which I think consistency is important. I think responsibility, it’s important to be consistently responsible. I think it’s important to be consistently honest. I don’t think it’s important to be consistently happy. I don’t think it’s important to be consistently kind to you actually, because I do, I love kindness. I like try to lead with kindness, but I don’t need to oblige consistently. And I think it’s, it’s important to say like, oh no, I can value consistency without always being something.  

Yeah. Yes. A hundred. There’s no argument against that. I feel the same way.  

Sweet. I love this. Um, okay. Well, I want to dive into, um, kind of, we’ve talked about your films and your way of creating worlds and creating art, which is in many different modes, right? Sometimes it’s as a dancer, sometimes it’s as a dancer in a piece that you choreograph that you also directed. Um, and I marvel at your video work. I’m marvel at it. It is all of the things that I love. It’s bright, it’s bold. It moves quick. It’s got exquisite talent. Um, and I’m just Curious Carol, over here, wanting to know how in the heck do you pay for all of your productions? Because I’m looking at this like holy smokes, this is like cinema scale work and you produce often do, how often would you say you, you make,  

Depending on the year I make about between two to five films a year, depending on how I’m feeling. 

Okay. And do you self, are they self-funded, is there a grant somewhere? Do you like kickstart them all? 

No, no, no. I have too much ego to do any of that. Um, I’ll pay for it a hundred percent. It comes out of my pocket and I learned early on that if you pay for it, you can, you can be a ***ch about it are going to be like, no, that’s the wrong edit. No, that’s not what we agreed on. I paid for it. You can’t, there’s no arguing for it. This was the agreement. You do it so early on. I, um, I learned that, but no, I self produce and fund everything, but I’m going to keep it real too. Like I’m Mexican, I’ll find a bargain right away or I’ll make ***t work that should not be working. I’ll make it work. It’s, I’m an artist. It’s part of the artist is life until I get fully funded, which is always the dream it’s, it’s still, I’m pushing 40 and it’s still the dream to get funded. Right. And of course there’s ways there’s grants, but then there’s so much, you have to give so much to that grant and so much those people. 

Yeah. And they, they, they come with their own requirements, you know, fulfilling, you’re fulfilling your responsibility in that role is similar to fulfilling the responsibility to target. If you’re choreographing a target commercial you’re you’re, you’re answering to someone. 

Yes. and I learned early on that. I just don’t do well with that. Unless it’s a real job when it’s a real job, I’m the best team player on a real job. But honey, this is not a real job. This is Miguel’s world. 

So not a real job. Miguel’s world alternative title to that episode. Um, okay. So that answers a lot of my questions. It sounds like you come from a place of like, better to ask forgiveness than permission. 

You know, that’s my motto 

Is that really?  

Act now, Apologize later.  

Okay. So that makes sense. That comes across. Um, and you pay for your work, which means you pay your people. Yes. Have you come to find that like you get what you pay for? Are there instances where you’re like, damn, that looks like crap. I wish I had X or  

There’s videos that I’ve never released because they’re not up to par and that money on them and they’re not up to par, so I won’t release them. I’m going to be blatantly honest too. Um, because I feel like there’s no shame in this, but I never, I never pay my dancers, but I, I, provide for them deeply, um, in every way I provide for them creatively, I provide for them like with food and housing and for traveling somewhere, I provide for them in many other ways. And I get many phone calls and or text messages from, from people in this business who are way higher than me. I’m not gonna mention any names, but they always ask me, how did you get that person to dance for you? I just had a real job and they, and they turned it down or how to get this person on, on your film. And without sounding like an egotistical maniac, it’s because it’s me it’s because the product is right every time. And I don’t just come with like horrible wardrobe and horrible steps. It’s like, it’s all elevated. It’s all lifted. They’re in full-on costumes, which I pay for. I’m not like, well, what’s in your closet. I’ll make it work. No, if I want everybody in chaps, I have to figure out how to put all eight boys in chaps. I guess what I’m trying to say is, is that I don’t pay that part. So I want to be honest with everybody because I’m not one to be like, I pay everyone. I don’t pay everyone. I don’t pay my dancers. Okay. 

I so appreciate transparency. 

Of course you have to be.  

So my, my question is as somebody who’s come up through ranks and chunks of working for free. Which I think is common, but not critical. Like I don’t think our world has to function that way. Um, my question is, do you see any harm in doing it that way? It sounds like you’re confident in your decision to do it this way. You think that the people who are working for you come in, are coming out on top when they engage in this transaction with you, do you see any harm in it? Or do you see that like, oh no, this is it. This is the way,  

No, because I’m asking a question and they have the right to say yes or no. I’m not forcing them to dance for me. I’m posing the question, I’m doing a new film. Um, I would love for you to be a part of it. This is what’s happening. I send them the treatment of the film. Like, do you want to be in this yay or nay? And they could respectfully say Nate, and I’m not going to be holding a grudge about it. You know? And my dancers who I want to use have a real job, I understand it. And when I work around their schedule and I don’t take it personally, if they can’t commit to my project. But because of the longevity of my work, I have built a family. And once you’ve created that relationship with them, look, we do stuff and we get paid and we get no camera time and camera time matters. As a dancer, you’re putting so much work in. And literally you just see like a flash of my head after I busted my *** in a week of rehearsals, eight hour rehearsal, then there’s no shot of the dancing. So there has to be a legacy for you as a dancer and as a performer. And I provide that with my work. I give full-on shots to my dancers of them dancing. And I celebrate them as individual artists, not as Miguel’s backup dancers, as artists, there is integral to the, to the, to the film as I am. There is not, I was just my name. My name comes first because I’m the one producing, creating, directing choreographing. But that is not, that is not there. They matter. They matter a lot without them it’d be a bunch of solos. So I remind them every day, how important they are to me.  

I don’t like the future promise of like, you’ll be paid someday. I think that that is sneaky and conniving and terrifying. But I also, here’s what I’ll say about that. Yeah. I, I think that art, is like the highest luxury that there is. I mean, sure. There are vehicles and shoes and purses, but to make and to own art, you have to have money. Yes. And I think that that’s the difference in some ways between art and dance, because I think that to dance is human. I don’t even need music to do it. I just need my body and some, a space larger than a coffin. Maybe, although I have a very animated face. I could get, I could, my face could get down. Um, but I, I want dancers to be among the highest paid artists that there are, that’s the world that I would love to live in. And then of course I would also love while we’re at it while we’re like rubbing the lamp for wishes. I would love like across the board, if you are a professional dancer dancing in a professional work, which does suggest that that work will be making money, that you are absolutely paid undeniably. Yes. Um, do these films of yours make money?  

They do not. There’s no monetization on them. And you know, I don’t really get work from them either. It’s all just great.  

So you think.. those puppies are money in the bank.  

People see them. people I’m not girl let’s keep it so real. For the most part, all my videos are within like 5,000 to 30 or 40,000 views. That is not a lot of use in the world we live in today. People are, people are in the, I’ve never had a video that’s ever gone viral ever, but I’m not making the video to go viral. I’m not making the video to make money. I’m making the video so that when I die, I have an honest legacy behind me and not one where they’re like he was in that music video. Did you see his forehead? No girl, that’s a Miguel production. That’s Miguel.  

And how does that feel? How does that feel? 

Amazing because I could die peacefully knowing that because I did the best that I could with the money that I had under the circumstances that I lived in. And that’s your responsibility as an artist to do the best work that you can do with the circumstances that you’ve been given and I’m doing the best I can do. And until then, this is what’s going to keep happening. Now, the second I get even $10,000 to make a film, you’ll see, you’ll see a $10,000 worthy film. And I know they look like they’re like 25, 35, 45, $50,000 films, but they’re not,  

This is one of the things I love about a budget is that in my opinion, anyways, that type of restraint really enhances creativity. Yes. As soon as you have all the money in the world, you start getting lazy with the choices you start like, okay. Yeah, sure. We can do that. We can do it like that.

You know, what’s funny. And, uh, and I, I mean, I don’t know how to not keep it real and you’re my real friend. So we’re just literally just talking. Yeah. Um, the second I get a budget, guess who’s getting it. The dancers who have never been paid for me, you know, like my, the second I get a budget to do a real Miguel film, not a job that Miguel is working on as a choreographer, but a real Miguel film. And there’s legit budget. They get paid immediately. I’ve always known that. And the second I could put them on a real job, they’re the first people I call. But if the spec doesn’t call for them, then I can’t use them. Um, but they’re always my, my top priority is my friends. 

Okay so what, this might be a tough question to answer. What makes it legit? Is it a certain number? Is it a, is it that the number is coming from Lion’s gate or Warner Brothers? Like in your mind, when you say, as soon as it’s legit, the money’s going to them, what, what is that?  

As soon as someone’s like, here’s a hundred million dollars, do whatever you want with that 

A Hundred Million is your legit marker.  

No, but even 10, I’ve never spent more than five grand on a film. So if someone, if Dana Wilson was like, here’s a check for $10,000, no strings attached. All I want is for you to create a film with this money. I’d be like, amazing. They’re getting paid. That’d be the first where the money goes. And I would still use, I would probably match your 10 grand of my money. Do you know what I mean? So that everything gets taken care of, but they would be getting paid.  

Pop Out: 

Okay. I wanted to jump out here to invite you to answer this question as well. If you are a person who’s producing your own video work and telling yourself that you’ll pay your team once the money’s legit, I hope that you’re asking yourself what makes it legit? When will it be legit? Because legit is so subjective, right? Some of you may be listening to this dang 5k for a personal project that is legit. So when is the money enough to pay your team, your crew, your dancers, your camera. Is it a dollar amount? Is it where the money is coming from? Like a source outside of yourself? What makes it legit to you? Take a second and roll around with that. Uh, as we roll on out with Miguel, 

Well, I appreciate your fire. Thank you so much for sharing it with us today. I, I really could talk to you forever. Um, I would also love to like honor and create a space for us to do that off the air. So for now I will wrap this up with a little bow and say, thank you so much for being here and for sharing. I simply adore you. 

You’re welcome so much. I’m your biggest cheerleader. And you’ve inspired me more than, you know, uh, from a, from an early beginning in our careers. And I applaud you. I applaud your work. I applaud the way that you’ve paved your way. I’ve, I’ve seen you for a long time. And to finally get to see you on stage with Justin being you was, was remarkable. It truly, it truly was 

Thank You. I appreciate that. Big, big love, big love to you. Virtual hugs and someday real ones. Yes. Oh, so-so okay. Love you. Bye bye. 

Well, my friends, where do you think where you challenged, where you stoked? Did you catch fire? Did you feel hot? I know that I did. I loved being reminded of my sensuality, my ownership of feeling and feeling good about myself. So I hope that you take that feeling all of that heat and get out into the world and keep it very, very funky. I’ll talk to you soon. 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 or review your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #73 Live Q&A Part 2

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #73 Live Q&A Part 2
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There comes a time in a dancer’s life when the questions stop being about “favorite job or favorite dancer” and start being… USEFUL.  In a short time, we covered everything from  handling criticism, to audition mentality, and even a little dive into @intheheightsmovie
BIG THANKS to everyone who came to our live Q&A episode (and to those that submitted questions prior) for helping me to make good on my promise of delivering INFORMATION and INSPIRATION.  

Transcript:

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

Dana: Sometimes in acting class, they say that being like —  all you have to do to be a great actor is just be, um, and I really wish you all could just watch me being silent. As I figure out my life in this podcast booth before we have our second ever words that move me live Q&A, which I am stoked about. Thank you all so much for being here. And for those of you who wrote your questions in, thank you as well. We got some good ones. Like my brain was genuinely rattled, a lot of thoughtful things coming from my thoughtful audience. Thank you guys so much. Um, but of course, before we get into it, we will begin as always with wins this week. I’m celebrating that over the weekend, Malia Baker, Riley Higgins, and I had a work retreat, which honestly, I feel like we balanced very well. The retreat part and the work part. Um, we got a fancy hotel downtown. We also both have been both, both, both three of us have been vaccinated and, uh, for, for more than two weeks and felt safe being near each other, albeit in different bedrooms. Um, and I think we got a lot done. I also got home on Monday, slightly hung over, but really rejuvenated. And I wanted to thank you both for that time and also celebrate how it is possible to work and relax simultaneously. Does anyone in the zoom room have a share? Would anyone here like to share a win? Um, okay. Lady with her hand waving, um, I think your name there it is Stefani Wilson, AKA Stan, AKA, my mom, whatchu got Stan? 

Stefani: I had a weekend to myself last weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. And I did all the things that I just wanted to do. And it started out with deep cleaning my house and I did it like happily, um, because it was what I wanted to do. And it set me up today to be able to work on the project that I’ve been looking forward to. So I did a thing I wanted in my free days off, which was cleaning the house, which I never want to do. Yeah. But then it freed me up to do something that I’m looking forward to. I thought it was like a huge win because I’m sitting here just so relaxed now and able to be immersed in a fun thing,  

Dana: Able to eat off your floor if you want to do it is so great. So much freedom. You have all the options you could use anywhere you want right now. Congratulations. That is a big win. Um, okay. Listeners now it’s your turn. What is going well?  

Did anybody notice in last week’s episode, the change to our wins music, that’s all I’m going to say. Okay. So jumping right in to our, a written question submission, I like this one so much. So within the words that move me community, which is a membership place that exists in Slack, for lack of a more graceful way of explaining it. Um, we have a community bulletin board and we have this open discourse with each other. It’s a lovely place. I love being there. I love connecting with my words that moved me listeners. Um, and one day I just shared with the world that I really missed doing daily. I missed it in a big, big way. Um, so this first question says, you mentioned experiencing, missing doing daily in a big way. And I was curious to know what you miss from your experience and also maybe what you don’t miss too. Uh, and if there are any actions that I took to process those feelings like to process missing doing daily, number one, if you’re listening and don’t know what doing daily is revisit episode one, I talk about doing daily. It’s the project that changed my life more than any other project. It was the year plus of daily videos that I made and shared on Instagram. And that was way back. Now, I think I ended in sometime in 2015. I think I started in 2014. It’s kind of a blur at this moment, but, um, it’s been years since I made a thing and shared it daily. I think I am still creative every day, but the making and sharing in a day, it’s been a long time since that happened. And the thing that I miss the most, the thing that is what made me want to share and connect with someone at that moment was the immediacy that snap between thinking, Oh, it would be cool if, and then doing it right then it’s been a long time since I acted that sharp and obliged with an immediate yes and immediate action. That’s what I miss. It seems like most of the inspiration that strikes me lately goes into a bucket or a parking lot to be excavated later on. And when you’re doing daily, when that turnaround is so fast, you don’t want to miss an opportunity, a good idea, a beautiful place, a silly thing. You just go straight out and do it. So that’s what I was missing on that day. I missed the immediacy. Um, anything that I do not miss about doing daily, fighting with uploads and wifi and idevices. I actually, my mom was there for one of my meltdowns. We were in Paris. I was using a Samsung because their, their charge port is a micro USB port. So you could actually plug in a memory card directly to the phone and just drag and drop access your files. Instead of the Dropbox that download the upload, the is your airdrop working, wifi was always an issue. I was at like 11:55 and hadn’t uploaded. And hadn’t uploaded my video that day. And my mom and our dear friend Leticia got to see the dark side of me. That was like probably 200 days in. I was not about to go out on some shady wifi, like not make my dream goal happen. So I just threw an absolute fit and did what I always do when I’m having technical issues, which is call my husband, um, shout out vice chief. I love you. And thank you for helping me meet my goal of more than a year of daily doings. He helped me with so many of those uploads. I can’t even count. Um, but yeah, I don’t miss fighting with wifi upload or download speed. That is a thing that I’m okay. If I never have to deal with again, what did I do to process those feelings? I don’t remember in the moment, honestly, I think I left that note, acknowledged that they were there and then kept going with my life. Thank you for that question. That’s a good one. Maybe now all open to the room. Any, any questions in the room? Yes. Ms. Baker. 

Malia: When you are starting to like become a teacher in Los Angeles or a teacher on convention, there’s definitely a perception that more people in a class means you’re better. And more people like you, you’re more popular, yada, yada, yada, when you put all this effort into like promoting a thing and hoping that more people show up and then less people show up, how do you navigate your feelings around that? Maybe feeling of disappointment or do you feel disappointed?  

This is a great question. Me personally. Oh yes. I feel disappointed all the time. And um, I think thanks to Glennon Doyle, I think it’s in Untamed. She has a quote. Uh, she says disappointment is evidence that imagination hasn’t given up on you. So whenever or something to that effect. So whenever I feel disappointed right on the flip side of that coin is like, nice. I can see something else. There’s something I’m imagining out there. That’s other than what’s happening now. And that’s, that’s incredible. I could take actionable steps to have that thing. Now let’s talk about in this scenario. Exactly. What is that is it? I can imagine being a popular dance teacher with a hundred people in class because the action steps to get there are different than the action steps to being a top tier educator. Like if you want to be an incredible educator, the steps you take to get there are different than the steps you take to get popular. I think especially in Los Angeles, those two things are not synonymous. If you want to be a wildly popular teacher, you probably choose wildly popular music. You might advertise in different spaces. You might advertise in different ways. You might start putting more resources and time into different avenues. But if your goal is to be an excellent educator, then that’s where you focus. And you’ll find that your student base will grow around that. You’ll, you’ll be training people who like great training instead of training people who like hot ish. You know what I mean? Um, but yes, I have felt, I have felt disappointed by class sizes before. Um, and usually what I wind up doing is celebrating space. Fewer people means more space. Sometimes it might change my lesson plan a little bit, and now we’re flying, we’re running, we’re jumping, we’re doing things that we couldn’t have done in a room with 500 people. So yeah, I really don’t think that popular classes are always the best classes. Just like, I don’t think popular music is the best music, but reach is important. If you’re a person that wants to share your information and share your knowledge, reaching a, a large number of people is important. So then decide what it is that you’re disappointed about. What’s the vision that you see that isn’t currently happening and what are the actions steps to get there? Get really clear about what that is. Yeah. I always like to, I like to remind myself, I care way more about teaching a memorable class and teaching valuable historically accurate dance education like that. I care about. I care about that so much. And once I remember what I care about a small class size is not, is not an issue for me. That’s a great question. Thank you so much for that. 

Um, okay. I’m going to take another, uh, another written question. This is really awesome. Cause I’m actually in a great place today to be addressing this. The question is what are some reminders, mantras songs, TV shows, et cetera, that you turn to, to pull yourself out of a funk and feel inspired and creative. Again, I love this question because today I am in a funk, it started with the coffee that went wrong two times. And yes, I understand that that is a very privileged problem to have, but I let myself believe it, that that meant the day was going to be awful. And so I committed to the day being awful. I forfeited my schedule. I wound up buffering by bleach tie dying several of my garments that are now in the washing machine during the only one coveted time. Like the only time it’s important for me to be quiet and focused today is this call. And currently I’m washing bleach out of all my clothes. Cause I couldn’t be an adult about my mind this morning. So that’s where I’m at. I’m in a funk today. And I like this question because my answer to it is, is I’m answering from a wiser place. So when I was in a funk at 10:00 AM, I decided the answer to that was, bleach tidying Some clothing, right? Could have been watching a TV show, could have been listened to my favorite album. But in that moment I was like, Oh yeah, bleaching stuff. That’s okay. Um, but now that I’ve gotten to the other side of bleaching the garment and I find I’m still dealing with the funk that I had at the beginning, what I wish I had done and what I will do after this is sit down, brain dump, like write all the thoughts. Just kind of stream of consciousness, get on paper, what it is that’s going on upstairs. That’s making me abandon my plans. What are the thoughts that I’m thinking? That’s making me think it’s okay to quit. Now, Um, so to answer this question, yes, I have things that I love to buffer with. Um, my favorite movie to watch right now would probably be, well at any almost any time is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, anything Baz Luhrmann ever made, um, Across the Universe or anything that involves the Beatles and their music. Um, that really, that those things lift me. I feel lifted, but if I don’t deal with what is funking me up in the first place in mere hours after feeling great about whatever content I just devoured or sweatshirt, I just bleached I’ll be feeling the funk again. So my answer to that question is don’t pull yourself out of a funk, just be in the funk, manage your mind, sit with it. I just, it’s  just, I’m in a funk. I can be in a funk and that’s totally okay.  

Um, I did want to touch on another little question. This one I really loved, uh, the kind of relating to the TV shows and all of my favorite things. What have I learned from those things? And what have I learned from being a part of TV, film, touring, and stuff like that, that I implement into my own work. Um, the answer to that question is more to do with the process than the work itself. And this is something that I’m working on and reminded by all the time I am a person that loves to prepare. And the thing that I’ve learned from being a part of TV and film production is that no matter how prepared you are, you will need to improvise no matter how prepared you are, nothing will ever go 100%, absolutely. And entirely according to your plan. So I, I, I make sure to champion improvisation and remind myself that although I do love feeling prepared, what I really, really love is getting the job done. Sometimes preparedness is a part of that. And sometimes your plan just goes out the window and you have to improvise. Um, this is something I, I think I learned a lot during, In the Heights and working with Chris, he is so phenomenal at improvising. He’s phenomenal at getting information in the moment and doing something in the moment without needing a week to storyboard or draft. I mean, he’s very good at doing, doing research as well, pulling inspiration images, doing all the things that I love about pre-pro, but he’s like as good at not doing those things at just taking it and running. Um, and so that’s, that’s what I’ve learned from being a part of that world is like have a plan. Yes, that’s fine. But absolutely get really good at having no plan and making something great anyways. Um, so yeah, that’s, that’s my answer to that question. Has that stoked? Anything else in the room? Any other questions coming, William?  

William: Um, what is the thought process, um, that comes to you when you’re going to an audition that you have no experience in or to style, but you want to talk audition for it?  

This is a wonderful question. I’m so glad you asked it because I, I do consider myself an expert at audition mindset. And that’s a real thing. I think, no matter what, no matter how hard you train or what your mindset is not getting a thing that you want is going to sting a little bit. So you go into an audition knowing that there might be some pain on the other side. So that’s step one is just knowing that this might be painful and that’s okay. But the thing that, uh, the, the things I’ll just give you a couple helping hints, um, that I bring with me into an audition. The first one is that it is more important to be memorable in an audition than it is to be perfect. There is this one job that you are auditioning for now, but behind that job, there are several creatives, choreographers, casting, directors, other dancers. There are other people in the room. I do think it’s so much, it’s, it’s so much simpler. You released so much pressure and weight. When you say I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to be memorable. That’s it? When that becomes my goal in an, in an audition, my mind is a lot clearer. My body moves more freely. I listen more closely because I’m not spiraling through inner dialogue. It’s like, be perfect. Don’t do that. Do that. Oh, she did that. You should do that. Like all that gets really quiet when all I’m trying to do is be memorable. I should emphasize that being memorable in a good way is really the dream it’s possible to aim for memorable and just be a dumpster fire. That is not what I’m recommending be memorable in this case means focused, genuine, true to you, true to the dancer that you are that day and hoping to plant a seed of, of something special in the minds of the people that are in the room. And that isn’t even just the people on the other side of the table. You never know who you’re auditioning next to, especially in LA, in New York city, everybody’s got cool stuff going on. And so when you’re trying to be perfect to the one person on the other side of the table, you might be obliterating relationships or opportunities with the people that are around you as well. So memorable, not perfect. That’s step number one, step number two. And this speaks to your question about having never done something before. This is one of my favorite differences between confidence and self confidence, confidence like task based confidence like pouring a glass of water, for example, is built over time and practice. When you get really good at pouring a glass of water, you stop beating yourself up. When you spill a little bit of water, this time you poured it, you’re like, Oh, I made a mess moving on.  So that kind of comes along with, with doing things over and over again. When you don’t have that, you can still have the same attitude. It’s just a thought, Oh, I messed up. That’s fine. That’s a thought that you can have, whether you’ve done something a million times or not. Do you understand? Like, does that make sense? As I’m saying it, I know sometimes in theory, people are like, Oh yeah, but could you believe that? Could you believe that it’s okay to spill water at your first audition and just walk in the room as if like, all right, here I go, I could do this a million times or not. I’m going to spill. I might be wrong. I might be bad. And that will be fine because I’ll get up and myself a glass of water again, you know, I’m going to, I might not have done this a billion times yet, but if I’m going to do this a billion more times, I better be kind to myself, have my own back, no matter what, because the harder you are in those early stages on yourself. Imagine if you really beat yourself up for spilling water, the first times you, you wouldn’t make it very far. If you, if you really beat yourself up every time you tried something and failed in the early stages, you wouldn’t get far. So, especially I’m a subject of auditioning except that there will be some spillage and get in the room anyways, knowing that your you’ll have your own back, um, and, and work to be memorable, not perfect. That’s that’s my bite sized, uh, feedback there. Or do you think cool, thumbs up. We’re all, we’re all spilling, spilling in the auditions. That’s great. Um, anything else from the room before I go back to a few more, um, written questions, go for it. 

Question: I’m curious if, about like learning lessons and like consistently getting feedback and how to manage minds around getting feedback. So I have been getting the feedback and dancing that my shoulders are up for about how old am I? 24 years of my life. Um, and it’s like something that I know that I do, but for the life of me, I can’t fix it or I can’t fix it in the way that it needs to be fixed. Like, I don’t understand it and I’ve never got to understand it and it just keeps coming back. And I feel like I’m a bad student because I can’t figure it out and I can’t fix it. And so I just feel horrible about like my shoulders and it sh and then I think they go up more as I’m dancing. Do you have something about like managing your mind around getting like consistent feedback? Always the same. 

Oh my gosh. This is phenomenal. Thank you for asking this question. This is a great teaching teachable teaching teach, teach moment. You just talked us through basically a textbook example of how the way you’re thinking affects your results. So if somebody says to you the words you need to put your shoulders down and you think A. I’m a bad student B. I need to do this. C. I could never w uh, all of the thoughts that you just like. I think, I think the most important ones are, I’m a bad student. When you think I’m a bad student, how do you feel? 

Question: Oh, like, Oh, we don’t curse on this podcast. Um, awful, absolutely horrible.  

Dana: Yeah. Right. And, and when you feel horrible, you probably retreat like in the lesson, in the class and also in your body, when you retreat in your body, like neck shrinks, shoulders come up, like the result is your shoulders are up and you are down.  Like the student in you goes down and shoulders go up. When you think I feel awful, this is terrible. Can you see how, how thinking these words may, and I’m a bad student, but in fact, it’s the thought I’m a bad student. That’s rendering you with the result of being low and having high shoulders, which someone might make me in the you’re a bad student, but of course it doesn’t. So you get to manage your mind about what you think being a good student means. If being a good student means having your shoulders down, I could show you a lot of really, really good students that are really terrible dancers, but have lovely long necks and shoulders down. You know what I’m saying? So you get to decide what you make this note mean about shoulders. Um, could I deviate from that with a personal story for a second facts?  This is one of my favorite stories ever. So when I did JT’s  2020 experience world tour, we were fitted by Tom Ford. We had custom Tom Ford, the whole band, all the dancers. And, um, halfway through the season, we got a second wardrobe because fancy, um, but that wardrobe was done by, uh, Neil Barrett. And when we were being fitted for our Neil Barrett stuff, it happened pretty quickly. I think they came out to us on the road and there was a lineup moment where they, you know, we they, they brought us things and then measured them and altered them on us. And then we did this big lineup. And as we were lined up opposite us was them, right? Like we’re looking at each other. And I that’s what a lineup is. Um, and I saw the associates, uh, kind of like whispering to each other. And they were saying, um, ‘What is she like? She has no neck. Like, she has no neck.’ And I was like, I can fully hear you right here. And for the record, I have no torso. My neck is fine. I just, but I’ve got thoughts about my proportions in my body, but they said she has no neck. And they were basing that off of probably the 1% of top models who usually wear Neil Barrett, clothing, walking down the runway. I could have made that mean that I’m awful and ugly and terrible. But what I reminded myself of in that moment was I am not a runway model. I am a really great dancer and it’s my job to have a long neck. It is my job to put my shoulders down and what I think I, cause I’ve received that note my whole life as well, shoulders down, shoulders down, shoulders down. I once got feedback to lengthen my neck. And that definitely helped. I think shoulders down just didn’t didn’t click for me. Somebody said to have a long neck and that helped, but I do think anatomically my vertebrae, like my actual bones and stuff, my neck is not very long. So it might even, even if my shoulders were as down as down could be standing next to Lindsey Richardson or Nat Gilmore, somebody might say, she’s got to put her shoulders down. She’s got no neck. Do you know what I mean? So you could make it mean that you’re a bad student or you could make it mean that you’re a great dancer. Who’s working to be a great student and maybe your neck is not very long and that’s fine. That’s totally fine. Oh, here’s another one though. Just while we’re on the subject of anatomical, you know, reminders and dance training, somebody told me lengthen your neck. That was helpful. And then I don’t remember who said this.  I feel terrible. It might have been Jermaine Spivey or Spenser Theberge. I can’t remember who it was, but they, they gifted me this imagery of imagining a wet noodle being pulled between both ears. And when I think of noodle coming out of my ears, my whole body goes, I grew two and a half inches just saying that. So maybe think about noodle and see if that helps you with, with neck and shoulder alignment. Very, very helpful. Um, but yeah, I’m with you in the short neck crew and, and you could make notes about your alignment, mean whatever you want them to mean. You’re great. Okay. 

So this segues very nicely into my next written question. Is there a criticism that has stuck with you and how has it influenced your work moving forward? Ha yes. This probably won’t come as a shock to you all. I mean, I’ve already told you about the shoulders down thing, the long neck thing. So that’s we covered it, but yeah, I got shoulders down all the time, but this one, um, the note was not, you smile too much, but in that family, it was the note was you look so happy, you know, you look very happy and what else is in there? Could you do it a little bit more like her, could you do it a little bit more like her? Um, and, and her and her was a sexier flavor versus my happy flavor. So yes, I’ve gotten a new smile too much or, uh, expressions are a little bit loud. Um, so what did I do about that? Uh, focused on it, beat myself up a little bit for it. I told myself that my face was wrong and that my body was wrong and that didn’t help at all. Uh, so then I started harnessing it and dialing it up. Um, and then the seaweed sisters were born and dancing with our face is basically the bedrock that we are built on. So I, I, you know, that’s one example of taking a criticism and turning it into solid gold, but I know that we’re not the only ones that, that have done that. Um, the critique about my face has influenced my work by number one, helping me to be aware that I do have control over certain parts of my performance, as hard as it is. I can control my face while I’m dancing. It takes a lot of extra focus. So the awareness number one, that the seating myself at the control panel of this feedback, like I can decide to oblige that note or not. But number two, to like lean into that note, lean into that criticism and find out if I, if I dial it up, instead of dial it down, what awaits me? Like what, what could I do with that? And depending on the, on the criticism, it might not be any good. So be careful with this advice. Um, if you get like your, Hey, your footwork is really God awful, and you just really try to lean into bad footwork, you could really hurt yourself, but leaning into a note about your face or something along those lines can really pay off in an unassuming ways. Weird, weird answer. Great question. 

Anything else from the room or I’ll, I’ll take a couple more from the written questions. This one is great. And I think again, kind of an unassuming answer. Um, what from the pandemic do you hope sticks around in terms of the dance world? I know this is an unpopular opinion because everybody’s got zoom fatigue right now, but I really hope virtual training continues. It makes so many more people, more styles, a certain caliber of dance educator accessible to people who otherwise might not have access to that and I think that’s hugely important. So I do hope that virtual training continues. Um, also I’m not mad at video submissions for auditions. I think there is a magic to in-person, but I’m ever a curator. I love to be in control of my lighting. The number of takes I get how I edited it, how I present it. I’m not mad at a video submission. Um, so those two things I think I hope continue. Um, all right. 

And the last question that I’m going to take from our written questions is drum roll. Do we have a drum roll sound effect? We should find one. Oh yes. Thank you for the visual aid live audience. That’s why live are fun. Okay. Desert Island, playlist, you have eight songs to be stuck with for ever go. I mean like that’s so brutally challenging Superstition by Stevie Wonder number one, Purple Rain by Prince number two, Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles, because if we’re stuck there forever, then it’s important to remember the sun’s going to come up tomorrow. And I think that song just puts me in a place. Um, Oh, this is really tough. I just, I really want to throw like full albums in there. I’m going to need some Frances in the Lights. Let’s go with friends, which might put me in a sadder place, especially if I’m alone, but I could pull a Tom Hanks and find myself a volleyball and name it after me. Um, okay. So yeah, I’ll go with friends, which I think is Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights.  Um, Diana Ross, I’m coming out. It’s one of my favorite songs ever. And it’s one of my favorite dances that I’ve made. That’s I still enjoy even after years and years and years. Um, that’s five. Oh, this is so hard. Try this, everyone. That’s here. I dare you. This is not fun because I’m in the mentality where I’m thinking about all the songs I can’t have instead of the songs that all. Okay. So change the mindset. The song is that I also want to have are can’t get it out of my head, especially at this moment, Tilted by Christina and the Queens. It’s so good. It’s so good. Bill Withers Lovely day. Can’t explain. Why Annie Lennox Walking on Broken Glass Number eight. That’s what it was today. That’s what it is today. Come find me stranded on a desert Island doing progressions across the beach. It’s a broken glass by Annie Lennox. And now my friends is where we will wrap it up today. Thank you all so much for being here. Thank you all for listening. We’ll do, we’ll be doing more Q&A episodes in the future, but at any time you can drop us a question at words that move me podcast on Instagram. Um, I’m DanaDaners. You can send them there as well, I suppose. Um, um, keep it funky, everybody. I’ll talk to you soon.  

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 or review your words. Move me to number two thing. 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. 

Ep. #72 Does Dance Save Lives? with Dr. Adrienne Wilson Mann

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #72 Does Dance Save Lives? with Dr. Adrienne Wilson Mann
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I’ve been taking notes from this woman my whole life, and now, she is sharing answers to questions we’ve all been asking, like:  What is the secret to managing a busy schedule?  How do we OVER-deliver without burning out?  Does dance save lives? Yes, all that, and then some, because my guest this week is all that and more!  Movers and shakers, I am so proud to present,  my sister and my hero, Dr. Adrienne Wilson Mann

Quick Links:

Transcript:

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

Dana: Holy smokes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends, and literally family. This is a good one. I’m so excited. Uh, first of all, I’m Dana and this is words that move me, welcome to the podcast. Today, I am joined by my sister, Adrienne Wilson Mann. do you have Adrienne Wilson Mann or Adrienne Mann? 

Adrienne: Adrienne Wilson, Mann, its a mouthful. 

Dana: Welcome to the podcast. We are sitting in my sister’s office right now in Denver, Colorado. You are witnessing my first trip home since Christmas of 2019 and it is end of April, 2021. I’m really, really excited to be here. Thank you for housing me and also being on my podcast. 

Thanks for being vaccinated. 

Yes. Super double fist pump. Um, okay. So, Oh, we, she also has a dog named Hugo who you might be Hugo you might be hearing from, uh, later on in the episode. Um, okay, so this is sort of how it operates here at words that move me.  

I don’t know if you’ve heard of the podcast or listen to the podcast, but all my guests introduce themselves. So you have this daunting task. Oh, wait, stop. Before we do anything, we celebrate wins. So I’ll share a win and then you’ll share a win. And then you, the listener person will also get to take the floor for a second and share a win, so start thinking about what that might be. Today I am sharing that. I dropped my niece off at school today and I didn’t mess up. We made it with like three minutes to spare. Um, didn’t speed. Didn’t get into a car accident. Did get a little bit lost, but still made it. And I, I think I struggle with what I tell myself about how responsible I am sometimes. Um, I’ve talked to on the podcast about, uh, becoming a plant mom. I think I’m far from becoming responsible enough to be a human mom, but I did that thing today. Human got dropped off at school. Yes. You’re a human. As a matter of fact. 

Was my human. My win is that I knocked a big item off my to-do list. Over these past couple days, I make the schedules for my group at work and I just made 12 months of a schedule 

And I wish you all could see it. I’m looking at it. Color-coded on the desk right now. It’s beautiful. I don’t know what it means. It looks like somebody sneezed confetti squares onto a spreadsheet that’s what it looks like to me. Um, but congratulations. Thank you. That is massive one. Uh, all right, now you go, what’s going well in your world, Listener type 

*wins music*

Okay. So let’s go ahead and get into this episode, which is probably going to be many things because we are many things. Um, but a few that I want to be sure that we talk about because you and I both grew up dance studio kids. Um, I still am very connected to the dance studio world via convention circuits and whatnot, but you are a bonafide MD. You are a doctor and you’ve got big, big life and death type responsibilities. Um, I want to talk a bit, a little bit about how dance prepared you for that for a career in medicine. I want to talk about time and money management and thought management and how those are actually the same thing. And also I want to talk about this notion that dance saves lives. So this is a pretty our plate is quite full for our plate is full. Um, I’m excited about this, but okay, now we get to the introduction part, introduce yourself. What do you want us to know about you? And then we’ll do all the lofty things that I just said. We talked about 

Its a lot. Uh, okay. So I am, let me see. So I’m Adrienne, I’m a mom to Amelia and Charlotte. I’m a wife to Scott. Who’s also in medicine. I’m a physician. I take care of veterans and I’m a teacher. I’m an educator. I work with residents who are training to become internal medicine doctors. And one of my roles is in, um, coaching and helping them become the best versions of themselves. 

The end. Bye. See you later, I’m tearing. I’m so proud of you and all the awesome things that you become. I remember growing up in the house on Waco Court in Aurora, which is a suburb of Denver.  

Both: Excellent. 

That’s a Wayne’s world reference, shout out if you call it that. Um, I never remember you watching, ER, George Clooney at the time we watched a yard that was one of our family traditions. And you were so into it. And you talked about like wanting to become a doctor. Um, is that really what it was? And is that what got you through med school? Like this idea of what it is to be a doctor as seen on TV? 

Yeah, I think definitely. ER, but then I was obsessed with Dana Scully from the X-Files. Yeah. And I thought really that I would probably be a physician FBI agent and maybe also do like, um, like level four biohazard research was the other thing I thought I was going to be, you know, treating Ebola. 

I remember you love the book, the hot zone. Yeah. I was into it at that time.  

I think it was the largest book I had seen. Yeah. 

Yeah. But I thought, I thought that that was possible for me. And I could envision myself doing any of those things. 

I love that. Cool. Hugo’s excited about it too, is really supporting you from, from the background from downstairs. Do you need to go check on Hugo? 

He’s good. No, he’s not good. Hold on.  

And we’re back. What was that?  

Uh, that was the crew. Who’s gonna come and mow our lawn this year and help us to take it.  Uh, the, the exterior and the dog was letting us know that they were here. Yes. I was grateful for the alert. 

Good job Hugo. Um, okay. So that actually might be a beautiful segue to one of the things I wanted to ask you. So you are a full-time physician. Yes. You are a mother of two. Yes. You are starting your own business, which is kind of tied to the hospital in some ways, but you’re, you’ve started a coaching program.  

Yes, right now I’m only physicians. 

Okay, great. So sorry, Dan types. That’s a pretty full plate. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from being home for a couple of days, it’s that you might schedule and calendar your day to the minute. And almost certainly that’s not going to happen. Like, as it is on the page, your schedule will not work the way that it looks on paper, which is honestly kind of embarrassingly, not the way it is in my world, at least for the last year, which is not the average year, which is not, you know, it’s hard to compare, but I really got very used to being the designer of my day. And then if it didn’t work out, it was because of me not because of anything else. So I’d love to hear how you manage your time and how you manage your mind around time, being a person whose life is very full. Um, because I know a lot of people listening come up against this idea of like, I have so much to do and not enough time. Yeah. 

Uh, part of that for me, has been really holding myself accountable to making a realistic plan for my day. I think I’m a recovering over-committer.  And, um, I used to just make it to do list that was probably 15 items longer than I could reasonably get done on a normal day, even if I didn’t have two kids and all the other things. So I think what I’ve really done is I’ve tried to say like, what are the three things I need to get done today? If I can get three things done, that’s a good day. And the rest of my day will get filled with other things that are also important to me, but may not be, you know, accountable for in 15 minute increments,  

Reasonable sized bites.  

Yeah. Like if it’s, I need to get groceries, I need to write up a paper that I’m working on or make 11 months worth of a schedule, make a schedule. Like I can, I can. That’s probably a lot.  

Yeah. When I, uh, delegate the groceries 

To someone else, I think the other thing is I used to just like have this to do list that would just roll over every day was the stuff I didn’t do yesterday. And that to-do list was so like, I was never, ever going to catch up on that to-do list. And so part of it was, it’s not only being realistic about what can logistically be done in my day, but getting really clear on what things I needed to do and what things I didn’t need to do. And why am I doing them? And who am I doing them for. 

Are you familiar? I forget the name of the guy who gave this talk. I’m pretty sure it was a Harvard business school talk and guy talks about instead of a to-do list. He maps his tasks in quadrants quadrant one, two, three, and four is this familiar. 

No I haven’t 

Quadrant quadrant one. Imagine top left is important and urgent tasks. The next one to the right is not urgent, but also important tasks below. Number one here, bottom left is, um, urgent, but not important. And then the fourth quadrant is not important and not urgent. So what most people do is they do the urgent things first quadrant one and quadrant two quadrant three, which is important, but not urgent becomes urgent and important because people don’t ever get to it. Yeah. I think this is an episode in and of itself, but I like that approach of like keeping the important and urgent things down to like three task items and you just do that and then you tackle important things next, even though, even if they’re not urgent so that they don’t become that way and then delegate and manage your time around the rest of it. Yeah. Okay. But that doesn’t speak to like what happened the other morning? You walked into the girl’s room and you found a wet bed. So we had a peed, peed bed, and then we had peed stairs moments after that. So you had two unexpected circumstances in the middle of a really already tight morning. So what is going through your head? How did you manage that day and how we, it worked by the way?  

Not great. No, I was pretty stressed out all morning. I mean, you know, my kids are old enough that they’re not having a ton of accidents, but it happens sometimes. And this morning just happened to be a morning where we were already a little late getting up and then both kids needed a bath before we got in the car, 45 minutes later. And I had a meeting coming up and it was tight. I mean, I was pretty stressed out.  

I had no idea based on your like volume or tone of voice and language that we were in any tight spot. When I, by the time I got over here in the morning, I just thought it was a normal morning. Oh, come to find out we had double pants fee and we’re late, but  

I mean, it wouldn’t have helped at the moment for me to freak out about it. I guess I’ve gotten a little bit better around, um, managing my energy, spending my energy on being angry or frustrated or totally overwhelmed. Wasn’t going to help me get out the door and move on with my day. So,  

Okay. Let’s say within, into some thought management stuff. Yeah. So you’re a certified coach. Yes. And how was it that you came upon your coach and got into this idea of, of coaching?  

Yeah. Thanks. Um, so let’s see, I had my first kid right at the end of my medicine training and then a second one short after, early when I had started my first job. And, um, I, both of my pregnancies were tough and that’s a story for another time, but I ended up at the end of my second pregnancy really, um, over committed at work and really stressed out. And I pretty depressed. I was like, I think I was pretty depressed for my entire second pregnancy. And, um, I just wasn’t doing well. I was eating way too much and, um, didn’t really have the skills I needed or the tools to cope with a lot of change in my life and my health and, um, in my daughter’s health cause she was born premature. And so we had some time in the hospital and I, um, was really depressed. And so I got on an antidepressant and then also, um, hired a coach and I hired a life coach who specializes in women physicians who wanted to lose weight. I had gained a lot of weight over the course of baby number one and then IVF and then baby number two and being really depressed. And so I wasn’t really happy in my body and I, I wasn’t happy in my mind. And so I hired a coach and um, check out weight loss for busy physicians. That’s Katrina Ubell’s podcast. And she blew my mind. 

And then she blew my mind too. I remember distinctly getting off the phone with you on day. And it was like, yo, something is changed. What, what are you doing? Like I’m figuring like some, maybe some, I dunno, it’s a shift in your life. And you were like, Oh, I’ve been listening to this podcast. It’s called weight loss for busy physicians. I was like, excuse me, you’re like weight loss for busy physicians. Uh, see if we can say that one more time in the sentence. So anyways, I started listening to the podcast and I became a busy physician. God damn it. I was like, I am all in. And surprisingly, I think there are several, several overlaps between my career and or, or a day in the life of a dancer. And the day of the life of a doctor, not at all saying that dance saves lives or does it, but really unusual work hours sometimes very late into the night, essentially being on call. You know, I don’t know today that I’m going to have an audition at four in the afternoon. Just like, I don’t know that I’ll be scheduled to wrap at 10, but we’re going to go over six hours. So I found a lot of things in common between dancers and doctors. And I got a lot from weight loss for busy physicians, even though I’m obviously not one. Um, okay. So back to Katrina became your coach and then what happened?  

Um, I realized that I was living a lot of my life, um, without taking responsibility for my own emotional and physical wellbeing. I guess that’s the simplest way to put it, um, 

And using food as punishment and reward 

because that’s how we grew up. Yeah. You do get it on a test convention. We’re going to dairy queen. You deserve it. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, so different ways. Like in my work, in my relationships at home and my interpersonal inter-professional relationships in so many ways, I was not acting from a place of emotional maturity or adulthood. And even though I’m a high functioning person who gets stuff done, like the experience of that for me was a lot of times, uh, challenging, uncomfortable and really stressful. And so what I learned from Katrina is that I was creating that for myself. And so I, uh, did Katrina’s program about, I think I did three times and I knew in the middle of the first time going through her six month program, that I wanted to be able to offer a program like that for women resident physicians, um, in a way that it’s free of charge to them because it was super expensive for me to go through and I thought this is something I needed and this is something my community needs. And so this is the way I can serve, um, women in my profession who we know burnout at a rate that’s faster than men. And, um, that has affects that linger into their early professional careers. And so, um, I’ve partnered with a dear friend, also a coach, Dr. Tyra Fainstad and we have created a coaching program for women resident physicians. And that’s what we’re working on now.

How did you, how were you able to pull that off for free for the residents?  

Um, well right now we’re doing a pilot program and so we recruited, um, women who trained with us at the University of Colorado. And, um, we have small grants to fund a little bit of our time and to fund the development of our website and our program. And we’re studying to see the effect of the program on resident wellbeing and burnout.

I remember you writing your application for the grant. 

Yeah, I was so stressed out. So that was way outside my comfort zone. You know, I never thought like I love taking care of patients. I love teaching, but I never saw myself as a person who wanted to do research or who wanted to apply for grants or do that kind of work. And it was really uncomfortable for, I mean, I have a whole lot of thoughts around what people are gonna think about me. What if they think this project is stupid? What if I’m not a good enough writer? What if I didn’t? You know what if this is totally, what if  

What if I forget the next step? What if I mess up my forte turn? What if I roll out of my deals? What if they think my outfit is stupid? If everybody sees, what, if everybody sees me look like a fool, a fool, or, Uh, a beginner, like a non-competent Non-professional person. 

I mean what’s so funny is that I am a beginner at this. Like, I was a beginner at writing a grant. I was like, you know, what, if I’m bad at this, of course, like I’ve never done that before.

The parallel I’m drawing there is, is auditioning or interviewing. You’re presenting yourself in a sense, you’re going to have to have to be a little bit of a salesman. Yeah. Which I think leaves a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths because we’ve all encountered this smarmy salesman. 

Um, well, no, and we have been conditioned that humility, I think, especially as women, like being humble and not being a sales person is preferred and is virtuous. And I think that, um, I know I experienced discomfort with putting myself out there. Uh, cause I don’t want to be too proud or too. I mean, I’ve done a lot of work on this since then, but yeah. I mean, it’s like, do I deserve to take up this space? Like who am I to take up this space? 

That’s big stuff. Yeah. I had an acting teacher once who talked about the word humble, uh, yeah, the root of this word, humble or humus or something, um, as meaning of the earth or of the ground and sure. Yeah. We can look on being grounded as virtuous as well. But he said is on the ground where really where you, you want to be with people, stepping on you with people,  Cleaning their shoes off on the mat, that you are the way to beneath their feet and not, it changed my perspective about the word  

humble and I no longer sought that out. I figure, I honestly, that was something I already did well, and this is one of those strengths, overused become a weakness thing. So somebody tells you once that you’re Oh my God, I just love you because you’re so humble. Like you’ve done all this great stuff and yet you’re not, uh, you’re not cocky or not arrogant. I just love how humble you are. And you’re like, Ooh. Yeah, I can be humble. Watch how humble I can be.

Like let me deflect every compliment I’ve ever gotten. 

Exactly. Okay. You mentioned something about women have a tendency to burn out faster in medicine. Is there research on that? How do you know that we know that. 

Women enter medical school as 50 or more percent of the people seated in a medical school class and they enter residency at the same rate, roughly 50 or slightly more. But, um, after that, and in early career, women tend to leave medicine at a rate that’s faster than men and in leadership positions, women remain dramatically underrepresented. Um, I’m speaking about women, but that same thing is true about other people who are underrepresented in, in medicine. 

Okay. And what do you think is the solution? What’s the Resolution? 

So, I mean, my personal experience with this was that in early career I was over committed and it had a huge desire to please everybody. And I was over committed in all domains of my life and that was, did not help me succeed. And I think that, um, because women in medicine tend to have children in their early career and that tends to, I mean, it requires you to spend less of your time doing things at work for many. Um, so I think it makes it hard. And that’s a time where many women face a decision like where is my time going to be spent at this point in my life. And I think it’s hard for women to return to the workplace in medicine, especially to reach those higher echelons of leadership and other positions, um, when they’ve had to, or when they’ve chosen, they haven’t had to do anything, but when they’ve chosen to take time away. And so I struggled a little bit with that, stepped back from some of the leadership work that I was doing, um, while I kind of reset and redefined my own expectations of myself and what I wanted and just the act of defining for myself, what success looks like personally and professionally has allowed me to re enter and remain in this workspace and

Go above and beyond, like over-delivering in some areas. Um, but I remember you as being an overachiever,

What does that even mean?

It means that traditionally straight A’s are a good thing. And you went for straight A’s in the international baccalaureate program and plus 40 hours a week at a dance studio, plus, plus your X-Files on the side, I don’t know, is, is believing in overachieving unhealthy.  

Oh, that’s so interesting. I I’m remembering. So I think there’s a difference between healthy, striving and perfectionism. And I think that what you’re getting at is like, what is the point of me being an overachiever is, and I’m not even gonna use that word overachiever, cause I’m not sure that we have a clear definition. Right?  

I love that. Yeah. Let’s adjust let’s shift.  

Um, for me, I think the idea and Brene Brown talks about this the best, but she says basically the perfectionism is the 2010 shield that we carry around. And it’s the thing that says, if we’re, if we look perfect, if we do everything perfectly, if nobody can see any of the cracks that, that, then we can avoid the uncomfortable feelings of, you know, blame, guilt, shame, and all of those things. And I think for many people, and I include myself in that like pursuit of perfection becomes avoidance of those uncomfortable feelings. That is problematic. That was problematic for me because trying to be perfect in everybody else’s eyes without defining what acceptable even was in my own, um, left me pursuing everything at a hundred miles per hour with no rudder, you know, like with, with really very little direction. Now, what is healthy, striving? And how’s that different from perfectionism? I think of healthy striving as like, what is, um, what is the end goal of, I mean, the end goal of it is my own personal growth, my own personal fulfillment and my connection and relationships at work and my connections and relationships at home that is much more easy to achieve. If I know what it is I’m looking for, instead of looking to the outside to define it for me, I’ll give an example. I did an Instagram poll on this one time, but, um, I have a drawer in my fridge that I like to organize with like the sparkling water and I had organized it, um, in color. So there was like all the different La Croix. However you pronounce it, um, you know, sparkling waters and they had to be like in the right order. And I kind of asked Instagram, is this healthy striving or, um, perfectionism. And it turns out like vast majority think that that is perfectionistic and not healthy at all. They’re not wrong. Like, what is the point I used to get really snappy at my family if they didn’t, you know, unload the sparkling waters in the right order. Wow. Yeah. It’s about it turns out that wasn’t good for me.  

Oh, there’s something too. I love it. I don’t know if that’s perfectionism or simply simple pleasures. I guess the question is like, why does the snap happen? It’s like, I can really enjoy a color coded thing, but I might, I will likely not snap. If, if, if someone’s out of code, you were very close to the snap. Um, okay. So I really encourage everybody listening to take that on as like a question for yourself is what is the difference or what is your definition of achievement or overachievement? What is healthy striving and what is perfectionism? 

So, I mean, I guess the question is like, if I, in five years or you choose the timeframe, how will I know that I’ve succeeded in this thing I’ve set out to do? Like, how will I know I’ve done it right. And you got to get really granular on that. Like what, what will that look like? Is that a number of items on your resume or your CV? Like what, how, what is the definition or is it that you’ve grown and are no longer recognizable as the person you were before? Like what are the actual results specifically that will show you that you’ve been successful in your goal?  

Yes. That’s a good one. Pause right now and answer that question. How will, you know, you have achieved fill in the blank of whatever it is that you are interested in achieving. How will you know that you’ve done that? Yeah. Okay. We’ll be right back.  

I want to ask, and this is kind of broad in it. This question sparked up in me years ago and I’ve been kind of like letting it sit in the parking lot for awhile, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this. I was in New York city at some fundraiser event and there were dance performances that were famous speakers, big people in dance, big people in performing arts, all of this event. And every other person, it seemed like that took the mic, said this work is saving lives. Dance is saving lives or dance saved my life. I am a living breathing example that dance saves lives. And I’m a very proud, I’m proud of having multiple actually family members in medicine. And I do kind of reserve that, that whole life saving thing, um, for exceptional cases. But I, I wondered what you think about that as a person who knows dance intimately has experienced it in different modes, right? As a competitive dancer, um, as an adult who simply loves to move their body, um, as a teacher, what do you think about that? Does dance save lives?  

I would never tell someone that it didn’t right. If someone believes it’s saved them, then it’s saved them.  Um, my doctor brain Is like, what does saving the life mean? Like What.. All of us are here in this one life. Um, right now this one that we’re living and continue, can dance change your relationship with yourself in this life or your relationship with other people in this life. I have no doubt. I mean, for me, dance taught me about connection. It taught me about connection with myself. Um, I mean, it’s a little cheesy, but like actually looking in the mirror every, like spending hours in front of the mirror every day for better or for worse. And I think when I was young, I didn’t know. I have, I, I struggled a lot with that. Um, but I understand myself and I’m connected with myself in a way because of dance. Um, and then also in connection. with people who I love, um, whether like it doesn’t matter, the type of dance like dance is social and communal and connecting, and that’s the whole point. So one of my overarching goals in life is to increase connectivity and connection among human beings.Does dance do that? Yes. A hundred percent.  

I agree. I cannot disagree. I cannot disagree. So why do my feathers ruffle up when I hear someone say that? Because I w I mean, we’re on the tail end of a pandemic. And everybody was saying like, this is artists. This is like a call for artists. So this is when we’ll see the best art. And  I don’t, I don’t see any paintings that cured anybody, 

But what’s your definition of the cure. So that I, maybe,  

Maybe to me, it’s like, I think that dance and more broadly art make life worth living, certainly more enjoyable, certainly funkier, but 

Way funkier It depends on your definition of saved, right? Yeah. We can get it really nitty gritty about the details. Like, I’m not sure, but I’m not sure that’s a good place to spend your mental. Like, do you  

Certainly not. Which is why I’ve had this conversation in the parking lot, not in the front of my mind, but I mean, I believe tremendously in the power of the mind body connection. And to be totally honest, part of the reason I got interested in coaching is because even still part of me doesn’t believe that the flow goes one way, like thoughts, lead to feelings, feelings, lead to actions. On paper I get down with that. I have seen somebody in this, in a dance studio be blocked physically. And then by simply explaining it different by giving them a new way to think about it. All of a sudden the physical thing becomes possible. I have seen mind be the gateway to body, but I’ve also seen body be the gateway to mind. So I do believe that that body and being physical, being dancing has tremendous life-changing power, like thought changing power. I think that dance can help to change minds. 

Yeah. I love it. I mean, does that say, I still don’t know what you mean by saving lives. 

I don’t either. I don’t, know. Heres what I think cancer and you rub a blueberry on it, it won’t go away. Just like if somebody has, if you were Greek were very Greek. Um, if just like, you know, taking a jazz class might give you that temporary dopamine hit, but I don’t, I don’t know if it saves your life. I’m not getting my, I’m not getting my thoughts across well, and that’s okay. This is a concept that I haven’t been, I haven’t been touching it because it makes me uneasy in my, my convictions, which are like dance is king and I I’m a dance, you know? Okay. 

So, but then why is that? Have to be the question. Can you stop asking the question?  Does it change lives, right? Yeah, for sure. 

Ooh. Yeah. Let’s get rid of saving all together.  Thank you. Yeah. That’s the problem. 

That’s how you’re blocked. 

That’s helpful. Yeah. Thank you for that. Yeah. It’s my pleasure. Ooh, I’m still resisting a little bit. Um, I don’t know. Do people need saving period?  

What if we are all exactly. 100%. What we’re supposed to be right now, 

Sweating from my left pit profusely. That’s exactly how I am right now. And that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. I will embrace it. Thank you for that. For that perspective shift, that was important. I really needed it. And I, as I was sitting in that seat several years ago, it was just like, no, it doesn’t. No, it doesn’t maybe tangentially. 

Who decides if it saves their life, them, not you. 

Ah, there it is breakthrough. So it was having this conversation pointless. 

No, no, no. Having a conversation with you is never pointless, 

Even if it goes in circles. Well, thank you for talking to me about that. I think it’s important. I’ll probably have more thoughts to follow up and share. 

I can’t wait. 

I think what you do is incredible. 

Thank you. Yeah. I think what you do is incredible. 

Thank you so much. That’s kind, I think you’re doing a really good job. 

You’re one of the bravest people. I know. 

Thank you. What makes someone brave? 

A willingness to put themselves out there and to stand with your back straight and holding yourself up? I don’t mean that anatomically, but I kind of do 

My bag is usually pretty sure, but my shoulders sit quite high. 

I’m saying that like I have struggled to put myself out there. I mean, I, it’s a thing that is still hard for me to do, and it requires deliberate practice and it’s not something that comes naturally or easy to me. And I’m sure it doesn’t come naturally or easy to you, but I think you’re brave because you do this, you do this work and you do so many things that touch so many people and you have your own back while you do that. And I think that that’s beautiful. 

Thank you, sissy. I think that you’re beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. Is there kind of a self gratify self satisfying when I say that because we’re related and we do kind of look like. 

I think we’re great. 

Um, and I think all of you are great as well. Thank you so much for listening today. Um, and I hope that you go out there and have your own back. Um, and I also hope that you keep it very funky. 

Keep it funky friends 

You know the tagline. I love that. All right, everybody, I’ll talk to you soon.  

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, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit theDanawilson.com

for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #71 Dance as Discovery with Lily Frias

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #71 Dance as Discovery with Lily Frias
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I’m celebrating Cinco De Mayo this year by sharing this conversation with the FABULOUS Lily Frias.  Lily is simply sensational and in this episode we cover everything from her style, her process, her history, Mexican history (and what you SHOULD know about Cinco De Mayo), to her take on using dance as self discovery.  I absolutely light up for Lily and I hope you do too!   Truth is, you don’t know how fabulous she is until you have seen her get down, so I strongly recommend you check out the show notes to this episode!

Quicklinks

Lily’s Vid on IG: https://www.instagram.com/tv/COI9NO6lrhp/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Femme Fatale on IG: https://www.instagram.com/femmefatale_official_/

Femme Fatale at Arena 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MwoTxo_bsYFemme Fatale Crazy In Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdsTDLQcF-k

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello, Hello. How are you? My name is Dana. This is words that move me. I am stoked that you are here. This is a really special episode. I am thrilled about introducing you to my guest this week. Her name is Lily Frias, and she is simply sensational. In this episode, we cover everything from Cinco de Mayo and what you should know about it, uh, to her style, her process, her history and Mexican history, her crew, her crews, plural, and her take on using dance as self discovery. It is a good one and I’m excited to get into it. But first wins this week on the podcast. I am celebrating that we got this episode done despite me being abroad. Um, I was in Atlantic City, New Jersey when we recorded this episode. So I do apologize in advance for the audio quality of the interview being a little less than A+. Um, but I am honoring sticking to the schedule and getting it done no matter what really is my goal, to bring you the good stuff. And I’m stoked to be bringing you this interview on Cinco de Mayo. If you are listening on the day of its release, which I think is really important. So I hope this episode catches you on the day. And if not, I hope you keep it in mind for next and future Cinco de Mayo’s. Um, all right. So that is my, when I’m honoring the schedule, we got it done. I’m accepting B maybe B minus work on the audio front, but listen, I’m not apologizing for any of the content of this episode. I’m thrilled about this conversation. Uh, and before I share it with you, you share with me, what’s your win. What is going well In your world?  

Congrats. I am so glad that you’re winning keep winning. Um, and while you were talking to yourself and maybe to me out loud, I realized I have another win. Um, I do this a lot. I have a lot of, a lot of things to celebrate. I’m a celebratory type. I forgot to let you know that I’ve decided to invite you and all other human types. Yep. This is very open and open invite to another live podcast recording. That’s going to take place on May 11th, 2021 at 2:00 PM Pacific. May 11th, 2021, 2:00 PM. Pacific. You don’t have that long. Um, I just I’m doing this because I had a ball with the last one. We’ve only done this one time, uh, live podcast recording with a bunch of listeners via zoom, and we had a ball with it. If you want to go back and listen, that was episode 46, had a really good time. Um, I’m excited to bring it back. I’m excited to hear from you. Talk to you, answer any questions that you might have, and in general, continue to get to know my listeners. I’m stoked about it. So Mark your calendar May 11th, 2:00 PM. PST. Excellent. Okay. That’s that? Let’s get into this conversation with Lily, enjoy. 

Dana: All right. My friend let’s do this ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls dancelings of all types. I am so excited to be having this conversation right now with Lily Frias. Welcome Lily.  

Lily: Oh, Dana. Thank you so much for having me.  

Dana: Oh my goodness. I cannot wait. Um, I’m excited for you to, to introduce yourself because I came to know you first. I was a fan of you. I saw you on ABDC probably a thousand years ago with your crew Funkdation. Um, then I got to know you more personally. I would love to just, uh, lend you the floor and let you introduce yourself to everybody that’s listening.  

Lily: Aw, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Uh, Oh, where to start? So my name is Lily Frias. I’m a professional dancer and choreographer based in LA. I was born and raised in Mexico in the state of Durango in a very small city called Lerdo. And, uh, I actually lived in New Mexico for a little bit when I was a kid. Uh, my dad was studying his PhD. So we had a little bit of years in my childhood where I got to be exposed to hip hop. And my older sisters were going to middle school and high school in the US and they were just lost in the nineties, like Destiny’s Child, Usher. They were going to the concerts. I was trying to recreate these music videos and be like “sings” Come on, like all of that, I was just, just baffled in love. And, um, I just always had a lot of energy and just fell in love with dance. Took my first dance classes there. Then, uh, by the time I was like seven turning seven, we returned to Mexico and, uh, took me a while to find a studio out there. But then I got back into my dance training and haven’t stopped ever since.  

Dana: And you are a force to be reckoned with my friend. So, so is that writings on the wall album though and confessions?  

All of it. All of the, all of it, Brandi, all of the nineties that was in their life  

Full moon is untouchable. Untouchable. Okay. Yeah. So in addition to having exquisite tastes in music, your family also supported or helped encourage this dance, um, career and pursuit of yours or,  

No, they, they are, uh, very much involved in my life. I am from a very tight knit family. I actually, in Mexico, I grew up neighbors with my family. So it was my grandma’s house, my house in the middle and my auntie on, on my left side. So we were just basically neighbors. There was no escaping. I had friends over and my grandma was always like, Lily, who’s this. So they were fully involved in my life and with dance, I think as a little kid just really saw a lot of energy in me. I was a non-stop and I think they were like, okay, we need to do we need to channel this crazy. And I always just used to recreate movies and sing, and, uh, they took me to a ballet and jazz class and I did a piece to my favorite things. I was wearing like some like itchy mittens. And it itchy tutu. But I was in there living my best life. And, uh, then after that, when I got to Mexico, when we moved back to Mexico, it was definitely very much like self-discipline and self-love that I was just like, I need to find somewhere to dance. I was just, I used to do it all the time by myself, but they, they were fully invested. My mom after school would, I literally had like a one and a half hour break to eat, digest, and then she would drive me to classes and sometimes she would stay there hours, wait for me. Sometimes I would ride back with other people until this day it’s been like a up and down journey, but my family is like, I’m blessed. They are my number one supporters. 

That’s so cool. I love that. Yeah. I, I share in that, I also got lucky in that department. Um, I, maybe this is a gentle segue. I would love to hear, because I know this episode will release on Cinco de Mayo. And I, I know that there are a lot of misconceptions about number one, Cinco de Mayo, but Mexico in general. Um, I think Americans have the idea that this is Mexican independence day or Mexico’s independence day. And, um, that’s, that’s not, uh, I also think Americans probably party harder on Cinco de Mayo than move most Mexican people do. So I’m curious, as you were growing up, was Cinco de Mayo something you celebrated?  

Uh, to be honest, we, we did not. Uh, we did not. I mean, uh, officially independence day in Mexico is celebrated on the 15th of September or September the 15th. 

I thought it was September 16th. Am I crazy?  

So basically we do something that’s called el Grito, which is kind of go like, get shouting out there’s this whole thing. So you kind of stay up on the 15th, eat, celebrate, and then at midnight, uh, the president rings a huge bell that kind of just declares that independence and you just stay up and party. I mean, I learned about Cinco de Mayo in school, but not until I moved into the US and really started seeing everybody celebrate it so much. I was even, I had to go back to my school books and be like, like, I know it’s, uh, the Battle of Puebla. So there’s, um, when the French wanted to come on to Mexico and there was a little battle and that’s what happened, but we don’t even get like no days off in school and work, or so it’s really just a day that we, we commemorate that it happened, but it’s not a big deal at all. Like I could probably ask one of my cousins in Mexico right now, and they’ll be like, what? I was talking about this with a friend last night, that’s also Mexican. And it was like, this is such a cool opportunity for us to also go back and dig into our history in order to answer these questions properly. And, uh, it was just fun to go look and to see how and why this celebration moved into the US and now it’s this big, big thing.  

Um, I’m excited to be shedding some light on it. I, I vaguely recall learning about it in school, but not with any depth. Um, but now as an, as an adult, who’s been taking much, um, uh, much more interest in the history of all sorts. I do want to take a pause in a moment to like, to, to honor the history. And I think the coolest thing about this holiday, if I could, I think the coolest thing about this holiday is that the Battle of Puebla was one, not because of like great power in numbers. Mexicans at that I think were outnumbered by like 4,000 or something insane. I think there were 2,000 Mexican soldiers and 6,000 French. And so one of the things that I am a proponent of always is rooting for the underdog. And so I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate. And I, when I see like imagery of the Mexican person with a poncho and a sombrero covering his head and taking a nap, like that’s not the person that just won a battle outnumbered by 4,000, it’s such a misconception, such a, such a, uh, wrongly perpetuated stereotype. So, um, yeah, I, I, I’m glad you’re open to talking about that. And I’m curious about how Americans might change their celebrations, knowing a little bit more about the context.  

Yes, no. I mean, thank you for wanting to talk about it. To me, I feel like it’s super important to, even as a Mexican myself, to reclaim all of this history and to inform ourselves and shift that energy to be more than like a proud way, rather than something that is being used.  

How, how do you think you’ll celebrate it this year? 

Ooh, I would probably say dancing on Wednesdays, I train house. So I would just probably dance, uh, maybe get together with friends. I haven’t really planned out. I had a friend that actually got into she’s also Mexican, but she got into like celebrating it here. So I feel like she was the main, like spearhead on being like, let’s do something, but I wasn’t really passionate about celebrating.  

Right. Well, that’s awesome. I will be celebrating by releasing this podcast, and history. And, um, if you could, I would love if you could give any, any of your Los Angeles insider tips, I would love to patronize authentic Mexican restaurants. If I could be putting some money in the pockets of the real thing and the real people from the real place, I would still love to be doing that.  

Yes, absolutely. Boyle Heights, East LA. I felt like going there and supporting small businesses. Really. I went to this place called Gracias Madre, and I really was investigating like, who owns this super Mexican vegan spot? Like it made me think like, as somebody who moved here, where is it going to like, is it cycling full circle into uplifting the community that I, that I, I fight to be a part of and fight to represent. So there is a lot of really good spots right now. I felt like I would just say one that my friend she’s Mexican as well. She put me on to it’s called El Cocinero and it’s all vegan, all plant-based like tacos, this many other dishes and it, and it’s bomb. 

Let’s go. Okay. So that this is, this is an awesome, like help kit. I think. So the dues of it are like do focus on history, do partake in authentic cuisine, do a little extra digging in terms of finding out whose pockets you’re filling with your patronage.  

I think with everything, it goes into that life, where am I putting my money  

Hopefully being more deliberate all across the board. Um, but especially in these, as you mentioned, heavily marketed, uh, Americanized holidays that have nothing to do with Americans. It’s wild.  

Yeah. So I’m like what it’s, it’s learning also, I’m learning so much about myself and, and going back into my history and like, thank God I have my parents. I ask them questions all the time and about even cooking. Hmm. How do I want to do better as well so that I can share that with other people in like learning how to cook vegan things, myself using maybe cactus and flowers and, uh, just other ingredients that are still, you know, that the yummy that I can make myself  

I am now having a mouthwatering situation side note, if ever there is a Lily Frias cookbook, I will buy it. Yeah. Thank you. Um, okay. So I, on the subject of your heritage and how proud you are about it, I would love to talk a little bit about this, um, Instagram video. I, I, I call it an Instagram video. That’s only because I saw it there in the, in the caption you addressed, how important it is to you to break norms of all kinds, but specifically gender norms in Latin America and, and how important it is to be outspoken about who you are. Um, you talk about queerness, you talk about, um, using your voice in a community that sometimes those voices are less, you know, less outspoken, less heard, less embraced, perhaps. And I’d love to hear more about how you experienced that, um, in the dance world, how you came to find your voice and your freedom through dance, um, and perhaps any words of encouragement for people following in your footsteps.  

Absolutely. Uh, this is such a, I didn’t get emotional. It’s like such a dance for me is, has always been such a, a blessing. I am so grateful that I get to move my body and that I really get to, to channel all of those emotions and all of those voices and everything through dance. Like, I really don’t know what I would do without it. And, um, I think my heritage and self discovery and self exploring is, is it hand-in-hand with my dance, whether it be a job or a performance or a battle or a cipher, or at a party where I was dancing and like discovering new things about myself, whether it’d be good or bad or new things, a lot of new things came into place in, in my journey through dance and through people around me that, you know, just mainly talking about my family, my friends joke a joke about my grandma, like things my mom says that are funny. So I really do feel now more than ever that I really carry proudly carry the weight of like all my sacrifices and all of the people that came to, to make me be here. Like my mom, my parents, my sister, all of them influenced me. And I think I channel all of that into dance. I’m sure a lot of women, a lot of women have suffered from abuse, sexism, like machismo, a lot of gender norms. I grew up in a very, very religious, I mean, I was going to religious Catholic schools until I was 17. I was wearing a uniform and going to church every Friday. Like it’s, uh, if we then school. So having to digest all of that and break that all down in my brain still till this day. And I use dance as a tool to help me be like, Oh, like, what do I feel like, what do I want to do?  So doing, doing that video was, was really special. And like I wrote in the caption that, uh,  the singer, Chavela Vargas uh, she, she made her career in Mexico and in a time where it was never like women were barely wearing pants, like it was, I was hardcore and I give it up to her and being, being in spaces where it was male dominated. And she was just like F it like, and you hear it in her voice being like, ah, like you can hear the weight of just like, this is who I am. And it is with every type of song you hear from her. So I, I connect so much to that  

And I feel that when I watch it, I feel, wait, I feel questions being answered for you. And I feel your answers being sometimes shouted sometimes whispered, but really embodied, like it’s, it’s such a powerful thing to watch. I’m really excited to share it with our listeners. 

Dana: Okay. So one of the things that I love most about that video is a fusion of styles. Um, I think if somebody asked me, like, what does Lily do? I’d be like, Oh, she’s a sick popper. And she’s a sick Wacker, but you’re, you’re many, many things. Um, how would you explain your style in general and how would you explain the style of that video?  

Well, particularly of that video, I really learned, uh, what the meaning of, uh, punking. And I’ll go into a little bit of history, but, uh, uh, from what I learned from, uh, Viktor Manoel, one of the OG punkers in LA that was going to the clubs and Gino’s where Michael Angelo was mixing and LGBT people of color were coming together. But obviously when you learn whacking, the first things that you see are like the arms and the speed and the disco and the *dance gibberish*. But I love that. I mean, I’m that person at the club going crazy. I am that I’m one of the curtains on the floor and like, woo. But, uh, I heard punking what, where Punkin came from. So they used to call that, ‘Oh, gee, look at the punkers punking.’ So they took that, that word of oppression and turned it into expression. When I heard that it just, I connected deeper with what I thought it, that dance had to look like and what it meant for me. And I think that’s how, that’s how I’m able to tell stories and to express that way, using that type of movement, it doesn’t have to be arms and flip and turn and all of this, it could just be you telling your story. And because they were so inspired by a black and white movies, like Gretta, garble, all Judy Garland, like, you know, when you see these movies are like, they’re not dancing, but you could feel that they’re like Turn. Yeah. Often people say like, voguing is the runway, the picture and whacking is the movie. So, so that’s how sometimes I tell to people to differentiate. Obviously it’s completely different, but I using punking and using whacking vocabulary in that video. And also, I mean, also learning, popping and other styles, just, I really love to like isolate and wave and just changing the posture of what, what maybe doesn’t look as pretty and as disco diva, and like, Ooh, but that is more raw and original to what I like to do. And I think that inspires other people to, to explore. Like even when I teach, I’m like, I’m not teaching you to do this dance exactly like me. Cause that would be boring as hell. Why would I go to a battle where everybody knows a song? Everybody’s going to say the same thing. Everybody’s going to do the same move. I’d be bored. Like I want to see these styles. All of this was meant for individuality to celebrate you and celebrate the history and celebrate what it was created for. So I think just, I didn’t always who I am into the dance. I don’t, it’s so much more gratifying and  

I love this and I don’t even, I, I don’t even know which direction to go from there. Cause you’ve piqued my interest. A lot of mixes, several, several different levels like this idea of individuality and, and the notion that teaching someone to do it like you is actually a disservice when it comes to teaching, especially a street style or, or, or teaching someone who will eventually end up in a battle. If there are a bunch of ‘yous’ running around, then no one would ever win the battle. There’s every time. So I love this idea of encouraging individuality. Um, I also love I’m a sucker for it. Um, I know the word fusion has annoyed has annoyed me in the past. It, it annoys people, things will annoy people. Um, I remember being at Toni Basil’s house once we were jamming and she was, she was watching me get down. And after, you know, after I was through, she was like, what do you call that? I was like, 

I could clearly see her just being dry and looking at you like that, Why do you call that one hand on the hip? 

What do you call that? I was like, I that’s just my style. And she said, right, you, you, you, you can like tap a little too. Right? And you do jazz and all the things, I mean, jazz, what a dance studio calls jazz, not vernacular Jazz. That’s a whole other story conversation. But, uh, she, she encouraged me in that moment to dance my history and use all of it, which for me, my history is a dance studio with exposure to many, many different styles, but I didn’t go deep on any one thing. And I, for a long time punished myself for that for not being a specialist at anything. And it wasn’t until I decided to use all those things, um, in different balances, dialing this up, dialing this down and having that mix of skill, become my mix of style. And I see a similarity in you. Um, and I guess my question would be this when you’re, when you’re dancing all styles or battling and all styles battle. Are you thinking about what goes, where are you dissecting the music thinking, Oh, that’s a funk groove. I want to pull from my seventies locking infusion, or this makes me feel like the disco ball itself. I am at the club I’m whacking, or this makes me feel still and picturesque so I am voguing, or is there a switch that flips and you kind of go out of body and whatever style shows up is what shows up?

Yeah. I am very much of a free spirit. I am not that type of a freestyle dancer and like honestly, props to everyone who can create like combos and hat tricks and all of this. Like, of course you, you train all the time. You train the foundations, you train variation, you train all of that takes so much work separate from before when you’re in there in the present. But once I’m in there in the present, I’m just trying to be present for it to be redundant. Honestly, a lot of the times, uh, everyone has different battle tactics, but me, I always think, especially cause sometimes I, I battle a lot of people who don’t do my styles and those occasions, for example, for like dancier style, I battled all b-boys I don’t break. I don’t break. Like I’m not, I’m not one to like flip and do tricks and headspins or all of the amazing things that, that these people can do, but I’m like, what can I do? So I think it’s just channeling the emotion, like immediately, like flipping that switch and, and not even, I don’t think I’m even preparing anything. I’m just writing the music. It’s, it’s very organic. A lot of the times when I’m battling, I’ll watch the video and be like, well, that happened. Okay. I’m happy. I had a good time.  

I can tell that you have a good time when you dance. It seems, um, sensational in two ways. Number one, meaning like it’s excellent, but two, it looks like you are sensing, like you’re experiencing sensations in your body and you’re, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, an emotional sensational ride. Like you, you mentioned the ride of the music. Um, and that is a quality that I so much love in a performer. I love someone that experiences dance versus demonstrates dance or performs dance. Um, so here’s the ultimate segue. I try to accomplish that. And I think we, we three seaweed sisters, Oh my God, my dearest, Jilian Meyers and Megan Lawson with the seaweed sisters, that’s almost exclusively what is going on is, just experiencing dance. It’s just happening. Dance is happening to us and we’re just there for it. Um, but you also rest in a powerful triad of dance. Can you please talk a little bit about Femme Fatal? Yes. Take the floor and let’s shed some of my global super sensations. I adore all three of you.  

Yeah, I am. I am so honored and so grateful to, to get down and create with these ladies. The crew Femme Fatal, uh, the company, I would say now it’s me. I’m Marie Poppins from France and Dassy Lee from Korea. I feel like we’ve been together for about four, four years, I would say. And, uh, we came together just like randomly to Marie was invited to perform a piece in Sweden. And then she was like, Oh, would you and Dassy like to perform? And there’s also this competition called Dance Delight. And if the wit whoever wins goes to Japan and we were like, uh, sure let’s do it. So that’s the first time that we ever started creating from scratch together and put this piece together. And we were in the living room of my old apartment, just like making so many creative things and creating step-by-step together. Like we use everyone’s super power, even though it makes no sense. Like I’m like little Brown and short and then Dassy, and then Marie, and just, we’re also so different, but at the same time, just kind of merge in super unique way. So that was the beginning that we got to dance together. And then ever since just things have been blooming and I’ve just had the, the amazing ride of like traveling and teaching and performing all over the world with my sisters. They’re, they’re my, they’re my peers or my coworkers. And I respect them so much as, as freestyle dancers and individual choreographers and artists and just everything they do. And we get to just bring that together and just create. 

Awesome.I, you know, I had no idea, but the seaweed sisters kind of share a similar origin story. It wasn’t deliberate. We weren’t trying to create a dance trio. We were I got invited to do a thing and we’re like, Oh,  I love, I much prefer dancing with my friends. Do you guys want to join me? And then when it’s good, it’s good. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It just keeps getting better. Uh, so cool. Um, do you guys have any shows or projects coming up that we should be on the lookout?  

Well, we just had a, our first online intensive in April and we are planning to do it again this year. And, uh, we just did a, uh, performance for the VS style anniversary. So we created something for that. And we have a group of girls that we’ve been training for over a year now called, uh, the Fam Fatale like family. So we are teaching them and trying to build a company which we, of course, one day we want to perform, bring them into theaters and just get to choreograph and open doors. Like we kind of opened doors for each other. So lots of, lots of things in the works.  

What a dream though. That’s beautiful. Um, I would love to talk more. Maybe we maybe later down the road, Words that move Me has all fatales on the podcast. Yeah, I would love to, Oh my God. Or what if we do a seaweed sisters, uh, co episode, maybe it’s like, that’s a lot of sisters.  

Love that. I love it. Everything y’all make, I’m always just like, how do you think of this? Is this only, it’s so unique. It’s like, yes, of course, of course they’re doing, like, if I, if I’m being honest, even before I moved to the US I was watching videos of like Jillian and you and Megan, I actually met Megan when she was on ABDC and like Fannypack and the Jillian, even seeing you with like, Rock your Body. I was like, Oh my God, is this Dana Wilson? I was like, I was losing my shit. So until this day I have like so much admiration for strong women doing what they do and that like, that’s it.  

Yeah. Likewise, my friend and that is why you’re here. It is, it is incredible. And I think dance has this ability to both make the world seem really, really big. Like I could never get to the bottom of all of the styles that I think are incredible. I can never become as good as I want to be at all the things that I think are fascinating. Um, but it also has this way. Dance has this way of making the world feel small and like the, our, our, our ability to meet each other and meet our heroes and yes, and form a crew with, with somebody from France and somebody from South Korea. That’s, I’m pretty sure that’s where she’s from. Right. Um, yeah, it just like, it is a truly remarkable and precious and awesome thing. Um, and I count it as like number one, dance blessing is the dance world.  

Like I met Marie and Mexico, and then I met Dassy here. And I feel like they, that we have so many things in common, like moving from another country and, you know, missing our families. We always talk about work as well, but we always just come back to places where it’s like, Oh, today is my niece’s birthday and I’m not there. And they’ll, they’ll give me a word of like, no, but you’re there and what you’re doing. And they’re so proud of you. So don’t, don’t doubt your journey. Like we’re, we’re here for it. Cause there we’re all going through the same thing. So  

That’s huge. Yeah. That’s huge. 

I love them. 

Well, I’m thrilled to see what you, uh, what you three and you as an individual do next interview. I’m really thrilled about sharing time and getting to know you a little bit better. Thank you so much for being open about your culture, about what’s important to you about, uh, the way you feel and the way that you create. It’s just all of it I love.

No, likewise. They not for real, like, I, I have little, little like small memories. I remember quick, quick story. I wasn’t even, I wasn’t even living here and Funkdation my crew from Mexico. We, we came here and we were kind of just riding buses and I mean, public transportation in LA is not it, but we wanted to take Popping Pete’s class in the old Evolution, the one that was near universal studios. And you knew they had like those little windows. And then we were just, we got there late because of public transportation. And I just remember watching the class and I remember you were in it and you were wearing like shiny shoes and like slipping around and in there getting funky. And now actually sharing, you know, sometimes the cipher, like taking your class or sharing movement. And then just hearing you want to hear about my story. It was just like, damn, it’s it’s full circle. So like you, you never really know where being yourself and, and connecting genuinely with other people can take you. Like, that’s just a part of the journey. So thank you for having me,  

Lily. I could not have closed it up any better than that memory. And I do remember that class that you recall that to my memory brings a big smile to my face. Um, well thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to share any and all of the work that you’re up to. So on that note, everyone who’s listening on the day of its release, I will send you out into your Cinco de Mayo. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you Lily, for being here. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye. 

All right. My friends, how fabulous is Lily? The truth is you don’t even know how fabulous she is until you’ve seen her get down. Holy smokes. Uh, so that said, I have linked to the Instagram video that she and I were discussing and some other essential femme fatale videos that I think you must watch immediately. Those are all in the show notes to this episode in whatever podcast forum you’re listening to, or you could go to theDanawilson.com/podcast Look up this episode, which is episode 70, 71. Where are we? Oh my gosh, this will be 71 amount by, um, so if you want to check out all the fun, quick links and stuff like that, go to theDanawilson.com/podcast or check out the show notes of this episode, dig in, enjoy. And don’t forget to Mark your calendars for May 11th, 2:00 PM Pacific and enjoy Cinco de Mayo with reverence, with responsibility, with respect and keep it funky. I will talk to you soon. 

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 the rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more then weekly podcasts. So please visit  thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.