Ep. #61 Giving Black and Passing it Forward with Eartha Robinson, Will Simmons, and Dominique Kelley

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #61 Giving Black and Passing it Forward with Eartha Robinson, Will Simmons, and Dominique Kelley
/

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! This is words that move me, I’m Dana, and this episode is different than most, and I am biased, but I will also say it is better than most, podcasts period. Better, because today I’m with you. I’m the listener. I’m not the host. And when I tell you that, as I listened to this episode, I laughed. I cried. I shouted. I learned, and I hope that you do too. I simply cannot wait another moment to share. So without any further ado, I am passing the mic to my friend and guest host. For this episode, the incomparable Dominique Kelley, who will introduce you to the young and talented and wise beyond his years Will Simmons AKA big will. Along with the sensational, the seasoned, the sophisticated, the soulfull Eartha Robinson Enjoy.  

Dominique: Boom. Good morning, everyone. Um, I am happy to almost Take over Words That Move Me Podcast. Uh, thank you, Dana Wilson for creating this space for us to talk. And I have two wonderful guests here today. I have Ms. Eartha Robinson and Big Will that’s what I love to call him. I’ll have them introduce themselves to you. Um, so why don’t we start with Eartha Robinson, please introduce yourself to not only the people listening to, but also to us.  

Eartha: Um, okay. I am Eartha Robinson. I was, uh, raised and I trained in Harlem in New York. Uh, went into performing arts. Um, I started dancing at 15, got my first professional job at 16. Been working ever since. Um, I have a wonderful family, two amazing daughters. I’m a choreographer, director, producer, uh, dancer, actress. Um, I do a lot of things. I’m um, uh, what could I say about myself? I’m the worst person to ask me about myself. Everybody else can speak my resume, but I just like,  

Dominique: Yeah, well that just goes to show how much you’ve influenced the dance community, because you have so many slashes that we can go on and on and on. I love it. All right. Big Will, do you want to introduce yourself?  

Big Will: Yeah, I’ll do it. What’s up. Y’all it’s my name? Wilson. AKA big will I am 20, almost 21. So, you know, a little quick little turn up for me. Um, but I’m 20 years old. I had been dancing at the age of five and professionally at the age of 10 and then my first professional job at the age of 11. So I’ve been working ever since I’m a dancer, choreographer, actor, and social media influencer as well.  

Dominique: Boom, good morning. And, uh, for those of you I’ve been on this, uh, podcast a couple of times before, but for those who don’t know, my name is Dominique Kelly and I’m just like, well, I started young I’m from Bridgeport, Connecticut. And you know, just like most people starting out with dance studio training, I was like, this is the pits. And, um, I remember there was a moment that I told my mother, I was like, you know what? I think I want to do it. And I stuck with it and I got my first job at the age of 12 and I did Black and Blue, the European musical. And then after that, I did Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. And from then on, literally just worked my way from Broadway to TV, to film and you know, dancer, choreographer, educator. I try to do diversity seminars. I try to do all the things. So with that being said, let’s get into our first like, you know, question. So opening it up to both of you. What specifically inspired you to choose dance as a career? Because it’s different. When you get bitten by the bug of dancing, you can just, you know, dance around, but what specifically inspired you to want to do this for a living?  

Eartha: Well, uh, you want to go first Will or should I go?  

Big Will: I can go first. I think the one thing that made me choose dance was my older sister and Michael Jackson. My sister is five years older and she was actually born with a club foot. So she had to get surgery. And the only way for it to really fully heal was for her to take ballet. So she was really born into dance. Um, for me, I actually just ended up just watching her and I was like, you know what? Like, I can probably do the same thing as she can do. And I started dancing and I think what made me choose and want to pursue dance was I tried multiple different sports. I tried baseball for four years. I tried gymnastics for three years. I tried football for a year and you know, they all kind of failed in a way, but the one thing that stuck by me was dance. And I think after that first job, I looked at myself and I was like, huh, I can really do this for a living. Like, let’s take it, let’s just go for it. So I think that’s the one thing that really inspired me to dance is my sister overall. And then obviously watching so many other dancers that made it on So you think, like Twitch and, you know, Hok and all them. So I think that’s what really made me choose that. Got it.  

Eartha: Wow. That’s something, when you said your sister was born into it, because I fought for as far as I can remember, as long as I can remember dance, I always wanted to dance, but my family didn’t believe in that. That was, it was hard work. It wasn’t dance was a hobby. So I grew up thinking that dance was a hobby until I went into PA and my first dance concert, I was just thinking about this, Uh, yesterday. My first dance concert, I got $10 and I was like, what is this for? I couldn’t believe it. That you got paid to dance. And in my co, you know, my Co- company members, they were like, girl, that’s $10. Do you know? That is nothing. That’s like tokens.  So I didn’t know that, um, I didn’t know that, um, you could get paid doing that. Um, my mom started taking me once I started training. She took me to a few Broadway shows and I was like, I don’t want to do that because it’s, they do that all day, every day. And I wanted to do, you know, concert work. I wanted to be in Ailey. I wanted to do that. And then I saw Guys and Dolls with Debbie Allen in it and the backstage door was open and I got a glimpse of what was going on backstage. And that’s when I said, I’m doing that. I want to put on the costumes. I want to be in the make up. I want to do for the first time. I realized that, that’s excitement. That’s, I want to do that. 

Dominique: I love that.But yeah, something like that. Um, it’s very simple for me. I didn’t understand people getting nervous or having stage fright. And till this day, till this day, I’m the kind of person that when I see a down special onstage, whether it’s different, like a sound check or a light, a lighting cue to cue or anything, I have to stand in that spotlight. And God forbid don’t let me have a hat because it is over. And from that moment on, I was like, I don’t understand how people don’t have that magnet to jump into the spotlight and on a full stage, also being tall for a good amount of my life. The stage was the only place where I could stretch my limbs totally and fully, you know, so I was like, let me be on stage. I got this open air. Let me do this. Let me swim.

Eartha: It’s nothing like moving through space. Isn’t it? It’s nothing like defying and just soaring through space. It’s the best feeling in the world?  

Dominique: Definitely. Definitely. Okay. So next little question. Um, what kind of jobs did you gravitate to, and in those jobs where you othered?  

Big Will: I think what gravitated me the most was mainly, well, when I was younger, it was mainly TV. You know, I grew up with, like I said, watching, Shake it Up, watching a lot of Disney channel. So what gravitated me the most was being on that television, being on Disney and Nickelodeon and ABC, those kinds of shows. And then the older I got and the more experience I had, I started seeing myself more on tour and traveling because you know, having dance, thankfully we’re able to travel the world now with it. So I was like, what’s one way to see the world on a budget. And I was like being on tour. I think that’s what really got me, especially right now. Um, that’s, what’s gravitating me, is being on that tour. 

Eartha: Wow. That’s something it’s it’s I remember you as a little boy. Well, I don’t know if you remember me, but I remember you as a little kid, so it’s, it’s amazing watching you and just so grown up now. My thing was, um, I never looked at, Oh, I, um, I want to do this kind of dance or I want to go on tour, but it just, my life just unfolded that way. It just, um, because my first, the first love was concert work. I did concert and then I went on to Broadway and then I love stage. And then the next thing you know, I was doing film and then I loved that and it was just, it just kept, you know, it kept unfolding. And to me, um, it’s just it’s God, I guess. And so I just, I, I was just led doors opened and I stepped in and that’s how, so I’ve done everything from stage to television, to film I’ve choreographed, uh, artists and conceived, you know, all kinds. It’s just, you, you know, that feeling you guys, when, when it, when that creative juice just keeps flowing, it’s just like, wherever God led me, I was there, honey.  

Dominique: I feel you. Sometimes I tell people that I asked God for a bus pass and I got a limousine instead and I was like, Oh, these doors are going to keep opening. Sure. Why not? Exactly. So let’s bring it back to Will, because like Eartha I met will when he was younger also. And if you know, well, when you met him, when he was younger, you also remember his mother. And I remember we did a job, I believe it was Macy’s and it was so great to see a young African-American, uh, male that was not only talented, but humble, eager for a lot of information and whatever you threw at him, he was like, sure. And then even recently, when we worked on, um, a TV show for Disney, it was great to still see the same gentlemen, but just a little bit more grown up. And it’s been a joy to watch you flourish and bloom and have everybody notice that too. I mean, Eartha, do you remember, do you remember meeting him when he was younger?  

Eartha: Yes. Yes I do. And, and you know what, I think you might’ve been like nine or something and, and you were dancing and it was just so full of spirit. And I was like, wow, look at this kid. So respectful and professional at such that never left me that he was so young. And so professional. I said this an old, I remember calling him an old man.  

Dominique: Yeah. And also let’s shine some light on Miss Eartha too, because I think I met you once a while ago from Keith and Sharon Young and it was a while back. And not only that, we have a lot of mutual people like William Harris loves you, just like, I love you. And you know, I’ve, I’ve known about you for years upon years upon years, and we’ve never gotten a chance to work together, but I followed your career and Leslie, and that’s why it was an honor for me to talk to you because not only to see that chocolate skin on stage, you know what I mean? Or like in the movies and just your spirit and there’s, there’s something about your movement and then not only that to, Fame because you and I did the remake in 2009. So of course I went, Oh yeah, of course. I went back to do that research. 

Eartha: It’s that’s that’s show. Um, that was really something, I didn’t know, um, how much I impacted, um, a lot of girls, my color. It makes me well up now to see, you know, here, this #blackgirlmagic and Brown ballerinas and, Oh my God, it makes me. Um, because we didn’t have that, you know, you had to be, can I curse?  

Dominique: Maybe we can bleep it out. 

Eartha: You had to be really, really strong to, to navigate your way during that time. And then there were people before me that was even so, I mean, because they did hire black girls, but not my black, you know, so I didn’t know the impact that Fame had on so many young black dancers and girls period until, you know, after it was over, you know, I was just in work mode. You get, you know, you miss the moments sometimes when you’re there, when you’re, you know, just working, just working, just working, you just, you can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes. So, you know, always stop and look, you guys always be aware of your surroundings. Yeah. 

Dominique: And speaking of that, which is, it leads me to my next little thing that I want to bring up. And Will, you know, even though you’re wise beyond your years, you’re still, still younger than we are. But what advice would you give to your younger self in regards to navigating the industry as a person of color?  

Big Will: Oh, as a person of color, I would say, no, your self-worth. I think because a lot of people try to, in a way, use me to get that, Oh, I do support all races. And when I walk in the room, I’m the only person of color in the room. So I’m like, their special token. And I feel like as a younger, so just know your self worth, know that you have to work twice as hard to get noticed as, as well. And to keep that going, because at the end of the day, what I’m leaving on the table is my dancing ability, my personality, the, my work ethic, and so much more that they’re going to remember me by so they can always try to bring me back. So I think that’s kind of something I would tell my younger self for, you know, especially for people of color is to be very humble, be they’re respectful. Cause to get into this room is an honor already as it is. So don’t forget that.  

Eartha: Wow,  He said it all, you know, it’s um, uh, to be the only black person in the room. Um, I never felt uncomfortable. After the age of 17, I should say, because I grew up there. I didn’t, I, I didn’t mingle with white people, period. I grew up in Harlem and there were, you know, the, the teachers maybe, and then I’m from, you know, my whole family were Gullah. So on the islands, you don’t, we didn’t mingle. I didn’t get that until I went into Performing Arts. And then I had to build my, my strength and being with all these different people that not just Caucasians, but all different nationalities. And what I found after I brew and brew. I remember this moment doing Academy awards and, uh, Peter Allen was choreographing, Liza Minnelli. And it was this whole line of females and they needed one more female. And I was like I said, you know what I want to be. I want to break that color line. I want to break that — And I stood in that rehearsal. I stood in my rehearsal and Peter came over and he just looked around and he said, “Eartha come here.” And I broke that color line. He didn’t put me on the end he played me like fourth girl in. And so it was like, it was amazing. And that was something that I always wanted to do. I always wanted to show that my talent speaks first. What I do says who I am first, before you see the color of my skin. And another one real quick, you guys 

Big Will: I’m loving this 

Eartha: Auditions, back in the day. You know, it was black and white photos. You know the headshots. I know. 

Dominique: I remember, oh I do. 

Eartha: Will, you probably don’t remember, but you would go to these auditions, you’d go to these auditions and you think they’re asking for everybody. But as you, as you get down to the second call back, you’re looking around and you’re like, they just got me in here, dancing. They are not going to hire me. They get ready to hire all these white kids. They’re not going to hire me. So instead of me dancing, one more time being that jigaboo, performing, I was not doing that. So I just walked up and go, are you using any black girls at all? Cause you got two light-skinned girls over there and you got me. I got a lot of stuff I can do. So you can get me my 8×10 and I can go do my laundry. Thank you. So I did that for a few auditions, like, because they would keep you all day long, dance you to death and then don’t hire you. And then when you see the show, there’s nobody that looks like you. So why are you using this audition, got wise and was like, shut it down.  

Dominique: I get it, and, and I love that. You’ve always demanded that respect because a lot of times we go into a room. So like thankful and extra thankful to be there. And you know, it’s something to be grateful. Of course you’re grateful to be in that room, but you also have to know once you’re in that room, a lot of times people are just looking at your sauce. They’re just looking at your vibe to be like, Ooh, we can get inspired by that. And they will not use you. You know? Um, one thing that I feel like I would tell my younger self is the baggage that you carry into the room is your baggage alone, but it also makes your arm stronger. So, so a lot of times, um, you know, when you come in as the quote, unquote token you, the weight of your community in the world, on your shoulders, you feel like you have to do you feel like you have to be the best one, you know?  And that’s just what it is straight up and down. But what I also realize is I’m the only one carrying these bags because sometimes I walk into those rooms and the people are not expecting that of me. So I realized my baggage turned into my super power because I feel like, myself and maybe you both might agree with me. That becomes what keeps you going that drive to be that, that drive to be in them, splits that drive to make sure you can effectively communicate what you want to communicate, whether it’s with dance or your mouth, you know? And, and I felt like that’s what I would tell my younger self. Like the very thing that you think is, is weighing you down is the thing that’s making you stronger to rise above everybody else.  

Eartha: Yes. And that in a work, you know, start that as soon as you possibly can building yourself up, talking to yourself, look in the mirror and talk to yourself. I made that a habit and it’s worked for me, you know, to, you have to stand strong in your power. You have to, because it’s just, you, really. So you must work hard to preserve you and be stronger in whatever you do.  

Dominique: Yes, exactly. No, I mean, that makes the most sense in, in turning it on his head. Sometimes it’s literally just, you like. Who is bring all this madness causing all this drama. Its just you. So you have to shut all of that and just be like, I just want to be my best self today. That’s what it is. Speaking of speaking of best self, a hundred percent agree, go for it. Will, do you have anything to add before?  

Big Will: I mean, I was saying was that like, you know, taking care of yourself, especially with, you know, mental health, you know, being such an issue recently with COVID and you know, not having that, that extra source of dance nowadays and you know, that human connection, I would say, just making sure it’s okay to take a break sometimes as well, because we always become so stressed with, you know, the type of work we’re putting ourselves into, like you said with, okay, I have to be the best in the room. I have to get everything right. And if you don’t, you actually burn yourself out a lot faster. So it’s okay to take a step back, breathe a little bit meditate or whatever you need to do and say, nice little prayer before you head into rehearsal again, and step in like a new man, you know. 

Dominique: Exactly. And I feel like a lot of times as dancers, we don’t take care of our dance injuries. And you know, now we’ve been better about body maintenance, but I like to think about, we need to take care of the injuries on the inside too, because we’ll stop rehearsal. If somebody sprains their ankle or if you’re out and you need to do rehab. But a lot of times we don’t work on the inside to be able to stay in those rooms, and to fight those giants. Because you know, a lot of times whether it’s just black community or, you know, dance community, the trauma response is to be yelled at into greatness or to be berated into greatness. You know? And a lot of times I just refuse. I said, the trauma stops with me. I’m not going to pass it forward now, Motivational screaming different. Yes you can do it. Anything, anything beyond that? I’m not going to scare you into greatness. I want you to be so great that it slips out. 

Eartha: But I am going to tell you if you’re lazy, 

Dominique: for sure

Big Will: We will call you out. Yeah. 

Eartha: But I, that whole thing of degrading dancers and tearing up apart, I was never into that because you build them up better because they want to please you, they want to be there for you. They’re there in the room. So why strip them apart like that? Those shows and those people that do that just make me so uncomfortable because nothing in the world deserves that it’s all, if you come from love, you can imagine so many things that you can accomplish together. If everybody just came from a loving space, that’s how I feel. If you came from a loving space and your approach to getting someone to hit that Arabesque or to, to hit that combination, the more love that you put into that and support, it’s going to be much better than just strip somebody apart, burn them out and then toss them to the side. You know? So, and I would say to every dancer, find a strong center you have got to. And just for, for your life, just like how you trained and just piggybacking on what you said Dom. Just like how you trained for this moment. You have to train your insides. You will have to find a core. You gotta believe in something other than all the external stuff, because that is, what’s going to take you through that. You believe there’s a core in you that you are not swayed by all this other stuff, because darling, that’s what a lot of mental issues come in because you’re being pulled to and fro you’re all these things on social media. People are saying this about you it’s. Have a core honey, find a belief in something. If it’s out a P or a pair of glasses, I don’t know, honey. Find your life, and hold onto it. You know, that is a must  

Dominique: You better preach Eartha and catch a mean step on this podcast real quick. But no, that is, that is the truest statement of all statements and keeping in the love sphere. What do you enjoy most about living in your body, as this being as this Brown being, as this person who walks about the earth, being able to change other people’s lives through dance and speaking love into everybody, and this I’m just going to open it up. W what, because a lot of times we talk about the trauma and the bad and the obstacles, but let’s talk about what we love about ourselves  

Eartha: Life experience, the knowledge that I’ve gotten and who I am right now. And that Will, I am like three times your age, baby. So my, so I look at you big with that little face and I go here to be a beast when he’s 60 because your, everything comes from that. And that’s in my skin right now. I could, I, I feel like a queen because I lived through, I’ve gotten over, I’ve crossed so many bridge, birth, none. And I’m like, I know who I am even more so now I’m good to people. I support people. I’m- I’m so comfortable and so happy in my skin. And I’m, you know, I had a hard time when I was coming up in this dark skin, a very hard time, but I am loving it. I wish I was three shades. Even darker. 

Dominique: Come on now. Come on. 

Eartha: So, no, I feel because of all of that, I’ve been through because of my experience, this pot that I carry underneath the skin, I feel joy. I feel good. Even through the COVID and all of that has gotten to renew. I am, and I just feel really good right now. That’s a great question. And I love it. I feel really good in my skin. 

Dominique: She said I feel good all over. I wish we had that queued up  All right. Will, same question.  

Big Will: I think the one thing that just like, like she said, with like the history and everything that she’s gone through, I think what that makes me feel good within my skin, as well as seeing the people I’ve looked up to, you know, and seeing them, you know, make a pathway for people that are in my generation. Like Eartha, we probably wouldn’t have caught as far if it wasn’t for people that were in your generation, I’m a hundred percent thankful for that. I think that’s the one thing that I love so much about it is that there’s, we have so much history, so much history that, you know, I’m always in the room willing to learn. I come in there, I’m never a teacher. I’m always a student. I think that’s my mindset I have, because I don’t have the many years that you guys have. So that’s the one thing I love is that we have so much history and I feel like one day I’m ready to be a part of that history. And that’s what I love about myself. I love about my skin is that I know within 20 years, I’m going to be having the same conversation to the next team. 

Eartha: Passing it, always passing it forward, always giving back and passing it forward. You know? And that’s the thing. This young man is talking about the history and it makes me feel like. It makes me know that there is hope, that there is hope because I see kids have no clue of what, what, before them, no respect of who went before them. Don’t know ’em, don’t care and just going on with life. But it’s the ones, the ones that care, the ones that research, the ones that know you’re always going to have more on it than the rest. And those people usually, you know, fade out because they’re not, they’re not keeping in alignment with what is true. And that’s an issue.

Dominique: A big issue. So this question, um, let’s go superficial. I like that. I can wear any color and make it look good. I like the fact that I can change my hairstyle every single day If I wanted to. I like that. If I comb out my hair, it stands up to try to meet God,  

Eartha: The sun.  

Dominique: I love that whenever I step into the room, just because of my skin tone people automatically think I’m the hottest thing and the coolest thing at the same time. But on a, on a deeper level, I love that the blood coursing through my veins, um, is built with rhythm and it’s built with strength and it’s built with being grounded. And it’s built with a language in a spirit that is only oral traditions. I love being Griot. I love being able to do a simple nod and everybody knows what that means. I love that. The way I clap my hands commands people to pay attention. I love how deep my voice is. And when I’m on the phone, I guess people automatically know I’m a black man. No, but more importantly, I love spaces like this because this is what the African-American community does. This is family. This reminds me of talking to my family members. It reminds me of talking to my aunts and my cousins and my grandparents and my younger brothers and sisters, and, you know, new family members to literally pass on and to give love. Because a lot of times people don’t have mentors. You know, they don’t have somebody they can go to, they don’t have somebody that they can pass on things to. And I love to have mentors older than myself, because I love to just go to people and go like, Hey, have you been through this before? And then I also love having people who are younger than I am to be like, look, this is what I went through. Let me, let me help you out. So you don’t go through that same thing. And, uh, you know, speaking of that,  

Eartha: The young ones and the young ones are because I have no clue Will about how this whole social media, it gets on my damn nerves. So when you guys, you know, because my daughter, Élija, I, you know, she comes in and she’ll help me mom know that you don’t want to say that you want to take that out. So, you know, and just to see the power and the strength, it only, it takes me back to look at you guys and go, damn, did I have all that energy, did I just keep moving all the time? And my older ones, my mentor say, yeah, we used to say, could you sit your ass down? We’re on a five Eartha, take your 5 Eartha! so you know that it keeps me, um, energized your, your generation. When I say your, I would say, most of your generation, you, and a couple of other people that I’ve met so strong and so fierce and so committed and knowing, have intention on where you’re going, I love that, you know, and then I look at some others in your generation and I go, why, why is this happening? And who’s not helping them. And there’s no guidance there, you know? And I want us, I want to help everybody, but you can’t because they can’t be 9 million of you Will because then nobody will know what the other side looks like. So, but I want 9 million of you. 

Big Will: I will say. It’s hard from my, from my perspective is growing up in this generation, I’ve seen so many people come and go. I’ve seen the different transformations of people. And I even had a moment when I was 16, 17, and I lost myself. And I think that’s what makes me so grounded and so humble. And so, you know, straight forward it’s because I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen people a hundred percent get lost and never find their way back, or they lose their passion for example, within dance. And they can’t find it again. And they’re only doing it for the money or only doing it for the views. And they know it hurts to see that. And there’s times where I have to call certain people out and be like, Hey, what you’re doing, isn’t right. I just want to make sure, are you good within yourself because you’re not posting like how you used to, or you’re not acting the way you used to, or, you know, just a simple, Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while. Let me, let me talk to you just because we kind of get lost in that social media world. And I just have to make sure, like, especially with my friends and my closest people around me, that everybody that I know is so career driven and so focused because it’s so easy to just lose track of that.  

Eartha: Yeah. And, and, you know, um, water seeks its own level and the cup, this is, I’m just getting this from my grandfather, the company you keep, birds of a feather flock together. The company you keep is what they see. So you want to always surround yourself with people who are going and who are like-minded. They call it equally yolked. You know, some people aligned yourself with the people who are doing what you want to do, because it’s so easy to be, you know, go off the path. You know, you gotta stay on that path.  

Dominique: Yeah. It’s extremely important. Especially when you go into a situation saying, this is exactly who I am, and this is what I’m doing. And you get met with some challenges where people go, okay, so we want you to either choose this or choose that. What are you going to do? And in those moments are when you really realize that you’re made of the good stuff and really what you’re made of and go, okay, well, I can do this and do that. Or I can remain who I am. And a lot of those moments, I think people have to remember that the business will test you. And it is good to have people around you who have either been there or are supporting you through it, you know? Boom. Okay. So, um, maybe a last little question here. Um,  

Eartha: I wanted to ask something really quick. 

Dominique: Sure. Go for it. 

Eartha: Um, um, how do you guys feel about, um, uh, say a film comes up and it’s African dance or it’s, um, Lindy Hop or something like that. And someone not of that culture gets the chance to work on that project. And no one of that culture is on that project. How do you guys feel? Have you ever experienced it? I know it happens. So say, um, say I’m doing The Village and it’s all African and Dunham dance and they get someone that is not of that culture of that race or whatever, to choreograph or direct this thing. And it’s, how do you feel about that? Um, do you think it’s just an art artistic choice, or do you think that, you know, that  

Dominique: I can jump in here? Um, I’ve had, I’ve been torn between both of those things because, um, a lot of times the things that I choreograph, I wouldn’t say a lot that’s alive. Let me bring that back. Things that I choreograph did not start with my culture, but sometimes I like to see it through the lens of my culture. Like for example, I choreographed Oklahoma, the all black version of Oklahoma at Denver Center for the performing arts. And what was nice was it was a golden age musical, but I saw it through the lens of the African-American community at that time. So the difference is of course, I put things that the African-American community did in that choreography. Um, but then I also came back and choreographed a play that was, um, mainly about Jewish the Jewish community. And it was very interesting because people were asking me like, what does it feel like to choreograph for something that’s not a part of your community? And I had to really A. put my wig back on asked that question and I had to go well with the, the story that’s being told. I can only do the parallels from the African-American community. I know joy, I know transcendence. I know what it feels like to be beaten down. So the only thing I can do is do my research with that culture, then try to parallel the human experience. Now, on the other hand of that same argument, I feel like if it’s not in you, pass it to the side to somebody who’s going to kill the game. Because a lot of times when it comes to certain art forms, um, or certain jobs that are, that are passed to me, I will gladly pass them to somebody else because I feel like, the way that I felt choreographing for Oklahoma, everybody should feel that way. Everybody should have a chance to choreograph where they step into themselves to go. I can’t make the wrong choice with movement because it is so inside of me that there’s nothing I can do wrong. I can step here. That’s something that would happen. I can do that. That’s something that would have happened. And, um, it, it rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes when I see jobs that people get where it’s like, you know, you didn’t respect the culture, you didn’t research the culture, you didn’t, you know, nothing about it. At least in that moment, bring somebody on of that community to be co choreographer or somebody of importance to open that door instead of just taking it for yourself. And then looking up on YouTube and being like, I think I can do this. You thought wrong. Now it’ll get done. It’ll get done. But at the end of the day, what will get done with such gravitas as that would take for somebody from the community?  

Big Will: Yeah. A hundred percent agree with that. Well, they get done with such grace with such effort, you know, with the right intentions of it. And there has been jobs where, especially for me being the dancer, if it’s someone from that community that knows the art style and the art form, and really knows how to teach it, then I’m learning at the end of the day. For example, I didn’t know much of Lino, the African movies when it comes to like Gara Gara and like the shotgun and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t know anything really about it. I’ve seen it, but I didn’t know how to like, not perfectly do it, but I didn’t know the techniques of it and the form of how to do it correctly. And I was thankful that there was a choreographer named Sherrie Silver, who was the choreographer for This is America with Childish Gambino, You know, and when I tell you, we had maybe a four hour rehearsal on just the movement alone, not even the choreography, just the movement, because she was like, if we’re doing this, you need to make sure you’re doing this right. And that’s a main reason why I say that you have to have somebody that knows that art form that knows that art style, because you’re going to, at the end of the day, they’re teaching it and they’re bringing down that knowledge to somebody else. And if they’re teaching it wrong to you, that means that you’re going to perform it wrong and bring it down to the next person. And it’s just going to keep getting worse and worse and worse. 

Eartha: Watered Down.  

Big Will: So I’ll keep getting watered down 

Dominique: and lost in the sauce.  

Eatha: Yeah. And it’s like, it’s, you know, we have to make sure that, um, we have to speak out because, um, our culture is shrinking because so many people have appropriated it. So many people have taken it and it’s, it’s being taught and being watered down. So we have to be, um, we have to be, uh, more mindful on how much we get at, this is me speaking. Um, how mindful of how much we give, because they’re taking so much that now we look at it and we don’t even, it doesn’t even look like our city  

Dominique: And Profiting greately and they’re profiting.  

Eartha: Oh, yes. Oh yes. I mean, I’m looking at, take one, for instance, twerking, it’s called it’s twerking, but it’s African movement. It’s Africans, it’s all African, all of that stuff. It’s African, and now I see other people doing it and I’m like, okay, well there’s goes another step.  

Dominique: Well, good. Well, this leads me. This leads me to another thought that I randomly had. Um, because I know what steps I’ve been taking. And, you know, a lot of times, especially with everything that’s happened in 2020 and a great awakening for a good amount of groups of people, even though, you know, other people have known for a while, um, what steps are you taking or are we taking personally to decentralize white supremacy in the dance community? Like what, what different ways of thinking have entered into your brain that you would like to share if it’s anything new or it could just be what you’ve been doing?  

Eartha: I think it’s what I’ve been doing, you know? Um, it’s just what I’ve been doing because I’m going to call it as I see it, you know, I’m just, I, you know, and that goes for anything like that goes for anything. Um, I just finished working on this project and, um, Bob Fosse inspired. There’s no way that I’m going to take Bob Fosse’s work and do Bob Fosse’s work without getting the proper consent from the right people. The man is gone. We have to respect the legacy of what he’s left behind. So I reached out to Valerie Pettiford

Dominique: Who we all love and know 

Eartha: Valerie and I were in the same class and performing arts. So we were partners going across the Memorial.  So I reached out to her and she introduced me to Nicole. When I talked to the Verdon Fosse Legacy, sent them all the tapes that I was doing, Valerie came into rehearsals. And I knew when I did Frug, as soon as I went into Frug, she said, I said, I know, I know, I know I was just thought I could get away with it, but I’m constantly going to respect, um, other people’s, uh, the integrity of their work. I’m constantly going to say, you know, that shit came from somebody else and you are dreadful to use it. That is not, you know what I mean, if you’re going to do it, say that you’re inspired by someone who, you know, you got that piece of work from, I was inspired by, but you’re not going to do that step verbatim. You’re not going to do the exact choreography that, that man did 50 years ago, just because he’s gone, does not mean that his legacy is still not alive. And that should be for anyone. You respected that the Jewish community, because you were so close to that, you know, you know what that is. So I just ask that people do the right thing, you know, give credit where credit is due and just do the right thing. Stop stealing from people. Yeah.  You know, and let people know where you got it from or who inspired you, or, you know, just respect the culture of people’s, um, work, the body of that respect, you know, it should go just, it should be that across the board. So yeah, I’m constantly on the lookout for that. That’s like,  

Big Will: I, a hundred percent agree on that because of social media. There’s so many ways people would try to get away with it by not having that choreo credit or saying, Oh, I really got this choreography from the music video but I’m going to act like it’s my own and people on the internet when they don’t know their own research, they see it. And usually you don’t, you don’t see a post and then you go on YouTube and try to find it. You just see the posts, look at it and say, Oh, this is cool. And you expect it’s their choreography. So if they don’t say it, you assume it. And it’s really just a few words like, Oh, that’s the only thing I have to do is just add a few words. It’s really that careful that can change the entire input of the video. So I understand that point of view, and I think it’s also, at least for me is, you know, whenever I see a quote or a dance quote, like for example, uh, one of my friends posted a whole essay for about dancers and about, you know, when it comes into teaching, are you really taking the right class? That’s going to help you upgrade yourself and elevate yourself, or you’re really just taking the class because of the views or taking the class because of this. And I love reposting it because it’s going to get my viewers in the right mindset and kind of like in a way, inspire them to say, okay, make sure they’re doing the right thing rather than it just saying, Oh, okay. He’s just an Instagram person. And I just happened to follow him. No, he’s an Instagram person. I want to follow in his footsteps. I want to follow in his, his pathway. I want to be inspired by him. And I think that’s the one thing I can at least do for my part is doing everything through social media.  

Dominique: Yes. Great, great. I love it. Um, I’ve talked about it on this podcast before, but one main thing I’ve been trying to do lately is, um, keep asking questions and keep asking why and digging and digging. Uh, one thing I talked about with Dana was ballet and how I’ve had some minor tiffs with people who wanted me to teach. And their philosophy is ballet is the foundation of every dance style. And I had some pushback because I said ballet is good for what ballet is good for. Ballet is the foundation of derivatives of ballet. But if it’s African dance or if it’s salsa, or if it’s anything dealing with any, uh, Bollywood, or if it’s, you know, any indigenous dances that has nothing to do with ballet. Not a thing, like even if you tap and you’re a hoofer and you do all these other things, ballet may not help that, at all, not at all at all. So then if you dig a little bit deeper, it’s like, why does the White art form have to help the Brown art forms? You know, especially with all of that stuff, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s just, you know, mind boggling. And then sometimes you have to relearn and unlearn things that you’ve put out there, because there were many times where I would watch a hip hop dancer and go, Oh, if they only had ballet technique, no, they have a technique. They have hip hop technique. That is something totally different from ballet. Ballet will not help that. Now, if anybody wants to broaden their horizon, sure. By all means, take everything. But as much as I’m telling you to take ballet, I’m telling you to take modern and I’m telling you to take African too, you know, because a lot of things came from those dance styles. So that’s one thing that I had to do to decentralize white supremacy for me in, in my thinking.  

Eartha: Yeah, that, that ballet run is a great one because, um, I’m not calling names, but I have, um, there’s one school that I keep saying. This child is not going to be a ballerina. She’s in the class, she’s crying. She hates it. But she’s major in African. She kills modern, tap outrageously why to make her suffer five hours a week doing this. She’s got the booty, she’s got the boobs, you know, but this has got to be good for her. This is what she needs is. I said, she’s never going to do that. She’s never going to go into SAB. So why make the child suffer. They don’t hear it. They don’t see it because that’s really good Dom because that is not the core and the end all for a lot of our techniques for a lot of the things that we do.  

Dominique: And I think it’s just being mindful of that too, all the way around all the way around.  

Big Will: I’ve never, ever seen it like that. So I’m happy. You you’ve even brought it up in this podcast because my whole entire life, a lot of people have always told me, ballet is the core of everything, ballet’s the core, all styles. And then the older I get, the more realize we have Chicago footwork, we have light feet. We have all these other styles within the hip hop world. We have, you know, Bboy, what does that have to do with ballet?  

Dominique: They both have a B and that’s it.  

Big Will: They’re completely different. I’m like, what does that have to do with ballet? And I’m learning these styles. You know, I was training in Chicago footwork for about a few months before the choreographer went on tour. And I was like, what does this have to do with ballet? It always boggled my mind. So I’m really happy you brought that up because I wasn’t aware of that.  

Dominique: Yeah. It’s just, again, it’s just something, if you keep asking the why and keep digging with a lot of different things, I think that’s what leads you to the gold. And the goal is the, the digging and the digging and speaking of digging, I’m glad I’ve dug into both of you too, because you’ve just made my day speaking to both of you. Um, I appreciate both of you for this, this talk. Hopefully we’ll have many more on the podcast and off the podcast and we encourage everybody to do that too, because this is how you learn. This is how you grow. This is how you learn your community. And again, I want to give a special, special thank you to Eartha Robinson and Big Will Simmons and a special thank you for opening up the space to Dana Wilson, with the Words That Move Me podcast. Um, yeah. So thank you very much. Or is there any partying thing?  

Eartha: Thanks for inviting me. Thanks for inviting us onto the podcast. It’s just been absolutely amazing. The time has gone by so fast. So we know we have more to talk about and another.  

Big Will: Yes. Well, thank you guys for all of your knowledge and your wisdom within just an hour. I know I can talk to you guys for way longer than we can get into depth about it, but in reality, I just want to say thank you for my generation to yours for just, you know, paving the way of the way we are now within our dance industry and, you know, creating so many roles that are now opened up to us. We want to say thank you to both of you.  

Dominique: Thank you. I appreciate it. I appreciate it so much. And on that note, we’re going to stop it here. Remember Words that Move Me Podcast  

Outro: 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, then 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. 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. #60 Clean Up, Read Up, Open Up with Terry Santiel and Co-host Ava Flav

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #60 Clean Up, Read Up, Open Up with Terry Santiel and Co-host Ava Flav
/

THIS is history right here; past, present, and future.  I am honored to be co-hosting this episode with my dear friend and long time (tour time) bookend, Ava Bernstine Mitchell (aka Ava Flav).  Ava is a journalist, world renowned dancer, choreographer and educator, podcast host and much more!  In this episode, Ava and I go down memory lane AND look to bright and wealthy futures with the one and only Terry Santiel.  We all met back in 2007 when Terry was playing percussion and Ava and I were dancing on JT’s Future Sex Love Show Tour!   This episode peeks behind the curtain of the recording and touring industries, and will leave you inspired AND in stitches.  So, get ready for giggles and some very teachable lessons about legendary hits, building your financial foundation,  and keeping it clean with Terry Santiel and Ava Bernstine.

Quick Links:

Ava Flav: https://www.instagram.com/avaflav1/

Terry’s email: terralzzzz@aol.com

The Dance Room Podcast with Ava & Heather: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-dance-room/id1470544579

Bagpipe Daily video: https://www.instagram.com/p/malL3wxnAU/

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: Ladies and gentlemen. Hello, Hello. My name is Dana and this 

Ava: Is Ava Flav here with you.  

Dana: Ava will be joining me as co-host on this episode and I could not be more thrilled. Um, I’m jazzed that you’re here and I’m really excited for this episode because today will be, we will be talking to our friend, Mr. Terry Santiel. 

Ava: Yes. 

I mean, we’ll let him do the speaking the introduce of himself, but, uh, we met Terry back in 2007 when we toured with JT on the future sex love show tour. Terry plays percussion and Terry is exceptional, and we’re going to get to that. But first, you know how we do on the podcast, and I think this is important, All my guests introduce themselves and maybe it’d be cool for you for you to do a little self intro real quick. 

Cool, cool. Well, my name is Ava Bernstein Mitchell. I am a dancer choreographer teacher worked with lots of artists, toured with many artists, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears. I am heavy in Dance advocacy. I am on the board at SAG AFTRA and on dancers Alliance and fighting a lot for dancers rights and what not and I just all around just loved dance.  

And you are also a podcast host, and I am borrowing you for this episode. Tell us a bit about your podcast.  

Oh, my podcasts called the dance room. It is a podcast that I co-host with Heather Morris and we basically talk about dance shows and have wonderful guests on there. But at the moment it is on a hiatus, but you can always go back and listen to these episodes. We have some great guests and go over some really cool stuff. So yeah, The Dance Room,  

Your library is good. I went on a, I did a road trip once I was doing a long drive and that’s just what I listened to top to bottom the whole thing the two of you together. Hi, Heather, love you. Okay. But first Ava, you know the deal we’re doing wins and I’m going to let you kick it off today. What are you celebrating today?  

It’s might sound not like a win to some people, but it’s a win because I’ve been teaching three-year-olds, which is a struggle. I’m not going to lie. Three-year-old is tough. I’m five and up and recently that class just got canceled and I’m so excited. It’s a win for me. So yes.  

And do you know what? I think that might be a win for them as well. You know, they have this time freed up now they can be yes.  

Now they can play with each other. That’s all they wanted to do. They want us to play with each other and I’m happy for that. You didn’t need to dance. 

Congratulations. Thank you. I’m glad that I’m glad that you’re winning in that way is it’s important. Cancellations are not always a loss. 

No, not always a loss. 

Okay, great. I love that. Um, this week I am celebrating that I’ve decided I can’t believe it took me so long to decide to do this, but I’ve decided to choose a donation organization to send all the proceeds from my podcast shop. So for the next 30 days, all proceeds from my Words that Move Me online store are going directly to Chloe and Maude Arnold, 

My sister, friends. Yay.

I, I love that too. And I, I love that. I love what they do. I love how they lead. Um, and I’m really thrilled to be supporting them. Okay. Um, now it’s your turn. What is going well in your world? 

Phenomenal. Congratulations. Maybe, maybe without any further ado we jump to, how do you feel about that? 

I think we shall let’s do it. 

Enjoy everybody. 

Dana: I think we’re doing it. I think this is it.  

Ava: Yes. Well hello Terry Santiel, yeah. 

Terry: Hey Ava. And now I’m saying hi, Dana.  

Dana: Hi Terry. Welcome to the podcast, my friend. This is amazing. I’m jazzed about this. The first thing we’ll ask you to do, unfortunately, because this is a challenge is to introduce yourself. What would you like us to know about you?  

Somebody who’s never met you? 

Terry: Well, my name is Terry Santiel. Terrell Santiel is my legal name and I’m born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Um, I went to school all over this city. I am, I guess I’m a rolling stone of Los Angeles. You know, where my mom and dad were when I was growing up, my mom and dad were separated. So I moved a lot. That’s why I sent him a rolling stone of Angeles. Cause I’ve lived everywhere from the Valley, to Compton to Watts, to South central and now I’m here near Hollywood. So anyway,  

Amazing. I love it here. That you’re, uh, a native Ava is as well.  

Yeah, I think I know that about Ava. Yes.  

Isn’t it odd that things that we’ve learned about each other and the things that we remember and the things that we, that we, don’t.  Ava and I were just talking the other day about how our memories are so selective. Like I remember the oddest things about being on tour and then full-blown chapters that are just, I have zero recollection.  

I do remember one thing about you on tour when you were watching the tour bus bus to carwash. 

That’s amazing.  

Yes! We washed the bus! Terry thank you for reminding me. And actually that is, is one of the things that I would like to talk about on this, but, but maybe we’ll get there oddly enough. I talk about car washes on the podcast a lot. Not because they’re interesting, but because I live across the street from one,

Literally across the street 

I hear it often. I don’t think, I don’t think we can hear it today. I’m in the booth as it were. Um, but, but let’s, uh, let’s go pre carwash for a second. Some people listening might not even know what we mean by that, but we’ll get there.  

Ava: I would love to know where your lover percussions came from. 

Well, that’s a very interesting question. My, um, family grew up basically playing percussion, my uncles, my cousins, my brothers, everybody. Sort of kind of played, but with me they sorta kinda like wouldn’t let me play. They told me, I didn’t know. You know? And then they set out to be a challenge for me to learn. And then I learned, and I got better than everybody. I hate to say that, but better. I got a little bit more skilled than the rest of them. And my career started from that point. But man, I can remember my uncle junior. He would like, we would play on the bottom of oatmeal boxes, the Quaker oatmeal boxes at like three years old, four years old, just didn’t know we were doing just, it was fun and it was noise cause they had to real drums. So yeah, it started at a very young age. I was like 13 though  

Okay. So it started young, but when did it take off, like when did you start getting paid to do this? How did that happen?  

Started getting paid at a really early age. I, um, well first, uh, before I guess I must’ve been 16 and my mother used to sign for me to be able to play in clubs, the local bands on the waiver. So we could play because they sold alcohol in these places and, you know, go in and play with some of the bands. And then I ended up getting my own, you know, being in a band that I was involved in. At the time the band was called Total concept Unlimited 

That’s a good name

TCU. 

I really loved that name.  Total concept, unlimited LLC incorporated unlimited.  

That’s a point. Maybe I’ll start LLC with that TLC total.  

Come on. Okay. So, so we get a tiny picture of the early days and then Rose Royce happened. So you’re one of the founding members of the group Rose Royce with that mega hit carwash, uh, which I will not sing because although I did do my vocal warmups today, the voice of the little subpar, there it is. Don’t let it stop please. Uh, that crack crack, crack, crack, Terry that’s you. And my question about that track is as you were writing that song, as you came up with that mega catchy super clap, did you know that that was going to be a hit, like as you were making it, did you know?  

No. When you know, when you’re doing these things, when they’re, when they’re happening and they’re in their infancy, you don’t know what’s going to happen with these songs. And that, by the way, that song was written by Norman Whitfield, if you guys Google Norman Whitfield, you’ll see his catalog is pretty extensive and like that. So anyway, but yeah, but those are my hands on that hand clap that you hear all the time. 

That is remarkable. I just think thats so cool

Let me say this about Rose Royce. Since we went there, Total Concept Unlimited became Rose Royce. We changed the name to Rose Royce.  

Oh see, now I’m conflicted because I like both names. Uh, and when did, what brought about the change?  

Well, we met Norman Whitfield, the producer, and we ended up getting a girl in the group and we decided to change the name to Rose Royce. So a lot of people got it mixed up with Rolls Royce, the car, right. It’s actually Rose Royce like the flower. 

Like the flower. So that’s an important distinction. Yes. So I did a little, a little digging and I know that you were one of the, uh, early incorporators of using electronic instruments. Like you would use an electronic drum pad. I would love to hear a little bit about the differences making music then versus making music now.  

Okay. Making music now. Well, let’s start with making music now. Making music now is a little easier with all of the computers and all of the easy ways of making music. Now you could play, say a shaker for four bars, and then you could copy it and paste it, make it go throughout the whole song and cut it and chop it back in the day we had to physically play all of the parts. Whether you said play as shaker as an example, whether you sit there and play shaker 10 times on a five minute song, you know, your wrist will be on fire because the weight it gets heavy, you know, and holding your arm in a certain position for so long and not trying to mess up a tempo or anything like that. And then a lot of times it wasn’t your fault that you had to do it, you know, as many times as you’re going to doing it because we recorded everything together with multiple people. So one person could make a mistake that starts the whole thing over. So that’s how that works out. Yeah. Even back when we did carwash, when we did carwash, there were, um, before we got it all the way, right. I think there were 47 tapes. So that song had to be played that many times with a whole band together. A whole group of people together from top to bottom. Yeah. Well, if we even got to the bottom, right, right.  

Top to Middle. Yeah. Wow. Okay. This is, that’s giving me flashbacks of, I think the same is true for dance in video, especially. That’s flashbacks to the opening scene of Lala land, which is this big ensemble highway moment. And it’s a oner and to get all the way through, without everybody messing up, like camera, props that yeah.  

So speaking a la la land, the percussionist that was on the back of the truck is my cousin. 

Get out of town! Yeah.  So much fun in that moment, we got Liz Imperio dancing in front of that truck. That’s so cool. The entertainment world is the size of a tiny acorn. At very least it could fit into the back of a truck. Um, okay. So that’s one of the key differences is like the duration or the actual recording process. Having to be a steady all the way through. I’m sure that damn near everything else has changed as well. But maybe this is the better question. What has stayed the same?  

What has stayed the same? 

Um, nothing.

My, my drum set stayed the same  

Because you’ve got it tuned in. You’ve got that.  

That set up is nice. 

Well, you know, the drums I used for my real recording sessions. I used the same drum set I use since they, the first drums I ever owned and the original Mahogany Congas, and they’re all everybody’s stuff. I mean, I played on a lot of records, but they’re from carwash back in the day, you know,  

Will you name drop a little bit for us. Yeah. 

Tell us you’ve, you’ve played on a lot of records, but don’t, don’t be shy. I mean some Motown classics, the Temptations, Smokey Robbinson.  

Yes. Yes. Actually the temptations were, those were temptations was the first group I’ve ever recorded with. And interesting about that story is the Temptations Runaway child, running wild song was the first song I learned how to play on congas, you know, like very young.  

And then, and then you found yourself working for them.  

Yeah. It was the first thing that I did professionally you recording wise. So did the 1990 album with the Temptations. Yeah, it was, it was amazing experience back then, but the same drums are used on like all of that stuff from Marvin Gaye to Smokie. Can you everybody’s yeah. Even recordings with Berry Gordy over there. I did a lot of Mo-Town stuff. It was amazing. I had a, I had a great time over at man.  

So funky that music. Oh, but you also, you, I don’t want to, um, pigeon hole you or, or pin you as being this old school guy. Um, we obviously know you from touring with JT, but you play for Janet Jackson, um, and, and, uh, a host of others. So your, your musical talents and sensibilities are not, I couldn’t put a date on them. 

You transcend generations 

So how, how is it that you do that?  

I just try to stay current and I don’t feel like I know everything or think that I know everything I’m always progressing and learning, you know? And I think that’s what keeps me current, you know? Um, now, like right now I’m like, uh, I’ve sorta kinda like figured out the whole trap thing and  

Yes, what is it? Please explain it to me.  

Well, what I’m trying to do now is a corporate rate, low am, percussion stuff to match the stuff that goes on within those rhythms and groups. That trap is all about, you know, it’s and the whole trap thing. It’s like, it’s fascinating to me because it’s all low end, and A lot of people can’t hear that frequency, but it moves them. You know what I mean? That’s what I mean about  

Figuring it out on a Sonic level, you’re figuring out the trends and how to do it and how to make complimenting things, right?  

Yeah. Yeah. Like I can do it. And I know how I’m just trying to figure out how to incorporate my instrument in it and make it like, make it crazy like I’m in that process now. How about that?  

Cool. I can’t wait to hear what comes out of it. I know  

This, this is the reason why you stand the test of time is because you, you keep current and you’re always learning, like you said, and that is fascinating to see and a good lesson to take away. Honestly,  

I agree absolutely 

The thing is too, is just to stay humble. That’s the, that’s the main thing. Stay humble and try to not, I guess, try not to feel like you’re more than you are. That’s the best, better way, uh, way of putting it. But then when I say that, there’s, I see a lot of people all the time on a lot of tours and throughout my whole career, they think they’re as important as the artist. And you’re not, you’re there to compliment the artists, you know what I mean? And do what you do. But I see a lot of people, you know, over the years just doing things that just in my mind make absolutely no sense at all, you know, with the life. Because when you go on through life, you’ve got to, you’ve got to set up your future, you know, and a lot of people don’t do that. They live for now. They want to go to all them clubs. They want to be a part of the, I call it the hype crowd. They want to be, you know, they’re not artists, they’re just a part of something, you know? So,  

You know, that’s, that’s a lovely segue. We had planned to talk about touring. I think one of the areas where musicians and dancers overlap almost in an identical type of way is an a tour scenario. A dancers’ experience of tour is very similar to a musician’s experience of tour. You’re away from your loved ones. You’re unnaturally like living, eating, sleeping, you know, breathing, working with your, you know, uh, cohorts colleagues. Um, and I think that’s really unnatural. And I think you do it very, very well. How many, how many tours have you been on Terry? Is that even a number you can count?  

You know, I’ve been torn since forever.  

Did Terry did Jesus’s Birthday Tour.  

I’ve been on several tours, but I’ve not been on a lot of tours because I will pick and choose who I like to work with. And a lot of them have worked for, you know, I’ve worked with them for a long period of time, You know? And you could take JT as an example, you know, I’ve been working with JT since 2002, it’s been 20 years. It doesn’t even seem like that long. And in the same, same thing, you know, with like Janet, I worked with her for at least, at least 10 years, you know, and Mary J Blige, I worked for her for a long time. I mean, you know, Barry White, I was part of the whole Love Unlimited Orchestra. And, you know, I worked in that for a long time. You know, I haven’t been on tour with a lot of different people. I’ve been on tour a long time with different people.  

Right. You can be on many tours with a few of the same people. Right. You mentioned, you mentioned staying out of the hype, um, is that one of the secrets to touring? Well, to like not combusting or going broke? I mean, trust me a tour is a great way to make money, but it’s also a great way to spend it. So what are the secrets

If you’re caught up in the hype? You know what I mean? I, um, I try to do my thing. I tried to study and learn a lot of different things and then I try to stay out of harm’s way. And what I mean by that is you could see people doing things that, you know, are going to get them fired. So I sorta kind of stay out of the way, you know, like, okay, I see that I know where that’s going to lead because I’ve seen it so many times I’ll move, I’ll move on. I’ll go another direction. So yeah,  

You learn from people’s mistakes, just as much as you can learn from their successes. I learned that on tour as well.  

And then what are you going to, I mean, I, I learned, I made when I was very young and we were talking once Lionel Richie and myself, and he was telling me one of his secrets to success is not to be, not to be too familiar with everybody, you know? And I sort of kind of live by that. And you guys know that too. Everybody knows me, but you don’t know a whole lot about me. You know what I mean? I just try not to stay too familiar because it, it sort of keeps you out of harm’s way. You know, people have a lot to say about you, then it could, it could go either way, it could go negative or positive. Right. We’ll just sorta kind of stay out of the way.  

Well, speaking of knowing about you, I remember on tour that you were a collector of Air Force Ones, and I wanted to know, do you still have a love for the Air Force One? And how many do you have?  

No, I used to do that and I used to, like I said, I was caught up. 

If there’s something to get caught up in, I’d say it could be worse. Yeah.  

Well, you know, it was like one of those six now look at it. I was like, Oh, that’s a waste of money. But there’s like this kid that lives down in San Diego and he sells and collects like sneakers. So I ended up giving him a bunch of that stuff just so he could make some money. You know, he’s a little entrepreneur, I think it’s like 12 or 13 years old. His name is Eric, you know, and love this. Like, go make some money because a lot of that stuff I was buying and collecting back then and Ava I’m never get rewarded ****. I know there was a thing. And I was like, Oh, I got all of this stuff. So I stopped minimalizing my life. You know what I mean? And just getting, I have no clutter in my house, you know what I mean? It’s just, if I don’t use it, it’s gone. If I don’t wear it in a year, it’s gone. I have no problem taking it to the shelter and giving it to somebody that’s going to use it. You know what I mean? I don’t throw anything like that in the trash. I’m not going to try to go on eBay and put the stuff on sale. You know what I mean?  

Terry, you are so patched in to the questions that I wanted to ask you today because I would love to talk to you about money. Um, I remember being on tour and you being the voice of reason so often, uh, like, you know, you’re, you’re being smart out here on the road, save your money. You knew I was, uh, I think Ava and I were both in the same situation. We got rid of our, um, apartments when we went on tour. So we had almost zero expenses and you encouraged us both buy a house, get yourself some investment properties. Um, you were really were a voice of financial reason to me at a very early age. And I would love for you to just shed a little wisdom on that. Um, because most of my listeners are young artists and I simply don’t believe that we need to be starving. I believe we can be thriving and I believe we can live under roofs that we own. Um, and I know you believe that too. You could you talk a little bit about, uh, your thoughts about money, how you manage it and how you’ve grown your wealth.  

I think that everybody should think, think for the future, you know what I mean? Where are you going to be in 10 years? Where do you want to be in 10 years and establish yourself. Uh, when I say establish yourself, I mean, set up your future, set up your foundation, which I believe is the most important thing, is where you live. You know what I mean? And if you could get yourself in a position where you could own something, rather than paying rent, you’re in a better position. You know, I’ve got, you know, I mean, I’ve, you know, but I’ve got, you know, different income properties, but I always encourage people who live under my roofs, you know, to buy something. I will not hold somebody to a lease that I know I can hold them to if I wanted to. If they’re like, wow, I found this out like, Oh, cool, I’ll let you go do your thing. I’m happy for you. You know? And how, you know, find somebody else to occupy that space because it is a business. And for me, when you’re doing something like that, even if you dove into something like I dove into, like with real estate, you have to take it very seriously and not look at it. And you have to look at it as a business, you know, get all kinds of equity and capital and money and taxes. A lot of things come along with the home ownership thing. So, but you need to set up your life and you need to build your future and you shouldn’t be playing around with it because people who played around with it found out how serious it was. They when this whole COVID hit it’s like, now you can’t work. Now you getting kicked out of your apartments, you know, and there’s all of these other things come into play as like, wow, what am I going to do for money? You know, what is it? Unemployment checks. And I can imagine it’s not a good feeling. You know what I mean? And it’s not a good thing. So I just think that we all have to be conscious of what we’re going to do with our lives going forward.  

This is, this is perfect. I want to, I want to ask a question. I’m sorry to interrupt. I think one of the notions that I myself, I had this thought and I’m sure a lot of my peers in similar situations thought, well, if I have to focus on a building, I won’t be able to focus on my craft. Or if I buy a, if, if I make my home, my business or this income property, my business it’ll take me away from the thing that I really love. And I love that you’re the person saying this because you are a living breathing example that that doesn’t have to be the case. I mean, surely could you get distracted? Absolutely. There’s enough. There’s enough enough, you know, uh, things of being a homeowner to distract you for a very long time, but you have been more working, more touring, more learning, more building than anybody I know. And you’re still doing all those other things on the sides. It’s possible to do both without losing focus on one or the other.  

You set your foundation. 

POP OUT:

Okay my friends, DW here popping out with a quickness, because we’re getting a little technical here with some financial jargon. Talking about residual payment structures and so on and so on. And it dawned on me, that we have never really gone deep on money on the podcast. So, I am deciding to dedicate 4 of the 5 Mondays in March to money, March. Were we will get into all things Dancer contracts, choreographer contracts, money mindset and the difference between math and drama. So buckle up and get ready for that, but in the mean time lets jump back in with Ava and Terry. 

**

But go ahead. What was your question?  

Yeah. Um, so Ava and I, and a lot of dancers in our, our field. It’s, it’s not uncommon to work on a two day shoot for a commercial. And the, the amount you make for those two days of work is not, not a ton of money, but the residual income you make from that point that’s, that’s, that’s starting to look, that’s a real number, right? So you’re you play a, you’re a session player as well. Am I calling that the right thing?  

Yes, it, yeah. And I try to write it. Yeah. Session Artist.  

And how does that look for you? Do you feel like that’s a better use of your time and talent?  

Let me tell you, let me tell you something. Like I said, I’ve run everything through the union and I do a lot of, and have done a lot of recording sessions like throughout the year. So this was just a story. I’ll just throw it out there. My neighbor down the street picks up my mail when I’m on the road, things that are important, she FedEx them to me. Like I said, as part of the business, you have FedEx numbers and all these things. So things that get to you the next day, you have to have these things set up. She told me once, if you’re like, dude, I have never seen anybody get as many checks as you in my life. 

That residual income is real. 

You know, and I’m not saying that in a braggadocious kind of way or anything like that, it’s just, when you set yourself up a certain way, when you’re young, everything has to be processed through you because these companies don’t want to lose their livelihood to get sued or anything like that. So you just have to do it, you know, and it may seem like at the time, I, well, I’m spending money on this, but it pays off. It really does. It pays off. I get calls from people. Sometimes I do just the song you played in this, on this. I heard it in this new movie. And for me, since I’m in the union, it’s just a matter of calling SAG AFTRA or the musician union.And saying, I was in this movie and their attorneys go after the money, their incentive is they get paid. They get their little portion of whatever they collect from me. So, man, I found, I found tens of thousands of dollars  

Because you’re smart again because you treat it like a business and you know how to go after it and when to go after it and where to go to get it. And I think there’s not much help in like in a — man, My husband and I were just talking about this the other night, a lot of big labels put tons of money into copyright claims. You’re not allowed to use this song on Instagram. You’re not allowed to use that song in this. And there’s a lot of money tied up in copyright. And it’s only any good if somebody actually makes a claim, like it’s only, you’re only protected if you’re looking out for yourself. So it’s, as you, as much as it is about having a union for protection, it doesn’t mean that the ball is not, is totally not in your court. You do still have responsibility to keep an eye in an ear out for your work that might be out in the world.  

And a lot of times people won’t tell you, they use it. You just have to sorta kind of stumble upon it. The union doesn’t go out and try to track that stuff for you. You know what I mean? So a lot of times you know, you rely on your friends and loved ones and people, you know, that you’ve made contacts with. And sometimes it could be a music exec somewhere in, Hey, you know, and they will help you out. I heard this and that, you know, and they will turn your onto where your stuff is being played or used without your consent. That’s huge. Yeah. So that’s sorta kind of one of those things you have to stay on top of you. Can’t just slide and go to the club.  

So, um, I remember Ava and I got involved more heavily with SAG-AFTRA around the same time. And for me, that was after the future sex left show tour, I was a union member before the tour and the tour was over, lasted over a year. I didn’t do any union gigs during that time. And I lost my membership. I had to rejoin after the fact. And I remember being pissed about having to rejoin because that, you know, as I mentioned before, the, the, um, to become a member is not cheap. And so I’m doing it twice. I was frustrated. So I decided with my arms folded that I was going to go into that union building and find out what they’re all about. So I went to one of these, you know, one of their member — member, only meetings. And I just fell in love with so many of the people that work there. I started seeing the member, or I started seeing the union as a membership. And that’s, and that’s the truth. The union is made up of its members. It’s only as good as we are.  

Real people, yes!  

So it became less a them versus us and more of a we. And that really changed the scope for me, um, changed my relationship and it helped me do more for the union and in return, I’m getting so much out of it. Yeah. It’s awesome.  

Yeah. I’ve got these numbers down. I know who to call now. Question my phone. Yes. Yes. 

I’ve got numbers like that too. So yes. Yeah, yeah. And they’re really helpful, man. They’ll stick there. They’ll stick their neck out for you and they will follow through. They won’t just say, okay. Yeah, we’ll get to that. Then you have to call them two weeks later. No, they’re calling you back the next day.  

I will say I’ve had both. I’ve had, I’ve had both experiences where if you stay on, then they stay on. If you stay on and drop off the face of the earth and stop returning your emails then,  

But the people you have that you know, now that you could contact, they get right back with you.  

Oh, for sure. After those relationships have been made 100%,  

The know when Dana’s calling it’s business,  

Um, okay. Terry, this is brilliant. Thank you so much for offering, you know, my husband calls you “The Real Deal Terry Santiel” Yeah.  

That came from Marty. 

Daniel’s still, he might, he might hate me for saying this. He still credits you for introducing him to the single product that brought, I don’t, I don’t know if I can say the most comfort or joy in his life, but, and by the way, my husband is not a person who prioritizes comfort. He’s fine with not being comfortable, but you introduced him to this little mechanical, uh, tweezer thing, like hair, a hair, trimmer.

Yes the nose trimmer! Let me tell you about those nose trimmers. I’ve seen people, man. And it’s like, if you don’t keep those nose hairs trimmed,

Its all you’re going to stare at 

They catch things and it’s, and it’s crazy because if you’re having a conversation with somebody that got something in their nose your focus is not on the conversation.  

Its snot 

Should I say something? Should I not? Is it going to move? You’re distracted.  

It’s a crazy, it’s a crazy thing, you know? And then, and then that could be sensitive. You know what I mean? It’s the type of person you would say that to. How are they? There’s all kinds of things that led me to think about another crazy story. I was in a, I was presenting some songs to a music exec once this was many years ago. And I’m not going to say any names, we’re going to start with not saying any names. So I’m in the office, they’re playing the song. It’s a woman. Right. And she’s in a very high power position. We’re in her little small office in this building. I’m being so political.  

I see, I see where this, and I don’t like it. 

She farted, but she..

I did not, I did not expect that.

But it wasn’t silent giant. You know, it was one of those. It wasn’t like I would rather, she did a regular fart.  

Silent, giant hahaha  

So the rooms filled up amazing air. Right.  

How do you know this person? Is it only the two of you? How do you know it was her?  

Well for us in this office. There’s so now in my head, I’m going okay. Is she checking me to see what type of person I am? Am I going to say anything  

Its a part of the audition.  

Was it an accident? And maybe I should. So all of this is going through my head. So I’m just, Oh my gosh, I’m stuck. You know, I don’t know. Okay. Well, how do you deal with this? 

What did you do? 

What I ended up doing was saying something about it. So, you know, when the song finished playing, I was like, okay, are we address the elephant in the room? Those are the words. And that’s it.  

Incredible 

Well, that’s a great, that’s a good one. The elephant in the room.  

I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I really didn’t know. And by me saying something was probably the worst thing because she took it really personally and she acted like nothing was wrong and nothing happened. And that’s how that ended. It couldn’t be any worse.  

Terry that is not the story I was expecting This Terry, this might be the first official fart story on the podcast.  

My, well, it happened,  

You know what I like, you know, what I like though about that is that you gave the opportunity for her to ignore it. You said, are we going to address the elephant in the room? Instead of did you fart? Like you gave a little grace, you give a little grace. And, uh, and then she took it and ran.  

And that was how that ended. And I was on the project, you know, and it was a pretty big project. It was a movie thing. So,

Oh God, I’d still say you’re winning. So it’s okay. You’re winning. It’s a great story to have.  

Um, it’s it. That is a great story. And I’m this close to letting us end on on that story. Okay. I do have one more question. You you’ve been around for a long time. You’ve done a lot of incredible things. You’ve, you’ve not only built a foundation, but uh, a fully sustaining thing. It’s not just the foundation. It’s, uh, it’s the whole body. It’s all of it. And I’m wondering if there’s anything that you haven’t done that you want to do, like a, a project that you’re looking forward to, or a prediction for music that might happen in the future.  

Um, you know, I’m open for anything that may come my way. You know what I mean? As far as helping other people out or doing things like that, I’m at the point now where I want to pay forward or can pay it forward, you know, and I’m into talking to people and just, if I can sweat a little bit of knowledge or insight on, on something for somebody, those are the things that are important, you know? Um, yeah. You know, I have money coming in all the time, so that’s not an issue. So you don’t have to about. How you’re gonna, yeah. You don’t have to worry about the hustle. So you just, you help you help everybody until the next thing comes along. And then you go move on that. I’m never going to stop touring and making money or doing anything like that. I’m going to do this till I’m 90. That’s my retirement. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I could be, I could be Uncle T. You know what I mean? I can be the old, you know, I don’t care about that.  

When you look when you’re 90, you’re probably going to look in your sixties, come on. Like, you know, I could get away with a whole lot.  

Yeah, yeah. You too. Look at you, man. You look like you’re still 20 years old.  

It’s true. You do. And you got a baby.  Terry did you know this? 

Say that again. 

Did you know that? Ava has a little one. 

Yes I did. Congratulations. Ava, thank you for that. Somebody cause you guys have like three, you guys had babies at the same time. Tammy had a baby. Nancy has a little one. 

And AJ. 

And AJ! You guys like look at you guys, all moms and you know what the best now the beauty of your life starts because now you have another. And that’s the other thing. Cause I, I grew up doing the same thing. I had to raise a son through all of these other things that I was doing. So now you have to balance all of it together. You’ve got to balance your career, your life, marriages, all of these things are all factored into life, but you all have to move forward together.  

Terry, do you have a guiding principle in terms of balance? Is there, is there a compass that keeps you, you know?  

Yeah. Keep an open mind. You know what I mean? And don’t get caught up in your own personal ego. Cause a lot of people get caught up in their own personal ego and, and everything goes crazy at that point because people get stubborn and stuck in their, in their reality that may not even be a reality, but yeah. Yes.  

That’s huge. And that’s helpful. I will remember that as I am in the market for maybe a goldfish, uh,  Not, not quite,  Not quite to the human being point yet. My husband and I are talking about getting a Roomba, one of those, uh, vacuums that lives it own life. Yeah. We’re thinking about it or thinking about it. But I know  

I used to have, um, a person to come clean the household once, once a week, but I don’t even do that anymore. Since this whole COVID date. I’m like, huh, I can do this **** myself. So I’ve got all of this time.  

I Got it. 

Yeah. And it’s unfortunate for them cause they’re not making as much money, but I still paid for that one day as much as for two weeks, you know what I mean?  

It’s safer, safer for you.  

I don’t want, you know, cause I don’t want people in the house. It’s crazy, but it’s just this is spotless now.

I was just going to say you, you keep a clean house. You keep a clean nose clean. Clean Life. Clean life. He’s clean. He’s clean. Well, Terry, I cannot thank you enough for joining us today.  

I don’t even want to get off the phone.  

Well, we do have, I mean, we might call this episode rap, but I have a special question that I need to ask you. I ask all of my questions. I ask all of my quests. I ask this question to all of my guests. Um, and this might, this might be a whole another conversation. So I will put a pin in this one. Although I would love for you to be able to tell the listeners where to find you, if they’re interested in finding more of your work or in talking to you or in, uh, renting a property from you possibly. So what’s, what’s the best way for people to find you.  

You could just, you can email me. How about that? That’s the easiest and it’s um, email address is my name Terrell —  T-E-R-R-A-L with, four Zs — Z-Z-Z- Z @aol.com. (terralzzzz@aol.com) And it will come through 

Can we find you on instagram? 

Yeah. I do have an IG. You know what? I’ve got it. I’ve got to be quite honest about it. I got bored with it. You know what I mean? And I haven’t really posted or done too much on that. I’ll look at it from time to time Facebook. I will never go on, I do have Facebook account and you know, but it’s, everything’s at my name, but it’s @TerrySantiel everything’s @TerrySantiel and it’s a last name is spelled S-A- N- T -I- E- L. And Terry is with a Y — T -E -R- R- Y.  

I’ll be sure to put that in the show notes to the episode as well. So everybody knows where to find  

Yeah. Twitter, uh, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all the same.  

Yeah. Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you Terry. I couldn’t thank you enough. I adore you. This was the best, so much fun. My cheeks hurt  

For your listeners. If you go on tour with anybody, don’t get caught up in the celebrity a hundred percent.  

How do they do that? Terry tell them how to do it or how to not tell them how to do that.  

I guess that’s on each individual. You know what I mean? Because everybody’s paths is going to be a little bit different in their connections with the different things that occur. But you just have to, I guess the way to do that is just to understand that you are not the artists.  

Hmm. Yeah. I, I think one of the other like Ava, I’ll, I’ll speak for our relationship from my behalf of our relationship, but that, that was one tremendously grounding thing for me was having a real relationship with a person that wasn’t about visibility or, uh, a red rope anywhere or a fancy outfit like that, that friendship kept me very in touch with myself, my, my actions, my words, um, and it was fruitful and it was real and it was beautiful. And so having a real relationship on the road, other than just a relationship with the crowd or a really relationship with the club or a relationship with the money, that was huge for me. And the thing, this, this wasn’t until 2020, but on the 2020 tour, Terry, you remember I had, I did my daily videos. I had, I had a personal project that I was as accountable for as I was for my gig. And that was also tremendously helpful.  

I remember being in Scotland and watching you dance with the guys,  

A Scottish bagpipe guy that was a good video. I like that one. 

I may have been holding the camera  

You Probably where I’m going to find that I’ll put that in the show notes as well. Yeah, that was a good one. That that’s, that’s huge though. Like stay, don’t get caught up in the hype and there are a thousand different ways to do that. Um, it’s actually quite simple actually, because there’s one way to get caught up in the hype, but there’s many ways to not. Have a project, find a friend, you know, read, invest in the future, make decisions from the future, with the future in mind, not from the present moment and the present moment, always, almost always once the immediate gratification of like go to the club, get a drink, have the expensive mood, uh, have you.  

And I’m not saying, but don’t not do those things. You just, 

Everything in moderation.

Yeah. Doing the moderation that’s you know what I mean? It’s like, ah, I don’t really need to be there tonight. I shouldn’t be doing right. And you know what, let me just say this to me. I don’t, I’m always, I got like me and they used to say like with me one night, how I ended up getting in to that whole real estate thing is I saw one of those infomercials on TV and I was like, Oh, you can make money off of other people’s money. And I was like, well, I don’t need other people’s money to make money. How do you do that? And I tried it, I flipped the property. And I think I made like my first one maybe $40,000. I was like, Oh, that was easy. That was fun. And that only took a couple of months to make 40 grand. So then I did another one and another one and I ended up, um, you know, in the course of a year, you know, I did well.  

I mean, I love you so much.  

I could have been at a club and miss that information. That’s my point. So anyway. Okay. That’s okay. Sorry. I know we’ve got to get off, so  

We’re doing it. I appreciate you. I just think the world of you. Thank you, Terry.  

Thank you. Love you too. 

Love you so much. Bye bye.  

Okay, so that was  “the real deal” Terry Santiel. Terry’s right.  

That was so much fun. It was wonderful reconnecting with him.  

I just can’t get over the fact that the same guy that gave us real estate advice was telling us fart stories  

Pretty incredible.

So good. Um, what were your biggest takeaways?  

Oh, my biggest takeaway is that he is literally a part of history. He is history. He is a living legend, and I know we tend to use that word loosely, but he really is. He has stood the test of time. Um, he’s, we’ve got so much to glean from him. I just really enjoyed this little sit down here.  

I couldn’t agree more. He he’s, he is himself and his work have been hugely prominent in the past, in the present. And from the sounds of it, he’s really investing in the future. He’s figuring it out, I adore. I’m very happy to be sharing that episode with you all. Um, I hope that you enjoyed hearing from Terry as much as we enjoy talking to him, I wish you could have seen all the faces, just smiles.  

And I think we said we surmised this episode with Terry as clean it up, read up and keep an open mind.  

Clean it up, read up, keep keeping up. That’s it. Yup. That’s it. Those simple things. And you too will still be producing top tier content when you’re, how old is Terry? Do we even know? 

I didn’t ask, you know what? 

This might be a moment I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to check the Googles.  

Okay. So Terry’s around 72. We just took 15 minutes to do a math break around 72.

We had to research. 

Yep. That’s true. That’s true. And we want to save you time so we didn’t share with you how long it took us to do that math. So that puts him in, in around the same ballpark is Miss Toni Basil. Yes. Um, 

I mean they are a fountain of youth. 

It’s true. That that’s really important to notice because I don’t like, and, and, and the thing that unifies them, is this ever learning yes this ever practicing and I do think it’s an open open-mindedness open-mindedness yeah. All right. I’m open. That’s it. I’m open. I’m going into the world open. I’m staying forever young. Um, and I, I hope that you all are forever inspired by that. It was so much fun. Ava. Thank you so much for joining me. 

Thank you for having me! This was fun.  

My pleasure. We’ll do it again. Sometime love you to bits.

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 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. #59 Deeper Roots with Moncell Durden

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #59 Deeper Roots with Moncell Durden
/

Many of us are missing a big slice of the pie when it comes to jumping in the freestyle circle… we are missing a big slice of dance history in general!  We are missing the CONTEXT. Leave it to my guest, Moncell Durden, to give you the full 360, and then some.  We are kicking off Black History Month, by going below the surface.   Moncell is a dance educator, choreographer, ethnographer, embodied historian, author and assistant professor of practice at University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman International School of Dance.  In this episode we focus on Hip Hop as a vernacular form of dance, meaning it is indigenous to a particular community and lifestyle.  Moncell stresses the importance NOT ONLY of techniques, vocabularies, pioneers, pioneers and innovators, but of the deep-rooted structures, behavior characteristics, and cultural identity as well.  Long story short.  If you are a dance educator, especially if you are someone who teaches or offers Hip Hop training, this episode is essential listening. 

Quicklinks:

Passion Fruit Seeds Enrollment: http://www.passionfruitseeds.com/en/?fbclid=IwAR1kJQ2YjRNUcy36fivj2MFvAKLPVlIMkT9ikLxAl5dOPo29HDI5zrXHvY0

Scatman Crothers Sweet Lips song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaX6gwK_2KA

Intangible Roots Website:
https://www.moncelldurden.com/


Cosmogram Diagram: http://www.tomgidwitz.com/main/87e58bb0.jpg

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: My Friend, My friend, do I have a treat for you today? Oh my gosh. You’re going to want to make sure you have a pen or paper or some sort of writing device today. Or you could just jump straight to clicking that download button because my guest on the pod today is the one and only Moncell Durden. Moncell, wears many, many hats. He’s a dancer, educator, historian, ethnographer, documentary filmmaker, and much, much more. Um, he is a fountain of information and this is information you’re going to want to hold onto. So I’ll let the conversation speak for itself. I’m not going to give too much of a preamble here, but before we dive into the interview, we’re going to share some wins. Yes. If you are an avid listener, you know how important I think it is to celebrate what’s going well. And for the last several episodes, we’ve been doing that at the end of each episode. And you know what I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna put it up front again. So here we are at the top of the episode, and here I go today, I am celebrating the first ever Words that Move Me Community group coaching call. It happened just yesterday. And I must admit I was more than slightly nervous about this call, which I think is normal when you’re doing something that you’re really excited about for the very first time. Um, and, and that was definitely this, but I was met by the most incredibly warm assemblage of bright minds and, and curious creators, um, simply honored to be doing this work with you. So thank you Words that Move Me Community members. I appreciate you. I celebrate you. Um, if you are curious about what that means or how to become a member yourself, check out theDanawilson.com and click on membership thedanawilson.com click on the membership tab. You got that. Okay. That’s me. That’s what’s going well in my world now. It’s your turn.  Yes. Crowd participation. Let’s go. What is going well in your world? 

Phenomenal. Congratulations. Please do  Keep winning. Okay. My friend, I don’t want to wait another second. I am so excited to share the wealth of knowledge. That is my guest Moncell Durden. Enjoy!

Dana: Moncell Durden. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here. 

Moncell: Thank you for having me. 

Dana: Um, all right. It is par for the course. This is how we do it here. Take a moment. Take, take the challenge of introducing yourself. What, what would you like us to know about you?  

Moncell: Well My name is Moncell Durden. I’m from the East coast now residing in California, a dance historian, author, documentarian, researcher, uh, probably a host of other things I can’t think of right now. Um, you know, just started my, the founder of Intangible Roots, which is an educational platform, um, developing programs to help people learn, to build certifications, um, to share knowledge. Um, I’m a professor at University of Southern California, uh, for the Gloria Kaufman International school of dance, been there five years. And, um, yeah, I don’t know. It was a few other things, I guess people will learn along this journey.  

Um, so we have a mutual friend. Her name is Ardyn Flynt. She’s a USC grad and absolutely extraordinary dancer, um, with the kindest heart and a very bright mind. Having a conversation with her, it feels a little like school sometimes, I learned so much every time. Um, but before I heard your name from her, I had actually heard of this documentary called Everything remains Raw. I didn’t know it was you.  Could you tell us a little bit about the doc and what your hopes are for it?  

Sure. Um, the documentary, it speaks to and uncovers the genealogy, of African-American social dances. Uh, it’s something I started in 2003 and continued to work on it. Uh, it’s not just the 90 minute documentary, but it’s my original idea was to have a series. And so I’m trying to find the right supporters and backing to bring this film to light. It’s a ton of research that continues to go on. And, um, it’s an educational tool and I hope, you know, we we’ll, we’ll either get out to the people one way or another, you know, Netflix or some other streaming service or on television or on the big screen. Uh, but the idea is to really talk about the things that are overlooked in dance practice. Uh, so it’s not just about, you know, this time period and, and, and the dances we did, it really speaks to the social, political, economic, environmental, cultural, um, and spiritual space that inform these dance practices. So I really want to provide a context into the why behind the, what  

I love that you said that. And I think that context is probably the most important missing link to all of the education and honestly, a lot of the celebration that we’re doing this month around black history month, I think it’s that context that is the most important thing. So, uh, maybe let’s go back to Ardyn for a second and USC. Uh, so Ardyn speaks highly of you. You are a mentor and a friend, and, um, she talks a lot about what you did for her and for the program at USC. Uh, could you tell us a little bit about what and how you teach there?  

Uh, so I teach, uh, theoretical classes and practical classes. Uh, the theory classes are the three lecture courses. I teach African-American dance. What I refer to as an illustrated history and hip hop, don’t stop exploring black vernacular dance practice. And currently I am teaching, uh, the origins of jazz dance. So those are my three lecture courses. And for the elective students, I teach hip hop dance. For the majors I teach house. So we’re, we’re kind of set up. I think we’re one of the only institutions in America that has six community practitioners from hip hop teaching in one university. It’s sort of unheard of. You might get one, you might luck out to get two, but six. And so, yeah, we have, haven’t worked out where we’re able to focus on different forms under the umbrella, of Hip Hop, you know. The first year students come in and they get a Sebela Grimes movement system called Fundamental metal, metal kinetics refocusing on hip hop movement, but from a social cultural perspective and really giving you fundamentals as sophomore, see me and I teach house and our juniors are taught by Tiffany Bong and she covers whacking and locking and the social dances of the seventies.  And we have Amy O’Neal who works on rhythm structures and composition, uh, Randi Fleckenstine who works on floor movement. 

Shout out Omega Floorwork!

And, uh, she’s a phenomenal B girl, but just a phenomenal dancer. And so she’s doing she’s new and she’s doing amazing work. And then we have Shannon Grayson who also teaches the party dances of hip hop. So it’s a, it’s a nice, you know, some nice cohort of community-based folk in a institutions giving real grass-root lessons than what these forms are. Sometimes… I’d be remised to say that some times, uh, well, this year I’m working with our, uh, theatrical department and teaching authentic jazz to them. So that’s, that’s really cool.  

Uh, that is that’s exquisite.  I’m happy to hear about the USC family. I know a couple of students going into the program, um, and several that are coming up through it and graduating and crushing it in the world. Um, if we could stay on the subject of training for a second, um, I didn’t go to college for dance and I did grow up in a studio setting. And, um, I’m grateful for my studio teaching experience or studio learning experience because I see it as somewhat of a sampler platter, like a little bit of tap a little bit. Well, a lot a bit of ballet at which I did not a lot a bit succeed. Um, a lot of, bit of many styles, which drove me to pack up my Volkswagen bug and moved to LA when I was 18. And I was very fortunate in my timing and placement once I got here, um, because I had a very hard conversation with b-boy Kmel. I remember it like it was yesterday who looked me in my face and laughed and said, you are not a dancer. You are a computer. And I was, you can imagine also his words. He didn’t say it quite like that.  

Oh yeah, I know K 

So in that moment, I was obviously, I felt very exposed I got extremely defensive. 


As you should. 

But around that same time, absolutely. Um, around that same time I was introduced to Toni Basil. I learned everything I know about locking from her. And for a short time I studied with Suga Pop. I learned everything. I learned everything I know about popping from Pete himself. Like I got very lucky in my timing and placement and, and those people gave me an appetite for freestyle in general. Um, but for funk styles in the, in the big picture. And I knew at that time that K was not wrong. Like once those worlds were open to me, I knew he was not wrong. Even in the moment where it was like, you don’t know me, I love dance. I have a heartbeat, I’m a person. But I knew I was like, Oh, damn, there is more to it than this. And I, I did always felt very uncomfortable when I wasn’t being told exactly what to do.  So, um, one of the things that you talk about is how a lot of dance studios and studio environments offer hip hop to stay competitive.  They offer it because they have to, and they find someone who says that they can teach it or has some sort of following. So I wonder, I know that I have some teachers listening and I’m wondering what you would say to them. Um, words of wisdom or inspiration, or maybe a quick slap on the wrist. I don’t know. Oh, leave that up to you. But we have a problem in that people who don’t know are teaching oftentimes and, and how do we solve that problem?  

I’m not sure if I have the answer to how to solve the problem. I definitely give slaps on the wrist.  

Let’s go tough learning. That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here.  

You know, they, I have a lot of, so I didn’t, I didn’t go to college and I didn’t grow up in a studio. In fact, I didn’t know people went to studios to learn dance until I was somewhere in my late twenties. Uh, because I grew up in an environment where everyone, I knew danced, whether you were two or 82, they danced, they danced on roller skates. They did the dancers from their generation. You were not special because you could dance because a six year old will embarrass you. And a 50 year old embarrass you and you’re 15.  .It was something that was just done in the community. You know, for most African-American people, um, they learned dance. The studio is the living room, is the backyard is the basement is the party, is at school. That’s where you learn dance. And so studios are a business. And in my opinion, there, they are not about community. They may think they are, but they’re about performing. This is the structure of a studio is to teach people, forms of movement that don’t exist in their environment. Why else would you need to go study? You know, if you grow up, if you’re born in France, you don’t necessarily go to school to study how to speak French. You grew up with it. And it’s just under know, it’s understood in the learning process. You’re surrounded by it. You know, African children do not have to go to school to learn how to undulate their bodies and do their cultural dances. It’s what you see everybody doing. You learn it. But we go to school to learn stuff that is not accessible in our community. It’s not our live practice. Ballet is not a cultural practice that has an environment that supports it like Europe does. And even I would argue even in Europe, because we’re talking about something hundreds of years old, that’s really, truly speaks to a particular time period that has been reinvented by others and approached in different ways. But the thing, it’s a performance it’s not done in a club. You don’t learn ballet to go social dancing. You learn it to hit the proscenium. And that’s where it stays. That’s where it lives and you leave it to fence. And so the idea of social dancing has been something that has been disregarded in this country, dating back to the 1870s, where a lot of movements in different organizations and societies were built. You know, you think of in Chautauqua movement that came out, that was a summer camp that focused on social decorum for young kids through dance. But it wasn’t about the dance. It was about how you’ve used dance to elevate one status in society. It wasn’t so much about the dancing itself or how dancing was used to align people politically, aligned people economically, um, uh, to, you know, create relationships and what have you and the studio they’re not operating in those same ways. A lot of that has been the foundation. If you will. They’ve a Eurocentric approach that is not necessarily about community is about one person standing out that the end goal is to be on stage and to do all these other things. And you know, people are asking me about hip hop in particular, or where do you see hip hop in 50 years? And I was like, I don’t really know where I.. What I do know, is historically I expect young black kids to still be dancing. Now, whether or not they’ve had ever get a job ever be in a movie, ever be on stage, they will still dance. They are not dancing to get to the other side of the room. They are not dancing to be on camera. They’re not dancing for any of that. Cause if none of that stuff existed, they would still create dances. And you think about a community who does it for, uh, and this could be argumentative, but who purely does it for the love of it? And there’s no trajectory, right? I love this dance. I’m going to create new movements because when I was coming up, you had to, if you did a move in the club one week, you better have something different the next week. And so think about kids, kids who go to studios or go to college, spend thousands and thousands of dollars. And it’s like, all right, if you would you train this hard, if you were never going to get paid for it, if you’ve never had the opportunity for a job. Now, maybe that’s an unfair question, but that’s a difference in doing it in the community as just a normal way of expressing your everyday lived experience through movement. It is not about the studio practice. And, um, I think that there’s a disconnect with trying to bring an art form that is not strictly about performance into a space that, that’s what it’s about. That doesn’t, you know, most studios, you know, a lot of know have Marley floors. Well, hip hop is an art form. If you wanted to call it an art form that you don’t dance on marley, you dance on hardwood floors. And so some of these studios are not even set up that way. And then even still, oftentimes if they do happen to have a wooden floor, they might do a performance somewhere that still has Marley. So you’re not truly set. You’re bringing people into an aesthetic without appreciating the aesthetic that the dance and the environment that the dance comes from and how it moves and grooves.  And so I think if studio owners want to have that, they need to understand that technique just means structural alignment. You know, I’m a trained dancer, this phrase like every dancer is a trained dancer. They train in the form that they know that they had, that they love to do. And you know, when you think about ballet and you’re in a studio, learning ballet, you’re learning any, any dance form, a person learns, you are learning a social cultural practice. Ballet speaks to a particular time period. That is based in gestures of that time period is based in hierarchal thinking from a niche community. And this is what the movements are built around. And you have to understand the context of the dance to really move in in the way that, you know, this is, this is, this is the meaning and the message of what you’re doing and all dance forms do that. So if you learn, you know, tap, there’s a social cultural experience that goes with that. If you learn modern, it was a social, cultural experience goes that same with hip hop and it’s understanding. And some of the studios needs to understand that we’re bringing these art forms in. There is proper cultural significance that go with it and you need to have qualified instructors, you know, but the studio also have an issue with, because it’s such, and I don’t mean to harp on it, on studios like this, but it’s such a money game. Cause I used to teach in a lot of studios and you know, you have 21 year olds teach the 15 year olds. The 15 year olds teach the 13 year olds. And the 13 year olds are teaching the seven year olds. Are you kidding me? Parents are paying for 13 year olds to teach their five and seven year olds who are being taught by the 15 and six. Like it’s ridiculous. Um, because you can’t get enough quality teachers to teach those different levels.  

I would imagine, especially if you’re not in a big hub city. 

Right, right. So you have to do like, Oh, well, you know. These two students are really good. They’re the top tier in our studio. So we’re going to have them teach the lower students, the younger students. And that’s such a disservice because you’re, you’re being taught by someone who’s not qualified. Who’s growing, who hasn’t developed the skillset to be at a high level as a teacher, what parents should be paying for, you know, studios know that if they don’t offer it in the studio down the street could. And so I remember in Philadelphia, a lot of studios, I talked to a lot of owners and many of them thought that hip hop was the new name for jazz and I’m talking commercial, jazz, not authentic jazz. And so he just didn’t know. And I I’ve had students at those studios telling me that the owner, the students were asked to teach a hip hop class and the would, well, I don’t do hip hop. And then only the studio would say, well, this dude watch this video and do what they do. So there’s no, you wouldn’t do that with a ballet class.  

Right. Watch this video and do what they do, yea.

But it shows you how little they think of a dance. They think it’s, you know, it, it has no structure. They think it has no form and has no vocabulary and technique. And this is what they need to know. We think as my boy would say, recognized, not just recognized. You know, uh, and that’s, you know, that’s the biggest, I think, struggle that studios have, it’s trying to work in this model that has been passed down for performative sense versus something that is based on social engagement. And the two have not had a smooth transition and have coexisted.  

I think if we are to make a dance analogy on the subject of transitions, I think the first essential piece of a successful and smooth transition is simply the awareness. I’m aware of my shoulders and my pelvis in this position, in this place. And I know they need to go over here and I hope that this episode helps a little bit at very least with that awareness. I, I can’t tell you exactly how to transfer the weight. Um, I don’t have the steps in between, but I, I can hope. And thank you, Moncell, for offering this like moment of awareness.  Uh in your writing and one of the pieces that I read while I was in your course intangible roots, um, you, you explain hip hop as a vernacular form, which really just means that it’s indigenous to a particular community and lifestyle. And when we remember that, we remember how much comes along with that. And I think that a lot of people are quicker, faster, more confident to jump to teaching hip hop in general than we are to teaching, you know, this Sudanese dance or this, this Greek dance or something like that. But that’s really what hip hop is. It really is all of that. It has techniques, foundations, pioneers, important people and dates and histories and vocabularies that really are to be regarded, revered at very least re recognized. Uh, um, so thank you for that. Um, if, if maybe that’s a good segue, actually, while we’re talking about meanings and messages and the breadth of everything that comes along with hip hop, I do want to talk about your course intangible roots. It was a highlight of my 2020, which albeit, uh, that bar was set pretty low 2020 had some tough, tough times, but I so valued my time in that chair, watching, listening, reading, writing. Um, so I want to talk a little bit about that. Uh, we talked about like some of the outstanding things, especially for me, a person who works a lot in the entertainment industry was when you spoke about film and TV and the stereotypes of African-American characters, like the Mammy, the Uncle, the Sambo, I was like, Whoa. And as you were showing these clips from commercials and TV shows and cartoons, it was non-stop bombardment. And that, that shook me to my core. Um, I learned how to more responsibly digest dance media, like little class clips or, or big film dance sequences. So that was super valuable. But I think the, the most new information to me, and maybe the most moving as well was this, um, the concept of the circle, the cipher. Um, so could you talk a little bit about, um, ring shouts and this symbolism of the circle?  

Well, ring shouts, as they, as has been suggested was America’s first choreography. And Ralph Ellison said that. And what it was was a way for enslaved people to cultivate community, to cultivate space for their spiritual practice. 

Because they weren’t allowed to practice their religion.  

They weren’t allowed to practice their religion. They were being taught a different religion, but they had the wherewithal to, to recognize that the religion that was being passed on or forced upon them was similar in what their belief system was. We just had different languages and different ideas. So through the journals it mentioned how they likened your practice to a Christian. Christian Saint was, you know, similar to the Yoruba deity. And they say they sort of undergird their practice, um, beneath this Christianity and gave the appearance of performing Christian belief practices all the while they’re doing their thing. And so it also, it’s something that gave way to at the time, what you would have referred to as Negro spirituals, which later we know as gospel the combining of European hymns, which had no words to these enslaved African people humming these, uh, these tunes, these hymns, but adding words to it based off of their agrarian practice, based off of their lived experience at a time and creates the stories that go with gospel early gospel songs and the ring shout, being something that coming out of your book, traditions of a cosmogram and there are many different shapes of a cosmogram and the very basic one, having a cross with a circle around it with a cross in the center of the circle and at the end of each line of the cross there’s smaller circles, which represent the sun and the trajectory that the sun, the perception that the sun moves. The perception that the sun moves, counter-clockwise I say perception because a know lot of the sun doesn’t move. No one on this planet has ever seen a sunset or sunrise. That’s just language that we use, but the sun doesn’t move. So it can’t rise or set. Uh, the you’re actually witnessing, we are actually witnessing the rotation of the earth, but nobody’s going to say they went to the beach to watch the rotation of the earth. 

It doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yeah.  

Right. Not at all. But the ring shot is built on this idea of having a verticality coming from spirituality, going into human existence, the horizontal plane, which separates those two, those two planes and the top sun representing high noon, which is male energy. And the bottom sun representing midnight, which is female energy and the circle representing the water. And the very centerpiece, the crossroad is Elegba by, uh, I’m horrible at spelling E – L- L- E- G- B- A (ELEGBA *only one L) believe I might have that wrong.  

Well, you might have it wrong, but I have a diagram that I can refer to. And I will definitely put a diagram of this in the show notes for everybody who’s listening and struggling to imagine. Um, I will absolutely add an image, uh, but carry on.  

And so, you know, this, if you think about Haitian, uh, Voodoo or Vodou um, was it not really the term that was used back then, but it’s what we bought. We connect and this practice was being done there in Haiti, it is, you know, the center post is a space where it allows the spirit to come in and Elegba is a trickster. Um, know, you know, what is it’s false or real. And, but then there’s the lwa, which is the spirit that mounts the body, as they were saying, you say mount to body, because it relates to a forest, uh, a horse with a rider that the rider mounts a horse. So when you say that the low owl has mounted a person, it, the spirit that is connected to him, but we speak of that in Pentecostal or Baptist churches, you speak of that are being touched by the Holy spirit or catching the Holy ghost. You know, you have this kind of language. In hip hop, you might say something like, you know, you blacked out or you went down or you’re going off is basically the space that a spirit enters into your existence and sort of takes over the movement that you’re doing, where you don’t even realize what you just did. Um, the circle in the Cosmogram also represents the perimeter of the circle and dance. And then that crossroads and the center is that person that is in the center. And that in the energy that can come from that, the circularity of the people in the perimeter feeding you in the center energy is where, and, and the guidance of the music is where you reach a devined spirit, or you can reach the Devine spirit, which was the whole purpose of this as a spiritual practice in the first place, was that the drum, a Mambo, which was a priest or priestess, but knowing that the Mambo where the spiritual guides to connect to that, to that other world, right? And it is believed that it is through the water, that the spirit can enter into our human existence hence the separation, um, babies being born through fluid, and the idea of humans being spiritual beings, having a human existence, not human beings, having a spiritual existence, this all plays into that concept. And the circle is a representation of that cosmogram right. That spiritual drawing. And it does the exact same thing. It, it creates that space that allows one to celebrate their individuality while also being attached to the community and the two feed each other, you know, you, you are part of the community, but we still acknowledge your individuality. So you might be in the center. And at some point you come out and someone else goes into the center and they are celebrated. There’s also a space of protection where you can see everybody’s back and you can warn them of any danger. So again, it’s that, it’s that way connected to a ring shot, where it is a it’s a coming together of a community to cultivate a safe space for them to practice their spirituality. And in dance’s case, it’s the, it’s the spiritual connection to the divine through movement and music is it’s doing the same thing. It’s just not perceived in the same manner, but it is the two things are one, one comes from the other. 

This is exactly why context is important, because if you are taught to jump in a circle as a, as a 13 year old in a hip hop class somewhere, which I admit I am fully guilty of this, I thought I was doing right by having your freestyle circle at the end of every class. But without any context at all, that circle doesn’t feel like a safe or spiritual place. It feels like 360 degrees of eyeballs judging you. And I think without the context of what that space can be, what it was created in, or, or intended loosely, I’ll say, uh, what it was created to be is something entirely different. I’m so glad I learned eventually what that is, um, and, and learn this concept and show and prove and became a person who is as comfortable in a circle as I am on a stage doing, you know, predetermined moves at predetermined rhythms. Um, but I think that in addition to this like deeper understanding of the symbolism of the circle, also one of the other things that helped me thrive in a circle, or like just exist there without feeling like I was going to implode on myself was, uh, becoming more familiar with party dances, learning enough social dances, that I had a good enough vocabulary to actually deconstruct things. And then reconstruct things. Like I don’t, I don’t know if somebody would be able to identify that I’m doing, uh, a Smurff or a Robocop because it’s that far deconstruct, it’s something else now, but without those dances,  existing in that space was really uncomfortable for me. So I thank these party dances, um, uh, for a lot of my evolution is dancer . And I do want to talk about party dances for a second because, Oh, by the way, I say party dances. And I, I suppose that’s just how many of these dances were introduced to me. Is there a right or wrong social dances versus party dances? If I’m talking about the cabbage patch or the Biz Markie or, uh, the Prep or the Reebok or those social dances or party dancers.   

No, that language is interchangeable. Um, it’s all mean the same thing. I mean, the dance is whatever the name of the dance is, and it was something done at a party, which is a social event. There’s no right or wrong.  

That’s good to know. I’m glad I asked because there are a few, um, areas of insecurity that I have. I have definitely been a person, you know, before I moved to LA in my early days, who would call somebody a break dancer… when people have asked me if I’m a Hip Hopper, I have said yes… And so I’m catching different ways where language can be terribly, terribly misused. Um, and I was wondering if that might be one of those. Okay. So social dance/party dance, thank you all the dances. But, um, what I, what I’m curious about is this quarantine moment that we’re in all the distance, which honestly, except for maybe the Kid in Play, I can’t think of, uh, of, of a party dance in my vocabulary that requires like a handhold on another person. If we go further back and we start looking at Lindy, Charleston, swing, things like that, very close proximity, like a super close embrace, but we got far apart for awhile. And my guess my romantic hope is that post quarantine or post vaccine, post Corona virus that we’ll come back together and that hands hands will touch again. And we’ll be dancing together again. That’s my secret hope, I guess. Um, other than that, there will be dancing, which you mentioned there will certainly be dancing. Do you have any ideas on the social dances or the people that are on the front line of creating them? 

Those are young people, you know, 8, 9, 10, 15, who are not concerned with holding anybody else’s hand, you know, and it’s understanding the, the, the shift in what partner dancing has become to a degree. Though. Um, Katrina Hazzard-Gordon, has she doesn’t consider partner dancing if you don’t touch. And I sort of disagree with that. I understand where she’s coming from, but you know, Lindy touching your partner, uh, any of the bop, it tango, the Philly Bop, uh, DC hand dance in Chicago stepping, the hustle, touching a partner that does not take away. The fact that me and another person doing the twist, our partner dancing, even though we’re not touching, like we are fully engaged with one another but not touch them. Hip hop was the same thing. If you dance with someone, if they’re doing the wop, you’re doing the wop, you are connected, you are it’s wireless transmission. As my boys would, say, you pick up on what they’re doing and you join in. It’s a call & response. Um, that gets that going, but then there’s a togetherness. So even though, you know, you’re not touching, you’re still dancing with someone.  

I love that argument. And that argument gives me hope for the rest of my lockdown.  

Yeah. So, I mean, you know, hustle made a huge resurgence, everybody’s doing the hustle. So I’m sure the hustle community is definitely going to be out there. People are going to be taking partner dances and salsa and everything else that’ll definitely grow. Um, and then people will be, even though they’re not touching communities of dances, we’ll be looking forward to going back to the parties and being collectively together, hearing the same music, sharing the same vibe, doing the same. So it’s, it’s just, you know what you want to focus this on. I would not focus on the fact that they’re not touching, but they are together. And, you know, if you really want to get philosophical, everybody’s touching through the air in the first place. If there’s air, we are touching  

Lets go! On the particle level.  

When people talk about the senses of the body, they talk about, they get to touch, right. You know, smell, hear, see they get to touch, but I’m like, if you, if you’re standing outside and the wind blows, you feel it, but nothing touched you. So you got to expand your idea of what the senses are. What touch actually is.  

I, I really do think that togetherness is… starts here (in the mind). And so we can dance here on a zoom call and have a sense of togetherness, uh, without touching. Thank you for reminding me of that. Um, okay. I don’t wanna, um, bamboozle your time this evening, but I do, I forgot to ask one thing right at the top. So maybe we’ll end with, with sort of the beginning, I would love to share a little bit of the etymology of the words, hip hop. It’s one of my favorite things that I learned from you, um, and being a person all of 34 years old, the meaning of the word hop to me meant like, you know, to jump, but I’ve been around long enough to know that, uh, like a sock hop or to hop till you drop or hop around the clock. Like, I know that that means dance, but I was really fascinated to hear the etymology of hip or I believe it started as hep  

It started as hip, but it became hep a little later on. And in fact, the word hip, according to John Leland, who wrote a book called the Hip: the history, uh, he did research suggesting that the word hip those back to Wolof speaking people in West Africa, and that the word hippie means to open one’s eyes, to be aware of something. And the word Hip was popularized in America, at least according to research, around 1800 sort of jumping through some of the time periods, it’s popularity in the forties, when it was spelled with an E you were a hep person, which meant that you were aware of what was going on, and you knew what was in fashion and what clubs were hot, where you go to eat and what band was good. You knew you were hep to what was going on by the sixties. It turns back into an I, so it’s hip. And there’s a sense, again, there’s still a sense of awareness because even when they talk about the hippie community of the sixties, they try to paint them as these like tie dye, free love, get high people, but you’re still talking about people who were conscious enough to fight against the war who, you know, women’s movement was like, let’s burn these bras, like this sense of freedom. Like they knew what was going on in government and politics. They were hip to what was going on. And usually when people are hip to what’s going on, they try to paint them as crazy. In the seventies you still have the word hip, as you were mentioning, hop in America in the 20th century was always synonymous with dance. You know, let’s go to the hop, let’s go to the dance, uh, hop around the clock, meant to dance beyond midnight or dance all night. You know, people of that generation would go to a sock hop where you take off your shoes and your dance and your socks. So hop was to dance. One of the earliest records to sort of have a play on the words, hip and hop was,  

Oh, uh, Delight. Rapper’s delight.  

No, that’s way later. That’s 79.  

Yes. Bring me the knowledge. Yeah,  

That wasn’t until 79. That was, they were really late to the party. There’s another record out. There’s two records. One accidentally puts the two words together. So it’s, uh, uh, Scatman Crothers 1956 or 57 songs, sweet lips where he just happens to he’s, he’s naming these things. He wants, I want to flip flop, hip hop, like, yeah. Rappers are like, they didn’t get it until the seventies. And so it basically means you, everybody can have their interpretation of it. But hip is a word that meant to be aware of, to be knowledgeable of something. And hop was just synonymous with dance. But that is, that’s the etymology of those two words as they are being used. It was Keef Cowboy that actually brought up that phrasing by accident. When a friend of his, I can’t think of his name was going into the armed services and at a party, it was Keef Cowboy that was saying you to, you know, you said something to the effect of like, you know, you’ve been living up tonight because tomorrow going to be hip, hop, hip like that. Right. And so then Lovebug Starski takes it on and then develops it into the phrasing of hip hop. And then, you know, then we find it, we hear the Rapper’s delight, but that’s, I mean, that’s basically, you know what that is. And the fact that the name has that hip hop culture is named Hip hop culture was also purely accidental, uh, based on a 1981 January issue of the East Village Eye , that came out where Michael Holman did an interview with Afrika Bambaataa

 and asking Bam, you know, what the, what this bubbling culture was, but this new thing, the kids were in, Bam didn’t have a definition. So he just started reciting Rapper’s delight and . And it was written. So, and then there it is, but purely accidental. And because it was Afrika Bambaataa

 it, you know, he brought some levity to it, so it stuck. And, um, but that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s it in a nutshell.  

Incredible. I, I love it. And I would love to talk more, but I would really love everybody who’s listening to go find more of you, your lessons, which is way, way deeper than anything. I would say we barely scratched the surface in our conversation today. Um, so can you tell us a little, Oh, I registered for, um, Passionfruit Seeds, which starts in the middle of February. If you’re listening to this on the day of its release, you still have one day to register. I’m going to link to the registration page in the show notes of this episode, but Moncell be a contributing educator at that event, uh, Passionfruit Seeds. But, uh, can you tell us a little bit about intangible roots? When will your next course be the hoping  

I’m developing that now. Well, I’m definitely going to do another summer in July and I’m actually working on a six week course. I don’t know if I’ll be able to introduce the six week course this coming summer, but certainly I’ll do another four classes. So intangible roots will be out, uh, as a course, the summer sessions, there will be, um, um, doing another film screening the last day of this month. Uh, so advertisement will go up on Instagram will go up on Twitter will go up on Facebook  

I will be sure to, uh, share and reshare and include that in special bulletins to all ye as well. Um, Moncell, how do we find more? You were, uh, follow followings and web sightings.  

Well, pretty much everything is my name, Moncell Durden. Uh, my Instagram account is @moncelldurden My clubhouse account is moncelldurden. I, uh, um, Twitter is MoncellDurden. My web page is moncelldurden.com Facebook is the only one that’s different. Facebook is Moncell Illkozby Durden. And, uh, and, um, and I have a new website, intangibleroots.com that I haven’t, I haven’t started developing yet, but you can, things get posted on my website. Things get posted on Instagram. Those you definitely want to check back and forth on those. The, um, the other platform I’m I’m engaged with now is clubhouse. And it’s basically a, it’s basically a open line conversation, you know, it’s all completely audio. You can’t see anybody, they can’t see you. And, um, I started doing, I started a talk last night called black social dances, history, heritage stories, and more, and I’m going to do one every Monday. I do believe I said eight o’clock, which I’m going to have to shift if I did say eight o’clock to nine o’clock because I’m still teaching my lecture course at eight o’clock. Oh yeah. I have to make that change. Um, yeah, people can find me there and, and Instagram, and I might do some film screenings of different documentaries, uh, maybe two a month over the next couple of months to get ready for the summer that I’m trying to, my plan is to speak to the directors of each of the films. So if I can set that up, then that’s the plan. Um, and that those will be free on zoom. And, uh, yeah, just look for me on, look for me on, uh, uh, for my website and the website will always post the next classes for intangible roots.  

Incredible. Well, I will be sure to link to all of those places. Um, and I really do hope that everyone who’s listening continues this deep dive. Uh, there’s, there’s so much to be learned. Um, really appreciate your time. Thank you for being here.  

Thank you for having me. 

My pleasure, my pleasure  

There, you have it. I hope that this episode has inspired you to dig in and dig deeper into your dance history, into your personal history and to the history of whatever craft it is. You are practicing. I hope that you seek more than names and dates as you’re studying. It really is about context. It’s about meaning. It’s about the message. And I am so grateful for Moncell for sharing his message today. Again, all of the links to moncell’s work, his projects, his workshops will be found in the show notes to this episode, and that is it for me. Get out there and keep it funky. 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 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. 

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: My Friend, My friend, do I have a treat for you today? Oh my gosh. You’re going to want to make sure you have a pen or paper or some sort of writing device today. Or you could just jump straight to clicking that download button because my guest on the pod today is the one and only Moncell Durden. Moncell, wears many, many hats. He’s a dancer, educator, historian, ethnographer, documentary filmmaker, and much, much more. Um, he is a fountain of information and this is information you’re going to want to hold onto. So I’ll let the conversation speak for itself. I’m not going to give too much of a preamble here, but before we dive into the interview, we’re going to share some wins. Yes. If you are an avid listener, you know how important I think it is to celebrate what’s going well. And for the last several episodes, we’ve been doing that at the end of each episode. And you know what I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna put it up front again. So here we are at the top of the episode, and here I go today, I am celebrating the first ever Words that Move Me Community group coaching call. It happened just yesterday. And I must admit I was more than slightly nervous about this call, which I think is normal when you’re doing something that you’re really excited about for the very first time. Um, and, and that was definitely this, but I was met by the most incredibly warm assemblage of bright minds and, and curious creators, um, simply honored to be doing this work with you. So thank you Words that Move Me Community members. I appreciate you. I celebrate you. Um, if you are curious about what that means or how to become a member yourself, check out theDanawilson.com and click on membership thedanawilson.com click on the membership tab. You got that. Okay. That’s me. That’s what’s going well in my world now. It’s your turn.  Yes. Crowd participation. Let’s go. What is going well in your world? 

Phenomenal. Congratulations. Please do  Keep winning. Okay. My friend, I don’t want to wait another second. I am so excited to share the wealth of knowledge. That is my guest Moncell Durden. Enjoy!

Dana: Moncell Durden. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here. 

Moncell: Thank you for having me. 

Dana: Um, all right. It is par for the course. This is how we do it here. Take a moment. Take, take the challenge of introducing yourself. What, what would you like us to know about you?  

Moncell: Well My name is Moncell Durden. I’m from the East coast now residing in California, a dance historian, author, documentarian, researcher, uh, probably a host of other things I can’t think of right now. Um, you know, just started my, the founder of Intangible Roots, which is an educational platform, um, developing programs to help people learn, to build certifications, um, to share knowledge. Um, I’m a professor at University of Southern California, uh, for the Gloria Kaufman International school of dance, been there five years. And, um, yeah, I don’t know. It was a few other things, I guess people will learn along this journey.  

Um, so we have a mutual friend. Her name is Ardyn Flynt. She’s a USC grad and absolutely extraordinary dancer, um, with the kindest heart and a very bright mind. Having a conversation with her, it feels a little like school sometimes, I learned so much every time. Um, but before I heard your name from her, I had actually heard of this documentary called Everything remains Raw. I didn’t know it was you.  Could you tell us a little bit about the doc and what your hopes are for it?  

Sure. Um, the documentary, it speaks to and uncovers the genealogy, of African-American social dances. Uh, it’s something I started in 2003 and continued to work on it. Uh, it’s not just the 90 minute documentary, but it’s my original idea was to have a series. And so I’m trying to find the right supporters and backing to bring this film to light. It’s a ton of research that continues to go on. And, um, it’s an educational tool and I hope, you know, we we’ll, we’ll either get out to the people one way or another, you know, Netflix or some other streaming service or on television or on the big screen. Uh, but the idea is to really talk about the things that are overlooked in dance practice. Uh, so it’s not just about, you know, this time period and, and, and the dances we did, it really speaks to the social, political, economic, environmental, cultural, um, and spiritual space that inform these dance practices. So I really want to provide a context into the why behind the, what  

I love that you said that. And I think that context is probably the most important missing link to all of the education and honestly, a lot of the celebration that we’re doing this month around black history month, I think it’s that context that is the most important thing. So, uh, maybe let’s go back to Ardyn for a second and USC. Uh, so Ardyn speaks highly of you. You are a mentor and a friend, and, um, she talks a lot about what you did for her and for the program at USC. Uh, could you tell us a little bit about what and how you teach there?  

Uh, so I teach, uh, theoretical classes and practical classes. Uh, the theory classes are the three lecture courses. I teach African-American dance. What I refer to as an illustrated history and hip hop, don’t stop exploring black vernacular dance practice. And currently I am teaching, uh, the origins of jazz dance. So those are my three lecture courses. And for the elective students, I teach hip hop dance. For the majors I teach house. So we’re, we’re kind of set up. I think we’re one of the only institutions in America that has six community practitioners from hip hop teaching in one university. It’s sort of unheard of. You might get one, you might luck out to get two, but six. And so, yeah, we have, haven’t worked out where we’re able to focus on different forms under the umbrella, of Hip Hop, you know. The first year students come in and they get a Sebela Grimes movement system called Fundamental metal, metal kinetics refocusing on hip hop movement, but from a social cultural perspective and really giving you fundamentals as sophomore, see me and I teach house and our juniors are taught by Tiffany Bong and she covers whacking and locking and the social dances of the seventies.  And we have Amy O’Neal who works on rhythm structures and composition, uh, Randi Fleckenstine who works on floor movement. 

Shout out Omega Floorwork!

And, uh, she’s a phenomenal B girl, but just a phenomenal dancer. And so she’s doing she’s new and she’s doing amazing work. And then we have Shannon Grayson who also teaches the party dances of hip hop. So it’s a, it’s a nice, you know, some nice cohort of community-based folk in a institutions giving real grass-root lessons than what these forms are. Sometimes… I’d be remised to say that some times, uh, well, this year I’m working with our, uh, theatrical department and teaching authentic jazz to them. So that’s, that’s really cool.  

Uh, that is that’s exquisite.  I’m happy to hear about the USC family. I know a couple of students going into the program, um, and several that are coming up through it and graduating and crushing it in the world. Um, if we could stay on the subject of training for a second, um, I didn’t go to college for dance and I did grow up in a studio setting. And, um, I’m grateful for my studio teaching experience or studio learning experience because I see it as somewhat of a sampler platter, like a little bit of tap a little bit. Well, a lot a bit of ballet at which I did not a lot a bit succeed. Um, a lot of, bit of many styles, which drove me to pack up my Volkswagen bug and moved to LA when I was 18. And I was very fortunate in my timing and placement once I got here, um, because I had a very hard conversation with b-boy Kmel. I remember it like it was yesterday who looked me in my face and laughed and said, you are not a dancer. You are a computer. And I was, you can imagine also his words. He didn’t say it quite like that.  

Oh yeah, I know K 

So in that moment, I was obviously, I felt very exposed I got extremely defensive. 


As you should. 

But around that same time, absolutely. Um, around that same time I was introduced to Toni Basil. I learned everything I know about locking from her. And for a short time I studied with Suga Pop. I learned everything. I learned everything I know about popping from Pete himself. Like I got very lucky in my timing and placement and, and those people gave me an appetite for freestyle in general. Um, but for funk styles in the, in the big picture. And I knew at that time that K was not wrong. Like once those worlds were open to me, I knew he was not wrong. Even in the moment where it was like, you don’t know me, I love dance. I have a heartbeat, I’m a person. But I knew I was like, Oh, damn, there is more to it than this. And I, I did always felt very uncomfortable when I wasn’t being told exactly what to do.  So, um, one of the things that you talk about is how a lot of dance studios and studio environments offer hip hop to stay competitive.  They offer it because they have to, and they find someone who says that they can teach it or has some sort of following. So I wonder, I know that I have some teachers listening and I’m wondering what you would say to them. Um, words of wisdom or inspiration, or maybe a quick slap on the wrist. I don’t know. Oh, leave that up to you. But we have a problem in that people who don’t know are teaching oftentimes and, and how do we solve that problem?  

I’m not sure if I have the answer to how to solve the problem. I definitely give slaps on the wrist.  

Let’s go tough learning. That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here.  

You know, they, I have a lot of, so I didn’t, I didn’t go to college and I didn’t grow up in a studio. In fact, I didn’t know people went to studios to learn dance until I was somewhere in my late twenties. Uh, because I grew up in an environment where everyone, I knew danced, whether you were two or 82, they danced, they danced on roller skates. They did the dancers from their generation. You were not special because you could dance because a six year old will embarrass you. And a 50 year old embarrass you and you’re 15.  .It was something that was just done in the community. You know, for most African-American people, um, they learned dance. The studio is the living room, is the backyard is the basement is the party, is at school. That’s where you learn dance. And so studios are a business. And in my opinion, there, they are not about community. They may think they are, but they’re about performing. This is the structure of a studio is to teach people, forms of movement that don’t exist in their environment. Why else would you need to go study? You know, if you grow up, if you’re born in France, you don’t necessarily go to school to study how to speak French. You grew up with it. And it’s just under know, it’s understood in the learning process. You’re surrounded by it. You know, African children do not have to go to school to learn how to undulate their bodies and do their cultural dances. It’s what you see everybody doing. You learn it. But we go to school to learn stuff that is not accessible in our community. It’s not our live practice. Ballet is not a cultural practice that has an environment that supports it like Europe does. And even I would argue even in Europe, because we’re talking about something hundreds of years old, that’s really, truly speaks to a particular time period that has been reinvented by others and approached in different ways. But the thing, it’s a performance it’s not done in a club. You don’t learn ballet to go social dancing. You learn it to hit the proscenium. And that’s where it stays. That’s where it lives and you leave it to fence. And so the idea of social dancing has been something that has been disregarded in this country, dating back to the 1870s, where a lot of movements in different organizations and societies were built. You know, you think of in Chautauqua movement that came out, that was a summer camp that focused on social decorum for young kids through dance. But it wasn’t about the dance. It was about how you’ve used dance to elevate one status in society. It wasn’t so much about the dancing itself or how dancing was used to align people politically, aligned people economically, um, uh, to, you know, create relationships and what have you and the studio they’re not operating in those same ways. A lot of that has been the foundation. If you will. They’ve a Eurocentric approach that is not necessarily about community is about one person standing out that the end goal is to be on stage and to do all these other things. And you know, people are asking me about hip hop in particular, or where do you see hip hop in 50 years? And I was like, I don’t really know where I.. What I do know, is historically I expect young black kids to still be dancing. Now, whether or not they’ve had ever get a job ever be in a movie, ever be on stage, they will still dance. They are not dancing to get to the other side of the room. They are not dancing to be on camera. They’re not dancing for any of that. Cause if none of that stuff existed, they would still create dances. And you think about a community who does it for, uh, and this could be argumentative, but who purely does it for the love of it? And there’s no trajectory, right? I love this dance. I’m going to create new movements because when I was coming up, you had to, if you did a move in the club one week, you better have something different the next week. And so think about kids, kids who go to studios or go to college, spend thousands and thousands of dollars. And it’s like, all right, if you would you train this hard, if you were never going to get paid for it, if you’ve never had the opportunity for a job. Now, maybe that’s an unfair question, but that’s a difference in doing it in the community as just a normal way of expressing your everyday lived experience through movement. It is not about the studio practice. And, um, I think that there’s a disconnect with trying to bring an art form that is not strictly about performance into a space that, that’s what it’s about. That doesn’t, you know, most studios, you know, a lot of know have Marley floors. Well, hip hop is an art form. If you wanted to call it an art form that you don’t dance on marley, you dance on hardwood floors. And so some of these studios are not even set up that way. And then even still, oftentimes if they do happen to have a wooden floor, they might do a performance somewhere that still has Marley. So you’re not truly set. You’re bringing people into an aesthetic without appreciating the aesthetic that the dance and the environment that the dance comes from and how it moves and grooves.  And so I think if studio owners want to have that, they need to understand that technique just means structural alignment. You know, I’m a trained dancer, this phrase like every dancer is a trained dancer. They train in the form that they know that they had, that they love to do. And you know, when you think about ballet and you’re in a studio, learning ballet, you’re learning any, any dance form, a person learns, you are learning a social cultural practice. Ballet speaks to a particular time period. That is based in gestures of that time period is based in hierarchal thinking from a niche community. And this is what the movements are built around. And you have to understand the context of the dance to really move in in the way that, you know, this is, this is, this is the meaning and the message of what you’re doing and all dance forms do that. So if you learn, you know, tap, there’s a social cultural experience that goes with that. If you learn modern, it was a social, cultural experience goes that same with hip hop and it’s understanding. And some of the studios needs to understand that we’re bringing these art forms in. There is proper cultural significance that go with it and you need to have qualified instructors, you know, but the studio also have an issue with, because it’s such, and I don’t mean to harp on it, on studios like this, but it’s such a money game. Cause I used to teach in a lot of studios and you know, you have 21 year olds teach the 15 year olds. The 15 year olds teach the 13 year olds. And the 13 year olds are teaching the seven year olds. Are you kidding me? Parents are paying for 13 year olds to teach their five and seven year olds who are being taught by the 15 and six. Like it’s ridiculous. Um, because you can’t get enough quality teachers to teach those different levels.  

I would imagine, especially if you’re not in a big hub city. 

Right, right. So you have to do like, Oh, well, you know. These two students are really good. They’re the top tier in our studio. So we’re going to have them teach the lower students, the younger students. And that’s such a disservice because you’re, you’re being taught by someone who’s not qualified. Who’s growing, who hasn’t developed the skillset to be at a high level as a teacher, what parents should be paying for, you know, studios know that if they don’t offer it in the studio down the street could. And so I remember in Philadelphia, a lot of studios, I talked to a lot of owners and many of them thought that hip hop was the new name for jazz and I’m talking commercial, jazz, not authentic jazz. And so he just didn’t know. And I I’ve had students at those studios telling me that the owner, the students were asked to teach a hip hop class and the would, well, I don’t do hip hop. And then only the studio would say, well, this dude watch this video and do what they do. So there’s no, you wouldn’t do that with a ballet class.  

Right. Watch this video and do what they do, yea.

But it shows you how little they think of a dance. They think it’s, you know, it, it has no structure. They think it has no form and has no vocabulary and technique. And this is what they need to know. We think as my boy would say, recognized, not just recognized. You know, uh, and that’s, you know, that’s the biggest, I think, struggle that studios have, it’s trying to work in this model that has been passed down for performative sense versus something that is based on social engagement. And the two have not had a smooth transition and have coexisted.  

I think if we are to make a dance analogy on the subject of transitions, I think the first essential piece of a successful and smooth transition is simply the awareness. I’m aware of my shoulders and my pelvis in this position, in this place. And I know they need to go over here and I hope that this episode helps a little bit at very least with that awareness. I, I can’t tell you exactly how to transfer the weight. Um, I don’t have the steps in between, but I, I can hope. And thank you, Moncell, for offering this like moment of awareness.  Uh in your writing and one of the pieces that I read while I was in your course intangible roots, um, you, you explain hip hop as a vernacular form, which really just means that it’s indigenous to a particular community and lifestyle. And when we remember that, we remember how much comes along with that. And I think that a lot of people are quicker, faster, more confident to jump to teaching hip hop in general than we are to teaching, you know, this Sudanese dance or this, this Greek dance or something like that. But that’s really what hip hop is. It really is all of that. It has techniques, foundations, pioneers, important people and dates and histories and vocabularies that really are to be regarded, revered at very least re recognized. Uh, um, so thank you for that. Um, if, if maybe that’s a good segue, actually, while we’re talking about meanings and messages and the breadth of everything that comes along with hip hop, I do want to talk about your course intangible roots. It was a highlight of my 2020, which albeit, uh, that bar was set pretty low 2020 had some tough, tough times, but I so valued my time in that chair, watching, listening, reading, writing. Um, so I want to talk a little bit about that. Uh, we talked about like some of the outstanding things, especially for me, a person who works a lot in the entertainment industry was when you spoke about film and TV and the stereotypes of African-American characters, like the Mammy, the Uncle, the Sambo, I was like, Whoa. And as you were showing these clips from commercials and TV shows and cartoons, it was non-stop bombardment. And that, that shook me to my core. Um, I learned how to more responsibly digest dance media, like little class clips or, or big film dance sequences. So that was super valuable. But I think the, the most new information to me, and maybe the most moving as well was this, um, the concept of the circle, the cipher. Um, so could you talk a little bit about, um, ring shouts and this symbolism of the circle?  

Well, ring shouts, as they, as has been suggested was America’s first choreography. And Ralph Ellison said that. And what it was was a way for enslaved people to cultivate community, to cultivate space for their spiritual practice. 

Because they weren’t allowed to practice their religion.  

They weren’t allowed to practice their religion. They were being taught a different religion, but they had the wherewithal to, to recognize that the religion that was being passed on or forced upon them was similar in what their belief system was. We just had different languages and different ideas. So through the journals it mentioned how they likened your practice to a Christian. Christian Saint was, you know, similar to the Yoruba deity. And they say they sort of undergird their practice, um, beneath this Christianity and gave the appearance of performing Christian belief practices all the while they’re doing their thing. And so it also, it’s something that gave way to at the time, what you would have referred to as Negro spirituals, which later we know as gospel the combining of European hymns, which had no words to these enslaved African people humming these, uh, these tunes, these hymns, but adding words to it based off of their agrarian practice, based off of their lived experience at a time and creates the stories that go with gospel early gospel songs and the ring shout, being something that coming out of your book, traditions of a cosmogram and there are many different shapes of a cosmogram and the very basic one, having a cross with a circle around it with a cross in the center of the circle and at the end of each line of the cross there’s smaller circles, which represent the sun and the trajectory that the sun, the perception that the sun moves. The perception that the sun moves, counter-clockwise I say perception because a know lot of the sun doesn’t move. No one on this planet has ever seen a sunset or sunrise. That’s just language that we use, but the sun doesn’t move. So it can’t rise or set. Uh, the you’re actually witnessing, we are actually witnessing the rotation of the earth, but nobody’s going to say they went to the beach to watch the rotation of the earth. 

It doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yeah.  

Right. Not at all. But the ring shot is built on this idea of having a verticality coming from spirituality, going into human existence, the horizontal plane, which separates those two, those two planes and the top sun representing high noon, which is male energy. And the bottom sun representing midnight, which is female energy and the circle representing the water. And the very centerpiece, the crossroad is Elegba by, uh, I’m horrible at spelling E – L- L- E- G- B- A (ELEGBA *only one L) believe I might have that wrong.  

Well, you might have it wrong, but I have a diagram that I can refer to. And I will definitely put a diagram of this in the show notes for everybody who’s listening and struggling to imagine. Um, I will absolutely add an image, uh, but carry on.  

And so, you know, this, if you think about Haitian, uh, Voodoo or Vodou um, was it not really the term that was used back then, but it’s what we bought. We connect and this practice was being done there in Haiti, it is, you know, the center post is a space where it allows the spirit to come in and Elegba is a trickster. Um, know, you know, what is it’s false or real. And, but then there’s the lwa, which is the spirit that mounts the body, as they were saying, you say mount to body, because it relates to a forest, uh, a horse with a rider that the rider mounts a horse. So when you say that the low owl has mounted a person, it, the spirit that is connected to him, but we speak of that in Pentecostal or Baptist churches, you speak of that are being touched by the Holy spirit or catching the Holy ghost. You know, you have this kind of language. In hip hop, you might say something like, you know, you blacked out or you went down or you’re going off is basically the space that a spirit enters into your existence and sort of takes over the movement that you’re doing, where you don’t even realize what you just did. Um, the circle in the Cosmogram also represents the perimeter of the circle and dance. And then that crossroads and the center is that person that is in the center. And that in the energy that can come from that, the circularity of the people in the perimeter feeding you in the center energy is where, and, and the guidance of the music is where you reach a devined spirit, or you can reach the Devine spirit, which was the whole purpose of this as a spiritual practice in the first place, was that the drum, a Mambo, which was a priest or priestess, but knowing that the Mambo where the spiritual guides to connect to that, to that other world, right? And it is believed that it is through the water, that the spirit can enter into our human existence hence the separation, um, babies being born through fluid, and the idea of humans being spiritual beings, having a human existence, not human beings, having a spiritual existence, this all plays into that concept. And the circle is a representation of that cosmogram right. That spiritual drawing. And it does the exact same thing. It, it creates that space that allows one to celebrate their individuality while also being attached to the community and the two feed each other, you know, you, you are part of the community, but we still acknowledge your individuality. So you might be in the center. And at some point you come out and someone else goes into the center and they are celebrated. There’s also a space of protection where you can see everybody’s back and you can warn them of any danger. So again, it’s that, it’s that way connected to a ring shot, where it is a it’s a coming together of a community to cultivate a safe space for them to practice their spirituality. And in dance’s case, it’s the, it’s the spiritual connection to the divine through movement and music is it’s doing the same thing. It’s just not perceived in the same manner, but it is the two things are one, one comes from the other. 

This is exactly why context is important, because if you are taught to jump in a circle as a, as a 13 year old in a hip hop class somewhere, which I admit I am fully guilty of this, I thought I was doing right by having your freestyle circle at the end of every class. But without any context at all, that circle doesn’t feel like a safe or spiritual place. It feels like 360 degrees of eyeballs judging you. And I think without the context of what that space can be, what it was created in, or, or intended loosely, I’ll say, uh, what it was created to be is something entirely different. I’m so glad I learned eventually what that is, um, and, and learn this concept and show and prove and became a person who is as comfortable in a circle as I am on a stage doing, you know, predetermined moves at predetermined rhythms. Um, but I think that in addition to this like deeper understanding of the symbolism of the circle, also one of the other things that helped me thrive in a circle, or like just exist there without feeling like I was going to implode on myself was, uh, becoming more familiar with party dances, learning enough social dances, that I had a good enough vocabulary to actually deconstruct things. And then reconstruct things. Like I don’t, I don’t know if somebody would be able to identify that I’m doing, uh, a Smurff or a Robocop because it’s that far deconstruct, it’s something else now, but without those dances,  existing in that space was really uncomfortable for me. So I thank these party dances, um, uh, for a lot of my evolution is dancer . And I do want to talk about party dances for a second because, Oh, by the way, I say party dances. And I, I suppose that’s just how many of these dances were introduced to me. Is there a right or wrong social dances versus party dances? If I’m talking about the cabbage patch or the Biz Markie or, uh, the Prep or the Reebok or those social dances or party dancers.   

No, that language is interchangeable. Um, it’s all mean the same thing. I mean, the dance is whatever the name of the dance is, and it was something done at a party, which is a social event. There’s no right or wrong.  

That’s good to know. I’m glad I asked because there are a few, um, areas of insecurity that I have. I have definitely been a person, you know, before I moved to LA in my early days, who would call somebody a break dancer… when people have asked me if I’m a Hip Hopper, I have said yes… And so I’m catching different ways where language can be terribly, terribly misused. Um, and I was wondering if that might be one of those. Okay. So social dance/party dance, thank you all the dances. But, um, what I, what I’m curious about is this quarantine moment that we’re in all the distance, which honestly, except for maybe the Kid in Play, I can’t think of, uh, of, of a party dance in my vocabulary that requires like a handhold on another person. If we go further back and we start looking at Lindy, Charleston, swing, things like that, very close proximity, like a super close embrace, but we got far apart for awhile. And my guess my romantic hope is that post quarantine or post vaccine, post Corona virus that we’ll come back together and that hands hands will touch again. And we’ll be dancing together again. That’s my secret hope, I guess. Um, other than that, there will be dancing, which you mentioned there will certainly be dancing. Do you have any ideas on the social dances or the people that are on the front line of creating them? 

Those are young people, you know, 8, 9, 10, 15, who are not concerned with holding anybody else’s hand, you know, and it’s understanding the, the, the shift in what partner dancing has become to a degree. Though. Um, Katrina Hazzard-Gordon, has she doesn’t consider partner dancing if you don’t touch. And I sort of disagree with that. I understand where she’s coming from, but you know, Lindy touching your partner, uh, any of the bop, it tango, the Philly Bop, uh, DC hand dance in Chicago stepping, the hustle, touching a partner that does not take away. The fact that me and another person doing the twist, our partner dancing, even though we’re not touching, like we are fully engaged with one another but not touch them. Hip hop was the same thing. If you dance with someone, if they’re doing the wop, you’re doing the wop, you are connected, you are it’s wireless transmission. As my boys would, say, you pick up on what they’re doing and you join in. It’s a call & response. Um, that gets that going, but then there’s a togetherness. So even though, you know, you’re not touching, you’re still dancing with someone.  

I love that argument. And that argument gives me hope for the rest of my lockdown.  

Yeah. So, I mean, you know, hustle made a huge resurgence, everybody’s doing the hustle. So I’m sure the hustle community is definitely going to be out there. People are going to be taking partner dances and salsa and everything else that’ll definitely grow. Um, and then people will be, even though they’re not touching communities of dances, we’ll be looking forward to going back to the parties and being collectively together, hearing the same music, sharing the same vibe, doing the same. So it’s, it’s just, you know what you want to focus this on. I would not focus on the fact that they’re not touching, but they are together. And, you know, if you really want to get philosophical, everybody’s touching through the air in the first place. If there’s air, we are touching  

Lets go! On the particle level.  

When people talk about the senses of the body, they talk about, they get to touch, right. You know, smell, hear, see they get to touch, but I’m like, if you, if you’re standing outside and the wind blows, you feel it, but nothing touched you. So you got to expand your idea of what the senses are. What touch actually is.  

I, I really do think that togetherness is… starts here (in the mind). And so we can dance here on a zoom call and have a sense of togetherness, uh, without touching. Thank you for reminding me of that. Um, okay. I don’t wanna, um, bamboozle your time this evening, but I do, I forgot to ask one thing right at the top. So maybe we’ll end with, with sort of the beginning, I would love to share a little bit of the etymology of the words, hip hop. It’s one of my favorite things that I learned from you, um, and being a person all of 34 years old, the meaning of the word hop to me meant like, you know, to jump, but I’ve been around long enough to know that, uh, like a sock hop or to hop till you drop or hop around the clock. Like, I know that that means dance, but I was really fascinated to hear the etymology of hip or I believe it started as hep  

It started as hip, but it became hep a little later on. And in fact, the word hip, according to John Leland, who wrote a book called the Hip: the history, uh, he did research suggesting that the word hip those back to Wolof speaking people in West Africa, and that the word hippie means to open one’s eyes, to be aware of something. And the word Hip was popularized in America, at least according to research, around 1800 sort of jumping through some of the time periods, it’s popularity in the forties, when it was spelled with an E you were a hep person, which meant that you were aware of what was going on, and you knew what was in fashion and what clubs were hot, where you go to eat and what band was good. You knew you were hep to what was going on by the sixties. It turns back into an I, so it’s hip. And there’s a sense, again, there’s still a sense of awareness because even when they talk about the hippie community of the sixties, they try to paint them as these like tie dye, free love, get high people, but you’re still talking about people who were conscious enough to fight against the war who, you know, women’s movement was like, let’s burn these bras, like this sense of freedom. Like they knew what was going on in government and politics. They were hip to what was going on. And usually when people are hip to what’s going on, they try to paint them as crazy. In the seventies you still have the word hip, as you were mentioning, hop in America in the 20th century was always synonymous with dance. You know, let’s go to the hop, let’s go to the dance, uh, hop around the clock, meant to dance beyond midnight or dance all night. You know, people of that generation would go to a sock hop where you take off your shoes and your dance and your socks. So hop was to dance. One of the earliest records to sort of have a play on the words, hip and hop was,  

Oh, uh, Delight. Rapper’s delight.  

No, that’s way later. That’s 79.  

Yes. Bring me the knowledge. Yeah,  

That wasn’t until 79. That was, they were really late to the party. There’s another record out. There’s two records. One accidentally puts the two words together. So it’s, uh, uh, Scatman Crothers 1956 or 57 songs, sweet lips where he just happens to he’s, he’s naming these things. He wants, I want to flip flop, hip hop, like, yeah. Rappers are like, they didn’t get it until the seventies. And so it basically means you, everybody can have their interpretation of it. But hip is a word that meant to be aware of, to be knowledgeable of something. And hop was just synonymous with dance. But that is, that’s the etymology of those two words as they are being used. It was Keef Cowboy that actually brought up that phrasing by accident. When a friend of his, I can’t think of his name was going into the armed services and at a party, it was Keef Cowboy that was saying you to, you know, you said something to the effect of like, you know, you’ve been living up tonight because tomorrow going to be hip, hop, hip like that. Right. And so then Lovebug Starski takes it on and then develops it into the phrasing of hip hop. And then, you know, then we find it, we hear the Rapper’s delight, but that’s, I mean, that’s basically, you know what that is. And the fact that the name has that hip hop culture is named Hip hop culture was also purely accidental, uh, based on a 1981 January issue of the East Village Eye , that came out where Michael Holman did an interview with Afrika Bambaataa

 and asking Bam, you know, what the, what this bubbling culture was, but this new thing, the kids were in, Bam didn’t have a definition. So he just started reciting Rapper’s delight and . And it was written. So, and then there it is, but purely accidental. And because it was Afrika Bambaataa

 it, you know, he brought some levity to it, so it stuck. And, um, but that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s it in a nutshell.  

Incredible. I, I love it. And I would love to talk more, but I would really love everybody who’s listening to go find more of you, your lessons, which is way, way deeper than anything. I would say we barely scratched the surface in our conversation today. Um, so can you tell us a little, Oh, I registered for, um, Passionfruit Seeds, which starts in the middle of February. If you’re listening to this on the day of its release, you still have one day to register. I’m going to link to the registration page in the show notes of this episode, but Moncell be a contributing educator at that event, uh, Passionfruit Seeds. But, uh, can you tell us a little bit about intangible roots? When will your next course be the hoping  

I’m developing that now. Well, I’m definitely going to do another summer in July and I’m actually working on a six week course. I don’t know if I’ll be able to introduce the six week course this coming summer, but certainly I’ll do another four classes. So intangible roots will be out, uh, as a course, the summer sessions, there will be, um, um, doing another film screening the last day of this month. Uh, so advertisement will go up on Instagram will go up on Twitter will go up on Facebook  

I will be sure to, uh, share and reshare and include that in special bulletins to all ye as well. Um, Moncell, how do we find more? You were, uh, follow followings and web sightings.  

Well, pretty much everything is my name, Moncell Durden. Uh, my Instagram account is @moncelldurden My clubhouse account is moncelldurden. I, uh, um, Twitter is MoncellDurden. My web page is moncelldurden.com Facebook is the only one that’s different. Facebook is Moncell Illkozby Durden. And, uh, and, um, and I have a new website, intangibleroots.com that I haven’t, I haven’t started developing yet, but you can, things get posted on my website. Things get posted on Instagram. Those you definitely want to check back and forth on those. The, um, the other platform I’m I’m engaged with now is clubhouse. And it’s basically a, it’s basically a open line conversation, you know, it’s all completely audio. You can’t see anybody, they can’t see you. And, um, I started doing, I started a talk last night called black social dances, history, heritage stories, and more, and I’m going to do one every Monday. I do believe I said eight o’clock, which I’m going to have to shift if I did say eight o’clock to nine o’clock because I’m still teaching my lecture course at eight o’clock. Oh yeah. I have to make that change. Um, yeah, people can find me there and, and Instagram, and I might do some film screenings of different documentaries, uh, maybe two a month over the next couple of months to get ready for the summer that I’m trying to, my plan is to speak to the directors of each of the films. So if I can set that up, then that’s the plan. Um, and that those will be free on zoom. And, uh, yeah, just look for me on, look for me on, uh, uh, for my website and the website will always post the next classes for intangible roots.  

Incredible. Well, I will be sure to link to all of those places. Um, and I really do hope that everyone who’s listening continues this deep dive. Uh, there’s, there’s so much to be learned. Um, really appreciate your time. Thank you for being here.  

Thank you for having me. 

My pleasure, my pleasure  

There, you have it. I hope that this episode has inspired you to dig in and dig deeper into your dance history, into your personal history and to the history of whatever craft it is. You are practicing. I hope that you seek more than names and dates as you’re studying. It really is about context. It’s about meaning. It’s about the message. And I am so grateful for Moncell for sharing his message today. Again, all of the links to moncell’s work, his projects, his workshops will be found in the show notes to this episode, and that is it for me. Get out there and keep it funky. 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 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. 

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: My Friend, My friend, do I have a treat for you today? Oh my gosh. You’re going to want to make sure you have a pen or paper or some sort of writing device today. Or you could just jump straight to clicking that download button because my guest on the pod today is the one and only Moncell Durden. Moncell, wears many, many hats. He’s a dancer, educator, historian, ethnographer, documentary filmmaker, and much, much more. Um, he is a fountain of information and this is information you’re going to want to hold onto. So I’ll let the conversation speak for itself. I’m not going to give too much of a preamble here, but before we dive into the interview, we’re going to share some wins. Yes. If you are an avid listener, you know how important I think it is to celebrate what’s going well. And for the last several episodes, we’ve been doing that at the end of each episode. And you know what I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna put it up front again. So here we are at the top of the episode, and here I go today, I am celebrating the first ever Words that Move Me Community group coaching call. It happened just yesterday. And I must admit I was more than slightly nervous about this call, which I think is normal when you’re doing something that you’re really excited about for the very first time. Um, and, and that was definitely this, but I was met by the most incredibly warm assemblage of bright minds and, and curious creators, um, simply honored to be doing this work with you. So thank you Words that Move Me Community members. I appreciate you. I celebrate you. Um, if you are curious about what that means or how to become a member yourself, check out theDanawilson.com and click on membership thedanawilson.com click on the membership tab. You got that. Okay. That’s me. That’s what’s going well in my world now. It’s your turn.  Yes. Crowd participation. Let’s go. What is going well in your world? 

Phenomenal. Congratulations. Please do  Keep winning. Okay. My friend, I don’t want to wait another second. I am so excited to share the wealth of knowledge. That is my guest Moncell Durden. Enjoy!

Dana: Moncell Durden. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here. 

Moncell: Thank you for having me. 

Dana: Um, all right. It is par for the course. This is how we do it here. Take a moment. Take, take the challenge of introducing yourself. What, what would you like us to know about you?  

Moncell: Well My name is Moncell Durden. I’m from the East coast now residing in California, a dance historian, author, documentarian, researcher, uh, probably a host of other things I can’t think of right now. Um, you know, just started my, the founder of Intangible Roots, which is an educational platform, um, developing programs to help people learn, to build certifications, um, to share knowledge. Um, I’m a professor at University of Southern California, uh, for the Gloria Kaufman International school of dance, been there five years. And, um, yeah, I don’t know. It was a few other things, I guess people will learn along this journey.  

Um, so we have a mutual friend. Her name is Ardyn Flynt. She’s a USC grad and absolutely extraordinary dancer, um, with the kindest heart and a very bright mind. Having a conversation with her, it feels a little like school sometimes, I learned so much every time. Um, but before I heard your name from her, I had actually heard of this documentary called Everything remains Raw. I didn’t know it was you.  Could you tell us a little bit about the doc and what your hopes are for it?  

Sure. Um, the documentary, it speaks to and uncovers the genealogy, of African-American social dances. Uh, it’s something I started in 2003 and continued to work on it. Uh, it’s not just the 90 minute documentary, but it’s my original idea was to have a series. And so I’m trying to find the right supporters and backing to bring this film to light. It’s a ton of research that continues to go on. And, um, it’s an educational tool and I hope, you know, we we’ll, we’ll either get out to the people one way or another, you know, Netflix or some other streaming service or on television or on the big screen. Uh, but the idea is to really talk about the things that are overlooked in dance practice. Uh, so it’s not just about, you know, this time period and, and, and the dances we did, it really speaks to the social, political, economic, environmental, cultural, um, and spiritual space that inform these dance practices. So I really want to provide a context into the why behind the, what  

I love that you said that. And I think that context is probably the most important missing link to all of the education and honestly, a lot of the celebration that we’re doing this month around black history month, I think it’s that context that is the most important thing. So, uh, maybe let’s go back to Ardyn for a second and USC. Uh, so Ardyn speaks highly of you. You are a mentor and a friend, and, um, she talks a lot about what you did for her and for the program at USC. Uh, could you tell us a little bit about what and how you teach there?  

Uh, so I teach, uh, theoretical classes and practical classes. Uh, the theory classes are the three lecture courses. I teach African-American dance. What I refer to as an illustrated history and hip hop, don’t stop exploring black vernacular dance practice. And currently I am teaching, uh, the origins of jazz dance. So those are my three lecture courses. And for the elective students, I teach hip hop dance. For the majors I teach house. So we’re, we’re kind of set up. I think we’re one of the only institutions in America that has six community practitioners from hip hop teaching in one university. It’s sort of unheard of. You might get one, you might luck out to get two, but six. And so, yeah, we have, haven’t worked out where we’re able to focus on different forms under the umbrella, of Hip Hop, you know. The first year students come in and they get a Sebela Grimes movement system called Fundamental metal, metal kinetics refocusing on hip hop movement, but from a social cultural perspective and really giving you fundamentals as sophomore, see me and I teach house and our juniors are taught by Tiffany Bong and she covers whacking and locking and the social dances of the seventies.  And we have Amy O’Neal who works on rhythm structures and composition, uh, Randi Fleckenstine who works on floor movement. 

Shout out Omega Floorwork!

And, uh, she’s a phenomenal B girl, but just a phenomenal dancer. And so she’s doing she’s new and she’s doing amazing work. And then we have Shannon Grayson who also teaches the party dances of hip hop. So it’s a, it’s a nice, you know, some nice cohort of community-based folk in a institutions giving real grass-root lessons than what these forms are. Sometimes… I’d be remised to say that some times, uh, well, this year I’m working with our, uh, theatrical department and teaching authentic jazz to them. So that’s, that’s really cool.  

Uh, that is that’s exquisite.  I’m happy to hear about the USC family. I know a couple of students going into the program, um, and several that are coming up through it and graduating and crushing it in the world. Um, if we could stay on the subject of training for a second, um, I didn’t go to college for dance and I did grow up in a studio setting. And, um, I’m grateful for my studio teaching experience or studio learning experience because I see it as somewhat of a sampler platter, like a little bit of tap a little bit. Well, a lot a bit of ballet at which I did not a lot a bit succeed. Um, a lot of, bit of many styles, which drove me to pack up my Volkswagen bug and moved to LA when I was 18. And I was very fortunate in my timing and placement once I got here, um, because I had a very hard conversation with b-boy Kmel. I remember it like it was yesterday who looked me in my face and laughed and said, you are not a dancer. You are a computer. And I was, you can imagine also his words. He didn’t say it quite like that.  

Oh yeah, I know K 

So in that moment, I was obviously, I felt very exposed I got extremely defensive. 


As you should. 

But around that same time, absolutely. Um, around that same time I was introduced to Toni Basil. I learned everything I know about locking from her. And for a short time I studied with Suga Pop. I learned everything. I learned everything I know about popping from Pete himself. Like I got very lucky in my timing and placement and, and those people gave me an appetite for freestyle in general. Um, but for funk styles in the, in the big picture. And I knew at that time that K was not wrong. Like once those worlds were open to me, I knew he was not wrong. Even in the moment where it was like, you don’t know me, I love dance. I have a heartbeat, I’m a person. But I knew I was like, Oh, damn, there is more to it than this. And I, I did always felt very uncomfortable when I wasn’t being told exactly what to do.  So, um, one of the things that you talk about is how a lot of dance studios and studio environments offer hip hop to stay competitive.  They offer it because they have to, and they find someone who says that they can teach it or has some sort of following. So I wonder, I know that I have some teachers listening and I’m wondering what you would say to them. Um, words of wisdom or inspiration, or maybe a quick slap on the wrist. I don’t know. Oh, leave that up to you. But we have a problem in that people who don’t know are teaching oftentimes and, and how do we solve that problem?  

I’m not sure if I have the answer to how to solve the problem. I definitely give slaps on the wrist.  

Let’s go tough learning. That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here.  

You know, they, I have a lot of, so I didn’t, I didn’t go to college and I didn’t grow up in a studio. In fact, I didn’t know people went to studios to learn dance until I was somewhere in my late twenties. Uh, because I grew up in an environment where everyone, I knew danced, whether you were two or 82, they danced, they danced on roller skates. They did the dancers from their generation. You were not special because you could dance because a six year old will embarrass you. And a 50 year old embarrass you and you’re 15.  .It was something that was just done in the community. You know, for most African-American people, um, they learned dance. The studio is the living room, is the backyard is the basement is the party, is at school. That’s where you learn dance. And so studios are a business. And in my opinion, there, they are not about community. They may think they are, but they’re about performing. This is the structure of a studio is to teach people, forms of movement that don’t exist in their environment. Why else would you need to go study? You know, if you grow up, if you’re born in France, you don’t necessarily go to school to study how to speak French. You grew up with it. And it’s just under know, it’s understood in the learning process. You’re surrounded by it. You know, African children do not have to go to school to learn how to undulate their bodies and do their cultural dances. It’s what you see everybody doing. You learn it. But we go to school to learn stuff that is not accessible in our community. It’s not our live practice. Ballet is not a cultural practice that has an environment that supports it like Europe does. And even I would argue even in Europe, because we’re talking about something hundreds of years old, that’s really, truly speaks to a particular time period that has been reinvented by others and approached in different ways. But the thing, it’s a performance it’s not done in a club. You don’t learn ballet to go social dancing. You learn it to hit the proscenium. And that’s where it stays. That’s where it lives and you leave it to fence. And so the idea of social dancing has been something that has been disregarded in this country, dating back to the 1870s, where a lot of movements in different organizations and societies were built. You know, you think of in Chautauqua movement that came out, that was a summer camp that focused on social decorum for young kids through dance. But it wasn’t about the dance. It was about how you’ve used dance to elevate one status in society. It wasn’t so much about the dancing itself or how dancing was used to align people politically, aligned people economically, um, uh, to, you know, create relationships and what have you and the studio they’re not operating in those same ways. A lot of that has been the foundation. If you will. They’ve a Eurocentric approach that is not necessarily about community is about one person standing out that the end goal is to be on stage and to do all these other things. And you know, people are asking me about hip hop in particular, or where do you see hip hop in 50 years? And I was like, I don’t really know where I.. What I do know, is historically I expect young black kids to still be dancing. Now, whether or not they’ve had ever get a job ever be in a movie, ever be on stage, they will still dance. They are not dancing to get to the other side of the room. They are not dancing to be on camera. They’re not dancing for any of that. Cause if none of that stuff existed, they would still create dances. And you think about a community who does it for, uh, and this could be argumentative, but who purely does it for the love of it? And there’s no trajectory, right? I love this dance. I’m going to create new movements because when I was coming up, you had to, if you did a move in the club one week, you better have something different the next week. And so think about kids, kids who go to studios or go to college, spend thousands and thousands of dollars. And it’s like, all right, if you would you train this hard, if you were never going to get paid for it, if you’ve never had the opportunity for a job. Now, maybe that’s an unfair question, but that’s a difference in doing it in the community as just a normal way of expressing your everyday lived experience through movement. It is not about the studio practice. And, um, I think that there’s a disconnect with trying to bring an art form that is not strictly about performance into a space that, that’s what it’s about. That doesn’t, you know, most studios, you know, a lot of know have Marley floors. Well, hip hop is an art form. If you wanted to call it an art form that you don’t dance on marley, you dance on hardwood floors. And so some of these studios are not even set up that way. And then even still, oftentimes if they do happen to have a wooden floor, they might do a performance somewhere that still has Marley. So you’re not truly set. You’re bringing people into an aesthetic without appreciating the aesthetic that the dance and the environment that the dance comes from and how it moves and grooves.  And so I think if studio owners want to have that, they need to understand that technique just means structural alignment. You know, I’m a trained dancer, this phrase like every dancer is a trained dancer. They train in the form that they know that they had, that they love to do. And you know, when you think about ballet and you’re in a studio, learning ballet, you’re learning any, any dance form, a person learns, you are learning a social cultural practice. Ballet speaks to a particular time period. That is based in gestures of that time period is based in hierarchal thinking from a niche community. And this is what the movements are built around. And you have to understand the context of the dance to really move in in the way that, you know, this is, this is, this is the meaning and the message of what you’re doing and all dance forms do that. So if you learn, you know, tap, there’s a social cultural experience that goes with that. If you learn modern, it was a social, cultural experience goes that same with hip hop and it’s understanding. And some of the studios needs to understand that we’re bringing these art forms in. There is proper cultural significance that go with it and you need to have qualified instructors, you know, but the studio also have an issue with, because it’s such, and I don’t mean to harp on it, on studios like this, but it’s such a money game. Cause I used to teach in a lot of studios and you know, you have 21 year olds teach the 15 year olds. The 15 year olds teach the 13 year olds. And the 13 year olds are teaching the seven year olds. Are you kidding me? Parents are paying for 13 year olds to teach their five and seven year olds who are being taught by the 15 and six. Like it’s ridiculous. Um, because you can’t get enough quality teachers to teach those different levels.  

I would imagine, especially if you’re not in a big hub city. 

Right, right. So you have to do like, Oh, well, you know. These two students are really good. They’re the top tier in our studio. So we’re going to have them teach the lower students, the younger students. And that’s such a disservice because you’re, you’re being taught by someone who’s not qualified. Who’s growing, who hasn’t developed the skillset to be at a high level as a teacher, what parents should be paying for, you know, studios know that if they don’t offer it in the studio down the street could. And so I remember in Philadelphia, a lot of studios, I talked to a lot of owners and many of them thought that hip hop was the new name for jazz and I’m talking commercial, jazz, not authentic jazz. And so he just didn’t know. And I I’ve had students at those studios telling me that the owner, the students were asked to teach a hip hop class and the would, well, I don’t do hip hop. And then only the studio would say, well, this dude watch this video and do what they do. So there’s no, you wouldn’t do that with a ballet class.  

Right. Watch this video and do what they do, yea.

But it shows you how little they think of a dance. They think it’s, you know, it, it has no structure. They think it has no form and has no vocabulary and technique. And this is what they need to know. We think as my boy would say, recognized, not just recognized. You know, uh, and that’s, you know, that’s the biggest, I think, struggle that studios have, it’s trying to work in this model that has been passed down for performative sense versus something that is based on social engagement. And the two have not had a smooth transition and have coexisted.  

I think if we are to make a dance analogy on the subject of transitions, I think the first essential piece of a successful and smooth transition is simply the awareness. I’m aware of my shoulders and my pelvis in this position, in this place. And I know they need to go over here and I hope that this episode helps a little bit at very least with that awareness. I, I can’t tell you exactly how to transfer the weight. Um, I don’t have the steps in between, but I, I can hope. And thank you, Moncell, for offering this like moment of awareness.  Uh in your writing and one of the pieces that I read while I was in your course intangible roots, um, you, you explain hip hop as a vernacular form, which really just means that it’s indigenous to a particular community and lifestyle. And when we remember that, we remember how much comes along with that. And I think that a lot of people are quicker, faster, more confident to jump to teaching hip hop in general than we are to teaching, you know, this Sudanese dance or this, this Greek dance or something like that. But that’s really what hip hop is. It really is all of that. It has techniques, foundations, pioneers, important people and dates and histories and vocabularies that really are to be regarded, revered at very least re recognized. Uh, um, so thank you for that. Um, if, if maybe that’s a good segue, actually, while we’re talking about meanings and messages and the breadth of everything that comes along with hip hop, I do want to talk about your course intangible roots. It was a highlight of my 2020, which albeit, uh, that bar was set pretty low 2020 had some tough, tough times, but I so valued my time in that chair, watching, listening, reading, writing. Um, so I want to talk a little bit about that. Uh, we talked about like some of the outstanding things, especially for me, a person who works a lot in the entertainment industry was when you spoke about film and TV and the stereotypes of African-American characters, like the Mammy, the Uncle, the Sambo, I was like, Whoa. And as you were showing these clips from commercials and TV shows and cartoons, it was non-stop bombardment. And that, that shook me to my core. Um, I learned how to more responsibly digest dance media, like little class clips or, or big film dance sequences. So that was super valuable. But I think the, the most new information to me, and maybe the most moving as well was this, um, the concept of the circle, the cipher. Um, so could you talk a little bit about, um, ring shouts and this symbolism of the circle?  

Well, ring shouts, as they, as has been suggested was America’s first choreography. And Ralph Ellison said that. And what it was was a way for enslaved people to cultivate community, to cultivate space for their spiritual practice. 

Because they weren’t allowed to practice their religion.  

They weren’t allowed to practice their religion. They were being taught a different religion, but they had the wherewithal to, to recognize that the religion that was being passed on or forced upon them was similar in what their belief system was. We just had different languages and different ideas. So through the journals it mentioned how they likened your practice to a Christian. Christian Saint was, you know, similar to the Yoruba deity. And they say they sort of undergird their practice, um, beneath this Christianity and gave the appearance of performing Christian belief practices all the while they’re doing their thing. And so it also, it’s something that gave way to at the time, what you would have referred to as Negro spirituals, which later we know as gospel the combining of European hymns, which had no words to these enslaved African people humming these, uh, these tunes, these hymns, but adding words to it based off of their agrarian practice, based off of their lived experience at a time and creates the stories that go with gospel early gospel songs and the ring shout, being something that coming out of your book, traditions of a cosmogram and there are many different shapes of a cosmogram and the very basic one, having a cross with a circle around it with a cross in the center of the circle and at the end of each line of the cross there’s smaller circles, which represent the sun and the trajectory that the sun, the perception that the sun moves. The perception that the sun moves, counter-clockwise I say perception because a know lot of the sun doesn’t move. No one on this planet has ever seen a sunset or sunrise. That’s just language that we use, but the sun doesn’t move. So it can’t rise or set. Uh, the you’re actually witnessing, we are actually witnessing the rotation of the earth, but nobody’s going to say they went to the beach to watch the rotation of the earth. 

It doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yeah.  

Right. Not at all. But the ring shot is built on this idea of having a verticality coming from spirituality, going into human existence, the horizontal plane, which separates those two, those two planes and the top sun representing high noon, which is male energy. And the bottom sun representing midnight, which is female energy and the circle representing the water. And the very centerpiece, the crossroad is Elegba by, uh, I’m horrible at spelling E – L- L- E- G- B- A (ELEGBA *only one L) believe I might have that wrong.  

Well, you might have it wrong, but I have a diagram that I can refer to. And I will definitely put a diagram of this in the show notes for everybody who’s listening and struggling to imagine. Um, I will absolutely add an image, uh, but carry on.  

And so, you know, this, if you think about Haitian, uh, Voodoo or Vodou um, was it not really the term that was used back then, but it’s what we bought. We connect and this practice was being done there in Haiti, it is, you know, the center post is a space where it allows the spirit to come in and Elegba is a trickster. Um, know, you know, what is it’s false or real. And, but then there’s the lwa, which is the spirit that mounts the body, as they were saying, you say mount to body, because it relates to a forest, uh, a horse with a rider that the rider mounts a horse. So when you say that the low owl has mounted a person, it, the spirit that is connected to him, but we speak of that in Pentecostal or Baptist churches, you speak of that are being touched by the Holy spirit or catching the Holy ghost. You know, you have this kind of language. In hip hop, you might say something like, you know, you blacked out or you went down or you’re going off is basically the space that a spirit enters into your existence and sort of takes over the movement that you’re doing, where you don’t even realize what you just did. Um, the circle in the Cosmogram also represents the perimeter of the circle and dance. And then that crossroads and the center is that person that is in the center. And that in the energy that can come from that, the circularity of the people in the perimeter feeding you in the center energy is where, and, and the guidance of the music is where you reach a devined spirit, or you can reach the Devine spirit, which was the whole purpose of this as a spiritual practice in the first place, was that the drum, a Mambo, which was a priest or priestess, but knowing that the Mambo where the spiritual guides to connect to that, to that other world, right? And it is believed that it is through the water, that the spirit can enter into our human existence hence the separation, um, babies being born through fluid, and the idea of humans being spiritual beings, having a human existence, not human beings, having a spiritual existence, this all plays into that concept. And the circle is a representation of that cosmogram right. That spiritual drawing. And it does the exact same thing. It, it creates that space that allows one to celebrate their individuality while also being attached to the community and the two feed each other, you know, you, you are part of the community, but we still acknowledge your individuality. So you might be in the center. And at some point you come out and someone else goes into the center and they are celebrated. There’s also a space of protection where you can see everybody’s back and you can warn them of any danger. So again, it’s that, it’s that way connected to a ring shot, where it is a it’s a coming together of a community to cultivate a safe space for them to practice their spirituality. And in dance’s case, it’s the, it’s the spiritual connection to the divine through movement and music is it’s doing the same thing. It’s just not perceived in the same manner, but it is the two things are one, one comes from the other. 

This is exactly why context is important, because if you are taught to jump in a circle as a, as a 13 year old in a hip hop class somewhere, which I admit I am fully guilty of this, I thought I was doing right by having your freestyle circle at the end of every class. But without any context at all, that circle doesn’t feel like a safe or spiritual place. It feels like 360 degrees of eyeballs judging you. And I think without the context of what that space can be, what it was created in, or, or intended loosely, I’ll say, uh, what it was created to be is something entirely different. I’m so glad I learned eventually what that is, um, and, and learn this concept and show and prove and became a person who is as comfortable in a circle as I am on a stage doing, you know, predetermined moves at predetermined rhythms. Um, but I think that in addition to this like deeper understanding of the symbolism of the circle, also one of the other things that helped me thrive in a circle, or like just exist there without feeling like I was going to implode on myself was, uh, becoming more familiar with party dances, learning enough social dances, that I had a good enough vocabulary to actually deconstruct things. And then reconstruct things. Like I don’t, I don’t know if somebody would be able to identify that I’m doing, uh, a Smurff or a Robocop because it’s that far deconstruct, it’s something else now, but without those dances,  existing in that space was really uncomfortable for me. So I thank these party dances, um, uh, for a lot of my evolution is dancer . And I do want to talk about party dances for a second because, Oh, by the way, I say party dances. And I, I suppose that’s just how many of these dances were introduced to me. Is there a right or wrong social dances versus party dances? If I’m talking about the cabbage patch or the Biz Markie or, uh, the Prep or the Reebok or those social dances or party dancers.   

No, that language is interchangeable. Um, it’s all mean the same thing. I mean, the dance is whatever the name of the dance is, and it was something done at a party, which is a social event. There’s no right or wrong.  

That’s good to know. I’m glad I asked because there are a few, um, areas of insecurity that I have. I have definitely been a person, you know, before I moved to LA in my early days, who would call somebody a break dancer… when people have asked me if I’m a Hip Hopper, I have said yes… And so I’m catching different ways where language can be terribly, terribly misused. Um, and I was wondering if that might be one of those. Okay. So social dance/party dance, thank you all the dances. But, um, what I, what I’m curious about is this quarantine moment that we’re in all the distance, which honestly, except for maybe the Kid in Play, I can’t think of, uh, of, of a party dance in my vocabulary that requires like a handhold on another person. If we go further back and we start looking at Lindy, Charleston, swing, things like that, very close proximity, like a super close embrace, but we got far apart for awhile. And my guess my romantic hope is that post quarantine or post vaccine, post Corona virus that we’ll come back together and that hands hands will touch again. And we’ll be dancing together again. That’s my secret hope, I guess. Um, other than that, there will be dancing, which you mentioned there will certainly be dancing. Do you have any ideas on the social dances or the people that are on the front line of creating them? 

Those are young people, you know, 8, 9, 10, 15, who are not concerned with holding anybody else’s hand, you know, and it’s understanding the, the, the shift in what partner dancing has become to a degree. Though. Um, Katrina Hazzard-Gordon, has she doesn’t consider partner dancing if you don’t touch. And I sort of disagree with that. I understand where she’s coming from, but you know, Lindy touching your partner, uh, any of the bop, it tango, the Philly Bop, uh, DC hand dance in Chicago stepping, the hustle, touching a partner that does not take away. The fact that me and another person doing the twist, our partner dancing, even though we’re not touching, like we are fully engaged with one another but not touch them. Hip hop was the same thing. If you dance with someone, if they’re doing the wop, you’re doing the wop, you are connected, you are it’s wireless transmission. As my boys would, say, you pick up on what they’re doing and you join in. It’s a call & response. Um, that gets that going, but then there’s a togetherness. So even though, you know, you’re not touching, you’re still dancing with someone.  

I love that argument. And that argument gives me hope for the rest of my lockdown.  

Yeah. So, I mean, you know, hustle made a huge resurgence, everybody’s doing the hustle. So I’m sure the hustle community is definitely going to be out there. People are going to be taking partner dances and salsa and everything else that’ll definitely grow. Um, and then people will be, even though they’re not touching communities of dances, we’ll be looking forward to going back to the parties and being collectively together, hearing the same music, sharing the same vibe, doing the same. So it’s, it’s just, you know what you want to focus this on. I would not focus on the fact that they’re not touching, but they are together. And, you know, if you really want to get philosophical, everybody’s touching through the air in the first place. If there’s air, we are touching  

Lets go! On the particle level.  

When people talk about the senses of the body, they talk about, they get to touch, right. You know, smell, hear, see they get to touch, but I’m like, if you, if you’re standing outside and the wind blows, you feel it, but nothing touched you. So you got to expand your idea of what the senses are. What touch actually is.  

I, I really do think that togetherness is… starts here (in the mind). And so we can dance here on a zoom call and have a sense of togetherness, uh, without touching. Thank you for reminding me of that. Um, okay. I don’t wanna, um, bamboozle your time this evening, but I do, I forgot to ask one thing right at the top. So maybe we’ll end with, with sort of the beginning, I would love to share a little bit of the etymology of the words, hip hop. It’s one of my favorite things that I learned from you, um, and being a person all of 34 years old, the meaning of the word hop to me meant like, you know, to jump, but I’ve been around long enough to know that, uh, like a sock hop or to hop till you drop or hop around the clock. Like, I know that that means dance, but I was really fascinated to hear the etymology of hip or I believe it started as hep  

It started as hip, but it became hep a little later on. And in fact, the word hip, according to John Leland, who wrote a book called the Hip: the history, uh, he did research suggesting that the word hip those back to Wolof speaking people in West Africa, and that the word hippie means to open one’s eyes, to be aware of something. And the word Hip was popularized in America, at least according to research, around 1800 sort of jumping through some of the time periods, it’s popularity in the forties, when it was spelled with an E you were a hep person, which meant that you were aware of what was going on, and you knew what was in fashion and what clubs were hot, where you go to eat and what band was good. You knew you were hep to what was going on by the sixties. It turns back into an I, so it’s hip. And there’s a sense, again, there’s still a sense of awareness because even when they talk about the hippie community of the sixties, they try to paint them as these like tie dye, free love, get high people, but you’re still talking about people who were conscious enough to fight against the war who, you know, women’s movement was like, let’s burn these bras, like this sense of freedom. Like they knew what was going on in government and politics. They were hip to what was going on. And usually when people are hip to what’s going on, they try to paint them as crazy. In the seventies you still have the word hip, as you were mentioning, hop in America in the 20th century was always synonymous with dance. You know, let’s go to the hop, let’s go to the dance, uh, hop around the clock, meant to dance beyond midnight or dance all night. You know, people of that generation would go to a sock hop where you take off your shoes and your dance and your socks. So hop was to dance. One of the earliest records to sort of have a play on the words, hip and hop was,  

Oh, uh, Delight. Rapper’s delight.  

No, that’s way later. That’s 79.  

Yes. Bring me the knowledge. Yeah,  

That wasn’t until 79. That was, they were really late to the party. There’s another record out. There’s two records. One accidentally puts the two words together. So it’s, uh, uh, Scatman Crothers 1956 or 57 songs, sweet lips where he just happens to he’s, he’s naming these things. He wants, I want to flip flop, hip hop, like, yeah. Rappers are like, they didn’t get it until the seventies. And so it basically means you, everybody can have their interpretation of it. But hip is a word that meant to be aware of, to be knowledgeable of something. And hop was just synonymous with dance. But that is, that’s the etymology of those two words as they are being used. It was Keef Cowboy that actually brought up that phrasing by accident. When a friend of his, I can’t think of his name was going into the armed services and at a party, it was Keef Cowboy that was saying you to, you know, you said something to the effect of like, you know, you’ve been living up tonight because tomorrow going to be hip, hop, hip like that. Right. And so then Lovebug Starski takes it on and then develops it into the phrasing of hip hop. And then, you know, then we find it, we hear the Rapper’s delight, but that’s, I mean, that’s basically, you know what that is. And the fact that the name has that hip hop culture is named Hip hop culture was also purely accidental, uh, based on a 1981 January issue of the East Village Eye , that came out where Michael Holman did an interview with Afrika Bambaataa

 and asking Bam, you know, what the, what this bubbling culture was, but this new thing, the kids were in, Bam didn’t have a definition. So he just started reciting Rapper’s delight and . And it was written. So, and then there it is, but purely accidental. And because it was Afrika Bambaataa

 it, you know, he brought some levity to it, so it stuck. And, um, but that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s it in a nutshell.  

Incredible. I, I love it. And I would love to talk more, but I would really love everybody who’s listening to go find more of you, your lessons, which is way, way deeper than anything. I would say we barely scratched the surface in our conversation today. Um, so can you tell us a little, Oh, I registered for, um, Passionfruit Seeds, which starts in the middle of February. If you’re listening to this on the day of its release, you still have one day to register. I’m going to link to the registration page in the show notes of this episode, but Moncell be a contributing educator at that event, uh, Passionfruit Seeds. But, uh, can you tell us a little bit about intangible roots? When will your next course be the hoping  

I’m developing that now. Well, I’m definitely going to do another summer in July and I’m actually working on a six week course. I don’t know if I’ll be able to introduce the six week course this coming summer, but certainly I’ll do another four classes. So intangible roots will be out, uh, as a course, the summer sessions, there will be, um, um, doing another film screening the last day of this month. Uh, so advertisement will go up on Instagram will go up on Twitter will go up on Facebook  

I will be sure to, uh, share and reshare and include that in special bulletins to all ye as well. Um, Moncell, how do we find more? You were, uh, follow followings and web sightings.  

Well, pretty much everything is my name, Moncell Durden. Uh, my Instagram account is @moncelldurden My clubhouse account is moncelldurden. I, uh, um, Twitter is MoncellDurden. My web page is moncelldurden.com Facebook is the only one that’s different. Facebook is Moncell Illkozby Durden. And, uh, and, um, and I have a new website, intangibleroots.com that I haven’t, I haven’t started developing yet, but you can, things get posted on my website. Things get posted on Instagram. Those you definitely want to check back and forth on those. The, um, the other platform I’m I’m engaged with now is clubhouse. And it’s basically a, it’s basically a open line conversation, you know, it’s all completely audio. You can’t see anybody, they can’t see you. And, um, I started doing, I started a talk last night called black social dances, history, heritage stories, and more, and I’m going to do one every Monday. I do believe I said eight o’clock, which I’m going to have to shift if I did say eight o’clock to nine o’clock because I’m still teaching my lecture course at eight o’clock. Oh yeah. I have to make that change. Um, yeah, people can find me there and, and Instagram, and I might do some film screenings of different documentaries, uh, maybe two a month over the next couple of months to get ready for the summer that I’m trying to, my plan is to speak to the directors of each of the films. So if I can set that up, then that’s the plan. Um, and that those will be free on zoom. And, uh, yeah, just look for me on, look for me on, uh, uh, for my website and the website will always post the next classes for intangible roots.  

Incredible. Well, I will be sure to link to all of those places. Um, and I really do hope that everyone who’s listening continues this deep dive. Uh, there’s, there’s so much to be learned. Um, really appreciate your time. Thank you for being here.  

Thank you for having me. 

My pleasure, my pleasure  

There, you have it. I hope that this episode has inspired you to dig in and dig deeper into your dance history, into your personal history and to the history of whatever craft it is. You are practicing. I hope that you seek more than names and dates as you’re studying. It really is about context. It’s about meaning. It’s about the message. And I am so grateful for Moncell for sharing his message today. Again, all of the links to moncell’s work, his projects, his workshops will be found in the show notes to this episode, and that is it for me. Get out there and keep it funky. 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 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. 

BONUS EPISODE: Half-Time Show Spectacular

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
BONUS EPISODE: Half-Time Show Spectacular
/

Over 100 million viewers world wide, 6 minutes to set up, about $833,000.00 PER MINUTE in production costs, NO SECOND TAKES. NO PRESSURE RIGHT?

This is what I live for. This is what WE live for. This is (literally) what Champions are made of. This episode is a collection of spectacular Super Bowl Halftime Show Stories from a few of my favorite dance types, Victor Rojas, Brittany Parks, and Chris Dupre

JT’s 2018 SB Halftime Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch/2z3EUY1aXdY

Dana and Team Behind the Scenes 2018: https://www.instagram.com/p/BeYSiX6gv2I/?igshid=ztjvng95po40

Janet Jackson 2004 Halftime Show: https://youtu.be/JzipWoXgVm0

Lady Gaga 2017 Halftime Show: https://youtu.be/mjrdywp5nyE

Beyonce 2013 Halftime Show: https://youtu.be/suIg9kTGBVI

Diana Ross 1996 Halftime Show: https://youtu.be/RCEY7kXDvCQ

Ep. #58 The Sliding Scale of Commitment

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #58 The Sliding Scale of Commitment
/

This episode is all about mining one precious resource, COMMITMENT.   The dictionary defines Commitment as “The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” That is a very neat and tidy way to explain such a dynamic spectrum of being!  I see commitment as a sliding scale, and I see the WTMM Team dialing up our commitment to racial equity.  Happy first episode of Black History Month!  We are thrilled to be celebrating, now and ALWAYS. 

Quick Links:

Karida’s Griffith’s 3RD Program: https://karida-griffith.mykajabi.com/R3D-enrollmentFEB2021-page

A Brief History of John Baldessari: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU7V4GyEuXA

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.  

All right. All right. Welcome everybody. This is words that move me, I’m Dana. I’m stoked about this. Um, it is black history month and I have some big plans for upcoming episodes. I am so excited to be sharing the mic with some of my heroes, uh, several historians and living, breathing history, period. I am jazzed about it. And my goal is to do more than drop names and dates of important people in places and things, and just hope that you remember them. Um, my goal is to really put that history into context, uh, to make it sticky and to engage in meaningful conversations around it. So I am committed. I am committed to education and celebration of black history, and that my friend, is really big and really, really broad. So this week I want to start by talking about commitment period in and of itself. Um, this episode will *blah blah*. This episode will pair really, really nicely with episode 55, uh, where we discussed resolutions and doing daily. So if you haven’t already dug into that, you might start there, um, and bounce on back here, or you might stay here and then bounce on back there either way, bounce around. You’re going to dig. Um, okay, so let’s, let’s talk commitment. 

I did a little Googlage and I found that the online dictionary, I believe it was Miriam Webster says commitment is defined as the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause activity, et cetera. Commitment is defined as the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, et cetera. Now, I like to think of commitment. Um, the state or quality of dedication as being a sliding scale, there are degrees of commitment to a thing. So maybe, maybe zero is like, not at all committed no effort or interest in a cause or activity. This is my ballet slippers still in a bag in my closet, but actually then again,  that again. Now that I say that out loud, I do have ballet slippers in a bag in my closet. So maybe I would give that like a 0.001 on the commitment scale. It is, it is like the essence of commitment. Like maybe it rubbed elbows with commitment, but it isn’t actually commitment. It is the intent of being committed, but not committed itself. Um, anyways, on, on that sliding scale, zero is, you know, zero action, zero effort, and 10 is absolutely possessed, all in, interested, invested and activated, taking massive action toward a cause or activity. In this metric of measurement, Um, I would place Beyonce, Superbowl halftime show performance from 2013 at an 11. Um, by the way, I’m not a football fan, but I did recently watch all of the recorded Superbowl halftime shows in history that are on the internet. Um, I learned so, so, so much by the way, lessons from super bowl halftime shows coming very soon. Um, speaking of which Abel, AKA the weekend have a freaking ball this weekend. Oh, no pun, intended. Um, Oh, also I hear that Amanda Gorman will be the first poet ever to perform the Superbowl. Come on for progress! That’s amazing. I am so thrilled by that. I’m really excited. Okay. Back to commitment, focusing on commitment.

I have, um, I’ve talked before on the podcast about John Baldessari, one of my favorite artists, and there’s a video online, a YouTube video called a brief history of John Baldessari. Um, yeah, you can find it on YouTube. It’s simply one of my favorite things on the internet. It will be in the show notes, but one of my favorite parts of that, uh, of that short film is where John Baldessari tells us three things. He believes every young artist should know. Number one, talent is cheap. Number two, you have to be possessed, which you can not will. And number three, be in the right place at the right time. Now I don’t typically like to argue with geniuses. Um, but I do want to talk about that second point. You have to be possessed, which you can not will. I think that I agree you cannot will being possessed. You either are possessed or you aren’t, but I do think you can, will excitement. And I certainly think you can, will commitment to me. I being possessed by something, it means to be taken over by it, like inhabited by it, against your will even, um, but like somehow out of control. And to be honest, I don’t love the idea of being out of control. I can handle the idea of being the vessel or the conduit, but I’m not thrilled about the idea of being out of control or under something else’s control. So to be totally honest, I don’t think that I am possessed by dance. I think I really, really love it, but there are fully days on end where I do not boogie and I don’t make that mean that I don’t love dance. So do you have to be possessed to make brilliant, not boring art? Maybe. Will you get to a John Baldessari or Beyonce level of impact without being possessed? Maybe not. But do you have to be possessed to make it in the dance industry? No. I think that that is actually a common misconception that can scare a lot of up and comers. Um, this idea that you have to be possessed or obsessed in order to make it. I, I hear that a lot. I hear like “I really, really love dance, but I also kind of love writing and I’m really digging standup and Oh, I love fashion. Maybe someday I’ll have my own clothing line, but man, I probably won’t make it as a dancer if I can’t just focus on dance, right? Like, should I even try?” Um, now I, I don’t like giving definitive yeses or nos to questions like that, but I will say that I know a lot of industry heavy hitters that do not eat, sleep, breathe, sweat, dance, they have other interests. They may love photography or fashion or film or cooking or simply eating and drinking as much as they actually love dancing. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t committed to dance. In other words, if commitment is like a dimmer switch and we have this sliding scale where possessed is the maximum, then I would say yes, more light makes more things visible, more light makes more things possible. Like try finding your keys with the lights off and then try finding your keys with the lights on brighter is righter, but to make it and more importantly to make change, I do not think you have to be possessed.  I think you have to be committed. You have to be willing to try again. You have to be willing to get it wrong. You have to probably be willing to get it wrong more than once before you get it right. And here is why that matters. In last week’s episode, Galen Hooks talked about her volunteer work with dancers Alliance and SAG-AFTRA, um, we worked side by side in several grassroots efforts, so I can definitely attest to this. That work can be exhausting. It can be unrewarding at times, and it can be very hard to stay committed, let alone possessed yet in order to make lasting change, you must be committed or, you know, possessed, It helps. now even outside of volunteer efforts, commitment really does matter a lot in the world at large, but in a creative life, especially. And here is why, because creative work is not time driven. It is idea-driven, you know, the quality or quantity of your output is not determined by the number of on the clock hours. There will always be days where you go into the studio and workshop for hours and not one solid phrase or eight count comes out. Or I suppose I should say there will be days where you don’t like one solid phrase or eight counts that comes out. Um, and on those days, your brain will probably offer that you quit or that you beat yourself up for your lack of productivity. You’ll need to decide on the thoughts that will keep you going. These thoughts are your fuel. And for the rest of this episode, I’m going to offer a series of questions to help you reveal those thoughts to help you mine that precious resource, commitment. Okay. 

The first question is this, what is your desired result?  Let’s put emphasis on what is your desired result. Now all of these questions are designed to help you and your commitment. So focus on your desired results, the things that are in your control, um, to demonstrate the difference between your desired results and general desired results. I will use this example, “The desired result that I have for the world is equal rights and equal justice for all.” Now there are a lot of people involved in the world. And even if I actually was able to change policies as an individual, I cannot change the way that other people think and feel and act. So my desired result is “to be an example of commitment to racial equity.” For example, the next question I would ask myself is why, “why do you want this result?” And this is important. This is what you’ll come back to when you want to quit. My why is this, “Because not only do I want to live in a world of equal rights and equal justice for all, but I want to be able to teach and encourage others who are interested in that world to do the same.”  My next question,  What will it cost to achieve that? What will it cost me to become an example of commitment to racial equity? I’m going to get very real with you now. And I think the next several weeks will be a testament to this. It might cost me some comfort. It might cost me some relationships. It might cost me a couple follows perhaps because I’ll be talking about things that I think are important and maybe other people don’t think those things are important. I’ll likely have some uncomfortable conversations, I’ll likely learn some hard lessons in facing truths about myself and my world. It’ll cost me time in research, reading and volunteering. Um, let’s see what else. Um, it might cost me convenience, for example. If I’m to begin shopping at a black owned bookstore, instead of buying my books on Amazon, I might have to wait until they have the book in stock, I might not get that free two day shipping. So this might also cost me money in those kinds of convenience fees, but also on a bit of a larger scale. Sometimes being an example of commitment to racial equity might look like passing on and passing along a paid opportunity to someone else. All right. I think that’s, that’s, that’s a pretty complete, although not exhaustive list of what it might cost me to achieve my goal of becoming an example of commitment to racial equity. Now the next question, after I’ve asked myself what it will cost to achieve it, I get to ask “what will it cost if I don’t commit or follow through, what will it cost if I do not achieve it.” 

This was a tough one for me. I do not commit if I, if I do not try and try again, if I do not follow through all become another person who’s talking and not doing, I’ll become a person that I do not want to be. And that is a price that I do not want to pay.  

The next question is “what must I believe to achieve this?” I have to believe that I’m responsible for my part, that small efforts add up to big changes. That big changes can happen, um, that I have to do it perfectly the first time or every time, but I do have to do it over and over and over again. Those are some of the beliefs that will help me achieve my goal. 

My next question is “how does it feel to believe those things?” When I believe that I’m responsible for my part, when I believe that small efforts add up to big change and that big change is possible, that a poet will be performing at the super bowl. When I believe that I don’t have to do it perfectly the first time, and then I get to do it over and over and over again. I feel empowered. 

My next question is an important one. “What do you have to stop believing in order to achieve this desired result?” For me, in my specific instance, I need to stop believing that I’m already doing enough. I need to stop believing that the ball is now in someone else’s court. I need to stop believing that things are never going to change. I need to stop believing that my degree of comfort is more important than growth. I simply need to stop believing those things. All right, let’s see, three, four, five, seven, Seven simple questions. And I have revealed so much. Answering these questions has given me awareness in knowing what I want, why I want it, what I’m willing to pay for it. But really this is just the beginning of the game plan. I know what I’ll think. And I know what I will stop thinking, and I know how I’ll need to feel to get it done. Now, my example is, is very much about a commitment to a way of life, but these questions can help guide you in your commitments, in the context of relationships, creative projects, and yes, absolutely. In doing daily. So what is your desired result? Why do you want it? What will it cost you to have it? What will it cost you to not commit? What do you have to believe to achieve it? How does it feel when you believe those things and what do you have to stop believing to achieve those things? Now you have the awareness and the plan you have mind the fuel. Now put it in the tank, think, feel, and go out there and make change. Speaking of change, I see daily doers. I have so many new #doingdailyWTMM hashtags, actually by the time this episode is released, we’ll probably be well over 3000 #doingdailyWTMM So if you are a, a new daily doer, make sure you’re using that hashtag so that I can see all your daily, daily doings. Also, I see so many of you daily doers using the words that move me daily, creative prompt calendar. I am jazzed about that. Good on you. Um, such a fun resource. You do not need to overstrain your brain to decide what you will do today. Simply take a glance at the words that move me daily, creative prompt calendar, and a letter rip. If you’re interested, those daily creative prompts calendars are available @ thedanawilson.com/shop and also by becoming a member of the Words that Move me Community, which I am thrilled about. Uh, shout out to all my WTMMCOMM listeners out there. If you are not a member yet, don’t stress out. You can join at literally any time, just visit theDanawilson.com and click the membership tab. Boom. There you go. Okay, everyone, that is my lesson on commitment. That is me inviting you to join me and the words that move me community in our doing daily to make lifelong changes. And that brings me to my win.

I am so excited to share my win with you today. It is extremely important, and I think that my win can be your win. Um, I just had the pleasure of sitting in on an hour and a half seminar with the fabulous Karida’s Griffith.  She is a phenomenal dancer. If you don’t already know, I do encourage you to go do a little digging on, on Karida, but she is also an educator, a fabulous educator. And right now she is offering a six week professional development program for dance educators. So for all my dance teachers out there, and I do recommend this for, for dancers as well, period. Um, the program is called roots, rhythm, race, and dance. She calls it R three D and it is basically, um, a workshop in teaching age appropriate fact-based lessons about race and dance history. And I could not be more excited about this. I’m thrilled to get started. Um, you have until February 7th to register, I will absolutely be linking to Karida’s website and the enroll page in our show notes. For this episode, I cannot express in the actual words, how enthusiastic I am about Corita’s work and how excited I am, um, to have enrolled in this program, period. I’m so jazzed about it. That is what I’m celebrating. Um, I hope that you get to go check it out and if it looks like a good fit for you, I will see you there. Uh, all right, now you go, what Is going well in your world?  

Congratulations. I am thrilled for you. I am thrilled for you. I am thrilled to get your feedback on this episode, and I’m so excited to be sharing the mic in my next several episodes. Um, you really don’t want to miss a beat, please subscribe and download these episodes. They like you’ll want to have them in your pocket. I’m just saying that’s, that’s me celebrating a future win. By the way. That’s what that sounds like is me proclaiming the win, the success of these future episodes. So, so, so excited. Um, all right, everybody. I think that is it for me today. I am going to go dance. You go do whatever it is that you are doing and just make sure you are keeping it funky. Well, yeah, I’ll talk to you soon. Bye-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 theDanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #57 Making Good Choices with Galen Hooks

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #57 Making Good Choices with Galen Hooks
/

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

Quick Links:

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript:

Intro: Welcome to words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, Dana Wilson. And I move people. I dance, I choreograph, I coach. And the only thing that I love more than life is sharing. So if you are someone who loves to work and laugh and you’re looking to rewrite the starving artists story, then you’re in the right place. 

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

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

Galen: Hi Dana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh I’m so sure you do 

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

On like on a human plane. 

Exactly. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do, do you mean creative choices? 

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

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

Oh, do it bring it yes. 

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

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

Right, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. 

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

Oh my gosh, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for having me. 

My pleasure, my pleasure.  

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

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

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

Ep. #56 Climbing Ladders and (literally) Jumping Through Hoops with Matty Peacock

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #56 Climbing Ladders and (literally) Jumping Through Hoops with Matty Peacock
/

My guest in this episode, Matty Peacock, works closely with more than “some” of today’s most influential pop sensations.  The most influential thing about him, however, is not his resume…  It is his respect for the work, the mystery, and the collaboration within the process.   From performing to choreographing and directing Matty shares *almost* all of his secrets and stories that land him where he stands (and moves) today. ENJOY!

Quick Links:

Leon Else’s Dance Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbKcv4LyZD4

Fatboy Slim Weapon Of Choice Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbKcv4LyZD4 

(Choreographed by Michael Rooney) 

Hoizer Work Song Music Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH7bjV0Q_44&list=PL_syrWcl4u8mYiBDsosGxqs6fKmyrH1qp&index=15

Anthony Ramos Mind over Matter:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYRXCaazHSw

Nothing sticks promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJgtSreFD1s

Crystal Pite and Kidd Pivot: https://kiddpivot.org/crystal-pite/


Shawn Mendes Wonder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHeQemJJQII

Transcript:

Intro: Welcome to words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, Dana Wilson. And I move people. I dance. I choreograph I coach. And the only thing that I love more than moving is sharing. So if you are someone who loves to work and laugh and you’re looking to rewrite the starving artists story, then you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello, Hello. How are you? My friend. Well, I hope good. Good would be good. Great is great. Um, and okay. Is also totally okay if you’re just doing okay today, man. Crappy is actually okay too. I will accept that there is a lot going on out there in the world, and I hope that this episode finds you at very, very least being kind to yourself and hopefully kind to others as well.  Okay. Wow. My friend, I have a treat for you today. My guest on the show, a show, do I usually call it a show? My guest on the podcast is Matty Peacock, director, choreographer, movement, director movement, coach performer, and many, many things he’s about to tell you. And he is also a dear friend, um, and much to his own surprise. I think he is also an excellent talker. I learned so much about my friend, Matty P. I learned so much about myself in this conversation and, um, I hope that you do too. So, uh, we’re going to jump right into it. Enjoy this conversation with the wonderful. See what I did there. Matty Peacock, 

Dana: Matthew Peacock. Holy smokes. Welcome to the podcast.  

Matty: Thank you, Dana. Thanks for having me.  

Dana: I’m so glad you’re here. This is exciting. Um, by the way, I suppose I call you Matty P is that, is that what you like? Like what do you, how do you prefer to be?  

Matty: I think I’ve, I’m kind of indifferent about my name, which probably is kind of a problem. I think when I was like, I, you seem to do some myself as peacock and actually stuck for a long time. And then I think through climbing ranks of different things, I think Matty Peacock ended up sticking more and felt more official, I guess. I dunno,  

But peacock is your real true last name, 

That is correct.

That’s sick. I love it. Okay. This is how it works on a podcast. All of my guests introduce themselves. So take it away. What do you want us to know about you?  

Um, well, first and foremost, I am terrible at talking about myself, but I’m going to give it a shot.  

Oh, you’re going to be great. I can tell already, plus I edit heavily. So if something goes terribly wrong, you’re fine.  

Great. Um, well, my name is Matty Peacock. Um, I am from Long Island, New York. I was born in Korea, um, and I am a man of many talents and a master of none of them. Um, I would say currently I’m mostly focused on, um, being a director and a choreographer, um, and leading up into present day I’ve, um, danced and still dance as a professional dancer. Um, I’m a writer, artist, uh, creator, movement coach, movement director. Um, friend’s son, uncle, um, lover of good food and good movies and, um, a human being. How about that?  

Yo for somebody who doesn’t not much like to talk about themselves. That was really good. 

Yeah. Are we done with this? 

Yes, well thank you so much for coming. Bye. Um, all right. So very broadly, this podcast is about navigating creative careers, but what it actually is about, I think is learning period point blank. The end. Its what I always find myself talking about is what excites me the most. I love to learn. So, um, I thought we might start by you talking a little bit about your training. Like how did you learn and what did you learn about on the come up?  

Alright. Um, I would say I fell into dance, like kind of late. Um, I started dancing at the age of 16. Uh, I grew up again, uh, in a small area, a little small town, a long Island in a middle-class family, quite sports. Um, I actually lived near a ranch, so I would spend a lot of time on the ranch. Uh, it was like one of my first jobs. It was like working at the stables and I fell into horseback riding. Uh, and that was kind of the bulk of my childhood into my pre-teens. Uh, but there was a close friend of mine whose I’m still very close with to this day. He kind of introduced me, uh, it’s a dancer and he went to a dance, a local dance studio, and he would always like, he was like the cool kid in school. He like would like dance at the school dances and all the girls that are like into his moves and like, um, we played sports and he was like, you know, do back flips on the football field. And I was like, Oh man, this kid is so cool. Like I want to learn how to do that. And I, one day I just kind of asked him, I was like, can you teach me how to dance? You know? And then also growing up, like being influenced by likes TV and seeing, you know, Michael Jackson and just great music videos, you know? Um, and so he was like, come, come to my dance studio, you know, kind of take a class. Um, and so, yeah, I, I asked my, my parents who have always been super supportive of everything I’ve done and they’re like, sure, I will sign you up. So I took a hip, uh, recreational hip hop class and I was terrible 

Where it all begins.  

It starts there. Right. So bad. I couldn’t like the thing I couldn’t get over was like having to like learn the choreography and like, and memorize it. So like, I would like try to freestyle like, and like learn how to, you know, I, I would research and watch videos of people break dancing. So I would try to learn in my living room, like how to break dance. And I was obviously like, terrible, like trying to do windmills, like on carpet.  

Can you do them now? I bet you could  

Not anymore. I am learning how too. Um, but yeah, I just started at my local dance studio and I think, um, the director of the studio, I think after a summer of like, you know, you go once a week, that was like the thing I look forward to every week, one hour, every Wednesday I would go and you’d learn, you know, a combo that I would always forget or never remember. Uh, and then at the end of the four weeks, you like basically do the whole routine, but I never, I couldn’t remember it. So I just would, um, freestyle.

I love this imagery that I’m seeing in my head. Do you remember I’m so I’m just, I want to fill out the imaginary scenario that I’m creating. Do you remember any of the music that you were doing?  

Uh, rhythm nation was the first song that I danced too, but specifically the instrumental part then. And it was just like, and I was the only guy in my class. It was maybe it was all girls and they probably had been doing it going 

Since they were three. 

Yeah. Since there were three and like, they were, they were so much better than I was, but I first, I just loved being in the studio. And just like, even though I never did the choreography, I would just dance myself the mirror. And I was like, Oh, wow, this is so like fun. And it was just fun. So I taught like after that summer was over, I was like, mom, I want to do it again next summer. You know? And then I guess my, the director of my studio, Michelle Ferraro, she approached, my mom was like, Hey, like, you know, your son, like, he’s really good at this thing. I would have loved to have him take more classes to get better at learning how to dance. And my mom was kind of hesitant and she, you know, it’s expensive. And again, we came from a lower middle class, uh, and she kindly agreed to like, you know, have a lower tuition or, and things like that. And kind of take me under her wing. And she would give me privates on just the basics of dance. I wouldn’t even say it was ballet. Like I specifically remember like, you know, first learning the positions, but like having to like, learn how to do a leap was like, she would set like hula hoops on the floor and he would have to like jump into a hula hoop and I’m 16 years old. And there’s like three year olds, like also doing  

Incredible. Um, Aw, what are unique start to the journey. I love this also super shout out to parents who put their kids through dance and to teachers who scholarship and put special care into students that they see potential. And that’s so special.  

Yeah. I am forever in debt to, you know, my parents and also my director who I think like, I’m like, what would I have done? Like as a teen, I would probably been in so much trouble. I was already getting into trouble before I started dancing. So I think bands like kept me out of trouble. And, you know, you go to a group of friends and, you know, after I started dancing a little bit more, you start to, you know, I, I ended up doing like competition. Um, but yeah, I mean, I, I started probably similar to you doing dance competition, but, and I was, I was never, I was years behind all the kids in my, at my age level and my studio was pretty decent for the area and like the regional competition. So  

Michelle Ferraro, that’s a name that I know like, absolutely. Yeah. She’s great.  

And I think also what helped is that I grew up, like there were three other males, like at my studio that were around the same age as me that were incredible. Some that you probably know, but again, I was like, I was like an infant compared to them. So it was always great to have somebody to look up and just watch and learn because I am such a visual person of like how to learn. Um, but yeah, I mean, um, Michelle, like really, she was like, you should take ballet, you know? And it really helped me in the sense of like, just being disciplined and, and learning how to, you know, memorize, you know, when you’re the bar, like how to memorize things, you know, and one of my first jobs actually as a dancer was I, I randomly audition to dance for the New York Knicks basketball team. You know, they have a kid squad that would dance, like during timeouts and specifically at their home games and during halftime. Um, but I went, I remember going to the audition and not and doing pretty bad. And I came home from school one day and there was a message on the answering machine that I got gotten the job. I was like, okay, well now I actually have to do this. And I couldn’t remember how to, um, I couldn’t remember the steps. So the captain and the choreographer of the small group of kids, there was maybe 15 of us. They would always create a moment in their routine where everyone would stop or the kids would stop and like go down and I would just get the freestyle and then everything else. I was always like three steps behind and watching the kid next to me.  

Yes. Like full side eye. I 

Completely, completely,

I call it the one at Jack. Yep.  

As we would, some of the dances were only 15 seconds because it’s like a timeout and basketball. So it would be 10 seconds of me doing this. And then five seconds of like, do whatever you want.  

And everybody else is bugging. And you just like feature. I love this. What a brilliant, smart director, again, the smart director. And this might be the beginning of you becoming a smart director. Matter of fact, I love the, this trajectory like, Oh my gosh, it’s so poetic jumping through hula hoops and then probably jumping through actual hoops for the rest of your life right? Now you are working very closely with some of the most influential pop people of our time, Billie Eilish, uh, Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, Pink, Blackpink, which is different from regular. And I’m such a fan PS, Selena Gomez, the 1975, which by the way, I am a super fan. Um, so from where I stand the way it looks like you use choreography, not just in the work that you choreograph, but in the work that you direct as well from the out, from where I stand, it looks like you use dance as like a supporting act, a supporting thing, a very essential, but supporting element. In other words, like not the star, it’s not like dance break six, seven, eight. Um, and am I totally off target or off target or is that how you, how you think about dance? Yeah,  

I think you’re pretty spot on, I don’t know if I, if that’s ha that’s how I think about it. Or even like, sometimes the jobs that I get, I don’t even know. That’s what they’re thinking about a lot of the time it’s like I get paired with an artist that is either really interested in dancing and wanting to dance. Um, so it’s, it usually starts with wanting to learn how to dance. First of all, because a lot of the people that I work with don’t dance at all, um, or they say that they don’t dance  

That old wives tale.   

And even just, I think the word dance as a broad term of blanket statement and of, you know, it isn’t a genre, but like, I would say like dance and movements, they’re very much the same, but I think it, I think it just depends how you see it because dance is a difficult thing to do, if you’re a master at it. Which like, or if it’s you, if it’s your career, it’s like us as dancers that have trained years, we don’t think it’s, I mean, it’s not difficult. It is difficult, but we don’t think of it as something that’s difficult compared to like someone who doesn’t train in dance, just like someone, like, I don’t sing, I think singing is a difficult thing, you know? Um, but yeah, it usually it starts with wanting to learn how to dance or move. And sometimes it evolves into a lot of the times, some of the things I’m trying to teach them is like becoming aware, like awareness of what your body is doing or what it feels like to do this thing and how you can connect it to movement.  Um, and every project is different. Like some things that come in, you know, it’s a day of rehearsal and it’s like, someone wants to learn how to dance in a day. That is it’s, it’s a bit laughable, but it’s like, sometimes it’s the job that you have to do. And, um, and some projects you have more time and sometimes it’s like, people are preparing to dance for this one thing, but if it’s, sometimes it is one day and, um, a lot of the time it’s, it’s them, once they discover like, Oh, I actually don’t want to dance and to learn the steps, I just want to be able to move and like be expressive. Yes. Right. And depending on, like, if it’s a music video that has a loose narrative, it’s like, how can we express the narrative through our bodies? Because they’re already doing it, you know, in a music video is so visually and, um, through voice and sonically. So just kind of that added bonus is like, can we do it physically? Yeah. Metaphysically. And is there something that connects to it? And again, there are some projects that if it’s like, they just want to learn the steps and it’s just dance. And it becomes very visual. And like, I guess, like for, for me and my tastes like it’s accessory, you know, and sometimes it’s to amplify the productions, to amplify the song with the artist and not necessarily tell a story,  

Um, on the subject of dance while we are here, can we please talk it, he’s probably one of the lesser known artists that you’ve worked for or choreographed, but it is my favorite music video, certainly that you’ve done. But out of like a bundle, like dare I say, this is in my top 10, um, Leon Else’s music video for dance. I absolutely adore it. And it is one of it’s one of my favorite things about it is that dance is the star. It is big. It is brave. It is expressive. It is bold. And actually I take that back. It is Leon dancing. That is the star. Yes. Dance is huge in that piece. Um, the camera movement, I don’t know if this was intentional. I can’t wait to find out if it was the camera movement reminds me a little bit of Flashdance. It feels like, like her audition sequence, like we’re really following her dancing. And I don’t know, I like my heart rate goes up. Just thinking about that music video. Could you talk a little bit about that experience in that process for you?  

That was like one of the first videos that I was asked to choreograph as a choreographer up until that I was spending a lot of time just assisting and like being a sponge and learning from a lot of my mentors. And I, um, was working on a job as an assistant and I met, um, what they call the commissioner. You know, the, the role of a commissioner in the world of music videos is a basically bring on the teams to, you know, execute the videos. And so I was working, um, on a job for Madonna, I think with Megan Lawson and, um, the commissioner Michelle Anne and who now is like a mentor of mine. She, she, um, approached me and was like, Hey, would, would you be interested in choreographing? You know, this video and this, the artist is here’s the song. Um, this is a treatment, you know, a lot of times you get a treatment, which is basically a rough overview of visually the tone of the music video. Sometimes it’s very detailed and sometimes it’s like one page and just text and maybe one image, uh, and this one was very vague and it was just like, Leon Else, the song was called dance. He, Leon himself actually, he used to dance. He was like, he was a dancer in the movie Nine, I think. Um, and he just, he wanted to dance and the song was very like Prince inspired. And the director was very inspired, um, by  Flashdance, but I think I need to rewatch it and see  

It’s really the camera movement, not the angles or the, obviously not the location, but the spirit of it, the way that it’s championed movement,  

There is a Fatboy Slim music video that he referenced, which is, uh, with Christopher Walken,

It’s weapon of choice. That video is incredible. 

It’s It’s Spike Jones. And I think 

Brian Friedman Okay.

I thought it was Wade 

Well, Brian, Brian plays his dance double, sorry, let me take that back. Brian, Was it Michael Rooney?  

It might’ve been, he was working with Fatboy Slim at the time. Um, so yeah, those were some of the little, um, tonal references. Um, and so I kind of took it upon myself instead of, I didn’t have a reel, at the time I was just assisting. So I spend a few months, a few dollars to get a friend of mine that had a camera rented a space, and conceptually basically shot a concept video, full thing top to bottom, which is very rare. Like you don’t really do that, but I had nothing to show at the time. Um, and I worked on it for maybe three days and then we spent one night shooting. It, it was like four of us paid for some lights. I had a friend of mine like help with some of the lighting and we, and we shot the video and I sent it over to Michelle  and Leon and the director. And they’re like, this is the video. This is, 

Oh, that’s cool. 

And it was, that was, yeah, it was really cool. And that was kind of the start of a, like, up until that point, I had been doing a lot of assisting and feeling like so much learning. And I was like, I wonder if, if any of this is paying off, let’s put this to the tests, you know? And, um, yeah, it, I kind of basically, they were like, we want to do exactly what you did. And top to bottom, you know, I had a chair, all the steps and we, I was like, I want to learn every single step that you did. And he nailed it. And I brought in actually Jillian, cause I’m not a tap dancer and there’s a tap sequence. And I was like, let’s just bring in all the friends.  And she came up with the tap sequence and she taught it to me and she ended up teaching it to Leon I think one day, um, and it was, yeah, I think it was the start of like a nice relationship between, um, me and Leon, me and the director, me and Michelle, again, it’s like strong mentor of mine still. Um, and yeah, it’s yeah, it’s definitely, I wish that he had done more. Um, he doesn’t, he doesn’t do music anymore, but he was, it was such a fun project to be a part of. And yeah. And it kind of like, I think, yeah, again, it was like a nice, like, um, launching pad for the start of like, feeling like a, getting confidence to be, I can do this myself, you know, and testing like, Oh, I have these ideas that I have in my head. Like, let’s put them on camera. Like I I’ve always wanted to. 

Uh, that’s so much fun. Um, that process that you’re talking about, like just trying it, film it, try to try to make on camera, the thing that you see in your head, um, and then submitting that and then getting no notes, but saying like, let’s just do that. It’s one of my favorite things. It doesn’t happen all the time. It sort of happened for Jillian Myers with Work Song, for Hozier, which was, uh, an awesome, shared moment in you and my dance history together. So fond of that period. Um, but I also, I did something similar with Anthony Ramos for, um, his song mind over matter, um, which was so much fun to brainstorm and create. And ultimately the thing we made transferred almost directly into what the final edit was. And it’s, I love that mode of making where you prototype it fast and rough, and then you upgrade it into this beautiful, Epic thing. Is that a process that you have sort of made commonplace in your work? Do you do this kind of pre-vis and then make it big?  

Honestly, that was probably the only time I ever did it. Um, and I think there’s, I mean, yes, I think there is a beauty in prototyping, something and it translating exactly the way you wanted, but I also am obsessed with this idea of collaboration and I’m always the person that thinks that, like I have the worst idea and there’s always somebody with a better idea. So let me throw my worst idea at the wall and someone who can come along and like make it even better. And then maybe someone will make that idea even better. So we get, you know, the, the mega product. Um, so I think, again, it just depends on the project. I love collaborating. I love talking to other creatives that have different perspectives. You know, I may see something in one light as a choreographer and dancer, but there might be a director who thinks of this or a cinematographer that thinks that the camera should go here or it should have this type of movement to translate this type of emotion that I’m not seeing when thinking about, because sometimes like when you’re so involved in the projects, you lose sight of it, you know, at once, like something that you’re seeing as a forest now you’re inside and you only see trees, right?  So it takes somebody from an outside perspective, um, to, to be like, Oh, there’s something behind you that you’re not seeing. 

Yes. I really love that idea.  Those, those prototype videos can be really limiting. If you fall in love with that one thing that you’ve watched 75 times on your phone, it can be really hard to let go of certain ideas. Yeah. That’s, that’s cool. That’s very wise. Um, okay. So, so in terms of like becoming a choreographer for music videos, becoming a director, becoming all of these many things, I am super interested in your trajectory because you’ve played different roles in different dance worlds. So it’s not even just that you’re carrying a different title, but you’ve shown up in different like worlds of dance. Um, you were a touring dancer with Ariana Grande a right. Yes. But you also performed with Kidd Pivot in Reviser, and this is, um, a company that you may not know. Some people, well, you Matty P you know, but if you’re listening and don’t know Kidd Pivot, don’t be harsh on yourself. Um, if you don’t know Crystal Pite, don’t be harsh on yourself, but do go find out because it’s true that some people might not know them, but I don’t think I know anybody that does know, but does not love in crystal pipe. Could you talk a little bit about that for a moment?  

Yeah. I, I th I think, again, it kind of stems from, um, when I first started dancing. Um, and again, going back to my dance studio at Michelle Ferraro’s, she, um, gave a lot of the students the opportunity to take classes from outside choreographers. And one of those choreographers just to kind of a backstory who was became, one of my mentors was Justin Giles, who also, you know, very well. And he came in during the summer intensive and he was the first male figure that at the time, which was called lyrical, which were kind of contemporary, right. He was the first person that was doing something that I experienced that was different. That wasn’t, um, necessarily all the, my leg didn’t go in the air. I could barely do a double turn. He was like listening to music and his physicality was something that I could relate to because he came from a background of the sports and like, it wasn’t just like what your body can physically do. Right. It was like, there was something more behind it. Um, and I was really drawn to that. So I think once I kind of, once I took his class, I was kind of, I was, I was in the, like really in deep and I just reached out to him and I just started following him around the country and taking his classes on conventions. And I think after a year or two, he basically was like, took me under his wing. I started assisting him and, and learning from him and basically his technique, his movement style, um, which like then kind of opened up a door into like contemporary dance. And I was like, what is, you know, I want to learn more, you know, so I would do more research about other choreographers and, um, who else came up, Chris Jacobson, Mia Michaels, you know, all these amazing choreographers and teachers, uh, Peter Chu as well. And I started working with Peter chew through the commercial. Uh, I moved to LA in 2005 and I, I was doing this variety show called Paris by Night, which is an it’s, uh, an interesting projects. But, uh, I don’t know if it’s still even going on anymore, but, um, it’s basically a Vietnamese variety show that it’s all, all it’s mainly Asian and it’s, it was based in a way it’s basically a variety show of comedians, singers, actors, sketch comedy and dance. And that’s where I met Peter Chu, Pam Chu a lot of the working dancers like that work here in LA  

Bryan Tanaka was  in on that mix.  

Uh, um, Tracy Shibata like literally everybody. Um, and yeah, so I met Peter Chu doing, doing that commercial project and he ended up taking, uh, asking, inviting me to, um, be a part of a workshop for a show that he was putting on. 

Nothing sticks?

Nothing sticks, and that was, uh, referred. I was referred to Peter through Pam who again, came to my studio and would teach at intensives. Yeah. Pam taught me. Yeah. Um, and I ended up like saying yes, and I worked with Peter and at the time Peter was working with Crystal Pite. He was part of Kidd Pivot. And he basically introduced me to Crystal Pite, not physically, but, um, the, the movement language. And, and then again, similar, the same feeling of when I discovered Crystal’s work was the same feeling that when I discovered Justin Giles’ work,  

Like this is home in my body.  

Yeah. Yeah. I think so. Maybe not yet, but it looked like it was, and it looked like it felt right. You know, it didn’t. Yeah. But I was like, this is something that it’s calling to me and, um, it’s striking something within a, and so I, I would study Crystal Pite’s work for years, just watching videos, going to any shows that I could,  

Right. Because the videos aren’t  many she’s or has been up until very recently, when you can find some full length works online, getting your eyes on Crystal’s work is not as easy as getting your eyes on Tik Tok or like YouTube dance stars. You had to work  

At the time, YouTube, there was maybe 15 second clips of like a trailer to her shows. And then again, at the time, like on the boards had something where you could purchase Dark Matters for a limited time. And I purchased it and recorded it somehow. I don’t know how I watched the show like obsessively and I learned everyone’s part and I would go into the studio and do it to the best of my ability. And I kind of like tried to, you know, obviously I don’t understand like where the movement is being derived from, but I would try to replicate it. Um, and then I, then I did more research and then I would time block, um, my summers to only go to intensives for Crystal Pite. And I took from basically every single company member that would teach Crystal Pite workshops for like three years.   I would do it. I did it and I just ate it up. And, um, in 2018, a couple of years ago, um, through taking all the workshops and meeting all of the company members and being, um, close friends with some of them, Peter being one of them Cindy Silgado was a teacher and friend as well. Jermaine Spivey um, there, there came a point when Crystal was making a new show and she was looking for an understudy at the time and the three company members and  Beauchesne and who’s the, um, is the associate director now, but I was taking his classes like every summer, they all kind of referred me and I had never met Crystal and she had never seen me dance. It was only just through the company saying like, you know, should email Matty and, and just talk to him. Um, and ironically, she, she did, and it was such a weird time because it was like around the time it was actually like maybe two days before my dad had just passed away. I remember getting an email in my inbox and it was Crystal Pite. And I remember looking at it and being, I can’t look at this right now, but this is really big. And also again, at the time, like that was only two years ago, I kind of like was like, I need to like, put this goal aside. It was a goal that I had for a long time to dance with Kidd Pivot. And there was a time where I was like, it’s just not in the cards for me. You know, I’m going to focus on being a choreographer and directing and stuff like that. And, you know, she came up with, um, uh, basically a proposal of like, can you, you know, she gave me three options. Can you come in to Vancouver and just stay for a week and watch and learn, um, and just get to know each other. Uh, and then option B was, would you want to be an understudy and learn all the male parts? And then the third was like, if you were really interested come for the whole creation watch and maybe I’ll have, I’ll be able to like write in apart for you. And I was like, yes, option three. Like we’re doing option three.  

Wow. How incredible is that? Yeah. Yeah,  

It was, I mean, it was an incredible experience that I’m obviously always hold very dear to my heart. Um, but yeah, I, I went to Vancouver and got to work with who I call the Avengers of Dance, because it’s literally, you know, these masters of dance from all around the world and they’re so good at what they do specifically. And when they come together, it’s like, they are the Avengers.  

Oh my gosh, I’m going to Photoshop a flyer. Um, it’s true though. The, the, I think there’s something special though. I do want to point out like Crystal’s work is not, I maybe similar to yours is not like about dance and like the spectacle of dance. It’s theatrical, it’s comedic in strange ways. It’s dark in beautiful ways. It’s it’s narrative, but it’s, it’s abstract. It is. I am falling short of words and I’m a person that podcasts. Theres also something special about her team there. They’re not just physical bodies that are great physical, um, sculptors, but intellectual being sensitive beings, thoughtful beings, like people that to spend a summer with, it sounds like the dream.  

Summer and yeah. A half a year, you know, touring and performing the show and working on things. And, um, yeah, and I think similar to Crystal when she started her work was very dance heavy, but she other interests kind of stemmed from just doing the one dance thing. Um, and also like there’s something to be said in the people that the environment that she creates, you know, she brings in these amazing people and she has so much trust in them, which gives them a lot of confidence and, um, to produce amazing things, you know? And  

Would you call it a nurturing environment?  

I would say nurturing, challenging. Um, it’s, it’s like all of the, and sometimes like, it doesn’t feel nurturing, but then after you get through the monotony of it, you realize, you look back and you’re like, Oh, wow. She like, she yoda(ed) me a little bit.  

Ah, Ooh. Masterful, like  

It’s, it’s the most physical I’ve ever been in my entire life. Awesome. In terms of the movement, for sure.  

I can’t imagine I have taken her class once before at Jacob’s pillow. Um, w uh, I went to go watch Dark Matters there, and she taught a small workshop and it was very gentle. Like it was designed to be accessible to any, anybody that wanted to explore the work. And I was a baby infant learning how to walk and the next day. My body was like, Oh, you’re you thought you were a dancer? Yeah. Okay. That’s cute.  

When I came in the first day, first week of rehearsals of creation, again, like I wasn’t really actively dancing. I was really focused on in choreographing and everybody else in the company has been company NDT, Batsheva, um, tends theater  

Dance. Down.  

And they’re doing it like the whole year. I haven’t been there. I hadn’t been dancing like that three or four or five years. Yeah. I was shot out of the cannon. Yeah.  

I love where, where it landed you. I mean, that’s a dream.  

Yeah. And I think, yeah, part of the, um, the reason why I wanted to take part in it is a, you know, check that box off of my list of things, but also like to learn from all of these people. Yeah. You know, Crystal and Eric and all the, all the company members, you know, Jay, the production designer, sound designers, you know, seeing how things get put together. So interesting to me, that was why I decided I wanted to choreograph and become a director because like, when I first started dancing, like, I didn’t even know that you could dance with dancing was a career path. And the first time I was on set, I’m a part of this show, but also on the other side of it, there’s a whole show happening that you’re watching that you either take notice to, or, you know, and that was something that I couldn’t get over to show that’s happening behind the show that’s being shot. Right.  

The show that’s being put on for the performer, the performer is standing there performing, receiving this show. Yes. Amazing. Yes. I love it. And it’s a unique, that’s such a unique perspective.  

Yes. Yeah. Yeah. It was something that was like, who knew that things happen? Like how does these things get made? And I think it’s, yeah. And the same thing with Crystal, like, you know, we put on the show in the theater, but people don’t, people in the audience don’t understand, like the sound design that’s being triggered. And during this part of the, you know, choreography or, and why this light means this thing and like all the people that are behind the stage and so interesting it’s magic.  

It is. Um, I’m glad that you mentioned this team element and the many different moving parts of a production. What I would love to talk about now is just like focus in on the relationship between artist and director in this, in this specific conversation. Let’s talk about artist and choreographer. I do, I would consider like crystal Pite the artist and her team, the movement part, but there’s like the artist. And then the movement part, that’s such an interesting relationship to me. And in, in pop, at least there are a few examples of that team working really, really well. Like I’m the one that’s the closest to me obviously is JT and Marty Kudelka, but there are others there’s um, like Ryan Heffington and SIA, or Michael Jackson and Michael Peters who did, uh, who did Beat it and Thriller, um, uh, Frank Gatson and a number of people. Like there are combinations where you find that one plus one does not equal two, but one plus one equals a million. Yes. Um, and I, I guess you’ve got some really creatively fruitful collaborations, relationships going on right now. What do you think is that exponent, or what do you look for in a collaborator that equals 1 million.

I think chemistry for one and intention. It’s like some artists that I work with, sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there and the intention is different than what I’m interested in. And then sometimes, you know, we have the same interests, the same intention, and usually that’s where kind of the spark starts there. And then from there, you can start to, you know, for instance like Billie or, or Shawn, like Shawn is, is a new relationship I have, but it’s a very potent, and it’s a very strong one. He’s very interested in dance and theater and movement, and might not always want to access it, but he’s interested in it because it makes him feel a certain way. And it, maybe it adds to another part of his life that it feels like it’s helping and assisting whether it’s songwriting or just being a kind human or just being more open to other art forms.  

Most all of the people I work with are musicians, you know, sometimes actors, but, um, and being to like wanting to connect to their body is like also really important, um, 

As an instrument. 

Yeah. As an instrument, as a form of meditation, um, and just, uh, connecting to something that feels like, um, that’s, that’s deeper than it’s, that’s inside themselves, you know? Um, and you know, these collaborations that you’re talking about, you know, Marty and JT and Ryan and SIA, like there was a point where I was like, Oh, I really, I really want that, but in net. But I think in the way that I like to work, it never really, at least from my perspective, it never really, I guess my relationships are strong, but they’re not to me. Like when I see JT, it’s like, he’s such a dancer and you know, and him and Marty are, you know, Marty, you can tell it’s Marty he’s, they are one person, the one entity, you know, and same with like Maddie and Ryan and SIA, you know, the three of them were like, I like to be in service to the artist.  I like to work with them and help them discover their own voice. You know, Billie has a dance background, but she’s not necessarily interested in doing, in running five, six, seven, eight. She wants to know. Yeah. Yeah. Where I can propose an idea, try this thing here, five, six, seven, eight, and she’ll learn it and then bend it and manipulate it to feel more natural. Cause she’s saying, thinking like, this feels better for me or, or this makes more sense or, you know, doing this here feels unnatural. So I think that’s, my job is to kind of be that, that honest mirror and say, I’m like, try this thing. This is what I think would work well, and let’s talk about it. Let’s have a discussion. And a lot of the time, these that’s where it starts like having discussions and kind of getting to know each other and trust.  Yeah. And I think the key thing is like making somebody feel safe so they can do whatever they want behind closed doors, when it’s me and the artist, let’s just, let’s, let’s just be around and mess around. Let’s try the things that we can try now, you know, let’s do the most silly, insane thing and get it out of our system because maybe there’s something that we feel that will connect and then maybe we can, you know, let’s get us started on a right path, you know, and then we fine tune it until it’s ready to be, to be seen because I’m a, I’m an advocate for like, not everything needs to be shown and seen there’s magic behind the process and incubation and, and development, you know, and let’s wait, you know, 

Mystery. 

Yeah. Think so.  

Ah, yes. You are a magician. I think, um, always something of this sleeve. You don’t need to see everything. That’s the spoils, the magic.  

Yeah. Yeah. Showing little bits and pieces, but I mean, I think there’s, there’s massive behind, like how did they do that thing or, Oh God, yes. That didn’t come from, you know, it makes you want more, at least for me, when I see things that I don’t understand and I’m dying to know what it is, it makes me want to keep watching it, you know? Yeah.  

And that is the goal. Okay. That’s awesome. Right. Like this edge of the seat thing, that’s the goal. Okay. So let’s talk about Shawn for a sec. Can we talk about Wonder, because Holy smokes, it is so beautiful and powerful. It is wonderful. Um, I adore it and I’m so proud of you. I think it’s a awesome example of you and your work. Like I see you in it. I see him in it. It does seem like a service to not like the pop machine, but to expression in general to, um, imagination, to whimsy. And these are all things that I love. I think it’s so great. Um, what, what did you learn on that project? That’s what I want to know. What did you learn?  

Um, uh, man, I learned so many things,  

Right? What did you not learn  

The project? And one of the, probably today, the biggest project that I, um, that I’ve done. And I’m so grateful for, to Shawn for giving me the opportunity, because there were times where maybe, you know, as a new director, you know, having trust and faith in someone that they can execute things is a big deal, especially when you’re a huge pop star and there’s a lot at stake. That’s things you have to realize, you know, and obviously like he, he was willing to take a risk. Um, but I think also at the heart of it, I really connected to the song and  the honesty that he was trying to get across. Um, and like most music videos, you, you pitch against other directors, you know, and whoever has, you know, and obviously the artist picks, and there was a point where I was pitching against another director and he, there was a time where he would potentially just wanted me to be the choreographer, which I’m fine with, you know, I have a great relationship with them.  And again, like, I want to do whatever I’m in service to Shawn and whatever he wants. And he thinks is the best I’m going to do it full force. Obviously I’m going to be bummed that like, potentially if I don’t get to direct it, you know, but there was something in me that like, really, I really cared about this project. And I just had a conversation with him. I was like, listen, I really care this thing. I really care about this thing. And I think that kind of stuck with him and he kind of made the decision, like, let’s do it, you know? Um, but I think from what I learned is like how to be a great communicator as we’ve discussed before. And, um, I’ve never, I’ve, I’ve felt I’ve never been a fan of, of egos. Um, and I think when you can lose your ego, you can receive like so much more, um, and utilizing the team that I put around me to help Shawn and, and, and execute the vision. Um, and it was a long process, but I think like getting to work with all these people that I admire so much, and they’re so good at what they do, it just fuels the fire. Um, and it gets me really excited to see like my friends and peers, like, do what they do at such a high level. Um, and there’s a synergy between like having a strong vision and people also like really, um, getting excited about that vision, you know, and it’s kind of that yes and, um, yes, let’s do this and let’s do this and train and sure enough, we would build and build and build. And I’m a huge fan of referencing. I think referencing is a huge tool that people don’t always use. Right.  

It’s in so many ways how we communicate when we deal in imaginary things and things that we imagination things that are yet to be created. Yeah.  

Yeah. Cause some people don’t have vision or it’s really hard to like, obviously what I see in my head is different, what you see here, but if we have a strong reference points and I can understand that this is solely a reference, this is a starting point. Um, I think that really helped me.  

Do you, do you draw on just your internal database of remembered images or are you a Pinterest person? Uh, a Google images person. I know I have, I have a couple of secret databases that, um, that you listeners will have to pay for it. If you want to know where I get all my brilliant gems. But when you make references, are you pulling from your memory or do you have you have secret places?  

It’s, it’s, it’s a little bit of everything. Um, books that I read, because I love to write and being good, being exceptional with your words and how to illustrate a picture is it’s valuable. 

So valuable, especially if you’re pitching, if you have to get the job before you have the job, you have to be able to explain what you’re going to do with it.  

Yeah. So I think, like I read a lot of books of different genres poetry, because they would poetry it’s really short and make sometimes long, but usually really potent in their words. Um, I have visual databases, shot deck is an incredible database. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. Um, which basically it’s a catalog of many exquisite films and it’s basically just screen grabs of beautiful films, um, um, YouTube,  

Right? The monster of all database,  

Um, for a long time when I was learning, because I didn’t go to film school, I would go to the public library and just get books and read and study, you know, how to direct and things like that. Um, yeah, it comes from, it comes from all different mediums.  

That’s awesome. I love this. Um, well it looks like you are excited playing in this space. It looks like you are indulging in pop and entertainment. Um, you are able to make and create and live in other areas of the dance world, but it looks like you’re enjoying this, this place that you’re in. Um, I am curious though, because especially because it’s changing so much right now, what is your attitude towards the entertainment industry in general. 

In general? Uh, I love entertainment. I love all the different forms that entertainment offers, whether it’s, um, surely just to transport someone, to make them feel good. If it’s to connect to somebody to tell a story that maybe, you know, the loss of somebody or, you know, graduating high school is something that we can connect to that emotionally. Um, that tells a story. Um, obviously there are bad things about entertainment that, you know, the news is a form of entertainment, which could lead you down a dark path,  

Another episode maybe.  

But I think, I think again, talking about perspective, I think it’s just how you look at it. You know, you could take it at face value or you can look at it and say, you know, it could be, you can take it personally or you can just let it run off your back. And I think it’s depends on how you do it. I like, I love entertainment. I love what I do. I love watching other people do what they do, especially when they’re really good at it. You know, it makes me want to be better at what I do know  

Well said my friend, 

What about you? 

Um, I think actually very similarly people say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but everything is in the eye of the beholder. I think the world of entertainment and of entertainers, I think it is a brilliant medium and speaking of yes, and.. I think that it is best used when it is a, um, a cloak, like a disguise for education. It’s one of my biggest aspirations in life to make education entertaining and to like sneak attack somebody and inform them, introduce them to a new idea, um, get them understanding things deeper, but they think they just watched a movie or they think they just watched a music video, but like they think they just had fun, but actually there was some mastery, some masterminding going on underneath. So that’s, that’s why I love it. And that’s what I think about it. Um, but, but again, all in the eye of the beholder, I’ve certainly had experiences with entertainment where I thought that it was telling me that I’m wrong. So I felt bad. Or I thought that it was not a place that I was allowed. So I felt like an outsider, but those were all just what I thought about it. That wasn’t the industry itself doing that to me. So, so yeah, I, I agree. I relate.  And on that, maybe we, we wrap it up. Matthew Peacock. Yay. Thank you so much for being here. I can’t explain, um, low key created a podcast so that I could talk to my friends in depth like this, about our work uninterrupted for an hour at a time. I really, I really appreciate this. Thank you so much. 

Thank you, Wilson. 

Oh, and you’re great at talking about yourself and your work, by the way, that was so much fun.  

All right. What did I tell you so much? Good. Right. Such a treat. I especially loved the way that Matty talks about collaboration and the evolution of ideas. I so dig this concept that the first idea might not be the best idea. It might even be a bad idea, but only once it’s out there in the open, in the, uh, trusted space, which hopefully includes some bright, brave and bold collaborators. Only, only once it’s out there, can it be built upon or even broken down or otherwise constructed into something? Great. Great. Is his work great is his being, thank you, Matty Peacock for that. Now let’s talk about you and your greatness shall we? Let’s celebrate. Let’s do some wins this week. I am celebrating my past self and a lesson that I learned from her when I stumbled upon a sizzle reel for a web series that I made nine years ago. Holy Smokes. Um, the series, if you call three episodes, a series is called it more than moves and it is still on YouTube. Actually. I think you might have to look More than Moves TV to find it. And, um, I posted the sizzle that I found to my personal Instagram account last week. It is funky. It is smart. It is fun. And it is what Matty and I were talking about at the end of that interview, which is education disguised as entertainment. It was awesome. And it taught me so many things. Um, my long-term lesson learned, however, and what I want to share with you today is that it is wise to spread out your resources. I spend a lot of my hard earned cashola on that project. And I turned it into three 20 minute episodes if given a second chance, which who knows, I would probably turn that into 20 3 minute episodes. Um, yeah. So spread out the resources gang, but do not spread out the enthusiasm, if anything rang true to me about watching that sizzle it’s that I was and am a person that loves dance. It feels so good. Celebrations. All right, now it’s your turn. What is going well in your world? What are you celebrating past, present or future?  

All right. My friend, congratulations. I am proud of you. I am celebrating your win seriously. I wish you could see me. I’m grinning ear to ear. All right. Now, um, before I sign off, I want to let you know that it is not too late to register for the first month of the words that move me community membership. If you’re digging what you are hearing in here, then you will definitely be digging. What goes on in there. Um, of course it is a monthly membership. You can join at any time, but I’m exceptionally excited about this first month, which is February because the group of members that has assembled is simply incredible. So a special thank you to everyone who has pre-registered. I cannot wait to get this show on the road, um, to learn more about that, about the membership and how you might register, be sure to check out TheDanaWilson.com and click on the Membership tab. Yes, indeed. The website has been going through some changes. Thank you so much, Malia Baker. Um, yeah, super simple. Now all you need to do in order to find more information and register for the Words that Move Me Community Membership is go to the theDanawilson.com and click on the membership tab. Boom. That is it for me today. You guys have an awesome rest of your day, night, week, month, year, all of it. And, um, of course, keep it funky. 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. Number two things 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. #55 Doing Daily and Resolutions!

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #55 Doing Daily and Resolutions!
/

There are thousands of articles and podcasts and videos about New Year’s resolutions.  You can find countless lists like “Top 4 (or 5, or 15, or 30) Reasons Resolutions Don’t Work”.  You’ll find even more lists of how to keep them!  Well, in this episode, I give you ONE.  ONE REASON why you aren’t seeing your goals through and ONE sure fire way to make sure you do.  This one goes out to all of my Daily Doers, and ANYONE looking to change their life in 2021.

Quick Links:

WTMM Community: https://www.thedanawilson.com/workwithme/membership-tiers

Doing Daily Diary: https://www.thedanawilson.com/product/interactive-doing-daily-diary-download

Fabletics Spot: 

https://www.fabletics.com/new_collection2MFUAppleID5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59gDzyzUgb0

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: Alright. Alright. Hello and welcome to Words that Move Me, I’m Dana. I’m jazzed you’re here. I am so excited about this episode, although it’s a bit of a tough love type of episode. Um, speaking of love, and speaking of tough, I want to start this episode by saying, I hope that you are finding solid footing wherever you stand. Even if there is uncertainty, when you look out the window, solid footing is what I am asking for today.  It’s what I’m wishing you today. And I did a little Pilates earlier, so I stand a pretty good chance at finding solid footing today. All right, let’s dig in. Shall we? Today we are talking about resolutions, including, but not limited to new year’s resolutions. And we’re talking about why they don’t work. And we’re talking about how to make them work. Now, as far as why new year’s resolutions don’t work, you can absolutely undoubtedly 100% find 100,000 articles on the internet about new year’s resolutions. There’s a lot of research about habits and there, there are a lot of really great and some not so great articles about this specific topic. You’ll find lists on lists like top five reasons, top 16 reasons, top 20 reasons why your news resolutions didn’t work or 14 new ways to make sure your resolution works. Listen, I’m going to sum it up with one, one reason your new year’s resolution didn’t work, and one way to make sure that it works. 

Now, if you are taking on a new year’s resolution or a doing daily creative challenge, it’s probably because of the way that you feel right now and the way you think you will feel once you have accomplished that thing. You think that something is not working for you now, the way you’re doing things now, and you think that you will feel better when you act a certain different way, new year’s resolutions and other long-term commitments are really all about what you think, the way you feel and the actions you take. Yet, for some reason, the only value in that equation, the think feel act equation. The only value that most people think to adjust is the actions I’m going to work out five days a week. I’m going to stop drinking every night. I’m going to start doing creative daily things.  I’m going to start talking to my friends and family more often doing, doing, doing, or stop doing, stop, doing, stop doing. It’s all about behavior. It’s all about actions. Now. It is true that your actions and your inactions become your experience of the world. What you do and don’t do are very important. But if you try to white knuckle grip your way through a year or any extended period of time, to be totally honest, of modified behavior, without modifying your mindset, you will fatigue. Your willpower will run out. Yes, without a strong thought to think you won’t feel capable or worthy or committed to your goal. And you will quit because quitting is easy. It requires far less effort and planning than continuing. And your brain will offer you “quit” as an option every single day, because efficiency is key too. His survival and your brain is all about surviving. You will accept your brain’s offer to quit unless you give yourself a better offer. The one reason that you do not see your resolutions through to the very end is because you aren’t managing your mind. You aren’t changing your thoughts along with trying to change all that behavior. 

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s consider general health for a second. That’s a pretty popular new year’s resolution. Most people want to improve their general health. So let’s say, let’s say the person X is really hating the way their body looks. The holiday season and COVID really took its toll. They’re thinking ‘I hate the way my body feels because all of my clothes are too tight. I don’t like the way I look. I’ve gained so much weight. I hate my body in general, but man, I just, I really don’t even want to look at my body. I need to lose some weight.’ When person X thinks the thought ‘I hate the way my body looks or I hate the way my body feels or I hate my body period.’ They probably feel disgusting or unworthy or ashamed maybe. Let’s stick with disgusting. Just for this example, the general response to feeling disgusting is not to put on a pair of spandex or chop up a salad. No, the response to feeling disgusting is usually to stay in the sweat pants. Actually unbutton that top button, stay on the couch and eat and drink to feel better and beat yourself up for feeling bad because you know, better intellectually. Yeah. That’s what feeling disgusting. Generally leads to and doing those things, right? The staying on the couch, not being active, drinking and eating more to feel better, generally leads to gaining more weight. So can you see how thinking the thought I hate the way my body looks feels disgusting, and when you feel disgusting, you eat more, drink more, are active less. So gain weight is what happens. Now. Let’s say that this person has had it with gaining weight. They are ready to take control and they think, you know what? I’m going to make a resolution. I’m going to cut out the sugar. I’m going to cut out the carbs. I’m going to quit drinking. I’m going to start working out five days a week. Sounds like a good plan, right? Absolutely. Actually. And in time, an action plan like that will 100% change the way somebody’s body looks. But if this person continues to think, “I hate the way my body looks” they will not make it to see that day. The day where the action plan pays off, they will continue to feel disgusting. If they continue to think, I hate the way my body looks and when they feel disgusting and their brain offers them to just take one day off or just have one sip or just one bite. Just one cookie, Oh, just one day, you know what? You can just start next week. You better believe what happens. They take that offer. They take that offer and the cycle continues. Now let’s say that this person decides to change the way they are thinking. And instead of choosing, I hate the way my body looks. They choose something like maybe I care about the way my body works. When I think that thought, when I think I care about the way my body works, I feel responsible. When I think I care about the way my body works. I really do. I feel responsible. And when I feel responsible, I make responsible and reasonable plans. And I keep them. When I feel responsible, I claim my mistakes. I don’t blame anyone else for them. And I certainly don’t beat myself up for them. When I care about the way my body works. When I feel responsible, I experiment and I notice the way it feels when I don’t work out. And I notice the way it feels when I overeat and overdrink, but I also notice how it feels when I overwork or under nourish. And as a result of all of that claiming responsibility, experimenting, not blaming, not beating myself up, sticking to my plan, noticing things about my plan, making tiny micro adjustments as a result, I become a person that cares for my body and my body works well. Yes, it’s that simple. When I think I care about my body and the way it works, the result is that I take care of my body and my body works well. Can you see how choosing a thought like that? A thought like I care about my body and the way it works could carry you through a whole year of healthier living with ease yet choosing to not change the way you’re thinking, but change everything else is a total setup. It’s a total setup. 

Okay. So it’s simple as that to make sure that you resolve your resolutions, you must manage your mind. You have to plan for the hurdles. You must be prepared for what you will think when your willpower and yes, your excitement run out. You have to decide what you’ll think when your brain offers you to quit. And many of you daily doers that started in 2020 are probably finding yourself right about there right now, tempted with the offerings, the many offerings from your brain to quit. You might be struggling to sustain because you’re running out of willpower. You may be sitting with Rebecca from Episode 54 from our last episode in the pit of despair where your beginner’s luck and enthusiasm have worn way off. And you are now intimidated, self-conscious full of self doubt, and you may not be paying attention to those thoughts up there. You may be avoiding them, or you may be totally overwhelmed by them, but pay attention to them because the way you’re thinking will determine whether or not you get out of that pit of despair or the Valley of despair or whatever you want to call it. So pay attention to what’s going on upstairs, upstairs, your mind, maybe running wild, like a child with a Sharpie pen, scribbling, thoughts all over the walls of your head. Like, ah, I missed a day or two or three. So it over, it’s fine. I’ll just whatever. I’ll start a new challenge next month. I might as well just be done with this one. The child with the Sharpie pen might be offering you things like small bites, just aren’t meaningful. Or this is a waste of my time. I could be doing more important things with my time, or this is hurting me. It’s actually, my body was not built for daily or, um, I’ve already learned what I was trying to learn. So what, I’m just one fourth of the way to my goal. But, um, I’m done. I think I’ve already, I think I, I think I’ve pretty much got it. When you think thoughts like these, you are very likely to take your brains offering to quit. Your brain’s default setting is to survive daily, not to create a creative work daily. It wants to conserve energy. It wants to keep you safe. It does not want you to do something unknown and uncomfortable every single day. So it will certainly offer that you quit. And what will you tell it when it does, if you really believe that small bites aren’t meaningful, if you really believe that you missed the day, so you might as well stop. If you really believe this is a waste of your time and you should be doing more important work than you will absolutely quit when your brain offers that you quit. So here is where the make your resolutions work part happens. Take the pen from that child and find a piece of paper, just dump all of the thoughts that you have about this project in yourself and your ability to do it. Just dump them onto the paper. And when you feel like you’re out, look for more, there are probably more. FULL BLOWN download, like no less than one page. Now, once you’re done read all of those thoughts back to yourself and pretend like your best friend wrote them about their goal, and they’re coming to you for guidance now respond the way that you would to your dear friend with curiosity and compassion. If, if my best friend came to me and told me that they missed one day, so they might as well give up on their goal. You better believe I would not let them out of it that easily, but I also wouldn’t insult them for it. I’d probably approach that with, Oh, of course you missed a day. You are human. You absolutely missed the day and you’ll probably miss more days down the future. But the only way you will guaranteed miss days is if you quit right here, is it possible that you could just keep going? What about the friend that thinks small bites aren’t meaningful? I would ask them, is that really true? Why do you think that? Have you ever been moved by something small that was meaningful probably now to my person that said this is hurting me, I would definitely say, I’m so sorry to hear that. How can I help? What’s going wrong instead of well, you asked for it, you totally deserve that. And you should, by the way, totally stick it out. You said you were going to keep hurting yourself. No, absolutely not. That’s not how I would talk to my best friend. Now, in this conversation with your self and your best friend self, you have found answers to questions like, is that really true? Do you really believe that? How’s that working out for you? What would you rather do about that? You’ve gotten some good answers and you’ve probably found some new thoughts to think about yourself and about your project here is the value of these new, well inspected, more developed adult with a Sharpie pen type thoughts.  

These thoughts will help you keep going, or they will let you know for certain that quitting is okay, these new thoughts, this new awareness and understanding of yourself and your project might even redefine what quitting is to you in terms of this project or in terms of terms altogether. Yes. Hearing me correctly. I am not necessarily saying that you should continue your resolution or your daily creative challenge. I’m actually saying that you should address your thoughts about your project. Not ignore them. You should address them with curiosity and compassion. I’m saying that you should like your reasons for quitting, just like you should like your reasons for continuing. Yeah. Let’s play this game. 

Some of my favorite reasons for continuing are. I chose this for some reason, that one makes me giggle. I look at myself in what I’m doing. And I’m like, wow, I really chose this. This was my choice. And once I start giggling and enjoying my ability to make decisions, I usually typically go all in. Even if it’s on something completely silly and absurd, I chose this. How about this one for a reason to continue, The suffering part is optional. Yes. You don’t have to suffer. How about this one? Hard work feels better at the end, then quitting feels in the middle. I know that one’s kind of confusing. I use it for myself because I know what I’m saying. I don’t know if you know what I’m saying. I’ll say it one more time. Hard work feels better at the end than quitting feels in the middle. That’s when it really keeps me going. Another one is I can quit at any time. Truly. I can literally quit anytime, but what I want the most is growth or change or to show myself what I can do or to see this challenge from the other side, fill in the blank, but I can quit anytime I want. But what I want the most is blank. Okay? Here’s another one I love. The world longs for what I have to offer. Now, guys, I know that might not be true. The world might be like, shut up Wilson, zip it. But when I believe the world longs for what I have to offer and I actually share at very least with myself, what I have to offer.  

Okay, here it is my favorite. My anchor thought, which by the way, is becoming a words that move me, pop socket. As we speak, Merch alert coming soon. Here it is. “I am built for this.” When I think the thought I am built for this, you better believe I continue. Now, these thoughts might work for you. They might not. I encourage you to find your own. What are your anchor thoughts? What are the thoughts that keep your ship steady? When the skies and the seas start getting stormy,  Take a second  Or better yet. Take several minutes. This might be a homework assignment. Matter of fact. All right. So we’ve talked about some of my favorite reasons to continue some of my thoughts that keep me going now, let’s talk about some of my favorite reasons to quit. 

In fact, probably the only reasons in my eyes to quit. Number one, this isn’t safe. I am, or others are being harmed, damaged, or otherwise threatened. And I am a person who looks after my wellbeing. Safety first. No, thank you. The end, I quit. And I liked my reason. I like being a person that protects myself and others. So if something is not safe, if I sense that I or other people are being harmed or damaged or in danger, I absolutely will quit. And I absolutely will like my reason for it. Another one is I’m not being challenged and that’s a tricky one. See, I am a person who seeks growth and learning. So I will go wherever I need to go to find it. But this one’s tricky because it is very possible to find more challenge within the project or within the job or within the place that you’re thinking of leaving very possible to find or create that challenge and that opportunity to learn without quitting, but simply by changing the terms. For example, I am absolutely still going to do every single day, but I’m only giving myself 30 minutes to do it. See what I did there. Now the third one is kind of slippery when I think I have given my absolute best to this project. I love this project and I know that this relationship is complete, then I feel totally okay. Quitting the question there is, how do you know that the relationship is complete? Well, that’s up for you to decide you the individual. And you’ll be able to tell if you’re lying to yourself or not. So when it comes to doing daily, which by the way I want to point out is no small task. Although it might be about small bites, be sure that you have a strong reason for doing it. Decide why you are beginning. Then decide how you will measure your progress. Then decide what you’ll think in the, in the moments when you want to quit and finally decide how you will know when your project is complete and do that all at the beginning, make a plan. The doing daily diary is an interactive PDF that I created. It is on my website, theDanawilson.com/shop and it is an excellent way to organize all of those thoughts. Why are you beginning? How will you measure your progress? When will, you know, you’re completed and more, I highly highly recommended. I also recommend that you go easy on yourself. You choose the terms of your challenge of your resolution, and you can choose to change them. You can decide for example, that you get one mental health screen-free day per month, and that’s just built into the plan. You can decide that you get three, you can decide that you’ll extend your end date, but give yourself weekends off. You can decide that for every day you miss you’ll go two days longer. You can decide all sorts of things. There really is a lot of flexibility. And by the way, as I talk about flexibility, are your feelings about doing daily changing? When you think about how loose this very rigid concept might actually be, are your feelings about the project changing if they are it’s because your thinking is changing. And that is the first and most essential step to changing your life. So find those anchor thoughts, decide why when you begin and remember why all throughout I began by doing daily challenge, because I wanted to become a person who ships. I wanted to change my relationship with social media. That’s why I began. Why are you beginning your daily challenge if you’re taking one on or, or why are you deciding to become a new you in the new year, then decide on what keeps you going. If your initial, why doesn’t last, the whole term of your project that you’ve got to give yourself something else. This is where I stumbled upon. I am built for this, right? I didn’t believe that thought at the beginning of my project, but I found it throughout and I still believe it now. Then of course, decide how you will know when your project is complete. Is it a number of days? Is it a thought that once you believe you will know, okay, this is, this is the end. This is my last step. It’s entirely up to you, but I do encourage that. You make a decision. How will you know you have accomplished your goal. Oh, and one more thing when you find yourself holding two very contrasting thoughts at one time, for example, I love doing daily, but I don’t have time for this, or I love doing daily, but I should probably be focusing my attention on getting a real job or another one that I hear actually, quite often, I am so proud of this thing, but it’s like totally stupid. It’s not even a big deal. It’s just stupid little thing. When you find yourself holding those two contrasting thoughts at once, pull out your Sharpie pen and paper, and probably a magnifying glass so that you can look really, really closely at what is going on upstairs, dump all of your thoughts and be your own friend. You’ll likely find that you are forcing yourself into one or another of those two thoughts when you don’t actually believe either of them, you might actually find a third option, a thing that you actually believe, and you don’t have to believe either of the other two.  

All right, my friends, that is what I have for you today. And invitation to manage your mind, the key to keeping your resolutions and a friendly reminder that both continuing and quitting are both much more enjoyable when you like your reasons. And speaking of liking stuff, segue, here come wins. I am celebrating a big one. Um, Oh man, I can’t even remember how long ago it was now. November question Mark. Uh, back in November of 2020, I got to work with one of my favorite humans, Liza Koshy on a commercial for her new collaboration with Fabletics. This project presented such a delicious challenge. The project was really unique. A because Liza is unique and she is a star and she’s just simply the greatest, but B. because the direction of the spot was to feature dancers, dancing backwards, but also played backwards. In other words, the video is moving in, reverse.  

The dancers are dancing in reverse. So yes, if you understand double negatives, the dancing looks like it’s moving forward, but the world around the dancers is moving backwards. You guys mind bender? I’m celebrating that project, even though it happened a while back because it is finally out there in the world for all to see I’ll absolutely be linking to it in the show notes. I’m super proud of the research and development process. I’m really proud of the team, the new friends that I made along the way, super shout out to Kent Boyd Malia Baker. Um, Avery Zerr dropped in on a session of backward dance. I got backwards dance down with so many of my friends. Thank you all for the, for the fun and assistance in the R and D process. Huge shout out to Liza for being such a trooper. Not only learning choreography, but learning to dance it backwards while speaking backwards.  Okay. So go ahead. Have fun with that. Um, and big, big love to my four dancers. I had a tremendous time working with all four of you. Amari Marshall, your incredible Jaden Barba you are a Ray of sunshine, Alyson Van. After how many years are our paths crossing again. So special and Miki Michelle, you are a gem. Thank you all. And of course the Fabletics team for being a bright spot in my 2020, granted that bar was set pretty low, but still I am celebrating that gig as a win. And so glad to see this project out there in the world. Oh, NPS, the product is awesome. And I’m not a person that wears a lot of leggings, but I would wear these leggings. All right. That is my, when everybody now it’s your turn. What is going well, Hit me.  

Amazing. Congratulations. I’m so glad that you’re winning. Please do keep it up. Keep that chin up. Keep on pushing. Keep on swimming. Keep on keeping on speaking of keeping on man. Oh, the segues are a gift today. Upcoming episodes are big, really big. We’re going to be taking deep dive on commitment, which is important. Now that you have this episode as a launch pad and I have some very, very special guests lined up. So if you aren’t already please subscribe. You do not want to miss a single episode of season two. And speaking of missing things, if you are listening to this on the day of its release, you have two days to pre-register for the words that move me community membership, which officially launches on February 1st, but you can register to be a part of the community membership at any time. Um, however, if you register before January 15th, you get a free words that move me shoe bag to keep your funky things in a funky place.  And you get an invite to our virtual mixer. And if you invest in the whole year up front, you get a free 45 minute one-on-one with me. So go, go, go, go visit theDanawilson.com/workwithme and click words that move me community to learn more and join. All right, theDanawilson.com/workwithme  Words that move me community subscribe 45 minute one on one shoe bag. I think we’ve covered it. All right, everyone go on out there into the world. Think solid thoughts. Get your solid footing. You’ve got this. I’ve got you. Let’s go  Keep it funky. Yeah, I’ll stick to that. 

Ep. #54 Doing Daily Success Story with Rebekah Rangel

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #54 Doing Daily Success Story with Rebekah Rangel
/

 My year + of doing daily changed my life more than any other project to date.   It helped me redefine creativity.  It helped me put perfectionism in the passenger seat.  It got me better acquainted with my talents and my taste.  Exactly one year ago, in episode one and two of the podcast, I went deep on Doing Daily. I encourage you go back and get all the juicy details, but today, we are approaching Doing Daily a bit differently.  Today we are approaching Doing Daily with a success story.  NOT MY SUCCESS STORY. Rebekah’s success  (and struggle) story!  ENJOY!

Quick Links:

Skill Share: https://www.skillshare.com/

The Dunning Kruger Effect: https://onlinepethealth-info.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Dunning-Kruger.jpg

Rebekah’s sunnyvale video: https://www.instagram.com/p/B8BBr91B_XD/

My sunnyvale video… which oddly is just a photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHFTDsHhc0p/

My Egg video: https://www.instagram.com/p/p4HppIxnP3/

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: My friend, my friend, hello, and welcome to the podcast. I am so jazzed you are here and I am jazzed to be celebrating a new year with you. Happy new year to everyone. Who’s listening to this episode on or around its release date. I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled to be looking at 2020 through the rear view mirror right now. Although of course, positive Patty over here is carrying a lot of appreciation for the year and the tough lessons learned along the way. Shout out to my last episode, the 2020 recap. Um, but I do, I have, I have some genuine gratitude for 2020, uh, for graduating 2020 and a ton of gratitude for all of you listeners that made my year of weekly podcasting go by in the blink of an eye. Truly thank you. I have decided to continue this weekly tradition of podcasting because in it I have found a new way to connect without contact a new way to share a new way to learn and yes, a new way to be creative. And I love it. And I’m going to start a new, new tradition. Um, just like last year in episode one today, I am going to talk about doing daily, the project that changed my life more than any other, the project that helped me to redefine creativity for myself. The project that helped me put perfectionism in the passenger seat, the project that got me better acquainted with my talents and my taste, the project that gave me the tools and the strength and the stamina to tackle all of my other work. And honestly my whole life, if it seems like a big deal, it is, it is signing a contract with yourself to make a creative work daily. And then to not break that contract, it’s about becoming a person that does what you say you will do. And if that sounds like I’m being dramatic, um, Oh, go ahead and go into my Instagram feed from 2014 into 2015 for 400 plus days of consecutive videos and some real drama like top tier micro dramas. Um, I really do encourage you go back and listen to those first couple of episodes, episode one, to get all of the juicy details and episode two for a bit of a technical breakdown of how I actually did all of that for over a year. Um, you can pause and do that now, or you can do that later, dancer’s choice totally up to you.  But today we’re going to be approaching doing daily a bit differently, um, an updated version, if you will, the 2021 edition. And I’m so excited to repeat this in years in the future. Um, today we’re going to be approaching doing daily with a success story, not my success story. After all, when I did daily, the world was very different. This is a real 2020 success story. Rebekah Rengal started doing 279 days ago as of this recording. So way back in 2020, she began her journey after starting listening to words that move me and I am so glad that she did her project has brought me joy and inspiration. And from the sounds of it, it has changed her life as much as my daily project changed mine. In this interview, we dig into the byproducts of taking on a daily creative challenge, some of her tips and tricks, uh, some of the peaks and some of the valleys and the role of feedback in her process. Um, and a whole lot more. So let’s not waste any time let’s get into it. Oh, and if you’re a regular listener, no, I did not forget wins. Yes, we do have new wins music and yes, they’re all coming be patient and enjoy this success story with Rebekah Rengal 

Rebkah Rengal, you probably know better than anybody, how we operate here on the podcast. You get to introduce yourself, what do you want everybody listening to know about you?  

Rebekah: Okay. I did think about this and I’m not sure. I am a person who has been doing daily and that’s what I got.  

And today that is what we are talking about. So that is perfect. Um, this is, this is, this is a celebration episode. I think you have accomplished a lot,  you may not be my first Daily doer, but I I’m certain that you are my longest running daily doing. If I’m not mistaken today would be your 279th, Correct? 

Rebekah: Correct. 

Consecutive do. And, and what is your goal? Do you have a, uh, a number in your mind? That’s when you might stop  

366 is, but also when I think about it, I’m like maybe I would keep going. I feel like the end doesn’t necessarily seem like the end  

I love that! Today. We’re semi celebrating prematurely because you have not yet accomplished your 366 or beyond, but that’s not really the point of doing daily. It’s really not about accomplishing a number of days or a number of videos or a number of paintings or a number of poems. It’s about this certainty in yourself. It’s about this unwavering commitment and doing something, not because you’re inspired or, you know, you’re an artist at heart and you have to make, or you’re possessed. It’s, it’s not even because you want to it’s because you said that you would, and so you will. Um, and so congratulations on being a person that does what you say you will do. I am in. Awe.  

Thank you. Thank you. 

You’re so welcome. Uh, so I want to talk a little bit about your doing daily experience. Um, so maybe we could start by talking about the muscles that have gotten stronger because of this project for you.  

I feel like there’s a lot, uh, I would say like my mental fortitude and just like continuing. It’s so much harder than you think. Like, I don’t know how to describe it. I guess like all the good sentiments are there and all the good, like ways of dealing with like negative thoughts and things, like all the resources are there, but just practicing it is a whole another thing. And like, just cause you know, it doesn’t mean you know it. 

Just because you’ve heard it doesn’t mean that you’ve learned it. Oh my God. Yeah. 100% like, yes. And that’s, that’s why I love seeing people doing, instead of just listening and liking it really, you have to apply and you have to feel and experience for yourself. So many of these lessons. Um, so yeah, that’s huge. Thank you for adding that.  

Yeah. And thanks for those early episodes are really helpful. And I don’t know if you like really intended them to be for like doers, but I feel like a lot of them it’s like the mentality and tools are like,  

You’re, you’re using those. You’re using those tools. 

Yes. So thank you 

Killer. Oh my gosh. You’re so welcome. Thank you. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for being here. I’m just thrilled about you. Um, okay. And what were the byproducts like any awesome or terrible things that have come up for you in the last almost 280 days that you did not expect?  

Well, like this is pretty awesome. Getting to meet other doers is awesome. For sure. I met Alyssa through zoom and I met, um, Stephanie and like people in classes like your class, seeing them being like, Whoa, they’re real people.  

And we’re almost three-dimensional. Someday, hopefully we will be three-dimensional figures in all of our lives, but right now we, yeah, yeah. We’re, we’re real people out there in the world. When I started doing daily, I expected other people in my immediate circle to be annoyed by it or to be jealous of it or to like have some sort of reaction. I just expected that would happen. And actually, I won’t say the opposite happened, but something interesting, something that I did not predict happen. And that is that so many people started coming to me with their creative ideas. They were like, “yo, you should do a video about this. Or, Oh, that thing you did was so funny. Have you thought about doing this or you should do this or we should do this.” And I just became this like bucket that everybody brought their, their video ideas to because I was the person that made videos daily and that, that was such a gift.  I mean, sometimes I made them sometimes I didn’t, but people really stepped up and started offering ideas of what I should/could do. Um, and this is in the days long before the podcast, obviously to, to most of the people that I recommend, Oh, why don’t you do that? And so many people just didn’t identify with being a person that makes videos. They just, they, they just were like, no, that’s your thing. One of the coolest byproducts is that I kind of became a bucket for other people’s ideas. But now even that many years later, I’m starting to see people take the baton. People who consider themselves makers and doers are making and doing. And that is the greatest thing. 

That’s really cool.  

Super cool.  What are the outstanding pieces that you’ve done? What stands out in your memory? Like if I asked for a, a top five.  

Oh, okay. I think of one it’s it was at the Sunnyvale community center where you also had a daily, but, but I was, I was using the steps, um, that if no one knows it like goes across water. Right. And it’s like a bridge. So like obviously there’s people going around this body of water and meeting across, the bridge. And I tried to plan it where like, there wasn’t that many people there, but there’s definitely people there. And like, I’m trying to like balance making something, but then also like letting people pass and like, and like trying to not look questionable, but I think it was fine, but that was like one of my first ones where I was like, it’s kind of a lot of people and I’m going to need to figure out how to do this while not being like an obstruction.  

There is a byproduct for sure. Crowd management, like the language that you use to explain what you’re doing and that you’re not a threat. And like some of the signals I’m filming, please stand back or no, come on over. Come on. It’s fine. Yes. I’m recording. I, I remember I had some, I established some habits during my day. Uh, during my days of doing, I would carry a little bit of cash in case I needed to like pay somebody off to use their location. For example, I’m dancing on somebody’s property and they’re like, “Hey, get out of here.” And I’m like, “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just so beautiful. Would you? Aye. Aye. Hey, is it worth $20 for five more minutes?” And most of the times somebody would be like, yeah, go ahead. Go ahead. Hey, what are you doing anyways? Um, and then it kind of became a collaboration and more interesting to them, but yeah, managing people and, uh, being working in places that aren’t your studio or your garage or your controlled environment, that is absolutely a skill, a muscle that gets strong over the process. Um, okay. So the Sunnyvale Rec center, those concrete steps across the water, it’s such a beautiful location. Please go back and find that. Or actually I will link to that video in the show notes. Um, what else, what else stands out  

Anytime I’ve worked with other people, for sure. But like more than one other person. Cause like a duo is fun, but like I feel like three or more is a lot more fun.  

Exponentially, more fun. Yeah.  

And I don’t have a specific one for that, but anytime that happened,  

Anything else? 

Um,  I think of the, I recently really got into this mirror in my room. I started to use the mirror cause I was on Pinterest. I don’t know if you use Pinterest like for like video or like composition inspiration, but I’ve gotten into using it for that  

Smart Pinterest for composition. This is a really good hack. I love it. I love it. Um, I have noticed, in fact, I was going to ask you have a couple of recurring themes. Your mirror and mirrors in general are definitely among them. And I love that you use the mirror because it’s in a way that’s very different than the way that most dancers use a mirror, which is for, you know, my body does the things, my eyes see the reflection, my brain computes the information that my eyes are giving me. And then I adjust my body accordingly. Right. But you’re, you use a mirror in a way that’s extremely sensitive and almost sensual. Um, and it’s very curious and it’s gentle and it does not feel at all to me the way that most dancers use mirrors. So I love all of your, all of your videos that have a mirror in them. Um, another theme that I’ve noticed in your work is light. I love the way you use brightness and shadow, um, actual like bulbs, like light bulbs, but also the sun and natural light and natural dark spaces. Um, is that something that you explore intentionally? Is that something that really speaks to you? Um,  

Thank you for talking about so nicely, that way I like when I first started, I wasn’t thinking about composition, I was just like, okay, how do I need to make a thing? And then I need to capture it. And then like, I started to get bored of just capturing it and it felt, it felt super impersonal. Um, and so then I was like, well, I need ideas. So like, let me look on Pinterest, let me look up, um, music videos and be like looking to photographers and stuff. And then I started testing it out and, Oh, there’s this one guy on Skillshare. He’s a director named Ryan Booth. He only has one class. A lot of them have like multiple, but his one class is like how to make cinematic images or I think cinematography. And he said like his biggest tip was just like, you just know when, you know, and I think up until that point, I was like, Ooh, I don’t know. Like, I don’t know. I don’t know. And then I was like, okay, well I’ll know when I’ll know. And so I’ll just start playing around and like looking for things, right. Isn’t that great. 

If you’re a person who’s hearing that right now from the outside thinking, but that doesn’t help me. The thing that will help you is trying and practicing and trying and practicing relentlessly, giving yourself an opportunity to explore very well. The, I don’t know, side, and that actually creates room for knowing. And the more you try and the more you fail and the more you identify what feels impersonal or feels shallow or feels not quite full or rich enough, then you, you actually, from that space, you nudge yourself over into maybe some discomfort, but certainly some learning and then ultimately knowing, and you see it and you know, Oh, it’s amazing. Um, I’m, I’m super glad that you’re sharing these resources. That’s cool. I, in my year of doing Instagram was definitely a thing, but videos were 15 seconds and they weren’t really used for sharing dance so much. And this is way before Tik ToK or anything like that. So my, my references, oddly enough, being a person that came up in the entertainment industry and working a lot in music videos and, and pop music, my references often weren’t, um, music, videos, or cinema at all, but I’ll tell you where I did find a lot of inspiration or a lot of my videos landed straight up commercials, like fake commercials. I remember, um, I did a commercial about sugar. I did a sort of commercial about socks and wooden shoes. And like all of the things like I was very informed by how commercials are made and partially because they’re short form also because I’m a person that raised that was raised in a, um, in a consumer driven era. So a lot of my work was like little micro commercials. I don’t see that when I see your work. I see like I see compositions, little micro compositions, so, so, so good looking. Um, so you mentioned that you’re like going out into the world now for inspiration. Do you think it’s safe to say that this project has changed the way you relate to the world, you know, in, in the way that you’re going out and looking for new things?  

I think so. I think I look at it more like opportunistically and then like more closely, especially like, well, I go outside more now, but like during the beginning of lockdown, I was like, I felt guilty about going outside all the times. So I started to look at my own space more closely. And then I think when I first started going out, I was like looking for, um, like pretty places or like interesting things. But like within those places, like, there’s like other interesting things.  

So it’s not always, it’s not always the first or most obvious place or thing.  

Yeah. But it like never is  

Never no.  

There’s so many videos of me, like trying to like figure out how to shoot something after like 10 or 15 minutes. I’m like, okay, this will work.  

Oh, that sounds like a video in and of itself. I did that several times as well. Repurposing the in-between captures or the bloopers. I think I have a handful of blooper dailies for sure. There was plenty to go around. Um, okay. And has this experience changed your relationship to social media right now you are sharing on Instagram. Um, are you sharing on tick-tock as well? Out of curiosity. 

I’m not, I don’t have a Tik Tok 

Okay. Me neither, which makes two people on the whole planet. Okay. Um, yeah. Do you think it’s changed the way that you think of social media?  

I think so. It’s changed my expectation or like my, what I hope social media to be like, like, I mean, you talk about this, I think, you know, social media episode, like you put your best work out there and I feel like we miss a lot from people just because that’s the expectation.  

Right. Nobody’s sharing the video of them, like changing light bulb or cleaning their toilet or like doing the less flattering parts of life or do they, I mean, they’re not flooding my feed that’s for sure.  

But, and I just wish other people just, cause I think it, it sparks like individual voices versus like, uh, like a standard. I wish more people were more open to that. We’re more open to sharing without thinking that it needs to be perfect. I guess.  

What is your standard for perfection before you post your dailies? Do you, do you have one? Are you like, listen, it’s 30 seconds. It’s it includes dance. It’s fine.  

I have to like it enough.  I might not even like ending, but it’s like,  If I enjoyed making it enough, I’ll be like, Oh, well I enjoy making it. And if anyone’s like, that looked awful, but listen, I had a good time and I learned this and this and that’s fine.  

Ah, that is a good metric for the share. I enjoyed making this thing. So here it is. Whether or not you like what it is actually has no relevance at all because it’s not about the product. It’s about the process.  

Yeah. I think Andy Warhol has a quote and I’m going to mess it up, but he says like, um, like make, basically like make art and then like when you share it and while people are deciding whether it’s good or bad, just keep making more art. And I’m like, Woah. I saw that on Pinterest,  

Super shout out, Pinterest. That is the backbone of the doing daily idea. By the time you’re hitting share or post or what is it? What is it? What’s the last button you, I dunno,  Post?

Is is create?   

No, that’s the first one or it’s the little plus button. You guys, what is the last button that you push in Instagram before it goes out there into the world? Hold on. I’ve got to find out. I’m done. It’s share. 

Oh my God.  

The final button is sharing. Okay. So before you click share, you’re already thinking about what’s tomorrow or what’s the next thing. So in some ways you’ve already released the thing that you’re sharing today because you’re onto the next 24 hours. I think that is such a powerful thing. Um, at least once a year, I work on a new, real, uh, performance real usually, and a choreography real. So every year I work on two different reels and one of the conversations I have to have with myself, cause I also suffer from perfectionism is like Dana, the work is already done. The work is done. Let it be done, put it out into the world and keep going that the goal as an artist is not to create a perfect reel it’s to create period. So package it however you will and send it out there. Cause the work is done. It’s about making more. So that is definitely at the backbone of, of doing daily. For sure. Love this. Um, okay. So I’m curious. Have you ever gotten any really negative feedback about your dailies?  

I’ve only gotten construct, uh, constructive criticism, um, and it’s normally delivered extra padded. Super nicely. So, and I, I enjoy that more because like, I think like I don’t necessarily trust positive comments all the time though. I do like them, you know, so, but if you give me constructive criticism, I’m like, Oh sweet. Like that’s, that’s a conversation like that’s useful. Not that it. Oh my gosh. Not that it’s not useful to have positive comments. Keep, please  

Keep the praise coming, but I’m not really listening to it. 

Yeah, exactly. 

All right.  I thought it would be wise to pop out here and have a quick little chat about social media in episode 10, I talk about using social media as your personal storefront, but things have changed a little bit in the social sphere, especially with Instagram and Facebook’s recent privacy policy changes. So right now I am a little less quick to encourage everyone to embark on a daily creative challenge and share it on Instagram. It is true that feedback and having a quick feedback loop and especially that constructive criticism can be useful. It was a really valuable part of my year of dailies, but view counts and emoji praise are not the valuable thing. The real value is less about developing a sensitivity to feedback and more about developing a sensitivity to yourself and your tools. That is why I created the words that move me community membership.  This is a special place where the members, you listeners doers get a place to learn yourself, learn your tools, and yes, get that constructive criticism without offering all of your personal information up to the greater internet. So stick around to the end of the episode, to hear more about the membership. In the meantime though, let’s get back to Rebekah because at this point in the conversation, she and I went in on the Dunning Kruger effect, which explains the relationship of confidence and competence. You’ve probably heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect or maybe seen a line graph of it somewhere at some point. Um, I will include an image of that and a link to some Dunning-Kruger info in the show notes, by the way, but I’ll try to explain it to you as best as I can here. Um, in words, the graph has confidence as its vertical axis and competence or knowledge like skill level as the horizontal axis and the linear relationship of the graph might not be what you would expect.  Confidence does not increase in correlation with capability or knowledge. In other words, you don’t necessarily just get more confident in something. The more knowledge you have, the more experience you have with it. In fact, the research shows, peaks, valleys, slopes, plateaus, all of which you are guaranteed to be running into during a year of doing daily. By the way. Now the most interesting about the Dunning-Kruger phenomenon to me is that it shows people with very little to no experience. In other words, beginner level, people overestimate their ability, meaning their confidence is high and their exposure to something is very low. In their early days they’re extremely confident. And then as they go on and gain knowledge and get experience, they lose confidence at a very speedy rate because they become more aware of how much they have to learn. They are introduced to the specialists in that field, um, that make them aware of their beginnerness and think that they’re awful and never going to get any better.  So with that, they fall into what some people call the Valley of despair, but I call it the pit of despair because I am a Princess Bride fan don’t even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick. Uh, anyway, once the person in the pit of despair starts to change their thinking and use their knowledge differently and simply continue that leads to a slow but steady enlightenment, this upward slope coming up out of the pit of despair. And eventually they plateau the plateau of ability forever more. I think, I don’t know if that ever drops off. I wonder what the end end end of the Dunning-Kruger effect looks like anyways, where Rebekah and I landed today is that any doing daily is better than no doing like 30 days, great, 60 days, awesome. 90 days radical, a hundred days fabulous, but a year or a year plus of doing daily, that gives you time to get in and come up out of the pit of despair, which is where Rebekah is sitting right now, by the way. So let’s go  get her out.  

Dana: I’m going to do my best to throw you some carabiners and ropes and whatever it is you need to get up out of there. Yeah. Okay. So from the depths of the pit, then here comes the question, would you recommend doing daily to other creative types?  

I would. And I don’t know if you know, this is a thing, but like in the graphic design world, it’s like a, like a, a year challenge is like a thing. Like there’s some people I follow where they’re going in their second year or like they did two years. And I think that the challenge attracts dancers, for sure.  

Oh, for sure. I, yes. I think that, yeah, I absolutely did not invent doing daily. Um, I think that today by design people might be doing daily and not even knowing it because of how addictive some of these social platforms are. Um, like I bet people are out there tic talking and not even knowing that they’re on their 62nd day of making a dance or doing a dance  Or being active or making a recipe. Um, so I just, that is always really curious to me, but I do think there’s something to be said for being deliberate, having a goal, saying you will do a thing and showing yourself that you can be a person that does what they say they will do. Um, yeah. I look back on my year with, with great fondness and when it comes to Tik Tok and dailies today, because people have said this before people have said, Oh my God, you were so ahead of the trend, you would be so great at Tik Tok. You should, you should be on Tik Tok. Um, I can’t explain why I’m not, uh, probably with some more time I could do a little bit more digging, but the answer is, I, I don’t feel the same way about Tik Tok that I did about Instagram at the beginning when I had this thing, that was like, I don’t like my reasons for not being more present there. Um, I don’t have that for Tok Tok I’m not there and I’m totally okay with it. So I don’t think that’s the place I’ll be putting myself in the near future. Um, maybe within the next year, perhaps. I don’t know. I hear it’s very fun, but I,  

I shouldn’t, I just imagine I’m like, wow, you would kill it.  

I don’t know. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t, it’s certainly a new, a new thing to learn and I’m all for learning. So Hey, maybe you’ll find me there. Um, okay. Final question. Um, could you share some of the memorable moments that were maybe, uh, less appetizing, less fun to experience so that perhaps anybody listening who’s embarking on a daily journey might, uh, might not feel so alone or it might be able to avoid some, some traps that may be laid out before them.  

Okay. Um, and I’m actually curious if you had had the similar experience, but I find that like, if I just like beat an idea to the ground, that’s not working. That is never a good time. And just like I, so like, this is the thing that I’ve, I heard from a lot of professors and like, they’re like, your first idea is never your best, but I do think sometimes your first idea can be your best idea, but also if it’s not working out, like I just, I go to that thought and then I move on and I’ll try like, like now I’ll try so many different things. Cause like, even though I’m like taking that time, it seemed like in my mind, I’m like, Oh, I’ll have one idea. And it’ll be the most time efficient to just get through that one idea. But actually that one idea becomes like two or three hours of just like not working out when it could have been like 30 minutes to try. I’m just trying to figure it out and trying different things. And then like another, like 30 minutes to who knows how long, but it would be more enjoyable. So I think like just being able to let things go and move on and like try different things and like be really open to be open to failing.  

Yeah. Failing is so not so bad when you’re open to it. And when that’s part of the plan, when you know, going into it like, Oh, this is one of the ones that I promised myself would happen. I knew this, okay, this is cool. I didn’t expect this today, but I knew this was going to happen. Okay. We’re in it. Here we go. Um, I think that’s great advice and I, I love this sentiment that your first idea might actually be your best idea, but you won’t know if it is or isn’t, if you don’t also explore some other ideas. So sometimes you’ll come around to that first idea being the best idea, but you won’t know if that first idea was the best idea if you don’t have others. Right. I love that. So don’t stop having ideas just because you’ve got a good one allow for there to be proof that you have the best idea by all the other, not so best ideas, which could also fill up other days of the year, by the way, it might turn into the best to someone or for some situation.  

Yeah. I’ll also like planted the seed before. Like I feel like, like I’ve tried an idea that didn’t work on a certain day, but then I did it slightly differently another day. And then that just became an own day.  

Yes, it’s its own day. Oh, that’s the other gift of dailies is that there are enough days for everything to get a spotlight. That was definitely a creative, a creative weakness of mine was this idea that I had to be all of the things all of the time and that every one of my works needed to be bright and dark and romantic and funny and have a perfect arc and have a protagonist and an antagonist and be a commercial and be a musical theater number. Oh my God. Nope. It can just be one thing. Your work does not have to be all of the things at all of the time. It can simply be one thing and sometimes that’s the best.  

Yeah. Cause I think, cause I went through, uh, your dailies and like, I remember being like surprised at the production level. I’m like, who has like, who had the ability to plan that much on like a daily basis, but then you also had some that were like, like, I love to think of the one where you were taking a picture in like Russia or something and like almost knock over a sign. And then like also one where you’re like playing air guitar with someone. And I was like, and those are just as quality as like, um, something that had a lot more depth, like with the eggs, I feel like. And like, like where the theme itself is much more deep and like the delivery’s really like there, but I was like, why are these kind of equivalent?  

Right. Because different days for different different days for different ways, I suppose. Yeah. Um, okay. So all in all would recommend daily doing 10 out of 10. 

Yes. 10 out of 10 I think everybody should do it. Honestly. I love that attitude. And so do I, but you would be surprised at how many people I have told this is the secret too. Like when people ask me how I did what I did,  It was this. I mean there were people and there were opportunities and there was, you know, opportunity meets preparation, all freaking over the place. But the reason I’m able to own my talent, and my accomplishments is because of the lessons I learned during this project. I can say that without, without batting an eye, it’s possible that I’ll listen to it later and be like, Oh, I have a small edit to that, but, but I really, I really believe that. And I’ve told more people than I can count to try this, but not very many of them do. Um, and here’s why because of the pit, because of the pit, because of self-doubt because of, uh, paralyzing fear of what other people might think. And I’ve got tricks for that. Keep listening to the podcast. Um, and if you are listening at the day of this release, which is the first episode in 2021, then I am kicking off, uh, words that move me community that will be packed with all the tools and helpful hints and support to not only pursue, but thrive in a daily creative life. And it’s not just for daily doers, but I think daily doers are just the best. So I extra welcome doers to the community, but it’s really built for anybody who has creative inklings and might be saying no to themselves instead of yes. Um, so I’m glad you said yes to this challenge. I say yes, like out loud, every time I watch one of your videos in some way shape or form, I’m like, Oh yes. Or Ooh. Yeah. Um, so thank you for doing, for all of your doings and man, I’m excited to celebrate again with you on 366.  

Thank you so much for having me. This is honestly nuts way I can put it, I guess.  

Well, it’s real. It just happened. And you did great by the way, I know that like dancing and speaking very different skillsets, very different skill sets. And I’m actually shocked that in all of my dance training, we never really rehearsed even like a slate or a short story about yourself. Like be ready to talk about you and what you do. It’s not something that we get trained for, but it’s another thing that doing daily kind of helps you to accomplish in spending all that time with yourself and your work. You get to learn yourself a little better. So I’m glad you got a lot better. I’m glad you got to put it into words today. That was so much fun. Thank you. I I’ll talk to you again soon.  

Bye. Thank you. 

All right. I hope you enjoyed hearing from Rebekah and I hope that you revisit those early episodes for helpful insights and tools for doing daily. And I really, really hope you consider taking on a daily creative challenge of your own to help you out along that way, to help you up out of the pit of despair. I have put together a little interactive PDF. I call it the doing daily diary and it is the companion that I wish I had during my year of doing it includes a contract to keep yourself accountable, a couple of different methods for organizing your ideas and of course, ways of tracking your progress. If that sounds interesting or helpful to you go head over to theDanawilson.com/shop to download. And I should mention that the doing daily project has nothing to do with a new year, um, by no means, do you need to start today? In fact, you can start at any time. And speaking of starting a segue that brings us to our wins segment. If you are familiar with the podcast in season one, AKA 2020, I know it’s a very long season. I celebrate wins at the top of every episode. And then I share the floor with you to do the same. In 2021, we will close each episode with wins so that you finish on a high and mighty note. You head out into the world, victorious and funky and here we go. Let’s give it a shot. This week, my win is that with the help of a stellar team, shout out Malia Baker and Riley Higgins. You now have a place albeit a digital place to connect with me and each other. Yes. The words that move me, community affectionately acronymed, WTMMCOMM W-T-M-M-C-O-M-M. The words that move me community is up and open for pre-registration. So if you are looking for support from other creatives and meaningful connections, this program is for you.  If you are ready to look into the mirror and see clarity instead of criticism, this program is for you. And if you are ready to blow the lid off of what is possible in the next phase of your career, I am ready for you. Let’s go head over to theDanawilson.com/workwithme and click on words that move me community for more information and a preregistration links, all of the details about what the membership includes and the different tiers of membership can be found there. So enjoy that’s my win. I hope to be winning with you all year long. And now before I yield the floor to you and your win, I have some lucky contest winners to announce, Oh yes. Indeedy! Three of you have a win to celebrate and you don’t even know it yet. Jesse Sawyers over at getting unlocked and I were thrilled to see all of the entries for our t-shirt giveaway contest.  So many of you were getting behind the statement. We welcome your differences, and I cannot tell you how glad I am to have a random generator decide who wins this contest. Because if I had to make a selection based on your entries, I would not be able to do it. You all put forward such incredible work with such beautiful sentiment. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for meaning it. We welcome your differences. Um, if you are not a lucky t-shirt winner today, however, you can still find our, our collaboration. T-shirt at my website, theDanawilson.com/shop and of course over gettingunlocked.com. All right, without any further ado, drum roll, please. Our three lucky winners are Brandon Maxwell @_Brandon Maxwell, Cristina McKeever @Cristina,McKeever and Stephanie Lamb @slam.doingdaily Congratulations, all three of you and pretty congratulations to all of you who are about to witness our brand new wins music. All right, everybody shout it from the top of your lungs. What’s going well in your world.  

Oh my gosh. I feel so victorious when I listen to that new wins music. And I hope that you do too. Shout out Mr. Max Winnie. Thank you so much for the tuneage as per usual. And congratulations everybody congrats on your wins. I hope to be a part of your many, many, many wins to come again. If you are interested in joining the community and working closer together, then all you have to do is head over to theDanawilson.com/workwithme and then click words that move me community is all there is to it, all the information you need and the links to pre-register are all right there, that Dana wilson.com/work with me, click on words the move me community, and I will see you there. Keep it funky everybody. Bye. 

Ep. #53 2020: Lessons Learned

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #53 2020: Lessons Learned
/
 I learned a lot in 2020 and this weekly podcast was both my teacher and my notebook. In this episode I’ll recap what I have learned from 2020 and a year of weekly podcasting: the good, the bad and the ugly… and the fun.  It was a good year to know how to be alone with yourself.  It was a good year to know how to talk to yourself, and love yourself.  A good year to learn how to connect with people without physically making contact with them. In other words, it was a good year for podcasts… and if I have anything to do with it, next year will be to.

Show Notes:

Quicklinks:

Want to register for the WTMM Community?
Email us: WTMMPodcast@gmail.com or Visit https://www.thedanawilson.com/workwithme/membership-tiers

Curious about Coaching? https://www.thedanawilson.com/coachcurious

Vulfpeck Christmas in LA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5K3UgrPdbQ

Raspberry Sumac Snickerdoodles: https://mynameisyeh.com/mynameisyeh/2019/11/sumac-snickerdoodles

Get The New Jim Crow, White Fragility, How to be Anti-Racist, and Changing the Conversation from one of these independent black owned bookstores: https://lithub.com/you-can-order-today-from-these-black-owned-independent-bookstores

Favorite Dana Caspersen Talks:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY-8zPp9nh4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEYQPgLVx0k&t=336s

James Baldwin on Dick Cavett: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzH5IDnLaBA

James Baldwin Debates William F Buckley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFeoS41xe7w&t=937s

James Baldwin and NIkki Giovanni: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZmBy7C9gHQ

Misting bottle: https://www.mcmaster.com/spray-bottles/fine-mist-spray-bottles/

How to teach dance on Zoom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW3U2Fv2CY8&t=401s 
Sonya Renee Taylor:https://www.sonyareneetaylor.com

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. How are you feeling today? Checking in on you here at the end of 2020. If you’re listening to this on its release, this is the last episode of 2020 everybody. This is the last episode of the year. Whoa. And what a year, it was a very good year to know how to be alone with yourself. It was a very good year to know how to talk to yourself and love yourself a very good year to learn how to connect with people without physically making contact with them.  So, yeah, I would say it was a good year for podcasting. I started the podcast in the last week of December of 2019 actually. Well, before the COVID-19 pandemic knocked out “normal” (in quotes) and I believe, and I plan on continuing my new weekly tradition long after we find our “new normal” (also in quotes), because in doing this podcast, I have found a new favorite way to connect a favorite way to share and yes, a new way to be creative, I suppose. And I have learned a lot in 2020. Um, the podcast was both my teacher and my notebook for all of my lessons learned. And in this episode, I am going to recap all the good, all the good goods, all the bad bads, the goods, the bads, and the uglies, um, and the funs I think. I should mention also that this episode is being brought to you by Purell and Clorox and homemade masks and shields. Okay, kidding. Um, podcast is still totally ad-free, which I am super proud of, but Hey, who knows? Maybe in 2021, I will learn more about advertising, but also maybe not. Okay. You know the deal, before we get into it, we’re going to start with wins. Today I am celebrating my first Christmas in Los Angeles, que Vulfpeck Christmas in LA, which is such the gem, by the way, if you have not heard, heard that song, Holy smokes, I’m linking to it in the show notes. Okay. Just to recap, it was 70 degrees on Christmas day in the Valley and not a cloud in the sky. I ate food. I drink drinks, not too much of either. I want to point out very proud of that. Um, I took a nap and I felt love. I felt like my insides were the actual cotton candy machine, warm and wispy and windy and sweet all day long top to bottom.  So incredible. Oh man. Speaking of sweet, actually I think the real undercover win of this whole holiday thing is that I successfully baked delicious cookies. And that is saying a lot because I do not have a ton of confidence in the kitchen. And I’m proud of these cookies. Also a Testament to these cookies. My husband does not so much love the sweet things. And he said that these were good cookies. He has no reason to lie. Although he has sworn to be the protector of my happiness. Anyways, I’m proud. I made the cookies. I’m becoming a person that has some confidence in the kitchen. Um, so I will definitely be doing that again and again. Um, the recipe, by the way, for the said raspberry sumac, snickerdoodle cookies will be in the show notes of this episode also. Oh, by the way, the quick links to this episode, the show notes of this episode are a gift like an actual gift. You might want to print this out or select all and save absolutely download this episode because there is a lot of goodness going on here. Um, okay, so let’s get, Oh, sorry, sorry. Sorry. Almost forgot your turn. What’s going well in your world. What gifts are you celebrating? Go.  

I can not wait for our new wins music coming soon. 2021 get ready. The podcast is getting a makeover. Um, both visually and audio auditorially auditorily, right? Okay. Lessons learned from 2020 and a year of weekly podcasts. Holy smokes. Um, do you mind if I start heavy? Do you mind if I don’t provide you with a warmup here in this episode, do you mind if we don’t even run it with counts? Do you mind if we go straight to groups? Um, yeah, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do today. 2020 has taught me, that COVID-19 cannot kill racism. In fact, disproportionate COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in communities of color, the court ruling of Brianna Taylor’s case and the murder of George Floyd have shown substantial evidence that racism is indeed alive and well in America. I am not excited to report this lesson learned. This year I learned how much I still have to learn about systemic racism in America. One of my lessons this year was to not just share the spotlight, but to shine the spotlight, like step out of the spotlight, climb up the truss, look at the big picture and shine light on the most important things. The things that need to be seen. Thank you, Dominique Kelly for that super teachable moment in Episode 25. Thank you. Jermaine Spivey in episode 29 for, for walking me through a breakthrough about goals. In that episode, I learned that one of the privileges I hold that I had never counted was simply my own belief that my wildest dreams can come true. Thank you. Also Popin Pete for taking 45 minutes out of your funky funky life to talk to me on the phone and remind me that apologizing for my privilege is about as helpful as, oh man, tap shoes in a ballet class, trying to make a dance analogy falling very short me apologizing for my privilege is not actually tremendously helpful at all, but my seeking to understand where I can do that better is, and I’m coming committed to that lifelong journey.  Now I am certain that I will listen back to this episode a year or several years from now and shake my head at how clumsily I was finding my feet and finding my words and I’ll think of a million things that I should have said. I’m sure I’ll wish I had said certain things differently. So I’d like to close this section and this lesson learned with a quote that speaks to, uh, speaking about racism. In her book Untamed, which I have now read cover to cover and posted more post-its in than you’ve ever seen in one place. Um, and I’ve also shared it with more people than I can count, uh, in Untamed Glennon Doyle, the author says “We have fallen into the trap of believing that becoming racially sober is about saying the right thing instead of becoming the right thing.”  

Yeah, I’ll go ahead and bring that back one more time. “We have fallen into the trap of believing that becoming racially sober is about saying the right thing instead of becoming the right thing.”

Well, for me this year and every year forward will be about becoming the right thing, becoming anti-racist. Thank you, Glennon Doyle for that book. Thank you, Michelle Alexander for The New Jim Crow. Thank you, Robin De Angelo for White fragility. Thank you. Ta- Nehisi Coates for Between the World and Me and thank goodness for Dana Caspersen and a return to James Baldwin for a deep, deep, deep dive and masterclass on critical thinking and powerful speaking. If you didn’t learn about James Baldwin in your history or literature classes, then I’m sorry. You have a lot of catching up to do. He was a profound thinker and a profound influence, a poet playwright, author activist, and much, much more for an introduction to James. I might suggest watching his debate with William F. Buckley or his interview with Nikki Giovanni, the whole thing, by the way, which is two hours long. And you do have two hours. Trust me. Um, the, the one that really punched me in the guts though, was a debate that he had on the Dick Cavett show in 1969, links to all of those videos will be in the show notes of this episode, but really please just go for the Google James Baldwin start anywhere and you will get a lot. Next up on my thank goodness for this person list is Dana Caspersen. Dana is an award winning, performing artist, a dancer, a stunning dancer, and also a mediator and a conflict specialist. How jazzed am I to find this combination in one human being out there in the world, jazzed, but not shocked. Actually, Dana points out that dancers carry out transformation and conflict resolution in our daily practice all of the time. So in a way, this dancer turned conflict, specialist trajectory is not unusual at all. Really when you think of it that way, I really, really, really recommend Dana’s book Changing the Conversation. The 17 principles of conflict resolution like 10 out of 10 would recommend. Um, in fact, it is on my words, that move me, words that move me shopping list on Amazon. If you want to go directly take a look at that, but there will also be a quick link to that book in the show notes anyways, the principles and the exercises in this book, champion, curiosity and compassion, my like King and queen in life at the moment. Um, they’re a reminder that although we may not be able to change our situation or the way that other people behave, we can decide how we behave. For example, we can decide to provoke other people’s worst selves in an argument, or we can talk to the other person’s best self in an argument.  We can pin the blame on someone else, writing the problem off as their problem, which prevents us from a full understanding of it. Or we can use our efforts to figure out what is happening instead of whose fault it is. I mean, really, really some solid gold guiding principles. Please, please go do yourself a favor. Do our society a favor and dig into Dana Caspersen’s, work her book. And some of my favorite talks of hers will be linked in the show notes. 

All right, pushing right on ahead through the thickness this year, I also did quite a bit of excavating on my thoughts around gender. I participated in a zoom showcase called a Pangea Live. Shout out Tracy Phillips. Thank you for putting on such an awesome show. I performed at the show in December, but Pangea Live happened on several Fridays I think for months and months on end, every Friday, six soloists were given the same prompt to create two solos. Given, given this prompt. And the week that I performed, the prompt was masculinity and femininity. Now in tandem with the black lives matter movement, much light has been shown on equality with regards to gender and gender identity. I did not feel like an expert or qualified at all to be making a work, let alone two works on this topic. But I leaned in and I dug into the work. I had a lot of really uncomfortable conversations with myself and with others. And here’s what I uncovered the first layer of course, was to simply decide on my definition for each of those words. I decided that feminine is simply a word used to describe things traditionally associated with the female gender. And I define masculine is a word used to describe things traditionally associated with the male gender. Now, what do I actually think about that? What do I think about that? What do I think about those words? What do I think about male and female genders? What do I think about tradition? Well, I think that traditions and our biases about gender formed by comparing the two to each other, I think that femininity is determined relative to masculinity and masculinity is determined relative to femininity. In other words, you cannot have one without the other. I also believe that traditions are formed by thinking and doing something over and over and over again for a really long time. So it takes time to create traditions and it takes time to change them. The tradition of this moment in time, at least in my world is one of celebrating individuality and inclusion. The notions of femininity and masculinity to me are often used to separate or categorize people. And this year more than any other separation and division turned me off.  That’s one of the reasons why I had such a difficult time with this prompt to begin with. I would much rather choose the thought that we are more the same than we are different. I don’t see female or male one or the other as better or worse. I see them as different and I see them as complimentary and I think that’s okay. So that’s what my work focused around. Yes, I’ve been born into a female body and I identify as a woman, but I am also a performer and a choreographer in the commercial dance industry where I’ve lived for 15 years. And this is a place where sex sells. So actually sexuality and attraction have been more or less peak interest to me. And in my early days, my, my training days in my early professional career, I really modeled my movement off of that, of my favorite dancers, who were almost exclusively male. Today, the movement that comes out of my body is more about what I feel, and it’s less about what I see. And today I am way more about being interesting than being cool. And today I’m curious about how notions of gender are changing. I am constantly discovering shades of less traditional gender and attraction to be the most exciting to me, especially when I create I’m so glad that I was given this task, this opportunity to excavate my thoughts on femininity and masculinity. I am proud of my work, although man… With just a little more time, am I right? Like, do you always just want more time? It’s never exactly what I, what I thought or hoped it might, but I am proud. Um, and I’m super curious to see how our society’s thinking. Our traditional thinking evolves over the next several years. 

Okay. Next up! This one’s a doozy behind every high performer, every top athlete, every super entrepreneur business person, every high performer. I believe this, I could be wrong. You’re going to show me 15 examples where I’m wrong, but, but I’m going to dig my fluffy slippered heels into the floor right here and say that behind every high performer, there is a coach, somebody teaching, training, helping them achieve their best. And this year I became a certified coach. I am a certified life coach now, which is funny because in my early episodes, I was like, “listen, I’m not a life coach, but blah, blah, blah.” Well, yep. That was before my 18 week coach certification process. And now as a certified coach, I can tell you my most important takeaway. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Takeaways. You know me? I can never pick just one. 

My most important takeaways are number one, that our emotions come because of the way we’re thinking, not from what other people or viruses for that matter do. Our emotions come from the way that we’re thinking, the way that we’re thinking of course comes from a lot of things, training, instincts, modeling, it goes deep, but that was important to me. The other most important thing to me is learning that feeling bad is part of the plan. She says with a laugh. I believe that being human comes with pain. Now that pain can be compounded, right? That pain can become suffering by resisting it by reacting to it, by avoiding it. Well, what else is there to do with it that you might ask? Well, that’s easy. Well, simple, not easy. Allow it, process it. I have learned and gotten to practice over and over and over and over again, different ways of processing negative emotions this year, holler back at episode 17 for a deeper dive on that. And if you’re curious about coaching, I can definitely understand why, First of all, the industry is completely unregulated and no two coaches are exactly the same. But if you’d like to know more about the work that I do and the way that I work as a coach, head over to theDanaWilson.com/coachcurious, or you could click at the top menu bar on Work with Me and navigate your way through the Words that Move Me community, which is where I’ll be doing some community coaching for y’all out there. 

All right, I’m going to hit a little rapid fire round. Now, a couple of things that I never knew and a couple of things that I’ve always known, but know deeper now let’s start with the things that I never ever knew until this year hit me like a ton of bricks. Are you ready for this? This year? I learned that although LA is not technically a desert climate region, technically it is a Mediterranean region.  Most indoor plants like to be misted. I mean, you guys game changer. I got one of those cool little Mister bottle things. It’ll be in the show notes. Um, and now my plants inside my house are green, not pale, pale yellow. Winning. Um, also I learned that food, uh, when you get it from the earth, not from a bag, you have to wash it. So that’s a bonus because we should all be washing all of the things that come into our house during the pandemic. Um, also learned about loquats you guys loquats are delicious. How about spigarello? Have you ever had, spigarello also delicious you guys. I made homemade chocolate with coriander flowers. We make homemade shabu shabu in this house. Now it has been a great year for exploring food and becoming, as I mentioned earlier, more confident in the kitchen. You guys, I got my husband new knives for Christmas and already cut him with one of them in the knuckle when I was trying to show him the cool design on the side, really that took the kitchen confidence down like four points. I will not be handling the new knives until I get some cut proof gloves anyways, until he and I both get some cut proof gloves. 

Okay. Up next, this year 2020, I learned that the hardest step to dance backwards is consecutive Pas de bourres. You might be able to do one pas de bourres backward, but consecutive pas de bourres like de de de de de de. You have to da da da da da da I mean it’s, it’s out of control. Difficult. Just go ahead, give that a whirl. You can tag us in a video if you’d like extra credit points. Um, okay. 

And the other thing, closing with a bang, no pun intended [totally pun intended] is that if you intend on using Holy powder for explosion effects in your homemade videos, Holy powder, by the way, is that very beautiful, very pigmented powder that you see usually in slow motion in a lot of music, videos and so on and so on.  Anyways, if you plan on using Holy Powder for explosion effects, add flour, it’s going to give you a lot more bang for your buck. 

Uh, more on that lesson coming very, very soon. Oh, more on the backwards pas de bourres coming soon too, by the way, I have some very fun work coming for you in early 2021. So jazzed about it. Okay. Now we shift to the, I’ve always known this, but now I know it deeper lessons. Number one, the power of the vote, need I say more. Number two, the value of nail technicians. I had to remove my own acrylic nails this year. You guys, that is not anything I would wish on my worst enemy, highly not recommended. Okay. Here’s something I would recommend though. The internet and parks are both fine places to learn dance, shout out to CLI studios for helping us all through this really challenging time and super shout out to all of my friends, which is literally all of my friends who’ve been affected by a studio closure. It is not something that I like to see or celebrate, but I do hold hope, optimism and faith for a very, very funky future.  

Oh, and speaking of dance this year, I learned that YouTube tutorials when done well are very, very useful to consume and very, very time consuming to produce. I spent probably more than 12 hours making my zoom tutorial for dance teachers. And that is a lot of hours, but that video has more than 25,000 views. And I have received at least that many [That’s an exaggeration heartfelt messages from educators and dancers all over the world. So thank you for watching the video. Thank you for sharing your feedback about the video. I’m so glad to hear that it’s been helpful in a difficult time. Um, dance teachers, all teachers. I love you. I consider this project a very high return on investment I’m so, so, so happy to help. 

All right. Here’s another one always known it. And this year I got to relearn it in 18 different ways. Friends, brighter is Righter several episodes this season and by season, I mean year, featured light. Episode 25, As I mentioned, Dominique Kelly talks about giving the stage and shining a light on black voices. And I also learned that lighting a show and choreographing a show aren’t all that different. Thanks to lighting designer, Iggy Rosenberg in Episode 20 and my good friend, Nick Whitehouse in Episode 51, also a lighting designer. You guys, Oh man. Illuminating. I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Lighting puns are my new favorite. Okay. Last lighting lesson. Of course, I got to learn the difference between my home movie projector, which boasts 5,500 lumens and a 20,000 lumen projector, which comes his own operator. My opinions are now concrete. Cemented Brighter is Righter always except maybe I suppose, for when you’re trying to sleep. Okay. I can’t always say always about anything.  

All right. Last step on my lessons remembered, okay, babies will be born and people will die. These are facts of our human life. Both of these numbers got dialed up for me in my life. This year. I’m 34. Many of my peers and friends are starting families. I know six more babies now than I did in 2019. And I am watching some of my childhood best friends turn into parents. It is magical and it is mystical. Of course, the flip side of that coin is very heavy. This year, young people can get pregnant and young people can die of COVID right there with the older people dying of COVID right there with the other people dying of other causes, my friends and my family who are gone, you will be forever missed.  

Now. I would like to end by sharing the words of Sonya Renee Taylor. Sonya is an author, a poet, a spoken word artist, a speaker and educator, a humanitarian, a social justice activist. And what are you? She is an outstanding human being and a person that you should 100% be getting into shall be in the show notes. And hers are the words that I will leave you with today, “We will not go back to normal. Normal, never was our pre Corona existence was not normal. Other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” Thank you, Sonya Renee Taylor, and thank all of you for listening to this episode and hopefully several others from the year. I’m thrilled to move forward into 2021 with this podcast and with you. 

If you’re digging, what you hear here, Ooh, what you hear here, please do download, subscribe, leave a rating or review. It helps other people find the podcast and it brings a smile to my face to hear from you. And also if you are interested in digging deeper, the words that move me community is a really good place to start to learn more and register. You can email WTMMpodcast@gmail.com or go visit thedanawilson.com/workwithme All right, everybody. That’s it for me today. And that is it for us this year. Please have a safe and happy, happy new year. And keep it funky, decent.