The dance podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. Master mover, Dana Wilson, taps into 15 years of industry experience, and talks to some of the best in the entertainment biz, who have been there and done that so that you don’t have to… do it alone.
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 friends. And welcome to episode 24. I am as always jazzed about this episode, but not for the usual reasons. I’m excited because this episode won’t be the typical words that move me podcasts. In fact, it won’t be the typical, any talk heavy podcast, because you won’t be hearing much of my voice. I want to leave space for other voices. I want to leave space for your voice. And I really hope that you lean into what may be some awkward silence here so that you can hear yourself. We’ll start with wins pretty much as (usual) ushe. And then we’ll jump right into it. So today I’m celebrating, A perfectly crappy day. Now this is not me flipping a negative into a positive. This is not me pulling some thought trickery, super thought modification. This is not me, you know, staying positive in air quotes. This is not Positive Patty talking. This is actually, you know what, let me, I’ll just tell you why I’m celebrating my crappy day. I’m counting my craptastic day, a win because in the midst of all the bad news and anxiety and overwhelm, and even some real physical pain, I didn’t try to make myself feel any better with food, booze or the Instagram scroll or any of the actions that Instagram says I should be taking to be a good person right now. I just sat with my crap and I allowed it to be there. I allowed myself to feel negative feelings. And for me, that’s a huge win because the awareness I gained from that was more rewarding than the temporary dopamine hit of that drink or food or Instagram scroll. It may be a small victory compared to the challenges and the losses of today, but it’s a big win and an essential step in becoming a person who doesn’t turn their back on negative thoughts and feelings to run to the arms of comfort. And complacency is a big step towards becoming that person that doesn’t ignore reality, but the person that uses reality to better serve their purpose in this world. So I’m celebrating that one. All right, now you go, what is going well in your world or what is going terribly that is teaching you about yourself and what is it teaching you? Shoot.
Great. Great. I am proud of you. Alright. So I created this episode so that you can turn to and return to it at any time and probably many times I’m jazzed about it. Okay. So now that I have talked for like seven minutes and you have talked for 15 seconds, I am going to flip that ratio. This episode is a workshop. It’s a guided meditation. If a meditation is the written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject, but really what it is, is an opportunity to show yourself, yourself. It’s designed for participation. It is meant to be a discussion, not a seminar. So go grab a pen and paper or a voice recorder, which is probably your phone. Or a camera, which is also probably your phone or any other fancy capture device that I don’t even know exists yet. And get yourself to a place where you can hear your own breath and use your voice or sign comfortably. You’ll want to be comfortable. Unlike last week’s episode, where we got very, very uncomfortable. I am sitting down for the first time ever as I record this episode actually. Um, and you know what? My belt is a little tight. So I’m going to undo that. Here we go. Okay. I’m going to ask you to capture your thoughts because I don’t want you to go unheard. I don’t want you to go unnoticed. So let’s do it.
I’ll start by asking you to notice your breath. What’s the tempo of it. Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth or both? Where in your body does your breath show? In your belly? In your diaphragm? In your back? In your shoulders? In your chest? Become aware. I invite you to watch the four stages of your breath, the inhale, the slight pause at the top of that, inhale The exhale and the slight pause at the bottom of the exhale before you take your next breath. No need to count. Just breathe naturally. Now I’m going to invite you to fill in the blanks. I’m going to leave you plenty of time to answer. And actually, you know, it, I’ll probably leave you an uncomfortably long amount of time to answer. So continue to fill the space either by exploring new answers or simply by listening to your breath. Let’s take one unifying breath together before we go. Alright.
I believe blank…. For example, I believe in God, or I believe in the flying purple spaghetti monster, or I believe I matter. I believe that I can change. I believe blank.
Wow. Now fill in the blank. I believe the world blank… For example, I believe the world is broken. I believe the world is beautiful. I believe the world is flat. Just kidding. Although I did have an Uber driver who really deeply, truly believed that. And so if my Uber driver is listening, then he would say that. I believe the world blank…
Now fill in the blank. Failure is blank… For example, failure is the worst thing that I can imagine. Failure is not an option. Failure is the cost of success. Failure is not doing what I say I will do. Failure is blank…
Success is blank… For example, success is doing what I say I will do. Success is $10 million. Success is equality. Success is fair, justice. Success is blank…
Now fill in the blank. I am a person who blank… For example, I am a person who is bold. I am a person who loves learning. I am a person who wants to do better. I am a person who blank..
I can always blank… I can always try again. I can always do my best. I can always choose compassion. I can always blank…
I Do blank… For example, I do the work I do not get in my own way. I do not cancel. I do not quit. I do blank…
Our last fill in the blank. I will become blank…. For example, I will become a person who is kind 100% of the time. I will become smarter. I will become more robust. I will become more sensitive. I will become blank…
Now relax, relax your forehead, relax your nostrils, relax your lips, relax your tongue, relax your jaw, relax your face and close your eyes. Not if you are driving. If you are driving, do not close your eyes. How do you feel all answers are valid by the way, I feel like you’re a total hack. Totally valid. But what I hope you feel is aware. I also hope you feel cool, calm, collected, capable, and I hope that you returned to those feelings. Whenever you’d need them. They are always available. I hope that you returned to this episode. Should you ever need a guide? Should you ever need a mirror?
Okay. I’m going to leave you with my new favorite quote from my new new favorite book, untamed by Glennon Doyle, the quote is actually by Dr. Maya Angelou, and it goes like this. “Do the best that you can until you know, better. Then when you know, better do better.” So keep breathing, keep feeling all the feels, keep using your voice, do the best you can. And then when you know, better do better. And of course keep it funky. Thank you for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball, changeover to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast To learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 everybody. Okay. How are you feeling out there today? I am feeling okay. And that is okay today. My win is that I have been learning from some really uncomfortable conversations lately, and I am proud of that. This episode is all about how to navigate those uncomfortable conversations that you may be having as well. But before we dig into that, I do want to give you a chance to tell me about your wins. I think it is very important to celebrate them, especially the small ones,
Go for it. What’s going well in your world. Congratulations. And I am so glad that you are winning. All right, in this episode, I’m going to be dishing out my lesson plan for how to have difficult or rather uncomfortable conversations. I’m getting a lot of opportunities to practice this lesson plan right now. And you probably are too, by the way, right now is the first week of June in 2020, a couple of facts about today or this week, I suppose, is that the global death toll from COVID-19 is over 374,000. Few more numbers for you. Over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic. The real jobless rate in America is 23.9% today. Also on May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by policemen on camera. Since then people have been protesting. Some have been burning buildings, some burn cop cars, many are taking to social media in response. Now there is a lot of opportunity to practice having uncomfortable conversations. So let’s get better at it. Before I get any further. I’d like to say that conversations are great. This is an excellent starting point, but if you are inspired to learn more and if you are able to take action, please do so. If you don’t know how please see the show notes of this episode for links to resources and ways that you can help make a change. Some of my favorites include the NAACPACLUCampaign ZeroColor of ChangeThe Equal Justice Initiative and Fair Fight , but there are many, many more. Please see the show notes for this episode or visit theDanawilson.com/podcast And look for episode 23. All right, let’s dig in now to this uncomfortable topic.
I was appalled when I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered. I felt that way because I got caught in a cycle of very confused thoughts. I don’t understand how this could happen. How could this possibly be happening? How could somebody do that? I don’t understand. I don’t know what to say. That’s a sample of some of the thoughts going through my mind, my mind at that time and that, you know, confusion spiral resulted in inaction. The more I thought, the confused thoughts, the more I didn’t act. That’s the funny thing about confusion. It is self perpetuating. It leads to more and more of itself, more confusion, which leads to more inaction. And without action, there is no change. You see where this is going. You stay confused. Now. I was confused for days. I’ll be very honest as the unrest escalated. So did my confusion. And that’s where I was when I got a text from a dear friend, Ava Bernstein, Mitchell, Ava is a world class dancer. She is also a journalist and a choreographer. She’s better known as Ava Flav to many, but she is best known to me as my better half from the first world tour I ever danced on. People called us Ebony and Ivory. We called us Ebony and Ivory. Today I don’t think that we would, but back in 2007, we were absolutely inseparable. Have you ever had a friend that, um, you’re so close with? You’re so tight with that. Hugging is actually uncomfortable because you so rarely say hello or goodbye. There’s rarely a cause for you to, to be a part or to part. So you don’t actually have the embrace that is so commonly associated with Hellos and goodbyes. That was, that was us. It was uncomfortable for us to hug because we were almost always together. Anyways, the years have brought some distance. Although anything relative to being on tour together is distance. But I am always excited to see her name pop up on my phone and we’re still quite close. That day she texted me a little flashback tour memory and I LOLed to myself. And then I quipped back and I quote, “these days are pretty tough, but I’m glad those days are behind us.” She replied “just a little levity in these times, [smiley face.]” And then my heart sink. I had downplayed our current circumstances without thinking of how she and I are experiencing those circumstances very, very differently. My heart hit the pit of my stomach, and I immediately asked her if we could talk on the phone, we set a call. And as that time approached, I actually got lost driving to my curbside produce pickup. That I go to once a week, every single week, same location I got lost because I was thinking of all the things I wanted to say and ask and apologize for. I physically got lost because I was mentally swimming in confused thoughts. I was swimming in that confusion pool with all my confused thoughts. Good news is I didn’t stay lost for very long. Thanks hugely to our conversation. Ava helped me manage my mind that day. This is true. And then she helped me to make this episode and I am so, so grateful for that. We talked about what we were seeing on Instagram, what people were saying. We talked about what I learned from reading the book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. And we talked about the importance of talking. If you listen, you will walk away from this episode with an idea of how to navigate difficult conversations.
All right. Part one, define difficult, define uncomfortable. What makes a conversation difficult? What makes anything difficult? Is your thoughts about it? Because difficulty is relative. For example, fifth position was very, very difficult to my three year old self. Another dance example, 32 fouettés would be very difficult for me today, but probably not very difficult for Misty Copeland or my friend Tiler Peck running a six minute mile would be very difficult for me. I don’t even think I could run a 10 minute mile today, I think a 10 minute mile would legit be for me right now. But I know there are people that can run six minute miles that have trained themselves away from that being a difficult thing. How about dating in a way? I know a lot of people that say that’s very difficult. I date my husband all the time. We live in Los Angeles.I think that’s pretty okay. Now how about this one? Having a conversation about race. Difficult, right? Especially right now, right? Wrong. Having a conversation about race is very easy for the author of white fragility, Robin de Angelo. She literally wrote the book on it. It’s also her job to have those conversations. She does it all the time. So let’s switch a roo here. Let’s not use the word difficult. Let’s use the word uncomfortable. A conversation about race is not difficult. It is uncomfortable. Now uncomfortable, just like with difficulty, comfort and discomfort are still subjective, right? Everyone has their own sliding scale of what is comfortable and what is uncomfortable. Now I want to talk about the range on that sliding scale, right after comfortable and just before distressed or fearful for your life. Now, if I were to ask you to put discomfort on the spectrum of human emotion, right? Negative or positive, it’s probably one of those things that would land on the negative side, but it’s also one of those things that if you work through, there’s a pot of gold on the other side. In fact, I am hard pressed to name you an accomplishment that I am proud of that did not come about through a period of discomfort or on the other side of a period of discomfort. Take, for example, learning how to walk, right? I’m super proud. Every day. That was definitely uncomfortable. Little rug burns on my little baby knee caps. A lot of crying, a lot of falling. How about learning how to read? I remember trying to make out sounds trying to spell out the word, THE, shout out dumb and dumber T to hae to her that was uncomfortable. Learning anything, especially dancing on pointe super uncomfortable. How about relationships, that awkward get to know you phase or the super awkward breakup phase, uncomfortable. Starting a business, uncomfortable. Getting into anything you don’t know a lot about can be uncomfortable. Now here’s the thing. If we stopped doing all those things, the moment that we got uncomfortable, we would all be adults crawling on the floor, not having babies, not having businesses, which is kind of an interesting version of a very dystopian future. That there is not a movie about yet. I call dibs. Anyways to me, not learning to address racism and other difficult subjects because it makes you uncomfortable is kind of like not learning how to walk because you fall a lot in the process.
Okay. So how do we do it? How do we have uncomfortable conversations? Not just about race, but about anything asking for a raise, parenting, tough patches in romantic relationships or friendships. All of the things. Here we go. I’m going to talk you through my five best practices for having uncomfortable conversations.
Step one, take a look at the thoughts that make you uncomfortable. A few examples of thoughts that would make a conversation uncomfortable are ‘nothing’s going to change’. ‘I don’t know what to say or do ‘’I’m afraid I’ll mess up or make it worse.’ ‘I don’t respect the person I’m talking to.’ ‘I don’t agree with the person I’m talking to.’ Right? All of those are examples of thoughts that would make a conversation uncomfortable. Okay.
So now that I’ve identified the thoughts that might be making me uncomfortable, I challenge those thoughts. That is step two. My favorite way of challenging. My thoughts is by asking “how’s that working out for you” or simply asking how does thinking that thought line up with your values? For example, if I’m a person that wants to create things and repair things is thinking ‘nothing’s going to change’ helpful to me. No. If I’m a person that wants to be knowledgeable is thinking, ‘I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand. Is that helpful?’ No. We already talked about confusion. That is a cycle that ends in inaction. If I’m a person that values inaction, I’m going to want to choose something other than confusion. Now, if I’m a person that values equality is thinking, ‘I don’t respect that person’ in alignment with my values. No, if I’m a person that values understanding does checking out with thoughts. Like ‘I don’t agree.’ Stop the listening and stop the understanding? Yes, it does. It stops the listening. It stops the understanding.
So now that I’ve identified the thoughts and challenged them here comes the good stuff I trade in confusion for curiosity, I get informed. I trade in the thought I don’t understand with I’m willing to understand. I trade in. I don’t know with I’m learning and all of a sudden that confusion cycle that lends itself very well to inaction has opened me up to taking actions that will make me more informed.
The next step of that, of course is being responsible. I replace, ‘I don’t know what to say’ with, I am responsible for what I say. And I’d also like to remind you you’re responsible for what you do. And that brings us to step four, choose compassion, for yourself and for others, choose compassion for yourself because you will mess up. You will fall, you will fail and you will likely offend someone no matter how hard you try not to, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, it will probably be the wrong thing to someone. And if you want to be able to get back up and dust it off and really, truly make a best effort at change, you’ll need to try again and compassion will get you up faster and move you further than guilt, shame or the desire to please. So get compassionate with yourself because this is about the long game. Now it’s also important of course, to choose compassion for others, your fellows, right? Your friends, people that are on your side, and this one actually comes quite naturally. But when you’re in the confusion spiral, it can be really easy to miss. Try trading, “How do I show that I care with, Hey, my friend, I’m thinking about you. I care about you. I am here for you. I will be here for you.” That is a great place to start. All right. That brings us to the not so easy kind of compassion, compassion for the other side, I would like to offer you this. You can love people you disagree with, and you can disagree with people that you love. Take your family. For example, also, you don’t need to love someone to be compassionate or curious about their point of view. I like to trade in the thought ‘I don’t like this person’ for, ‘I am capable of loving and all people are lovable. They are able to be loved.’ That brings us to the most important step.
Step five, simply listen, compassion and curiosity, both lend very well to listening. Listening is probably the most important part of having a useful, uncomfortable conversation. And it is almost certainly the most underestimated part of using your voice to me. The most important step of using your voice is listening to other voices. Let’s talk really quickly about listening. Listening does not mean that you agree. Listening doesn’t weaken your position. Listening does not strip you of your power. If anything, listening could give you an understanding that also gives you power. Listening could give you an understanding that helps strengthen your position. All right? So those are my five steps. Identify the thoughts that are making you feel uncomfortable, inspect and challenge those thoughts. Choose curiosity, choose compassion and listen.
Now I want to share a couple real life scenarios, real life conversations, real life, real uncomfortable conversations that I’ve had recently, because I think it will be helpful now without talking for hours and hours to give you all of the context there’s room for you to put yourself in the shoes of either side of these conversations. And yes, there is also room for you to judge me and that’s okay. I’m going to start with a conversation that I recently had with one of my mentors. Just a few days ago, I wrote a note to my mentor, an African American man that I admire and respect tremendously. The note included among many things, an apology for not using my voice to interrupt racial injustices in our dance community and in our society at large, he called me immediately and the heated uncomfortable conversation ensued. He started by saying, “why are you doing that?” I said ‘what?’ He said, “why are you apologizing to me? Dammit. I don’t want your apology. I am tired of all these apologies.” I thought, Oh God, I thought it was supposed to apologize. He’s going to hate me forever. I don’t know what to say. The only thing I want to say is I’m sorry. And we already covered that. He really doesn’t want me to say, I’m sorry. Loud and clear. I get it. Okay. Those were my thoughts. Then I challenged my thoughts. I thought to myself. Okay. Who said you had to apologize? Someone on social media. Could they have been wrong? Yes, absolutely. Do you like your reason for apologizing? Yes. Okay. Moving on. How about this one? He’s going to hate me forever. Well, he’s taking time to have a conversation with me now. Does he hate me now? I don’t think he hates me now. Okay. Let’s focus on now. Shift the focus to now, but even outside of now, would I be okay if he hated me? Yes, I would be okay. I would be sad. I would be hurt, but I would be okay. How about, how about my thought? I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. There’s no time to ask Google. How about, do you need to say anything? No. He’s talking. SHHH. Listen. Then I asked questions. I got curious. I asked him to tell me everything you wanted to say. He talked about protests that I wasn’t even alive for. He talked about the values that he raises his kids with. He talked about things that his grandmother saw in her lifetime. He talked about why he’s annoyed. And I listened. Then I chose compassion for myself and I dusted myself off. After a pretty shaky start. I cared for myself and the person that I want to become. And I stuck with that discomfort. Then I cared about him. I thanked him, but mostly I listened to him and our conversation ended passionately and compassionately with me listening and with him being heard.
Here’s another example. This one’s a conversation that I had with a peer. Now, a tiny bit of backstory. I started reading the book, white fragility, why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. That’s the full title. I read that book back in April of 2019, because I had taken a job as part of the choreography team for the feature film adaptation of, In the Heights. That’s Lin, Manuel Miranda is Broadway hit. In case you don’t know anything about in the Heights, strongly encourage you do a little digging there. I’ll give you a little tiny brief summary, no spoilers. The story takes place in Washington Heights, a Latino community in New York city. And it follows a very tight knit group of characters over the course of three days. Now, if you zoom in, you get a lot of beautiful story, but if you zoom out, the story is really about human flow. What makes us leave one place to go to another? And what makes us stay? If you zoom way, way out. It’s about dreams. One little dream in particular, but the big, big dreams of so many in this country. Now I was hesitant to take the position. I had insecurities about being a white person, taking on a creative role in telling the stories of Latino and Latina people. But I also knew that this story and its audience is global. The people watching and the people learning from it and the people loving it will not be exclusively any one race. And I had big plans to learn about a culture other than my own. I thought I will use my role to share and inspire more stories, not claim authorship of them. I thought I will make copies and share all the keys to all the Gates I’ve ever entered. I won’t guard them. And I liked my reasons for saying yes and I love my In the Heights family that so warmly welcomed me. So back to where I left off, I started reading the book, white fragility in search of new information and thoughts and awareness. And honestly, in search of the words that might help me have the uncomfortable conversations that I was sure would take place during that five month production. At the time, me simply carrying the book, brought on some of those uncomfortable conversations, conversations that started like this. ‘Isn’t the title itself racist?’ ‘Do you think you need to read that book to understand racism?’, people would ask, or ‘If you believe race exists, if you see in black and white, then that’s part of the problem.’ I try to explain what I was learning. The difference between being a racist or a person who discriminates based on skin color and the systemic racism that’s so deeply woven into our society in very complex and very nuanced ways. I tried to explain, my conversations about the book were often met with defensive arguments and proclamations like ‘I don’t see race as a problem because I don’t see color.’ Or ‘I grew up in the hood’ or ‘I was the minority where I grew up.’ ‘All I see as equals I’m not prejudiced.’ I had so many uncomfortable conversations like this, but one stood out among the rest. And I want to tell you about it.
I overheard somebody talking about me one day. This is what I heard them telling the other party, this white B word rhymes with itch thinks that she can learn it from a book. I listened long enough to be sure that the white B word rhymes with itch in question was me. I heard my name. I heard my accent being mocked. I listened as I was made out to be a clueless white person. My skin got hot. I started to sweat. I thought I might cry. These were some of my thoughts. No, no, no, no, no. They’ve got it all wrong. I’m not a white B word rhymes with itch. I’m not clueless. I know it’s pollo, not polo. I felt tremendously misrepresented. And that was a feeling I don’t feel often. So then I challenged my thought, am I the only person feeling misrepresented right now? No, definitely not. So then I got curious and I got compassionate. This person probably feels misrepresented every single day. I’m standing here sweating and angry and about to cry for maybe the first time in my life, in this exact way. And he might feel this way every single day. What can I learn from this? What can I learn from him? I said, when I spoke to him after a moment to cool down and process, I said, “it’s okay. If you don’t like me, it’s okay. If you think I’m a white, B word, rhymes with itch, we don’t need to be friends, but we do need to work together on this project. And on this problem, I want to understand why you feel that way. I want to be a part of this conversation instead of listening to the conversation happen about me.” And then it was off a perfectly uncomfortable conversation that resulted in more compassion and more understanding than either of us had at the beginning of it.
I’ve learned a lot from having uncomfortable conversations and I will continue to have them. And I plan to continue being uncomfortable. And I continue to continue to bring the fruits of those uncomfortable conversations here to share with you. I hope that this conversation with myself, this monologue in front of a microphone has helped to give you tools and an understanding and a desire to navigate uncomfortable conversations of your own. I hope that some of these tools and all of these conversations get you further from confusion and closer to change. And I hope because I must hope and I learned because I must learn and I change because we must change. So please see the show notes to this episode for links to several incredible resources about how you can get informed and how you can make change. Thank you so much for listening. Now. Go be a good listener to somebody else. And of course, keep it funky
Thought you were done? No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website. TheDanaWilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball changeover to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover, Dana Wilson, and if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hey there friend and welcome to episode 22 how you doing? How are you feeling? I am feeling accomplished. Yeah, it was a big week for me and I will explain that with my win. My wind today is that I wrote, shot, edited and shipped and by shipped I mean shared on YouTube, a massive project this week. Woo, super personal project. Victory dance. Okay, now you go, what’s your win today? What’s going well in your world? I’m so patient. I can wait forever. Keep going. Alright, awesome.
Keep winning. I’m proud of you. All right now the project that I finished and that you can now find on YouTube is a video tutorial about how to use zoom for dance class. Yes, I’m aware there are already a handful of really great tutorials out there, but my goal was to go beyond the technical downloading, installing, setting up classes, et cetera. My goal was to share all of the things that I’ve learned about using the platform creatively and most effectively. I’ve been using zoom for over a year for non dance related meetings, but I’ve been teaching dance classes on zoom for about 10 weeks now and I have learned a lot. Whoa buddy. There’s a lot to learn in there, a lot going on and to be honest, I’ve actually had fun digging into the settings and preferences and in general just poking around and learning what everything is and does and means, but I’ve also had a ball creating lesson plans that don’t rely heavily on timing. In case you taken a dance class using zoom, I’ll tell you right now, audio and video sync is a big, big challenge. Anyways, I have found settings and methods that work really well for me and I’ve had a few dance studio owner buddies ask if I would host classes for their faculty on how to teach dance on zoom. Well I know if there are a few people asking for that and there are probably many, many more people in need. So I made a tutorial video and I made it available to everyone. Now I’m going to share the audio for that video with a few tiny edits here on the podcast today I am addressing zoom specifically and the talk is geared towards dance teachers but students and even non dancers stand to gain a lot from this episode because at its core it’s really about being resourceful and adaptable and effective and that’s important no matter who you are or what you do for a living. So I hope you enjoy and I hope you head over to YouTube to watch the whole video, which has some really important visual guides as well. You’ll be able to find the video link in the show notes for this episode and of course by visiting theDanawilson.com/podcast/ep-22 there it is. Okay, everybody enjoy.
Okay. The location of Dance class has changed from your studio to the internet. A very wise man once said, “changes are never as good as they seem or as bad as they seem.” Now, zoom was designed for corporate conference calls, not dance, but there are actually some really great things about teaching dance. In zoom, for example, even if there are a hundred students in class, everybody’s in the front row. You can address each student by name, even if you’ve never met them. Classes can be huge. Even in the smallest bedroom studio. That’s amazing. Now there are already a lot of really good tutorials about how to download the app, install it, schedule meetings, even use virtual backgrounds, play music. A lot of fun stuff. Yeah, I made this video for dance teachers to help you use the platform creatively and effectively.
The elephant, in the zoom. In the studio, timing is everything, and on a good day, everybody’s on time and on beat. Online, this is actually impossible. impossible for all your students and do you to be dancing on your beat. Impossible. Not possible. It’s not possible. It’s impossible. Why? In a word? Latency. In short, your video has to travel over the internet to get to your students and then their video has to come back to you. So everyone will always be late or offbeat and they’ll be offbeat by different amounts. That can be frustrating. Yeah, we can put a man on the moon. Okay. Can’t have precision timing in a virtual dance class. And if you can’t accept that, then stay off of zoom. And probably close this video right now, but first subscribe ,like, comment. Bye. Now for the rest of you that would like to continue making money as a dance teacher. And keep pushing our art forward and our artists forward. Then stay with me here. Here’s the thing. Dancers deal with latency all the time. Think of the last concert you went to. Ahh a concert. Anyways, If you were anywhere other than the front row dancers probably looked off to you, even on the big screens, what you saw, it didn’t quiet lineup with what you heard because sound travels slower and light, so it takes longer for sound to reach you and visual information. That doesn’t mean that people stop going to concerts. It simply means we don’t have perfect audio video synchronization, but the show is still great. In short, we’re going to be okay, so we can’t have perfect timing. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a great class.
How to set up your space and your body to look and work great on zoom. So if zoom is the new studio, I recommend you figure out how to get there. Make sure you can get in and turn on the lights before your students arrived. I’m not going to teach you how to download the app and install it and start your classes. That part’s on you. So is getting dressed. Let’s talk dressing first your body because you’ll be seen on a laptop or worse an iPad or worse, and iPhone your picture will be really, really small. So every pixel counts wear form fitted clothing. Your outline needs to be visible. It will be doing the primary communication. Also solid colors are a solid choice to stand out from your background choose a color, the contrast your background. I prefer it darker tones. For maximum effect, choose colors that also contrast your natural skin color. More on this later. Oh and if you happen to love footwork, as much as I love footwork, then your students will love you for wearing high contrast shoes and socks. Okay, let’s talk. Dressing the space. De-clutter clean up. Get anything unnecessary out of the shot and pay close attention to the borders of your frame. Mirrors are a huge plus. Yeah. If you have a messy space, mirrors can duplicate the mess. So I hung curtains to separate my messy living room and messy kitchen from my dance space. I used the fancy 3-D printer to make mounts for curtain rods. Yeah, you can probably accomplish the same result with thumbtacks and a bed sheet. Oh, and speaking of mirrors, your students will likely be facing their screen when they watch you and for you to watch them, you’ll need to either use mirrors and face away from the camera or face the camera and say the opposite of what you’re doing. Let’s go a little deeper on that. If you have mirrors in your space, you can be fully visible to your students by setting your device up behind you and looking at the mirror so that your body is between the device in the mirror. This way your students can see what’s happening in front of your body and the back of your body and beyond the correct foot or arm. My method, I’ve retrained myself to say the opposite word. If I’m facing my camera and stepping on my right foot, I say step left. As a convention teacher this comes pretty naturally to me. Yeah, it may take some practice and certainly some forgiveness on your part. To simplify. I like to tell my students that I’ll be dancing as their reflection and they seem to do just fine. Now there is a setting in zoom that allows you to mirror your video, but in spite of my best efforts, I haven’t found out a way to make this work the way that I want to.
So moving right along. Lighting the golden rule here, is that right? Brighter is righter. I use these led lights and parchment paper taped around to diffuse the light, but the internet is full of ring lights and softboxes and all sorts of stuff that will make you look beautiful. Take it from me. Don’t take lighting advice from a dancer. Take it from my podcast episode called the past, present and future of live shows. Now moving on. Your computer is your camera, so take the time to set it up well. Find a flat, solid and level surface for your device. I find that a folding chair, an ironing board, stack of books. Shoe boxes are great. Also, your students have to see you fully from head to toe. So find a place for your device where this can be possible and if you’re doing long stretches of classes, you will also want your computer close to an outlet or to have an extension cord. All right.
That brings us to lesson two. Make zooms video features your ***
You and your students have two modes for experiencing the classroom in zoom gallery mode, which looks like the Brady bunch and speaker mode where the person who is speaking is featured or biggened. Note, you’ll want to make sure that all of your students are muted at the top of class. Otherwise, speaker mode can be very distracting. Now, as the host of class in either mode, you can hover your mouse over a person’s video to reveal three dots in the top right corner. Click Pin video to keep somebody featured on your screen. Regardless of who’s talking. I use this when I want to keep a close eye on somebody in particular without the risk of the class knowing it, clicking a spotlight on somebody’s video. Will feature that person’s image on all of the students’ screens so your participants will hear your voice, but see the image of the person that you’ve selected to be spotlit. It’s spotlighted. This feature is clutch for those of us who rely heavily on assistance or people to demonstrate during class. Here’s how I use it. I spotlight a dancer who is confident and on track so that everybody sees them in biggened. Meanwhile, I press my face up to the laptop and watch everybody as best as I can. Without spotlighting anyone. All of the other students are just looking at my big mugs staring at them and they have no reference for what they should be dancing. A spotlight is also useful to keep dancers on their toes. When I spotlight a student, all they can see is themselves. This means they can’t rely on their neighboring squares for cues. This is a great test and great training for real world dance.
All right, moving on. Now, whatever you do, don’t group dancers based on where their picture falls in the grid. Those pictures move around during class and this causes a lot of problems, so don’t rely on the grid. I like to group by birthdays, January through June, July through December, et cetera, or colors of clothing or bedroom group, basement group, garage group, et cetera. Now a cool way for you and your students to watch each other. If you ask only the group that is dancing to keep their camera on, everybody who’s not in the active group, stop sharing their video and then zoom prioritizes the squares who are sharing video so that there’ll be grouped together. Simple as that. Sort of simple, I guess.
Lesson Three audio settings that work. Audio is surprisingly tough to get right, especially if you’re teaching tap. I have tried and tested a huge number of options and I might actually write my dissertation about that someday. I might also just make a separate video dedicated exclusively to audio settings, but for now I’m just going to tell you what works for me. I use a Samson Go Mic mobile professional laviller wireless system. Yeah, that’s what it’s called with a JK electronics headset. microphone. It’s very Britney. I keep my mic volume, which is controlled here on my wireless adapter at about 90% and you should keep your mic volume at 90% too, even if you’re not using an external microphone. To select your microphone and control its volume, click the carrot, not carat, yeah, caret but okay. Caret, which is the upward facing arrow. It’s next to your microphone in the bottom left corner of your screen. Then select audio settings. You can do the same for speaker volume here as well. 90% A Strong Mark if you will. For music. I find that students get the best sound. If I do what zoom calls, share computer audio. To share computer audio, click share screen, intuitive that buttons at the bottom center of your screen. Then select advanced from the top menu bar, click music or computer sound only and then click share. Lastly, I keep in my music volume in my audio player. Which for me is Spotify at 90% as well. It just seems to be the sweet spot. If you have any further questions about audio, which I’m sure you will leave them in the comments below or reach out to me personally for a consultation. I am happy to help.
Now lesson four hacks to avoid unnecessary lag.
First and foremost, close all of your unused apps. Yes, zoom. It can still operate with your browser closed, so get rid of Safari, Chrome, Firefox, your text messages, any other open and unused apps. Also keep your wifi to yourself and I don’t just mean tell your kids to get off of it. I mean literally unplug or powered down. Alexa, nest, other cameras or devices that might be in wifi, transmitting mode, including your phone because those are competing with zoom for bandwidth. If bandwidth is a word that stresses you out, pretend I said attention. Those devices are competing with your zoom for attention. Just imagine being in the middle of a solo and three other dancers jump on stage and do whatever they want. That might be entertaining for you if you’re in hour eight of solo competition. Yeah, really devastating for the soloist, which in this case is zoom, so let zoom have its moment and turn off and disconnect all other devices. Speaking of getting attention, this hack is simple but really important. Dancers clinging to laggy video for information is bad. Autonomy. It’s good. In my classes we do the same warmup every single week so that we all get off on the same foot.
All right, now let’s talk about my favorite Lesson Five nonverbal communication. One of my favorite new made up terms in this zoom era is AZL or American Zoom Language. Yes. I find that there is a pretty universal understanding of thumbs up. It means I’m doing good, ready to move on. Thumbs down means something that’s not quite right. This means go on. This means from the top. That means one more time, et cetera. Now to make my hands super legible, I like wearing dark clothing. Adjust for your skin tone and environment as needed. The same advice applies to your students because they spend most of class muted and they communicate primarily non-verbally. Now you could use this universal language or you could establish your own at the top of class. For example, I prefer a floppy thumbs up instead of a normal thumbs up because when I’m standing six feet away from my computer, I can’t tell the difference between a thumbs up and thumbs down and instead of a thumbs down I like to use it big old X. It’s easy to see and fun to do. Establishing this language, it’s like having a secret handshake, like an actual bond with the person that’s in on the language with you and I find that they kind of look forward to using it.
That brings us to Lesson Six. Q. And. A. I find that I get a lot more questions, especially from the quiet ones. If I encourage the dancers to use the chat box for questions that said it’s yet another thing I have to click and keep my eye on during class. So instead I prefer the old fashioned method. I asked the human to raise their human hand. By the way, I do this way more often in zoom. Then I would during an in person class because video calls strip away eye contact and the ability to read nuances in the room. So ask often ask clearly and be patient.
That brings us to Number Seven maybe my favorite, come on, you know this one already. The teacher establishes the tone of class, the energy you bring to the room. It’s still important even though we aren’t all in the same room. If you decide to get frustrated about audio and video lag, your students are likely to become frustrated too. I know timing will be challenging. I also know and love that there’s more to dance than timing. So before each class I decide on a focus or a theme per class. That has nothing to do with timing. I leave myself little notes to help me stay on track cause this can be hard. Here’s a couple of examples. I teach freestyle techniques with focus on shape. I teach scale or performing for the frame by putting them in gallery view and standing like eight feet away from the screen and then I asked them to catch my eye. Also let’s not ignore this opportunity to improve at dance on camera. I teach dancers how to speak camera and how to be directed enter-stage right exit camera left the full frame for the chorus ECU or just your right eye for the bridge. This is the language there’ll be speaking for the rest of their lives. So let’s do our job and prepare them and that brings us to
Lesson Eight go the extra mile. We know that if the focus of your classes, timing, you’ll fail to teach a great class, but that doesn’t mean you throw your hands up or lower the bar. It actually means you raise the bar. I make a tutorial for each of my combos available online via unlisted YouTube link several days before my zoom class. The pre-taped tutorial has solid timing. Musicality is clear and students can learn at their own pace. Plus, they’re already used to learning on YouTube. They do it all the in fact, being able to learn off of a video has proven to be an essential skill in my professional life. Dancers have to learn off of video a lot, so let’s train them to be good at it. One of my eight eight counts combos typically boils down to a 20 minute video. I teach faster than I would in person and I time code the video into sections so that students can easily go back and rewatch. Section one with counts, section two with counts, Full combo from the top with music, et cetera. If you’re committed to making it and the students are committed to learning it, then zoom time is used for what matters most. Interaction questions, answers, careful watching and effective working and that my friend is all you get for free.
All right, my friend, that is pretty much where I leave it in the video tutorial, although I do go on to plug the podcast pretty heavily, but if you are still listening and still have questions about teaching dance on zoom, please feel free to contact me in any number of ways. You can contact me through the website, theDanawilson.com/contact or you can direct message me on my personal Instagram page @DanaDaners and of course messaging me @WordsthatMoveMePodcast is always a great way to get in touch. Thank you guys so, so much for listening. Now go get out there and make great dance and make great dancers. It’s one in the same thing. Thanks for listening and keep it funky.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move me member, so kickball changeover to patreon.com/wtMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Ep. #21 Not Booking (A.K.A. Not Getting What You Want)
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, hello. And welcome to episode 21. Oh my gosh. I am jazzed as always about this episode. Thank you so much for being here. Uh, let’s do wins really quick. Holy smokes, you guys, words that move me is in Apple’s top 100 performing arts podcasts this past week. So thank you so much for that. That is a huge win. Um, we’re number 88. I don’t know, uh, how many there are, but safe to say more than a hundred. Um, and that’s so sweet. So thank you so much for that. I do believe that part of what factors into that ranking is a ratings and reviews on Apple. So if you are listening on Apple podcasts and you’re digging what you’re hearing, please think about leaving a review or a rating so, so appreciate that. Um, okay, let’s not waste any time. Let’s get into you and your wins. What’s going well in your world? Hit me now you
Great. I’m so glad that you’re winning. This episode is about not booking. Speaking of winning, it’s my favorite subject. Honestly. Actually here’s the truth. This episode is not just about not booking, it’s about not getting what you want period. I am very familiar with not booking and as a self proclaimed movement master that might come as a shock to you. So here’s what it really boils down to. I try a lot, I fail a lot, I succeed a lot. I want a lot and I often get what I want. Now there is a very specific brand of not booking that comes along with the audition process. It’s a very particular sting and I’m going to talk about auditions and that particular brand of staying in depth a little bit later on. Like, actually I have a plan to be talking about auditions for all of August. I’m very excited about audition august, so tune in for that. But um, what I want to talk about right now is the cringe that I feel when I hear people, usually outsiders talking about high performers who miss the mark. Usually they’re talking about competitions and competitors. They say that he or she won because they really wanted it. Or they say that he or she didn’t win because they didn’t really want it that bad or they didn’t want it bad enough or somebody else wanted it more. Well, I’ve seen people really want it and not win. And I’ve seen people that are just really good at stuff who don’t really care a whole lot, win a lot, and at a certain level, everyone really wants it. Everyone that moves to LA to become a whatever really wants it. But auditions don’t care about how bad you want it. And competitions don’t care about how bad you want it. The Olympics, Oh man, don’t get me started. The Olympics really, really, really don’t care how bad you want it because everybody there really, really wants it. That guy who didn’t win didn’t not win because he didn’t want it. He didn’t win because he wanted it so bad and he was running so hard that he broke his leg. That is a black hole. You don’t want to go down. Olympian breaks their leg. Don’t even do it. Don’t even do it. I did it, anyways. All that is to say wanting it won’t get it. Even wanting it and training really, really, really, really hard for it. Doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it. Sometimes you simply won’t get it. Period. The Olympics are a really great example of this, but also on a smaller, slightly different scale, no pun intended. I want cookies almost all the time, so there goes the proof that wanting equals getting it’s out of the window. Wait, did I say that right? There goes proof that wanting is not equal to getting, yeah. If I got everything I want, I would be eating cookies all the time and then who? Yikes up there.
Okay. So most of us, especially right now know this all too well. We want to be working. We want to be hanging out with our friends. We want to be hugging, we want to be being places and doing things with people. Yes. This episode goes out to all you graduating seniors who wanted your cap and gown gathering. Yes. It goes out to all you dancers who wanted to win title at nationals this year. Yes. This goes out to everyone that wanted to have their highest earning year yet. And you still might, by the way, but you might not. This episode is about not getting what you want and newsflash, most of us are not very good at not getting what we want. So let’s get to work.
Yes, I am a professional dancer, choreographer, movement coach and I am also a professional at not getting what I want. Some early memories of this include, uh, as a tiny, tiny little dancingling I received honorable mentions a lot. Second or first runner up also happened to me a lot my senior year at nationals. Actually, I was 16th runner up and I was supposed to win that year, by the way, in my head. Anyways, let’s take another example. When I was like 14, maybe 15, I remember terribly wanting to be in the big kids dance that the senior dance that was choreographed by Dee Caspary shout out to Dee. And uh, I was old enough to be considered. So I auditioned. I did not make it, but Dee and his big, big heart invited me to be in the room for the creation process and learn it as what we call a workshop. Um, and even jump in as a swing. If anybody was to become injured during the season or something like that, I would know the dance. I could, I could jump in. Honestly, that seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me. It wasn’t until Dee asked me in his own way to stop moving because I was distracting him. Ooh. Crushed. I was crushed and I sat crushed on the floor of the dance studio for two whole days. While he choreographed and all the big kids danced a dance that I so badly wanted to dance man. 14-15 years old. I got crushed a lot. Oh, here’s another good one. When I was 16 or 17 three of my closest friends, Randi Kemper , Tony Testa and Misha Gabriel all still incredible and all still dear friends by the way. They all booked a tour. Brian Friedman what up, B-Free, booked all three of them and a different curly haired brunette girl named Kalie Kelman to go on tour with Aaron Carter. I was crushed. Yes, deeply. And then again in 2011 Oh here’s a different kind of crushed, I booked a feature film, the remake of Dirty Dancing and it was directed by Kenny Ortega who choreographed the original and we were weeks into rehearsal. Several dancers. Oh, what a good squad. Whoa man. My heartbreaks, just thinking about this and Production pulled the plug, production completely ceased to exist. I was crushed again. We were all crushed weeks of team building, dancing, endorphins, man. Cloud nine and then right back to not being booked. So what did being crushed really look like for me? Here are a couple of versions. First, the ugly cry, that’s still a pretty common action by the way. Even today, tears, hot tears of self pity, some anger occasionally. Um, usually some jealousy, sometimes the victim mentality, not always, but sometimes that’s where thoughts like “This always happens to me or when am I going to get my break? Or I did everything right and the world is just so wrong.” Those are some of my victim thoughts. Usually some entitlement as well. Thoughts like “it was supposed to be different this time. This was supposed to be my big gig, my moment, my movie, my award, my project, my thing. I am perfect for this thing. How did I not get it? “ Yeah. “Is it because I’m not perfect? Is it because I’m the worst?” Oh God. Then the shame spiral. Ouch. Tears. Now sometimes I’d see myself through the ugly tears. I’d sit with them long enough and be with them long enough to come out on the other side, so to speak, or at least come out with a different feeling. Okay. But all too often buffering would be right at the heels of those ugly tears. Buffering is giving into the urge to feel better. Buffering is resisting, avoiding or ignoring feelings that you don’t want by seeking the immediate comfort and temporary pleasures that you do want. Buffering, especially with food and drink. And yes, the Instagram scroll are super common. But here’s the sneaky thing about buffering. It leaves you with an unwanted feeling in the end anyways. You feel awful. So you eat, which kind of feels good. So you keep eating and then you overeat and then you feel awful and then you feel awful and then you feel awful or you drink, which kind of feels good. So you keep doing it and then you feel awful because you are drunk or you have a hangover or you feel awful about yourself. So you scroll through Instagram seeking that dopamine hit of the likes and the comments, the love. And for a while that feels pretty good. So you keep going and all of a sudden an hour has gone by and you’re crumpled over your phone with three chins and a furrowed brow. And you’re most likely just judging and comparing yourself to other people and now you feel awful. Oh, sneaky buffers. I’m going to go deep on buffering in another episode, but for now I want to talk about not getting what we want and not buffering.
Think about a time when a child in your life has really, really wanted something, a cookie, a new toy, maybe, uh, maybe to go to school with pajamas on anything. This plays out usually in a few different ways. Number one, they ugly cry a tantrum, in other words, until the adult buckles under the pressure and gives the kid what they want. Number two, the ugly cry or the tantrum go on for so long without the adult buckling that the child becomes exhausted and eventually moves on with their life and wanting something else. The third outcome and my personal favorite happens occasionally when the parent says to the child, Oh yes, you can have X if Y you can absolutely have dessert. If you finish eating your vegetables or yes, you can definitely have that toy. If you save up your allowance and buy it or yes, you can wear your pajamas to school. If you tell them you’re somebody else’s child. True story. I have heard that one out loud before. Anyways, this third option is where I think I live most of the time. I am the parent and the child in this equation by the way, so not getting what I want occasionally fuels me to stay the course long enough that I wind up getting it or something like it. Eventually. This is what happened with my friends and that tour. Yes, I was crushed. I was obliterated. I did cry, ugly cry, yaks ugly teenage cry.
This is really good stuff. Anyways, I would cry. I would imagine them all out there having fun. I would imagine myself on stage with them. I’d imagine what I would look like, I’d imagine how I would dance. I’d imagine the music and the fans and somewhere I held onto the thought that that could still happen. Maybe they do a really, really big show and decided that they needed more dancers or maybe, God forbid somebody could get injured and they would need a swing, right? They’d need a replacement. Well, that tour came and went. It turns out I would not dance for Aaron Carter, but I thought I could still be a touring dancer if I worked really, really hard and just stuck at it. I imagined it all the time. I imagined myself dancing behind Britney Spears. I imagined myself dancing behind pink. I imagined myself dancing behind B2K True story. I could literally see it. Knee pads, crop tops, short shorts, boots. Well, it turned out I was wrong, very wrong about a lot of that, but I was right about some things too. I would not dance behind Pink, but I would play volleyball with her at Tujunga park, occasionally. I would not tour with Britney, well not on stage anyways. I would go on to be filmed as a silhouetted background body dancing on a big led screen back behind her. I would not dance for B2K total dead end there, just nothing. I think they stopped making music anyways. I was wrong about the crop tops and shorts too. Instead it was a suit and tie. I was wrong about the boots. It was sneakers most of the time and heels some of the time. Yeah, big stuff did eventually happen and it was never what I thought it was going to be. To be honest, it was better.
So we’ve talked about not getting what you want and crying about it. We’ve talked about not getting what you want and crying and buffering. We’ve talked about not getting what you want and staying the course until eventually you get something and now I want to touch on those times when you think you got what you wanted and it turned out to be something else all together. Cookies for breakfast for example. Yeah, I’m an adult and I do what I want. I’m the boss of what I put in my mouth and sometimes I put cookies in my mouth for breakfast and then 2:00 PM rolls around and I’m at the mercy of a brutal, brutal blood sugar crash. It gives me every time or let’s take the movie, for example, dirty dancing. We dancers were flying high. We were working hard. Yes, like eight hour rehearsal days of almost nonstop movement, but we were also dreaming big and we were fueled by this momentum of this thing that was bigger than us. We were fueled by our imaginations and dreams of what the red carpet premiere would feel like and then sugar crash. No more movie, not what we’d imagined, not what we wanted back to not being booked. If Corona virus has taught us anything, it is that anyone, no matter how booked you are can become unbooked, crushing. Right. Okay, so there are a lot of ways someone can be crushed. Dana, I thought you were going to tell me how to not get crushed. No, I never said that. I said that this episode is about not getting what you want. I do not have the answer for you. See that disappointment that you’re feeling. See how you’re not getting what you want right now. You really wanted an answer to this. You really wanted a solution. Okay, we’ll hold onto that feeling. Hold onto that disappointment because we’re going to work on that.
Most of our desires are sprung from how we think. We’ll feel with a certain thing. I want to go on tour because I think it’ll feel amazing to get paid to travel the world and have thousands of people cheering. For me, I want to be in movies because I think I’ll feel important. I think I’ll be a star. I want a glass of wine because I think I’ll feel relaxed and rewarded. See, I want the thing because I think it’ll make me feel a certain way. Now, what I’d like to offer you today is that all of those feelings are available to you without the accompanying criteria of the circumstance. In other words, you can feel amazing without touring the world. You can feel important without being in movies. You can feel relaxed and rewarded without a glass of wine. You can feel like a winner without going to nationals. You can feel accomplished without having a graduation ceremony. In addition to that, you can survive feeling crushed. Even furthermore, you can survive feeling crushed without buffering. Think about the last time that you went to the doctor for a shot you usually, well I usually have to take a deep breath and kind of rally myself into believing that needles are okay. And then I have a seat on that weird rubber cushion covered in weird wax paper. Makes weird sounds. And then I feel this thing and then my arm is kind of sore and sometimes it hurts a little bit to move and then I get a bandaid and then it’s over and I feel okay. I do not go into the doctor’s office and get a shot and immediately start eating and drinking and scrolling through Instagram. No, I breathe, I sit with this thing. I sit with a soreness. Sometimes I even move around extra in the soreness because it’s kind of interesting to feel and then I leave better than when I went in. I leave. Totally. Okay. So what if not getting what you want was like getting a shot. What if you knew that you would feel okay and even be better for this? What if you were like the parent who knows that the kid is going to be just fine without the cookie, the kid is going to be just fine. Without the toy, you will be just fine. Without this gig, you’ll be just fine. Without the title, you’ll be just fine without this job. What if now it’s okay to want things so bad that you can taste it or in a dancer’s case, usually so bad that you can see it, like you can feel it. It’s also okay to not get it. It’s okay to be wrong. When you imagine your future, you likely will be. Yeah, it’s okay to want things. It’s okay to not get them. What’s not okay is stopping. In fact, the only way you can be sure that you’ll never go on tour or never be in a movie or never work with so and so is to stop trying, so keep trying, keep working, keep not getting what you want and watch how much you get in the end. That’s all I’m saying. I’m done.
Really. That’s it. I hope you dug this conversation about not booking as much as you like actually booking. And if you do go leave a review, go leave a rating and I will talk to you soon. Keep it funky y’all. That’s different. Keep it funky y’all. I dunno. It’s not not so good. Stay safe. Stay soapy and keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move me member, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/wtMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 and welcome to episode 20. Thank you so much for being here. How are you feeling today? I am feeling appreciated. Yeah. Appreciated. I’ve been seeing new daily doers doing incredible things and I see some day oners that have been listening to the podcast since the very beginning that are well into their hundreds of daily doing, doing daily. I am so proud of you all and um, go back and listen to episode one if you have no clue what I’m talking about right now. Great. Also, just more broadly, thank you all for your messages, support, encouragement. I’m getting a lot of feedback via email and direct messages and tags on IG, so thank you for all of that love. I’m glad that you’re digging the pod. And if you are new here, welcome. I know that you’re going to find some grade a information and inspiration here, especially in this episode. I am jazzed about it, super confident that you’re going to dig this and I’m excited to get into it.
But first let’s talk wins. My win this week is that I’ve been wearing these um, blue blocker, like blue light blocking glasses and loving the way my eyeballs feel. Yes, that’s the thing that I consider is eyeball feel. Um, right out of the gate. This is definitely not a paid endorsement. I have no relationship with the makers of these glasses. Um, but I’m finding them super helpful and I thought that that would be a good one to share because light plays a huge part in this episode. Wink, wink, teaser, teaser. Um, so back to these weird blue blocker glasses. I want to first preface this by saying they’re not FDA regulated because they are not medicine. And there is honestly a lot of debate around whether or not they’re helpful or just hype. But the glasses I bought were only 17 bucks. So I figured I would just see for myself, see what I did there. See anyways, so I’ve been wearing them for about four days and um, honestly I’ve noticed some improvement by the end of each night. My eyes aren’t stinging, my head isn’t pounding and I’m getting to sleep super fast. Granted that could be for 100 other reasons. It very well could be a placebo effect, but for less than $20 I will take the sugar pill. If I think it’s working and it’s not causing me any harm, then who cares? So I have added these amazing to me glasses to our words that move me Amazon shopping list where you can find all of the other gadgets and gizmos and good reads that I mentioned here on the podcast and that Amazon shopping list can be found on the show notes to this episode, episode 20 on my website, theDanawilson.com So enjoy that. Oh, also a note, a word to the wise. I guess if you are editing photos or videos or working on anything where color is important, obviously make sure you check your work without the glasses on because they do change the way your screen looks pretty substantially. Okay, great. Lot of talk about glasses. Now you go, what’s your win? What’s going well in your world?
Killer. All right, congrats. Keep crushing it. Okay. This week my guest is Iggy Rosenberg, to put it very, very briefly. Iggy is illuminating. He got his start working in nightclubs in Buenos Aires. He’s from Argentina and has a great accent, unrelated. Then he worked as a roadie on big, big concert tours. Then he became a lighting designer and now he is the director of business at a major visual design firm called Lightswitch. Iggy has worked in just about every layer of live shows that there is and in this episode we peel back the layers and take a look at almost all of them. Without any further ado, here is my conversation with Iggy Rosenberg.
Thank you so much for being here on the podcast today. Welcome and really quickly introduce yourself.
Iggy: So my name is Iggy Rosenberg. I’m a lighting and production designer. I come from, I was born and raised in Argentina. I’m going to say this and I moved here in 2004, which seems incredible, uh, toured, for many, many years. Did a lot of rock and roll stuff, been around the world a few times. I’ve seen some really, really cool stuff. And then, uh, and then I made a break out of touring into the corporate world and I joined a design firm called, Lightswitch and last year I got promoted to director of business development. So I still design, uh, I still design a lot, I’ll never stop designing, but I’m, uh, I’m in charge of also finding clients and keeping clients and I’m finding new opportunities.
Incredible. Okay. So your experience and training and skill set goes like many, many layers deep, um, all sides of the entertainment business. I guess. And I’m so curious about all of it. Maybe let’s start with touring. How would you introduce, or how would you explain the role of a crew chief to somebody that, and that’s what, that’s what you were on the road. How would you explain that role to somebody who knows nothing about being on tour?
You know, you, you go, I think like any other job, you go through the levels, um, and you learn their systems and you learn how to build things. And then you go on the road and you’re the number five guy in a four man crew and you go up the positions and you keep learning. Yeah. Tours are an interesting beast and I think a lot of people maybe don’t realize that the actual touring party isn’t that big. Right? It takes a lot of people to build this. And the only way you can do this, especially with local labor, is to delegate. So you have a person that’s in charge of, like in my case, the lighting crew. And then we usually have like four or five people that work directly with me that they’re on the tour with us. Um, so we usually have someone that’s called it the Dimmer Tech. He’s in charge of all the power distribution, all the cables. Uh, we’ll usually have a couple of guys that specialize in moving lights and repairing them and hanging them. But you have to keep that crew working with their local labor. So all I do is I will bounce between them to make sure they have everything they need and trying to stay ahead a couple steps ahead of what their next job is. Um, and then communicate with the production side, you know, with the stage manager, with the local store, with the production manager. So you’re kind of in between, between production and, and the sort of logistical side. The on the day I’m the worker bees running around building the shell.
A lot more communication than I expected from that answer to be honest. Okay. So, um, I loaded out a couple of times. Um, yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah, the choreographer for the tour that I was on insisted because I was a rookie. It was my first world tour with, um, JT. It was the future sex love show tour and the choreographer, Marty Kudelka, who I just had on the podcast said like, before this tour is over, you must, must load out. I had made friends with a couple of the carps by that point. So, uh, we did it. My, my best friend and I, Ava Bernstein on that tour, we load it out and it was a fully like four hour, the dirtiest my hands have ever been in my life at the end of that load out a beer and pizza had never tasted so good. It was, it was really hard work. So how much would you say of your time was split between the really hands on grunt work and then the communication? Like the delegation?
Uh, you know, there’s a, I like to be active. Uh, I was always a climber, so I was, I would go up and climb on the rigs. There is a moment, you know, I know nowadays, especially now that I’m a designer, I, I’m not really allowed to push stuff around, um, for insurance purposes. Uh, but I tell people I’ve, you seen me with a harness, like something’s gone terribly wrong. Like if I’m climbing somewhere, like, like I always had like one truss to build or two, but I couldn’t spend too much time in that because the more time I spent heads down looking at what I’m doing, I can’t look at the team. So you, I had something I would help, I would jump in wherever else needed help. Um, but most of it was you just, it was a giant spiral. You just keep going between the teams making sure. And a big thing is you’re just looking at the very big picture, right? Because the guys have their small picture and then the local stations have even smaller because they don’t know the tour. They just, that’s the first time they’ve seen it, that they, so you give them smaller bits to work on and then I have the bigger picture and then, you know, the stage manager has even bigger picture. So you kind of have to stay a few steps away from doing the groundwork. Uh, I do. And this is different shows and different tours at different mentalities where I came from, the crew chief, uh, would load and certify the trucks at the end, make sure that they were safe and they were loaded and you make the packs and you make sure because you have to load them in a way that makes sense on the way in. Um, so you, I would load all the trucks, uh, you know, most of the times or have someone help me with, you know, we could do multiple at a time, but that was the biggest sort of thing was dumping in the morning, making sure everything went to the right places, um, during the day, making sure that you, so you load in thinking about the load out. You can’t bury yourself cause then you’re, you know, you screw yourself in the end.
Cool. I love this. Um, Oh it’s making me miss tour life. I think it’s very odd, very ironic that tour life is kind of a perfect training for quarantine life. I say that it’s, I say that as ironic because obviously on tour you are almost constantly surrounded by other people. But being on the road taught me how to communicate from great distances. Right? Like I was keeping in touch with my fiance, now my husband, with my family, you know, you get real good at FaceTime and Skype. My last tour was before zoom was cool, but you get good at communicating with people that are far away. You get good at communicating in general. But also how to live with less. Like you have two suitcases and, and you don’t have the things that you quote need like my blue bottle coffee or my trader Joe’s weird items. Like you, you become far away from the things that you’re used to. And that is a reminder of how we can be resourceful and how we can live with less, which I think is a beautiful gift of this time. Um, but it also teaches you how to be adaptable and makes you cherish home, which is, which is something that we’re all, um, maybe getting a little sick of right now. But other than other than this like big picture muscle that you got really strong at, what are the other essential skills and mindsets that you took away from tour life?
You know, there’s well, in general tour life beyond my role and I’ve always been a big proponent of this and I’ve always talked to my clients about this and until this day, I’m a big believer that particularly the live entertainment industry, unlike any other industry in the world where you can call someone that in any other job is your direct competitor. Like, like I’ve had production managers had to go to their kids’ weddings and they’ve called another production manager to come fill in for a week. And I said, calling the CEO of your competitor company to let come fill in and know that in a week like you’re going to come back and the guy’s going to go, well there’s your show back again. And you know that it’s okay. We’re all friends. It’s a community that really lives and breathes upon the relationships and the friendships that you generate. We’re very lucky to consider, you know, our clients, our friends, we treat them with the same level of respect. And sometimes maybe you say the things that we tell friends and, but that is, that is a big sense of community because you are, you know, somebody told me once we had a wardrobe girl that was, it was her first tour. She came from TV and she’s like, you guys are always so angry. I’m like, well, will you see us doing a load? And I’m like, you have to understand there’s, there’s, there’s 90 people that Oh one their stuff to be in the same place at the same time. Yeah. It gets kind of tense, but after we’re done it’s like, Oh, let’s go have lunch, let’s go have lunch. And everybody’s fine. Like there is no animosity. I mean it does happen of course, but, but that sense of, of, of cooperation and community is like the best thing that comes out of that. And then probably the ability to panic last.
After, after you see enough things go wrong. Yeah. I tell people that because I used to be, I used to be a very angry roadie in the beginning of my career and then nothing happened. It just stopped. It was a very odd, like, there wasn’t like an enlightened, like nothing, you know? No, no sun beam came down and like shone on me. Uh, but now one of my things I say is like, you know, if the stage is on fire, yelling at the fire isn’t going to make it go away. Like you either let it burn or you go get the fire extinguisher. So you learn how not to panic. And nowadays it’s like, yeah, fuck it, let’s fix it or not fix it. But let’s, you know, everybody’s stopped yelling and running around. It’s okay.
It’s okay. Yes. That, that’s the other, um, quarantine prep. That life on tour has taught me when you’re working on really tight timelines and relatively high stakes circumstances, right? Like, you know, the doors are gonna open at seven o’clock and 70,000 people are going to come in here expecting to see this show and X isn’t working. Right. So we, we’ve gotten really good at responding to things.
Yeah. Like we’ve, we’ve had, uh, I had, I remember one of my first doors, uh, I don’t know why don’t exact, I don’t remember the whole thing. It was a while ago. Well we ended up with a bunch of smoke machine liquid on the stage. So the stage was I got a bit of a ice rink. It was either really cold or something. But yeah, I mean the dancers were like, we can’t do this anymore. So we had to go and spray Coke. And again, between numbers, like while the artist was speaking in the front, there was a bunch of guys behind like spraying Coke on the floor cause cause this is where like, you know, it’s, it’s impossible. It affects everyone.
That’s a really good example of responding to emergencies with creativity. And like I, the Coke, Coca Cola is an interesting tool. I’ve used it in classrooms as well as onstage. Um, I remember a show with JT that we did the Stade De France. Um, it was an, it’s an outdoor venue. It’s a soccer stadium and it was raining that day, which made for a really like Epic performance of Cry Me A River. Um, but it also was really, really dangerous. And I remember right before the show when it was just like misting our wardrobe, head of wardrobe started off sticking sandpaper on the bottom of our shoes, like double stick sandpaper. And I was like, I’ve never seen nor would I have ever thought of that. It was a great solution. So again, tour life, preparing you for real life, let’s get creative, let’s solve problems.
Tour life is ripe with opportunities to problem solve in a world where you’re doing the same show over and over, like sometimes hundreds of times. I’m continually continuously, continually, you know what constantly impressed at the number of things, even the number of new things that can go wrong. Another thing that’s unique to touring life as Iggy mentioned is that although it is a very competitive industry, there are so few people that get to do it and get to doing it really, really well. That when it comes to finding a substitute or a fill in of some sort, it’s not uncommon to ask your competitor to do that for you. Just imagine that for a second. So wild. It’s so wild to me. And that’s just the beginning of the, that is tour life. Iggy and I exchanged wild tour stories for quite a while, but you simply have to hear about who’s tour shut down a military airport. Want to take a guess if you guys correctly, I want to know that you guessed correctly. So send me a direct message, let me know words that move me podcast on Instagram. Okay, back we go.
I toured with Paul McCartney for a couple of years. I couldn’t really understand the apeal of the Beatles and stuff. I just, it wasn’t my generation. I wasn’t exposed to it until I did my tour and I was like, I get it. Like I get the a hundred thousand people in a stadium, you know, and it was just one of those monster shows where you get charted everywhere. It was amazing. Uh, but we, we saw some weird stuff in the tour and one of them we do literally, they shut down an airport because the radar, it was a military airport and their radar, every time they swung around would turn off and on all the video walls. And the promoter called the airport and the military captain or whatever, the guy in terms of the military airport went like, well, you know, we’ll turn it off if that’s the case. And it was, and we’re like, well, you know, it’s an airport, but we’ll have to figure out what to do with it. He goes, well, I don’t know. We’ll just, we’ll just turn it off. We’ll turn both of them off. Nuts!
That’s nuts. Holy smokes.
Its Paul Macartney, he gets away with it. You like, people will do whatever he needs to, you know.
Wow. The, the power, the power. Um, okay. So on the road as crew chief, uh, you got to know the artists. You got to know big audiences. You, you got to see shows like on the ground, and then you became a designer, sort of transitioned into the, the artistic side. Um, and you must have been up to your ears and software and tech and all sorts of things. I don’t even know come along with that profession. Um, could you actually explain the role and importance of a lighting designer for a live show?
Yeah. And it depends a bit. I mean, now the things are a bit more combined. Back then there was a very big distinction between rock and roll and corporate and TV. Now, you know, everything has a camera. We all carry a camera with us. So, so we kind of have to light for everything. Like the essence of design is a, it’s the most elegant solution to a problem. So the thing is you’d have to reframe what your problems are. And for me there’s always three. There’s an artistic problem of how do we make this look good? How do we make the artists look good? How, or my now we do a little corporate, you know, how do we keep the brand and the theme of the show, there’s been, you know, the producers design a show and we have to keep that going. Um, how do we make them look good on camera, on to a live audience? How are they comfortable on stage? There is a monetary problem, there’s always a budget. And how do we get the show with this amount of money? And that’s what a lot of our relationships with vendors come into play. Um, and then there’s a physical problem, which is I can design the biggest show in the world, all the money in the world. And if it doesn’t fit in the building or the building can hold the weight, then we go back to square one. So you have to balance all those, those three things. Um, some were in there and it’s not a problem, but it’s a thing you have to, there’s always also cooperation with other departments. You know, you have to talk to the video crew and make sure that, you know, our color temperature works with our cameras and talk to the sonic guy to know that he didn’t put a bunch of lights in front of a drape that’s gonna catch on fire. Like a lot of times the older guys have to, they have a much more physics approach to things, to the situation. So kind of with the software tells them the speakers have to go, they have to go an something in front of like the, like the lights up the guys, but we have to move around, you know, you move two inches that way and I moved two inches this way and maybe we can make it work. So yeah, it’s a lot of balancing but, but I think those are the three main areas that we tend to juggle. So heat and as an audience member at a show, you might have no idea that all of that had to be considered.
Oh, what else do you wish that people knew about what you do?
Yeah, yeah. I can probably tell you, you know, like without lighting, it’s just, it’s just radio. But, uh, no, I think there is, and then maybe depends on where you come from. Is, is that whatever we do is for their enjoyment. Uh, I’m a big believer, I started in nightclubs in Argentina. I’m a big believer that people should attend an event and not go see one. So I tend to like the audience a lot more cause I want them to be a part of like, I think especially corporate after you’re there for 12 hours looking at a guy on stage, you want your environmental react to it. Um, but at the end goal is to help our clients tell their story and help the audience enjoy what they’re seeing.
You talked a little bit about lighting for everything, um, in regards to TV or live or like a big stage show. Um, and then you referenced that being, because everybody now has a camera in their pocket. So has that made your job like exponentially difficult because things need to look good from all angles for all lenses? Like how do you even approach that task?
Maybe not exponentially. It’s just added another layer that we need to balance. Um, there’s always been, and this is very probably very, very, you know, on the nose because you do work with, you know, you work in the dance community and there’s always been this little rift right between the techs and the dancers and, um, Oh, you know, we liked dancers so they look good for example, but we also have to make sure that they can see and they know what’s happening on stage. And then we’ve had many arguments many times of like, I can’t see the Mark and If l light the mark, you look terrible and you know, and then, and then we, then we have that second layer of what the audience sees. And then, and then we had to add, like there’s always cameras and I imagine, but it was never a thing. But now that since they’re there and they’re all HD and the screens are incredible, well, we’re going to like, so I like, usually I light my artists, like they’re televised. Um, these iphones. They’re, they’re very forgiving, but we just don’t know. We don’t know if the CEO is up there doing his big speech, if he’s going to go backstage and watch it on a calibrated screen with a camera, the right angle, or if there’s an assistant that’s going to shoot the video that she showed in her iPhone, that from down here up his nose, you know, so it has to look good for everyone and people take these, they’re their memories. You know, nowadays, I mean, I don’t know if anyone goes back to look at it. I was scrolling through my photos and I was like, I can’t believe I still have these videos. I’ve never seen them. Um, but people have the intentions of good. I mean it’s, it’s part of our skillset to do it, so we should do it.
Incredible. Great answer. Thank you. I’m fascinated at the difference. You’ve highlighted a few between corporate versus concert events. Um, what are, what are some standouts? Like what are, as far as your angle of getting a job done
All right. Now this might come as a shock you, but I don’t spend much time at big corporate events. Even before the covid shut down. I was super interested to hear how, wow my wrist makes a snapping sound every time I twist it like this. The things you learn when you’re doing a podcast. Anyways, I was very interested to hear about how many factors a lighting designer has to take into consideration when they’re working for a big corporation. The audience, especially for example, a tour can blast an audience with light and lasers and strobes for an hour and a half and that’s fine. More or less, I mean, unless you’re pregnant or have other health conditions, but imagine being faced with that with like concert tour level lighting for eight hours a day for five days of a big conference or something. Oh wait, that’s basically Coachella. Okay, well imagine going to a yogurt land conference because if I went to a corporate event, it would be a yogurt land conference, but imagine a big yogurt studio event that was lit entirely red gross. Or imagine going to a big tech firms, new product reveal or a car reveal or something that’s lit. The way the play place at McDonald’s is lit. Very confusing, very not hot. So much respect to the lighting designers out there. Really consider that everything you see has been considered by someone else if they’re doing it right. That is okay. So now Iggy finds himself firmly on the business side of a business that is not so firm at all at the moment. Let’s hear Iggy’s take on the current state of live and in person events. From the business point of view.
Three months ago, we, my schedule was so packed that I was going to be home for, I think it was something like five days and a couple of months. Uh, and, and in 48 hours living 40 hours, we went from that to not having anything for six months. Um, so that was, I mean, besides the, the, the whipsaw that we got from that, um, you know, we, what we see, we, we were very lucky that we managed to transfer a couple of shows to virtual shows. So we, we broadcast them. So we kind of, in a week we had to turn the thing that was designed for a live audience into something that was designed to be shot with zoom. And it was, it was that probably the one of the first, um, in this new era of, of zoom broadcast events. Um, and it was a show for Hyundai uh, for a car reveal. Um, since then, yeah, that’s gonna be the next few months is going to be film green-screen corporate shows. Um, you know, a lot of our vendors have built entire streaming studios in their, in their warehouses. There’s been a lot of sudden appreciation for a set of the technology that I think even us, we just didn’t have like bandwidth and how do we get all this stuff into a computer and, and how do people see it and then like who can see it properly? How does the audio work and stuff a week go through scale that, you know, where the money, you know, as much bigger than, than, and the pressure is much larger. Mmm. You know, we still, we, we get pinged a few times a week about doing virtual events and we try to navigate our clients through it. Um, you know, and, and a lot of it has, the sense of cooperation between parties has been huge because everybody’s suffering at the same time. This isn’t like the TV guys suddenly have no work and we’re doing great. Or in the recession back in 2008 where the touring market kind of kicked off a bit because people couldn’t travel there. People just didn’t have money there. So they couldn’t travel. So then we’ll go see shows or touring kind of became these mega shows that we have now incorporated disappeared cause nobody had money. Uh, now just nobody has anything. Nobody can leave their house, nobody can get together. Nobody has money. So it’s, it’s stuff but, but you know, industries have to continue working. Um, people still have to sell things and people still develop products and um. It’s the right thing to do. We’ll continue to do virtual events and we think that in the future we’re going to have some sort of hybrid thing where there’s going to be 10 people in a room with everyone brought guests and there’s going to be 50 people in a room and there’s going to be a hundred. And it will slowly tip her up to like, I don’t think it will be in, in a month. They’re going to go, ah, everybody in that stadium, let’s go. Like it’s just not going to happen.
All right. I had to jump out here because Iggy mentioned something very interesting that I hadn’t really considered before this moment during the recession in 2008 I was coming off of my first tour with JT and I started working almost immediately for Cirque de Solei and some of you are going to hate me for saying this, but I’m saying this because it’s an interesting observation. I think it’s worth shining some light on, sorry, I can’t help myself. These puns. Anyways, I didn’t own a home at the time. I didn’t even have rent. I’d gotten rid of my apartment right before we started touring and then Cirque housed me in Montreal for a short period and then for another short stint in Vegas. And as a humble dancer and dance teacher, my humble bank account was more or less immune to the wiggles and wobbles of the needle in terms of America’s economy. That’s how it was at the time anyways. Okay. I’m totally speculating here and you could probably shoot a million holes in my theory and please bring it, but my guess is that tour’s did relatively well in 2008 because a people couldn’t afford to travel, so they were willing to save up and shell out for the big shows that traveled to them, especially the shows that scooped them up into another world, a world where they felt sexy and cool and rich and free from all of their worries and stuff. It’s not uncommon actually. I think people use entertainment, music, movies, concerts, comedy shows, other shows, wink, wink to buffer negative emotions. Yeah. That was me raising my hand. The office was my drug of choice several years ago. Man, those belly laughs and even tears really helped me ignore many of the negative emotions that I really should have been processing. So raise your hand if you’re spending more than average or more than a healthy amount of time buffering with Netflix these days. Yeah, entertainment, whatever the platform, whatever the mode of distribution will always survive. We’re like a cockroach. Okay, let’s file that under similes I will never use again. Okay. Back on track. Back to my theory. Part B of this is that I’ve noticed that most parents will make big, big sacrifices in order to preserve the quality of life for their children. So as a dance teacher whose bread and butter came from teaching kids between seven and 17 again, yes, I did see a bit of a change during 2008 but I was far from out of a job. People worked really, really hard to keep their kids in dance class to keep their kids around dance and art and entertainment because those are the things that bring us joy. Those are the things that enhance our quality of life. Our covid crisis circumstances are quite different in the sense that travel, AKA touring and training and entertainment industries like movies and amusement parks are among the hardest hit. But the silver lining and you know that I have a silver lining, is that entertainment is as good as immortal. As long as there are people, there will be stories to tell and as long as there are stories to tell, there will be dance and theater and jokes and film and so on and so on. Okay. So that is my theory. Like it or not. Let’s jump back in now and talk about the future of entertainment and stories, specifically books.
What I’m experiencing in dance in my work as a choreographer and as a teacher is affected in several different ways right now obviously, no, I’m not going on a tour at the moment. Um, and I’m also not going to any auditions at the moment and there aren’t, I know of a few, but there aren’t as many commercial opportunities. Um, I have heard of a few really interesting commercial shoots where production is, is delivering equipment to the homes of the talent and then the talent will shoot it themselves on whatever the camera, probably an iPhone or something, um, that they were sent. And then somebody from production will pick it back up when they’re done, sanitize it and get the data off of it and make, make a thing. So
Brilliant idea. Yeah, I’ve never heard of that.
I think there will be a lot of creative ways and like you mentioned a lot of ways that we get to work together to try to solve this problem and it’s all of our first time we are leveled and humbled by this unprecedented thing. But, um, the other area that I wanted to take a look at is this teaching for, for me and training for most professionals and for aspiring professionals is getting a huge punch in the face right now because most dance classes are not one-on-one. Most dance classes happen in person and in huge groups. So what we’re seeing, especially I think zoom is probably right, the most utilized zoom and Instagram live, um, for training right now for dancers. But, uh, on both of those audio lag and video quality are huge issues. I have basically no way of knowing that they see the right time. And timing is, is, is a big part of what we do. I won’t say that it, I won’t say that it’s everything, but it’s a big deal. Um, have you seen or do you have a futures glance at solutions to those types of problems?
No, it’s funny cause we, we talked about this and especially, you know, I still have a couple of dance classes was very obviously off sync I’m not obviously not a dancer. So if I can tell, you know, like it’s pretty obvious that it’s going to be pretty awkward for people to take that class if that happens. You know, we sync stuff constantly, uh, through video. Um, I think that this keeps growing. There will be a point and this may exist and I may just not be aware of it. Then maybe there must be a way that you can on the front side, sync up the sound.
Even when you are live, like at a concert stadium, what your eyes see is definitely different than what your ears hear, especially if you’re in the nosebleeds. So in a way, this isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to zoom
Sound sound guys have to take into consideration delay and fades or, yeah, constantly. I think that the problem where the internet comes in is that everybody has a different, it’s not a controlled environment as much as concerts. I’m not controlled, but everybody has different internet providers and speeds and qualities. Yeah. Well I’ve thought about it lately. I think that that’s going to become a thing. And again, it may exist. I may just not,
Speaking of it may exist. My husband and I watched minority report last night, which came out in 2008 but it takes place. The story takes place in 2050, something like 20, 50 something. So the, the distant but not unimaginable future. Um, and my husband and I like to joke, it had been a while since we’d seen it. It was not our first time watching it, but it had been awhile. We now are calling it acrylic report because all of the tech in that movie is made from Plexiglas. Um, and like not even that great looking, just like everything is acrylic hysterical. But, but there were some things that I think they really got right. For example, there’s this, like your irises get scanned and people are tracking your location and using your eye scan to target advertisements to you in a way that’s already happening. Right? Like my phone knows where I am and they know what I’m looking at and that information is being used to sell me things. Um, but one of the things that happened in this movie that, that particularly caught my eye, and I’m wondering if it is happening already, probably is, is this idea of nightclubs with individual pods where humans go in and have a virtual experience, whether it’s acting out some fantasy, be it awful or pleasurable, um, or something like I just want to go into a room and feel flattered for a second. I want people to tell me nice things about myself or I want to be the pop star for a change or, right. Um, now it doesn’t seem like that is all too far off. Do you know of things like that already happening?
Right. So speaking of the business, um, you mentioned that your firm Lightswitch is really committed to coming out of this. And by this I mean, um, Corona times, uh, coming out of it better than you went in. So you might not come out of it with more money, but you’ll come out of it with more skills. Um, how is your company and then how are you focused on that?
Well, you know, we were, we were kind of in a bit of a transition. We have, uh, we’ve, we’ve all used the same lighting system for, for a while now, uh, in the company, the new system, the new console came out, uh, right before this happened. Um, so I, you know, I just, I spent the last couple of weeks, you know, getting trained on it because I, you know, unfortunately I don’t have one, but, but there’s an offline version of pages in the computer. So I’ve been learning how to use it. Um, and a lot of it has been just talking to one another and Hey, what are you doing and how are things, and I met these, not necessarily a skillset of something technical, but keeping everybody grounded and, and you know, connected. And so a lot of, you know, happy hours and emails and keeping people at bridge and help with people with, you know, a lot of our, a lot of our people have, um, small companies, um, and they’ve been trying to get the loans that we have from the giant chain amongst lighting designers of, of, of, you know, my bank did this and my bank did that. And how did we get this protection loan? Um, I’ve been reading, I mean, I used to read a lot as a kid and then I stopped when I discovered the internet ruined me, but I moved a boomer myself. I didn’t know that I could, I could stay up late and watch TV so they didn’t have a problem. Uh, but I mean, I’ve been reading for graciously since this started. Um, which is good. I have a ton of books that I’ve always like half read, so I’ve been finishing them off. Um, yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s just a lot out. There’s, there’s only so much we can do training wise, you know, online without the gear. But, you know, we’ve, I’ve been talking to a lot of manufacturers about, you know, stuff that they’re doing, um, helping them with their marketing. And a lot of them I’ve trained, I’ve changed their marketing from just advertisements and selling to, to teaching up and coming designers how to do stuff. So we’ve, we’ve done a couple of those and we’re going to continue doing them. Um, yeah, I mean, maybe we just come out of better people.
Um, I’m so glad that you brought up books. Uh, I was having a conversation with my husband before this interview and, um, he’s an engineer and an artist and many, many things. And, uh, one of his first projects, one of the things that made him, uh, famous is a book scanning machine. And this was years and years and years ago when, uh, digitization of books was really a hot topic for intellectual property reasons. And, um, he brought up a really great point, which was right now we’re digitizing our live product, which is my dancing, my classes and those things are becoming digital. So when people ask me, do you think this is going to kill classes? Do you think this is going to kill concerts? Like if people can have it in their living room at any time on demand, um, are they going to stop going to classes once classes are a thing again? Are they going to stop going to concerts once concerts are a thing again? And my answer to that, at least for now, yeah, is people still have books, right? People still touch books. People still read books. Yes, they became digital. Yes, that happened. But most of the people that I know and talk to still prefer the real thing. Um, they’re shareable. They are notated like you can write in numbers, there’s art to it and you can, and you can give them to one another. You can transfer them. You can like smell them.
Don’t get me wrong. I do have a Kindle and I read them. I can though, which came out of touring because when I started we didn’t have Kindles and I would have a suitcase full of books and books are heavy. Yeah. So, so we do have Kindles. Yeah. Books are great. It’s good to have. I love that. Horrible chill. Yeah. I think it’s, I think it’s a helpful analogy to think of for, for those of us that are looking at this with a, this doom and gloom a thought that, that this means the end of a certain thing. It definitely, definitely means a change. Yeah. We’re adaptable. I mean, if anything, humans are incredibly adaptable. Right. Um, and we like connection. You know, we’re not, we’re never not going to go and try and share a concert of music and our favorite band and the mindset that comes with it. Um, which is not the same if you’re going to living them by yourself. I mean, it happened. It may have to happen. Um, there, there may be a good side to this and how we reach people, how to communicate with people, but I think people will always want to go to a concert or a show and, and talk to other people in the hog and, and express their uniqueness and how they dress and that kind of stuff.
Yeah. Oh man, my dressing has gotten very unique for these last months. And by unique, I mean, Oh, I wear whatever in the heck I want and then I wear it for five days straight. Um, well thank you so much for sharing your insights, your expertise. I’m just, I’m floored and always very interested to talk to non dancers, but people that have had a similar experience, whether it’s on tour or in problem solving, which is what I believe this whole creative game is about. Very, very cool. Thank you very much, Iggy, for taking the time. Yeah, I’ll talk to you very soon, I hope. Bye.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, the Dana wilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move me member, so kick fall changeover to patrion.com/w T M M podcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really, really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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: All right. All right. Welcome to the podcast. This is episode 19. Holey Smokes! It’s going by so fast. Everything actually seems to be going by so fast and honestly this is getting somewhat easier and I shouldn’t be shocked by that because I’m getting better at talking to myself alone in a room, doing a lot of that these days. And that actually is kind of what this episode is about. I’m super stoked about it.
Um, but before we dig into that, of course we have to do our wins. My win this week is actually my mom’s. When my mom celebrated a birthday, I’m not going to say the number because the lady never tells. And we had an absolutely awesome virtual birthday party for her. And I was sensitive about that because I believe that certain things cannot be replaced or duplicated. Birthday parties up until this point were one of those sacred special things. And I’m going to be honest, we had a ball, my immediate family, my sister, her husband, her two daughters, um, my brother, his wife and myself and my husband and I all got together for a zoom conference, dinner and cake. And um, my brother also brought a life sized cardboard cutout of him. So there were actually two of my brother, his wife, my sister, her husband, myself, my husband and the nieces and my mom of course, the lady of the hour. And we sat and ate a meal and you know, shot the stuff and had an absolute blast. My sister works in a hospital, um, and she got my mom a bunch of the gifts that you find from the hospital gift store, including a family favorite, Haribo gummy bears, which are absolutely the best if you disagree. I don’t, I don’t know what to say. Um, and then also my sister and I put out the feelers to friends and family all over the world to send in video, birthday shout outs. Um, I’m telling you we got some video gems from old friends and some really priceless selfie sentiments and I got to throw down my speed editing chops and um, man, it was just so special. I got to watch people really well digitally really show up for a woman that is so, so, so special. A woman that must join me on the podcast one of these days. Mom, do you hear me? I mean it, I’m serious. Oh. And also I made my first loaves of bread from yeast that I grew off of raisins, like crazy advanced stuff here. People, I did it and it was decent, decent enough for me to eat two loaves of bread in two days and now I feel like a mattress. So maybe that’s not actually a win after all. But anyways, onto you. What’s going well in your world?
Okay, congratulations. Keep crushing it. So proud of you. Okay. This episode is short and sweet and sensitive. You could think of it as time sensitive, but it really isn’t. The lessons in this episode are fully applicable regardless of date or time or crisis. Let’s dig in to my letter from a friend.
Last week I received a letter in the form of a text actually from a very dear friend, an actor, a director, and one hell of a model American! Name that movie. Um, anyways, after I responded to his message, he and I talked back and forth a little bit and he said that his note was initiated by this thought. “Does everyone else know that this is kind of hard for everyone else?” That shed a light on a very interesting side effect of isolation that I honestly, I hadn’t really considered that much even in the pre covid times. I was the star of the film. That is my life and everybody in my life had a supporting role. Now, although I’m possibly more concerned with the public and public issues than I ever have been, I am absolutely thinking more about myself and my survival than I have before either. Right now my movie is way more monologue than dialogue. Basically all day, every day. I sit alone with myself and I and me and we’re really getting to know each and between you and me and myself and I, I’ve run up against some.. Woof, hard truths about myself and some challenging questions, so today I want to share this letter from my friend and I want to share my reply because I know that he’s not the only one up against challenging thoughts and feelings and it might be illuminating for you to answer some of his questions for yourself.
My friend writes, “I was thinking at first that our pandemic would be like when you hunker down for a snow storm, since I’ve realized it is so much more, obviously the realization though is full of confusion and fragmented thoughts. It feels like unless I’m thinking about or doing something specific, tire changing, setting the table, high knees, my mind drifts but it drifts in muddled, confused, fractured bits of thoughts. I’m struggling to plan things or collect my thoughts on things. I don’t know. Again, I just don’t know. I can’t get things straight in my head sometimes and I’m feeling like it’s a problem with me. I know it’s just a problem for me, but maybe it’s normal. Do you have disconnected thoughts? Trouble getting this stuff in your head? Straight planning our lives helps us define who we want to be when we can’t plan or get excited about something coming. It feels like we’re stuck. I’m just stabbing into the dark here, but I’m not really because someone might read this and think I’m stabbing too. I guess I’m trying to say this is way harder than I thought it would be and at times think that it should be. I get down on myself and that ain’t right. Also, dude, the world needs leaders to lead us, but the world also needs more lovers, not sex, to love us back in this world, you are loved, love back”
Beautiful doozy. I want to start here at the end because I couldn’t agree more. The world needs leaders to lead us and the world also needs more lovers. Not the sexy type. Get your isolated minds out of the gutter, but the type that cares about us, so think about the movies of our lives, right? They are far more powerful when the stories are about people not at person. They’re powerful when they connect. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Cast Away, but what if every single movie was Cast Away? I digress. So let us love by acting compassionately towards others. Out of sight should not mean out of mind and let us lead by showing that it is possible to live clean, to live gracefully, to live gratefully, even under difficult circumstances.
Now you could fully stop listening right here. There’s plenty of work to do simply by digging into asking yourself how you can be more compassionate towards others and how you can lead by example. Or you could keep listening to my reply to this dear friend. If you shared any of my friend’s thoughts and feelings about our current circumstances, then you can also pretend that my reply is to you. I wrote after several hours of thinking about a reply.
Dear friend, for the last year or so, I’ve been really focusing on managing my mind. I got a life coach. I’m doing the daily thought downloads the whole bit. I’m observing and I’m working on my thoughts nearly all day, every day, and if I could boil down what I’ve learned and what’s the most helpful to me, it would be this. Number one, feeling bad about feeling bad or resisting feeling bad is more than twice as uncomfortable as feeling bad all by itself. Being okay with negative emotions is where most of my work is at this time. Thinking about how or why this happened causes confusion. Instead, I choose curiosity and I am learning so much thinking that things should be different, causes suffering. Instead I choose acceptance. Things are this way period. Thinking that things can be better is empowering. I have a bright mind. I’m creative, I’m adaptable, I’m capable. I will figure out how to make the things that I can control better, better. I’ll make the things I can make better, better. Yeah, that’s right. And number two, our thoughts about the world, not the world itself are what create our experience of the world. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change the way we think about it. I hope this is helpful and I hope you keep writing. I love the way your mind works. There is no problem with your mind. Your mind is not wrong. We are all stabbing right now is just some of us are stabbing ourselves in the chest and wondering why we’re in pain. The goal is to be able to watch yourself with compassion and curiosity and to ask yourself kindly to put the knife down. I love you so much we can do this.
It’s true. We can do this totally possible to come out of our quarantine winter hibernation better than when we went in. I learned this week. This is an interesting story. I learned that I get really annoyed by questions like what are the three words that best define you? Like come on. I am COMPLEX. Those three words, those are the three words that best define me. But my husband recently said the one word that best describes this pandemic period is de-stabilizing. And yeah, I think he pretty much nailed it de-stabilizing. But if there’s one thing that a dancer’s good at, it’s stabilizing, think about that fight to really hold on to an attitude devant on releve or the mental and physical combat of a pirouette from a grand plie in second position. If it is possible for a human being to promenade in arabesque on point on another human being’s head, I’m going to link to that youtube video, by the way, in the show notes, then it is absolutely possible for us to stabilize ourselves in unstable times like these. It’s also no shock to me that ballet dancers are crushing it in this time. My favorites at the moment are Tiler Peck , obvi, uh, Skyler Brandt, Isabella Boyslton, James Whiteside and Maria , I’m going to botch the last name. I’m so, so sorry. Kochetkova I believe so, crushing it, but that’s, you know, literally part of our jobs as dancers to find and create balance. But beyond that, beyond dancers, I think about architects and the skyscrapers that they designed and think about the people that actually built those buildings. I think about teachers and the balancing act of managing information and actual human beings. I think about bakers and balancing time and temperature and the ingredients required to make like a perfect loaf of bread. Now obviously I can’t speak for bakers, but when I’m trying to find myself on my leg, it’s really a matter of, well, a couple of things. Number one, micro adjustments, small little changes and number two, trial and error. There will be many trials, there will be many errors, there will even be overcorrection, but eventually there will be correction. We will figure it out. We can figure it out. We get to figure it out and if you find yourself in a place of being unstable on your feet, write a letter to a friend or pull a Tom Hanks and make yourself a Wilson or the podcast can be your Wilson. I can be your Wilson. I am a Wilson. This is perfect.
With that, my friends, I will leave you for the day with love, with soap, and of course with funk. Thank you so much for listening.
Thought you were done? No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website. Third, TheDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move member, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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.
Ah yep. Today, no matter where you are, I am bringing you to the front yard of my friend and mentor and legendary choreographer, Marty Kudelka! Yes, we are going deep into the Valley where the sky is blue and the birds chirp and garbage trucks squeal like lot of squealing garbage trucks. Terrifying sounds. Thank God for editing. So Marty and I talk about specific people and performances during this episode and I want to say right now at the front of it that all of those people, places and performances are going to be linked in the show notes of this episode, episode 18 of my website. So if you’re interested in any of those people, places, things and shows, then head on over to theDanawilson.com/podcast and search for episode 18.
Oh also every podcast episode is available in video form on YouTube seven days after the podcast comes out here. So this episodes YouTube video will definitely include links to the memorable moments. Well at least the ones that were caught on tape. Um, so be sure to check that out as well. All right, before we talk to Marty, I want to talk to you. How are you feeling? After last week’s episode on processing emotions, I have been making it a habit to ask how are you feeling instead of how are you doing, how are you feeling gives you an opportunity to actually process and check in with your body and the feelings inside of it instead of just reporting the usual. I’m good. How are you? I personally, right now I’m feeling exhausted like a particular brand of exhausted, throbbing knee’s, kind of an achy back. That means I’ve been dancing and probably not using my abdominals as much as I should be, but Oh, speaking of dancing a lot, my win this week is actually a community win. Over the weekend, The seaweed sisters taught for the movement lifestyle’s 24 hour move-a-thon fundraiser, and as of this moment, as of the recording of this episode, the studio has raised over $63,000. Holy smokes, huge win, and if you’re listening to this podcast at the time of its release, then they’re still accepting donations. So if you can head over to ML’s GofundMe. All right, now it is your turn to share a win. What’s going well in your world? Hit me.
Awesome. I am glad that you’re winning. Congratulations. Now Marty and I cover a lot in this episode. Everything from working on the trolls movies and doing things that he never thought he’d do in a million years to several strolls down different memory lanes. Wait, is that a thing? Are they like memory street memory Avenue, memory circle. Anyways, we go there. So I hope you’re ready and I hope you enjoy this conversation with Marty Kudelka.
Dana: All right, Marty, Dog, Dog!
Marty: Dana Dane Dog!
Welcome to the podcas t, my friend. This is long overdue.
Marty: Absolutely. Thanks, Homie, thanks for having me.
I’m really stoked about this because A, uh, you’re my dear friend and also mentor, but B, you are probably the most mentioned person on the podcast, especially when I’m talking about career and, professional life because you have played such a key role in my professional life. So there’s that. Um, but before we get too deep, I would love for you very quickly to introduce yourself and tell us where you are right now.
What’s up? This is Marty Kudelka checking in team Roast, you know, we sizzle the most, you know how it be, I’ m in, the bird cage, my own little Disneyland here in Valley village, California. Talking to one of my favorite humans on earth, Dana, Dana dog, Wilson,
The crowd goes wild. “Ahhh”, so you, you did not mention in your bio that you are, uh, one of the greatest choreographers ever to have lived. And I think I found that out on the internet, so it must be true. Um, but you are also a creative director and a teacher. Oh, and I live on auto row, so we’re getting some automobile sounds today. Some people are not honoring the social distancing today I can tell cause it’s beautiful outside and there are way more car and motorcycle sounds than usual. Um, but back to you, uh, how long have you been choreographing for?
Um, before I knew what like choreography was even, I didn’t know what I was doing. I called it making up routines or putting routines together. I believe my first one was when I was 14 years old. I was in middle school and it was for a talent show and me and one other girl named Brandy Davis. I still, I still keep in touch with her too. And um, we dance to Rob Bass “It Takes Two” at our talent show and, and I’m sorry I wasn’t in middle school, I was a freshmen in high school, which was even more scary because literally I’m the young kid on the block, little white guy up on stage with hammer pants on like doing the running man for 400 8 counts. So that was my first time I ever put together something. And then I started kind of just teaching my friends right after that. Mmm. Kind of a trade off. Like they would get, keep me from getting beat up at school and I would teach them dance, kind of thing. And um, that was my first intro into choreography and teaching, if you will, because then I saw, well, I can like make some money or at least get ahead doing something that I like to do. Um, so that was my intro. It’s not your typical story, but that’s really, that’s, that’s to me, that’s when I started choreographing because even though I didn’t know what an eight count was or a bar of music was, I knew when the song changed, you should change your steps, you know, that was kind of common sense. So I was putting the stuff down yeah. Since I was 14 and now I’m a lot older than that
Truth. Yeah, true. Just a few years. Um, so there’s a classic case of learn by doing where you like didn’t go to school for this or you didn’t come up through a competition convention. Typical studio.
Um, there’s going to be a trash truck. Oh, sorry. Got it. That happens out here on the bird’s nest.
That’s a trash truck. That is a trash truck.
So I am lucky enough to have been part of your creative process a handful of times. And by handful, I mean a lot. Um, and, but for people who are listening, who might not have met you or worked for you or even taken your class, can you explain a little bit of your creative process from the moment you hear the song to then seeing it danced on other bodies or on a stage?
Yeah, I mean we, you know, you know firsthand we’d be here until next Thursday if I really answered that question in depth from A to Z. So I’ll try to make it like real somewhat quicker.
Give us the bullets.
Yeah. Um, I mean first comes, it depends, that’s a hard question because it’s so broad because it depends if it’s for one single number or if it’s for a, you know, club show where it’s 10 numbers or it’s for a tour that has, you know, a giant stage and production value, you know, so it, it depends. But say just for, as an example of music video, we’ll base it off that. So if I, once I get the song, the first thing I’m going to want to do is learn this song as well as I can and, and then create like the basic plan of what I’m going to do. Mmm. If it was for class, I would just start figuring out what I’m going to. Which part of the music you don’t want to dance too. And then kind of make a up plan comes from music video. Before I did anything, I would probably ask for the treatment. If There was a treatment at that point too, figuring out what the story is or if it’s just a performance video or just dancing or whatever. So that way I know I’m not doing extra stuff. Mmm. Work smarter, not harder. So those are two different versions. So going back, I’m going to keep flipping it now. Back to video or a class. Yeah. I would know what I’m going to dance to already. Then I’m going to stand up. I actually did this last night, Which is crazy. I didn’t think about that. Mmm. So I’m making something up. So I listened to the song and I already knew the song really well, but I haven’t heard it in about shoot over 15 years easily. But I put it my headphones in and started listening to it and like, okay, made a decision. This is the part I’m going to dance to. I already pretty much knew it got up, I started moving around until I have like a little at least a couple, a few eight counts. Then I’ll take a break, then I’ll listen to it again and listen to what I don’t have. Then stand up, try to fill in the gaps and they come slowly but surely like where I stand now morning with the routine I have like the first two eight counts. Then there’s like two, two and a half counts missing and then another eight count, three eight counts missing another four. Mmm. Once I do that, once I have enough then I like to call in the troops, which is you know the, YOU, the Ivan, the Nats, like call you guys in and start teaching it to you. I still haven’t seen it by this point by the way, but once I, call you guys in, and then, um, A. I’m getting to learn how to teach it. And B. I’m seeing it on another human and deciding whether I like it or not or what to change or what to add. Or you guys may give me an idea on how you finish and go into something. So it’s a big puzzle basically. You know, you never just do the puzzle like this. You know, sorry, I know it’s a podcast from up to down or you know what I mean? You have to fill out the frame and then you start making like parts over here and parts that you know are easier to do. And that’s the same thing with putting together a routine regardless whether it’s for a video or class
Dana: Solid. That’s a great answer. You set up the segue so beautifully. Thank you for that. Um, Marty basically wrote the book titled “work smarter not harder” and I want to go through that book now and name the chapters if we could. And you already, you, you, you set up a few of those. But I have to tell people on the outside right now that I sent Marty a little warmup text before we got on the phone today. I was like, Hey, these are some of the things I want to talk about. This is kind of the, the outline, you know, we’ll, we’ll keep it loose and we can flow, but I definitely want to do blah blah blah. I want to hear about bleh be ready to answer blah and dah dah. And you wrote me back, I’m going to pull up the text also at the end
And now that you just asked me the question I’m wishing I would have looked at it more
Um, at the, at the last thing I asked you is anything else you want to cover or specifically not talk about and your response was “anything you want and I barely read this BTW finger pointing up. I just like, I just like to freestyle these days.” So that’s, that’s pretty much where we’re at. We’re freestyling. Okay. So based on what you just said, a you make sure you have all the information and you are really good. You actually taught me this, uh, about how to identify the people that have the information just by watching. Very good at sitting back and watching like, Oh, that’s my guy for this. Oh, that’s the dude for this. Oh, here’s the one you want to have in the room for this. So you’re, you’re great at identifying the sources of information and then you’re a great listener. Actually, I kind of wanted to play a game later, but we’ll, well we’ll see if we get there. If you had to put a price on your most valuable asset, you, Marty Kudelka A. what would the price be? And B. what is that asset? I could even, I could even call it a part of your body. What is the most part of your body?
Uh, my ears.
Boom. I was going to say one, two, three and have us say it at the same time.
Oh yeah. That’s easy. Yeah. There’s no amount of money though. Yeah. Ears are like none other. It’s true. Justin’s ears are really good too. I can’t lie. That dude, you know he is a freak. That guy hears stuff and I mean he has to be good because of who he is at paying attention to his surroundings because you know with crazy fans or whatever, he’s got to stay aware so that that that’s helped him do that. But for some reason I always look the same way. I mean I just want to know what’s going on around me. Maybe cause I got in trouble when I was younger, you know, so I was always on the lookout but it helps in what we do specifically. Like that is a big thing of working smarter, not harder. Like if you pay attention like what.. the main.. I think it should be called “work smarter, not harder. Dot dot, dot. It’s just common sense” because it is, if you use common sense like it’s not that hard. What we do. It’s really, it’s really not. And it’s not, if you just pay attention, it’s not hard to figure out who is the person that needs that you go to for this or this or like you just said like it’s not that hard if you just pay attention. But a lot of times it’s dancers and even you know, choreographers and directors, we get so into what we’re doing that we don’t sit down for a second and pay attention. A lot of people these days want, they feel like the more that I do it, the better I’m going to get it. Like even Right. That’s the same principle as just seeing the layout of whatever you’re doing.
I love that. It’s an excellent lesson and we are all receiving a masterclass in it right now. Okay, so get the info. Be watchful, listen. Of course. And then the next one I think that you are really well prepped for and well set up with is this nature and then the skill and they are different. The nature and the nurture, um, of being a freestyler, I think that you are a freestyler like in your DNA, but then it’s also a muscle in you and in your process that has gotten really, really strong. Um, how, how do you think starting as a freestyler, uh, contributed to your workflow right now?
Freestyle helped me. I mean, it helped mold my style. That’s still how I started. Like last night when I started my routine, I didn’t say I’m to do a, Mmm, what is the first move that I do? I do like these jazz hands to my stomach, right. And my foot goes out and in
And does it look like this, ‘dah doom?’
A little bit. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re so good.
I wonder if you could talk it to me and I could do it. Okay.
Of course I could, I just talked about this on my IG live the other day, but I’ll, I taught you and I then at one point sitting down like four, I think it was four eight counts and y’all got up and did it. Perfect. We should do that again.
Yeah, let’s definitely do that again.
But when I, when I started this move, I didn’t get up, Off my couch and say, Oh I’m going to put some jazz hands to my stomach. Like I just, I knew where that were. The first count is seven, eight ‘and a’. And, all I knew is I’m starting on the ‘and a’ after the eight and then I just did that and it, it was like, Oh that feels cool. I know it looks cool cause I’ve done it before. So, okay. That’s my starting point. And then from there I just let my body go. But if I wouldn’t have, I had that training growing up and the freestyle aspect, like in the freestyle world, then I don’t know what I would be doing. Like I don’t know if people who aren’t, have never been in that freestyle world. I don’t know how they, if they go into a studio and just move through a bunch of moves, I have no idea what their creative process is because I’m not them. And I’ve never been rooms with people like that. I’ve always been around people who are similar and come from similar backgrounds, which is who I gravitate towards, dancers, you know what I mean? People who can boogie and also do choreography.
Um, sneak attack. This is me opening the door and coming out of my little closet and introducing myself to you for the first time as a person who when we met nothing terrified me more than freestyling and learning choreography, this might’ve been why we got along well, right? As somebody who leads with freestyle might really do well by enhancing their team, by adding a person who remembers all the moves that gets spit out and can keep them or teach them or whatever. But um, it took you and some hard slap in the faces. Slap slap in the faces. No, I have one face, uh, slaps in the face of learning that that weakness needed to get stronger for me. One of them actually happened at your house? Um, it was right after, maybe not right, maybe not the same day, but shortly after the big audition for the future sex love tour. And there were like 500 people. Was it an open call or was it just selective call but mad people?
No, it was, it was, there was like 250 people, but it was, I selected all of them and then a few people, like five people crashed.
Okay. So massive audition. And we filmed the end and either the next day, the day, I don’t remember, we were watching the footage at your house and we had an unexpected intruder. I don’t even think he rang the bell. He probably like bolted up. Yeah, he just walked in, shout out b-boy kmel, Um, but I remember he looked at your TV and he was like, what is this garbage? And I was like, um, excuse me, this is the best dancers in Los Angeles. And he was like, those people are garbage. And he walked up to the TV and he pointed at Nick Bass and he was like, he was like, my shoe has more talent than that guy. And then he pointed at Misha and he was like, “Please! He’s okay. But mostly he’s garbage.” And then he pointed at the next guy and it was like, I’m sorry, wait a second. These people are like ridiculously talented. How could you even say that you’re delusional? And he, that was a bad idea, Little Dana,
It was a really, really bad idea. I remember it like it was yesterday. And I remember looking at you like, here she goes, look out man. She just had no idea what she did.
So what I did was redirect his, uh, b-boy battle mentality from other people to me. And he basically went, okay, and who are you? And I was like, I’m Dana. And he was like, uh, exactly. Who are you? And I was like, I’m a dancer. And he was like, no, you’re not. And it was like, uh, yeah, I am. And he was like, why? Why have I never seen you out? I’ve never seen you at the club. And I was like, that’s because I’m 18 or I was 19 at the time.
Maybe I was like, I’m not allowed to go to clubs. And then he laughed so hard, he probably started crying. He was like, you are not a dancer, you are a robot. You are a machine that has been trained to remember other people’s moves. You think you love dance, you don’t love dance. If you did, it would come from you and it would come without somebody else’s telling you to do it. And I didn’t cry at the time. I think I got home and really processed what he had just said. But I did cry hard about that and the thought that there might be some truth to it. And um, that definitely motivated me to explore freestyle and dancing strictly for myself. Not for accolades or a job or an award or recognition in some other form, but just because it feels freaking good. Um, and especially being so focused on winning at the industry, which is what my primary goal was at the time. I really hadn’t been thinking about that a lot. So that conversation woke me up. And also most of your classes at the time, especially, this is back in 2005, ended with a freestyle circle. Like that’s, it was a part of class. Like that was, that’s what what we did. Um, I don’t remember where this conversation started, but Oh, the importance of freestyle and me telling you that until we met, it really wasn’t a part of my daily life
That day, meeting Kmel. You knew Kmel?
Oh, I knew, I absolutely knew of him and I’d watched him get down. I remember a specific Youtube video where he battles three different people at one time and roasts them all. Uh, I’ll try to find that out. We’ll try to share that. But that’s another thing when I talk about you in addition to you just being, um, my mentor and the person that I worked for most directly in my life. But you’re also the person that introduced me to the most influential figures of my life. One of them is Toni Basil. Um, Kmel is included on that list. Popin’ Pete is on that list. Really. I got so fortunate in my timing and placement in meeting you that I learned, you know, the studio that I came from, we offered hip hop once a week and it was for an hour and after you change out of your leotard and tights, that’s really like 45 minutes. Um, but I got to LA, fell in love with your style and fell in love with street styles. And then you introduced me to Toni Basil who taught me everything I know about locking. You introduced me to Pete, taught me everything I know about popping and you introduced me and gave me an appetite for freestyling, which is really compounded and made me the dancer that I am today.
Absolutely. It’s a huge part in what you do.
You be roasting fools now.
Um, I have good teachers. We’re gonna say,
Dana: I hope you are digging, getting to know this guy. Marty is clearly a very laid back dude who loves a good story. He is captain cool in conversation and of course in his moves and we talked for a while about his public persona, about him being very friendly but not necessarily very accessible. After all, he is extremely busy working at the top of his field and to add to that list, he’s also a family man and to add to that list, he’s also a super sports enthusiast. We’ll get into that later. Marty was never really one to engage much in the social media sphere until now. He’s been doing daily or at least almost daily IG lives and I do want you to hear about that. Let’s get back into it.
To be honest, the first one I ever did was, was was Lucy, my daughter at a clipper game like years ago. So I had done one before but I’d never done one by myself and Mo and strictly to talk about dance. So it started of course when this quarantine started and I think I started on day one and I missed a couple of days, but I’m trying to do it every day as of now. I never thought I would be doing this in a billion years and I’m really, really enjoying it. You know, we don’t just talk about dance on there. Like I had kmel, on the other day and we were just talking about real life stuff and stuff that we had done back for the day. In the end, people were loving it.
Yeah. Like a peek into your world, right? It’s like this is your house, this is the you, this is unfiltered. This is uncensored. And it’s,
Yeah, it’s, it is. It’s cool. It’s, it’s wild though. Um, I’ve been being brave and being, I haven’t seen a lot of other people doing this and cause whenever I’m on their Instagram, but I, I accept whoever, like if somebody requests me and I don’t know them, I’ll still pick up the request. And I’ve had some couple of funny experiences.
I can only imagine.
It’s been fun. I mean, it’s better than sitting I guess watching TV all day, you know what I mean? So, and another cool thing is I’ve connected with people that I haven’t talked to in like 1520 plus years.
I love this. Yes. It’s amazing the internet is being used for what it was intended to be used for connecting people and solving problems and getting information. Yeah, I’m all about it. Um, one of the things that came up when I popped on your, um, IG live the other day, which reminds me every, uh, Thursday after the podcast comes out, I do an IG live at five. So the podcasts come out, podcasts come out on Wednesday, and then I do a live on Thursday. What’d you doing on Thursday at, uh, at five,
Uh, going on with you, I guess.
Okay. So when I jumped on yours last time we started talking about team WOM. Now for those of you that missed the live team, WOM is a well oiled machine and it consists of Marty, myself, and a few other key players. Marty, can you talk about like what makes the dream team?
Well, my dream team as of now, and it’s been this way for a little bit is me, Dana, AJ, Ivan, and Natalie, um, that’s who I have an intensive called school that is an invite only type of intensive that Dana is a part of of course. And it’s us. Five is the core people. And even, you know, when working on a tour or you know, whatever the job may be, it’s always, it’s not always us five. I alternate as well, depending on what the gig is and what I feel is right for it. Um, we just had a job for Justin where me and Ivan and Aja were part of the production team and Dana was a dancer on it,
Although you, although you wouldn’t really know it, that was a cutting room floor of circumstances. It happened then
And after all that hair. Oh my gosh, so much fake hair. We’ll also, we’ll also be linking to that Video
But you, but you have a great story about it. Such a good story, but yeah, but, but that, that’s my dream team and they, everyone brings something different to that pot and we’re a very well rounded team. And if you look from me, the oldest going down to the youngest, which is it you?
No, I think it might be Ivo actually.
Oh it is Ivo.
Nat is older than me.
So then I will, you know, we cover a bunch of different generations and I feel like that’s something that you have to have it to stay connected and stay relevant in this business.
Good point. If anybody out there is seven years old, we’re looking to fill a slot. Marty and I have questions about tik tok.
We do actually we’d see what’s cool is there is like a un just like with team Roast cause team Roast really is just me, Eddie Morales, kmel, and Lil-C. That’s the original team Roast. But we have an extended family, which all you guys are in of course. I mean, you know, Legacy, Flea rock. We have like a big, you know, a big healthy team. Roast family. Same thing with team WOM. I do have a couple of like seven to eight year olds. I’m sure you do too. At your conventions. Who could help us out?
Oh my gosh. Marty. Easy, young ones are like so capable on the dance front and then also like punctual, respectful. They got a personality. They know how to respond to emails on time. I’m looking at my generation like, come on, y’all step up, let’s go, let’s go communicate. And I, yeah, there are a couple of young people in my life that are very impressive on that front.
On one of my lives the other day. This shout out to @Mattygoogs if you’re listening, he, uh, he’s a little assistant for us on monsters and he hit me up on my live with the question, like speaking professionally, just perfectly written up. I’ve really enjoyed learning from you and getting the chance to assist you in prior cities. But my question to you is, how can I get better assisting this and that? I really want to be able to cater to the T like,
So well-groomed, so well-groomed. Believable. Yeah.
Take note y’all.
Okay. Marty’s team is made up of people who are professional and still very personable. They can be casual because they’re so capable and those are the people that I want to have on my team. In this business, your team is your tribe and your team is super important. But that being said, you are the most important person on your team. So next we’re going to get into Marty’s personal codes of conduct and peek into his process for choreographing the trolls films.
Dana: Um, one of my favorites, sayings slash lessons that I ever learned from you is, um, early is on time, on time is late and late is you’re fired. We’re going to use that. We’re going to use the F word.
Yeah, you could, you could use a couple of different F words there.
Um, what other codes do you live by and do you run your professional world by?
Oh, that’s a good one. Um, this, I don’t know if this quite answers it, but this maybe in a roundabout way, I, and I just said this actually, I got a chance to teach for Rich and Tone They’re intensive, the Rich & Tone Experience . And I caught myself saying this there and I’m gonna kind of repeat it now. Like I, I lately and I haven’t always approached work like this, so even works, this is kind of, some people could say, well that’s contradicting where it’s smarter, not harder, but it’s not to me it’s making me work harder. I’ve been, I like to put pressure on myself, so that’s a, that’s a code that I’m living by these days, whether it be with work, even at, uh, you know, I don’t know at home life sometimes I like to almost procrastinate sometimes on purpose to build up, to have a lot to do. So then whenever it’s time to do it, I can just get it all done. You know what I mean? Like when it comes to work, like my example on the trolls movies, like when the scene comes to us, me and AJ watch a scene just to break down real quick, we see a scene, they tell us what happened in the story before, what happens in the story after. And then obviously we, we’re knowing what’s going on in the scene and then it’s up to me to choose where I want dance and build a scene through dance. So I can do whatever I want pretty much right there. Which is awesome. Crazy to think
That creative freedom is such a gift. That’s great.
It’s such a gift. So you know, obviously I’ve seen the scene a couple of times when we have an initial meeting, but then up until the day that we rehearsed, uh, I don’t watch it. I want to go in the day of, I want to watch it again, like an hour before and then I give. So by this time I have like 45 minutes to prepare something. I’m not going to prepare the whole thing, but to give myself a start and basically I’m putting myself in a corner because I know there’s only so many hours of rehearsal before the powers to be, are going to come in and watch and give us notes and then eventually film it for the movie, so it’s a lot of pressure. But to me, no pressure makes diamonds. Do you know what I mean? And like if you have, if you have no other choice, then you have no other choice.
You have to get it done. And, and up to this point, I’ve never had, knock on wood, I’ve never had not got it done. You know what I mean? Maybe I could have done it better. Sure. But we’re not, we’ll never going to know that and maybe I wouldn’t have maybe what I created because of that pressure is what it’s supposed to be. You know, I’ve already, I have already prepared by listening to the song by knowing what’s going on, you know, and I have seen it so it’s not blind. I’m not an idiot. But you know, it’s, it’s, I don’t, I feel like if I have from that time we have that meeting, if it’s a week before we’re going to do that rehearsal, or if I just only think about that scene, it’s gonna mess me up and the product will not be as good as if I did it the other way.
That’s so interesting. I wonder if part of your, um, cause you love sports. We haven’t talked about that much at all and I probably won’t talk about it much because I’m not a sports person. It’s like I just run out of information pretty quickly, so I’m like, Oh yeah, teams, huh, Ooh,
But I wonder if part of your thrill is like the clock’s running out. Absolutely. You love the thrill of, of, let’s see, I already ran out of sports words, but I wonder if that plays into this a little bit like
A hundred thousand percent. It’s the same thing whenever, whenever I came out here and was auditioning as a dancer, I used to go to auditions like it’s a game, but to me it was, I’m like, yo, I’m ready to roast these fools. Like this is not, they’re my opponents. Like I’m trying to get the job and you know, we can be cool before and after, but I’m going to try to destroy these dudes. Like, and I’m not going to cheer for them. Right. You know, and like do all that crap. Like that’s good in class and that’s good. You know, whatever. But at an addition, you know, I get it, keep the morale up or whatever, but I’m not clapping for you. Like I’m trying to get your job
Right. Imagine that. If you had like opposing sports teams, like cheering each class is incredible. I’ve never considered that metaphor or that perspective for another.
Well, when you were, when you, you were a competitive dancer, like at your, your studio, so when you went out there to compete, did you think that way or were you just like, Oh, I’m just, I just want to do my best or I just want to, or were you like, Oh, I hope we get first place.
I definitely wanted to win. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I love this. The idea that you can audition as a, as a person on a team, you’re like, my team is gonna win and I don’t need to be your friend. Yeah. You’re, you’re your team. Um, that’s very cool. Thank you for sharing that.
Absolutely. I miss that, man. Shoot, the audition process!
Let’s go sometime as soon as auditions happen again.
I would love that. Do you know what the last audition I went to was a Michael Rooneyaudition.
Oh, I think I remember this!
I booked the job, believe it or not.
Yeah, of course you did before
It was for a TV show. As a pilot for some TV show, I forget the name of it. I don’t know if it ever came out, but it was like, you know, this big grand 40 person dance piece, whatever that I was in and like doing turns and stuff. It was pretty awesome.
Oh, I love it. So much
And I was so nervous every time on set because I’m surrounded by all these like technical divas and I’m like, I’m just trying to do a clean, double.
Incredible. So talk about that for a second. How did, because your style really does fuse some jazz elements. Marty, Marty Kudelka, combo I can think of has a swift inside pirouette in it.
I love a good inside pirouette.
Love a good inside pirouette. You’re, you’re also, uh, known for a Rond de jamb every now and then, big fan of, uh, I’m going to save your favorite step for a second. But how did you wind up interfacing with technical dancers growing up?
Um, when I started really teaching a lot at studios, I, I taught a lot. Like I have in my busiest time, I was doing like 25 classes a week for like four years. Four or five years in a row right before I moved to LA and, and that was like nine months out of the year. And um, but so I lived at the studio and I literally like, I mean I had an apartment but my apartment was walking distance to the studio. So I literally spent all my time except sleeping at the studio. So when I wasn’t, weren’t teaching, I would sometimes go in other people’s classes cause I knew it was common sense to me. Like I already knew that this is what I wanted to do and I knew that I would have to learn something at some point. And then we started at the same time we were doing gigs in Dallas and a lot of people who were choreographing those gigs were trained. So every time that I did a job, I would be just a dancer before I started choreographing some of them I was just a dancer in them and I would have to learn, like I learned how to do an axle because of a job I had to do.
And you have a mean axle by the way. I want the listeners to know that I am seeing it. It is strong. I’ve seen it.
It’s a good lasso. I know I can, that’s my go to lasso arm. Axel to the right, which came into handy actually at a Janet audition that I auditioned for on the day of the callbacks, Tina Landonput a freaking axle in there and I couldn’t believe it. And by the way, I’m doing a live with her at some point next week. And I’m going to bring this up to her and thank her because I don’t think I ever have, because literally for that moment I was prepared and, and I remember being in the studio, not the studio that we basically, we got kicked out of the studio and her and her squad like Kelly Konoand Nikki and uh, all her squad at the time, I think Gil? No, no, no. Gil Duldalaowas auditioning. Uh wow. She, yeah, Brian Friedmanwas auditioning like it was that time. Friedman was young young. Yeah, this is a 97. And I remember peeking in the blinds to see if I can peek on what they’re doing in there. And I, as I peek, I see them perfect timing as I look, they do an axle and I’m like, and I’m looking around at like, there was probably like 50 of us left and I knew there was going to be one more cut and I’m looking around at all the other hip hop dudes, you know, cause I’m putting myself in that category and I’m like, I know damn well none of these dudes know how to do this. Like there’s no way. So I’m like, yes. And sure enough a lot of them got cut and then there was only like 20 of us and that
And so that’s, that’s how you got your b-boy name.
B-boy Axel. It’s terrible. It’s pretty funny.
That’s a good story.
I forgot about it.
Dana: Okay. It was really, really cool for me to hear Marty stories about auditioning and his audition mentality. I think that with someone like Marty who’s been at the top of their field for so long, sometimes it’s easy to forget that he hasn’t always been there. He had to climb just like I did just like you do. And I know Marty pretty well, but this was the first time that I got to hear about his audition mentality. It was also cool to hear that even he gets nervous on set, although he certainly doesn’t show it. Next Marty and I get to reminiscing a standout gig and a career highlight for me a performance that you might not have even seen if you are new to the scene. Enjoy
Okay. I want to hear about one of your favorite creative processes. Like talk through
when your favorite, it could be a tour or it could be one specific like show or music video.
Um, let’s see. All right. You know, one that stands out, you a part of it of course was the 2013 video Vanguard awards performance for Justin. Um, so A. It was a big deal because it was a lot of time. Normally you only get to do, you know, like three minutes max. Um, no matter who you are. So we knew that this was going to be, they didn’t give us a time at first, but they knew, we knew it was going to be anywhere from like 12 to 20 minutes, somewhere around there. So actually, I actually, I think the reason that’s that number stood out to me, I believe the reason why is because I think they actually did say that they’ll give us 12 in the beginning. And I think our first music edit was like 21 minutes. So we were like, well, We’re gonna have to like, yeah, let it begin. And then it ended up being like 16 and some change, I believe. And so that was a good, happy medium. And I feel like we won that battle and it was like seven seconds longer than Michael Jackson performance, his video vangaurd award. So we felt like we won that battle. But that’s part of the creative process is having to have these talks like, which, by the way, where we talked preproduction for like two and a half months before and on all these calls where it’s all the MTV people, right? Sure. Uh, the, um, you know, the lighting people, the, all the production team, the management, the record label people, and then me, um, it was always just me and like you and AJ y’all didn’t, y’all weren’t part of these calls yet. Like, um, right. Like now I have AJ do more of the email stuff cause I just can’t stand it anymore. And um, I hate it. I really hate it. But anyways, um, but all these talks go in and Justin’s not even on the phone. So I’m basically having to like relay all this important information to him and then we talk about it, then I go back to them and then talk about it and negotiate more about that, like everything. So that’s a big part of the process. But then also he had the idea of, yeah, why don’t we bring N’Sync back together for a little thing? And, um, I thought it was a joke and I was like, no way, you’re not going to do that. And he’s like, why not? And I’m like, well, yeah, I’m asking you why not? Like, why don’t you, he’s like, well, I think I will. And then he did. And then we did, which created another thing. And, and by the way, this is all happening while we’re doing a tour with Jay Z called Legends of Summer That tour was, uh, like a two month tour and that was going on while we were planning this. So we were having to deal with, uh, another ongoing job as things change when the tour is going, but while doing this. So, most of it was like, I remember being in hotels having to be on these conference calls and then yada, yada, yada. But then another big part is now that we know NSYNC going to be there, you know, then it goes. And how much time did they get? What songs did they do? What choreography do they do, do they do choreography, these kinds of things. So then we started putting it together. At the same time, we’re, me and Justin are getting on the phone with Adam Blackstone, the musical directors to figure out how to cut down these, this music. So then, okay we got to take this out and it’s not just taking out a song. Cause then if it’s taken out a song, did that piece have choreography? Transitions? Its gotta make sense musically but also choreographically and direction wise. And then okay now we know that we’re going to go all over the arena was our idea. So then, and I forgot how that idea first came about but Justin just likes to always move. He doesn’t like to be stagnant. So we, I think it was maybe we, we saw the game plan and they said which stage do you want to use type of thing. And we said, uh, all of them and maybe can you build us a couple extra ones? And so then we have to figure out, it’s just a big math problem. Figure out, okay what goes where or does it make sense? Can he survive doing this? Cause if you really watch like that dude was all over that arena. So then once you kind of have that in place, then you have to go back. And there was a, the biggest discussion was we didn’t want to start inside the arena. We wanted to show him with us walking into the venue. But you’re in Brooklyn, New York, and that creates a bunch of permits and this and legal things and what you can and can’t do, where you can shoot, why you can’t do that. All these things. I’m sure you had to deal with this with In the Heights a billion, you know, so you, these are the talks that take the most time. So figuring out what’s possible. Eventually we figured, you know, then we, there was talks about getting off the subway that’s connected to that then, but then you have to go outside. So no, so we can shoot in the subway but we, and then we can jump inside but we can’t shoot the segway in between. That doesn’t make sense. So then we ended up having to shoot it inside to make it look like we kind of just came from outside. So there’s all these talks. Finally we get all that in place and then there’s, well, where are we going to rehearse? Because we have to keep this a secret because of the NSYNC thing. So nobody knew. None of the MTV, not Hamish the director. Nobody knew. Not even you guys as dancers knew. At First, I don’t think maybe you knew
I did know because insert my career highlight of a moment you asked me to rehearse them. Um, I am 33 now, which means at the height of NSYNC, I was also at the height of NSYNC. I was like a huge fan. I had everything they ever did recorded on a VHS and I would watch it, I would study it. I knew all the moves. And I remember one day after rehearsing with them, um, Joey asked if he could film me doing it and he would rehearse watching me. And then Lance was like, Oh yeah, me too. And then JC, of course, YO, JC works so hard. He was, he was like the ultimate most focused. And so, uh, I had the most surreal moment of my damn life when all of the NSYNC members were filming me doing their moves so that they could learn from watching me on video. I was like, you have no idea how backasswords this is because for my entire adolescence, it was the other way around. It was such a wild ride.
Yeah, I remember that day. I remember them all doing that.
Yeah. And we were in, okay. So back to your point about keeping this super under wraps where we had high school gymnasium or some rec center or some sort?
No, we were in the back of a theater.
Why were we in Florida?
We were in, we were in Miami because the legends of the summer tour, the last date was in Miami on a Saturday night. And then he actually had a concert in that theater that we performed in. We performed in the rehearsal space behind the theater, but he had a, uh, you know, he liked to do show after the show. He had a show after the show that Saturday night. And then we had a day off on this Sunday and Miami. And then we started rehearsals there. That’s why we had it in Miami because we were already gonna be there. Justin and I, and we could have a day off in Miami and then fly all you guys there and we start on that Monday in Miami. And because we rehearsed in LA, people would find out about the NSYNC thing. Like what studio could we go to that would, that could be kept secret. Somebody’s gonna talk. Right. You know what I mean? So we in New York, same thing like especially everyone’s going to be rehearsing there cause that’s where the BMS are. So Miami kinda made sense and I loved it. Didn’t you have fun there?
I did have fun. There we went out a couple times.
Yeah. I think that we should always rehearse in Miami. Absolutely. Another cool, cool thing about this, just a little, a little nugget is that um, it was kept such a secret that all five dudes in NSYNC, they all stayed at different hotels, had different transportation of course. And they all came at like scheduled different times to rehearsal. So they weren’t all showing up at the same time. Like it was like a whole secret like service type of thing, which was really cool to be a part of. And I think we kept it from the other dancers like you knew. And maybe
Where is that footage? I know you’ve been releasing some,
I have that footage. I put part of it up of the first section y’all are in.
Oh man. There’s some nice nice moments in there.
Yeah, yeah. But, but, but that was a cool thing just having like I remember the day that they came in NSYNC where and all the dancers finally got to know and we ran it for them or whatever and they got to see what we were doing. And that was such a cool day, man. That’s history.
David Moore was so hype. He was so excited.
And I let David dance in front of NSYNC.
That’s right. He was there. He was there. He was their leader. Um, I will definitely link to that performance cause it is a forgotten gem. That is such a, that’s history. Good call. Um, also in there, I think you just revealed the closing chapter of work smarter, not harder. And that is, remember everything you have a steel trap of a memory that makes, you know, all of the listening in the world doesn’t mean anything if you can’t remember it. So whatever your method is, method is, if it’s having great assistants or keeping good notes or just being Marty, which means your memory is foolproof. Um, then that like, that is such a huge, huge, important part of, of being able to work smart.
Yeah. Um, I mean I think it’s, I don’t think I have some like special memory. I think I have like a selective memory. I think that’s what you have to do is like if you, if it’s something that you think you might need to know and remember, then try to figure out a way to remember that. You know what I mean? Like, you know how bad I am with birthdays. Like I’m the worst at birthdays and I’m really bad with people’s names. Um, once I know it and then the people’s names, then I w- I don’t forget, but I’m really bad if I just meet you once or twice. It’s really hard for me. And I think part of that is almost like, I want you to make me remember who you are. You know what I mean? Like I will make me want to know you type of thing. Where a birthday. I’m kind of like, I don’t need to know that because some, somebody gonna to remind me, you know, someone’s going to be talking about it or I’m going to see nowadays especially I’m gonna see an Instagram post and I’m going to go, Oh, I’m going to hit up that person before I forget, you know,
Cross out everything. Definitely don’t remember everything. Remember important things important. Absolutely. That’s that. Um, and on that note,I think, I think we’d wrap it up. Is there anything that we, I think we could easily go round to for the record and I’m excited about going a little deeper into some of these topics on our IG live on Thursday at five. Um, but I’m just so grateful at you being in my life and at you sharing all of this. The insight is priceless. It really, truly is. So thank you for doing it.
Thanks for having me. This was fun. Let’s do it again Thursday.
It’s been awhile since we took the dog out.
Where’s this dog going
To the pound.
Where’s this dog going?
To the bank.
We’re just all going logging out of our zoom conference right now by Marty. Thank you so much.
I hope you smiled. I hope you laughed and I hope you enjoyed reading the ways that Marty works smarter, not harder. I’ve been learning from Marty for years and I got a lot out of this episode. It had so many great reminders to look, listen, freestyle, and remember the important stuff. Oh, and laugh a lot. If you don’t already have a full page of notes on this episode, I want you to grab some paper and brainstorm the ways that you can work smarter, not harder. And at the bottom of that page, leave yourself some space and ask yourself for three ways that you can make sure to laugh more today than you did yesterday. And with that, my friends, I will bid you. Adieu. Adieu? I’ll bid adieu Thank you so much for listening, everybody. Stay safe. Stay soapy and keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, thedanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a word member. So kickball, change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast Learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 everybody and welcome to episode 17. I’m jazzed about it as usual. Um, in episode 16 I mentioned, well, I promised, I think that April’s podcasts would all be about bringing the joy, the silly, the bright, the creative. Um, and this episode is exactly that, but it is in disguise. This episode is about processing the darker side of the emotional spectrum. Sadness, stillness, anger, grief, anxiety, depression. Yes. All of those guys. And it’s really about coming out on the other side of them naturally without forcing anything. So thanks for joining me. Are you excited or what? Uh, before we dig into it though, of course, let’s do some wins this week. I have a handful of wins. I’m going to try not to say cooking again cause that’s what I said last week. I’m becoming way more comfortable in the kitchen and I’ve had some really killer dinners and leftovers. So I’m counting that as a win privately, secretly, and also now publicly. Okay fine. I’ll just call it a win. But I also want to shout out the handful of dance studios that I’ve been working with, eh, in the form of some digital support. Um, Dance ImpressionsMichelle Latimer Dance Academy and Cary Dance You guys have been so much fun to work with. I’m absolutely counting you and your students among my wins for the week. I’m just learning so much about, uh, transferring my syllabus and my teaching style into a different mode, different platform. Ultimately a different process and process is what we are talking about this week. So very appropriate. Um, let us, Oh, sorry. My bad. Let me give you your moment. Hit me with your wins. Say ’em out loud. It’s really important. Go.
Okay, great. If you need more time, please don’t let me stop you. Just hit pause. Keep going with your wins. It’s very important that you do that.
Okay. So the word process has been coming up a lot lately. Um on the podcast, I talk a lot about creative process and um, it’s also been coming up in like casual conversations. People saying things like, I don’t know, I’m still processing. Another example, the SBA, uh, assessing my application for the PPP, paycheck protection program. So fingers are crossed for that. Um, here’s another fun one that I heard recently. Uh, how long should I let this color process? Oh my God, I miss my hairdresser. Hehe, uh, yes, maybe you shouldn’t be, um, processing your own hair, doing your own color or cutting it. Just a thought. There are certain things that really ought to be left to the professionals and trust me in the COVID moment, we’re all experiencing new in terms of life and also our hair. I’m just going to encourage that you accept it for what it is and process that. Oh, also, here’s a fun game. Speaking of process, keep track of the number of times I say process in this episode and then do that many pushups per day starting now, whatever day it is, uh, for like the rest of the month or a month from now. And um, just go ahead and see how shredded you become. Look out beach bod. Even if it’s not for a year that you see a beach again, you’ll be ready for it when the day does come. Okay. So starting now it’s process time. So the word process when used as a noun means according to Merriam Webster, a usually fixed or ordered series of actions or events that lead to a result. Okay. Well this explains sort of the creative process in my mind. It’s something that moves forward or occasionally spirals. Um, but it’s always moving. And at the end there is a result. There’s this thing, whether it’s a show or a step or a film or you, you get the, gist in the last two episodes, I have talked to the seaweed sisters a little bit about the secrets of our process, which include saying yes, and to any idea. Um, and I also talked to Kat Burns in the last episode, which was 16. So let’s see, Seaweeds were 15. Kat Burns was 16, and Kat talked a lot. How processes differ depending on the format, um, or the medium, whether it’s scripted TV, a stage show or an improv show. Um, and honestly, if you haven’t listened to those episodes, go check those out. Some really golden nuggets in there. But long story short, every project and every person will have a slightly different creative process. So millions, so many different creative processes.
All right, so when used as a verb process means to refine or rectify or even to clarify, to me, it evokes this idea of sitting with something and chewing on it, digesting it until it’s gone. So that’s sort of a difference that gets stirred up in my mind. A creative process results in something, it leaves something at the end versus a process of refinement or clarifying results in having something completely digested. And then it either goes away or turns into something else completely. So there are probably as many forms of processing emotions as there are creative processes. It’s likely that everyone has their own way or even that their way might change over time or that they’ll use a combination of different ways to deal with different things. And I’m just fascinated by that. A handful of those styles of processing might include journaling or as I like to call it a thought download, which is where I try to just stream of consciousness dump whatever is in my brain. It goes through my arm and my hand and lands on a page or on a pixel via a keyboard or pen. Um, but there’s also therapy counseling, you know, talking to somebody. And then there’s also DMT or dance movement therapy, which is made up of countless techniques and exercises that are designed to ultimately create awareness of mind and body. I will be very clear, I am not a dance movement therapist. I use dance to tell stories. I use dance to make money and yes, sometimes I dance explicitly for fun. Occasionally I dance as therapy when I’m feeling down in the dumps as I’m sure several of us have, right? Oh and I am learning by the way that dance crying is actually a thing. Literally dancing up all the feels and then dancing them out via tears from your eyes. I love this concept and I really, really love the thought that the more aware we are of our minds and our bodies and the sensations within them, the more able we are to watch and regulate them and even generate new ones, right? Like new feelings in our body. We can control them, make decisions about them and our emotional experience of the world is effected. My job and a huge part of my life revolves around being in touch with my body and controlling it, being deliberate with its movements and using it to get a job done to craft shapes and phrases that convey emotion or information to give form to feelings to exteriorize the interior. That is my jam. That is what I do. Now, It’s the third week of April and I’ve been distancing since March 6th I have been regulating and controlling and deciding the crap out of my daily life. Are you ready for this? Okay. I coach on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I film new combos to send to studios on Saturdays. Sundays are seaweed sister sessions followed by deep household cleaning. Then I look at finances on money. Monday I do curbside produce pickup on Tuesday podcasts are Wednesdays, IgG live at five on Thursdays. All the food prep, all the dance classes, all the laundry are happening every day. And I also journal and I stretch daily. Whoa. So I really thought that I was processing these new circumstances along with all of my feelings pretty well. I seems to have found a schedule that appeared to be productive and fulfilling. Oh, but boy, spoiler alert, I certainly wasn’t processing, not all of it. Anyways, how did I find out that I wasn’t, Oh well, as you might imagine on a rainy day, the fourth in a row, I mind you, I had a breakdown, a full blown adult tantrum where hot water poured from my eye holes. And this tantrum was actually the good part. By the way. The water pouring out of my eyes was the release. It was the moment before that was actually super tough. The quiet before the storm, we’ll call it.
That was the moment where I was feeling heavy, slow, foggy, vapid, guilty, just gross. You name it. Dark end of the spectrum. I was feeling it. I tried to motivate myself up out of it. Go, go make up a new combo. I tried, my moves were lame. I stopped. I tried to write a new podcast, but my ideas were mangled and mushy, kind of half formed, gross. I stopped, I tried to make food. It was gross. Oh, you better believe I ate it anyways. And then I felt gross and then I stopped. I just felt stopped. All of it felt pretty stopped. I felt stuck like so many of us probably felt or are currently feeling and for a person who moves for a living, for a self-proclaimed movement master feeling stuck feels pretty awful. Now by default, I’m a person that’s a pretty positive thinker, captain, bright side, Susie sunshine. Like that is how I like to live my life. But I do believe that my life will round out with a natural distribution of emotions like 50% of the time I’ll be good or better. And then the other 50% of the time I’ll be sub good or bad or occasionally awful. Now for the record, I have no scientific evidence to back up that that’s actually how my life will round out. But I have a feeling that if you did analysis on like the past five years of my journals, you’d find some plot points that you could put on a graph and you’d probably be left with a pretty good looking bell-curve. So as I sat there feeling these awful things, I was sitting way at the tail end of my bell curve. I got on the phone for some coaching and this is what I asked my coach. I asked, how do you know when to sit with yourself and your big, ugly, deep dark thoughts? And when do you coach yourself out of it? When do you coach yourself off the ropes? When do you let captain bright side shake some sense into you? Well, here’s what my coach said, and by the way, let’s pause for the cause for a second because there are a lot of different coaches and styles of coaching. Now, there are the types that will break you down to build you up. And then there are the types that will give this air of being almighty all knowing, omnipotent, like they, they know you better than you know yourself and they know the answer to your question even before you know what you’re even asking. Yeah, those are not my coaches. My coaches honor me exactly as I show up. However, broken or built that may be, depending on the day and my coaches helped me see in myself a way that gives me the power to answer my own questions or to make my own decisions. So that’s the type of coaching I’m going in for right here.
So I asked my coach, how do I know how long I should sit with a negative feel? How do I know when it’s time to regulate and step in and do the self coaching or when is it time to move? Like move yourself out of it. Of course she didn’t answer. Instead she asked, okay, what exactly is this negative feel that you’re feeling? And the first word that came to my mind was stuck. I feel stuck. And she said, “okay, whereinyourbodydoyou feelstuck?” And I said, after a little bit of checking in and thinking I had a feeling she might be expecting like my heart or my throat or my forehead, which are all totally acceptable answers to where do you feel stuck? But I genuinely like I felt it everywhere. I felt it inside my body, every inch of it. I felt it in my blood and she was unfazed by this. Uh, she was a stonewall. She was like, “okay, great. Let’s talk more about your blood.” Which is so funny to say out loud right now, but it was a perfectly reasonable question in that moment. She asked, “what color is your blood?” And I was like, you know, close my eyes and really try to visualize my stuck blood. And I decided that it’s definitely gray but not even like a full, beautiful, deep, dark rich gray but like gray at 50% opacity, like puny, sad, weak gray. And then she said, “all right, got it. Okay, so, um, is your 50% opacity gray blood? Is it moving? Does it have motion to it?” And I said, no, it is definitely still, it is what is stuck. It is the thing that is like freezing up like concrete. And she’s like, “okay, great, great, great. So tell me more about your 50% opacity, concrete blood.” And I just kept explaining the image, my made up idea of what my blood looked like and moved like inside my body. And at a certain point all that digging in was starting to make me tense. So instead of just feeling stuck, I was now feeling tight and I said, man, my now my skin feels too tight right now. I’m really tense. And she said, “Ohgood, tell me about your skin.” And I said, it’s, it’s brittle. And she was like, “okay, okay, how else does it feel? Does it have movement?” And it was like, no, no, it’s, it’s too pulled tight to have movement. And she says, “okay, well how is it normally?” And I thought for a second, and I said, I think it’s normally kind of like a plum. You know what? I remember the book To Kill a Mockingbird. I think that’s where I got this from. I think there’s an explanation of skin in that book where they, uh, Harper Lee explained skin as like the skin of a plum. Like it’s supple. It would peel back if it got snagged, but my skin was definitely not that. So as my coach kept asking me to explain my skin, I was coming up with ideas like it’s not definitely not a plum, it’s more like a grapefruit, like thick, porous and, and, and instead of housing a grapefruit, my grapefruit skin is trying to contain a watermelon. And then she said, “okay, good. Let’s go back to your blood. How’s your blood doing?” I was like, are you kidding me? Okay. All right, fine. Was talking about my blood some more. I’m explaining my blood, I’m getting emotional. Then she says, all right, how’s your skin feeling? I’m like, it’s tight. It’s too tight. And she’s like, okay, let’s go back to the blood. Has the blood doing. So we, long story short, we bounced back and forth between talking about my concrete blood that was now bubbling to my grapefruit skin that’s trying to contain a watermelon. And then she asked one last time, how’s your blood? And I said, well, it’s not stuck anymore. The stuck was gone and it was replaced by, you know, blubbering hot waterfall of other emotions. But stuck was definitely gone. So the answer to my question, how do you know how long you should sit with the negative fields? Well, sit with them, be with them, experience them deeply until they’re gone. The answer to my question, when is it time to move yourself out of it is it’s time to move into it. The only way out of it is through it. And the answer to my question, when is it time to regulate? Oh, the answer to that is it’s not time to regulate. It’s time to process. So the next time you’re experiencing life on the downside of the bell curve, stop, look and listen. There’s a good song for that to your body and process. Now the process that I used talking about my, um, now the process that I used revolved really heavily around my awareness of the sensations in my body and my imagination. I mean, come on. Gray, half opacity, concrete blood, grapefruit skin. I mean what an imagination. That is like A plus super kindergartener type style of imagination. This process means giving a color, giving emotion, giving texture, and giving names to this sensation in your body, like to a high degree of detail over and over and over again. And that process might really resonate with you, especially if you’re a dance type that checks in with your body regularly. But it also may not resonate with you. It might not be your style of processing emotions, but it was hugely effective and profoundly moving for me. So I had to share it. My interest and curiosity in, um, we’ll call it mind meets body processing is absolutely peaking. So you better believe I will be getting into, uh, some DMT and other processes for processing emotions in the upcoming weeks and months and probably years. So take a second to think about it for yourself. How do you process emotions? How do you process the events of your life? I would love to hear how you do it. You can message me on the gram @danadaners or you can send me a message via the contact page on my website, which is theDanawilson.com.
All right, my friend, I hope that that um, glimpse at my process for processing emotions gets you thinking about how you process yours. Um, then that is it for today. Thank you so much for listening. Stay safe. Say Whoa. Stay safe, stay soapy and keep it funky.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, the Dana wilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a wards that moved me members, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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, hello. Hello. How are you doing? How’s everybody? Man, if you are like me, then these days are going by so quickly. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s, I’m just being inside and so many days are the same. Um, maybe it’s that I’m filling my schedule every minute of it. Uh, but it’s strange, this sensation of time passing and standing still all at the same time. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. Um, this episode, ah, I’m so excited for it. I’m so excited for you to listen to my guest today. Kat Burns. She’s one of my favorite well people period, but also one of my favorite choreographers and she shares so much, um, tremendously valuable insight in this episode. I’m jazzed about it. Uh, but before that, of course we have to do a quick round of wins. My win this week is that I am becoming a person, day by day, meal by meal. Uh, I am becoming a person that is confident in the kitchen. I’m having more fun and I’m having more creative freedom in the kitchen. And I think that’s a win. It’s something that for me has always been a kind of point of insecurity. Um, my husband traditionally is the cook of the household and I’m having so much fun, uh, exploring a bit, really digging that. Okay, so now you go, what’s going well in your world?
You might need a little bit more time. So I encourage you to pause right here if you’re really, really winning, which I really, really hope you are. Um, but this episode is just, it’s something else we gotta get to it. We’re jumping in. Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Kat Burns.
Dana: Yes. Kat Burns. Welcome to the podcast.
Yeah! Oh, I love wees and woo hoos and yeas, it feels so good. Just smile and I cannot not smile when I, I think Kat Burns. So welcome to the podcast. Introduce yourself for those who may not know who you are, those fools,
Kat: Those nincompoops! Um, people call me Kat burns. I’m Kathryn, uh, Kathyrn Burns, AKA, you know, Kat Burns is my like cool choreo alias. I suppose that that is just kind of taken over. And I’m a choreographer mostly for scripted comedies.
Nice. Um, I really love intro asking people to introduce themselves because it’s sometimes a different story than what the bio would read. Um, uh, your bio leads with, and I think it should, your Emmys your double. Is it two?
It’s two, right. She’s a two timer.
She’s sure. Just a two timer, a measly two time Emmy winner. Um, and I do think it’s, it’s cool to like acknowledge the wins, but it’s also speaks a lot to you that you do not lead with the accolades, but rather with the work itself. And I love your body of work. I love it so much. I love it. Primarily because it’s funny, but also because it’s diverse. Um, can you talk a little bit about the range of work that you do and what is the difference between a digital or scripted format or you do also a lot of live work. I know you came up through UCB, like what is the difference really truly when it comes to choreography between all those different formats.
Oh goodness. Well I appreciate your kind words cause you know, I’m a huge fan of yours and I believe I introduced myself on a street corner and I was like, Hi. Hi. You guys are awesome. Do you want to do my UCB show? And you’re like, okay, great.
I recall, I recall. It’s so funny. I do recall, I recall because I, well it was a seaweed sisters related, um, acknowledgement and the seaweed sisters, uh, Jlilian Meyers, Megan Lawson and myself, we don’t get recognized outside of dancers very often. Um, and when we were not in a dance studio setting, we were literally on the street corner. Uh, so it, it made me feel like, Oh my God, pay attention. This is happening. You guys this, the seaweed sisters, are a thing, we’re being recognized.
It’s like five years ago, I want to say.
Yeah, it was a while back. Yeah. Oh, cool. Um, so thank you. Thank you for your fandom. We can, this is a safe place where we can absolutely be gushing over each other. So don’t let it stop. Um, but I am so curious about the different, um, uh, places that your work lives.
Yeah. So there’s, it’s a, it’s a multi folded, I was gonna say two fold, but it’s uh, you know, lots of folds type an origami fold of answers if you will. Um, I, I think what’s really fun about working scripted comedy or scripted in general is that the choreography is always dependent on the scene. And so by default I’ve been able to hire a lot of experts in a specific genre and then play within story, but still making it proper. Um, and so whether it be like a tango or a musical theater, traditional dance in the street vibe, or a tap dance or a fill in the blank, or even just like specifics that are funny or trying to make, like one of the tricky things was trying to make ’em like a viral video. Like, you know how like video or people like quote unquote dancing bad. Why? What’s the tipping point? Like why is it popular? I need to like recreate those moments as a choreographer when you have two people, it’s like the note was like, it’s too good, it’s too good. And I’m like, it’s not, it’s just like when you have two people dancing together in unison, it’s automatically going to seem more better, more, better. Just the word I like to use because it’s like, I don’t like to say something’s bad. I like to say it can be more better.
It can be more and better and you are the more better maker. Um, I think part of that recipe is definitely accessibility. Like you don’t want to choreograph steps that only a trained dancer could do. So it’s like every, every man dance. Um, and do you do a good job at choreographing dance on a normal non dancing type characters?
I like to call them dance enthusiasts.
Dance enthusiasts. That’s way kinder than what I call them. I call them, I call them normies.
Normies that’s cute.I just think Norm McDonald dancing. When you say normies.
Many Norm McDonald’s. Normies plural. Um, uh, so how many episodes of television would you say you have choreographed to take a ballpark for me?
Well, I actually did a show a year ago celebrating a hundred, cause I was like, when I graduated college, people are like, what’s your dream job? And I said I wanted to choreograph for TV and film, but I have no idea how to do it. And you know, I had to celebrate that because I was like, I guess I figured it out. Yeah, you did. And so well sometimes you’ve got to celebrate a little milestones cause we can be so hard on ourselves on a daily basis that we’re not doing enough or creating enough or being disciplined enough or right.
Girl, I am here for celebrating. Actually I just started a new podcast habit. I start every episode with wins. Were I just talk a little bit about what’s going well.
That’s awesome. I used to have a thing where I would keep champagne in the fridge cause there was always going to be a reason to celebrate.
Yes, I am about that life. And now since we’re in lockdown you’re going to need to keep at least five cause you can’t be leaving. The house as often.
Um, okay. So let’s back up a teeny tiny bit. You mentioned after college when they asked you that question and you answered, I want to choreograph TV and film but you didn’t know how, what was your next step?
Uh, well it was more of like that’s a, that’s a fantasy job that doesn’t really exist
Or not for you.
Right. Uh, so I worked in post-production for years and thought I could use my degree and be an editor and I worked in post houses and like lob dailies and patched digie betas, for recording. Like lobbied editor’s reels over and was just like in the machine room learning about editing and the more responsibility I got, the more anxious I got. But I started, you know, I studied film in college and Mmm. So I was already doing that. And then, you know, you talked about the difference between scripted and stage and then I started at UCB right when they opened their doors pretty much like I was working next door at the clothing shop, um, when they went door to door to meet their neighbors and I was like changing and I stuck my foot out and I was like, “I’ll be right with you!” and my mom was in town and was like, “Hi, welcome to Native.” I was like, “she doesn’t work here. I’ll be right out”. And,
And they were like, you’re in.
And they were like, you’re funny, you should take internships. And I was like, great. And then I just started being a part of that community, like from the ground floor. And so I learned the art of choreographing for a script in a way to like heighten the joke without distracting. And I was already, I’d got a dance agent. I was taking Aisel’s hip hop class. Yes. After like six months of living in LA. So I got the agent, I was dancing sporadically doing like show girly type musical theater, tall girl jobs and realized quickly that I was much taller than everyone else in LA.
Tiny. We’re all micro types. Yeah.
They move so fast? How did they get down to the floor and in one count, tiny legs. Tiny legs. Yeah. I was like, I still have my bevel. You know, you gotta have a sensible walk and a good bevel if you’re tall.
Oh, you ma, you have to have a sensible bevel no matter what I would argue. But definitely if you’re tall. Um, okay. I wa I want to branch in a hundred different directions. I am taking notes.
Uh, but I very frazzled. I didn’t even answer your first question.
I’m pretty sure you did. We talked a little bit about formats and the places that your work lives, which is on 160 episodes of television primarily, right. But also on stages because you do that.
Yeah. And I just did a musical here in LA and I, I’ve done like comedy musicals and LA, uh, which obviously like stage is, is much more collaborative I think is the biggest difference. You have the writers in the room sometimes or you have the director in the room and you have the actors in the room and you have time and you’re playing and you’re creating, I mean obviously like a, the UCB schedule is like, learn it, do it, done. It’s very quick.
And that’s the point.
Yeah. Yeah. Your dress rehearsals off in the performance cause no one’s getting paid and to learning learning curve. But I just did this musical with a wonderful New York team. The musical was called Found and we did it at, um, it’s, Iama Theater Company ’s musical. It was our first ever done at the LA Theater Group. And it, got closed, you know, three weeks before it was supposed to finish. It was New York team. Um, and they were so collaborative and awesome and I was like, Oh, this is what process is, you get to actually create in a room with creatives. Yes. Often on television schedules. You’re often trying to get into the minds of creatives. Like you’re each department heads given a specific ask very, very quickly and within like a 10 minute or less creative conversation, you have to then go off and do your work, present it, change it on the fly if it needs to be changed and be like, this is what I think you want. And from all your references, ID do deduced yeah. Anyways, This was the dance pretty much.
Um, ah, okay. That’s fascinating. So a difference between stage and film being, the amount of time you have and the people that are part of these creative conversations.
Everyone’s process is different. I mean, I think a lot of choreographers, and this also totally depends on the budget of the show they give. It has a budget for rehearsals and the choreographer can have a skeleton crew. They can kind of like massage the choreography and change it and get it to a way and have a few days and have a process. But if you’re like, hi, hired for two days, you have one day of rehearsal, slash prep, slash casting, slash creative slash, whatever, and the next thing you know is you’re on set trying to like leave this dance with a bunch of people you just met. You’re also trying to figure out their personalities and how not to step on toes, but also do your dance, be professional, be fast, pleasant and you know, protect the dance and protect the dancers but also serve the story and serve the process of that. That is making television.
Okay. I had to jump out right there because that’ll just happen real, real fast and I want to make sure that you all caught all of that. Kat just gave a lightspeed masterclass in what it means to be a choreographer. Yes, we decide what the dance is, but then we must lead the dance or teach the dance and occasionally that’s to people that we’ve never met. We have to navigate so many personalities, not just the dancers, but the entire teams. Then we have to protect the dancers, of course, meaning looking out for their working conditions and making sure they’re taking breaks and well taken care of, et cetera. But also we’ve got to be fast and I mean we don’t have to be, but it really helps if you’re pleasant or easy to get along with. And then of course there’s the whole serving the story and serving the big machine that makes the TV show or the stage show or the music video or the fill in the blank. I think it’s super important to remember, especially for the young aspiring choreographers that being a choreographer means so much more than making up the steps. Okay. Let’s get back into it. Kat and I talked about the many hats that she wears, the many jobs that she’s had and the thoughts that led her to become an Emmy winning choreographer.
Dana: What was the, um, what was the step or the chase or the kickball change that took you from editing room to, uh, dance studio or choreography, I guess?
Um, I was always that kid that did a million things so differently. Like when I was young. It was like suck or student dadadada that every dance class imaginable. I was always booked, right. Like I my and I would like highlight all of my times that like college thing happened and I’d be idea as an adult to just do one thing stressed me out and made me so anxious. I felt like I was making like, like signing a death sentence of being like I’m going to do this for the rest of my life and I was super scared. Um, so I think a lot of times I just did a bunch of side jobs. Just that I wasn’t working towards a career necessarily. Like I went, I went, I went to college. I thought state school was supposed to be the thing that you do. And I was like such a rule follower that I had a hard time listening to myself and people were like, I remember like the advice being like what do you think about when you’re at a stoplight? I was like, Oh like I’m always making up things in my head. And even when I was like bored at concerts, I would just zone out cause I’m like, no one’s dancing. This is boring. And I would like choreograph something in my head and I would feel better. And I just realized if I wasn’t dancing or moving, I was sad. I honestly feel that a lot currently with what we’re going through and like I’ll feel such an angst for the world and my heart would be so heavy. And then all, I’ve been just dancing in my studio for hours on end because it’s the only thing that makes me feel relief and joy. Um, so I, I think, I think I, I worked in posts, I thought I wanted to be an editor. I had a million side jobs, I was a paramount page. And then I would like work at a steak house. And like I served, well when I first graduated college I thought I was going to be a Rockette. I made it through all of the, the cuts and stuff and then they just never called.
Well, I’m so glad they didn’t because we got to have you instead. I get that dream though. Oh my gosh. And that audition process is brutal. Congratulations. Holy smokes.
What was my first professional audition ever, ever. And then at the end of the audition, um, this is the second day, they’re taking all my measurements and I said, “I just wanted to let y’all know this was my first audition and you were so nice. Oh really? Oh, is it? Okay.” I had a four by six picture. I just didn’t know. I went to the University of Missouri. I didn’t do like, I never went to New York for a summer or anything. I had never taken from like professionals ever. Actually.
I love this. That’s such a great example of all the grooming in the world doesn’t ensure that you will get your foot in the door and at the same time you can be totally ungroomed and come through the side door or the back door and do phenomenally well.
Yeah, I mean, I envy people that had all this, this massive education and like mine was just like the local dance studio or the dance team. And that was that. And I just was always dancing in my room. Or like at the time it was recording VHS is and learning the dances of Britney Spears, you know, or whatever, studying for exams while watching Cats, the VHS recording of the Broadway show.
All right. Jumping out again this time I had to do it because I think it’s very, very interesting that the thought of doing one thing made Kat anxious and propelled her into doing so many seemingly odd jobs that really stands out to me because to so many people, there’s contentment in doing one thing and having one career and having their job. I think that a lot of people out there would actually feel anxious at the thought of doing all the many things that Kat did from serving steaks and working retail to working as a paramount page, um, pages by the way. Uh, give tours and direct guests and do a great number of tasks on the paramount lot. Um, but dang, she, she even worked in an editing bay. I guess what’s so special to me about Kat and about her journey is that at least from the outside looking in, all of those experiences gave or refined the skills that made her a great choreographer. Yes. Like the dance, the passion, the love of movement and moving has always been there for her. It always brought tremendous joy. But what brought success was the combination of that love of dance plus her many, many unique skills and experiences. Let’s jump back in and hear about the one moment. Well, the one heartbreak that changed the way Kat thought about being a choreographer.
It took a heartbreak. Uh, I was with, I was with someone for eight years, my whole entire twenties, and when that ended, I was so heartbroken that I had no choice but to make myself happy. And that was after I’d been doing UCB classes. I liked dance at Christmas times. I had like dance gigs and I was still doing a million jobs. But there was something about that timing that I was so desperately sad. Like, he kind of was my whole life and when that ended I was like, it was a very clear change of thought. I had been doing this musical that I choreographed and was in called Freak dance the dirtiest forbidden boogaloo at UCB and Matt Besser wrote it, And the premise is whoever dares dance the nastiest wins. And it was like a spoof of all the dance flicks and like the white girl learns how to be poor so she can be a good dancer they lose the community center and then they have to do this dance battle and they make just enough money to win back the community center, yada yada.
I’m so glad that exists.
We did it every Friday for two and a half years at UCB and then one day they were like, we’re making this into a movie. And we all thought we would get replaced by everyone bigger and better. The only person that got replaced was the 20 year old playing the mom and she was replaced by Amy Poehler. So like that makes sense. Um, and right around the time of this breakup, I was filming this movie and they had asked me to like storyboard, what some of the dance numbers would look like. And I was like, I’m not an artist, but I knew it. And there was, there was a something called Work that Butt, and I was like, well, what if there was like a butt flower from overhead? And I was like, butts coming in at like an encapsulated her. And then she had this reveal and was a different outfit, but like storyboarded what these two, they couldn’t afford anyone else. It was also, Mmm. So that was my first job and I was also in it and I also didn’t have an assistant, so it was crazy. And we shot it all in 13 days. It was an original movie musical. With original music with the non dancers as leads and like Drew Droege is one of my favorite comedians and one of the stars and Hal rudnickthey were like the two world’s best dancers. And then we hired, Matt Besser was obsessed with America’s best dance crew. So we hired like Quest crew and The Beat FreaksAnd, um, anyways, so like all of these comedians were like dance dancing in front of all of these crews and I’m just there heartbroken. And I had this epiphany that I was like, Oh, I thought my whole life was supposed to be love and appreciation from this one person. And if they weren’t there I would crumble. And I quickly said to the cast, I was like, I love you guys so much and I need you guys so much. So that was a pivotal moment for me as a creative to have experiences with the people I was having camaraderie with at the time. My coworkers were my family and I would experience and be alive with all of this creative camaraderie that got me through a dark time. And it was just, it’s kind of stuck. It’s kind of stuck with me. Like I, I really, I really feel fortunate that I’m able to like dive into a project with an open heart because I truly look at my collaborators. I mean you like, we’ve gotten to know each other through working together and I have so much love for you but we haven’t, yeah, separate doing something together really. I mean like maybe a few times, but it’s always like let’s get a glass of wine. Great. I see we’re working together. I’m going to like suck up as much yummy hang time as I can. Cause I don’t know, again, cause we’re both busy as the way LA is. Everybody has something next, you know.
Well that is the way LA was my friend.
Certainly people are still like, Oh I can’t, I’ve got a zoom it two. Or Oh I can’t, I stopped like I said 1130 this morning. And I was like, can we do four? Can we push back?
Kat and I talked for a while about the way the LA and the entertainment industry are uh, maneuvering through this COVID crisis. But the radio waves are pumped and coursing with that talk and there’s just so much other goodness to come in this episode. I thought I might just leap frog over that if you don’t mind. And skip ahead to my favorite video submission ever. And the importance of good lip syncing because why not?
When you get an audition submission request from your agent for a Kat Burns project, you go, ALL IN, because working for you is such a treat. Really, truly, I am a sucker for a lovely process. So I got this audition notification and I was like, Oh yeah, I can do this. It’s asking for a doo-wop style background singer and she’s singing to her mom. Um, I happened to be in Denver at the time that I got this notification and it was with my mom and it was in my sister’s gorgeous house and it was like, okay, yeah, this is, this is a no brainer. So I taught my sister the shots and she filmed it for me and I lightly choreographed this thing with just like a chain here and a hip hip here. Nothing like crazy cause I had watched the show before and it’s never, um, it’s never meant to be the like, uh, sit down and watch this dance. It’s like you could do this dance It was a sidebar side side thought of mine to be a dance commentator for dance, YouTube videos in that same, in that same voice. Okay. So made, made the an audition submission sent it in. And I don’t remember if you texted me directly or if my agent did, but you were like, that is obnoxious and hysterical. And will you assist me on this project? Yeah, it was so funny. It was also cool to get my family a peek into my world, right? Like, uh, audition submissions happen or happened pretty regularly and in a very like in a three hour turnaround, I’m expected or asked to create a, create a thing, memorize the lines, make up the moves, capture it, edit it and submit it. And so they got to be there for that. That was super fun. And then
What I loved about your video too is like, a lot of times, you know, as much as I say like I want good acting, the lip sinking is really important. Like, I trust that dancers can nail a dance step, right? It’s really important to me is how you’re emoting. So I see you as this like 1960s, like, you know, shoo bop, shoo whatawhata to dancer. Um, and you totally embodied that character and the lip sinking is really important. Like, um, I had an audition for Carly Rae Jepsen and it was, um, well holding an audition for her and it was like two backup singers that were dancing. And so in the audition I was like, you guys, you’re moving your heads too much. Like you’ll never believe that they’re singing into a mic to like actually pretend like you’re seeing into the mic. Um, don’t you have to, it’s a strange thing to like not whip your hair around because a lot of times dancers really aren’t that focused on- on being the star and being seen and like with our hair around our face and like make some sexy faces was not really about the face, you know?
Right. I have this theory that we’re dancers are um, attractive, not necessarily because we’re good looking but because movement attracts your eye. Like if you imagine a jungle setting and a bush rustles over here, your eye goes to that and I think dancers have gotten really are the good ones anyways, have gotten good about being attention, getting when they need to and just the right amount of rustle versus being distracting. And especially if you’re in a tight shot, moving your head around is distracting and its as you mentioned, very plainly, not the way that background singers would do it. Um, that’s a great consideration. I think it’s an important skill and maybe we don’t spend enough time on it.
And you also the the why it’s hard is that to believe that we believably be a good lip syncer you have to sing out loud so your breath is different. So although it looks like an easy dance when you’re actually singing out loud, the, the, the beats are counterintuitive to like, like the pickups of the lyrics are going to be before the one. And it’s tricky to get your brain around the lyrics and have your body do what the music is doing. As you’re acting, and singing out loud and thinking about your breath, you can’t just breathe through your nose and make whatever weird sounds you need to make to get through the aggression of the dance
It’s a much different skill. I came across this issue, uh, a handful of times like hands full, like multiple hands, like NBA basketball player hands full of times working on In the Heights where we had huge groups of dancers, a part of musical numbers, but we weren’t the people that recorded the vocals.
We weren’t the people that um, you know, not all 150 of them have the script, you know, for a chunk of time during rehearsal we would sit down with pages and learn the lyrics. But even that is expected to happen quite quickly. And not a lot of dancers have the same memory for words that we have for moves. So it, it really is a special skill. I suggest that everybody listening to this podcast right now pick a a movie musical moment, whether it’s LA LA land opening number or anything from crazy ex-girlfriend challenge yourself, give yourself how much would, how much time would you say is allocated to learning lyrics for an episode of crazy ex? When we did the tap number? Um, the prescription one, it wasn’t that long. I want to say that was like maybe 30 minutes.
Well, probably like it was like 30 minutes at the top of rehearsal and I’ve actually had an, I had a big audition in New York. Um, there’s a really great show out now called, uh, Dispatches from elsewhere. It’s Jason Segel ’s new show on AMC. I worked on the finale number and they’re singing and dancing, spoiler alert. Um, and I had to just teach the lyrics real fast because people saying the lyrics was as important as the dancing and there was this really amazing dancer. And then I looked back at my video because I don’t like making cuts, so I just filmed everybody, I really want to see everybody. I want to properly give everyone a chance to be seen by me cause I don’t come to New York, I don’t have auditions much. Um, so anyways, he was like, I was like booked and then I looked and I was like he didn’t Lip sync, a word. And on most of the jobs I do dancers get Face-time like closeups and like, Oh and I’m so, so for “antidepressants” and the, it was all, it was all like fluoxitine, fluoxetine, Our lawyers won’t let us say brand names. Like it was very tricky vernacular. Yes. Medical terms on top of that medical terms, you get pills, pills, therms. Um, but, we had, we had a, we have one day of rehearsal so you could like overnight rehearse it. That’s true. I remember on the day Rachel changed, she changed the lyrics. So what’s tricky is that you had to learn it and then on the day after you’ve been practicing, I think you said change the name of the dog and then change this lyric we’ll re-record it in post. So you guys had to say lyrics out loud. This was what was 30 minutes or less. You had to say lyrics out loud that did not match the audio you are hearing all while doing choreography, you’re fast tap dance and then staying in line and it was like super precision based and like you’re high, you’re a little high here on your airplane arm you need a little bit lower.
We’re taking in all of the, you know, the movement notes that we’re used to, but there’s also not just the learning of the lyrics but the unlearning of the old lyrics and then the relearning of the new lyrics. This is great. Really, truly, if you’re listening, make that an additional challenge. If you’re listening, you’re listening, you’re listening. If you’re, if you’re hearing, um, then yeah, try to learn a thing in 30 minutes and then change it, but don’t change the thing that you’re playing back. That song has to say the same. Your lyrics change. Oh my gosh.
And the timing varies slightly and then the moves or shot. It’s like you have to adjust your timing and your blocking based on what the steady cam operators doing or, or at any point in time, the show runner who’s a showrunner is basically the one that hires all of the writers. They’re like the head, they don’t usually say head writer, but they’re the one who like keeps a tone of the show in general, you know, on the right track and everything and they’re the one that’s sold the show in general. But at any point they can come in and say, why are you doing this? Or, or like, um, or like for that number it was like as you guys were holding, I like added a like a little, a little bop. Yeah. Yeah. And then, um, just constantly finding it until you, like for me it’s like playing until you find what makes you laugh and like got there. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. Okay. Do that. And then, and then at any point someone could say, no, don’t bounce. And so you’ve just been rehearsing it with the bounce and something as simple as that.Like your body wants to bounce, but you can’t. Um, tricky. I don’t know. It’s tricky. And then, and then when I favorite things to like hark on park, her harp, whatever you look that up as I finish this, this tale of woes, but basically. Once it’s cut the end of that she goes Mmm. Basically it’s just like, Oh you guys are, Oh you don’t want to dance anymore. Okay. Like going from dance or to pedestrian and now
Oh wait, this is one of my favorite things to do.
Walk like a dancer. Like it’s hard cause we do that in real life. I act sporadically. And um, I was in a commercial and I had to walk to the elevator and I was wearing heels and they were like, um, excuse me Kathryn, you’re like standing like pretty cause I was like beveling,
Your just like, it’s my Rockette in me.
I just like can’t, you know like when we’re in heels and more like a tight skirt, as a dancer you walk differently naturally. So I had to be like, Oh, I have to ditch how I naturally walk and walk pedestrian, just go to the elevator, like for don’t dance, walk to the elevator, don’t sit in your hip. Pretty
Just pretend like you don’t know how to walk in heels as well.
It’s actually for me, kind of difficult to navigate the middle ground between like dancing like a pro dancer, like JT, backup dancer, pro dancer and dancing like a non dancer that moves well. And then dancing goofy like uh, your, your UCB show right now. Raggle Taggle Dance Hour which I do want to give the floor to for a second cause it’s amazing. We did an opening number, which I want you to talk about, give a little context. Um, but I watched the footage back and I looked at myself, I was like, dude, you were bad dancing. And that’s not the goal. The goal is actually to be dancing really well, but not to be a dancer. And so that’s another layer of intricacy.
Yeah. I think that’s what I’ve found with my work. It’s like, it’s, it’s easy, not easy, hard, not hard, but we’re properly living in a world. Right. So like the reference for this number was the pink Mr emus pink windmill kids, the mill kids or something. It’s like an eighties dance show.
We’re going to link it because it’s, it’s a game changer.
So I, the end of season one wanted the cast of crazy ex to recreate this video and I had that had the costume department hand dye sweats to match the color palette of the early eighties.
This is what we call full out.
And then obviously everyone was like tired or busy and so they’ve just been sitting in my storage for four years.
The costumes or the people that were tired?
The costume department ready to go whenever there very expensive to keep, but it was worth it at the end. But we did the, we recreated the opening video finally. And my dream came true and it’s like feel like, like why it’s so funny and enjoyable is because they are trying to hit it so hard, these little children and it happens to be sloppy and fast, but like you have to go for it with the Gusto and energy of like this is the best thing anyone’s ever seen. And it’s like eighties. You just have to hit really hard. Also like nineties hip hop. You have to hit it so hard that your every bone hurts and it doesn’t look like much or just punching. But like woo, there’s a difference. Um, so you have to hit it with full exuberance.
There is a difference. It’s those shows. Okay. I want to talk about something you just, you mentioned, um, I, well blah, blah words. So I wanted to ask how do you do funny, but I think you’ve already answered my question when you’re talking about the crazy ex episode, uh, with the pharmaceutical drugs and we’re just sitting there, Bob like hands on knees just bopping. And you said you just play with something until it makes you laugh. Is that your general approach to humor and dance
Kind of, I mean, and even like in a good way I, I’ve said this before, but like, um, I think it’s a lot of times when I approach my work, like if it wasn’t funny it’d be cool. No, like we’re trying to like properly live in a genre and a lot of times it feels a bit like a puzzle in my brain for a while. So like it’s important for me to know the tone of a show and to know what their funny is. Like I worked on workaholics and their village is much different than the crazy ex village. What they find funny and their sense of humor, I mean comedy is also super relative, just like dance. There’s like a wide array of good dancing or what you think is good. Right? I can’t tell you how many times a script is like Fosse and you’re like, but what about Fosse are they referencing to? Do they want it to be hyper-sexual? Do they want it to be awkward? Cause like when I think about Fosse it’s like, well he’s, you know, he did like he was inverted, he had, he had musicality that matched his movements, you know what I mean? So it’s like trying to find what it is about that reference that they like. So you kind of have to like get in the brains of the reference and then play within it and then for me it’s like, because I’ve studied comedy and I’ve, I spent my whole childhood watching movie musicals and things like it’s um, I dunno, there’s like a, there’s a, there’s a good or bad or creative process you have to like know when to put the pencil down I guess. So for me it’s like finding it and then sometimes like in crazy ex we kind of found this thing of like, Oh gross. Okay. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. And you kind of have to push the envelope. I mean there was like S and P issues to standards and practices. So we’re a network show. You can’t just create whatever you want. It has to be approved. And West side story is super particular and has like legislation against you doing like exact choreography, same with Fosse foundation. So, but you know, choreographers don’t own their work and aren’t unionized. So you know
Kat Burns, enter Kat Burns the organizer. I wasn’t sure if we would get to this point and I know that not everybody listening is a choreographer, but I do think that this is really important too. Everyone in creative fields, no matter what they are, uh, choreographers right now, specifically an organization called Choreographers Alliance, which is a nonunion organization are working really, really hard to win choreographers SAG-AFTRA contracts for our work because unlike everybody else on a TV, film or digital sets, choreographers do not have the protection of those union contracts, which means no healthcare, no pension and no residual structure. Um,
No minimum hours work, uh, overtime or anything like that.
So Kat is a staple in the community that’s working to win us an agreement that would support us in that way. Thank you so much.
It just seems like it needs to happen. Everyone else, literally everyone else on set, unless you’re in an assistant role, has union protection and then they have it for SDC, which is stage directors and choreographers Guild. So for Broadway shows, Vegas shows some touring shows, they get a royalty every time their work is used, they own their work, they can, you know, that’s obviously not going to happen necessarily in TV because it’s called a work for hire clause. If you’re a freelancer, um, and writers as well, like, but if they use their work again, they have to pay them. Um, and if you have the union then let’s say dirty dancing, right? Like that’s been like Kenny Ortega . His work has been used so many times and he’s never made any money past that. Same with Vince Patterson from smooth criminal, you create like how easy would it be to be, Oh, we’re going to use this choreography. We’re not going to hire Kenny because he’s off directing in Canada. We’re going to pay him X amount of money just like you would a song. And then the, and then like they can just take the exact choreography and never pay the choreographer or anything. It’s so broken. It’s so broken. But we did it. And it’s about celebrating the wins. As you say. I was asked to recreate Christine and the Queens “Tilted”
Werk, my favorite,
It’s one of my favorites for Better Things for season one. And, and the reason why I was asked this, cause I work with non dancers and they, and it was, it was the whole family. It was the mom, the grandmother and the two daughters. But put on a performance for you. I don’t want to ruin it if you haven’t seen the end of season one.
I haven’t done, I’m going to, I’m writing it down right now. That sounds fascinating. I already,
You already know what’s coming, but it’s okay. There’ll be emotional and beautiful. And I said they were like, we already got the rights to the music and everything and I was like, well did they pay the choreographer? And the awesome line producer was like, well, let me look into it versus saying we’ve already paid. But, um, they actually paid the choreographer for the usage of that work. Um, but that was a big win. They paid the court and I said, you have to credit, there is no union. Like I wouldn’t get credit. And then the person who originally choreographed, it wouldn’t get credit. Right? Like they can do whatever they want. But I said the original choreographer, Marion Motin and I was like, you have to say originally choreographed by and then like adapted by me cause it’s not my choreography, but I was hired as quote unquote THE choreographer. But I need, I just think it’s interesting because now people are doing like Tik Tok videos and they understand currency of dance and like even in this time we’re giving away or work for free, we’re teaching classes for free. We’re trying to help the community. But like, you know, this is how people make their money.
Ah, I, I do want to dig into more of those technical issues and I want to celebrate you going to bat for an instance like that, which I’m sure happens all the time and I’m sure that choreographers who, uh, maybe don’t have as much experience or aren’t as in passionate about the subject as you are, wouldn’t even to ask if that had happened. So I’m really glad that you spoke about that. I think that’s super important.
Choreographers definitely have asked me like even what should my minimum rate be? So like if you’re getting a job and you don’t know what to ask or even how to run a set or anything, like reach out to someone that you know that’s working if you don’t have an agent yourself. And then also I think it’s important that we ask those harder questions. People are only going to give you what you fight for, you know, otherwise they’ll just take advantage and also to know when to back off. I have a solid rule of threes. Like I’ll ask something like three different ways just to make sure that I was heard. And then the answer the third time is still no, I go, okay, well I at least try it.
Here we go. I at least tried thrice. Yeah man, I really wish we had more time to dig into all of these lovely icebergs that we just saw the tip of. But I think that there will be time for that and I hope that people will go find you. Find more of you. Um, you’ve done a handful of podcasts as well. I think that you can be found in this, in this audible world as well. What other podcasts have you jammed on?
Totally Unmorganized. Uh, uh Oh and then Heather and Ava’s, yeah. Yes,The dance room the dance. And then there’s been a, Oh, the Bigfoot Collectors Club . My friend Michael McMillan has a, she has a podcast about, um, about Bigfoot. So I have a lot of non, non dance related content in that. Then my mom and I did a podcast for, My friends, a beauty beauty vegan podcast called Natchbeaut She’s a passionate vegan and finds women owned businesses through beauty and beauty is not my world. So my mom was really good at being the guest, I was just there to be made fun of. Pretty much, which I’m..
You were the link. You were the link between the worlds. Um, well thank you beyond for being my guest today and for sharing so freely. All of your wisdom and humor and insights and tips about lip syncing. You know, there is not a podcast for that yet. Thank you so much for being here. High five across the screen. Great. I think we missed
Your, you’re doing such a good job.
Ah, I so appreciate that. Thank you so much. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball, change over to patreon.com/wtMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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