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. Welcome back. If you’re a regular mover and shaker and welcome. Welcome. If you are new, I am so glad that you’re here today. I’m really stoked about this episode as per uzhe. So I, I, I want to get to it because I’m excited, but I also want to let you know that my win this week is a special podcast related when I am so jazzed to announce that words that move me is teaming up with our friends over at CLI. And we’re doing a small number of live interviews. I’m going to link to CLI in the show notes, because if you are not already a member, you should be dancers of all levels of all styles, really, truly, especially in quarantine times, CLI is a digital dance experience that truly offers like top, top, top tier education. So, um, yeah, go dig into that. And if you are a member, you’ll be able to watch live a handful of interviews that I’m doing in the next month or two, um, starting in July and into August. You will still get those interviews here on the podcast, just a couple of weeks late. Okay. So that is my win. What’s going well in your world.
This kills me. Cause I really want to know, like, I actually want to hear you say it.
Awesome. I’m so glad that you’re winning. Please do keep it up. I’m stoked for you. Okay. Now, in this episode, we’re talking about how to ask good questions. I mean, good as in not bad and questions as in a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information, at least that’s how the internet defines a question. One more time. That’s a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information, now that is all fine and good, but I like to think of questions as a Swiss army knife of curiosity. I say curious a lot, by the way, on the podcast, I think curiosity or curious are the most used words on the podcast, except for maybe jazzed and possibly ultimately I say ultimately a lot, and I had no idea that I did until I started podcast. Okay. Anyways, I think we can all agree that a Swiss army knife is a single tool that has many different tools in it. And it’s used for one goal. And that is to help the user function. You can use a can opener to get the food out of the cans so you can eat the food. You use the bottle opener, so you can open the bottle and get the drink out of the bottle. You use the knife to cut, open a box and access what’s inside or a little tweezers to pull out the splinter from your toes so that you can walk without pain. In this metaphor, the question is the Swiss army knife and the challenges of your life are like the bottles and boxes and splinters. So I’m saying that a question is a tool that helps you function. Now, you know how people say there are two types of people in the world? Well, I’m going to give you my version of that cliche. I believe there are two types of people in the world. One, the people who are told what to think, and the other type is the people who are told what to think and ask questions. Now, if you’re like me, you don’t much like being told what to think. I’m here to tell you that the answer to not being told what to think is to think for yourself, the answer to not being told what to think is actually a question. The question is the tool to help that human function. Now, before I go any further, I want to address those that don’t mind being told what to think. And I am raising my hand. I am part of this party as well. Now, if all I was ever able to do was believe my own original thoughts, I might actually be in trouble. So what’s wrong with being told what to think. I actually love school. I miss it tremendously, especially right now. Um, I love seeking information. I love finding people who are great at what they do, asking them what they think, what are the thoughts that drive them to doing great things. And then I’ll occasionally adopt those thoughts as my own and see how far they take me. Um, sometimes that’s pretty darn far, pretty darn far. It’s hard to say pretty darn far.
I like to compare being told what to think with eating fast food. It is very convenient at times it is fast and it is also heavily processed. So consider that for a moment. That is why it is important to ask questions. We can also probably agree that questions are important simply by imagining life without them. Here’s an example. Hey girl, hi… The end. Life without questions is not a life that I am interested in living. So let’s get better at asking questions. We’ll start with the assumption. A. that words are important. I probably don’t need to illustrate that to you because you’re listening to this podcast. So you probably already agree, but let’s take a look at what that means. For questions specifically, here are a couple of different ways of asking basically the same question. Let’s say I’m holding an audition and somebody in the back of the room raises their hand. I call on them and they might say, “nobody can see you back here. Can you do that again?” Or they could say, “I can see that your arms are in high fifth on one, but what’s the lower body doing for that eight count” or maybe I’m holding a Q and A and somebody might say, “what’s your favorite style?” Or they could say, “tell me about the style of dance that nobody knows you love?” Another example with regard to costume, perhaps somebody might ask, “are you for real?” Or they might say, “what does that costume contribute to the piece?” Here’s another favorite least favorite question. “What’s it like trying to become a famous dancer?” Who yikes. There’s a lot to unpack there. An alternative might be. “What part of your training are you most passionate about?” Can you imagine how the conversation that follows each of those questions would be dramatically different? Good questions lead to good conversations, good conversations. Lead to good learning. Alright, here are my golden nuggets for asking golden questions.
Number one, share how much, you know, not how much you don’t know. The example that I gave of the audition earlier is a true story, except for I was not holding the audition. I was a dancer in the back of the room. It was not the dancer that asked that question. However, and when the dancer asked that question, my stomach hit the floor. I felt awful because here was this person saying, nobody can see you back here, but only I could see enough, enough to guess enough to make a well informed guess. Now this specific audition was pretty high stakes. The choreographer was Liz Imperio a legend, shout out Liz. And there were probably 500 people in the room. The project was an award show and it was the first time this particular award show was covered by a SAG/AFTRA contract, which means dancers who booked the gig were eligible for healthcare and pension contributions from the work that they did on this project. Anyways, it’s a big deal. The stakes were high. The room was full. I get where the dancer was coming from. But as soon as she said, nobody can see you back here. Can you do that again? The answer that came was certainly packed with emotion, more packed with emotion than information actually. Liz told her to wait. So actually no information came back at her at that time. The lesson that I learned in that moment is that you can either stand out as being a person who doesn’t know what they’re doing and blames that on others. Or you could stand out as being a person who’s responsible for knowing what they’re doing. And that is the person that I want to hire. So in general, do everything you can to be informed. And don’t ask a question that’s already been asked. How do you know if it’s been asked already? Well, listen, or simply Google it in short, do your research and avoid asking questions that your subject is likely to have answered a thousand times already, for example, “what’s it like being on tour with JT?” That question lends itself to what could be a pretty closed ended answer. Really, really fun. All right. Next question. Versus “what was the one experience that you least expected when you were on the 2020 experience?” First of all, points for wordplay and craftsmanship. This is definitely a question that I’ll give more thought to answering because I can tell that it took a lot of thought to create. Here’s another example, “what’s the secret to becoming a successful dancer?” This question, I get a lot and honestly it sounds a little bit like the person asking it once the fast pass to the top. Here is the equivalent to that question that I would actually love giving an answer to “Dana, one of my favorite things about your work is the use of humor. Can you talk a little bit about using comedy in dance?” Ah, yes. This shows me that they’ve done a little bit of research. They know who they’re talking to and they are interested in the work, the process, not the result, not the perceived pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. First of all, the pot of gold doesn’t exist. And if it did, there is no one way to becoming a successful dancer. And even if I told you exactly how I did it, it would take the entire hour to explain. And you could recreate every single step of the way and not achieve the same success because we are infinitely different people coming up at different times. We’ve got different skills, all the things are different. So the next time you find yourself wanting to ask for the secret to someone’s success. First identify what you think is successful. What you think is interesting about their work and then ask them questions about that.
Alright, that brings us to golden nugget. Number two, ask questions that might lead to new ideas instead of revisiting old ideas. Now it’s very common and totally practical to ask questions in review or to refine your understanding of something. This happens in dance class a lot. Now, a little less common, especially in a dance class are the questions that lead to new ideas instead of revisiting old ones. In the example of the Q and A that I mentioned, “what’s your favorite style” by simply watching or taking my class. You might be able to answer that question for yourself, but in asking a question like “what’s a style of dance that nobody knows that you love.” You’re likely to learn something that not only you couldn’t have found out, but that nobody knows tell us something that nobody knows is a really good one. It’s one of my favorites. I also really, really love what am I missing here? Or what am I not getting? Now, let me be real, when you’re asking a question, like, what am I missing or what am I not getting buckle up and get ready to learn. Because the answer that comes back at you will almost certainly be news to you. It will be an idea that is completely new. And sometimes those are hard to chew, but also so fun and so much growth here. Yes. Ask these questions.
All right. Golden rule. Number three, simple questions, get simple answers. Usually this is why the minis like age seven to 10 are my favorite group to teach. They ask simple questions like my favorite, “Why?” sometimes? Why is the best question somebody can ask, please. Don’t be afraid to ask why, but when you do also be patient and get ready to ask good followup questions, because “why” can be a tough, tough question to answer. Now. Sometimes the simple questions are the most obvious questions. Like the example I gave regarding costumes earlier, “are you for real? Or why do I have to wear that?” For example, now I’ve had people especially minis. Ask me a lot of questions about my clothing. I can’t really explain it. I kind of adore it. And it’s also a little bit annoying. Here’s an example. “Why do you wear those weird pants?” Well, a simple answer to that simple question might be because I think they’re funky. All right. Now, sometimes a simple question. Like, “why are you wearing those pants?” Could get a complex answer like this one. I wear these pants because the essence of ballet is to be lifted light as a feather. Um, having the quality of weightlessness or floating and for hip hop and many other street styles being grounded is the value. I think you can imagine the visual that I’m painting here for you. The visual center of gravity of a ballet dancer is very high, especially relative to somebody dancing, hip hop or another street style like locking or popping, baggy clothes make the visual center of gravity look lower, think MC hammer and hammer pants. Visual center of gravity is almost on the ground versus a Tutu, which is basically the shortest skirt that somebody could possibly wear. A Tutu makes the visual center of gravity look high, hammer pants, baggy clothes, Zoot suits, they make the visual center of gravity look low. If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable, dancing a street style or watching somebody dance street styles in a leotard and tights. That’s part of the reason why. And there you have it. My very complex answer to a simple question.
And that brings us to golden rule. Number four, complex questions get complex answers usually, except for when they don’t, right. Now, if you can avoid asking overly complicated questions, practice what you preach. Wilson. I love asking compound questions, questions within questions, and then just straight up multiple questions at once I’m working on it. I’m really working on it because I get more focused answers. When I ask more focused questions again, complex questions beget complex answers, except for when they don’t. For example, my favorite example of this there’s a James Baldwin quote, a student asked him once to give advice to a quote, young literary genius end quote to this James Baldwin replied quote, let me tell you one thing, Young literary geniuses, don’t take anybody’s advice, end quote and end of conversation. Listen, if you want real good answers and a great model for asking questions, please, please, please listen to the words, the voice of James Baldwin. Read. Listen. Oh man, I have linked to a few of my favorite talks of his in the show notes for this episode. Oh, and on the flip side, very, very flip side of that same good question asking coin is one of my favorite interview hosts. Um, his name is Sean Evans. He hosts a YouTube series called Hot Ones. Um, some of you may know it because it is wildly popular, but um, if you don’t already know, Hot Ones is a YouTube series where the host Shawn and his guests eat 10 hot wings with different hot sauces on each wing. They eat them in escalating Scoville order. And, um, it’s just simply so entertaining. Anyways. I think Sean has a research team helping him ask questions at this point, but, uh, he is very, very famous for asking his very, very famous guests who do interviews all the time. Questions that leave a pause, his guests are stopped mid chew and, and they reflect, wow. That’s such a great question. I really admire him for that. Hats off or should I say caps off to you? Sean Evans. Thank you for modeling what it means to ask really good questions. All right. So between James Baldwin and the 183 episodes of hot ones that are on YouTube, you definitely have your work cut out for you if you want the good, good answers. Please start by listening as always then remember to ask questions that highlight how much, you know, not how much you don’t know, ask questions that will lead to new ideas. In addition to simply refining existing ideas, don’t be afraid to ask simple questions and know that complex questions will get complex answers except for when they don’t. And with that, my friends I’d like to leave you with an ancient proverb. He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask a question, remains a fool forever. So keep listening, keep learning, keep asking good questions. And by all means necessary. Keep it funky. Thanks everybody. 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 member. So kickball, changeover to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. Alright, 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 cause you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello everybody. And welcome back to the podcast or welcome for the first time. If you’re new, I am so excited that you are here. And as always, I am super jazzed about this episode. Like very jazzed about this episode. Um, today I want to talk about something that hasn’t been addressed here on the podcast in quite a while, broadly creativity, but specifically creating something daily and here on the podcast, we call that doing daily. Now of course, before we do that, I do want to share a win and I want to hear yours. And I also want to tell you that I am wearing overalls today, not jingle bells. These are overalls just wanted to let you know this will be a very spirited episode because of my jingle bell overalls. Okay. Let’s talk wins this week. My win is that I am so honored to be teaching for my dear friend, Tiler Peck’s summer intensive. And I am not sure if enrollment is open, I will definitely find out. Um, and when I do, if it is open, I will absolutely link to that in the show notes. And I will brag loud and proud about it on all the socials so that if you are able to, you can enroll in those classes. I am simply super proud to be a part of this all star lineup. And I’m just very excited about this intensive. All right, that is my win. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.
Congratulations. Keep crushing it. I’m jazzed for you. Okay. Let’s get to it.
When I created this podcast, it was not my goal to create a community of daily doers. It was my goal to create a podcast about navigating a creative career. I had written a book of tips and tricks with notes and quotes, a bunch of things that I had collected along on my journey. And on January 1st, 2020, I was ready to. Now, here we are over six months later, living in very, very different circumstances, a global pandemic resulting in over 9 million cases and almost 500,000 deaths worldwide. COVID-19 also brought the US unemployment rate to 13.3% today, much higher in California I believe. Add civil unrest in response to police brutality and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and sadly. So, so many more. The rise of the black lives matter movement. The rise of awareness of other oppressed groups all over the world, the awakening of many to systemic racism and the call for anti-racism.
Okay. And now here we are. So way back in January feels like lifetimes ago. When I decided to create this podcast about navigating a creative career, a podcast about making it, I decided that the most important part of making it is making actually making it, making it a thing, making your thing. So I decided to make my first episode doing daily about my daily creative challenge. I took on a year of daily Instagram videos. I wound up going for much longer over 400 and some days. Now that was my first episode because I knew I’d be referencing it a lot throughout the podcast. Again, it wasn’t my intention, but that episode sparked something and a community was born first, a handful, then a bundle, then a gaggle of artists doing daily. It was very, very cool to behold something super, super special. And I want to quickly shout out some of my daily doers.
Then the lockdown, the protests, the massive calls to action, the massive action. And the doers started to dwindle. Less people were sharing their daily project and this isn’t good. And this isn’t bad. This is neutral. Less people were sharing their daily projects on Instagram. And that is okay. But today I’d like to make the argument for why doing daily is important, especially right now in this crazy moment in history. So Yes, Read. Yes, Watch. Yes, Listen. Yes, Learn. Yes, Donate. But if self awareness and awareness of the world around you is your goal. Then I strongly recommend taking on a daily creative project as part of your regimen. Here’s why
To make a creative work. You have to look both inside and outside. You must call on your imagination and you must take action. You must find your voice and use it. Even if all it speaks is questions. It’s so, so important. So today I’m going to answer a lot of questions about doing daily and I’m going to be making the argument for being creative right now. And I don’t mean right now, June, 2020. I mean, right now, whenever you are listening to this, I really hope that it sparks a voice inside of you. And I hope that when that spark speaks you, listen, I hope that you answer.
Why did I start doing daily? Well, I discovered a human being on Instagram named Adam Carpenter. He goes by @AdamSCarpenters. And I just thought he was the most delightful and charming and unusual and self motivated and in control of his silliness person that I had ever seen. Um, I looked forward to seeing his work every single day. I was just tickled by it. And then one day via the Instagram communications, I met him. I met my hero. It was the most surreal experience, especially for somebody who works with famous people often like this guy to me, was it. Um, and when we met, he challenged me to do a daily creative project of my own. And I simply couldn’t say no. So that is why I started. Now, what was the most important thing about doing daily to me? At the time, it was learning the power of my imagination. I want to share a quote with you that I recently read in Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, which is rocking my world. Glennon says, quote, “discontent is evidence that your imagination has not given up on you” and quote. So if you are a person that is discontent or unhappy with the current state of the world, then look to your imagination. Let that be a check engine light that you have something to do. And something to say, huge, huge part of daily doing for me, another part, a key factor was redistributing my creative authority back into my own hands. My career up to that point had largely been about other people’s approval and other people’s projects. Now, after years of bending myself to fit the breakdowns, nothing was as rewarding as answering to myself. Now, with hindsight, I can say that nothing is as rewarding as the community of doers that I met along the way. So you might be thinking right now, “Dana, a daily personal project sounds a little bit self centered and super time consuming. And isn’t this a time where I should be selfless. Isn’t this a time where I should be doing other things with my time.” Well, perhaps, but if you want to do big things, if you want to make big work, and if you want to make big change, then I suggest you start by taking small bites. This project doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be time consuming. You get to decide how much time you spend on it and you get to decide what you do. That’s the beauty of it. That is special. Also what’s super special is that when you learn to show up for yourself in little ways, every day, you learn how to show up for others in big ways forever. I like to ask the question, how can I prioritize myself so that I have more to give to others? A daily creative project is one of those ways.
Okay. A lot of people ask, what is the most important part of doing daily? Is it the creation of it? Is it the publication of it? Is it the reflection on it? Well, to that, I would say that creation and reflection are very closely linked while you’re making you are making with the knowledge and the memory of everything you’ve made up to that point. I’m, I’m using lessons that I’ve learned and applying them to what I’m doing reflections of past work happened while I’m creating as well as after they’ve been shared. So it’s kind of part of this bigger puzzle. The sharing itself is important to me because although it was interesting to learn how to receive such a quick feedback loop and to learn how an audience responds and what they respond to. It was also slightly misleading because I felt myself occasionally making work and making decisions based on what the audience might want opposed to making the work that I wanted to make. And sometimes by the way, there is overlap there, the audience wants the same thing that I want to make. And that’s the sweet spot. That’s great. But really my doing daily project was less about the sharing and more about the doing it. It was more about claiming authority of my creative life. So if you’re thinking that it doesn’t feel right to share a self centered project right now, great, make your project about something that does feel right to you. And if it’s the sharing part that really rubs you wrong, I’d ask you to get down to the bottom of why. Make sure that you like your reason for not sharing. If you decide not to share and equally on the flip side, you should like your reason for sharing should you decide to share. Shouldn’t just be because I said so,
All right, now, next question. How do you convince yourself to do on days where you really don’t want to do this is such a great question on days that I don’t want to do. I hear Toni Basil’s voice in my head, Toni Basil, by the way, in case you do not know is a pillar of the street dance community. She’s a member of the original lockers. She is one of the first to bring street dance to the mainstream and fuse it literally side by side with classical ballet. I’m linking by the way, to her Emmy nominated interpretation of Swan Lake in the show notes. This is a must watch, especially if you’ve been listening to the last couple of conversations I’ve had with Dominique Kelly, very, very important today, today, Toni Basil is 75 years old. And I’m going to go ahead and say that today she could roast any of you, which is bold because I know there are some pretty funky people listening, but I stand by my claim. I stand by my claim, not just because of all of her history, but because she dances every single day, she’s still got it. And she’s still getting better. Now, one day I asked Toni, “Basil, do you ever not want to dance?” And she said, sure, all the time. And then I said, “okay, so what do you do? How do you still show up and dance even when you don’t want to?” And she said, quote, I just pretend to be someone who does want to dance and quote mind blown. Thank you Basil. Now to be a hundred percent honest, there were days when I was so motivated that I would make two movies. And then there were days when I wasn’t making, as in creating or capturing, but I would be editing one thing or posting another thing, or, you know, maybe I’d be filming one thing and editing another. So it wasn’t necessarily that I went through a full loop every single day. I didn’t do the whole cycle from inception to creation, to curation. And by that, I mean like editing reshooting, et cetera. Um, and then sharing it wouldn’t always be that whole cycle, but it would be at least one of those things.
Okay. Next question. Why is the daily part so important? Well, this is a dancer speaking. We get better at the things that we practice, right? The more I practice a double pirouette the better I get at it. And not only that, but a double pirouette, it becomes a triple and then four or five or six or seven. Now I believe that the creative habit gets stronger. The more you practice it and gets weaker, the less you practice it. So people say a lot of things about creativity and habits and what it takes to truly create one. I think I remember reading somewhere a magic number being 66. Like it takes 66 days of practice before a behavior becomes automatic. So that’s certainly part of it. I don’t know if that is truly a magic number or not, but I also found tremendous freedom in knowing that I would do it no matter what. I think that had my goal then to be creative three days a week, for example, then I might’ve started negotiating, which days, you know, Friday, Saturday, Sunday becomes, well, maybe not Sunday, but maybe Monday. And then Monday gets pushed back to Wednesday and then Wednesday gets pushed back to Friday. And all of a sudden it’s been a week without any doing. Daily, doing left no room to negotiate with myself about whether or not I would do it. I just absolutely did it no matter what. And that built strong creative habits, it built them quick and it built them strong.
Now here’s an interesting consideration. Do I think that work, you do on the clock for another entity, like a movie or a music video shoot, for example counts as you’re doing daily? Well, I’m not saying that creative work on the clock, isn’t creative or isn’t helping to build creative habits, but during my year plus of daily making, I chose to create my daily project outside of my already pretty creative job, which was at the time being a background dancer on tour with JT on the 2020 experience. Now, of course the cast and crew, and occasionally the backdrop of tour would appear in my videos, but I kept a rule for myself that if I included my job in my work or in my project, if you will, it would be my job Plus. My job as a backup plus a twist or plus a different concept or a plus a gag or a gimmick or some sort of technical modification, et cetera. And that kept my focus on my authorship that kept the focus on the creative muscle.
Next question is keeping the doing the same every day important. In other words, if I decided to do a photo a day and then eventually changed my mind to painting a picture instead of taking a picture or doing a dance one day and a picture the next day, is that important to the project? Um, I won’t say, I think that each doer can decide that for themselves. What I will say is that one would be wise to identify the weak spot in their process or their habit that needs the most strengthening and focus their creative efforts there. When I signed my imaginary contract with myself and agreed to my daily challenge, I was really, really good at having ideas.
I had ideas a mile a minute, but I wasn’t very good at finishing them. I rarely shipped. I rarely shared. So for me, the doing was the shipping, the sharing, the putting out into the world. Now, if you’re a person that shares with ease, then perhaps your challenge lies in the digging deep, or maybe it lies in the conceptualizing. It might show up as 365 ideas for projects or 365 short stories or 30 short stories. Maybe you want to be learning a new technical skill like video editing, for example, this is a very good time for dancers to understand how to edit video and capture by the way. Um, maybe you’re a generalist who really wants to go deep on something like some specific style or even one specific move. Imagine an Instagram account where a person just did a pirouette at a day for an entire calendar year. And you get to watch them from being kind of okay at pirouettes or maybe even bad at doing periods. And then becoming really, really good at pirouettes over the course of a year. I would definitely follow that person. Now, your project doesn’t have to be for an entire year. You get to name the terms of your contract. It’s up to the doer to decide what you do and how long you do it. And you don’t have to do it all alone. You have a whole community of daily doers right here. You can even do together. You can do together apart. That’s the beauty that is truly the power of this. The power is that it is your power, your decision, your authority. And if you practice it, if you practice it daily, that can become your super power. Yes. Super powers.
So this episode is my pledge to nurture the doing daily community. Please mention us or use the #doingdailyWTMM there’s two M’s there #doingdailyWTMM in your doing daily posts on Instagram, because I would love to see what you’re up to. I am here to encourage you and to be a part of this journey with you, and also to tell you right now that it is okay to start a daily project that turns into a weekly project that turns into a monthly project. It’s okay to come back. It’s okay to fumble a day. This is about making changes from the inside out. This is about persistence determination. This is about living a creative life by strengthening your creative habits.
All right. Thank you all so much for listening. I hope that if you haven’t already, you go back and listen to episode one and honestly do not sleep on episode two. There’s a lot of really good technical information in there about how I really physically actually made it through over a year of doing daily. Also a huge thank you to my team, Riley Higgins and Malia Baker for helping me keep this podcast, this community and myself together. I so appreciate you guys. Um, one other thing before I sign off, I want to make sure you guys are aware of an awesome doing daily resource. My team, and I have created an interactive PDF. We’re calling it the doing daily diary. It helps keep you accountable, keep you on track and keep you learning about you’re doing daily project that is available to you by becoming a words that move me member on Patreon to do that, just visit patreon.com/WTMMpodcast Definitely going to link to that in the show notes as well. I hope to see you there in my Patreon community. It’s a really fun place for me to connect. Give you guys all sorts of extras. And of course for you all my daily doers to connect with each other. So head on over there, enjoy have a great creative day. 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 change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really
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. Don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, my friend, how are you feeling today? I am feeling a little bit tense. I am having one of those days where it takes like three times longer to do all of the things than I expect it to take, or then I have allotted it to take. So I’m having a day, but I am having a great day because I am recording episode 26, and this is such a doozy. This episode is a gift because I didn’t expect there to be a part two from episode 25 with Dominique Kelly. And then he and I had an incredible IG live conversation and I simply could not keep it to myself and by myself, I mean my Instagram account. So that is what this episode is going to be. I’m going to tell you a little bit more about it in just a second, but first let’s talk wins.
My win this week is a super emotional win and it is that I had an awesome conversation with my dad yesterday. My dad and I live in different States, but sometimes it feels like we live in different worlds. We’ve got different political opinions. We have different ideas about sports. Um, for example, he likes them and I like being outside and eating peanuts and drinking beer. So maybe there is a little overlap there, but ultimately we are very different beings. I’m considering this conversation a win because we went way deeper than the weather. Although we absolutely did start by talking about the weather as always it’s our warmup, but I feel like I got to know him and understand him. And honestly, I think I heard him understanding me. We did a little emotional, heavy lifting as well. Just warning. We do both cry when we talked about his dad, my grandpa, and what it means to be without a dad on father’s day. And as if that wasn’t enough, this conversation really revealed the thing that I should have known all along really truly connects us other than our DNA, obviously, and that is music. It was very, very cool to connect on that. So if you’re interested in listening in on that conversation, check out my most recent episode, which is actually a bonus father’s day episode. So it doesn’t have a number associated to it. It’s just a bonus episode, but you’ll find it in all the same places where you normally find the pod. Okay. That is my win. Now you go, what is going well in your world?
Alright, killer. Congratulations. And I am stoked for you. Keep winning please. Okay. Let’s talk. Taking notes. So episode 25 was action packed with golden nuggets. And in this IG live that I did with Dominique Kelley, he was hitting it with the combos, all of the great analogies that you would expect to come from Mr. Dominique Kelley. Also, we go a little bit deeper on some topics that we covered last week, for example, um, the difference between cramming and learning. We talked about practicing change instead of just memorizing change. And I think that’s super, super important to, to address. So I’m jazzed that we get to go a little bit deeper on that. We talk a little bit about the protests and what it means to be convenient or inconvenient. We also talk about Dominique’s relationship to timing, which is a very, very particular one. We talk about how restraints can be liberating. We also talk about history, the importance of names and remembering and cataloging things. And we talk about fusion. We talk about style. We talk about origins. We talk about how to frame boundaries as opportunities. My friends, whether you are in coronavirus lockdown, or not, whether you are a teacher or not, whether you are a dancer or not, there is so much to be gained from this episode and from this man, Holy smokes, get your pen and paper ready and enjoy another conversation with Dominique Kelley.
Dana: Hi, I’m good. How are you doing?
Dom: I am empowered. I am surprised that people want to hear what I have to say. It, it, it humbles me every single time, literally
Dana: Because your words are gold. My friend.
Dom: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Also, if you’re being good to your, to your vocals, you stay hydrated.
Oh yeah. All the hydration. And I had French fries too. So it lubes it up nicely.
Cause I don’t think that’s um, well I have a handful of things that I would love to talk about today. Um, some questions that I got about the podcast and then a few things that I, because I also edit the podcast. So as I’m editing, I’m like, Ooh, I didn’t even, that didn’t even sink in that moment. And I, there are things that I would love to revisit. Um,
And I actually went back and listened to because you know, sometimes you’ll put it out there and then I want to be like, Ooh, what did I say? Okay. Just to make sure you know.
Yep. I’m with it, Dom. I did want to ask too. Is it okay with you if we open the floor to questions from..
For sure. All the questions.
Yeah. Cool. So here’s what I would love to talk about from the podcast. One of the things that I noticed, I asked you a question I asked, um, as a, in dance and in life, how do you encourage people to avoid learning with a cram mentality? Like quickly, quickly get the information, pass the test and then yeah, because what we’re experiencing right now, may be the result of a problem that is about that. Like we crammed to get through this movement or that moment or this thing. And then nobody .. there was no deep change made. There was no deep learning done. And so we’re still here is it, it might be because of that cram mentality. That’s like, okay, just enough to get over this difficult moment , just enough to get through this quiz just enough to get through that test. But, but nothing, no deep learning, no deep change. And you, you talked for a good moment about as a teacher, what you do, how you encourage that. And as I was listening, I realized that a unique thing about dance is that you really cannot cram and truly pass because, Like I might be able to cram so that I remember the names of the positions, but I, if I can’t do them, you don’t get to cram for that test. You can’t cram a triple pirouette you either practice doing it enough so that you can do it or you can’t do it. So I think that we might, what I hope is that we might see dancers as being people who are used to practicing change instead of cramming for change. And I really am hopeful that a dance community will be one of the first places that we see big, real change that started on an individual level. Like it’s a triple pirouette is not a team change. It’s not a universal change. It’s like I do my triple pirouette work. You do your triple pirouette work. And then we can do a triple period together. I got so hopeful when I heard that little hidden gem in the episode, that’s like, Oh wait, dancers, can’t cramp because you can’t pass. If you don’t do the work.
No. And then not only that, at least you talk about cramming, which means reading. People don’t even know what book to read. They don’t even know that we’re all reading a book. Let’s start there because we’re talking about like cramming and getting all the knowledge in. There are still some of us who don’t even know that we’re being tested. Some of us are being tested. Other people are the tests, the ones who are writing those tests, it’s like, what’s what’s happening. So it’s not so much, even the people cramming. I mean, I’m kind of giving credence and credit to the people who are actually trying to ingest the knowledge. Now how much of it’s getting in. It’s like, you’re doing stomp on your forehead. Like it’s just not getting in. You know what I mean? But, um, in moments like this, it’s remembering something has to settle something like take one of those gems and elaborate on that. Like you, you have to, you have no other choice, but to do that because that’s how we learn anyway. That’s how we learn all of the things that we love. Whether it’s a mistake, whether it’s something like it’s learning about somebody, when you first go on a date, you don’t go on a date for 15 hours. You spend that time. I mean, speed dating happens. But still what you have a half an hour? You know what I mean? So like, there’s, there’s nothing you can do to cram all the information in jest. And then not only that we’re very much black lives matter, but look, what’s happening in Yemen. Look, what’s happening in China. Like it’s very easy to be like, Oh, we turn into superheroes with our knowledge where it’s like, well, I have to save this person. I have to save this person. And that’s a great place to be in your life. But at the end of the day, you have to ground yourself in something in your learning.
I love this. I in the episode, if you haven’t listened yet, please do check out episode 25 of Words that Moved Me. Dominique has a lot of solid gold. And now you are analogy master. And in the, in the podcast, we do talk about analogies being a little bit dangerous because what we’re doing is we’re relating two things that are not the same thing, but we’re saying this is like this. And it’s so that we can wrap our heads around things that are difficult to understand, but it’s also, I think very important to be very specific about what things are and aren’t is this something you’re so good at doing? And I just want to applaud you for that. My favorite one that you just dished was this idea of speed dating. And I see in that such incredible value, especially because in dating, after the date is over, you can’t stop replaying it
Good or Bad.
So I’m hoping that as people are learning right now, whether it’s reading a book or watching the doc or listening to the pod, I hope that we replay it afterwards and talk to people about it afterwards and, and, you know, stay with it. I think that’s one way that cramming, you know, that’s, that’s not cramming. That’s deep learning.
Yes. And then not only that back to the speed dating, not only do you learn about somebody else, but most importantly, you learn about yourself. You learn about what you want, what you don’t want, how you feel, like do you have commonality? It’s all of those things. So I think when you’re learning about someone else, you’re learning about yourself and, George C. Wolfe always said we complete each other’s history. And that is true. So in these sessions, when we’re cramming, I mean, I know we like to go to an empathy place and try to relate it to ourselves, but that’s how we see ourselves in the world. That’s the whole competitive, that’s sports, that’s dance competition. That’s a little moving up in life, seeing where you fit in the strata with this cramming and learning about other people. You have no choice, but to ingest that and see, see the opposite view and then see how you fit into that.
And that can be so tough are what we know about ourselves. What other people tell us about ourselves? And then what we have no idea about what we’ve never seen, the blind spots
And what you’re starting to learn. You know what I mean? Because what I just heard recently is, um, and this is just like a random jump, but it makes sense. You know, sometimes we don’t like what we see in other people and that’s why we don’t like those other people. So when that mirror is really reflected, so with all of these world issues and the issues that we’re dealing with now, and whether it’s a protest or unlearning, relearning, all of those things, you have to sit and sit with your feelings and go, Whoa, why don’t I like this? Do I not like this? Because it’s illuminating a blind spot in myself that I, that mirror, you know, and that goes back to living in Hollywood versus New York people go, New York is so real. And then sometimes I go or is Hollywood also so real that it illuminates everything, everything that you want to be and don’t want to be that mirror just turns around and you’re just like, Oh, you know what I mean? So like, I think in situations like this, when you’re seeing where you fit in the world, that mirror hurts, it can feel really good, but you’re also hurting.
I have a question from an audience member. Um, and this is a very specific question asking for tips on transitioning from concert dance to commercial. You’re a person who knows many different worlds Dom. You just touched a little bit on being in, living in New York versus Los Angeles. You have deep, deep roots in tap, but your education experience and talents span far, far wider and many different styles. Um, so, so I’d love to hear, what do you think on tips? What if it’s not transitioning from commercial world to, or sorry, contempt company to commercial, but transitioning from world to world period.
There it goes. Um, I think, um, I, that’s probably coming from Xavier who I had a Jacob’s pillow and he is one of my favorites. He’s really great. So if you don’t know who he is, just look him up. He’s great. Um, I did not come from company world. I like to dance with my shoes on. I never wanted my potatoes out. I wanted my feet in. Yeah. I wanted my feet in. Um, so I don’t know much about that world, but what I do know is the world transition that a lot of my friends did from company world is they went through musical theater. And I don’t know if it’s so much because the discipline meets the discipline because a lot of my friends who did company world into like commercial world, they were like, what is this? Why is everybody late? Why, why did we not warm up? Why did we do all those things? So I think sometimes from company to musical theater is a very disciplined, disciplined match, depending on who you’re working with and working for. I also encourage you to get a mentor, everybody out there get a mentor, whether you’ve been doing this for a long time or not, hello, to all the people out there, get a mentor, because I feel like that person will usher you into the greatness and the fullness of who you’re supposed to be because sometimes these questions, um, they’re great. And it’s great to ask questions, but sometimes it’s great to have somebody to walk you through that situation. Like for example, Jamal Story knows about that life. Desmond Richardson knows about that life. Anthony burrell,Ebony Williams There’s a lot of great people like Rasta Thomas, like people know that world. Um, so if you need me to, I will direct you to those people. I literally will do that all day long. Cause it’s been fortunate for me that I’ve gotten to be a part of all of these worlds and I pull no punches. I don’t hold any secrets. So if anybody out there needs anything, I can at least direct you. And then not only that stalk people literally see how other people did. Like, I like to be keen on people’s process. Like listen to their podcasts. If they wrote any articles, if they have anything in dance magazine. And I feel like sometimes that’s the best knowledge you can get if you can’t definitely like get to the person, see how their mind flows.
Um, I would love to hear about your relationship to timing and this time right now.
Yes. Okay, great. Now just another little fun thing. I literally bumped into not bumped into cause we were doing some Dana Foglia and I felt so crazy because like I felt like I was like word vomit about how I felt. I felt guilty that I feel like I’ve done well in COVID meaning like handling it. I’m an introvert. I don’t get stir crazy. I don’t need to move around. I don’t need to do any of that. What we were talking about is my relationship to time, being a tap dancer, I’m used to the beat being on the beat, rhythm. What’s the time signature, all of that stuff. Like even hearing the tick. Oh, I guess it would be this way. The tick tick, tick of the clock, I’m automatically like, Oh, where do I have to go? Where do I have to go? What do I have to do? And it’s been so liberating. Not having time constraints. Not only that, I didn’t have to worry about leaving here. I didn’t have to worry about being in traffic. And then not only that, as an African American, we still have that implanted in our brain that it’s like, you can not be late. You always have to be on time. Because if you’re late, people are gonna think you’re late because you’re black. So I always try to be extra early and time, everything out. And in this time I have not had to like maybe now and then being like, Oh, I should zoom with this person, but it’s been so liberating to not be on a timed schedule. Not only that, it was the most consistently present I’ve been in my life, literally in my life. And it’s been so rewarding to then go. It’s not about the past and it’s not about the future and anybody who does freelance work and who is an artist, you’re always worried about the future. I mean, I got safe, so I’m never really worried about the future, but even sometimes it’s like, what is the future what’s going to happen? And you know, it’s going to be good, but you’re still like there. And to literally not have a care where people ask me, what am I doing today? I don’t know I’m going to do what I feel like doing. And that was the most liberating experience of this whole time.
That’s poetic, fighting, finding freedom in restraint, in, in what most people are calling lockdown.
That’s ballroom, freedom and restraint, you know? So it’s been, it’s been nice to also share these things because again, people will hit me up. They’re like, how are you doing? And I was like, I don’t mind it because I can literally be my full, authentic self. Not that I’m not, but I mean, like I can do all the things that I wouldn’t do in society. I can wear my do rag all day. I can sag my shorts down if I want to, I can play whatever music I want to and not technically have to worry, even though we’re always not necessarily safe, but I still had that womb, I had a creative womb in here that I could be whatever I wanted to be. And as somebody who’s African American and in the arts, that is the one of the most liberating freeing places to mentally be that I’ve been consistently in a very long time.
What is your game plan to maintain that? Do you think you can? Is it possible?
That is the question because I was telling a friend we’re about to reenter back into a different society. So we’re all going to be relearning how to interact. Like we’re not going to be running up and giving each other hugs, um, the way we’re going to, um, interact as you know, just people and citizens is all going to change. So I’m excited to see how that’s going to change and all the mechanisms and habits and things that I’ve brought in here. There were things that I was already doing, but I don’t know if it will be the same because life is starting back up again. So that’s the thing I’m going to try to keep as much of me as possible, but even still, as things are ramping up, I’m like, Ooh, I have to do this. Ooh I have to do that. And I think it’s not so much I’m blocking out the noise. Cause I’m not necessarily one who has to like sit, I can, I can be doing things and still feel at calm and peaceful. But the interesting thing is, um, maybe going out into the world and then not feeling guilty for not wanting to be out in the world all the time, because we always feel guilty If we stay home, you know, where it’s like, I feel like I should be doing this. I feel like I should be doing that. I think it’s more taking onus of not feeling guilty for preserving and protecting my magic.
Thank you. I, uh, I think that it’s part of dance culture that, uh, I’ll speak specifically for the industry that I know this Los Angeles community and the commercial industry that working is good. Busy is good. Like actually when you, when you ask somebody, how are you doing? And they say, Oh God, so busy. You’re like, Oh good. Like we really busy is good because busy means working. And, and I think that well from the sounds of it, anyways, the guilt in getting pleasure or joy from not being busy might be doubly compounding the unnatural because we’re so used to be busy being good. So yeah, I really enjoy the idea that busy doesn’t equal good and not busy doesn’t equal bad.
Very much that. And not only that too, it’s like, I almost felt guilty that I didn’t feel like dancing for the first two weeks or even after that, I did not feel the need nor sense to create. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m fortunate that in my career, I have been able to create and create freely and just put work out there. So during this time, people are like, well, you should be creating and doing all these things. And I was like, I feel like I need to turn that off for a second and ingest and take all of the knowledge and all of those things in and just rest my brain because this hamster wheel that’s going like every single time, like so many tabs that were open. So it was nice to like click those tabs off and, and just be, you know, and, and honestly for maybe the first two or three weeks, I felt guilty. And then after that, I was like, no, no need for that because guilt is not a productive, positive emotion. Like conviction. Conviction is good. Guilty is bad
Conviction. Compassion. Yes. Yup. In the podcast you mentioned, I think it’s in the same section where we’re talking about deep learning versus cramming. Um, you mentioned, sit down, like take this round out, watch the groups, right. You don’t need to dance in every group. Nope. Sit down and rest your mind. And I think it’s very interesting, the timing of our civil rights movement that we’re in with the pandemic that we’re in, where, um, yes, we are in some senses forced to be still enough to watch what’s going on outside. Um, and I want to segue if I can, with that, to talking a bit about protests. Um, I mentioned Los Angeles specifically being a world that loves to work. And I noticed last Friday, which was when we entered phase three, um, I was driving to my husband’s workshop and I got my first road rage in four months because there was legit LA traffic again. Yeah. And it, and it flared up and I was like, Oh, I don’t, Whoa, that’s a thing I used to have that a lot. That’s a thing that’s not so familiar anymore. Anyways. I’m wondering if, and I’m afraid that I’m wondering this, I’m embarrassed that I’m wondering this, but as Los Angeles gets back to work, are our people that used to be at protests going to be annoyed by protests because they’re road closers they’re keeping them from getting to work. Like I don’t have a question about this, but I’m really wondering what’s what’s the fate of the protest
Protests are made to feel to let you feel a little bit of inconvenience. People do not like inconvenience. We only like being inconvenienced when we’re not being inconvenienced. So I think in this moment, once life opens back up, you might see less and less. Never know. You never know. You know, for the most part, remember how many people got mad when people were, um, shutting down highways or walking or like blocking traffic or any of those things. People hate inconvenience, but little do they know they don’t go to the point. Like this little bit of inconvenience does not amount to what other people are going through in their lives, in other countries, in different homes. You know? So I think the most part, the protest that happened, people weren’t really out anyway. Now on the flip side, there were more people who were freer to join into those protests because this was a world wide phenomenon worldwide, you know? And would people have been like, I’m not going to go because I need to go to work. Or Ooh, if I call out of work, they’re going to be mad. Then I’m going to get fired. Nobody cared at this moment because nobody was really doing anything anyway. So I think it was divine timing of it happening when it did, because if everybody would have been working and traveling and whatever people would have been more annoyed, even more so of the protests that were going on than normal, because people were like, well, I’m not outside anyway I can cheer on. We can hold our flashlights. At the end of the night, we can be on our, we can be prone. We can be on our knees. We can do all those things because it didn’t inconvenience us. And I think that’s one of the problems because we saw us in them. Usually that’s a good thing. But sometimes when that moment happens, we just see like us, us, me, how is this going to affect me? As opposed to, I need to be there for somebody else and support, you know,
Thank you for helping me understand protests better. It is important to think about that inconvenience or like annoying annoyance being the tool, not the purpose. Like somebody poking you over and over again becomes annoying, but it’s not, they’re not trying to poke you. They’re trying to talk to you
Get your attention. Exactly.
They’re trying to, it’s not the poking. So I, I hope that things do open up. I hope that protests continue to annoy people and more so than before. I think they will, because more people are going back to work. Like you said, they weren’t that annoying because they weren’t in the way. And then in Los Angeles, in many cases, they’re a beautiful, a beautiful, beautiful spectacle. Dare I say entertaining for some people. Ooh. You know, but I, Right, right. And I’m here, I’m here for all of it. But um, I really hope that they do continue. Don’t get me wrong though. Please. If that’s the sound bite, you take away from this. I don’t want protest to continue. I want change.
There we go. I was about to say that I want some action after that
Change to have, instead of, we don’t need to keep poking
Cause that finger is going to get burnt out fingers, going to get burnt out. It’s going to be bent like that. Like in the cartoons,
Whats a bunion if it’s on your nuckle,
A Nunion? I dunno. I dunno.
Beautiful. Well, I know that you are a busy, busy person. I,
I’m not too busy to talk. I love it. Especially you.
Ah, thank you. I’m enjoying this so much. Um, anything else coming up from people in the room? Jessica Castro. Love you love that you’re here.
Yes. That finger is going to enlist the other fingers,
This is great. And then if you learn nothing good people learn that a bunion on your knuckle is a nunion I love this. Um, you know, it’s interesting. Speaking of this, just this thought is just now jelly. In locking. We have a sam point. We have a sam point because of Uncle Sam and we want you, and I’m so curious to see what dance right now will look like to people like me, locking is one of my favorite styles of dance. And you know, I I’m, I’m far from a club in the early seventies, but something about it resonates with me. And I really love the way that, um, dance is kind of a portal into the moment in history, uh, of when it was created locking for example. But I’m, I’m so curious for people 30, 40 years from now to look at this and I wonder what dance will be saying about this time right now.
I hope there’s a Milange. I really do. Um, one thing that is not a gripe, but I wish I got to talk to more of my brothers and sisters who do hip hop. I feel like a lot of the tokens or some of the other African Americans who do other dance styles we’re talking to each other. But when lists are made or like when people want to do a benefit or anything, if you don’t necessarily do hip hop, then you’re not necessarily enlisted. And I’m not like trying to be like, but it’s more of, I understand that there’s a bigger Brown community in hip hop and a lot of those dance styles, but I wish we all came together. Well, not now because of COVID, but I mean like mentally came together to really try to unite everybody because like I said, not necessarily like commercial and company or this in that, I just feel like sometimes I’m like this when it comes to the hip hop community, when I’m, when I’m speaking on anything. And I would love to hear in compare and contrast and have these conversations too, because my blues are different than yours and yours are different than mine. My outlook is different than yours and yours is different than mine. I’m used to being, you know, one of the few in what I do. And a lot of times, you know, you might be around more people. So I would love to have not only a mental Milange, but see a merging of the styles and see what happens and all of those other things, because I think there’s beauty and mixture and there’s beauty and separation.
I, you know, I was just about to zero in on that, we talked a little bit about ballet, the technique of ballet, how saying that ballet is the foundation of all styles is tremendously exclusive. Um, but also I believe that style A. if you’re a smart person, knowledge of style, A. if applied to style B can give you a deeper understanding if for no other reason than because the body is the vessel. So is there a right or wrong in terms of purist maintain, this is this, it won’t change. It is what it is that blah versus, well, this can grow into that. And I’m open to your take on this. You know, the end.
I think I’ll start by saying this, that one problem that the vets or the OGs or the old heads have is not necessarily the styles, morphing and changing because that’s what it was for us. You don’t want anybody admonishing you for trying to do your own thing. I think where the friction comes from is not calling it what it is or giving the respect It’s due. For example, I like to do, I like to teach jazz. Um, most things have a contraction, a kickball change, a triplet, a pas be bourres and an envelope. You know what I mean? Like things that in my head are considered jazz, jazz. Now, most people go like, Oh, well that’s not really like jazz funk. And I was like, no, it’s not because it’s not that I’m a purist. It’s just that if I’m calling something this and I’m billing it as that, I want people to go, Oh, that’s what that is. So if you don’t know what the pure part is, the derivations won’t make sense to you. And as much as I love a derivation, like I’m one of those people that I’m like put it together. Sure. I just feel like if it’s organic, all day, if it’s not, I feel like we can, we can sense that it’s something in your spirit that can sense that. And it’s not necessarily that you’re putting it on out on a platter for us to judge. It’s just more of, does it feel organic for you if you’re sharing it that way? Cool. Maybe that’s just you. But I think the problem that I have sometimes when styles form in milange and everything, I think it’s called one thing where it’s like, but to have the technique, to be able to do this, you need that in all of this is missing. If that makes sense a little bit.
Yeah. I think you’re bringing up an interesting point, which is, um, not only in acknowledging and then knowing origins, but also referring to the origins with the words, the names, the people, the, the dances is unique and that you cannot learn how to dance from a book. No, but you must be able to point to, without, with something other than movement, the sources, the places you have to have words that explain the thing. You have to have names and dates of where it came from. Otherwise it dies right there with the moment that it flourished and bubbled and then was gone.
Cause we’re, grios, it’s a pass down, especially a lot of our, you know, black dance form. It’s passed down from generation to generation. And um, the more you know about it, the more everybody else will know. And then you won’t get clocked on appropriation anyway, you know, either way, because you know the history you’re giving credit to the people who came before you, you’re giving a nod. I’m giving a nod to the Luigi. I’m giving a nod to Matt Maddox. I’m giving a nod to Frank Hatchett. I’m giving a nod to all of those people, just in my being in paying it forward and passing it forward. Because you know, we hear all the time, tap dancing is dying. Jazz is dying. All these things are dying. One. Why is it all the Brown stuff dying. Two Is it really dying? Are you just not doing it. Three. How can we help to not make it die is by passing along what it is in its true form. So by the time you do your derivation and you put your own sauce on it, you put your own stank, you filmed it and then you put it out there for the world to see people aren’t going like, Oh, are you a culture vulture? No, I’m not a culture vulture. I’m giving the history as I’m doing it. I’m a living, breathing museum, work of art. And if you go into it, knowing that and being firm in what you know, and then researching history. Cause I know a lot of things, are social dances, we did them at a certain time and everybody did them, but who did them? Where did they do them? What was the time? We all have to turn into sociologists and anthropologists in this moment. Sorry, I use a lot of big words, but you know what I’m talking about. You have to do your research because again, if you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going and that’s even with dance styles, like you just have to know. And again, knowledge is so important in, in, in just all of the things, because somebody may try to tell you what it’s not, but at least you can tell them what it is.
The backdrop. Yeah. We stand in front of all the dance that came before us
All the time, all the time, we are living, breathing repositories of everyone and everything that came before us. So give them some credit because they worked really hard. They came through the plagues, they came through the trail of tears. They came through the interment camps. They came through being enslaved. They came through Ellis Island, give them, give them a click, give them some love. These people worked hard. And not only that, this was their tribute. This was their, this was their party. This was their joy in the midst of everything they were going through. So by you trying to just make it monetary, come in a half an hour late, not even tell that, not even tell the full story and you make money off of it. What are you doing? You’re stopping it at you. The whole thing is to be a repository of that gift and pay it forward. What are you doing?
Jess Castro is asking. I’m going to kind of meld them together. Sure. She asks two questions. She says, do you think that the problem is that when students start dancing their foundation, they start by taking these fusion type of classes. So then there’s no actual foundation and they don’t have the origin. That’s A, part A and then B is, why do you think it’s not attractive to the new generation? And I think she means why, why do you believe the foundation is not that attractive to the new generation? Jess am I, am I, am I right in that second question? Feel free to chime back in.
Cool. So the first one about fusion, I do kind of feel that way, but I think it starts with your teachers. If your teachers want to be famous and not want to educate you, it’s also the intention behind it because we have to hold our teachers accountable. Now it’s hard when you just don’t know, we all came from somewhere that was not New York or LA or Atlanta or Chicago. So we all came from maybe a Dolly Dinkle or if you were privileged enough to have the best choreographers come in, I didn’t all the time. So I use TV. That was my substitution back in Connecticut we didn’t really have hip hop. And this was like 93, 94 95. So what I learned, I watched by watching TV. Now, the good thing was I did stalk dance. I literally was a dance crazy. Um, I was one of those people that I started off in the beginner class. But by the end of the year, I was in a more advanced class because I went home and I did it myself and I looked it up and I wanted to know the words. I think it came from a fear of sounding nuts. I wanted to know all the fancy French words and it wasn’t being elitist. You’re using those fancy French words. I want to know what those fancy French words are because for me having that knowledge, nobody could take that away from me. You can tell me maybe my foot wasn’t pointed, but I can tell you what step, you know. So it was always the specificity of the movement that I wanted to know. I wanted to see you do it. So another thing is I, my dance teachers, I didn’t grow up with my dance teachers doing the step. They were all older. My dance teacher was not about to do no saut de chat. Her assistant was about to do no saut de chat. So they had to explain to me what your body was doing. And I had to use my imagination. And then once I got to the point they were saying, then that’s it as opposed to let me show you what it is, let me dance in front of you. Let me do the combo. That was never it for me. So I came up learning that way. So to go back to the question, I think maybe there’s a little bit of that because it’s the education of our teachers. Our teachers don’t quite know what the words are and we need to just hold them accountable here. You know, in Canada, they have syllabus, here we don’t necessarily have that. Like, um, for example, I had gotten to an argument here that says like a pique turn or a pique, we call it pique, but other people don’t call it that. And then somebody else was like, no, it’s French. It’s just what it is. It’s a pique. And I said, no, in Canada or Australia, it’s called pose. Like opposed they turn. And they were like, well, that’s not right. And I said, see, but I just told you, I went to those places and that’s what they call it. So it’s educating our educators. So everybody in competition, convention, world who are teaching teachers tell them that. So the second part of the question about, um, what was it, why doesn’t the new generation? I don’t think the new generation likes limits. I think that’s why contemporary is so popular in other forms where they get to just be themselves because our generation and above was taught to do this and learn this way. Granted, we have free thought. We have all of that, but I think hip hop was radical Street Jazz was radical. You know what I mean? And I think the difference was our vets didn’t really look down on it. They were just like, Oh, you talk took it to a new place where now like, even with tap or even with other things, people saw what I was doing. And I think the vets were like, yes, but now us being the vets doing to the younger generation, I don’t think it’s necessarily the dance form and that it’s fusion. I think it’s the integrity behind it because I am, I have gritty integrity, you know? And not just, we say integrity in the movement, keep your hips down. When you’re sitting on the floor and hip integrity, make sure your knees are facing up. We’re used to that integrity where sometimes people want more of a free flow. And it’s not just an LA thing where people go like, Oh, they just want to perform. And they just want to live live. See, we were taught to live and practice, but live within the confines now, which one is better or worse. Now, nowadays, people take the information and write poetry with their body. They write a sonnet, with their feet. They do haiku with their chest, you know? And um, and I think it’s all the same glo-. I was about to say that it’s global now where people do not want to be limited. And I wonder if that has to do with our labels, for gender, our labels for sexuality. I wonder if this is just where we are in our lives. Because remember where we were in our lives, we had, we had some boundaries, we had boundaries, just societally everything we didn’t, we were in boxes, but now the generations are pushing those boxes away and really challenging how we feel about ourselves, our world, how we interact with it and what we mean, what dance means to us and what we mean to the dance. So I don’t think it’s that it’s necessarily admonishing the younger generation. I think as long as they’re doing it with integrity, I’m kind of here for it. I’m here for it all day long, because I remember how it felt when people tried to look at me and be like, Oh, is that what you’re doing? And I’d be like, yes, that’s what I’m doing Now again, I take great delight that I get respect from my vet. There’s very few that’s that I get respect from. But I think it’s also because I did the work. And I think if people did the work, it would be more respect, live your life. We all know a young one that inspires us. You know, my little mini me Ryan Vettle when he puts those shoes on, I’m like, Oh, all day long, you know what I mean? There’s just certain young ones in our lives that get it. And they’re like 12, they can be like 15. They could be like 19, 20, 21. We all have those ones, you know? But the thing is, it’s instilling in them the work. And it’s not that it’s not trauma. It’s not that you have to beat them up. It’s not that they have to keep doing the steps a million times. It’s having the integrity and doing the work.
I love this idea. And I love that. You’re talking specifically about responsibility of teachers and then the leveling up of the students, something you said also just gave me an idea. And I know that there are a lot of parents in the room and I wonder if it might not be the responsibility of the teacher, just like it’s the responsibility of the parent to say, eat your vegetables. And you know that there are parents who get real creative with how those vegetables show up like peas all of a sudden are in a pureed sauce of some sort, whatever we put honey on him or what, I don’t know what the tricks are to get your kids to eat vegetables. But what if it’s the job of the teacher to present the boundary as an opportunity and not a boundary?
There we go.
This is what you get to do high fifth, fourth, whatever. This is what is available to you. This is what you get to do versus this is what it was. This is how it is. This is how it has to be. It’s a teacher’s creative challenge to present the boundaries as opportunities
Because they all are, nothing is an obstacle. It’s not, it’s just a different way to think about it. And that’s what I try to do in class in general. I mean, anybody who knows me knows that’s just like, even when I do, um, Demi Demi Grand, I tell the people in my class, the bottom half is strict, the upper half lives. So I want you to remember the progression and I want you to remember the pedagogy and the technique in that, but the upper half should be able to flow. You know, the bottom half should be in print type set and the upper half should be in cursive. You know? And I feel like a lot of times like that, if you let people know they can be an individual because we were taught to be a group. A lot of times, you know, if you went to a dance studio, whether you competed or not, or a company you were taught to be as one, and that’s great and all, but I feel like a lot, like, like I said, with society and everything, people are living for their stars, you know, in their company, because at the end of the day, everybody who’s in LA was either the best in their studio or the best looking one. But what did you learn? What did you learn? You know?
I think that if, if there’s anything to be learned from movement, it’s that you’re able to move best when you have, when you’re solid someplace, some thing has to be anchored in order for there to be freedom. And dance is a great metaphor for this technique itself as a metaphor for this. And I will, I would like to share with all of you guys that are here right now, um, something that I’ll dig into on the podcast much later down the road, but Dom and I talked about, and I would like to touch on this. Um, here, this concept of technique versus style, are people missing something by not getting the foundation? If, if foundation is technique and fusion is style, then what are we doing? And what kind of future are we looking at? If all we’re teaching is style and no foundation, I’m not saying that it would be bad. I actually am really curious as a person who’s shoulders were always up in belly was always out and supporting leg was never straight. Like I’m curious about a world where style is the currency. I’m curious about that. I think there’ll be a lot wrong with it. The Rockettes wouldn’t exist, right? Like technical details. It’s like essential, Maybe? I would love to be questioned on that. Like, and we might be finding out Jess, we might be finding out what a dance world looks like. That doesn’t have technique, but we also might be finding that there is technique And this is why this is a hard question. Not, this is why I ask everybody. I talk to you because take Fosse For example, whose style was born from his physical limitations, right. We see pro nation, we see not high legs. Um, but that became its own technique. You can do Fosse well and not, well, you can teach it. It is like, this is why that question is so hard to answer because they’re actually not.
It’s cyclical. It’s cyclical. Yeah. I’d like to have another life. Sorry. I was going to say, I have another analogy like that. Um, when I’m teaching, I tell my students it’s all about lines. And I said, think of yourself as an actor, if you know your lines and you know, what’s happening, then you can improvise off of that. So as a dancer, once I tell you what the line is, if you want to improvise off of that, at least you have the baseline. And then from there you can create because, um, again, just with acting or improvisation or building blocks in order to form sentences, you need to have words in order to have words, you need to have letters. So you have to do the building blocks. So then you can just knock all the blocks and then switch the words around and do all of that. Because at the end of the day, passion overcomes technique anyway, because we can watch somebody do something technically perfect, and I’d rather drink a Yoohoo, but then there’s somebody else who might do something else, and it’s like, Ooh, that made me feel something like, for example, Fosse easiest, hardest thing ever to me in the beginning, it felt like I looked like I was taking a hot shower. I was just like, what are these positions? Why is that? You know what I mean? But then you realize you either have it or you don’t, but you still have to actively be working towards it. And I think that’s the thing with technique and style style. Sometimes you can acquire. Technique you have to actively work towards
If dance is the universal language technique is the dictionary technique is the alphabet. Like you don’t get to speak universally without having words with which to say
Yes. And to add on to that, then those, those letters can make other languages, which is even better because that’s how you become multifaceted in different styles.
This is huge. This is huge. I love where this conversation is going. And I honestly, I could, I would love to maybe make this a weekly recurring moment because I think honestly, Dom we’re scratching the surface. Um, but I do have to run. I really, really appreciate your time.
Thank you. Thank you. Oh, can I just do a quick shout out thing? Oh, praise him. So, okay. So I know this is weird, but my birthday is on Sunday and I know when you said birthday, I was like, does she know? So my birthday is on Sunday. So a couple of things. One, if you donate to a charity of my name, cool, if you want to donate to me for Apple juice or whatever you want. Cool. If you don’t want to do any of those things, if you post a quote that you’ve heard, that I’ve said, do it or anything that is empowered you because I want the day to not necessarily be about me. I want it to go through me and go to you. So anything that you’ve, that’s been mind blowing for you or anything that you want to put out into the world, be like Dom said, just be better. Or Dom wanted me to do this. Please do that on Sunday. I’m going to post about it. Dana. Thank you so much for having me and letting me just talk. I appreciate it.
Oh, absolutely. It’s my absolute pleasure. I’m going to go find out how I can loop this video all day long on Sunday. I love it. Okay. Have a great rest of your evening. Thank you everybody for being here.
Thank you later. I’m not going to leave until you leave. Okay.
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. Remember 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! Hello! Hello, and welcome to episode 25. Yes, I did it 25 episodes. And is if that wasn’t when enough. My win for this week is that my team and I have really, really refined our workflow and we are bringing you more stuff that moves you. We are ready to ship on some awesome behind the scenes and deleted content to our members. And we’re getting really, really excellent feedback about our weekly worksheets. Um, those are downloadable and editable PDFs that our members have access to so that they can listen and work along with each episode and really get to commit and apply what they’re learning to their lives, like right now! we’ve posted a free to all sample worksheet from episode one, over at patreon.com/wtMMpodcast So be sure to go take a look at that and subscribe to either of our top three tiers. If you want the whole kit and caboodle, I love kit and caboodle, by the way, that should be the name of a tier right let’s focus. I have four tiers of membership. The first one includes a thank you note, a sticker, access to a playlist of the month, behind the scenes, videos, bloopers, all sorts of good stuff. And then the top three tiers, believe it or not have even more. I mean, really, really cool perks parked over there. So you want to give patreon.com/wtMMpodcast a visit. Okay, that’s it for me. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.
do do do do do bam! Okay. Great. I am so glad that you are winning. I’m proud of you keep crushing it. All right. Speaking of crushing it, our guest today is Dominique Kelly, an undeniable talent, a bright, bright mind, and a dear friend, as well as a leading voice in the dance industry. He is a shining example of excellence with roots in tap that actually branch out as wide as styles can branch. Um, and I’ve had the honor of working with him on several different projects. And recently I saw an IgG live that he did with Zach Saunders. Um, I will definitely be linking to that in the show notes because it is high, high quality. Now I was not shocked, but I was very, very moved, um, by Dominique’s compassion and eloquence in discussing and explaining some really complex and nuanced stuff, broadly racism, but very specifically racism and dance. Racism in the entertainment industry. Man, I watched that IG live. I grabbed a pen and paper and went to school watching it. And then I promptly called him and asked if he would be willing to go a little bit deeper here on the podcast. And he said, yes. And then we talked for about 45 minutes about all the things. Um, the conversation you are about to hear is not that conversation. This is an altogether different 45 minute conversation that really shines a light on very important things. And I certainly walked away with it knowing more and doing better. And I really hope you do too. Please enjoy this conversation with Dominique Kelley.
Dana: This is huge. I’m so, so excited to introduce the one and only Dominique Kelly. Hello, Dominique.
Dominique:Hi. How are you doing? so great to be here. Thank you for having me.
Dana: I am doing well. Thank you. It is great to have you here. I am all already cheesing pretty hard. My cheeks are going to be sore after this. I can tell, um, thank you for being here, man. You are just a master of words and a master of your craft. Please take a moment, introduce yourself. Tell us what you want us to know about you.
Dominique: Great. Well, first and foremost, my name is Dominique Kelly. It sounds like Jonathan only it’s Dominique and, um, I’m a jokester, but more importantly, I’m a human. Yeah, that’s what I’d like to get across first, not my accomplishments, but my humanity. Now, when it comes to props for the business, I first I became professional at 12, 12 years old. I did my first show, black and blue, which was a European tour and it was a tap, a tap show and it was all black people. Um, my next show after that was bring da noise, bringing da funk and you know, another pivotal tap show that talked about American history through the lens of African American history and tap and another monumental show. And then after that, I co choreographed of my first musical at 16 with Omar Edwards, another black tack show ironically. So the first five years of my career were all black tap shows, which shape Mmm. The way I learned the way I improvised, the way I saw the world, the way I saw myself. After that, I took a year off. I went to high school my senior year and I was valedictorian. And then I went to the University of Connecticut, um, originally on an animal science partial scholarship, which was fun. Okay. Clues you into how my brain thinks. Graduated after four years, I was homecoming King, which I was happy about. Um, especially at a school that big, it wasn’t necessarily, um, how you saw yourself, but it’s also how your peers saw you. After that, I moved to New York. I did Broadway, Film, TV the, for about two years, and then came to LA. Yes. And you know, just trying to do all the things, break down, all the barriers, love on all the people have those conversations that I could, and keep striving for more and 13 years later, I’m still here.
Well, I’m glad that you are here. And I am glad that we are witnessing and getting to engage in a conversation with you. This is super special.
Now, one of the things that stood out to me in a big, big way about the conversation you had with Zach is that you are a master of the analogy and you’re an exceptional master of the dance analogy. I want to start with one of the things that stood out to me the most in your conversation with Zach, you said, listen, ‘to all of my white friends, my, my white people out there. This is not your moment to be in the spotlight. This is not your moment to even be an understudy or a swing. You know what? You are the lighting technician right now. It is your job to hold the light and shine it where it needs to be most.’ So I would love to, I I’m working to be a better lighting, lighting technician, myself. And, uh, I want to start by asking if there’s a takeaway that you had from that conversation with Zach or from several conversations. I’m sure you’re a part of right now. And is there a place, is there a topic you want highlighted here today or something you want to go deeper on?
Sure. First of all, let me just say, um, about being the lightining tech. A lot of us want to start with empathy, which means you have to think of yourself in that category or what’s happening to somebody else. Also, a lot of us like to think of ourselves as prisms so if the light hits us, we’d like to refract it. But in this moment, move out of the way. And what I was saying was to accurately amplify other voices, they should not, and could not come through you because then you put your own bias on it. So just let people speak. And whether it’s a freestyle dance battle, when you get tired and you have no more moves, you pass it on. If it’s like beatboxing and you’re rapping in your freestyle and you have nothing else to say, you pass the mic, you don’t hold the mic and put it by you while somebody else’s rapping into the mix. So in those moments, like being a lighting tech past the light, don’t say anything present and jazz hands to somebody else. And when people asked to be an ally or to be a great support system, the best thing is to stand out of the way or stand down and have that humility and drop the ego and just go, I don’t know, I barely know much about this topic, but I know someone who does let them speak for themselves, you know? So I think in those moments, that’s what I’m talking about when I want you to be a lighting tech, as opposed to somebody who wants to stand in front or stand behind or go like, ‘Okay. Um, so what they really mean’ is there’s no, what they really mean, just let them talk. Because lot of times people don’t have that voice. They’ve never been listened to, you know, in certain moments. So I think it’s important to be a lighting tech.
Now, what I would love to talk about some of the little things that I think, um, we all go through, but I have a different lens if it’s like, you know, little things while we’re on set. Um, if it’s little things within the dance industry that I’ve, um, we talked about it earlier. Um, I usually say learning unlearning, but now I have to revise it. Thanks. Thanks to you, Dana. It’s not necessarily learning it and unlearning it’s learning and relearning. So I would love to talk about some of the things that even I’ve had to relearn in this process.
Nice. Let’s yeah. Let’s have that conversation.
Yes. In teaching dance. Mmm. I’ve had to be impeccable, because of COVID, I am not there in the studio with people. So I really have to be very impeccable with my words in what I say. Now, dance is very strict. Anyway, when it comes to certain disciplines, it either is, or it isn’t. Then from there, you can show the variables and intricacies and the derivations of it all. Now, when it comes to talking about certain things, we can use our French words, you know, it’s like, is it a grand jete, or is it a saut de chat? Or even for tap, we can do, is it a four count rift? Or is it a five count riff? You know what I mean? Like there’s just certain nuances that you need to know to make sure. It’s just like, okay, so which Boogaloo are we doing? You know, like which, which vibe, what is, what is the vibe there. Now when it comes to teaching, I like to meet everyone where they are in their learning. Not everybody has had the same education. Not everybody has the same relationship with dance. Not everybody wants to be a professional dancer. So I like to teach from a bare bones learning point of view. Being African American. I also liked to teach black art forms. I would like to give some history because if you don’t know where you are, where the dance form came from, you don’t know where it’s going to expand upon thus, leading too sometimes people appropriating because they don’t know where it came from.
Okay. Another thing I like to do is, um, lead from the place of, and I think you and I were talking about it. I had to relearn a little bit ago about ballet. Now we slash all of us were taught. Mmm. That ballet was the foundation of all the dance styles. And I remember coming up, people should, they would say, well, everybody, whenever you dance, they should see that you have technique and technique, meaning ballet technique. Now, a couple of things that I had to relearn about that one, everything has a technique. Salsa has a technique. Gumboot has a technique, um, waving and popping have techniques. Everything has a technique. And a technique just means the way you go about sequentially step-by-step to learn the specifics of a dance style, whether it’s cultural, whether it’s improvisational, like all of those things. Now, the next thing I had to wrap my head around is that thought is Euro-centric bordering on white supremacist. Now I know that seems very far reaching and all of a sudden people hear that word and they get very scared and turned off. Just think about all the things that are encompassing ballet, the positions, um, the feet, um, the pink tights, where it came from the derivation. So if you are not doing something that’s African base, which is Afro-centric, which a lot of our dance styles came from. A lot of our hip hop styles, a lot of our dance hall styles, um, whether it’s, um, Afro Afro fusion, whether it’s Afro funk, whether it’s even jazz, tap like a whole bunch of those, then you have a lot of branch offs from there. So if you believe that your ballet style, you found it a whole bunch of other styles and should be seen in those other styles, I don’t think that’s exactly right and I don’t think that’s exactly the technique because a proficient technician we’ll show proficiency in that technique. And a lot of times, as we know, ballet will help with your upper body, but isn’t necessarily helping you with tap steps. No, not necessarily. You know, so there’s a lot of things that I had to relearn in a nap and nice analogy that I would like to use is, bleach. Bleach is good and it’s bad, and it’s good for what it’s good for and it’s bad for what it’s bad for. So in order to be able to use it and to properly clean, you have to dilute it with some water. And sometimes that relearning is the water that takes away and cuts, and it becomes more accessible to clean around people
That just reminded me. Um, there’s a photographer named Greg Heisler who talks about technique as, um, another analogy. And I do think it’s important to be careful with analogies because although they do make a lot of sense, what we’re doing is saying that two different things are the same thing. And they are obviously not like that’s part of the reason why we’re having a lot of misunderstanding and relearning is because it’s very easy to say that this is just like this. And in honesty, it’s so much more complicated than that.
So for, you know, with a little bit of fear of being a little bit of wrong here, I want to share this quote, Greg Heisler, the photographer says that techniques are like gloves. Everybody can buy a pair of gloves and you do different gloves for different occasions. Um, right. Like a dentist uses different gloves than a gardener, um, or a motorcyclist, right? You wouldn’t want your dentist wearing motorcycle gloves while performing the surgery and the gloves exists to help get the job done. Yeah. Different gloves, different jobs. But the interesting thing here in what relates to artistry specifically is that gloves also cover up your fingerprint. And if your fingerprint is your voice, then it can be very harmful to be told ballet technique, ballet technique, ballet technique. And we’re not getting to see the individual voice, the signature of the artist. So I wanted to throw that in there as an interesting analogy. And I’m glad you brought up glad you brought that up. I never, honestly, until you said those words, I had never considered the thought that ballet is the foundation of all styles. I never, that’s a phrase that was meant to be inspiring, like men to get people in ballet class, but unintentionally is really exclusive. And,
And I’m guilty of it. It’s almost like a leader because think of it, what is being taught in our conservatories, in our universities, it’s very ballet and modern based, and you’d be hard pressed to find any Brown or black styles of dance. I’m very guilty of it too, because especially in the industry, I’m just like, Oh my gosh, they would be so amazing if they had ballet technique, like just think of the refinement that they would have, not saying that that is wrong or right. But I had to relearn that they have a set of skills that is kin to them and akin to their culture and akin to their movement and what they want to do. Who am I to say that this Eurocentric style would make them better?
Dana: Oh, right. I love what Dominique has to say about technique. And I had honestly never thought of how a statement like ballet is the foundation of all styles could be so exclusionary and, and also so untrue, just straight up, not true. Now I am a fan of cross training. I am a fan of using what you know about style A to help inform style B. And although you might not see it much in my choreography, I do love a Demi Demi Grande, but I am absolutely committed to changing my language around this topic when I teach, I am also excited to dig deeper into my understanding of other non-classical techniques. But for now let’s dig a little deeper on learning and knowing, and really making change with Dom
The subject of learning and relearning. I want to mention something else I’ve been a little bit sensitive about and hear your thoughts on this. Mmm. Uh, I think that there’s a lot of pressure on learning right now. Act now, speak out now, donate now. And I think it’s hard to argue against that. It is very important that change happen now, what I’m concerned about is this cram style learning the way that you crammed for a test and the, and then forgot everything that you learned, the way you are able to hold onto names and dates for like the day. But then they go away and the actual knowledge doesn’t stick. So what I would love to talk about is, you know, in class and in life, how do you encourage deep understanding, deep knowledge, opposed to just cramming and reciting or following along with the flock, if you will.
Um, from a teaching standpoint, what I love to do, especially in my class. Yeah. Um, put the onus on my students. So for anybody who’s taken my class, I asked them, what are they working towards today? Don’t let me validate you. You validate yourself. If you come in working on one thing, whether it’s specificity, whether it’s picking up quickly, whether it’s being able to perform it quickly, there’s nothing that I can say or do in this class or pull you out to do, that will take that away because you’ve been working on it. So I think it’s up to us to do the work instead of somebody else doing the work for you, you have to pick today, what am I learning about? Is it something historical? Is it something that I’ve been complicit in? Is it something I’m adding to? Um, am I learning about, um, somebody who lives totally different than me or somebody who’s lived beside me that I didn’t know what they were going through. So I think that’s one thing. Choose what you are personally learning in that moment and what you want to learn because in school, and when you were younger in dance class, you were told what to learn. You necessarily have a choice. So in these moments we have choices. So if one thing is speaking to you, and one thing is not maybe focused on the thing that’s speaking to you, but still come around to the thing that’s maybe not because maybe you’ll be in a different place, in a different head space to be able to totally receive that.
Another thing I do in my class as a teacher that hopefully will help people out there. I give knowledge that is widely known, just so we’re all on one accord, just so we know I make people’s shout it out with me just so that we can be together. And I think being a group is very powerful. Then the other exercise that I just told you about to make us feel like individuals to talk about what we’re working on individually. So then that pulls the onus on you to be like, okay, we’re a group, but I have my individual thoughts and traumas and weaknesses and strengths.
The third thing I do in class is teach whether it’s history or something, no one knows. So it always shows a need and a room for growth. Because at the end of the day, if you came into my class and killed it all the way around, you feel like you’re done and you do not need to come back. And what I like to do is show people, there’s always room for growth. Even with myself, I’ll pose a question that I don’t know the answer to I’ll pose the question like, okay. ‘So what’s the difference between this step and this step?’ And they could tell me the differences, or they could say nothing. They’re still the same, but we still would have had that conversation. Now I realize a lot of teachers and dance educators don’t approach it like I do. But this is where we take the onus back. Instead of cramming, basically space out your own curriculum. I understand speaking out now, donating now, I’m all about that. I say, do it. People are afraid to jump on a bandwagon. If there was not a bandwagon to jump on in your life. I think this is probably a good one to jump on to, you know, show solidarity and show humanity and empathy and love, and then all of those things. But in that rush, do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Like just because you cannot ingest it all at one time, nobody can ingest anything like that. At one time, whether it’s information, food, water, TV, you just can’t do it. You have burnout. So make up a curriculum for yourself and be honest with yourself. Be completely honest with yourself. This is where I am in this moment. If there’s one day, you have to take a break, take a break because, just bringing it back to dance. If you get injured, the teacher tells you just sit down physically, but we never did tell people to mentally sit down. So in these moments, sometimes you have to mentally sit down. So you’re able to really absorb it and then come back stronger the next day. And that’s my spiel.
Thank you for your spiel. That was, that was beautiful. I think we all just became better teachers and better learners from that. Um, it reminded me of the power of, you know, seeing both short term and long term. Um, and I think oftentimes we overestimate our ability in the short term like, Oh, I can definitely watch six documentaries and listened to 14 podcasts and read three books this week because I need to catch up. I overestimate my ability, my abilities in the short term, but at the same time, and on the flip side of that coin, we underestimate the longterm. It’s a stretch to dream that we could achieve real fair justice or real true equality. But, but I think that we can, I think we might be underestimating the longterm by thinking that way. So the same way that okay. When I was learning fifth position, I didn’t think that I would be dancing on a world tour stage someday. Yeah. Right. And even when I was 16, I had moments of serious doubt, like look at all my friends going and doing that. And I’m still not what’s wrong with me am I broken? Underestimating long term dedication, knowledge, challenge, um, persistence. Yeah. And I think that that’s like, that is perhaps my biggest lesson right now is to be compassionate for myself in that short term, learning like this week. It’s okay that you didn’t achieve the things that you want to achieve in the next 30 years. And then at the same time, my 30 year goal probably isn’t as high as it could be. I, I I’d really like to see more massive action in dreaming big.
Yeah. My drug of choice are epiphanies.
Meaning I will search out an epiphany any, um, I love having these conversations because as I’ve been talking to you, I’ve been having epiphanies, you know, and I think in those moments, it’s okay to sit with that. Like even when I take dance class, I do not want to be in a dance class where I don’t have an a-ha moment. And I think I blame Oprah for this, but you know, if you’re not having an a-ha moment about either, what your learning, the teacher or yourself, why are you still going? You know, in the book you’re reading the documentary you’re watching the podcast, you’re listening to, if you don’t have an a-ha moment, I understand everything. I mean, entertainment, you can turn your brain off, but I’ve chase epiphanies is because I feel like that’s how I grow and that’s how I connect. And that’s how I love is through, through a moment of, I call it cracking my face where I’m like, Oh wow. What I thought I knew. I didn’t know. Or I thought, I didn’t know that, but I’ve been implementing that this whole time. So I’m an epiphany chaser. Hello, my name, my name is Dominique Kelley, and I’m an epiphany chaser.
I’m going to add that to your opening intro.
You mentioned earlier being the type of teacher that teaches to wherever your student is in their learning journey. And I, I think that that highlights something very important, which is they’re a different type of learners. Um, not just different places in our learning journey, but different ways of learning. So I’m so curious to hear when you have an epiphany moment, how do you let it process and sink in? What is it maybe, maybe that would shed light on a way that we could be learning deeper right now?
Um, when I have those epiphany moments, I immediately write it down because at the end of the day, you’ll forget it just as quickly as it came, like it happens all the time. We were like, Oh, what was that? Um, sometimes I like to keep talking through it and start linking other concepts and then talking about how I can implement it quickly. Take the note. That’s what we’re always told to take the note. And I’m honestly trying to take the note in that moment because you know, whether you’re spiritual or not, I feel like, you know, sometimes you just get flowing and you’re a conduit or a vessel and you have to, they take that spiritual note in that moment, you know? So when I have any epiphany I’m like, Oh, or sometimes I share it with somebody, I’ll call somebody and be like, look, this is what I just said. Learn, tell me it sounds crazy to you, but it just seems like it really makes sense to me right now. Let’s talk about it. Let’s break it down, let us critique it and then let’s build it back up and try to implement it quickly. So quote, unquote, take the note.
Thank you. And how about this? I am right now going to take that note and I’m going to tell you something I’m, I’m workshopping this idea. I don’t know if it holds water. I don’t know if it holds weight, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this concept. I’ve been thinking a lot about humor lately because I have not been laughing a lot lately. And, um, I’m excited to have this conversation with you because you and I have worked together a lot specifically on shows like crazy ex-girlfriend, which makes big, big jokes out of big, big, serious topics. And they do it so well, they do it smart. They do it thorough. They do it with undeniable talent. It’s not sloppy. Um, but it is, it is feather, ruffling and unsettling. I think that humor is as nuanced and individual as, as ideas about race and racism might be. Yeah. So am I, am I nuts in that hypothesis?
No, let’s see a couple of things that I took from that one. There are certain comics and comedians who put a black against the white issue, you know, is how a black person would do it. This is how a white person would do it. And you know how there’s like black jokes and white jokes in comedy and everything like that. I feel like there is some truth to that because it’s an experience. So there’s certain nuances in the experience that you would know about to be able to laugh about. And there are certain experiences that you do not hold that you’re like, wait, that’s not funny at all. You know, if you can present in a way too, it was a group to say, I’m with you and I support you, but let’s look at this in a humorous way that often leads to healing into more conversations. For example, um, after 9-11, it was hard for us to try to laugh again. You know, um, after big events have happened in this country, it’s hard to laugh, immediately cause you almost feel guilty for it. And I feel like laughter is a sense of healing. That’s why especially talking from the black community. Um, there’s a lot of satirical comedy where we joke about things like that, because sometimes you have to laugh, so you don’t cry. You know? Um, other parts of it just are rooted in our history. Like we are given the worst and we’re taught to make the best of it in any situation, whether it’s food, whether it’s a tragedy, whether it’s clothes, whether it’s anything like that. Black people have managed to take the trash and turn it into treasure. And we’ve managed to take the chitlins in turning into a delicacy. So in terms of humor, when it comes like that, I feel like depending on the group, you’re a part of, I think you can only laugh from your position. People call it punching down. You do not want to punch down, especially in your, if you’re in a position of privilege. And that’s another word that we talk about that we’re going to demystify privilege just means you can not necessarily succeed and excel in the world, but there are certain things that will not hinder you and block you as other counterparts. So when punching down, punching down would be, if a millionaire it’s punching down and making fun of people who have less there. So like the poor, middle class, working class, that’s when you don’t want to punch down for all the dancers out there, that’s like dance comedy. When we go look at those dancers, why are you stretching everywhere? Or like, why are you dancing everywhere? Can’t you just be excited and say, you’re excited instead of starting Crump. Like, why are you doing that? Especially when we watch certain reality shows, you know, we see the reaction of people getting happy and then they do like a toe touch or a tumbling pass or multiple pirouettes. And you’re like, why are dancers weird? What? But if a director said that same thing, like dancers are horrible. Why do you do that? That would almost be like punching down if he’s not, or she’s not part of the group. So I think with humor, you have to be very specific and you have to be witty. You have to be smarter than most. And you have to be self aware that even if the joke goes flat, you have to be ready to apologize for it or trace the steps back to why it did work.
You are helping me connect my learners web right now. Mmm. I suppose in that sense that a comedian or, uh, an entertainer telling a joke, whether they’re a comedian or not a comedian is like the ultimate light technician.
They shine the light on the thing and they’re like, Hey, everybody look at that thing. And then it’s on the audience to like, get on board with like, ah, yes. Or I don’t get it.
Yes, exactly. They’re like the ultimate jesters in the King’s court. Yeah. They’re the ones saying the emperor doesn’t have on clothes and not only does the emperor not have on clothes, they have cankles. Yeah. You know what I mean? Like it’s, it’s just one of those things where you just keep, keep going and doing the layers. Now, if you can make people laugh and forget about their problems, you have done the work. If you cause more problems for yourself and other people, you need to go back to the drawing board and be ready to apologize, if that’s your speed. Some people just go, that’s what I felt in the moment, which I understand, but you know, it’s case by case basis.
Let’s talk about that for a second. Let’s talk about that’s what I felt in the moment or speaking my truth versus speaking the truth and the, the importance of accountability right now, the importance of Mmm. Information. And, uh, I guess I say real information, which to me in my mind means true information, tested, dried provable in
Yes. Thank you. Yes. So, um, one of the things that sprung up in our like dress rehearsal conversation yesterday, which I wish I recorded by the way, not that this isn’t divine, I’m loving every moment of this, but, um, we came up on something that I would love to, to share the floor with right now. And that is the concept of the Socratic method, um, which is, uh, asking questions to reveal a person’s understanding of a thing opposed to telling them the thing. And you, you talked a bit about, about this when you explained the way that you teach, which is not just by giving a seminar. Right. But by asking for discussion, but by inviting your students to say, what do you think about that? Why do you think that? What do you, what is your lesson plan for yourself? What would you like to learn today? Giving responsibility and accountability. So, yes, I suppose I’d like to hear from you about your thoughts on how we can better question ourselves in a way that, that works for the community.
Mmm. Going back to college, I studied mass communication and research. That’s what I graduated with the degree. And one big thing that I tookaway from that was gatekeeping. The people or systems put in place that sift the information that you know now, um, sometimes it’s best because if you get all the information at one time, it would be what we talked about, where you’re just overwhelmed with too much information. But, um, let’s do a little exercise if you’re watching ABC news, ABC is owned by Disney. So they’re going to put on ESPN because Disney also owns ESPN. So they’re going to talk about certain sports. Now, Disney also owns the Anaheim Angels. So they’ll probably talk about the Anaheim Angels and they’ll put Disney commercials on there. Then they’re also talk about their cartoons. That’s a part of gatekeeping. It’s not necessarily wrong or right. But what it is is, um, there are certain people that own certain things and they want you to know more of what they’re promoting. Now, not necessarily good or bad.
They’re also absolutely protecting their self interest.
There, there, that goes to. So when you are getting the information, sometimes you have to follow the paper trail and see whose interests are being kept in being, um, shrouded in mystery a little bit. So when I like to read something, I like to curate my opinion and curate my opinion, meaning look at different sources and see the behind the scenes of the source that I’m receiving. Like for example, I’m sure a lot of the people who told me ballet was the foundation for everything came up loving ballet. But what about those people who hate ballet and reject ballet? You know what I mean? What about those people who don’t even have ballet at their studio? So just know that that’s a form of gatekeeping because she’s saying like, or he’s saying I won’t call them out like that, but they are saying that we believe ballet is the foundation. So why don’t you come here and learn it as opposed to saying, we believe, um, the foundation for whatever you want to expand upon and your dance career can be found here. And if it’s not found here, we can direct you to somewhere else. Now, when it comes to learning, one thing that I like to add is if you can teach someone who does not know about it, do you have to explain it the same way they do it? No, you can put it in your jargon, your terms, your slang, your all of those things, because that is truly how you ingest the knowledge. You take it from somebody else and you demystify it and you decode it and you, you take it into your brain and you work your magic. And then when you can talk to somebody else about it, that’s the third step in learning for me. Like even though some people may not think that is for me, that seems when you’ve completed the journey of learning. Now, when it comes to sourcing information, that’s still a part of it too. You really have to do your behind the scenes and checks in and look at Snopes, look at a whole bunch of other things in just with everything going on in the world. Part of it, you do have to take with a grain, a grain of salt and the other part of it, you have to take it very seriously and just follow who’s telling you what, like, for example, when your parents said, I want you to do it, why just do it? Okay. They didn’t have to keep going to say, we want you to do it because it will help you become a better human later on in life. Because if you know how to clean the bathroom, you will always have a job at least cleaning. And then when we come by later on in life, people won’t think that your bathroom looks horrible and it’s just healthier because they don’t need to do that. You know? So when it comes to learning and sourcing, figure out who the source is, first, what interests are serving them by saying it. And then what their message is, are they teaching or are they sharing? And you have to figure out which one of those best serves you.
Okay. I want to jump out and touch a bit more on the Socratic method and critical thinking. For the philosophers in the room. I know, I know. I hear you stay in your lane Dana. I know. Well, my lane is teaching and this tool is the ultimate teachers tool. So before I leave it to you and Google and a great video that I will link in the show notes about the Socratic method. I just want to be clear that simply asking any old question and credit checking your sources is not the Socratic method. The Socratic method named after Socrates is the process of uncovering the essence of a thing or an idea by asking questions of different types questions that probe assumptions like what might someone assume instead, or what else might explain that, um, questions that probe reasons or evidence like, why might someone do that? Or what would be an example of that? Or my favorite questions that clarify or define, like, if a triangle is a shape, then is a circle, a triangle. The person on the receiving side of that question would have to further define a triangle as perhaps a three sided shape and so on, and so on. Let’s apply. If I were teaching ballet and I asked my students ‘What is a plier?’ They would likely either just show me with their bodies, a Demi plier, or they would report back the French translation that I have drilled into their minds to bend. Plier means to bend. So my Socratic questioning might begin with, ‘so if I bend at the waist and fold forward, am I doing a plier?’ No! Bending your knees. They might say, Oh, okay. I might say ‘so when I sit and put my shoes on, am I doing a plier?’ No. Oh no, no, no. It’s when you’re standing and you bend your knees. Oh, okay. Okay. ‘Could I be standing on my hands and do a plier or standing on my heels and do a plier?’ No, no, no, no, no. Not if you want to do a ground play, then your heels have to come off the floor. Well, unless you’re in second position, in which case they stay on the floor, you see where this is going. I might then say, ‘Oh, Oh. So is a plier when my feet are flat and I bend my knees as far as they can bend until my heels come off the floor, unless I’m in second position. Of course. In which case they stay down and then do I just stay down there? Bent need forever?’ No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You have to straighten your knees again. That’s a plier. ‘Oh, I see. Okay. Okay. So you mean to tell me that a plier, correction, a grand Plier is a knee bend where the knees bend until the thighs are horizontal to the ground and the heels rise up off the ground, except for when I’m in second position. And then the heels are lowered as the knees straighten.’ Yes, that’s a plier. Okay. Okay. I could have easily started at the definition, which no five-year-old could possibly ever remember, but instead, careful questions and critical thinking, help the students arrive at the definition themselves. You can see the value here. You can probably also see how explaining something as simple as a plier could drive a person, totally bonkers. If it’s this hard to explain the essence of a plier, just imagine how hard it is to explain or define love or faith or justice. It’s, it’s clear why this is not our default method for teaching or thinking for that matter because it takes a lot of time and a lot of work, but it also results in a deeper understanding in a stronger argumentative standpoint or plier point or pointe point. So yes, Socratic questioning takes time. It takes effort. It can be annoying. It can come off as aggressive or argumentative, but like everything, the more you practice, the better you get. And also the more you practice, the more you will understand why Socrates was not the most popular guy at the Acropolis. Okay. Enough about old and very dead Greek guys, by the way, for a little extra credit, you might want to learn a little bit about how Socrates died, fasanating, but for now, let’s get back to Dom and some different types of questions.
Asking people to explain and redefine and re-explain and challenge themselves can be taken as being, um, uh, combative or disrespectful or, um, agitating. And I think that there is a way, and I would like to think of dancers as being a type of community thats sensitive and knowledgeable enough to ask those difficult questions in a way that doesn’t point a finger. But that is more of an open hand in asking for, will you share this with me? instead of what you think about this? And so I, I, that’s the type of learner that I would like to be. That’s the type of learner that I like encouraging and my students, um, you know, we probably grew up hearing. The only stupid question is a question that’s already been asked or a question that you don’t ask. There’s all these ideas about what is a stupid question. And I really love, Mmm. The idea of asking a question that shows how much, you know, instead of how much you don’t know in class that would show up, for example, as student raises his hand and asks, can you do that again versus, Hey teacher, I understand that you’re stepping on your right foot on one, but I not sure what comes before that or immediately after. Can you talk through that? I’m like, wow, there’s a person that’s listened to me so far and wants to, and wants to know more. I’m really eager to help that person understand. So if I’m, if I could give an encouraging thought to our audience today, it would be share the floor, shine the lights, and ask questions that show your interest in understanding, instead of question, that deliberately challenge or seek to disprove somebody else’s understanding.
Or very self serving questions just for the attention we don’t, you don’t, don’t need the attention that much. Remember that you’re a cog. And if you’re working, working hard again, you don’t really need to seek the validation from the teacher to be like, I have a question I’m I’m with you. It’s more of, I only have a question because I’ve been with you and then all of a sudden I fallen off.
That’s huge. Okay. I want to close off with one more thing. Um, you and I sit elbow to elbow in organizing, um, the choreography community, a community of choreographers here in Los Angeles, specifically. Um, but you are also a part of Dancers Alliance, um, a group that seeks to organize the dance community in a non-union type of way, but in a, uh, simply outreach and education type of way, that’s primarily our work there. So my question to you in the experience that you have with organizing, which is really important that we be doing right now, What can we do now as a community to make sure that we later are more inclusive, more fair, more representative of the big picture?
I’m going to have the worst answer for you.
Oh, I can’t wait
To say, I don’t know. I have no idea. Um, for a couple of reasons, um, the dance community is a very nuanced community based on especially the industry. So the industry is the wrench that messes up the machine because, um, for example, for a lot of people out there who don’t know, when you go to an audition, a lot of times you are broken up by your race, not your ethnicity by your race. That’s how you’re auditioning. Or if you get the job, depending on what the job is for, then you are doing it based on, okay, we need this type of dancer or that type of dancer or that type of dancer. So it is already skewed in certain directions based on the trends. Now, when it comes to the dance community at large, even in LA, in New York, all of the places, it gets really hard because we all have different education levels. We have different backgrounds, we have different traumas. We have different strengths, different weaknesses. Um, even though we are one of the most expressive, colorful, loving communities, there’s a lot of infighting in between so many different groups like men and women, like, um, what I will say is this, we represent what’s going on in the world in the best, and the worst way, demographically, sociologically, like for example, the people in power, in a lot of the dance industry, things are white, straight men ironically, and you wouldn’t think so. Mmm. A lot of the people who are on the front lines are women. A lot of the people who are making the decisions are older and out of touch with a younger generation. So there’s a lot of nuances in the community that I will ably say, I don’t have the answer to that, but I love to be a part of the solution.
Yes. Word. And wouldn’t it be incredible if in looking at our smaller, relative to the global community, the dance community is smaller. If we can learn from our community, employ and, and implore policy changes and new ideas that could be applied on a larger scale, could we fix this thing?
I think we could. I think, um, what happens a lot of times for the dance community is art starts to meet commerce. So when the art meets the commerce, that’s when things get really, really tricky. If you can create art in a vacuum with no, just liberation and freedom, um, that would change things, but we have to make money. And there are certain bills in California and there are certain things being freelance or doing 1099 that restrict that and limit that. And also because of the administration we’re under now, we’re not getting funding for the arts, like we used to. So now we are creating art, not only for joy, but for protest, for money and to just feel better about life. So when you have all those things, it gets really hard to really come together as a community because everybody’s out for themselves just trying to make it in this business.
Oh yes. Well, there wouldn’t, there would be no Victor, if there was no challenger. Right. And that is our unique challenge in this industry is that yes, our work are the thing that we do for a living is also the thing that we do for joy, for therapy, for community, for belonging, for expression. And so, yeah, that introduces some, some levels of complexity.
But, but let’s not underestimate the longterm. I’m so excited to work at your side in those efforts. I’m in the dance community and beyond I just admire the heck out of you. And, um,
Thank you. Same same here.
Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. Uh, is there anything else that you would like to say before we wrap it up?
What I would love to say is don’t stop now. Don’t stop here. Don’t stop. Just in general. Um, I realized in my life, there are those moments that I feel a little hopeless when I look out my window and I’m like, what are we doing? I feel hopeless that a lot of times I’ve been talking about a subject for so long and then somebody else comes and goes, well, have you thought about that? And then they get the credit. Sometimes I feel hopeless when I think about how certain communities can’t unite and just overtake, but what keeps me going is not stopping. And I realize, um, you know, there’s a misnomer, there’s an Dodge, but I think it’s a misnomer where it says time heals all, but I think healing heals all. So if you use your time to heal, you’ll be able to make it through everything. So do not stop
On that note. I’m going to go ahead and stop the podcast. That is a beautiful sentiment and it is so inspiring. Thank you and beyond for sharing and for talking to us today. I appreciate that. Yay. I’ll talk to you soon.
See ya later!
The waving. Why do I wave? They can’t see me.
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. Alright, 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, 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.