In this episode, Kara Mack (dancer/ choreographer/ movement coach/ producer, founder and CEO of Africa in America) talks about how she builds bridges. She builds bridges from education to entertainment, entertainment to agitation, and pop culture to the many cultures of the African diaspora. Kara artfully advocates for individual responsibility and the harmony of our society. If you are looking to find your place and learn how important we all are in the music OF LIFE… this one is for YOU!
Africa In America: http://africainamericamag.com/
Kendrick Lamar Grammy Performance: http://premierwuzhere.com/videos/watch-kendrick-lamars-performance-at-the-58th-grammys/
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you, get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana. This is words that move me. I’m stoked you’re here. I am so stoked to be sharing this conversation. My guest today is the one and only Kara Mack. Kara is such a gift. Um, I don’t even know where to begin. She is the founder and CEO of Africa in America. She is a dancer, choreographer movement, coach educator, um, a self-proclaimed forever student. Uh, so she and I are kindred in that way. And she’s a producer, a mother, um, I mean so much more. You’re about to find out and I’m willing to bet you are also about to learn a lot, but first let’s talk wins. I love starting every episode with wins. And today I love letting you know that my win is one of those unique and special moments where work and play get to overlap. I’ll be traveling to Phoenix, Arizona for NYCDA nationals, and I get to visit my dad. If you’ve been listening for a long time, you might’ve even heard from my dad. He was on a father’s day episode. Um, you’ve probably also had the chance audibly meet my mom, but I don’t get to see my dad as much. He lives in Phoenix and I’m excited to visit, see a little bit what his world is like and, um, uh, get to teach a bunch of young dancing’s as well. So when, When birds stone, that’s what I’m celebrating today. All right, what is going well in your world? Hit me.
I’m proud of you. Stoked for you. Keep winning. Now let’s dig in. This episode is a call for reverence. It is a call for respect. In this episode, Kara and I really dig into the importance of African Diaspora movement and music being recognized and celebrated technical forms, not hobbies, not electives, not extra credit. And certainly not something that you slap on the special skills part of your resume. After you’ve taken two quote African classes. Kara, will talk a lot more about that. She’s also going to talk about entertainment and activism, education, Oh, it’s beautiful. She also goes in, and this is important on the harmony that is society and how important we all are to this song called life. Oh, y’all it goes deep. So buckle up and get ready to enjoy the absolutely incredible Kara Mack,
Dana: Kara Mack. Welcome to words that move me. Thank you so much for being here.
Kara: Thank you for having me, Dana.
Dana: I am thrilled to get to like talk to you for an hour, but also really, really excited to share you with my listeners. Um, I, you and I have had not met in person until just a week ago, and I’m assuming you will be meeting some of these listen type listener types for the first time. Uh, so I’ll start by simply asking you to introduce yourself and tell us anything you want us to know about you.
Well, I am a very simple person, so hello everyone. My name is Kara Mack, and I just like to call myself a Black Renaissance woman. So that incorporates everything that you need to know about me.
You Better Renaissance. And what better time to have a Renaissance woman on the podcast, then the actual Renaissance. This is the in, in so many ways, um, an awakening for arts, uh, cultural awareness and awakening, and also like the actual circumstances are things are opening. Things are happening and I’m so glad that they are happening with you is a part of our lives, a part of our world.
I appreciate that Dana, thank you!
Oh my pleasure. Trust me. The compliments are only just beginning because the more I learn about you, the more I love about you, uh, I would love to start by talking about Africa in America. You are the founder and CEO, um, of, of this. I’m going to call it a resource, but please correct my language. I’m not sure what to call it. Actually. It is a very all encompassing entity. Could you,
It’s a brand. Okay. Could you talk a little bit about Africa and America? What your vision was for it back in 2014 when you started and, um, what, you’re, what you’re up to now?
Well, basically I started it in 2014, but it happened within my heart, like many, many years before the actual like first event. And the reason why I started it was twofold. So first from the aspect of being a dance teacher in dance academies and the respect, or I should say lack there of lack of within dance academies, within my experience for any style under the African Diasporic umbrella, I’m saying any style. So in the beginning you have particular people that have certain respect, but then they may get busy and they have to put other people in charge who decide that it’s only ballet, modern, jazz that needs to be required. Now the other stuff are electives. So with me year after year after year, trying to tell them, Hey, you guys, we being adults that mentality trickles down to the students. So yes, they are going, you know, you do sign 25 students up for my West African class. But because of that mentality of you already saying that that class is an elective, I am not going to consistently have 25 kids in my class whenever it’s supposed to, because they already know based off of how adults roll, that these are only the top three are the only things that you need to know to be successful in America as a dancer. So, so damaging. So with that being, you know, starting off just seeing that in me having to pull away from the academic side, now I’m traveling overseas and actually introducing myself to continental Africans or other Africans in the diaspora, and they’re looking at me like, hold up, where did you learn our stuff? Because they had no idea that it is been here since the fifties
In America.So they’re not understanding how I’m dancing and doing all of that stuff. Like as if I was living there.
Oh, Was this, uh, in your view, a compliment to you and your teachers and your
Yes, but also just, just blown away by how we in the diaspora still. So divided still like, you know, we’re in our different places. So when I came back, I said, what could I do to be a bridge? And to also from the beginning to the end, say, respect the techniques, respect the techniques, respect the techniques. So that’s why I put in started 2014 Africa in America. Even the logo of the Africa is in between the A andA Africa and America, because I’m African-American yes, but it is about the bridge and the foundation between those continental Africans and the diaspora. And how can we begin to educate? So I started educating through of course, bringing master drummers, master dancers, having master workshops so people can be exposed to it. Then I said, I’m going to have an annual, original work showcase specifically for African Diaspora music and dance, because I see REDCAT I see all of these original work showcases, but whenever they see African Diasphoric movement, they look like, what, why are you doing this? I don’t even understand it. So I don’t understand your original work. And why did you submit? So I said, Africa and America will produce our own original work. So I give choreographers and composers every year for seven years straight. I did this at Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Feliz. So I’ve dealt with in one showcase over 25 different artists on the stage, because when you bring a choreographer, they are bringing their dancers, they’re bringing their music. So all of the city, whoever, you know, follows Africa in America, you get to see an original work showcase specifically for these styles. So you may get Panamanian, you may get Afro-Brazilian, you may get, you know, it’s so much stuff that just happens on that petite stage at Barnsdall Gallery theater. So then I took it further. I said, okay, how can we, you know, just keep it in people’s faces. I said, oh, clothing line, t-shirts stretch pants, all of this different. So I just began to evolve as the years went on and here we are in 2021, just like you see everyone like respect the technique T-shirts all of this stuff. And I’m just like, yeah, respect. Cause it’s not my group. I want to shine a light on everybody who does this and takes it seriously and who’s professionals at it so that people can understand like, Hey, the same way that you respect certain styles, just, just, you know, have empathy in your heart to say, okay, I just didn’t know about that. So now let me educate myself about that. And then you will see that the same blood, sweat, and tears that you had to put into pointing your foot, you have put into lifting up your legs and do something that’s the West African. So simple.
I see respect the technique being naming a technique versus assuming it’s a hobby or assuming it’s a, a past time, uh, cultural dance. Uh, um, I want to say folk dance folk being of the people of a place. Uh, right. So this is, this is claiming space as an essential form and wow, as, when you’re talking about a teacher’s responsibility to embody and, um, exemplify what they’re teaching and the importance of what they’re teaching. If a teacher demonstrates that West African styles are not important, if they demonstrate with their language and with, you know, with how they move in the world, that that’s a, that that’s a hobby that it makes total sense that the students would too. And the more I learn the student that ever the perpetual student in me, I see African Diasporic movement and music as being like the basest base level of our food pyramid. This is like a nutritionist trying to tell a young person to eat their veggies and fruits and grains with a candy bar hanging out of their mouth, or like eating only drinking, only soda like this. To me, it’s, it’s that foundational. It is the base of our food pyramid. And we are suggesting that it is a snack or a, uh, uh, a sweet treat for, you know, when we’re, when we’re wanting to feel like we can get our toes wet in the cultural arts, it just is so much,
That’s exactly What it is. That’s exactly what it is. Like you couldn’t have said it any better and it’s frustrating.
Well then we’ll stop here before I can say something stupid because trust me, I’m new to this. I am, I am learning so much every day. And thank you for being such a willing and compassionate teacher, but it just, yeah, this is, this is why I’m excited to have you here today. I want to hear more about this. I want to, like you said, being able to humble down and say, oh, I didn’t know that, oh, I didn’t, I didn’t ever hear that. I have never seen that. Isn’t anything to be embarrassed of. In fact, y’all, if I have anything to do with it, Kara Mack will be doing a lot more work in the world that’s making you feel like, you know, nothing. Okay. So African dance Africa, the continent is a continent was just say that right outright. This is not a country. This is not a one type of people. This is not a one type of dance, but, um, I’m, I’m hoping that it becomes more integrated in our dance institutions and in our, you know, curriculum for building dance. But I also hope to see more of it in pop culture. And that is what I want to talk about next. If you are not totally tired of talking about Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance in 2016, can we please talk about it?
No problem. Because honestly, that was the beginning of like, who is this chick and where did she come from? Type of vibe. So going ahead and ask away any questions you have.
So first of all, if you haven’t already seen this legendary performance, Kendrick Lamar, 2016, I think he won like five Grammys that year. So that oughta, yeah, he came with heat. Um, please watch, I’ll make sure to link to the performance so that you can watch it and watch Kara getting down. Um, but in this piece, we, we get to see black men in chains, in prison jumpsuits. We get to see a very stark, deliberate and artful, but not subtle line between the incarceration of Black men in America and Africa period. It’s people, their resilience, their bravery, their energy, their fight, and seen side by side. This is one of the most impactful pop performances I’ve ever seen. And I call it pop. Not because that’s the style of music. It is, but because this is mainstream, this is the Grammy’s, this is network television. This performance was brought into the homes of middle America and a bunch of Americans that had that probably possibly, probably would rather have not seen that that night.
I’m so happy. You know, that Danna.
Well, I got, I got rocked. I was uncomfortable as hell watching that performance. It was loud, but I think that there is, I have always strived in my work. If we’re talking about bridges to bridge entertainment and education, I just think, and we’ll talk about more about teaching in a second, but I really think that you could do a quick sneak attack and do a lot of education under the veil of entertainment. Sesame Street is a beautiful testament, but that’s not all. I think we can really make education entertaining and get a huge payoff from it, but backup what that performance did was entertained and agitate at the same time. And that is harder. And I can only imagine the number of meetings and discussions and approvals and permissions and the number of straight ups forgive my language, but ***k you, I don’t care what you say. This is what we’re doing. I can only imagine how much of that was going on behind the scenes. I have now talked for 20 minutes about this performance and not asked a single question.
I love it. I’m just over here. Like I don’t have anything to answer. You just totally got it in your head. That’s hilarious. All right, I’m still listening.
Okay. Okay. Okay. I would love to know about your involvement in that creative process. I’ve only shared one creative space with you and then one training space with you, which both of which I’m eternally grateful for, but in this creative space, you, you brought a lot of context and a lot of history, a lot of your knowledge to the room I’ve been in rooms where that isn’t always welcome, whether that’s because of the leader at the top or whether that’s because of simply not there being enough time. Like we, we, we have four hours to get 40 people doing the same thing at the same time. We don’t have time to be educated right now. We’re, we’re assuming point blank that everyone in the room is educated if we’re on this gig. So what I would love to know is on that gig, did you serve a similar role to the role that I’ve seen you in, which is delivering the context, delivering some history. So was your role in that process? Similar? Did you serve in a, in a similar way?
I served as, uh, yes. I would like to say first to answer. Yes. I served in a similar way, but also deeper, um, flowers to Fatimia Robinson for being a particular leader that allows me every time that I work with her to actually give the reason for why I’m doing a certain movement, because she understands that first of all, this is a new movement for you quote unquote seasoned industry dancers. You have not seen this movement. So while you’re trying to figure out the movement within your body, that’s why we’re here for all of these hours. It’s not you being here for all of these hours, trying to, you already have the movement and you’re trying to get spacing, or you’re trying to find out what is your reason behind this two-step. No, you actually first have to get the movement. So I’m here having, you know, a semi African Diasporic bootcamp. So at the same time, I now have to explain to you why I’m doing the movement. So you won’t look confused and simply doing the movement on stage. So if you don’t have a leader, that’s giving you that space and opportunity to do it. I think. And I, and I would S I say, think because a lot of leaders don’t lead like her, which is sad to say, but some leaders will say, you know, get the movement and I don’t care look confused on stage, but it’s your choreo, that’s your name attached to it. So with, Fatima, it’s like, yes, Kara, tell Kendrick, while you’re doing this, tell the dancers why she doing?
She’s no fool
Shareway share away. So with that being the aura and the vibe that I was under, I had the space and opportunities to create whatever movement that I wanted. She gave, she just said, go, I didn’t even know actually what was going on. I didn’t know who the artist was. I just know that I was brought in to do a job. And then over time, I started to see the weight of that job, who that artist was, but it was just Kara, just move, you hear the music, just move and now teach these dancers what you just did. And so even within that, Dana, I didn’t tell my family or anybody because you know, the industry, like you, you can love it one day. And then the producers and everybody come later that week and it just like scratch all of that dah, dah, dah. But once we made it to the Staples Center and I saw that it still remained, like I was like, are you serious?
Massive, it was massive!
Massive. And then to think that none of us even knew that he was going to do the whole continent with Compton ending. We did not get any of those visuals yet. So imagine us in the back, like looking up at the monitor and him in it and it, and it, and it, and it it’s the continent. I was like, are you serious? But I even told him when we left, um, one of the rehearsals, I said, are you ready? Because remember it was right after, Beyonce’s Superbowl performance,
The formation with the Mike, Michael Jackson with the black power, that whole thing. And a lot of people was giving her flat, like that shouldn’t be at the super bowl. What is she doing? Black this way? And then the black yeah. Heavier. So it was very Ooh. And so when I saw one, yeah. And when I saw what he was leaning towards, I’m like, you’re going to the source and you’re putting it on the Grammy stage. So I asked him, I was like, are you ready for it? And he shook his head. It was like, he didn’t expect me that, you know, ask that question. But it was like him letting it sink in. And he’s like, yeah, yeah, I’m ready. Cause I it’s, like, I felt the weight without even seeing any of the visuals, any of what was going to be presented on the video. None of that, just the movement and just seeing like how it began and how it ended. I said, wow, are you ready? He said, yeah. I said, okay. But I had no idea, Dana. I, no idea it was going to be is be big and impactful as it was like, first I was telling you, like, it was because of social media where people that are professionals in these styles, it’s like, no who did that choreo in front of like, who did that part? And it was just like, wow, that’s, what’s up. All of my people in Cuba, all of my people in Brazil, all of my people in different countries, in West Africa that saw that Grammy performance, it was like, put it in the comments, Kara Mack, Kara Mack, Kara Mack. And I was like, wow, that’s what’s up. All right. So I understand my responsibility and I have to continue going down this particular path in my life.
I’m so glad to hear that people said your name and people wrote your name and people read your name. My followup question is a tough one. It come, it’s coming up a lot lately. And I’m glad that it is because I think it’s an important distinction to make where you a contributing choreographer on that job, or was your role a dancer or was your role assistant or what, what was your title?
I would like to say for that particular job, I was, I was a dancer, but I also contributed the movement that you see in front of the bonfire. Like that particular part. Yes. I contributed that. Um, and yeah, like within the industry, I’m happy to say that Fatima, uh, also Adrian big ups to Dubs, um, Charm, just different people that were witnesses and can account for, uh, the work that I put in. I’m very, very, very appreciative for them. Cause I respect all of them very much, but it’s very true that with other people in other circumstances, they do not get that same just due, so yeah. I’m happy that these conversations are coming up as well.
I think it’s, um, a broader conversation in the education of what the choreography department brings to a project. Not necessarily just being eight counts, as you mentioned in this case, it was history lessons. Yes. It was steps. Yes. It was even your body doing the steps, but it was context. It was information. It was, I mean, I’m assuming I can, I can only imagine a borderline religious experience in that room every day. Yeah. Um, and, and I think that some, some audiences know that, most of them don’t some productions know that many of them don’t, many of them don’t know that choreography is a department. They think that’s one person, one choreographer. And the thought that one person could control I’ll use that word for lack of a better one at this moment could control the 40 people that were on stage. Nope, no,
No. That’s with me learning all with me, learning over the course of time, like Fatima’s also been a great teacher. Um, just shedding, so much information on my physical body mentally and spiritually is the fact that no, even if someone asked me to do all of that, I wouldn’t look at them like you have lost your ever loving mind, like the things that you have to do in coordinating with different, um, departments with the clothing and then with the props and then with the lighting and what is the artists going to wear? And it’s just like, no, absolutely. So everyone who’s listening that is what comes with that particular role as choreographer is not stepping in a studio and saying 5, 6, 7, 8. So yeah, if you didn’t know now, you know,
Uh, super shout out to not my last episode, but the episode before, when I sit down with the choreography team, from In the Heights, it really was when they say it takes a village in our case, at least a small apartment complex of people to get that done. But then, but one of the things that we talk about in that episode is that the structure of the choreography, the organization and the collaboration of the choreography team is one thing. And it does get to shine in that movie, holy smokes. But what really shows up on the screen is the spirit of the dancers. That’s the one part, the choreography team can’t deliver on the day. Yes. You know, we can, we, we are involved in casting. We have discussion with music, with set with all of the other departments, but on the day it’s dance team, who’s supported by choreo team that gets out and gets the word out. That’s like a, we are important, this matters. And so I, I see that performance is a beautiful example of that. The dancers on stage. I mean, I cry. I think about Marv, I think about watching you dance. It is so.. Calling it impassioned feels small. It feels it’s like possessed. It is something such a treat for, especially for an award show. Um, but I, I just, I think the world of that performance and I’m in awe of your role in it, I’m so glad it exists. And I want everyone to watch it five times.
I want to share one, um, special moment for me. Um, I’ve shared this before, but I want to share it on your platform. When I shared, uh, with Kendrick, uh, the part of the choreo where we do a circle around him, he in the beginning thought that it was like, oh, it’s like spirits around me and I’m scattered. And I’m trying to find my place. And it was the moment that I was like, no, Kendrick, that’s not, this is a rhythm Sandia, but it’s, Lamban the song Lamban, which is lifting up the oral historian, which is the Griot. And I said, Kendrick, you are African-American’s oral historian. So we’re doing this movement around you to lift you up and to give you energy for what is your role. And so he just got quiet and he said, you know, basically it was like, okay, okay. And automatically I saw a change within him. And during that performance, it’s like, oh wow, I get it. Like, it’s like claiming my responsibility and claiming my role for what I’m supposed to do. So now I’m gonna just take this a whole mile past what I thought I was gonna present on a Grammy stage. So yeah, that moment was special to me because he really thought he was just like, oh, it’s, you know, things around me. And I’m trying to figure, as I know, there’s nothing to figure out. We are here only to uplift you and to encourage you for you are our oral historian. You are our Griot.
Thank you so much for sharing that. Yeah, that’s awesome. That makes me want to go in one direction, but I’m going to go another direction then I’m going to circle back. Okay. I got Google maps pulled up there. They’re like, you are not on the fastest route. Do you want to take another route? And I’m like, no, I want to stay on this route. Let me, let me keep going. I had Moncell Durden on the podcast over the summer of last year, and I took a few of his courses, um, Intangible Roots, which was awesome. And then he did a collaboration series with Passion Fruit Seeds. I learned so much one of the, um, one of the themes that I liked learning about the most and was embarrassed and ashamed that I had not heard of sooner was the notion of a Ring Shout and what happens to the dancer who is in the center? The, the geometry obviously is very significant and very important there’s of the land there’s of the godly there’s of the water. Um, and there’s this notion that the person in the center maybe mounted by a spirit. And I asked you a similar question the other day when we were jamming, but I asked Moncell this question specifically in a ring shout, this moment was not about dance. This was not about show and prove. This was not about anybody’s sick skills, or it wasn’t about like even attracting a mate. It wasn’t about being the dopest and getting the best dancer or the best, you know, whatever. It’s not about this. It is a religious experience and in learning more and more, and the depth of those roots becoming more aware of, um, the, the Pantheon of Orishas in Yoruba culture, I’m learning the importance of religion of spirituality. And so I asked Moncell, is there space for atheism in this dance? Is there room for other gods than these I know there are hundreds of Orishas, but we hear specifically about a small handful of them. Like, is there room for what I think of that God in the dance, or could a person I’ve asked eight questions now, could it, could a person still authentically embody the dance without believing in those gods.
To first answer the question, um, the same way that I answered it when we were jamming, you first have to come with the honor and the respect of what is the tradition. So there are a lot of people you may have dancers that are professionals in these styles that may be a Buddhist. They may believe, you know, in so many different, uh, like other different religious and faiths, like yeah, but the reason why they are professional within the music and dance styles is because of the respect and the honor of what those people do. Because once again, we’re not talking about styles where everyone that is within that ethnic group is now wiped off the planet. Those people are living and breathing, cultivating. They’re still living their lives as we are doing this podcast right now. So you have to just dig deeper in those types of, you know, worldviews and concepts. That’s outside of a Westernized structure of, oh, this is what I do. So how can I put what I do onto you? It’s not in, it should not be about that, at all. It should be, as it
Because is in Western!
Exactly, it should be about the total acceptance for what it is now, you, within your own spirit have to make choices. Once you see something and experience something for what it is, you then have to ask certain questions of yourself, not turning it into which a lot of westernized people do. Here are some suggestions that I believe can make your brand better. And that’s we treat, we treat styles musically, and movement-wise like their brands. So we don’t look at it as I know the roots and I’m being creative. It’s now like, no, I’ve adjusted it properly. It is now my signature. And now you will call it by my name. Hmm,
Man, when you put it that way, it is a very, uh, an unsavory thought
And it has been done so much. So to, to, to finalize and complete that question, you can do, you, you can do you freely. However, when you come with now, this passion, because I believe Dana with you, especially, and to all of the listeners who have this passion to learn certain things now, or even before that, you probably can’t even explain, no, you move on that passion. You move on, what’s moving your spirit. Now in your head, you probably define things a certain way and that’s totally you doing you, but I’m also a believer in you being moved by your passions. And, and I’m just sticking to that. Whatever you want to call that, call it, whatever vocabulary, word, whatever title it’s all on you.
I’m going to call it pineapple.
If you are, if you are a pineappling in your heart, then you better go down that pineapple road. Because in the end, honestly, when you are at that age where it’s like, yeah, I have done it. And I am complete. You won’t feel complete because you know, within your heart that it was so many things that you were passionate about.
You know whats incredible. Can I tell you what? Oh, it’s incredible. As you are giving that beautiful speech about passion. I was fondling my neck, my necklace, which is a blue ceramic heart. It is a keepsake that I have had since my first trip to Los Angeles as a preteen. Well, I guess I was technically, I think I was 13 or 14. I was taking my first dance class at millennium dance complex. My heart was so wildly on fire for dance. I went across the street, there was a little boutique and I think I’m pretty sure it was supposed to use this money on like food. And I found this necklace and I fell in love with it. And I was fondling it in the little bead that’s in the middle of the heart just fell out, but I’m not going to make that mean. I’ve lost my passion for them. I can see it. It’s on the floor. Find some gloom. It’s about eternal heart. Okay. So what I would like to add to this notion of respect and honor, because I, I, I want to ask an ignorant question, but I’m going to stop myself.
Don’t say ignorant
Um, uh, a poorly formed question. How do you know you have reached respect and honor? How do you know that? Like, okay. Uh, I took Moncell’s workshop over the summer. I respect and honor. That’s not it. So how do you know, how do you measure that point and how do you know that you’ve arrived?
It is actually a great, great question. When you, uh, when you showed up in humble yourself and you just receive when it’s not about when it’s not about you. And I say that, meaning there are a lot of people that already assume when I say, when it’s not about you, it’s like, oh no, but I am a humble person in class, I do fall back and I’m pretty quiet.
I I I I
You, and you hear that, I, you hear it. And it’s like all of the, the attributes of how humility looks to them comes out as a defense, to what I’m saying. Like, you know, when you’re totally invisible in the movement and the music is the only thing that matters. You as a person, me as Kara Mack, when I’m receiving information, my history where I was born, how old I was, my, my credits, what I will be doing on the day after the class. None of that matters. None of that matters. Like I am fully in the moment so much that I have disappeared into the space of whatever is occurring during that time that I’m receiving that information. It could simply be in a studio in Hollywood, or I could be out on the beach in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, I’m in that space. I don’t need the attributes of what it looks like to be in the earth and to beat, to actually be in the earth and be present and be there to receive information like we have it, people have gotten so, so, so, so, so Westernized that we have to create the visual to make us seem like we’re connecting with the universe. No, if you’re really connecting with the universe, you can connect with the universe wherever you are.
And you’re likely not on your phone
And just, and simple things like that. So that’s when you know, like, okay, that is the beginning of my learning because I’m a forever student. I’m going to be learning until, you know, you see me physically no more, but that is the beginning of when you begin to actually learn when you’re totally out of the way when you’re totally, totally out of the way. And someone has to point you out and say, okay, Dana, I see that you’re now ready for blahzay, blahzay, blahzay, blahzay, blahzay, not you taking it upon yourself to say, now I see myself I’ve been in these classes for so-and-so it’s no, no. In those moments it can be a child that point you out. It doesn’t have to be the head of a company or a head of a production. It’s the spirit spirit recognize a spirit.
In fact, it’s probably to seek that type validation from that type of moment is even further in the, in the, in the opposite direction of the selflessness that you are, uh, speaking of.
Well, that is certainly a lot to chew on and possibly the best answer to the best question that I almost didn’t ask.
No, I love that question. It’s not an ignorant question. I don’t, a lot of people ha a lot of people that are artists need to get back to that because for some reason, we we’re now living in a society too, that really, really belittles art just period to make us seem like we carry no responsibility. When we are the movers and shakers of society. We are politicians, artists are politicians, politics, economic, cultural, any type of title you want to give. arts moves things in certain directions, people that were invisible 10 years ago, 20 years ago are now visible because of artists. Because of artists. So we have to claim or take back that power within all of us. So as dancers, as musicians, as visual artists, whatever you do, you have to take that back. And then when you start to get that confidence back, then you will be able to see how it’s easy to disappear and just soak up, just be a sponge, bring respect, and honor to whatever new experience that you’re experiencing at the time. It’s going to be easy because you understand that the power that you have,
It’s going to be easy because you think that the process is one that is fulfilling versus one that is exhausting. And I’ll admit with full humility that in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, I felt like catching up was impossible. I felt like the amount of research, respect, and honor I owed I couldn’t in my lifetime pay. And, and so that feeling is kept me from doing it for a short time, this idea that I could never respect enough or honor enough, or right the wrongs enough. And that’s not useful. In fact, I really, I think that there’s a similarity here. Um, and I’m, I’m getting foggy brain. So I’m going to try to put it as concisely as I can. When you think it’s a responsibility, a joy, an honor, a pleasure to lead in this way, then the respect and the honor comes free flowing versus trying to muster it and trying to meet a deadline or certain mile markers of having done enough. It’s simply what we do is simply what we do and then. Should we choose it? Which is a responsibility, but go, go, go.
I just think that majority of the stress will just fall off all of our shoulders. If we see that we are not the only ones that are doing what we’re doing, when we have a bird’s eye view and an aerial view to the people that are in different geographic locations all over this world.
Oh, I see. I see. Yes.
If we just, I, I can, uh, I contributed, uh, to think about the definition of poly rhythms, poly rhythms, we African Diasporaic music and dance showcases polyrhythmic things. So think about just dig deeper on poly rhythms. Poly rhythms encompasses different rhythms. That’s happening all at the same time,
Multiple, simultaneous, responsible.
Now imagine if one person falls off their rhythm, if one person chooses to copy someone else’s rhythm, or if someone chooses to leave that rhythm, the ensemble falls off. So an African Diasporaic music and dance. It’s the artists as the individual, understanding the responsibility of the fact that if I don’t contribute what I’m supposed to contribute, let’s go deeper. If I don’t do my purpose, then this whole community, community, ensemble, group, falls off because of me not contributing anything. The society is making us to believe that when we don’t contribute anything, it doesn’t matter. They’ve been successful at doing that. If someone gives five part harmony and this one part is off, no one is focusing on the fact that four other singers are still singing on key. They’re saying this five-part harmony is off. Look at that in life. How important is that one person in that poly rhythm in that five part or six part or seven part harmony, even three part harmony. That means that your life, the part that you play matters. So don’t overthink about how much you’re giving. Just freaking give, just give don’t let systems tell you that you don’t need to give because your contribution, whatever it is, doesn’t matter. That’s a lie. That’s the point. That’s the last. So you don’t carry the weight of it, all of it on your shoulders. It’s other people in the ensemble making this beautiful music right along with you, and you have to pay attention to every role that’s being played all at the same time that you’re giving your little. And then you look at it like, oh, I don’t carry all of this on my shoulders. Oh, it’s not my responsibility to do everything because I feel so much coming from my spirit due to social injustice, things of that nature. No everyone is doing it.
That’s key. That’s key. Weightless does not mean responsibility-less. It means my responsibility. Exactly. Which relative to the big picture is small. But if I choose to not carry it for fear of the whole load, then none of the, none of it gets it
Then the systems are successful and they can keep on doing what they’re doing because here is one person out and I’m still gonna take, yes, that’s the way I turn everything into music. Sorry. That’s not, no
I’m with it. This is great. And I, I love the way that, that you did that and brought some broader context, you know, zooming out to a global versus a dance scale. But, um, it, because it is, it dances is life and life is dancing. This is it. This is why we’re here because I’m fascinated by that. And that, and that learning dance lessons really makes me a better human and being a better human makes me a better dancer. All of my out there, life experiences that show up on a stage in a performance or even in a brainstorm even pre-performance stage. All of the humanness is very helpful to what I do. Um, but I, I, uh, I’ve derailed again. I’m excited what I wanted to, what I wanted to shout you out for what you just said. This was a great teaching moment for all of the teachers who are listening is you brought context to help something stick. It’s more than making an analogy of two things that are unlike and saying that they’re alike. It’s helping me understand and making sticky a concept that I was struggling with. That’s what you just did. And it sounds like that’s what you did in the room with Kendrick, where you got to understand that regardless of how much time is offered or regardless of who is leading that additional understanding any additional understanding, any additional context, not only helps things to click faster, but it makes things last longer. And if we’re here to make a long lasting change, then it’s got to be sticky. These lessons that we’re delivering and these lessons that we’re learning and this art that we’re making has to be sticky. Yes. So thank you for making that sticky lesson for me.
Practical lesson for all you dancers, the reasons why you should search and find other styles, other classes to take disappear in it, learn it, get soaked up in it is because dance is a language. The only way that you, you call yourself proficient in any language is once you’re able to comfortably in that language, say what you mean and mean what you say. Without that, you’re not proficient in that language. So if you call yourself a dancer, I don’t care if you love one style over another. If you’re, if you lean towards, I’m just saying a professional dancer, I believe that you would want to have as many vocabulary words for you to express yourself as you can, instead of your sentences being structured. I went to the store. I would like my sentences to be structured Yesterday as the light shines so bright in Los Angeles, California. I took my bike down to the store and met Mr. John, who said, that’s the difference between an amateur and a professional dancer. So that’s on a practical sense, vocabulary. Up your vocabulary. So then you can be able to get the jobs that you want and be successful at it. Up your vocab. Thank you,
Please. Up your freaking vocab with the base of the food pyramid, not the top of the food pyramid. I’m dying. Okay. So on that note, Kara, where can we find more of you and your training? Um, I’m absolutely going to be linking to Africa in America. Yes.
Well, as you said, Africa and America, that’s both on Instagram and Facebook and Dana knows I’m a private person. I, I personally, for me, I’m not the person that uses social media is like the resume. I’m all like, here’s my kid. And we went to the park. That’s like my personal Instagram. So sorry for you guys or looking for like choreography videos every two days for me and things that, no, I don’t do any of that. So you could get any update from me at the Africa and America, um, link. But if you want to send me a request because you’re very interested in my private life, it is @MackKara.
I love this so much. Um, okay, Well, thank you for that beautiful conversation. A peek into your experience. Um, as an educator, as a performer, as a choreographer, as a person who understands pop culture and rich, rich culture, I am so grateful for your time. Thank you, Kara.
Thank you. Dana much, love, peace and blessings to everyone who’s listening and continue to support this Chica, Dana your hilarious.
Oh my God. She’s laughing. Cause I’m just dancing in this tiny little corner where I try to record my podcast. Very small movement. Kara, we’ll talk to you again soon. Thank you again for being here. Bye.
My friends. That was something else. Wasn’t it. I love Kara’s thoughts on responsibility. I love the way she encourages a well-rounded vocabulary. I love the way she teaches and I love the way she underlines the importance of respect and how to know once you’ve found it. Um, here’s one of the things that I really loved the most she says in bold font, I could tell she was speaking in bold font. Don’t overthink about how much you’re giving, just freaking give. So thank you for giving us gold Kara Mack and thank you all for listening. I so appreciate you now. Get out there and give and of course keep it very, very funky. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye
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