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

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #74 Sex, Sensuality, and the Spice World of Miguel Zarate

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. And it came out of default.


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

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

I love that, check it. 

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

It was no spectrum in there, black and white. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know, that’s my motto 

Is that really?  

Act now, Apologize later.  

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

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

I so appreciate transparency. 

Of course you have to be.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

And how does that feel? How does that feel? 

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

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

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

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

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

A Hundred Million is your legit marker.  

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

Pop Out: 

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

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

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

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

Well, my friends, where do you think where you challenged, where you stoked? Did you catch fire? Did you feel hot? I know that I did. I loved being reminded of my sensuality, my ownership of feeling and feeling good about myself. So I hope that you take that feeling all of that heat and get out into the world and keep it very, very funky. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye 

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

Ep. #26 Still Taking Notes from Dominique Kelley

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #26 Still Taking Notes from Dominique Kelley
This conversation with the legendary Dominique Kelley dances on subjects including race, appropriation, protests, and progress, but it is REALLY about the responsibility of teachers, AND students to know the backdrop they are dancing in front of.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Follow Dom Kelley! https://www.instagram.com/domkelley/

In case you want to move with us →  patreon.com/WTMMpodcast

Father’s Day Episode: https://www.thedanawilson.com/podcast/bonus-episode-fathers-day-with-gary-wilson


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.  

Thank you. 

Welcome. Sorry. 

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.