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
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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

Transcript:

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.

Explain.  

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. 

Yes. 

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. #27 Re-Doing Daily

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #27 Re-Doing Daily
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If self-awareness, and awareness of the world around you is the goal.  I strongly recommend taking on a daily creative project as part of that regimen.  Here is why:  To make creative work, you must look both outside AND inside. You must call on imagination and ACTION. you must find your voice, and use it… even if all it speaks is questions.

Show Notes

Quick Links

Toni Basil Swan Lake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbBzyTJPt30

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello. Hello everybody. And welcome back to the podcast or welcome for the first time. If you’re new, I am so excited that you are here. And as always, I am super jazzed about this episode. Like very jazzed about this episode. Um, today I want to talk about something that hasn’t been addressed here on the podcast in quite a while, broadly creativity, but specifically creating something daily and here on the podcast, we call that doing daily. Now of course, before we do that, I do want to share a win and I want to hear yours. And I also want to tell you that I am wearing overalls today, not jingle bells. These are overalls just wanted to let you know this will be a very spirited episode because of my jingle bell overalls. Okay. Let’s talk wins this week. My win is that I am so honored to be teaching for my dear friend, Tiler Peck’s summer intensive. And I am not sure if enrollment is open, I will definitely find out. Um, and when I do, if it is open, I will absolutely link to that in the show notes. And I will brag loud and proud about it on all the socials so that if you are able to, you can enroll in those classes. I am simply super proud to be a part of this all star lineup. And I’m just very excited about this intensive. All right, that is my win. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.  

Congratulations. Keep crushing it.  I’m jazzed for you. Okay. Let’s get to it. 

When I created this podcast, it was not my goal to create a community of daily doers. It was my goal to create a podcast about navigating a creative career. I had written a book of tips and tricks with notes and quotes, a bunch of things that I had collected along on my journey. And on January 1st, 2020, I was ready to. Now, here we are over six months later, living in very, very different circumstances, a global pandemic resulting in over 9 million cases and almost 500,000 deaths worldwide. COVID-19 also brought the US unemployment rate to 13.3% today, much higher in California I believe. Add civil unrest in response to police brutality and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and sadly. So, so many more. The rise of the black lives matter movement. The rise of awareness of other oppressed groups all over the world, the awakening of many to systemic racism and the call for anti-racism.  

Okay.  And now here we are. So way back in January feels like lifetimes ago. When I decided to create this podcast about navigating a creative career, a podcast about making it, I decided that the most important part of making it is making actually making it, making it a thing, making your thing. So I decided to make my first episode doing daily about my daily creative challenge. I took on a year of daily Instagram videos. I wound up going for much longer over 400 and some days. Now that was my first episode because I knew I’d be referencing it a lot throughout the podcast. Again, it wasn’t my intention, but that episode sparked something and a community was born first, a handful, then a bundle, then a gaggle of artists doing daily. It was very, very cool to behold something super, super special. And I want to quickly shout out some of my daily doers. 

We got @dinkadoingdailyWTMM we have @_maile_We have @greatgabyJum, @madisynsloane @sky_spiegel  Michael @sydneycheri , @the_good_guy91 @rebekahwrangler  @fridawson My mom, @stefawils @marcellasweeney I mean so many. I can’t even list them all here in an episode and keep it under 45 minutes. But I was truly, truly inspired to see such a community growing around, doing daily.  

Then the lockdown, the protests, the massive calls to action, the massive action. And the doers started to dwindle. Less people were sharing their daily project and this isn’t good. And this isn’t bad. This is neutral. Less people were sharing their daily projects on Instagram. And that is okay. But today I’d like to make the argument for why doing daily is important, especially right now in this crazy moment in history. So Yes, Read. Yes, Watch. Yes, Listen. Yes, Learn. Yes, Donate. But if self awareness and awareness of the world around you is your goal. Then I strongly recommend taking on a daily creative project as part of your regimen. Here’s why 

To make a creative work. You have to look both inside and outside. You must call on your imagination and you must take action. You must find your voice and use it. Even if all it speaks is questions. It’s so, so important. So today I’m going to answer a lot of questions about doing daily and I’m going to be making the argument for being creative right now. And I don’t mean right now, June, 2020. I mean, right now, whenever you are listening to this, I really hope that it sparks a voice inside of you. And I hope that when that spark speaks you, listen, I hope that you answer.  

Why did I start doing daily? Well, I discovered a human being on Instagram named Adam Carpenter. He goes by @AdamSCarpenters. And I just thought he was the most delightful and charming and unusual and self motivated and in control of his silliness person that I had ever seen. Um, I looked forward to seeing his work every single day. I was just tickled by it. And then one day via the Instagram communications, I met him. I met my hero. It was the most surreal experience, especially for somebody who works with famous people often like this guy to me, was it. Um, and when we met, he challenged me to do a daily creative project of my own. And I simply couldn’t say no. So that is why I started. Now, what was the most important thing about doing daily to me? At the time, it was learning the power of my imagination. I want to share a quote with you that I recently read in Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, which is rocking my world. Glennon says, quote, “discontent is evidence that your imagination has not given up on you” and quote. So if you are a person that is discontent or unhappy with the current state of the world, then look to your imagination. Let that be a check engine light that you have something to do. And something to say, huge, huge part of daily doing for me, another part, a key factor was redistributing my creative authority back into my own hands. My career up to that point had largely been about other people’s approval and other people’s projects. Now, after years of bending myself to fit the breakdowns, nothing was as rewarding as answering to myself. Now, with hindsight, I can say that nothing is as rewarding as the community of doers that I met along the way. So you might be thinking right now, “Dana, a daily personal project sounds a little bit self centered and super time consuming. And isn’t this a time where I should be selfless. Isn’t this a time where I should be doing other things with my time.” Well, perhaps, but if you want to do big things, if you want to make big work, and if you want to make big change, then I suggest you start by taking small bites. This project doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be time consuming. You get to decide how much time you spend on it and you get to decide what you do. That’s the beauty of it. That is special. Also what’s super special is that when you learn to show up for yourself in little ways, every day, you learn how to show up for others in big ways forever.  I like to ask the question, how can I prioritize myself so that I have more to give to others? A daily creative project is one of those ways. 

Okay. A lot of people ask, what is the most important part of doing daily? Is it the creation of it? Is it the publication of it? Is it the reflection on it? Well, to that, I would say that creation and reflection are very closely linked while you’re making you are making with the knowledge and the memory of everything you’ve made up to that point. I’m, I’m using lessons that I’ve learned and applying them to what I’m doing reflections of past work happened while I’m creating as well as after they’ve been shared. So it’s kind of part of this bigger puzzle. The sharing itself is important to me because although it was interesting to learn how to receive such a quick feedback loop and to learn how an audience responds and what they respond to. It was also slightly misleading because I felt myself occasionally making work and making decisions based on what the audience might want opposed to making the work that I wanted to make. And sometimes by the way, there is overlap there, the audience wants the same thing that I want to make. And that’s the sweet spot. That’s great. But really my doing daily project was less about the sharing and more about the doing it. It was more about claiming authority of my creative life. So if you’re thinking that it doesn’t feel right to share a self centered project right now, great, make your project about something that does feel right to you. And if it’s the sharing part that really rubs you wrong, I’d ask you to get down to the bottom of why. Make sure that you like your reason for not sharing. If you decide not to share and equally on the flip side, you should like your reason for sharing should you decide to share. Shouldn’t just be because I said so, 

All right, now, next question. How do you convince yourself to do on days where you really don’t want to do this is such a great question on days that I don’t want to do. I hear Toni Basil’s voice in my head, Toni Basil, by the way, in case you do not know is a pillar of the street dance community. She’s a member of the original lockers. She is one of the first to bring street dance to the mainstream and fuse it literally side by side with classical ballet. I’m linking by the way, to her Emmy nominated interpretation of Swan Lake in the show notes. This is a must watch, especially if you’ve been listening to the last couple of conversations I’ve had with Dominique Kelly, very, very important today, today, Toni Basil is 75 years old.  And I’m going to go ahead and say that today she could roast any of you, which is bold because I know there are some pretty funky people listening, but I stand by my claim. I stand by my claim, not just because of all of her history, but because she dances every single day, she’s still got it. And she’s still getting better. Now, one day I asked Toni, “Basil, do you ever not want to dance?” And she said, sure, all the time. And then I said, “okay, so what do you do? How do you still show up and dance even when you don’t want to?” And she said, quote, I just pretend to be someone who does want to dance and quote mind blown. Thank you Basil. Now to be a hundred percent honest, there were days when I was so motivated that I would make two movies. And then there were days when I wasn’t making, as in creating or capturing, but I would be editing one thing or posting another thing, or, you know, maybe I’d be filming one thing and editing another. So it wasn’t necessarily that I went through a full loop every single day. I didn’t do the whole cycle from inception to creation, to curation. And by that, I mean like editing reshooting, et cetera. Um, and then sharing it wouldn’t always be that whole cycle, but it would be at least one of those things. 

Okay. Next question. Why is the daily part so important? Well, this is a dancer speaking. We get better at the things that we practice, right? The more I practice a double pirouette the better I get at it. And not only that, but a double pirouette, it becomes a triple and then four or five or six or seven. Now I believe that the creative habit gets stronger. The more you practice it and gets weaker, the less you practice it. So people say a lot of things about creativity and habits and what it takes to truly create one. I think I remember reading somewhere a magic number being 66. Like it takes 66 days of practice before a behavior becomes automatic. So that’s certainly part of it. I don’t know if that is truly a magic number or not, but I also found tremendous freedom in knowing that I would do it no matter what. I think that had my goal then to be creative three days a week, for example, then I might’ve started negotiating, which days, you know, Friday, Saturday, Sunday becomes, well, maybe not Sunday, but maybe Monday. And then Monday gets pushed back to Wednesday and then Wednesday gets pushed back to Friday. And all of a sudden it’s been a week without any doing. Daily, doing left no room to negotiate with myself about whether or not I would do it. I just absolutely did it no matter what. And that built strong creative habits, it built them quick and it built them strong. 

Now here’s an interesting consideration. Do I think that work, you do on the clock for another entity, like a movie or a music video shoot, for example counts as you’re doing daily? Well, I’m not saying that creative work on the clock, isn’t creative or isn’t helping to build creative habits, but during my year plus of daily making, I chose to create my daily project outside of my already pretty creative job, which was at the time being a background dancer on tour with JT on the 2020 experience. Now, of course the cast and crew, and occasionally the backdrop of tour would appear in my videos, but I kept a rule for myself that if I included my job in my work or in my project, if you will, it would be my job Plus. My job as a backup plus a twist or plus a different concept or a plus a gag or a gimmick or some sort of technical modification, et cetera. And that kept my focus on my authorship that kept the focus on the creative muscle. 

Next question is keeping the doing the same every day important. In other words, if I decided to do a photo a day and then eventually changed my mind to painting a picture instead of taking a picture or doing a dance one day and a picture the next day, is that important to the project? Um, I won’t say, I think that each doer can decide that for themselves. What I will say is that one would be wise to identify the weak spot in their process or their habit that needs the most strengthening and focus their creative efforts there. When I signed my imaginary contract with myself and agreed to my daily challenge, I was really, really good at having ideas.  

I had ideas a mile a minute, but I wasn’t very good at finishing them. I rarely shipped. I rarely shared. So for me, the doing was the shipping, the sharing, the putting out into the world. Now, if you’re a person that shares with ease, then perhaps your challenge lies in the digging deep, or maybe it lies in the conceptualizing. It might show up as 365 ideas for projects or 365 short stories or 30 short stories. Maybe you want to be learning a new technical skill like video editing, for example, this is a very good time for dancers to understand how to edit video and capture by the way. Um, maybe you’re a generalist who really wants to go deep on something like some specific style or even one specific move. Imagine an Instagram account where a person just did a pirouette at a day for an entire calendar year. And you get to watch them from being kind of okay at pirouettes or maybe even bad at doing periods. And then becoming really, really good at pirouettes over the course of a year. I would definitely follow that person. Now, your project doesn’t have to be for an entire year. You get to name the terms of your contract. It’s up to the doer to decide what you do and how long you do it. And you don’t have to do it all alone. You have a whole community of daily doers right here. You can even do together. You can do together apart. That’s the beauty that is truly the power of this. The power is that it is your power, your decision, your authority. And if you practice it, if you practice it daily, that can become your super power. Yes. Super powers. 

So this episode is my pledge to nurture the doing daily community. Please mention us or use the #doingdailyWTMM there’s two M’s there #doingdailyWTMM in your doing daily posts on Instagram, because I would love to see what you’re up to. I am here to encourage you and to be a part of this journey with you, and also to tell you right now that it is okay to start a daily project that turns into a weekly project that turns into a monthly project. It’s okay to come back. It’s okay to fumble a day. This is about making changes from the inside out. This is about persistence determination. This is about living a creative life by strengthening your creative habits.  

All right. Thank you all so much for listening. I hope that if you haven’t already, you go back and listen to episode one and honestly do not sleep on episode two. There’s a lot of really good technical information in there about how I really physically actually made it through over a year of doing daily. Also a huge thank you to my team, Riley Higgins and Malia Baker for helping me keep this podcast, this community and myself together. I so appreciate you guys. Um, one other thing before I sign off, I want to make sure you guys are aware of an awesome doing daily resource. My team, and I have created an interactive PDF. We’re calling it the doing daily diary. It helps keep you accountable, keep you on track and keep you learning about you’re doing daily project that is available to you by becoming a words that move me member on Patreon to do that, just visit patreon.com/WTMMpodcast Definitely going to link to that in the show notes as well. I hope to see you there in my Patreon community. It’s a really fun place for me to connect. Give you guys all sorts of extras. And of course for you all my daily doers to connect with each other. So head on over there, enjoy have a great creative day. And of course, Keep it funky 

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really  

Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #17 The Process of PROCESSING

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #17 The Process of PROCESSING
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This episode addresses several  different ways we humans can process our emotions; from Coaching and Therapy to Journaling and even DMT (Dance Movement Therapy).   DMT is made up of countless techniques and exercises designed to create awareness of mind and body. I am not a Dance Movement Therapist, but I AM  all about awareness of mind and body, so, in this episode I recount a recent coaching session where I processed feeling STUCK by giving names, colors, movement and texture to the sensations in my body. It’s a wild ride, so buckle up!

Show Notes:

WTMM Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/WTMMPodcast

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello. Hello everybody and welcome to episode 17. I’m jazzed about it as usual. Um, in episode 16 I mentioned, well, I promised, I think that April’s podcasts would all be about bringing the joy, the silly, the bright, the creative. Um, and this episode is exactly that, but it is in disguise. This episode is about processing the darker side of the emotional spectrum. Sadness, stillness, anger, grief, anxiety, depression. Yes. All of those guys. And it’s really about coming out on the other side of them naturally without forcing anything. So thanks for joining me. Are you excited or what? Uh, before we dig into it though, of course, let’s do some wins this week. I have a handful of wins. I’m going to try not to say cooking again cause that’s what I said last week. I’m becoming way more comfortable in the kitchen and I’ve had some really killer dinners and leftovers. So I’m counting that as a win privately, secretly, and also now publicly. Okay fine. I’ll just call it a win. But I also want to shout out the handful of dance studios that I’ve been working with, eh, in the form of some digital support. Um, Dance Impressions Michelle Latimer Dance Academy and Cary Dance  You guys have been so much fun to work with. I’m absolutely counting you and your students among my wins for the week. I’m just learning so much about, uh, transferring my syllabus and my teaching style into a different mode, different platform. Ultimately a different process and process is what we are talking about this week. So very appropriate. Um, let us, Oh, sorry. My bad. Let me give you your moment. Hit me with your wins. Say ’em out loud. It’s really important. Go.  

Okay, great. If you need more time, please don’t let me stop you. Just hit pause. Keep going with your wins. It’s very important that you do that. 

Okay. So the word process has been coming up a lot lately. Um on the podcast, I talk a lot about creative process and um, it’s also been coming up in like casual conversations. People saying things like, I don’t know, I’m still processing. Another example, the SBA, uh, assessing my application for the PPP, paycheck protection program. So fingers are crossed for that. Um, here’s another fun one that I heard recently. Uh, how long should I let this color process? Oh my God, I miss my hairdresser. Hehe, uh, yes, maybe you shouldn’t be, um, processing your own hair, doing your own color or cutting it. Just a thought. There are certain things that really ought to be left to the professionals and trust me in the COVID moment, we’re all experiencing new in terms of life and also our hair. I’m just going to encourage that you accept it for what it is and process that. Oh, also, here’s a fun game. Speaking of process, keep track of the number of times I say process in this episode and then do that many pushups per day starting now, whatever day it is, uh, for like the rest of the month or a month from now. And um, just go ahead and see how shredded you become. Look out beach bod. Even if it’s not for a year that you see a beach again, you’ll be ready for it when the day does come. Okay. So starting now it’s process time. So the word process when used as a noun means according to Merriam Webster, a usually fixed or ordered series of actions or events that lead to a result. Okay. Well this explains sort of the creative process in my mind. It’s something that moves forward or occasionally spirals. Um, but it’s always moving. And at the end there is a result. There’s this thing, whether it’s a show or a step or a film or you, you get the, gist in the last two episodes, I have talked to the seaweed sisters a little bit about the secrets of our process, which include saying yes, and to any idea. Um, and I also talked to Kat Burns in the last episode, which was 16. So let’s see, Seaweeds were 15. Kat Burns was 16, and Kat talked a lot. How processes differ depending on the format, um, or the medium, whether it’s scripted TV, a stage show or an improv show. Um, and honestly, if you haven’t listened to those episodes, go check those out. Some really golden nuggets in there. But long story short, every project and every person will have a slightly different creative process. So millions, so many different creative processes.  

All right, so when used as a verb process means to refine or rectify or even to clarify, to me, it evokes this idea of sitting with something and chewing on it, digesting it until it’s gone. So that’s sort of a difference that gets stirred up in my mind. A creative process results in something, it leaves something at the end versus a process of refinement or clarifying results in having something completely digested. And then it either goes away or turns into something else completely. So there are probably as many forms of processing emotions as there are creative processes. It’s likely that everyone has their own way or even that their way might change over time or that they’ll use a combination of different ways to deal with different things. And I’m just fascinated by that. A handful of those styles of processing might include journaling or as I like to call it a thought download, which is where I try to just stream of consciousness dump whatever is in my brain. It goes through my arm and my hand and lands on a page or on a pixel via a keyboard or pen. Um, but there’s also therapy counseling, you know, talking to somebody. And then there’s also DMT or dance movement therapy, which is made up of countless techniques and exercises that are designed to ultimately create awareness of mind and body. I will be very clear, I am not a dance movement therapist. I use dance to tell stories. I use dance to make money and yes, sometimes I dance explicitly for fun. Occasionally I dance as therapy when I’m feeling down in the dumps as I’m sure several of us have, right? Oh and I am learning by the way that dance crying is actually a thing. Literally dancing up all the feels and then dancing them out via tears from your eyes. I love this concept and I really, really love the thought that the more aware we are of our minds and our bodies and the sensations within them, the more able we are to watch and regulate them and even generate new ones, right?  Like new feelings in our body. We can control them, make decisions about them and our emotional experience of the world is effected. My job and a huge part of my life revolves around being in touch with my body and controlling it, being deliberate with its movements and using it to get a job done to craft shapes and phrases that convey emotion or information to give form to feelings to exteriorize the interior. That is my jam. That is what I do. Now, It’s the third week of April and I’ve been distancing since March 6th I have been regulating and controlling and deciding the crap out of my daily life. Are you ready for this? Okay. I coach on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I film new combos to send to studios on Saturdays. Sundays are seaweed sister sessions followed by deep household cleaning. Then I look at finances on money. Monday I do curbside produce pickup on Tuesday podcasts are Wednesdays, IgG live at five on Thursdays. All the food prep, all the dance classes, all the laundry are happening every day. And I also journal and I stretch daily. Whoa. So I really thought that I was processing these new circumstances along with all of my feelings pretty well. I seems to have found a schedule that appeared to be productive and fulfilling. Oh, but boy, spoiler alert, I certainly wasn’t processing, not all of it. Anyways, how did I find out that I wasn’t, Oh well, as you might imagine on a rainy day, the fourth in a row, I mind you, I had a breakdown, a full blown adult tantrum where hot water poured from my eye holes. And this tantrum was actually the good part. By the way. The water pouring out of my eyes was the release. It was the moment before that was actually super tough. The quiet before the storm, we’ll call it.  

That was the moment where I was feeling heavy, slow, foggy, vapid, guilty, just gross. You name it. Dark end of the spectrum. I was feeling it. I tried to motivate myself up out of it. Go, go make up a new combo. I tried, my moves were lame. I stopped. I tried to write a new podcast, but my ideas were mangled and mushy, kind of half formed, gross. I stopped, I tried to make food. It was gross. Oh, you better believe I ate it anyways. And then I felt gross and then I stopped. I just felt stopped. All of it felt pretty stopped. I felt stuck like so many of us probably felt or are currently feeling and for a person who moves for a living, for a self-proclaimed movement master feeling stuck feels pretty awful. Now by default, I’m a person that’s a pretty positive thinker, captain, bright side, Susie sunshine. Like that is how I like to live my life. But I do believe that my life will round out with a natural distribution of emotions like 50% of the time I’ll be good or better. And then the other 50% of the time I’ll be sub good or bad or occasionally awful. Now for the record, I have no scientific evidence to back up that that’s actually how my life will round out. But I have a feeling that if you did analysis on like the past five years of my journals, you’d find some plot points that you could put on a graph and you’d probably be left with a pretty good looking bell-curve. So as I sat there feeling these awful things, I was sitting way at the tail end of my bell curve. I got on the phone for some coaching and this is what I asked my coach. I asked, how do you know when to sit with yourself and your big, ugly, deep dark thoughts? And when do you coach yourself out of it? When do you coach yourself off the ropes? When do you let captain bright side shake some sense into you? Well, here’s what my coach said, and by the way, let’s pause for the cause for a second because there are a lot of different coaches and styles of coaching. Now, there are the types that will break you down to build you up. And then there are the types that will give this air of being almighty all knowing, omnipotent, like they, they know you better than you know yourself and they know the answer to your question even before you know what you’re even asking. Yeah, those are not my coaches. My coaches honor me exactly as I show up. However, broken or built that may be, depending on the day and my coaches helped me see in myself a way that gives me the power to answer my own questions or to make my own decisions. So that’s the type of coaching I’m going in for right here. 

So I asked my coach, how do I know how long I should sit with a negative feel? How do I know when it’s time to regulate and step in and do the self coaching or when is it time to move? Like move yourself out of it. Of course she didn’t answer. Instead she asked, okay, what exactly is this negative feel that you’re feeling? And the first word that came to my mind was stuck. I feel stuck. And she said, “okay, where in your body do you feel stuck?” And I said, after a little bit of checking in and thinking I had a feeling she might be expecting like my heart or my throat or my forehead, which are all totally acceptable answers to where do you feel stuck? But I genuinely like I felt it everywhere. I felt it inside my body, every inch of it. I felt it in my blood and she was unfazed by this. Uh, she was a stonewall. She was like, “okay, great. Let’s talk more about your blood.” Which is so funny to say out loud right now, but it was a perfectly reasonable question in that moment. She asked, “what color is your blood?” And I was like, you know, close my eyes and really try to visualize my stuck blood. And I decided that it’s definitely gray but not even like a full, beautiful, deep, dark rich gray but like gray at 50% opacity, like puny, sad, weak gray. And then she said, “all right, got it. Okay, so, um, is your 50% opacity gray blood? Is it moving? Does it have motion to it?” And I said, no, it is definitely still, it is what is stuck. It is the thing that is like freezing up like concrete. And she’s like, “okay, great, great, great. So tell me more about your 50% opacity, concrete blood.” And I just kept explaining the image, my made up idea of what my blood looked like and moved like inside my body. And at a certain point all that digging in was starting to make me tense. So instead of just feeling stuck, I was now feeling tight and I said, man, my now my skin feels too tight right now. I’m really tense. And she said, “Oh good, tell me about your skin.” And I said, it’s, it’s brittle. And she was like, “okay, okay, how else does it feel? Does it have movement?” And it was like, no, no, it’s, it’s too pulled tight to have movement. And she says, “okay, well how is it normally?” And I thought for a second, and I said, I think it’s normally kind of like a plum. You know what? I remember the book To Kill a Mockingbird. I think that’s where I got this from. I think there’s an explanation of skin in that book where they, uh, Harper Lee explained skin as like the skin of a plum. Like it’s supple. It would peel back if it got snagged, but my skin was definitely not that. So as my coach kept asking me to explain my skin, I was coming up with ideas like it’s not definitely not a plum, it’s more like a grapefruit, like thick, porous and, and, and instead of housing a grapefruit, my grapefruit skin is trying to contain a watermelon.  And then she said, “okay, good. Let’s go back to your blood. How’s your blood doing?” I was like, are you kidding me? Okay. All right, fine. Was talking about my blood some more. I’m explaining my blood, I’m getting emotional. Then she says, all right, how’s your skin feeling? I’m like, it’s tight. It’s too tight. And she’s like, okay, let’s go back to the blood. Has the blood doing. So we, long story short, we bounced back and forth between talking about my concrete blood that was now bubbling to my grapefruit skin that’s trying to contain a watermelon. And then she asked one last time, how’s your blood? And I said, well, it’s not stuck anymore. The stuck was gone and it was replaced by, you know, blubbering hot waterfall of other emotions. But stuck was definitely gone. So the answer to my question, how do you know how long you should sit with the negative fields? Well, sit with them, be with them, experience them deeply until they’re gone. The answer to my question, when is it time to move yourself out of it is it’s time to move into it. The only way out of it is through it. And the answer to my question, when is it time to regulate? Oh, the answer to that is it’s not time to regulate. It’s time to process. So the next time you’re experiencing life on the downside of the bell curve, stop, look and listen. There’s a good song for that to your body and process. Now the process that I used talking about my, um, now the process that I used revolved really heavily around my awareness of the sensations in my body and my imagination. I mean, come on. Gray, half opacity, concrete blood, grapefruit skin. I mean what an imagination. That is like A plus super kindergartener type style of imagination. This process means giving a color, giving emotion, giving texture, and giving names to this sensation in your body, like to a high degree of detail over and over and over again. And that process might really resonate with you, especially if you’re a dance type that checks in with your body regularly. But it also may not resonate with you. It might not be your style of processing emotions, but it was hugely effective and profoundly moving for me. So I had to share it. My interest and curiosity in, um, we’ll call it mind meets body processing is absolutely peaking. So you better believe I will be getting into, uh, some DMT and other processes for processing emotions in the upcoming weeks and months and probably years. So take a second to think about it for yourself. How do you process emotions? How do you process the events of your life? I would love to hear how you do it. You can message me on the gram @danadaners or you can send me a message via the contact page on my website, which is theDanawilson.com.

All right, my friend, I hope that that um, glimpse at my process for processing emotions gets you thinking about how you process yours. Um, then that is it for today. Thank you so much for listening. Stay safe. Say Whoa. Stay safe, stay soapy and keep it funky.  

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, the Dana wilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a wards that moved me members, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.