Let’s talk ORGANIZATION! Choreographers and their teams (assistant choreographers, associate choreographers, co-choreographers etc.) along with production assistants are the ONLY category of workers on Film/ TV/ Commercial sets that do not have Union representation. What does that mean? It means no minimum daily rate, no Health & Pension contributions, no residual structures, no penalties for overtime, or turnaround time. Why does that matter? Because DANCE and the people who make it are pillars of popular culture (to say the very very least).
In this episode, I talk to two time Emmy award winning choreographer, Kathryn Burns and Craig Baylis. Craig is a former dancer who has gone onto work in damn near every sector of entertainment from Artist Development & Tour Marketing to Product Management and even SAGAFTRA member and Staff.
In this episode we scratch the surface of several deep and delicate issues from daily minimum rates (and what’s so great about em) to supply and demand, licensing, and even copyright of choreography.
The learning curve set ahead of choreographers is steep. We must teach ourselves AND the record labels and studio big wigs on the other side of the negotiation table what we do and what that is worth. Grab a pen and paper, and get ready to study up!
Dancers are unique in many many ways, not least of which is our income. It comes from MANY different places, at inconsistent intervals, it’s often not taxed… and then there’s the actual numbers! We might make $17.49/ hour, we might make over $1k per day, we might make $0.00 in a month, we might make $250,000.00 per year. Still interested? Yea, me too. In this episode, I break down the rates, tips, and trades that helped me understand and OWN my full financial picture.
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, my friend. And welcome to Words that Move Me. I’m Dana, jazzed that you’re here stoked about this episode, even though it is about not my favorite subject. Yes, it is money March on the podcast. And in this episode, we are talking about the money side of dance life. Um, we’re going to focus specifically on dancers. We’ll talk about choreographers next week, but if you are an actor, a singer or another type of creative human or performer, um, or the parent of one for that matter, keep listening because there is a metric boat load of information about personal finance, uh, for people who do not so regular work. Uh, but first we’re going to talk wins. I have a very not money-related win today. I have taken ballet class three times in the last eight days, which is more than I have taken ballet class in the last eight months. And it’s feeling very good on my body. Um, I think this particular brand of ballet is a compassionate one. I’ve been taking class from the fabulous Spenser Theberge, and, um, I’ll be real with you ballet, and I have have had a rocky past, uh, we’re we’re not known for getting along and Spenser acts as such a marvelous mediator for me in that relationship. So if you’re looking to get back into a, a ballet class or a ballet practice, I really do recommend Spenser Theberge’s class. He’s been teaching on zoom lately. I don’t know how much longer that will continue. Um, but I will link to Spenser and some more about where to find him in the show notes for this episode, Shout out Spenser. Thank you so much, my friend. All right, Now, it’s your turn. What’s going well in your world.
Awesome. I’m so proud of you. I’m glad that you’re winning. I’m glad that we’re here winning together. Um, and this episode togetherness is important. Having it together is important. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the uniqueness of a dancer’s income and exactly what a dancer’s income might be. Um, we’re going to talk about the importance of a solid money system. I’ll give you a few tips there. Um, I’ll give you some essential vocab and I will also give you a very broad stroke outline of what kind of dollars you can expect to be making. When you’re working as a dancer in movies, TV shows, commercials, music, videos, industrials tours, and live shows. Am I missing anything? Oh yeah. Even student films, um, and projects made for the interweb. So this episode is full and it is for you buckle up.
All right. I want to start off by saying that I think it is fascinating that most dancers and choreographers for that matter, who decide that they want to pursue a career in dance do so without having the slightest idea of how much a dancer or a choreographer makes. I think that actually most creatives are in a similar boat. Um, most of us don’t pursue this creative career. This self-employed life for the money, right? We don’t do this for the money. We didn’t get into it for the money yet. Chances are that if we quit, if we abandon this creative life, this freelance life, it’s probably because of the money. So let’s get a grip on that. Honestly, it’s wild to me, but it is real. I packed up my Volkswagen bug and moved across the country without a clue about the money I would make or without a clue about how much it costs to be alive in Los Angeles. It was my first time living under my own roof. I paid all my own bills and I had no clue what to expect. And that’s not necessarily for lack of trying. It’s actually pretty easy to look up estimated incomes for various professions, but you’ll find that the range of income for a dancer or a choreographer is extremely broad yet the numbers for salaried professionals like software engineer or a nurse or a pilot, for example, those numbers are pretty firm. And I think that people who decide to become doctors, pilots, pharmacists, whatever they do so, considering that number, and they probably have an idea of that number when they’re pursuing training. But do you, my dear mover and shaker busting your balls for a career in dance. Do you have any idea how much a dancer makes in a year and to all my more established movers and shakers, do you know how much you made last year?
You might because it’s tax season, but do you know how much you spent? Could you tell me that number without running and grabbing your last year’s tax returns? Do you know how much you would make in one day on a SAG-AFTRA theatrical contract, where there are two other dancers? Do you know how much you would make in one day on a, on a theatrical contract where there were eight or more other dancers, I’ll give you a hint. Those numbers are different. Now, listen, there is no shame game here. No shame at all. In fact, I had to look half this stuff up as I was preparing for this episode, but simply put, I have to say this stuff because in the intro to this podcast, I say the words, if you’re looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then stick around blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What I should’ve said is if you’re looking to rewrite the starving artist story, stop being afraid of money, stop being afraid of looking at your balances and your bills and your contracts, and start talking about reading, about learning, about making and managing money.
This episode exists to help you do exactly that at very best. It might be boring to you, but I’m going to start with some cold, hard facts today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of the dancers in the workforce made less than the average American in 2019, the us census median individual income. So the average American individual made a little over $40,000 in 2019. The median hourly rate, I always say rage. I say rage on accident, but I don’t know if it’s an accident. The median hourly wage for a dancer in 2019 was $17 and 49 cents an hour. That’s $36,501 and 63 cents for a full-time year. Now let’s be real. Most dancers don’t work full-time. So if the average full-time American is making $40,000 in a year, and the average full-time dancer is making a 36,000 a little more than 36,000 in a year that median hourly wage $17 and 49 cents leaves you at a little less than $700 for a 40 hour work week. Discouraged? Maybe, but don’t get discouraged, get deliberate, get deliberate about how you earn, spend and grow your wealth. I’m going to give you a little encouragment moment. Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of entertainment professionals is projected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029. That is faster than the average for all other occupations. What does that say? It says that people want to be entertained and they always will. It also says there’s a chance. So you’re telling me there’s a chance. What was all that one in a million talk? I digress, man. I love movies. Um, let’s see, in case you need a little more encouragement as of today, which is March, 2021, a dancer hired as a soloist or part of a duo on a SAG-AFTRA theatrical contract, theatrical, by the way, it means films. AKA features that dancer will be paid a minimum rate of $1,030 in one day. And that’s just for the initial work. That’s not including the residual payments. It will get into, uh, the terms in the contract, specifics of all that in a moment. But for now I’ll wrap up this section by saying, dancers are unique. For many, many reasons. One of them is that dancers might make 700 per week, or we might make over a thousand per day, or we could make zero in a month or we could make 250,000 in a year. I would love to see dancer rates and dancer employment go up. But I don’t only think there’s an income challenge here. I think that most of us self-employed dance types actually have a cash flow challenge. Um, I think we never learned how much we ought to be charging. I think we never really learned how to manage it once we make it here are, if you other things that make us really, really unique, um, other than our exquisite fashion sense and physical superpowers of course consider that the traditional employee has their taxes paid automatically. When they receive their check, their taxes are already gone. They’re taken out already like Macavity. They’re not there. Sorry, Cats. I can’t help it. Wow. Movies shown up a lot for me today. Um, also traditional employees receive health and pension plans through their employer. Imagine that they get paid vacation, sick days and personal days. They have a fixed income that usually comes from one place. We do not. In fact, if you’re good at what you do, you’ve got money coming from a lot of different sources for varying amounts on a super irregular basis and through different money channels. For example, PayPal, for all your zoom classes, residual checks from SAG-AFTRA direct deposits from your agencies, um, direct deposits from productions and various payroll companies like media services, entertainment partners, dance studios, all of it. Oh, and if you have an LLC, if you are a single member, LLC, then you’re hopefully also receiving payroll from yourself. So well, this can make tax season really woo exciting. And that is exactly why it’s important for independent contractors like us to organize our money lives and to our own personal financial systems. And that is whatever works my friend, because we truly are unique, little dancing snowflakes. And um, Oh, I wonder if the sugar plum theme music is creative commons. I should be playing that right now. I could probably use that anyways. What I’m trying to say is that we, we independent contractors have to be more disciplined than the average nine to fiver in order to keep all of this creative freedom in our daily lives.
Okay. So let’s get into some vocab, shall we? Um, I mentioned already the median average dancer hourly rate, and I want to make sure that I’m explicitly clear about what that means. Um, it means that half of the data points fall below that number, that $17 and 49 cents per hour and half of the data points are higher than that. So if Sarah let’s say, makes the median average dancer rate of $17.49 an hour, she makes more than half the dancers in the workforce. And half of the dancers in the workforce are making more than she does. So to revisit math class for just a quick second, the median number is the number smack in the middle of all the data. The mean average in this case would be, um, every dancers hourly rate added up together and then divided by the number of total dancers. And the mode average is the number of most commonly occurring. Great math. We did it. Um, okay. Now let’s talk about some fun acronyms. Let’s start with SAG-AFTRA, shall we, SAG-AFTRA is the labor union that represents 160,000, probably more than that. Right now, actors, announcers broadcast journalists, dancers, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, and other media professionals. SAG-AFTRA stands for Screen Actors Guild, which then merged with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. There you have it, SAG-AFTRA. The stage equivalent of SAG-AFTRA is called Actors’ Equity. They represent more than 51,000 actors and stage managers.
Now let’s talk DA. DA stands for Dancers Alliance, a group of dancers, including myself who advocate for equitable minimum rates and working conditions for all non-union work. That’s any gig that falls outside of SAG-AFTRA’s jurisdiction. For example, Paul Mitchell decides to do a hair show. This is not on camera. This is not a Broadway or off-Broadway show it. This might be taking place in Austin, Texas. For example, that work would fall under the jurisdiction of Dancer’s Alliance. Now let’s talk about a slightly less sexy acronym. I R A or individual retirement account, which is kind of like a savings account, but you can’t use the money quite yet. And it has tax advantages. We’re honestly, we’re not going to talk much about IRAs today, but I will link to a really helpful video on the subject, um, in the show notes of this episode, enjoy that. Okay, let’s talk P and H. P and H is V important. Um, P&H stands for pension and health. These are contributions that go to a pension fund and healthcare. In my case, I received these through SAG-AFTRA now because dancers are typically young and healthy. Most of us don’t care too much about P&H, but Wowza, if this last year is any evidence, we can all become sick. We can all become injured and you cannot dance if you don’t have your health. So I strongly encourage you start recognizing the benefits of health and pension benefits. All right, let’s talk CPA’s. A CPA is a certified public accountant, and I’ll be real with you. There are a lot of online services that boasts the ability to save you money on your taxes. But I find that working with a real human being CPA, whose name’s Jeremy shout out Jeremy, um, on my taxes every year is really the only way to go. I have a lot of that software out there isn’t designed to handle the uniqueness. That is me and you. So that’s a CPA certified public accountant. Now a CB as in bargaining, a CBA stands for collective bargaining agreement. This is the agreement between the union and the employer that you work under when you’re a part of a sag after contract, for example, uh, people who support collective bargaining and unions in general, believe that employees have a better chance at getting what they want in terms of rates and working conditions. When they negotiate as a collective, as a union, rather than individually. Now, when we talk about SAG-AFTRA contracts or CBAs, we’ll discuss four broad categories of work, TV, theatrical, commercial, and new media. Oh, another fun acronym, S V O D subscription video on demand like Netflix, Apple+, Hulu, Amazon, all of those guys, they’re making this conversation very interesting. Okay. Now, when I get into talking about SAG -AFTRA commercial contracts, I’ll go deeper on the concept of residuals, but just for the purpose of this vocab section, a residual or royalty payment is sometimes known as a use payment. That simply means that an additional compensation will be paid out when a production is shown at, beyond its original covered use. The rest of it is not so simple. Okay. That was not simple. I’ll be real, but we’re going to get into residuals in just a second. Now I’m not a financial advisor. I am not a fiduciary, but I do financially advise you to purchase this financial book. It is called The Money Book for Freelancers part-timers and the self employed it’s by Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan. Um, um, it is in the show notes for this episode and it is very well-written. You will laugh. You will likely cry, but that’s not because of the writing. That’s because you love moving your body. You think it’s fun. And this book has nothing to do with moving your body.
Um, but it has everything to do with moving you towards financial freedom. I owe a lot to this book, which now that I say that out loud is really funny because the book itself is only like $15. And I paid for it all at once. So I know I owe nothing to this book yet. I know yet I owe so much to this book. Honestly, it’s like a handhold. It’s like a financial partner all the way through guiding you. Uh, I honestly, I got straighter answers from this book than I have gotten from previous CPAs and financial advisors who wiggled around concepts for hundreds of dollars. And this book was 15. So there you have it. Oh, and it was not paid to say this, by the way, uh, the money book outlines system for organizing your financial records, it helps you get a clear picture of how much you earn what you spend and what you owe, which by the way, with just a few hours of very focused time, you could probably, and should probably do that today.
Um, the book also explains how you might prioritize paying off debt. It helps you evaluate not only the number side of your business, but also encourages you to evaluate how good you are at doing what you do and kind of offer some ideas about how you might do it better, truly awesome. Um, but there were three massive takeaways that I, that I gathered from this book, and I want to share them with you. Number one, I learned the importance of web only banking. I moved most of my money to a web only bank, which means they have no storefront. They have no like in-human exchanges there. Um, but this web only bank had a much better annual percentage yield, which by the way, the yield is how much the investor, in this case you receives from the investment, the amount of money that you have sitting in the bank, the interest rate on my old checking account at the Bank of America, shame on you was 0.01%. When I switched over to the web bank that I use, which is ally, I got 1% on that same amount of money. I got 1% interest. Now for math sake, let’s say I had a thousand dollars in that account. At B of A, in one year, that thousand dollars would have made me 10 cents of money that the same thousand dollars in my ally account would have earned me $10, 10 cents versus $10. And when the amount of money in the account goes up, that disparity goes up a lot as well. .01 and 1% are really different at the end of the year. Um, for the record, I should state that ally at the time that I signed up boasted that 1% interest rate, um, at the sign-up time. But I believe now it’s dropped 2.5%. So I might be shopping for a new bank holler. Let me know what you know. Um, Oh, I also have to tell you while we’re talking about interest rates, high interest rates on savings accounts, high interest rates on savings accounts equals good. High interest rates on credit cards, however, equals bad because the cash is flowing in the other direction there. Um, for a credit card, you are paying the interest, not earning it because in that, in that case, you’re the borrower, not the lender. Okay, there we go. So that’s lesson number one, the value of web banks and higher interest rates on savings accounts.
Lesson number two, what the book refers to as the Holy Trinity of savings at the time that I read this book, read it, wow. At the time that I started, um, I started shaving off 10% of every check that I made. Every single check I received. Hence percent of that money went directly into an account dedicated for emergencies. Another 10% got shaved off and went over into a retirement account, which would later be shipped off into an IRA. But let’s skip that for now. Um, where were we? 10% to emergency fund. 10% went to a retirement fund and then 15. And when I say fund, I mean savings account, and then 15% of each check went to yet another web bank savings account to be paying my taxes. So, yeah, that’s 35% of each check that I would ship directly off to a high interest yielding savings account. And each of those accounts has made me hundreds of dollars. Yay. Great. Oh, on the subject of those of the Holy Trinity of savings, I also learned the value of naming your accounts. Most banks, especially online banks will let you give a nickname to your savings account. I am here to tell you that you are more likely to feed a savings account called the house of my dreams or my first film versus a savings account ending in numbers. Right? Um, but you could call yours whatever you want. You could call it F You, Uncle Sam, whatever makes you feel funky, whatever inspires you to throw money in that direction, you could get very creative here. See there is creativity to the financial side of the dance life. Um, okay. So all of that is to say there are a lot of small changes you can make on your own that will really change your big financial picture. But I do want to underline the importance of having a solid team, um, throughout the rest of this episode. You’ll hear me say, ask your agent or ask your CPA a lot again, don’t be afraid to ask questions about money. It’s okay. If you don’t know, in fact, it’s your CPA’s job to know more about taxes than you do, and your agents exist not only to send you on auditions, but to help you understand the terms of your contracts, to make sure that you are agreeing to a fair wage. And then yes, of course, to make sure that you are receiving that fair wage. Um, super shout out, by the way, to all my friends at CTG clear talent group and to Tim O’Brien and Misha Goetz specifically who joined me in episode 34, that one is must listen, go ahead and give that, uh, give that a listen. Okay.
Moving right along now, I’m going to move into some more gig specific numbers. I want to say that I have advocated for unionizing in the past. I helped unionize music videos and when a union contract for a tour, but this episode is really not about union versus non-union work. Um, and while we’re on the subject, I really want to address this common misconception that union contracts are about making you more money. Um, this is just simply not true. Union contracts don’t mean more money, but it also does mean more protection and more support in terms of what’s covered in terms of where the money goes like health and pension contributions. And it also means that you’ll have much more support to make a dispute in the event that something goes wrong or the terms of the agreement aren’t met. All right, here we go. Dancers and dollars. Mind you. This is specifically dancers as in dance performers, not teachers or studio owners or choreographers. Also keep in mind that these numbers do change over time. I’m recording in March of 2021, and I’m using the numbers relevant to today. Also, just to keep it focused, I’m only going to discuss rates, not penalty fees or working conditions like dressing rooms, warm up spaces, releases, breaks, turnaround times, et cetera. So we’re going to start off by taking a look at the industry standard rates for non-union projects. I’m referring to the Dancers Alliance website, which is dancersalliance.org That will be in the show notes, um, which is by the way, super user-friendly and all of this is there in plain English. I really encourage you to do a little deeper digging yourself. All right, Dancer’s Alliance live shows industrials and non-union music videos. Your rehearsal rate with agency fee on top of these minimum rates would be $175 for a one to four hour rehearsal day. That’s a half day at $175. Anything over that four hours becomes time and a half a full eight hour rehearsal day would be at $250. Anything over eight hours becomes time and a half for a show day or a shoot day. We’re looking at a $500 minimum. The, the rate for a rehearsal on the same day as a show is open to negotiation. You would expect to receive $150 minimum per travel day or retainer day. If you’re working outside of your hometown, you would also receive per diem. On top of that travel day, pay a per diem, by the way, is a Latin phrase that translates to by the day. This term also refers to the amount of money paid to employees for different types of daily scenarios. Um, most common uses for per diem are tips, food. Um, you know, other odd incurred costs that you have when you’re out there in the world, working away from your normal workspace in Los Angeles. The average per diem rate is $66 per day. In New York, It’s $76. In Las Vegas, It’s $61. In Atlanta and Miami, that’s both $66. There is a full list of those on the Dancer’s Alliance website. Go check that out. All right. Now, if performers are requested to supply their own costumes, uh, including footwear wardrobe items will be compensated at $25 per outfit. That’s total, not per day and $15 per pair of shoes. Ah, while we’re on the wardrobe, subject fittings outside of a rehearsal day will be paid at $50 per hour. Fittings on a rehearsal day are applied to the time that you’ve worked. So most fittings usually happen on record. Okay. If the terms that I just stated, aren’t met on a project, talk to your agent, simple as that. Now music videos are now covered by SAG-AFTRA. Yeah, yes, we are celebrating this because music videos used to be the Wild Wild West, and now they are slightly less wild. A dancer, It’s it’s not common that a dancer would be paid in food like in pizza and beer to perform in a music video. Now, dancer rates are determined by the video budget. Um, dancers make a minimum of 500 for a 12 hour shoot day for all videos with a budget of 50,000 or higher all performers receive safety, provisions, health and pension contributions and usage fees. This is great. Now the DA website has a super helpful cheat sheet on their website that I have included in the show notes as well. Um, but because I mentioned safety provisions, I want to talk about that for just one second. Although it deserves an episode entirely unto itself, music videos have language for quote, extraordinary risk circumstances and quote. This is AKA hazardous conditions. Um, anything from dancing on unusual surfaces to aerial work or trampoline work, or even wearing gear that’s not made for dance like ski boots or skis or a head dress or mask that compromises your vision. All of these are considered extraordinary risk circumstances, but on a music video, even significant floor work on concrete may be considered hazardous. So on a music video specifically with a budget of a hundred thousand or less dancers are entitled to an additional $50 per day videos with a budget of above 100,000 are entitled to an additional one, $100 per day. Now, no matter what the project, if you feel that the work you’re being asked to do is a threat to your safety or wellbeing, talk to your agent period, the end. Um, and also the next time you open your phone to scroll through Instagram, just go scroll through Dancer’s Alliance website instead. Okay, the end, moving on.
Okay. Moving on SAG-AFTRA contracts, as I mentioned for dancers, these usually fall up or four main categories, but there are so, so, so many more like dubbing, voiceover, um, news broadcast, et cetera. There’s a lot, but, um, we’re going to focus specifically on TV, theatrical, commercial and new media. Now it bears mentioning, there are a lot of changes going on, um, especially in the TV and theatrical contracts, like literally as we speak. So even if you’re a person who works on these contracts regularly, you should consider taking a look at the, 2020 TV theatrical summary, which is linked in the show notes of this episode, and absolutely be standing by for the new net code contracts. Um, but for now we’ll give a brief outline of these four categories and their rates as they stand today, we’ll start with theatrical because let’s face it. Everybody loves the movies. Theatrical means film or feature. There are basic theatrical agreements, low budget agreements, modified low budget agreements, ultra low budget agreements, short project agreements and student film agreements. Um, each of these contracts, if you couldn’t guess is determined by the budget of the project, um, they’re each slightly different, but pretty well outlined on SAG-AFTRA’s website. If you’re curious about those, um, uh, I suggest you go take a look, but I’ll tell you about the dancer rates for the basic theatrical contracts here. If you are a solo or a duo being hired on a theatrical contract, you’ll be making $1,030 per day. If you’re in a group of three to eight performers, your rate per day would be $902. And if you’re in a group of nine plus, your rate will be $788 per day. All of those are at a $607 rehearsal day rate. Now weekly rates are higher, um, obviously, but significantly less than all of those numbers. I just mentioned times five. So, uh, bears taking a look if you’ll be on a weekly rate versus a daily rate, um, all right, let’s move into TV contracts. Whoa. This can feel really, really confusing because a contract for scripted episodic, um, like Big Bang Theory, for example, are different from non scripted network shows like competition shows ie. Dancing with the Stars. So you think you can Dance, World Of Dance, um, and award shows like the VMAs or the Oscars or the Grammys. Those are all non-scripted shows and those will fall under what is called the NETCODE or network code. Um, the other slightly muddy element here is that there are countless episodic or scripted series shows now being made by and for SVODs. Do you remember what that stands for? Scripted Video On Demand?
Yes, we did it, or we did it. We did it together, anyways, actually at this point in the quarantine is hard for me to name five shows that are not Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu or Apple+ originals. These are TV shows in air quotes that are not on TV. Um, to simplify this a little bit, your TV rate and your TV contract depend on the budget of the production, the number of episodes and the episode length. For example, if you’re being hired for, um, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is an Amazon original because of its high budget and the episodes are longer than 20 minutes, you’ll be on a TV contract. But if you’re hired for a YouTube series or another streaming show with, uh, with a script, um, that has a budget of less than $1 million, you’ll likely be on a new media contract, which we are talking about next again, I truly do suggest that you ask your agent what type of contract you’ll be working on if they haven’t already told you before your first day of work, simply so that you know what to expect.
All of these contracts are slightly different now, new media contracts for all streaming platforms, whether they be Amazon or Instagram, whether they be film spots, series’s or commercial spots, as long as the budget is between 50,000 and 1 million, it will be on a new media contract. New media rates really fluctuate depending on the scale of the budget. And, um, again, to be sure if you are on a new media contract or not check with your agent, um, so that you can know how much you should be expecting to make this is important stuff. Okay? Lastly, the coveted commercial contracts, which let’s be real, there are no less complicated than the TV contracts, because so many commercials these days are intended exclusively for online use. So they fall under the new media contract that I just talked about. But if you’re a commercial, your piece of media is intended for TV. Then there are different classes and different rates of agreements. Class A is the most popular. That means the spot will air in over 20 cities. Class B applies to commercials that will air in six to 20 cities. But if New York is one of those cities, the rates will be higher. We’ll talk about that more in a second, um, class C commercials, these are the least used contracts and they apply to commercials that will air in less than six cities. Okay. Last but not least, there’s the wild spot. The wild spot is a commercial that is aired in over 20 cities like the class a, but these are specific cities. So, um, let me think of an example. Okay. A commercial for In and Out for example, is not going to be running on the East coast because there aren’t any in and outs out there. So these commercials don’t run on specific networks, per se. They run in specific regions and for specific markets. Um, so all those contracts are slightly different, but in one way, they are all the same. They have a rate for first use. That’s what you get paid when you shoot it. And that rate covers the initial usage of the spot. Then the more, the spot airs you will be paid in a residual payment that is of course, unless a buyout was negotiated. Again, we’ll get to that in just a second. Let’s talk class A for a second, if you are a Class, A on-camera performer, that means there’s less than three of you. Your rate is $712 per day. If you’re on a Class A contract and there’s three to five on-camera performers, that rate would be $521 and 20 cents per day. If there are six to eight of you, the rate would be $461 per day. And if there are nine or more performers, that rate would be $381 per day. So you see how that goes. The more performers there are, the lower the rate, the final group nine plus is also known as group nine. Now we’re going to touch on wild spots for a second, just a quick second, because the rates are the same as the Class A rates, which makes sense because they’re also aired in 20 plus cities. So if you want to know what you make on a wild spot, rewind 10 seconds and you’ll have it. Um, okay. Class B rates, they vary depending on whether or not New York is one of the places your spot will air. So that’s fun. Um, but the rates are much higher. If New York is one of those cities, uh, a principal might make $1,347 and 14 cents per day. But without New York as one of those cities that same performer would make $1098 and 75 cents per day. Fortunately, the numbers get a little easier from there because if you’re in a group of three or more New York or not New York, doesn’t matter. If there are three to five performers, you’d be making $857 and 96 cents. Six to eight performers, you’d be making $758 and 66 cents per day and a nine plus we’re looking at $620 and 24 cents per day. That’s our class B which again, not very commonly used because you can imagine that. Or at least I can imagine that why use that contract with all those fancy New York adjustment, higher, higher rate adjustments when it could just be made on a class, A contract. So I’m so curious about if that even gets used. Really curious, anyways, moving right along. Class C, okay. Class C on camera principals, we’re talking $654 77 cents for the first day. For first use per day, a group of three to five, we’re talking $567 and 44 cents. A group of six to eight performers is looking at $504 and 33 cents per day. And your group nine is looking at $412 and 39 cents per day for the first use. Of course, all of those rates I just mentioned are for the initial use. That’s what you’ll be paid for the shoot. Now, the rest, rests with the residual gods. Again, a residual payment is simply additional compensation, which is paid once the production is shown beyond its original use covered by the initial compensation. For example, for theatrical film, residuals would be triggered once the film is released anywhere other than theaters, the theater release is the original use. So residuals would start coming in once the film is released as a DVD or aired on TV or online or something like that. Now that is a very grossly, gross get it, gross pun. Um, not gross, like nasty, but gross as in like total.
Okay. Just to go one tiny layer deeper, there are two different types of residuals. Fixed residuals, which are based on the run of the spot. Um, these exists for TV and new media contracts only. So the amount that you would receive are based on how you were initially paid, and they’re tied to the number of reruns they’re due within 30 days to four months. And that is your fixed residual. The more popular residual structure is a revenue or gross receipts based residual structure. This one’s the most popular it’s tied to sales. Um, they’re due quarterly, or as soon as funds are sufficient enough to cut checks to the entire cast, which by the way, I have been on the receiving end of 1 cent residuals. So I guess that number is substantial enough to cut a check, um, that sort of thing happens. It’s really actually incredible. Um, so these type of these revenue based residuals, um, they’re based on time and salary units. So the person with the smallest residual is probably the performer who, who worked maybe one day at scale on the project. The bigger slice of the residual pie would go to the person who worked at or above scale for multiple days. And so those, those residuals scale accordingly based on time and salary units, I hope that’s been helpful in, in your understanding of how residuals work. If you are into a deeper dive, I’m going to point you in the direction of, um, a video starring SAG-AFTRA’s own Jennifer Gaudry, it really gets into the nuts and bolts of residuals. Um, if you’re interested in that, God bless you find the video in the show notes. Um, I do want to heads you up though. I usually watch YouTube videos at 1.5 X speed. Um, I watched this one slow and multiple times to understand it. Definitely some layers of understanding here. Now, since we’re here talking about residuals, it’s worth mentioning that most non-union commercials and new media contracts can form to industry standard rates and safety measures, but they do not offer residual structure. Instead you’ll likely receive what’s called a buyout, AKA a usage fee that is a flat rate one-time payment usually bundled in with your initial fee. Um, and it’s intended to cover all additional uses in perpetuity. I’m not thrilled about buyouts. If you can’t tell, I am thrilled, however about these contracts and the fact that they are always getting slightly better, thanks to the work of our brothers and sisters over the union. It truly is an incredible thing to watch progress happen over time, and to watch the benefits of these contracts start being rolled out. Very, very cool thing. Um, also I want to point out with regards to these SAG-AFTRA contracts, All of the numbers that I just mentioned, all of the numbers that you see on the rate sheets on SAG-AFTRA is website. Those are minimums. There are performers who have their agents negotiate above scale, and I want you to be one of those performers. I want you to become so capable, so exceptional that you are an exception to the minimum. I want to see you not only working, but working above scale, absolutely working above that median $17 and 49 cents per hour. And I believe that you can. Now we are dancers, not mathematicians. Although I do know several dancers that are very, very good with numbers. We can all count to eight at least. And we know how to add. We especially know how to add value. So please danclings know your worth, know your rates. And if there’s something that you’re confused about or concerned about, or don’t understand, choose curiosity, instead of confusion, refer to DA’s website, check the SAG-AFTRA website, check Actor’s Equities website, talk to your team of agents, talk to your team of friends, choose curiosity, get that information, get a clearer picture of your financial life and what you should expect. And then of course choose compassion always for yourself and for others, especially set as things can get heated, especially when we’re talking about money. Remember that when you’re on a gig, you represent a part of the professional dance community and being treated and paid as a professional comes along with behaving professionally. All right, my friends, I truly hope this episode has been helpful to you. Um, it has been helpful to me in making it, I have learned so, so, so much now, uh, go take these resources and run with them. Do deeper dives, do deeper digging and do make good habits of understanding your contracts before you sign them. All right. Now, go get out into your day, keep your money on your mind. Keep your mind on your money and yes. Keep it funky. I’ll talk to you later
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 because your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit the theDanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon, Bye!
The chapters of the Nika Kljun story read a bit like a fairy tale of a girl who followed her heart, but if you read between the lines it is the story of certainty in uncertain times. Nika is an example of dreaming big and achieving BIG THINGS. This episode dips into the strategies behind big moves (geographically and otherwise). Movers and shakers, (and fellow ambassadors) Please welcome the Dance ambassador to Slovenia, Nika Kljun!
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. This is Words that move me. I am Dana. I am thrilled that you are here. This is an exceptional episode. I’m very excited to share it. Uh, today on the podcast, my guest is my friend Nika Kljun. And let me tell you what if, if there is an example of dreaming big and achieving big things, it is Nika Kljun. And if, if there is a bright and vivacious explanation of doing exactly that it is this episode between Nika and I both, uh, there, there will be a lot of smiles in the next hour. I’ll put it that way. Um, and while we’re speaking of smiling, let’s go ahead and do wins. If you are new to the podcast, I do wins in every episode. I do think it’s super important that we celebrate the things that are going well in the world. And today I am celebrating, nurturing my space, specifically, the podcast space. Now we’ll give you a little bit of backstory. Uh, when I moved into my place, it had those popcorn ceilings and I spent a sum of money and a lot of convenience to have those replaced. I’ve flattened the ceilings, this beautiful even drywall ceiling top, and ever since then, which is 2009. I have been very resistant to hanging anything from the ceilings. And just this week I decided, you know what, I’ve had it. I’m putting a hanging plant in my podcast booth because my technical director, Malia Baker gave me a disco ball hanging planter. And this thing is just the coolest, Oh, I’ll for sure. Go ahead and link to this, a photo of this in the show notes of this episode. Um, so I, I spiffied up the place and then like, right as I completed this task, something started going wrong at the carwash across the street from me. One of the vacuums that they use might’ve sucked up, uh, a hairball or an, an actual living creature, perhaps because it is making a sound that is inexcusable it’s right at the top of the frequency I think that humans can hear, um, and I’ve had a headache for three days. So actually the podcast booth is one of the few spaces that I am seeking sanctuary. Um, so I, I, I love that I’m feeling good about this space. And all I had to do was drop a couple drywall screws into my precious perfect drywall that was precious and perfect for years. So I’m thrilled with the job that I did and I love my disco ball hanging planter. Thank you, Malia. That is my win this week. Okay. Now it’s your turn. What is going well In your world?
Congratulations. Keep on winning. I’m stoked for you. All right. Now let’s not take another beat. I’m so excited to share this conversation with you, particularly because although this story, this Nika Kljun story, reads a little bit like a fairy tale about a girl who followed her heart. If you read between the lines, it is actually a story about certainty in uncertain times. And I can’t think of anything more fitting than that today. So enjoy this conversation with the dance ambassador to Slovenia, Ms. Nika, Kljun.
Okay. Nika Kljun. I am so excited that you’re here. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. Yes!
Nika: Thank you so much for having me.
Dana: Oh my gosh. I’m thrilled about this. This is a really big moment for me because you and I go back years and years and years, although we haven’t overlapped much in our professional life, I’m really, really excited to just sit uninterrupted and get to know you and your work a little bit better. Um, as, as the first step to that, it’s hard. It’s challenging. My guests hate me for this, but I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself. What do you want us to know about you?
Nika: This is very, very hard part for everyone. I’m assuming. Well, um, okay. So very simple. Um, I’m a human being that absolutely loves to dance. Um, its in my blood. My parents were also dancers. They still teach dance. We have dance school Bolero in my country Slovenia. So yes, I am not from here. You can hear it in my, in my voice. So, um, my accent is from Europe, small country, 2 million people. And I was just, um, you know, small girl with big dreams. Um, as a dancer, I wanted to be professional dancer, choreographer, international teacher, and here I am, I achieved everything. And I also achieved that I moved to LA in 2010. So, um, that’s just real quick.
Dana: There it is in a tiny nutshell. And I think Nika you, might’ve just named this episode, small girl with big dreams. That is what you are and a big appetite for learning. I would like to add, um, we actually met in 2007.
Nika: I don’t remember the year.
I do remember that I was assisting Marty on a teaching tour in Europe and I, and that’s when I first met you. I don’t know it was, uh, Who Got Skillz workshop. Oh my gosh. I’m so embarrassed that I don’t know the year Marty would, Marty would absolutely remember. Um, and I recognized you right away, long blonde hair, phenomenal dancer. Um, and you really do stand out, you sparkle, but the thing that stood out about you most, to me, it was your curiosity and your, like you followed the workshops, you took several, I mean, it’s, uh, workshops in Europe are a little bit different than in that travel between countries is simpler, right. Quicker relative to in the States, perhaps. But, um, I remember you taking several classes, asking brilliant questions, but asking questions, not just about dance, but about life, about all of it. Um, and I would like to start this interview by asking, what are you curious about today? Like, what is, what lights you up right now,
Right now? Um, you let me up, you are such a, you don’t even know you’re such a light, you know, that you’re a light, but for me, you are one of the biggest inspirations and reasons why I moved to LA and, you know, just dreaming big watching you on TV. Uh, when I came from home on MTV music channel, you know, with, uh, music videos and tours with Justin Timberlake. Yes. So I was just like, okay, I want to that blonde girl. At one point you were blonde and I’m going to be dancing with her on tour period. So I just followed, I followed my guts and I was just really working hard. And you know, you like lit me up yesterday. I couldn’t even sleep well. Cause I was like, I was so thrilled because yeah, you’re such a big inspiration. I have like few people in my life that, um, inspired me when I was in Europe coming over here. And that’s you that’s Teresa Espinosa . Oh yeah, that was so I was like, I’ve got to be that red very next to Brittany and Tiana Brown next to Christina Aguilera. Oh yeah. Um, the younger ones were Tucker and Laura Edwards.
Love, love. All of these are great inspirations. Thank you for those shout outs. And for those extremely kind words, I am sweating and I have an ear to ear grin. It’s actually, I’m wearing these giant headphones right now and it actually creates pressure on my like makes it actually harder to smile, but I am grinning ear to ear. Thank you so much for your kind words. Um, okay. So I had Diana Matos on the podcast in episode 47 and we talked a little bit about her move. Uh she’s from Portugal. And she talks about how, um, she sort of compartmentalize is or makes chapters of her dance life based on where she was living at the time. Um, that’s sort of like how she sees, you know, there was the London chapter, there’s the LA chapter and maybe somebody has a New York chapter and there’s the home chapter. Um, could you talk about how you chapter your dances?
All right. Okay. Very fast. Cause I know you’re cutting this right. So very fast. Um, my big chapter of course is Slovenia. I was born there. I was a competitive, very.. Yeah, I’m competitive person, but I was a competitor on competitions. That’s our life in our country. So I did so many years of that. So basically when I was nine years old, I went to London and with my dance teacher for jazz, cause my parents always wanted to educate our teachers so that they could teach our students better. And that teacher was like, well, your daughter is extremely talented. I think I should bring her with me to open her eyes and introduce her to- to musicals. And you know, maybe, maybe one day she will have big dreams. We don’t know, let’s try and boom. I was nine. I was dancing in my pink outfits in all hip hop classes and jazz and tap and pop and lock and uh, everything that’s possible basically in Pineapple dance school in London. And then I saw so many musicals and I was going, I was back. I was actually going there with my teacher for quite few summers. And then at one point I came to the audition DANCE2XS where, um, I was 14 years old. I got introduced to DANCE2XS company that the owner basically is in Chicago, Patrick Chen. And that basically opened my world. Um, and I started going, you know, flying just to London sometimes for the weekend on to have rehearsals with this, um, uh, company. And that’s, I feel like now looking back, that’s a big commitment, you know, and such yeah. I was so enthusiastic about my, my future in dance, you know, so that was not no problem for me. So basically dance success company, Sisco Gomez and Kim, Kimberly Taylor, they were my teachers, they opened doors for me. Patrick brought you guys with Marty to Euro, have workshops with, I had workshops in Europe with American choreographers and that’s where I kind of started getting to know you guys. And so basically I was professional dancer in Paris and in London for quite some time. But at the same time I was juggling my school, my high school in Slovenia finishing my high school, uh, and also teaching about hundred students in my dance school. And because, um, I want to say this very humble humbly. I was pretty much always, um, first, so unbeatable as a soloist in jazz, tap, you know, and a lot of other different hip hop styles and that pressure of me teaching that many people. And then also people expecting these groups to be amazing as well. It was very, very hard for me, but I somehow did it. And, uh, we were national European World Champions and, you know, I was just missing always something. And that was the real move. And that was in 2010 with visa to America. But I did Monsters of Hip Hop show before that and all this stuff. So that’s where I actually, I got my agents so that, that visa started, you know, easier for me, that process. And since I did so many things and work with, uh, in Europe with American choreographers, they already knew me so much. I started coming to LA when I was about 16 or 17, I was still going to dome at millennium.
Oh I miss that room!
Oh yeah. So, you know, um, I’ve been in and out of LA, what would I say right now for like 15 years or more, you know, but I just moved here when It was 2010 and close my chapter in my school with my students and being European, you know, professional dancer and I opened one in America. So it was a tough decision.
Okay. I have a couple spinoff questions from that. We’ll stick with where we stand right now, but don’t let me forget. I do want to go back to having an agent, getting the visa. I have so many questions about that and I know it’s changed. I think it’s much more difficult to do that today. I know several people going through the process and, and the requirements of getting a visa are, are harder. Now becoming a citizen is much harder. Now I do want to touch on that a little bit, but I want to know how do you make difficult decisions? Like when you find yourself with that, you know, on one hand, I really want “blah”, but on this other hand, I’m making the situation up, but I love my home studio and I love my parents and I love teaching, but I really want to pursue a career for myself. How, how do you make decisions like that?
Okay. It’s a very simple question for me. Um, because everything in dance, when it comes to my career, um, it came spontaneously. So to me, these decisions were never, I need to make a decision. I knew that this is going to be my life. So there was no decisions. So it’s very, it’s very hard to understand with the, for the people that are very connected to families and they need to have, you know, family around and close friends. But I never, I was so driven, Dana. I never, that was not an option. Me being in Slovenia or me, you know what I mean? So don’t ask me about dance. Like I do everything in dance because I love to dance and you know what? It comes to hard decisions for me, it’s an everyday basis. Okay. Which restaurants do I want to go eat? Or order food from? Like, this is crazy when I’m telling you, sometimes it takes one hour between me and my boyfriend to decide he is also, um, he’s also, I’m a Capricorn, so I don’t know why I’m not, I’m so bad at making decisions that he’s a Libra. So we’re both just undecisive. So for me, it’s like more, you know, every day I can make choices and then you, I mean, you just have to make it at one point, but like, I know it’s funny. Right. But when it comes to life of my career, I it’s very clear to me, you know, very clear what the hardest decisions were. Um, do I take all the workshops abroad when I was already living in America or I say no to what I love to do the most and no to money. And I take time to go to auditions here in LA as a dancer.
Okay. Let’s talk about it. So you have, so, so on one hand you have, you know, you’re a new transplant to Los Angeles or establishing a career as a dancer. And yet you’re coming off of this European teaching circuits, which is pretty high dollar, you know, there’s this celebrity element to being a teacher on one of those circuits. So you’ve got this known quantity, that’s praise and it’s, um, profit. And then you’ve got this uncertain thing in LA. That’s like hard work, not a lot of recognition, but you know, you have to climb the ladder. That’s the type of hard decision we’re talking about. So what, what did you do? What was the move?
Um, I, you know, I always ask myself about the integrity. I always want to have integrity. And if I said yes to people, let’s say in Asia, I’m coming, then I’m going to come to you and I’m going to teach you, you know? Um, unless there was a job that it absolutely was like on my priority top list, you know, and goals. Um, but if I make a decision prior to something to some audition, then I usually always went with teaching. And, um, and I, I’m not regretting, I’m not regretting anything because I feel that sometimes we need to listen to higher powers because they are guiding us. They are guiding us and tell us, telling us where we should go, what we should do. What, why are we here for, and I know when I’m on stage or okay. I say stage, cause I do convention so much now. So I’m always on stage, right. But when I’m in front of the room, when I teach, this is where I, I need to be, this is my purpose. I can feel it in every cell, in my body. It’s a very interesting, um, topic to talk about. But if you feel me, you understand what I’m saying? Right. And, um, and I always wanted, I always was listening to God or something, what you believe in up higher in the universe. And, um, I had this feeling for people since when I was very young already. I saw my mom teaching to so many students right. In Slovenia. And I think I can adapt to that automatically came in me, you know, how she’s teaching. And she also is not just a normal teacher. She’s actually, um, teaching other teachers in our country how to teach so psychology of teaching, how to work with people. So I feel like I got these in my genes. And, um, I always said, you know what? I booked as a dancer, as many jobs as, uh, it was given to me, I was supposed to, you know, even that deep down in my heart, I still wanted to dance some more till now, but I believe God. And I’m, you know, choosing to believe that I’m here for the bigger purpose, not just to be a dancer behind a singer
Copy that, that that’s a gorgeous segue. You’ve done the background. Uh, I almost said singer, you’ve done the background singer thing before. Um, you’ve done the background dancer before, right? Uh, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Pitbull, Neo, Jason Derulo. I’m just naming a few. Um, and you’ve also done the choreography thing. So you’ve made it abundantly clear that, that you find tremendous purpose and fulfillment in teaching, but when it comes to dancing versus choreography, do you feel more comfortable in run in one role or the other?
I don’t feel more comfortable in, I don’t feel, I feel like every role is so special. And, um, and I love them both very, very much, uh, when it comes to choreography, there is way more way more other things you have to, you know, just deal with and responsibilities that comes with it. And, um, you really need to have a lot of patience, uh, with celebrities that we work in, we are in Los Angeles. We are not in small Germany, a German city where everybody’s kind even the artists, right. So we deal with so much
What are you trying to say here, Nika? Hahaha
Celebrities are one of the kind, it’s very hard sometimes for me to navigate through managements through the right words, because I am very much, uh, I’m very much honest. I very much am genuine. I feel like I kind of created my name in this, um, in this industry because of that, because I’m so genuine with what I say or how I am with people and being genuine. Sometimes it’s not the best when you work with such a big, you know, not problematic people, but it’s just, it’s just different. Right. So, um, I would say if I have to, if I have to rank things, I would say teaching and being a dancer is on first place. And then second is choreography.
I think what, you’re, what you’re talking about here or what you’re pointing to is one of the things that most people don’t plan or prepare for when they embark on a career as a choreographer, they’re learning about movement, they’re learning about techniques, they’re learning about their creative vision and taste. And, uh, they’re learning about composition and structure and story and all of these things, but very rarely do people put navigating different personalities on their list of things to, or on their list of muscles to strengthen when becoming a choreographer. And, um, it is such an important skill, um, in our industry because you will be working with powerful, I’ll call it powerful in one direction or another, right. You’ll be working with powerful personalities, right and left and navigating relationships is 100% part of, um, uh, of our job as choreographers. So I think that’s, I’m glad that you mentioned that, um, and having a strong personality yourself in a very honest one, uh, I believe is, um, Oh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Uh, I believe it’s virtuous. I believe it’s an asset or it can be, but I can see where there might be situations how that could come back and bite you in the butt.
Yep. Absolutely, yeah.
Okay. I’d like to segue a little bit. Um, I, for some number of years, I don’t know the actual number of maybe four or five years was in ambassador for SAG-AFTRA our performers union. And I’m actually quite proud of that. I loved that. I love that 10 of my life. I would go on set visits, um, with sag after reps talk with the members, make sure that everything on set was going according to contract. Um, I would help if I could answer questions or point people in the direction of answers if I didn’t know the answers to these questions. Um, and anyways, long story short, I just found out that you are a dance ambassador to Slovenia I’m blown away. And I’m so curious about what, um, the responsibilities of a dance ambassador to your country are like, what does that look like?
You’re so sweet. Thank you very much. Yeah. Um, well, um, I don’t have any responsibilities, um, written down, but I got a title because, um, I achieved so much outside of Slovenia and, um, and I was first one in modern dances. So that’s in modern dance. That means in Slovenian, it means hip hop, um, jazz funk, you know, not Ballroom and Latin or rock and roll and stuff. Right. So street stuff, uh, nobody before me did anything like that or achieved so many achievements outside Slovenia. So, um, also when it comes to teaching worldwide, so my, I was always very proud Slovenian. So I always, always said and introduced Slovenia to other countries and to other dancers. So I think Slovenia, just got very, very proud of me
Because you were proud of it.
Yeah. Because I’m very proud of it. And I’m spreading my Slovenian roots around the world and I am a big idol to our dancers in our country that it is possible to dream big and to achieve something big. Um, we only have to believe in it, you know,
That’s a beautiful sentiment. And I think that this might be a perfect opportunity to do a little audience participation. We don’t have a live audience right now. You and I we’re, we’re the only people here, we just have my assistant engineer Riley Higgins in the room, in the zoom room with just us. But everyone that’s listening could get involved right now because Nika, I want you to teach me how me and us, everyone listening, how to pronounce the name of the city, where you’re from, it’s the capital city of Slovenia. And I, I can, I can see it in writing. I can spell it, but no way in hell and I pronounce it. So I’m hoping you can, we can, we can all just jump on for a little, um, a little lesson in Slovenian.
All right. So this is, this is the cutest, everything Dana, you’re so awesome
Should we do a before and after, should I try to pronounce it first? And then you teach me and then
You go, go,
Okay. Okay. Here’s my guess. Um, Oh, *gibberish* Hold on. *gibberish*
Dana. You’re making it away harder. Okay. So that was cute. J in our country is pronounced like Guh
Really? Okay. Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you. I hope everyone, everyone listening got a kick out of that. I think it’s a beautiful thing to be proud of where you’re from. Um, and I do think Sylvania has a lot to be proud of, but I think the thing that I’m taking away in this conversation is that you put where you come from first and you’re proud of where you come from. You’re not ashamed of dreaming big, you are not afraid of claiming ownership of your accomplishments. Um, and I, I think that’s, I think that’s stellar. So congratulations, ambassador to Slovenia. I’m so honored to have you, um, okay. So on the subject of big accomplishments and worldwide, um, aclaim, I want to talk about social media for a second. It comes up on the podcast a lot. Oh my gosh. The face you’re making it. She’s going, Ooh, here we go. Um, I guess what I am curious about, maybe we start broad and then we can work our way, uh, to specifics. What would you say is your relationship to social media? Um, if I had to answer that question, I’d say it’s a little bit of a love hate. I find a tremendous value in connecting with people. I get inspired there. I love sharing my work and I love sharing what I’m learning. I love sharing I’m working on. Um, but I also, uh, have watched the social dilemma and I’ve watched what social platforms can do to behavior. Um, I don’t think it’s any secret that they are designed to a T to be addicting. Um, and I know most artists don’t dream of spending 12 hours a day on our phone. We dream of spending 12 hours a day in a studio or on a stage or on a tour. So, um, I’ve got a love, hate relationship, and it sort of depends on the day, but I see it as a useful tool. And I see it as a tool that can also be harmful. Um, and that all depends on how you use it, of course. But I see you as being a person who, uh, you know, you mentioned being genuine before. I see you as being a person who is genuinely comfortable in front of, uh, a device, whether it be a cinema camera or an iPhone, and you simply show up and share what is lighting you up and you dance and you twinkle and you sparkle, and you do all these things. Are you deliberate in how you interact with social media? Do you do it because you love to share, do you do it because your manager told you, you have to, like, what is, what’s your relationship? How do you work with social media?
First of all, I don’t have a manager. But I do have an assistant. And my assistant was specially, um, her name is Johanna. She is awesome because, um, you know, she was first here for the emails and very quickly it turned into, can you please help me with, um, getting these texts together on Instagram or like, you know, just make me on, on, on my toes, like, okay, Nika, I think you have to post something about you now. You know, I know he like to post others, but people following because of you, as you know, she started guiding me a little bit. Um, and it’s much easier right now for me to relax. Um, but I do come up with all the, all the topics I want to, you know, talk about or, uh, if I post a photo, what topic I want to talk about in that, under that photo. So it’s very genuine in one way, but I physically don’t want to spend an hour and a half on posting. So it’s different with stories, stories I love to do. And also, you know, I, I love to engage with my, um, followers and fans and people that they love me. You know, sometimes family actually, I connect through Instagram with my family, you know what I mean? So, um, I love to be genuine and then, and show myself without makeup, show myself with makeup, just see that we are all normal people, because I think that so many young, young dancers, they think that we are, I don’t know, such a, such a idols that we don’t, we are not same as them, but we are. And I want to really share that with them so that they feel better on everyday basis, you know, that they need, they don’t need to post every time when they’re happy. They don’t need to put that. I’m not happy every single day. Like it’s important for me that they know what’s real world, you know, so I don’t have problems with being me on social media. Um, I must also say the social media and I would say starting with YouTube and also Instagram Facebook, that was very spontaneous with me. I’m not one of those, um, choreographers or dancers who were planning on gaining followers. So, um, I always, I would say I’m still kind of old school, but I got lucky. I was there at the right time as well. That Instagram really picked, picked me up also, you know? Um, but I know that that is all connected with YouTube because I had a lot of views on that years ago, but I started with YouTube when it was nothing. I started literally when it opened, I started also uploading my YouTube stuff. So, um, I think that everything is connected. And, um, when I started teaching, especially posting more at Millennium dance school, you know, there’s so many great dancers in my videos as well from there. So, um, it’s just wonderful that when you follow me or if you follow me, I think I, all I wanted you to see is a light, bright, light, um, happiness that is genuine and that I dare you to be, to be you I’m daring you, cause it’s so much fun when you go to bed and you know, that you are trying everyday to be the best version of yourself to be right. So I dunno, it’s just something when it comes to that and, and that connection that love between people. I want to, I want to share that, you know, with people genuinely.
Yeah. But I wanted to say so much more, but it’s so much like, I didn’t say like we are, it’s so important that we are, um, uh, like we have big platform and we can change people’s worlds. We can change people’s, um, people’s day, you know, just by connecting through social media with people around the world. And we, we have to think very smart, how to, what do we put out there and how do we guide our audience to, so did we lead to, to better worlds. Um, you know what I mean to better new generation, that we are good leaders. That’s very important. And that’s what I didn’t say,
Except for we’re still recording. So you just said it,
Okay. Haha awesome!
Step away from the social conversation for, for a second, but thank you for sharing your perspective on that. That’s, that’s, that’s enlightening and you know, it’s interesting to me about that actually is that everybody’s relationship is a little bit different and rarely is their relationship. What it looks like it is from the outside. Um, I’m sure there are people that on upon first glance, I would say, Oh my God, they must be obsessed with their socials. And then I find out, Oh no, they have a small team that’s obsessed with their socials. And they don’t actually even look at it, not even once a week, or there are people that I might think don’t care much about it at all, but they’re quietly in their rooms scrolling through it three hours a day. You know? So it’s an interesting question. I, I love hearing the various different answers that I get to that question. Um, okay. So we talked a little bit about your journey to the States. Um, it did, from what I gathered, uh, did you already have an agent? Did you already have representation when you made your way over?
I did. I did. MSA Agency, um, saw me at Monsters of Hip Hop show and, and helped me sponsor me for first visa, uh, Patrick Dance2XS company that I was, you know, in London with, uh, they gave me a deal memo. So that’s how I will always be quite grateful for this one. You know, these people for the first visa and then second visa came. It was a little easier. And then I, now I have green card.
Nice congratulations. Um, would you make any recommendations to people that might be listening overseas that want to make that jump?
I, I want to say that think twice, what are your, really your dreams? Don’t be a sheep and just follow everyone to Los Angeles because it’s cool to be here. It’s not, uh, such an easy life out here, especially now. And I feel like, especially in the last few years, I think it’s so many dancers and, and not a lot of opportunities. And, um, but if you are that girl that actually was me, right. Completely knowing like that, is it like, can I be different then, um, focus, uh, on how you gonna gather all the information and all the, proof that you are good enough to come here to LA so, or to America. Right. So the biggest problem is, um, that to, to have proof that you are legit enough that in America with like very simple words, you are not, um, you will be able to pay Taxes. What I mean? So did you will be something, so that’s what they care about that you are good. So if you’re just a phenomenal dancer without any proof, it’s very hard to get visa. And I think it’s so unfortunate and I’m so heartbroken for so many European dancers. They wants to come here or around the world, but, um, really you have to think stretch strategically, what, what get, where can I have, where can I get all of that? So I usually recommend European dancers to move to London or Paris, Germany, Amsterdam and create their, you know, career their first, um, or if they are lucky already, they live there, you know, dance with a lot of celebrities, people that they know, be a brand for big, you know, Nike Adidas, whatever big companies, um, have a lot, a lot of views on YouTube, like all that, like, it, it it’s, it branches in so many ways, you know? So just have to be very smart about it.
I appreciate your transparency. Thank you. I can, I can only imagine, um, to, to be in a position where you have to prove that you are able to make money doing a thing before you are actually making money for a thing, it’s kind of what came first, the chicken or the egg conversation. You know, if you’re hoping to aspire to be a professional dancer in LA, but you have to prove that you are professional level, it’s sort of comes, uh, it comes actually, and this might be a beautiful, a beautiful place to end. One of my favorite concepts and ways of being in the world is by making decisions behaving and, um, treating myself as if I were my future self already. So I imagine what I, I imagine how I would talk. I imagine how I would treat people. I imagine how I would behave. I imagine how I would train. I imagine how I would wake up and make breakfast. If I was already doing all the things that I Dana today in 2021 want to be doing. And that, that really changes something in your perspective, it changes the speed with which I move. It changes the efficacy with which I with which I operate. And, um, I obviously am saying this from a tremendously privileged position of, of so many things, but being an able-bodied white woman who grew up in suburbia with access to a lot of training and access to a lot of people I’m already in the States. I don’t, I am certainly not the person to advise a European on what to do, but it might be helpful just to treat yourself with that kindness, to embody your future self now, and that might help you get to a place where you’re presenting or where you’re producing and presenting more professional level work simply by treating yourself and talking to yourself like a professional.
Absolutely. I believe in visualization. And I believe that if I was not visible, visualizing me on big stages with big artists, with, you know, my idols, um, on stage, I don’t know if I would actually work with them, you know, because I put this out in the universe, I, there was, um, I never, ever doubt that I am not going to get visa because I already saw it happening, you know, and this is exactly what you said. And, um, and I just want to say that it is very, very true. And I, I tried it in my own skin. So visualization, it’s a real thing. You do have to 100% believe in it, but it all comes, comes down to how much you love yourself and appreciate yourself. So if, if that’s why self love is so important. And in these days, it’s very important that you work on that. I personally am going to share something that I didn’t share with anyone before. Um, but I feel like this is the moment. Um, I am working on my mental health, um, with a woman every week from Slovenia. We are on zoom and we are having the best time ever. And that is, she’s not a psychologist, she’s anthropology, she’s social, she’s so much, right. She’s very clever woman, but it is some type of, you know, I need to learn how to stay stable. And, um, how do you say, um, I need to clear all the trash that is this in my mind. Absolutely. So that you can continue being grounded and see what is important in life and love yourself. Because if you don’t love yourself, it’s very hard to also generally love others, because you always interfere with some kind of fears and, you know, jealousy and you’re angry at someone, but it all comes down to you. I stopped pointing fingers at others. I came, I started searching in me and you cannot visualize yourself, you know, somewhere with big dreams, somewhere in the future. If you don’t first believe that you, um, are worth of that, did you deserve that? You deserve that. You see what I’m saying? It’s so complex. Our mind is complex. So I always believe, and I say that if you are, um, mentally stable as a person, I believe that your career can also shine even brighter than it shines already. Now,
I think that that’s a beautiful sentiment. I happen to agree. I think that, and I do not. I mean, that is a gorgeous high flying note. I don’t mean to bring it down, but that type of training isn’t taught in most dance studios. That may be something that you need to seek out for yourself. And as you mentioned, you’re just now starting to do that work for the first time as an adult woman. Uh, and it is, it is work and that’s hard to hear maybe that it takes work to love yourself. But the good news about it is just like with dance with the fouette turn, there are techniques, there are tools and with practice, it does get easier and you do get better at it. I’m thrilled to hear that you’re on that journey. Um, I love you unconditionally. I’m jazzed that you are loving yourself and learning to be, um, uh, a proponent of self-love and self-care. And, um, I think that’s such an important message. Thank you for sharing it today. And always you’re you just, you sparkle.
Dana you are, you are so wonderful. Please don’t ever change. Like, you know, if I have a bad day or something, I just, I go to the grocery store. I just put your podcast on and you’re with me on the way to grocery store and home. Like, it’s really tremendous what you’re doing to a younger generation or just, um, you know, people that are listening to podcasts and, um, it’s, it’s wonderful. Cause you always been smart. I’ve always felt sense that, um, not just in, on stage and mean in dance space, but like you, I feel like you always loved, um, words. I don’t know. I don’t even know you much. So I feel like I’m so I’m so glad that you open this path for you and not just being a choreographer teacher, dancer, creative, whatever you’re doing. Right. I think it’s very, very important. And you actually inspired me. You don’t know that, but you inspired me to start doing professionally makeup. So I’m in online makeup school and, um, that’s completely something out of my world. I never done anything but dance, Dana. I never had any job that was not connected to dance. That’s completely different worlds. Right. So I started going to makeup school and I also learned how to do nails professionally because of your podcast.
Get out of town. I’m floored. I’m so thrilled for you. Congratulations.
Thank you. But thank you. You know what I mean? You’re doing big thing. Um, so keep on doing it and I’m going to keep on listening to podcast. We have to support each other. We have to support each other dancers, choreographers, friends. That’s so beautiful to feel that, uh, how, when you’re happy for someone else, it makes you happy. But you cannot do that if you don’t love yourself and checking with yourself, right? So again, it comes back to that. So I wish everyone love and you know, calmness in the wild wild times and keep on going, keep on going. It’s not over. We, they time can, I mean, this situation that we’re in right now, right? Especially us. We are in California. Nothing is open since March. We can’t even go together and dance in the room. Right. So you just have to believe in, in good. I always believe in good focus on the good and I feel like the good times are coming soon. I feel it
Well you’re creating them. You created one just now for, for a whole hour. Thank you so much for that Nika. I appreciate you so much. Let’s do this again sometime.
Yes, please. Thank you for having me. Bye everyone.
My pleasure. Bye.
Alright, my friend that is that. And I do hope you enjoyed it. Um, I really love this idea about worthiness, the importance of self-care and self-love and um, I hope this conversation has brought a bright spot, um, and enduring twinkle to your day to day and far beyond. All right, everybody. That is it for me today. Take care. Be good. And of course, keep it funky.
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. Number two things I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops and so much more. All right. That’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.
Ep. #61 Giving Black and Passing it Forward with Eartha Robinson, Will Simmons, and Dominique Kelley
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome! This is words that move me, I’m Dana, and this episode is different than most, and I am biased, but I will also say it is better than most, podcasts period. Better, because today I’m with you. I’m the listener. I’m not the host. And when I tell you that, as I listened to this episode, I laughed. I cried. I shouted. I learned, and I hope that you do too. I simply cannot wait another moment to share. So without any further ado, I am passing the mic to my friend and guest host. For this episode, the incomparable Dominique Kelley, who will introduce you to the young and talented and wise beyond his years Will Simmons AKA big will. Along with the sensational, the seasoned, the sophisticated, the soulfull Eartha Robinson Enjoy.
Dominique: Boom. Good morning, everyone. Um, I am happy to almost Take over Words That Move Me Podcast. Uh, thank you, Dana Wilson for creating this space for us to talk. And I have two wonderful guests here today. I have Ms. Eartha Robinson and Big Will that’s what I love to call him. I’ll have them introduce themselves to you. Um, so why don’t we start with Eartha Robinson, please introduce yourself to not only the people listening to, but also to us.
Eartha: Um, okay. I am Eartha Robinson. I was, uh, raised and I trained in Harlem in New York. Uh, went into performing arts. Um, I started dancing at 15, got my first professional job at 16. Been working ever since. Um, I have a wonderful family, two amazing daughters. I’m a choreographer, director, producer, uh, dancer, actress. Um, I do a lot of things. I’m um, uh, what could I say about myself? I’m the worst person to ask me about myself. Everybody else can speak my resume, but I just like,
Dominique: Yeah, well that just goes to show how much you’ve influenced the dance community, because you have so many slashes that we can go on and on and on. I love it. All right. Big Will, do you want to introduce yourself?
Big Will: Yeah, I’ll do it. What’s up. Y’all it’s my name? Wilson. AKA big will I am 20, almost 21. So, you know, a little quick little turn up for me. Um, but I’m 20 years old. I had been dancing at the age of five and professionally at the age of 10 and then my first professional job at the age of 11. So I’ve been working ever since I’m a dancer, choreographer, actor, and social media influencer as well.
Dominique: Boom, good morning. And, uh, for those of you I’ve been on this, uh, podcast a couple of times before, but for those who don’t know, my name is Dominique Kelly and I’m just like, well, I started young I’m from Bridgeport, Connecticut. And you know, just like most people starting out with dance studio training, I was like, this is the pits. And, um, I remember there was a moment that I told my mother, I was like, you know what? I think I want to do it. And I stuck with it and I got my first job at the age of 12 and I did Black and Blue, the European musical. And then after that, I did Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk. And from then on, literally just worked my way from Broadway to TV, to film and you know, dancer, choreographer, educator. I try to do diversity seminars. I try to do all the things. So with that being said, let’s get into our first like, you know, question. So opening it up to both of you. What specifically inspired you to choose dance as a career? Because it’s different. When you get bitten by the bug of dancing, you can just, you know, dance around, but what specifically inspired you to want to do this for a living?
Eartha: Well, uh, you want to go first Will or should I go?
Big Will: I can go first. I think the one thing that made me choose dance was my older sister and Michael Jackson. My sister is five years older and she was actually born with a club foot. So she had to get surgery. And the only way for it to really fully heal was for her to take ballet. So she was really born into dance. Um, for me, I actually just ended up just watching her and I was like, you know what? Like, I can probably do the same thing as she can do. And I started dancing and I think what made me choose and want to pursue dance was I tried multiple different sports. I tried baseball for four years. I tried gymnastics for three years. I tried football for a year and you know, they all kind of failed in a way, but the one thing that stuck by me was dance. And I think after that first job, I looked at myself and I was like, huh, I can really do this for a living. Like, let’s take it, let’s just go for it. So I think that’s the one thing that really inspired me to dance is my sister overall. And then obviously watching so many other dancers that made it on So you think, like Twitch and, you know, Hok and all them. So I think that’s what really made me choose that. Got it.
Eartha: Wow. That’s something, when you said your sister was born into it, because I fought for as far as I can remember, as long as I can remember dance, I always wanted to dance, but my family didn’t believe in that. That was, it was hard work. It wasn’t dance was a hobby. So I grew up thinking that dance was a hobby until I went into PA and my first dance concert, I was just thinking about this, Uh, yesterday. My first dance concert, I got $10 and I was like, what is this for? I couldn’t believe it. That you got paid to dance. And in my co, you know, my Co- company members, they were like, girl, that’s $10. Do you know? That is nothing. That’s like tokens. So I didn’t know that, um, I didn’t know that, um, you could get paid doing that. Um, my mom started taking me once I started training. She took me to a few Broadway shows and I was like, I don’t want to do that because it’s, they do that all day, every day. And I wanted to do, you know, concert work. I wanted to be in Ailey. I wanted to do that. And then I saw Guys and Dolls with Debbie Allen in it and the backstage door was open and I got a glimpse of what was going on backstage. And that’s when I said, I’m doing that. I want to put on the costumes. I want to be in the make up. I want to do for the first time. I realized that, that’s excitement. That’s, I want to do that.
Dominique: I love that.But yeah, something like that. Um, it’s very simple for me. I didn’t understand people getting nervous or having stage fright. And till this day, till this day, I’m the kind of person that when I see a down special onstage, whether it’s different, like a sound check or a light, a lighting cue to cue or anything, I have to stand in that spotlight. And God forbid don’t let me have a hat because it is over. And from that moment on, I was like, I don’t understand how people don’t have that magnet to jump into the spotlight and on a full stage, also being tall for a good amount of my life. The stage was the only place where I could stretch my limbs totally and fully, you know, so I was like, let me be on stage. I got this open air. Let me do this. Let me swim.
Eartha: It’s nothing like moving through space. Isn’t it? It’s nothing like defying and just soaring through space. It’s the best feeling in the world?
Dominique: Definitely. Definitely. Okay. So next little question. Um, what kind of jobs did you gravitate to, and in those jobs where you othered?
Big Will: I think what gravitated me the most was mainly, well, when I was younger, it was mainly TV. You know, I grew up with, like I said, watching, Shake it Up, watching a lot of Disney channel. So what gravitated me the most was being on that television, being on Disney and Nickelodeon and ABC, those kinds of shows. And then the older I got and the more experience I had, I started seeing myself more on tour and traveling because you know, having dance, thankfully we’re able to travel the world now with it. So I was like, what’s one way to see the world on a budget. And I was like being on tour. I think that’s what really got me, especially right now. Um, that’s, what’s gravitating me, is being on that tour.
Eartha: Wow. That’s something it’s it’s I remember you as a little boy. Well, I don’t know if you remember me, but I remember you as a little kid, so it’s, it’s amazing watching you and just so grown up now. My thing was, um, I never looked at, Oh, I, um, I want to do this kind of dance or I want to go on tour, but it just, my life just unfolded that way. It just, um, because my first, the first love was concert work. I did concert and then I went on to Broadway and then I love stage. And then the next thing you know, I was doing film and then I loved that and it was just, it just kept, you know, it kept unfolding. And to me, um, it’s just it’s God, I guess. And so I just, I, I was just led doors opened and I stepped in and that’s how, so I’ve done everything from stage to television, to film I’ve choreographed, uh, artists and conceived, you know, all kinds. It’s just, you, you know, that feeling you guys, when, when it, when that creative juice just keeps flowing, it’s just like, wherever God led me, I was there, honey.
Dominique: I feel you. Sometimes I tell people that I asked God for a bus pass and I got a limousine instead and I was like, Oh, these doors are going to keep opening. Sure. Why not? Exactly. So let’s bring it back to Will, because like Eartha I met will when he was younger also. And if you know, well, when you met him, when he was younger, you also remember his mother. And I remember we did a job, I believe it was Macy’s and it was so great to see a young African-American, uh, male that was not only talented, but humble, eager for a lot of information and whatever you threw at him, he was like, sure. And then even recently, when we worked on, um, a TV show for Disney, it was great to still see the same gentlemen, but just a little bit more grown up. And it’s been a joy to watch you flourish and bloom and have everybody notice that too. I mean, Eartha, do you remember, do you remember meeting him when he was younger?
Eartha: Yes. Yes I do. And, and you know what, I think you might’ve been like nine or something and, and you were dancing and it was just so full of spirit. And I was like, wow, look at this kid. So respectful and professional at such that never left me that he was so young. And so professional. I said this an old, I remember calling him an old man.
Dominique: Yeah. And also let’s shine some light on Miss Eartha too, because I think I met you once a while ago from Keith and Sharon Young and it was a while back. And not only that, we have a lot of mutual people like William Harris loves you, just like, I love you. And you know, I’ve, I’ve known about you for years upon years upon years, and we’ve never gotten a chance to work together, but I followed your career and Leslie, and that’s why it was an honor for me to talk to you because not only to see that chocolate skin on stage, you know what I mean? Or like in the movies and just your spirit and there’s, there’s something about your movement and then not only that to, Fame because you and I did the remake in 2009. So of course I went, Oh yeah, of course. I went back to do that research.
Eartha: It’s that’s that’s show. Um, that was really something, I didn’t know, um, how much I impacted, um, a lot of girls, my color. It makes me well up now to see, you know, here, this #blackgirlmagic and Brown ballerinas and, Oh my God, it makes me. Um, because we didn’t have that, you know, you had to be, can I curse?
Dominique: Maybe we can bleep it out.
Eartha: You had to be really, really strong to, to navigate your way during that time. And then there were people before me that was even so, I mean, because they did hire black girls, but not my black, you know, so I didn’t know the impact that Fame had on so many young black dancers and girls period until, you know, after it was over, you know, I was just in work mode. You get, you know, you miss the moments sometimes when you’re there, when you’re, you know, just working, just working, just working, you just, you can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes. So, you know, always stop and look, you guys always be aware of your surroundings. Yeah.
Dominique: And speaking of that, which is, it leads me to my next little thing that I want to bring up. And Will, you know, even though you’re wise beyond your years, you’re still, still younger than we are. But what advice would you give to your younger self in regards to navigating the industry as a person of color?
Big Will: Oh, as a person of color, I would say, no, your self-worth. I think because a lot of people try to, in a way, use me to get that, Oh, I do support all races. And when I walk in the room, I’m the only person of color in the room. So I’m like, their special token. And I feel like as a younger, so just know your self worth, know that you have to work twice as hard to get noticed as, as well. And to keep that going, because at the end of the day, what I’m leaving on the table is my dancing ability, my personality, the, my work ethic, and so much more that they’re going to remember me by so they can always try to bring me back. So I think that’s kind of something I would tell my younger self for, you know, especially for people of color is to be very humble, be they’re respectful. Cause to get into this room is an honor already as it is. So don’t forget that.
Eartha: Wow, He said it all, you know, it’s um, uh, to be the only black person in the room. Um, I never felt uncomfortable. After the age of 17, I should say, because I grew up there. I didn’t, I, I didn’t mingle with white people, period. I grew up in Harlem and there were, you know, the, the teachers maybe, and then I’m from, you know, my whole family were Gullah. So on the islands, you don’t, we didn’t mingle. I didn’t get that until I went into Performing Arts. And then I had to build my, my strength and being with all these different people that not just Caucasians, but all different nationalities. And what I found after I brew and brew. I remember this moment doing Academy awards and, uh, Peter Allen was choreographing, Liza Minnelli. And it was this whole line of females and they needed one more female. And I was like I said, you know what I want to be. I want to break that color line. I want to break that — And I stood in that rehearsal. I stood in my rehearsal and Peter came over and he just looked around and he said, “Eartha come here.” And I broke that color line. He didn’t put me on the end he played me like fourth girl in. And so it was like, it was amazing. And that was something that I always wanted to do. I always wanted to show that my talent speaks first. What I do says who I am first, before you see the color of my skin. And another one real quick, you guys
Big Will: I’m loving this
Eartha: Auditions, back in the day. You know, it was black and white photos. You know the headshots. I know.
Dominique: I remember, oh I do.
Eartha: Will, you probably don’t remember, but you would go to these auditions, you’d go to these auditions and you think they’re asking for everybody. But as you, as you get down to the second call back, you’re looking around and you’re like, they just got me in here, dancing. They are not going to hire me. They get ready to hire all these white kids. They’re not going to hire me. So instead of me dancing, one more time being that jigaboo, performing, I was not doing that. So I just walked up and go, are you using any black girls at all? Cause you got two light-skinned girls over there and you got me. I got a lot of stuff I can do. So you can get me my 8×10 and I can go do my laundry. Thank you. So I did that for a few auditions, like, because they would keep you all day long, dance you to death and then don’t hire you. And then when you see the show, there’s nobody that looks like you. So why are you using this audition, got wise and was like, shut it down.
Dominique: I get it, and, and I love that. You’ve always demanded that respect because a lot of times we go into a room. So like thankful and extra thankful to be there. And you know, it’s something to be grateful. Of course you’re grateful to be in that room, but you also have to know once you’re in that room, a lot of times people are just looking at your sauce. They’re just looking at your vibe to be like, Ooh, we can get inspired by that. And they will not use you. You know? Um, one thing that I feel like I would tell my younger self is the baggage that you carry into the room is your baggage alone, but it also makes your arm stronger. So, so a lot of times, um, you know, when you come in as the quote, unquote token you, the weight of your community in the world, on your shoulders, you feel like you have to do you feel like you have to be the best one, you know? And that’s just what it is straight up and down. But what I also realize is I’m the only one carrying these bags because sometimes I walk into those rooms and the people are not expecting that of me. So I realized my baggage turned into my super power because I feel like, myself and maybe you both might agree with me. That becomes what keeps you going that drive to be that, that drive to be in them, splits that drive to make sure you can effectively communicate what you want to communicate, whether it’s with dance or your mouth, you know? And, and I felt like that’s what I would tell my younger self. Like the very thing that you think is, is weighing you down is the thing that’s making you stronger to rise above everybody else.
Eartha: Yes. And that in a work, you know, start that as soon as you possibly can building yourself up, talking to yourself, look in the mirror and talk to yourself. I made that a habit and it’s worked for me, you know, to, you have to stand strong in your power. You have to, because it’s just, you, really. So you must work hard to preserve you and be stronger in whatever you do.
Dominique: Yes, exactly. No, I mean, that makes the most sense in, in turning it on his head. Sometimes it’s literally just, you like. Who is bring all this madness causing all this drama. Its just you. So you have to shut all of that and just be like, I just want to be my best self today. That’s what it is. Speaking of speaking of best self, a hundred percent agree, go for it. Will, do you have anything to add before?
Big Will: I mean, I was saying was that like, you know, taking care of yourself, especially with, you know, mental health, you know, being such an issue recently with COVID and you know, not having that, that extra source of dance nowadays and you know, that human connection, I would say, just making sure it’s okay to take a break sometimes as well, because we always become so stressed with, you know, the type of work we’re putting ourselves into, like you said with, okay, I have to be the best in the room. I have to get everything right. And if you don’t, you actually burn yourself out a lot faster. So it’s okay to take a step back, breathe a little bit meditate or whatever you need to do and say, nice little prayer before you head into rehearsal again, and step in like a new man, you know.
Dominique: Exactly. And I feel like a lot of times as dancers, we don’t take care of our dance injuries. And you know, now we’ve been better about body maintenance, but I like to think about, we need to take care of the injuries on the inside too, because we’ll stop rehearsal. If somebody sprains their ankle or if you’re out and you need to do rehab. But a lot of times we don’t work on the inside to be able to stay in those rooms, and to fight those giants. Because you know, a lot of times whether it’s just black community or, you know, dance community, the trauma response is to be yelled at into greatness or to be berated into greatness. You know? And a lot of times I just refuse. I said, the trauma stops with me. I’m not going to pass it forward now, Motivational screaming different. Yes you can do it. Anything, anything beyond that? I’m not going to scare you into greatness. I want you to be so great that it slips out.
Eartha: But I am going to tell you if you’re lazy,
Dominique: for sure
Big Will: We will call you out. Yeah.
Eartha: But I, that whole thing of degrading dancers and tearing up apart, I was never into that because you build them up better because they want to please you, they want to be there for you. They’re there in the room. So why strip them apart like that? Those shows and those people that do that just make me so uncomfortable because nothing in the world deserves that it’s all, if you come from love, you can imagine so many things that you can accomplish together. If everybody just came from a loving space, that’s how I feel. If you came from a loving space and your approach to getting someone to hit that Arabesque or to, to hit that combination, the more love that you put into that and support, it’s going to be much better than just strip somebody apart, burn them out and then toss them to the side. You know? So, and I would say to every dancer, find a strong center you have got to. And just for, for your life, just like how you trained and just piggybacking on what you said Dom. Just like how you trained for this moment. You have to train your insides. You will have to find a core. You gotta believe in something other than all the external stuff, because that is, what’s going to take you through that. You believe there’s a core in you that you are not swayed by all this other stuff, because darling, that’s what a lot of mental issues come in because you’re being pulled to and fro you’re all these things on social media. People are saying this about you it’s. Have a core honey, find a belief in something. If it’s out a P or a pair of glasses, I don’t know, honey. Find your life, and hold onto it. You know, that is a must
Dominique: You better preach Eartha and catch a mean step on this podcast real quick. But no, that is, that is the truest statement of all statements and keeping in the love sphere. What do you enjoy most about living in your body, as this being as this Brown being, as this person who walks about the earth, being able to change other people’s lives through dance and speaking love into everybody, and this I’m just going to open it up. W what, because a lot of times we talk about the trauma and the bad and the obstacles, but let’s talk about what we love about ourselves
Eartha: Life experience, the knowledge that I’ve gotten and who I am right now. And that Will, I am like three times your age, baby. So my, so I look at you big with that little face and I go here to be a beast when he’s 60 because your, everything comes from that. And that’s in my skin right now. I could, I, I feel like a queen because I lived through, I’ve gotten over, I’ve crossed so many bridge, birth, none. And I’m like, I know who I am even more so now I’m good to people. I support people. I’m- I’m so comfortable and so happy in my skin. And I’m, you know, I had a hard time when I was coming up in this dark skin, a very hard time, but I am loving it. I wish I was three shades. Even darker.
Dominique: Come on now. Come on.
Eartha: So, no, I feel because of all of that, I’ve been through because of my experience, this pot that I carry underneath the skin, I feel joy. I feel good. Even through the COVID and all of that has gotten to renew. I am, and I just feel really good right now. That’s a great question. And I love it. I feel really good in my skin.
Dominique: She said I feel good all over. I wish we had that queued up All right. Will, same question.
Big Will: I think the one thing that just like, like she said, with like the history and everything that she’s gone through, I think what that makes me feel good within my skin, as well as seeing the people I’ve looked up to, you know, and seeing them, you know, make a pathway for people that are in my generation. Like Eartha, we probably wouldn’t have caught as far if it wasn’t for people that were in your generation, I’m a hundred percent thankful for that. I think that’s the one thing that I love so much about it is that there’s, we have so much history, so much history that, you know, I’m always in the room willing to learn. I come in there, I’m never a teacher. I’m always a student. I think that’s my mindset I have, because I don’t have the many years that you guys have. So that’s the one thing I love is that we have so much history and I feel like one day I’m ready to be a part of that history. And that’s what I love about myself. I love about my skin is that I know within 20 years, I’m going to be having the same conversation to the next team.
Eartha: Passing it, always passing it forward, always giving back and passing it forward. You know? And that’s the thing. This young man is talking about the history and it makes me feel like. It makes me know that there is hope, that there is hope because I see kids have no clue of what, what, before them, no respect of who went before them. Don’t know ’em, don’t care and just going on with life. But it’s the ones, the ones that care, the ones that research, the ones that know you’re always going to have more on it than the rest. And those people usually, you know, fade out because they’re not, they’re not keeping in alignment with what is true. And that’s an issue.
Dominique: A big issue. So this question, um, let’s go superficial. I like that. I can wear any color and make it look good. I like the fact that I can change my hairstyle every single day If I wanted to. I like that. If I comb out my hair, it stands up to try to meet God,
Eartha: The sun.
Dominique: I love that whenever I step into the room, just because of my skin tone people automatically think I’m the hottest thing and the coolest thing at the same time. But on a, on a deeper level, I love that the blood coursing through my veins, um, is built with rhythm and it’s built with strength and it’s built with being grounded. And it’s built with a language in a spirit that is only oral traditions. I love being Griot. I love being able to do a simple nod and everybody knows what that means. I love that. The way I clap my hands commands people to pay attention. I love how deep my voice is. And when I’m on the phone, I guess people automatically know I’m a black man. No, but more importantly, I love spaces like this because this is what the African-American community does. This is family. This reminds me of talking to my family members. It reminds me of talking to my aunts and my cousins and my grandparents and my younger brothers and sisters, and, you know, new family members to literally pass on and to give love. Because a lot of times people don’t have mentors. You know, they don’t have somebody they can go to, they don’t have somebody that they can pass on things to. And I love to have mentors older than myself, because I love to just go to people and go like, Hey, have you been through this before? And then I also love having people who are younger than I am to be like, look, this is what I went through. Let me, let me help you out. So you don’t go through that same thing. And, uh, you know, speaking of that,
Eartha: The young ones and the young ones are because I have no clue Will about how this whole social media, it gets on my damn nerves. So when you guys, you know, because my daughter, Élija, I, you know, she comes in and she’ll help me mom know that you don’t want to say that you want to take that out. So, you know, and just to see the power and the strength, it only, it takes me back to look at you guys and go, damn, did I have all that energy, did I just keep moving all the time? And my older ones, my mentor say, yeah, we used to say, could you sit your ass down? We’re on a five Eartha, take your 5 Eartha! so you know that it keeps me, um, energized your, your generation. When I say your, I would say, most of your generation, you, and a couple of other people that I’ve met so strong and so fierce and so committed and knowing, have intention on where you’re going, I love that, you know, and then I look at some others in your generation and I go, why, why is this happening? And who’s not helping them. And there’s no guidance there, you know? And I want us, I want to help everybody, but you can’t because they can’t be 9 million of you Will because then nobody will know what the other side looks like. So, but I want 9 million of you.
Big Will: I will say. It’s hard from my, from my perspective is growing up in this generation, I’ve seen so many people come and go. I’ve seen the different transformations of people. And I even had a moment when I was 16, 17, and I lost myself. And I think that’s what makes me so grounded and so humble. And so, you know, straight forward it’s because I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen people a hundred percent get lost and never find their way back, or they lose their passion for example, within dance. And they can’t find it again. And they’re only doing it for the money or only doing it for the views. And they know it hurts to see that. And there’s times where I have to call certain people out and be like, Hey, what you’re doing, isn’t right. I just want to make sure, are you good within yourself because you’re not posting like how you used to, or you’re not acting the way you used to, or, you know, just a simple, Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while. Let me, let me talk to you just because we kind of get lost in that social media world. And I just have to make sure, like, especially with my friends and my closest people around me, that everybody that I know is so career driven and so focused because it’s so easy to just lose track of that.
Eartha: Yeah. And, and, you know, um, water seeks its own level and the cup, this is, I’m just getting this from my grandfather, the company you keep, birds of a feather flock together. The company you keep is what they see. So you want to always surround yourself with people who are going and who are like-minded. They call it equally yolked. You know, some people aligned yourself with the people who are doing what you want to do, because it’s so easy to be, you know, go off the path. You know, you gotta stay on that path.
Dominique: Yeah. It’s extremely important. Especially when you go into a situation saying, this is exactly who I am, and this is what I’m doing. And you get met with some challenges where people go, okay, so we want you to either choose this or choose that. What are you going to do? And in those moments are when you really realize that you’re made of the good stuff and really what you’re made of and go, okay, well, I can do this and do that. Or I can remain who I am. And a lot of those moments, I think people have to remember that the business will test you. And it is good to have people around you who have either been there or are supporting you through it, you know? Boom. Okay. So, um, maybe a last little question here. Um,
Eartha: I wanted to ask something really quick.
Dominique: Sure. Go for it.
Eartha: Um, um, how do you guys feel about, um, uh, say a film comes up and it’s African dance or it’s, um, Lindy Hop or something like that. And someone not of that culture gets the chance to work on that project. And no one of that culture is on that project. How do you guys feel? Have you ever experienced it? I know it happens. So say, um, say I’m doing The Village and it’s all African and Dunham dance and they get someone that is not of that culture of that race or whatever, to choreograph or direct this thing. And it’s, how do you feel about that? Um, do you think it’s just an art artistic choice, or do you think that, you know, that
Dominique: I can jump in here? Um, I’ve had, I’ve been torn between both of those things because, um, a lot of times the things that I choreograph, I wouldn’t say a lot that’s alive. Let me bring that back. Things that I choreograph did not start with my culture, but sometimes I like to see it through the lens of my culture. Like for example, I choreographed Oklahoma, the all black version of Oklahoma at Denver Center for the performing arts. And what was nice was it was a golden age musical, but I saw it through the lens of the African-American community at that time. So the difference is of course, I put things that the African-American community did in that choreography. Um, but then I also came back and choreographed a play that was, um, mainly about Jewish the Jewish community. And it was very interesting because people were asking me like, what does it feel like to choreograph for something that’s not a part of your community? And I had to really A. put my wig back on asked that question and I had to go well with the, the story that’s being told. I can only do the parallels from the African-American community. I know joy, I know transcendence. I know what it feels like to be beaten down. So the only thing I can do is do my research with that culture, then try to parallel the human experience. Now, on the other hand of that same argument, I feel like if it’s not in you, pass it to the side to somebody who’s going to kill the game. Because a lot of times when it comes to certain art forms, um, or certain jobs that are, that are passed to me, I will gladly pass them to somebody else because I feel like, the way that I felt choreographing for Oklahoma, everybody should feel that way. Everybody should have a chance to choreograph where they step into themselves to go. I can’t make the wrong choice with movement because it is so inside of me that there’s nothing I can do wrong. I can step here. That’s something that would happen. I can do that. That’s something that would have happened. And, um, it, it rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes when I see jobs that people get where it’s like, you know, you didn’t respect the culture, you didn’t research the culture, you didn’t, you know, nothing about it. At least in that moment, bring somebody on of that community to be co choreographer or somebody of importance to open that door instead of just taking it for yourself. And then looking up on YouTube and being like, I think I can do this. You thought wrong. Now it’ll get done. It’ll get done. But at the end of the day, what will get done with such gravitas as that would take for somebody from the community?
Big Will: Yeah. A hundred percent agree with that. Well, they get done with such grace with such effort, you know, with the right intentions of it. And there has been jobs where, especially for me being the dancer, if it’s someone from that community that knows the art style and the art form, and really knows how to teach it, then I’m learning at the end of the day. For example, I didn’t know much of Lino, the African movies when it comes to like Gara Gara and like the shotgun and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t know anything really about it. I’ve seen it, but I didn’t know how to like, not perfectly do it, but I didn’t know the techniques of it and the form of how to do it correctly. And I was thankful that there was a choreographer named Sherrie Silver, who was the choreographer for This is America with Childish Gambino, You know, and when I tell you, we had maybe a four hour rehearsal on just the movement alone, not even the choreography, just the movement, because she was like, if we’re doing this, you need to make sure you’re doing this right. And that’s a main reason why I say that you have to have somebody that knows that art form that knows that art style, because you’re going to, at the end of the day, they’re teaching it and they’re bringing down that knowledge to somebody else. And if they’re teaching it wrong to you, that means that you’re going to perform it wrong and bring it down to the next person. And it’s just going to keep getting worse and worse and worse.
Eartha: Watered Down.
Big Will: So I’ll keep getting watered down
Dominique: and lost in the sauce.
Eatha: Yeah. And it’s like, it’s, you know, we have to make sure that, um, we have to speak out because, um, our culture is shrinking because so many people have appropriated it. So many people have taken it and it’s, it’s being taught and being watered down. So we have to be, um, we have to be, uh, more mindful on how much we get at, this is me speaking. Um, how mindful of how much we give, because they’re taking so much that now we look at it and we don’t even, it doesn’t even look like our city
Dominique: And Profiting greately and they’re profiting.
Eartha: Oh, yes. Oh yes. I mean, I’m looking at, take one, for instance, twerking, it’s called it’s twerking, but it’s African movement. It’s Africans, it’s all African, all of that stuff. It’s African, and now I see other people doing it and I’m like, okay, well there’s goes another step.
Dominique: Well, good. Well, this leads me. This leads me to another thought that I randomly had. Um, because I know what steps I’ve been taking. And, you know, a lot of times, especially with everything that’s happened in 2020 and a great awakening for a good amount of groups of people, even though, you know, other people have known for a while, um, what steps are you taking or are we taking personally to decentralize white supremacy in the dance community? Like what, what different ways of thinking have entered into your brain that you would like to share if it’s anything new or it could just be what you’ve been doing?
Eartha: I think it’s what I’ve been doing, you know? Um, it’s just what I’ve been doing because I’m going to call it as I see it, you know, I’m just, I, you know, and that goes for anything like that goes for anything. Um, I just finished working on this project and, um, Bob Fosse inspired. There’s no way that I’m going to take Bob Fosse’s work and do Bob Fosse’s work without getting the proper consent from the right people. The man is gone. We have to respect the legacy of what he’s left behind. So I reached out to Valerie Pettiford,
Dominique: Who we all love and know
Eartha: Valerie and I were in the same class and performing arts. So we were partners going across the Memorial. So I reached out to her and she introduced me to Nicole. When I talked to the Verdon Fosse Legacy, sent them all the tapes that I was doing, Valerie came into rehearsals. And I knew when I did Frug, as soon as I went into Frug, she said, I said, I know, I know, I know I was just thought I could get away with it, but I’m constantly going to respect, um, other people’s, uh, the integrity of their work. I’m constantly going to say, you know, that shit came from somebody else and you are dreadful to use it. That is not, you know what I mean, if you’re going to do it, say that you’re inspired by someone who, you know, you got that piece of work from, I was inspired by, but you’re not going to do that step verbatim. You’re not going to do the exact choreography that, that man did 50 years ago, just because he’s gone, does not mean that his legacy is still not alive. And that should be for anyone. You respected that the Jewish community, because you were so close to that, you know, you know what that is. So I just ask that people do the right thing, you know, give credit where credit is due and just do the right thing. Stop stealing from people. Yeah. You know, and let people know where you got it from or who inspired you, or, you know, just respect the culture of people’s, um, work, the body of that respect, you know, it should go just, it should be that across the board. So yeah, I’m constantly on the lookout for that. That’s like,
Big Will: I, a hundred percent agree on that because of social media. There’s so many ways people would try to get away with it by not having that choreo credit or saying, Oh, I really got this choreography from the music video but I’m going to act like it’s my own and people on the internet when they don’t know their own research, they see it. And usually you don’t, you don’t see a post and then you go on YouTube and try to find it. You just see the posts, look at it and say, Oh, this is cool. And you expect it’s their choreography. So if they don’t say it, you assume it. And it’s really just a few words like, Oh, that’s the only thing I have to do is just add a few words. It’s really that careful that can change the entire input of the video. So I understand that point of view, and I think it’s also, at least for me is, you know, whenever I see a quote or a dance quote, like for example, uh, one of my friends posted a whole essay for about dancers and about, you know, when it comes into teaching, are you really taking the right class? That’s going to help you upgrade yourself and elevate yourself, or you’re really just taking the class because of the views or taking the class because of this. And I love reposting it because it’s going to get my viewers in the right mindset and kind of like in a way, inspire them to say, okay, make sure they’re doing the right thing rather than it just saying, Oh, okay. He’s just an Instagram person. And I just happened to follow him. No, he’s an Instagram person. I want to follow in his footsteps. I want to follow in his, his pathway. I want to be inspired by him. And I think that’s the one thing I can at least do for my part is doing everything through social media.
Dominique: Yes. Great, great. I love it. Um, I’ve talked about it on this podcast before, but one main thing I’ve been trying to do lately is, um, keep asking questions and keep asking why and digging and digging. Uh, one thing I talked about with Dana was ballet and how I’ve had some minor tiffs with people who wanted me to teach. And their philosophy is ballet is the foundation of every dance style. And I had some pushback because I said ballet is good for what ballet is good for. Ballet is the foundation of derivatives of ballet. But if it’s African dance or if it’s salsa, or if it’s anything dealing with any, uh, Bollywood, or if it’s, you know, any indigenous dances that has nothing to do with ballet. Not a thing, like even if you tap and you’re a hoofer and you do all these other things, ballet may not help that, at all, not at all at all. So then if you dig a little bit deeper, it’s like, why does the White art form have to help the Brown art forms? You know, especially with all of that stuff, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s just, you know, mind boggling. And then sometimes you have to relearn and unlearn things that you’ve put out there, because there were many times where I would watch a hip hop dancer and go, Oh, if they only had ballet technique, no, they have a technique. They have hip hop technique. That is something totally different from ballet. Ballet will not help that. Now, if anybody wants to broaden their horizon, sure. By all means, take everything. But as much as I’m telling you to take ballet, I’m telling you to take modern and I’m telling you to take African too, you know, because a lot of things came from those dance styles. So that’s one thing that I had to do to decentralize white supremacy for me in, in my thinking.
Eartha: Yeah, that, that ballet run is a great one because, um, I’m not calling names, but I have, um, there’s one school that I keep saying. This child is not going to be a ballerina. She’s in the class, she’s crying. She hates it. But she’s major in African. She kills modern, tap outrageously why to make her suffer five hours a week doing this. She’s got the booty, she’s got the boobs, you know, but this has got to be good for her. This is what she needs is. I said, she’s never going to do that. She’s never going to go into SAB. So why make the child suffer. They don’t hear it. They don’t see it because that’s really good Dom because that is not the core and the end all for a lot of our techniques for a lot of the things that we do.
Dominique: And I think it’s just being mindful of that too, all the way around all the way around.
Big Will: I’ve never, ever seen it like that. So I’m happy. You you’ve even brought it up in this podcast because my whole entire life, a lot of people have always told me, ballet is the core of everything, ballet’s the core, all styles. And then the older I get, the more realize we have Chicago footwork, we have light feet. We have all these other styles within the hip hop world. We have, you know, Bboy, what does that have to do with ballet?
Dominique: They both have a B and that’s it.
Big Will: They’re completely different. I’m like, what does that have to do with ballet? And I’m learning these styles. You know, I was training in Chicago footwork for about a few months before the choreographer went on tour. And I was like, what does this have to do with ballet? It always boggled my mind. So I’m really happy you brought that up because I wasn’t aware of that.
Dominique: Yeah. It’s just, again, it’s just something, if you keep asking the why and keep digging with a lot of different things, I think that’s what leads you to the gold. And the goal is the, the digging and the digging and speaking of digging, I’m glad I’ve dug into both of you too, because you’ve just made my day speaking to both of you. Um, I appreciate both of you for this, this talk. Hopefully we’ll have many more on the podcast and off the podcast and we encourage everybody to do that too, because this is how you learn. This is how you grow. This is how you learn your community. And again, I want to give a special, special thank you to Eartha Robinson and Big Will Simmons and a special thank you for opening up the space to Dana Wilson, with the Words That Move Me podcast. Um, yeah. So thank you very much. Or is there any partying thing?
Eartha: Thanks for inviting me. Thanks for inviting us onto the podcast. It’s just been absolutely amazing. The time has gone by so fast. So we know we have more to talk about and another.
Big Will: Yes. Well, thank you guys for all of your knowledge and your wisdom within just an hour. I know I can talk to you guys for way longer than we can get into depth about it, but in reality, I just want to say thank you for my generation to yours for just, you know, paving the way of the way we are now within our dance industry and, you know, creating so many roles that are now opened up to us. We want to say thank you to both of you.
Dominique: Thank you. I appreciate it. I appreciate it so much. And on that note, we’re going to stop it here. Remember Words that Move Me Podcast
Outro: 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, then 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. Number two things 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. #60 Clean Up, Read Up, Open Up with Terry Santiel and Co-host Ava Flav
THIS is history right here; past, present, and future. I am honored to be co-hosting this episode with my dear friend and long time (tour time) bookend, Ava Bernstine Mitchell (aka Ava Flav). Ava is a journalist, world renowned dancer, choreographer and educator, podcast host and much more! In this episode, Ava and I go down memory lane AND look to bright and wealthy futures with the one and only Terry Santiel. We all met back in 2007 when Terry was playing percussion and Ava and I were dancing on JT’s Future Sex Love Show Tour! This episode peeks behind the curtain of the recording and touring industries, and will leave you inspired AND in stitches. So, get ready for giggles and some very teachable lessons about legendary hits, building your financial foundation, and keeping it clean with Terry Santiel and Ava Bernstine.
Ava Flav: https://www.instagram.com/avaflav1/
Terry’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dance Room Podcast with Ava & Heather: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-dance-room/id1470544579
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: Ladies and gentlemen. Hello, Hello. My name is Dana and this
Ava: Is Ava Flav here with you.
Dana: Ava will be joining me as co-host on this episode and I could not be more thrilled. Um, I’m jazzed that you’re here and I’m really excited for this episode because today will be, we will be talking to our friend, Mr. Terry Santiel.
I mean, we’ll let him do the speaking the introduce of himself, but, uh, we met Terry back in 2007 when we toured with JT on the future sex love show tour. Terry plays percussion and Terry is exceptional, and we’re going to get to that. But first, you know how we do on the podcast, and I think this is important, All my guests introduce themselves and maybe it’d be cool for you for you to do a little self intro real quick.
Cool, cool. Well, my name is Ava Bernstein Mitchell. I am a dancer choreographer teacher worked with lots of artists, toured with many artists, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears. I am heavy in Dance advocacy. I am on the board at SAG AFTRA and on dancers Alliance and fighting a lot for dancers rights and what not and I just all around just loved dance.
And you are also a podcast host, and I am borrowing you for this episode. Tell us a bit about your podcast.
Oh, my podcasts called the dance room. It is a podcast that I co-host with Heather Morris and we basically talk about dance shows and have wonderful guests on there. But at the moment it is on a hiatus, but you can always go back and listen to these episodes. We have some great guests and go over some really cool stuff. So yeah, The Dance Room,
Your library is good. I went on a, I did a road trip once I was doing a long drive and that’s just what I listened to top to bottom the whole thing the two of you together. Hi, Heather, love you. Okay. But first Ava, you know the deal we’re doing wins and I’m going to let you kick it off today. What are you celebrating today?
It’s might sound not like a win to some people, but it’s a win because I’ve been teaching three-year-olds, which is a struggle. I’m not going to lie. Three-year-old is tough. I’m five and up and recently that class just got canceled and I’m so excited. It’s a win for me. So yes.
And do you know what? I think that might be a win for them as well. You know, they have this time freed up now they can be yes.
Now they can play with each other. That’s all they wanted to do. They want us to play with each other and I’m happy for that. You didn’t need to dance.
Congratulations. Thank you. I’m glad that I’m glad that you’re winning in that way is it’s important. Cancellations are not always a loss.
No, not always a loss.
Okay, great. I love that. Um, this week I am celebrating that I’ve decided I can’t believe it took me so long to decide to do this, but I’ve decided to choose a donation organization to send all the proceeds from my podcast shop. So for the next 30 days, all proceeds from my Words that Move Me online store are going directly to Chloe and Maude Arnold,
My sister, friends. Yay.
I, I love that too. And I, I love that. I love what they do. I love how they lead. Um, and I’m really thrilled to be supporting them. Okay. Um, now it’s your turn. What is going well in your world?
Phenomenal. Congratulations. Maybe, maybe without any further ado we jump to, how do you feel about that?
I think we shall let’s do it.
Dana: I think we’re doing it. I think this is it.
Ava: Yes. Well hello Terry Santiel, yeah.
Terry: Hey Ava. And now I’m saying hi, Dana.
Dana: Hi Terry. Welcome to the podcast, my friend. This is amazing. I’m jazzed about this. The first thing we’ll ask you to do, unfortunately, because this is a challenge is to introduce yourself. What would you like us to know about you?
Somebody who’s never met you?
Terry: Well, my name is Terry Santiel. Terrell Santiel is my legal name and I’m born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Um, I went to school all over this city. I am, I guess I’m a rolling stone of Los Angeles. You know, where my mom and dad were when I was growing up, my mom and dad were separated. So I moved a lot. That’s why I sent him a rolling stone of Angeles. Cause I’ve lived everywhere from the Valley, to Compton to Watts, to South central and now I’m here near Hollywood. So anyway,
Amazing. I love it here. That you’re, uh, a native Ava is as well.
Yeah, I think I know that about Ava. Yes.
Isn’t it odd that things that we’ve learned about each other and the things that we remember and the things that we, that we, don’t. Ava and I were just talking the other day about how our memories are so selective. Like I remember the oddest things about being on tour and then full-blown chapters that are just, I have zero recollection.
I do remember one thing about you on tour when you were watching the tour bus bus to carwash.
Yes! We washed the bus! Terry thank you for reminding me. And actually that is, is one of the things that I would like to talk about on this, but, but maybe we’ll get there oddly enough. I talk about car washes on the podcast a lot. Not because they’re interesting, but because I live across the street from one,
Literally across the street
I hear it often. I don’t think, I don’t think we can hear it today. I’m in the booth as it were. Um, but, but let’s, uh, let’s go pre carwash for a second. Some people listening might not even know what we mean by that, but we’ll get there.
Ava: I would love to know where your lover percussions came from.
Well, that’s a very interesting question. My, um, family grew up basically playing percussion, my uncles, my cousins, my brothers, everybody. Sort of kind of played, but with me they sorta kinda like wouldn’t let me play. They told me, I didn’t know. You know? And then they set out to be a challenge for me to learn. And then I learned, and I got better than everybody. I hate to say that, but better. I got a little bit more skilled than the rest of them. And my career started from that point. But man, I can remember my uncle junior. He would like, we would play on the bottom of oatmeal boxes, the Quaker oatmeal boxes at like three years old, four years old, just didn’t know we were doing just, it was fun and it was noise cause they had to real drums. So yeah, it started at a very young age. I was like 13 though
Okay. So it started young, but when did it take off, like when did you start getting paid to do this? How did that happen?
Started getting paid at a really early age. I, um, well first, uh, before I guess I must’ve been 16 and my mother used to sign for me to be able to play in clubs, the local bands on the waiver. So we could play because they sold alcohol in these places and, you know, go in and play with some of the bands. And then I ended up getting my own, you know, being in a band that I was involved in. At the time the band was called Total concept Unlimited
That’s a good name
I really loved that name. Total concept, unlimited LLC incorporated unlimited.
That’s a point. Maybe I’ll start LLC with that TLC total.
Come on. Okay. So, so we get a tiny picture of the early days and then Rose Royce happened. So you’re one of the founding members of the group Rose Royce with that mega hit carwash, uh, which I will not sing because although I did do my vocal warmups today, the voice of the little subpar, there it is. Don’t let it stop please. Uh, that crack crack, crack, crack, Terry that’s you. And my question about that track is as you were writing that song, as you came up with that mega catchy super clap, did you know that that was going to be a hit, like as you were making it, did you know?
No. When you know, when you’re doing these things, when they’re, when they’re happening and they’re in their infancy, you don’t know what’s going to happen with these songs. And that, by the way, that song was written by Norman Whitfield, if you guys Google Norman Whitfield, you’ll see his catalog is pretty extensive and like that. So anyway, but yeah, but those are my hands on that hand clap that you hear all the time.
That is remarkable. I just think thats so cool
Let me say this about Rose Royce. Since we went there, Total Concept Unlimited became Rose Royce. We changed the name to Rose Royce.
Oh see, now I’m conflicted because I like both names. Uh, and when did, what brought about the change?
Well, we met Norman Whitfield, the producer, and we ended up getting a girl in the group and we decided to change the name to Rose Royce. So a lot of people got it mixed up with Rolls Royce, the car, right. It’s actually Rose Royce like the flower.
Like the flower. So that’s an important distinction. Yes. So I did a little, a little digging and I know that you were one of the, uh, early incorporators of using electronic instruments. Like you would use an electronic drum pad. I would love to hear a little bit about the differences making music then versus making music now.
Okay. Making music now. Well, let’s start with making music now. Making music now is a little easier with all of the computers and all of the easy ways of making music. Now you could play, say a shaker for four bars, and then you could copy it and paste it, make it go throughout the whole song and cut it and chop it back in the day we had to physically play all of the parts. Whether you said play as shaker as an example, whether you sit there and play shaker 10 times on a five minute song, you know, your wrist will be on fire because the weight it gets heavy, you know, and holding your arm in a certain position for so long and not trying to mess up a tempo or anything like that. And then a lot of times it wasn’t your fault that you had to do it, you know, as many times as you’re going to doing it because we recorded everything together with multiple people. So one person could make a mistake that starts the whole thing over. So that’s how that works out. Yeah. Even back when we did carwash, when we did carwash, there were, um, before we got it all the way, right. I think there were 47 tapes. So that song had to be played that many times with a whole band together. A whole group of people together from top to bottom. Yeah. Well, if we even got to the bottom, right, right.
Top to Middle. Yeah. Wow. Okay. This is, that’s giving me flashbacks of, I think the same is true for dance in video, especially. That’s flashbacks to the opening scene of Lala land, which is this big ensemble highway moment. And it’s a oner and to get all the way through, without everybody messing up, like camera, props that yeah.
So speaking a la la land, the percussionist that was on the back of the truck is my cousin.
Get out of town! Yeah. So much fun in that moment, we got Liz Imperio dancing in front of that truck. That’s so cool. The entertainment world is the size of a tiny acorn. At very least it could fit into the back of a truck. Um, okay. So that’s one of the key differences is like the duration or the actual recording process. Having to be a steady all the way through. I’m sure that damn near everything else has changed as well. But maybe this is the better question. What has stayed the same?
What has stayed the same?
My, my drum set stayed the same
Because you’ve got it tuned in. You’ve got that.
That set up is nice.
Well, you know, the drums I used for my real recording sessions. I used the same drum set I use since they, the first drums I ever owned and the original Mahogany Congas, and they’re all everybody’s stuff. I mean, I played on a lot of records, but they’re from carwash back in the day, you know,
Will you name drop a little bit for us. Yeah.
Tell us you’ve, you’ve played on a lot of records, but don’t, don’t be shy. I mean some Motown classics, the Temptations, Smokey Robbinson.
Yes. Yes. Actually the temptations were, those were temptations was the first group I’ve ever recorded with. And interesting about that story is the Temptations Runaway child, running wild song was the first song I learned how to play on congas, you know, like very young.
And then, and then you found yourself working for them.
Yeah. It was the first thing that I did professionally you recording wise. So did the 1990 album with the Temptations. Yeah, it was, it was amazing experience back then, but the same drums are used on like all of that stuff from Marvin Gaye to Smokie. Can you everybody’s yeah. Even recordings with Berry Gordy over there. I did a lot of Mo-Town stuff. It was amazing. I had a, I had a great time over at man.
So funky that music. Oh, but you also, you, I don’t want to, um, pigeon hole you or, or pin you as being this old school guy. Um, we obviously know you from touring with JT, but you play for Janet Jackson, um, and, and, uh, a host of others. So your, your musical talents and sensibilities are not, I couldn’t put a date on them.
You transcend generations
So how, how is it that you do that?
I just try to stay current and I don’t feel like I know everything or think that I know everything I’m always progressing and learning, you know? And I think that’s what keeps me current, you know? Um, now, like right now I’m like, uh, I’ve sorta kinda like figured out the whole trap thing and
Yes, what is it? Please explain it to me.
Well, what I’m trying to do now is a corporate rate, low am, percussion stuff to match the stuff that goes on within those rhythms and groups. That trap is all about, you know, it’s and the whole trap thing. It’s like, it’s fascinating to me because it’s all low end, and A lot of people can’t hear that frequency, but it moves them. You know what I mean? That’s what I mean about
Figuring it out on a Sonic level, you’re figuring out the trends and how to do it and how to make complimenting things, right?
Yeah. Yeah. Like I can do it. And I know how I’m just trying to figure out how to incorporate my instrument in it and make it like, make it crazy like I’m in that process now. How about that?
Cool. I can’t wait to hear what comes out of it. I know
This, this is the reason why you stand the test of time is because you, you keep current and you’re always learning, like you said, and that is fascinating to see and a good lesson to take away. Honestly,
I agree absolutely
The thing is too, is just to stay humble. That’s the, that’s the main thing. Stay humble and try to not, I guess, try not to feel like you’re more than you are. That’s the best, better way, uh, way of putting it. But then when I say that, there’s, I see a lot of people all the time on a lot of tours and throughout my whole career, they think they’re as important as the artist. And you’re not, you’re there to compliment the artists, you know what I mean? And do what you do. But I see a lot of people, you know, over the years just doing things that just in my mind make absolutely no sense at all, you know, with the life. Because when you go on through life, you’ve got to, you’ve got to set up your future, you know, and a lot of people don’t do that. They live for now. They want to go to all them clubs. They want to be a part of the, I call it the hype crowd. They want to be, you know, they’re not artists, they’re just a part of something, you know? So,
You know, that’s, that’s a lovely segue. We had planned to talk about touring. I think one of the areas where musicians and dancers overlap almost in an identical type of way is an a tour scenario. A dancers’ experience of tour is very similar to a musician’s experience of tour. You’re away from your loved ones. You’re unnaturally like living, eating, sleeping, you know, breathing, working with your, you know, uh, cohorts colleagues. Um, and I think that’s really unnatural. And I think you do it very, very well. How many, how many tours have you been on Terry? Is that even a number you can count?
You know, I’ve been torn since forever.
Did Terry did Jesus’s Birthday Tour.
I’ve been on several tours, but I’ve not been on a lot of tours because I will pick and choose who I like to work with. And a lot of them have worked for, you know, I’ve worked with them for a long period of time, You know? And you could take JT as an example, you know, I’ve been working with JT since 2002, it’s been 20 years. It doesn’t even seem like that long. And in the same, same thing, you know, with like Janet, I worked with her for at least, at least 10 years, you know, and Mary J Blige, I worked for her for a long time. I mean, you know, Barry White, I was part of the whole Love Unlimited Orchestra. And, you know, I worked in that for a long time. You know, I haven’t been on tour with a lot of different people. I’ve been on tour a long time with different people.
Right. You can be on many tours with a few of the same people. Right. You mentioned, you mentioned staying out of the hype, um, is that one of the secrets to touring? Well, to like not combusting or going broke? I mean, trust me a tour is a great way to make money, but it’s also a great way to spend it. So what are the secrets
If you’re caught up in the hype? You know what I mean? I, um, I try to do my thing. I tried to study and learn a lot of different things and then I try to stay out of harm’s way. And what I mean by that is you could see people doing things that, you know, are going to get them fired. So I sorta kind of stay out of the way, you know, like, okay, I see that I know where that’s going to lead because I’ve seen it so many times I’ll move, I’ll move on. I’ll go another direction. So yeah,
You learn from people’s mistakes, just as much as you can learn from their successes. I learned that on tour as well.
And then what are you going to, I mean, I, I learned, I made when I was very young and we were talking once Lionel Richie and myself, and he was telling me one of his secrets to success is not to be, not to be too familiar with everybody, you know? And I sort of kind of live by that. And you guys know that too. Everybody knows me, but you don’t know a whole lot about me. You know what I mean? I just try not to stay too familiar because it, it sort of keeps you out of harm’s way. You know, people have a lot to say about you, then it could, it could go either way, it could go negative or positive. Right. We’ll just sorta kind of stay out of the way.
Well, speaking of knowing about you, I remember on tour that you were a collector of Air Force Ones, and I wanted to know, do you still have a love for the Air Force One? And how many do you have?
No, I used to do that and I used to, like I said, I was caught up.
If there’s something to get caught up in, I’d say it could be worse. Yeah.
Well, you know, it was like one of those six now look at it. I was like, Oh, that’s a waste of money. But there’s like this kid that lives down in San Diego and he sells and collects like sneakers. So I ended up giving him a bunch of that stuff just so he could make some money. You know, he’s a little entrepreneur, I think it’s like 12 or 13 years old. His name is Eric, you know, and love this. Like, go make some money because a lot of that stuff I was buying and collecting back then and Ava I’m never get rewarded ****. I know there was a thing. And I was like, Oh, I got all of this stuff. So I stopped minimalizing my life. You know what I mean? And just getting, I have no clutter in my house, you know what I mean? It’s just, if I don’t use it, it’s gone. If I don’t wear it in a year, it’s gone. I have no problem taking it to the shelter and giving it to somebody that’s going to use it. You know what I mean? I don’t throw anything like that in the trash. I’m not going to try to go on eBay and put the stuff on sale. You know what I mean?
Terry, you are so patched in to the questions that I wanted to ask you today because I would love to talk to you about money. Um, I remember being on tour and you being the voice of reason so often, uh, like, you know, you’re, you’re being smart out here on the road, save your money. You knew I was, uh, I think Ava and I were both in the same situation. We got rid of our, um, apartments when we went on tour. So we had almost zero expenses and you encouraged us both buy a house, get yourself some investment properties. Um, you were really were a voice of financial reason to me at a very early age. And I would love for you to just shed a little wisdom on that. Um, because most of my listeners are young artists and I simply don’t believe that we need to be starving. I believe we can be thriving and I believe we can live under roofs that we own. Um, and I know you believe that too. You could you talk a little bit about, uh, your thoughts about money, how you manage it and how you’ve grown your wealth.
I think that everybody should think, think for the future, you know what I mean? Where are you going to be in 10 years? Where do you want to be in 10 years and establish yourself. Uh, when I say establish yourself, I mean, set up your future, set up your foundation, which I believe is the most important thing, is where you live. You know what I mean? And if you could get yourself in a position where you could own something, rather than paying rent, you’re in a better position. You know, I’ve got, you know, I mean, I’ve, you know, but I’ve got, you know, different income properties, but I always encourage people who live under my roofs, you know, to buy something. I will not hold somebody to a lease that I know I can hold them to if I wanted to. If they’re like, wow, I found this out like, Oh, cool, I’ll let you go do your thing. I’m happy for you. You know? And how, you know, find somebody else to occupy that space because it is a business. And for me, when you’re doing something like that, even if you dove into something like I dove into, like with real estate, you have to take it very seriously and not look at it. And you have to look at it as a business, you know, get all kinds of equity and capital and money and taxes. A lot of things come along with the home ownership thing. So, but you need to set up your life and you need to build your future and you shouldn’t be playing around with it because people who played around with it found out how serious it was. They when this whole COVID hit it’s like, now you can’t work. Now you getting kicked out of your apartments, you know, and there’s all of these other things come into play as like, wow, what am I going to do for money? You know, what is it? Unemployment checks. And I can imagine it’s not a good feeling. You know what I mean? And it’s not a good thing. So I just think that we all have to be conscious of what we’re going to do with our lives going forward.
This is, this is perfect. I want to, I want to ask a question. I’m sorry to interrupt. I think one of the notions that I myself, I had this thought and I’m sure a lot of my peers in similar situations thought, well, if I have to focus on a building, I won’t be able to focus on my craft. Or if I buy a, if, if I make my home, my business or this income property, my business it’ll take me away from the thing that I really love. And I love that you’re the person saying this because you are a living breathing example that that doesn’t have to be the case. I mean, surely could you get distracted? Absolutely. There’s enough. There’s enough enough, you know, uh, things of being a homeowner to distract you for a very long time, but you have been more working, more touring, more learning, more building than anybody I know. And you’re still doing all those other things on the sides. It’s possible to do both without losing focus on one or the other.
You set your foundation.
Okay my friends, DW here popping out with a quickness, because we’re getting a little technical here with some financial jargon. Talking about residual payment structures and so on and so on. And it dawned on me, that we have never really gone deep on money on the podcast. So, I am deciding to dedicate 4 of the 5 Mondays in March to money, March. Were we will get into all things Dancer contracts, choreographer contracts, money mindset and the difference between math and drama. So buckle up and get ready for that, but in the mean time lets jump back in with Ava and Terry.
But go ahead. What was your question?
Yeah. Um, so Ava and I, and a lot of dancers in our, our field. It’s, it’s not uncommon to work on a two day shoot for a commercial. And the, the amount you make for those two days of work is not, not a ton of money, but the residual income you make from that point that’s, that’s, that’s starting to look, that’s a real number, right? So you’re you play a, you’re a session player as well. Am I calling that the right thing?
Yes, it, yeah. And I try to write it. Yeah. Session Artist.
And how does that look for you? Do you feel like that’s a better use of your time and talent?
Let me tell you, let me tell you something. Like I said, I’ve run everything through the union and I do a lot of, and have done a lot of recording sessions like throughout the year. So this was just a story. I’ll just throw it out there. My neighbor down the street picks up my mail when I’m on the road, things that are important, she FedEx them to me. Like I said, as part of the business, you have FedEx numbers and all these things. So things that get to you the next day, you have to have these things set up. She told me once, if you’re like, dude, I have never seen anybody get as many checks as you in my life.
That residual income is real.
You know, and I’m not saying that in a braggadocious kind of way or anything like that, it’s just, when you set yourself up a certain way, when you’re young, everything has to be processed through you because these companies don’t want to lose their livelihood to get sued or anything like that. So you just have to do it, you know, and it may seem like at the time, I, well, I’m spending money on this, but it pays off. It really does. It pays off. I get calls from people. Sometimes I do just the song you played in this, on this. I heard it in this new movie. And for me, since I’m in the union, it’s just a matter of calling SAG AFTRA or the musician union.And saying, I was in this movie and their attorneys go after the money, their incentive is they get paid. They get their little portion of whatever they collect from me. So, man, I found, I found tens of thousands of dollars
Because you’re smart again because you treat it like a business and you know how to go after it and when to go after it and where to go to get it. And I think there’s not much help in like in a — man, My husband and I were just talking about this the other night, a lot of big labels put tons of money into copyright claims. You’re not allowed to use this song on Instagram. You’re not allowed to use that song in this. And there’s a lot of money tied up in copyright. And it’s only any good if somebody actually makes a claim, like it’s only, you’re only protected if you’re looking out for yourself. So it’s, as you, as much as it is about having a union for protection, it doesn’t mean that the ball is not, is totally not in your court. You do still have responsibility to keep an eye in an ear out for your work that might be out in the world.
And a lot of times people won’t tell you, they use it. You just have to sorta kind of stumble upon it. The union doesn’t go out and try to track that stuff for you. You know what I mean? So a lot of times you know, you rely on your friends and loved ones and people, you know, that you’ve made contacts with. And sometimes it could be a music exec somewhere in, Hey, you know, and they will help you out. I heard this and that, you know, and they will turn your onto where your stuff is being played or used without your consent. That’s huge. Yeah. So that’s sorta kind of one of those things you have to stay on top of you. Can’t just slide and go to the club.
So, um, I remember Ava and I got involved more heavily with SAG-AFTRA around the same time. And for me, that was after the future sex left show tour, I was a union member before the tour and the tour was over, lasted over a year. I didn’t do any union gigs during that time. And I lost my membership. I had to rejoin after the fact. And I remember being pissed about having to rejoin because that, you know, as I mentioned before, the, the, um, to become a member is not cheap. And so I’m doing it twice. I was frustrated. So I decided with my arms folded that I was going to go into that union building and find out what they’re all about. So I went to one of these, you know, one of their member — member, only meetings. And I just fell in love with so many of the people that work there. I started seeing the member, or I started seeing the union as a membership. And that’s, and that’s the truth. The union is made up of its members. It’s only as good as we are.
Real people, yes!
So it became less a them versus us and more of a we. And that really changed the scope for me, um, changed my relationship and it helped me do more for the union and in return, I’m getting so much out of it. Yeah. It’s awesome.
Yeah. I’ve got these numbers down. I know who to call now. Question my phone. Yes. Yes.
I’ve got numbers like that too. So yes. Yeah, yeah. And they’re really helpful, man. They’ll stick there. They’ll stick their neck out for you and they will follow through. They won’t just say, okay. Yeah, we’ll get to that. Then you have to call them two weeks later. No, they’re calling you back the next day.
I will say I’ve had both. I’ve had, I’ve had both experiences where if you stay on, then they stay on. If you stay on and drop off the face of the earth and stop returning your emails then,
But the people you have that you know, now that you could contact, they get right back with you.
Oh, for sure. After those relationships have been made 100%,
The know when Dana’s calling it’s business,
Um, okay. Terry, this is brilliant. Thank you so much for offering, you know, my husband calls you “The Real Deal Terry Santiel” Yeah.
That came from Marty.
Daniel’s still, he might, he might hate me for saying this. He still credits you for introducing him to the single product that brought, I don’t, I don’t know if I can say the most comfort or joy in his life, but, and by the way, my husband is not a person who prioritizes comfort. He’s fine with not being comfortable, but you introduced him to this little mechanical, uh, tweezer thing, like hair, a hair, trimmer.
Yes the nose trimmer! Let me tell you about those nose trimmers. I’ve seen people, man. And it’s like, if you don’t keep those nose hairs trimmed,
Its all you’re going to stare at
They catch things and it’s, and it’s crazy because if you’re having a conversation with somebody that got something in their nose your focus is not on the conversation.
Should I say something? Should I not? Is it going to move? You’re distracted.
It’s a crazy, it’s a crazy thing, you know? And then, and then that could be sensitive. You know what I mean? It’s the type of person you would say that to. How are they? There’s all kinds of things that led me to think about another crazy story. I was in a, I was presenting some songs to a music exec once this was many years ago. And I’m not going to say any names, we’re going to start with not saying any names. So I’m in the office, they’re playing the song. It’s a woman. Right. And she’s in a very high power position. We’re in her little small office in this building. I’m being so political.
I see, I see where this, and I don’t like it.
She farted, but she..
I did not, I did not expect that.
But it wasn’t silent giant. You know, it was one of those. It wasn’t like I would rather, she did a regular fart.
Silent, giant hahaha
So the rooms filled up amazing air. Right.
How do you know this person? Is it only the two of you? How do you know it was her?
Well for us in this office. There’s so now in my head, I’m going okay. Is she checking me to see what type of person I am? Am I going to say anything
Its a part of the audition.
Was it an accident? And maybe I should. So all of this is going through my head. So I’m just, Oh my gosh, I’m stuck. You know, I don’t know. Okay. Well, how do you deal with this?
What did you do?
What I ended up doing was saying something about it. So, you know, when the song finished playing, I was like, okay, are we address the elephant in the room? Those are the words. And that’s it.
Well, that’s a great, that’s a good one. The elephant in the room.
I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I really didn’t know. And by me saying something was probably the worst thing because she took it really personally and she acted like nothing was wrong and nothing happened. And that’s how that ended. It couldn’t be any worse.
Terry that is not the story I was expecting This Terry, this might be the first official fart story on the podcast.
My, well, it happened,
You know what I like, you know, what I like though about that is that you gave the opportunity for her to ignore it. You said, are we going to address the elephant in the room? Instead of did you fart? Like you gave a little grace, you give a little grace. And, uh, and then she took it and ran.
And that was how that ended. And I was on the project, you know, and it was a pretty big project. It was a movie thing. So,
Oh God, I’d still say you’re winning. So it’s okay. You’re winning. It’s a great story to have.
Um, it’s it. That is a great story. And I’m this close to letting us end on on that story. Okay. I do have one more question. You you’ve been around for a long time. You’ve done a lot of incredible things. You’ve, you’ve not only built a foundation, but uh, a fully sustaining thing. It’s not just the foundation. It’s, uh, it’s the whole body. It’s all of it. And I’m wondering if there’s anything that you haven’t done that you want to do, like a, a project that you’re looking forward to, or a prediction for music that might happen in the future.
Um, you know, I’m open for anything that may come my way. You know what I mean? As far as helping other people out or doing things like that, I’m at the point now where I want to pay forward or can pay it forward, you know, and I’m into talking to people and just, if I can sweat a little bit of knowledge or insight on, on something for somebody, those are the things that are important, you know? Um, yeah. You know, I have money coming in all the time, so that’s not an issue. So you don’t have to about. How you’re gonna, yeah. You don’t have to worry about the hustle. So you just, you help you help everybody until the next thing comes along. And then you go move on that. I’m never going to stop touring and making money or doing anything like that. I’m going to do this till I’m 90. That’s my retirement. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I could be, I could be Uncle T. You know what I mean? I can be the old, you know, I don’t care about that.
When you look when you’re 90, you’re probably going to look in your sixties, come on. Like, you know, I could get away with a whole lot.
Yeah, yeah. You too. Look at you, man. You look like you’re still 20 years old.
It’s true. You do. And you got a baby. Terry did you know this?
Say that again.
Did you know that? Ava has a little one.
Yes I did. Congratulations. Ava, thank you for that. Somebody cause you guys have like three, you guys had babies at the same time. Tammy had a baby. Nancy has a little one.
And AJ! You guys like look at you guys, all moms and you know what the best now the beauty of your life starts because now you have another. And that’s the other thing. Cause I, I grew up doing the same thing. I had to raise a son through all of these other things that I was doing. So now you have to balance all of it together. You’ve got to balance your career, your life, marriages, all of these things are all factored into life, but you all have to move forward together.
Terry, do you have a guiding principle in terms of balance? Is there, is there a compass that keeps you, you know?
Yeah. Keep an open mind. You know what I mean? And don’t get caught up in your own personal ego. Cause a lot of people get caught up in their own personal ego and, and everything goes crazy at that point because people get stubborn and stuck in their, in their reality that may not even be a reality, but yeah. Yes.
That’s huge. And that’s helpful. I will remember that as I am in the market for maybe a goldfish, uh, Not, not quite, Not quite to the human being point yet. My husband and I are talking about getting a Roomba, one of those, uh, vacuums that lives it own life. Yeah. We’re thinking about it or thinking about it. But I know
I used to have, um, a person to come clean the household once, once a week, but I don’t even do that anymore. Since this whole COVID date. I’m like, huh, I can do this **** myself. So I’ve got all of this time.
I Got it.
Yeah. And it’s unfortunate for them cause they’re not making as much money, but I still paid for that one day as much as for two weeks, you know what I mean?
It’s safer, safer for you.
I don’t want, you know, cause I don’t want people in the house. It’s crazy, but it’s just this is spotless now.
I was just going to say you, you keep a clean house. You keep a clean nose clean. Clean Life. Clean life. He’s clean. He’s clean. Well, Terry, I cannot thank you enough for joining us today.
I don’t even want to get off the phone.
Well, we do have, I mean, we might call this episode rap, but I have a special question that I need to ask you. I ask all of my questions. I ask all of my quests. I ask this question to all of my guests. Um, and this might, this might be a whole another conversation. So I will put a pin in this one. Although I would love for you to be able to tell the listeners where to find you, if they’re interested in finding more of your work or in talking to you or in, uh, renting a property from you possibly. So what’s, what’s the best way for people to find you.
You could just, you can email me. How about that? That’s the easiest and it’s um, email address is my name Terrell — T-E-R-R-A-L with, four Zs — Z-Z-Z- Z @aol.com. (email@example.com) And it will come through
Can we find you on instagram?
Yeah. I do have an IG. You know what? I’ve got it. I’ve got to be quite honest about it. I got bored with it. You know what I mean? And I haven’t really posted or done too much on that. I’ll look at it from time to time Facebook. I will never go on, I do have Facebook account and you know, but it’s, everything’s at my name, but it’s @TerrySantiel everything’s @TerrySantiel and it’s a last name is spelled S-A- N- T -I- E- L. And Terry is with a Y — T -E -R- R- Y.
I’ll be sure to put that in the show notes to the episode as well. So everybody knows where to find
Yeah. Twitter, uh, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all the same.
Yeah. Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you Terry. I couldn’t thank you enough. I adore you. This was the best, so much fun. My cheeks hurt
For your listeners. If you go on tour with anybody, don’t get caught up in the celebrity a hundred percent.
How do they do that? Terry tell them how to do it or how to not tell them how to do that.
I guess that’s on each individual. You know what I mean? Because everybody’s paths is going to be a little bit different in their connections with the different things that occur. But you just have to, I guess the way to do that is just to understand that you are not the artists.
Hmm. Yeah. I, I think one of the other like Ava, I’ll, I’ll speak for our relationship from my behalf of our relationship, but that, that was one tremendously grounding thing for me was having a real relationship with a person that wasn’t about visibility or, uh, a red rope anywhere or a fancy outfit like that, that friendship kept me very in touch with myself, my, my actions, my words, um, and it was fruitful and it was real and it was beautiful. And so having a real relationship on the road, other than just a relationship with the crowd or a really relationship with the club or a relationship with the money, that was huge for me. And the thing, this, this wasn’t until 2020, but on the 2020 tour, Terry, you remember I had, I did my daily videos. I had, I had a personal project that I was as accountable for as I was for my gig. And that was also tremendously helpful.
I remember being in Scotland and watching you dance with the guys,
You Probably where I’m going to find that I’ll put that in the show notes as well. Yeah, that was a good one. That that’s, that’s huge though. Like stay, don’t get caught up in the hype and there are a thousand different ways to do that. Um, it’s actually quite simple actually, because there’s one way to get caught up in the hype, but there’s many ways to not. Have a project, find a friend, you know, read, invest in the future, make decisions from the future, with the future in mind, not from the present moment and the present moment, always, almost always once the immediate gratification of like go to the club, get a drink, have the expensive mood, uh, have you.
And I’m not saying, but don’t not do those things. You just,
Everything in moderation.
Yeah. Doing the moderation that’s you know what I mean? It’s like, ah, I don’t really need to be there tonight. I shouldn’t be doing right. And you know what, let me just say this to me. I don’t, I’m always, I got like me and they used to say like with me one night, how I ended up getting in to that whole real estate thing is I saw one of those infomercials on TV and I was like, Oh, you can make money off of other people’s money. And I was like, well, I don’t need other people’s money to make money. How do you do that? And I tried it, I flipped the property. And I think I made like my first one maybe $40,000. I was like, Oh, that was easy. That was fun. And that only took a couple of months to make 40 grand. So then I did another one and another one and I ended up, um, you know, in the course of a year, you know, I did well.
I mean, I love you so much.
I could have been at a club and miss that information. That’s my point. So anyway. Okay. That’s okay. Sorry. I know we’ve got to get off, so
We’re doing it. I appreciate you. I just think the world of you. Thank you, Terry.
Thank you. Love you too.
Love you so much. Bye bye.
Okay, so that was “the real deal” Terry Santiel. Terry’s right.
That was so much fun. It was wonderful reconnecting with him.
I just can’t get over the fact that the same guy that gave us real estate advice was telling us fart stories
So good. Um, what were your biggest takeaways?
Oh, my biggest takeaway is that he is literally a part of history. He is history. He is a living legend, and I know we tend to use that word loosely, but he really is. He has stood the test of time. Um, he’s, we’ve got so much to glean from him. I just really enjoyed this little sit down here.
I couldn’t agree more. He he’s, he is himself and his work have been hugely prominent in the past, in the present. And from the sounds of it, he’s really investing in the future. He’s figuring it out, I adore. I’m very happy to be sharing that episode with you all. Um, I hope that you enjoyed hearing from Terry as much as we enjoy talking to him, I wish you could have seen all the faces, just smiles.
And I think we said we surmised this episode with Terry as clean it up, read up and keep an open mind.
Clean it up, read up, keep keeping up. That’s it. Yup. That’s it. Those simple things. And you too will still be producing top tier content when you’re, how old is Terry? Do we even know?
I didn’t ask, you know what?
This might be a moment I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to check the Googles.
Okay. So Terry’s around 72. We just took 15 minutes to do a math break around 72.
We had to research.
Yep. That’s true. That’s true. And we want to save you time so we didn’t share with you how long it took us to do that math. So that puts him in, in around the same ballpark is Miss Toni Basil. Yes. Um,
I mean they are a fountain of youth.
It’s true. That that’s really important to notice because I don’t like, and, and, and the thing that unifies them, is this ever learning yes this ever practicing and I do think it’s an open open-mindedness open-mindedness yeah. All right. I’m open. That’s it. I’m open. I’m going into the world open. I’m staying forever young. Um, and I, I hope that you all are forever inspired by that. It was so much fun. Ava. Thank you so much for joining me.
Thank you for having me! This was fun.
My pleasure. We’ll do it again. Sometime love you to bits.
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 because your words move me to 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.
Over 100 million viewers world wide, 6 minutes to set up, about $833,000.00 PER MINUTE in production costs, NO SECOND TAKES. NO PRESSURE RIGHT?
This is what I live for. This is what WE live for. This is (literally) what Champions are made of. This episode is a collection of spectacular Super Bowl Halftime Show Stories from a few of my favorite dance types, Victor Rojas, Brittany Parks, and Chris Dupre
This episode is all about mining one precious resource, COMMITMENT. The dictionary defines Commitment as “The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” That is a very neat and tidy way to explain such a dynamic spectrum of being! I see commitment as a sliding scale, and I see the WTMM Team dialing up our commitment to racial equity. Happy first episode of Black History Month! We are thrilled to be celebrating, now and ALWAYS.
A Brief History of John Baldessari: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU7V4GyEuXA
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.
All right. All right. Welcome everybody. This is words that move me, I’m Dana. I’m stoked about this. Um, it is black history month and I have some big plans for upcoming episodes. I am so excited to be sharing the mic with some of my heroes, uh, several historians and living, breathing history, period. I am jazzed about it. And my goal is to do more than drop names and dates of important people in places and things, and just hope that you remember them. Um, my goal is to really put that history into context, uh, to make it sticky and to engage in meaningful conversations around it. So I am committed. I am committed to education and celebration of black history, and that my friend, is really big and really, really broad. So this week I want to start by talking about commitment period in and of itself. Um, this episode will *blah blah*. This episode will pair really, really nicely with episode 55, uh, where we discussed resolutions and doing daily. So if you haven’t already dug into that, you might start there, um, and bounce on back here, or you might stay here and then bounce on back there either way, bounce around. You’re going to dig. Um, okay, so let’s, let’s talk commitment.
I did a little Googlage and I found that the online dictionary, I believe it was Miriam Webster says commitment is defined as the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause activity, et cetera. Commitment is defined as the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, et cetera. Now, I like to think of commitment. Um, the state or quality of dedication as being a sliding scale, there are degrees of commitment to a thing. So maybe, maybe zero is like, not at all committed no effort or interest in a cause or activity. This is my ballet slippers still in a bag in my closet, but actually then again, that again. Now that I say that out loud, I do have ballet slippers in a bag in my closet. So maybe I would give that like a 0.001 on the commitment scale. It is, it is like the essence of commitment. Like maybe it rubbed elbows with commitment, but it isn’t actually commitment. It is the intent of being committed, but not committed itself. Um, anyways, on, on that sliding scale, zero is, you know, zero action, zero effort, and 10 is absolutely possessed, all in, interested, invested and activated, taking massive action toward a cause or activity. In this metric of measurement, Um, I would place Beyonce, Superbowl halftime show performance from 2013 at an 11. Um, by the way, I’m not a football fan, but I did recently watch all of the recorded Superbowl halftime shows in history that are on the internet. Um, I learned so, so, so much by the way, lessons from super bowl halftime shows coming very soon. Um, speaking of which Abel, AKA the weekend have a freaking ball this weekend. Oh, no pun, intended. Um, Oh, also I hear that Amanda Gorman will be the first poet ever to perform the Superbowl. Come on for progress! That’s amazing. I am so thrilled by that. I’m really excited. Okay. Back to commitment, focusing on commitment.
I have, um, I’ve talked before on the podcast about John Baldessari, one of my favorite artists, and there’s a video online, a YouTube video called a brief history of John Baldessari. Um, yeah, you can find it on YouTube. It’s simply one of my favorite things on the internet. It will be in the show notes, but one of my favorite parts of that, uh, of that short film is where John Baldessari tells us three things. He believes every young artist should know. Number one, talent is cheap. Number two, you have to be possessed, which you can not will. And number three, be in the right place at the right time. Now I don’t typically like to argue with geniuses. Um, but I do want to talk about that second point. You have to be possessed, which you can not will. I think that I agree you cannot will being possessed. You either are possessed or you aren’t, but I do think you can, will excitement. And I certainly think you can, will commitment to me. I being possessed by something, it means to be taken over by it, like inhabited by it, against your will even, um, but like somehow out of control. And to be honest, I don’t love the idea of being out of control. I can handle the idea of being the vessel or the conduit, but I’m not thrilled about the idea of being out of control or under something else’s control. So to be totally honest, I don’t think that I am possessed by dance. I think I really, really love it, but there are fully days on end where I do not boogie and I don’t make that mean that I don’t love dance. So do you have to be possessed to make brilliant, not boring art? Maybe. Will you get to a John Baldessari or Beyonce level of impact without being possessed? Maybe not. But do you have to be possessed to make it in the dance industry? No. I think that that is actually a common misconception that can scare a lot of up and comers. Um, this idea that you have to be possessed or obsessed in order to make it. I, I hear that a lot. I hear like “I really, really love dance, but I also kind of love writing and I’m really digging standup and Oh, I love fashion. Maybe someday I’ll have my own clothing line, but man, I probably won’t make it as a dancer if I can’t just focus on dance, right? Like, should I even try?” Um, now I, I don’t like giving definitive yeses or nos to questions like that, but I will say that I know a lot of industry heavy hitters that do not eat, sleep, breathe, sweat, dance, they have other interests. They may love photography or fashion or film or cooking or simply eating and drinking as much as they actually love dancing. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t committed to dance. In other words, if commitment is like a dimmer switch and we have this sliding scale where possessed is the maximum, then I would say yes, more light makes more things visible, more light makes more things possible. Like try finding your keys with the lights off and then try finding your keys with the lights on brighter is righter, but to make it and more importantly to make change, I do not think you have to be possessed. I think you have to be committed. You have to be willing to try again. You have to be willing to get it wrong. You have to probably be willing to get it wrong more than once before you get it right. And here is why that matters. In last week’s episode, Galen Hooks talked about her volunteer work with dancers Alliance and SAG-AFTRA, um, we worked side by side in several grassroots efforts, so I can definitely attest to this. That work can be exhausting. It can be unrewarding at times, and it can be very hard to stay committed, let alone possessed yet in order to make lasting change, you must be committed or, you know, possessed, It helps. now even outside of volunteer efforts, commitment really does matter a lot in the world at large, but in a creative life, especially. And here is why, because creative work is not time driven. It is idea-driven, you know, the quality or quantity of your output is not determined by the number of on the clock hours. There will always be days where you go into the studio and workshop for hours and not one solid phrase or eight count comes out. Or I suppose I should say there will be days where you don’t like one solid phrase or eight counts that comes out. Um, and on those days, your brain will probably offer that you quit or that you beat yourself up for your lack of productivity. You’ll need to decide on the thoughts that will keep you going. These thoughts are your fuel. And for the rest of this episode, I’m going to offer a series of questions to help you reveal those thoughts to help you mine that precious resource, commitment. Okay.
The first question is this, what is your desired result? Let’s put emphasis on what is your desired result. Now all of these questions are designed to help you and your commitment. So focus on your desired results, the things that are in your control, um, to demonstrate the difference between your desired results and general desired results. I will use this example, “The desired result that I have for the world is equal rights and equal justice for all.” Now there are a lot of people involved in the world. And even if I actually was able to change policies as an individual, I cannot change the way that other people think and feel and act. So my desired result is “to be an example of commitment to racial equity.” For example, the next question I would ask myself is why, “why do you want this result?” And this is important. This is what you’ll come back to when you want to quit. My why is this, “Because not only do I want to live in a world of equal rights and equal justice for all, but I want to be able to teach and encourage others who are interested in that world to do the same.” My next question, What will it cost to achieve that? What will it cost me to become an example of commitment to racial equity? I’m going to get very real with you now. And I think the next several weeks will be a testament to this. It might cost me some comfort. It might cost me some relationships. It might cost me a couple follows perhaps because I’ll be talking about things that I think are important and maybe other people don’t think those things are important. I’ll likely have some uncomfortable conversations, I’ll likely learn some hard lessons in facing truths about myself and my world. It’ll cost me time in research, reading and volunteering. Um, let’s see what else. Um, it might cost me convenience, for example. If I’m to begin shopping at a black owned bookstore, instead of buying my books on Amazon, I might have to wait until they have the book in stock, I might not get that free two day shipping. So this might also cost me money in those kinds of convenience fees, but also on a bit of a larger scale. Sometimes being an example of commitment to racial equity might look like passing on and passing along a paid opportunity to someone else. All right. I think that’s, that’s, that’s a pretty complete, although not exhaustive list of what it might cost me to achieve my goal of becoming an example of commitment to racial equity. Now the next question, after I’ve asked myself what it will cost to achieve it, I get to ask “what will it cost if I don’t commit or follow through, what will it cost if I do not achieve it.”
This was a tough one for me. I do not commit if I, if I do not try and try again, if I do not follow through all become another person who’s talking and not doing, I’ll become a person that I do not want to be. And that is a price that I do not want to pay.
The next question is “what must I believe to achieve this?” I have to believe that I’m responsible for my part, that small efforts add up to big changes. That big changes can happen, um, that I have to do it perfectly the first time or every time, but I do have to do it over and over and over again. Those are some of the beliefs that will help me achieve my goal.
My next question is “how does it feel to believe those things?” When I believe that I’m responsible for my part, when I believe that small efforts add up to big change and that big change is possible, that a poet will be performing at the super bowl. When I believe that I don’t have to do it perfectly the first time, and then I get to do it over and over and over again. I feel empowered.
My next question is an important one. “What do you have to stop believing in order to achieve this desired result?” For me, in my specific instance, I need to stop believing that I’m already doing enough. I need to stop believing that the ball is now in someone else’s court. I need to stop believing that things are never going to change. I need to stop believing that my degree of comfort is more important than growth. I simply need to stop believing those things. All right, let’s see, three, four, five, seven, Seven simple questions. And I have revealed so much. Answering these questions has given me awareness in knowing what I want, why I want it, what I’m willing to pay for it. But really this is just the beginning of the game plan. I know what I’ll think. And I know what I will stop thinking, and I know how I’ll need to feel to get it done. Now, my example is, is very much about a commitment to a way of life, but these questions can help guide you in your commitments, in the context of relationships, creative projects, and yes, absolutely. In doing daily. So what is your desired result? Why do you want it? What will it cost you to have it? What will it cost you to not commit? What do you have to believe to achieve it? How does it feel when you believe those things and what do you have to stop believing to achieve those things? Now you have the awareness and the plan you have mind the fuel. Now put it in the tank, think, feel, and go out there and make change. Speaking of change, I see daily doers. I have so many new #doingdailyWTMM hashtags, actually by the time this episode is released, we’ll probably be well over 3000 #doingdailyWTMM So if you are a, a new daily doer, make sure you’re using that hashtag so that I can see all your daily, daily doings. Also, I see so many of you daily doers using the words that move me daily, creative prompt calendar. I am jazzed about that. Good on you. Um, such a fun resource. You do not need to overstrain your brain to decide what you will do today. Simply take a glance at the words that move me daily, creative prompt calendar, and a letter rip. If you’re interested, those daily creative prompts calendars are available @ thedanawilson.com/shop and also by becoming a member of the Words that Move me Community, which I am thrilled about. Uh, shout out to all my WTMMCOMM listeners out there. If you are not a member yet, don’t stress out. You can join at literally any time, just visit theDanawilson.com and click the membership tab. Boom. There you go. Okay, everyone, that is my lesson on commitment. That is me inviting you to join me and the words that move me community in our doing daily to make lifelong changes. And that brings me to my win.
I am so excited to share my win with you today. It is extremely important, and I think that my win can be your win. Um, I just had the pleasure of sitting in on an hour and a half seminar with the fabulous Karida’s Griffith. She is a phenomenal dancer. If you don’t already know, I do encourage you to go do a little digging on, on Karida, but she is also an educator, a fabulous educator. And right now she is offering a six week professional development program for dance educators. So for all my dance teachers out there, and I do recommend this for, for dancers as well, period. Um, the program is called roots, rhythm, race, and dance. She calls it R three D and it is basically, um, a workshop in teaching age appropriate fact-based lessons about race and dance history. And I could not be more excited about this. I’m thrilled to get started. Um, you have until February 7th to register, I will absolutely be linking to Karida’s website and the enroll page in our show notes. For this episode, I cannot express in the actual words, how enthusiastic I am about Corita’s work and how excited I am, um, to have enrolled in this program, period. I’m so jazzed about it. That is what I’m celebrating. Um, I hope that you get to go check it out and if it looks like a good fit for you, I will see you there. Uh, all right, now you go, what Is going well in your world?
Congratulations. I am thrilled for you. I am thrilled for you. I am thrilled to get your feedback on this episode, and I’m so excited to be sharing the mic in my next several episodes. Um, you really don’t want to miss a beat, please subscribe and download these episodes. They like you’ll want to have them in your pocket. I’m just saying that’s, that’s me celebrating a future win. By the way. That’s what that sounds like is me proclaiming the win, the success of these future episodes. So, so, so excited. Um, all right, everybody. I think that is it for me today. I am going to go dance. You go do whatever it is that you are doing and just make sure you are keeping it funky. Well, yeah, I’ll talk to you soon. Bye-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 because your words move me to number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit theDanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.
My guest on this episode is one of the reasons I am hopeful for the future of dance… and for the world!She is bright, wise, beautiful, and a master of her craft from a young age. Today, we are joined by Galen Hooks! We dig into The Galen Hooks Method and making “good choices” on the job, activism and the responsibility of artists, and the value of following your gut. So, get your notepad ready because this is exactly the kind of heavy lifting that can leave you feeling lighter and brighter!
Intro: Welcome to 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, Dana Wilson. And I move people. I dance, I choreograph, I coach. And the only thing that I love more than life is sharing. So if you are someone who loves to work and laugh and you’re looking to rewrite the starving artists story, then you’re in the right place.
Hello, my friend, and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad that you’re here. How are you doing today? Today, I am doing I’m feeling hopeful. I’m feeling hopeful because I think change is good. I took a walk and I took notes on the interview from this episode under a clear blue sky from the bleachers of an empty baseball field field. Is that the right word? Diamond, baseball diamond, baseball court, baseball stage. Um, anyways, that setting was indeed quite a change for my standing desk at home. I do think change is good. Um, also I might as well mention that I’m recording this on an inauguration day. It is the first time I’ve actually watched an inauguration top to bottom, and I’m so glad that I did, um, for many reasons, but namely, because I got to witness and be tremendously moved by the words and the movement I might add of Amanda Gorman. Wow. Listening to her and watching her calm, steady, and graceful hands. As she spoke, turned me into a puddle on the floor, but not like a boggery wet ooey gooey puddle, but like a titanium indestructible puddle on the floor. So strong and yet. So full of tears is, is how I felt. This episode will air one week from today. And I will probably still be in complete awe of Amanda, um, especially her in that very moment. I simply think she’s outstanding yet, I think there are more like her and that is why I’m hopeful. Speaking of more like her, bright, wise, beautiful and a master of their craft from a very early age today, we’re joined by Galen Hooks. Galen is a friend and a leader, and I am so excited to be sharing this conversation with you today because wow, if this podcast really is about navigating your creative career, then consider this episode a compass. Please enjoy this conversation with the fabulous Galen Hooks.
Dana: Galen hooks my friend. Welcome to the podcast.
Galen: Hi Dana.
Thank you so much for being here. I’m simply thrilled about this and oddly embarrassed that as friends, this will probably be our longest session of talking uninterrupted in years.
Galen: We have not talked in a very, very long time and so this will be a great catch-up
I’m so I’m so excited about it. Um, okay, so this is how we always begin with guests on the podcast. I would like to ask that you introduce yourself. I know that this can be a daunting task, but, um, let us know anything that you would like us to know about you.
Um, so I’ll just kind of introduce myself in a way that for anyone listening helps you understand some context for whatever I do talk about. My name is Galen Hooks. Um, I am a VMA nominated choreographer. I started working in the industry when I was seven and I have known nothing, but the entertainment industry I’ve worked with over 70 artists, if you’re kind of old school, you might know me from the Neo videos or Janet, or even LXD. But because this is the age of social media, some of you might have learned about me through some viral videos like river or love on the brain, et cetera. Um, and now in addition to doing industry work, I have the Galen hooks Method, which I might even have some alum who are listening to this, but, um, I do the Galen Hooks Method, which is made up of several kinds of experiences from 2 Day Really intimate intensives to regular length masterclasses, lectures, live events. Um, it’s global, it’s open to everyone and I am glad to be here. Dana, thank you for having me.
Ah, it is my absolute pleasure. Um, so yes, 70 plus artists, Holy smokes, really to list your dance and your choreography credits would require a double episode, probably a back-to-back. Um, and so I’m not going to get into that and I know that we’ll talk about dance eventually, but I, I want to start by talking about your work as an activist and how that has transferred into the Galen Hooks Method. Um, so could you maybe start by talking about those 10 plus years that you Chaired Dancer’s Alliance? Yeah, so I do
What I didn’t mention in my beginning spiel is I for 10 years, I was, um, both working with Dancers Alliance and serving on the board at SAG AFTRA us. It was like, that was at sag before sag one sag, AFTRA, and, um, worked with AFTRA at the time closely and was a liaison for the agents and just did tons and tons of activism. And during that time, um, Dana, as you know, because you were heavily involved, we spearheaded unionizing music videos, and Dana was instrumental in helping us unionize, what I think was the only tour.
Unfortunately I think you might be, you might be right.
The biggest, like win and lose at the same time. Yeah. So, yeah. Um, so I spent a very long period of time being an activist in the community and helping with helping make, I guess when I say activist, I think now how do I explain this? We made really, um, tangible changes in contracts and unionizing, and that was always my really driving force was making actionable change. Um, so of course now the Baton has been passed as it should be two dancers who are now currently working. Obviously I don’t work as a dancer anymore. Um, so when I do the intensives, um, I have Industry sessions for the Galen hooks method and Non-industry sessions. And so the industry sessions are for professional dancers and there’s another session for aspiring choreographers. And in both of those instances, it’s just important to, uh, make sure and practice people know how to apply concepts like what’s happening in your contracts or how to deal with your agent or what to do If you get in a sticky situation, basically in the, in the sessions, I’m able to communicate the things that we would typically do in our DA meetings. And then for the choreography session, it’s really kind of bananas how even like our colleagues now and people who are my elders as choreographers still don’t know answers to a lot of questions because there isn’t much codified language for choreographers. So we’ll go through everything from what your rate should fricking be, which like I get calls all the time from my friends asking.
Oh I’m so sure you do
Like when I think about it, a lot of, I consult a lot of people on their negotiations, like on what to ask their agents for and what to ask their manager managers for not to say that that’s a form of activism, but it’s like a daily kind of dealing with negotiations and rates is still a huge part of my life, even though I’m not working with an organization, but in the GHM creative session, we go through the basics like what your rates should be to more, um, uh, applicable questions. Like if you are hired as an assistant, and you’re asked to contribute creatively, what should you do to do you get paid to run an audition? What, like all kinds of things that even now working choreographers don’t necessarily know the answers to. Um, so that’s kind of like on the dance end, but then really I, we, the dance industry has, I don’t know, fractions the right word, but it’s split off into even more kind of bubbles than I think had existed when we were doing DA. And so my, I know that I have an immediate community of people who I can activate as people and citizens as well, I guess. So certainly like an element of just human activation has come into play and definitely in the past year. So, uh, you know, we got people to register to vote and to phone bank for Biden and write letters to the George Floyd family and, um, you know, raise money for the actors fund or feeding America. So there’s kind of like this, the sense of activism has expanded beyond dance, which is wonderfully fulfilling for me. And just nice for dancers to be able to come together in a non dance sense as well
On like on a human plane.
Yeah. I love this, but we’ll have to adjust your bio slightly to include the title of unofficial consultant to all on all things. Um, well, okay, so let’s flash back a little bit. You mentioned the music video negotiations and the touring negotiations. That was certainly when we logged our most time together. Yes. Um, and I became aware of how much work is done behind the scenes and in other organizations that, um, dancers Alliance is a Non-Union organization. And by the way, if you are not familiar at first listen with Dancers Alliance, I will absolutely be linking to the DA website in the show notes. That should be your next stop after you listened to this episode. Um, but from my experience with, with organizing, I learned, I think if I had to boil down a takeaway that education and outreach must be almost constant in order to make a lasting impact. Um, and I think that that’s what you’re doing with the Galen Hooks Method is pretty much around the calendar doing that education and outreach. Um, w what, what else did you take away from that time? Any like big life-changing lessons learned from doing all that work in organizing
The —, when you try to articulate the amount of work it takes to organize. And I think now people, one fortunate thing is that people are getting a tiny taste of what it is to organize in just going to protests. And I think like the stamina that it takes to consistently care about something is so underestimated by people who get riled up and want to make a change. And I want to kind of like put for anyone who’s listening. I wanna just put this in the context of if you’re listening and you feel like you recognize injustices, whether it’s you think your rate should go up or whether it’s racial injustice, um, and you have an inkling of what, you know, needs to happen to fix that injustice. You’re gonna hit multiple steps around the way where you just get so freaking worn out. And when I say I did it for 10 years, most people burn out after like a month. Like, you know, this Dana is like, you get really excited and jazzed about, I want to change. I want to, I want the rates to go up, whatever it is. And then you book a job and then all that goes out the window. So for me, like I, a lot of the time I spent, which by the way, just in case this isn’t clear that people working for Dancers Alliance, it’s like 100% volunteer work. You don’t get paid. It is absolutely on your own time. So whether it was when Dana and I were working with DA or the people that, you know, currently are working for DA, they are doing it in the spare time that they have in their lives. So I would be in China, I’d be in Europe, I’d be at like 4:00 AM organizing PowerPoint presentations, and, um, you know, doing phone calls with SAG and it’s like, you have to have, it just takes so much mental stamina. So, and I, and I think, you know, I started the intensives before kind of this huge wave of intensives that currently is taking place. And I think a lot of people, it takes a lot of stamina to do something like an intensive. And whether it’s, whether it’s the activism with Dancers Alliance or whether it’s the Galen Hooks Method, I’m not doing it for the sake of saying I run a business and I do these intensives. And like, there wasn’t, I didn’t, I had no intention of the Galen Hooks Method becoming a thing, I do it because I care. So I’m able to continue doing it because I care. And that’s what it takes that level of stamina, not to say that other people that do intensives don’t care, but you have to have a huge amount of care and desire to make a difference to keep going after the initial excitement has worn off because 99% of the work that goes into these things is not fun. It’s not sexy. It’s not like cool stuff to do. So I certainly that’s a long winded way of kind of reminiscing on that time of the, uh, music, video negotiations or the tour negotiations. Um, there’s like, there’s so much like literal tears. I remember talking to you Dana, and it was it’s so emotionally fraught, and you want to quit at so many points because there are so many hurdles along the way. So the mental and emotional stamina is absolutely imperative for any cause to continue forward.
You need a strong why. You need to have a strong why, like you have to know exactly why you’re doing it, and if it is money and if it is a reputation or, uh, you know, praise, uh, that won’t be enough, for this type of work, it’s simply won’t be enough. Um, so what would you say now is your why? Like, what is your North star at the moment with the program and in your, and in your creative life?
It’s jeez,we, so we are recording this like a week after the Capitol was stormed, not even a week. And, uh, uh, it’s such a change, I guess, for me of my North Star, because what happens every day for us as people is we used to it’s a grab bag. So I, I don’t think I’ve ever had a, an exactly enumerated North star or mission statement or why that’s kind of written out. I have a really, I really listened to my gut and know when I’m going in a direction that feels right. And I really know when I’m not so kind of, it’s like every day I wake up and it’s like, what, what’s happening in the world today? And I follow what feels right to do with the time and energy that I have to give to make things happen. So I, I genuinely do not have a, an exactly specified North star other than like, what, how can I best use the, uh, like assets that I have to do something for people.
That is huge. And that makes total sense to me. Um, now my brain is offering me this image of not a due North, like not a North star, not a, not a one mission statement or mantra, but just a compass that works really well. I think, I think you have a strong moral compass, which is probably why most people come to you, um, for advice or consultation, help negotiating things that, or negotiating or navigating things that they haven’t done yet. So that’s, that makes complete sense to me. And I love it. So let me, if we could talk a little bit about the Galen Hooks Method for a second. Um, I know that you work with professional dancers, like varying degrees of experienced dancers, um, and I’m sure that some of my listeners are alum and I’m sure that a lot of my listeners would be interested in training with you. So I’m wondering what you think is the biggest difference between a lay person dancing and an aspiring pro dancing and what could they learn from each?
Hmm. Um, let me just for good measure, explain each of the sessions because it’ll help with my explanation. So they’re from, from like beginner to industry, the sessions are GHM light, which is for absolute beginners. Uh, you can’t, you shouldn’t be advanced. And that one that is for a hobbyist basically. And then there’s GHM classic, which is a mixed levels one. So that one, I will have absolute hobbyists with professional dancers. And it’s about artistry. GHS pro is only professional dancers. Creative is for aspiring choreographers. And then game plan is for the people that are trying to get a game plan to work in the industry. So when I’m doing, for example, GHM classic, which is the mixed levels, hobbyists and professionals in the same room, honestly, the approach is exactly the same for every single person in that room. And everyone is at a literally the same equal playing field. So my approach to teaching them is absolutely the same, whether they’ve never danced a day in their life or they’re veterans who have done it for 20 years, if it’s a pro session, I guess this is how I would answer it like the pro session or any pro master classes that I’ve done or audition intensives. Anytime I’m dealing with people who are trying to work and are taking their career seriously, it is like no nonsense and very high, high stakes. Um, but if I’m working with a room of only beginners, then obviously we’re going way back to basics. So I guess the way I’m answering that is if I have a mixed group of people in the same room, everybody has dealt with the exact same way, but if I’ve got only beginners, I’m dealing with them one way and only pros is the other way. And they’re both like, I think what I’ve loved is being able to be so high stakes with the professional dancers. I think like, you know, when we, when you work with an actor, I’ve had, both of us have had experience working on film, TV, commercial work, where you’re working with non-dancers and that’s kind of like I’m, I’m used to in my career working with absolute beginners who don’t speak the language of dance. So it’s less of like a switching teaching wise with those people, but what has been so awesome is being able to just crack the whip with professional dancers, because on a job it’s like, um, the way that I’m training professional dancers is much different than the way that I would treat them on a job. Um, so it’s really fun. I think on both of our ends, whether you’re the student, or for me to have like a different way of approaching teaching professional dancers,
I think I’m just now wrapping my head around this, like training for professional work can be professional work in the like you can be treating mat training moment as the professional moment. And for many of the dancers in your program, it is. In some senses, I’m sure the thought behind, at least some people’s head is this is an audition. This is a person who works all the time and I’m in front of them day after day after day. And every day I show up is if I treat it as a day on the job, I’m maybe that close that much closer to being on the job with Galen. Um, it, w w is that a mindset that you would recommend, or do you think that, or what would you recommend for people coming into your program is being the most beneficial mindset? Like how will we get the most out of it?
I’m honestly, the, the pro session is not, none of these sessions are meant for you to work with me. That happens, and I’ve hired many of my alum following their sessions, but that’s not the goal. So the pro session, I’m trying to get you to work with everybody. Like of every dance style of every genre of choreographer. So we’re, the mindset is to be adaptable, to be smart. You know, everyone talks about being a smart dancer, but you don’t understand that or see it in practice until you’re thrown into the lion’s den. And like, it’s really, you can’t, if you can imagine Dana, like trying to prep for doing the traffic scene in La La Land, but you’ve never been on a set before. There’s not really a way to prep for how to deal with all of the elements that happen unless you are thrown well, you can’t learn except for, from experience.
You will not know how to do it until you have actually done it
Until you’ve done it. And you learn so much from doing. And so the a lot of people will ask beforehand, like, what should I prepare? How do I like come into this thing? And you’ve got to just come in as a blank slate, because the learning is not in prepping for the session to come in with the right mindset, you come in with a blank slate and I, or each person in the session, because they are very small capacity, 15 to 30 person sessions, every single person in that room, I’m customizing the training I’m giving to you based on where you’re at. So you can just come in having just like woken up and rolled out of bed, and I’m going to adjust what’s happening based to where you are. Um, so there’s not, yeah, but the bigger picture of what you’re saying is like, yes, you should, a thousand percent like come in being professional and, um, presenting yourself in a way that, for me, as Galen Hooks, that I go, like, I like this person and I’ll recommend them. I think that’s the other thing is that I’m recommending people the same way that people are hitting me up all the time, asking what to negotiate for the contracts all the time. All the time, people are hitting me up and I’m sure hitting you up. We all hit each other up going, do you know a blonde? I’m my blondes are all booked. I need a blonde. So I’m recommending people all the time. So it’s, it’s not just in my intensives, but any class you take going to Carnival going to Starbucks, when we’re able to go places again, like you should always be aware of the hiring potential of the interactions you’re having with anybody, not just me.
Uh, fabulous, fabulous advice. Um, and also I took a tiny note. Cause as you were talking about not until you’ve done it, I was remembering all of the hundreds of times master teachers or my own teachers have told me and all dancers, they think this is the thing we all often hear. Um, make good choices. Hey guys, just make good choices and good is so relative. And also when you’re coming up, you haven’t established your taste yet necessarily. So you might not know, you might not know what a good choice is or a much less how to actually make it. So giving a place for people to practice good choices or experiment, good choices or audition good choices and bad choices. I think that’s so valuable.
Do, do you mean creative choices?
Yes. Let me just like, or like dance, dance choices, bad choices, body choices.
So that, that’s so interesting. I’m just gonna like respond to that because I, I don’t this isn’t to contradict what you’re saying, but
Oh, do it bring it yes.
Just to explain how it, how, uh, how I would, um, plant in somebody’s head who’s listening. I don’t operate in thinking of choices as a dancer or artistically. So what, what I, what I think a lot of people what’s holding back a lot of aspiring dancers is that you’re not thinking about if we’re in a rehearsal setting or not in audition setting, you’re not thinking about serving the job. And so, um, if you’re going to be making dance choices, you’ve got to be thinking of what the job is calling for. And the way that people are training right now is, uh, it’s holding back the choreographer from being able to get certain jobs done, because the choices people making are making are in a bubble and in a vacuum of what they’re excited about creatively as their own individual dancer, but they’re not choices that make sense for what’s being called for in the shot. So take what Dana’s saying about making choices and being creative and having the space to fail, which I want to say in the pro intensive, that is not the place to fail. It’s the, it’s not like I just want to be really clear in case anyone signs up for it. It’s not a, it’s not the pro intensive specifically is not a nurturing environment because I’m preparing you for what it’s like to actually work on the high level jobs. So I guess what I’m trying to articulate is it’s incredibly important to do what Dana is suggesting of making those creative choices, but there’s the people who work all the time, make those choices, knowing what the shot’s supposed to be and knowing what the choreographer is asking for.
Uh huh. Um, I think there’s tremendous value in that. And I think I’m learning like are a bit of the difference in uni in, in our training, on the come up. Um, you know, you spent a lot of time assisting and working with Marguerite Derricks, she runs a very tight ship. She knows exactly what she wants, but I have spent equal maybe more. I don’t, I would love to see hourly side-by-side catalog, um, of time with Marty Kudelka who like packages improvisation and hires and works exclusively exclusively with people who he knows will default to a freestyle or, or a, um, an, an unplanned moment that is in alignment with the vision. So that’s what I would consider a good choice is one that is an in alignment with, uh, what the job is asking for.
Right, exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
And then I think if we also zoom out a little bit, and this is a fun, this is a really cool thing. Actually, I’m excited to talk about, um, I, I have developed over the course of the podcast, a community of doing daily doers, they are people who have taken on the challenge of making a creative work every single day. Several of them are in the two hundreds by now,
Oh my gosh,
More people joining every single day. And the objective almost solely the objective of that project is to claim agency over your own work is to not have to answer to anyone and simply make something every day, not necessarily because you’re inspired or because you have an, uh, an inner creative voice that you want to get out. But simply because you said that you would, it’s strengthening a creative muscle and putting the power back in your own hands in an industry where we so often give it away to the choreographer or to the casting director or to whoever. So, um, to give us a full, like 360 degree view of good choices, I think good choices serve the project and you, and I don’t think that a dancer should ever have to sacrifice, uh, their anything for a project it’s the dancers choice if they would like to be there. But so many people, especially at the end of a one year plus pandemic are thinking, Oh, man work would be real great right now I will do whatever it takes, including put my, um, creative impulses in the, uh, in the sidecar. But I think it’s really interesting. I really do. I am. I default to nurturer in all of the, in my, in my teaching and in the podcast and in this project where, where people are doing daily, I find it so easy to get critical. In fact, that’s probably the number two reason to do it is it really helps combat the perfectionist syndrome. If you’re trying to ship a creative work every single day, certainly not all of them will be perfect. So it’s a really interesting muscle to strengthen, but like if, is creativity called for on a professional job, I think it depends on what the professional job is and who it is that you’re working for. So often offerings are, you know, being a person that has good ideas, um, good instincts and good offerings can be a thing that gets you the job, but equally, probably an equal amount of the time. It could be what loses you the job.
Yes. Yeah, yeah. That the wa I think that the only thing I’m distilling down is you have the context of knowing, knowing what choices serve the job and don’t, and what I see sometimes now is because how do I, like if you’re making those choices outside the context of being on a job, sometimes, sometimes there’s a misunderstanding of what making a creative choice means. Um, so do we, so it’s, it’s wonderful that you’re having people practice that creative muscle so that when you are, when it is asked of you, because although, although I assisted Marguerite, certainly there are times when, if you, if you work with Jamaica Craft, she’s like a thousand percent asking those creative choices from you. So it’s so important, like taking that ability to do daily, and then having that added layer of like, when you’re asked to do that on a job, then it’s, it’s being creative in, in the confines of a job is creative in, uh, in and of itself. And that’s like exciting that you’re getting people at different juices going, because, you know, doing daily without limitation is different than doing it on a job. And it must be much more, uh, easy for people to do it in the confines of a job if they’re used to doing it on their own so much.
Yes. I think you’re totally spot on in, in taking on a daily creative challenge. You like you plant yourself in the pilot seat of the, of this like creative cockpit and in front of you, all the dials and knobs and levers are there. And one of them is like the sensitivity to read the room or the ability to look to the person who is, uh, who, who is leading the room and like dial up and down all of your creative knobs and levers accordingly after like, you know, checking the altitude and whatnot. Um, I’m going to go ahead and walk away from that analogy now. Cause I know nothing else about aviation. Levers. I think we’ve got a lever in there. Um, okay, cool. So I, I love that I’m fascinated with like the ways that we can be, um, aware of what’s being asked and meet that, meet the expectation through practice, right. Through training through yes, definitely through experience, but also through just a willingness to like do it and maybe do it wrong, but do it over and over again until you get it right. Um, a question about how you devised the Galen Hooks Method. I think your experiences are so vast and so many from being on big screens, huge artists, tremendous audiences to being a producer, not just of your own works. Um, one of my favorites of all time still is Campfire Vaudeville. Um, but then you also went on to produce larger scale productions for the Voice and so on and so forth. So I guess, um, I, I guess what I’m wondering is how, Hmm, let me, what am I wondering when I, when I imagine you creating the Galen Hooks method, I see you in your bat cave hovered over a beautifully lit drafting table, like spreadsheets and flow charts and like your actual Batman in my eyes, and you’ve got Fox and you’ve got Alfred. And then like in this den of, of brilliance, um, is that how that happened or was it a trial?
That’s a very romanticized version. No, not at all.
Leave, leave it to me to make a romanticize, a very, very dramatic Marvel action version of everything.
Um, like I kind of alluded to earlier, I didn’t intend for it to be something. So it started as audition intensives because I was running auditions and felt just terrible for people who were getting cut for reasons. They had no idea about that are very easily fixable. And because I was a dancer for so long when I became a choreographer, almost like, are you for real? Why doesn’t anyone tell us how to audition? This is criminal to me that we’re like spending all of our lives training and then like our hair is not right. And that’s why we’re getting cut. So I started doing audition intensives, and it was just called Behind the Audition. And then I started doing heals intensives because heals became a thing. And obviously when I was dancing as a professional dancer, there weren’t heals classes. You just like booked the job and they gave you heals and you danced it. But, Um, I really saw a, um, I saw the desire for people who wanted to dance in a heel, but not dance in the way that most heel classes were taught. So I was doing heel heels, intensives. And then, so the people that were doing the audition intensive were then booking jobs based off of what they did in the intensive. So then they would say, what should I do on the job? I don’t know what to do in rehearsal. I don’t know how to sign my contract. So then I did an onset intensive. So the Galen Hooks method, quote unquote, we came what it is because I was actually sitting with our friend, Amanda Balen and we were, I was just kinda like, it’s, it’s an approach to the entire industry. And because been doing this since I was a child, I have like a, a way that I philosophically approach the industry that I recognize is just my way of doing it. So it’s my, I call it the Galen Hooks Method, because this is my one approach. And I know that there are other, there’s not one way to do this. So this is just my way. Um, but it was not concocted it as like I want it to be, I just hadn’t. I had no intention and I still have no intention of, you know, it of like building an empire. It’s all just out of a desire to fill what I see are gaps in how dancers are trained. And certainly now, because I, you know, it started off as though everything I’ve named so far is completely industry-related. And now there are sessions that have absolutely nothing to do with the industry, because I’m just kind of following, as I said before, I follow my gut. And so I don’t have things that are really pre-planned. So I even in a year, I don’t know what the session, I mean, by the end of this year, I don’t know what the sessions will be because, uh, everything changes and the format of the sessions change drastically over the years and what we do in the sessions change. So the, yeah, the, the making of it was not, was certainly not in a proverbial Batcave kind of like thinking about what I want to do and making it a strategic. It, none of it was strategic and none of it is strategic. And I’m very thankful for anybody who signs up because I’m just doing what feels necessary in the moment without any kind of expectation that it will turn into anything, anything, or that people will come. So they, it, anybody who comes, but yeah, that’s kind of the Genesis of it.
Okay. I think that that is also a very romantic telling of it. I think it’s beautiful that this, like keeping a finger on the pulse of a what the, what your community is looking for or needs or could benefit from, and then also keeping the finger on the pulse of where you are, what you’ve experienced, what you have to offer. I think that makes all the sense in the world and is also beautiful. Thanks. Um, okay. So I’ve known you to be like, in, in the past, you have a extremely strong voice and we already talked about the strong moral compass, um, but I’ve known you to be somewhat introverted. And I know that a lot of the people that I work with are the same and that they believe that that somehow might keep them from building a global brand or from, um, you know, being a person that can be comfortable in a spotlight. So I would love to hear a little bit about how you manage, um, popularity and dare, I even call it celebrity and being a front runner. I think it’s, you know, you know, it’s funny actually let’s sidebar for a second, a hundred years ago. Um, when I, I don’t remember if these two things lined up exactly, but might’ve been around Camp Fire Vaudeville time. I roughly, um, I was working on a YouTube series called More than Moves and it was, yeah, the talk show. It was my dream that it’d be like, uh, like the Chelsea Handler of dance, except for, I say, I swear slightly less often. Um, when, when I, when I like headed out into the world, creating that show, my mission was for dancers names to be household names. And that was it. I was like, I want people to, to, I want Galen Hooks and Travis Wall and like my friends and myself to be names that are known outside of our little, you know, dancer universe. And then I made three episodes and ran out of money and they’re all on YouTube. I would’ve done it very differently now in retrospect. But I think that maybe partially because of those three episodes, but certainly because of our community and pop culture where it is right now, dancers names are household names. And I don’t use that word too lightly. I think that dancers are celebrities. Um, and I would count them among I would count you among them, even if that makes you uncomfortable. Um, but do you feel pressure of a limelight or w what’s your kind of take on dancers as celebrities?
Um, I do. I definitely, I don’t take myself that seriously that like I do what I do in spite of having limelight on me. And I definitely, I realized recently that my, what excited me about being a professional dancer was not performing or having an audience or working with celebrities. I just fricking love doing choreography. Like I love the act of having choreography put on me and trying to perfect it. And so I re I’m like, I really have never enjoyed, um, attention, I guess. So, so I recognize that, for example, if I, if I, um, I’m teaching a class and I demonstrate the routine that the students will learn how I want it executed if I demonstrate it, because I would think like if I took Wade’s class and Wade never demonstrated the choreography, it’s like, if you see him do it, you’re like *****, Like I recognize that there’s that like, that’s as much kind of attention as I enjoy having on me. Um, and I’m.. Dancer’s Alliance, for example, you know, there’s PowerPoint presentations that I did with a thousand people out in the audience and a lot of public speaking. And I think a lot of people would go for, for so many people. You’d rather do a dance solo than have to publicly speak. And I have zero fear of public speaking if I’m speaking about something that I really care about. And so doing something like teaching classes or doing the intensives, I am extremely introverted and don’t like attention on me as a person, but I really love and can speak all day about things that I care about and know inside and out. So it’s kind of, I don’t know if that helps like paint the picture of, in spite of the, I’m not doing it because of, um, having people listen to me, but in spite of that, I’m able to communicate things that I care about and that I know will help people. And with both Dancers Alliance and the intensives, it’s, I’m doing it, knowing that the person listening is going to take that information and do something with it. So it’s for it’s to help people. Um, yeah. So I, I recognize that like most other people who there are a lot of dancers who are celebrities, uh, and I think that’s totally fine. There are a lot of people who they want to be professional dancers because they want to dance in front of thousands of people and have a crowd cheering. And that’s, uh, so yeah, there are different levels of dance celebrities these days, I guess you would say. And if that’s what you want, I mean, people are making like amazing careers out of it. So I guess it’s a great thing on balance.
I like this concept, um, in spite of something, not because of something with regards to, uh, shall we call it the limelight or, you know, mass mass appeal or vitality, maybe I dunno, maybe is a better word. Um, but that’s, it’s a good moment for people listening maybe to take stock and pause, um, to figure out, you know, why? Their, why not to bring it back to the why? Um, and then of course, like take a moment to think about what is it that you could talk about for hours on it and what, what is the cause that would get you up in front of a thousand people and have you unfaced like, what is a thing that you are that passionate about?
That’s a great way of putting it Dana. Yeah.
Okay. My friend, I am going to pop out right here to recap before we launch into our next segment. I want to underline where Galen and I landed in our conversation about making choices. I think it’s important to highlight that a good choice is one that is in alignment with what the job is asking for and making that choice is really all about dialing up or down, really being in charge of the command station there, um, of dialing up or down, not necessarily on or off, but really fine tuning your creative impulses and keeping your finger on the pulse of the room. Um, in determining when, and how much of that is asked for, is called for, is needed. I also really loved what Galen had to say about her volunteered time with dancers Alliance and SAG-AFTRA and the intentions and mental and emotional stamina that are required to make changes. So circling back to where we started the episode today, I suppose change is good, but it likely won’t be fun or sexy or cool to make it happen. At very least it won’t be that way all of the time. So as you look out there at the world and see the ways that you would like for it to change, ask yourself what are the thoughts and the things that will keep you going along the path of making those changes. Galen. And I went on to talk quite a bit about the insurrection that took place just a few weeks ago. On January 6th, I confessed in my lack of confidence that another painting or statue or eight count is really what our country needs right now. Um, and I, I asked her, are artists responsible for making change today? And if so, how do we do it? So let’s jump back in and hear what she has to say.
Right? I think artists, I, as a, my own individual person, regardless of being an artist or not, don’t feel that I have the right to say what other artists should and shouldn’t be doing. I certainly don’t think every artist and not even every dancer right now has to be, um, has a responsibility to be doing something different because they’re an artist, I guess I would say like, if, if it were, what do we as citizens? What are we responsible for right now? That’s, uh, then that is a much different thing. But I think as an artist, what I have, okay, I, prior to last year, I never did anything choreographically, creatively, that was topical. There was, it was never like, um, if it was about gun violence, I would never like a piece about gun violence. Um, and if I did have an opinion about something, it was always very metaphorical. And I think, I didn’t realize until last year, how important, for example, the, I have a duet routine that I put out called best part it’s to it’s to the song best part. And it’s a duet. And in the class, this was, this was the final class before the lockdown. And I really wanted to make sure that people felt okay, dancing with a partner of the same sex if they identified that way, or even if they didn’t, but just having people of the same sex dance together and in the class, it was, that was like, one of the hardest thing was to convince people, even people who do like they’re like fricking married to people, the same sex, and they wouldn’t feel comfortable in the class, just dancing with that partner. And in putting out the class video of that class, I didn’t realize how important it is to share art in moments that don’t feel like it’s appropriate to do so, because if you haven’t been exposed to seeing two people of the same sex dance together, it’s exposing you to that in a way that’s so much different than if you even see it in an acting scene in a movie it’s different to see a level of intimacy that, um, people did in, in those videos, or I guess my point is the value of just art without it being a political statement was definitely brought to the fore front for me last year. And so I think for you, Dana, it might not seem important to see another painting or another combo, but for the next person over that painting or combo might help unlock something for them politically, that that piece of art wasn’t even meant to unlock for them. And what it doesn’t mean is that everybody has to just be making like a new combo to the new Ariana Grande song right now. Like that’s not, if you don’t feel called to do that, that’s not an efficient use of your time, but if you feel called to do that, then go ahead and do it. I think the problem is if you feel like you are pressured to do that, when really in your heart, you’re like, I want to go to this protest, but I need to make this thing that is absolutely irrelevant right now, because that’s what I need to do business wise. I don’t know if that, if that, like
I got gotcha. That makes total sense. And I do feel callings at this moment. I also feel confusion. I also feel anger. I also feel pride and it, and sometimes I feel those anger and pride, like simultaneously it’s, it’s quite an experience. Um, but
Sorry, I don’t want to, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I just realized that what you, what you, what you expressed about not wanting or not needing another painting or combo at the beginning of all of the, I think like probably in the weeks immediately following the George Floyd incident, I, I, you know, for, for my entire life, I’ve loved dance and loved making things and loved choreographing. I didn’t want to do Jack ***. It was like, none of this is important. Why like, why should I be dancing right now? Why would I make up a routine right now? This is not important to make up eight counts right now. So I totally empathize with the feeling of like, well, what are my skill sets in this moment that actually will make a difference. Um, but I just wanted to pinpoint that, like, I totally understand the conflict of feeling like what we do as artists. Isn’t important, unless it’s a, maybe either if it’s a statement about what’s happening or that we need to put that aside to do other things that are, that do seem more important, but I also, um, sometimes the art that people makes helps others escape from what’s happening and that can be valuable in doses as well.
Right. Right. Thank you for adding that. Yeah. Um, like an, an eight count might not get an eight count. Might not keep people from breaking into the Capitol building, but so, so maybe we don’t need eight counts, but what we do need is strong, capable artists that are able to follow their instinct. And in order to do that in order to be big and strong in order to get big and strong, we must act when we are compelled to do so. And we make when we are compelled to do so. And, and on the subjects that we are compelled about. So simple. Yeah.
Yeah. I definitely on the basic question of like, are artists responsible, um, artistically, and I don’t know if that was your question, but I just want to say like, some people are, their skill is making fun, like popcorn dance for us escape into, you know, like I don’t, I wouldn’t expect every dancer to have to change what they’re doing artistically to reflect the times. Um, so if you’re out there and you feel bad, because I think a lot of people do feel guilty for continuing to create when the world is imploding around them. Um, you can, you can go make up an Ariana Grande routine, but it doesn’t mean that that prevents you from then getting on your computer afterwards and phone banking or helping, you know, people vote for the Georgia, if you can do kind of both, they’re not mutually exclusive.
Thank you for adding that as well. Holy smokes, Galen, so much knowledge and so much passion for what you do and for sharing what you do. Thank you. So, so, so much for sharing with us today. I think we could continue on for hours. I know you’re a busy lady, um, and we’ve got to get out into the world and make, make some good stuff happen. Um, so thank you so much for joining me. I really hope that we get to talk more as human beings on and off the air in 2021.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. It was lovely catching up. And, um, these are complicated, uh, topics that I’m sure I did not articulate properly. And I’m thinking off the top of my head as we’re talking, but they’re, they’re important things to talk about.
Thank you for, thank you for putting yourself out there and for, uh, for sharing. Yes, these aren’t, these aren’t easy questions, even, even questions about things that we know and love like your program. It’s always, yeah, it, it does take great care and you are a person who cares greatly. So thank you again.
Thanks for having me.
My pleasure, my pleasure.
All right, my friend, I hope that you are as activated by that conversation as I am. I hope you’re reminded about your ability to make change and your ability to make good choices. And I hope you were inspired to follow your compass. I think there’s a lot to celebrate from that episode and, and from the world at large. But today I am going to close this episode out with a very personal win. Today, I might cry while I celebrate my win. By the way, I am wearing a sweater that my mom knitted for her dad when she was about my age, my Grandpa George passed away a few years ago. And of course that brought much sadness, but today I’m celebrating the joy that I find in things that can be made, loved, and shared for literally generations. So through tears. Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Grandpa George. I promise I’ll take really good care of this adorable sweater vest. Whew guys. Yikes. This has gotten to be a pretty heavy episode. Huh? Well, feel free to lighten it up or to go deep with your win today, but it is that time me with your win. What’s going well in your world.
Thank you, my friend. And congratulations to you. Please keep winning. You know, I plan to speaking of that, actually, we really do have a lot of future wins coming up on the podcast. Next week is going to be an awesome episode. We’re taking a deeper dive into commitment, and I’m really, really excited about February and Black History Month on the podcast. So don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss a thing. And also don’t forget to keep it funky. Very, very important that you do that in this ever-changing world. Always be funky. I’ll talk to you next week. 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. Review your words, move me. Number two, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops and so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.
Ep. #56 Climbing Ladders and (literally) Jumping Through Hoops with Matty Peacock
My guest in this episode, Matty Peacock, works closely with more than “some” of today’s most influential pop sensations. The most influential thing about him, however, is not his resume… It is his respect for the work, the mystery, and the collaboration within the process. From performing to choreographing and directing Matty shares *almost* all of his secrets and stories that land him where he stands (and moves) today. ENJOY!
Intro: Welcome to 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, Dana Wilson. And I move people. I dance. I choreograph I coach. And the only thing that I love more than moving is sharing. So if you are someone who loves to work and laugh and you’re looking to rewrite the starving artists story, then you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, Hello. How are you? My friend. Well, I hope good. Good would be good. Great is great. Um, and okay. Is also totally okay if you’re just doing okay today, man. Crappy is actually okay too. I will accept that there is a lot going on out there in the world, and I hope that this episode finds you at very, very least being kind to yourself and hopefully kind to others as well. Okay. Wow. My friend, I have a treat for you today. My guest on the show, a show, do I usually call it a show? My guest on the podcast is Matty Peacock, director, choreographer, movement, director movement, coach performer, and many, many things he’s about to tell you. And he is also a dear friend, um, and much to his own surprise. I think he is also an excellent talker. I learned so much about my friend, Matty P. I learned so much about myself in this conversation and, um, I hope that you do too. So, uh, we’re going to jump right into it. Enjoy this conversation with the wonderful. See what I did there. Matty Peacock,
Dana: Matthew Peacock. Holy smokes. Welcome to the podcast.
Matty:Thank you, Dana. Thanks for having me.
Dana: I’m so glad you’re here. This is exciting. Um, by the way, I suppose I call you Matty P is that, is that what you like? Like what do you, how do you prefer to be?
Matty: I think I’ve, I’m kind of indifferent about my name, which probably is kind of a problem. I think when I was like, I, you seem to do some myself as peacock and actually stuck for a long time. And then I think through climbing ranks of different things, I think Matty Peacock ended up sticking more and felt more official, I guess. I dunno,
But peacock is your real true last name,
That is correct.
That’s sick. I love it. Okay. This is how it works on a podcast. All of my guests introduce themselves. So take it away. What do you want us to know about you?
Um, well, first and foremost, I am terrible at talking about myself, but I’m going to give it a shot.
Oh, you’re going to be great. I can tell already, plus I edit heavily. So if something goes terribly wrong, you’re fine.
Great. Um, well, my name is Matty Peacock. Um, I am from Long Island, New York. I was born in Korea, um, and I am a man of many talents and a master of none of them. Um, I would say currently I’m mostly focused on, um, being a director and a choreographer, um, and leading up into present day I’ve, um, danced and still dance as a professional dancer. Um, I’m a writer, artist, uh, creator, movement coach, movement director. Um, friend’s son, uncle, um, lover of good food and good movies and, um, a human being. How about that?
Yo for somebody who doesn’t not much like to talk about themselves. That was really good.
Yeah. Are we done with this?
Yes, well thank you so much for coming. Bye. Um, all right. So very broadly, this podcast is about navigating creative careers, but what it actually is about, I think is learning period point blank. The end. Its what I always find myself talking about is what excites me the most. I love to learn. So, um, I thought we might start by you talking a little bit about your training. Like how did you learn and what did you learn about on the come up?
Alright. Um, I would say I fell into dance, like kind of late. Um, I started dancing at the age of 16. Uh, I grew up again, uh, in a small area, a little small town, a long Island in a middle-class family, quite sports. Um, I actually lived near a ranch, so I would spend a lot of time on the ranch. Uh, it was like one of my first jobs. It was like working at the stables and I fell into horseback riding. Uh, and that was kind of the bulk of my childhood into my pre-teens. Uh, but there was a close friend of mine whose I’m still very close with to this day. He kind of introduced me, uh, it’s a dancer and he went to a dance, a local dance studio, and he would always like, he was like the cool kid in school. He like would like dance at the school dances and all the girls that are like into his moves and like, um, we played sports and he was like, you know, do back flips on the football field. And I was like, Oh man, this kid is so cool. Like I want to learn how to do that. And I, one day I just kind of asked him, I was like, can you teach me how to dance? You know? And then also growing up, like being influenced by likes TV and seeing, you know, Michael Jackson and just great music videos, you know? Um, and so he was like, come, come to my dance studio, you know, kind of take a class. Um, and so, yeah, I, I asked my, my parents who have always been super supportive of everything I’ve done and they’re like, sure, I will sign you up. So I took a hip, uh, recreational hip hop class and I was terrible
Where it all begins.
It starts there. Right. So bad. I couldn’t like the thing I couldn’t get over was like having to like learn the choreography and like, and memorize it. So like, I would like try to freestyle like, and like learn how to, you know, I, I would research and watch videos of people break dancing. So I would try to learn in my living room, like how to break dance. And I was obviously like, terrible, like trying to do windmills, like on carpet.
Can you do them now? I bet you could
Not anymore. I am learning how too. Um, but yeah, I just started at my local dance studio and I think, um, the director of the studio, I think after a summer of like, you know, you go once a week, that was like the thing I look forward to every week, one hour, every Wednesday I would go and you’d learn, you know, a combo that I would always forget or never remember. Uh, and then at the end of the four weeks, you like basically do the whole routine, but I never, I couldn’t remember it. So I just would, um, freestyle.
I love this imagery that I’m seeing in my head. Do you remember I’m so I’m just, I want to fill out the imaginary scenario that I’m creating. Do you remember any of the music that you were doing?
Uh, rhythm nation was the first song that I danced too, but specifically the instrumental part then. And it was just like, and I was the only guy in my class. It was maybe it was all girls and they probably had been doing it going
Since they were three.
Yeah. Since there were three and like, they were, they were so much better than I was, but I first, I just loved being in the studio. And just like, even though I never did the choreography, I would just dance myself the mirror. And I was like, Oh, wow, this is so like fun. And it was just fun. So I taught like after that summer was over, I was like, mom, I want to do it again next summer. You know? And then I guess my, the director of my studio, Michelle Ferraro, she approached, my mom was like, Hey, like, you know, your son, like, he’s really good at this thing. I would have loved to have him take more classes to get better at learning how to dance. And my mom was kind of hesitant and she, you know, it’s expensive. And again, we came from a lower middle class, uh, and she kindly agreed to like, you know, have a lower tuition or, and things like that. And kind of take me under her wing. And she would give me privates on just the basics of dance. I wouldn’t even say it was ballet. Like I specifically remember like, you know, first learning the positions, but like having to like, learn how to do a leap was like, she would set like hula hoops on the floor and he would have to like jump into a hula hoop and I’m 16 years old. And there’s like three year olds, like also doing
Incredible. Um, Aw, what are unique start to the journey. I love this also super shout out to parents who put their kids through dance and to teachers who scholarship and put special care into students that they see potential. And that’s so special.
Yeah. I am forever in debt to, you know, my parents and also my director who I think like, I’m like, what would I have done? Like as a teen, I would probably been in so much trouble. I was already getting into trouble before I started dancing. So I think bands like kept me out of trouble. And, you know, you go to a group of friends and, you know, after I started dancing a little bit more, you start to, you know, I, I ended up doing like competition. Um, but yeah, I mean, I, I started probably similar to you doing dance competition, but, and I was, I was never, I was years behind all the kids in my, at my age level and my studio was pretty decent for the area and like the regional competition. So
Michelle Ferraro, that’s a name that I know like, absolutely. Yeah. She’s great.
And I think also what helped is that I grew up, like there were three other males, like at my studio that were around the same age as me that were incredible. Some that you probably know, but again, I was like, I was like an infant compared to them. So it was always great to have somebody to look up and just watch and learn because I am such a visual person of like how to learn. Um, but yeah, I mean, um, Michelle, like really, she was like, you should take ballet, you know? And it really helped me in the sense of like, just being disciplined and, and learning how to, you know, memorize, you know, when you’re the bar, like how to memorize things, you know, and one of my first jobs actually as a dancer was I, I randomly audition to dance for the New York Knicks basketball team. You know, they have a kid squad that would dance, like during timeouts and specifically at their home games and during halftime. Um, but I went, I remember going to the audition and not and doing pretty bad. And I came home from school one day and there was a message on the answering machine that I got gotten the job. I was like, okay, well now I actually have to do this. And I couldn’t remember how to, um, I couldn’t remember the steps. So the captain and the choreographer of the small group of kids, there was maybe 15 of us. They would always create a moment in their routine where everyone would stop or the kids would stop and like go down and I would just get the freestyle and then everything else. I was always like three steps behind and watching the kid next to me.
Yes. Like full side eye. I
I call it the one at Jack. Yep.
As we would, some of the dances were only 15 seconds because it’s like a timeout and basketball. So it would be 10 seconds of me doing this. And then five seconds of like, do whatever you want.
And everybody else is bugging. And you just like feature. I love this. What a brilliant, smart director, again, the smart director. And this might be the beginning of you becoming a smart director. Matter of fact, I love the, this trajectory like, Oh my gosh, it’s so poetic jumping through hula hoops and then probably jumping through actual hoops for the rest of your life right? Now you are working very closely with some of the most influential pop people of our time, Billie Eilish, uh, Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, Pink, Blackpink, which is different from regular. And I’m such a fan PS, Selena Gomez, the 1975, which by the way, I am a super fan. Um, so from where I stand the way it looks like you use choreography, not just in the work that you choreograph, but in the work that you direct as well from the out, from where I stand, it looks like you use dance as like a supporting act, a supporting thing, a very essential, but supporting element. In other words, like not the star, it’s not like dance break six, seven, eight. Um, and am I totally off target or off target or is that how you, how you think about dance? Yeah,
I think you’re pretty spot on, I don’t know if I, if that’s ha that’s how I think about it. Or even like, sometimes the jobs that I get, I don’t even know. That’s what they’re thinking about a lot of the time it’s like I get paired with an artist that is either really interested in dancing and wanting to dance. Um, so it’s, it usually starts with wanting to learn how to dance. First of all, because a lot of the people that I work with don’t dance at all, um, or they say that they don’t dance
That old wives tale.
And even just, I think the word dance as a broad term of blanket statement and of, you know, it isn’t a genre, but like, I would say like dance and movements, they’re very much the same, but I think it, I think it just depends how you see it because dance is a difficult thing to do, if you’re a master at it. Which like, or if it’s you, if it’s your career, it’s like us as dancers that have trained years, we don’t think it’s, I mean, it’s not difficult. It is difficult, but we don’t think of it as something that’s difficult compared to like someone who doesn’t train in dance, just like someone, like, I don’t sing, I think singing is a difficult thing, you know? Um, but yeah, it usually it starts with wanting to learn how to dance or move. And sometimes it evolves into a lot of the times, some of the things I’m trying to teach them is like becoming aware, like awareness of what your body is doing or what it feels like to do this thing and how you can connect it to movement.Um, and every project is different. Like some things that come in, you know, it’s a day of rehearsal and it’s like, someone wants to learn how to dance in a day. That is it’s, it’s a bit laughable, but it’s like, sometimes it’s the job that you have to do. And, um, and some projects you have more time and sometimes it’s like, people are preparing to dance for this one thing, but if it’s, sometimes it is one day and, um, a lot of the time it’s, it’s them, once they discover like, Oh, I actually don’t want to dance and to learn the steps, I just want to be able to move and like be expressive. Yes. Right. And depending on, like, if it’s a music video that has a loose narrative, it’s like, how can we express the narrative through our bodies? Because they’re already doing it, you know, in a music video is so visually and, um, through voice and sonically. So just kind of that added bonus is like, can we do it physically? Yeah. Metaphysically. And is there something that connects to it? And again, there are some projects that if it’s like, they just want to learn the steps and it’s just dance. And it becomes very visual. And like, I guess, like for, for me and my tastes like it’s accessory, you know, and sometimes it’s to amplify the productions, to amplify the song with the artist and not necessarily tell a story,
Um, on the subject of dance while we are here, can we please talk it, he’s probably one of the lesser known artists that you’ve worked for or choreographed, but it is my favorite music video, certainly that you’ve done. But out of like a bundle, like dare I say, this is in my top 10, um, Leon Else’s music video for dance. I absolutely adore it. And it is one of it’s one of my favorite things about it is that dance is the star. It is big. It is brave. It is expressive. It is bold. And actually I take that back. It is Leon dancing. That is the star. Yes. Dance is huge in that piece. Um, the camera movement, I don’t know if this was intentional. I can’t wait to find out if it was the camera movement reminds me a little bit of Flashdance. It feels like, like her audition sequence, like we’re really following her dancing. And I don’t know, I like my heart rate goes up. Just thinking about that music video. Could you talk a little bit about that experience in that process for you?
That was like one of the first videos that I was asked to choreograph as a choreographer up until that I was spending a lot of time just assisting and like being a sponge and learning from a lot of my mentors. And I, um, was working on a job as an assistant and I met, um, what they call the commissioner. You know, the, the role of a commissioner in the world of music videos is a basically bring on the teams to, you know, execute the videos. And so I was working, um, on a job for Madonna, I think with Megan Lawson and, um, the commissioner Michelle Anne and who now is like a mentor of mine. She, she, um, approached me and was like, Hey, would, would you be interested in choreographing? You know, this video and this, the artist is here’s the song. Um, this is a treatment, you know, a lot of times you get a treatment, which is basically a rough overview of visually the tone of the music video. Sometimes it’s very detailed and sometimes it’s like one page and just text and maybe one image, uh, and this one was very vague and it was just like, Leon Else, the song was called dance. He, Leon himself actually, he used to dance. He was like, he was a dancer in the movie Nine, I think. Um, and he just, he wanted to dance and the song was very like Prince inspired. And the director was very inspired, um, by Flashdance, but I think I need to rewatch it and see
It’s really the camera movement, not the angles or the, obviously not the location, but the spirit of it, the way that it’s championed movement,
Well, Brian, Brian plays his dance double, sorry, let me take that back. Brian, Was it Michael Rooney?
It might’ve been, he was working with Fatboy Slim at the time. Um, so yeah, those were some of the little, um, tonal references. Um, and so I kind of took it upon myself instead of, I didn’t have a reel, at the time I was just assisting. So I spend a few months, a few dollars to get a friend of mine that had a camera rented a space, and conceptually basically shot a concept video, full thing top to bottom, which is very rare. Like you don’t really do that, but I had nothing to show at the time. Um, and I worked on it for maybe three days and then we spent one night shooting. It, it was like four of us paid for some lights. I had a friend of mine like help with some of the lighting and we, and we shot the video and I sent it over to Michelle and Leon and the director. And they’re like, this is the video. This is,
Oh, that’s cool.
And it was, that was, yeah, it was really cool. And that was kind of the start of a, like, up until that point, I had been doing a lot of assisting and feeling like so much learning. And I was like, I wonder if, if any of this is paying off, let’s put this to the tests, you know? And, um, yeah, it, I kind of basically, they were like, we want to do exactly what you did. And top to bottom, you know, I had a chair, all the steps and we, I was like, I want to learn every single step that you did. And he nailed it. And I brought in actually Jillian, cause I’m not a tap dancer and there’s a tap sequence. And I was like, let’s just bring in all the friends. And she came up with the tap sequence and she taught it to me and she ended up teaching it to Leon I think one day, um, and it was, yeah, I think it was the start of like a nice relationship between, um, me and Leon, me and the director, me and Michelle, again, it’s like strong mentor of mine still. Um, and yeah, it’s yeah, it’s definitely, I wish that he had done more. Um, he doesn’t, he doesn’t do music anymore, but he was, it was such a fun project to be a part of. And yeah. And it kind of like, I think, yeah, again, it was like a nice, like, um, launching pad for the start of like, feeling like a, getting confidence to be, I can do this myself, you know, and testing like, Oh, I have these ideas that I have in my head. Like, let’s put them on camera. Like I I’ve always wanted to.
Uh, that’s so much fun. Um, that process that you’re talking about, like just trying it, film it, try to try to make on camera, the thing that you see in your head, um, and then submitting that and then getting no notes, but saying like, let’s just do that. It’s one of my favorite things. It doesn’t happen all the time. It sort of happened for Jillian Myers with Work Song, for Hozier, which was, uh, an awesome, shared moment in you and my dance history together. So fond of that period. Um, but I also, I did something similar with Anthony Ramos for, um, his song mind over matter, um, which was so much fun to brainstorm and create. And ultimately the thing we made transferred almost directly into what the final edit was. And it’s, I love that mode of making where you prototype it fast and rough, and then you upgrade it into this beautiful, Epic thing. Is that a process that you have sort of made commonplace in your work? Do you do this kind of pre-vis and then make it big?
Honestly, that was probably the only time I ever did it. Um, and I think there’s, I mean, yes, I think there is a beauty in prototyping, something and it translating exactly the way you wanted, but I also am obsessed with this idea of collaboration and I’m always the person that thinks that, like I have the worst idea and there’s always somebody with a better idea. So let me throw my worst idea at the wall and someone who can come along and like make it even better. And then maybe someone will make that idea even better. So we get, you know, the, the mega product. Um, so I think, again, it just depends on the project. I love collaborating. I love talking to other creatives that have different perspectives. You know, I may see something in one light as a choreographer and dancer, but there might be a director who thinks of this or a cinematographer that thinks that the camera should go here or it should have this type of movement to translate this type of emotion that I’m not seeing when thinking about, because sometimes like when you’re so involved in the projects, you lose sight of it, you know, at once, like something that you’re seeing as a forest now you’re inside and you only see trees, right? So it takes somebody from an outside perspective, um, to, to be like, Oh, there’s something behind you that you’re not seeing.
Yes. I really love that idea. Those, those prototype videos can be really limiting. If you fall in love with that one thing that you’ve watched 75 times on your phone, it can be really hard to let go of certain ideas. Yeah. That’s, that’s cool. That’s very wise. Um, okay. So, so in terms of like becoming a choreographer for music videos, becoming a director, becoming all of these many things, I am super interested in your trajectory because you’ve played different roles in different dance worlds. So it’s not even just that you’re carrying a different title, but you’ve shown up in different like worlds of dance. Um, you were a touring dancer with Ariana Grande a right. Yes. But you also performed with Kidd Pivot in Reviser, and this is, um, a company that you may not know. Some people, well, you Matty P you know, but if you’re listening and don’t know Kidd Pivot, don’t be harsh on yourself. Um, if you don’t know Crystal Pite, don’t be harsh on yourself, but do go find out because it’s true that some people might not know them, but I don’t think I know anybody that does know, but does not love in crystal pipe. Could you talk a little bit about that for a moment?
Yeah. I, I th I think, again, it kind of stems from, um, when I first started dancing. Um, and again, going back to my dance studio at Michelle Ferraro’s, she, um, gave a lot of the students the opportunity to take classes from outside choreographers. And one of those choreographers just to kind of a backstory who was became, one of my mentors was Justin Giles, who also, you know, very well. And he came in during the summer intensive and he was the first male figure that at the time, which was called lyrical, which were kind of contemporary, right. He was the first person that was doing something that I experienced that was different. That wasn’t, um, necessarily all the, my leg didn’t go in the air. I could barely do a double turn. He was like listening to music and his physicality was something that I could relate to because he came from a background of the sports and like, it wasn’t just like what your body can physically do. Right. It was like, there was something more behind it. Um, and I was really drawn to that. So I think once I kind of, once I took his class, I was kind of, I was, I was in the, like really in deep and I just reached out to him and I just started following him around the country and taking his classes on conventions. And I think after a year or two, he basically was like, took me under his wing. I started assisting him and, and learning from him and basically his technique, his movement style, um, which like then kind of opened up a door into like contemporary dance. And I was like, what is, you know, I want to learn more, you know, so I would do more research about other choreographers and, um, who else came up, Chris Jacobson, Mia Michaels, you know, all these amazing choreographers and teachers, uh, Peter Chu as well. And I started working with Peter chew through the commercial. Uh, I moved to LA in 2005 and I, I was doing this variety show called Paris by Night, which is an it’s, uh, an interesting projects. But, uh, I don’t know if it’s still even going on anymore, but, um, it’s basically a Vietnamese variety show that it’s all, all it’s mainly Asian and it’s, it was based in a way it’s basically a variety show of comedians, singers, actors, sketch comedy and dance. And that’s where I met Peter Chu, Pam Chu a lot of the working dancers like that work here in LA
Uh, um, Tracy Shibata like literally everybody. Um, and yeah, so I met Peter Chu doing, doing that commercial project and he ended up taking, uh, asking, inviting me to, um, be a part of a workshop for a show that he was putting on.
Nothing sticks, and that was, uh, referred. I was referred to Peter through Pam who again, came to my studio and would teach at intensives. Yeah. Pam taught me. Yeah. Um, and I ended up like saying yes, and I worked with Peter and at the time Peter was working with Crystal Pite. He was part of Kidd Pivot. And he basically introduced me to Crystal Pite, not physically, but, um, the, the movement language. And, and then again, similar, the same feeling of when I discovered Crystal’s work was the same feeling that when I discovered Justin Giles’ work,
Like this is home in my body.
Yeah. Yeah. I think so. Maybe not yet, but it looked like it was, and it looked like it felt right. You know, it didn’t. Yeah. But I was like, this is something that it’s calling to me and, um, it’s striking something within a, and so I, I would study Crystal Pite’s work for years, just watching videos, going to any shows that I could,
Right. Because the videos aren’t many she’s or has been up until very recently, when you can find some full length works online, getting your eyes on Crystal’s work is not as easy as getting your eyes on Tik Tok or like YouTube dance stars. You had to work
At the time, YouTube, there was maybe 15 second clips of like a trailer to her shows. And then again, at the time, like on the boards had something where you could purchase Dark Matters for a limited time. And I purchased it and recorded it somehow. I don’t know how I watched the show like obsessively and I learned everyone’s part and I would go into the studio and do it to the best of my ability. And I kind of like tried to, you know, obviously I don’t understand like where the movement is being derived from, but I would try to replicate it. Um, and then I, then I did more research and then I would time block, um, my summers to only go to intensives for Crystal Pite. And I took from basically every single company member that would teach Crystal Pite workshops for like three years. I would do it. I did it and I just ate it up. And, um, in 2018, a couple of years ago, um, through taking all the workshops and meeting all of the company members and being, um, close friends with some of them, Peter being one of them Cindy Silgado was a teacher and friend as well. Jermaine Spivey um, there, there came a point when Crystal was making a new show and she was looking for an understudy at the time and the three company members and Beauchesne and who’s the, um, is the associate director now, but I was taking his classes like every summer, they all kind of referred me and I had never met Crystal and she had never seen me dance. It was only just through the company saying like, you know, should email Matty and, and just talk to him. Um, and ironically, she, she did, and it was such a weird time because it was like around the time it was actually like maybe two days before my dad had just passed away. I remember getting an email in my inbox and it was Crystal Pite. And I remember looking at it and being, I can’t look at this right now, but this is really big. And also again, at the time, like that was only two years ago, I kind of like was like, I need to like, put this goal aside. It was a goal that I had for a long time to dance with Kidd Pivot. And there was a time where I was like, it’s just not in the cards for me. You know, I’m going to focus on being a choreographer and directing and stuff like that. And, you know, she came up with, um, uh, basically a proposal of like, can you, you know, she gave me three options. Can you come in to Vancouver and just stay for a week and watch and learn, um, and just get to know each other. Uh, and then option B was, would you want to be an understudy and learn all the male parts? And then the third was like, if you were really interested come for the whole creation watch and maybe I’ll have, I’ll be able to like write in apart for you. And I was like, yes, option three. Like we’re doing option three.
Wow. How incredible is that? Yeah. Yeah,
It was, I mean, it was an incredible experience that I’m obviously always hold very dear to my heart. Um, but yeah, I, I went to Vancouver and got to work with who I call the Avengers of Dance, because it’s literally, you know, these masters of dance from all around the world and they’re so good at what they do specifically. And when they come together, it’s like, they are the Avengers.
Oh my gosh, I’m going to Photoshop a flyer. Um, it’s true though. The, the, I think there’s something special though. I do want to point out like Crystal’s work is not, I maybe similar to yours is not like about dance and like the spectacle of dance. It’s theatrical, it’s comedic in strange ways. It’s dark in beautiful ways. It’s it’s narrative, but it’s, it’s abstract. It is. I am falling short of words and I’m a person that podcasts. Theres also something special about her team there. They’re not just physical bodies that are great physical, um, sculptors, but intellectual being sensitive beings, thoughtful beings, like people that to spend a summer with, it sounds like the dream.
Summer and yeah. A half a year, you know, touring and performing the show and working on things. And, um, yeah, and I think similar to Crystal when she started her work was very dance heavy, but she other interests kind of stemmed from just doing the one dance thing. Um, and also like there’s something to be said in the people that the environment that she creates, you know, she brings in these amazing people and she has so much trust in them, which gives them a lot of confidence and, um, to produce amazing things, you know? And
Would you call it a nurturing environment?
I would say nurturing, challenging. Um, it’s, it’s like all of the, and sometimes like, it doesn’t feel nurturing, but then after you get through the monotony of it, you realize, you look back and you’re like, Oh, wow. She like, she yoda(ed) me a little bit.
Ah, Ooh. Masterful, like
It’s, it’s the most physical I’ve ever been in my entire life. Awesome. In terms of the movement, for sure.
I can’t imagine I have taken her class once before at Jacob’s pillow. Um, w uh, I went to go watch Dark Matters there, and she taught a small workshop and it was very gentle. Like it was designed to be accessible to any, anybody that wanted to explore the work. And I was a baby infant learning how to walk and the next day. My body was like, Oh, you’re you thought you were a dancer? Yeah. Okay. That’s cute.
When I came in the first day, first week of rehearsals of creation, again, like I wasn’t really actively dancing. I was really focused on in choreographing and everybody else in the company has been company NDT, Batsheva, um, tends theater
And they’re doing it like the whole year. I haven’t been there. I hadn’t been dancing like that three or four or five years. Yeah. I was shot out of the cannon. Yeah.
I love where, where it landed you. I mean, that’s a dream.
Yeah. And I think, yeah, part of the, um, the reason why I wanted to take part in it is a, you know, check that box off of my list of things, but also like to learn from all of these people. Yeah. You know, Crystal and Eric and all the, all the company members, you know, Jay, the production designer, sound designers, you know, seeing how things get put together. So interesting to me, that was why I decided I wanted to choreograph and become a director because like, when I first started dancing, like, I didn’t even know that you could dance with dancing was a career path. And the first time I was on set, I’m a part of this show, but also on the other side of it, there’s a whole show happening that you’re watching that you either take notice to, or, you know, and that was something that I couldn’t get over to show that’s happening behind the show that’s being shot. Right.
The show that’s being put on for the performer, the performer is standing there performing, receiving this show. Yes. Amazing. Yes. I love it. And it’s a unique, that’s such a unique perspective.
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. It was something that was like, who knew that things happen? Like how does these things get made? And I think it’s, yeah. And the same thing with Crystal, like, you know, we put on the show in the theater, but people don’t, people in the audience don’t understand, like the sound design that’s being triggered. And during this part of the, you know, choreography or, and why this light means this thing and like all the people that are behind the stage and so interesting it’s magic.
It is. Um, I’m glad that you mentioned this team element and the many different moving parts of a production. What I would love to talk about now is just like focus in on the relationship between artist and director in this, in this specific conversation. Let’s talk about artist and choreographer. I do, I would consider like crystal Pite the artist and her team, the movement part, but there’s like the artist. And then the movement part, that’s such an interesting relationship to me. And in, in pop, at least there are a few examples of that team working really, really well. Like I’m the one that’s the closest to me obviously is JT and Marty Kudelka, but there are others there’s um, like Ryan Heffington and SIA, or Michael Jackson and Michael Peters who did, uh, who did Beat it and Thriller, um, uh, Frank Gatson and a number of people. Like there are combinations where you find that one plus one does not equal two, but one plus one equals a million. Yes. Um, and I, I guess you’ve got some really creatively fruitful collaborations, relationships going on right now. What do you think is that exponent, or what do you look for in a collaborator that equals 1 million.
I think chemistry for one and intention. It’s like some artists that I work with, sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there and the intention is different than what I’m interested in. And then sometimes, you know, we have the same interests, the same intention, and usually that’s where kind of the spark starts there. And then from there, you can start to, you know, for instance like Billie or, or Shawn, like Shawn is, is a new relationship I have, but it’s a very potent, and it’s a very strong one. He’s very interested in dance and theater and movement, and might not always want to access it, but he’s interested in it because it makes him feel a certain way. And it, maybe it adds to another part of his life that it feels like it’s helping and assisting whether it’s songwriting or just being a kind human or just being more open to other art forms.
Most all of the people I work with are musicians, you know, sometimes actors, but, um, and being to like wanting to connect to their body is like also really important, um,
As an instrument.
Yeah. As an instrument, as a form of meditation, um, and just, uh, connecting to something that feels like, um, that’s, that’s deeper than it’s, that’s inside themselves, you know? Um, and you know, these collaborations that you’re talking about, you know, Marty and JT and Ryan and SIA, like there was a point where I was like, Oh, I really, I really want that, but in net. But I think in the way that I like to work, it never really, at least from my perspective, it never really, I guess my relationships are strong, but they’re not to me. Like when I see JT, it’s like, he’s such a dancer and you know, and him and Marty are, you know, Marty, you can tell it’s Marty he’s, they are one person, the one entity, you know, and same with like Maddie and Ryan and SIA, you know, the three of them were like, I like to be in service to the artist. I like to work with them and help them discover their own voice. You know, Billie has a dance background, but she’s not necessarily interested in doing, in running five, six, seven, eight. She wants to know. Yeah. Yeah. Where I can propose an idea, try this thing here, five, six, seven, eight, and she’ll learn it and then bend it and manipulate it to feel more natural. Cause she’s saying, thinking like, this feels better for me or, or this makes more sense or, you know, doing this here feels unnatural. So I think that’s, my job is to kind of be that, that honest mirror and say, I’m like, try this thing. This is what I think would work well, and let’s talk about it. Let’s have a discussion. And a lot of the time, these that’s where it starts like having discussions and kind of getting to know each other and trust. Yeah. And I think the key thing is like making somebody feel safe so they can do whatever they want behind closed doors, when it’s me and the artist, let’s just, let’s, let’s just be around and mess around. Let’s try the things that we can try now, you know, let’s do the most silly, insane thing and get it out of our system because maybe there’s something that we feel that will connect and then maybe we can, you know, let’s get us started on a right path, you know, and then we fine tune it until it’s ready to be, to be seen because I’m a, I’m an advocate for like, not everything needs to be shown and seen there’s magic behind the process and incubation and, and development, you know, and let’s wait, you know,
Yeah. Think so.
Ah, yes. You are a magician. I think, um, always something of this sleeve. You don’t need to see everything. That’s the spoils, the magic.
Yeah. Yeah. Showing little bits and pieces, but I mean, I think there’s, there’s massive behind, like how did they do that thing or, Oh God, yes. That didn’t come from, you know, it makes you want more, at least for me, when I see things that I don’t understand and I’m dying to know what it is, it makes me want to keep watching it, you know? Yeah.
And that is the goal. Okay. That’s awesome. Right. Like this edge of the seat thing, that’s the goal. Okay. So let’s talk about Shawn for a sec. Can we talk about Wonder, because Holy smokes, it is so beautiful and powerful. It is wonderful. Um, I adore it and I’m so proud of you. I think it’s a awesome example of you and your work. Like I see you in it. I see him in it. It does seem like a service to not like the pop machine, but to expression in general to, um, imagination, to whimsy. And these are all things that I love. I think it’s so great. Um, what, what did you learn on that project? That’s what I want to know. What did you learn?
Um, uh, man, I learned so many things,
Right? What did you not learn
The project? And one of the, probably today, the biggest project that I, um, that I’ve done. And I’m so grateful for, to Shawn for giving me the opportunity, because there were times where maybe, you know, as a new director, you know, having trust and faith in someone that they can execute things is a big deal, especially when you’re a huge pop star and there’s a lot at stake. That’s things you have to realize, you know, and obviously like he, he was willing to take a risk. Um, but I think also at the heart of it, I really connected to the song and the honesty that he was trying to get across. Um, and like most music videos, you, you pitch against other directors, you know, and whoever has, you know, and obviously the artist picks, and there was a point where I was pitching against another director and he, there was a time where he would potentially just wanted me to be the choreographer, which I’m fine with, you know, I have a great relationship with them. And again, like, I want to do whatever I’m in service to Shawn and whatever he wants. And he thinks is the best I’m going to do it full force. Obviously I’m going to be bummed that like, potentially if I don’t get to direct it, you know, but there was something in me that like, really, I really cared about this project. And I just had a conversation with him. I was like, listen, I really care this thing. I really care about this thing. And I think that kind of stuck with him and he kind of made the decision, like, let’s do it, you know? Um, but I think from what I learned is like how to be a great communicator as we’ve discussed before. And, um, I’ve never, I’ve, I’ve felt I’ve never been a fan of, of egos. Um, and I think when you can lose your ego, you can receive like so much more, um, and utilizing the team that I put around me to help Shawn and, and, and execute the vision. Um, and it was a long process, but I think like getting to work with all these people that I admire so much, and they’re so good at what they do, it just fuels the fire. Um, and it gets me really excited to see like my friends and peers, like, do what they do at such a high level. Um, and there’s a synergy between like having a strong vision and people also like really, um, getting excited about that vision, you know, and it’s kind of that yes and, um, yes, let’s do this and let’s do this and train and sure enough, we would build and build and build. And I’m a huge fan of referencing. I think referencing is a huge tool that people don’t always use. Right.
It’s in so many ways how we communicate when we deal in imaginary things and things that we imagination things that are yet to be created. Yeah.
Yeah. Cause some people don’t have vision or it’s really hard to like, obviously what I see in my head is different, what you see here, but if we have a strong reference points and I can understand that this is solely a reference, this is a starting point. Um, I think that really helped me.
Do you, do you draw on just your internal database of remembered images or are you a Pinterest person? Uh, a Google images person. I know I have, I have a couple of secret databases that, um, that you listeners will have to pay for it. If you want to know where I get all my brilliant gems. But when you make references, are you pulling from your memory or do you have you have secret places?
It’s, it’s, it’s a little bit of everything. Um, books that I read, because I love to write and being good, being exceptional with your words and how to illustrate a picture is it’s valuable.
So valuable, especially if you’re pitching, if you have to get the job before you have the job, you have to be able to explain what you’re going to do with it.
Yeah. So I think, like I read a lot of books of different genres poetry, because they would poetry it’s really short and make sometimes long, but usually really potent in their words. Um, I have visual databases, shot deck is an incredible database. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. Um, which basically it’s a catalog of many exquisite films and it’s basically just screen grabs of beautiful films, um, um, YouTube,
Right? The monster of all database,
Um, for a long time when I was learning, because I didn’t go to film school, I would go to the public library and just get books and read and study, you know, how to direct and things like that. Um, yeah, it comes from, it comes from all different mediums.
That’s awesome. I love this. Um, well it looks like you are excited playing in this space. It looks like you are indulging in pop and entertainment. Um, you are able to make and create and live in other areas of the dance world, but it looks like you’re enjoying this, this place that you’re in. Um, I am curious though, because especially because it’s changing so much right now, what is your attitude towards the entertainment industry in general.
In general? Uh, I love entertainment. I love all the different forms that entertainment offers, whether it’s, um, surely just to transport someone, to make them feel good. If it’s to connect to somebody to tell a story that maybe, you know, the loss of somebody or, you know, graduating high school is something that we can connect to that emotionally. Um, that tells a story. Um, obviously there are bad things about entertainment that, you know, the news is a form of entertainment, which could lead you down a dark path,
Another episode maybe.
But I think, I think again, talking about perspective, I think it’s just how you look at it. You know, you could take it at face value or you can look at it and say, you know, it could be, you can take it personally or you can just let it run off your back. And I think it’s depends on how you do it. I like, I love entertainment. I love what I do. I love watching other people do what they do, especially when they’re really good at it. You know, it makes me want to be better at what I do know
Well said my friend,
What about you?
Um, I think actually very similarly people say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but everything is in the eye of the beholder. I think the world of entertainment and of entertainers, I think it is a brilliant medium and speaking of yes, and.. I think that it is best used when it is a, um, a cloak, like a disguise for education. It’s one of my biggest aspirations in life to make education entertaining and to like sneak attack somebody and inform them, introduce them to a new idea, um, get them understanding things deeper, but they think they just watched a movie or they think they just watched a music video, but like they think they just had fun, but actually there was some mastery, some masterminding going on underneath. So that’s, that’s why I love it. And that’s what I think about it. Um, but, but again, all in the eye of the beholder, I’ve certainly had experiences with entertainment where I thought that it was telling me that I’m wrong. So I felt bad. Or I thought that it was not a place that I was allowed. So I felt like an outsider, but those were all just what I thought about it. That wasn’t the industry itself doing that to me. So, so yeah, I, I agree. I relate. And on that, maybe we, we wrap it up. Matthew Peacock. Yay. Thank you so much for being here. I can’t explain, um, low key created a podcast so that I could talk to my friends in depth like this, about our work uninterrupted for an hour at a time. I really, I really appreciate this. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Wilson.
Oh, and you’re great at talking about yourself and your work, by the way, that was so much fun.
All right. What did I tell you so much? Good. Right. Such a treat. I especially loved the way that Matty talks about collaboration and the evolution of ideas. I so dig this concept that the first idea might not be the best idea. It might even be a bad idea, but only once it’s out there in the open, in the, uh, trusted space, which hopefully includes some bright, brave and bold collaborators. Only, only once it’s out there, can it be built upon or even broken down or otherwise constructed into something? Great. Great. Is his work great is his being, thank you, Matty Peacock for that. Now let’s talk about you and your greatness shall we? Let’s celebrate. Let’s do some wins this week. I am celebrating my past self and a lesson that I learned from her when I stumbled upon a sizzle reel for a web series that I made nine years ago. Holy Smokes. Um, the series, if you call three episodes, a series is called it more than moves and it is still on YouTube. Actually. I think you might have to look More than Moves TV to find it. And, um, I posted the sizzle that I found to my personal Instagram account last week. It is funky. It is smart. It is fun. And it is what Matty and I were talking about at the end of that interview, which is education disguised as entertainment. It was awesome. And it taught me so many things. Um, my long-term lesson learned, however, and what I want to share with you today is that it is wise to spread out your resources. I spend a lot of my hard earned cashola on that project. And I turned it into three 20 minute episodes if given a second chance, which who knows, I would probably turn that into 20 3 minute episodes. Um, yeah. So spread out the resources gang, but do not spread out the enthusiasm, if anything rang true to me about watching that sizzle it’s that I was and am a person that loves dance. It feels so good. Celebrations. All right, now it’s your turn. What is going well in your world? What are you celebrating past, present or future?
All right. My friend, congratulations. I am proud of you. I am celebrating your win seriously. I wish you could see me. I’m grinning ear to ear. All right. Now, um, before I sign off, I want to let you know that it is not too late to register for the first month of the words that move me community membership. If you’re digging what you are hearing in here, then you will definitely be digging. What goes on in there. Um, of course it is a monthly membership. You can join at any time, but I’m exceptionally excited about this first month, which is February because the group of members that has assembled is simply incredible. So a special thank you to everyone who has pre-registered. I cannot wait to get this show on the road, um, to learn more about that, about the membership and how you might register, be sure to check out TheDanaWilson.com and click on the Membership tab. Yes, indeed. The website has been going through some changes. Thank you so much, Malia Baker. Um, yeah, super simple. Now all you need to do in order to find more information and register for the Words that Move Me Community Membership is go to the theDanawilson.com and click on the membership tab. Boom. That is it for me today. You guys have an awesome rest of your day, night, week, month, year, all of it. And, um, of course, keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 because your words move me. Number two things I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops and so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.
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. How are you? Welcome to the podcast. I’m jazzed that you’re here and yes, I’m jazzed for this episode. Oh my God. You’re in for a treat today. My guest on this episode is Rob Stevenson, vocal coach to the stars. And this episode lines up perfectly with my win for the week. This is my win. If you’re new to the podcast, by the way I do wins every week. It’s how it starts. I start then you go, so get ready. Okay. My win this week is that I have directed my first official music video and it is out there in the world. Ready to be enjoyed by you or by anyone with access to the internet. I suppose, um, the, the recording artist responsible for said, video goes by Liv, shout out Liv if you’re listening. Um, and live is one of Rob Stevenson’s clients. So the world is truly a tiny little acorn. My win this week is live and my guest this week is lives coach. So cool. So excited to get into it. I do want to dig into this win a little bit more though, because I would be a fool to not talk about all of the things that I got to practice on this gig and just kind of take stock for myself, but also for you. Um, one of the things that I got to practice that I really encourage you to be practicing and be mindful of as well, is this, um, the, the ability to scale a vision in your head in accordance to the budget of the project. Uh, for example, in this case, do we use my busted projector from Amazon or do we use a 20,000 lumen projector that comes with his own projection operator? Um, shout out projector, Paul, what up! Or, or do we go with the 30,000 lumen projector that weighs 200 pounds and might look better, but would also take like 45 minutes to move in between shots? Like, do we pay for the lumens or do we pay for the time? Um, another thing that I got to practice on set of this video is editing fast. I rescaled some of the video files for our projectionist. Like in real time, as we were shooting I’m scaling, um, the video files, it was a really awesome kind of higher pressure editing environment than what I’m used to. Um, obviously we were on a clock, obviously we’re on a budget and that really applied pressure that I have not been used to, um, before. So it was, it was super fun meeting that with a willingness to fail publicly willingness to, um, willingness for it to not be perfect on the first go round. Another thing I got to practice is is this decision-making tool of when to budge and when not to budge, in terms of your vision, something like fighting for the dream location, for example. One of the other things I got to practice is preparedness. Just call me Sergeant Spreadsheet because I love a spreadsheet. I love a schedule. I love sticking to the schedule. Um, yeah, my spreadsheets, my shot lists definitely helped me deliver under schedule. Um, so did my kick butt team! Shout out to the, my new VIP DP, Luke Orlando, um, shout out to Artifact Content, the production house, responsible shout out to Arian. My buddy who helped me with the edit, um, super shout out to AJ, Harpold and Ivan Koumaev for being the management team that gets creative vision. And that gets the role of movement for recording artists. Um, and of course, super thank you to Liv for being the reason all of this came together. I could not be more thrilled, super win, super winning. Oh, that’s my hat. Super wining. Okay. How about you? What’s going well in your world. What are you celebrating today?
All right. Congratulations. I am so glad you’re winning really truly. You’re crushing it. Keep going. Just keep going. That’s all you have to do. Keep winning. I got you. All right. Oh, I shouldn’t be whispering. You’ll find out why in a second. All right. So this episode is going out to all of my art types with a voice that is actually all of you. Um, but specifically vocalists recording artists, voice actors, speakers, or shouters. If you’re a director or a first assistant director, um, people with a voice all across the globe, this episode goes out to you. It goes out specifically. It goes out to anyone interested in using their voice and using it for a long time. The timing of this episode is absolutely perfect for me because just last week in my interview with Martha Nichols, we talked about my vocal nodules and my absolute awe of people who can sing. Um, and by the way, that includes Martha and almost all of the people that I work with all of the time. So I, in, in my life and my creative life, I feel a little bit like a black sheep, um, on the vocal front. And it is a huge point of insecurity for me. Um, my inability to sing or even in most cases hum the melody that I’m choreographing to, uh, anyways, well, we’ll talk about it later. I don’t want to spend so much time on the woe is me, but I do want to tell you that I am shifting my thoughts about my voice after this conversation with RAab and you might as well. So whether you are a super pro songstress or a person who is interested in becoming a song person, a songbird, this episode is absolutely for you. So go grab some tea with honey. He will tell you what kind of honey, by the way. So listen up for that, um, and grab a cup of water and a straw. If you would like and get ready to meet Rob Stevenson and get ready to meet your new and improved voice. Enjoy.
RAab: Hey, somebody has been practicing.
Dana: Do I sound like butter? Thank you, RAab. Thank you! Gentle, easy-peasy okay. Everybody. I am so excited today. I cannot explain my enthusiasm and my history with this individual. My guest today is RAab Stevenson. I am thrilled, RAab, thank you so much for being here. Um, so it’s par for the course on the podcast. All of my guests always introduce themselves. RAab, what would you like us to know about you?
RAab: Um, my name is Robert Stevenson. Um, my artist’s name when I was recording and putting out music myself, we called me RAab. Some people call it Ray-ab, uh, R with two As one B and the quick story behind that, we was just trying to find something to be cool. And one day we had a friend who was acting as a personal manager for me at the time Mike Berry, we were sitting behind a car that’s named a Saab and I was like, Hey man, how do you pronounce that car’s name? He said, Oh, that’s a saab. I was like, that’s it Rob Saab Raab. So I got back with the label and I was like, look, everyone just called myself. RAab was like, no, that’s not, that’s not deep enough. I like, no he’s gonna spell it. R A A B. And then the guys that the label, they were, um, part of the nation of Islam, it’s like, Oh man, we’ve got to keep the Quran and get deep with this thing. And I was like, we don’t have to. And that’s how the spelling came Large R Large A lower case a lower case b. So they put all that together.
Dana: Like you think, you know, somebody and then you find out where their name came from. That’s so cool. Um, all right. So Rob, we met on my first world tour. Uh, it was Justin Timberlake’s Future Sex Love Show tour way back in 2007,
Dana: Whoa. So I was, I was either 19 or 20 when we met. And you were a background vocalist on that tour code a shorthand for a background vocalist. We co we affectionately call them BVs. So you were a BV on that tour. Um, the show was in the round. You can watch it on HBO shameless plug. It was beautiful. And y’all BVs were all over that stage.
RAab: We were dancing. Yeah. Yeah. It’s um, it was crazy. You guys had us all over the place as background singers. You normally don’t get that much attention. We’re normally stricken by just wearing all black sit in the background, basically seeing behind the curtain don’t get in the way that the artists do whatever they want to, but then you guys y’all show up. You Dane, you Dana AAJ, Marty, you know, comes coming to picture. It’s like, no, y’all got to be, get down everywhere. And sure enough, we went from one end of the stage to the other underneath the stage, singing and dancing, popping out, doing all the cool stuff. We were heavily involved in that. And, um, the thing that was really crazy is that which really helped us and, um, was, um, uh, the other vocalist Denosh Bennett. You know, she came from the world of, um, you know, broadway and, and dancing heavily and performing in music videos from Mystica to mystical, to Aliyah she’s she was heavily involved in that and she transitioned it to being a vocalist on that tour. So she was constantly in the background helping us out when you guys were out doing your thing with the artists, Justin as well. So it was really a big help. And, and what was crazy is that on the first tour Justified Tour that’s where I met Robin Wiley. She was a voice coach for Justin Timberlake, as well as the kids on a Mickey Mouse club. And, um, I would always ask her because we would have asked her, could I come to her hotel room, which was where we were staying at and we would have, um, vocal rehearsals there. Could I come in, just ask her a bunch of questions about the voice, never trying to be a voice coach, but just trying to be a better singer for the gig, you know? So I would be able to last and keep my job basically. Yeah. So she, she, um, after that tour, it was a success after that tour, leading in the Future Sex Love Show Tour, we had the promotional tour where we was doing all the club shows and stuff like that to kick before kicking off the arena tour. And, um, she fell ill and I was teaching people off of the CD that she gave me to warm up Justin or myself or the other singers when she wasn’t around. And I still carry that in my backpack in honor of her. So anytime I feel like I’m not good enough, or I need help, I’ll just put that in and I’ll listen. And she’s still giving me these little nuggets, you know, over the years. And that’s been since 2006, which is amazing. And, um, you know, at that point she fell ill. And one day we was here doing the club show here in Atlanta, believe it or not, which is where I live at the Tabernacle. And my friends were coming to the show. I was so excited and I’m outside hanging with my friends and, and, uh, Big-E, Eric, Eric Burrows, I’m the head of security for Justin. He calls me, he said, Hey, what are you doing? And I was like, ah, my friends I’m getting, you know, bringing them into the show. And he was like, J needs you. I was like, is everything okay? He was like, yeah, he needs you to warm him up. And that was the very first time I started warming Justin up and I winded up, warming him up every single night for that whole tour. That was my job.
Dana: I did not know that’s how that all went down. It seemed like such a natural progression to me. Um, and I suppose it may be, I mean, you, you alluded a little bit to trying to keep the gig. And I would imagine that for vocalists, like for dancers booking a tour is like kind of winning the lottery and they, there aren’t there aren’t 45 BVS on a tour. There are four or two. So it seems it must be a pretty competitive, um,
RAab: It’s a, it’s an extremely competitive gig. And not only, not only just booking it, you have to be pretty, pretty, pretty talented to be able to sing multiple parts. You know, you gotta be able to sing a Soprano or Alto or Tenor. You gotta be really dynamic as a vocalist to be able to book a gig and really keep it. And in that case, it wasn’t like I was trying to be a brown nose or anything like that. I just wanted to do whatever it took to help because, you know, Darrell Diesel, who, unfortunately we lost this year, he passed in February. And, uh, he was how I got hired on that gig. I was in Atlanta and most people that get hired from gigs in LA, you normally have to be there in LA when you get the cattle call or, or a music director is looking for singers, dah, dah, dah, dah. And it’s a small window, you know, and just so happened. Justin was in Virginia Beach, finishing up the album with Pharrell and Chad and the engineered new diesel, you know, had them come by. They took them out to dinner and then that’s how he got hired. And then Justin had him to call and find the other guy. And when he called me, I was in a whole different space. I wouldn’t even thinking about coming on tour with anybody. I was trying to get back into the music industry, but my journey back in there, I had rededicated my life to Christ to God. And I was trying to move back to Orlando, which is where I’m from. So when he called, he was like, Hey man, you know, you’ll never believe who I’m working with. He was like, Justin Timberlake. And I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s amazing. I’m so happy for you.’ And he was like, I was, I, my response to him was like, Hey, if you see his manager, Johnny Wright, let him know. I’m getting ready to move back to Orlando. And if I have to take out the trash at the compound, I’ll do that to get back in the game, you know, with, um, with that being said, he didn’t see Johnny Wright. But he, he asked me, he said, Hey man, but the guy, you know, Justin asked me to find the other guy to come on tour with him. And I was like, Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Who are you going to call? And he was like, you, you big dummy.
I’m calling you. This is the call.
Nine days later. We were in LA on the microphone singing. Like I Love You get ready to do a promo run that we got there that Tuesday, Wednesday had a, uh, a single release party. It was Jay Leno. We did his show. It was, it was-you know how it works. It was pandemonium. It was crazy.
Okay. So, so obviously that was a long time ago. A lot has changed since then.
Oh my goodness. So, okay. I know this is a tough question. I’m sorry to do this to you, but what would be, what would you say are the biggest changes in your life since then?
Well, one of the biggest changes was on that particular tour. I was doing some really crazy stuff with the money I was making off of that tour. Like a lot of people that get on the tour, the first time I was buying all these shoes, I had a suitcase just full of shoes and another suitcase. At that time, they would let you have 70 pounds in a suitcase. And the other one had an outfit to match every single out, you know, a pair of shoes and I was getting money and I was just giving it away. I had nothing to show for it. That changed on after- on the future sex love show to them, you know? And I was like, okay, something’s gotta be different. That was one. When I met my wife, you know, when we was doing the I’m Loving It, promo tour over in Australia. So working with Justin, I met my wife, we had a baby, you know, it’s been a blessing. Yeah. So with all of that being said, um, that changed, um, by me working on that first tour and following Robin Wiley around, I would not be where I am today as a voice coach. During this pandemic. And I feel really bad for a lot of my friends that are in the industry and I constantly get other opportunities and pass them on to other people to help them out because I know it’s not easy right now, but had it not been for the stuff I did with Robin, it wouldn’t have led me down this path of being a voice coach where I’ve been able to work with a lot of big artists, you know, and young artists, new artists, and, um, un-signed artists, you know, COVID hits and we’re all stuck at home, but because of my business and because people are, you know, in this creative space where they’re writing and working on albums, I’m still able to coach.
But you do more than just coach. I think this is unique. And I want to ask you about this, um, because you also develop artists, you’re working with a couple, couple artists on the come up. Um, and I’m curious about what artists development looks like to you. How does that, how does that look to you?
Uh, for me as an artist, when I was doing the artist thing, I was 18, 19 writing songs. You know, I was given an opportunity by a guy that saw me outside practicing dance moves for a talent show. And I was just grabbed some guys that I thought could move this guy named Tyrone Wilson. He pulled over and saw us practicing. And he was like, Hey man, um, I see you guys are in a group, but we would like to, you know, um, you know, basically they were auditioning us right there on the side, asked us to sing something. And I was like feeling bad because I knew my group. We couldn’t do, they couldn’t harmonize. And they asked me to sing. And then at that point they asked me to be in their group, the two older guys, but they took me under their wings, developed me as a songwriter, um, a ranger and all of that stuff, um, gave me my first opportunity in a recording studio. And that changed my life. It really did. And so what does artist development look like for me is, is that a lot of times artists, you know, artists, they feel like once they get a manager, the manager or the label should do all this work, things have changed in so many ways. And I feel like for me, the artists is responsible for their career. If you’re waiting on somebody to do all that stuff for you, shame on you, shame on you. You’re only setting yourself up for one failure to let in your own self doubt, putting your career in the hands of somebody else to do what they want with it. Only for it to not work out. And you blame them for it. No, it’s your fault. You did it. You gave them the keys to your porche and they wrecked it. So I get artists that comes, that’ll come to me and talk to me about managing. And I’m like, I will not manage because I understand the challenges of management, you know, the frustrations of management and sometimes the artists and management, they have good intentions, but then a lot of times they’re bumping heads because they’re so different from each other, you know, and have different perspectives on how that particular artist needs to conduct their career. Now, I’m not saying they don’t need each other, but sometimes at the early stages, I feel like the artists can learn so much. If they, they, they get good counsel from someone. And for me, I just, I just say, okay, these are the things you need because I’m in these meetings a lot of times with the artists that they aspire to be like. You know, they welcoming in a lot of times, I’m in a room getting ready to warm them up. And then what do you think RAab? I’m like, man, don’t be asking me none of that. No, but seriously, what do you think? So I have those moments as well. And then I’m like, this is great information and great advice that I can pass down to a lot of these newer artists or artists that are signed, that are making, you know, really crazy decisions regarding their career. It’s just like, if you’re performing and you want to be like a Justin or a Rihanna or, or any of these artists that sing and dance, you need to start building a team around you that does those things. You know, we’re working with one right now, Dana, you know, and she’s amazing. And she’s a hard worker, but I would not have ever introduced her to y’all if I didn’t think she had what it took to do those things. And the funny thing is what sold me on her was that we were finishing up the, um, uh, Man of the Woods tour last year. And I got a phone call from a friend saying that dah, dah, dah, here’s this girl she’s talented. Me and her talk. I had to look at her in the eyes on, on the camera, like, ‘Hey, what’s up,’ you sure about this. You really want to do this. All right. I’m at this show right here. This weekend. If you can get here for me, it’ll show me how serious you are. Her and her mom was on the next plane. Next flight out met me there. We worked during the day, came to the show, saw y’all and it’s crazy. A year later working with you guys.
Yep. I’ll say, okay. So Rob is talking about a young up-and-coming recording artist named Liv. I started with, I started working with live in January of 2020, I think. And let me tell you the moment that I knew other than she already has a good team around her, which, you know, the co-sign comes a little easier when you see the, the people that are surrounding her, but uh, come lockdown. She stuck that out the entire time, the entire lockdown, definitely a committed person. It’s inspiring to see that. And it’s so it sounds like you’re like me on the subject of movement coaching. I simply love sharing the information I’ve learned. Like, what good is it if I just keep it for myself.
Right, right, right, right, right.
Yeah. It’s part of why I started a podcast is part of why I love movement coaching so much is, you know, simply sharing. I do believe sharing is caring and I care about, I care about those people with the people that I work with. Um, okay. Question for you now on the, on the kind of relating what I do and what you do, one of the ways, but not the only way that I can tell a good dancer from a phenomenal dancer is their ability to multitask. Like in the moment they could be dancing Like I Love You and cracking jokes with JT on the side, like mid chorus, or they could be having a conversation during rehearsal while reviewing the steps it’s like happening almost in the background, um, versus somebody who’s new to dance or not quite to that level yet it would require 100% of their attention to do. Like, I Love You top to bottom without messing up. I think I could probably do, like, I love you bottom to top or without messing up while having a conversation. That’s partially because I’ve done it 4,000 times and because it’s my favorite, but, um, you know, that’s, that’s one of the things for me that tells the difference between good and great. Is there a tell for you and a vocalist? How do you, how do you tell good from great.
You know what? Work ethic, Work ethic every time I’ve, I’ve been blessed to work with some of the most talented vocalist in the game. And the sad part about it is some of them that don’t have that work ethic, then they just go straight off of their talent. Like I’ve got this.
So what happens then? What happens?
They’re like, I’m good. And then they crash and hit it real hard. And then they’re quick to blame everybody else around them. And a lot of times, um, artists, they they’re like, Oh, why are you so you just blatantly honest with me and I’m like, I, how else should I be with you? You want me to sugar coat and lie to you? And I do it with a smile on my face. I’m not going to be angry. Now when you don’t practice it, do what you’re supposed to do. I get upset, but I have to do that. I have to tell you, this is you. These are your goals. These aren’t my goals. You know, I know what to do, but these are your goals if you want to be better. And so when I see an artist, it can be an artist that’s not a strong singer at all, but I’ve seen, I’ve had a kid from Australia. Parents found me, his name is Ky. They found me from Australia. The was on, America’s got talent and he’s a dancer tap dancer. Incredible. But he wants to sing. The mom calls me, Oh my gosh, we were talking to RAab Stevens about it. I was like, why are y’all fanning out? I’m just Raab. It’s all good. And she was like, Oh my gosh, we didn’t think you would answer it. And I was like, yes, this is my business. I haven’t gone to it. And it was like, Oh my gosh, my son he’s the, he was number five. And uh, Australia’s got talent, all this other stuff. And she was like, uh, well, my son wants to sing. We want to work with you. And I said, Oh, I said, okay. She said, well, he’s terrible. The mom is so honest too. And I was like, okay, you know what, let me talk to him. I don’t want to talk to you not being disrespectful, but I need to talk to him and see how, if he’s focused to be able to do this kind of thing, because I’m going to not, I’m not going to treat him any different. I’m going to push them. Just like I would, if I was in front of a superstar, I’m like, because I want him to be that. Or then some, you know, and the kid was so focused and he did everything I asked him, if you hear this kid sing, now you’d be like, Oh, he always had that. No he didn’t.
Um, I really dig that approach to a decision about taking someone on, not being about where they are, but about where they want to be and their determination to get there. Um, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve worked with actually, some of my favorite people to work with are people that have zero dance experience and they are a blank canvas and they’re here and they’re hungry. They don’t have any bad habits I’m telling you. It is such a sweet spot. Um, actually, maybe we stick on that topic for a second. If somebody with no experience came to me and asked, can I teach them or will you teach me to dance in one week? I would probably laugh at them. But then I would like, there are drills and techniques and there is, there are some building blocks. There are tools that I would give them a place to start that in one week could probably do a lot of good. Um, is there something similar in your realm? Like, is there like a crash course to using your voice?
Do you know what, I think it’s so funny when, um, when record labels or management, they’ll come to me and they’ll say, yo, we heard about you. We want to do this and get our artists this way. Blah, blah, blah. No, they’re like, yeah. I’m like, when’s the show? Uh it’s tomorrow. Oh, I’ve had that. I’ve had the shows next week. How, how many sessions do you think it’s going to take? The tour is in a week and a half from now. Why are y’all waiting? Why are y’all waiting now? What are y’all doing? Yeah. And then it’s like, I’m like, yeah, for what we do for a living, this is a ongoing regimen. It’s almost like saying, and I’ll give them, uh, you know, my LeBron James thing, I was like, okay, so you think LeBron’s high school coach was all he needed in order to sustain him in it, to win this many championships, let alone go to nine NBA finals, you know? And I’m like, no, his coach, he set him up for excellence in high school, but somebody else had to pick up the ball when he got into the NBA. And that’s what it is. But I’m just saying, so it’s the work ethic, you know, preparation, all of that stuff. So I’ve had artists that are really talented and they, they do, they’re focused and they’re driven, you know, you know, like the artist I just told you, I just finished working with, I mean, she ain’t touring right now, but me and her in here three days a week and she’s killing it, you know, along with other artists, they’re recording, they’re putting out new material, you know? So that stuff inspires me. It really does. It gets me going as well.
Um, the, the, the training conversation reminds me of a quote. It’s been attributed to several different people, um, like an anonymous Navy seal, and then like Aristotle or someone, I don’t know where this actually comes from. But the sentiment is that you will not rise to the occasion, you will fall to your level of training. And when you train all the time, you don’t need to worry about falling you’re there. Right. And I think that that’s, you know, one of the other things I love about being a coach, especially with somebody who’s willing to go in multiple days a week, because that’s when you really start seeing benefits. Not, not one week for two days a week, not, not one month, every like once a week, but I mean, we’re talking long game and it’s so, so rewarding to see those, to see that improvement.
It is. Yeah. So when I see that it inspires me because I was that kid that when I stayed with my mom, my sister, or the Bixler’s, who is this family that took me in, when I left home at an early age. I was constantly practicing. Always some allowed me to do my thing. Some was like, RAab, could you just please just give us a minute. Could you please just take the night off? And at that point, I always tell my kids, if your parents aren’t complaining about you practicing all the time, you’re not practicing enough.
Oh, I love that metric.
They should be like, please shut up, give us a break. I mean, we love you. We love you. You’re super talented. I love you so bad, but can you just give mommy or daddy a little break for now? Can you go in the basement basement and close all the doors behind you, but that’s when you know, they’re they want it. Yeah. And I think that the depressing side of things is when I work with artists, that I have to constantly push and try and motivate and inspire them. And they really don’t want to do that. They’d rather just be in a studio and write and call that a day.
Oh, I’m glad that you mentioned that because I said a second ago that if somebody asked me if I could teach them how to dance in a week, I would laugh. I would, I would laugh first. But the truth is, if you don’t want to, then the answer is no, no matter what, this is really something you have to have a desire to do. Um, and then also the desire, not, not the desire necessarily, but, um, uh, a pleasure or a joy for music. I know a lot of people that tell me, I have no rhythm. I have no rhythm. I, I can’t even find the downbeat. And I’m like, but do you like music? And if the answer is yes, then I’ll tell them. And now it will be telling the truth that yes, I can teach you how to dance. You want it, if you, if you want it and you enjoy listening to music, absolutely. I love it. Um, okay. I want to segue a little bit. Um, I want to talk about before we get into some myths, some common misconceptions about the voice. Uh, I want to talk about like overall health, because I’ve been finding, especially lately it’s odd. And some people might be surprised by this, but I know a lot of dancers with very unhealthy lifestyle. Dancers in general, we like to party. We like late nights. Um, drugs and alcohol are not uncommon in the dance space.
And the singing world
Okay. Okay. So we share that. Um, and I, I wonder, like, what would you say is the role of fitness and a healthy lifestyle for a vocalist?
Well, it’s funny. I always have this thing saying when I’m around, especially my male, um, clients, like what’s happening, good doctor, how you doing? And they all start laughing and uh, every now and then they’ll ask me why you always call me the doctor. I’m like, cause you got the medicine for other people. They look confused. I’m like, yeah, your lyrics, your song, it’s ministry. You don’t have to be in the church to minister to somebody. You know what I’m saying? So if you can’t get up there and do your job, you’re not going to be a minister. You’re not going to be able to save somebody’s life. Because I got trust me every night when I’m working in the, in the arena and the artist is on stage and I’m walking around the arena, taking notes on my iPad. I always find those, those, those, those, those people that are being drugged to the concert with their friends and don’t want to be there. And when you sit down and talk with them, they’re like, yo, I’m glad I came. I was thinking about committing suicide tonight. Really it’s very powerful and it was somebody that was, uh, it could have been a dancer. I ran into it to dance dancers, people that, you know, either got injured and can’t do it perform anymore. But by them watching dancers on stage, move the way they do it just took them back and brought joy back in. You know what I’m saying? So I see those things. So when I say the ministry of what singing does for people, you know, I try and remind artists that, that.
Okay, so that’s so, so what we do, what we, and now when I say we, I mean performers. What we do. I mean, yes, I’ve heard, you know, we’ve all heard dance saves lives or music saved my life. And I think that that, yes, in some cases, that is absolutely true. Um, but what would you suggest for, for us entertainers? How do we save our own life?
So a lot of times when I come out and I know certain artists like to drink or like to do drugs, like the party and I come in and I, the same thing, you know, good doctor or I’ll say, Hey mama, how you doing? What’s happening, mama, why you keep calling me mama? Ain’t got no kids. I’m like, yes, you do. You have 135 people on staff. Don’t you, you’re their mother. You’re responsible for all of their households, not how they do, not how they conduct their households. But if you get sick and you go down, are you going to pay them their full salaries when they’re down? And a lot of people don’t want to hear that. Especially the people that are close to that circle, you can’t talk to them that way. I’m like, no, you shouldn’t party with them that way you shouldn’t do it because you’re contributing to the whole problem. You know what I’m saying? I’m not saying the person can’t celebrate and have fun, but at what cost, what is it going to cost you? Because logistically speaking and having to reschedule a show and come back months later, if they do it, that’s month, that’s the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe even millions. It’s a lot of money to deal with that. When you could save that, if you’re going to do a little bit of a party, if you like to drink, just understand what drinking is going to do for you. You know, drinking is alcohol. It’s going to dry you out. Well, does it reach the vocal folds? All right. You sit there and you inhale alcohol through your mouth all day long. Those vapors get on the vocal folds and it’s going to dry it out. Oh my gosh. I’m so dry. You in Florida. It’s humid down here. What you’ve been doing?
Okay. This is, this is a perfect segue. Then let’s talk about these misconceptions because a few years ago, I, I lost my voice for several days in a row. I didn’t have a voice for seven days. This came after a stint of, uh, uh, I think it was two or three days and I taught 16 classes. So throwing my voice over loud music while moving, being exerted. And I, I suppose I never learned exactly how to do that properly. Um, so I, I learned that I have some damage, some vocal, I have a vocal nodules. Uh, I got a voice pathologist. I got a vocal coach and I started working on, well, number one, just awareness. Like not speaking my sentences all the way out in the end until I have no breath. And now I’m straightening and I’m still talking. I’ve started keeping an eye on that. Um, I drink warm water all the time. I’ve definitely tampered my alcohol intake. Um, okay. So here is my list of myths that I would like to be busted, or I guess some of them are just kind of questions. Um, is coffee bad for your voice?
Coffee is a natural diuretic. It will dry you out. It’ll give you a boost of energy, but for every cup of coffee, you have to have three bottles of water to dilute it. There you go.
Love it. Um, okay. Is Tea I mean, some teas are natural diuretics as well, I guess, but is there a kind of tea that is better or worse for your voice?
Uh, I liked throat coat tea. I like, um, throat comfort tea. I like putting menuca honey, not the one from whole foods, but menuca 5-50. They have a 5-60 plus I like using that from New Zealand. Take scoop of that and put that into the tub, the tea, if the singer is still dry while singing that put a little, a few drops of licorice root oil in there, and drink that
You crushed one of my other ones. So honey does help or certain types of honey.
So I like certain types of honey. If you dealing with like severe allergies and certain regions during spring and fall, you know what I’m saying? So if you’re dealing with that, I will use localized honey because a lot of times that’s the remedy for whatever is setting off your allergies in that area.
The bees are the secret. Yep. As always, uh, okay. This one. Oh, my fingers are crossed about the answer to this question. I think I already know is dairy bad for your voice?
All right. So dairy, here’s the deal with dairy? I used to always think, man, every time I drink dairy, it messes up my voice, especially because I’m lactose intolerant. So that’s a bigger effect on, you know, for those that deal with that. But dairy, believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, dairy the particles are too big to get to the vocal folds. They never touch the vocal folds if they do, you’re choking on it,
Which is bad for your voice, by the way, don’t be choking. Okay. This is excellent news
Now. So you’ll have, you’ll have phlegm in the back of your throat as a result of it. And one way to get rid of that is, uh, get some salt water, warm water, and gargle with that. And then it’s out.
Thank you, doctor. Okay. A few others, um, cold water superior to warm water. I think this one’s obvious, but
Alright so cold water. I love cold water. I do. When I’m working out, do not give me room temperature, water. Uh, yeah, but um, anytime you’re performing, room temperature is always best because it takes your body more work to heat the water up to your body’s temperature. So you don’t want to have to deal with that. You got it.
Hm. Okay. Interesting. I love it. I’ve since working with a voice pathologists, I started drinking warm water and I love it. I don’t ever want to stop. I love it. It’s my favorite thing. Um, oddly, okay, so we talked a little bit about honey question about cough drops. Do they work? I know you have a favorite.
Okay. So, um, when you’re dealing with cough drops, you gotta be really careful. I mean, you know, let me, let me go down my little list. So let’s say for instance, like if singers are dealing with congestion or, you know, um, huge congestion in the nose, of course you want to consult with your doctor, but what I’ve always found that work is Mucinex sometimes Tylenol Severe Sinus. You know, it has a little bit of Mucinex then it has a four hour release in it. You take two of those and, um, I have this stuff, um, you, if anybody knows anything about doTERRA products. Yeah. So doTERRA has this oil, this little blend, and it’s a respiratory blend, which is really cool. And, um, it has Melaleuca in it. So like when you use you eustachian tubes by your ears, get impacted with mucus, from blowing your nose too hard. I always have singers put that around their ears. Uh, my mom, as a kid used to put what do you call it.. Vicks! Oh my gosh. Put it all on my nose, on my chin, on my neck and my chest,
Uh, that lights you on icy fire.
I know, right? Yeah. I have oil all over my face, but, um, that’s all, she, she, she knew at the time, but this has peppermint oil. Eucalyptus and all that other good stuff. You put it on your ears. And then, um, there’s a particular gum that, um, you know, I was put on to, by another friend of mine, um, from the UK, they sell it in the UK and all over Europe, but not here in America, coincidentally, and it’s called airwaves. And you can order it through Amazon. It takes about a week to two weeks to get to you, but you’ll chew on two pieces of that and that’ll open up your sinuses like that, like really causing the drain. Yeah. But don’t do the sniffles, just let it fall forward and then slightly blow
Okay. Thank you, Rob. Those are all my, my myths. Did I, did I miss anything? Oh, I do know that. I do know that whispering is bad for your voice.
Whispering is bad for your voice. It dries out the vocal folds and causes voice to fatigue really quickly.
That is a good one, especially when you’re losing your voice. Don’t whisper
Yeah. And for singers and dancers that like to eat after show food, laying down after eating cause you’re tired, you did a lot of work and you’d to get on their lap and laugh and laugh and laughing. If you fall asleep under three hours and you find yourself with heartburn or anything like that, try not to do that. Try and wait at least three hours or limit the amount of after show food. You eat, especially pizza. And there’s some tourists that are just give this the people, you know, singers the crew, Hey, just eat this pizza and call it a day and you’re hungry and you’ll eat it. But the tomato sauce and the pizza will trigger the reflux as well. So just be careful.
I think that’s important. You mentioned that the amount of hours between eating and resting, but also the quantity over eating anything. Even if you’re eating good food, natural foods, not, not tomato, crazy sauce or anything like that, any time when you’re overdoing it, that reflux will kick up. For sure.
It will definitely get you.
Oh my gosh. You didn’t know you were getting into it like a health health lesson today. Um, okay. Rob, I know you keep a tight calendar, super tight schedule. So I just want to finish off by asking if you have any words of wisdom or thoughts, thoughts for aspiring vocalists out there. Um, eh, any last remarks,
Listen, if you’re going to be in this music industry as a dancer or a singer, don’t wait for somebody to invest in you to do it, figure out a way to invest in your own self. And also don’t just get into industry because you want to be the star. You know, you want to get into industry, I’m going to be this star. Uh, you set yourself up, you know, and I’m not telling you this, a perfect opportunity to have a plan B. Go in there because you are, you love the industry. You want to be a part of that. If you’re going to be on broadway, you go all out and study all the great don’t just study your favorite study. The ones that have been, you know, in West Side Story for all these years and why they’ve had continual success, you know, don’t just study w just wicked that comes through your town, find out the history of all of them. You know, you know, Disney is good about doing stuff like that, but you know, you just gotta be a student of the craft of singing. And one way to do that is to invest in your own self. If you want to work with an artist or work with a coach like Dana or myself, you know? Yeah. The rates may be a little higher in your eyes, in my eyes. I try and keep my rates at a certain way, you know, to where everybody can afford it. But in that particular instance, it’s worth the investment. You’re not only going to get good coaching, but you’re going to get the same type of coaching that you see these other artists that are out there, the same type of attention, the same type of love, you know, that’s going to be poored into you. Why not spoil yourself with that? You know, that’s important, you know, so that’s, that’s what I got. Keep God first. Definitely. Yeah.
Thank you so much. That was brilliant and beautiful. And I’m inspired to go do some more cup bubbles. It’s honestly, it’s a part of my daily routine. I love the way my voice feels afterwards. It’s amazing. Um, okay. Thank you so much. I will absolutely be linking to you and all of your amazing work in the show notes of this episode. So go find RAab, RAab, thank you so much again for being here. Um, I have, I get to talk to you again soon.
Thank you. Good to see you, Dana. All right.
OKay. That is RAab. And that is one of the most talented and kind people that I, that I think I know I’m so happy to have introduced you to RAab and so hopeful that you will be becoming introduced to your new and improved voice. I really think that this man has so much to teach and that we all have so much to gain from taking care of ourselves in our voice. So I hope you’re as inspired as I am to take care of yourself. Um, your audience depends on it and I will be linking to RAab’s business in the show notes of this episode. Should you be so inspired that you decided to, uh, find him and seek him out for some coaching. Oh, and if you are at all interested in coaching with me on the movement front or otherwise, I have some very special news come 2021, which is not that far away. You will be able to do exactly that in a number of different ways. So stay tuned for more updates on the Words that Move Me Membership front. And of course keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon, everybody.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball changeover to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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