Ep. #40 Partnering Solo with Taja Riley

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #40 Partnering Solo with Taja Riley
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This episode shines a light on talent, transition, and  trauma.  Taja Riley and her alter, Kim Visions, join us to talk about our responsibility to create (the work of our dreams, and a legacy for the future), but we also discuss our responsibility to dismantle… our stigmas around mental health.  Please continue with curiosity and compassion… and enjoy!

Show Notes:

Quick Links:

Mental Health Resources:

National Institute for Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health: https://dmh.lacounty.gov/our-services/

Mental Health America Alternative Medicine: https://www.mhanational.org/complementary-alternative-medicine-mental-health-conditions

Mental Health Services (CA) https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/Pages/MentalHealthPrograms-Svcs.aspx

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 everybody. And thank you for being here today. I’m Dana. This is words that move me and I’m jazzed about this episode. Yes. Um, if you are new to the podcast, I start every episode with wins. I’m going to tell you mine, and then I’m gonna leave you a little bit of time to tell me yours this week. My win is that I have graduated from a coach certification program. Yes, I am now a certified coach. My area of interest and specialization is in career coaching specifically for individuals in art and entertainment, which if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, should come as no surprise to you. Um, if you’re curious about what career coaching is, what coaching is in general or what it might look like to work together, head on over to theDanawilson.com/coachcurious, that is theDanawilson.com/coachcurious. Okay, that’s my win. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.  

Alright. Nicely done. Way to go. Congrats. I’m proud of you. Keep on crushing it. Okay. Today I am joined by my longtime friend, Taja Riley and her alter Kim Visions. In this episode, we get to learn about the Riley record industry, Royal family, and we discuss mental health. I learned so much about stigmas that most of us carry around mental health disorders and the importance of really personalized treatment. Really. I actually learned the importance of listening, and I hope that you enjoy and learn from listening in on this conversation with Taja Riley and Kim Visions. 

Dana: I’m so excited to be doing this thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. Um, I, this is, this is common practice. I like to have all of my guests introduce themselves. So have at it my friend. What would you like us to know about you?  

Taja: Okay. So my name is Taja Riley. My parents gave me that name. Um, but I have also discovered there’s another person that would like to be introduced that I, um, I guess the host of her name is Kim Visions. And, uh, she may answer some of your questions today, but I’ll always refer to, this is what Kim is saying because I am in the driver’s seat so.  

Dana: So lucky to be the recipient of two guests, but only one email, one email thread, um, welcome Taja and welcome Kim Visions. I am so excited to get to know you. Um, I’ve been watching Taja grow up on a stage, um, as a competition dancer, since what, like, I think the first time I watched you dance, you were probably 12, maybe 13. And, um, men that, that entire time I knew it was very clear that you are a force to be reckoned with on the performance level, on a creative level, on a technical level I might add. And, um, I, I’ve always been fascinated with your work. You are captivating to watch. Um, so I might might just start if we could, by talking a little bit about the way that you grew up, um, which was as a competitive dancer or a studio kid, as they are affectionately known, I watched you grow up on a competition stage. I knew you more or less in and out of, you know, studio workshops, summer intensives, things like that. But eventually we became colleagues teaching for NYCDA. We spent every summer for how many summers in New York city, Midtown at that Sheraton every year for nationals. Um, your trajectory, so many nationals. Um, but your trajectory has fascinated me. I’m hoping you can talk a little bit about your training at Denise Walls and how that prepared for you for the quote real world. And what does real world look like?  

Taja: Okay. So real world back then, I started training at Denise’s funny story, very quick one. Um, but I started training at Denise’s when I was seven. I used to go to this other studio. I’m not going to name the name just in case they’re listening. Um, but, um, it was tech rehearsal day and my mom got me and my sister’s surprise tickets to spice world concert. And it was like, this is like the day before the show. And I was like, I’m not missing Mel-B or Mel-C. There’s just no way. And, um, we went and we went to tech rehearsal and then we were like, you know, we have to leave early because we have to get ready for the concert and they were not having it. She was like, if you walk out of this though, you ain’t coming back no more. And that’s literally what happened. I said, I said, okay, um, you clearly don’t have my best interest at heart. I would really like to go see SpiceWorld. And I went and we got kicked out of his studio,

What a fateful day 

but it was thanks to the spice girls. You know, I found Denise’s and it really was, we were out of like a place to train me and my sister. That’s why I’m saying we, and, um, my dad was rehearsing at Denise’s at the time doing his stuff for black street. And, um, I guess it came up in conversation one day, Denise brought it up and she was like, “you have daughters?” like, cause he said, he mentioned something about us and she was like, you have daughters and you have not brought them to the studio. And she was like, live it. And so he was like, okay, okay, okay. I’ll talk to, I’ll talk to Donna. That’s my mom and my mom ended up bringing us in and yeah, I just like, from there, I think, uh, Denise and the whole faculty at the studio just kind of fell in love with us. We became those regulars and um, yeah, I mean, I, I had like three recreational years and then moved into the junior company, which is what Denise wanted to test out. And I remember just feeling so electric about dance just from, from that time that like, you know, when people are like, when did you start dancing? And I’m like, uh, well, technically I say like seven, because that’s when I was on a comprehensive level where I was actually taking things in. And it’s also when I started dancing at Denise’s. But, um, but yeah, like I remember like this feeling, it was, um, it was it’s raining men. That was the, that was the dance. And I remember like they gave me a little solo to, no, it was 1999. It was 1999. It was 1999. And they gave me a partnering solo.

Wait, what’s a partnering solo?

Okay. A partnering solo is when they ask you to partner with somebody, but then it becomes a solo. 

I love, Taja, you might have just named the episode. Partnering Solo with Taja Riley and Kim Visions. You heard it here first. Okay So that’s when it kind of jelled for you. When you really felt like a dancer?

Yeah, it did. It really felt like I’m a dancer, but it was even more than that because I felt, I think because my music is my first love. Like I was born on the same day as one of my dad’s concerts. So I do think that there’s such a musical, um, tie that I have outside of the fact that my family’s a music entertainment family. Um, but I was also the kid that did not have rhythm. Um, my dad was actually very embarrassed by me and he was like, Oh my God, Donna. He was like Donna, Oh my God, I can not have a child that has no rhythm. This is just so this is not good. Like he was like, you have to throw her any and everything. So my mom put us with four instruments. We were in the choir at school and we did dance and I did gymnastics and it was rhythmic gymnastics that I had to do because I had to get musicality.  

We can’t just be having you on those parallel bars. You need to be parallel bars on beat 

On beat on beat.  

I had no idea that that is how your relationship with Denise Walls started. So that’s fascinating. So Taja’s, dad is Teddy Riley. He is a legend to put it very simply. Um, he produced Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. He is credited for pretty much single handedly, creating new Jack swing, which is one of my favorite genres of music and dance. Um, he and his group Black Street brought us No Diggity, which is for the record. Like if you really had to ask me for one song, like if I had to listen to one song over and over and over and over again until the end of time.  It would probably be that. 

No way 

Close sec. Well, yeah, It’s a tie with a superstition by Stevie wonder.  

Okay. Okay. Yeah,  

A fair up toss up. But I would love to see those two songs do get out by the way. Okay. Anyways, so that is Teddy Riley in a nutshell. So let’s talk a little bit about other than him, um, at first being suspicious of your rhythm, what is it like growing up with a music mogul dad and how did that shape your relationship with dance and music?  

You know, it’s funny because well, the entertainment industry, as you know, it’s, there’s so much, it’s a whole nother, it can be high school sometimes it can be this workplace of a community or a village that you find, but it can also be very like cutthroat in terms of relevancy. And I know that there’s like this inward battle with even people that feel like they, um, have a place in the industry or they feel like they have to stay 

On top

It’s the battle of now I have to stay on top and how do I stay on top? How do I one up my top? How do I one up myself? How do I one up my competitors? How do I bring something different to the table? And then also you’re probably collaborating with people and passing on your formula. And then those people that you’re, you’ve actually helped and, you know, through God or whoever you answer to divinely, they, they become a competitor. And so, and they become like, you know, obviously, um, it’s just, it’s just a, it’s just a, it’s a constant cycle of try, try to survive, try like it’s that rat race to try to survive. And with doing that, uh, some people’s priorities, you know, are simply that, that those are the top priorities for them because it actually is. They feel like it is the excuse for what they, what they call their priority, which is family, you know? And so for my dad, his belief was I believe to my perspective, right. Um, I think I saw and observed that he wanted to provide so much for my family, that he, you know, dove into a zone of his work and, and that allowed him so certain doors to open for himself, even certain doors to open for us. And in, in a way that’s kinda like your, your trust fund, right? You’re uh, as you, as you get older, that, that cushion, um, that allows you in a, in like a Royal family, it’s like you you’re underneath that family. So you automatically have that favor, you know, um, or people automatically see you in this light or this class or this cast system. Um, so in that way, I think it was a great help. But then in other ways, you know, did I ever really play ball with my dad? No. And I’m like a tomboy. So like sports were my thing. I’ve never played a soccer game with my dad. I did get a chance to share moments with him at like, you know, the movies and going bowling and, you know, different like really, um, like family outing type things. But it did seem a lot, like he was very focused on other things, you know, and I don’t blame him for that. I think that, you know, we’re all human and we’re all just trying to figure it out. And I think whatever is passed down from the other generation, we’re also trying to learn or separate ourselves from that, or try and try and up that ante. And I think for him that was his major priority, but he kind of lost sight of, you know, maybe the, the extra personal time he could have spent what that said though. I think he, um, is teaching me so many new things now, you know, as an adult and, um, he’s still my dad, but he’s not, it’s not the same kind of responsibility of like, you know, pick me up after school and make sure I get my lunch on time. Yeah. Yeah. It’s more of like, uh, there’s a nurture that comes into play where I’m realizing that, um, this is an even bigger coaching and mentorship than I could’ve ever desired from myself because music and entertainment is truly where I need the tutelage, you know? And he has so much to offer that in terms of, even if I were to just go on the internet and search through him and see his interviews and see the things I can still get that coaching. And then I have the extra personal time backstage, you know, 

I’m so glad that you mentioned that not only does he have so much to offer in terms of being a mentor in the field of music and entertainment, but he is actually also your dad. So he has a lot to offer and he has a lot of interest in you, right? So many people, especially today, the climate for mentorship programs is, is, is thick. Like this is a, it’s a time when people are able to be training. It’s a time when people are capitalizing on their experience, their education and their interest in connecting in a deeper way. But could any one of those mentors offer their mentee as much individual care, compassion and genuine interest as your dad gives you? I mean, he’s your dad. So maybe, maybe yes. Maybe no. It’s very interesting that I hadn’t thought about that in terms of a mentor, mentee relationship, your dad is invested in you because you’re a part of the, the family band,  

The family band. Yeah. No, but you know, I love the guy. I love that guy. And I think he’s great. You know, I think he, what he does is absolutely it’s astonishing to have this sense. Like, there’s this one thing that I can’t shake. I haven’t been able to shake over my entire careers that I don’t know my whole, my dad’s whole discography, like from top to bottom. But if I were to ever hear a song on the radio that was either influenced by him or created by him, I know instantly. And it’s like a, it is a second sense, but not a second sense. I think it’s six. Maybe it’s a six. I think, I think we have five senses. If I’m, if I’m correct.

Some movies try to tell you there are six and that the sixth one is love or, or something, but I don’t know.  

Never heard of that one. 

That’s what I think. The movie,  Um, Oh, what’s his McConaughey. Matthew McConaughey the movie about space. Was it called? Not, Oh God, I don’t interstellar. I think that movie was trying to tell me that love is the sixth, sixth dimension and that if we’re going to time travel, we talk to each other through love and connection and bookshelves. That’s what I walked away from that movie with. But that’s neither here nor there have you seen it? 

I have not.  

That’s why you’re confused. Go check that out. Check that out and tell me I’m wrong 

I will. I will not probably tell you you’re wrong. I’ll probably agree with you  

Well dang it now I’m wishing I haven’t tainted your, um,  

Oh, it’s fine. I’ll probably forget. I’ll probably forget while watching it. And then when it occurs to me, I’ll be like somebody said something about bookshelves 

This reminds me. Yeah. Okay. You’re going to love this. Okay. I’m sorry.  

I sideswiped us. I got distracted. I feel like, you know, on the subject of your dad and his signature, his musical signature, he’s very clearly left a legacy and imprint on the industry and on the sounds. Um, but you know what I was, as I was researching, um, you and your dad, matter of fact, I discovered something I did not know. And I think many people don’t know that your dad is actually the first African American producer to use, uh, to actually produce K-pop and bring it to America. And so I, his legacy is even deeper than what I knew or expected to find out. Um, so my question for you let’s get back to you is what do you want your legacy to be? What is the imprint that you are making that will last long after  

I think what’s really important to me, because I feel like you leave a bit of your legacy in everyone you encounter. Right. Um, so I think for me, it’s just to be an example of my core values, you know, continue to be that example. And I think, I don’t know, I have this like big desire over all of my other desires to, to be the matriarch of my family, you know, um, of the family that I create. And that’s like, I want to love to be able to look back on grandkids and great grandkids and know that, you know, I built a solid foundation with either just even me through me or with me and my partner or me and my village, or, you know, me and my alter, who, whoever is entangled in my life, that I’ve been able to create multiple generations or have a hand in involvement in multiple generations, watch them grow, watch their process and have been able to live it and be present with them. Um, I think that in itself, if I can remain present in every moment, whatever legacy I end up creating in the end will be something I’m like super proud of. Um, I don’t know if that answers your question and I think I generalized it. 

Spot on. It’s beautiful. 

Just want to keep it open. 

You know, I think it’s, to me, If I were to, um, write the Twitter version of that answer, um, if, if your dad put his fingerprint on, you know, his time in this world, it was in music and when you do it, it will be through a network of people and you have a network of gifts, a huge variety in ways of expressing yourself. Actually that might be a good place to go next. Um, you DJ, you teach, you perform at like insanely high levels in an insanely diverse range of styles in terms of dance. Um, absolutely. I mean, I, you are, you’re one of my favorite dancers that there is,  

Oh my God. What. That is like the biggest compliment ever! 

Oh my gosh Taja watching you is such a ride. It is such a ride. It is. I think maybe my favorite reason if I could really back myself up here in saying, why is that when I watch you dance, I watch you experience your dance as opposed to just demonstrating or performing your dance. I’m watching you experience very viscerally. And that is a quality that I’m very attracted to. So you are definitely tops my friend, but you do so many things in addition to performing, um, as I mentioned, the DJ-ing, the teaching, you assist you choreograph a question, what is your favorite mode for creating?  

I don’t have one. You know what, like I read somewhere that they say that when you wake up, the very first thing that you want to do is what you were born to do. But I feel like every 24 hours, like something, something, it just changes. Re-invent updates. You know, I think I find if I can say for right now in this particular phase that I’m in, I think I find the most, um, enthusiastic for me is definitely just conceptualizing, creating a full idea and then trying to make it as interactive and immersive as possible, of going into the dimension of my mind. And I think that that is like, it’s, it’s so challenging for me. And it’s equally pleasurable for me to experience because I really get to get very clear on what it is that exists in my frame of mind, my perspective in my, like in the metaphors, within the metaphors of what I’m trying to mean and what I might mean for that moment and what that could mean for other people. Um, that is, yeah, I think that, that, that’s where I’m at right now, but yo give me two, two decks. I will be DJ the most delicious set ever in the world. You know,  

That’s a great answer. I feel like that question is a setup and anytime you set up, when people ask me, you know, cause I, you know, I love to edit. I love to capture, I love to choreograph. I love to teach. Um, but I think what you’re like, what you’re shining your light on, is that any opportunity that you get to do, all of them is really the sweet spot. Like yeah. That’s, that’s the coolest and it sounds like, and I, I don’t, I know you’re not able to say too much, but it sounds like you’re working on right now, exactly that a project where you can call on all of your many interests and talents. Um, what are you able to say about where you’re working on?  

Right. Okay. 

So don’t get in trouble.

I can’t get in trouble cause I’m the boss and that’s why it’s really fun. But, um, but what I can say, cause you know, like, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen fyre festival, but nobody wants to fyre a festival. Right?  

Except the the internet, the internet had a heyday with that. The internet loved that internet loves it.  

Netflix loved it. And I think Ja Rule loves it as well, but yeah, but yeah, I mean, like getting away from that, um, but what I, what I am creating right now started off as just a project, even like a few years back that was just portions of other projects, all coming together in one. Um, I can say that, you know, originally this started off with two meetings, um, I had gotten approached by a digital platform, um, and that digital platform gave me the opportunity and the permissions to create my own virtual event. And, uh, immediately after like I had another meeting with, uh, a VR company, um, that decided to move forward with me and forming a relationship and green-lighting um, my dance VR video game concept. So I basically, I sat with it for a while and hadn’t, I had a conversation with my sister and she was like, ‘Taj, you’re so good at everything, but you’re so ADD’ like really, like, she was like, you should just pick like one thing and I’ve had a couple people tell me this, that like, you know, I will start in, you know, consume myself with one idea and then I’ll just like float to the next.  It’s like some segue, you know, to, to another idea. And then another idea is born and another idea and I love ideas. I really do. But she was like, ‘if you just put all of your focus and attention on seeing this one idea all the way through, she was like, everything else, you pick that one idea that it’s going to be that, that base and that foundation for all these other ideas to STEM off of.’ And I just kept going back and forth in my head. Like, but like, but both of these, like I wish I could get both of these to work. Cause I think both of them are great. And what ended up happening is I decided I will combine both of those ideas into one and treat my development stage, um, as my show and as the event. So on a subconscious level, I’m teaching other people how to play my video game before it comes out.

Interesting. 

I think that’s like the most fat I can give you  

You certainly piqued my interest. Um, and it sounds like you are creating a solo duet. 

That’s what it is, another partnering solo. 

So you’re bringing two ideas together to be one thing. And I understand the challenge of focus in that way. When, when you are weaving so many different ideas together, it takes extreme attention and focus. But my friend between all of the things that you are and find interesting, I cannot wait to see what this partnering solo becomes I’m so excited 

Oh my God, I will say this because she will not let me live it down. If I don’t mention that this is not my idea alone. This is an idea that actually is very much coming from her mind and her dimension and her vision and what she’s given me in her, meaning Kim. Um, and I’m still on that journey of figuring out what, what exactly this walk is, mentally, spiritually for me with this other voice that I tendency here and this other. Um, yeah, I don’t know if you want to segue into that a bit.  

I would love, and I hope that we can segue with some compassion. This is my first time talking about, um, a person with a person that is an alter. Is that perfect? Is that the correct word to use? Do you consider Kim an alter ego or, um, what, what’s the verbiage I should be using?  

I would think, I would think it was an alter ego, but funny thing happened, right? Like couple of years ago, um, which, you know, I was in a, I was in a cult and um, I got out and it was a pretty deep way, um, that I got out and there was a start over restart that happened. I do believe in a lot of ways that when that night occurred, that there was a rebirth or a transformation, I just feel very far from any of the other previous lives or phases that I have gone through. Um, as a person, I don’t really feel connected to those, that persona or that part of myself anymore. Um, I feel a different energy and I think a lot of my friends have shared that it is different. Um, even the way that I look is very, very different. Um, when I did actually start seeing a trauma specialist, they shared that this is my brain’s rewiring. The brain is so powerful and it wants to protect you. It wants to make sure that you are you’re good.  

Dana: This is where the conversation gets real. Now I may be a certified coach now, but I am not by any means a neuroscientist, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a behavioral scientist, or even a person that knows what is best for people who are dealing with trauma. I don’t have the tools, the training or the experience to speak to the way that our brain handles traumas. But I am a person that thinks it’s tremendously important to shine a light on discussions about mental health. In the next part of our conversation, Taja talked about the way that she got out of the cult and the things that she experienced afterward. I’ve edited that conversation to be age appropriate for my young listeners, but in the edited portion of the interview, Taja talks about having difficulty, recognizing people, not eating, not sleeping gaps in consciousness, sensitivity to certain materials and textures and even colors and various other experiences. If you or somebody that you know are experiencing something similar, I don’t personally have the tools to help you here, but in the show notes of this episode, I’m including links to the international society for the study of trauma and diassociation. I’m offering links to resources where you can find professionals or more professional help visit the department of mental health at dmh.lacounty.gov That’s a great resource, especially if you are in the Los Angeles area and don’t have insurance. Other resources are MHAnational.org for complimentary and alternative medicine, as well as the national helpline for substance abuse and mental health services. That’s SAMHSA.gov All of those resources will be linked in the show notes of this episode, along with some recommended reading from Taja and the mental health center locator, that’s www.nimh.nih.gov One more time. That’s the mental health center locator, N I M H dot N I H.gov. I hope that within those resources, you are able to find someone you can trust and that can help you. All right. Let’s jump back in now with TaJa and Kim. 

Experiencing one of my first episodes was so catastrophic for me in terms of my emotional intelligence and where I felt like I was, but like, I literally went through a weekend where I could not use my hands. Like it was preventing me from that. And after coming out of that, um, and getting a sense of, okay, you’ve got to do something about it. Having a crying moment is not going to help. How do we, how do we, uh, navigate this? What, what do I need to learn? How do I need to get educated, um, to define, and, or even, I don’t even need to define it right now just to collect right. And ha take data, take inventory and examine things that maybe I’m adding to the pool. That is, that’s making me go into this crazy time, you know, to a point where I’m locking myself inside my door, you know, like I’m locking myself in my room at night, so I don’t go traveling that’s that’s not okay. You know? 

And with that data, did you take all of that information you’d collected and seek help or, or get medical attention? What was your, you know, what does that help structure look like for you right now?  

Yeah, I mean, at first I wanted to find somebody that could spiritually keep tabs, you know, and going that route without God in it, for me. Um, I thought worked out, but I, I don’t think I actually found what I was looking for in terms of receiving that truth. I dived into, you know, the trauma specialist route after months of being like, I’m not going to any hospital for a number of reasons. One because of the whole COVID experience that we’re going through. And then on top of that, I’ve always felt squeamish about, you know, being treated or being diagnosed, AKA, somebody speaking something on your life that you, you feel like you can lose power. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve heard friends of mine that even with Denise, you know, hearing, hearing a doctor tell you, you have cancer is way different than you saying to your body there’s something weird. I need to go fix it. And yes, sometimes learning that information from other people is helpful, but there’s something about multiple people knowing that and thinking that, and being in agreement with that, that can change your, your recovery process or change the energy towards getting better, finding health. You know, somebody gives you a certain title. You feel like you have to act that certain way, or you feel like you have to prove that you’re not acting that certain way. When people say that you’re crazy, anything that you try and demonstrate to them to prove that you are otherwise makes you crazier, to me. Like, yeah. And I think that just even the term usage of disorder, that’s what makes me squeamish. It’s like, it’s like saying moist, like it’s really about, you know, you’re like, um,  

Dig into that. You’re saying .. Are you saying that the word disorder makes you uncomfortable the same way that the word moist makes you uncomfortable?  

Yes.  

Yeah. It is not my jam. That way. I’ve got three words that drive me nuts, but are you saying that it’s the sound and the like the look of the word disorder or what it means?  

I think it’s, I think it’s what it means. I was thinking the feeling in terms of how moist makes me feel. Um, but, but in terms of the actual usage, I have a problem with people saying disorder. So I I challenged, it was saying, if I do I experience, I am experiencing these symptoms right now that you would put in this category of dissociative identity disorder, but I’d like to refer to it as if I’m, if I have that multiple personality that I’m multiple personality proficient, or I’m a multihyphenate human being that is hypersensitive to triggers. You know, I feel like for anybody that is dealing with their mental health, and I would say, I would venture to say, everybody’s dealing with their mental health right now. And, um, it could be in a, in a, in a place of, you know, trying to figure out what, what is the key to happiness or success in isolation, uh, even that, um, on a mental level, it’s a lot to handle. I just think that that’s where I’m at right now, but the usage, the usage of the way people position things, sometimes I think could use a little re-up, a little update, you know, and I think it’s time we’re at a place where people are, are experiencing the reform, you know, of many things, you know, so

I think reforming and reevaluating language and terms, um, the way that we speak, the way  that we address each other, I think so much of this is, is necessary. And I think that even when it comes to like the DSM four like describing conditions, medical conditions, I do think there’s language changing all over the place around certain things. Um, I’m glad to see language changing. I’m glad to see human beings taking advantage of our, uh, self-awareness and this, like this evolved brain that we have, where yeah, we are actually able to think about thinking, like, we can think about our thoughts and we get to decide what we make certain words mean, but you can see the problem where if everybody had their own meaning for every word, we, all of a sudden are a completely disjointed, broken community that can’t connect on anything. If we don’t know what anything means or what it means to you is different than what it means to them. And what it means to you today is different than what it means to you tomorrow. And how do we move forward?  

Dana: How do we move forward? When language is always changing? How do we understand each other? When words mean different things to different people? Are words neutral or are words and their meanings set, rigid, binding. And in that ultimately powerful, I don’t know the best or the right way to answer those questions today. But if I’ve learned one thing in recording a weekly podcast, it’s that words are important. Especially a word like disorder. The public stigma towards mental health disorders has built a pervasive barrier that prevents so many people from access to jobs, education, and even prevent some people from engaging in mental health care. Again, I’m not a brain scientist. Again, I am not a brain scientist or a scientist of any sort. I am a dancer. I am a choreographer. Yes, I am a coach. But I think that to say this discussion is none of my business or not my problem is a disservice to myself and to others. This conversation with Taja and Kim has reminded me that I can be a part of a peer support system. I can share resources that connect them to professional support systems, and I can evaluate and dismantle my own stigmas around mental health. That is my personal goal. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask for a world that is completely free of judgment, but I do think we can help each other find more freedom by being better listeners and encouraging personalized treatment. 

Dana: This, this quest for freedom to me, begins with awareness. And it sounds like you are doing the work to become aware of your, uh, your feelings, your experience of this life. It’s, it’s cool to hear you writing the empowering stories and taking stock, collecting data on what you’re experiencing and using all of your many gifts, tying them all together to create value in this world. Um, and I’m, I’m so interested. I’m very curious in what it is that you’re experiencing, um, you know, sensationally in your body, but also mentally and what’s going on in there. And, um, man, I’m, I’m inspired by your journey. I’m very interested in it. I think I’ll be going to do some more research myself, man. I just thank you so much for sharing so openly. I really appreciate,  

Taja: Of course. Yeah, no. Um, thank you for being open with me so that I could do that and have that platform. I really appreciate it Dana and, um, everybody out there stay safe. Okay.  

Yes. Thank you, Taj. I’ll talk to you soon.  

Yeah Bye!

Alright. Everybody. That is it for me today. I am so glad to have had this conversation and so happy to be sharing it with you. Again, don’t forget to check the show notes for all of the helpful resources that I’ve mentioned. And if I have missed any, if you are a person that has found support in other ways and places, I would love to hear about it. A great place for us to be in touch is over at words that moved me podcast on Instagram, I look forward to hearing from you. And of course, I look forward to talking to you. Thank you so much for being here everybody, talk to you later. 

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 word that I remember. So kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #26 Still Taking Notes from Dominique Kelley

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

Show Notes

Quick Links:

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

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

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

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello, my friend, how are you feeling today? I am feeling a little bit tense. I am having one of those days where it takes like three times longer to do all of the things than I expect it to take, or then I have allotted it to take. So I’m having a day, but I am having a great day because I am recording episode 26, and this is such a doozy. This episode is a gift because I didn’t expect there to be a part two from episode 25 with Dominique Kelly. And then he and I had an incredible IG live conversation and I simply could not keep it to myself and by myself, I mean my Instagram account. So that is what this episode is going to be. I’m going to tell you a little bit more about it in just a second, but first let’s talk wins.  

My win this week is a super emotional win and it is that I had an awesome conversation with my dad yesterday. My dad and I live in different States, but sometimes it feels like we live in different worlds. We’ve got different political opinions. We have different ideas about sports. Um, for example, he likes them and I like being outside and eating peanuts and drinking beer. So maybe there is a little overlap there, but ultimately we are very different beings. I’m considering this conversation a win because we went way deeper than the weather. Although we absolutely did start by talking about the weather as always it’s our warmup, but I feel like I got to know him and understand him. And honestly, I think I heard him understanding me. We did a little emotional, heavy lifting as well. Just warning. We do both cry when we talked about his dad, my grandpa, and what it means to be without a dad on father’s day. And as if that wasn’t enough, this conversation really revealed the thing that I should have known all along really truly connects us other than our DNA, obviously, and that is music. It was very, very cool to connect on that. So if you’re interested in listening in on that conversation, check out my most recent episode, which is actually a bonus father’s day episode. So it doesn’t have a number associated to it. It’s just a bonus episode, but you’ll find it in all the same places where you normally find the pod. Okay. That is my win. Now you go, what is going well in your world?  

Alright, killer. Congratulations. And I am stoked for you. Keep winning please. Okay. Let’s talk. Taking notes. So episode 25 was action packed with golden nuggets. And in this IG live that I did with Dominique Kelley, he was hitting it with the combos, all of the great analogies that you would expect to come from Mr. Dominique Kelley. Also, we go a little bit deeper on some topics that we covered last week, for example, um, the difference between cramming and learning. We talked about practicing change instead of just memorizing change. And I think that’s super, super important to, to address. So I’m jazzed that we get to go a little bit deeper on that. We talk a little bit about the protests and what it means to be convenient or inconvenient. We also talk about Dominique’s relationship to timing, which is a very, very particular one. We talk about how restraints can be liberating. We also talk about history, the importance of names and remembering and cataloging things. And we talk about fusion. We talk about style. We talk about origins. We talk about how to frame boundaries as opportunities. My friends, whether you are in coronavirus lockdown, or not, whether you are a teacher or not, whether you are a dancer or not, there is so much to be gained from this episode and from this man, Holy smokes, get your pen and paper ready and enjoy another conversation with Dominique Kelley.  

Dana: Hi, I’m good. How are you doing? 

Dom: I am empowered.  I am surprised that people want to hear what I have to say. It, it, it humbles me every single time, literally

Dana: Because your words are gold. My friend. 

Dom: Thank you. I appreciate it. 

Also, if you’re being good to your, to your vocals, you stay hydrated.  

Oh yeah. All the hydration. And I had French fries too. So it lubes it up nicely.  

Cause I don’t think that’s um, well I have a handful of things that I would love to talk about today. Um, some questions that I got about the podcast and then a few things that I, because I also edit the podcast. So as I’m editing, I’m like, Ooh, I didn’t even, that didn’t even sink in that moment. And I, there are things that I would love to revisit. Um,  

And I actually went back and listened to because you know, sometimes you’ll put it out there and then I want to be like, Ooh, what did I say? Okay. Just to make sure you know.  

Yep. I’m with it, Dom. I did want to ask too. Is it okay with you if we open the floor to questions from.. 

For sure. All the questions. 

Yeah. Cool. So here’s what I would love to talk about from the podcast. One of the things that I noticed, I asked you a question I asked, um, as a, in dance and in life, how do you encourage people to avoid learning with a cram mentality? Like quickly, quickly get the information, pass the test and then yeah, because what we’re experiencing right now, may be the result of a problem that is about that. Like we crammed to get through this movement or that moment or this thing. And then nobody .. there was no deep change made. There was no deep learning done. And so we’re still here is it, it might be because of that cram mentality. That’s like, okay, just enough to get over this difficult moment , just enough to get through this quiz just enough to get through that test. But, but nothing, no deep learning, no deep change. And you, you talked for a good moment about as a teacher, what you do, how you encourage that. And as I was listening, I realized that a unique thing about dance is that you really cannot cram and truly pass because, Like I might be able to cram so that I remember the names of the positions, but I, if I can’t do them, you don’t get to cram for that test. You can’t cram a triple pirouette you either practice doing it enough so that you can do it or you can’t do it. So I think that we might, what I hope is that we might see dancers as being people who are used to practicing change instead of cramming for change. And I really am hopeful that a dance community will be one of the first places that we see big, real change that started on an individual level. Like it’s a triple pirouette is not a team change. It’s not a universal change. It’s like I do my triple pirouette  work. You do your triple pirouette work. And then we can do a triple period together. I got so hopeful when I heard that little hidden gem in the episode, that’s like, Oh wait, dancers, can’t cramp because you can’t pass. If you don’t do the work.  

No. And then not only that, at least you talk about cramming, which means reading. People don’t even know what book to read. They don’t even know that we’re all reading a book. Let’s start there because we’re talking about like cramming and getting all the knowledge in. There are still some of us who don’t even know that we’re being tested. Some of us are being tested. Other people are the tests, the ones who are writing those tests, it’s like, what’s what’s happening. So it’s not so much, even the people cramming. I mean, I’m kind of giving credence and credit to the people who are actually trying to ingest the knowledge. Now how much of it’s getting in. It’s like, you’re doing stomp on your forehead. Like it’s just not getting in. You know what I mean? But, um, in moments like this, it’s remembering something has to settle something like take one of those gems and elaborate on that.  Like you, you have to, you have no other choice, but to do that because that’s how we learn anyway. That’s how we learn all of the things that we love. Whether it’s a mistake, whether it’s something like it’s learning about somebody, when you first go on a date, you don’t go on a date for 15 hours. You spend that time. I mean, speed dating happens. But still what you have a half an hour? You know what I mean? So like, there’s, there’s nothing you can do to cram all the information in jest. And then not only that we’re very much black lives matter, but look, what’s happening in Yemen. Look, what’s happening in China. Like it’s very easy to be like, Oh, we turn into superheroes with our knowledge where it’s like, well, I have to save this person. I have to save this person. And that’s a great place to be in your life. But at the end of the day, you have to ground yourself in something in your learning.  

Thank you. 

Welcome. Sorry. 

I love this. I in the episode, if you haven’t listened yet, please do check out episode 25 of Words that Moved Me. Dominique has a lot of solid gold. And now you are analogy master. And in the, in the podcast, we do talk about analogies being a little bit dangerous because what we’re doing is we’re relating two things that are not the same thing, but we’re saying this is like this. And it’s so that we can wrap our heads around things that are difficult to understand, but it’s also, I think very important to be very specific about what things are and aren’t is this something you’re so good at doing? And I just want to applaud you for that. My favorite one that you just dished was this idea of speed dating. And I see in that such incredible value, especially because in dating, after the date is over, you can’t stop replaying it

Good or Bad. 

So I’m hoping that as people are learning right now, whether it’s reading a book or watching the doc or listening to the pod, I hope that we replay it afterwards and talk to people about it afterwards and, and, you know, stay with it. I think that’s one way that cramming, you know, that’s, that’s not cramming. That’s deep learning.  

Yes. And then not only that back to the speed dating, not only do you learn about somebody else, but most importantly, you learn about yourself. You learn about what you want, what you don’t want, how you feel, like do you have commonality? It’s all of those things. So I think when you’re learning about someone else, you’re learning about yourself and, George C. Wolfe  always said we complete each other’s history. And that is true. So in these sessions, when we’re cramming, I mean, I know we like to go to an empathy place and try to relate it to ourselves, but that’s how we see ourselves in the world. That’s the whole competitive, that’s sports, that’s dance competition. That’s a little moving up in life, seeing where you fit in the strata with this cramming and learning about other people. You have no choice, but to ingest that and see, see the opposite view and then see how you fit into that.  

And that can be so tough are what we know about ourselves. What other people tell us about ourselves? And then what we have no idea about what we’ve never seen, the blind spots  

And what you’re starting to learn. You know what I mean? Because what I just heard recently is, um, and this is just like a random jump, but it makes sense. You know, sometimes we don’t like what we see in other people and that’s why we don’t like those other people. So when that mirror is really reflected, so with all of these world issues and the issues that we’re dealing with now, and whether it’s a protest or unlearning, relearning, all of those things, you have to sit and sit with your feelings and go, Whoa, why don’t I like this? Do I not like this? Because it’s illuminating a blind spot in myself that I, that mirror, you know, and that goes back to living in Hollywood versus New York people go, New York is so real. And then sometimes I go or is Hollywood also so real that it illuminates everything, everything that you want to be and don’t want to be that mirror just turns around and you’re just like, Oh, you know what I mean? So like, I think in situations like this, when you’re seeing where you fit in the world, that mirror hurts, it can feel really good, but you’re also hurting.  

I have a question from an audience member. Um, and this is a very specific question asking for tips on transitioning from concert dance to commercial. You’re a person who knows many different worlds Dom. You just touched a little bit on being in, living in New York versus Los Angeles. You have deep, deep roots in tap, but your education experience and talents span far, far wider and many different styles. Um, so, so I’d love to hear, what do you think on tips? What if it’s not transitioning from commercial world to, or sorry, contempt company to commercial, but transitioning from world to world period.  

There it goes. Um, I think, um, I, that’s probably coming from Xavier who I had a Jacob’s pillow and he is one of my favorites. He’s really great. So if you don’t know who he is, just look him up. He’s great. Um, I did not come from company world. I like to dance with my shoes on. I never wanted my potatoes out. I wanted my feet in. Yeah. I wanted my feet in. Um, so I don’t know much about that world, but what I do know is the world transition that a lot of my friends did from company world is they went through musical theater. And I don’t know if it’s so much because the discipline meets the discipline because a lot of my friends who did company world into like commercial world, they were like, what is this? Why is everybody late? Why, why did we not warm up? Why did we do all those things? So I think sometimes from company to musical theater is a very disciplined, disciplined match, depending on who you’re working with and working for. I also encourage you to get a mentor, everybody out there get a mentor, whether you’ve been doing this for a long time or not, hello, to all the people out there, get a mentor, because I feel like that person will usher you into the greatness and the fullness of who you’re supposed to be because sometimes these questions, um, they’re great. And it’s great to ask questions, but sometimes it’s great to have somebody to walk you through that situation. Like for example, Jamal Story knows about that life. Desmond Richardson knows about that life. Anthony burrell,Ebony Williams There’s a lot of great people like Rasta Thomas, like people know that world. Um, so if you need me to, I will direct you to those people. I literally will do that all day long. Cause it’s been fortunate for me that I’ve gotten to be a part of all of these worlds and I pull no punches. I don’t hold any secrets. So if anybody out there needs anything, I can at least direct you. And then not only that stalk people literally see how other people did. Like, I like to be keen on people’s process. Like listen to their podcasts. If they wrote any articles, if they have anything in dance magazine. And I feel like sometimes that’s the best knowledge you can get if you can’t definitely like get to the person, see how their mind flows.  

Um, I would love to hear about your relationship to timing and this time right now.  

Yes. Okay, great. Now just another little fun thing. I literally bumped into not bumped into cause we were doing some Dana Foglia and I felt so crazy because like I felt like I was like word vomit about how I felt. I felt guilty that I feel like I’ve done well in COVID meaning like handling it. I’m an introvert. I don’t get stir crazy. I don’t need to move around. I don’t need to do any of that. What we were talking about is my relationship to time, being a tap dancer, I’m used to the beat being on the beat, rhythm. What’s the time signature, all of that stuff. Like even hearing the tick. Oh, I guess it would be this way. The tick tick, tick of the clock, I’m automatically like, Oh, where do I have to go? Where do I have to go? What do I have to do? And it’s been so liberating. Not having time constraints. Not only that, I didn’t have to worry about leaving here. I didn’t have to worry about being in traffic. And then not only that, as an African American, we still have that implanted in our brain that it’s like, you can not be late. You always have to be on time. Because if you’re late, people are gonna think you’re late because you’re black. So I always try to be extra early and time, everything out. And in this time I have not had to like maybe now and then being like, Oh, I should zoom with this person, but it’s been so liberating to not be on a timed schedule. Not only that, it was the most consistently present I’ve been in my life, literally in my life. And it’s been so rewarding to then go. It’s not about the past and it’s not about the future and anybody who does freelance work and who is an artist, you’re always worried about the future. I mean, I got safe, so I’m never really worried about the future, but even sometimes it’s like, what is the future what’s going to happen? And you know, it’s going to be good, but you’re still like there. And to literally not have a care where people ask me, what am I doing today? I don’t know I’m going to do what I feel like doing. And that was the most liberating experience of this whole time.  

That’s poetic, fighting, finding freedom in restraint, in, in what most people are calling lockdown.

That’s ballroom, freedom and restraint, you know? So it’s been, it’s been nice to also share these things because again, people will hit me up. They’re like, how are you doing? And I was like, I don’t mind it because I can literally be my full, authentic self. Not that I’m not, but I mean, like I can do all the things that I wouldn’t do in society. I can wear my do rag all day. I can sag my shorts down if I want to, I can play whatever music I want to and not technically have to worry, even though we’re always not necessarily safe, but I still had that womb, I had a creative womb in here that I could be whatever I wanted to be. And as somebody who’s African American and in the arts, that is the one of the most liberating freeing places to mentally be that I’ve been consistently in a very long time.  

What is your game plan to maintain that? Do you think you can? Is it possible?  

That is the question because I was telling a friend we’re about to reenter back into a different society. So we’re all going to be relearning how to interact. Like we’re not going to be running up and giving each other hugs, um, the way we’re going to, um, interact as you know, just people and citizens is all going to change. So I’m excited to see how that’s going to change and all the mechanisms and habits and things that I’ve brought in here. There were things that I was already doing, but I don’t know if it will be the same because life is starting back up again. So that’s the thing I’m going to try to keep as much of me as possible, but even still, as things are ramping up, I’m like, Ooh, I have to do this. Ooh I have to do that. And I think it’s not so much I’m blocking out the noise. Cause I’m not necessarily one who has to like sit, I can, I can be doing things and still feel at calm and peaceful. But the interesting thing is, um, maybe going out into the world and then not feeling guilty for not wanting to be out in the world all the time, because we always feel guilty If we stay home, you know, where it’s like, I feel like I should be doing this. I feel like I should be doing that. I think it’s more taking onus of not feeling guilty for preserving and protecting my magic.  

Thank you. I, uh, I think that it’s part of dance culture that, uh, I’ll speak specifically for the industry that I know this Los Angeles community and the commercial industry that working is good. Busy is good. Like actually when you, when you ask somebody, how are you doing? And they say, Oh God, so busy. You’re like, Oh good. Like we really busy is good because busy means working. And, and I think that well from the sounds of it, anyways, the guilt in getting pleasure or joy from not being busy might be doubly compounding the unnatural because we’re so used to be busy being good. So yeah, I really enjoy the idea that busy doesn’t equal good and not busy doesn’t equal bad.  

Very much that. And not only that too, it’s like, I almost felt guilty that I didn’t feel like dancing for the first two weeks or even after that, I did not feel the need nor sense to create. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m fortunate that in my career, I have been able to create and create freely and just put work out there. So during this time, people are like, well, you should be creating and doing all these things. And I was like, I feel like I need to turn that off for a second and ingest and take all of the knowledge and all of those things in and just rest my brain because this hamster wheel that’s going like every single time, like so many tabs that were open. So it was nice to like click those tabs off and, and just be, you know, and, and honestly for maybe the first two or three weeks, I felt guilty. And then after that, I was like, no, no need for that because guilt is not a productive, positive emotion. Like conviction. Conviction is good. Guilty is bad  

Conviction. Compassion. Yes. Yup. In the podcast you mentioned, I think it’s in the same section where we’re talking about deep learning versus cramming. Um, you mentioned, sit down, like take this round out, watch the groups, right. You don’t need to dance in every group. Nope. Sit down and rest your mind. And I think it’s very interesting, the timing of our civil rights movement that we’re in with the pandemic that we’re in, where, um, yes, we are in some senses forced to be still enough to watch what’s going on outside. Um, and I want to segue if I can, with that, to talking a bit about protests. Um, I mentioned Los Angeles specifically being a world that loves to work. And I noticed last Friday, which was when we entered phase three, um, I was driving to my husband’s workshop and I got my first road rage in four months because there was legit LA traffic again. Yeah. And it, and it flared up and I was like, Oh, I don’t, Whoa, that’s a thing I used to have that a lot. That’s a thing that’s not so familiar anymore. Anyways. I’m wondering if, and I’m afraid that I’m wondering this, I’m embarrassed that I’m wondering this, but as Los Angeles gets back to work, are our people that used to be at protests going to be annoyed by protests because they’re road closers they’re keeping them from getting to work. Like I don’t have a question about this, but I’m really wondering what’s what’s the fate of the protest  

Protests are made to feel to let you feel a little bit of inconvenience. People do not like inconvenience. We only like being inconvenienced when we’re not being inconvenienced. So I think in this moment, once life opens back up, you might see less and less. Never know. You never know. You know, for the most part, remember how many people got mad when people were, um, shutting down highways or walking or like blocking traffic or any of those things. People hate inconvenience, but little do they know they don’t go to the point. Like this little bit of inconvenience does not amount to what other people are going through in their lives, in other countries, in different homes. You know? So I think the most part, the protest that happened, people weren’t really out anyway. Now on the flip side, there were more people who were freer to join into those protests because this was a world wide phenomenon worldwide, you know?  And would people have been like, I’m not going to go because I need to go to work. Or Ooh, if I call out of work, they’re going to be mad. Then I’m going to get fired. Nobody cared at this moment because nobody was really doing anything anyway. So I think it was divine timing of it happening when it did, because if everybody would have been working and traveling and whatever people would have been more annoyed, even more so of the protests that were going on than normal, because people were like, well, I’m not outside anyway I can cheer on. We can hold our flashlights. At the end of the night, we can be on our, we can be prone. We can be on our knees. We can do all those things because it didn’t inconvenience us. And I think that’s one of the problems because we saw us in them. Usually that’s a good thing. But sometimes when that moment happens, we just see like us, us, me, how is this going to affect me? As opposed to, I need to be there for somebody else and support, you know,  

Thank you for helping me understand protests better. It is important to think about that inconvenience or like annoying annoyance being the tool, not the purpose. Like somebody poking you over and over again becomes annoying, but it’s not, they’re not trying to poke you. They’re trying to talk to you

Get your attention. Exactly.  

They’re trying to, it’s not the poking. So I, I hope that things do open up. I hope that protests continue to annoy people and more so than before. I think they will, because more people are going back to work. Like you said, they weren’t that annoying because they weren’t in the way. And then in Los Angeles, in many cases, they’re a beautiful, a beautiful, beautiful spectacle. Dare I say entertaining for some people. Ooh. You know, but I, Right, right. And I’m here, I’m here for all of it. But um, I really hope that they do continue. Don’t get me wrong though. Please. If that’s the sound bite, you take away from this. I don’t want protest to continue. I want change.  

There we go. I was about to say that I want some action after that  

Change to have, instead of, we don’t need to keep poking  

Cause that finger is going to get burnt out fingers, going to get burnt out. It’s going to be bent like that. Like in the cartoons,

Whats a bunion  if it’s on your nuckle, 

A Nunion? I dunno. I dunno. 

Beautiful. Well, I know that you are a busy, busy person. I,  

I’m not too busy to talk. I love it. Especially you.  

Ah, thank you. I’m enjoying this so much. Um, anything else coming up from people in the room? Jessica Castro. Love you love that you’re here.  

Yes. That finger is going to enlist the other fingers,  

This is great. And then if you learn nothing good people learn that a bunion on your knuckle is a nunion  I love this. Um, you know, it’s interesting. Speaking of this, just this thought is just now jelly. In locking. We have a sam point. We have a sam point because of Uncle Sam and we want you, and I’m so curious to see what dance right now will look like to people like me, locking is one of my favorite styles of dance. And you know, I I’m, I’m far from a club in the early seventies, but something about it resonates with me. And I really love the way that, um, dance is kind of a portal into the moment in history, uh, of when it was created locking for example. But I’m, I’m so curious for people 30, 40 years from now to look at this and I wonder what dance will be saying about this time right now.  

I hope there’s a Milange. I really do. Um, one thing that is not a gripe, but I wish I got to talk to more of my brothers and sisters who do hip hop. I feel like a lot of the tokens or some of the other African Americans who do other dance styles we’re talking to each other. But when lists are made or like when people want to do a benefit or anything, if you don’t necessarily do hip hop, then you’re not necessarily enlisted. And I’m not like trying to be like, but it’s more of, I understand that there’s a bigger Brown community in hip hop and a lot of those dance styles, but I wish we all came together. Well, not now because of COVID, but I mean like mentally came together to really try to unite everybody because like I said, not necessarily like commercial and company or this in that, I just feel like sometimes I’m like this when it comes to the hip hop community, when I’m, when I’m speaking on anything.  And I would love to hear in compare and contrast and have these conversations too, because my blues are different than yours and yours are different than mine. My outlook is different than yours and yours is different than mine. I’m used to being, you know, one of the few in what I do. And a lot of times, you know, you might be around more people. So I would love to have not only a mental Milange, but see a merging of the styles and see what happens and all of those other things, because I think there’s beauty and mixture and there’s beauty and separation.  

I, you know, I was just about to zero in on that, we talked a little bit about ballet, the technique of ballet, how saying that ballet is the foundation of all styles is tremendously exclusive. Um, but also I believe that style A. if you’re a smart person, knowledge of style, A. if applied to style B can give you a deeper understanding if for no other reason than because the body is the vessel. So is there a right or wrong in terms of purist maintain, this is this, it won’t change. It is what it is that blah versus, well, this can grow into that. And I’m open to your take on this. You know, the end. 

I think I’ll start by saying this, that one problem that the vets or the OGs or the old heads have is not necessarily the styles, morphing and changing because that’s what it was for us. You don’t want anybody admonishing you for trying to do your own thing. I think where the friction comes from is not calling it what it is or giving the respect It’s due. For example, I like to do, I like to teach jazz. Um, most things have a contraction, a kickball change, a triplet, a pas be bourres and an envelope. You know what I mean? Like things that in my head are considered jazz, jazz. Now, most people go like, Oh, well that’s not really like jazz funk. And I was like, no, it’s not because it’s not that I’m a purist. It’s just that if I’m calling something this and I’m billing it as that, I want people to go, Oh, that’s what that is.  So if you don’t know what the pure part is, the derivations won’t make sense to you. And as much as I love a derivation, like I’m one of those people that I’m like put it together. Sure. I just feel like if it’s organic, all day, if it’s not, I feel like we can, we can sense that it’s something in your spirit that can sense that. And it’s not necessarily that you’re putting it on out on a platter for us to judge. It’s just more of, does it feel organic for you if you’re sharing it that way? Cool. Maybe that’s just you. But I think the problem that I have sometimes when styles form in milange and everything, I think it’s called one thing where it’s like, but to have the technique, to be able to do this, you need that in all of this is missing. If that makes sense a little bit.  

Yeah. I think you’re bringing up an interesting point, which is, um, not only in acknowledging and then knowing origins, but also referring to the origins with the words, the names, the people, the, the dances is unique and that you cannot learn how to dance from a book. No, but you must be able to point to, without, with something other than movement, the sources, the places you have to have words that explain the thing. You have to have names and dates of where it came from. Otherwise it dies right there with the moment that it flourished and bubbled and then was gone.  

Cause we’re, grios, it’s a pass down, especially a lot of our, you know, black dance form. It’s passed down from generation to generation. And um, the more you know about it, the more everybody else will know. And then you won’t get clocked on appropriation anyway, you know, either way, because you know the history you’re giving credit to the people who came before you, you’re giving a nod. I’m giving a nod to the Luigi. I’m giving a nod to Matt Maddox. I’m giving a nod to Frank Hatchett. I’m giving a nod to all of those people, just in my being in paying it forward and passing it forward. Because you know, we hear all the time, tap dancing is dying. Jazz is dying. All these things are dying. One. Why is it all the Brown stuff dying. Two Is it really dying? Are you just not doing it. Three. How can we help to not make it die is by passing along what it is in its true form. So by the time you do your derivation and you put your own sauce on it, you put your own stank, you filmed it and then you put it out there for the world to see people aren’t going like, Oh, are you a culture vulture? No, I’m not a culture vulture. I’m giving the history as I’m doing it. I’m a living, breathing museum, work of art. And if you go into it, knowing that and being firm in what you know, and then researching history. Cause I know a lot of things, are social dances, we did them at a certain time and everybody did them, but who did them? Where did they do them? What was the time? We all have to turn into sociologists and anthropologists in this moment. Sorry, I use a lot of big words, but you know what I’m talking about. You have to do your research because again, if you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going and that’s even with dance styles, like you just have to know. And again, knowledge is so important in, in, in just all of the things, because somebody may try to tell you what it’s not, but at least you can tell them what it is.  

The backdrop. Yeah. We stand in front of all the dance that came before us  

All the time, all the time, we are living, breathing repositories of everyone and everything that came before us. So give them some credit because they worked really hard. They came through the plagues, they came through the trail of tears. They came through the interment camps. They came through being enslaved. They came through Ellis Island, give them, give them a click, give them some love. These people worked hard. And not only that, this was their tribute. This was their, this was their party. This was their joy in the midst of everything they were going through. So by you trying to just make it monetary, come in a half an hour late, not even tell that, not even tell the full story and you make money off of it. What are you doing? You’re stopping it at you. The whole thing is to be a repository of that gift and pay it forward. What are you doing?  

Jess Castro is asking. I’m going to kind of meld them together. Sure. She asks two questions. She says, do you think that the problem is that when students start dancing their foundation, they start by taking these fusion type of classes. So then there’s no actual foundation and they don’t have the origin. That’s A, part A and then B is, why do you think it’s not attractive to the new generation? And I think she means why, why do you believe the foundation is not that attractive to the new generation? Jess am I, am I, am I right in that second question? Feel free to chime back in.  

Cool. So the first one about fusion, I do kind of feel that way, but I think it starts with your teachers. If your teachers want to be famous and not want to educate you, it’s also the intention behind it because we have to hold our teachers accountable. Now it’s hard when you just don’t know, we all came from somewhere that was not New York or LA or Atlanta or Chicago. So we all came from maybe a Dolly Dinkle or if you were privileged enough to have the best choreographers come in, I didn’t all the time. So I use TV. That was my substitution back in Connecticut we didn’t really have hip hop. And this was like 93, 94 95. So what I learned, I watched by watching TV. Now, the good thing was I did stalk dance. I literally was a dance crazy. Um, I was one of those people that I started off in the beginner class. But by the end of the year, I was in a more advanced class because I went home and I did it myself and I looked it up and I wanted to know the words. I think it came from a fear of sounding nuts. I wanted to know all the fancy French words and it wasn’t being elitist. You’re using those fancy French words. I want to know what those fancy French words are because for me having that knowledge, nobody could take that away from me. You can tell me maybe my foot wasn’t pointed, but I can tell you what step, you know. So it was always the specificity of the movement that I wanted to know. I wanted to see you do it. So another thing is I, my dance teachers, I didn’t grow up with my dance teachers doing the step. They were all older. My dance teacher was not about to do no saut de chat. Her assistant was about to do no saut de chat. So they had to explain to me what your body was doing. And I had to use my imagination. And then once I got to the point they were saying, then that’s it as opposed to let me show you what it is, let me dance in front of you. Let me do the combo. That was never it for me. So I came up learning that way. So to go back to the question, I think maybe there’s a little bit of that because it’s the education of our teachers. Our teachers don’t quite know what the words are and we need to just hold them accountable here. You know, in Canada, they have syllabus, here we don’t necessarily have that. Like, um, for example, I had gotten to an argument here that says like a pique turn or a pique, we call it pique, but other people don’t call it that. And then somebody else was like, no, it’s French. It’s just what it is. It’s a pique. And I said, no, in Canada or Australia, it’s called pose. Like opposed they turn. And they were like, well, that’s not right. And I said, see, but I just told you, I went to those places and that’s what they call it. So it’s educating our educators. So everybody in competition, convention, world who are teaching teachers tell them that. So the second part of the question about, um, what was it, why doesn’t the new generation? I don’t think the new generation likes limits. I think that’s why contemporary is so popular in other forms where they get to just be themselves because our generation and above was taught to do this and learn this way. Granted, we have free thought. We have all of that, but I think hip hop was radical Street Jazz was radical. You know what I mean? And I think the difference was our vets didn’t really look down on it. They were just like, Oh, you talk took it to a new place where now like, even with tap or even with other things, people saw what I was doing. And I think the vets were like, yes, but now us being the vets doing to the younger generation, I don’t think it’s necessarily the dance form and that it’s fusion. I think it’s the integrity behind it because I am, I have gritty integrity, you know? And not just, we say integrity in the movement, keep your hips down. When you’re sitting on the floor and hip integrity, make sure your knees are facing up. We’re used to that integrity where sometimes people want more of a free flow. And it’s not just an LA thing where people go like, Oh, they just want to perform.  And they just want to live live. See, we were taught to live and practice, but live within the confines now, which one is better or worse. Now, nowadays, people take the information and write poetry with their body. They write a sonnet, with their feet. They do haiku with their chest, you know? And um, and I think it’s all the same glo-. I was about to say that it’s global now where people do not want to be limited. And I wonder if that has to do with our labels, for gender, our labels for sexuality. I wonder if this is just where we are in our lives. Because remember where we were in our lives, we had, we had some boundaries, we had boundaries, just societally everything we didn’t, we were in boxes, but now the generations are pushing those boxes away and really challenging how we feel about ourselves, our world, how we interact with it and what we mean, what dance means to us and what we mean to the dance. So I don’t think it’s that it’s necessarily admonishing the younger generation. I think as long as they’re doing it with integrity, I’m kind of here for it. I’m here for it all day long, because I remember how it felt when people tried to look at me and be like, Oh, is that what you’re doing? And I’d be like, yes, that’s what I’m doing Now again, I take great delight that I get respect from my vet. There’s very few that’s that I get respect from. But I think it’s also because I did the work. And I think if people did the work, it would be more respect, live your life. We all know a young one that inspires us. You know, my little mini me Ryan Vettle when he puts those shoes on, I’m like, Oh, all day long, you know what I mean? There’s just certain young ones in our lives that get it. And they’re like 12, they can be like 15. They could be like 19, 20, 21. We all have those ones, you know? But the thing is, it’s instilling in them the work. And it’s not that it’s not trauma. It’s not that you have to beat them up. It’s not that they have to keep doing the steps a million times. It’s having the integrity and doing the work.  

I love this idea. And I love that. You’re talking specifically about responsibility of teachers and then the leveling up of the students, something you said also just gave me an idea. And I know that there are a lot of parents in the room and I wonder if it might not be the responsibility of the teacher, just like it’s the responsibility of the parent to say, eat your vegetables. And you know that there are parents who get real creative with how those vegetables show up like peas all of a sudden are in a pureed sauce of some sort, whatever we put honey on him or what, I don’t know what the tricks are to get your kids to eat vegetables. But what if it’s the job of the teacher to present the boundary as an opportunity and not a boundary? 

There we go

This is what you get to do high fifth, fourth, whatever. This is what is available to you. This is what you get to do versus this is what it was. This is how it is. This is how it has to be. It’s a teacher’s creative challenge to present the boundaries as opportunities  

Because they all are, nothing is an obstacle. It’s not, it’s just a different way to think about it. And that’s what I try to do in class in general. I mean, anybody who knows me knows that’s just like, even when I do, um, Demi Demi Grand, I tell the people in my class, the bottom half is strict, the upper half lives. So I want you to remember the progression and I want you to remember the pedagogy and the technique in that, but the upper half should be able to flow. You know, the bottom half should be in print type set and the upper half should be in cursive. You know? And I feel like a lot of times like that, if you let people know they can be an individual because we were taught to be a group. A lot of times, you know, if you went to a dance studio, whether you competed or not, or a company you were taught to be as one, and that’s great and all, but I feel like a lot, like, like I said, with society and everything, people are living for their stars, you know, in their company, because at the end of the day, everybody who’s in LA was either the best in their studio or the best looking one. But what did you learn? What did you learn? You know?

I think that if, if there’s anything to be learned from movement, it’s that you’re able to move best when you have, when you’re solid someplace, some thing has to be anchored in order for there to be freedom. And dance is a great metaphor for this technique itself as a metaphor for this. And I will, I would like to share with all of you guys that are here right now, um, something that I’ll dig into on the podcast much later down the road, but Dom and I talked about, and I would like to touch on this. Um, here, this concept of technique versus style, are people missing something by not getting the foundation? If, if foundation is technique and fusion is style, then what are we doing? And what kind of future are we looking at? If all we’re teaching is style and no foundation, I’m not saying that it would be bad. I actually am really curious as a person who’s shoulders were always up in belly was always out and supporting leg was never straight. Like I’m curious about a world where style is the currency. I’m curious about that. I think there’ll be a lot wrong with it. The Rockettes wouldn’t exist, right? Like technical details. It’s like essential, Maybe? I would love to be questioned on that. Like, and we might be finding out Jess, we might be finding out what a dance world looks like. That doesn’t have technique, but we also might be finding that there is technique And this is why this is a hard question. Not, this is why I ask everybody. I talk to you because take Fosse For example, whose style was born from his physical limitations, right. We see pro nation, we see not high legs. Um, but that became its own technique. You can do Fosse well and not, well, you can teach it. It is like, this is why that question is so hard to answer because they’re actually not. 

It’s cyclical. It’s cyclical. Yeah. I’d like to have another life. Sorry. I was going to say, I have another analogy like that. Um, when I’m teaching, I tell my students it’s all about lines. And I said, think of yourself as an actor, if you know your lines and you know, what’s happening, then you can improvise off of that. So as a dancer, once I tell you what the line is, if you want to improvise off of that, at least you have the baseline. And then from there you can create because, um, again, just with acting or improvisation or building blocks in order to form sentences, you need to have words in order to have words, you need to have letters. So you have to do the building blocks. So then you can just knock all the blocks and then switch the words around and do all of that.  Because at the end of the day, passion overcomes technique anyway, because we can watch somebody do something technically perfect, and I’d rather drink a Yoohoo, but then there’s somebody else who might do something else, and it’s like, Ooh, that made me feel something like, for example, Fosse easiest, hardest thing ever to me in the beginning, it felt like I looked like I was taking a hot shower. I was just like, what are these positions? Why is that? You know what I mean? But then you realize you either have it or you don’t, but you still have to actively be working towards it. And I think that’s the thing with technique and style style. Sometimes you can acquire. Technique you have to actively work towards  

If dance is the universal language technique is the dictionary technique is the alphabet. Like you don’t get to speak universally without having words with which to say  

Yes. And to add on to that, then those, those letters can make other languages, which is even better because that’s how you become multifaceted in different styles.  

This is huge. This is huge. I love where this conversation is going. And I honestly, I could, I would love to maybe make this a weekly recurring moment because I think honestly, Dom we’re scratching the surface. Um, but I do have to run. I really, really appreciate your time. 

Thank you. Thank you. Oh, can I just do a quick shout out thing? Oh, praise him. So, okay. So I know this is weird, but my birthday is on Sunday and I know when you said birthday, I was like, does she know? So my birthday is on Sunday. So a couple of things. One, if you donate to a charity of my name, cool, if you want to donate to me for Apple juice or whatever you want. Cool. If you don’t want to do any of those things, if you post a quote that you’ve heard, that I’ve said, do it or anything that is empowered you because I want the day to not necessarily be about me. I want it to go through me and go to you. So anything that you’ve, that’s been mind blowing for you or anything that you want to put out into the world, be like Dom said, just be better. Or Dom wanted me to do this. Please do that on Sunday. I’m going to post about it. Dana. Thank you so much for having me and letting me just talk. I appreciate it.  

Oh, absolutely. It’s my absolute pleasure. I’m going to go find out how I can loop this video all day long on Sunday. I love it. Okay. Have a great rest of your evening. Thank you everybody for being here.  

Thank you later. I’m not going to leave until you leave. Okay.  

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