Dana: Hello, Hello, my friend, how are you doing today? Little disclosure. I am recording this episode before election day. I voted, I voted by mail and I voted early and I do not know what the results of our presidential election will be. It is possible that even if you’re listening to this on the day of its release, which is actually the day after the election, it’s possible that you still are uncertain of the results. I’m sure there are a lot of factors at play here, actually. I’m not sure, but I can only imagine. Now whoever is announced to be the president of the United States for the next four years. There is sure to be a lot of disappointed people out there, a lot of upset people, and here is what I have decided. I will tell you about that. This is what I will tell all of the upset people, all of the victorious people and, um, my future self that will be listening to this episode as well. I will say, that there is much work to be done, period. And you can do work. You actually love doing work. Yes. Quitting feels really good in the moment and blaming other people, oooooo that also feels really good in the moment, but doing the work and owning your good work feels so much better. It feels incredible. Now it may look hateful and unsafe out there, but you’ve got this. It may have even gone your way and you’ve still got this you’ve got work to do. And this episode is about one of the many ways that I work on myself. And I think that starting with the self is a really great way to get big, big work done like global type of work. Alright, I’m excited to get into it, but first let’s do wins. Shall we? Depending the results of this election and depending on what side of the aisle you sit and depending on when you listen to this episode, it may or may not be really hard to name a win today. So let this be an opportunity to practice, not hanging your emotions on the circumstances of the world, but rather on your own decisions and your own creations. Today, my win is that I have made a place for people like you. Yes, you exactly. You, you smart and funny and emotionally intelligent and imaginative and resourceful listener you. I am celebrating that. I have made a place for you to come and listen and a place for you to come and be heard and a place for you to meet other people like you. Other smart, funny, emotionally intelligent, imaginative. What else are you? Oh, resourceful people. Now last week, I got a gift from a few of you. A few of my listeners who have taken on the doing daily creative challenge and also took it upon themselves to actually meet and actually make something really, really special together. A Broadway worthy piece to my damn fantastic, If I do say so myself, opening, jingle, shout out to Max Winnie, AKA the, make it on Instagram, my composer and longtime friend. Um, such a good job with that jingle. I mean, I do still listen to it often and it makes me smile. Okay. Anyways, four of my daily doers put together this piece and I’m linking to it in the show notes of this episode because it is simply too good to miss. So thank you, @DinkadoingdailyWTMM. Thank you, CourtneyDarlingt0n That’s with a zero instead of an N. Instead of that, that’s with a zero instead of an O in Darlington. Thank you, @SarahDoingDaily Thank you. Kristindoesdaily and thank you, @FrancesBrooks Now fondly deemed the New York city branch. I see you. I appreciate you. Thank you so much. Now it is your turn. What do you decide to celebrate today? Something that’s yours, something that you made, something that you decide is worth celebrating.
Awesome. Congratulations. And thank you. You are crushing it. Okay. Many of you know that I am a backpack enthusiast. I have spent countless hours in my IG stories, reviewing different backpacks, even hours in my personal life, criticizing your backpack or praising my backpack. If you know me, then you already know my backpack. By the way, is the LuLu Lemon Cruiser from 2014. I should tell you, and I haven’t been paid to tell you this. I should tell you that there are two varieties of this bag. One of them has a hard shell, outer zipper compartment for glasses. I’m assuming. My bag is not that bag, the bag that you want is the other cruiser. It has all soft compartments and it is better. I should also tell you that this bag is no longer in production. I am sourcing them from eBay and I am on my fourth Lulu Lemon cruiser.
Yes. I have decided to share this information with you today on the podcast, even though it could potentially mean that I am less likely to find these bags for myself, that my friends, is selfless. My backpack has everything. It has everything it needs and nothing that it doesn’t need like a super sleek black interior that makes it impossible to find my phone. My cables, my pins, my mascara, my Bobby pins or anything that is black. I mean like impossible, good luck. The black interior is a fatal flaw. I will not purchase your backpack. If it has a dark interior lining the dark interior lining of the bag matches the dark interior lining of your heart and your sick sense of humor and your design errors. No thank you, to bags with dark colored interior linings. Bright interior linings are for bright people, such as myself and such as you. You deserve a bag with a bright interior lining. Trust me, trust me now, thank me later. Okay. Anyways, this episode is really not about actual backpacks. Dana, please resist the urge to make this episode about actual backpacks. It’s been like 15 minutes of me talking about backpacks. I’m moving on.
This episode is about emotional backpacks. As in the backpack that you will put your feelings. Nope, Nope, no, please don’t hit stop. Your feelings are important. They are worthy of your attention and they’re worthy of a backpack all to themselves. Let me explain. In episode 17, I talked to you through my process of processing negative emotions. In that particular episode, I walked you through how a coach helped me through feeling stuck. I discussed and described every single detail, every single inch of that feeling. I discussed how it felt in my body, how it looked in my body, you know, what color it was, how much it weighed, if it had any motion to it. And if that podcast were a video episode, you would be able to see how it felt in my body, a visible physical tension that turned into hot tears and eventually flowed from my face. And it took about 25 minutes to do this, by the way, this, this whole processing of the emotion thing. Now, when I don’t have 25 minutes to process my feelings, I like to employ this concept of an emotional backpack. My emotional backpack is the place that I put the most important feelings instead of keeping them in my body where they might not be very useful in the moment. Let’s take a look for example, at self doubt, when I feel self doubt, I feel it like in my sternum area, it feels like a black hole looks dark, icy, cold, vast, and sucky. I can’t think of another word. Like literally it sucks. Like it’s sucking everything around it, into it. My collarbones collapsed towards my diaphragm, my shoulder blades round forward, my face and eyes dropped to the floor. Everything gets sucked into that. Sternum suck. And I shrink. That’s what happens to my body physically when I carry self-doubt. And as a result in that shrunken state with my eyes low and my mind collapsed on itself, I don’t see the world. I don’t see opportunities around me. I don’t see teachers. I don’t see solutions, my doubt, and that darkness, that void are perpetuated and it keeps sucking. Everything keeps sucking as a result. So here it is. Here’s the big secret instead of carrying my self doubt and other unwanted emotions like overwhelm or worry or rage or shame, instead of carrying them in my body, I carry them in my emotional backpack on my back. And my emotional backpack is not my Lulu Lemon cruiser. It is an invisible metaphorical tool that I use that I happen to carry on my back, but yours doesn’t have to be a backpack. Yours could be a satchel or a fierce clutch or a lunchbox. I mean, you name the container of your choice. The point is that you honor and recognize these emotions, all of these emotions as a part of the human experience and as such, they are valuable. So keep them with you, keep them in the place that you keep your valuable things like your wallet, your keys, your tools, your cameras, your chargers, all of the things that are important to you. Count your feelings on that list of important things that you carry with you always, but you don’t need to carry inside of you. You own these things and you put them where you put your other belongings, in your backpack.
Now give a negative emotion that you have experienced recently. Give it a name, guilt, embarrassment, imposter syndrome, overwhelm devastation, disappointment. You name it.
Now, where do you feel that feeling in your body when you’re experiencing it? Where do you feel it most in your body? How much of your body does it take up? Close your eyes if you’re not driving right now and imagine it really feel that feeling. What color is it? Does it move? Does it move faster? Slow. If you were to touch it, would it feel warm, hot or cool? Would it feel wet or dry, rough or smooth? What does it do to the shape of your body? When you feel that feeling now with a deep breath, take that feeling into your hands and move it into your imaginary backpack, purse, satchel, shoulder bag, Fanny pack. What have you. Now zip it up. Feel the weight of the zipper, and now feel the weight of the bag. Take another deep breath. Do you feel like you’ve made space in your body for something else? Do you feel lighter? Now, pick up your emotional backpack and put it on. It may be heavy, but heavy, like a jet pack, heavy like a jet pack that might actually boost you forward instead of hold you back. Pretty valuable. Huh? Now this new emotional jet pack. This is the thing. This, this is the real thing about the emotional backpack. It’s not just for negative emotions. Like the ones I mentioned before, or like confusion or embarrassment or anything like that. It can also be used to contain your positive emotions like exhilaration, pride, accomplishment, confidence. I keep all of those in my emotional backpack as well. Those are the feelings that fuel my life. Now, here is the best, best thing about the emotional backpack. Possibly the most important thing about it. When you finally make your way home or to a place where you take off your actual real backpack, that is your cue to take off your emotional backpack and unpack it as well. Unpack all of the feelings that you’ve kept in there throughout the day and process them. Look at them, touch them, feel them, give them a color, honor them, turn them into art. Should you choose. Now I know that this concept is a little bit abstract, but if it speaks to you, please do revisit episode 17, where I talk more about the process of processing and please do enjoy or don’t enjoy what it feels like to feel all the feels. If you have any questions about this concept or actually anything at all, please feel free to write me @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram. Yes, I suppose this is the beginning of an ask me anything. Call for questions at all times at any time on any subject, please reach out with questions. Um, full disclosure. This was not my idea, but that of my dear friend and brilliant human Emma Portner. Thank you for asking the good questions. Emma, bring them on everybody and bring on the funk. That’s somehow not as good a closer as Keep it funky. I don’t know you guys. I tried, I tried. Keep it funky. Everybody. I’ll talk to you soon. Have a great day or night or you know what? Grab all of it have, have at it. Yeah. That and everybody I’ll 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 though. theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to remember. So kickball changeover to patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 friend. Welcome to Words that move me. I’m Dana and I, as per usual, am jazzed about this episode. I’m exceptionally juiced up because.. juiced up? Is that a thing that I say? Um, um, I was just trying to not use the word jazzed quite as much, but I can’t find a better substitute. I’m exceptionally jazzed because I just came back from my vacation. Spoiler alert. I did not really take a vacation, but I did take several baths and I painted my nails. So I didn’t leave town, I did work for several hours a day, but not all day, certainly not the 30 hours a week on zoom calls that I had become accustomed to during these quarantine times. Um, and when I wasn’t working, my thoughts really turned kind of tropical. I thought that I had all the time in the world, so I didn’t even set my alarm in the morning. Um, I thought about the sun on my skin, so I spent more time outside. I really, really sought out inspiration. Um, so I watched some of my favorite movies back. Oh my God. Friends, Wings of Desire by Wim Wendors, which is actually spelled with W’s W I M W E N D E R S. Holy smokes. Maybe the most beautiful film I have ever seen. I genuinely cry thinking about it because I, I really don’t think that there’s anything better. It might be the best film ever made. Honestly, the only thing missing from this film is a dance number, but there is a beautiful trapeze artist and not one but two musical performances by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. So really how can you be mad at that? It’s just so good. Please do check that out. Oh, also go head over to Words that Move Me podcast on Instagram, because we just posted the third series of mandatory lists. I do a post that is your mandatory reading list. I do a post that is your mandatory watch list. And then third of course is a mandatory freestyle list. Those are my favorite to freestyle, to my favorite movies and documentaries and series to watch. And my favorite books. Yes. We just posted our third series of that. So head over to IgG, take a look at what those are. Um, wings of desire is definitely on this list three, but I kid you not. When I tell you, I think this is my favorite movie of all time, okay. We’re back, we’re focused and we are talking wins. I start every episode with wins because I think it’s important, especially now to celebrate what’s going well in the world. And the wind that I’m celebrating today is that the podcast has broke 2000 followers on Instagram and more than 1200 videos have been posted with the hashtag #doingdailyWTMM, which stands for words that move me. But that is not the actual win, the numbers themselves, they aren’t in the win. The win is that these words are moving you. The win is really that when you share you move others. So thank you so much for sharing this podcast with your friends. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for getting out there and moving. Um, that really is the reason why I talk to myself in this podcast booth every week. Also though, I do really love talking to you guys, um, over there in the comments @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram. I love, love, love seeing the new daily doers. Shout out to my new doers. Rachel Gale, Elena X Valencia, Sarah doing dailyFrances Brooks, just to name a few. Um, Oh, and while we’re at it, I could go ahead and super shout out. My climbers. Um, Chris McCartin recently passed 50. Sarah Victoria is well past 50 Oriana doing daily @oriana.doingdaily is well past 75. Um, Jojo Carmichael climbing into the nineties, Frida Dawson, AKA at Fridawson has passed 170. And Rebekah Wrangler is past 225. Holy smokes. So good. And I definitely feel like a Peloton instructor right now, shouting out all of my milestones. Man, No wonder they can’t shout them all out. I almost passed out and I’m not even riding a bike. Okay. If you’re interested in digging into some of those daily doers, go search the hashtag #doingdailyWTMM and be inspired. Um, all right. I guess I should mention if you haven’t been with me since episode one, doing daily, then I should inform you that doing daily is, um, I suppose I could call it a challenge that I’ve posed to my listeners in that episode, in the first episode, to help you restore ownership of your creative life, to put it very broadly. And to be honest, that I did not expect that that episode would create a community of daily doers, really a support system, an audience of performers. That is what it is, and that is super special. It wasn’t what I intended, but it is exactly what has happened. And I am thrilled about it. I am also thrilled to tell you that I now have a tool up on my online store. It is a digital download. It’s called the doing daily diary and I designed it to help you organize and manage and really keep yourself accountable for your daily project. It is the companion that I wish I had during my year plus of daily making. And, um, I’m super excited to offer it to you. So go visit theDanawilson.com click on the store and there you have it doing daily diary, along with some other fabulous goodies, please enjoy. Wow, that win turned into a lot more than a win. So let’s go back to you. How are you doing? Are you doing daily? What is going well in your world? Talk to me.
Okay, great kick butt. I’m proud of you. Congrats. Keep on crushing it. All right. Speaking of really crushing it. In this episode, I talked to the incredible Dexter Carr. Now preface this interview is from the vault. We recorded it several months ago, back in the summer before your feed and your mailbox were pummeled with political campaign ads and voting materials. Just want to say that outright. I recorded this episode as a series of three interviews that I did from a friends over at CLI over the summer of their, um, 2020 dance experience, which was awesome by the way, check that out. We’ll be linking in the show notes of this episode. Um, but I had an absolute pleasure with all three of my guests. Um, the other two guests being Josh Smith. You can find him in episode 38 and the fabulous Heather Morris. She is episode 42. So get into those for more action packed, family fun. Now this week, Dexter and I talk about a lot. I mean, really this is an action packed 30 minutes now, Dexter got a relatively late start with dance, but he got his career up off the ground and like into the cosmos. Really, He is living his dreams. I mean, he’s got a clothing line. He has a tour… He has a tutorial membership platform. He’s done Broadway. He’s done the big screen. He’s done all of it. Dexter is truly an exceptional human being. But I want to quickly say that you don’t need to be an exception in order to make your dreams come true. And I don’t mean to get like sugary pop sweet on you right now. But honestly, if you want your dreams to come true, you must simply know what they are and then show up for them. You have to use your voice. So please let this interview be a reminder of how much is possible when you advocate for yourself. When you put your work and your words out there into the world, when you let your voice be heard, please let this interview inspire you all the way to the polls and vote in this election vote because our schools, our workers, your work, the arts, our freedom to make our dreams come true. Truly does depend on it. And on that note, everybody let’s go ahead and get into it. I hope you enjoy this conversation with the one and only Dexter Carr.
Dana: Yes. Hello everybody. And welcome. I’m Dana Wilson. This is Dexter Carr, and this is Words that Move Me on CLI today. I’m so excited to be here. I’m so excited to be here with you.
Dexter: I’m so excited to be here with you.
Dana: Okay. Um, really I can talk, uh, for, um, at great, great lengths and at great speeds. I’m learning. I’m kind of a fast talker as well. And I have a lot of questions I want to, I want to know so much about you. So why don’t we start at like the beginning of dance for Dexter. Cool. Weird to use the third person when you’re right in front of me. I heard that you’re the first in your family to have a musical inclination or like a rhythm bone in your body.
Dexter: Yes. First and last. I think there.
No signs of a followup?
No signs of followup. Yeah. Um, I was born in Miami, Florida, um, and my family is all in Florida. So Tallahassee, Tampa, Ocala, all the state, all the cities in Florida. And, um, we are very, uh, business people. So people are insurance agents. People are marketing people, just all of that brain. And I was not that brain. So, uh, I started at I started a really kinda like late age, I guess, for dance, uh, 13.
Right, relative to the 3 years old.
And you know, I’m, I’m old considering, starting as a dancer and I just really dove into it. I was so obsessed with every dance movie. I saw every, every music video I saw every live performance I saw, I was just obsessed. Like I couldn’t get it out of my head. And even in school while studying, you know, doing the academic thing, I just still couldn’t get dance or music or art off my brain. So yeah.
What has changed if anything?
I don’t think anything. Family still does business And I still don’t. So yeah.
You still don’t. Although I would argue with you on that, I think that you have a strong business thread woven into your creative mind.
Yeah thank you!
Right, right. That’s in there. Um, and I do want to talk about that. Um, actually, maybe that’s a good segue right now. I think that you are like this bright shining example of how you can use social media as like a 24 seven round the clock storefront and audition. And you actually, you call it by those words, like, it’s, it’s an audition to you when you create a piece, whether it’s a combo intended to be taught in class or kind of a concepty thing, you put it on Instagram and you at mention or hashtag the artists and you ask people in comments to do the same. Right. And it seems like from the outside looking in, and please stop me if I’m wrong, that you’ve seen, you’ve covered a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time by working that way. So what do you think are the advantages, or what have you learned from auditioning on Instagram?
Right. I, um, from the beginning, I think Instagram has been such an awesome tool for every industry. Uh, not even just the dance industry for every industry, to be able to get your voice, your product, your idea out to a large audience of people at a rapid speed is like the flyest thing ever. Right. Um, and with me, I’ve always thought that I wanted to perfect my art. Like that was my thing. Like, I didn’t want to put anything out there that was just kinda wild or just not together or whatever the case is to my standards. You know what I mean? Cause art’s subjective. But to my standards, I wanted it to be ready. And once I started realizing that you could put together a piece, you could put together a combo or whatever the case is and have it shown to the artists, whether they like it or not, they’re going to appreciate just the effort alone of you creating to their music. You know what I mean? So I kind of used that idea and just kept, kept going with it and really just use my own creativity and all the ideas that I had to just keep posting.
I love this. I kind of love the idea of like making somebody a love letter is way more romantic than like the sterile audition,
With the depth and presentation. And, and it’s like, you want to see what I, you want to see how I feel to your music. You wanna see what your music makes me feel. So I want to show you that in the best way, I know how
I love this and then it lives. They think they’re like the secret bonus there is that it lives there forever versus an audition. Even if it is a self tape has like this moment
Where it’s being watched.
And then it’s onto the next project or whatever. I love the, the kind of archiving that and to see your relationship to music over time and then relationship to the music turns into relationship with people. So tell me how many, how many times, like, could you give a ratio? How often has that been successful for you and like actually generating a working relationship?
Yeah, it’s been awesome. Um, perfect example is, uh, so, uh, Tinashe uh, Die a Little Bit. I did the music video for that and
Big fan. Really big fan.
Thank you. Um, and yeah, that came from me choreographing to one of her songs in class and the director reaching out to me and being like, Hey, I saw this, I actually took your class. I had no idea. She took my class. So that was also very nerve wracking. But then have you went well? Wow. So yeah, uh, she saw that video and she basically said, I think your style is what we want for this video. And we would love to just have you come in and just start working. And it was literally like a seamless relationship off of that. So I know that it can sometimes seem strenuous and almost like, what am I really doing this for? And like, they’re not gonna see this. Or they don’t really care about this. There’s so many videos to this song. You just don’t know what the label or artists or management or assistant, whoever is going to see that video and say, okay, this, I feel this, like this resonates with me. Yeah. I’ve seen a hundred, but this one resonates with me. You know what I mean? So why not give yourself that audition or that opportunity to just to show what you got, right?
Cause you can be one of the hundred or you could be the one on the other side of the screen, that’s looking at the 100 thinking. Yep. I would have done it differently.
I would have done it different. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then you’re regretting like, well, dang, I wish I did it, but you know
Yeah. I think you’re a great example of doing it. Like just doing it, if something speaks to you do it. Yeah. Super cool. Um, I want to circle back to something that you mentioned that I think, um, I know I relate to, and I’m assuming that listeners do as well. Um, dancers, I think might be more subjective to the syndrome I call perfectionism and it’s, I honestly, most of the dancers I know are perfectionists with their craft, in their life, in their, you know, in their home spaces and in, in all sorts of different areas in your life. Um, do you think that applies to you in inside and outside of dance?
100%! And it’s and I, and I have to say that it’s so I am a fan of, of you and Ava’s and Brian Friedman’s and Jerry Slaughters and Marguerite Derricks’, and y’all are perfect to me. And you know what I mean? It is what it is. I’ve just always thought that, that, that, that group of dancers, that class of dancers was perfect, whether you know, we have our own notes for ourselves or not, but I have always strive to make my work look like that or feel like that, or, or, or come across like that. And I think that it’s not going to be perfect. It’s never going to be perfect. It as much as we believe it to be perfect we’ll never be perfect, but I think there’s nothing wrong with working hard and striving for a level of satisfaction within yourself that you feel good about it. You know what I mean? Like not, and being like, Oh my God, I’m gonna delete it. I’m gonna delete it. I’m deleting it, I’m doing it. And then you put it away, you know what I mean? Like we’ve all done it. It’s cool. But like, sometimes it’s cool to be like, all right, I like that. I like that. And then just being like content. Yeah, of course, you’re going to watch it back and be like, Oh my God, my pinkies out of place. But it is what it is. And it’s, it’s art, it’s art. It’s supposed to make it. And you have also no idea what it’s going to make somebody in, like in, in like the mountains in Iceland, how it’s going to make them feel, just seeing your passion, seeing your movement, seeing your joy, like just that alone is kind of what makes me also keep putting out content too, or posting things or doing things just because there’s so many people, especially right now who need joy and just a little bit of something, you know what I mean? And if you could be a part of that or a, a, an attribute to that one. Yeah.
Even if it’s your imperfect, that’s being that for someone, because just like art is subjective, I would argue that. So is perfection. Yes, exactly. Because a thing that squeaky squeaky totally perfectly like Apple design. Perfect. Isn’t really that interesting. It’s not that perfect because my perfect is human. Like I want to see a fingerprint on it, like glue dripping out of the edge or like a scratch a scuff, like something, something that shows that it’s human and useful instead of like, you know, completely veneered pristine and polished is a little, a little less interesting to me. Um, so I love that you make space, like you, there’s a difference between striving for perfection and requiring demanding perfection before you ship something.
Exactly. And I’ll just tell myself, like, I’ll, you know how we go through like eight different moves and then you kind of just go back to that same move. I’m just like, okay, Dexter you know just do it. Just do the move, just do it. Cause you like it. So just do it. So that’s how it ended up.
I’m like number one, move rejecter Oh my God.
The inner battle in my head, I talk about myself, like a horrible person in my head. Like I just go in on myself and then I’m like, no, no, no, no, no. We’re good.
Can I tell you what it was that made that helped me? Well, it hurt me in that discussion. I started learning about art, like, um, sculpture, painting, architecture, stuff like this, and this notion that there is no such thing as a neutral stroke. Like if we’re talking, painting it either contributes. Or it takes away. And those words got emblazoned upon my mind and they made it very hard for me to create dance because I found myself like, you know, in a, in a kickball change prep, like I’m preparing for the turn and I’m like, okay, is the prep taking away? Is it contributing? How can it contribute more? We’re talking a prep. Like it’s just preparation dance. So I got, I got very caught up about this idea of neutrality in dance steps. Like there not being a neutral stroke. And, um, I did sort of wind up releasing that and now I definitely feel like what’s neutral to me might not be to someone else. It might be their favorite, most impactful, most poignant moment. And to me I’m like, Oh no, it’s just cause I needed to get my weight on the left leg.
Exactly. I just want to transition y’all that’s it
So interesting. Um, okay. Gentle segue for a quick for quickness. Um, because I would be very not okay with myself. If I let us talk forever and not mentioned this, can we talk style for a second clothing? I know it’s important to you because you have your own clothing line, but I think it’s important to all dancers. Yeah. The way that things look and feel on your body can really inform the way that you move. So I want to hear as much as you want to tell us about the clothing line, where it came from, what you hope to achieve, how do you design it? How does it get to people? I mean, I have all the questions.
All the things yeah. Go for it. So I, um, about two years ago, I started with, uh, just an idea. Um, I, I had been teaching at playground for, at that point a year and I had just met so many incredible people and people from around the world were coming into LA and taking class and just talking to them and hearing their experiences or just like, I don’t know, just getting some sort of insight about things that were going on around the world that I wasn’t privy to being in LA. And even when we travel, you’re there for what, a weekend, a week. You don’t really get to, you know, feel the energy of other places. And people were just talking about their style and, you know, seeing people come into class and what they were wearing, just everything was just sparking my brain. You know what I mean? Cause I hadn’t taught a regular class in LA before I started teaching at playground. So I would see dancers here and there, but it was like the ones we knew, like the ones you work with are the ones that are on the job, whatever. But to see different people coming in and out like different hairstyles,
Submerged in it weekly returning, studying it.
Exactly. And like how they would change and how their style would develop too. It just inspired me. So I thought about how can I get kind of my steeze out to the world in, in a, in a non cheesy way. That makes sense.
That actually is really the hard part. How do you create a thing that’s authentically that’s made for many
Mass produced? You know what I mean? That’s hard. And that is literally my still to this day, my biggest like battle when it comes to myself. Yeah. Because I don’t want it to be corny. I don’t want it to be whack. And I think that, you know, everything has its place and everything has its, you know, corny is cool sometimes wack is cool sometimes, but I wanted to feel like it’s like literally coming from me, given to you. So that is really my main point in designing all this stuff. It, is it something that I want to wear? Is it something that I would wear? Is it something that I would want to see somebody else wearing? If I saw somebody walking down the street, would I go, Oh, that’s interesting. Like, cause that happens too, but you know, I mean I want it to be interesting.
Interesting being code for uh…
So I wanted it to be real. I want it to be authentic. So I, um, got a awesome team, uh, through which is based in Vancouver and they reached out to me on Instagram, another Instagram, great moment. Um, and they basically said, I want to help you. I want to help you design clothing line. I want to help you. I want to help you get your voice out larger than it already is.
And in the form of a hoodie
In the form of a hoodie. And that developed into me, just literally going into every website that I loved, every clothing line that I loved and just like getting inspiration, like looking around at stuff, watching people in the street, I was probably staring at so many people. They had no idea why, but I was just going like this and just staring at people what they’re wearing, like how their sweat pants fit, fit. Like if it does that weird thing where it goes inside, you know, you already know, I already know, you know, what I’m talking about, but like the fit like everything and I’m so big on fit and like the way things drape when I dance to cause you know, a bad outfit, well, I mean,
Oh, make or break, not even a bad outfit, I’m wearing the wrong socks and I’m having a hard..
Literally right here. And then one side, it’s just all the things, all the things.
So, so particular,
Everything was, uh, everything was a factor in that. And I pretty much spent the whole first year of just the development process. Designing, thinking about ideas. Yes. No, absolutely not. Maybe. Okay, fine. We’ll do that. That whole process took pretty much a year. And then they came up with an idea, um, and said, well what about tutorials? And I was like, Oh, that’s a good idea.
Dance, dance tutorials.
And I was like, that’s a good idea to write. People do want to dance. Right. That’s what I want to do. Right. So yeah. So why not? Like we’ll do a tutorial option two. So that then took six, four months trying to figure out the software and the, this are the
Ohh the conversations
You already know
And so much learning
That I’m learning about like hosting sites and coding and this and that like I’m who knew that I would ever even need to know any of this stuff, but I’m so happy that I do now just, you know, for my own sake. And then now we’ve kind of transitioned into this apparel plus tutorials plus masterclass like podcasting thing. And it’s, it’s awesome. It’s a, I have an app on the app store. It’s called Outlet by Dexter. So yeah, it’s been awesome. It’s been a learning process for me honestly. And I’m still learning every single day about what people want about what, you know, what people are interested in, what people like, what people don’t like, what, what do people need? What should people have more of? Cause I think whenever you’re putting out a product and that’s even your art, as far as a choreographer, what are you, are you helping the situation? Are you giving people what they need? Are you giving people what they should be seeing as far as also doing the job you’re supposed to do, but like you can push the envelope too a little bit and kind of add your voice, amplify your voice a little bit and say, Hey, I love this song or I love this idea, but I think it would be really dope if we, you know what I mean, if you have the freedom to do that, but yeah, right.
Check the temperature of the temperature of the room. I think that’s awesome. This kind of idea of there’s there’s learning that you can do, that’s free, right? You sit on a park bench and you just watch the way people’s clothes fit and how they move. Or you, you know, as you’re teaching, you have this like sub um, uh, agenda of like watching, watching what people tend towards terms of clothing and that’s all free learning. Yeah. And then you find a team that presents you with ideas and then you learn together. I think that’s a really awesome thing to do. And I think in terms of teams, if you don’t mind talking a little bit more about like, could you have done this by yourself? What parts are all you write? Parts are supplemented by, by the team.
Right. I can say that I could have, I do think it would have taken a lot longer. And I don’t think that I would have, because my brain is, like I said before, I’m very like, ah, and then I’d come up with a decision later, but I think they’ve helped me kind of say Dexter, it’s fine. We’re going to go with this. Dexter stop overthinking. It’s cool. We’re going to go with this.
The decision making process?
The decision process for sure, those are like kind of nitpicky with just, you know, we get a little nervous about, is this going to be like, it’s going to be well received. That would have taken me longer as far as producing. So I’m just happy.
That is lead me to another question. Yeah. Um, do you have any awesome decision-making techniques? Like what it is? Do you have a golden rule? That’s like must be boom, boom or else? No.
Okay. Um, as far as the clothing line or, Oh yeah. Okay. So as far as, as far as the clothing line, if we’ve ended up at this point, come up with a majority rules situation. So there’s 10 of us on the team. So now we have a voting system. So I’m usually always the one that’s like no, and everyone else is like, yes. And I’m like, all right, fine. But, um, that’s kinda on the stuff that is more so like geared towards kids or geared towards like the, the merch side. And um, I’m always like, well, no, we need more of this. We need more of that. And they’re like, no, one’s buying floral on a hoodie. And I’m like, okay, cool. Let me find it. I’ll tell you, I’ll take that one. Can I, can you make me one,
That’s cool that you have the ability, even on your own projects. I mean, that’s so individually yours to say, I might not have all the information here. Yeah,
Yes! Yeah. And, and I, and that’s been a learning process for me because in our industry we’re always made to feel like we need to know everything. Like you need to know all the union rules. You need to know all the hours that you’ve worked. You need to know all the, you know, you want to know the crowd for the director of the DP. Like you were always told that we need to be our own like superhero, which is also a dope quality to have. Right. It does help. It helps for sure. And then it also helps to have people who do the marketing side or do the design side or do the fashion side, or do the other things that you don’t know how to do and give you a little input. So you guys can put all your ideas together. That’s I mean, teams there’s nothing can be no, no great, great entity can be done without a team. I don’t if, unless it happens and I haven’t seen it, let me know. Okay.
I’m telling you, I think it ha I think so often because we see on the scroll the face and it’s so often, I mean, way more often than not, there is a team behind the face and it will take that opportunity to shout out my team, Malia Baker and Riley Higgins. Hey ho. Yeah. It really does take a village, especially in a creative effort. Um, yeah, so many steps, so many, so many things to do. Um, before we leave, before we segue out of clothing, Whoa, don’t take that the wrong way. Um, question. I’m sure a lot of people would aspire to start their own clothing line, do something similar. What advice would you give?
Yeah, just design design, make as many designs as you want as many prototypes as you want. Go to downtown, get it printed on a t-shirt, go to, you know, do whatever it do. Draw it yourself. Like there’s a Nick Baga. A really good friend of mine literally just started his own. And it’s started from his drawings, like literally him drawing on a tee shirt and they’re so awesome. They’re so cool. And just to see that it came from such like a, you know, a genuine, honest me, just drawing on a t-shirt, in my house to what he has now. It’s so awesome to see. So I don’t feel like especially right now, everybody has the opportunity to do whatever they want. Everybody has the opportunity to do whatever we want from from great tragedy comes great success, I think. And that is what we’re all on right now. So if you have an idea, if you have a, a step you want to do, if you have a concept video you want to do do it, everybody just do it. That’s I’ve been telling everybody that I know that that’s okay.
Beautiful sentiment. Yeah. Yeah. Um, that reminds me of a saying that I call on often, instead of fake it till you make it, I would much prefer to make it till I make it, make it thing. You got it. I love this. Okay. Um, so talk about Instagram, talked about clothing brand. I, in my plan, which I swerved from a little bit, I thought that the audition story of Instagram could segue nicely into your experience with Broadway and music videos and film. Um, okay. You are original cast member of Bring it On.
Little known fact. I helped Andy Blankenbuehler skeleton crew, not for the entire process, but several days of skeleton crew. So it’s very possible that we danced the same moves for that show. Is that wild? Just another example of like things crossing over without you knowing, right? Yeah. So what was your audition experience like for that? Oh, good. I’ve had a, a kernel have I?
It was, it was a mess. I mean, it was amazing. I had never auditioned for a, uh, a Broadway show before. Um, I was, I was completely new to the, you know, we do musical theater at the studio, but that’s one number a year or a one combination. You know what I mean? Yes. So when you go in and audition for a Broadway show, eight times, you’re not, Oh yeah. Eight times. And I was auditioning for a principal role too. So that part was up. That was a part of that, but I mean, learning four different combos and they’re not, none of them are the same, you know what I mean? All different styles and you know, Andy, he’s a genius, so he’s like, he’ll do everything. And you’re just like, okay.
And extremely detailed oriented,
Really detailed. If the books are not here on the chest, you’re not getting the job. So it’s awesome. And books are here, you know what I mean? That’s the detail, but it was the most amazing experience of my life. We went on tour first. Um, so that tour lasted a year. And then they came out to like, I don’t even know where we were in some random city in the Midwest. And they were like, so how many? And it was all, it was, we were all young. Like there was like two people who had been on like, I think off-Broadway, but nobody had been on Broadway yet. So they came to like the like last show or something like that. And they were like, so what are you guys doing in the fall? And we were like, we don’t know, like everyone was like stressed. And they were like, well, you’re going to Broadway. And we just, I remember flipping something and we were just, I mean, 19 years old to say, you’re going to Broadway is like, I mean, who would have ever thought, especially me coming from where I came from that was not in the projected goal at all. So that also kind of helped me realize, okay, there’s something that could happen here. Like you could really do something with your career here. And that was a really dope moment for me. So thank you, Andy and Lin and everybody for giving me that moment that let me know, like, I can do this, like, this is, this is something that I never thought I would do in my wildest dreams. I had seen so many shows like on TV in New York, but being onstage, there was no way I was like, there’s no way, but there was a way
There was a way! What a refreshing reminder to, to, to hear about trusting a path, right. And being open to it, whatever it may turn into. Um, on my interview with Heather Morris, we talked a little bit about how pathways are less like, you know, a path on the ground and more like a tree, right? Like you start climbing up the trunk and you could take that branch, or you could take that branch. And that branch has little tiny branches that actually also kind of flirt with the other branch over there. Um, and you wound up on Broadway, so did Bring it On come first for you or In the Heights?
Bring it On came first. And then we did a Heights after that. And then that was another incredible experience because I did it with all the OGs. So like all the original cast members were kicking my butt, telling me when I was doing something wrong. Tell me when I was in the wrong window, tell me when I was coming out of the wrong wing. And I love that, Oh my God. Oh my God. And it was just so dope to hear them talk about stories and you know, like the first time that they performed that show and what it meant to them, and that’s a very meaningful, you know what I mean? And that’s that to be immersed in that, with those
Thats a very meaningful project. To be embraced into that family.
That was incredible. That was incredible. So my Broadway experience is very, very special for me.
Okay. So my selfish question is what’s your favorite number in, in the Heights.
Okay. So I have a story. Yeah. I can’t wait. So there’s this number called? It won’t be long now. I’m sure you know it. And then, uh, me and Jose Luis shout out, uh, we sit on the stoop and dance while Vanessa sinks her song and does the things and dah, dah, dah. So we usually were playing cards and everybody who’s been on Broadway knows that you’re never doing what you’re supposed to be doing on stage. Whenever you have a moment on stage, you’re always doing something else that’s not supposed to be doing. So I, we were playing our cards or whatever, and Jose Luis and the other, uh, one of the other guys thought it would be funny to not really tell me when we’re supposed to be getting up. Cause I wasn’t paying attention cause I’m 19 years old on Broadway and I’m just having a good time. So I’m just playing, I’m enjoying myself, I’m enjoying the set. I was like, Claudias coming out. I’m like, what’s up? Like, it’s a whole thing. And I’m playing my cards and I don’t even realize, I don’t even know why, but I was looking down and they had all gotten up and started the Choreography.
And now you’re playing solitaire on the,
And solitae with my job as well. Cause I may be getting fired at this point. So that was, that’s definitely, always going to be my favorite number. Cause of just that story in that, uh, the, yeah, the, the boys and just being around that environment. But uh, the club was major and then the fight at the club and all that.
Good, good, good stuff.Be on the lookout 2021 In the Heights. I think you will love it. I haven’t seen the whole thing, but from everything I’ve seen, I am very impressed and tremendously proud. I cried at the trailer. Yeah. It was very emotional. Yeah. It’s a beautiful story. It needs to be told very important. So excited by it. Awesome. I’m so excited. I’m on the subject. Do you have any dreams of returning to Broadway and what do you think will be, what do you think Broadway will be looking like on the other side of coronavirus?
Um, my dreams are actually to choreograph a Broadway show. That is my,
I want to see that dream come true.
Oh my God. It would make, it would literally like put a, another valve on my heart to do that. Literally just a triple, you know, like that’s what I would love. And honestly, you know what I think, I think people are so thirsty and so hungry for the arts. I think that when we are safe and when it is allowed or whatever the conditions are, I think people will rush back to it. I think there’s a need and a want and a desire for live connection and like connection period. And while, you know, as everyone’s kind of has their own rules with this whole thing, it’s we can not have the same connection that we had. And I think that when we can again, and it’s safe and it’s smart, I think people will want to get right back to the arts because that’s what made that’s what got people through this. How many shows did we watch? How many, all the Netflix, how many times did we watch Hamilton? How many times do we like listen to the soundtracks? How many times do we listen to old albums? I’ve been literally rewatching Moesha for the past three days. Like just to feel that what I was feeling in those moments. So I think, I think we’ll be okay. I really do.
Oh, there will be a calling for more content for sure. Because we’ve reached the bottom.
I’ve definitely reached the bottom bottom of it.
Okay. In our last couple minutes, then talk to me about the bottom quarantine. What was the worst thing? Hardest thing for you and what’s the silver, what are you walking out? How are you walking out better?
Yeah. Um, hardest thing for sure was not being able to teach my class, not being able to teach on Kaos, my convention, not being able to teach on just not being able to be around and do what I love with the people that I love. Um, I really take my week of class, maybe a little bit too seriously. And I just love seeing these amazing people come in there and fight for their life and, and, and do what they love. And you see it on their face and you see it in their body and you feel it from their energy. And I missed that those first two weeks was like really hard. And then we kind of got that little, like little teaser back and then they took it back from us. But yeah, I mean, that was, that’s what I miss the most. And that was the hardest for me, but I can’t say, and I don’t think anybody will disagree with this. I don’t think anybody’s been more productive that they had been in these past four or five months. Because if you don’t, if you didn’t have a hustle before you have one now, and if you weren’t pushing hard before you push it hard now, because when there’s no other option to, and when you have nothing but time, if you choose not to that’s on you, you know what I mean? And I don’t think anybody wants, nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to just let things just kind of go downhill for them. Right. Everybody wants to get to that uphill. Bam. Everybody wants to get over that Hill that we all have been kinda like, you know, running towards since March. But I think it’s, I’ve seen so many dope people start businesses and just I’ve changed my hair 80 times. And I’ve literally like
Get creative. Get resourceful
I’ve just, I’ve had, I’ve had more ideas and I think I’ve ever had in the past, like three, four years of choreographing. So I think there’s, there’s a silver lining to all of this. And like I said before, nothing with tragedy comes success. And I think we all see success after this.
Oh yes, my friend. And I’m out, we will wrap it up. You guys have a cipher to get to, um, we have a 107 degree heat out there to get to on our way back home. Thank you so much for talking to me today. I learned so much. I feel juiced. I’m excited.
Thank you so much Dana
Thank you. Thank you guys soon.
All right. My friends, I hope you are as jazzed by that conversation. As I was my biggest takeaways from that conversation are about Dexter’s attitude regarding social media. He doesn’t use it for approval. He doesn’t seek permission. He just simply shares. I love this approach. I also really, really loved the way that Dexter talked about his team. Um, so very humbly, he talks about the way that they check him the way that he will admit when they know more than he does about certain things. I thought that was pretty special. Now I could talk about Dexter for a long time, but what I really want and what I hope you really want to go do right now is about go get out there, make your dreams come true, get out there and vote and get out there and keep it funky. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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.
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 the podcast. Or welcome back if you are returning. My name is Dana. This is words that move me and I’m jazzed that you are here. This episode is super special to me for so many reasons. We’ll get into it. But first, today I’m celebrating a big win. But when I’m celebrating is that I have scheduled myself at vacation. And if you are listening to this on the day of its release, I am on that vacation and loving it, man. Even just talking about it now, I feel relaxed. I hope that you are finding time and space to relax as well on that note, actually, what’s your win this week. What’s going well in your world.
Alright. Awesome. Congrats, stellar job. Keep winning. All right. Now let’s dive in. If you are a person that knows of me through NYCDA, which is the dance convention that I’ve taught for for years, then you are really in for a treat. If you do not know of me through NYCDS, you are also in for a treat, but if you’re a dancing that came up through conventions, and if you’re convention days were a movie, then my guest today is the voice of your movies trailer. I guarantee it. Today, I am joined by Joe Lanteri, the founder and CEO of NYCDA one of the first and finest dance conventions out there, If I do say so myself, he is also the executive director and co owner of Steps on Broadway. One of the largest and most renounced studios in New York City. Joe is my boss. Joe is THE boss and Joe is much, much more. So buckle up and enjoy this conversation with Joe Lantieri.
Dana: All right, Joe Lanteri, we are finally doing this. Welcome to the podcast.
Joe: Thank you, Dana Wilson. You know, I am honored to be sitting here and I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that I am nervous, but I’m excited to do it.
Dana: Oh, I understand. Right. When you commit something to digital foreverness, there can, there can kind of be a nerves. Um, you and I can talk though, forever. So let’s treat it as if we were on a convention weekend that had no classes and we had nowhere to run off to.
Joe: How interesting would that be? Right.
Um, sort of maybe like what’s happening now as a matter of fact, convention weekends with no classes,
Right? We’re on pause. Exactly.
Man, okay. So it’s par for the course on the podcast, all of my guests introduce themselves, let us know what you want us to know about you.
Uh, so my name is Joe Lanteri, as you mentioned, and you did allude to convention. So let’s start there. I am the founder and executive director of the New York City Dance Alliance. I say that with much pride and the New York City Dance Alliance foundation, um, I’m a new co owner and maybe not so new anymore co owner and executive director at the Steps on Broadway. Uh, we also have a sister company for New York City Dance Alliance called Onstage New York. I’m the producer and executive director of the Chita Rivera awards. I wear way too many hats in my life, but I cherish and love them all.
Joe, you forgot to mention in that very illustrious bio, that Dance Magazine has also named you one of the most influential people in dance period.
First of all, I don’t think about that. And to mention it, it’s not like it was at the top of my brain and thought, Oh, I’m not going to say that. I just wasn’t even thinking about that. You’ve done your homework because
I will say that I will say that
I don’t think about that whatsoever. And yeah, I am. I’m very honored that dance magazine made that distinction. So I’m not sure where it came from, but I’ll take it.
Well if I had to guess, I would say it’s because you make big, big changes. You do big business, you run big organizations, you do big important work, and I’ve been inspired by you for as long as I’ve known you, which I should mention is a long time. I’m not going to say exactly how long cause I’m a classy broad. Um, but I, I attended NYCDA as a young kid. And I remember looking up to you, I’m at stage like, wow, that’s it, man. And then I, you know, graduated, pursued a career in dance. I remember you called me one day and offered me a position as a faculty member on NYCDA. I wish you could have seen my face. I wish I had a photograph of that moment. Um, a very, a very prideful moment for me. And then the last 10, how many years of working together, um, On NYCDA. So I should let everybody know that because I’m going to say a lot about how NYCDA is one of the first, definitely the largest and certainly the best convention on the face of the planet. But I am biased of course, because I call it home. You guys are definitely my family and I’m so proud to be a part of that team. Um, so big businesses, big changes and, and you must be constantly making big decisions. So I want to start here cause it’s something that I personally am really interested in in my life. How do you make decisions?
Great question. You know, and if you want to know the truth, I try desperately not to let the enormity of what I have going on in my life overwhelm me and I try and go back to the root of it all which often speaks to whether, whether it be the mission or the original vision or what I consider to be the integrity behind it. So if it’s something to do with, for instance, NYCDA, and it’s interesting, we’re having this conversation because I often say this now at Steps, because I’ve taken that mentality there. If I’m unsure of what that, how to make that decision. And this is the God’s honest truth. The first thing I asked myself is how will this affect the kids? How does this, and I’m being honest, how does this affect the dancer? And I start with that and I look at the impact on the dancer and based the final decision on that piece. And I think, you know, in the conventional world or in the dance world in general, even in the open class world, you know, uh, people get into the mindset of counting heads. They look in a room and they count it. And it’s, I think it’s unintentional. I don’t want to think that it’s, you know, people intentionally go in there and do that, but they count heads and they think that that’s what this is all about. And it’s really not, you know, it has nothing to do with that. It really has to do with why is that class? Why is this organization? Why does it exist? And at the end of the day, it really is because you are investing in that group of dancers. And so that’s how I make the decision.
That that’s a beautiful answer. And the beautiful segue actually into what I want to talk about next is, you know, you’ve, you’ve been teaching for a very long time. You’ve been running these enterprises for a very long time and I am constantly reminded. And I tell people all the time that you do it because you love seeing students succeed. And I don’t know how else you would be able to still be doing it if you didn’t get some kick out of that. But you’ve seen, I mean, how many students come up through NYCDA over the years?
Well, we see 15 to 20,000 a year we’re in season 26, you do the math. I mean, that’s, that’s crazy. I mean, even for me, that it’s crazy. And if I had to be really honest, I already had a whole life and a career and saw many dancers and all that before NYCDA in fact, that’s, that’s what sparked me to want to start NYCDA, cause I already had a lot going on. So
Yeah. Okay. So let’s talk about that for a second. What are the differences and what are the similarities of running, you know, your life in a performer sense and your work in the sense of all of these, you know, these institutions that you’ve built.
That’s a great question. And it’s, um, it’s almost challenging a little bit, cause I, I, I feel so far removed from that person, um, which is interesting, cause I still live my life with the energy. Like I was when I was 25 years old and doing all of that, but I will, I, but I do have an answer. Cause I think the answer really is, is that you have to know what you offer and you, you have to have the confidence to put it out there. Uh, whether you are standing at an audition or launching a new enterprise or a new business, you really do have to know, uh, what you stand for, what your strengths are and that’s what you present and you can’t dwell on the naysayers. You can’t dwell on the negative. You can’t dwell on the challenges you chip away at those one day at a time and you just take those baby steps forward.
I wish there was an audition for me to go to right now because I feel all puffed up by that. Um, okay. So let’s, let’s talk foundation for a second. So you started the NYCDA foundation 10 years ago. And how many millions of dollars in scholarships have you awarded since then?
So the foundation itself, yes, we started in 2010. We made our first awards in 2011. And to date we’re at about roughly three and a half million dollars, which was a humbling and daunting number to even utter. Those words is kind of an amazing thing, but we’re at about three and a half million dollars.
Okay. Well it makes sense to me then that you have developed this reputation for being a person that’s very pro college. But what I want to say right here and now and loud on a microphone is that you are a person that is pro success, whether it’s college or in another direction. Um, I, myself, as an example, I don’t hold a college degree. Many of your other faculty members don’t. Yet, I feel tremendous support and encouragement in my ventures, in my work. Um, and I know that you provide that to other students that, that don’t pursue dance in college. Um, so I just want to give you the floor to talk about how you would encourage somebody who’s thinking about the decision, you know, making that seemingly daunting decision. I say that because it wasn’t very daunting to me. I just knew. But what would you say to people weighing their options between dancing college and jumping right into the workforce?
Um, first of all, I appreciate you making the distinction that we are not necessarily only about college. Um, I do think the majority of dancers that I meet, uh, based on where they are themselves at that point in their lives might benefit from continuing with a structured program of some sort that makes them accountable. They have to get out of bed every day if at a certain hour. And you know, I do think college has its benefits in almost teaching you a work ethic of what might be expected of you. Once you do have a job and show up every day and put in an eight hour to 12 hour rehearsal process day in and day out. Um, but I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone and yourself being a perfect example. And we could go down a long list of people that I think are incredibly talented that I admire tremendously that did not go to college and have done wonderful, wonderful things. Um, but I do think from a maturity standpoint, a lot of people would benefit from building their community, uh, starting their own network and investing in themselves in those four years. So I think that the foundation has taken off from the college standpoint because I think parents like hearing the message of we are investing in dancers. We, and we are promoting education and supporting the arts. I mean, that really is the trifecta of what our foundation is all about, but I do get often misquoted that Mr. Joe says everybody has to go to college, which is totally just not the case. And in fact, we are trying to develop new things. You were involved with our dance discovery showcase, which we launched is one of the, one of the silver linings. They came out of this whole COVID situation where we started this mentor program, which came with a scholarship. It was supported by the foundation and that money is not meant to go to college. It’s meant to go to training. So we are pro training. We are pro you’re not done at 18, regardless of how much success you may have had enjoyed in the convention/competition arena. You are really just beginning. The truth is you are, that’s your foundation that that is your that’s your base, but you’re now going to step into a professional setting, which is going to require you to really continue to train and learn so much more. And some of it is just learning in life experience, you know, not only do is in the classroom
Or even, or even on set, you mentioned, uh, building your own calendar, being accountable, being responsible with your time dollars and your dollar dollars, um, networking, all of those things. Yeah. That, that sort of structure is certainly not, um, already in place, you know, outside of a college environment, there’s no systematic way of climbing that ladder into being a working person. You just kind of close your eyes and jump
To be really honest Dana. You know, especially as a teacher and as a teacher at steps for all those years and being in the hallway with all those dancers that are waiting to take my class and overhearing conversations, and some of it is about not, you know, why am I not? Why don’t, why didn’t you get a job or why didn’t, you know, all of the things that come with pursuing your career? Um, I think for some people, their big plan at graduation is, my best friend and I are going to move to a big city would whatever city that might be, and we’re going to get an apartment together and we’re going to dance and as great as that might be, that’s not entirely a plan of attack. You know, that’s not really, that’s not enough. That really is not, you know, and the other, the other thing I’m going to interject, just because I said those words, the other misconception is because we are the New York City Dance Alliance is that we expect all of our dancers to move to New York, which is ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Again, you are a perfect example of that. You know, what we stand for is a standard of excellence and a level of training that you are then supposed to take that and go do whatever you want with it and thrive and flourish and do all of that. But wherever you go, you’re going to be held to a standard and your training is going to is going to resonate. And that’s why that’s, that’s who we are, but not because we think you have to be in New York, do it wherever you want to go, wherever, wherever, follow your heart, go find your stage. Those that, that is a direct quote for me. I use it all the time. Go find your stage.
I love this quote and that is another beautiful segue. Joe, you would think we had had a rehearsal. I’ll tell you what, um, you’re famous for your talks. I hear them ringing in my ears ever because I’ve been hearing them since I was a kid. And you know, we’ve been working together for years and years now and I they’re so meaningful and I’m glad that people are willing to step away from the steps for a second and just give a strong verbal message, like no interpretation, this is what’s important to me and any alumni who is listening, anybody that’s been on a Dance Alliance weekend, who’s listening knows exactly the talks that I’m talking about. Um, and in those talks, one of the things you say a lot in addition to following your heart is to invest in yourself. I would love to know how you invested in you when you were on the come up as a dancer.
I think that’s a great question. And I will start by saying, um, when I use the words, invest in yourself, very little of it has anything to do with finances. It is not, it’s not about, you know, spending extra money or call it your even college tuition, as much as I do think colleges part can be part of that investment. But I think it’s really learning to find your path, um, to answer your question about my own journey, uh, both as an individual, as a performer, as a budding teacher, as an entrepreneur, all of those things, my greatest investment in all of those things was surrounding myself with incredible people. And that circle your own personal family that you develop and that you grow with, that is one of your greatest investments because that they’re there to support you. They’re there to support you in the great times and you all you share in that celebration, but they’re also there to support you in the difficult times. We are living that right now and not to go into a COVID place on this beautiful conversation that we’re having. But what a better example you being part of that family that I have, and you understanding many of the conversations that we’ve had in the last six months, uh, we couldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for that, that to me is really the essential investment that we all need to make. Um, especially in our industry because our industry allows us to get caught up in our head and get caught up in comparisons and get caught up in the cattiness. And I work, I, my whole life have worked very hard to not buy into that and not to not to go down that path. You know, I, you, you, you joke about, or you mentioned my speeches. Um, my talks, I often, I often carry characters, might characterize myself as being a little corny quite honestly. Um, and I’ve owned it. I own it. I absolutely own it. Those, those talks, I have genuinely come from a heartfelt place. They are a little borderline. The world is the world should be sunshine and roses. Um, I consider myself, uh, one of the most, you know, um, positive. Uh, there is a, there there’s always a rainbow. There’s always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That’s just the way I live my life. And I think for some people that’s difficult because they’re not that way. And they’re, they’re the, I call them the eye rollers. What a hand goes on. A hand goes on a hip and the eyes roll back. And I can’t do anything about that. And that’s one of those moments where I stay true to myself. I know what I want the moment to be. I know what I want my message to be. I know what I want a kid to feel. Um, and one of the most rewarding things for me is when I, you know, if you know me well enough that in that moment, when I’m talking to a room full of the older dancers, that’s also the moment where I take a quick break and go change my clothes and come back and we’ll do the whole end of the weekend. I will have dancers run after me. I will have parents run after me, grab me by the arm, tears in the eyes and just say, thank you for what, for whatever, whatever came out of my mouth at that moment, not preplanned. And just having even one person wrecking, have that effect, then I’ve done my job. Then I’ve done my job.
Um, sort of as a followup through those pot of gold glasses, that’s what I’m going to call. I’m sticking to it. What do you see as being, um, kind of a hopeful result of the COVID moment on the dance convention world specifically, but maybe broader even dance education in general?
Um, I think it’s been interesting for me now. I’ll be honest. I have yet to teach on zoom. Isn’t that interesting? I’ve not
I didn’t know that!
And part of it is because this whole thing that whole quick change has been so overwhelming that I have really been wearing my business hat as opposed to my dance teacher hat. Um, but the dance teacher in me does, has been a part of hundreds of zoom classes and situations and events and things like that. Um, so I’ve learned and watched and observed and seen a lot of what goes on. Um, I think, and again, not to sound corny, but I think we’re seeing dancers step into an ownership of the situation. Uh, definitely an accountability for themselves when they’re now alone in a room, they are not able to hide behind 30 people in a classroom or 300 people in a ballroom. They, they, they are accountable for their work. They are accountable to show up and I applaud the dancers even for showing up. When I think zoom burnout and being hours on a device, all of that is real. It is understandable and real. And yet there are many dancers that have embraced what this now is. Embrace this reality and have basically said, I’m not going to let this deter me from following my passion, my dreams and my training. So I’m going to make the best of it under these difficult circumstances. And I think that characterization for those people, that’s, what’s going to remain. I think in general, I think zoom and virtual learning has brought the world much closer. Um, you know, scheduling for myself, scheduling guests, even to teach at steps or even some of the intensives and the work we’re doing again yourself, a perfect example. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to bring you in its steps like right now, because we’re in different coasts, but now you can teach a guest class at steps and you have, and it’s been great. Yeah. I don’t think that’s gonna go away. I really think that, that, you know, we have numerous international students that take class at steps, people from around the world, uh, travel to New York and take class, and now they’re able to continue to have that feeling from their home. So I think that that’s going to stay with us. I really do.
Thats awesome and I hope so. To me, that really is that it’s massive that the change that’s happened in the last eight months is tremendous and it’s important. And I think it needed to happen because the cost of entry to training with top tier professionals was A. you had to be in the city where the top tier professionals were. B. they had to be not working on other projects. C. you had to have enough money to take the class, to actually buy the class package or get in the room. And, you know, big cities like New York and LA are expensive and they’re not easy to get to for everybody. And I, I do believe in the value of in person exchanges, but I also believe, and I know you’re with me on this, that you’ll get out of it, whatever you put into it, if you are, if you are open to having a transformational experience on a zoom class, you just might. And so now the cost of entry to having those experiences is wifi basically. Um, which is still not everyone, but I do think it’s a massive change and I think it, I think it’s awesome.
But I want to just piggyback on what you said. You were only going to get out of it, what you put into it, and if you can only give 50%, then you can’t expect to get 300% back.
That’s massive. Okay. I know Joe, the executive director pretty well. I know Joe, the human being pretty well. I wish that we grew up together cause I would’ve loved to be training with you. You mentioned earlier that you still have the energy of a 20 something. Who’s like, you know, grab your coffee and take eight classes and then go to an audition and then go to a show that same night. And I just wonder if you could give us a peek into your world, maybe a cross section of your time at USC, um, a college day, Joe, what did your life look like?
Wow, wow. Uh that’s um a flashback, but a welcome flashback. Cause my days at USC were amazing and um, I’ve had the opportunity to go back and visit the campus since the Glorya Kaufman School has happened at USC, under Jodie Gates. And besides the fact that they’re doing amazing, amazing things, it was surreal for me to walk down the street and find that building, which is literally four buildings down from where I used to take class every morning. Um, I was not a dance major, there was no real dance program at USC at the time theater. Right? I was a theater major. Yes, but I was the first year, uh, John Houseman who developed an acting program at, at the Julliard school left Julliard and moved to Los Angeles because at the time he was filming the TV series Paper Chase, this is really now dating me. But, um, he started the BFA acting theater program that I became a part of and any, uh, movement classes. And I’m saying movement, because they’re not dance classes per se were movement classes for actors. But the fact that I lived in LA was my introduction to the Dupree Dance Academy. And you’re smiling as an LA girl. That’s where I took my first dance classes. And you’ll appreciate that. The two people that I credit the most for jazz are Carol Connors and Jackie Sleight because they, they were my, they were my two go to teachers and I didn’t know what I was doing. It was very difficult for me because I looked like I should know what I was doing when I walked in and my jazz pants and leg warmers in my little dance outfit at the time. Um, but the room was filled with the scholarship dancers of the day who were the best dancers in Los Angeles at the time. And, uh, it was extremely intimidating, extremely humbling, but that was after an entire day of acting classes, voice classes, um, Feldenkrais movement, all the things that were part of our program, scene study rehearsals. And then if I could sneak a class in at seven o’clock at night, I would get in my car and drive to Dupree’s and take class. I mean, so I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything, but it is funny again, I just going back to my visiting the campus in the last couple years, since the Glorya Kaufman school, uh, there is a church down the, down the street for four buildings down from where Glorya Kauffman is on the USC campus. There is a church and in the church basement, there is now a coffee shop that has a little outdoor landing. Um, it’s got these beautiful iron iron and glass doors. Well, that’s where I took class every morning and that, and it’s still set up very similar now that it’s a coffee shop, but it’s still very much resembles what it looked like when I took class, except that the wall that had my mirrors now has been built over. And it’s part of where I guess they, their pantry, but the bathrooms are the same. The entrance is the same. It’s all exactly the same, but it’s, it is a, it’s a coffee shop.
So cool. I love this. Um, alright. I, I wanted to go like three different directions a little while ago. Um, it’s hard for me to stay focused cause I really, really could talk to you forever. Uh, you talked about setting a high bar, keeping a high bar and having high expectations delivering at a really high level. And I cannot think of a better example of a high bar than our NYCDA uh, national finale gala night. I have seen, and I am not just saying this. I want to be clear. I haven’t seen some of my favorite dancing period on our stage at closing night gala. Specifically. And I w I am prepared to get specific. Um, Jermaine’s Fivey and Cindy Salgado dancing their duet from Dark Matters. Um, I really cannot wipe Ida Sakis. Uh, the year that she won title, I cannot wipe her solo away from my memory. It is it’s, it might be my favorite thing that I’ve ever seen at NYCDA And I tell her that, and she’s like, no, and I’m like, um, I also very distinctly recall, um, the ball, the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria, Danny Tidwell and Melissa Hough. Um, I remember sneaking into that ballroom when they were rehearsing their closing night solos when they were handing over their title. And it just brings tears to my eyes to think about all those, all of those moments. So I know this is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. Um, yeah. Could you share some of the moments that really stand out for you and
Well, you’ve hit, you’ve hit quite a few. I mean, I think, I do think Ida Saki was groundbreaking, uh, literally breaking that fourth wall. And I mean, she really, uh, took on that moment in a, in a different way than anyone else we’ve ever seen do that. Um, the, the, I will be honest and I don’t mean this in an offense of anyone that has come thereafter, but the days that the Waldorf were a very, very special time, uh, part of it was just where I was in my life. Part of it was the evolution of what we were doing as a company and watching that success start to happen, that there was a true understanding that we were trying to do something different and you’re exactly right. That it, it, um, it manifested itself on that stage. And you saw it, uh, one of the things, one of the, uh, Melissa Hough and I’m being honest in her day, I had never met anyone like Melissa, and she knows, I’ve said this publicly before she knows this to this day. At that point in time, I had never met anyone that was as versatile, as dedicated as technical. Um, just as special as a Melissa Hough, you would think she was a hip hop dancer. Oh no, no, no, wait, she’s got point shoes on and she’s a point dan-. Oh no, but she’s got tap shoes on. And she was a tap da-. I mean, she was phenomenal in everything that she ever did and her final solo as a dancer, she came back many times as guests. Those are all beautiful, but I don’t know if you remember the Stevie wonder in a chair. Do you remember this?
Mia Michael’s choreography.
Oh my gosh. I wish I almost should have prepared it to have, we should have shared screen. I should have prepared it for you.
We could get a live feedback of me just like choking on my own air.
Well, you know, audio visual presentation, uh, it was, it was a very, very special, very special moment.
Have you shared that on your Instagram throwbacks?
I have in the past, I could probably, you know, we’re probably due to do go back and find some of those things as well, but that whole, that whole era, Melissa, Danny Tidwell. Well, of course Travis Wall, uh, the list goes on, the list goes on and on and on. And there was something really magical about being in that particular space, which also in many ways, defined New York city. It was a Waldorf Astoria. It was the grand ballroom of a Waldorf Astoria in New York city where presidents speak and things like that. And here we had some of the most talented kids from all across the United States, you know, come to perform. It was, it was special. And it’s exciting that you were a part of that and that, that has remained with you. I mean, really it was very special.
Absolutely can cannot forget it. Couldn’t, wouldn’t, don’t want to ever, let’s talk about it daily. Um, let’s talk about talent and kids for a second because you know, maybe it’s the training. Maybe it’s just, there’s more exposure. I’m seeing more young people dancing now, but am I alone in being absolutely jaw on the floor at what young dancers are capable of right now and how are they doing that? Like what’s going on.
It’s amazing. I think, um, you know, with all due respect to all of us, kudos have to go to the local dance studio and what they are doing and the decisions that they’re making, uh, because obviously they’re doing great things, training their dancers at those studios and deserve all of that credit for making that happen. Um, I think that the world and the internet and television, which has embraced dance over the last decade, uh, has exposed dancers just so much more. Um, and as much as I’m not a big social media fan and that’s a whole separate, separate topic,
Oh, don’t tempt me.
And as much as I do get, I do have my concerns that it, it pushes what we do to not the best place, if I had to be very honest, um, when done right, the, the level of exposure does have a positive can ha can have, can have a positive effect on what we do. And it allows each generation to learn from the generation past and take it to another level. And I, I think you’re absolutely right. What we see young dancers do is phenomenal.
There’s so much to talk about, um, on the subject of social media specifically though, I did want to pop out. Joe’s point of view is very clear. He’s seen both sides of the spectrum, both the joy and the pain that can be brought on by literally having a global audience in your pocket at almost all times. Now to find out where I land on social media, you will definitely want to go check out episode 10, where I really, really unpack, um, my views on the socials. Granted that was before I saw the social dilemma.. I stand my ground enjoyed episode 10. Now I want to back up a little bit because when I asked Joe how he’s invested in himself, he mentioned that very rarely was that investment, a monetary type of investment. And I wasn’t surprised by his answer there, but Joe and I actually went on to talk quite a lot about finances. And let me tell you that is an episode unto itself. Um, so we’ll jump back in now to a part of that conversation, but know that future episodes have money moves all over them. I want to talk about money. I want to talk about money, words, and words that move me, but for now let’s get on with it and let’s get right back to Joe.
Let me share this because we’re just talking honestly. And, and, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re delving into my past in some way. Um, I have to give all props all thanks. Uh, cause I’m pretty good with money I’m I have a good, pretty good financial, uh, mindset. And I thank, I am a product of my parents. Um, and many people don’t know this, but my parents were Italian immigrants. They didn’t speak much English whatsoever. They never really assimilated to this country. Uh, they remained old world, uh, to the day they all the day to the day, they both passed away. Um, and they’ve given me so many incredible gifts. One of them being my ridiculous work ethic to a fault, but one is understanding the value of money and the value of working hard for what you have and then taking pride in that. And, uh, in that ownership of, I I’ve earned this, you know, um, and I have, they had that pride because they came with nothing and, um, in my own way as well, I’ve I, you know, I’ve built my businesses from nothing. I, I, you know, just from decisions and I invested my own money in making it happen. So I’m right there with you with the financial planning. And I often sit down, we’re walking, we’ve never done it, but we could, we should do it at some point. I have often taken part in financial conversations amongst our people, you know, just in terms of like that next step or what do you do and how do you do it and all of that.
I would love that.
but it’s an important part of all this
It’s so important, you know, and that there is more to it than work hard and save. That’s where I’m so curious and excited to learn and to take some next steps. Um, okay. I do want to ask. I would be, I would feel awful if I didn’t, it feels terrible to say to somebody what’s next for you when their plate is so full, but I, I, I guess I’ll reframe this question to be what excites you most right now.
Good question. What excites me most, very honestly, though, is opening a new door and finding yet a new opportunity, uh, frankly for the kids, you know, um, I will share this with you and I’m saying this completely off the record, but on the record that my next, uh, desire that I hope to launch as things settled down and we’re going back to the foundation is something more to do with diversity and dance scholarships that we really collectively as an organization, as an institution, as, as a country, really support that movement to a greater extent. Um, and I think this is the time the, the, the society is demanding it. Um, I don’t think that we’ve been far from it ourselves and all the time that we’ve been doing what we do. Um, so it’s not a new message for us, but maybe it’s time to be louder. Maybe it’s time to use our voices in a different way. Um, and I think creating more scholarships in that diversity realm is important to me and had, had, have started having some conversations, frankly, in terms of how to pursue that next.
I am so glad to hear that I’m absolutely tickled by it because it’s you’re right, the world is demanding it. Um, but that’s not why you you’ve mentioned already. That actually is your message has always been your message, um, to open doors, to people, to encourage greatness, to provide tools, to do that. Um, so the message is the same, but the audience is everyone. The audience is truly everyone. It’s got to be everyone because if it isn’t, who’s, who’s getting to draw the line in the sand or hand out the numbers like your first, your second, your third. I am so excited at the potentials of that. And congratulations is going to be amazing.
I do think our, our audience has always been everyone. And I think our alumni, our past our, you know, our previous recipients already speak to that, but I think to underline it, is important. I think that’s the difference. I think we, we go, okay, we’ve, we’ve all in some ways we’ve already been doing this, but we really want to show you that this is important right now.
Joe is really underlining his statement here. And I want to double, triple, quadruple underline and highlight that message because yes, our society is demanding inclusivity and equity, and yes, it is about damn time. But I think that a lot of businesses and leaders believe that they’re already doing a fine job of this. As Joe mentioned, and he’s not alone by any means, many companies truly believe their audience is everyone. And that their message is for everyone. But as Joe put it, maybe it’s time for that message to be a little louder. Maybe it’s time to underline it. Maybe it’s time to put it front and center. How could you do that in your business? How could you do that in your life? Take a moment to pause and think on that, like actually hit pause, take all the time that you need. And when you’re ready, I’ll be here, ready to get back into it with Joe.
Um, I, I wanna talk about routine for a second. Um, because I know that a lot of people listening, uh, don’t only aspire to be incredible performers, but they want to run businesses. They want to become an entrepreneur to stay as connected to dance and dancers. As you have, while building out brands and taking existing companies to new levels. What is, what is your process? Your, Hmm, it’s hard to break it down to a daily thing. Cause I know it is so much bigger. It’s like all of the steps leading up to this are, would have helped you to be able to do this, but is there a part of your day, or is there a thing that you do that might help people, um, not recreate the work that you’ve worked, but perhaps it’s, perhaps it’s a lesson that you learned that helped you to do what you’ve done?
I’m not sure. I would wish that on anyone, frankly, Dana, but, um, you know, do you want to hear something funny that resonates with that question years ago, I was having a conversation with our friend Andy Blankenbuehler. And, uh, this is probably pre Tony awards for Andy and we were discussing that he had just read Twyla Tharp’s new book, creative habit at the time. And I remember him sharing with me that what he took away from that book was that she dedicates two hours a day in a dance studio to do what she does and that two hours. And I think that has to be nonjudgmental time. Just time that you just get in a room and do what you do. Have you ever read The Outlier Book
By Malcolm Glad…Smith haha
Or go back and read, or just read the pieces about the 10,000 hours? Because he attributes to some of this to literally just the fact that people dedicate this much time to a sole thing. And that speaks to success. That would speak a little bit. I don’t consider myself any more talented, any smarter, any more resourceful, any more gifted. Um, I’m not afraid of the work. And if you, you ask the question and put it in under the phrase routine, my routine very honestly is I get up in the morning. I go right to the coffee pot. I splash water in my face. I go right to the coffee pot, pour a cup of coffee. And I come right to this chair to, this is my home office to this laptop. And I start to work. I look at emails. I, I, um, I’m very hands on. I look at all the finances what’s coming in. What’s going out where, where things are going. That’s how I start my day. Um, you are, you, you are benefiting from me actually stopping and taking a shower today because the time during this COVID time, I am apt to, I actually have a shirt on, I wear sweat pants, which I have one from the bottom down and just a white v-neck tee shirt and just go to work. And I like that routine. It serves, it serves me well. And for me personally, I’d have to learn to carve out different times of my day to get things done. And one of the things, if so, if we’re really going to talk about this, one of the things that I’ve learned from my own process and everyone’s process is going to be different. It’s two things. One actually is there are, there’s no such thing as a priority because at the point that you, for me, this is just for me at the point that you make something really, that much more important, those things on your ever-growing list that are at the bottom of your priorities. You’ll never get to those. They will forever continue to fall off that list because other things continue to get higher and higher on your priorities. So something that I like to do, and I refer to it this way, I like to plant my seeds early in the day. So before I came to you today, I already put out 15 emails out in the world in different directions for different things that I’m hoping by the time we get off of this call and we wrapped things up today, I will have a handful, half a dozen responses later this afternoon. And I’ve planted those seeds for my day. I do that every single day. Yeah, for me, it’s it’s um, on Sundays, if I’m home, um, I am a spiritual person. I go to church. So if I’m not traveling, I’m at this point in my life, I like to go to church. I like to, I like to give time to God. I like to, I like that. To center myself that way. Um, and in evening time is entirely about my husband. He gets, he gets all that time. He deserves every moment of that time. I don’t check my email. I don’t sit with my cell phone in my lap. I don’t, I don’t do any I don’t my cell phone. Doesn’t sit by my bedside at night. I’ve already devoted so much time of that from 6:30 in the morning to probably 6:30, 7:30 at night. So unless we’re working on a huge project, that is a crunch. And then we all have those where you do work around the clock. I’m I do. I give that, give my business those hours. That’s my routine. And nighttime is my personal time.
I love your nod to repetition, to focus, to doing the work as well as setting the boundaries and saying in this time no work will happen. And I think that might be the real key to that recipe. Um, I do want to give a little pushback is something I’ve been thinking about on the subject of this 10,000 hours idea. And I had a conversation with Andy a few days ago, we got really into it. It was our first catch up in a while. It was awesome. Um, I think that the notion of 10,000 hours, that it takes that much time of which you you’ve already invested 10,000 hours. I’m sure Andy has Twyla Tharp also, especially if she’s logging the hours that she says that she is in that book. But if that is the case, if it does require 10,000 hours to really reach a degree of extreme competency or mastery of a thing, then I at 35, I’m not very motivated to do anything else. If I don’t think I’ll be great at anything else, then why would I try? Um, I’ll answer my own question. When I say that here’s my belief. I believe that 10,000 hours I am working to invest. If I haven’t already in being an excellent mover, contribute to the 10,000 hours, that will make me an excellent teacher. That will make me an excellent movement coach. That will make me an excellent coach coach. That will make me an excellent parent. That will make me an excellent entrepreneur. That will make me, I think there is a lot more, like I joke about this and I’m going to have to put it on a T-shirt at some point, Chloe and I, Chloe was my guest in episode three. And the title of that episode is Dance Lessons are Life lessons. And I believe that to be true, I’ll say it till I die. Joe’s like co-sign
Preaching to the choir here. No doubt.
Yes. So what if those 10,000 hours are not kept in individual buckets, dance bucket, teacher bucket, theater director bucket, entrepreneur bucket. But what if this all just one big bucket and I think it can be really discouraging to think of a career transition as being, wow. I’m starting back at hour one. You’re not starting back at hour one.
I agree. I fully agree with you. I mean, we learn, we take all of that. Why, why do so many, uh, performers go on to be so successful for the wrong it’s because they have logged those hours? You know, I will just in, um, speaking about the book, the outliers, the 10,000 hours is actually just one example of how they talk about how people get to where they are. So it’s not logging in 10,000 hours, but I agree with you. I think those 10,000 hours contribute to who you are as a person. Um, it’s the, it’s the aggregate of all that you’ve done. Not strictly just that one field. I agree with you. We’re the same.
Um, how much, Oh, there is a saying I’m going to get it wrong. Um, hard work, beats talent, beats talent, but Oh, what is it?
Talent doesn’t work hard. I say it all the time.
This is true. There’s a variation on this same sentiment. That’s like hard work, beats talent. If talent doesn’t work hard, but if somebody talented works hard, get the hell out of the way. And I think those are the people that you attract and I’m so happy to be, um, witness to them and among them. And man, I just think the world of you and this world that you’ve built for all of us dance-lings . Um, so with that being said, is there anything else you would like to commit here to digital forever furnace today?
You know what, for me, it really is. It’s piggybacking on what you just said. I do believe that we as a community and I forget dance, first of all, I believe strongly that we’re a product of our choices. I believe that I think there needs to be ownership in our lives that we’ve, we are, we are where we are because of some of the decisions we made in our past good or bad own them learn from them, move on and you know, be where you are. But I, I will underline the need to surround yourself with wonderful people, uh, people that are there to support uplift, uh, nurture, teach you I, as a, as a business person, I say all the time, I’m excited to hire new people that are going to teach me something. I love that, you know, I, I love that. So it piggybacks a little bit on what you just said. Um, I feel blessed to have you in my life, frankly, I feel blessed to have all of the NYCDA team, all the different people that, that really, that the paths that I’ve crossed. I live my life in a way that if, if you’ve, if I’ve invested in you in some way along the way, then you will always have that little special place in my heart. Um, because it comes back. It really, it really does come back. And so this is meaningful. The fact that you even asked me to do this was very meaningful to me. So I, I thank you. I do time for you anytime Dana, you know that I would, I would make time for you.
Thank you. I appreciate it. And I’ll be totally transparent and honest. I, from my earliest, you know, in brainstorms of the podcast and guests and topics and things, you’ve always been on my list. And I’ve reserved you for about this far in my podcast journey. Cause I wanted to get better at doing this before we did this. I was like, I’ve got to have my setup dialed in. I’ve got to be a good question asker. I’ve got to be a good listener. I’ve got it. I, I, I know you hold a high bar and I love that about you. I see the value of doing that. And I don’t think that we underdelivered today with this episode. I think that we overdelivered.
You are incredibly gracious and generous. Cause I, I, I live my, I live my life with my feet really on the ground. So I do appreciate all your kind words I really do. And I, and I’m grateful to be a part of it, you know, and whatever I can do, you know.
I appreciate it. I appreciate it. Um, perhaps there will even be a small series of NYCDA podcasts. We yeah. What a, what an incredible group of people doing really incredible work. Thank you again for all of it. I’ll talk to you soon, Joe.
Bye. Thanks so much, Dana. You’re the best. Thank you.
You’re Welcome. You’re welcome.
Well, my friends, how is that so much inspiration, so much information. I will absolutely be linking it to our NYCDA tour. cchedule two steps itself to the scholarship foundation and so much more in the show notes of this episode, please do be sure to check all of that out. I hope that it has instilled in you a sense of confidence and capability and furthermore, a sense of responsibility to invest in yourself and the people around you. I hope to see you soon at an NYCDA near you. And of course I hope you keep it funky. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcasts 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, movers, shakers, friends, and family at this point, really, truly some of you guys that have been with me from the beginning, it really is starting to feel like family. I see you out there. Well, of course I don’t actually see you. My field of view is almost entirely dominated by a microphone and a pop filter. I don’t actually see you, but I so appreciate your engagement on social media. Over at words that move me podcast on Instagram is one of my favorite places to connect with you guys. I’m seeing such awesome daily doing out there. If you are new, by the way. Hi, hello and welcome daily doing might be a mystery to you as of now. That’s probably because you haven’t listened to episode number one or episode two strongly encourage you take a moment, go check those out. I mean, it’s not essential listening, but that doing daily is definitely at the heart of the words that move me podcast community. I see you daily doers out there. I feel you. I appreciate you so much. All right. I’m jazzed as always about this episode. So I want to get into it, but first wins. Oh, by the way. Yes. If you’re new, I start every episode by talking about wins. I think it’s very, very important to celebrate wins, especially in the creative fields where our work is a reflection of ourselves, our human values, our emotional state and so on and so forth. And we are especially critical of our own work. We’re critical of our work. We’re critical of ourselves. It definitely pays to celebrate your wins. Even the small ones, especially the small ones. Man, they are money in the bank. So let’s invest together. Today the win that I am celebrating is that I am taking responsibility for the living things in my home. Let me explain. I do not have any human babies or children or teenagers or adults actually, for that matter. I don’t have any pets. What I do have are plants. And what I don’t have is a very green thumb. Historically in my life It’s been hard for me to keep plant objects alive. Maybe it’s part of me. Maybe there’s a hint. Maybe I consider them objects, not living beings. Um, I struggle with plants. It used to be because I was in and out of town a lot I had a pretty irregular schedule and then the COVID crisis. Okay. Can’t use in and out of the house as an excuse. So what is it really? I think for me, it was that I simply didn’t know what to do or when. What’s too much water?What’s not enough water? When should I mist them? When should I wipe them? It just was also overwhelming. So I’ve committed to doing a little research, figuring out what I’m doing and keeping my plants alive. And let me tell you what I am loving this journey. I love that the plants in my home are green and not yellow or brown. I love that they’re all perky and lifted. Um, and I love learning. So I’m learning about plants right now. I’m learning how to keep them alive. And the next phase of this, which I’m so excited about is going to be to grow my own food. Now I’ve got training wheels. I’ve been using a little hydroponic, um, kitchen, pod grower thing for, uh, it’s called Aero garden. Total. Disclaimer, not advertising, not paid to say that, but I love my Aero garden. I grow, grew, growing. I am growing, um, basil all of the basil Thai basil, Genovese basil, all the basil. Love the Basil, um, mint, chives more basil. The Rosemary didn’t do so well. I’m not gonna lie. The Rosemary didn’t do so well. Um, basil.. Is that really all I’m growing? What else do I have over there? I can’t. Oh, dill and basil. So I’m growing the basil in the hydro, in the Aero garden, and then I’ve been transplanting them outside when they get too big to keep their in their little pods and Holy smokes, the garden, the herb garden is taking over. Someday soon I am going to be growing food. You watch it happen. I’m announcing it here. You heard it here first. So I’ve been so enjoying caring for the plant beings in my home. Um, I’m counting this a win because I’m now seeing and feeling and thinking rewarding thoughts about my ability to keep things alive, my ability to take care of things other than myself, which by the way, pretty darn good at taking care of myself. Um, but to extend that care, to see the fruits, no pun intended of my research, my focus, my labor, if I could call watering labor, then yes, feeling good, counting it a win. All right, that’s me. Now you go, Oh my gosh. I just thought of an awesome pun. I usually say, what’s going well in your world, but I’m going to now say what’s growing well in your world. Do you like what I did there? All right, but really what’s your win. What’s growing well in your world. Take your time.
Amazing. Keep winning, keep growing really truly I mean it. Today I am sharing with you an interview that I did with the one and only Heather Morris. This interview was conducted in partnership with my dear friends over at CLI studios during their 2020 dance experience this past summer. And Heather and I got to sit down and chat one-on-one. This is the first time this had happened in a really long time. Heather and I moved to LA around similar times. I believe. We would see each other, always at the studio, in class, pretty regularly at auditions. And, you know, we were a part of that come up together. And then I had the absolute pleasure. And so did the rest of America in watching Heather come into her own as an actress, performer and full fledged movie star. Thanks hugely to her role on Glee as Brittany. Now, watching Heather in Glee is one of my favorite favorite things, truly like I wish you could see the smile on my face right now, just thinking about my favorite Brittany moments, but sitting and talking to the person that is Heather Morris was as exciting as it was grounding. I say this because this is a very genuine, honest, open and thoughtful person that has been both student, performer, teacher, mother, so many of the things and so giving so willing to share her experience and her lessons learned. I do want to mention that this podcast was recorded before the death of Heather’s dear friend and colleague Naya Rivera. So if you’re tuning into this episode to hear more about that, you will not find it in this episode, what you will find, however, is a ton of information and inspiration about navigating this Wild West of an entertainment industry. Especially if you’re a person who is interested in nurturing a family and having a life outside of a studio. In this episode, Heather and I talk a lot about paths and how the thought that there is a fork in the road, a moment where you have to choose one thing or another is really usually just that. A thought, not the reality of our worlds. In this episode, Heather and I talk about how our life’s paths are more like trees than actual paths. Take a listen and see if you agree. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Heather Morris.
Dana: I’m Dana Wilson. This is Heather Morris, and this is the first ever words that move me and CLI collabo cross cast.
Heather: How does that feel?
Dana: It feels really good. I feel very good about it. So excited. I’m excited. And I’m glad that you’re here. Thank you for doing this. Thank you for being here and talking to us today. I have to admit I’m a little embarrassed that we’re friends and have been friends for so long, but I will be asking you these questions as if I’m, I don’t know you and I kind of I’ll be learning you. I’m very excited about it. Yeah. Okay. So you just taught jazz class. Yes, it was awesome. I saw you going to the ground and coming back up. Great job. And you made it, um, so other than being a jazz teacher here at CLI, just tell us everything that you want us to know about you
Heather: As a teacher or just in general human, beside being a teacher and like human being? Heather Morris is two different people because I am a Heather Morris but I’m also a Heather Hubbell at home. Oh my goodness. Isn’t that crazy?
So you you’ve kept your professional name?
I kept my professional name, Heather Morris. Um, it was just, I mean, financial reasons, maybe, you know, you have to pay and I’m like, whatever, let’s just leave it. People know me that let’s keep it there, keep it simple. And, but I did marry and take my husband’s name, Taylor Hubble. So I am now Heather Hubble, which I love that name kind of obsessed with Heather Hubble. Yeah.
I really love doubles. BB L E. My husband is R E E T Z. I love it a double. So we lucked out, both of us.
Yeah. Um, so I don’t know. I think like we, um, I’m at home right now. We’re trying to start our own YouTube channel. I’ll I’ll tease it called Hubble Home. So I’m kind of bringing my Heather Hubble home life into the reality into people’s minds, into people’s hearts. Um, cause they know Heather Morris and of course I’m goofy. Just like, you know, we both are very goofy people have a lot of fun. Um, so I’ll just bring, I’m bringing people into that lifestyle. Um, you know, I, I like to be consistent. I’m a consistent person and I like to have fun. I like to be, I’m an adventurer. I like to go places. I get really like mucky when I’m stuck. You know, like when I’m somewhere for too long, I get really antsy and I want to like move. I got to get out of the house. I got to do stuff. That’s kind of the person I am.
So how’s quarantine going?
Quarantine.. Actually It’s good for me. It’s learning, it’s learning. It’s helping me learn to take breaths and take moments and really practice sitting still, especially for my children, because my oldest is just like me. So he likes to nonstop walk around the room, nonstop, chatting, but talking, you know that like when you like keep talking, when you’re moving, cause it like makes your mind go. And I’m really trying to like figure out how to communicate with him. Like that might not be your best self, your best route. You know? Like as you’re getting older, let’s maybe like learn techniques to just have conversations without riling ourselves up. So,
I’m all for techniques. I’m all for conversations. This is a match made in heaven.
It’s hard. So I’m teaching myself at the same time that I’m teaching him like learning. Yeah. Let’s finish up this conversation. Let’s move to the next. We don’t always have to plan out our day because sometimes when you plan things out too much, you don’t end up enjoying it. So yeah, that’s kinda my quarantine life and now we’re traveling. They’re done with homeschool. So I went to Arizona, I went to Sedona. I saw the beautiful weather and the beautiful rocks. And now we’re going to Del Mar for summer week vacation.
So you’re moving. You’re still you’re out in the world and you’re yeah,
My husband knows me enough. Like he knows that we go. We got to get out to do stuff.
I love this. Um, one of the things I talk about a lot on the podcast is this concept that dance lessons are life lessons and your sons are not dancers, correct?
Okay. So how are they learning the things that we learned in dance, like how to communicate, how to be in touch with yourself emotionally, how to manage your time and schedule and listen to authority and all of the things that I value most, I think I learned from dance. So how are they, how are they learning and how are you teaching the things that you value most that you learned from dance?
Yes. It’s really funny that you mentioned that cause existentially, I’m thinking about that throughout everything that I’m doing with them daily. And maybe sometimes I feel too outside of myself when I’m talking to them like this, where maybe they might not understand my words. So really trying to water and dumb our conversations down to like this works, but what would help it work better is if we did this, like that’s, it’s hard to communicate that young age. Um, but that’s a really good point that you brought that up because there are life lessons we learn listening to authority is huge. So with my second one, he is a real pistol and he loves to question authority, which is great. It’s good to just, you know, those memes are like, it’s good to question. It’s always good to have opinion. Yes. To an extent
But give and take, Ooh, that’s a good one with my oldest is he’s not a good give and taker. That’s kinda what I’m looking for right now is he likes to talk and talk and talk and it’s constantly maybe taking from somebody, but I’m trying to teach him with his friends to stop, listen to what they have to say, then respond. Yeah. How hard is that? Well, not crazy. Like trying to teach your six year old that like, yeah.
It’s, it can be definitely hard. I just stepped on your toes as I did. Like, how do you share space? This is another dance lesson that is a life lesson. You see somebody freestyling in a circle and you – you develop this sense of when are they wrapping up? When can I start to head in? How do you share space? How do you, I mean, I think a social distance is an incredible skill that a dancer I’m noticing are not as good as we thought we were about. Um, distancing something. Cause yeah, I, I think dancers are close types. We like to be close.
Like to be close with, like to be touching my kids for some reason really understand it. They will wear their masks maybe because I will wear my masks so definitively they will. Yeah. Um, but yeah, yeah. But the distance thing is really interesting.
Oh, I think dancers, I think dancers are a remarkable period, but I also know a lot of people get similar training from being a part of a sports team or something like that. Sports was not a part of my family, but your husband is a baseball player. Yes. And are the boys?
Yes. They both played baseball and we were starting flag football. Well, we’ll see how that goes. My oldest is kind of a, he’s emotional. So, you know, I don’t know. It’s a flag, which is fine, but once they start to get into the touch, that might be, um, a one and done. Maybe
Interesting! I can’t wait to find out.
Yeah. We’ll see how it goes.
Okay. Question for you outside of the parenting mode, what dance training. Cause you you’ve been dancing for what like
Since, since the Dawn of time
I was seven months old.
Um, so I would love to know since you’ve had such a multidisciplinary career, what was something that dance didn’t prepare you well for?
Ah, good question. Something that dance didn’t prepare me well for, I would say into the acting space was I wasn’t prepared for my own opinions. I was never taught to give my input. I was never taught to have my own voice as a dancer. You’re really taught to mesh your voices, kind of shut up, do your job. And that’s what I grew up doing. And then I got put into a spot where I was spotlit. If that’s a word spotlit
Um, spot spotlighting, spot Spotlighted. I think
I was in the spotlight, but I didn’t quite have the voice. So it felt like this whole new thing for me, I didn’t know how to use my actual voice. I didn’t know how to let my ideas like sputter and go, I mean, naturally conversationally it’s easy, right? Like we can sit here and chat, but then I went into, uh, interviews for a camera and I didn’t know how to like express myself because I was never asked to. So I felt really uncomfortable in my own skin. During interviews, I felt like the attention was too much. I was never used to that. I was never somebody who grew up on the third of three girls who people asked me things. I was always just kinda like quiet in the corner. And then you get to, um, people wanting to know more about you. And I always like in a shell, shy, not loving the attention. So it took a while for me to like break through and feel like I could use my voice and express myself just as I am and not feel embarrassed about it. You know?
What gave you that training?
Uh, I think just time, I think.. Americans have this funny way about ourselves where we like to a lot of fun. It was a lot of funny where we like to learn the hard way first. And I’ve noticed it about times right now, maybe with the COVID pandemic, we’re learning the hard way first because we want to feel good about ourselves. And I think I learned the hard way first. Um, and I was just doing all this press or I was just going for it, not thinking twice. And then dumb me would watch the tapes back later. And I’m like, that doesn’t sound like me. Who was I answering for? Like, that’s not my persona. Like that’s not who I’m representing. I just was kind of like filling this spot, I guess, to fill the time that’s I guess that’s really personal, but it’s how I saw it. So then I took a step back and I didn’t do any of that stuff cause I felt so uncomfortable because I was giving such a fake voice off. Hmm. Um, yeah, I dunno. It was kinda my voice, but it was fake and I just like would listen to myself crazy. So I learned the hard way with mostly everything. And I think I’ve done that my whole life.
And it sounds like you were able to remove some of this notion that you should be happy or should be a certain way all the time. And when you embraced that. No, no, no. It’s not all that all the time. Then you were able to step into it.
Yeah. Once you watch other actresses who really embrace themselves and like are just cool and happy and fun. Yeah.
And, and, and sad and dark and broken and hopeful and all of these.
They are not always Perfect. Yeah. And they don’t care. They really don’t care what you think. Not to the extent of like F you, I don’t care, but like, this is my time. Let me, let me recoup and then I’ll come back and we’ll be a better, um, so that was the hard way.
That’s awesome. I love this. That’s very powerful. And that’s a good segue too into my next question. Something I want to talk about is this idea of a creative path or a career path. And visually in our minds, we see that as being like an actual path, like a hiking trail that goes that way, or it goes that way. So you have these really limiting thoughts of like college or dance or acting or dance or acting or family. And you’re a person that’s been able to really keep, um, a flexible path in your career and in your life. I think it’s really unique and admirable and special and cool. So I would love to hear about the interests that guided you on, on one direction and how you were able to, um, be in more than one place at once.
Yeah. That’s really interesting because it’s not planned. It’s never planned. You do make a plan and it never falls into place the way you want it to. But in the beginning of my career, I went to college for a whole year because when we would sit in class with Mark Meismer and whoever, and they would say, raise your hand and tell me if you want to be an, a dancer. And I would never raise my hand. It wasn’t in my cards. I was not interested in being a dancer. It, it didn’t pay enough. Um, it didn’t seem like it was fulfilling. Maybe because I was just like, starting out learning technique.
Or because you subscribed to the idea of the starving artist. Sure. This thing that like, if you want to do that, you can’t have other things.
Yeah. Right? Yeah. You’ll live at a certain level. Um, which money was never my thing, I don’t know, but so I never want to do it, went to college for a year and found out that dancing was actually the love of my life, aside from my husband, but it was the love of my life. And since then I pursued acting because I always had wanted to act when I was growing up. And I thought, why not? I’m out here. I’m going to study it. I’m going to do it because dance still, to me, wasn’t my end goal. I thought acting could be. Um, and just like dancing, acting is really tough. There are a lot of people out there and they’re all searching for not 20 spots in a gig, but they are searching for one spot in a gig. So I’m auditioning with 50 people, 30 people. Yeah. Maybe I have a name doesn’t care. Me, guarantee me a spot. Maybe they want, um, you know, a different ethnicity. Maybe they want whatever it is they’re looking for. So living it at the time, living through it, going through every emotion and not settling and giving myself a limit to it, not saying, okay, I can’t do this anymore. Has helped me find the, the paths I want to go down. Because I love the arts. And I like to come up with ideas. I love to create, I don’t care if it’s not successful. If it is a good idea, I know it’s successful and I’m going to keep going for it.
Um, Oh, this is great.
So I just keep exploring things. If acting’s not going to be it right now, if I’m not going to get those jobs, I’m still gonna write stuff and I’m still gonna, I want to be a producer, like more than anything. I just have seen it unfold with everything I’m doing. I love to get people, artists, writers, directors, together, and making a really awesome project.
I love this. You’re stoking me up. It’s very exciting. And you’re also answering questions that I had downstream. One of which was, I mean, you’ve in your career from, I mean, you have a podcast of your own with Ava Bernstein, shout out whatupgirl dancer, but also voiceover feature, film, stardom, super acting, dancing with mega pop stars, uh, reality type TV shows Dancing with the Stars. And So You Think also way back, way back in the early times, um, and TV and all the things. So you’re answering the question my, that I had in mind was what, what is the next creative rock that gets lifted and looked underneath? Is it producing? It’s also the channel with your family.
Absolutely. Yes. YouTube we’re like, okay, We’re having fun with that, but that’s also its own thing. Right. You know, you have to edit it
and you’re fully,
I’m fully involved hands on. Yeah. We’re doing it ourselves.
You also mentioned, even if it doesn’t make money, you’re interested in doing artistic things. Yes. So what makes a successful artistic endeavor for you? What makes it successful?
What makes it successful? Um, I think if people are passionate about it, which is very broad. Yeah. I, you just, you have to have a good attitude with your projects. A lot of people will come into work and maybe they take like past trauma from other jobs and they bring it to their jobs, whether they’re in it for the right reasons or not, they might not seem like the right people to work with. And I think listening to that doesn’t seem like the right endeavor for me at the moment. Cause I’ve been there and done that. And that’s just, it’s not a fun workplace to be in. Really hard to say no, but it’s good to stick up for yourself. Um, so I just think that people are in it for the right reasons. It really grounds it.
So you keep your finger on the pulse of group energy and like the feeling of a project?
Yeah. You can’t, I’ve tried to carry things for Myself. I’ve tried to be the only one doing stuff. And it just takes so much
Out of you.
This is why they say it takes a village, takes a village,
Not just at your home. So I have a home life and then trying to balance producing or writing or editing, whatever it is. It’s like, it’ll just end up taking too long, you know?
Okay. So let’s jump back to past them. Cause that’s like eight different paths. I think that the imagery of the fork in the road is dangerous and limited. I much prefer to think of paths and creative careers as being like a tree. And you start climbing up the creative tree and out here’s dance branch and dance branch is close enough to acting branch. So you could even like jump from this branch to the other one.
But You don’t have to let go. You don’t see that branch.
Yeah. You can reach right across and grab it. And, and there’s a great Shirley McClain quote that I am afraid I will botch.
Um, she says that she likes to live. She likes to go out on a limb because that’s where all the fruit is. So you can stay very close to the trunk and you can feel pretty safe here. Or you can branch out as we like to say, and you go to the ends of the branch and you find like, Ooh, I really, really like this. This is fruitful. This is beneficial. This is success. This feels good. And then you can also decide, Oh, you know what, college I’m going to go back over here. And I’m going to try this LA thing for a second. Yeah. And from the LA branch, you can look at acting, look at improv, look at making a family, finding a different thing. And I think that’s so interesting to see somebody without a plan. That’s so good at having a structure. That’s having this, climbing this creative tree and being able to make things work. Even without it being mapped out. It’s not a path that can be map it out. It’s a tree, it’s three dimensions.
I don’t understand how people can, people can dream board and have a map. And they’re still like living their life. Good. I can have a map because if I have a map, I stick too hard to it. I had this tattoo on my shoulder that says, let go, because I’ve just learned the hard way of grasping something too hard. Um, and then you kind of like, you lose everything you loved about it. Yeah. So I, I really learned to let go
The let go, analogy doesn’t work quite so well. Or the leg, let go, quote, doesn’t work quite so well with the tree analogy. You should hold on the tree. But if you hold onto the tree, okay, here it comes. So if you’re on this tree, this career tree, and you’re out on the branch on the very end and you look over at family tree and you’re like, man, I kind of want to do that thing and kind of want to have a family. Then you can do the little spider monkey thing or sugar glider or whatever it is, where you let go and you jump from this tree and you can be like, and be in a new place.
And Hollywood make you feel really bad about that. Yeah.
Will it? Tell me what Hollywood would make you feel?
I feel like not that I’m suppressed, but that because I chose to take a break and I’ve because I’m always trying to find other people that are like me or just take people’s stories and liken it to mine. I I’ve noticed people who’ve done that. Who’ve gone to have a family. Who’ve taken a breath who felt overwhelmed with work because God knows it. Working in the industry is so tough. 16 hour days working on a set six days a week. Most of the time, because you end at like 5:00 AM. I like to sleep. I’m not, I just can’t work that hard. So I needed a breath when you need a breath. And all these people in the industry go to take a breath. It’s like an iron door closed behind our back, trying to get back in. And that’s a challenge is trying to get back and challenging to switch my brain on to say, okay, how do I get through this iron door? This is probably a learning experience for me that I’m supposed to be taking, because maybe there was some traits about myself that- that how I was working before that weren’t right in that moment. And I needed to get out and step out the door, work on them so that when I do come back in and they’re fixed so that I can work the right way for longer periods of time. Do you know what I mean? So I don’t feel burnt out..
You develop skills and know how to set boundaries, how to work smarter, not harder. This is the sweet spot always. And that line kind of wiggles and is a little different on every project. I’m curious about this door. Um, because I think that a lot of people listening are probably people interested in breaking into the industry, not necessarily reentering, although some perhaps as well. And I’m wondering how you would relate the door that you’re knocking on now to the one that you had to knock on to get into the industry?
In the very beginning, I think there is a naive, um, and a naive outlook we have when we’re first coming here at a younger age that we maybe don’t have one we’re growing a little bit older, maybe in our thirties, in our thirties, we have settled into ourselves. We’re not questioning at 18, 19, I was exploring everything. Um, I was willing to give up dong sure. I took every class. There was, I just want it to be in class. We were always in class together. I loved class and I’m not a person that’s gonna talk your ear off. I’m not going to try and pitch myself to you. I’m not going to give you my best part of my personality to wow you. Uh, I just, I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m not like that. I feel weird doing it. So I’m gonna go prove myself. I’m going to go take class until I’m blue in the face. Even if I’m not good at that particular class, I’m going to go back and I’m going to learn how to do the movement. Like the teacher wants me to do it. I’d say maybe the same for acting roles. So when you’re going into meet with casting directors, not the class per se, but when you’re going to meet with casting directors, they want to get to know you and they want to feel you personally. Um, and they want to give you adjustments and they want to know, you can take it just like a dance class. If a teacher comes up and gives you an adjustment and you don’t do it, they’re going to be like, I don’t want to work with that person.
Theres no time for that. There’s no time for that.
You need to hire someone and you need to get it in a second. So if that’s the hurdle, you need to jump to be a dancer that you want to be. Maybe start working on that now. Like if you get adjustments, you don’t have to do hard every time. Maybe you work on like the specifics, the, the, what is it? Like the, all of those adjustments. Yeah.
So, so I think what I’m hearing is that when you’re younger, you’re able to make adjustments quickly. So knocking on all the doors is actually fun and it’s exercise. And now you’re like, listen, I’ve done my exercise. I’ve done my training. I am here. I am full. I am complete. But you also know that this, this whole student thing and progress is forever. Like you will always be evolving and always be changing. And that door just might not be the door that you really want to be opening.
Maybe it’s ready for me when I’m 50. Exactly.
Oh my gosh. 50, 50 year old Heather.
50 year old, Heather
I think that if 50 year old Heather came knocking, I would open the door and I would have like teams of, of welcome party behind me. Yeah. I love this.
Yeah. I always keep my eye on. Like, there’s always
The long game. Super important. I love this. I love this like multilayer approach to getting stuff done. There’s like, you get stuff done today on the ground with your kids. You’re teaching, you’re doing this thing. Yeah. In the longterm. You’re developing this, this project, whether it’s a YouTube channel or producing this something else, that’s like, kind of now ish, because you gotta be working on it now. Otherwise it will not happen, but it’s also not here right now. And then there’s this 50 year Mark. Right? Okay. Talk to me about that. 50. What are you doing there?
Listen, comedy like 50 is just the prime 40s maybe, but like 50 is just prime, especially in women. Right?
Live our lives and be loud and make jokes. No
Nobody cares anymore.
Or people care and it’s just that caring. And it’s like, I don’t know. I’m very interested between the fine line between grief and comedy and the older you get, the more real stuff gets right. You see, um, you’ve seen more tragic things. You’ve experienced more trauma. You, the people in your life, maybe passing on, maybe getting divorced, maybe losing children or you know, loved ones. And that like that’s life out there. It’s not necessarily better life. Just because you’re older. We may be like a fine wine, but we aren’t a fine wine. We don’t necessarily get better with age. So out there, you need different tools that help you deal with life as it gets that way. That’s why the funniest people in my life are Toni Basil, who is 75 years old. She might be 76 by now and my parents. And I just like tap. I love talking to people that are older than me. I love talking to you too. Don’t get me wrong. But there’s like, there’s a perspective and a way of coping a way of inviting things, specifically humor into your life.
And what is it about young people feeling like a threat? That again, like younger, younger people, when you’re younger, everybody seems like a threat to you. I never felt that way, but I always sensed it from other people.
That was a, it was always weird. Maybe more so than acting because it’s so limited. It’s very competitive. Dancing, It’s so inclusive and everybody wants to hug each other and we’re kind of all in it together. And then you like go into a smaller box and you become this actor. And like, it just seems like everybody feels like you’re a threat to them. And
And we’re,We’re in this together, this human thing. So how can we think more like our future selves right now? Because I’m telling you what we don’t need any more competition. We certainly don’t need any threats. We don’t need to be threatening anyone period. So how can we invite future us that, that, that future selves that are funny and compassionate and smart and, um, all the good things.
Yeah. It’s tricky because when you are a teen into your twenties, you hear scientifically your mind is not fully developed and that’s a big hurdle. And whenever I do, um, these cameo things, you can do these, uh, celebrity cameos, where somebody will pay you to do a video. And they’re younger. And I’m always telling these kids, I’m like, y’all are going to feel threatened, or you’re going to feel like people are judging you or people are looking at you. Maybe they do make comments. But what I need you to learn right now is that your mind might not be fully developed. Always remember that so that you can trigger your brain to go. My brain’s working this way. Let’s work around that. Yeah. Let’s steer our, our reaction to a positive one, or just mind your own business
Or mind your own mind at the very least. I think there’s kind of circles to what you were saying about talking to your sons, how you have to explain things to them in a way that they will understand, right. And how old are they? Six and four. So here we go. This is the lesson today. Everybody gets the lesson today. The lesson is, if you can parent yourself, if you can parent yourself with compassion and curiosity, the way that you would talk to a five-year-old talk to yourself, treat yourself with kindness, treat others with kindness. That is how we have the future that we want to have. And that’s how we have it. Now
You heard it first guys.
Wow. Thank you, Heather. I wouldn’t have got that on my own. That was very much a collaborative roundabout that we came across. Yeah.
Its true, you gotta be so gentle with yourself. Yeah. Yes. Be kind, be kind to yourself. Be kind to other people, Respond to haters with kindness, you know, Sarah Silverman, she does she’s on Twitter. Have you ever seen her responses? So when there’s a troll and someone’s very unkind to her and calls her something, she gets their information and she finds out how to help them. She, if they are suffering from something, like say, they said I don’t, blah, whatever. And she finds out she’ll direct message them. Find out details about these people. Maybe they’re overweight or something like that. She’ll get them like medical help. Like she’s like respond to negativity and find the kindness. I just love that. This is awesome. Once I found this out about Sarah Silverman, I’m like, Hmm. I wish..
Has that changed the way that you absorb or not absorb that you handle haters?
Yeah. Kill them with kindness.
Its funny my mom has said those words for my whole life, kill them with kindness is my mom’s famous words. But it somehow takes like, watching that in practice for you to actually be able to be like, Oh, like That. Yeah. Aha.
Yeah. Cause it’s easy. Our primal selves are, you know, like you’re gonna fight me. I’m gonna fight you back
Survival. This is what we’re, that’s what we do. That’s how we’re human. But we can do with kindness because we’ve evolved. We’re solving. Exactly. Okay. Guys, be kind, be good. And definitely keep it funky is something that I say on the podcast and in my life. And when I was watching your class, I was like, dang. She’s funky. Thank you so much again for being here. Thank you everybody for tuning in.
I loved it. Thanks for joining.
See Ya! All right. My friends there, you have it. The one and only the extravagant, the phenomenal, the very, very real Heather Morris. I hope you soaked up a lot of goodness out of this episode. And I hope that this episode has made you want to go climb a tree, be safe, be smart. And of course keep it funky. I’ll talk to you very soon.
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 important, you have a way to become a words that move kickball, change kickball 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.
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 and hello. Welcome to Words That Move me. I’m Dana. And this is my super tired voice. Today was a seven hour zoom day. I was in seven hours of audition callbacks and man, no, man. I’m speaking at my computer screen apparently is something that I do not have much stamina for. I’m working. I’m learning, I’m getting better at it. And I am so stoked about the subject of this podcast today. Tired voice or not. I am here with some important information.
If you are listening to this podcast on the day of its release, October 3rd, 2020, then voting day is exactly one month away. And you may be a little overwhelmed right now by all of the pressure, not just to vote, but to make an informed vote. You may be thinking “God, everyone is telling me to vote, but nobody is telling me how.” Well I am certainly not going to tell you how to vote. And by that, I mean for whom you should vote, but I’ll leave that up to social media. Kidding. Not really. I did just discover that advertisers spent $1.4 billion on digital political ads during the 2016 election. Whoa, honestly, though, that makes sense. Think about how much time you spend on the internet. How much time do you spend scrolling? That’s where you spend your time. That’s where they’re going to put their ads. I guess it makes perfect sense. Which brings me to my win for the week. My win this week is that I learned a lot by watching the Social Dilemma on Netflix, highly, highly recommended. Yes, some of this information may be common knowledge by now. It’s not really a secret that there are teams and teams of engineers, whose job it is to ensure that you will spend more time on their platform. Yes, these are people who are working explicitly to make social media more addicting. Oh man, Oh man, we will probably be getting into that in a future episode. But for now I want to hear about your wins. I want to hear about what you are learning right now. Let’s hear it. That doesn’t feel right. Does it? It doesn’t feel right when I don’t say what’s going well in your world. What are you learning in your world? Yeah, that feels right. Hit me.
Alright, great. Rock on, rock steady, keep winning. Okay. This week we’re talking about how wildly important it is to use your voice, to make your own decisions and to know not only how, but by when you’ll be casting your vote, this election. Warning and full disclosure, this episode is going to make me sound much more together than I actually am. I have a research assistant. Her name is Riley Higgins and yes, she is the best. And yes, I have a research assistant. I have a research assistant so that you don’t have to have a research assistant. Consider this episode, your voter encouragement assistant. And my first piece of encouragement is this. It is honestly no harder to Google your questions about voting than it is to Google best restaurants near me. Really, really, truly. If you have ordered food online, you can absolutely register to vote and become a well informed voter. Listen up people over 18 people under 18. You’re up next. Here we go. If you remember one thing from this entire episode, remember vote.org All of the important information is there in one place, vote.org And then if you remember two things from this episode, remember, A. vote.org, but also remembered that it is really cool to vote and it’s even cooler to be an informed voter. So let’s get into it.
Step number one, to get the most accurate information on how to vote, visit your state election office website, just Google your state’s name and election office website. There you have it. Step Two, to register to vote at. Yup. You guessed www.vote.org/register-to-vote On that website you can also check when the last day is that you are able to register to vote in your local County. If you are in LA, then the last day to register to vote online is by Monday, October 19th, 2020, to register my mail. Your mail has to be postmarked by Monday, October 19th, 2020. If you’re in New York, you must register online by October 9th or by mail host marked by October 9th or in person on October 9th. Again at vote.org You can check when the last state is that you’re able to register in your local County. Go while you’re there vote.org Step three, double check to make sure that your registration went through. You’ll do that at vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote So practical, right? Easy peasy, lemon, squeezy vote.org Am I registered to vote? You got this step four. You can add yourself to a list that will remind you of upcoming elections from now until forever because let’s face it. Yes, this election is super important, but every election is super important. Let’s go! To make sure that you’re registered for reminders. Go to you, guessed it. vote.org/election-reminders That takes us to Step five. If you’re able to vote in person, look up your local polling place. Do not leave this to the day. Have a plan. To find your closest polling place. Visit vote.org/polling-place-locator Again, super logical, totally obvious. And if you go to vote.org, all of this is literally right there in your face, but I’m going to say it because I don’t want anybody to tell me that I didn’t say it. So here I am saying it. vote.org/polling-place-locator Now you know where to go to find your local polling place. Alright, step six. And this one is technically optional, but listen up. Cause it’s also technically really important. There is a national shortage of workers to help at these polling places. So if you are able become a poll worker, guys, don’t take that the wrong way. The best way for you to volunteer, to work at a polling place near you is to go to www.eac.gov/help-America-vote#section-sign-up that’s eac.gov/help-america-vote#section-sign-up That is how you can volunteer to help at your nearest polling place. Super important, super cool. Step Seven mail in your absentee ballot. There is a deadline that’s different in every state of when you can request your absentee ballot and a deadline for when you have to mail it in, it must be post-dated by November 3rd, no matter where you live, but your deadline to request the mail in ballot is different depending on where you live. Usually you would need a reason to request an absentee ballot. Like I’m a dancer on tour, but because of COVID almost everyone can request an absentee ballot depending on their state. In some States you’ll automatically be sent a mail in ballot in LA, you must request an absentee ballot by October 27th, you have to return it by mail postmarked by November 3rd, or you can also return them in person at a polling place near you on November 3rd, by 8:00 PM. If you’re in New York, your absentee ballot has to be requested by October 27th. And if you’re returning it by mail, it has to be postmarked by November 3rd, you can of course return it in person on November 3rd and in New York you have until 9:00 PM. Awesome, amazing. So important. Moving on Step eight, if you don’t know if you’ll be voting in person or by mail, get a mail in ballot. This gives you options and we love options. This gives you convenience and we live convenience. If you decide to vote by mail, you can. And if you decide to vote in person on election day, you still can. Even if you’ve already received a mail in ballot, either you will exchange your uncast absentee ballot for an in-person ballot or you’ll complete your absentee ballot and hand it in in person. If you forget to bring your absentee ballot with you, you may be able to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted only once your election officials verify your voter status. The deadline to a completed absentee ballot hand delivered is Tuesday, November 3rd, by 8:00 PM. If you’re in LA or 9:00 PM, if you’re in New York, okay, Step nine. We’re getting so close to the end. You guys, if you are in college, every state is different, but you may be able to vote in the state that you’re going to college in. So check with your college and check with your home state as well. Super, super important. All right. Step 10. Most States have early voting this lets registered voters vote on specific dates before the election day. So just do that because one of my favorite people on the planet, Marty Kudelka says ‘early is on time. On time is late and late is fired.’ It’s important that you know that the election is already underway. Statistically, most people still vote on November 3rd, but there are a ton of ways for you to vote early. If you are informed vote.org alright. Now for my under 18 years, step one, and you guys only have two steps, how about that? Step one, some States actually allow you to preregister to vote so that when you turn 18, you are automatically registered to vote. Is that the coolest thing? I think it’s the coolest thing. I think that’s a very cool thing. Step two. If your state doesn’t have that option, then vote.org has a pledge to register page and they’ll remind you when you turn 18 to register and how you can do it. So yes, even if you are under 18 vote.org is the place for you to go so that you can make sure you are preregistered or at least pledged to register to vote. Okay. Now that we’ve talked about the, how let’s talk about the, what, this is not just a presidential election, although that is certainly what is getting the most buzz. Local elections and amendments are up for vote in this election who represents you locally has a direct impact on the way you live. So make sure you’re researching your federal candidates, your state candidates, your local candidates and your judicial candidates. These are our favorite websites to help you understand what is actually on your ballot. ballotpedia.org
That’s B A L L O T P E D I a.org. Rockthevote.org That’s R O C K T H E V O T E.org and vote411.org That’s V O T E the number four, the number one, the number one.org. Also you can get involved with local candidates by looking on their websites. You can also find the virtual town halls where they might be speaking about specific issues. And you’ll also be able to ask questions in those forums. How amazing is that actually be there, actually get the answer to your actual question. That is available to you. All right, wrap up summary, vote.org is the place. Also, if you’re a first time voter or an anytime voter who wants to feel a little bit more supported and their knowledge and understanding of what is going on right now, How to Vote in Every State is the YouTube channel for you. They give very clear information on the how to vote, but also how to be informed, how to digest political ads, how to do your research, how to follow where the money is coming from. So, so valuable. All right, everybody, that was me serving as your voter encouragement assistant. And right now I would like to encourage you to take the rest of the time that you would have spent listening to a full length podcast to go through this checklist, visit the websites that I’ve mentioned and call or text a friend, to tell them about everything that you’ve learned, help somebody. If they’re struggling to get this done, do it for yourself, do it because you have a voice do it because it matters so much more than ordering food online. All right, my friends, that’s it. Go use your voice and go keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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.
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I am so excited that you are here and I am so excited about this episode. I really cannot emphasize enough. This is a gem. Get ready to be inspired. Um, before I get into this interview with the fabulous Marguerite Derricks, I will start this episode as I always start, but this one comes with a warning. I always begin with wins because I think it’s very important to celebrate. What’s going well in your world.
I want to be very clear. This week’s win is not a copout. This is really truly my win. And when I say this, I mean this episode and this day, this day is my win this week, because in the course of this, you know, this the last 24 hours, I have experienced actual pain and embarrassment. Um, I started my day by falling. You guys, literally hands and knees on the concrete fall. I fell down on the ground. Um, and that doesn’t happen very often because you know, dancer coordinated, but I really ate it today. I hit the deck. There was a guy with a leaf blower who actually like ran over and tried to help me up. But social distancing it’s okay. I got up on my own and I didn’t even spill my coffee because I know what’s important and what should be protected. But I, you know, I don’t know if you can recall the last time you actually fell, but there’s this flush of heat in your body. I started sweating it. I was really checked in like, Whoa, what a Swift warmup. I don’t think it’s possible to actually get that warm any other way than a real true, honest fall. So I ate it. I felt embarrassed. I felt pain. Um, I felt low literally and emotionally. And then I experienced some extreme technical difficulties in the moments leading up to this interview with Marguerite that I had really prepped for and was planning in my head, the way that it would go down. Of course, nowhere in my plan was zoom difficulties. I really thought I’d had that figured out, but alas, I fell. I had the technical difficulties and then I had this conversation with Marguerite. Tremendously inspiring and informative, and wow, just took me on a ride. So today’s my win. Because today I experienced the full realm of human emotion. Well, maybe not full, but a wide spectrum. And that just feels so great. So that is my win today. What is yours? What’s going well in your world.
All right, let’s do this today. Marguerite and I talk about gratitude. We talk about readiness. We talk about climbing and when it’s time to jump and we talk about setting the bar high. Marguerite is much more than a choreographer. True fact. She actually carries the title producer of dance. She is a teacher. She is a leader and she is an example of what is possible. She brings the marvelous to all that she does, and she’s been doing it for a long, long time. So please enjoy this conversation with the marvelous Marguerite Derricks.
Dana: Alright. Yes. Marguerite Derricks. Thank you so much for being here today. I’m thrilled to have you. I’m so thrilled to get to talk to you. Oh my goodness.
Marguerite: Thank you. I’m really happy to be here. All right.
It is par for the course on my podcasts that my guests introduce themselves. So have that. What would you like us to know about you?
Oh my gosh. Well, my name’s Marguerite Derricks and I’m a choreographer sometimes producer aspiring director, um, at one three Emmy’s um, currently, well, I was currently working on season four of the Marvelous Mrs Maisel season four of GLOW before we hit this lovely pandemic. Um, but I work in TV and film and commercials and videos and Broadway and Vegas. So I get to do it all and I love doing it all. So I guess that’s it.
That was a gorgeous introduction. Um, and I love the way that you have framed our pandemic as lovely. I think there are a lot of hidden gems in this moment in time. Um, I understand the magnitude. I understand that it is awful in so many ways, but I also do see tremendous opportunity in this moment
When I say lovely, um, you know, I try to find lovely every day, I guess, you know, um, it is horrific cause a lot of people are suffering. Um, and you know, so I, you know, I feel there’s so much going on right now. That’s so heavy. Um, but I do every single day, I wake up with counting my blessings and finding gratitude in the day and in my life. And, you know, trying to find a lovely, I guess for sure.
I love that. Um, I did a little listen to the podcast that you did with Tony Selznick, um, the Hollywood dance project you mentioned in that episode, starting your day with gratitude. What does that look like for you? Is it a mantra a meditation, a journaling moment? What’s the process there?
I wake up every day and I start, I just, I give thanks for, I just start counting my blessings, remember, my dear friend, Doug, Doug Caldwell always ended everything with counter blessings. And so I, I wake up and I start to pray out loud and just think to give thanks for everything that I’m blessed with. And then I go and I press go on the coffee machine and I come back and I say, my prayers, I literally get on my knees. And I say my prayers and I put it my intentions into the universe. And then I there’s, um, I open up my, my phone and there’s, uh, two books or like they’re daily inspirational books that I’ve been reading the same two books over and over for about 10 years. They’re both from Joel Olsteen and they’re, you know, just one is a daily, you know, their daily blessings, but there’s something interesting about it. It comes from, “Your best life now”, um, which was a book that my friend Tyce Dirorio gave me years ago when I was going through a really difficult time. So these are like scriptures and little verses from your, uh, your best life now. And it’s so interesting. I literally, as soon as I finished the book, I started again, but it’s very interesting on the days that I read something I’ve read before that all of a sudden has so much meaning on a specific day for me. So I, that’s how I start every single day. If I have to go to work at 5:00 AM I get up early so that I can do those things. And I, I don’t ever miss a day. And that’s how I, I kickstart my days is with gratitude and prayer and, you know, intentions, manifestation. Yeah
That’s super powerful. And I’m sensing a little bit of an overlap. I did read a long time ago, Twyla Tharp’s the creative habit. She mentioned being a creature of habit and a person who religiously does certain things that put her in this space where she’s able to create freely and create freely, but also create on demand that creative muscle is exactly that. So I think, I think perhaps gratitude also is a muscle. The more you practice it, the more accessible that is for you.
For sure. Absolutely. And I’m, I am definitely a creature of habit. I do things the same way. Always like sometimes change is almost jarring to me. Um, so there is something I think for me, that’s empowering about that.
I’m so curious. What are the things, what are the, the habits? The alwayses
Well, just, just how I start my morning. Like it’s, it’s you could almost, you know, it’s almost like Groundhog Day. You saw me wake up every day. You would go, Oh, you could say, okay, now she’s got a, you would know what to, what exactly what it is that I do. It’s a ritual
Opening sequence of all that jazz.
Exactly. It’s a, it’s a, it’s my spiritual ritual that starts my day. And then, you know, the, the, you know, I create, I have a, a certain way that I create, like, I like to start, like there’s an ABC and D to how I do each job. Um, yeah, I’m just kind of a creature of habit. I find things at work and I get very comfortable with that.
Well, the things that you have found that work work very well because you’re at work is some of my favorite, some of the most memorable dance on screen that I have ever seen. And this is not to discount the live shows as well because La Reve is one of my favorite shows in Vegas, but my husband is not a dancer. He is an engineer, he’s an optical specialist in lenses, cameras, camera displays, arrays, all sorts of technical things. When we met, he didn’t know who Justin Bieber was, who I was working for at the time, very far removed from the entertainment industry. And when he asked who I was talking to today, I was like, if you have seen movies, like more than one that have dance, chances are Marguerite choreographed that movie, or one of those movies and the breadth of your work. And in addition to the different, you know, the amount of work itself is incredible. You’ve been working as a choreographer for 35 years and not just in commercials and not just in music videos and not just in live shows, but I call it a diversified portfolio, which is one of your keys to longevity. And we’ll talk about that in a second, but, um, I think the most memorable dance that I’ve seen on camera is likely yours. So I wonder what is the most important thing while you’re making and do you seek to make something memorable or, or are you seeking to make it something else.
You know, I, I never, I never approach a project with that in mind. I never think about it being memorable or it like ha like escalating to a certain place. I try to, I just try to find something magical about everything that I do. Um, and I, I really, you know, serve whatever the project is. Right. And I work really hard. I do a lot of research. I try not to repeat myself, although I’m sure I have many, many times. Um, but I never really think like, Oh, this is going to be, you know, memorable, or this is going to, people are going to talk about this for years and years to come. And it is, it’s always surprising to me some of the things that are, and some of the things you think are going to be super successful, they’re not. And then the thing that you think is just this little thing that you did is it’s just like, it’s, it’s huge. Like when I did that gap commercial, that GAP, Gogo commercial, I became a, like an overnight celebrity and literally it, it opened up more doors for me. Then my three Emmys did, that GAP commercial, a 60 second commercial, a little spot. I did big movies with big stars that I thought were going to be very successful. And then along came this little indie film, Little Miss Sunshine. It became this thing, you know, so I now, like I’ve learned early on, cause I, I got really hammered, you know, not just me, not me, but me because I was a part of it. I felt very hammered early on when I did Show Girls and Striptease, I felt, I felt the pain of even though Showgirls then turned around to become a whole different thing. Um, but when they came out, like I, early on, I learned, you know, all you can do is your best, and then it’s not in your hands anymore. You know? And after, after Striptease and Showgirls or Showgirls and Striptease then came Austin Powers and that was so, so hugely successful. Um, and I didn’t know, like the first Austin Powers was an indie film. I think I got paid a nickel and a dime for the first one, you know? And, um, but you know, so I learned early on and I’m so grateful for that, not to expect anything, um, to do my best and to have a good time doing it, to really try to like, enjoy the process, which I’m learning more as I get older to really kind of like take it all in and breathe it and just go like, Oh my God, like, this is so amazing. Like, I, I think when I first started, I like, you know, it kinda, I got on a roll pretty like once it started, it started, I was doing always like three, three or four movies at a time. So it was hard for me to go look what I’m doing, look who I work, you know, like it was just, I was just hustling and getting it done. So I’m in a different space now where I breathe it in and I, I kind of like try to like go, Oh my God, look what I get to still do, you know? But yeah,
The, the first thing that I’m relating that to in my mind is my wedding day when everybody’s like, breathe it in, just take a moment and pause and just breathe it in. It is such a big, exciting day and a big, exciting moment. And I think if I were to practice that type of excitement, as often as you are practicing the exciting role of being, living your dreams or the exciting role of being first in command of this massive dance number on this massive project, then yeah. You would probably get more practiced at that moment.
It’s just a part of the gratitude, right? It’s like, you know, really just, just because it all, everything goes by so fast, like your wedding day, it probably felt like a second to you, you know? Um, so life goes by really fast and you know, the more we can slow it down. And I think maybe that’s one of the lovely things that we can come out of this time with this, because we are all slowed down to almost a stop right now. And, you know, I, I hope that, um, when we go back to the life that we know, however, that’s going to look that I hold onto some of this, of this kind of like being in the stillness and you know, like I lived in my home for 20 years. I have enjoyed my backyard. I never went out in my backyard before I have friends. Like people come over and say “such a beautiful backyard.” I’m like, yeah, it is. I, I never really came out here before, you know, so just enjoy the simple things and, you know, to just take it all in. And I think that I know, Oh, I I’m always the first one rush. Like when, like the minute I’m done with work, I rush off the set. I don’t think I’ll be rushing off anymore after this. I think I’ll stick around and, you know, just like take it all in. Even when my work is done and just watch everybody. And I don’t think I’ll be rushing out anymore. I know that’s something that’s going to change on this when I go back.
Oh, that is a beautiful sentiment. I love that thought
My dancers are not going— like dancers are not going to believe it. Cause they know. I, I always say like, well, we’re getting ready to do the last shot. Okay. I’m going to say goodbye now because it won’t be that anymore. I think I’ll slow it down. And you know, like, like maybe do at the end of the day, how do I start? The beginning of my day is slowly leave and count the blessings and the gratitude as I’m ending the day.
Oh, I love that. Taking stock on the, on the, in and out. Um, uh, my several years of life on tour with pop stars, we, we call it a quick out, after the show, you don’t even have time to shower. Well, I still consider the baby wipe head to toe a shower, but I’ve embraced that. I brought that into my social life. Occasionally like guys, I’m doing a quick out tonight, I’ll see you later. And there is something effective there, like efficient, trust me, I can talk a podcast is exactly where I should be living. I could talk forever goodbyes. A quick round of goodbyes can take an hour and a half. So I do see the value of a quick out, but I really like the idea of taking stock in and taking stock out. Um, so this, this thought of being grateful in this thought of taking pause and taking a moment to witness yourself doing the things, um, that’s powerful to me. I really I’m right now, 34 years old transitioning from being primarily a performer to primarily not a performer. I am many things. Podcast hosts, choreographer, movement coach, um, movement director on several projects, which I love that role by the way. But I really right now am interested in the power of our thoughts and how those guide our actions. So on, on your podcast with Tony Selznick, you talked about a lot of the actions that keep you in this position of continuing doing a thing and continuing to love it. You talked about a lot of the things that you do that have perpetuated a career of longevity. For example, being really diverse in the type of work you do. Commercials, TV shows, award shows, um, Vegas, movies, all the things you talk about being prepared and being a champion of having all the options. You talk about understanding money and understanding how productions are looking to dance team leader, as a guide for how much time things need, how much money they require, how many dancers does that actually take if we want this and how do we, this you’re the person with those answers. Um, and this is so great. I love the actions I love like, Oh, just listening to the way you talk about your team and how you utilize time. And, and people is very inspiring, but I would love to know some of the thoughts that keep you in your, in your ongoing love of dance. And is it always been love? Is it, has there ever been love, hate moments of, of this thing in 35 years?
Nope. Never, never hate. I think I’ve always loved what I do and I still, I still do. I know there’s a lot of people that, um, they want to go to a different level. So they, they, there becomes this negative thing about the thing that they love.
Mm. The level that they’ve been. Yeah.
Yeah. So like, you know, wanting to go here, they hate where they are and I don’t, I still love what I do. I still love, I love being with dancers. I love creating movement. Um, I love what I do. I do want to do other things, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving what I do and going, well, I’m not going to do that anymore. I did that when I was a dancer, I stopped dancing to be a choreographer. I felt at the time that I started doing choreography, that there weren’t, it was way different than it is now. There, there, there were only that the top dogs there, weren’t a lot of young choreographers coming in. That wasn’t a thing. So now it’s a thing it’s like, you know, they’re there, there’s a more openness to young choreographers, you know, now than what there was then. So I felt like I had to stop dancing and just go into choreography to be taken seriously. And, um, Debbie Allen has never forgiven me for stop dancing. She’s always tells me, you know, we got to get you to dancing. I’m like, Debbie, if it’s in a rolling chair, sure. I’ll do it. But I honestly, I’ve never regretted it. Um, I loved dancing, but I, I think that I, I do know that I was meant to do what I’m doing now. I was doing it as a young girl. I just didn’t realize what I was doing. I didn’t, I didn’t know that I was choreographing, but I was creating dance. So I never thought, Oh, I want to be a choreographer that just happened. But when it happened, I went, Oh yeah, this is what I’m here for. This is why I’m here. Like, it just fits so well.
Oh, that’s a power thought. This is why I’m here. This is why I’m here.
Yeah. So that, that I knew that right on. And, um, it makes sense the way I’ve been guided through, you know, through magical moments by the universe, you know, big disappointments that led me to, Oh, pushed me onto the track that I was supposed to be on. I always tell people, you know, have a focus in a dream, but be ready to really open it up because, you know, you may think you’re going down this road, but this road over here might be so much grander that you just didn’t even see it. So, um, you know, by just, I think by just, just keep moving and keep doing your thing and being open to a shift, there’s been a lot of shifts in my life. There’s been things that I’ve thought, Oh, that is going to be it, that’s going to change my, no, it wasn’t that it’s always the surprising things. So I try not to attach myself to anything anymore. Like I don’t, Oh, this is going to be huge hit. Is it, you know, you never know, Hey, I did so much TV. I think Maisel and GLOW.
are The first TV shows that I’ve worked on that have gone beyond one season.
There have been so many TV shows like bunheads and shows that I love so much. They were the first. And now they’re both in season four. I just remember thinking, hearing of like, you know, shows that would go on for three or four seasons going, Oh my God, that would be amazing. Cause I really love doing television. And I love being on a TV series where you really, you know, you get in there and you, you know, the characters, you know, you get to know, you know, the voice of the show and like with Maisel and GLOW, I know the voice of the show, I am part of that voice. And I, I just remember always like, Oh, that would be so cool. You know, to have a TV show that goes longer than a season. And you know, I’m feeling that now. And you know, I never knew it would be Masiel and GLOW You just don’t know what it’s going to be. Right.
Follow the lead. Um, I heard a BTS interview or video that you did on the set of Maisel and you, you mentioned that the first step in that process for you and there all the processes will be different, but on Maisel your first step is always to talk to Amy, the director and Dan the producer. So my question is what, what will your first step be when you are the director or when you are the producer, what’s the, what’s the first step then when you’re just, when you are driving.
When I’m when I’m directing, I will have a really good long talk with myself before I get to set.
So the same, the same first step, different audience.
So my first step will be, you know, um, having that, you know, I’m a team player and I really do believe it takes it. It, you know, it takes a village, right. To create greatness, and it would be, um, surrounding myself by, you know, some great, great, great talent. And I think it would be, I would then be an Amy and Dan’s position where I would be talking to my people and getting them on board with my vision. Um, so that would be the first step. I would just be sitting in a different seat
Or sitting with a mirror. I love this. So on the subject of teams and the importance of like having a really solid team, you have a rep reputation for using A plus plus talent and for running a tight ship, if you are not A plus, plus you can’t hang. And I respect that. I think that is brilliant. And I am not the same. That’s not to say that my team isn’t A plus plus, but I’m so interested in error in humanness, in, uh, the mess ups in being exposed um, my taste in art is very rarely the modern, sleek, pristine, clean, minimal. It’s the thing that has like, you know, epoxy dripping out of the side, or like a smudge over here. And it looks, it looks homemade or manmade. Um, I know because I know a lot of the people that work with you a lot, your work is polished, pristine, exquisite, but your process, your working with you is human and, and open and accepting, and kind of like this, this homemade feeling, this, we are a team we’re doing this together. I am wondering personally, professionally, how you navigate that balance for yourself, the maintaining of this ridiculously high standard simultaneously nurturing the team, being a teacher, a lot of like your, your you’re training, your dancers and your assistants. You’re, you’re teaching simultaneously as you’re creating.
Absolutely well, that’s, that’s the thing. It’s that? I I’m number one. I am a teacher and I love teaching and I, I keep that going at all times, no matter how busy I am. Like when I’m in New York shooting, Maisel on my days off, I’m at Broadway Dance Center, teaching class, I’m a teacher. I love teaching. Um, I think it probably is the most joyful thing that I do. And I think that I am a great teacher. I know that that’s where my, I really have greatness. Um, and so that’s where I find my team. All of my assistants start in class, you know, they start in class and a lot of the dancers I hire, I’d meet them in class and it’s in class where it’s, it’s a more loving, nurturing space, it to see how I work and really get to feel the way I want my, the movement to be, you know? And, um, they get to know me and I get to know them. That is always the beginning for all of my, all of my assistants. My assistants are, I mean, A plus plus plus plus plus plus plus like they are, and they’re insane and they’re wonderful. And, um, they’ve been doing this, there’s this thing that I’ve just really started to recognize and acknowledge. I’ve always recognized it, but I’m really speaking on it. Now, my assistance train, the new assistants that come in and they’ve been doing it since the beginning of time, you know, Michelle Elkin, she trained Jen Hamilton and Shea Spencer. They trained, you know, they, they just pass, they pass it along and they, they, they send, cause they know all my choreography that I do starts in class. Everything that is on film that I’ve done was in a routine that I did in class. Le Reve is a routine I did in class. A lot of those, I created 15, 20 years ago when I was teaching so much and I had this teen company at Tremaine. And, um, so they, they have old videos that they send each other so that they know my background and the stuff I did because they know, Oh, I’ll go wait. There was something I did in Sarah Smile that would be great here. And then boom, we start doing the old routine and you know, then we start to flip it and change it and use it. So, um, then coming to class and knowing like this summer, I’ve taught nine classes at CLI and for the first time, in a long time, I had the time to go in and create new choreography for class. And I’m so excited to take all this new choreography that I have now, this ball of choreography. I can’t wait to put it on film.
That’s all I, you know, I’ve had the time to really go in and, Oh, it’s just, that’s been probably the most joyful time of, of the pandemic for me is getting into the studio with my assistants and creating new class choreography. Cause I know it’s gonna go on film. I know it’s going to go on stage. Um, and yeah, so it all, it all starts for me in the classroom and I’m teaching and learning. I learned from everybody that I teach. So it all starts there and it’s, it’s such a more relaxed atmosphere that auditions and you know, really a place for us to all really get to know each other. Yeah.
Oh, that’s awesome. And I cannot wait to see, I did drop in on a couple of your CLI classes that looked like so much fun and I can’t wait to see those sweet moves manifest on some silver screen or some cell phone screen somewhere. Um, okay. So from, as you take from your classwork, put it out there in your, whatever. I mean, they’re both professional work, so it’s weird to say classwork versus industry or, um,
It’s definitely.. people view it differently, but yeah. Yep.
If I were to cross section your early class material say 30 years ago or 20 years ago, and something from this – from this past summer, what do you think would be the biggest difference between these, these two moments in your creative vocabulary, your movement vocabulary, or maybe the easier question if we want to segue with an easier question is what’s the same? What is your work? Always
Technical and strong. Yeah. Yeah. Technical and strong, um, lines, clean lines, you know, um, and you know, really heightened and pushing, but making it look easy and effortless. You know, I like, I look, I, especially when I was doing CLI my assistant Lonnie and Bobby, like wholly, they were sweating, they were working their butts off. It was not easy, what they were doing.
They are so capable. They are so good.
They did it, it looks so easy, but I know how hard it is. I think the best thing that ever happened to me is when I, um, busted up my knee early on in my career in my early thirties, I blew my knee out. I had major knee surgery and I had to learn to choreograph without using my body for a while. And then I stopped using my body and I just saw, saw things in my head. So I like, I’m like, can we do five turns? Like I never could do five turns, but I can choreograph five turns. Do you know what I’m saying? So I took it off of what I could physically do into what these two young. So I think that’s, what’s different. The ability of the dancer as they’re, as they’re getting higher and higher, I’m able to do higher and higher
Well said. And Holy smokes. Yes, I am constantly, I’m shocked. I mean, a triple pirouette at when I was a junior coming up in competition was like, wow. And now holy smokes. Like it’s, it’s unreal. The things that these young dancers are capable of. And so cool. Mmm, Where do I want to go next? I could, I could tell a story. This is a fun one. So because the dance world is small. I know a lot of people that have worked with you very closely, KC Monnie is a good friend.
I love him so much.
I Love KC Monnie so much. And, uh, so we were having a chit chat as I was preparing for this. And he was like, you know, Marguerite gave me my first job. Right. And I was like, no, I had no idea. Well, you’ve been that for many people, which is actually contrary to what most people say about, which is you only hire people that, you know. Nobody would have their first job with you. If you only hired people that you knew. So I think that’s very cool. Number one, number two, KC mentioned that when he walked on set, I’m gonna abandoned my family friendly language just for a second. Cause I have to quote him specifically, I’ll bleep this out. But KC said, “I was scared as ** ***” I was like, I bet you were. You know, we talked a little bit about what that project was for him. And then he said at the end of it, I felt truly loved and supported. And in that moment I knew that it is not just your work that I admire, but the way that you work, that I admire. And I think that probably speaks to the longevity as well. If you’re able to create a space like that and you’re able to come with all the rest of the, the technical preparedness, the, the knowledge, not just what it takes to do something great, but the knowledge that you yourself are great, but you’re sharing that greatness with your team. I’m just like, Ooh, that is a sweet spot for me. Um, so I’m wondering if you could maybe talk a little bit about what your dancers mean to you and how they get from, I guess you mentioned class as an entry point in a big way, but you do hold auditions occasionally. What is it that you look for in your dancers?
Well, you know, once again, like I love well-trained dancers. I love strong technical dancers, even if, you know, like just really, I love well-trained dancers. I just, I just do, um, and KC is all of that. Um, and I like people that are respectful of, of, you know, that there’s sometimes, you know, you have an audition, I’ve know dancers that will go to an audition and they show you one thing and then they walk into rehearsal and you’re like, I’m like, who is that? You know what I mean? So I want whoever I, whoever auditioned for me, that’s the person I expect to come to my rehearsal. Um, I always on time, I’ve always early looking at the clock. The minute it hits, I start I’m so efficient with time. I don’t like to waste time. Um, so I, I want really wonderful dancers that, you know, have a great work ethic and I love to have fun, but I like to get the work done. I’m super intense day one. Cause I like, I want to please Amy, like if I’m, if I’m doing something for Maisel, I want to get it done, film it, send it to her, get her okay. Or get her notes. So it’s day one is like that. And then we glide, then we have fun. We have breaks, you know, we get to know each other, but day one is like really important to me. Um, so any dance, any dancer that has worked with me knows that about me. They know I come in prepared. It’s always usually choreographed. So they’re not standing around while I’m trying to figure out 8s and very efficient that way. So I like, I like to dancers that come ready to get it done. Cause then they might be done in an hour. They’re getting paid on a side contract for 12 an hour. You know what I mean? And then we can have lunch together, whatever. Like I just like to get the work done because I, you know, there’s people that I want to show it to and, you know, get approval by it. All of that. Um, you know, I was different when I was younger. When I, when I first started to choreograph, I was, uh, a hard-ass I was young. I was, uh, hiring my peers. So there was I, there was a wall that I put up. I was known. I used to wear dark glasses all the time, even though they were prescription, like I always had this wall up. I don’t have a wall up anymore, but I think there’s something lovely about my urban legend because people dancers come in and they know they gotta get it done for me. Like, yes, I am a sweetheart. And I do love you. I love dancers. I love them. And I would do anything for them, but I expect everything from them. And so knowing that like Amy, Amy, we do, we’ve been doing a lot of interviews, uh, you know, lately. And she talks about me as like this little blonde sargent girl, you know, like, you know, like there’s nobody, you know, like, you know, she gets it done. Like I like, I’m not mean I don’t have to be, but people, but people respect me so much and they know if it’s not good, I’m gonna let you know. And I’m not going to be happy with that. I don’t need to scream. And like, and humiliate, I’m not that kind of person, but I expect greatness because I bring greatness, but we can have fun and I can be loving, wrapped all around that. And anybody that’s worked with me more than once knows that about me, my dancers they’re like my army. They protect me. I remember I was doing the Emmys one year and I had Brandon Henschel and I can’t, I remember what there were a couple of my guys, I was, I was dealing with Conan O’Brien and he was nervous. They were like, they were standing at the door to make sure like that. I don’t know. Like I just remember seeing them stand there to make sure I was okay. I don’t know
Angels. So dancers know how much I respect them. They know how much I really do love and care about them. And yes, if I love working with you, you’re going to get a call. I’m going to give you jobs. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to hire somebody new. But if you are in my circle and you’ve been an angel to me, why would I not hire you again? Like KC Monnie you know? And sometimes I’ll say, guys, you might come into the audition. You’re going to get the job. But, but there’s always room for new people. But you know, if people are mad at that, I’m sorry. Like they’re like Amy Sherman Palladino has hired me for bun heads, Gilmore girls and now the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and we have a relationship and she knows that I know how to get it done. She says one word to me. It’s like, uh, like having to say, talk to somebody for 10 minutes, why would she want to go there? She’s got this person that’s in her brain that knows. So that’s how I am with dancers. Always room for new, especially with Maisel because I’m in New York and I’m starting to get to know all the New York dancers, which is great. And I got some angels there now. I have so it’s just, um, there’s, that should be for me, any dancer should want to be somebody’s angel because that’s a relationship. And then you can count on my people that have worked with me. I’m sure when they hear I have a job, they probably perk up because there’s a very good chance. If they’ve worked with me before that, I’m going to try to get them the job because we’ve had a great relationship and I know what they’re going to do on set. I know what they’re, how they’re going to be in rehearsal. Um, that’s a beautiful thing. And you know, if you, if you have a good experience and you do a good job, you deserve that. You just, and not every job, I can’t like guarantee them every job. Cause sometimes it’s a typecasting thing. But if I can, I do, if there’s something wrong with that, then I’m just going to be wrong.
That me tearing up Marguerite, you’re dropping the, the, um, uh, what are they called? Dramatic pause.. soundbites. Good Lord. That was tough
Right now. The word. And.. is sometimes I can’t find it.
I’m searching. I’m searching. Um, it’s funny. I do the same thing in podcasts as I do in the room when I’m creating, I search with my eyes up here. Like that’s apparently where I look for them.
I always look off to somewhere. Yeah, yeah.
Like it’s there. Yeah. That’s funny. Um, I really love what you just said about expectations and respect. High expectations equals high levels of respect. And I really love the idea and I’m faced with this. So often, almost every time I positioned myself with, well, it’s either this or that in this, in this case. Well, you’re either a softy lover friend of all dancers who doesn’t, you know, run a tight ship or you’re the drill Sergeant that you mentioned, and you are reminding me as I get reminded all of the time that it is not an either or conversation you can have and be both.
Yeah, absolutely. 100%.
That’s so refreshing and inspiring to hear. And to see that example,
When we walk in the room, we all know that we have a job to do so all of those dancers that know me, that I’ve worked with before that I’m very, like, I call, I’ve been calling KC every couple of weeks just to check up on him through this time. I’ve been calling a list of my dancers just to check up on them cause I care about them. But when we go, when we walk in that room, we are all there to work. And like, you know, KC and those people that are close to me, they got their eyes on me. Even if I’m working with a different grouping, KC is focused. Like what can I help her? Like they all become my assistants. They all be. They all, I get that from them. They’re there. So they, they, they care for me and they take care of me. And I, I do the same for them. It’s it’s a mutual respect.
Yes. And this idea that when you do well, they do well. And when they do well, you do well. I do not understand how you could be disrespectful or use demeaning language in a rehearsal process. Although I have been in there as it happens and I’ve heard terrible stories and I just don’t understand how that has a place still
Look it. Nobody deserves that. I think that, you know, um, we have a choice whether we put up with that or not. And I understand sometimes you need the job, so whatever, but I, I, I don’t, I don’t think anybody deserves that. And I would hope that they could just flip it off and walk out the room because it’s nobody’s deserves that.
Well, Hey, with more examples like you, then I would say that the time is running out on that end of the, on the spectrum. Um, okay. I have one more theme that I would love to talk about. Although I think people are getting way more than their time dollars worth in this conversation. So I want to talk about readiness because you’ve done a lot and you’ve done it in some kind of unusual ways. You did act as an assistant for a short time, but you didn’t necessarily, you know, like find the artist that it worked with and just stuck that out or like find me a person that you assist well and just assist them forever or come up through a really successful company, you know, from the core to the principal, to the, you know, those traditional ways of getting places. I don’t think were your ways of getting places. So I’m wondering how you navigate the moment or how you make the decision between when it’s time to fall in line and climb the ladder. And when it’s time to just jump and try something you’ve never done before.
Hmm. I don’t know the answer to that. Actually. I think that I’ve been, I I’ve been climbing the ladder by whole career, but it’s been a steady climb. I always like, yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Well, we can, we can find out together we can be a buddy system because I’ve always got my finger on the pulse of like when to jump and when to climb.
I mean, right now during this time, my son and I have are creating some projects together. It’s cool. Yeah. I was supposed to direct a movie last year that he came in and was helping me. We were like really flipping the script upside down and, and we worked so well together and the project fell apart and we looked at each other and we’re like, well, let’s just come up with our own. So we have a couple projects right now that we’re developing and I think I’m ready to jump, but you know, um, yeah. So I guess I’m ready to jump, but I’m still, I don’t know that a lot, I guess I’m, I guess I’m, I’m I’m as I’m climbing, if this, when this thing goes, I’m ready to jump so
Well, there, it goes to the saying, one of my favorites. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. So if the entire time you’re climbing, you’re ready for the ladder to be gone.
Cause I used to, I there’s something that I said that somebody thought was genius. I don’t know the thought behind it, I think is important right now. The difference right now with all of the young choreographers that are working, it’s different now they’re not climbing a ladder. And so I fear that they’re jumping and they may fall off the other side because there’s something about climbing like that, you know, building, working your way up, just that the wealth of knowledge and this, the situations that you have to make you get through, like, as you keep going up, you’re ready for the next level because you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re taking it step by step. I fear sometimes some people that get there too quick, they don’t stick around for 35 years. Tell me how many choreographers are still at the top of their game. After 35 years, there are some, but there’s not a lot of them. So that’s what I would rather do the climb, the climb has been a blast and a good time, man. Like I, I have loved everything that I’ve done, you know? Um, it’s a blast. So
Like a beautiful hike and less like a, like a cargo net. That’s terrifying.
It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s really beautiful. So I think there’s something wonderful about that. But if you do have a desire now what you did now, I jumped here was my big job, 23 year old Marguerite and the back of the addition, like a lion back and forth. Should I audition? I don’t know. Should I addition? I don’t know. I was starting to work. I wanted to become a choreographer. I was a couple of jobs as a choreographer and I would still go to the auditions and I, cause I was on the fence and then I finally just took the leap and that was, that was my big leap. I haven’t, since then I’ve been climbing the ladder, you know, I found what, like what my real purpose was and it’s just been a joyful like journey for me. So that was my big leap was when, early on, like I was a really good dancer, but I was ready for something else.
Uh, and, and willing for whatever pain might come along with falling.
That’s something I’m working to practice in my, um, in my daily practice, I call them downloads. Um, I suppose you could call it a meditation or like a, a free writing exercise, just like a check in with myself, really focusing on my willingness to feel all the fields. And this is a perfect moment to be doing right face to face with a lot of discomfort and uncertainty and, and, and, and um, and so I’m really learning the value of simply being willing to experience a fail or a humiliation or, uh, um, a missing of the mark, like so down, what is the worst thing that can happen to me in that case? The worst thing is that I feel a bad feeling though, we’re saying, is that, yeah, that’s it like, even if you told me that the worst thing is like, well, you lose your friends still. It’s just a feeling of being lonely or you could not get hired again, that’s a feeling of being unrecognized or useless or incapable. Like those are all, this is just feelings. If I’m willing to feel all the feels I am unstoppable. So from that place, I can jump when I’m, when I’m willing to be okay with whatever feeling happens, where wherever, whenever, however, I land
Thats a beautiful way to put it.
Willingness. Hi, well, um, I’m exercised. I feel great. My face is numb and tingly in certain places from just having been smiling for an hour. Uh, is there anything else Margaret you’d like to add or, um, that my audience really truly is a mixed bag of creative types. Some of them are dancers have been dancers for a long time. Some of them are in other areas of entertainment and art. Um, some of them have left dance and are coming back, I think, as a person who wears many hats and has a tremendous amount of passion. Anything else you might say to people who are looking for information and inspiration in, in this moment?
I think, you know, just never give up, you know, manifest, put out, put out into the universe, what it is you really want. And this is a good time to get quiet and really see what it looks like. You know, what is it that you really want and, and manifest it and just don’t give up, like, there’s, it may come in such a different package. You know, it may come in like in such an odd way. So be open to the delivery of your dreams, but don’t give up dreaming.
And on that ladies and gentlemen, we will round it out. Thank you Margaret so much for your time for your wisdom wisdom and for your work. That is so great. And I just can’t wait to see where it goes from here all the direction. Oh my goodness. I can’t wait. I’m so excited.
It was my pleasure.
Okay. What did I tell you? Good one. Right. So insightful so wise, and I really was taken aback at how willing and ready Marguerite is to share at all times her, her insights, her wisdom, her experiences, um, her wins. I really, really loved what she had to say about building her team, a team that supports each other. Thank you all as listeners. Thank all of you listeners for being a part of my team. I hope that you got as much out of that conversation as I did. And I’m going to go ahead and venture a guess. You’re going to want to download that one. That is a conversation that I want to have in my pocket at all times. If you’re digging, what you hear, don’t be shy. Please share and leave a review or rating if you’re loving what you’re hearing. Thank you guys so much for listening. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, night, week, month. All of it, keep it funky. Everybody. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. 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, 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.
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: All right. All right. Welcome to the podcast. Welcome back. If you’re a regular mover and shaker and welcome. Welcome. If you are new, I am so glad that you’re here today. I’m really stoked about this episode as per uzhe. So I, I, I want to get to it because I’m excited, but I also want to let you know that my win this week is a special podcast related when I am so jazzed to announce that words that move me is teaming up with our friends over at CLI. And we’re doing a small number of live interviews. I’m going to link to CLI in the show notes, because if you are not already a member, you should be dancers of all levels of all styles, really, truly, especially in quarantine times, CLI is a digital dance experience that truly offers like top, top, top tier education. So, um, yeah, go dig into that. And if you are a member, you’ll be able to watch live a handful of interviews that I’m doing in the next month or two, um, starting in July and into August. You will still get those interviews here on the podcast, just a couple of weeks late. Okay. So that is my win. What’s going well in your world.
This kills me. Cause I really want to know, like, I actually want to hear you say it.
Awesome. I’m so glad that you’re winning. Please do keep it up. I’m stoked for you. Okay. Now, in this episode, we’re talking about how to ask good questions. I mean, good as in not bad and questions as in a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information, at least that’s how the internet defines a question. One more time. That’s a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information, now that is all fine and good, but I like to think of questions as a Swiss army knife of curiosity. I say curious a lot, by the way, on the podcast, I think curiosity or curious are the most used words on the podcast, except for maybe jazzed and possibly ultimately I say ultimately a lot, and I had no idea that I did until I started podcast. Okay. Anyways, I think we can all agree that a Swiss army knife is a single tool that has many different tools in it. And it’s used for one goal. And that is to help the user function. You can use a can opener to get the food out of the cans so you can eat the food. You use the bottle opener, so you can open the bottle and get the drink out of the bottle. You use the knife to cut, open a box and access what’s inside or a little tweezers to pull out the splinter from your toes so that you can walk without pain. In this metaphor, the question is the Swiss army knife and the challenges of your life are like the bottles and boxes and splinters. So I’m saying that a question is a tool that helps you function. Now, you know how people say there are two types of people in the world? Well, I’m going to give you my version of that cliche. I believe there are two types of people in the world. One, the people who are told what to think, and the other type is the people who are told what to think and ask questions. Now, if you’re like me, you don’t much like being told what to think. I’m here to tell you that the answer to not being told what to think is to think for yourself, the answer to not being told what to think is actually a question. The question is the tool to help that human function. Now, before I go any further, I want to address those that don’t mind being told what to think. And I am raising my hand. I am part of this party as well. Now, if all I was ever able to do was believe my own original thoughts, I might actually be in trouble. So what’s wrong with being told what to think. I actually love school. I miss it tremendously, especially right now. Um, I love seeking information. I love finding people who are great at what they do, asking them what they think, what are the thoughts that drive them to doing great things. And then I’ll occasionally adopt those thoughts as my own and see how far they take me. Um, sometimes that’s pretty darn far, pretty darn far. It’s hard to say pretty darn far.
I like to compare being told what to think with eating fast food. It is very convenient at times it is fast and it is also heavily processed. So consider that for a moment. That is why it is important to ask questions. We can also probably agree that questions are important simply by imagining life without them. Here’s an example. Hey girl, hi… The end. Life without questions is not a life that I am interested in living. So let’s get better at asking questions. We’ll start with the assumption. A. that words are important. I probably don’t need to illustrate that to you because you’re listening to this podcast. So you probably already agree, but let’s take a look at what that means. For questions specifically, here are a couple of different ways of asking basically the same question. Let’s say I’m holding an audition and somebody in the back of the room raises their hand. I call on them and they might say, “nobody can see you back here. Can you do that again?” Or they could say, “I can see that your arms are in high fifth on one, but what’s the lower body doing for that eight count” or maybe I’m holding a Q and A and somebody might say, “what’s your favorite style?” Or they could say, “tell me about the style of dance that nobody knows you love?” Another example with regard to costume, perhaps somebody might ask, “are you for real?” Or they might say, “what does that costume contribute to the piece?” Here’s another favorite least favorite question. “What’s it like trying to become a famous dancer?” Who yikes. There’s a lot to unpack there. An alternative might be. “What part of your training are you most passionate about?” Can you imagine how the conversation that follows each of those questions would be dramatically different? Good questions lead to good conversations, good conversations. Lead to good learning. Alright, here are my golden nuggets for asking golden questions.
Number one, share how much, you know, not how much you don’t know. The example that I gave of the audition earlier is a true story, except for I was not holding the audition. I was a dancer in the back of the room. It was not the dancer that asked that question. However, and when the dancer asked that question, my stomach hit the floor. I felt awful because here was this person saying, nobody can see you back here, but only I could see enough, enough to guess enough to make a well informed guess. Now this specific audition was pretty high stakes. The choreographer was Liz Imperio a legend, shout out Liz. And there were probably 500 people in the room. The project was an award show and it was the first time this particular award show was covered by a SAG/AFTRA contract, which means dancers who booked the gig were eligible for healthcare and pension contributions from the work that they did on this project. Anyways, it’s a big deal. The stakes were high. The room was full. I get where the dancer was coming from. But as soon as she said, nobody can see you back here. Can you do that again? The answer that came was certainly packed with emotion, more packed with emotion than information actually. Liz told her to wait. So actually no information came back at her at that time. The lesson that I learned in that moment is that you can either stand out as being a person who doesn’t know what they’re doing and blames that on others. Or you could stand out as being a person who’s responsible for knowing what they’re doing. And that is the person that I want to hire. So in general, do everything you can to be informed. And don’t ask a question that’s already been asked. How do you know if it’s been asked already? Well, listen, or simply Google it in short, do your research and avoid asking questions that your subject is likely to have answered a thousand times already, for example, “what’s it like being on tour with JT?” That question lends itself to what could be a pretty closed ended answer. Really, really fun. All right. Next question. Versus “what was the one experience that you least expected when you were on the 2020 experience?” First of all, points for wordplay and craftsmanship. This is definitely a question that I’ll give more thought to answering because I can tell that it took a lot of thought to create. Here’s another example, “what’s the secret to becoming a successful dancer?” This question, I get a lot and honestly it sounds a little bit like the person asking it once the fast pass to the top. Here is the equivalent to that question that I would actually love giving an answer to “Dana, one of my favorite things about your work is the use of humor. Can you talk a little bit about using comedy in dance?” Ah, yes. This shows me that they’ve done a little bit of research. They know who they’re talking to and they are interested in the work, the process, not the result, not the perceived pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. First of all, the pot of gold doesn’t exist. And if it did, there is no one way to becoming a successful dancer. And even if I told you exactly how I did it, it would take the entire hour to explain. And you could recreate every single step of the way and not achieve the same success because we are infinitely different people coming up at different times. We’ve got different skills, all the things are different. So the next time you find yourself wanting to ask for the secret to someone’s success. First identify what you think is successful. What you think is interesting about their work and then ask them questions about that.
Alright, that brings us to golden nugget. Number two, ask questions that might lead to new ideas instead of revisiting old ideas. Now it’s very common and totally practical to ask questions in review or to refine your understanding of something. This happens in dance class a lot. Now, a little less common, especially in a dance class are the questions that lead to new ideas instead of revisiting old ones. In the example of the Q and A that I mentioned, “what’s your favorite style” by simply watching or taking my class. You might be able to answer that question for yourself, but in asking a question like “what’s a style of dance that nobody knows that you love.” You’re likely to learn something that not only you couldn’t have found out, but that nobody knows tell us something that nobody knows is a really good one. It’s one of my favorites. I also really, really love what am I missing here? Or what am I not getting? Now, let me be real, when you’re asking a question, like, what am I missing or what am I not getting buckle up and get ready to learn. Because the answer that comes back at you will almost certainly be news to you. It will be an idea that is completely new. And sometimes those are hard to chew, but also so fun and so much growth here. Yes. Ask these questions.
All right. Golden rule. Number three, simple questions, get simple answers. Usually this is why the minis like age seven to 10 are my favorite group to teach. They ask simple questions like my favorite, “Why?” sometimes? Why is the best question somebody can ask, please. Don’t be afraid to ask why, but when you do also be patient and get ready to ask good followup questions, because “why” can be a tough, tough question to answer. Now. Sometimes the simple questions are the most obvious questions. Like the example I gave regarding costumes earlier, “are you for real? Or why do I have to wear that?” For example, now I’ve had people especially minis. Ask me a lot of questions about my clothing. I can’t really explain it. I kind of adore it. And it’s also a little bit annoying. Here’s an example. “Why do you wear those weird pants?” Well, a simple answer to that simple question might be because I think they’re funky. All right. Now, sometimes a simple question. Like, “why are you wearing those pants?” Could get a complex answer like this one. I wear these pants because the essence of ballet is to be lifted light as a feather. Um, having the quality of weightlessness or floating and for hip hop and many other street styles being grounded is the value. I think you can imagine the visual that I’m painting here for you. The visual center of gravity of a ballet dancer is very high, especially relative to somebody dancing, hip hop or another street style like locking or popping, baggy clothes make the visual center of gravity look lower, think MC hammer and hammer pants. Visual center of gravity is almost on the ground versus a Tutu, which is basically the shortest skirt that somebody could possibly wear. A Tutu makes the visual center of gravity look high, hammer pants, baggy clothes, Zoot suits, they make the visual center of gravity look low. If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable, dancing a street style or watching somebody dance street styles in a leotard and tights. That’s part of the reason why. And there you have it. My very complex answer to a simple question.
And that brings us to golden rule. Number four, complex questions get complex answers usually, except for when they don’t, right. Now, if you can avoid asking overly complicated questions, practice what you preach. Wilson. I love asking compound questions, questions within questions, and then just straight up multiple questions at once I’m working on it. I’m really working on it because I get more focused answers. When I ask more focused questions again, complex questions beget complex answers, except for when they don’t. For example, my favorite example of this there’s a James Baldwin quote, a student asked him once to give advice to a quote, young literary genius end quote to this James Baldwin replied quote, let me tell you one thing, Young literary geniuses, don’t take anybody’s advice, end quote and end of conversation. Listen, if you want real good answers and a great model for asking questions, please, please, please listen to the words, the voice of James Baldwin. Read. Listen. Oh man, I have linked to a few of my favorite talks of his in the show notes for this episode. Oh, and on the flip side, very, very flip side of that same good question asking coin is one of my favorite interview hosts. Um, his name is Sean Evans. He hosts a YouTube series called Hot Ones. Um, some of you may know it because it is wildly popular, but um, if you don’t already know, Hot Ones is a YouTube series where the host Shawn and his guests eat 10 hot wings with different hot sauces on each wing. They eat them in escalating Scoville order. And, um, it’s just simply so entertaining. Anyways. I think Sean has a research team helping him ask questions at this point, but, uh, he is very, very famous for asking his very, very famous guests who do interviews all the time. Questions that leave a pause, his guests are stopped mid chew and, and they reflect, wow. That’s such a great question. I really admire him for that. Hats off or should I say caps off to you? Sean Evans. Thank you for modeling what it means to ask really good questions. All right. So between James Baldwin and the 183 episodes of hot ones that are on YouTube, you definitely have your work cut out for you if you want the good, good answers. Please start by listening as always then remember to ask questions that highlight how much, you know, not how much you don’t know, ask questions that will lead to new ideas. In addition to simply refining existing ideas, don’t be afraid to ask simple questions and know that complex questions will get complex answers except for when they don’t. And with that, my friends I’d like to leave you with an ancient proverb. He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask a question, remains a fool forever. So keep listening, keep learning, keep asking good questions. And by all means necessary. Keep it funky. Thanks everybody. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 member. So kickball, changeover to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. Alright, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving cause you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello everybody. And welcome back to the podcast or welcome for the first time. If you’re new, I am so excited that you are here. And as always, I am super jazzed about this episode. Like very jazzed about this episode. Um, today I want to talk about something that hasn’t been addressed here on the podcast in quite a while, broadly creativity, but specifically creating something daily and here on the podcast, we call that doing daily. Now of course, before we do that, I do want to share a win and I want to hear yours. And I also want to tell you that I am wearing overalls today, not jingle bells. These are overalls just wanted to let you know this will be a very spirited episode because of my jingle bell overalls. Okay. Let’s talk wins this week. My win is that I am so honored to be teaching for my dear friend, Tiler Peck’s summer intensive. And I am not sure if enrollment is open, I will definitely find out. Um, and when I do, if it is open, I will absolutely link to that in the show notes. And I will brag loud and proud about it on all the socials so that if you are able to, you can enroll in those classes. I am simply super proud to be a part of this all star lineup. And I’m just very excited about this intensive. All right, that is my win. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.
Congratulations. Keep crushing it. I’m jazzed for you. Okay. Let’s get to it.
When I created this podcast, it was not my goal to create a community of daily doers. It was my goal to create a podcast about navigating a creative career. I had written a book of tips and tricks with notes and quotes, a bunch of things that I had collected along on my journey. And on January 1st, 2020, I was ready to. Now, here we are over six months later, living in very, very different circumstances, a global pandemic resulting in over 9 million cases and almost 500,000 deaths worldwide. COVID-19 also brought the US unemployment rate to 13.3% today, much higher in California I believe. Add civil unrest in response to police brutality and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and sadly. So, so many more. The rise of the black lives matter movement. The rise of awareness of other oppressed groups all over the world, the awakening of many to systemic racism and the call for anti-racism.
Okay. And now here we are. So way back in January feels like lifetimes ago. When I decided to create this podcast about navigating a creative career, a podcast about making it, I decided that the most important part of making it is making actually making it, making it a thing, making your thing. So I decided to make my first episode doing daily about my daily creative challenge. I took on a year of daily Instagram videos. I wound up going for much longer over 400 and some days. Now that was my first episode because I knew I’d be referencing it a lot throughout the podcast. Again, it wasn’t my intention, but that episode sparked something and a community was born first, a handful, then a bundle, then a gaggle of artists doing daily. It was very, very cool to behold something super, super special. And I want to quickly shout out some of my daily doers.
Then the lockdown, the protests, the massive calls to action, the massive action. And the doers started to dwindle. Less people were sharing their daily project and this isn’t good. And this isn’t bad. This is neutral. Less people were sharing their daily projects on Instagram. And that is okay. But today I’d like to make the argument for why doing daily is important, especially right now in this crazy moment in history. So Yes, Read. Yes, Watch. Yes, Listen. Yes, Learn. Yes, Donate. But if self awareness and awareness of the world around you is your goal. Then I strongly recommend taking on a daily creative project as part of your regimen. Here’s why
To make a creative work. You have to look both inside and outside. You must call on your imagination and you must take action. You must find your voice and use it. Even if all it speaks is questions. It’s so, so important. So today I’m going to answer a lot of questions about doing daily and I’m going to be making the argument for being creative right now. And I don’t mean right now, June, 2020. I mean, right now, whenever you are listening to this, I really hope that it sparks a voice inside of you. And I hope that when that spark speaks you, listen, I hope that you answer.
Why did I start doing daily? Well, I discovered a human being on Instagram named Adam Carpenter. He goes by @AdamSCarpenters. And I just thought he was the most delightful and charming and unusual and self motivated and in control of his silliness person that I had ever seen. Um, I looked forward to seeing his work every single day. I was just tickled by it. And then one day via the Instagram communications, I met him. I met my hero. It was the most surreal experience, especially for somebody who works with famous people often like this guy to me, was it. Um, and when we met, he challenged me to do a daily creative project of my own. And I simply couldn’t say no. So that is why I started. Now, what was the most important thing about doing daily to me? At the time, it was learning the power of my imagination. I want to share a quote with you that I recently read in Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, which is rocking my world. Glennon says, quote, “discontent is evidence that your imagination has not given up on you” and quote. So if you are a person that is discontent or unhappy with the current state of the world, then look to your imagination. Let that be a check engine light that you have something to do. And something to say, huge, huge part of daily doing for me, another part, a key factor was redistributing my creative authority back into my own hands. My career up to that point had largely been about other people’s approval and other people’s projects. Now, after years of bending myself to fit the breakdowns, nothing was as rewarding as answering to myself. Now, with hindsight, I can say that nothing is as rewarding as the community of doers that I met along the way. So you might be thinking right now, “Dana, a daily personal project sounds a little bit self centered and super time consuming. And isn’t this a time where I should be selfless. Isn’t this a time where I should be doing other things with my time.” Well, perhaps, but if you want to do big things, if you want to make big work, and if you want to make big change, then I suggest you start by taking small bites. This project doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be time consuming. You get to decide how much time you spend on it and you get to decide what you do. That’s the beauty of it. That is special. Also what’s super special is that when you learn to show up for yourself in little ways, every day, you learn how to show up for others in big ways forever. I like to ask the question, how can I prioritize myself so that I have more to give to others? A daily creative project is one of those ways.
Okay. A lot of people ask, what is the most important part of doing daily? Is it the creation of it? Is it the publication of it? Is it the reflection on it? Well, to that, I would say that creation and reflection are very closely linked while you’re making you are making with the knowledge and the memory of everything you’ve made up to that point. I’m, I’m using lessons that I’ve learned and applying them to what I’m doing reflections of past work happened while I’m creating as well as after they’ve been shared. So it’s kind of part of this bigger puzzle. The sharing itself is important to me because although it was interesting to learn how to receive such a quick feedback loop and to learn how an audience responds and what they respond to. It was also slightly misleading because I felt myself occasionally making work and making decisions based on what the audience might want opposed to making the work that I wanted to make. And sometimes by the way, there is overlap there, the audience wants the same thing that I want to make. And that’s the sweet spot. That’s great. But really my doing daily project was less about the sharing and more about the doing it. It was more about claiming authority of my creative life. So if you’re thinking that it doesn’t feel right to share a self centered project right now, great, make your project about something that does feel right to you. And if it’s the sharing part that really rubs you wrong, I’d ask you to get down to the bottom of why. Make sure that you like your reason for not sharing. If you decide not to share and equally on the flip side, you should like your reason for sharing should you decide to share. Shouldn’t just be because I said so,
All right, now, next question. How do you convince yourself to do on days where you really don’t want to do this is such a great question on days that I don’t want to do. I hear Toni Basil’s voice in my head, Toni Basil, by the way, in case you do not know is a pillar of the street dance community. She’s a member of the original lockers. She is one of the first to bring street dance to the mainstream and fuse it literally side by side with classical ballet. I’m linking by the way, to her Emmy nominated interpretation of Swan Lake in the show notes. This is a must watch, especially if you’ve been listening to the last couple of conversations I’ve had with Dominique Kelly, very, very important today, today, Toni Basil is 75 years old. And I’m going to go ahead and say that today she could roast any of you, which is bold because I know there are some pretty funky people listening, but I stand by my claim. I stand by my claim, not just because of all of her history, but because she dances every single day, she’s still got it. And she’s still getting better. Now, one day I asked Toni, “Basil, do you ever not want to dance?” And she said, sure, all the time. And then I said, “okay, so what do you do? How do you still show up and dance even when you don’t want to?” And she said, quote, I just pretend to be someone who does want to dance and quote mind blown. Thank you Basil. Now to be a hundred percent honest, there were days when I was so motivated that I would make two movies. And then there were days when I wasn’t making, as in creating or capturing, but I would be editing one thing or posting another thing, or, you know, maybe I’d be filming one thing and editing another. So it wasn’t necessarily that I went through a full loop every single day. I didn’t do the whole cycle from inception to creation, to curation. And by that, I mean like editing reshooting, et cetera. Um, and then sharing it wouldn’t always be that whole cycle, but it would be at least one of those things.
Okay. Next question. Why is the daily part so important? Well, this is a dancer speaking. We get better at the things that we practice, right? The more I practice a double pirouette the better I get at it. And not only that, but a double pirouette, it becomes a triple and then four or five or six or seven. Now I believe that the creative habit gets stronger. The more you practice it and gets weaker, the less you practice it. So people say a lot of things about creativity and habits and what it takes to truly create one. I think I remember reading somewhere a magic number being 66. Like it takes 66 days of practice before a behavior becomes automatic. So that’s certainly part of it. I don’t know if that is truly a magic number or not, but I also found tremendous freedom in knowing that I would do it no matter what. I think that had my goal then to be creative three days a week, for example, then I might’ve started negotiating, which days, you know, Friday, Saturday, Sunday becomes, well, maybe not Sunday, but maybe Monday. And then Monday gets pushed back to Wednesday and then Wednesday gets pushed back to Friday. And all of a sudden it’s been a week without any doing. Daily, doing left no room to negotiate with myself about whether or not I would do it. I just absolutely did it no matter what. And that built strong creative habits, it built them quick and it built them strong.
Now here’s an interesting consideration. Do I think that work, you do on the clock for another entity, like a movie or a music video shoot, for example counts as you’re doing daily? Well, I’m not saying that creative work on the clock, isn’t creative or isn’t helping to build creative habits, but during my year plus of daily making, I chose to create my daily project outside of my already pretty creative job, which was at the time being a background dancer on tour with JT on the 2020 experience. Now, of course the cast and crew, and occasionally the backdrop of tour would appear in my videos, but I kept a rule for myself that if I included my job in my work or in my project, if you will, it would be my job Plus. My job as a backup plus a twist or plus a different concept or a plus a gag or a gimmick or some sort of technical modification, et cetera. And that kept my focus on my authorship that kept the focus on the creative muscle.
Next question is keeping the doing the same every day important. In other words, if I decided to do a photo a day and then eventually changed my mind to painting a picture instead of taking a picture or doing a dance one day and a picture the next day, is that important to the project? Um, I won’t say, I think that each doer can decide that for themselves. What I will say is that one would be wise to identify the weak spot in their process or their habit that needs the most strengthening and focus their creative efforts there. When I signed my imaginary contract with myself and agreed to my daily challenge, I was really, really good at having ideas.
I had ideas a mile a minute, but I wasn’t very good at finishing them. I rarely shipped. I rarely shared. So for me, the doing was the shipping, the sharing, the putting out into the world. Now, if you’re a person that shares with ease, then perhaps your challenge lies in the digging deep, or maybe it lies in the conceptualizing. It might show up as 365 ideas for projects or 365 short stories or 30 short stories. Maybe you want to be learning a new technical skill like video editing, for example, this is a very good time for dancers to understand how to edit video and capture by the way. Um, maybe you’re a generalist who really wants to go deep on something like some specific style or even one specific move. Imagine an Instagram account where a person just did a pirouette at a day for an entire calendar year. And you get to watch them from being kind of okay at pirouettes or maybe even bad at doing periods. And then becoming really, really good at pirouettes over the course of a year. I would definitely follow that person. Now, your project doesn’t have to be for an entire year. You get to name the terms of your contract. It’s up to the doer to decide what you do and how long you do it. And you don’t have to do it all alone. You have a whole community of daily doers right here. You can even do together. You can do together apart. That’s the beauty that is truly the power of this. The power is that it is your power, your decision, your authority. And if you practice it, if you practice it daily, that can become your super power. Yes. Super powers.
So this episode is my pledge to nurture the doing daily community. Please mention us or use the #doingdailyWTMM there’s two M’s there #doingdailyWTMM in your doing daily posts on Instagram, because I would love to see what you’re up to. I am here to encourage you and to be a part of this journey with you, and also to tell you right now that it is okay to start a daily project that turns into a weekly project that turns into a monthly project. It’s okay to come back. It’s okay to fumble a day. This is about making changes from the inside out. This is about persistence determination. This is about living a creative life by strengthening your creative habits.
All right. Thank you all so much for listening. I hope that if you haven’t already, you go back and listen to episode one and honestly do not sleep on episode two. There’s a lot of really good technical information in there about how I really physically actually made it through over a year of doing daily. Also a huge thank you to my team, Riley Higgins and Malia Baker for helping me keep this podcast, this community and myself together. I so appreciate you guys. Um, one other thing before I sign off, I want to make sure you guys are aware of an awesome doing daily resource. My team, and I have created an interactive PDF. We’re calling it the doing daily diary. It helps keep you accountable, keep you on track and keep you learning about you’re doing daily project that is available to you by becoming a words that move me member on Patreon to do that, just visit patreon.com/WTMMpodcast Definitely going to link to that in the show notes as well. I hope to see you there in my Patreon community. It’s a really fun place for me to connect. Give you guys all sorts of extras. And of course for you all my daily doers to connect with each other. So head on over there, enjoy have a great creative day. And of course, Keep it funky
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really
Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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.
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.
KEEP IT FUNKY
Sign up for links to free workshops, tools, and project updates