Ep. #38 WTMM x CLI with Joshua Smith

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #38 WTMM x CLI with Joshua Smith
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Joshua Smith has an interesting view of the industry, validation, and fame. This episode diggs into all that and more.  We go deep on dance as an art/ sport, the Black Lives Matter movement, Daily Routines, personal style, and GRATITUDE.  I can’t wait for you to hear this master-peace of an episode. Enjoy!

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Joshua Smith: https://www.instagram.com/dancer_boysmith/

CLI 2020 Experience: https://2020-experience.clistudios.com/

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello, Hello, good people. And how are you? I’m Dana. And this is words that move me. Welcome back. If you are a regular and welcome, welcome If you’re new here, I am so stoked to be talking to you today. And as always, I am jazzed about this episode, but of course we’re not jumping right in. Oh no, that would be rude. It’s like dancing. Before you warm up, I’m going to give you this warm up. This is where I’d like to start today.  Today, I’m starting with my win, which is very common practice here at the podcast. We always start with a win, but this win comes with a very deep and personal story. Six years ago, my two best friends, Megan Lawson, Jillian Myers, and myself created I’ll call it a whimsy. We created a whimsy that we now call the seaweed sisters. We are a dance… Well, you know what? I’ll take that back. We are a trio. We are a trio that dances. We are a trio that makes things. We are a trio that teaches. We are a trio that performs. And now I can say we are a trio that inspires. Here comes the, win just a few days ago, I got a FaceTime call from my sister. I’m always very excited when those happen. No offense, SIS, but I’m even more excited when I hit accept and it’s my niece taking up the full frame, not my sister. So my niece is seven. I believe. Well, seven and a little bit more than a half. I think she turns eight in January. She called me as if she was like producing a film. She said, Dana, do you have a minute to talk? I was like for you. Absolutely. And she goes, I have a question. I think you’re going to like it. I was like, okay, I can’t wait. And she goes, how did you do the seaweed sister’s video. The one in the pool. The first one, I was like A. I love that. You remember my group, the seaweed sister. She’s been watching these videos since she was born B. I’m so glad that she knows that the first one was the one that happened in the pool. Although on a technicality, we’ve done two that involved pools, but only one that involves a pool with water.  I digress. Number three. I love that. She wants to know how I made it and that she thinks I can tell her the answer to that over a FaceTime call. This is great. I say, why, why do you ask? And she said, well, well, Charlotte and I, Charlotte is her sister, my niece, who’s younger, Charlotte and I are creating her words. Exactly Charlotte and I are creating the fishy sisters. And we would like to remake your seaweed sisters video. So I’m going to need to know how you did that. And I was like, amazing. This is great. Okay. Well, first you’re going to need, um, costumes. So we talked about what her costumes are going to be. She showed me all of her available leggings, which by the way, were many good job sis, that kid is stocked on the legging front. Um, she showed me the color options. I told her, she’s going to need to make a swim cap with a hot glued rhinestones on it. I told her she would need adult supervision for that. Um, she was very excited about the costuming. I asked her if she was prepared to do the moves, she was like, Oh yeah, the moves. I’m not so worried about the moves, but how did you actually make the movie? And I was like, well, that’s, you’re, you’re probably gonna need some help there with, with that as well. You’ll need a camera operator. And she says, what’s an operator. And I said, camera operators, the person that operates the camera, they control where it is and how it moves and whether or not it’s on and recording. And she goes, Oh, okay. That can be my mom. And I was like, nice. Okay. So we’ve got a camera operator. I can send your mom a shot list. And she says, what’s a shot. And I say, a shot list is basically a recipe for the movie. It tells you what you need and how much of it. And when to put it in. And she was like, okay, great. So you can send us the shot list in the mail and then I’ll do the costumes and we’ll do the dancing. And we will make the fishy sisters video. And I, this conversation, I don’t know how, but it wound up lasting, It was like 30 minute conversation. We got very specific about how she will be remaking the seaweed sisters as the fishy sisters. I’m counting this away in a, because I’m completely smitten that I have a niece that’s interested in making things and B because I know we forget it. Sometimes I have to say it here, Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And I couldn’t be more flattered that my own blood, the magical Emilia is going to be flattering the seaweed sisters by creating a remake of the seaweed sisters. First video. So thrilled, please do be on the lookout. I will gladly be sharing that on the socials over at words that move me podcasts. And on my personal probably I’m DanaDaners on the gram. All right. That’s my win. Had to get it out. Thank you for listening to that. Now, what is your win? What’s going well in your world in particular, who and what are you inspiring these days? Obviously I’m open to any answer. The answer to my question was a seven year old. I’m here for all of it.  

All right. My friend, congrats and keep winning. I’m so proud of you and I know you can do it forever. Okay. Let’s get into this interview today. I’m so jazzed to be sharing this conversation with you guys. This was part of three interviews that I did in collaboration with my friends over at CLI studios. Over the summer, they had a 2020 dance experience. And during that 2020 experience words that move me and CLI teamed up to hold these three interviews. I talked to Heather Morris, Dexter Carr. And today I am sharing with you the conversation that I had with the one and only Joshua Smith. Josh is a person that I had been admiring from afar for quite a while, but he and I had never met before this day, before we actually sat down and had this conversation, I was a little nervous. I’ll be totally honest, but Josh was completely open, so friendly, so warm and so tremendously insightful. I was, I was wrapped. Top-to-bottom so engaged and so excited. So I hope you are too. I hope you get a lot out of this conversation. I know Josh has a lot to offer, um, tiny little backstory on Josh. He’s born in Durham, North Carolina. He moved to Atlanta when he was young. He has absolutely made his mark on the entertainment industry by performing with mega stars like Usher and Chris Brown. He actually won the 2019 soul train award for best dance performance in Chris Brown’s video, No Guidance. He is an outstanding teacher. He champions a healthy mindset. He champions hard work, and I am just so thrilled for you. Let’s not wait any longer. Enjoy this conversation with Josh Smith. 

Dana: Hi everybody. I’m Dana.

Josh: I’m Josh. 

Dana: And this is words that move me on CLI how lucky are we? We’re so lucky. And so are you, I might add I’m I know I’m saying that at the top of the interview, maybe I should have reserved that until the end, but, um, I think you’re in for a treat because I feel privileged to be sitting here talking to you today. Josh, I’m so excited. Um, I want to start with this. I know your other half Lindsay. She and I have had, I have had the honor and the pleasure of working with her before, but our professional paths have never crossed. So answer me this is the dance world big or is it very, very small? We like to say it’s such a small world, but I’m like, how has this never happened?  

Josh: I think it is a small world. I think just, uh, it’s different avenues. You know what I’m saying? Cause I’ve definitely heard about you and definitely seeing you around for sure. And I think he just different pathway, you know, different artists. We are different. However, we go, so he never got to meet, but this is the perfect time. And we’re here.  

Dana: It is. I’m so excited. I have a million D questions and they’re all right here and I should have written them maybe somewhere else, but that’s risky. So let’s start at the almost beginning. I won’t go into birth, but, um, I understand that growing up, you were very athletic soccer, football. Am I missing anything?  

Josh: Baseball, basketball, you name it? I ran track for a little bit. I was on the step team. I was in band and I was a drum major.  

Dana: Just a couple of extracurriculars. Thanks. Alright. So when I grew up, I, my only extracurricular was dance and I feel a little bit shortsighted in my experience of like team building and learning myself. And I, I really kind of have become sort of an indoor cat more or less. So I’m always really curious when I hear the discussion about dancers are athletes and dance is a sport. I’m curious about that, cause I, because I’m not an athlete I well, or am I, I don’t know. I’m asking you like, where do you stand on dance as a sport and dancers are athletes,  

Josh: Dance is definitely a sport. And definitely because we have the same traits and characteristics between the two, you know, you have a coach, you have a choreographer, you know, you have people who are on a team, you know, whether it’s a camp or it’s a team. So where it’s togetherness as we both, we all have to go through these eight hours and there’s regular rehearsals or practice four hours. So the togetherness of it, it’s a team aspect. And then we do have to stretch and keep our body warm and all that we do high magnitude like moves and impact on our bodies is so much. And, uh, it very, very, very, very close. So I do consider dancers as athletes, for sure. Like it’s, it’s a, the same similarities, tough times, blood, sweat, tears, you know, and we, we run it together and that’s how you gotta do it. So if you think that way as a sports, which you are an athlete, then that’s what it is.  

Dana: Don’t give me too much confidence. Now you might see me on a field of some sort like, no, I can do this. I’m an athlete. Trust me, tombe pas de bourses. Um, okay. So what is different? Could you put a finger on a difference between a dancer and an athlete or are we just straight up 

Josh: You know, I guess it’s different because a basketball player and a football player, not the same, you know, and you’re an athlete, but it’s different magnitude and impact on your body. And I think with that being said, like soccer is more endurance than physical. You know, it is physical, but it’s more endurance, but football is very physical. And the thing about dancing is different genres are different, uh, style of dance for quiet. That b-boy is more physical. You know what I’m saying? And ballet is physical, but in a different way, it’s more a up core, so, and very on your legs. Well, so when you think about it in that way, in that aspect, you know, it’s different, but, um, there’s different way of going about it. Right?  

Dana: Right. I like that. I think there’s so many different, you know, dances and artistic expression. It’s nuanced, it’s subjective. It’s not even from one style to the next is not the same. You’re reminding me of a mantra that I, that I harness with my fellow, my two best friends, Megan Lawson and Jillian Meyers, shout out the seaweed sisters. We have a saying, um, our saying is strength is not our strength, but in every sport strength, isn’t the value. Um, it’s focus, placement, endurance, all the things that you just mentioned. So that is cool. I like to now think of the seaweed sisters as athletes as well, even though, even though strength is not our strength, we have different strengths.  

Josh: Shout out to y’all because y’all are amazing. 

Dana: Thank you so much, man. 

Josh: Lindsay was he was giving me a .. rundown, I knew you got, but she gave me a rundown on the seaweed sisters. And I didn’t know about that.  

Dana: You got research, you had research before you came into the interview as well. No vice versa. Okay. Okay. Speaking of research, I learned that you want a soul train award in 2019 for No Guidance for Chris Brown. That’s a, that’s a very cool, very prestigious thing because soul train, obviously this is not something that people have decided is new and important, but been around for a very long time. Um, my question is broadly, what is your relationship with external validation? Because a lot of people seek the awards, the credits, the, you know, the relationships and having a credit like that, having an award like that is a pretty big deal. Was that ever a thing that drove you?  

Josh: That’s a great question. Um, honestly how my mentality is, I think that, uh, I always looked at it like, yes, I want the awards and I want some know some feedback and people to see my name, but honestly not really, you know, I’m not that type of guy, but not really because even now within my stage of my career, which I’m honored and like so thankful and blessed to be in, you know, I’m not really in the forefront. I don’t, you don’t really see my face too much. I, I do teach when I want to teach. I’m not a teacher of saying that I just want to teach because I just want to get some money to go around the world and teach, see my name. I love teaching when it feels right for me and everything I teach is probably what I’m going through at that moment. So if I teach a ratchet piece, because I want to have fun and not really thinking about doing moves. And sometimes I might, this one, I felt, uh, empathy for so much and you know, vulnerability with this piece I just made and I wanted something way more relaxed to calm my mind down. Cause I didn’t want to have to fake on camera. I don’t like faking anything. So, you know, I, I, I take that with my own personality. I don’t like faking anything. So I don’t seek validation. I like, I go kind of street smarts and I’m really I’m. I was raised in the streets with it and have great family. So not in a bad way, but more so I had street smarts in the sense of, I liked to think. People will know you when they need to know you and the right people should know you. So my whole thing is maybe not millions of people know who I am, but the right people are knowing me because they keep asking me to come back around. And that’s what I want to get to outreach to. You know what I’m saying? They know the people who want to be inspired and thank God they’re inspired by me. I want it to bestow it to people. And everyone knows you can fall in between whenever you get there.

Dana: It’s beautiful. Put a Bow on it and ship it. That sort of speaks to the notion of quality over quantity and being driven by the substance or the process even of the work instead of the end result itself. Yeah.  

Josh: Yeah. You can’t know a lot of people do the work and I want to say a lot, but I know people tend to work for the outcome. Oh, I know there’s going to be great. People are gonna love me. Oh my God. Like, I’m going to get this love, but it’s like, to me, I want you to love it. Not just because of me. I want you to love the work in its entirety. So then when you do realize its me like, wow, Josh, you did that. But I don’t really like shouting out to telling people, look at me, look what I did. Look what I choreographed. I did that. No, I want people to get their credit even assistants So whoever is involved is you’re right. You know what I’m saying? Just as my right. 

Dana: That’s a really good segue. Something I hadn’t planned on talking about this really important to me is crediting your team. Um, I know that you kind of came up through ranks as being a dancer and an assistant. I would love to know what your experience was in getting credit for the work and how that’s affected the way you credit the people on your team.  

Josh: Yes. Um, so, uh, when I started, no, I started with a crew when I moved to LA. I’m not originally from Atlanta. A lot of people think that it’s like a side note, but I’m from Durham, North Carolina research research right there. So Durham, North Carolina. And, um, I moved to Atlanta and I had a crew collision crew, Jeremy Strong, and a couple of people was in that and Cody was affiliated Cody Wiggins. And uh, you know, I had good people surrounding me the whole entire time. And loyalty is a big thing for me. Cause I will be loyal to you. And if my friends or whoever you work with, we know you can be a millionaire and I can still say no, if it doesn’t feel right, you know what I’m saying? So, and I got into the Jamaica Craft, my mentor, fix it, big homie friend, all that great stuff.  

Dana: And so talented. 

Josh: Like that’s like, you know, a big, big homie of mine. And uh, she taught me law too. You know, as much as she didn’t her career and what she’s continues to do, she, um, trusted me and she showed me the ropes. She showed me what it means to be really a dancer and be a dancer with power. She doesn’t, she told me, I had my manager, China who taught me to say the power of no. And, and saying that don’t look and seek people who will you think are already made it. And you’re getting to that place. When you get to that place, I have to leave my team behind to go meet this person. When all you should really do is bring this person with you to meet each other. So then for, because you know, for a fact, this person has made it already, but this person has rolled with me the whole time. So loyalty is a big thing with me. And then when my loyalty, Jamaica has taught me that and uh, she always held me down. She never did no weird, nothing crazy. Like when this job it’s a job, when she hit me and I said, add for advice. And she was very secretive. Cause he wasn’t like, she was not a person you can get around in Jamaica. Right. When I got around her, if she installed so much knowledge, you know their stuff so much ambition, you know? And like I had it already, but she just said, you know, you’re talented and never let anyone take that away from you. Like not even me, like go as far as you can inspire people as you can. She, the one who told me the right people would see you, even if it got to take four years, cause it’s four or five years ago, nobody really seen me. I was still, you know, I was dance for usher. I didn’t live in LA. I was still going, but no one really knew me, but that’s what I, like I say, no, it’s cool. The attention, not on me right now, but when it is, I’ll be ready.  

Dana: I love that attitude. That’s awesome. Thank you for that insight. That’s super cool. Yeah. I, I like to think of the notion that it’s lonely at the top as kind of a lie I would like for it to be very, um, crowded and friendly at the top. I think that that is the top that I want to make.  

Josh: I tell people all the time there is room at the table, man. But the good thing to know is, is when you get there, you earned it. But now it’s about holding it. Keep it don’t show it. Don’t talk to me. Why aren’t you? Yeah. You are under a lot of people earned this seat, but do they get to stay here? Longevity? A thing for me, I don’t want to be I’m young. I’m still 28 now. I mean, I said 28 I’m 27. I want to be 28 years here, but I’m 27. And like, um, I think that, I know I have a long way to go. We know people who I do look up to is Rich & Tones and Fatima and Jamaica and hi-hat, these are people who have longevity. These are people who, their generation, another generation and generation after that, they’re still here. You know what I’m saying? And that’s something that I wanted. So I don’t live for now all the time, which I have to do more, but I’m more so like I want my name to be great for years to come. So  

Dana: I’m going to ask a question now, what’s your plan for that? How do you, how do you achieve that? Um,  

Josh: I’ve been trying it so far, I don’t have the right answers for that, but being a good person, training really stunning and really knowing who and knowing that it’s time with this, but knowing who you are, you know, like I never tried to be perfect or within relationship within, you know, dance. I’m very, very open book. I’m very like, I like to base myself on with, you know, even my own demons or whatever it’s and find me. So if I know I can be the better version of myself and truly be the better version, don’t have to worry about Limelights or personas or you know, all that good stuff. I’ll be okay now eventually I will make it there. So I don’t know when I will make it there.  

Dana: I believe that you will, by the way you’re talking right now and I want to be there at the end too, right? Yes. Longevity is so important to me. One of my mentors and inspirations is Toni Basil. She’s 76 years old and could roast me right now like me and my 30 something year 34, a few days ago, self, 

Josh: Happy belated birthday! 

Dana: Thank you. Thank you. Um, and, and I think part of Basil’s secret to success is persistence. Every single day, she dances, even when she doesn’t want to dance, she does. And I think that that’s something speaks to what you just mentioned about bringing all versions of yourself might not be perfect today. It might not be happy today. It might not be the coolest moves today, but continuing to show up is how you continue to show up. It’s simple as that. It’s nothing earth shattering, no simple, not easy though. Simple, not easy. Um, okay. I’d love to segue into like perception and persona public, um, public presence, maybe dare I say social presence. Um, one of the things that I really admire about you and the way you use your voice, not just in your choreography, but in the social platform is that you’re not afraid to talk about things that are important to you. Yes. The black lives matter movement is tremendously important to you and to so many people. Thank goodness. And we’ll find out we’ll find out yes. If this is something that can be important to everyone. Yes. But, um, I, in this process of learning the world that I live in and becoming really working to become more culturally sensitive when I watched dance, like when I consume dance and when I make it, and here’s what I’m learning that takes time. I mean, it’s very easy to scroll and watch a piece. Yes. But if you want to be sensitive, what you’re watching culturally, racially and otherwise, yes. You are asking, who is this person? Where is this person from? What is this person experience? Where is this person going? What, what does this mean? Like, what does that mean? What does it mean when this person kneels versus when this person kneels, what is the meaning of a movement? So then you have to like, you go, you wind up looking. So a scroll is now taking three and a half hours. I get why people don’t do that. It’s a lot. And, and it doesn’t even, you might not necessarily wind up at right or better, or, but, but it’s responsible and it’s an important time to be. And also we do have time arguably to be doing that. So my question is that was a very long winded way of asking your question, is what might people think about your work on a scroll and what might they learn by going deeper? Okay.  

Josh: Okay. Well through dance or just on my page in general.  

Dana: Oh man. Let’s talk about dance,  

Josh: Dance. Okay. So hopefully when you see, when you scroll through my stuff quality. Cause I, I strive for that. You know, I I’ve danced as we all dance for years, but I’ve tried hard, I can say to not master, but in a sense perfect my style, you know, and I’m moving away that I will love for you to be like that. It’s nice that you know much about this guy, but he looks good.  

Dana: Achieved, achieved party of one because when I watch, I’m like, nice. Really? Truly like that word probably happens a lot. Yeah.  

Josh: I like that. Just be like, Oh, nice swell. Okay. Then after that, I will hope that you will feel to want to know even a little about me by, because I like to details. Like, even if it’s the slightest thing I like to, why do you, like you might see, you know, I realized that I’ve seen Josh’s clips that he wears all black a lot. Why is that?


Dana: Great example, great example.  

Josh: It makes you dig in deeper and it makes you want to see more about me. Like, cause I am like, again, open book. I like wearing my beard, whether it’s clean or not. No, I had this beanie. Why did he have this been here?  

Dana: I’ve I’ve heard the beanies of thing. Why, why do you have the beanie on all the tests?  

Josh: It was when I was on tour with usher, uh, I was finding myself as a dancer. That’s when I really found just so you know, that’s when I really found myself, like right after that tour, um, as a mover, I had Kento, I had Yusuke. I had Antonio Hudnell, I had Marvelous. I had Quita, you know, Ashley Everett, you know? So it, it was like a lot of power Naeemah, you know what I mean? And um, we did yoga and all this things and it was like, it was just very togetherness. And um, I found my style and uh, I don’t want to drop the question. Tell me the question one more time. Sorry.  

Dana: Um, Oh gosh, no, I lost the question. Specifically. The beanie, is there a story? Why is it the, what is it? Is it a signature? It’s a thing. Yeah,  

Josh: It’s a signature for sure. And I found it on tour after tour and I was, I used to wear like a towel.. on my pocket. Every time I go on stage, because you know, when you go on carver, doesn’t really give you the freedom to be like, this is where whatever you think is fly. So Jamaica was like, you scanned kento. They had really a box of shades. Yeah,  Like 30 pair of shades. And that box every night, they changed different shades. What they want to wear with that outfit. So she was like, Josh, if you want to wear a towel, whatever, whatever do your thing. Cause she told him about Swoop back in the day and he used to wear his gloves. You know what I mean? So like, it’s like, what is your sauce? When you step out to make you feel like that’s going to be the best you when you’re on stage. So I had a towel and then eventually I see Tone and Tone used to wear, his, his, uh, his hat regular though, you know, regular stuff. And he’d have his towel tied up tights on. Cause he came from the ballet. Right. He was very like protecting his body. I got to stay warm. So I was like, what’s my little niche. I like, and I don’t want to be a gimmick. But I just want my own little sauce, you know what I’m saying? It belong to me. So one day I had my beanie up in the house now I rolled it and I kept rolling it. And I wrote up high, like a little sailors hat. I was like, I’m not mad at it. So I did it a couple of people, a couple of years, people was like, why you got your hat like that? I’m like, Hmm. It didn’t eventually everyone caught on. And now it’s weird. I didn’t start it. But I see people now like there’s hats that made like this now, like, and people ask me, where do you get your hat from? I said, to be your supply store, a gas station really.. I just rolled it up certain way. And then rock it. So it’s been stuck ever since.  

Dana: I love it. I love it. I think there’s something so unique about dancers and getting to feel this like very this like in your body difference, depending on what you’re wearing.  

Josh: Oh, that’s a big thing. I mean, it’s a big thing right there. You can be in rehearsal for three months and then you go on stage. He was like, this is what I’m wearing. I lost all the feelings.  

Dana: 20/20 Experience is a perfect example. I love a loose pant. I mean, borderline put me in a burlap sack. We’re good. I just space and air. And then all of a sudden I’m in a high waist, high crotch it, all of it. And it really, it changes. It changes things, um, in the way you feel. But it also changes the visual, like your center of gravity is now high, different shapes. Look good up here. Then the shapes that look it down here. So it’s a part of it and it flatters the outline, the silhouette. I love it. It’s great. Okay. So we’re back though. The tough, the more, not tougher question, because ask answering questions about your signature and your style is not easy and finding your signature and your style is not easy. I don’t mean to downplay that at all, but um, I’m wondering when people dig deep on you, what is it that you want them to find? What is it that they find now? And is that what you want them?  

Josh: I want them to find that honestly, first off I’m a genuine person. You know, that’s what, that’s just what I tell. When I talk to people, when I dance, I’m very vulnerable and I want you to see that I’m a genuine person. And I see that. I take my craft very seriously. And to know that my whole goal is to inspire. My dad taught me back in the day. He always taught me this. I had a story and I won’t go too long in it, but pretty much saying your gift is not for you. You’re gifted for people. God gave you the gift to make people smile and make people happy. So no matter what, whenever you do in your career, if you keep that in mind, you can never lose. So that’s what I’ve tried to give up on my Instagram and my dancing. And when I talk to people, I give so much energy people. How can you give so much energy all the time? You always, so I say, because it’s not for me, you know what I mean? It’s for, it’s for the people who can’t do it for the people who want to do it for the people, even when I was in that stage in my life. And I wish I could be there. Cause you know, you tend to get to a place and you’re like, dang, I still need to get to this place. But it’s like, did you remember when you wanted to be in this place right now? So, you know, I kind of always go back to that and tell people, look at me in genuine light and know that I love what I do.  

Dana: Ugh, thank you for sharing that story. That’s so important. And I’m glad that we had time. I think we have time for one more. Um, in, in my research, um, I discovered that you have a favorite quote. I am a masterpiece that is trying to master peace. Yes. Would you be so kind as to share with us anything you’ve learned in your quest for mastering peace? 

Josh: Yes. I got it tatted on me, man. 

Dana: Let’s hear it. Let’s see it.  

Josh: Yeah. So it’s back here, you know, you really can’t see, I know you can’t see it too much, but I got that quote, my masterpiece, trying to masterpiece because you know, within our own right, we are artists. No, I am an artist. I am sensitive about my art and I love what I do, man. And like, I’m a massive piece that we all are in ourselves and God has given us the right to feel that, you know, no one can take that away from you. And like that goes to parenting. I had great parents who made me feel that love that no one else can take that from me and trying to match the peace because I am an Aries and I’m a fire sign and I can get, I am very passionate so I can get to a very high level of aggression, you know, because out of my passion, but knowing that I want to master peace, I want to be able to be levelheaded and, and, and think clearly and move with purpose. You know what I’m saying? Move with purpose, move with a divine plan, move knowing sometimes I’m not going to have the answer. That’s why I’m a masterpiece trying to masterpiece  

Dana: Trying emphasis. And that’s a constant, right? Because the moment you’ve achieved it, something is gonna happen.  

Josh: And that’s why I kind of remind myself, like I’m trying to masterpiece, you know what I mean? That’s the thing. That’s the biggest thing for me, because I don’t want to handle relationships or friends or, you know, business offer like, you know, anger or upset. Because back in the day I used to just get upset and I just cut people off. I don’t want to talk. I’m cool. Like, cause I’m not a loner, but I’m, I’m comfortable. So comfort with myself for being alone. I’m comfortable being alone. I went through enough in my life that I’m like, I respectfully bow out. We don’t have to be friends. We don’t have to be here. We don’t have to do work. I’m okay. I’ll make it. I’ll find a way to make it. So I don’t want to have to leach or you have to leach you off of me. We can stop it. Now. Now I’m saying, but now mastering the peace that knowing that relationships are good and talking through things is the best way to do it because communication is key  

Dana: With, with a person. But also the self was so like, if you, it sounds like you were a person who’s okay with being with yourself. And if you can master like peace within, you’re more prepared to achieve it, receive it out there in the world from other relationships. Yes. That’s awesome. I think it’s the, I think it, it should be, could be everyone’s right?  

Josh: Yes, man. Like, you know, I think everyone, we, if we move non selfishly, like, and just know that everyone can be great within your own, right. Doesn’t have to oversize and overstep. You don’t have to move that way. You know what I’m saying? And I know sometimes within not feel the industry, the, it can get very tricky, right. But everyone can move a certain way to get to a certain place, you know? And that’s why you got a room at the top. There’s always room.  

Dana: We have to like change this, this imagery of it being a mountain with a peak and a flag. That’s one person’s flag to being like, Ooh, what if it was just an, also a mountain, but upside down,  

Josh: Upside down,  

Dana: Ascending is going to be way harder. Cause you’re in an inversion. But I, yeah, I think that that’s possible. There’s the saying I’m going to botch it. I’m not going to get it right. Um, but one, one matches flame does not take away the light from another, like this match being over here and bright and lit doesn’t mean that this one is going to be dim, light it up, let there be light illuminate. I think that’s another one that my husband has gifted me. Light is the best disinfectant. And I think that in this time we’re shedding light on a lot of things and  

Josh: Which, which needs to happen. And these are steps they need to happen. Black lives does matter, you know? And like, I’m just going to put this out there. You know? No one wants to say that no other lives matter. We say that because like you said, you might not know the generational, like depression that we had over the years that I’ve experienced because I am from the South. So, you know, I’ve like no cultural and police brutality and all that stuff. Since I was like 13, you know what I mean? As a black man in the world. So no I had the police talk and even me now talking to my friends, knowing that they didn’t have the same talk that I would have grown up. So  

Dana: The conversations is training and experience  

Josh: The same experience. So just to say that we all have love for each other. We just want to come at peace with everybody in the world and live our life exactly how everyone knows can live that life.  

Dana: Yes. Josh, thank you so much. I have nothing left to say, except for, thank you. Thank you for being here and being open, um, for somebody that I’ve honestly not before today, shared word in person words, right? I feel like we could do this for a very long time and I hope that we get to, I would love to spend more time with you and Lindsey. I’m such a fan of your moves. They’re so nice. And it’s really nice to get to know what’s what’s beneath them as well.  

Josh: Well, it’s the kinjaz 

Dana: Yeah. We’re going to throw it to the Kinjaz. There’s a cipher. Josh and I are going to go. You guys should go. I think it’s a very exciting time to have dance and have community and you can feel connected even at six feet distance. You can feel connected even on the other side of your computer screen. Um, and I’m excited actually now to be digging deeper because you mentioned people not knowing, not having known you before. And I love a deep dive. So where could I go to find more of you Josh  

Josh: Thats the bad thing, I’m horrible at social media. I’m just now I’m about to get my YouTube started out.  

Oh, okay. But we’ll be on the lookout  

Josh: And we don’t look out my damn, uh, my Instagram Dasher underscore boys Smith. That’s pretty much on Twitter and everything else. Uh, watch out for any upcoming projects. I do have old clips that you could probably look at on YouTube, but ask me, y’all gotta go dig on that.  

Dana: You’re going to dig on that. You know, I’m going to dig on that. Yeah.  

Josh: Hey Dana, I appreciate you, man. Thank you so much.  

Dana: She’s lovely talking to you and thank you CLI thank you everybody watching and listening. I had a ball. Let’s go cipher. Let’s do it. I wore the wrong shoes for sure. Definitely going to have a blister. If there’s a lot of dancing, I should have made my signature thing. Socks, really comfortable socks. That’s my signature. Move that way. I’ll always have them. Okay. Enough enough on me. Thank you so much, Josh. We’ll talk to you later! 

Dana: All right. All right. I hope you got as much out of that conversation as I did. I absolutely loved hearing Josh talk about the relationship between being an athlete and being a dancer. I thought it was fascinating to hear him talk about his relationship to the public perception of him, his work and social media. I also loved hearing from Josh about the importance of activism in his life and using his voice and in supporting his community. To me, this is a hugely important part of our work as artists, as makers, and especially as teachers. So cheers to you, Josh, thank you so much for being such a great example for all of us and thank you all for listening. Enjoy the rest of your day afternoon, night, whatever it is. And of course 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 weight change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Ep. #37 Marveling with Marguerite Derricks

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #37 Marveling with Marguerite Derricks
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Even if you tried, you could not duplicate the career of Marguerite Derricks, but with this peek into her thought process, you’ll want to try things you’ve only ever dreamed of…and you may walk away with a new definition of success.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Marguerite Derricks: https://www.instagram.com/margueritederricks/

Marguerite on the set of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIP1IsfjWv4

CLI: https://www.clistudios.com/

KC Monnie: https://www.instagram.com/kcmonnie/

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello, 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. 

Really?

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 awesome. 

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

Your angels 

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 right. 

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.