Ep. #69 Three Heartfelt Life Lessons from 7-10 Year Olds
I hope this episode reminds you of the brilliance of children… and gets you more in touch with your brilliant inner child! I have started to look at young people as little Baby Yodas. Full of potential, wisdom and plenty of life hacks up for grabs! In this episode I focus on the willingness to play (and walk into every game like a winner), the bounce back (after our losses), and the importance of asking questions… especially the BIG questions. ENJOY!
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. Hello.
Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana, this is Words That Move Me. I’m so glad that you’re here today to talk about three heartwarming life lessons that I just learned from seven to 10 year olds. Um, so let’s get right into it. I think this is a really, um, a really lovely topic and a nice moment to take pause and look back at our young selves, um, and also head forward with some new perspectives. Um, now before I get into it, I do want to do wins and my win this week. We’ll give a bit more context to this episode this week. I am celebrating that. I just, I mean, just like a few days ago taught at my first in-person dance convention in 14 months. Wow. That is a long stretch for me. Um, I’ve been teaching on a dance convention at New York city Dance Alliance. Uh, super shout out to my episode that I did with Joe Lanteri, which is episode number drum roll 43 episode 43. That is our winner. Um, so I, I teach for this dance convention, New York city Dance Alliance, and, uh, the due to the pandemic. Um, the convention was completely canceled for, uh, most of 2020. They slowly trickled back at the, uh, a few months ago. Um, and it is now April and I’m finally comfortable, you know, traveling and being in rooms full of lots of heavily breathing humans and man, Oh man, what an experience I’m not going to lie a little bit of shell shock. Um, I went from, you know, pretty much myself and my husband in our house, occasional distanced hangs with the homies to pretty crowded rooms and dancers doing a really great job, staying in their little taped off squares, dancing and masks teaching in masks. Holy smokes. Um, so wow. I did it. I felt safe. That is a tremendously huge win. Um, Oh, I will say traveling the actual airplane portion, not my favorite. Uh, I forgot. Oh, and LAX also. Definitely not my favorite. I was very much okay with not visiting lax 30 times a year. Um, yeah, that drive that number dropped down dramatically in the pandemic, uh, to zero. So anyways, that’s my win at first convention back out and feeling great about it. Thank you, Joe and NYCDA for keeping a really safe environment for us faculty and the students alike. Um, thrilled about that and excited to share with you guys. Some of the things that happened over the weekend. Um, always a good story to be told first, let me hear your wins. What is going well in your way?
Okay. Congratulations. Very well done and do, keep doing all of that very well done stuff. Um, all right. Let’s jump into it. Shall we? Three heartwarming life lessons brought to you by seven to 10 year olds AKA my mini ballroom from this past weekend in Greenville, North Carolina. My aim for this episode really is to remind you of the brilliance of children. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the mini ballroom. Um, so my goal is to remind you of that and to perhaps get you more in touch with your brilliant, younger self. I really do believe the kids have it all figured out as challenging is that age group can be, especially in a dance education environment. Um, my favorite moments came out of that mini ballroom this past weekend in Greenville, North Carolina. So shout out minis. If you’re listening, I had such a ball with you. Um, and for all of my adult humans that are listening, I want you to remind you that these people minis, uh, the convention world affectionately refers to them as minis. They’re seven to 10 years old, which places their birth year between 2011 and 2014. So for context, some of these people are younger than Game of Thrones. Um, so here’s what I think in these three different areas. We have a lot to learn from seven to 10 year olds. Number one, self confidence, totally off the charts. Number two, the asking of questions now. Sure. That can get a little out of hand from time to time. But for the most part, this is an admirable quality and part three, the bounce back or the bounce in general. So we’re going to dig a little bit deeper into those three areas of expertise of, of this particular age group. I’m so stoked about it. Here we go.
I want to start with this illustration of confidence and enthusiasm. Certainly something that we could all learn from a 7 to 10 year old. Um, I’ll start with this story. I’ve been putting a more pointed focus on history when I teach even to the young ones and, um, basically to start every class, to see where the group is at in their understanding or exposure to history, um, making it a habit to kind of check the temperature in the room. Before I start my lesson this week, I was teaching what I call jazz plus, which we could do an entire side episode on jazz plus by the way, and I probably will someday, but for now I will say this jazz plus is my dance history, mostly jazz plus a whole lot of other stuff. And that is exactly what you can expect to find when you take my class. Um, but most of the 7 to 10 year olds, uh, in my class over the weekend had never seen jazz plus on a schedule. So before I addressed what jazz plus is, I decided to ask the students for a show of hands and fingers, um, to show me if they could explain jazz, like a one finger up, it means I’m sort of, kind of not really. And five fingers up means. Yeah, totally. Uh, so I said to the room, all right, um, show of fingers, everyone. How confident are you in explaining jazz on a one to five? Hands started flying up and overwhelmingly. They were displaying in many cases more than five fingers, like were tagging both arms shooting up five fingers on each hand, 10 out of 5 confidence here. Now their enthusiasm did start to dwindle a little bit. Once I started asking them for their answer, what is jazz, but for those who did answer the question for those who kept their enthusiastic fingers up, I was shocked actually to hear some very broad and not so technical, but kind of true answers. Like for example, jazz is energy. Jazz is energy or jazz is fun. Or my personal favorite jazz is kind of everything put together. Like everything put together. These are exact words. ‘Jazz is kind of everything put together,’ which really that’s that’s, that’s not true. Jazz is not ballet and braking and ballroom and a grilled cheese sandwich put together. But when you consider that jazz dance and jazz music spring from roots of rituals and celebrations of black people from way, way, way back as early as the 17 hundreds, then yeah, I can absolutely see how you might find elements of jazz in many, many other styles and in many, many other things, but I digress that is not what we’re here to talk about today for now. Let’s simply Marvel at the fact that although these young people have very little experience as humans, like only 7 years of experience as humans when asked for their level of confidence at something these littles jumped straight to a 10 out of 5, like they weren’t thinking, I don’t know, or I have no experience. They were thinking, yeah, sure. Why not? Let’s engage with this. Let’s yeah, let’s jump in. Yeah, I could, I could probably know the answer to this or I could probably be good at this thing or yeah, I bet I could be really, really, really good at this thing. That’s where the mindset of the mini is at. And I was very interested to find that when I asked the same question to my teens and seniors who are between 13 and, and 17 or 18, I barely saw a single hand with five fingers raised, I saw mostly ones and twos. So, but you, I mean, could you explain to a friend, what jazz is, how confident would you be to have that connection? One out of five? What is jazz? Right? It’s it’s, it’s not an easy or simple question to answer, but what this exercise really illustrated to me other than the general lack of understanding of jazz and jazz history in a convention setting is that a lot happens between seven and 17 years and beyond. Um, we, we really lose that 10 out of 5 confidence and enthusiasm, and I can only speculate at how we lost it or why we lost it, but I can think of a few ways that we might get some of that, the good parts of that anyways, but I can think of a few ways that we might get some of that back regarding the confidence specifically.
One, one could argue that kids have more confidence because they don’t yet know complete humiliation. Right. They haven’t experienced being broken up with or cut from an audition or fired from a job job. Their experience is that they learn and they play and sometimes they get in trouble and that’s life and that’s okay. So what if we could think more like that? What if, what if we could think yes. I’m game, even if I lose playing is fun, let’s go. No, I’m not suggesting that you risk it all or pretend to know things that you don’t know. This lesson in confidence and enthusiasm is actually, we all about willingness to play, just willingness to play and the willingness to go into the game, like a winner before you’ve already, even started, versus walking into the game like a beginner who’s never or tried anything ever, right? It’s likely that even if you’re playing a game for the very first time, you have some other skills or training or experience that will give you some foundation to stand on. Maybe not a competitive edge per se, but by the time you’re 18 years old, you’ve got to experience some rudimentary exposure to a lot of things. So let’s, let’s lead with that. Shall we? The willingness to play and to walk into the game like a winner. Now that’s actually a good segue.
Let’s skip ahead to, um, lesson number three, the bounce back. Kids don’t just jump into a game like a winner with 10 out of 5 confidence. They bounce back fast. Even if they get completely leveled by the game. Even if they find out that they have zero confidence in the thing, that moment usually quickly resolves with something else. That’s interesting. Yeah. So, um, you actually, you made, we’ve seen this more in babies and toddlers than in 7 to 10 year olds, but it’s this really remarkable, quick shift, um, on the emotional spectrum, uh, extreme discontent moments, moments away from like total satisfaction, these quick recoveries like crying, crying, crying, and then we’re moving on. Like we’re literally skipping on and I love this. I aspire to the bounce back like this. Um, I aspire to let go of drama that quickly, man. I have so much to learn. Uh, now I know that that, uh, this anomaly is not because young ones don’t feel as much. Actually they, I think they feel tremendously even loss or a rejection or failure. I believe they really do feel those things and they feel it fully. And then they move on instead of the adult way of handling it, which looks more like ignoring it or resisting it or denying it or reacting to it with an alcoholic beverage or a shopping spree or a scroll down Instagram lane. So what if we get, allow ourself to lose just, okay, I lost that round, right? Or what if you could allow yourself the bummer of not knowing the answer to something or of getting the answer wrong or of not getting the gig and then literally skip along on your way to the next game or question or gig like actually bounce, truly hop. Now, this is where your homework comes in before the next episode comes out. I do challenge you to actually skip somewhere and tell me that you don’t have an absolute ball when you get there. Skipping is so powerful, like fully be sad and then be hopping up and down and tell me that you don’t giggle. Honestly, I think laughter and tears are very closely linked. I call it the laugh cry, happens to me all the time. Um, but yes, knees permitting, bounce back, try it, just try it.
Okay. And that brings me to our final lesson, a very admirable quality of the 7 to 10 age range. And that is the asking of questions. Oh man. In my mini classes this weekend, so many questions, I’m sure some of them were, can I go to the bathroom? Even after I said, you do not need to ask permission to go to the bathroom. I still got that question like four or five times, man. I really could have taken questions top to bottom the whole class without ever teaching a single step full of questions. Um, but I did want to share my favorite question with you here. Uh, today I’m in the middle of teaching combo and I see a hand raised into the air. Adorable young person raised their hand and, and approached the stage. Even though she’s supposed to stay in her little taped in box. And she says, “what do you do? When someone tells you, you should know something and you don’t know that thing” like arrow through my heart. What do you do? When someone tells you, you should know something and you don’t, this was a full stop moment for me. I asked everyone in the room to sit down because we were going to engage in this discussion. So I asked, all right, what might you do when someone says that you should know something and you don’t know that thing, you might feel bad. You might feel sad. You might get angry at them and walk away. Yes. All valid. We discussed these options, but none of those options get you the answers. So I asked, okay, what else, what else could you do? When someone tells you, you should know something and you don’t know it. We as a room collectively decided that you could get really curious. You could wonder why they think that you should know that thing you might wonder who might know that thing. And who would be willing to tell you, you might wonder, well, geez, I’ve made it this far. So maybe I shouldn’t know it. Why is it really that important? You might also wonder what else should I know, what else do I not know? So we discussed all of the different ways. You could respond to someone saying that you should know something. And we decided that getting curious was the best thing to do. Not. So surprisingly after we had this discussion, I got another great question from the same dancer, she was my gem. She asked, “what do you do when this part is hard?” And she demonstrated the parts, me, what do you do when this part is hard? And man, I just love this question so much. And I wanted to ask you for your answer to that question. What do you do when this part is hard? Like, what do you do when anything is hard? What do you do? When it gets hard? I either stop or keep going. Those are my two options. When I keep going, it usually gets less hard. And when I stop, it stays hard to me, but I’m not doing it. So it doesn’t matter. So in both cases, things are less hard. But if you’re a person who enjoys being able to do hard things, I strongly recommend you keep going. And that’s what I asked my little mini in this moment. I said, do you like being able to do hard things? And she said, yeah. And I said, then keep doing it. Even if it’s hard. And I thought that was a marvelous adult moment as well, a healthy adult reminder. So as, as adults, as grownups, I’m assuming listening to this episode also. Hi, again, minis. I love you. I had so much fun and I loved talking to you. I’m learning so much from you. Um, but to all of my more grown types listening, have you stopped asking questions? Like, do you ask questions in your head and not say them out loud deliberately? Do you sensor your questions? If so, why do you think that, you know everything like do you generally genuinely not have questions because you think, you know, everything, which trust me, I met a few of you in Greenville as well, teens and seniors who think they know it all I’m talking to you. They’re probably not listening. That’s okay. Um, but are you, are you genuinely not asking because you feel like, you know, things or are you afraid of looking dumb or inexperienced? That is probably likely the case. Well, interestingly you learn when you ask questions. So if not dumb is the goal, then not asking questions is not how you get there. I think that was a triple negative that I just said. So here’s the question. If a double negative is the same as a positive then is a triple negative. The same as the single negative? Negative. I’m I just confused myself. Okay. Enough. I would like to suggest to you that you don’t ask questions for no reason. Don’t ask questions just because Dana said that minis asked questions and you should do that too. No, I’m suggesting that you ask questions when you have them and that your questions reveal how much, you know, instead of how much you don’t know, super shout out to Episode 28, how to ask good questions. If you have not given that a listen, strongly recommend you do that. Um, all right, so, wow. Let’s wrap it up. Three takeaways for my seven to 10 year old students who schooled me this weekend. Number one, be willing to play and walk into the game, like a winner. Number two, bounce back and walk out of the game a winner, even if you just lost. And number three, ask more questions, ask questions that reveal how much, you know, not how much you don’t know. And no, you no longer need to ask permission to use the restroom. Please just handle it now.
Now before you go, I want to draw one really interesting parallel or at least it’s interesting to me. And it might be interesting to you this right now is a huge blinking neon sign to me in my life because I’m reaching peak interest in my clown training. Yes. Uh, but what I’m noticing is that much like children clowns wear their hearts on their sleeve, like right there, their feelings, their observations about the world, their willingness to play on their sleeve. And perhaps it’s this, you know, childish newness that gets clowns and comedians alike into the hearts of an audience member, right? Perhaps this is actually why children and clowns and comedians can get away with all sorts of stuff and still be loved. Perhaps this is why comedians are among the most important artists in my eyes. So if in the heart of audiences is where you would like to be. Then these lessons from children are what might get you there also take clown class, huge, huge, so important. Okay. My friends, that is what I have for you today. Take it from the children, take it from the clowns and take it from me. Thank you so much for listening. Everybody get out there into the world with that childlike confidence, enthusiasm, that willingness to play, the ability to bounce back and the where with all to ask questions. And of course keep it funky while you do it. I will talk to you next week.
Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more.
All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.
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.
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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: Hi there. Hello. How’s everybody doing out there? I am so glad that you’re here with me right now. I am so excited to talk to you today, number one, because if you’re tuning in on or around the release of this episode, then we are dealing with a global crisis and two, because the conversation with today’s guest is a light in dark times and it really reminded me the power of perspective. I am so, so, so excited to share it with you.
So the neutral facts right now are that there is a virus that is spreading and we do not yet have a cure and that is causing some thoughts, a lot of scary thoughts, some really sad thoughts, not many happy thoughts. And that’s honestly okay. There’s talk of death, there’s talk of doubt, there is talk of full-blown economic collapse. But with this episode, I really hope to remind you that after every dark, sad, gloomy recession, there is a Renaissance, a cultural, artistic, political and economic rebirth, if you will. And that that’s a time where the people with ideas that people with passion, the people with vision, those are the people that have the power. So yes, I’m talking to you, you thinkers, you authors, you artists, and this one goes out to, especially you teachers. Today’s guest is Nick Palmquist, a Renaissance man himself. He is the every man. He’s not always, but is most of the time a very happy man. He has cut out the middleman and he is one of my absolute favorite humans. How’s that for an introduction? Nick and I’ve recorded this episode days after California went into a state of emergency, but before most of the studios and conventions closed their doors to big group events. So now studios, most schools, theaters, museums, all of them closed. And today actually bars in LA have closed. So you’ve got nothing left to do. But listen. Listen and get creative, get organized, stay healthy. And uh, thanks again for being here. I really hope you enjoy the rest of episode 12 with Nick Palmquist.
Dana: Here he comes. We’re doing it.
Nick: This is so surreal.
A little weird. It’s, we’re talking. Happened really fast and thank you for that.
Nick: So honored. Like I honestly, you’re, you’re, I don’t know if you really are able to see like the impact that you’ve had on kind of the dance world, but it’s definitely like very amazing to be like on a first name basis with you. Let alone sitting at with a microphone between us.
Dana: Nick, hold a mirror up instead of that microphone and that’s how I feel about you. This is wild. Ladies and gentlemen, Nick Palmquist, my guest on the podcast today. Welcome Nick. Hello. First of all. Hi. And um, give us an introduction of yourself. I want you to do that.
Yeah, I was thinking about that and I really think, you know, if I were to introduce myself, it’s always as a dancer. I think dance lives in my choreography. It lives in my teaching. It’s just as much an outlet for me as it is. Anybody else in another context. Um, so I’m in New York, but currently in New York based, um, dancer and I also teach and choreograph
MmHmm. And an exquisite dancer at that might I add, um, okay. I want to replay the scene of us actually meeting in person for the first time. Uh, which was at Steps in New York. I was about to teach a CoLab class Koch co collab collabo collab class collaboration class with my fellow associate choreographers from In the Heights. And we were in this, I’m like, uh, is it like a faculty room, green room faculty area where you can, um, hide in very close proximity to each other and uh, you know, prepare your material, get your counts right, whatever, without being distracted with all the hugs and kisses and who I was and stuff. So I was in there and then, uh, we were prepared and then as I was on my way out, Nick entered the room and as I was about to say, Oh, Oh my God, I’m such a huge fan of yours. You were like Dana. And I was like, he knows my name. And um, I was like, I’m such a huge fan of yours. And I think you were like, no, I am a huge,
Yeah, I was a little annoyed. I didn’t get to say at first and like I didn’t get to kowtow to somebody who has really created an archetype of dance that I respect a lot. I said to you before, you know, I think it’s really amazing as a woman that you kind of created a whole new way of being seen and that, um, it’s not always to try to desexualize things, but to not just have it speak the loudest sometimes. And you had wit and humor and musicality and all of these things in your, dancing and, and I, I grew up being so inspired by that because I think, you know, even in that way it was kind of like a visibility thing. You know, I was like, I feel like to meet somebody who has consistently over their career kind of like carved out a niche for other people to feel like they can use dance to express who they really are, um, has been so amazing. And so then to walk into a place that feels like home to me, you know, Steps is like really where somebody first gave me an opportunity to like build my, my self perception, um, to meet somebody there who also had an awareness of me. It was just such an incredible moment.
That’s crazy. Right? I imagine it’d be like walking into your living room and seeing one of your like people,
idols you can say, I absolutely, absolutely. You know, it’s amazing.
Thank you! That blows my mind and it’s so kind and very thoughtful way to say, um, the way that you see someone in their work, right? Like, I think one of the, I don’t know if it’s a result of social media space or in the comment culture or whatever, but we do kind of truncate our thoughts about people a lot. And I, one of my favorite least favorite things that we say is like, Oh my God, you’re everything. Like your work is everything. So thank you for elaborating and unpacking. Part of what that means for you. And I want to talk more about what is attractive in a dancer to you. You touched a little bit on, um, the womanness and comedy and it’s something that I think really fascinating about your work. We’re just digging right into it.
Yeah. And also I’m even just, no, I’m just even thinking now like I hope I didn’t insane that I hope I didn’t say that you’re not a beautiful woman or that you can feel like a beautiful woman and how you do, but I felt like you’re, you’re, there’s like a variety of depth to your performance quality and each kind of dynamic in the way that you hear music is also an emotional dynamic. And so you’re giving people different facets of who you are in a pop song. And I I, that’s another thing that I think is so valuable that pop music is orchestrated. There are, there’s a lot of thought and genius that goes into pop runs and pop hooks. And if you can kind of tap into that as a dancer, then you really, people are relating to you because it’s been mastered that way. It’s been literally like orchestrated to have the most amount of people respond to that thing. And if you can find that in dancing as well, then you’re immediately super relatable to a lot of people. And I found that to be the case with you that I felt like anybody watching you saw maybe something different that we all loved.
Well, and sometimes, oftentimes, especially in when we’re talking dance in entertainment, then relatable is the goal or accessible is the goal. Not with all art, not with all dance. Like every, not every time I dance is my main objective to be relatable. Like sometimes there’s like, Ooh, I need to get these fields out of there or something like that. But oftentimes that is my goal and
In the commercial world in general, right, like the idea is to be palatable to a wider audience of people and that’s why it’s on TV because more people have access to that thing.
Yeah. Well that’s another segue. Another good segue is do more people have access to the TV right now versus phones? Because I would argue not and because of, I talk about social media a lot, especially lately on the podcast, we don’t need to spend a ton of time.
No, I loved, I listened to your podcast and you said like I love Instagram because it’s free and that’s something I really believe in. Like a lot of people can see something that I’ve put a lot of my heart and soul into, even if it’s 30 seconds long. I spent a lot of time on that thing and I, you know, I think it’s really great whenever families of people can enjoy something together and a lot of our mediums for, for live entertainment are very expensive and very difficult to, yeah, to try and have a, an experience with somebody that you communicate about. Because if only one of you got to see it, then you can’t really expound on how that really touched you. Maybe an Instagram is this way that in a matter of years the globe has become connected and we can have global inside jokes. Now we can have global, you know, idols that all all of us know who you’re talking about. Whenever you mentioned that person, that’s an insane thing and a huge responsibility
Truth. Um, but yeah, the shareability of work on Instagram in particular is something that I really love about it. Um, some getting the sense that you’re kind of pro that platform. Could you put a pin in, like if I asked for your relationships, that is your relationship with Instagram. Where are you landing? Right.
Absolutely. It’s, it’s complicated. Um, because I am of a generation that has used technology to cut out the middleman and a lot of ways, um, you know, Airbnb came out of a need of a generation not being able to afford hotels the way that other generations have Airbnb, uh, Uber, um, Instagram I think are all opportunities for people to cut out the middleman. So for me, I’ve been trying to get to my work seen and validated by established American institutions like Broadway and like colleges and like things that I’ve grown up being educated that once you put it on your resume it says something about you and your worth. And yeah, it is a stamp of approval. And um, a lot of times and at this point in time as a, a white male who doesn’t have a ton of bonafide credits, it feels like a risk to invest. Um, and someone that has potentially such new ideas and such new ways of using rehearsal time and using dancers that feels like, I don’t know that we can invest in this person.
Can you, can you give me an example of new ways of using rehearsal or your, a way that you use rehearsal that’s new?
I don’t know that it’s new. It’s just, it’s, my stuff is dense. My choreography is dense. And so for me, I think if I’m looking at that as a producer, I’m looking at that as like, well, we don’t have five weeks. We have two. And other choreographers have done it in two weeks. And so I can’t say that, I don’t understand that, but I can also say that like it can just be hard to get kind of your foot in the door. And so Instagram came about when I was trying to teach at Steps on Broadway and get people to come take my class because basically in New York, um, it’s, it’s expensive to take class. And so sometimes if you’re a choreographer that has, you know, a couple shows on Broadway, then people are going to come and take your class because it’s a way to meet you. And I, and I’m not trying to take away from that because now choreographers are, yeah, and they’re kind of only in the final callbacks. So if you’re trying to get seen at the, at the first stages of a, of an audition and you’re new to the city, it’s really hard to get in the room with some of those people you’re trying to connect with in class as a direct way to have them watch you do their choreography. So I get it. But for me, um, I kind of had to break the rules in New York and put cameras in my class, which was a whole separate thing. And I, I had some like on-camera experience as a dancer. And so I believe in teaching people how to perform on camera because it’s not an innate skill. We’re not born with an intuition for how to look best on camera and dancing live on the Tony’s and having things changed 15 times and then they say like, and then go, you know, you’re kind of, um, you’re put into a position where you have to rise to the occasion. And I think a lot of people would maybe like the opportunity to practice that. So I thought, you know, my, my hook in class could be, you know, kind of understanding the value of a camera in the room, taking it off the pedestal a little bit. So to answer your question in the longest possible way, I think my relationship with Instagram is really full of gratitude. And I’ve had a group of freelance dancers that have invested in me in a way that I wish a producer would invest in me. And they’ve spent their time and money and energy over the course of years taking my class and validating my opinions and making me feel like what I have to say is unique and special to them. And as my following and the classroom grew and as my following on social media grew, I felt really indebted to that community to make sure that they knew I didn’t take for granted that sometimes they paid to take my class three times in one week. And I mean there’s a lot of willpower and some of these dancers to, to maintain their body and to get into the next level. And um, so for me, I have nothing but great things to say about Instagram. It cut out the middleman. It kind of, you know, I know everybody in America loves to be able to say they went to Harvard because that means something and that they said they danced on Broadway because that means something. And for a lot of times I was on that hamster wheel trying to find that word that would validate me and then people are tempted to kind of reference me as an influencer. And I don’t necessarily think that that fits me either and not because I have judgment for it, but just because I don’t necessarily try to cater anything that I put out there for an audience of people. I post things I’m proud of. I joined products that I’m proud of. Yeah. And you know, so I, you know, I guess maybe I just need to get more comfortable with the term, but I feel like the way that it’s used to describe me is oftentimes derogatory and not positive. I’m just kinda trying to pioneer maybe a more positive view of that because I think people that look at my Instagram feel happy and I just love, I love that because I’m not always happy and I don’t always create things in moments of happiness, but I am really blessed to be able to use dance to kind of push me into a happier realm. So if people can relate to that, um, kind of aspirational tone of like, maybe I’m not in a good place now, but I hope to be by the end of the day or by the end of this class. Um, it’s really rewarding and I, and I owe, I owe a lot to Instagram. I’m meeting you, I think really because of, because of social media. So I could never, I could never talk more about it’s bad things and it’s positive things, but I will acknowledge that there’s some toxic behavior.
Yeah. There’s some, there’s some dark and ugly corners of the space, just like anything. Right. Then even the dance industry, or as I’ll speak for LA specifically, before there was social media, there was a lot of awful ways that you could get jobs or not get jobs. That’s in any industry and in any time a, it’s new, right? And then B, it’s changing so fast. So the rules are always changing.
Yeah. We don’t have a rule book, right. It’s, it’s very, we’re flying by the seat of our pants to keep up.
So your class right now has gotten to a point where it’s generated enough attention and stop me, I might have the wrong understanding here, but enough attention that you have people interested in sponsoring slots in your class so that people who might not have otherwise been able to afford it can take class as a guest. How does that work and how did that come up?
Um, yeah, I guess I guess that’s a fair summation. I, to be honest, I got to a place where I reached 100,000 followers on Instagram and I, I personally didn’t want to necessarily post about that. Um, because first of all, it could go back to 99 I posted it or, you know, like literally disappear tomorrow. Yeah. So I was trying to find a way to kind of like celebrate the moment because I am, I, you know, sure. There’s a reason to be proud of that, I guess. And um, I thought that the community of people that got me there was really, who deserves just as much of kind of a celebration. So I posted one day saying, you know, um, anybody that is struggling to take multiple classes this week, cause a lot of the people that take my class are taking one right before it. They’ve probably taken another one. I teach twice a week right now. Okay. Um, and so I was saying, you know, really for my freelance community, if you’re, if you said to yourself, I would love to take nick’s class tonight but I can’t really afford another class, send me a message and I’ll, I’ll pay for 10 people. Cool. And I think maybe people that have been following me for a couple of years might have this feeling of like, this guy has been for free. Like giving me what I feel like is, um, his heart. You know, whether or not it’s good or bad. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve really like appreciated following, you know, what, what he’s putting out there. And I think they felt moved that I was willing to give to another community they wanted to give to me so that, you know, so I think again going back to how social media can be really positive, it kind of set off this thing where a couple people messaged me and they were like, this is amazing. How can I sponsor a dancer as well? Cool. And I think what’s really amazing about the chain reaction of Instagram is each week then when I would post like I have five slots based on donation or I have seven or I have 10, it would lead to another five or seven donations coming in. Um, and coolest. Yeah, it’s really cool, right? Because you know, again, most of the people donating spots aren’t dancers themselves. They’re people that have just found their way to my, my people do be able to it.
Oh by the way, I live on auto row and there is a car wash across the street from me. So we are occasionally hearing, um, maybe drag racing, um, as we rev up as well. Uh, I think that’s a beautiful, like social media actually being a connective, um, device that brings more in person connections versus more, even even more engagement in the click sense is not what I really want. I want like, Oh my gosh, more people in class more shows out there in the world. Yes. Um, and so that, that is super special examination.
Thank you. Well, and also I just, I, I, you know, I want to clarify too that this conversation about class being expensive is fair, but a lot of the institutions in New York are also paying for youth programs. They’re paying for teachers to go to other countries to audition, to bring them back to America. So I don’t necessarily think that the people at the top of these dance schools are making billions stuff. Yeah. And I, and I, yeah. And I don’t want to encourage a thing that is going to inherently start to pay teachers less because I believe that in general in America, teachers aren’t really valued for what it is that they do. So it is a little bit complicated in terms of like, how can I try and lower the cost of class without like taking away my own income because, you know, I’m college educated in college, indebted for the rest of my life. So, you know, I, I, it’s not about making money, it’s about paying bills for all of us involved. Right. And, um, so I thought it was really amazing that the sponsorship, it’s like patronage. It’s like what used to happen with the arts where if I have and I want to be entertained in a certain way and I can help facilitate that thing, then it brings me joy to invest in somebody that can share their art in a different way. And it’s been pretty organic and um, yeah, I’m, I’m excited to kind of see where it can continue to go. I would love to set up like an actual fund or a scholarship that way other teachers can benefit from it. People can take multiple classes and not just mine. We need to assemble a team. Yeah, I would, I would. Yeah. Um, and, and I, and I know I know Steps and Joe Lantiri and Diane, the people there are really on board for, for helping offer education. Yeah. Offer education to people in communities that can’t always access it and knowledge is power. It really is. And if you don’t grow up with that access, it can be really hard to feel like you’re on the same footing as other people and isn’t Instagram and amazing leveler of the playing field. Right.
All right. In that first little chunk, we talked a lot about accessibility, a few different levels of accessibility. First we talked about making dance that’s relatable and accessible, you know, to the masses. Big groups like pop music is the style of it is inclusive and inviting. The vocabulary of it is catchy and digestible. Later on we wound up, uh, landing on one of my favorite thoughts. It turns out Nick and I both agree that we prefer the type of dancing that says, come dance with me instead of the kind of dance that says, sit, sit, sit, watch me dance. To me, that is accessible. Then we talked about the way that Nick’s called on Instagram to access new levels in his teaching career and the way that he’s using it to nurture and give more access to students.
The way I see it sharing on socials happens in two parts. The first part is the source. In this case Nick documents and shares something with an audience that’s part one. Then the audience shares it with each other and that’s part two. The new part though, part three is this way that the audience physically gives back to the source. Part three this some patronage like the monetary donation element is when more clicks, more engagement, more eyeballs actually turns into more bodies in the room, like the fact that Nick’s class videos are so entertaining and engaging and moving, for lack of a better word, that some people actually donate money so that more people can take the class. That is so cool to me. I mean I it’s, it’s it beautiful self-sustaining cycle. Only after my conversation with Nick could I actually like really digest what it is and I also gave it a name. I call it enter-training. It is when training that becomes entertainment then generates the funds for more training. Ah, I just, I love it. I think it’s so very special. Okay. Now let’s jump back in with Nick and hear about his training and his preferred approaches to teaching and taking class.
Dana: Okay. You went to college. I did not know that
Nick: I did. I was a dance performance major. I went to Oklahoma city university. Um, a lot of, lot of, lot of feelings about, yeah. A lot. A lot of feelings about that for sure. Yeah, I mean I think it’s hard and I think I’m only really understanding the value of what I learned now and on, you know, as I get a little bit older and I, and I do appreciate being able to kind of understand some historical references so that when I speak as an educator, I do feel educated and not just in the one lane that I’ve worked, but, uh, you know, dance in general and um, you know, it’s hard though. I also feel like had I moved to New York and just plugged in, that I would have met some connections that I thought college was going to create for me and possibly didn’t. You know? And so you learn, you learn in a bubble about what you think the real world is going to be and you try and take that knowledge there. And it’s evolved from what the teachers that taught you have learned any more. I understand the conversation surrounding college not being what it used to be. And you know, I kind of grew up this idea that if I didn’t go to college, that I was lazy and that there was, you know, there was something about me that wasn’t reaching my full potential because I think, you know, education was important. Um, yeah.
We have these ideas about what it means to go to college or not go to college. I want to talk about the idea of what it means to be a teacher versus what it means to be like a performer. And I think there’s, I think there’s a stigma around being a teacher. That’s oftentimes, and this is changing a bit, but oftentimes the idea is like, well, they’re done performing, so they’ll teach or they couldn’t really cut it. Yeah. So they’ll teach or they’re working their way up and they’re, you know, paying the bills or whatever.
So, um, my favorite thing is to, “so do you have anything cool going on? Are you just teaching?” Yeah, I hear just teaching really quite a lot and I get it. It’s, it’s like such a nonchalant way of just like, I am aware that you teach, is that what you’re doing? You know, I don’t think people are trying to turn a dagger in my heart when they say it, but, um, no, I, I totally agree. I think, um, there’s, there’s often that misconception that either like you didn’t quite make it and so now you’re trying to stay involved in the world by teaching what you do now or you’re at the end of your kind of career and now you’re passing on, you know, in the, in the, yeah.
Well, I think that you will be part if not like the leader of the person that changes that misconception because as a person that sees and loves what I see of the representation of your classes on the gram and a person that’s been in the room, you make education very cool. And I’ll speak to one part of class which I think is um, borderline dying art form and that art is across the floor across the floor where you asked it and up across the floor because this used to be um, Oh gosh, I could call, I could do across the floors right now that I did when 12 because it’s in my bones.
So it’s a good warm up to for your vulnerability, you know what I mean? People are running on the warmup anymore. There’s like just three of you going across, but then it’s also just across like once you’re over there,
Okay, we should do an across the floor, a global workshop and we call it across the world and we just go and we teach across the floors, across the world. Talk to me, talk to me funding. Where are you at? Where are you at of, across the board? And I guess on a long enough timeline, a dance class kind of, is that like in one, even even a two hour dance class in the spectrum of your whole life is a routine second across the floor, the fastest thing. So talk to me or talk to her listeners rather, excuse me about what is across the floor and how you use it. Do you have a set across the floor? I got the feeling that yours was like there were people in the room that knew it and I didn’t because I was newb but okay. So talk about what it is period. Like pretend like I’m five and I don’t know. And then for all my five-year-olds and then how you use it, but also specifically the function and the way that it’s different in terms of, um, being about work versus being about, um, a show like the production that that happens at the end of class.
Um, so for me, the, the dynamic and the flow of class that I liked the best is to be able to try and fit in about a 15 to 20 minute warm up a couple series of across the floor, which are different coordination usually for me it’s about coordinating the body and getting kind of movement, you know, now that we’ve warmed the body up, how can we move it and make sure that we’re using our upper body and lower body together and yeah, and it’s, and it’s, and it’s, you know, it’s a little bit shorter. It’s not a whole combination. It’s just something that can kind of get us moving. Um, and for me, um, I’ve really spent about two years teaching almost primarily when I started teaching a5 steps. I said this will be remembered for already. It is not my side job. It is something I’m really going to dedicate myself to. And so there are a couple steps that I like to claim and I like to say like these are kind of my isms. And so usually they’ll show up in my, across the floor just to kind of dip people’s toe into the feeling of like, yeah, this might show up in the combo later. Even. So it’s an effort to like put it in your body in a really quick way. We do it to the right and to the left. And then you’re kind of familiar with that shape. The style. Yeah. And I remember one time, uh, my husband, when someone asked like, what, how would you describe nick’s dancing? He said, he’s really coordinated. And at first I was like, okay, underwhelming. Like all of the adjectives. Um, and you know, and then I of course forced them to expound and you know, he was like, I think it’s really amazing to watch such a tall dancer be able to like kind of move their upper body and lower body without making it seem like it was coached. You know, like you are coordinated in the way that you, you take the effort out of the movement and that’s, that’s really what I try to do. So it really was a great compliment. Yes. Very well said. Yes, he’s, he’s, he’s the best cheerleader I could ask for. And I really agree with that, that a lot of times I see dancers trying to prove something to me instead of just trying to share something with me. I want you to know your value so well that it’s about letting me in on your performance, not asking for validation while you’re performing. And I think whenever we’ve trained for so many years to have aligned, be validated as correct when we’re asked to use that line and something that isn’t quite about to perfection, we still have this kind of like muscle memory, brainwashing tendency to click into a very performative way of accessing the line as if to say, is this correct? Right. And when you have a mirror in front of you and when you’re staring in that mirror constantly and when most of the day you’ve been given corrections, you are your harshest critic. And I think across the floor is a really great way to kind of just like shake people up in a fun way. If you don’t do it right, it was one time cross your fingers that it goes better on the left. Yeah. You know, it’s really non, consequential um, in, it’s inconsequential. I you haven’t, you’re like, I like non, um, yeah. So I, I enjoy it and, and I think other people enjoy it too because it’s either something you really grew up doing and you’re like, yeah, it’s across the floor or it’s new to you and it’s maybe kind of a, an interesting little thing to do. You know, when sometimes when my crosses are filmed, I don’t have time to do across the floor. So full disclosure, that’s not always what you might get from my class. But um, you know, when I, when I spend the last 15 minutes of class, usually filming, I try to have people feel really as, as prepared as they can kind of give to a new element that’s kind of you. What would you do? We’re going to do across the floor for an hour and learn a combo for 15 minutes and then film it for two seconds.
I love that. It’s fleeting. I love that. It’s about progress and to check in with the room with the choreographer and their style with your body on that day. And I do like a thing that repeats and that doesn’t happen very often in our world. It’s very much about new, now and there’s something very cool about measuring your progress by checking in with that warmup and checking in with across the floor. Like today. Wow. My turns were so much better than yesterday. Sure. The first time I took Nick’s class, I tripped on my own foot doing that thing and now look,
It’s even an etiquette thing, you know what I mean? Like I say three at a time, every eight counts, and if you’re the person that can’t do that, it’s kind of translating probably to how you audition or how you operate it. You know, one of your podcasts, dance lessons are life lessons. That is something that I really believe like I’m giving you the information. I know I’m speaking fast, but it’s in an effort to give you more information and so it focuses the room and people really get like, okay, three at a time. He said, eight count. People are over there counting on their fingers, making sure they’re not late. And I love that, they’re like, Just, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so it’s like for an hour and a half, we all go into this really focused. A lot of my times, my classes are really quiet. I’m not a very good hype guy. I don’t really, I don’t really coach applause because I think sometimes it robs from the moment of learning. And it’s about like, um, and that’s, that’s honestly just because to me it doesn’t feel natural. And when I go to other people’s classes where they are that energy authentically, then I’m a woo girl and I’m like, I totally get it. But for me, I don’t know how to direct that energy because I like focused direct feedback and I love to tell you, you’re amazing, but not in a way that is to applaud for two seconds because literally I need those two seconds. Right. You know, I like, I just feel like I have a lot to get through in my class and I, yeah. And so then the room kind of focuses with me and I try to check in and make sure we’re having fun, but I, I go pretty quick if this, if this level of talking is an indication I’m a bit manic. Very efficient. I’m a bit of a control freak. Yeah. I kind of map out my time.
How long is a typical class of yours?
An hour and a half. An hour and a half and then on convention typically an hour, an hour and 55 five minutes. Yeah.
So you clearly are a person that puts a lot of thought and effort into what you teach in class and that actually looping back is why you are changing my mind and hopefully changing the minds of many people about this paradigm, this like that, that it’s different to be a performer and a teacher or that teaching is somehow less creative or less creatively fulfilling even because I know that you have to get creative to reach every person in that room and you have to get creative with how you use your time and how you explain different techniques or how you explain different pieces. In fact, to be a dance teacher, I can’t think of a thing that requires more creativity because you have to deliver the art, I’m going to call it an art product that makes some people cringe and vomit, but to me that’s what a class combo is, is like this is my artistic art product and it’s short and fast, but I made it and it’s made with my training and my experiences and my imagination and my body and that’s that. And so a, you have to make that and then B, you have to verbalize it. You have to prepare the room to receive it and then you have to give it to them. Oh man, it, it’s like, as I say those things out loud, I’m like, Whoa, I’m actually a dance teacher.
I agree with you more. I agree with you. That teaching requires more for me than performing did. And I didn’t have to open my perspective as much because I was told what to do as a dancer and as a teacher, I’m leading the room and I just think the more inclusive you can be in your language, then I think that’s also going to show up in your choreography. Right? Like if you’re, if you’re thinking to different groups of people and how they might be feeling about something, I think that’s gonna start to abstract the shapes you’re making with your body when you’re preparing a combination. And I don’t know that a choreographer has that much exposure to the learning process. You know, like you’re making it up and you’re not thinking about teaching it to somebody that has never done your moves before. You’re thinking about your company, you’re thinking about your muse. So you’re, you know, again, not that it’s bad, but I think you’re a little bit more zoned in on the product rather than the process of like, well, I kind of had this in mind, but now that I saw that I’m going to kind of shift. And I think constantly having to do that and constantly have to teach your own work makes you really understand it. Yeah.
Right. It sounds like you treat class more like a collaboration than most people treat actual collaborations. Like you consider the people that are taking your class as collaborators from the sound of like you’re giving great, great regard to their experience.
Yeah. I would say maybe like an emotional collaborator because then I don’t let you do anything that I’m not asking for the in the choreography. Oh yeah. I’m a total control freak. I mean, I spent five hours making this thing up, so, you know. Yeah. I mean obviously whatever classes you’re a class. So I, and I say that a lot, like if you want to do it, how you want to do it, do it. But this is what I want to see. This is like the intention in the choreography and you know, if you listen to me count my choreography, there’s a lot of and counts. There’s sometimes i-e-and-a in there, you know? And so yeah, it can get dense. Yeah. I am the one and uh, yeah, so it’s, I’m, I’m more trying to be emotionally inclusive to people so that they’ve been, don’t feel so overwhelmed by the physical things that I’m asking for.
Um, I have to say, speaking of when I first saw you and your work on the Instagram long, long time ago, I don’t remember how many years ago, but definitely before the a hundred thousand Mark, I remember feeling like, okay, here’s a guy that has a very unique style, but everyone in the room is doing it.
I grew up, you know, and I think what Oklahoma city really encouraged was to embrace the ensemble, to embrace the idea of such versatility that you can be as impactful to the overall show as somebody in the leading role. You know, I think the Ensemble’s a great place to be. You get to be 16 characters in one show, you get to your dancing, the whole show. You’re constantly changing your costume. It’s such a great feeling. Um, I always like to say to myself, if I weren’t in the show tonight, would that be different? Would there be some kind of magic missing from the show? And for me personally, Yeah. For me, a lot of the times I, the answer was like, not really. I don’t know that anybody would have really noticed my involvement in that particular show. So my personal endeavor as a teacher and choreographer was to create a show that would highlight an entire ensemble of people and that you would see the singularity in choreography, but kind of abstracted across different perspectives. And sometimes those perspectives are race or size or, um, social class. You know, that has a lot to do with I think how you see yourself and all of those things. And I think that’s ultimately what’s really relatable to people. This idea of the every man, because most people are the every man coming to see a show. And I wanted to really highlight and elevate that idea of like, these people in this show are making the show. And, um, so that’s like the ultimate compliment to hear that. I really do. You know, because if there’s too much chaos, people can’t take it in. Right. You know, so it’s like I want to see you, but I want to understand the language that I gave you as well. So there’s a real art and that’s part of what I teach. There’s an art to putting yourself into someone else’s choreography,
Um, earlier you mentioned that performing for camera is not intrinsic. It’s not built in. And I wonder if that’s changing because it really used to be that you had to teach a young person to look at the camera and I kid you not right now, like six months, I pull my phone out and my niece who’s seven, change her tone of voice changes. She slips into like um, blogger vlogger mode. Yep. Um, and like the posture changes and emotive dance, they notice, smile and turn on. It’s very odd. And so I, I really think there might be like a kind of a longterm,
Oh for sure happening there for sure. I teach on convention and when the camera comes out on convention, these kids are unfazed. And when I teach in New York, you know, it’s, it’s a different generations like relationship with that camera. And so a lot of what I’m trying to do is just encourage them that it’s, it’s not really kind of what you’ve made it out to be or what past generations have made it out to be. Cause I think some people are afraid. Like if I mess up on film, it’s going to follow me. And I’m like, how, you know, as somebody collecting your bloopers and like blackmailing with that, like honestly, what narrative are we telling ourselves that we’re so afraid to make a mistake on camera because we kind of live in a really content rich world. So it’s all just, yeah. Yeah. And if there’s really somebody that’s trying to hold you accountable to a mistake you made in class, I kind of feel like that’s their issue more than yours. And if they’re really trying to stick to that, then maybe that’s a project you wanted to avoid in general.
I love that.
Cause you know, people always say like kind of the New York mentality is like, I want to be able to make mistakes in class and I totally understand that. And you can do that when there’s a camera. Yeah. And again, I think you have to, you have to trust me. I’m the person in the front of the room that’s trying to help you. So if, if the, if that was not your best take, I’m not going to post it. I’m also not gonna make you feel bad that it wasn’t your best take. And I think that’s where people feel like, Oh, if I’m the one that messes it up, then the video is not viable. And I don’t want to be that person and ensure I understand that. But I also don’t feel like I have put that pressure on you. So if that’s a pressure you’re putting on yourself, you need to let it go. Because what I’m asking for is to just go and let the camera catch you surprising yourself. I want it to end. And you’d be like, Oh my gosh, I’m so glad I just did that. And it’s a marginalized. Yes. And then you have it. I can watch that. Yeah. It’s the coolest thing.
Although I will say that is coming from you and from me, people who are historically very well supported by the platform I bet that there are people whose days have been ruined by a video going around the school or a something. There’s so much bullying and there’s off again the dark, the dark corners. So there may be scabs and scars that were not, you know, definitely, definitely more nuanced than just like it’s just glass and plastic. But really technically, really it is. It’s really just the way you think about it. Yeah.
All right. This is a great segue into today’s, uh, current events portion of the episode. I, I know I’m not alone in being tremendously moved and inspired by the number of people participating in live-streamed, be it Facebook or Instagram or Twitch or some otherwise online streaming platform for dance class or even yoga class. I see. I’m seeing a lot of things pop up right now and I really think that it’s a fascinating thing. It’s a beautiful thing that social media happens to be what’s bringing us together during this time of strongly encouraged social distancing. Now it’s not just the place for promoting class, but it is the actual place that class lives and entire class is now living in the social media sphere instead of the last two minutes of it. And I want to take a second to point out that just last week in episode 11 we were discussing the potential damage that social media is causing our industry. I can’t even count the number of conversations I’ve had with parents and dance educators around the world who think that it’s damaging our youth, that it’s ruining their self, self esteem and their sense of a sense of self in general and that it’s a pool for bullying and criticism and competition and I think that this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of context and how quickly we can change our minds about something. See a camera is still a camera. It is pieces of glass and plastic and a screen is still a screen. It is a piece of glass and some light source, whether it’s an led or an LCD, and by the way, I do know what those mean. Do you? Pop quiz… light emitting diode and liquid crystal display? I’m just saying that’s neither here nor there. Honestly, social media is also exactly the same. There’s been no rollout of new features, no massive overhaul. It’s still just social media. Now in this new context, a camera is not a threat anymore. It’s a portal to improvement. It’s a direct connection with our teacher and a screen isn’t a surface that we project all of our self criticism on. It’s become more of like a, I can neutral like a page of a book that holds information for us and social media itself is no longer a cesspool for comparison and criticism. It’s a support system. It is actively helping us. It is unifying, so what’s changed our thoughts, our thoughts about it. That’s it and that is incredible. Just let that sink in for a second. I can’t help but wonder in this case what other thoughts have been flipping because of current events.
I want to leave you with some time to actually inspect that. Think about the way you used to think about social media and the way you think of it right now. Think about the way you used to think about your job or how you make money and the way you think of it right now. Think about the way you used to think about time off and how you think of it now or your family. I’m curious about how those thoughts have changed and if they have, has the change, has the shift been beneficial for you? I really, really hope it has. And if it hasn’t, I’m inviting you to submit questions or subjects that you would like for me to touch on. Tough questions don’t always have hard answers, but it can be hard to start the conversation. So over the next several days, uh, let’s see. Today the release of this podcast will be March 18th. So between today, Wednesday, March 18th and Sunday, which I believe is the 22nd right to me in a direct message on instagram@wordsthatmovemepodcast or leave a comment under this episode at thedanawilson.com/podcast under episode 12. And, uh, I will do my best to get to everybody’s question or concern in the next episode. Uh, this is a really, really exciting thing to do, by the way, especially at a time like this. And I don’t think it’ll be the last time that I do this. So if you haven’t to have missed that cutoff, uh, fear not just sit tight and stay tuned for the next time I have a Q and A episode. So now let’s close out with Nick and a reminder that it is cool to care, especially in crazy times.
I really try to walk into things without expectation and it’s nearly impossible. Right? Um, I’m, I’m just, I’m always excited for the opportunity to teach. I love it, Dana. I love it so much. I feel so, you know, like people clap for me and I feel like they really wanted to clap for me and that’s why I try not to coach applause for people because you know, like I wanna I want to work hard to elicit a really natural response. And if your response is to be like, okay, right. You know, that’s fair. You know? And if your response is to just like really give, because I gave and we feel that, then I want that to feel natural. And a lot of times it is. So a lot of times I can have that stance because I don’t have to coach people into it, right? Because people are generous in spirit, especially if you’re leading with generosity and spirit as the teacher. Um, and so, um, but that being said, it is so incredibly rewarding to end the class or to say like, I’d like to show it to you once you understand the musicality. Cause that’s the kind of learner I am. I’m a very visual learner and I try and pass that on. And of course there’s some ego involved in that. Um, and uh, it’s, you know, teaching on a convention to, if I can get a ballroom full of 13 year olds to feel like something is cool and really all that I’m doing is caring. I care a lot. I care about what I made, I care about how I’m performing it.
If you can convince one 13 year old, that caring is cool. I’m on your team.
Absolutely. And caring is cool. And so to have them cheer for you and be like, Oh my gosh, cool. Now I want to try it. Part of me is like, you know what you should try no matter what. But the other part of me is really validated by a kind of hard demographic of people saying like what you do is cool and it makes me want to do what you do. And that’s, that’s the world I came from. I traveled out of my town of 3000 people and I wasn’t really ever intimidated growing up. I was like, wow, they were amazing. Like I’m so glad that I got to see that. And I, you know, I would go home and I would try and work on that. I try and try and be like those people and I say that in my class all the time. Be inspired, don’t be intimidated because you’re just telling yourself something that no one else is telling you. Right. You know? And if you start setting goals for yourself that are so unachievable that all you feel is negative, then they’re not goals. They are their limits, you know? And there you can, you can change your goal within one class period with one eight count. Okay. Like, I need to change what my priority in classes and I’m not at fault for having to change what my mindset was when I came in the door. And if I can be that adaptable, then maybe that’s part of my marketability that somebody sees that they’re ready for more notes, they’re ready for more feedback, they’re not overwhelmed by wanting more from them, they’re ready for that.
And I think people that work the longest are people that operate like that. For sure. I’m here early, I’m warmed up because I know that I’m gonna use my body all day. I’m a little overwhelmed at the denseness of the choreography, but I’m going to go home and practice it. So therefore my confidence is intact because I know what it takes to go home and work on this and come back the second day just as good as anybody else that could learn quickly. And I think if, you know, really I’m speaking to other people about things that I’m learning later in life and that I am no in no way a master on, but realizing really the importance and especially as a teacher you have a different perspective. You’re watching people’s energy, you know, one of me watching 70 other, yeah. Oh yeah.
Well it sounds like you and I kind of got the luxury of growing up in similar pockets. The dance community in Denver that I grew up in was really nurturing. I mean I did grow up in the competition scene, but the studios, you know, I’ve been gone for a long time now, so to speak for the time the studio has at the time really encouraged each other. I had to duet with Misha Gabriel, who we didn’t even go to the same studio. Like we had groups like that to really, really cool. And I think that what social media and what you are doing right now is making really big communities of people that support each other.
It’s, I, I live in a really a time full of opportunity and I’m just trying to do my best to, um, navigate with kind of some integrity. And I’m, I’m so fortunate in the mirrors that I have in my life of other people that they talk about me in a way that that’s how they see me. And I want to be that person. And Instagram, the danger for me is, is adding too much ego into my sense of like platform or, or the ability to speak to people means that I am owed something that a lot of times I work hard for my confidence. I educated myself. I put the time in to feel confident about what I’m doing. But the second I expect the world to give me something because of my talents, it dips into ego. And you know, I say to my dancers all the time, you have earned the confidence of this 90 minute period of class to look in the mirror at your own eyes and say you’re doing a good job. And if you’re giving a hundred percent energy, nobody can take that away from you. And if you’re giving 90% of energy, your answer is to push it up to 10 or to give yourself grace that you’re at a day where all I can get with compassion and uh, cause we need them. We get it. You invested your time and money. So take the class how you need it, but also be realistic with yourself. If you could have worked harder than don’t beat yourself up that you didn’t just work harder the next time. That’s the beauty of class as well. You can take another one. Oh my gosh. Across the floor, across the floor, across the world, across the world across the floor!
And I think with that we will sign off on episode one with Nick Palmquist always we could do episode to episode three and I would love it. Really, truly. Let’s do this again sometime. I can just thank you for being here. Oh my God. Thrilled. Um, across the mic. High five. Should we see what it sounds like? Crisp. So Crisp um, all right. Thank you. Till next time. Ah, I’m sweating. Sweating. Not even cause it’s hot.
Wait, wait, don’t leave. I have a few more very important announcements to make. Number one, I’m going to be teaching a lot more live stream classes in the weeks to come. So make sure you follow me on Instagram @danadaners so that you know when and how you can be a part of those. Also, it’s true, we can dance alone. We’re proving it every day, but of course it’s way more fun to do it with your friends. And I’m actually learning that the same is true with making and sharing a podcast, and this podcast has become my absolute favorite way to connect during social distancing. So now more than ever, especially after listening back to Nick and this episode, I believe that the power is with the people. So now I’m giving you an opportunity to help me power the podcast. I started a Patreon account so that you can become a words that move me member, which means you not only help me keep the lights on the disco ball here, but you also get some super cool, very funky incentives like exclusive merch, live Q and A’s behind the scenes videos and bloopers. You know, those are going to be good, um, daily creative prompts and even one on one sessions with me. So head over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast. That’s P A T R E O N.com/W T M as in moves, M as in me podcasts to become a member. Oh, also the first 25 patrons will get a special Instagram shout out. So hurry, run, run, go. Be safe though. There’s furniture everywhere. All right, everybody. Now I’m truly, truly done. Thank you again for listening and we’ll talk to you very, very soon.
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