Ep. #84 Replay: Ep. #5 Is Fear Keeping You Alive, or Eating You Alive?

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #84 Replay: Ep. #5 Is Fear Keeping You Alive, or Eating You Alive?

This week is the first of our replays for the month of August! Starting out with Episode #5, and it is frighteningly good.  It digs into concepts of FEAR.  The kind that keeps you alive and the other kind that keeps you from LIVING!  Give a listen and cut the ties to fear that are holding you back.

Quick Links:

The Power Of Vulnerability – Brené Brown

The Call to Courage – Brené Brown

Daring Grately – Brené Brown

Failing Your Way to Success

How To Be A Successful Failure

Gift of Fear – Gavin de Becker

Brooke Castillo’s Thought Model

The Farwell – Akwafina Movie

Episode Transcript

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

Hello, Hello, My friend and welcome to Words that Move Me. I’m Dana and you are catching the words that move me team on vacation after 85 plus episodes, including several bonus jams. The words that move me team is taking some well-deserved time off and reminding you of some of our favorite episodes. Today’s replay is one that I get the most feedback about. And when I teach and when I coach themes from this episode, show up almost daily. So yes, today’s replay is addressing fear. One of my favorite subjects so much fun. Uh, what’s really fun actually is that this episode is a very early one. I recorded it pre pandemic, and it’s really interesting to consider what people might’ve been afraid of then versus now so much has changed. And yet so much is the same. What do you think? Do you still have more to learn about fear? I’m willing to bet that you do, and I’m willing to bet that this episode will help. So I am so glad that you are here and I am so excited to share this episode, but before I do, I want to let you know that when we get back from our little break, we’ll be talking about fear and managing your mind around it a lot. So be sure to subscribe now so that you don’t miss anything later. All right, with that, everyone enjoy this replay of episode. Number five is fear keeping you alive or eating you alive? I’ll talk to you soon.

Hello and hello. Welcome back to the podcast. This is episode five. Can you believe it? Episode five already. I’m stoked. Thank you so much for joining me. Thank you for tagging me for communicating with me on the socials. Um, a lot of real creative types popping up there. So hip, hip, hooray for all my daily doers. Um, if you are not daily making jump back and listen to episode one, very inspiring, exciting stuff back there. I am daily doing in some way, shape or form working on this podcast. Whoa, podcasts are way more work than I thought, but I’m learning so much about myself. The things that I know, the things that I don’t know, the way that I speak. I’m also learning about, for example, right now how to transcribe my episodes and leave you guys all the awesome show notes so that will now be available to you on all previous episodes as well as this one. If you are listening via Apple podcasts, you click the three little dots in the top right corner, you’ll be able to access shownotes from there. If you are not listening on Apple podcasts, go directly to my website, Thedanawilson.Com/Podcasts and you’ll have all my show notes available there.   

Cool, so if you are digging the podcast, I would love if you would re, ha, reeve a leview you love if you would reeve a leview, or leave a review, whichever suits your fancy. The more reviewed a podcast is, the easier it is to find and I really would love for all our creative types to be able to find these episodes easily. Sharing is caring. Oh, speaking of caring, quick shout out to my mom for calling me up and calling me out on a made up word that I used last week in episode four. She said de-motivated is not a word. Also super shout out to Google for letting me know that I did not make up a word. It turns out de-motivated is a word. Um, unmotivated means that one being lacks motivation. De motivated means that motivation has been taken. Right. That distinction. Very impressive. Also, I had no idea of the difference of those two. I think I really meant unmotivated. De-motivated came out. Google backed me up. Thanks anyways, mom, really appreciate you having my, uh, best interest in mind and really looking out for my grammar. Hmm. Um, let’s see. In this past week I worked on another music video. I taught a great class at movement. Lifestyle. Had so much fun. If you are listening to this on the day of its release, which is Wednesday, I’ll be teaching again this Friday, which is January… Wait for it. Wait for it. 31st, last day of the month. Oh my gosh.  It’s going really fast. Is it just me or is that everyone? Gosh, man. Um, so this past week in my class, we channeled what it means to be attractive. Um, which reminded me of last week’s episode talking about our dancing birds and mating dances and all sorts of fun stuff, but it was really, really challenging to have like Heidi Klum in the mind, but a Muppet or a Fraggle in the body. So much fun. Um, I don’t know if we’ll do that again this week, but I do know that we will have fun again this week. So if you’re in LA, stop by movement lifestyle, I will be teaching at 1130. Killer. Um, let me think. Any other updates? Oh, big one. The nails are off. I got acrylic nails for a job. I don’t remember what episode I talked about this and, but I got my acrylic nails removed. The first thing I did was take out my contacts because I couldn’t do that cause they were too long and Oh my gosh, that felt so good. For all my optometrists out there, please don’t worry, I do have the contacts that are the type that you’re supposedly allowed to sleep in. But Whoa, I had slept in my context for many, many nights. Eyes feel great. Fingers feel great. I feel great in general, crushing it at 2020 again this week. 

Today, However, I want to talk about a specific thing that might be keeping you from crushing it in 2020 and that is fear. Yes, good old fashioned fear. Insert the dramatic Halloween scream right there, which turns out, actually this is an aside, I found out recently that the director of photography from In the Heights, the film that I worked on over the summer last year, Alice Brooks is her name is the scream from scream.  

That’s Alice’s scream. That’s the scream that I want to put in my podcast right now, when I say this episode’s about fear. So now, you know. 

Moving on a couple of weeks ago, I put out a survey on Instagram. Thank you so much for responding by the way, those of you that, that hollered back. Um, I asked what scares you, what are you afraid of? And it was very cool to take a look at my responses. I’ve basically sorted this out. I’ve determined that there are two types of fear, the kind of fear that keeps you alive and the kind of fear that eats you alive. The first one being of course the animal instinct that gives you the freeze, fight or flight response. And then the other one is literally everything else. So let’s talk very quickly about the fear that keeps you alive. Our animal instinct fear has really served us well.  It’s helped us get to the point where most of us are not afraid for our lives on a daily basis. 

Do you remember the game, the Oregon trail, by the way, speaking of fear for your life, it was a computer game that taught us about the early settlers and all of the ways that you can die in the 18 hundreds for example, your wagon might break an axle and you might have to walk yourself to death or you might get dysentery or cholera. Now that is some really scary stuff. Even before that time though, you might’ve been afraid of being trampled in a stampede or you might’ve been afraid that your child might be eaten by a saber tooth tiger. That stuff right there. That is real fear. Now, there’s still a lot of real danger in the modern world. It’s just that our stimuli have changed. We don’t have saber tooth tigers or wagons anymore, which is kind of a shame cause wagons are darn cute. So next week I’m going to talk about one of my favorite books called the gift of fear. And we’ll talk about reading subtle signals in our modern everyday life that could really save your tail. That was an animal instinct pun. Um, especially if you live in Hollywood or if you’re a person that tours frequently

But for today we’re going to discuss in depth the kind of fears that eat you alive or what I referred to in episode 0.5 with my friend Nick Drago as creative fears. So these are the fears that are not really life threatening, but I was shocked that when I put my survey out to Instagram, like 99% of the replies I got were these type of fears. So that’s what we’re going to dig into today. Buckle up, let’s go.  

 8:39 Okay, thanks again for submitting your responses about things that you are afraid of. Please don’t be afraid right now. I’m not going to call anybody out by name. I’m going to actually kind of group some fears together based on a few trends that I noticed. So two things in particular. Almost every response fell under one or both of these two umbrellas. Those two umbrellas are judgment and failure. So I’m thinking if we can tackle these two little guys, we can step into some real big power. Now, last week I introduced Brooke Castillo’s thought model and I’m going to really quickly review on that. But if you haven’t listened to episode four, I really encourage you to do that. The model starts with a circumstance which is a neutral fact about your life. It is provable. It is uncontestable incontestable? Which one is it? Mom, call me.  Circumstances trigger your thoughts. Thoughts are just sentences in your head, which you actually can control. Thanks to your prefrontal cortex. More science words. Thoughts cause your feelings, which are sensations in your body. And those feelings lead to actions, which are what you do or don’t do with your body. And your actions create results, which are always proof of your initial thought. So it’s really important that we choose our thoughts wisely. Okay, so on the subject of fear, I’m not encouraging you to simply not think the thoughts that frighten you. Actually quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that you understand the thoughts that frighten you. I’m suggesting that you get to the core of them. I’m betting that at the core of these fears, you’re probably wrestling with your thoughts about judgment and or failure. And I’m telling you right now that the tiny seed inside the core of the big, big fear is just a feeling, probably an unwanted feeling.  So you see, fear is actually the avoidance of unwanted feelings. It’s your body and your mind’s way of keeping you from experiencing unwanted stuff. But thoughts create your feelings and we get to choose our thoughts. So what if we choose thoughts that lead us in the direction of wanted feelings? One of my favorite ways to illustrate this. There’s a little exercise in metacognition or thinking about thinking, if you’re funky.

 I’d like you to invite an imaginary friend to sit down beside you, preferably a very curious friend, somebody who’s very compassionate, but asks questions that have five-year-old would ask. Maybe this imaginary friend is a five-year-old. They ask a lot of questions like, why? And so what if or what does that even mean? So this imaginary young person is going to ask me tons of questions about my thoughts, and I’m going to rattle off answers as if I know everything.  And once a feeling shows up in the answer, then I’ll know that we’ve gotten to the root of the issue. Let’s start with a a fear of being injured. So if I have a child sitting next to me and I say, “Man, little one, little nugget I am, I’m afraid of being injured.” And that child might say, “why?” And I might say, “because then I won’t be able to do the thing that I love.” And they might say, “why?” And I’ll say, “because I’ll be in pain, if not physically then mentally for sure.” And they might say, “why?” And I might say, “because dance is a part of who I am without it, who am I?” And they might say, “I dunno who are you?” And then I might say, “well, I am an almighty dancer and I can do a unnatural things and I can do anything. And I am indestructable, except for when I’m injured, when I’m injured, I feel mortal and I prefer to feel indestructable.” Okay, ding, ding, ding. There were the feelings that just showed up. When I’m injured, I feel mortal, but I prefer to feel indestructable. So there’s my key feelings there. I’m actually afraid of being injured because I prefer to feel indestructable. Well what if you could be injured and still feel indestructable?  Would you then have the same fear of becoming injured? 

Okay, let’s take a look at a different fear. “I’m afraid my work will be bad.” The child might say to that “why?” And I might say, “because that might mean that I don’t know what I’m doing.” and then that child might say, “when I don’t know something and I ask about it, my teacher calls it learning. Or sometimes when I’m playing, I don’t really know what I’m doing and that can be really, really fun. So what’s wrong with not knowing what you’re doing?”  I might say to that, “well, I really like to play too, but I don’t like feeling unskilled. “ Aha. Here’s my feeling. I’m afraid my work will be bad because I don’t like to feel not good at something. Well, how do you feel about yourself after you’ve learned something really difficult or how do you feel about yourself while you’re playing? Is it possible that you might not be afraid of making bad work if you thought of your work as play, if you thought of it as learning. 

All right, how about this one? “I’m afraid people won’t understand me or won’t get the work. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m bad or stupid.” Kid might say “why?” And I say, if feeling very honest “because I want people to like me. I want people to relate to my work. I want them to think I’m great” and that kid might say, “so what if they don’t?” And then I would probably get real real with myself and I would say, “well then I would feel unwanted. I would feel uncool and I prefer to feel cool. I want to feel appreciated.” Okay, great. So it’s not that I’m afraid of people not understanding me, it’s that I want to avoid feeling unappreciated. Well, what if you felt cool and wanted and appreciated no matter what other people thought of your work? Would the fear still be there? I’m thinking, no.

Okay, here’s one more. What if I told the kid the very, very smart kid, by the way, “’i’m afraid of going to auditions.” Kid might say, “why?” And I’d say, “well, I don’t completely love putting my all on the line in front of hundreds of judgy eyeballs, including a couple pairs of eyeballs that ultimately decide if I will fail or succeed in getting this job or not.” And then the kid might say with all of his wisdom and experience, “isn’t that what being a dancer is putting your all on display for a bunch of eyeballs to look at?”  That smart little sucker. Got me. All right. I’d probably say fine. “Smart little sucker. You got me  I guess it’s not the audition that I’m afraid of. It’s getting cut.” The kid might say “with a knife?!” and I’d be like, “no, we use the word cut as another word for being dismissed or rejected and I guess it feels pretty crappy to be rejected.” Ding, ding, ding. We have a feeling there. Feeling rejected. Well, what if you could go to an audition and not feel rejected no matter what? What if instead of feeling rejected, you felt genuinely sorry for those poor sons of guns that don’t get to work with you? Like what if? What if getting cut actually felt like a surprise birthday party for you? Like what if everyone in the room erupted in applause and there was confetti and streamers and cake every time you got cut, would you still be afraid of going to auditions? Mm. Probably not. I would go all the time.  

Now if you’re like me, you might be getting a little suspicious right around now. Like all of this power of positive thinking stuff. Is there really any grit to it? Like is it real? I remember specifically when that book, the secret became very popular. I had some big questions about that. Like does taping a dollar bill to my ceiling and looking at it in the morning and at night before I go to bed really turn me into a millionaire. 

Now, I could be wrong here, but I highly, highly doubt that this work is a bit different. It’s more systematic and it requires action, some effort and a lot of consciousness. So let’s do that work. Let’s put in a little effort and let’s get real thoughtful about judgment and failure.  

Okay. What is judgment? The internet says and the internet knows that judgment is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. Well, that doesn’t sound so bad actually. I kind of loved the idea of being a person that can make considered decisions or sensible conclusions. I wish we could just leave it at that. But the internet also offers an alternative definition and that is misfortune or calamity viewed as a divine punishment. Huge, huge range there. How did we go from sensible conclusions to divine punishment? I don’t know exactly, but considering that judgment is part of what’s kept us humans around for so long, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, thankfully. I’m going to opt to think of judgment as the first definition. I’m already hard enough on myself as it is I don’t need to think of everyone else in the world is passing divine punishment on me. Gosh, that’s terrifying. All right, so that’s the what of judgment. Now let’s talk about the who. Who gets to pass judgment? Well, one of two people. You or someone else. So let’s talk about judgment from others. At least in dance, I’ll speak specifically for dance. There is no bar exam, there’s no MCAT. There is no one institution that says, all right, you’re good, you’re a dancer, you pass, go on, go dance, go make money doing dance. And I actually think that’s a great thing. I have no student loans because of that thing, and that means that everyone gets to dance even if they can’t afford to go to dance school or take dance test. But here’s where that gets a little bit tricky. In the absence of an almighty dance deity, that gets to click a price tag on us and deem us valuable. It can sometimes feel easier for our minds to give power to literally anyone else instead of keeping it for ourselves.  In other words, instead of saying, I’m great and I know that I’m just getting better, we say, ah, I don’t know if I’m any good. What do you think world? See, I think that seeking validation is not so uncommon. It’s human and I think it’s a result of how we were all raised, but what’s unique to dancers and people making art, especially in entertainment, is that we and our work stand at the epicenter of our pop culture’s screen addiction and fascination with view counts and clicks and engagement. It can be really challenging to separate popular opinion from your opinion. And that can be dangerous because then you have a bunch of people who don’t deeply understand the work determining its value. Yikes. So does having a lot of likes mean that something is good? No. Does having very few likes mean that something is bad? No. So what does make something good or bad? Your thoughts about it. That’s what. And that brings us to your self judgment, which can be a tough one. So I’m going to call on the old thought model.  

If the circumstance is my work and the thought is people will think my work is bad or stupid or somebody’s work will definitely be better. Then the feeling that that thought creates is disempowered. Checking in mom, is that a word? The action that comes as a result of feeling disempowered is actually inaction. You don’t make work. So the result is no work, which proves the original thought is correct. Somebody else’s work is better than your work on a technicality because your work doesn’t exist. So here’s the new model with a little bit of flexing of my prefrontal cortex muscles. I know your brain is not a muscle. I just, it’s an analogy. All right, so the circumstance is still my work, but what if my thought about my work is that I am a person with the tools and determination to make the work that I love. That thought makes me feel empowered, that thought makes me feel motivated and feeling motivated, sends me into action. That action is making work. A lot of it and probably failing a bit along the way. And the result then is that I will have work that I love and I’ll have stronger tools and determination to make even more of it. See, the result is proof of that first thought.  

Now here’s something I didn’t touch on much in the last episode and that is that your results are really just yours. In other words, you won’t have a result like everyone loves my work because you can’t control other people’s thoughts, which I think is a great thing by the way. All right, let’s touch on failure now. What is failure? Well, again, I turned to the internet and the internet says failure is the lack of success. Now to avoid going down an endless pit of defining, defining words, I’m going to skip success, which we’ll talk about in another podcast and I’m going to jump straight to the second definition, of failure, which I really, really like by the way. The internet says that failure is the omission of expected or required action. See, it’s all, it’s not this death, destruction, awful, the worst. It’s just the lack of, or the omission of expected or required action. To me, it’s just simply missing the mark. So some people are so afraid of missing the Mark that they never even shoot. For example, people who would love to become a dancer someday, but they don’t take class because they’re afraid they won’t be good. You know, they’ll miss the mark of greatness so they don’t go. Some people are afraid of missing so big that they set the mark real low, like you know, keeping it real safe, freestyling at a nightclub or lounge or party, but never entering a freestyle battle.  

Did you hear that? That was me raising my hand. Oh, failure.  There is one other way that a lot of us choose to avoid failure. That’s kind of special and that is self sabotage. I say that it’s special because this is a type of avoiding unwanted feelings that actually feels really good, at least in the moment. And then it sneaks up and gets you. Here’s some examples, my personal favorite procrastination, putting things off for later so that you can feel good now. My mom has a famous saying, shout out again mom, love you. Uh, she says, why do today, what you can do tomorrow and why do tomorrow what you can avoid doing all together. Man, mom, you are a professional procrastinator. Here’s another one, another form of self sabotage and that’s drinking or self-medicating and other ways that might seem really harmless or even helpful to an extent in that moment, but man, they can lead straight into the arms of some really undesirable results. Another one might be lying or faking sick, or here’s one that you might not expect. Overworking is total self sabotage the whole time you’re thinking, look at me crush this. I am crushing it. I can totally work until 4:00 AM every night and then wake up at six and then go to the gym and, and and, and, and until you exhaust yourself to the point of injury or inefficiency. Self-sabotage is a sticky one and it deserves a podcast all to itself. So let’s jump back to failure. 

There is a metric ton of research and a boatload of really great talks about failure and specifically failure and its relationship to success. I’ll link to a few of my favorites on my website under the show notes for episode five. Just go to theDanawilson.com/podcasts and click on episode five to get all that good stuff. But for now I want to just point out a couple of my favorite thoughts about failure. Here’s a real popular one. The idea that the more you fail, the more you will succeed. I really love that and I like to think about if there were a number, like what if you knew that exactly 25 fails equals one win. Like a really big win. I bet you’d be down to fail 25 times. If you knew that right after that you would get your big win. Well, I also think that it’d probably take way less than 25 fails to get a win. So just jump in and find out. Another one of my favorites is this, and it’s a quote, and I don’t know who to credit for this quote. ***(post edit) this quote is by Fritz Perls, MD, the psychiatrist and founder of Gestalt Therapy.** So if you do, please let me know. The saying is, “The only difference between fear and excitement, is breath.” Consider that people actually pay money to see scary movies and go to haunted houses and go on roller coasters.  

In a way, fear has been rebranded in our minds as fun. So take a deep breath, put both arms up and scream your whole way to that audition. You’re going to have a ball at some point in there for even just the second. You’re going to have fun, I promise. Oh, here’s another quote and I do know who wrote this one. It’s from the movie the Farewell which is written and directed by Lulu Wong starring Akwafina. And it is one of my favorite movies of 2019 please, please see it. Akwafina’s character’s, mom, whose name I’m blanking on at this particular moment, says, “Chinese people have a saying. When people get cancer, they die. It’s not the cancer that kills them. It’s the fear.” Please go see the farewell so that you understand this powerful context, and also, please don’t let your fears eat you alive. Watch over them with the curiosity and compassion of a young child. Get to the root of them and rewrite them and keep it funky. hahahaha, How come I can’t say that without laughing. Oh, it feels good to laugh. That was a serious one. Whoa, boy.

Me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never. One more time. We’re on the podcast. One more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review your words move me too. Number two things I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.

Ep. #83 How I Make Big Decisions

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #83 How I Make Big Decisions

 I know how easy it is to get caught up in confusion and indecision when it comes time to make those “big career moves”, and sometimes the small ones too!  So, I am finally sharing decision making formula!  In this episode, first we’ll identify how your values factor into your decision making.  Then, we’ll talk about false dichotomies and Zero Sum Thinking. THEN, I’ll give you the outline, a tool that I use to help me MAKE BIG DECISIONS!  I’m also giving you a look at one of my recent a BIG DECISIONS that might surprise you. 😉


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

Dana: Hello my friend and welcome. I’m Dana. This is Words That Move Me. I’m stoked that you are here because today I will be talking about a subject that is near and very dear and probably a struggle to all of our hearts. Um, today we are talking about making decisions specifically big, important looming decisions. Um, and it is safe to say that if you are listening to this podcast, you are focusing on making moves in your career. You’re focusing on making the ‘right moves’ and probably making really, really big moves. So this one is dedicated to you. I’m so excited about it. Uh, but first let’s talk wins shall we? Today, I am celebrating a very important win. If you are an avid listener, you know that I am avidly frustrated with the carwash across the street for me, um, since the reopening, the great reopening, it seems a lot of people are wanting their car washed. And although it used to be a hand wash the car wash across the street from me now has these really awesome squealing vacuums, which has been a struggle for a person with a podcast. Um, seriously, it like I am pulling my eyelashes and my hair out on the daily being in my house, listening to this squealing squealing sound. Uh, so today I’m celebrating that I have made a formal complaint with the city after doing some extensive decibel recording and research found that the carwash across the street is almost four decibels over the acceptable limited for residential area. And I know that doesn’t sound like much, but, um, every three decibels is a doubling of the acceptable limit. So the fact that we’re almost four decibels over is like, oh my goodness, no wonder I’m pulling my hair out. This is like two times as loud as the acceptable limit for a residential area. So I’m stoked that it’s not just me and I’m not just crazy. And I’m stoked to be taking steps in a direction that hopefully gets me and my neighbors, a little bit of auditory relief. Uh, so that is what I am celebrating today. 

Now you go, what is going well in your world? 

All right. Awesome. Congratulations. I’m so proud of you keep doing what you’re doing. Okay. Now my goal for this session is to identify what makes big decisions and sometimes small ones too, so hard. Uh, then I’m going to give you a game plan that will hopefully make it a lot less hard because I know how easy it is to get caught up in confusion and indecision. So, uh, first we’ll identify how your values factor into your decision making. Then we’ll talk about false dichotomies and the zero sum thinking, and then I’ll give you an outline, um, a tool that I use to help me make my big decisions. Uh, and I’ll even give you a real example from my very own, very recent life of how I applied this tool. Okay. Let us jump in and let us talk about why it is so hard to make decisions, big decisions. Um, actually, let’s pause right here. What do you think the answer to that question is seriously, like hit pause and try to answer this question. Why is it so hard to make big decisions go?  

Okay. Uh, I, I, I hope that you’ve paused that answered that question. And if you’re back now, I’ll go ahead and weigh in. I think that it’s hard to make big decisions only, partly because we really want to make the right one and not make the wrong one only, partly because of that. We’ve got thoughts about how good it is to be right, and how bad it is to be wrong. And without a crystal ball, we don’t think we know which one is which so we go back and forth trying to predict the future and doubting ourselves in the moment. That’s only part of it. 

Well, that confusion, that back and forth that self-doubt in that trying to predict the future thing. Those are all optional. And I’m about to clear all of those up for you with one word, values. Yes. Your values. I’ll explain in addition to wanting to be right and not wanting to be wrong. Making decisions can be hard and uncomfortable and confusing because we subconsciously tie bundles of our own values to each choice. So I like to think of, of each choice each option, each decision as a bucket and in each of those buckets, I place certain values. For example, uh, let’s say I’m deciding whether to go to college for dance or to head straight to a big city and jump into the workforce. In the school for dance bucket I might place the following values, having a detailed and predetermined schedule, having some structure, pleasing my parents. Um, this one’s obvious, but a top tier education. Those might be some of the values that I, that I put in the go to school bucket. Well, over in the other bucket, the jump straight into the workforce bucket, I’ve placed values like first-hand experience, independence, change, and of course no student debt. Okay. So we tie certain values to certain decisions. So what, so what makes making decisions a struggle is thinking that by honoring one decision and one set of values, we must completely abandon the other values. You see what I’m saying here? In the case of our example, you might be thinking that moving straight into the workforce means you forfeit your parents’ love and support or a detailed and predetermined schedule or a top tier education. Yeah. Making that decision could feel awful. If you think that you had to give up all those values to have it. On the other hand, you might be thinking that going to school means that you can’t honor independence, hands-on experience and change. Is this is this tracking? When I explain it in this way, of course, big decisions feel nasty. When you think that making them means you have to give up your values. What I am starting to illustrate here is sometimes called zero sum thinking. Zero sum thinking refers to the perception that a situation or a decision is like a game and there will be a winner and there will be a loser. And if someone is up and someone is down, the net is zero, right? Winner, loser net equals zero. That’s why we call it zero sum thinking. It’s occasionally called a zero sum game. Now as zero sum bias means that people think there is competition for a resource or an idea that they feel is limited. Even when the resource in question is totally unlimited, freely available to put this really simply we care about decision-making because we think we will either win or lose our values. But in most cases, our values are unlimited. There is not a, there’s not one choice that we could make where we have to forfeit all our other values, except for the ones that we allocate with that choice.  

Okay. Are you still with me? I’m hoping that this idea of values and decisions has really blown your mind. Um, and if it hasn’t great, we’re going one step deeper so that I can like just firmly split your brain. No not split it, just, nevermind. We’re moving on. You have probably heard, maybe even on this podcast actually of false dichotomies, there’s sometimes known as false dilemmas or when two alternatives are presented as being the only options, but others are actually available. That is a false dichotomy when you are presented with A or B, but in truth, there is actually like C D E F G H I J K. Anyways. My husband has helped me to really understand that. Almost always, when A or B are presented as the only two options you have at least four options option one is to choose A option. Two is to choose B option three is to choose AB or, you know, some combination of the two and option four is to choose neither. Mind blown in half. You don’t have to choose either of those. You can choose nothing. We’re going to call that option C. So when presented with A or B, you know, you have at least four options, A, B AB, or we’ll call it C. This way of thinking can really lift the false pressure of a false dilemma. So if you are thinking, I’m going to either go to school or move to a big city to dance, I can understand how you would feel tremendous pressure. When actually you have so many more options, which some might create even more pressure in your mind, but we’re going to alleviate that in a second, too. 

To add some alleviation. I’d like to introduce the subject of time. Most decisions are presented as a limited time offer. You have to choose by the state. You have to decide by this date, our deadline is this, and that pressure is intended to be manipulative. And usually it’s not binding. Usually you can change your mind at some point out in the future. Most of the time you can straight up, just wait to make the decision. So the next time you were being faced with a big decision, ask yourself how many options do I really have and how much time do I really have to make this decision? Can I make my decision and then change my mind later? Excellent. Breath of relief. Okay. 

Now I’m going to talk you through one of my favorite tools for making big decisions. Eight steps go with me here. Step one is to simply reflect, identify how many options you actually have. Is this a case where it is truly A or B, or is there an AB, is there a C explain what each option would look like? And the example that we’ve laid out already, the, the, the scenario of going to school or moving into the workforce option a might look like going to college, packing up your bags, getting on a plane, moving to a school option B might look like packing up your car and moving to LA to pursue the industry. For example, AB might look like packing up your car, moving to LA and going to college online, option C might look like going on a cruise ship or Europe or staying home, something like that. Actually, I guess those would be CD and E all of those options. So explain to yourself what each of those options looks like. 

Step two for each option that you’ve outlined in step one, tell yourself why you should choose each option. In other words, list the pros. What’s good about each of those decisions. 

Step three, as you might have imagined, outline the cons. What’s the bad part about making each one of those decisions? What could go wrong in making each of those decisions list for each option? 

Step four. Here’s where we get to the buckets and the values. What values does each choice aligned with? In other words, what are the values that you’re putting in each bucket? For example, in going to school, you’re honoring the value of higher education or pleasing the folks or maintaining stability. Um, in, in bucket B moved to LA, you might be honoring real hands-on experience being close to the ocean. Um, maybe you already have a community out in Los Angeles. Maybe you’re putting the value of accomplishing your dreams into that bucket. Um, maybe, maybe the AB bucket is the value or the, the desire to please everyone. Maybe that’s giving you more flexibility in the future. Um, you, you get to decide what values go in the AB bucket, and then in the C bucket as well. What values are you associating with the decision to do none of those with the decision to maybe stay home or go on a cruise ship? Is it the value of saving money? Is it the value of less risk? Is it the value of, um, you know, sticking to what is known? What is comfortable? What are the values you’re putting in each of those buckets? 

That is step four, step five is where we get to identify embrace. Even that the struggle you are having to make this decision is coming from thinking that in order to honor one value or one bucket of values, you must abandon all the others. So get very real with yourself right now and explain how in this case, that is true or untrue. Is it true that by moving to LA you abandoned the love and support of your, of your folks? Is it true that in moving to LA you are forfeiting great education. Is it true that by going to school, you are forfeiting experience. Is it true that by staying home, you are forfeiting experience. Get to really answering those questions for yourself. Explain how is that the case, or how is that? Not the case likely you’ll find that it is very much possible for you to honor most, if not all of your values by simply making one choice. 

In step six, I like to consider if there is someone else whose opinion about this decision matters more to me than my own. I asked myself, who are they? And why in the heck do I care about their opinion? More than mine at this point, I like to remind myself that I cannot control what other people think about me. It’s very possible that I could make the choice that would please this other person. And they could still think poorly of me. So are you willing to make this decision for you? Are you willing for other people to have the wrong idea about you? Answer those questions in step six and get ready for ownership over your life. 

Let’s go instead of seven. Once you understand that your values are not mutually tied to these choices, once you understand that you could possibly honor all of those values with any one decision, what choice do you want to make? What decision will you make, knowing that you can honor most, if not all of your values with one choice, make the choice. You don’t need to act on the choice. You don’t need to actually go pack the car right now, but with yourself to yourself, make a decision and decide what you will think about yourself for making this decision.  

Okay. We’ve made it to step eight and this one is important. Most people do not do it. I can tell because I’ve seen people go for years and years holding onto guilt or curiosity about the path not chosen. So step eight is to decide how you will feel about letting go of the other options. How will you feel about the paths not taken? How will you grieve them? How will you celebrate them? How will you release them? How will you honor them? That is the final step of making big decisions for me. 

All right. Now, I’m going to walk you through this outline, um, with a recent experience of mine during the same week of the, In the Heights movie premiere and surrounding parties that were happening in New York City, I was put on avail for a national commercial in LA. The dates were exactly the same, the dates, exactly conflicted and New York and LA are quite far away. Oh God, that was a cute ride. Um, so in this case, when I identified my options about, you know, do I, do I say that I am available for this commercial? Or do I say that I am not available for this commercial and go to New York A and B, or it was not possible that I both do the commercial and go to the premier and parties and such, um, yeah, the, the AB version of that world couldn’t exist. Of course there is still a C option I could have done. Neither. It could have said, you know, it is just too hard for me to choose. I’m not going to do either of those things, but option C was that’s, that’s not very attractive to me. So as I identified my options, I honed in on A or B, say that I’m available for this commercial, or say that I am not available for this commercial and go to New York. Actually, now that I say this out loud, there was a third option. I could say that I’m available for this commercial and still not book it, and then go to New York to the party. So those are my three options. A say that I’m available B say that I’m not available and go to New York or C say that I am available, not get it and still go to New York. Okay. 

Step two. Let’s take a look at the pros. The pros for doing a commercial are making money. I’m working with people that I admire and haven’t gotten to work with before, getting my after health care back. Um, not having to travel at all during weird COVID times. Yeah. The pros of going to New York are being in a city that I love seeing people that I haven’t seen in a long time, um, getting to party. Yeah, duh. And the pros of saying that I’m available, but also not getting it and going to New York anyways, are that I demonstrate to myself that I’m open to new work. I’m open to new ideas and I’m capable. I’m flexible. 

Okay. Now let’s take a look at the values that each of these choices aligns with. Why should I be available for this commercial? Well, number one, it would mean my husband and I get back on our SAG-AFTRA healthcare. That is massive. I lost healthcare coverage during, uh, the pandemic year. And so we’ve been paying month to month, which is way more expensive. I am very, very motivated to meet my minimums and be covered fully again by SAG- AFTRA healthcare. Um, that’s number one, number two, this was a big, big music video and commercial director that I would love to work with. Also big, big choreographer that I would love to work with haven’t had the opportunity to yet. Let’s see, make money. Obviously, in addition to, uh, meeting, meeting healthcare requirements, make like actual cash and let’s see what else, right? Allocate, uh, what other value did I tie with this? Oh, the next that extra spending of money, which is required in trips to New York City, not the cheapest. Okay. So why should I choose B? Why should I choose going to New York for the premiere of this film and the parties surrounding it? Oh, this one was easy. A sense of closure and accomplishment, a celebration. Um, the other values I associated with going are, um, connecting with the community, uh, celebrating the people involved and yes, having a party like actually celebrating, playing, having fun. That is definitely a value of mine. Now, option C in my case, I didn’t have much control over. I can say that I’m available for this project and they can say, oh, we’re so glad that you’re available.  We don’t need you. Which spoiler alert is what happened. But first I had to actually make the decision where I said, I am willing to be available. That is the decision that I’m talking about. It is poor form to say, yes, I am fully available. And then a psych, just kidding. I’m going to not be to nevermind. Poor poor form. 

Okay. Step three. Why shouldn’t I choose each option? Why should I not choose to do the commercial? Because other people might think that I am putting money above a very emotional and personal project. Why shouldn’t I do the commercial? Because In the Heights is one of the most meaningful projects to me that I have ever done and selling stuff for a big corporation is way less important to me to start. Why shouldn’t I go to New York because it’s going to be expensive. Um, for the Associate Choreographers, that trip was not paid for,  that was on us. Now. I know. Um, why shouldn’t I go to New York? That’s all I can think of. Only 2 reasons. Great. 

Now in step five, I get to identify that the struggle that I’m having is coming from thinking that making one choice means I abandoned all my other values deciding to take the commercial means that I abandoned celebrating my team. It means that I abandoned connecting with the people. It means that I abandoned a sense of closure. Is that really the case? Absolutely not. Is it possible for me to achieve a sense of closure without going to New York city and standing on a red carpet? You better believe it. Is it possible for me to celebrate my team without flying to New York and going to a party? Yes, it absolutely. Is. Is it possible for me to connect with my team without actually being there 100%? In fact, as I was going through this, this outline, I realized that one of my favorite things about one of my favorite people, Mr. Andy Blankenbuehler is that he writes personal emails. I mean, I know it sounds kind of small, but this is one of the busiest guys I have ever met. And yet out of the blue, I might receive an email. Hey, Dana, thinking about you because saw this thing thought of you, blabbity-blue. Appreciate you. Hope you’re good. I love that this person who I think is so busy is not too busy to connect with his people. I want to be more like that. Could I write an email to all of our cast and crew? Yes. I mean, it would take me some time, but probably not longer than a five and a half hour flight to New York, probably not longer than the four days that I would have spent there. And in fact, I might even find myself feeling more connected with them and writing personalized messages than shouting at the top of my lungs over loud music at a party or a passing wave in a fleeting hug in a movie theater. It might be possible that I get to connect deeper by not going than by going, okay. 

Let’s look at the other side of the spectrum. Could I meet my SAG-AFTRA health requirements by going to a party? No. Could I work with these two, uh, this choreographer director by going to New York to the premiers? No. Could I work with them eventually? 100%. Yes. Am I excited to now know that that is important to me 100%? Yes. Are there things that I could be doing that would get me closer to that desired result? 100%. Yes. But none of those are achieved by going into New York City for a party. Okay. Pretty well. Fleshed that out. 

So let’s look at step six. Is there someone else whose opinion about this decision? I’m considering more than my own? Yes. I was considering about 300 people’s opinion more than my own. I was considering what people would think. If I wasn’t there. I was considering what people would think. If they thought that I had chosen a commercial over them, I was considering what the casting agency might think. If I said I was available and then changed my mind later that they might think I was unprofessional. I was considering a lot of other people’s thoughts about me. When I started thinking about missing the premiere to do this commercial. I thought that people might think the movie didn’t mean as much to me as it did to them. And I placed myself in my imagination there at the premiere. Is it possible that people could still think that even after having spent a lot of money on a ticket and lodging and food and fancy outfits, is it possible that people could still think that, yes. Am I willing for people to be wrong about me? Yes. In fact, it is inevitable in my life that will happen. 

So let’s take a look at step seven, understanding that my values are not mutually tied to these choices. For me, understanding that I could still achieve closure, celebrate my team, connect with my team and celebrate myself without going to New York. In some ways I might even be able to do those on a, in a deep, deep way, in a very personal way, in a very effective way. Impactful way. Once I realized that my decision was clear, I would decide to be available for this commercial. I would decide that my way of releasing the premiere would be to review every single photo and dance, every single combo and light a candle for Abuela Claudia and email, personally, all of the dancers. This was how I would honor and release the path not taken. So I got on the phone and I called my agent and I said, I will be available for this commercial. And they said, that’s great, noted. And then for four days, the four days before the week of the premiere, I was on hold. And then I was released. The commercial said, no, thank you. I hit up Airbnb. I bought myself a plane tickets so fast and my feet landed firmly in celebration, connection, closure, and New York City. But all the while I felt open to more work, I felt like my past work is not the only work. I felt even more able to celebrate the people I was with because I was thinking that I could do so much lifting from afar. Imagine how much I can do near. I felt that I was exactly where I should be. And I felt open to being anywhere. 

That is what I have for you today. A little template for making your big decisions and a peek into one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make in the last couple months. All right. That’s it wrapping it up? Hope this was useful. And if you happen to have other tips and tricks and techniques for making big decisions, I would be so curious to hear where they are. Hit me up, DanaDaners on Instagram or Words That Move Me podcast on Instagram. Get out there into the world, make your decisions and keep it super duper funky. I’ll talk to you soon.  

Me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me 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. 

Ep. #82 Black and Blue Skies with Vice Chief

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #82 Black and Blue Skies with Vice Chief

Listening to this episode is the podcast equivalent of stargazing with someone who loves you… and happens to be thoughtful, technical, experienced, and wildly creative.  This week, my husband Daniel, the CEO and Founder of ViceChief , examines the role of light and darkness in the world of a performer… and a prototyper.  He cracks into “uncertainty” like a pinata and king size brain candy falls out.  His thoughts on asymmetry and the difference between action and reaction will have you thinking twice before you brag about your IG following… or praise someone else for theirs. And as if all that wasn’t eye (and ear) opening enough, Daniel talks directly to the posture and stance that can help you position yourself to deal with challenges and to deliver great work.  For Daniel, this posture is not a physical one, it is a conceptual one, and he calls it “Black Sky Thinking”.  When you look up what do you see? Where do you stand… and how?  What do you move, and why?  By the end of this episode, if you still don’t know, you’ll have a great idea of how to find out. 


More of Vice Chief here: https://www.instagram.com/vice_chief/


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.  

Daniel: Hey movers, Dana asks everyone to introduce themselves. I’m Daniel and I do prototyping, opto mechanical prototyping. That means designing and building the first version of some new idea. In my case, ideas that have to do with light, optics and mechanical stuff. Think cameras, microscopes, anything with a lens. I’m not here to tell you about prototyping or my path through life, but rather to tell you what I’ve learned in the practice of prototyping, about three ideas that come together in kind of an interesting way. Uncertainty, posture, and asymmetry in that order. Prototyping is a long way from dance. About as far as you can get, actually. If I move something, I move it with motors, not muscle. I choreograph deliverables, not bodies. When I tumble I’m usually tumbling around a CAD model on screen. Prototyping is all about uncertainty and especially reducing uncertainty. I mean, if you knew exactly what to do, you just wouldn’t make a prototype.  You would never need one. This is a particular problem in my mind for creatives, because by definition, you can imagine doing lots and lots of different things for any challenge. So what’s the right thing to do. If you were like a simpleton and you could think of only one thing to do, you wouldn’t need a prototype. You just do the one thing that you could think of. So having a creative vision, seeing a hundred possibilities in every challenge means that the odds are actually stacked against you like a hundred to one. This is one of those clear and kind of contradictory cases of every strength also being a weakness, a hundred great ideas as at least 99 nos or even thousands If you consider combinations of ideas. Uncertainty, doesn’t just come from having too many choices. It can also be from having too few. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in engineering, it’s that at any time, if someone tells you that you must choose between A or B two things, they are deliberately not telling you all the choices. For example, simplest thing, you can just say no to both or often better, you can say yes to both. That’s four choices in every dichotomy, minimum. Prototyping as a practice, clumsy, as it is, is about keeping an open mind. And particularly it is about finding reasons that things can and should work and then getting down and doing the work, being close to the work. So you can learn from it directly. I am always looking for people who can honestly search for ways that things can happen. And I’m always looking to banish, corrosive people who find problems with every single solution. Another aspect of uncertainty that really faces prototypers and dancers both is that each project, each team, each new shoot is just different enough that you really can’t rely on familiarity. This constant newness is like, it’s a double-edged sword. It keeps your life super interesting, but it also creates tons of uncertainty. Something that I learned from Dana is that in dance, there’s also a personalizing aspect because dance is an act of the body and in the body, the uncertainty ends up landing on you. Were you the right shape, the right color or the right look, did you try too hard to be what they wanted or didn’t you try hard enough? Were you under skilled or over skilled too street or too studio? Either way the uncertainty lives in you, even when let’s be fucking real about this, the people holding the audition don’t really know exactly what they want and what they want is mostly things that can’t be measured. Pizazz, charisma, these things, something inexplicable. So uncertainty from an optical perspective, uncertainty is darkness. When there is not enough light measurements get noisy, edges become indistinct shapes and paths unclear. In a way, not enough light becomes too much information because noise overwhelms the signal. Darkness manifests as dizzying arrays of choices or the swirling confusion of trying to optimize too many things at once. Darkness. This special uncertainty is one of those rare things that you can always rely on. It is a really consistent source of anxiety and frustration, and it can drive a control freak fucking crazy as they try to manage a situation sometimes even through what are probably unconscious destructive acts that reduce the possibilities, right? Break up with someone, delete something, trash something. So you don’t have to deal with it anymore. As someone who loves control, I know all too well that uncertainty and not knowing can drive all kinds of really creative malignant behavior and poor decisions.  So look, people who shine a little light on your dark side and keep a little copy of them on your shoulder. 

Now, since you’re listening to this podcast, I will assume that you are the kind of person who wants to develop an expansive creative view of life. Unfortunately, this means that uncertainty is going to be a big part of your life, but you can develop something that I think of as a posture, a stance, a stance like this has two purposes to help you tumble and get up right again. And so you have a default state when new things come at you, you are positioned well to deal with them. I call it posture, but it’s a conceptual position, not a physical one. And it starts with something, I call black sky thinking. In my life as a research and development engineer, as a creative, as a, as all kinds of things, there’s a notion of blue sky thinking, blue sky thinking, is this idea like, what would you do if you could do anything? And I have labored for years under this broken metaphor. Now, first off we just talked about how the idea of like anything is possible is as much a curse as it is a blessing. The other thing about blue sky thinking though, is that blue sky assumes way too much. For example, that the sun will shine. That we’re going to work during the day that we know even which way is up, that we will be able to see what is happening. Those are all base assumptions in blue sky, and they are not things you can take for granted. I embrace something that I call black sky thinking. Stop what you’re doing. And picture with me a night sky full of stars, do the following position yourself mentally so that there are many destinations, most of them are unknown, but they are full of possibility. That we want to be there among the stars, but we don’t know exactly where that choosing any one path necessarily excludes other paths that we will often labor in darkness and tumble our way to insight. That things right in front of us can take a long time to see. That there are nearly infinite outcomes for each life and crucially that we can have lives within lives. That individually we can shine, but collectively we can illuminate also that we can assemble great constellations of people and be among our own stars. What I am saying is, it is possible to squint hard at the noisy darkness of uncertainty. And instead of seeing uncertainty see a blurry field of sparkling possibilities. Think fireflies in a field at night. It is possible to assume a posture where uncertainty is not so much a threat as it is a field to navigate or a set of problems to solve or a path to find.  

Now, I want to be really clear here. This is really important to me. This is not some toxic positivity telling you that all misfortunes have a silver lining, that everything ends up for the better that everything is fate or part of some larger design. I think that’s bullshit. This is in fact, a stance in which you at the base level recognize that nothing is for certain. The only certain thing is that you will have to face uncertainty. So you might as well grapple. You might as well get down with uncertainty. In prototyping, this is just the default. If you want to make new things, you have to face new problems. I’m going to go through some principles that can help you develop a posture. These are mine. First recognize that even at our best, we are never going to be perfect and there’s no one right way, that it’s mistakes all the way down. Accepting this means making the easy mistakes quickly and with as little effort as possible. It also means taking notes and remembering your answers so you don’t pay twice for everything.  The next thing to think about is to embrace degrees of fucking up. Fuck absolutes. What I mean by this is even the best choices are in some way mistakes. The next thing is be relentlessly creative and a little bit mercurial so that nothing can stop you. But the creative part on this is so important. I can’t overstate this. Don’t be a single-minded idiot and bang on the same door forever. The next thing about posture, the right thing for a project changes from minute to minute, the right thing for a person from year to year, the right thing for a planet who knows. So don’t corrupt this week’s opportunity with your 10 years from now fears and vice versa. When planning always keep this sense of scale in mind, a simple example, my company never signs a contract that lasts for longer than I’ve been in business. This implies that the longer you go on and the more experienced you are, the longer you can plan for now. 

Another thing to think about is information. Action produces information. If you’re in the dark cloud of uncertainty, move in any sensible direction. After moving, you will know more than you did, and you will be better off than when you were stuck stressing out about it. Moving has a cost, but the cost is not as high as drowning in your own anxiety. Again, if you’re in this uncertain situation and you don’t know the right thing to do, one way to approach this is to think of what is the worst thing I could possibly do. How could I absolutely ruin this and then base your next decisions on avoiding that as much as possible. Now you have to be a little bit careful about this because in prototyping, anyway, it’s often my job to like quickly identify the wrong path or many wrong paths so we don’t waste time on them. Because executing really hard on the wrong thing is one of the worst things you could possibly do. So that means that sometimes you have to try out things that look impossible or might seem like obvious mistakes, because there might be some hidden gold there. Another way to think about this is what was a terrible mistake 20 years ago might be exactly the right thing today. So often you have to take a moment and go against the way things were always done. You have to ask yourself, why were they done that way? Or don’t ask that at all. Just try them. Often, There’s no good answer to the question. Why were they done the way they were done? In fact, the best thing you could possibly do in some uncertain situations is burn the whole thing down and start over.  Baggage is super expensive, never forget the cost of baggage, your own baggage and other people’s baggage, technical baggage, the baggage of a discipline. You might, without your conscious knowledge, be optimizing for your own hidden assumptions, which are actually noise. Like how much you think something should cost. Um, for example, like, uh, your cultural background, what you think your audience expects, what you think real ballet is, you know, instead of fighting with your own internal baggage and noisy assumptions, ask yourself the following question. What is right for the project? What is the right thing to do? Considering nothing else, What is the right thing to do? And if you combine this with working your ass off to not do the worst possible thing, you can usually come up with a really powerful approach. 

Now, another thing you can do in terms of posture is to think about repeats. Always have confidence that you will have another chance tomorrow or the next day or the next week. Basically you have a chance until you don’t. If you get another chance, you can try it again. But if you don’t, you’re not going to be around to care. Now, another posture thing, Dana would call this curiosity, but I would call it something else. Remember the world is full of secrets that are visible in full view of everyone. Few people are looking, but most of these things are easy to see. If you’re swimming in your own darkness and your own uncertainty. You’re almost guaranteed to miss these things. So be observant. Look for the obvious. Now, perhaps the most important thing I can share with you is no matter how sunny or how disastrous you are, you can’t predict the future. So you’re just not going to how good or how bad things are going to be. So prepare yourself whether you’re bright-eyed or a shadow like me, for the possibility that an unknown or unimaginable outcome might be way more interesting than you can think of. And if you are certain that your current situation sucks, then uncertainty itself is a huge step up. A simple and poignant example for me personally, is I didn’t know a company like Vice Chief could work. When I left for California. I didn’t know that I could spend my days building new things for interesting people. All I knew was that I needed to leave North Dakota and that I was ready to tackle whatever came and I am still ready. And my sky still sparkles. So that’s my best posture for dealing with uncertainty. But that was pretty damn abstract, right? Like how would you decide what to actually do? When would you decide to do it and how should you act?  And this is where the third idea comes in, right? We went over uncertainty, posture. Now I want you to consider a single word asymmetry. 

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is not to learn how to be, but to learn how not to be. I personally have always been way better at learning what not to be than I have the opposite. So in that spirit to start this section, I’m going to talk about some really dark examples of asymmetry. First one, it is 10 times easier to lie about something than it is to debunk a lie. Sometimes people call this Brandolini’s principle and when they call it that they call it, they say it like this. The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than it is to produce it. I can make up lies right now, but for you to prove me wrong, it takes work. Another example of asymmetry. It is 10 times easier to choose one dancer from a group of auditioning dancers who are all trying to please you than to actually articulate what you need for the project. Some people make whole careers out of this asymmetry, finding that certain something without ever being able to say what it is. Now, there’s another form of asymmetry. That’s even more insidious. And that is action. Having a bias toward action. And when I talk about this, I’m going to quote a pretty evil person. I’m not even going to say their name. The whole quote is in a political context. So it may sound a little funny when I say it, here we go. 

“The aide said that guys like me, we’re in what we call the reality-based community, which he defined as people who believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. Well, that’s not the way the world really works anymore. We are an empire now. And when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality judiciously, as you will, we will act again creating other new realities, which you can study too. And that’s how things will sort out. We are histories actors, and you, all of you will be left to just study what we do.” 

Woof. This is why our current culture of reaction on Instagram or whatever. We’ll always be hopelessly behind people who actually make change in the world good or bad by the time you’ve posted it, liked it, reacted to it. It’s already happened. It’s already the new reality. Now with that in mind, think about clout. Another form of asymmetry, but not as you imagine it, I imagine. And there are people listening to this podcast who have a million followers on Instagram, and you should be proud about that. You may feel very powerful with your huge followship. You may have a lot of clout, but think about this for a minute. Real power is owning Instagram. Even with your million followers, you are the one being farmed. That is the definition of asymmetry. Asymmetry is a very important principle and it’s widely applicable. It’s not just evil. It’s not just darkness. The point is to use asymmetry to your advantage whenever you can. So what I’m going to follow up with here are a bunch of simple examples of asymmetry that can profoundly change the course of your life and the way you may decisions a single match costs like one penny, right? But a single match can burn down a million dollar mansion or a rainforest. Think about that for a minute, carefully and clearly. What is a match in your world? A match defines a cemetery. Another form of asymmetry is being the first to do something. When you are the first to do something you aren’t competing against nobody because nobody else has done it before. So for the first little while after you do something brand new, you have a hugely asymmetric situation. Now asymmetry comes in many forms. We talked a minute ago about having millions of followers. A simple thing you can do is ask them for help. They can help you with many, many things. And there are lots of things you can do when you have people all over the world that you can’t do by yourself. Another example probably applicable to this audience. At least some of you, if your parents are paying for rent or college, you actually have some built-in asymmetry. Don’t waste that privilege. Use it to the fullest and use it to elevate the folks around you. Another more subtle form of asymmetry is that you can do things and get help for cheap or free because you are an individual and not a company. That no one would do free for a big company that they might do free for you. Or you can do things that would be unprofitable for a big company, but you don’t care because your first motive is not necessarily profit. In fact, one of the best places to look for asymmetric ideas or neglected asymmetry is in unprofitable stuff, stuff that makes no money, but leads to other things. If everyone and everything has to make a buck, lots and lots of great ideas are being left behind those same ideas can make you notorious. Likewise. If everyone in your situation faces the same problems and delays, then solve those problems and delays or yourself. In my case, doing prototypes, everyone designed stuff on that computer and then they wait weeks or months for machine shops to come back back with parts. So my solution was to buy my own machines and learn to program them. Now I not only can make my own parts faster than any of my competitors, but I can also sell that machine time to my competitors. And this one is a little bit shady, but it’s a fact, there are a lot of things you can do as an individual that are questionable or possibly borderline illegal. And they will go unnoticed because you’re not big enough to be an interesting target in short, when you’re small, there’s a lot you can get away with. Likewise, you can think of it this way. Forget the illegality. You can take big artistic risks the beginning because you don’t have a profile to screw up with no history. Risk is not risk. Another way that things get done, that’s asymmetric is fighting your competitors in a space where they are weak. And a great example of this. As a company, a tech company like Uber, Uber was really an illegal company. They changed the laws to make themselves possible. Now, another thing then you can do as a little entity starting out is use the wake of a giant corporation to power your little ship. You can ride their wave. There’s some mega tech corporation doing something interesting. For example, you can ride that wave to get your own motion started. Now, conversely, if everyone is going one way, go the other way. I have an example in music, there’s a kind of soft, sentimental piano music called felt piano and felt is a market that is getting really saturated. Like every cute Diddy in A minor has been written. So now is the time to start developing hard, complicated, like full metal piano because the world is cyclic. Anyone doing the opposite of what’s popular. Now we’ll be ready to catch the pendulum when it swings back the other way, this works in dance, in music, in art, in architecture, pretty much any creative practice ask yourself right now, where is the pendulum in my industry or my creative practice and who is being celebrated? The answers to those questions, will tell you what is coming next. Another form of asymmetry. And this is one that individuals get wrong all the time. It’s one that I’m very guilty of is that you can hire hardcore experts to solve specific problems for very little money. So rather than letting your project die or taking on the responsibility of learning all of calculus, you just pay someone to solve the problem and move on. For whatever reason, like all big companies understand this and all project managers understand this, but many individuals just cannot understand this. Especially high performing individuals. Now, something to think about is that if you are successful and what you want is to be big and you become big, then most of the advice I just gave actually works against you. So another thing to think about is as you grow, how do you use asymmetry? And there are actually a million examples of this apple computer. It started in the seventies, early eighties, because at that time you could buy open parts on the open market and build a computer and program a computer from scratch. I mean, anyone could do it. Now apple charges developers a hundred dollars, a yearly fee to even be able to write code for their closed computers. And they’re way more complicated than anybody could ever build. This is called pulling up the ladder and you find it in an enormous variety of forms in every single industry and creative industries and tech industries everywhere.  What happens is people start out in a green field environment where like everything is open and all things are possible. And most things work with other things. And then once they have success, they pull the ladder up behind them to prevent other people from doing the same thing. It is a dark, but very real form of asymmetry. Now there’s another form of asymmetry that is particular to creatives. More that is particularly effective on creatives. And that’s what I call controlling the carrot. I’m going to give you a quote from the founder of the Academy Awards. He said, “I found that the best way to handle filmmakers was to hang metals all over them. If I got them cups and awards, they’d kill themselves to produce whatever I wanted. That’s why I created the Academy Award.” – Louis Meyer. 

Now think about this for a minute award towards accolades partnerships, prestigious jobs and affiliations are not just what they seem. They are also a means of control of directing the industry. And if you accept that, then think about this. What kind of value you personally place on an award that was intended to manipulate people? And how do you think about people who were decorated with those awards. 

So to sum up this giant wandering piece, adopt a posture, find a stance that suits you and always be looking for, for, and leaning in to asymmetry. A few final quotes that move me. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. That’s Oscar Wilde. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to think they’re original Donnie Miller. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, Mike Tyson and every dance is your last dance until it isn’t me,  

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 things I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #81 So, You Need Surgery… Now What?

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #81 So, You Need Surgery… Now What?

If you know me, then you know I LOVE to talk (hence Podcast 😉 ).  From teaching and coaching, to rehearsing and working on sets, my voice is a key part of how I make my living, and it distinguishes me from everyone else… So, you might imagine how I felt when I got the news that I needed surgery to remove a “massive” cyst in my vocal cord.  This episode offers a peek into how I am preparing for my surgery, and an 8 step process you can use if you or a loved one wind up on the receiving end of news like this. 


Tiler Peck’s Episode: https://www.thedanawilson.com/podcast/ep-13-winning-even-when-youre-down-with-tiler-peck

Raab Stevenson’s Episode: https://www.thedanawilson.com/podcast/ep-50-vocal-coach-to-the-stars

Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater: https://amzn.to/3hyDRYA

Dr Shawn Nasseri: https://www.nasserimd.com/press/

Adele Cabot Voice Coach: https://adelecabot.com/


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

Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to words that move me. I am Dana and as per uszh, I am stoked that you are here and I’m sorry that I abbreviated the word usual. Oh my goodness. Sorry. Jillian Myers. If you’re listening, she all right, my friend, I’m going to keep this one relatively short and sweet per the doctor’s orders. Spoiler alert, spoiler alert, spoiler alert per one of the highest regarded ear nose and throat doctors in Los Angeles. I need surgery on my vocal chords. So let’s do wins. Shall we? My win is that I have a great doctor that could show me the cyst in my vocal chords. And now we’re taking care of it. Booyah, for me. Now you go, what’s going well in your world, both vocally and otherwise.  

Congratulations. I am so glad to hear that you are winning. Now. You might be concerned by this news about the vocal chords. I am not. In fact, holy smokes. Did it make for good podcast material today. I’m going to tell you the story of my voice as I choose to believe it. And I’m also going to tell you a little bit about what I did when I received the news and what you might do and feel and think if you are on the receiving end of similar news, we’ll start with the story of my voice. So I was born, um, I learned how to speak, but I couldn’t say my R’s and that part of the story is not relevant per se. It simply adds character and including it here is a demonstration of my love for speaking, which will be important later. Um, kind of anyway, I did learn how to say my R’s eventually. I learned how to speak and I developed a distinguished, deep and raspy voice as heard here in exhibit 1A. um, eventually I even got a voiceover agent who said that my voice was unique. And then 30 some years later I lost my voice for about six days, zero voice, six days. Whoa. So at that point I went to an in network, ear, nose and throat doctor. Um, that was after I had regained my voice, obviously. So I could tell him what was going on. He stuck a tube up my nose to look down at my vocal chords. And he said, yep, soft nodules, no need for surgery. Just stop drinking coffee, cut out the booze, limit the spicy and acidic foods, um, and avoid talking or shouting over music. So basically surgery on my social and professional life, but not my voice. Anyway, he prescribed that I meet with a voice pathologist who was excellent, and we did a lot of fun exercises and tests and she took measurements and it was covered by insurance bonus. All of it great. I also started working with a separate vocal coach at that time. Um, she was awesome. Also. I learned a lot. It was very emotional for me in fully six sessions. We focused on almost exclusively breathing. I did not even graduate to speaking, let alone singing in our sessions. Um, but she did recommend that I read this book and I’m going to recommend it to you too. It is called Freeing the Natural Voice and it is by Kristin Linklater and I will be linking to it later in the show notes of this episode, you should definitely check it out. If you are a person who has a voice. 

Okay, moving forward, between the voice pathologist and the vocal coach. I heard a lot of reasons why I might be experiencing what I have been experiencing with my voice. You have a small, soft palate. They said you stopped breathing correctly. They said, that might be because of your ballet training and holding your belly. And they said, you have a deviated septum and asthma, which doesn’t help. They said, um, your posture when you speak, especially when you get excited and lean forward, which is always, is putting additional strain on your vocal chords. They said, they said a lot. And for the most part, I did my part. I love thinking that I was caring for my voice. And I loved finding my voice here with the podcast. The podcast brought a magnifying glass onto what I have to say and much more attention to how I say it and how I sound. So I became more mindful of my posture. I was doing less speaking at the end of my breath, less run-on sentences and yeah, maybe overall, a little less coffee and a little less wine and certainly a lot more cup bubbles and more *liptrills* every single day of my life, but things weren’t getting noticeably better. Um, in fact, according to my husband, my voice was sounding noticeably worse. He never said worse. He’s a different, in fact, Raab Stevenson, my special guest from episode 50 vocal coach to the stars and master at improving voices. He recommended that I go see a specialist, a very, very special specialist at that enter Dr. Shawn Nasseri and this guy is good. If he wasn’t his office, wouldn’t be home to so many platinum plaques and signed CD jackets. He treats some of the biggest names in pop and entertainment at large, and some of the biggest baddest dancers too. So let’s wrap up this story. I tell Dr. Nasseri necessary what I have been told about my voice, what I’ve been experiencing. And he says, let’s take a look. I’m expecting more soft nodules or maybe hard nodules, if that’s a thing. Uh, well he took a look and says, nice, we’ve got a plan. What’s the plan, I said. Surgery on the cyst that is renting space in your vocal cords he said. Now I had never seen my vocal chords before or any vocal chords for that matter. So he had to show me a photo of normal vocal chords as a comparison. And whoa, yikes. Up there I have a cyst. All right. Dr. Nasseri. He said that someone is parking a school bus sideways in my throat, or that someone’s sneaker is in there. Um, to me it looked about the size of a jelly bean, but I think in reality, it’s much smaller anyways, more analogies and some calming words and success stories. Um, and resounding encouragement to move forward with surgery came from Dr. Nasseri the end. As for my method for handling this news, of course, your method for handling the news that you may need surgery might include getting a second opinion or choosing an alternative, et cetera. This is what my process looked like. And I hope that it might be helpful to you. 

Step one, after receiving this news from Dr. Nasseri was to do a full blown thought download. Get all the thoughts from my nugget onto a page, the scary ones, the thoughtful ones, the confused ones, all of them on the page. I did mine digitally. You can do that too, you know, with a computer, okay. Then I re-read them and gave my best shot at answering any of the questions that hit the page. For example, what if something goes wrong and I lose my voice forever? Or why did this happen to me? So on and so on, there were actually a lot of questions in there when I did my initial download. Now, these thoughts appearing in the form of questions can really hit the gas pedal on a downhill confusion and frustration spiral. So I prefer to answer them immediately. Answers might look or sound, something like this. To the question “What if something goes wrong and I lose my voice forever.” I answer I will silently cry. People will love me. I will love on me and nurture my non-verbal voice. I will get creative and I will find new ways to make noise. That’s my answer to that question. How about this one? “Why did this happen to me?” I’m asking that question as if I don’t know, because I’m a person that uses my voice a lot, duh, because working hard can lead to hard times and that’s okay because I can handle hard. Can you see how letting yourself think that you don’t know the answers to questions like these can feel really disempowering and frustrating and confusing and can lead to a whole bunch of unnecessary worry. Meanwhile, simply answering them for yourself is tremendously empowering. Taking this step alone can help you have agency, even in a circumstance where you are not technically in control. So that’s step one, the thought download and step to answer your own questions to the best of your ability. But let’s go a little bit deeper now that you’ve answered all of your questions either on your own or with the help of more research. And I wouldn’t suggest the internet is a great place to get a lot more confused actually. Um, once you’ve done a little bit more research, broad research and you’re ready for step three, which is one of my favorite steps, also favorite numbers.  I love the number three, moving on, just excessive talking, grab two different colored pens or pencils I’m serious. This is part of the step then circle and highlight, or somehow separate the thoughts with one color and the facts with the other color. Now, when you’re dealing with anatomy and medical jargon, sometimes this can be difficult. I’ll give a couple of examples. One of the sentences that I had written in my thought download was I have a huge cyst on my vocal chords. That is a thought, I know this is a thought because huge is relative. Somebody else might think that this is cyst on my vocal chords was small. Somebody else might think it was gargantuan. I have a huge cyst in my vocal chords was the thought that I chose for whatever reason huge is relative I have a cyst in my vocal chords is the fact another thought that showed up for me. I can’t work without my voice. Thought. The fact is that part of my work is to listen, watch and learn. And the fact of the matter is I can do those things without speaking. That’s an important distinction. I think for many of us dance types, when we’re separating thoughts about surgery from facts about surgery. I won’t be able to work is a thought that can so easily sneak under the radar as a fact, when actually, and if you are a dancer you know, this a professional dancers work is much more involved than moving the body. Now it might be a stretch to believe that in the moment, but what if your job now is to master the non physical components of your creative career, the research, the introspection, the connection to self and to the world around you. What if your job now is simply to heal? What if your one job is to heal and understand healing so that you can create work that might also heal? What about that?  

Oh, there was another thought, a sneaky one that landed in my thought download, but also passed as a fact. But upon further inspection, it was definitely a thought. I need surgery immediately is what I thought. That’s a thought, you should do this by August at the very latest where the doctor’s actual words. Disclaimer, you may be in a situation where you really do need surgery immediately. But if a doctor is saying those words to you and they are true, and the doctor believes you need surgery immediately, you are probably being wheeled into an operation room and not doing a thought download at home on your couch. So my doctor said, you should do this by August at the latest, but what my brain offered me was panic immediately. That’s why it’s important to separate your thoughts from the facts. Those are two very different things. 

Ah, note take notes, from here on out. I am making it good practice to take notes during doctor’s visits, write down the words the doctor says. The exact words, because I think thought that doctors are more careful when they speak than we are when we recall what they told us. I think that most of us have a tendency to either inflate or deflate their words in the direction that suits our appetite for drama. So stick to the facts. Doctors say words and having those words written down, it makes it so much easier for you to do more research. 

Okay?  Now the separation of thoughts and facts is important because you cannot change the facts. You cannot change the words the doctor said, you cannot change your diagnosis. You can not change what was written in the DSM four, but you can decide what those facts mean to you. And with a little curiosity and a little compassion and yes, maybe a little creativity, you can change the way that you are thinking. One of my favorite things to think about injuries in general is this little thought gift at Tiler Peck gave us an episode 13. This is happening for me. Not to me. That’s a big one. So I have a cyst on my vocal chords, provable indisputable, measurable. In fact, actually I wonder how big it is. I wonder if I could keep it in a necklace, like one of those, uh, uh, necklaces with a piece of rice in it with your name written on the piece of rice.  Oh my God. We’re back. I could decide to think that the cyst on my vocal chords, in my vocal chords on it, I think it’s in, I could decide to think that I might lose my voice forever, or I broke my most valuable tool or I could choose to think that I’m getting a brand new voice. I could choose to think that my podcast and teaching career is doomed, or I could choose the think nice, I have one cyst and it isn’t cancer and it can be removed with a routine surgery jackpot. I could also choose to think that I can finally see the biggest mystery of the last three years, if not more of my life. Like that’s better than the end of a Scooby-Doo episode, where they pull off the mask and you get to see who it was the whole time I mean so gratifying. This is awesome. Can you see how choosing your thoughts carefully can dramatically change your experience of this circumstance? This is huge. Spend time with your thoughts, choose them wisely. 

That is step four to decide what you will think about these facts. I decided to think that this is happening for me, not to me. I decided to think that I am in good hands, both the doctors and mine. I’m deciding to think that this is perfect timing. I am deciding to think that there is no better way to improve my voice, both my physical voice and my non-physical voice, no better way to improve it than this. I am choosing to think that this healing is essential to my health. Boom, that’s my process. And that’s where I am today. Now, the nuts and bolts and future of my situation look like this. Several days of vocal rest, leading up to the operation. And then the doctor suggests 10 days of silence. Post-operation silence, no voice. After that, some visits with a voice pathologist to get me back in ship shape. By the way, I have had a lot of fun thinking about what to do with those 10 days of silence. I haven’t made any concrete decisions yet other than to remain absolutely silent, but you will almost certainly hear about those 10 days of silence. On the other side of them, what does this mean for the podcast? It means that we’ll be replaying some of our favorite episodes from the first two seasons. They might be new to you, but no matter what they are worthy of multiple listens. This also means that my birthday episode coming out on July 21st, 2021 will be much different than the birthday episode that came out in 2020. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s a surprise, but speaking of my birthday, which by the way is on Wednesday, July 21st. And I do love flowers and I do love dark chocolate wink wink. My goal of having a hundred thousand listens in downloads by July 21st is rapidly approaching. And I’m not quite there yet. Have you downloaded this episode or your other favorites or all of them, or have you told your friends to do the same? I really hope so. I so appreciate if you do, because I’m not going to lie. The thought that my voice, my pre-surgery voice lives all warm and fuzzy in your pants pocket. That makes my heart warm and fuzzy too. All right. My friends, I hope this episode has been helpful to you and whether you are struggling with an injury or not, you’ve got this and I’ve got you. And I’ve got my man who can ask for anything more. Maybe someday we’ll be able to sing that for real, so exciting. All right, my friends, that’s it for me back to vocal rest, get out there in the world and keep it very, very funky. I will talk to you soon.  

Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me to number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit the thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #79 Revelations and Life After Rejection with Karine Plantadit

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #79 Revelations and Life After Rejection with Karine Plantadit

I have been a fan of Karine Plantadit  since I saw her perform at the Tony awards in Come Fly away in 2010 (FYI she was Tony Award and Drama League Award nominated for that role) AND THEN we got to work together on “In The Heights”!  I jumped at the opportunity to have a conversation with her because it isn’t hard to tell that she is as strong in mind as in body.  She is delightful and insightful and she blows my mind (and my heart) wide open in this episode.  In this episode, Karine and I talk In The Heights, we talk Buddhism, we talk process, we talk goals, and flash flood warning… there are tears because we also dig into professional and personal heartbreaks.  Life after rejection. It might sound dreadful, but when you are talking to someone like Karine… even tough subjects can feel like a glass of cold water on a hot summer day… So get ready to drink up!  

Quick Links:

Karine Plantadit: https://www.instagram.com/karineplantadit/


Kamochi Method: https://www.instagram.com/kamochimethod/?hl=en https://www.kamochimethod.com/

Karine in Come Fly Away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O47sYsUBnp0

Vance Joy “Lay it On Me”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXXD1QxpiswReese’s Puff Commerical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QApHEIXHNTw


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. This is words that move me. I’m Dana and wow, have I got a treat for you today? Um, so you know that feeling when you get to meet your heroes, uh, if you don’t, I’m going to explain it to you actually better yet. I’m going to just let you listen to it. This episode is it, this episode is me meeting a hero. Wow. Let’s see. Okay. I have been a fan of Karine Plantadit since I saw her perform at the Tony awards, um, with Come Fly Away, back in 2010. Oh, back in 2010 and I will 100% be linking to that performance. Um, a YouTube link because it’s so great FYI. She was nominated for a Tony award and a Drama League award for that role. And then several years later, we got to work together on In the Heights.  She is the brilliant dancer that is straight up punishing Abuela Claudia on the train during Paciencia y Fe. Um, if you have not seen the movie yet, please, please do, and keep a close eye out for Karine. And if you have seen it, you know what I’m talking about guarantee, but go back and revisit that anyways. Okay. So not long after the premiere of, In the Heights, Karine slid into my DMS on the gram. And she asked for my number to ask me a question and I immediately choked up, like maybe I was in trouble or I did something wrong. I was sweating instantly. And then she called me and it was so warm and delightful and insightful. And she told me about an ongoing series of conversations that she is having on her Instagram live. Uh, she calls this series. What’s Good with Karine? And she asked if I would join her as a guest. Um, so after I collected myself off the floor, uh, in, in true improv fashion, I said, “yes, and can we record our conversation for my podcast,” told her all about the podcast. She said, yes. And then we talked for a really long time about dance and life, and what’s going in the world. And after discussing some of our personal and professional heartbreaks, we decided that the topic of our conversation would be life after rejection, which kind of sounds dreadful. But when you’re talking to someone like Karine, even tough subjects can feel like a glass of cold water on a hot summer day. So get ready for this one. But first wins today. I am celebrating the summer solstice, which was this past Sunday. I’m sorry that we’re falling a little bit off on our schedule. I’m recording this before you will hear it. But on Sunday we had our longest day of the year and I celebrated more than the solstice itself. I am celebrating that. I joined today’s guest Corinne and her partner Mochi. They go by Kamochi Method on Instagram. We’ll be linking to that in the show notes as well. Uh, anyways, I joined the two of them for 108 sun salutations. And that’s a big win because I haven’t done a pushup or a chaturanga or a forward fold. Well that many forward folds, I haven’t done that in a long, long time. So I was sore on Monday, but I also felt focused and fantastic. Big win! 108 sun salutations. Whoa. So that was me. That’s my world. Uh, what is going well in your world? What are you celebrating today?  All right. Congratulations. Rock on. I’m so proud of you. Keep winning. Okay. Let’s get back into it. So I was very excited and a little bit nervous, which are pretty similar feelings in my body, uh, for this conversation with Karine. And then as the conversation was happening, I was having complete revelations. That is a happy accident of word usage because Karine is a former principal dancer for the Ailey company, I digress. In this episode, Karine and I talk in the Heights. We talk Buddhism, we talk process. We talk goals and flash flood warning. There are tears. So get ready and please enjoy this conversation with Karine Plantadit

Karine: Welcome everyone. This is What’s good with Karine? It’s been a moment I haven’t been around, but I’m back. And I’m back with such an incredible light. I had this incredible opportunity to meet Dana when we were on In the Heights shoot. I don’t think I knew Dana at all. Like it wasn’t a, it wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t like a new of her, but I should have known of her because the moment I met her, I was like, I’ve got to be in the presence of this woman all the time, every time. So we were able to connect and then I started to look at what she does and we started to talk and Dana is here today. 

Dana: Karine my Queen! 

Karine: So yeah, I don’t know where to start with you. I don’t know where to start. You make me, you make me feel so, um, bubbly inside. And if you’re bubbly..

Dana: Let’s go!  And you, you know what? You look like sparkling lemonade on a hot summer day. I’m glad to bring the bubbles and be met with bubbles. And my earrings are making noise on my little ear dongles. So I’m going to take those out. Um, okay. So earrings aside, thank you so much for having me. Thank you for reaching out to have this conversation. It blew my mind to receive a message from you saying, Will, you have a conversation with me? Because I cannot tell you every moment on set that I watched you dance. I was like, I want to talk to this person. I mean, I could watch you dance for ever and ever and ever, but when you weren’t dancing, you were meditating. When you weren’t meditating, you were reading. I can tell, I could tell that this was a mind that I wanted to meld with. And I’m so excited to have the opportunity to do that right now, even over the virtual, the the pixel pixel verse, or  

It doesn’t even let okay. The pixel, I think we had to learn. Um, we had to learn how to move beyond what the eyes were seeing, you know, during, I think that’s one of my biggest learning is that what if, what if I were to close my eyes? Can I reach Dana? Right? It can, because I really had to learn this on, in a hard way, because during the pandemic actually left my mom in France and I was here and she’s dealing with Dementia. She’s dealing with very difficult, you know, Alzheimer’s dementia, all those, um, crazy challenging aging disease. And I could not be there for her meaning physically. So even though I was separated from her, I was like, my love for her is so grand and vast that I was like, I have got to figure out how to transport the love of mine through the ocean, Atlantic ocean, moving through France, going into , going into Mougins in the nursing home. And I have to hold her head. She has to feel that she has to feel. And I feel Dana that you are that kind of person that is looking. I don’t know, like the way I saw you were was there was a precision that I appreciate with you, but there was a looseness, but I am wanting to go in your brain, Dana and your heart.  Can I come? Can I come in? Okay. Come in. Okay. So we got to go factual first. I want to go factual. Okay. I want to go super factual. Let’s go. Where do you, where did you start dancing? What’s the story with the dance part of you? 

Okay. The dance part of my life begins at a dance studio in Aurora, Colorado, which is where I’m from. At the age of three. I had an older sister who was already in dance, and it’s possible that my mom saw a convenience in having both of the kids in the same place at the same time. So we went to dance. That is what we did when I was a young person. I spent all of my, um, my life in Colorado up until my teenage years. And my training moved from the studio that I started at as a tiny dancingling to a dance studio called Michelle Latimer Dance Academy. Shout out to any Michelle Latimer alums that might be listening it, shout out to Michelle herself. I owe this beautiful life and my relationship with dance to her. She, she watered the seed and nurtured this, this plantling that became dance for me in a beautiful way. So, uh, yes, I, I started my relationship with dance at three, when it was more like babysitting or daycare, it was more like playtime. And then, you know, increasingly over the years, got a little more serious, got a little more serious, got a little competitive, got a little, um, um, inspired by the introduction of the idea that this could make money someday. And then I fell in love with the idea of dance for a living. I saw many people do it successfully. I saw many people fail at it, and I was determined to succeed at it for myself, which terrified my parents mind you. Uh, I moved to Los Angeles at 18 to become a backup dancer. That was the big goal. 

And, um, did you have, uh, Did you have someone that you wanted to? 

Yes, I was, I know I was obsessed with NSYNC. I was very much in factuation. In fact, in fact, I was infatuated with Justin Timberlake, um, the music video for Like I love you changed the game for me, everyone was just so cool and sexy and without trying, and, and, and as a teenager, is there anything better than being cool and sexy without trying like that was the goal? Um, so that, that was it for me. And I was very fortunate in my timing. And in my placement, I met and befriended Marty Kudelka, who is one of JTs best friends, and also his long time choreographer and collaborator co-creative director. Um, Marty and I, uh, began a friendship that is one of my most cherished to this very day. Uh, I started assisting Marty on various projects. And then one day we were working on a commercial gig of all things for Reese’s Peanut butter puffs cereal. I remember the day very well. And he, he got a phone call and he was like, hold on one second. He takes this call and then he hangs up the phone and he looks at me and he’s like, yo, are you ready? And I was like, are we going back in what’s up? What are we doing? And he was like, that was JT. He’s going on the road. Do you want to help me? Will you help? And it was like WTF yes, count me in. So that, that was the beginning of my, um, uh, that was my first tour. I was, I turned, I was 19 when I met JT. When we started, we did a, a fashion show. I went on tour while I was 20. I turned 21 on the road. Um, and, and that was the beginning of what is still a very special work and human relationship for me, 

Just so, so incredibly inspiring. 

You know, when people say success is when opportunity meets preparation, I think if there’s so many more things than that, and I do want to take a pause, as I know that people listening are looking to model their careers after ones like mine, if not mine, oh, one, one that might be like mine. And it’s, uh, for me, this notion of success of being successful is much less about, uh, the person that you work for, or the person that discovers you or, or the job that you do and more to do with what you think success is. I think that success is doing what you said you will do. And I said, I wanted to be a backup dancer, so hell yes, you better believe I feel successful in what I have done in my life, but I also feel like a failure when I say I will take the trash out and I don’t because to me, success is doing what you say. Well, you will do. And failing is simply not doing what you said you will do. And trust me, I have failed plenty.  

Yes, yes. I’m loving that. I, um, I have, um, something about, you know, success and failure or. I feel, I feel Dana that a lot of time, uh, when I see success is oftentimes I feel that it has a lot to do with me looking at something and maybe not being, uh, I’m learning to not be attached by the end of project, but how in the journey I move, I move in the way I deal with people over the time I deal with my own, um, lesser self during that time, did it have a little more, hold on my lesser self or a little more, a little less listening. And following my lesser self along the way of my journey, because sometimes I feel that you can actually get, I’ll give you an example shape, but I’ll give you an example. One of my dreams and the reason why I came to this country when I was 16 I saw the Ailey company in Paris, I’d never seen such a thing in my whole life Dana. I literally, I was 16 or 15, 15, and I just came from Africa. I was in France. Then I was studying dance a little bit. Like you were also in, you realize like, wait, I can make money out of that. I can, I can actually, it can be my job. I can just be that I can just, that’s my job. That’s my first time. Yeah, the first time I saw this was for one I, saw Fame, the bootleg tape of Fame in Africa. That was my first moment where I was like, that’s a job. I was like, that’s my job. But now fast forward to the Ailey company, I saw the Ailey company. And I literally, at that moment, my life just like for you, like you knew that was a game changer. That video that you saw for me was watching the performance of Ailey in Paris and my eyes and my heart, my skin, my soul saw the current come up and I saw this, right. So I never came back down. I was like, wherever they are in the world, I will be like, the clarity of this could not be clearer right now, fast forward I joined the company and I joined them. I joined the company and the first year in the company, I actually wasn’t happy. I had succeeded, but I had an idea of what that was to be in the company. I had an idea that, that that idea does not always match what is, 

Oh, very rarely because we are not fortune tellers. 

Exactly. So, so all of a sudden, you know, I was in the company, but I had to do some work within me now, the real work of me, not just, oh, wait a minute, see success and happiness can be very different.  

Oh, my friend let’s talk. All right. Yes. Yes. Oh. And the assumption that success equals happiness is a dangerous one because you can live your whole life chasing success, the thing, or the company or the job, or the relationship, or the amount of money that you associate with that and land there and feel very unsuccessful. So in, in my pursuit, I’ve sort of rewired, um, become much less interested in being a successful person and being a person that lives a full life and is a professional at feeling both sides of the spectrum. The hell, yes, I’ve got this, I’m winning. I’m great. I’m the envy of all my friends. I’m fulfilled. I’m happy. I’m all the things too. I am the scum of the universe. I am an imposter. I am, I mean, really not worthy. Um, that’s one of my favorite ones. Uh, and, and I’ve gotten to be very good at feeling those things without taking them out in action. Sometimes I just sit and feel them without resisting them or pushing them away. Like, no, that’s not appropriate. I shouldn’t really do that right now. Don’t do it. And, and, and I’m getting better at not avoiding them altogether and ignoring them, but honoring them. That’s, uh, that’s what I am. That’s the, that’s the journey that I’m on right now is like honoring the full spectrum of feels. That’s what I’m, that’s what I aiming for.  

Wow. Dana. So, so I, um, in the, in the real mother of the pandemic, I have been talking a lot about, I think a lot of us have been able to go inward where you just talked about that place, where we could no longer fake it. And because it crumbled. The ***t crumbled clearly. Right. It went down, it crumbled at a level that I don’t even think Dina, that we actually know the real impact of that crumble.  

The ripples will be going far, far beyond. 

Yeah. Yeah. Was there during the, was there during the pandemic for you? Um, a specific moment that you can go back to and take us with you. Was there a specific moment as for your career first and for you as a person second, that was very, um, one of those shifts where you, you knew you shifted at that moment. I don’t know what that means, but was there a shift? So first we between Dana career, was there a shift in your career during the pandemic and the way you saw your career or what you think of your career or what you, what you, what you discovered maybe even, so that’s the first part.. That’s the first spot you should  

Do that? Is it for a living? You know, if dance doesn’t pan out?  Um, no big deal. Okay. So to answer, okay. That was the first part. I’ll take the first part first. Yeah. I had several, oh **** moments over the quarantine. A handful of them were around my career. Most of them were around my personal life and relationships and the value that I place in relationships. And I do want to circle back to where you began the conversation about feeling connected to your mother, even from a distance. Um, but I’ll, I’ll put that in the parking lot for a second. Just don’t let me forget, because that was a beautiful sentiment. I don’t think we rang the towel dry on that. There’s a lot of value in, in that discussion. Um, but one moment of clarity that I had came shortly after I was a part of, um, an NYCDA, which is the company that I, the convention company that I teach for the founder of NYCDA is Joe Lantieri, who is also the owner of Steps on Broadway, uh, a pillar in the dance community to say the very least. And he, he worked to build something special for graduating seniors over the summer. Um, he built sort of a, um, a mentorship opportunity for the graduating seniors who were missing. Um, I say missing, but who did not get an in-person graduation, did not get a senior year at nationals moment. And so he built this mentorship opportunity. And what I, as I sat on a question/answer panel of this mentorship program, I realized that this is a, obviously a unique time for all of us, but to be a graduating senior, to be embarking on what is already a difficult transition to navigate from student into workforce or from student into student under a parent’s roof to student under college roof. Um, that must be a really difficult, uh, um, bridge to cross, even when you can see clearly it’s scary, but for these graduating seniors, it must’ve looked on fire like and missing planks and like, do I really go, I don’t want to go out there. So I knew immediately. I was like, I have to create something that, that can help guide and give tools to the class of 2020. And with the help of my two assistants, Malia Baker and Riley Higgins, we built a 12 week course in two weeks. It sold out in no time. It w it w I, I didn’t even, I announced it. I didn’t even make offers. I didn’t even ask, Hey, are you in? I said, this is what I’m doing. And the people came because there was need. And that was a beautiful moment where I realized that making money isn’t about booking jobs, making money is about creating value. I saw there was an opportunity and I felt that I could contribute value. And that’s what I did. That was a very empowering moment. It was, it was, it came from me, but it was selfless and it felt so good. Um, so that was a big pivot. Um, the other pivots that came from me came, came for me during this time were about my awareness of terrible, terrible social injustice in our world. Um, the assumptions that I have based on my lived experience that are wrong, that are lies that are not only untrue, but un-useful, so I got to do a lot of deconstructing of my beliefs and rebuilding them, um, to be more in alignment with the world that I want to live in someday. And we’re getting there slowly. We’re getting there. And,  Um, I, yeah, that’s, I hope I answered the question. I’m getting fogged very now, but 

No, no, no Dana  You talked about it. Like you went into the career part, you talked about, you know, making money, uh, versus just thinking of creating value. And that is one of my biggest, oh my God, this is one of my biggest, uh, gem for my heart, from my, my way of living life. The moment I started to know that, oh, wait a minute. It’s actually about creating value. It’s not about anything else. Then, then he changes the game of whatever you’re doing. The moment I realized that I was, I’ve been a Buddhist for like, I don’t know, 30, maybe 27 years or so. And one of the big thing was like, for me, as I started to perform, I said, but I don’t like, what, why am I dancing? What is going on with me? Wanted to just kick my leg up and twirled around. But when I started to practice Buddhism and I started to understand that, wait a minute, no, no, no, no, no. That’s my way of creating peace. I am an artist for peace. I, all of a sudden doing a tondue was like a tondue, like a weapon for peace. 

You know, it’s crazy. When you say This, I’m seeing you tondue and it’s a knife. It’s a sword in the sky. That’s like peace justice, but I’ll fight for it. Fight for it. 

I will Fight for it! It took me. It took me a moment to realize when you saw that creating value, that I realized that everything that we are about as artists, because of the impact that we are in the world, you see, look at you, you know, with that kind of energy, you are performing as you know, with, uh, with Justin Timberlake. And then let’s fast forward. You are on the set, of la la land at that moment. You change the space. You see, because in your mind, you’re about creating value. So, so the space will never be the same. It can only be implied an imp. And because we touch so many people at once, we are extremely powerful as artists. That is why we have to be centered. You cannot, we cannot, we cannot let that opportunity to create value, walk away from us because we’ve got too much power. Yeah. 

You better be careful. You’re, you’re stirring up some hot watery eyes over here. It’s a tremendous honor. And it is a responsibility that you can think of as heavy, or you can think of it as light, like a tondue like, you don’t need to put any weight on that toe. You can tondue with such force and power and determination and will and value that it becomes meaningful. You know what? This is crazy. I love this, this loop. I did an episode on, on my podcast. It was my last episode of the year, 2020. And in that episode, I had asked every single guest from the entire year, the same question, and everyone had to answer that same question. No one answered it the same. It’s a beautiful, I mean, the question has no answer. That’s why I ask it. But the question that I asked is what is the difference between style and technique? And one of my favorite answers to this question, I’ll just skip all the really exciting answers that I got. I’ll jump straight to my favorite is the technique is the what? And the style is the, so what. It’s like, so what you can point your foot. So what, what, what’s the point? What’s the difference? What does that make me feel? And when you, tondue you make me feel something? There is a, so what it’s like, so what come here. So what back off. So what, like, you are invoking a reaction with your action. There is a, so what behind it? Um, and so that’s that I, that I think is your part of the value that you bring. I think you are an exceptional technician that should not go without saying, but what, w it’s clear to me that you’re doing work behind the scenes of the technical side and it, it shows in, In the Heights, it shows when I see you on stage, it, it shows, it shows in the way you communicate. Holy smokes. Wow. I’m just, I’m floored right now in fan growing game.  

I wanna know. I want to know Dana, what gives you inspiration? Like, what is the, where, where do you look at for us? So beautiful clip. I don’t even know what that was. It was in your reel. And he was this beautiful people, people in which I adore, it was outdoors with people And I think there was this movement that went like this.  

Yes, there was a music video for Vance joy directed by Mimi Cave, who is a woman that you would adore. She is a dancer as well. And she is a brilliant director, Mimi cave, MIMI CAVE. Shout out, Mimi, love you! And, um, she had a beautiful vision for this, uh, for this video. It’s gorgeous. I’ll send you a link in this episode when it becomes a Words that move me Podcast episode, this conversation, I will link to that performance in the show notes. Um, but because Mimi understands dance and movement, not just of a body, but of a camera and of the wind and of the grass, I think beautiful opportunities, beautiful art come from people who understand beautiful movement or, or painful movement. Oh, that reminds me of a question for you. Um, but that’s what that was. And the inspiration that I got from that came pretty solidly from the piece of music and the treatment that made me put together. Um, we get to see in that, you know, tiny, tiny little music video, a lifetime of a love, a romance, a young love, an elderly, an older love. I love at the end. I love that’s gone from being two people to being one person. So I explored themes of alonenness, loneliness of support of having to support yourself in a way that you’ve never had to support yourself before of, of being used to a limb or a way of walking and then that becoming gone or broken. Um, so that I get a lot of my inspiration from, for my industry work from what’s presented to me in the first place, the song hugely. And usually there will be a visual treatment of some sort. Mimi’s tone and palette is so specific and beautiful, uh, that it just looking at it on a page, puts me in a place in my head. And when I’m in that place in my head, my body comes to meet me there. And that’s how, that’s how that video happened. Okay. Now I have a question for you. Can I turn the, can I turn the microphone for a second?  

Turn the microphone let’s move on. Yeah, I’m all yours. Go ahead, cheri. 

Okay. Yeah. So I, I, I think that I am very interested in Buddhist principles and I think that a lot of the work I’ve been doing, um, in the past probably three years of my life is just working on, um, not wrestling with reality on catching myself when I hear myself saying it should be different, or it should be some way that it isn’t. And that lands me like sweaty on the mat, just wrestling with life and unable to see solutions, unable to be kind with myself. I’m just like down there fighting. And so I think that there are, I don’t know much about it, but I think that there are, uh, I think that I’m probably very much in alignment with a lot of Buddhist principles, but what my question is for you right now is, and wow, this is me just showing my complete naivete right now. But I think there’s a notion of not struggling, um, in, in the Buddhist practices to not struggle. And I’ve also found a tremendous value in conflict lately. So what I would like to know, like I, I’m learning how to have conflicts with kindness, with curiosity and with an outcome that is favorable to both, both, um, uh, fighters, I would say yes, creating value. But my, my question to you is in, in your practice, where, what is the role of conflict?  How do you view conflict? Is it valuable to you?  

Wow. What a great question.  

Uh, I, I’m sorry. It took me a while to arrive at it. 

Good. Oh my God. It’s good. Dana. So, so conflict in Mahayana Buddhism is not separated from Buddha-hood Buddha-hood actually is in every single thing that you see, including the conflict. So there was a moment where a long time ago in, in Buddhism, where you have to go up the mountain and you had to clear your mind, you have to levitate and you had to just feel the breathe and just, you know, like that was Buddha-hood. That was it. You know what I mean? Or for some people at the time, if you’re a woman, you could not be a Buddha. And there was another time you had to go upside down in a tree, not eat for 30 days. And then you’re rich. And then, and then there was a game changer. Bam! The moment will, the teaching came to a head it’s called the Lotus Sutra where at that moment, the Buddha actually admitted that he had prepared the mind of everybody for this one particular moment. So we could prepare so people could understand that everybody was a Buddha. What does that mean? That simply means that everything has Buddha-hood capacity, which means that if, if the world says that we have like 10 worlds that we travel through. So from, from hell to any malidy, to anger, to rapture, to learning, realization, and then you go up to Buddha-hood, right? So you will think they’re like this up on top of each other. And people will trying to climb them up all their lives going like, oh shit, you know, it’s karma, struggle. I’m like, damn, I’m going back down. And then the lotus sutra  came in at that moment where it was revealed that in each of those 10 world, there was Buddha hood because Buddha would is first.  You are a Buddha. You are divine beings, all levels. That’s the base. That’s the base. That’s where you start. So from that point of view in the conflict, the greatest part about the conflict is that you can actually start to in meditation, in chanting or whatever, you can start to see the enlightened side of the conflict. What is, and that’s the real question. See, what is the enlightened side of my anger? What is it? Because then I can gear. I can gear my focus towards the enlightened side. I can’t say I’m not angry. Like two days ago, three days ago, I was a raging, darling raging. I was like, I am falling apart right now. I could feel the red. 

 I’ve just recently started throwing things. When I get mad, never in my life. Have I been a person that reacts in that way? And now that I’ve done it, a couple of times, you better look out, I’m looking for things to that. I’m looking for things to throw. It’s amazing. Okay. Carry on. You were raging.  

Oh, no. Dana truly? No, but the moment where you realize what it does, rage, anger, any of those, what it actually does to the body and the soul, because it’s in yoga practices, we call it Visha. Visha is an, it could be an obstacle to your enlightenment because if you keep it in, that’s where you’re going to stay. So let’s see, I am raging and I’m furious or whatever, and I’m not doing anything about it. Then I’m going to ripple that into the world, in my thoughts, my words and actions. So from that moment, I become a base for anger and violence, right? So creating value at that point is gone. That’s gone with the wind. So we’re not saying which I love, I’m not here to say I’m a Saint. I’m not feeling those things. No, no, no. Oh no, no, no, no.  I am angry. I’m an angry. I have an angry nature period. I got pissed. Many times I am coming from an angry family. That’s the karma that I’ve chosen to transform, but this is not where it ends. Once you start to practice Buddhism, or you start to have a serious practice on your mat, on your cushion, you get to actually be part of the process. The process is not taking you in. You’re not becoming the victim of the process anymore. 

You are the one processing. 

Yes, yes. You are the one processing. And in that moment, if this is your Buddha nature, processing the situation, then you know, you’re going to be one level up. You see? Yes. 

You’re in the empowered position. 

Yes. And now you can make a decision. We’re all included. We’ll have them all included because by the time this is so interesting to me because once we leave this earth, once we’ve left the shell that we came in with, first of all, there is no going back.  We’ve already spent the time, everything that we are doing, there is no time to go back only going forward. So if you are making drama, if you are putting violence in the world, that is what you’re leaving behind you. It will, it will actually leave after you, you know? So it’s like, when you turn around and you’re like, oh my God, what am I leaving behind me? You know, as, as a trail. Yeah. As a trail, as a perfume, you know, do you want it to smell like garbage? And you want like a fierce garden of Magnolia? You’d be like, yeah, baby, Dana passed here. Look, you can see, smell that. Right. 

I love, you know, it’s crazy. You know, it actually is crazy. I’m going to break the third wall for a second. I just saw, we’ve got Leslie grace in the house. Shout out, Leslie Grace. And I was just thinking, as you were talking, as Leslie showed up, I smell her perfume on me. And it’s one of my favorite smells. We just got to have a hang in person as, as human beings out in the world. And I love the smell. And I think that choosing to think of our value as being something that isn’t always touched, felt, held, but seen, heard, smelled a calling on all of the senses that will be there long after the matter that is my body’s gone. That is power. That’s awesome. And that just all came together in one moment. So shout out, Leslie love you so much.  

Shout out Leslie! Very happy to meet you, and though, you know, I don’t know you are already smelled, you that’s amazing. Right? Because they  

I’m trying to waft it. I’m trying to, I did. I did a spin. Oh my gosh. So, um, yeah, we’re all over the place now. We kind of got, oh,  

It’s good. It’s good. It’s good. Let’s I want to wrap up about this thing that you spoke about, which is conflict. What I, this is what I felt, you know, when I was with you In the Heights where you were the quality of your entering the space, you see, there’s a moment that proceeds, uh, before we enter the space in all the, all the communication that we’ve ever had as human being, there is an aura that comes before the person is visible. And so it is so powerful because when the person is already welcoming the process and wanting to include all the people around as equals and that we get to, we get to bow. You actually, I would just want to cry for it. Do you know what I mean? Because I remember the first time I met you, Dana, that you, you literally walked into that space. There were many, many dancers and some of us, we knew each other. Some of us did not. It’s a big cast, huge cast. So for, for the quality being able to deal with all the different, uh, what’s the word, um, personalities that are there being able to deal with the needs and the demand of the production, the amount of time that is there for us, you had professional on the set. So obviously there’s certain things that are going to be working very fast. I would love for you to talk to me about the swimming pool scene. 

Oh my goodness. 

Can you, can you choose, share with me because I, I mean, I wasn’t in it, but I watched, I watched it. 

There were, as you can imagine, so many moving parts in that world sections within sections, multiple people in different sections. You know, you’ve got some people that are lounging ladies on the, um, on the kind of risers areas there that are also in the ballet section. You’ve got people that are in the ‘yo ma it’s me check my ticket’ section that are also in the, uh, noodle section or the jazzy section and the front everybody’s in the… So a lot of it was like managing who goes, where, what we can shoot when, what we’re setting up while we’re not shooting that because those people are working right now. And these people, it was, it was a puzzle like so much of, of this work is, is placement and structure. But the part that I cannot understate is that structure is only a part of it. Spirit is the rest of it. And that was such a spirited group of dancers and the crew that was there to get it done. Um, that was a terribly challenging day. And I use the word terribly on purpose. It was cold. It was raining. That is some movie magic that y’all are beholding on that screen. It looks like 102, the shoot day itself was like a marathon that seemed impossible. Yeah, it was hell in the middle part, but I, I, I really commend Jon, Chris first and foremost for keeping their finger on the pulse of the demands of the film and the safety of the dancers. There were moments that it was difficult to sit like, can you really do one more? Can you do one more? And we really had to be listening. Um, so that that’s how the day went, but the preparation for the scene a lot lighter, because it was spread out over some time we would put in, we would put in eight hour days in a dance studio and then all get in a car or on a train and go to a pool that was a part of an apartment complex. And just, you know, in, in sports bras and whatever bathing suit, we may or may not have Eddie Torres Jr. shout out for swim sweats. Cause Eddie never had a swimsuit. He would just jump in that pool in his sweat pants. Um, please, please stay tuned for more of that story. But, um, we would go and, and workshop, just try, like, can you jump out of the pool at five feet of water? Can’t how much of your body comes out? Okay. What if we have two feet of water, can you get your knees up? What if, um, you know, to, oh, uh, this is a fun tidbit that I don’t think we’ve talked about yet. I am a big fan. If you’ve seen on Instagram, I have a 360 degree camera. It looks like a fisheye and that’s, that’s hovering 12 feet above the earth. What it actually is, is like a three-foot, um, monopod, AKA selfies stick. And, uh, and the camera on top of that has to 180 degree lenses on it. And there’s software that stitches the two images together to make it look like a spherical image. So I was able to use this 360 degree camera on the end of a monopod to capture what looks like an overhead shot. So we could mock up the, uh, the feeling of a Busby Berkeley shot without having a jib, without having a crane without having an actual camera overhead. Um, and so that was an extremely helpful tool in figuring out the geometry and the, you know, the overall aesthetic of the overhead shots. That was really cool. Um, and, uh, the other, the other thing in there was like, what’s possible and what looks great and what can be sustained take after, take after take. Um, and I think I want to also just shout Chris out again for being really good at knowing when to push for something and ask for it and when to fall back and say, okay, that’s not worth it. That, that move isn’t worth it versus like, no guys, this, we, we must do this. We come on, you’ve got this and is, is encouraging and nurturing and helpful, but really just has his finger on the pulse of what is worth fighting for and what is worth changing, you know? Um, so that’s how that’s

This is, this is incredible because, you know, we all know about watching something that there’s, something is behind it that was able to support see to me then a lot of work, you see the tip of it underneath is that famous iceberg situation. The underneath part is what you will never see, but without the, underneath the invisible work, that tip won’t be showing.

Ooh, the less massive down there, that’s not showing that’s my friend. I never even considered that when, when it comes to the iceberg theory, oh, we had a lot of mass underneath. There’s so much movement, so much creation process that, that the audience will never see.  

But even that I feel that you know what that scene, oh, I mean, there was so many incredible over the top. Every single one of them were just phenomenal. If any of you have not seen In the Heights, please go see it. This is not, this is an historical landmark at the rebirth, right at the rebirth of New York city about going so deeply to the Latinos community, the Dominicans from head to toe, it is beyond any talks about dreams. It talks about this element, literally being able to, no matter what we talked about that journey right now, particularly attaining the dream the way you see it, but don’t ever give up on your dream. I mean, it is not possible. And I think said this, Dana, I want to very quickly, we talked about the art of life after rejection, a little bit of it. 

You and I did on our, we, we talked more about specific rejection moments on our preliminary call, which y’all were not invited to. Sorry about that. Um, but yeah. Do you want to, do you want to try to touch on that? I think it’s really important.   

I want it, yeah. I want to touch on it because I think that we are in a space right now where maybe we think differently about what rejection is today because of what would experienced or maybe we have, um, another reaction about what react rejection was or is today. So I would love to.. what is rejection? What is rejection for you? 

Okay. To me, rejection is a feeling in my body that I get. When I think someone doesn’t want me thinks I’m not good, thinks I’m bad or won’t accept me. And if you notice, and as I’m saying it out loud, I’m noticing that all of those things are outside in it’s all they versus me. And the only time, like I I’ve, I have disliked my body before I disliked my talent before I’ve been unsatisfied with both of those things before, but I’ve never rejected myself. So for me, the re— the feeling of rejection comes when I think that other people don’t want me, don’t like me think I’m bad. Think someone else is better. And the feeling is like a foot, like somebody wearing a big shop boot on my chest, pushing it away from something that I want. It just feels like someone pressing on me in the opposite direction of the thing that I want. That’s what rejection is. And it’s an awful feeling. I don’t like feeling it, but I’ve gotten to be, I’ve become a professional at feeling it. And I know that the worst thing about it is this pressure in my chest that isn’t even real. And there’s no boot. There’s no person there’s no, actually that’s really just in my head, but that’s what rejection feels like. And I’ve, I’ve, I’ve heard the word no, in my career way more times than I’ve heard the word yes, come on board. And that’s why I say I’ve become a professional, but I, in the end of 2019, I experienced my most, my longest lasting and my most intense version of this feeling. And I felt it because I thought it should be different. I thought that this job should be mine. And because I had spent so long imagining myself on it and preparing myself for it, I really believed that the fact was that it should be mine. And what I came to believe over some nurturing and healing, and a lot of journaling is that if it was mine, it would have been mine. It’s it wasn’t mine. It just, it wasn’t mine. And I, I only thought that it was so remembering that remembering that I own so much, I own my talent. I own my history. I earned my, I own my appetite for knowledge. I own my car. Like, there are things that I own. I have plenty and I, I don’t need to. Um, it’s, it’s lovely to imagine yourself on the job. It’s, it’s an, it’s an audition tactic that I recommend all the time. Like being able to put yourself there in your mind helps you to show up in body that way. It’s risky, because you might find out that you were wrong, that you don’t, you know, again, you’re not a fortune teller. You don’t belong there. So it’s a tactic that you can use that has some risk. It’s like using a knife. Like you might cut your finger and it might hurt, but it’s also really helpful. Cause you can get through the thing. So to me, thinking that I should be somewhere, I can see myself there. That’s a helpful tool that can hurt sometimes because you just might find out you’re wrong and there’s nothing wrong with being wrong. There’s nothing wrong with predicting the wrong future. It’s just like, it’s like get up off the mat. Don’t wrestle with reality. That, that, that thing, that thing that just wasn’t yours. I don’t know. I’m dying to hear your take though, because I’m sure.  

No, no baby, you went in, you were, then I love it. Now you went totally in the eye. Oh my God. I, um, there is a beautiful saying, um, in the Buddha’s word are, uh, enjoy what there is to enjoy suffer where there is to suffer no matter what, continue to chant numb, whatever people are doing. So there, this is the notion. A notion that I believe in is that rejection is also coming from a very, um, oftentimes comes from your inner child, um, seeing it through the eyes of the inner child. And I think it, I mean, for me, it touch, it can touch upon not being loved, as simple as not feeling, feeling loved. Right? So a job, um, the day we, we kind of realize that our jobs are not our identity. Ooh, let’s talk about this big moment.  

Let’s talk about that day. 

You know what I mean? That was all of a sudden, you’re like, wait a minute. I really want it because I’m going to kick some ass in it. That’s what I think I’ll ever, but that’s not my not, it might not be good for my life. And if it was good for my life, entrusting, the universe, entrusting ones life, then I would be in this moment during that thing, I remember my first, first job Dana. I signed my first job here in America with 17 of so excited. It was my first dancing job. I barely spoke English. It was a horrible company. The worst contract I’ve ever had in my whole career. It was a disaster. It was, uh, it was, uh, it was a trickery. It was bad shenanigans. They were like stealing money, not paying us. It was a horrible. Per diems were not given.  I was literally crying everyday, going like X cannot be the profession that I sit. I want it to be part of my mother came at that time. We were performing in Germany. It was a fake name they were using. I don’t even know what they call themselves anyway, all fake, all wrong, all twisted. So my mom came to watch the show and I was like, I told her, I was like, that is it. This is, this is what I’m closing shop right now. Cause I’m not doing this for my life. And then she looked at me and she had such an incredible, you know, tell she was like, this is just the best that could have happened for you to have the worst right at the beginning of your career. So you can now feel and smell what is smells like. And you will never take a job like this again. And I had to take that in and go, okay, so I have to continue. And just going to be ok, I’m going to finish it off and I’m going to turn back, but that will remain what is one of my biggest memory of now knowing I can smell the shenanigans in production and I’m like, bye bye. Bye.  

That’s interesting. That’s interesting is like the rejects. The idea of rejection dancers think happens to them, but we have the power at any point to reject the circumstance that’s presented to us and say never again, thank you and walk the other direction. So it’s, it’s like, I think the feeling of rejection is compounded. If you, if you it’s unbearable, if you reject yourself, if you stop being your advocate, if you stop having, But if you say that’s it. Yeah. If you, if you say I’ve got my back, they’re missing out. That’s okay. Bye. I reject you. No thank you to your no thank you.

BINGO! Exactly, exactly. But it’s day now go go. It takes us. It takes us to also take that moment of self where you go back to listening and hearing what you are really about and what kind of value creating you are making. And you want to make in this world, because this is the real compassion. Because at the end of the day, we get like, you know, we get 12 hours where we can actually create amazing things. And I see it most of the time, even more so now I’m like dreams are real. Like, like I had a dream Dana of being a mother, right. I’m 51. So I had a dream of being a mother and I lost that dream. I was in a relationship where the dream became nothing at all. Literally was listening to someone else’s dream. And then one day someone came around and woke up that dream, like ignited it back. It was my choice to go yay or nay to go no, no, no I’m done. This is, this was a long time ago. But now I had to listen I had to sit myself down and not have the courage to hear the whisper first of my dream. And to let my ear open enough that I will hear the sound and then I will hear the cry of it. And then I would hear the singing of it. And then I will hear the yelling of it. And I will be like, you know what, I’m doing it. Um,  

You are keep going. 

So, no, I mean, just, we talk about dreams and we talk about presence and we talk about, so for me, even as a woman to say to myself, no, you need this and that and that. So you can be a mother where all of a sudden, all that was out. And I was like, but the dream is still talking. So what are we going to do? Yes. So you know what? Well, that’s called egg donor sperm donor. Let’s go, you know what I mean? Let’s get this done. You know what I mean? So now the shift, the real shift and today for the artists of today, just like you as a young human being, as a light in the world, it is about your dream. So I say to you, like whatever, you know, this moment, like 2019, whatever, that was all about. The learning, the learning that was behind of being able to hear also to be able to heal yourself when you get punched, right? You get that punch like bam, you like, whoa. And then another one, bam, whoa. So you’re on the ground now where that’s where it start. It starts there, but it starts with a dream. It doesn’t start. It doesn’t start empty. So people today, wherever we are as destabilized as we can be, we actually more stabilizing our dreams. So go, listen, listen to the dream, right? . I want to see you. What is your dream Dana? What is your dream? Let’s go, we’re going to end up like this, by the way. So you get to, you get to like, shout it out, a dream, a dream. And you just need to, you know, there are many dreams just share me. Uh,  

Yeah, you’re catching me on a day. This is good. This is a brilliant thing to be asking me because I feel like a dream that I’ve only taken tiny steps towards because I’ve been telling myself that it’s, that it relies on someone else. Are you ready? My husband is the person that I love in the world more than anyone else. We don’t desire a human baby to, to, to share as our life’s work, but a space and a life together that is as much ours as it is individually one or the others. And in up until now, the space in my brain looked like a building that was half dance studio and half workshop. But what that my brain was doing is just putting four walls around two people’s things. What I would love instead, my dream is for us to have one thing that is ours, that may or may not fit even into a building, maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a new technology. Maybe it’s a product. Maybe it’s, uh, I, I don’t, I can’t yet see, you know, you spoke about Alvin Ailey having this clarity. Like I know I have to do that. And when you know, what you want to do is not that hard to find the steps to take, to get there. Same was true for me in becoming a backup dancer. And it took me a while to reorient my goals. After I had accomplished that one. When you, you talk about like identity and becoming wrapped up in your work, I had a few years where I was like, if I’m not a backup dancer, then who am I? And I’m finding myself in a similar position now where I am aware of my power and I am aware of my skills and my skill gaps, if I can just imagine, or even invent something out there that is ours. I am certain I can make it happen. And I am certain that he will meet me in an effort at very least. I don’t know if our vision will be the same. We’re two different people with two sets of eyes. But, um, I know that he will meet me in my effort.  

Um, oh my gosh, listen, I cannot wait to see the shape of this. And a lot of today, like we were talking about right at the beginning of the, of us talking, it’s not in the eyes, that sees, but I think it’s in the heart that is like linking in that, that we can’t really see it. So sometimes you can’t see it. All you can do is close your eyes and continue to walk towards the whispers. 

Quiet down, listen to the whispers. Yeah. I also like to rage. I like to party. I like to dance. I like to music and, and you’re right. Sometimes it’s like, what’s the whisper saying, what’s my child, the inner child saying,  

You know, and, and I believe that you so extremely in tune. So your light in the world as a very specific mission. Right? So it’s really about also like when you surrender, like you, you, the way you do choreography in the space that you can, like, you can just, you know, take the time to be with the shape. before the shape shows up. You know what I mean? Like it’s like, that’s that space that is so magical. Right? I have no doubt. No doubt my friend. Well, listen, 

We could go on. Trust me. This is might need a part two.  

Hello? Dana Wilson. 

God, you my friend. Thank you so much for opening this conversation. Thank you for, for asking the good questions and bring in the good answers. And you, your gold, your, your you’re, the sun, as far as I’m concerned. Thank you for shining your light on the planet.  

You know what? Talking about the sun, Summer Solstice is on Sunday  

Is that why I’m sweating profusely? 

I’m doing 108 cents salutation. Yes, please. Yes. Please wish you all could see my face. If you’re listening to the podcast version of this, those of you that are in the Instagram live right now, or like Dana, Dana, close your mouth. We can see your tongue. Dana, close your mouth, I see your tonsils. Okay. Collecting my jaw. I will be there for that. 

We’ll see each other very soon. If not on Sunday, but other time I appreciate you so much. I don’t know your husband, but I say hi to him. Nonetheless. He is a very smart man. He knows a thing or two about a thing or two about having chosen you as a life partner. Wow. Wow. And him and you for him, both obviously for him the same. I send you all my love. 

Thank you. I’m receiving it. I talk to you sending love and thank you to you. I love you. I love you, darling.  

Wow. Yeah. Yep. Here I am. I don’t have much to say my friends. In fact, I might just take it from the top one more time and repeat that episode on back right now. Um, I would love for you to find a more Karine. I would love to have more of her in my life. So I will 100% be linking to her socials and her website in the show notes to this episode, please go see In the Heights, watch her do her thing. Get out there in the world, keep it exceptionally funky. And I am going to keep it bubbly and keep it right here by listening to this episode again right now because wow, I’m speechless. Okay. I’m out of words. Keep it funky. I’ll talk to you. 

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, if you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating 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, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #78 Teamwork Makes the Dream Work with the In The Heights Choreography Team

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #78 Teamwork Makes the Dream Work with the In The Heights Choreography Team

When people watch the In The Heights movie and ask me “How did you guys DO THAT?”… I’ll spare myself the struggle to explain it, and simply send them the link to this episode.
I’m thrilled to be joined by the film’s choreographer Christopher Scott , my fellow associate choreographers Ebony Williams and Emilio Dosal, the associate Latin Choreographer: Eddie Torres Jr., and his assistant Princess Serrano AND our choreo team assistant (AKA the glue that kept us all together): Meghan Mcferran. This episode is more than a peek into our process… It is a seat at our table.  This is a time capsule of memories and lessons learned  that I will cherish forever.  I hope you enjoy this episode and if you haven’t yet, be sure to catch In The Heights in theaters and on HBO Max!


New York Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/16/arts/dance/in-the-heights-dance.html

BTS Video Package: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNbvu5gIVfY


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 friend, welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana and this is it. The time has come and the time is now the moment that at very least I have been waiting for. The rest of the, In the Heights choreography team will be joining me on the podcast today. And I am so, so, so excited to share this conversation with you. Um, I’m hoping that you’ve seen the film already In the Heights so that you have a bit of context for what we’re going to dig into. If you have not seen In the Heights. No worries. No judgment. And also, I don’t think there are any spoilers in this episode. So do keep listening, but please get to a theater or support on HBO Max, please, please, please go see this film period. I’ll leave it there. And I’ll, I’ll um, leave you on the edge of your seat to hear this conversation for just one more second, because before we get to the conversation, uh, we’re going to do wins. If you are new to the podcast, I do wins. I start with wins. This is something that I do. So I’m going to celebrate something that is going well in my world. Then I will yield the floor to you. You will take it away. Um, I think this is, this is something that is important. So I go, you go, um, let’s see. This week, yeah, I think this is it. This is, well, I know this is it. This week, I am celebrating the New York times article featuring the, In the Heights choreography team written by Gia Kourlas , um, Man oh man. I could talk about it forever, but, um, I’m about to let the choreo team speak for themselves so I will leave it at that, that article is so beautifully done. It is a beautiful peek into, uh, the family that is the, In the Heights choreo team. I think you’re going to really, really dig it. If you are interested in checking out the article, I will 100% be linking to it in the show notes of this episode. So check that out and enjoy. All right. That’s my, when New York times no big deal. Very, 

I’m stoked for you. Keep it up, keep winning. All right. Are you ready for this? I hope so. But before we dig in, I’m giving an audio disclaimer, here. As I’m sure you can imagine. It is not easy to get the seven of us in one place at one time, let alone a quiet place at one time. So we are welcoming you to our zoom room and we appreciate your understanding of the less than stellar audio quality. Uh, we aren’t the audio or music department after all. We are the dance department and we are so, so, so proud of that. So pull up a chair and enjoy getting to know the choreo team from In the Heights. 

This is Christopher Scott, Eddie Torres Jr. Ebony Williams, Emilio Dosal, Princess Serrano, and Meghan McFerran enjoy. 

Dana: What the heck In the Heights choreo team. Welcome to Words That Move me.  


Um, this is the first time I have ever podcast interviewed more than two people at once. So number one, thank you for that. But number two, y’all are on the heels of one of the biggest films of the year broadly. So I know we’re all in different places, doing many things. Thank you so much for being here right now. I’m thrilled to talk to you and I’m thrilled to share a little bit of what our experience of making this film was about. Um, I do have, I have two goals for this episode. Number one, it is my goal to create sort of a time capsule, a place for us to put our most precious memories of this time and these people and these places. And just kind of talk about what happened because it happened really fast. Um, and that does feel sort of like a lifetime ago.  So that’s a very selfish thing of me. I just, I want to have that for myself and I want to have that for us, but I also know that I have so many people listening, maybe some listening to the podcast for the first time that are simply dying to find out how we did that. So I do want to talk shop. I want to talk a little bit of the nuts and bolts of how you make a movie musical, how you Chris, assembled this team, how we all showed up, how we might do our work differently in the future. Now having added a whole lot of tools to our tool belt. So we’ll get into that. But first probably the hardest part of this whole thing is going to be this. I’m going to ask each of you to introduce yourself and simply tell us what, what you want us to know about you. It doesn’t need to be your credits. It could be. Um, but we’ll start with Chris and then, uh, I’ll just call them out from there. Chris, what do you want us to know about you? 

Chris Scott: Oh man. Um, I want you to know that I am, um, changed from this movie. I think, I think the most, and I know that we’re going to talk about all that stuff. And I was like, well, maybe I’ll say something more personal about like my personal life, but I’m like, no, really, you know, this movie really changed me and affected me. And, and, and I’m looking at, everybody’s face on this zoom moment. I know you guys will just hear our voices, but it’s like, you know, it’s just really cool. Like, like seeing everybody’s face that, you know, helped to change and shape me. Um, so, you know, I think that’s what I want people to know about me is I’ve been shaped. Every job you do, kind of shapes you. And I really feel proud to have been shaped by every job I’ve done and none more than this one. Um, and I’m just really grateful to be here to talk about it.  

Dana: Word, Yes.  Eddie you’re up. 

Eddie Torres Jr: Hi, my name is Eddie Torres Jr. But my real name is <inaudible>. Okay. So yeah. Um, I’m, I’m blessed. I am blessed to know each and every one of you it’s been, it’s been, uh, almost two years since we’ve been United, right? I mean, it’s just really, it was a blessing to have crossed paths with everyone on this team. And I tell Chris, and I tell all of you all the time, but for those who are listening, meeting them has just really changed my life. And we’ve become family since then. And everything has changed for me in the best possible way. My dream was to always represent, um, cultural arts, not just of course street dance, but cultural arts and just get that as respected as any other form of dance, because we really deserve that. And that’s what my passion was for In the Heights is really putting everything on the map, representing everything authentically and, um, yeah, just pouring my heart out to each and every dancer to all of you that are listening. And again, thank you that I’m Eddie Torres Jr. 

Dana: Yes. Eddie George Jr. Moving right along. To your right Eddie Torres Jr the lovely Princess Serrano. Princess, tell us what you’d like us to know about you. Hi  

Princess Serano: Hi everyone. My name is princess Serrano. Um, a lot of people think that my running is a nickname, but it’s actually my real name. And what I want everyone to know is that I truly believe everything happens for a reason. And I’m excited to see what happens with this movie. And I’m excited to see what happens with all the choreography team where life takes us and everyone that was in the movie and watching the movie so  

Dana: Lovely. I love this. Um, all right. Ebony, what would you like us to know about you? 

A thing that I think is important for people to know about me is that I feel like I’ve been in a space where as artists, um, we’re always giving so much of ourselves. We don’t always feel validated by the things that we have done, you know, or are doing, um, not in, uh, in the most genuine space. And I feel like for this, because it’s such a, uh, a big project that celebrates something more than just you it’s, it’s so important. It’s about a community about, um, a culture. It’s the importance is just bigger than just one person, um, or your history or your own past traumas. Um, I feel like I’ve grown so much from it and I feel like I’ve had to face so many of the things that have absolutely gotten in my way or made me afraid or made me doubt. And a lot of this gave me a huge sense of Paciencia y Fe, and I’m so happy and grateful for it and grateful for the room and the people that are a part of my life now based on and through this journey. So, um, I guess I want people to know about Ebony Williams, that Ebony Williams again, and still, and forever is growing, is changing and evolving and okay with that. And we’re grateful for every piece of that moment.  

Dana: Let’s go. Okay. Emilio Dosal, what would you like us to know about you?  

Emilio Dosal: Hello I’m Emilio Jesus Dosal um, you know, um, just, uh, I’m just a short little Hispanic boy from Houston, Texas, you know, I never, uh, I never found myself to have an identity and, uh, to be quite honest, when I, when I started this process with In the Heights, uh, I found myself seeing who I am and who I want to be. Um, and I feel really grateful to have been in a place like New York city to find myself, um, and now moving from New York city going everywhere, I go to find myself a little bit more, has been a wonderful experience. And, um, and, um, that’s what I would take as a me.  

Dana: Thank you for that. I’m so glad you’re here. This is great. All right. Last, but certainly not least miss Meghan McFerran what would you like us to know about you?  

Meghan McFerran: Hi everyone. My name is Meghan McFerran. I am a dancer and a celebrator of movement. The number one thing since I was so little is just to use movement as a celebration of life. And so through auditions, through classes, through dancing my whole life, that’s what I saw movement as a celebration of yourself that you’re here, that you can move your body, that you can inspire others by doing that. So through my experience and my passion of celebrating, I was able to meet mentors like Ebony Williams, who, um, brought me to this place where I was able to get this job with In the Heights and meet all of really special people who continued to use movement as a celebration of life. And that’s literally what we did every single day. And what I continue to now do as an entrepreneur every day is to use movement, to celebrate who we are as people celebrate our differences, celebrate dance.  

Dana: Yeah. That was a beautiful wrap up. Okay. So, bye. Thanks. Um, uh, we’ll continue. Only because I know there’s a lot of good stuff to come, but I’d like to ask one more question to the whole group. Um, and that is, again, it’s a selfish thing, and this might be challenging to pick one, but I’d love to just drop in the time capsule, your favorite moment during the rehearsal process or shoot, or the, the premiere process, which was like a week long of parties and events and things. Um, but what’s, what is your favorite highlight from the, In the Heights chapter of your life?  

Chris Scott: I could start. I mean, honestly, it’s not that hard for me in a weird way. It’s funny. It’s like there was so many great moments like that. The biggest highlight of the experience for me was shooting Carnaval del Barrio. Um, it was just surreal, man. It was like a crazy experience. Even the audition, the rehearsal for even rehearsing for, it was like really special, that that might even have topped actually shooting it just because it was such a beautiful thing. And, you know, I remember it being one of the scariest ones because it’s like a seven minute long number, like eight minutes long. It’s really long. And we didn’t have a lot of time for that. You know, John knew, he was like, okay, well, if we’re going to spend the time to do 96,000 at the pool, we’re going to have to give somewhere.  And we looked at the calendar and I remember it was like, John was like, I think it’s kind of all. And I think we just have to keep it, make it raw. Like I think it’s okay to be raw. It’s okay to be a little like, you know, run and gun. Like we’ll figure it out if we have to on the spot, even for certain parts. So there was something about that freedom and that expectation, knowing that it was going to be raw and be real that ultimately kind of transcended everything. It became like not a rehearsal, but it really became, uh, like this crazy, beautiful moment in life, the celebration of culture and ancestry, and like just like spiritual. And it was like, you know, you couldn’t have called it from the beginning, I think. But when we were in that room, you know, I’ll never forget the moment we did. One of the, the tape we did one of the first run-throughs that we did really stands out to me. Um, you know, because we had two pieces, we had the beginning piece and then we had the ending piece, but the whole like, uh, you know, moment with Gregory, you know, um, with Sonny, we didn’t even rehearse, but when we press play on that, that, uh, you know, that track, he just jumped up and started doing it. And it was one of those things where you realize like, oh, this number is going to be incredible because these actors, they know what this moment is. And they’ve been dying for this moment. They’ve been waiting for this moment. So we got to live in, experience it with them. It wasn’t a rehearsal. It was really like this crazy, surreal moment in life that I remember thinking like, wow, this is what happens when music can really like hit you in the soul and, and, and push a story forward and just push actors to just be in the moment. And, um, it was like watching a improv. I mean, it was, it was really, really special. I mean, Lin’s like crying, everybody’s crying and, and, um, yeah, that was that’s my standout,  

Dana: Mine is the same. And I’m going to guess everyone else’s is to show of hands,  kind of all everyone in the zoom room. Yes. The, the shoot day was untoppable, but Chris, yes. I agree. The rehearsal process for that number, getting to spend time with, with each group that gets represented, getting to hear the side conversations, um, watching people wear the flag, hold the flag, share the flag. It was a truly, uh, a remarkable top to bottom. And I think I’m glad that we landed on this moment because this kind of segues nicely into a nuts and bolts question. I think one of the challenges that almost everyone who’s aiming to make a movie musical will face is the challenge of achieving a feeling of spontaneity when you absolutely must be planned. Like you must know where the camera will go. You must, you know, people don’t just spontaneously do the same steps at the same time.  So how do you marry absolute authenticity and a feeling of spontaneity with preparedness like that? I think is one of the biggest challenges that we faced on this project and carnival in that, in the case of that number, the answer was in the music and in the people. Like the, the challenge of planning was more playful than challenging. And when you have a cast as talented as our cast, when you have music as supportive as the music that we had, I’m not going to say it was just like show up and it’s great because it was, we got very strategic. We could run that whole eight minute number top to bottom and we did, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t as challenging to bridge the gap of, and now we dance as some other numbers can be. Yeah.  

Chris Scott: Can I shout out, Eddie Torres Jr and Princess? I mean, really when you’re talking about that, it was like their talent. I mean, they’re incredible. Like it jumps off the screen, the entire film, like you feel privileged to be in the same room with them. Cause they’re all just so they could do the whole movie on live if they had to, you know what I mean, from top to bottom, because that’s just who they were. Um, but you know, Eddie, I remember a big, big thing with this number was like, it was casting those dancers and you know, how important they were to it. And, and every single day we were casting up until really the day of rehearsal. I think even we haven’t rehearsed a little bit and they were still getting where people could make Eddie find, we need more. Um, I’ll pair that too. It’s just like, you know, Eddie’s and Princess, their knowledge in the different Latin styles, knowing what this, uh, moment really needed because in the music there’s stuff embedded. But then also I think Eddie went above and beyond with the Latin styles. Like when we all saw, you know, the Colombian style, the Caleño style, you know, it was like crazy. So, you know, Eddie, um, you know, that was really like a key factor. So I don’t know where that came from. How you, how you did it sometimes I’m still like, how did you find everybody? I don’t know  

Eddie Torres Jr: Dana I’m sorry. I would love to just piggyback off of what both of you just said, going back to the actual, like making it work strategically, but free. I mean, it was easy when you’re under pressure to get things done quick, like we’re talking about, we didn’t have like a week or two weeks to call these people in. It was like Eddie call who, you know, now for tomorrow, they need to be here and they need to represent, and then it’d be down for the cause. And that’s who, everybody who showed up understood that from the get, and that, that, that energy walked through the door, like ready to go. That’s what really happened.  

Dana: Thank you for bringing up the idea of, of a time constraint being a helpful factor. I think all of us in the room right now wish we had had more time, I think, relative to other films of the same scale, like the same footprint, um, rehearsal time would have been more, but we got so much done so quickly. How, how did we do that? Yes. A lot of it is like the right people, having the right people in the room, massively important, Eddie, your community, Ebony, your community like this, the right people came together. Um, but man, if I could have given us one more month, I really would have. 

Eddie Torres Jr: It Would’ve just been fun. 

Dana: It Would be just more fun. Yeah. Maybe not even better,  Maybe not even better, but more fun.

Chris Scott: Um, and can I piggyback on that too? And just say, you know, for me personally, I knew very early on how little time we had with, but it’s weird. Cause I wasn’t like freaking out to be honest, like John might think there might’ve been like a lot of stress, but to be honest, getting you guys as a team was really everything. And I’m not saying that lightly. Like it was really like once I, when I knew I was like, okay, I got to have Ebony Williams, She’s going to be there for anything, contemporary ballet Afro like all those, all these styles, like we’re going to cool. We’re good. Emilio. I know. It’s like, you know, we’ve done this for how long now? Like, you know, when you have a team of people that you’ve worked with, like that, you know, Dana, you were a piece of the puzzle that walked into the room and it was like, oh, this is perfect. Like you clicked in like nothing, you know, from skeleton crew. And it was like, beautiful. We have a partner storyteller with us that’s versed in like, I don’t even know how many styles you can do. But every, every day I was like finding out a new one, you know? And then Eddie and Princess, like, I really do, you know, this, this whole kind of campaign afterwards, you know, I’ve always been like very passionate about making sure that you guys there’s light on you guys as well, because I know as like the head choreographer or whatever it’s, it’s, it’s been, uh, I’m going to have my shine at it. I’m speaking of shines, but you know, but I really do like, and it’s not lightly that I say  you guys as a team, you know, really deserve everything because that’s how you do it. There’s no other way. It would have been impossible. If there’s one thing I wished outside world could get a peek into. It was really the, what, uh, what our dance studios look like. Um, you know, I think the amount of prep that we had being able to in, in, in like a divided way, and then we all come back together and it was really something beautiful that, that nobody really gets to see, you know, and it’s not, I don’t know to me, it was like, it was stressful, but I’m looking at these faces right now and having you guys, um, you know, and Meghan, even just having this piece of the puzzle, because coordinating this, that’s another thing too, like people will never understand, you know, I really do feel responsible to educate people on what a team does in the choreography realm, because it’s not often talked about and it’s not often seen. Um, but you know, like Meghan was brought on to this team is like a, you know, like, like a PA, but it’s not, it’s not what she’s doing. She’s coordinating these massive numbers. I mean, there’s over 200. How many are we at? Like 280 dancers or somebody that you told me the other day you can go through in that, because it’s, I was that many, people’s that much to coordinate, you know, we’re a department, we’re a huge department. Um, you know, and that that’s really a big factor I’m going off now. You know,  

Dana: I’m glad that you mentioned that it’s something that I like try to talk myself through all the time, because I’m stuck between believing that time is this fixed thing that I cannot change or multiply or divide in any way. But when you stack talent, you actually do multiply time. Like that’s what having a team is all about. So it might feel like we don’t have enough time, but there are ways to multiply time. And it’s by dividing talent, it’s by stacking many things happening at the same time, um, in different places and, and, and towards different, uh, on different tasks towards the same goal. And that’s, yeah, that’s how, that’s how we did it.

Chris: What a bunch of talent we stacked, boy, cause there’s a team. Let me tell you something, the talent on the zoom right now.  

We stacked. Uh let’s um, I’m coming to you then Meghan, cause I would love to know your answer to this question you probably received if, okay. So if we hired 288 dancers, you received at least 10X times that emails, while you were working on this project, you were, uh, like helping us rent space. You were coordinating people’s schedules. You were looking to see if anybody had aunties and uncles or, or grandmas that were available to come shoot with us. Like you did a lot of, um, uh, structural work and helping all of the pieces fall into place. And what I would love to know is what you think the hardest thing for you was to do and how you did it.  

Meghan McFerran: The hardest thing for me to do was probably honestly keep communication with Chris on everything while he’s working so hard in the rehearsal room with all of these dancers and I’m on the phone with Warner Brothers, coordinating everything on our end agencies, production dancers. And when me and Chris found time, it was awesome because we were like, boom, boom, boom, get this done, get this done 15 minutes. But then when he’s doing his thing in the rehearsal room and I am doing my thing here, it’s hard to connect the pieces and be like, wait, but we need this to happen tomorrow. And I’m like, well, I’m going to need a few hours. Cause this I, the processes happening. And I am out here out at my computer and we just can’t make this happen right now. We can make it happen. Oh, trust me, our team’s going to make it happen. But it’s not at that very second. So that was hard day in and day out because it was like a daily thing. There’s a dancer that needs something. Production has a question about what props we’re using. And I’m like, great. And what I learned and what kept me going through is just to keep calm because it’s like, you know what, yes, we believe in this team from day one, we’re like, we’re going to make this happen. We are fine. But being able to stay calm when I’m getting texts at two in the morning when I’m getting emails post 12 hour rehearsals emails about this and that I’m happy to answer because we’re here and I know that this team is going to get it done. But I think that that initial connection of phone, emails, computer versus dance, rehearsals counts, choreo, and trying to fuse those two together was hard. But we did it.  

Dana: Yeah, we did. I think that was something not a lot of people consider. Like when you have an eight hour rehearsal day to get steps done, where do the magical hours where you have to be communicating with wardrobe team, communicating with music team at communicating with studios to find rental space, talking with casting over at Telsey. Yeah. Like where you have to make time and find time we are time multipliers. This is what we do. Um, okay. Emilio, I’m coming to you next because holy smokes, you are in damn near every scene of this movie. And you had your hand on the choreography of, I mean, I think we all really did hands-on all pieces. At some point there was nothing that none of us were involved in, right? That’s not how this movie got made, but you’re in almost every scene and you were in every single rehearsal with us for all of the other scenes. So I guess what I am wondering and what I am assuming, people who are listening are wondering are, what are the tips? What are your tricks for being on both sides of the camera? How did you wear both of those hats at once? 

Emilio Dosal: I mean, I don’t, I don’t know if there’s necessarily a trick. I can just tell you that on my end, I just didn’t put a lot of pressure into it. I feel that in many cases, even though I’m a little older now, I still have a very naive sense. And so I try not to look at things as like they’re so, um, you know, huge. And if I fail this and I failed everything right. And like, oh, I have to get this done. I have to get this, I gotta do this. I gotta do this. I don’t apply that sort of pressure. I just kind of like, it’s kind of what I say to everybody. And everybody knows the saying, it’s like, it’s too easy. Right? Because technically what I’m trying to tell myself is is that if this is as hard as it gets, that’s pretty good. And so being on camera was the easiest part of my day If I’m gonna be quite honest, because that’s where I get to perform. That’s where I get to do the thing that I, I absolutely love doing. That’s what I went to into dance for I’ve always been a showman. I’ve always been a performer. And then being behind camera and, and running back and forth, um, actually was exhilarating. Um, I enjoyed the process. I wanted to do it more. Um, and yes, there was, there was stress and, you know, there was a lot of times where I felt overwhelmed. Yes. But that would always come back to it being just too easy. You know, again, it’s, it’s, it’s what you make it. And so I’ve just found myself really in a good place when I would go back and forth to each one. Um, if I wasn’t behind the camera watching to help safeguard and make sure that it looks right. I knew that my job being in front of the camera was to make sure that spirits were up, that we were good to go. I kept every dancer enlightened, ready to like move forward and keep it pushing, you know, because it does get exhausting, you know, as you, as you’ve heard, we do, you know, eight to 10 hour days on concrete and grass and train stations and all the elements. And I just found myself being that person that, you know, what, I have this infinite amount of energy that I need to evolve to my peers so that they can feel enlightened and remember what they’re doing, you know, we’re, we’re on a film showcasing ourselves. I would, I would suggest to everybody who is going to participate in that sort of work, um, bring a little bit of naivety into it, you know, have fun, be, be that inner child that was naive throughout the whole thing. It’s not a bad thing to be naive in those circumstances is actually quite exhilarating. Um, and it gets the job done job done really well. And honestly so much more exciting to be honest. 

Dana: Too easy. Thank you for that as an important moment to like call on perspective. Right. Um, and that can a perspective shift like that could really take something from feeling impossible to actually feeling easy by shifting the way that you’re thinking about it, a more childlike, uh, approach. I appreciate that. Um, okay. So, uh, Chris, we have done a few, um, screenings for like dance community and there’ve been Q and A sessions at the end. You and John, You and John talking together is one of my favorite things to eavesdrop on you understand the way each other make. And I think you’ve grown to be making in really complimentary ways. I think this film is a huge testament to that. Um, but one of the questions, uh, one of the questions that has come up, I think in both of those screenings is how did you find this team? And you spoke specifically about the first conversation you have with Eddie and how it, it turned into an education. Like it didn’t, it didn’t, it wasn’t an audition or an interview. He sat and he, and more, he, more or less schooled you. I mean, stop me if I got the wrong interpretation of that.  

Chris: 100% 

Dana: Um, so what I would love to hear from you, Eddie is if you remember that conversation, if you remember for sitting with Chris, um, if you remember what you told him and if you would share it with us today,  

Eddie: I mean, it’s something that I actually kind of repeat every day just to remind myself and keep it in shape. So I’m glad this is my practice today, basically. Um, you know, when Chris, when Chris and I first met, it was in Brooklyn and we met at this office where he was discussing me possibly dancing in the film, you know, and we just got into a good conversation, you know, first time meeting each other. And somehow we just, you know, we sat down and we were just talking about what I do. And I was saying, Hey, you know, what I do is something called Mambo. And it basically is the truth behind what we call salsa. What we know is salsa. And he’s like, what do you mean? And that led into a whole beautiful conversation, um, which we had to get a pen and paper and draw this triangular slave trade, which dates back to the 15 hundreds. So basically we were just talking about how the Spanish conquistadors, they went to West Africa, took these people and sent them to all different parts of the world, right? So basically you have two sides of the coin, the slaves that were sent to the Caribbean, they allow their music on Sundays. They allow their cultural practices. So out of that was birthed many rhythms, you know, on the, on the, in music. So that’s why we have Bomba y Plena, which is all singing and just drumming, you know? And so, and on the other side of the coin, you have the slaves that were sent to the new world, which just like the US they took away all of the drums. They took away their names, their religion, everything. And by that, we lost Africanism in general. So out of that, they put these slaves to work in plantations. And out of that was born the classic blues. So we had a full-out conversation with drawing with every single detail and showing how all of this evolution created, what we know as salsa, which again was created, by Fania Record Label in the 1970s, basically just to, um, market the music better, you know, they wanted better business and they wanted more popularity of this music all over the world, which they succeeded they did, that they did that 100%. And it’s a, it’s a, it’s a success. The only problem is we lost a lot of that. You know, that pure knowledge, the roots. Each rhythm has a dance and you have to respect that. And not only that, but when you put it all into one, you know, it’s just not what it is. Salsas not a rhythm, Salsas not a dance. But on the flip side, we have cha cha, cha, which is a rhythm and a dance, Mambos is a rhythm and a dance that’s song, you know?  So, and w why was this all important? Because this whole film needed a foundation to work off of. We needed roots in every single scene and the music itself, you know, you have the clave right from the beginning of the movie, you have the clave, which is an instrument that was born on the slave ships in the 1500s. So right away, there’s evidence of this beautiful history that we have, but it just never got the chance to be told in its raw form and its authentic form. Chris basically opened the door up to a whole culture that needed to have been seen and heard. I’m talking about specifically Mambo, you know, my family, they worked their whole lives for this moment. You know, my aunts or many of our ancestors have worked for this moment. And here it is, Chris gave me not only me, the opportunity and Princess, but he allowed us to cast you know, a lot of these people in Carnaval, which was so much fun, right? We had to call every Viejito, which is an old man and, or an old woman. We called every single old dancer that we knew. We call the youngest of the babies. And we called all cultures literally to come in to gather in one room. And that’s why it was so fun because I mean, now I’m going into carnival for a second. You didn’t have to really do much. And these people were just happy to be there. They were happy to celebrate their culture. We just, we just said, Hey, who’s Puerto Rican, boom, you have a group. Who’s Dominican. Boom, you have a group. And a lot of, a lot of them, I mean, we’re all related. We all have these, these bridges to each other’s culture. So anyway, just because it became a very natural, organic process and it was just so it was so natural, I would say. And not, not, not that we had to sit there and practice and technique and know this was just like a, Hey, I like that move. This is something we do at the house. Boom, let’s do it here. But again, it’s just, again, rewinding for a second. I know I went on a tangent, this, this film, and it means so much to so many communities, so many cultures who never, ever, ever felt represented. And I’ve gotten so many beautiful messages from people I don’t know people, I haven’t people, I do know who I haven’t heard from years to people that I speak to on a regular and just exchanges in the street. Honestly, just the other day somebody was like, oh my God. Yes, I thank you. And I was like, for what I think for, thank you for, you know, I feel I’m proud to be a Latino and proud, you know, I feel represented even my neighbor, I don’t even know her.  She said, congratulations. And I’m like, and she’s Puerto Rican. She’s like, that’s what we need. You know? So it was we again, and this is just Carnaval but we have so many scenes, so many cultures that are represented in this one film. And that for me was all I ever wanted. 

Ebony: Absolutely. But I think that’s what brought the authenticity. I think that was what it was because we had to rely on the spirit of the people because it does, that’s what makes up the community, you know, like if we had to literally take every piece in every inch of everything and say you be this, you know, like when it’s really in their soul, then it would make it, would’ve made it so dry and technical. It’s just, it’s in them. They were born with it. And so all we had to do was allow them to shine, you know? And that’s you, you say that all the time in the salsa, like, Hey, do the shines, what does, I mean, Eddie you can speak on that part, but like, you know, and I, I think that that’s what made it great is that we just had to really rely on the soul of the people. 

Eddie: Ebony I love you, you know, how I feel,  You know how I feel about you Ebony. I love you so much. And again, that’s, that’s even without Salseros, I would be in front of b-boys and other hip hop dancers and, and, and just telling them, Hey, listen, the undertone of everything, what we call Latin is African that’s. The, that’s what, that’s the full root of all of this. Basically I was telling everybody that I knew on set, listen, do you know that we’re, we’re connected? We’re not separate. Um, you know, the vision is just what that’s, it’s just by style, which I’m not a huge fan. I don’t like the idea of being divided by styles because at the end of the day, we all have the same root, anything that has a drum is African. Anything that has a beat is African. Period. Doesn’t matter, RNB, jazz, hip hop, whatever you Salsa, uh, Mambo. That’s what we all had to understand and bring to this film and through ourselves. So really we wanted this to be felt this wasn’t something that was always pretty, this was something that needed to be felt. And we fought for that. We went for blood  

Dana: I love this notion that learning not need to be a cerebral thing, but a physical thing, a felt thing. And I did really feel like I was learning every day, learning from you all the time, Eddie learning from each of you every day. Um, and maybe this is a good segue actually, uh, Princess, you, I think you are the youngest of the choreo team and you were still in school while we were working on this film, learning so much in, in two different modes, right? Like in the, in the four walls of an institution and also in the real world, if we want to call the movie world of real world on a movie set. Um, so I would love to hear what were your most unexpected areas of growth? 

Princess: I love that question. Oh man. That’s I feel like there were so many, first of all, I just want to start off by saying that, um, since I was in school, Monday through Friday, and at the time I was a freshmen, I was at school Monday to Friday and I had to ask my professors, can I miss class? Like I won’t be in class the whole semester. Can I just turn in work? And this was like, I cannot believe to this day that I was able to miss an entire semester and I had to email everyone and tell them, Hey, I’ve been given this opportunity. And this is a dream that I would, I would be crazy to pass it up. Like, can you please consider me giving out, I would go the extra mile to show up when I can, and I will reach out office hours. I will do whatever I can just give me this opportunity because it’s something that I can’t give up this is my passion. And all of them understood that. And they were able to allow me to go to rehearsals and miss class, which I, I can’t believe it, you know? And so I went into rehearsals. I went into, you know, with you guys to practice and on set. And I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that I was there for a reason. And I learned from every single person in this movie. And I think the most important thing that I learned was to was to no matter how hard something is just, you’ll never grow or learn how to deal with that until you throw yourself in the water. And so you throw yourself in the, in the fire, you’re, you’re never gonna, you’re never gonna learn until you, you just have to do it.  

Dana: Thank you. Thank you for that. I really hope that all of my school goers listening are inspired by your story. And I hope that any professors or admins who might be listening can see the value of exceptions for exceptional people. And speaking of exceptional people, Ebony, you’ve been in damn near every pocket of the dance world, that there is from Broadway stages to concert stages, to music, video hall of fames. I’m referencing single ladies, but it’s not the only one, um, to on-camera in films and now behind camera in films. So what I am dying to know is what is your favorite place to be and where do you want to be next?  

Ebony: I love this question because I don’t have a favorite. I wish I could say that I have a favorite, but really all of those things make up Ebony Williams. Um, I’m not one thing, honestly, I don’t think anyone in the world is one thing. So, um, yeah, I, I love a piece of all of that. And I have hopes to be able to make possibilities for younger artists to be able to do the same thing, um, to feel like they are able to jump into creative portals. Cause that’s, my goal is to make creative portals that set free and allow them to not feel like they have to be put in a box ever. Um, so that means chorea, choreographing, directing, um, acting more. That’s something that I really, really want to do. I am also an actor and I feel like most dancers are because we have to be. Um, and that’s something that I’ve been stepping myself into quite a bit. I’ve been training and acting classes and just doing all the things that will set me forth so that I can do new things, new challenges, and, uh, you know, be a new Ebony every day. I think it’s important for us to try to reimagine ourselves. And that means that Ebony yesterday is not Ebony that’s today this Thursday here with you right now. And I hope tomorrow is a new piece of Ebony. So yeah, that’s where I’m at. 

Dana: Yes. I love that you loved that question. And I loved that answer. I know that a lot of people listening have subscribed to the idea that they need to pick one thing to be or one place to put their talent. And you’re such a, an exquisite example of that not being the case. You can put all of your talent in so many places, so congrats and thank you for that. That’s fabulous. Um, all right. Y’all I w I think we could talk for hours and maybe someday a part two will happen, but for now I want to do one more round Robin, the Twitter version, if you could, one thing that you did well, and one thing that you would do differently. If we got to do this all again, I’ll start. Um, one thing I did well, um, I, I did become a person who was better with names and it’s true. I don’t know as many as Meghan McFerran, but I did a pretty good job in the retention of names. I was surprised in my past has been a huge area of insecurity for me. And I knew that in making a movie that is about the people of a place, that it would be helpful to invest in the people of the place and to call them by their name. Um, one thing I would do differently, man, I Eddie, having you in a room for six months and walking away, feeling like I would probably still drown at a club, makes me feel bad. I wish I had practiced the social dance. We, we, we built a movie, we planned it, we structured it. We strategized, we organized, and I don’t think I walk away feeling like a better social dance partner. Um, and I think, I think, I think I got really good at listening to voices, but I would like if I did this again, I would like to get better at listening to my body to become a better partner.  Um, and to spend more time with the social elements of these dances versus the, the organizing and the, the building, like we had to build it. And then in building this movie there wasn’t, or maybe this is just what I was thinking, but there wasn’t a — this isn’t the Twitter version. Let’s be honest there. I didn’t, I didn’t build, I didn’t build a technical foundation for myself that I wish I had, but we built a damn good movie. So that, that is what I would do differently. I would steal you away for at least 20 minutes every day and, and dance with you. 

Eddie: Dana, actually remember we, we, although we were super busy, right? We had to divide and conquer like Chris said, We did have that beautiful moment of the waltz, and that was one of my earliest days. And I remember Emilio, um, but one of the first people, first people that pushed me into the, into the fire, into the flames, you know, between Emilio and Dana, you both really pushed me to like, you know, for me, my first movie, I want everyone to know that right now, it’s my first movie ever. This was something that I was looking at the whole choreo team. I was studying you all as I was choreographing and learning.  

Dana: I know, that’s why I have to ask. I have to ask that I want to make an example that we should all be doing that and celebrating ourselves all the time. And I love that reflection. Um, okay. Ebony, what did you do well, what did you, what did you do that you loved?  

Ebony: I do think that I listened well to the things that I need for my future. Um, I recognize a lot of the spaces in which I need work, and I think that was really important to me and for me. Um, things that I would do differently would be number one, be kinder to myself. I would say a similar to you similar to you. I would say that I, as someone who’s always been looked at as a versatile artist, because I have been in several pockets of the lands, um, I think I would try to investigate deeper some of those spaces, because I think that what I have done well is be a good chameleon in a space, but that’s because it’s out of survival, you know, I think living in the moment and finding spaces to enjoy it instead of just go and making it work and figuring it out, I think I would find more space of joy, um, in the moment, you know? So that, that also a part of the memory forever not taking any of those moments for granted  

Dana: Well said. Beautiful. Um, okay. Uh, Emilio, what do you think? What did, what did you do well? What would you do differently if we got a second pass?  

Emilio: Uh, I’ll keep my short, uh, what I did well is, uh, I just, I went hard every single day. You know what I’m saying? I left everything on the table. Um, um, I’m not that kind of person that’s going to come in and do, you know, the easy feed I’m going to go hard every single day. And I’m going to apply that because I want to be the example every single time. I want to be the smallest, the fastest, the most joyous and the most exciting every single time I step in the rehearsal space. And I did that. So I’m excited. I’m happy for that. Um, if I were to go back and redo it again, I would honestly go to more light feet events, but I I’ve only went to like two and I really wish I could go back and go to more events and immerse myself more into the culture of light feet and Harlem, and be a part of that because it is something that I truly love right now. And, um, you know, yeah, knowing that the Mecca is there, New York, I really wished I, I got to take advantage of that more.  

I hear you, my friend. I hear you. Thank you for that. How about you, Meghan?  

Meghan McFerran: Hmm. What did I did? Well, I know this one. Uh, I made sure that I gave every dancer a hug in the morning when they came in and I did it every single day. And I think it set everyone up for no matter what was going on. Like we were about to step into like a 12 hour dance day and people are freaking out. Like they might’ve just been called in at three in the morning by me and having no idea what they’re stepping into. Like, what are we doing today? I don’t know I’m here. And I was just like, hi, gave everyone like a good three second hug and was like, let’s go.  

Dana: Um, and something you would do differently.  

Meghan: The diversity of people that we worked with, and then me being on production side dancers, side cast side, I think I could have fit in one really important, special question that I could have asked each person that I worked with in order to learn more about literally everything, film, dance, cultures. I wished that I had written down just a single question every single day that we either rehearsed or once we’re on set and just was like, Hey, been meaning to ask you this. And I could have learned I think a lot.  

Chris Scott: Yeah. You can ask the questions right now because you still got to text people. You gotta, you got everybody contact info, you can reach out. The movie is over, but the relationships are there forever. So get those questions together and then shoot them off. 

Dana: It’s so true. Yeah. Yeah. Group, group texts, please. Um, okay. Princess, what do you think?  

Princess: Um, something I did well would be just going with the flow every day. It was something new and you just have literally just go with the flow. And so something I would do differently would be to voice my opinion more. Um, I feel like I was a quiet most of the times and I wouldn’t voice my opinion. And then someone would say something I was thinking, I’d be like, damn it. You know

Dana: It’s one of the it’s, it’s one of the things that they don’t teach in school in any dance class is the knowing when to talk and knowing when to shut up and dammit, I am still learning it every single day and sometimes its the hard way,  And y’all have been there and seen it. And, you know, but having your finger on the pulse of your voice and the temperature of the room is something that I think is a obviously very valuable, but B takes time to, uh, to really become sensitive to.   

Eddie Torres Jr: I love that you said that is, can I go? I want to go, yay. Okay. I know I answered, so, okay. So something I know I did. Right, right. So I know for sure when it came to representation, I know I did a hell of a job representing every single part of the Latin choreography that I could, I would literally, cause I I’ve been, I’ve been preparing for this moment. And then when I finally get the chance to do that, um, and you allowed me also like really just go full out with all the dancers and in certain parts of the, of the process, I’ve just, I couldn’t be more proud of course of them, but just like, I never thought I would even do this. I never thought I would be able to lead a whole community to, to a glorious representation of our dance, you know? And, and that for me is it was beyond what I ever dreamed of to be honest, you know, and then something I know something I would, I would change. I would, uh, I would always bring, if I could, I would have brung swimming shorts to every damn rehearsal, because there was, uh, there was some mean ass times, man, I, it was rough for me. I did not have no swimming shorts and I could not flunk out of rehearsal. And Chris said, we all need to be there at the pool. You gotta be there. So I’ve, I remember every single time I would go to the pool and I would look at everyone and everyone’s so prepared. Everyone was so prepared when we got there, they had some nice, cute shorts, swimming shorts, and you know, I would just roll my sweat pants up, just slip into the corner. And my, my, my sweatpants look like, yo, it looked crazy on the water and nobody  

Dana: Yo swim sweats.  Yo that’s, that’s a, that’s a corner of the market. Eddie. You could be the first Kanye did leather, leather sweats, you got swim sweats. You got, you have an angle on the market. And the commercials, you know, would be fabulous. The dancing would be great. You know, stop it.

Chris: I thought this podcast was sponsored by NYC mambo swim sweats Is that right?  

Dana: It is now we’re doing, I will be photoshopping flyers. Don’t you even use it? 

Eddie: Well, the worst part was how it got revealed. That was the worst part. Like I was, I was okay. Rocky, my sweat pants on the water. Um, until one day we were in the pool. I think I had gotten away with it at least twice. So I’m like, this is great. And we’re all dancing in the pool. And for some reason I battment, my right leg up and then I put it back down and Chris looks underwater. He’s like, wait, what? And I’m like, shut up. He’s like, wait, nah, hold up, everybody what’s. And I’m like, bro, stop please. And he starts dying, laughing. And I’m like, you’re just, I’m giving him that look. I’m like, please, please do not do not. And everybody I’m talking about, like everybody looked under water just to look at what I was wearing. And there you go. I had a thick ass pair of sweatpants on that were rolled up to my upper thighs, suffocating my legs. It was, it was so embarrassing.  

Chris: That’s so beautiful and so brilliant. And there was no way I was gonna let that go man.  One of the highlights I was between that and carnival, I was like, I couldn’t really decide what you want to say. Um, I won’t count them all, but that was a close second.  

Eddie: No, real quick, because this is also the ending of Carnaval was insane. Insane. We were all like, I think we were all bleeding, gut blood was gushing out of our knees from Rudy’s elbow and everybody was crying and laughing and celebrating and jumping. And, but that for me,  

Dana: And that was after everybody got wrapped. Like nobody went home. It was the hottest day. It was the smallest area. There was the, the holding area where was holding area that day,  

Eddie: 181st street.  

Dana: So we, yeah. And just nobody left at the end of a what? 12 hour day, how long was that day?  

Chris: It was the longest death that I was like 14 or 16. It was crazy. It was like, as long as they get a year with the sun, like the sun. Wow. It was crazy  

Dana: That that is why that moment  

Chris: When we were over time. And I remember the, you know, David and Nick say shout out to him to, you know, our producer, um, for letting us stay. Cause a lot of times they don’t want to do that because it’s like, well, we got a ton of money. Like, let’s go, you guys gotta go. 

Dana: Um, thank you for saying that, 

Chris: To stay on set to celebrate this huge moment. You know, it was worth every penny to him and I, and I’m just so grateful that he did that. He did let that happen as it was so necessary after a day like that. And you need those moments like otherwise, why are we doing this too much hard? And if you get shut down from those molds is so important to a film like this, when we so hard to make,  

It was essential. That moment was essential. I’m so glad you brought that up. Thank you, Chris. What did you do well? 

Chris:  I think I Did this well. Um, I think it took me a while to really understand how important it was. And I think once I understood it, I started to do it even better. So I think listening was like a really big deal as a choreographer for this film, because like, you know, I knew, I already knew like when Eddie came in, like we talked about it when he came in with him, I knew like anything cultural is like, no, you, listen, you listen to, who’s telling you from a culture. Like I knew that going into it, there would be other incidents where it’s like, I would have an idea that I’d want to try And one of the actors, for example, well, I don’t know. I don’t connect to that or whatever. And in my mind, I’d want to just like, I just want to do it. But then like I started realizing, you know, what? These actors are like super brilliant. They’re really smart. They’re really talented. Um, so I, I like kind of, there was like a moment I remember shifting and I started every number I went from just like having my ideas and the ideas that even I talked about with John, you know, we’d have ideas together. Um, and I would just like try stuff or John would give me room to play and whatever. And I remember like around like No Me Diga, for sure. I remember being like, it’s really important to listen to the actors and give them room to, to, to explain to you what they think even before you really get into the rehearsal. So I started doing that everywhere. I didn’t make like a big deal about it. I wasn’t like, okay, this is what I decided doing it. And like, Hey, what are you like when you think, and you know, there’s gonna be moments where, like I had my thoughts that would, um, I’d want to, I want to have the space to try and everything. And then, you know, you just find the balance or whatever, but, um, you learn really quickly as a choreographer. Like when you’re in it with these storytellers, you know, everybody, all the actors, everybody’s a storyteller when you’re making these films and should treat everybody like that. And when you hear what they say, they will give you gold. Like there were so many times, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re sitting next to Anthony Ramos in a bodega, and you’re, you’re going to try to give him things to do in a bodega. Sometimes the last thing is just let him tell you what happens in about like, how he feels in a bodega, because Anthony Ramos knows what it’s like to be in a bodega, you know, more than I’ll ever understand. So I think that was one thing I really started to do better. As the, as the time went on, it’s something that I’m proud of eventually like, like listening to Abuela Claudia, you know, Olga explained Paciencia y Fe, you know, I’ll never forget that rehearsal. It was like a big one. I tell all the time, I’m like, you changed my life that I know. And, you know, I would just never forget that day of like, I started to explain the number to the dancers and like within 30 seconds I was like, wait, I just stopped myself because now here’s Olga her first day. So I’m like, oh the, do you mind, would you explain what the sensor that your face is about?  And she’s like, sure, she goes into this thing. And she says, you know, I’ll tell you, Chris, when you get to be my age, you stop thinking about the future because there is no more future. Everything comes up, becomes about the past and the decisions that she made that led you to where you are today. And I was like, oh my God. I mean, well, that’s what the numbers I saw. I didn’t even understand really the, the root, the heart of this number, you know, and that’s what it became. And then, and then you just listen and you listen to me and just everybody, um, you know, but at the same time, it’s kind of the same answer to what I could do better. You know, I think in a, in a weird way as like now that I have that like, perspective and I’m like, oh, I’m proud of myself.  Like having those moments of those revelations, you know, I, I would, I could go on, you know, if I could go back again, it would just be from day one. That’s all. I would just really start the process like that. And just, um, you know, because I think for me it was helpful. I’m, I’m a builder. Like I like to build off of things and build off of people. And the more information you have, the more you can build, you know, some people aren’t like that. Some people want to have their, their moment, their time of ahead to just create blank space and then, and then adjust as they need to. But I really do love, um, as much input from the beginning to really just shape and mold something that, that, that, that everybody kind of has a voice in, because I think, you know, that’s when one everybody’s invested a different way, you know, and, and everybody, um, it brings everybody to the same page a lot quicker because you can’t have somebody performing choreography that they don’t understand because it comes from your mind. It’s just beneficial. So, you know, that’s not too complicated. Does it say, you know, I think my, my something I’m proud of myself that I did well, I think ultimately is also the thing that I could go back onto it and even better. And there you go,  

It makes so much sense. Yes, yes. 100%. This is what I wanted. This is what I needed. Uh, well, thank you all so much for a lovely walk down memory lane, uh, ****  eating grin on my face from ear to ear for over an hour. Um, I really appreciate you doing this and it feels great to still be sharing this thing and still be learning from this thing. Like we learned every single day on the job. So many things. And now every day that the movie is out there in the world, we’re learning different things about how it’s received. We’re learning different ways about how to, um, how to do work moving forward. Like what a tremendous gift this has been. And you all are a gift in my life. Thank you so much. I don’t have words. Appreciate you all tremendously. I love you.  

Well, there you have it. And there, I have it a time capsule of one of the most precious and important chapters of my life. Um, and also a peek into our world of dance in nights. I really hope that you enjoyed that. I hope that you watch the movie 180 trillion times, and I hope you get out there into the world, into your community and keep it very, very funky. Thanks everybody for being here. I will talk to you very soon. Bye

Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe, and leave a rating or review because your words move me 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. 

Ep. #77 Times and Rhymes with Tyce Diorio

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #77 Times and Rhymes with Tyce Diorio

Emmy award winning choreographer, Tyce Diorio and I cover A LOT in this episode.  We talk about finding and being friends in a dog eat dog world, we discuss our processes and passion for movement coaching, and of course we talk In The Heights (in theaters and streaming on HBO Max NOW!)  Like so many, I have looked up to Tyce for years, and this episode feels a whole lot like sitting down with my hero… and then winding up having a pillow fight and braiding each other’s hair (yes, games will be played!)!  It’s pure fun, ease, and openness.  ENJOY!


Get Tickets to In The Heights Here: https://www.intheheights-movie.com

Katie Holmes “Get Happy” So you Think Piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNV4VxIVW7I


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, good people and welcome to Words That Move Me. I’m Dana, I’m jazzed that you are here and I am so, so, so excited to share this conversation with one of my favorite people in the biz, Mr. Tyce Diorio who I have known and looked up to for years and years, because if you do not already know Tyce, you are about to find out his career is truly remarkable, um, and vast, so wide reaching. Um, and finally two summers ago, Tyce and I got to work together on In the Heights, which we’ll get to chatting about in just a second. But first let’s do wins! Let’s do wins! Because In the Heights is my win. This week in the Heights, the film is in the world. Please go see it. If you are healthy, if you are comfortable, go see it in a theater because dang it this is the stuff the big screen was built for! I’m  Celebrating in a crazy way inside and outside being a part of the production. More specifically the choreo team that put more than 280 dancers on the big screen. Many of them for the very first time I’d like to add, I genuinely don’t have words, which for those of you who listen a lot is, you know, is saying a lot. I don’t have words, um, to explain my gratitude or my pride in being a part of this project, but I will try to find them soon because an In the Heights choreo team episode is coming through the pipeline. So buckle up. It’s going to be so great. I’m very, very excited. I hope I have more adequate words to explain the way I feel about this project. And of course, we’ll be talking a little bit about the process, but In the Heights is in the world. That’s my win. Please go see it and share this, win with me. Um, if you’ve seen it, then heck that can be your win too. But if you haven’t seen it, I’m dying to hear what is going well in your world. It’s your turn. 

All right. Awesome. Congratulations. I’m so glad that you are winning. Now. Let’s dig into this Tyce Diorio Ooh, where do I begin? Tyce is a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor and also in the business. But as you’re about to find out that is balanced with tremendous kindness, a gentleness that is difficult to find in this industry and also an appreciation for the simple things like, you know, genuine human connection and friendship. So for those reasons, this episode is strong, but also super, super soft. And you will 100% on a stick around for the laugh attack at the end of the episode, because Tyce and I have a gift that we would like to share with you. And it’s so much fun. You do not want to miss it. Your quality of life is about to go so far up. So get ready and enjoy this conversation with the one and only Tyce Diorio 

Dana: Tyce Diorio! I am so excited about the conversation that is about to ensue. Thank you so much for being here. 

Tyce: Thank you For having me. I’m a fan,  

Dana: Um, mutual fandom. I love mutual fandom. Um, most of my listeners, people who know me probably know that I really love versatility and it is possible my friend, that you are the most versatile guest that I have ever had. Um, I think, you know, from being an educator to a movement coach, to a choreographer, to still being a dancer, um, even still dancing in films, shout out In the Heights, which we will definitely get there. Um, but you choreograph for TV, film stage and beyond. Uh, that’s the very small nutshell. Now I’m going to ask you to do something. I ask all my guests to do some of them hate me for it, some of them it’s awesome. But I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself and simply tell us anything you want us to know about you.  

Tyce: Hi, I’m Tyce Diorio. I am a dancer, I’m a choreographer and I’m a really good friend.  

Dana: And it’s important that your listeners know that. And I will co-sign or back that up with this strong, friendly stamp of approval.  

Tyce: I say that because it’s really important to me, you know, through dance, you know, I have an amazing tribe of people here in Los Angeles. And so, yeah,  

I think that’s a really great place to start actually, because I only recently learned that you’re born in Brooklyn. Um, and I have a lot of listeners in New York and I have a lot of friends in New York as we’re speaking of this. And I know it’s a goal for so many to become bi-coastal. Yeah. I’m so curious about how that happened for you and any words of wisdom or tips that you might give somebody who’s who’s eager to live that life.  

Yeah, I mean, growing up in New York, as you know, New York is so fast paced and like, you know, New York and LA are like the leading capitals of dance. So being in New York city, uh, growing up that way, it w you know, it came from a local studio, danced in Manhattan, went to the high school performing arts, the famed high school, performing arts, you know, I was the lucky guy just to be there. And, and, and so, you know, and I have theater right in front of my face. So I, I just, I immersed myself in all of that, as one would do, being in New York city, taking advantage of all the, all of the privileges that came along with that coast. And so, you know, um, I, you know, obviously in New York city, you have to like sing, you have to dance, you have to act. And so it just, it was just no choice. And you have it all available to you. And so many amazing people who, who do that and who educate and who can be a mentor and who can inspire. So, yeah, I spent most of my life in New York City, and we learned a few things about, you know, dance, being a dancer. We learned there was no stability. You know, 

You are the stability, you have to find your core, you have to find your leg because you are the center of a very, uh, spinning world. It’s important that you know how to spot.  

Absolutely. You know? And so, yeah, I, I mean, and then I came to LA and because I was so intrigued by Los Angeles. And  

Was it just curiosity at first that that brought you out?  

I was on a television show early on, and I had seen what Jackie Sleight was doing for a male dancers. And I, and I was intrigued because I had never, I mean, I was dancing like, you know, New York Dancers dance, we go into a class, we dance our it’s an hour warmup. Do you know what I mean? And, and it’s just very different. It was very different. And it was like a rivalry rivalry between New York City and LA at the time, and who’s better and all that stuff. So I came to LA, I saw Jackie Sleight and I saw the way, you know, like Bill Bole was dancing and Bubba Carr and all that Aaron Cash and all those incredible people. So I came to LA and I just jumped in the water. 

Oh my gosh. I love that Jackie Sleight is part of that origin story. She’s part of mine as well. Um, I was a young convention dancling when I first met Jackie Sleight and I will never forget her, her teaching style, her way of engaging people with words, as well as with her movement. I am still riveted by her to this very day. She’s got to come on the podcast.

That woman has so much 

Legendary. Coming for you, Jackie I’m coming. Um, thank you also for dishing out some more legendary names. I hope our listeners are taking notes and doing good Googleage after this. Um, well, I’m thrilled that you, you wound up here. I wonder if our paths would have crossed otherwise, but, uh, you and I met through, I think we met personally through a mutual, uh, that’s a made up word, a mutual friend, Melanie Benz. And I think that speaks to like the interconnectivity, the importance of relationships in the industry, because it wasn’t work that brought you and I together, but work has come since then. Um, and I love that about what we do, but I think it’s unique. You know, I think in other industries, let’s say the skill is truly the most important thing. And I don’t know that that’s true for our industry. I think that on par with that is personability, professionalism, um, um, uh, uh, contribution to the process. Um, so I, yeah, I don’t know what I, I don’t, I don’t think there’s a lesson there. I guess what I’m encouraging in people is that if you’re a good person consider that, a credit on your resume, because it is helpful in the long run.  

Absolutely. A hundred percent. I think, even though I came from New York, I came to LA and I instantly met some of the greats. Like I ended up crazy enough working with Michael Peters and like, you know, Paula Abdul, yada yada, yada Vince Patterson, all the greats. And it was, I just felt like my path and I think we all as artists or dancers and we get, we get coupled up with the right energy. It’s like a matched energy. I feel so it’s like what I was putting in and what I was desiring, all the, all the, the people that came into the pathway were direct matches for me. So I think I knew about process and I, I, I loved process because it is the most important, so I wasn’t results driven. So that was really good. And I, I managed to maintain and stay that way. And through today, you know,  

Uh, yes, I do know. Um, okay. I want to talk about this idea of matching number one. I want to talk about you matching with Paula Abdul on star search. Um, is that not how you got your break? Was she, how, how did that moment work?

I was on star search, uh, you know, um, and then Paul Abdul, funny enough was one of the judges. And, um, I was, but I wasn’t on as a soloist. I was on with like two girls. So, you know, that was the connection. And then I went back on star search as a soloist, and then I had won the whole thing. And then I came to LA and Julia McDonalds set up a private audition for me and Paula and I went into a room with her and she, she put on our music and she made me dance. Right. And improv right there. 

How old were you at the time? Do you think it was, 

I was 18 or 19. Yeah. Wow.  

Does it feel oddly full circle to now be involved with a show? Like, so you think you can dance and giving that first break moment to so many dancinglings  

That was, that was an interesting, uh, connection and believe it or not that connection. And I say it all the time. That was because of Marty Kudelka. It was Marty Kudelka actually recommended me. He was on Marty was on the first season, I believe. And, um, and I was in New York actually doing, I’d been in Los Angeles living, but I went home. They asked me to do Chicago for a few months. So I did Chicago for like six months. And so I was doing that and having a great time and got a call from Nigel Lithgoe and Jeff Thacker and said, Marty, Kudelka recommended you to choreograph, um, a Fosse piece. And so I flew out to LA on Marty’s recommendation, and I never forgot that because, you know, truth be told, not everybody is, is, um, uh, giving enough to recommend people in our industry. And that’s just kind of the truth of it all, but I don’t, I don’t, I just come from, oh, Hey, you have to call so-and-so. You have to, this is that I come from that. So it’s, you know, so it’s not uncommon to me, but, uh, Marty Kudelka really showed that, you know, um, because our connection with Janet Jackson and then, and how he ended up working with her, you know, um, after I had done some work with her on tour and, and videos and stuff, so,  

Thats Right. I’m so glad that you mentioned him and are singing his praises because it reminds me, I think his name is possibly the most mentioned on the podcast. Um, and he is the person that extended a similar kindness to me. Um, and, and many, many, many kindnesses actually throughout my career, I safely can say, I wouldn’t have this career without that person at all, not even close. Um, Marty is, you know, people call this a dog eat dog world. And although Marty is my dog, there is, there is nothing dog eat about that person that Marty gives credit where it is due. He’s the first to, uh, to share space and make space for other people and their talent. Um, I’m so completely grateful for that. And I actually wonder, do you remember what season that was that you,  

So you think I went on the first season. My first show was the finale of the first season. So I went and did a Fosse piece, and then they brought me back season two, and they were like, can you do contemporary? And I was like, yeah, can you do jazz? I was like, yeah, Broadway. I was like, yeah. And then I, I did, like, I did an African Piece and, you know, and when you talk about versatility, I just throw it back to my, the way I trained at my dance studio, my local, the local dance studio. I went to, we were doing all of that at 10 years old. I mean, I had an African dance teacher named Luanis Luanis from Africa and we were dancing. So all these things, all the tapes are still in my mind. So it never leaves you what you were exposed to from your dance studio. And I think that’s so important, you know, cause we all come from dance studios and you know, they give us that.  

Well, not all of us, but most of certainly most of the people listening to this podcast, do I think they’re like me, you know, you talk about finding your people. And I think, yeah, like attracts, like, and I, I grew up a studio kid as well. No African in my dance studio, unfortunately for me. Um, I’m, I’m very jealous of that because the more I learn about what I do, the more I learn the roots and all of it stems from African people. Um, and I am mesmerized by that and I’m always eager to be growing and learning and also sharing and making space for people to get excited about that. Be introduced by that. Um, I think it’s a gift to be exposed to many styles that early on, especially African, um, I do want to ask though, because this comes up a lot with friends of mine and it was a part of the story that I told myself early on is that it was not a good thing to be a generalist that LA especially loves a specialist. We’re not looking for somebody that’s decent at all styles. We’re looking for the best Krumper and the best Popper and the world’s greatest B-boy like those were what the castings were looking for at the time that I moved out here anyways, which is way, way back in 2005. Um, but did you ever struggle with being categorized a generalist or not as a specialist or were you really just that good at everything?  

You mean me as a dancer? You mean me as a dancer? Right. I came to LA and I feel like, um, I was a certain kind of dancer and I w and I think in all of the projects that I, most of the projects I did, I was probably, I was always singled out for a feature or this, or I could, you know, I, I feel like I brought more to the table than just dance. Cause I felt like coming from New York, you were always telling a story and you were always acting and you were always like there was purpose. So it was, you know, it was celebrated, I think, you know, by a lot of different choreographers, you know? So I felt lucky. I felt lucky  

You’re echoing a few sentiments from a previous episode with Miguel’s Zarate where we were talking about the value of not fitting in. And yes, it’s great to be a specialist, but let’s remember how special it is to be you who’s exactly from where you’re from and exactly exposed to all the things you were exactly exposed to. And that, that made exactly you and holy smokes. I’m so thrilled that I know you and get to dance with you. Um, so let’s talk about that. Okay. Oh, wait back up, back about book before we go forward, we go back just one second on the subject of Marty Kudelka one of the graces that he extended to me was asking, uh, if I would like to collaborate co-choreograph a piece for, so you think you can dance with him is the only time I ever choreographed for the show, we got to work with Jose and Comfort who I, adore and we had an absolute ball. And I remember meeting you on the show. So you must have been there in season seven. 

Yeah. I, yeah, I’ve done a lot of seasons.  

I actually know that you’ve done a lot of seasons because I know that you’ve done 13 seasons.  

Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I, I, yeah, I’ve done a lot.  

Um, I suppose I could ask for outstanding moments. Do you want to talk at all about your Emmy win or is it,  

That was absolutely wonderful and sort of crazy, but just to wrap it up in a, um, brief little story of that, I’ve  

Always for a second, I thought you were going to say wrap it up in a tortilla. Cause that was the shape you were making tiny little burrito out of it. This is what it would be into  

I’m into it and I’m totally up to it. Um, no, I, I think maybe, uh, I don’t know, dancers might be inspired or anybody could be inspired by, um, I always saw myself. I always have these movies in my mind. I think I always saw movies or like this mini movie in my mind. Like I always knew I was, was going to dance with Janet Jackson or I knew I had, but I knew that I was walking up some stairs. I knew I, I saw this movie in my mind. I was walking upstairs and I, I had this gold award in my hand and I was speaking about all the people that I, you know, that helped in that process and, and that, and, and yeah, I didn’t know it was going to happen at, So you think you can Dance, but, but it ended up happening and it was a beautiful, magical moment.  And, um, yeah, and the fact that I was able to create a library, I, you know, I, wasn’t a choreographer when I got on the show, I, I actually landed that, you know, television show and I just so happened to be dancing the Fosse work. So they felt like I could do this Fosse piece. And I did that. And then I just, I kind of just stayed in each moment and I didn’t really get ahead of myself. And I was just kind of like, yeah, I can do that. Cause I knew I just needed to work on my craft and at least find a little tiny voice of as a choreographer. So I did that like a lot. So I took every episode they gave me and I just worked on it. And so eventually it paid off and I started to find a little voice in there. And um, yeah, and I, I met so many people like, you know, Chris Scott, who we’ll get to who some of the loves of my life at, at, uh, so you think, and we all, you know, Sonya Taya, Stacy Tookey all these beautiful people, all of them, you know.

And, and what a great way to make your muscles as big and strong by helping others to become big and strong. I I’ve heard, you know, a lot of experiences from the show, from the contestants point of view. And of course it’s a ringer, of course it’s a challenge. That’s the point, it’s a competition show and it is also a reality show. So circling back to, it’s not always, no, if at all, about your talent, um, which I remember being so frustrated about that show in the beginning when I was, when I was younger, when I was like contestant age, I hated that about the show. And I was like, that’s not real life. If this is, if this is a dance show, the best man or woman or person should win. Um, and then I noticed that this was about America’s favorite dancer and those aren’t always the same person,  

Right? Yeah. You know, and from the choreography standpoint, you know, the choreographers are in this, uh, um, little pit, like, you know, we’re, you know, we all want to do well. We all want to, to rise to the occasion. So it’s, there’s the dancers. And then there’s the choreographers because yes, it is a reality show. It’s television, you know, it was about the pieces that they performed, you know, and the connections between all of us, like I had been there from season one, you know, and all the new choreographers and the great people that I ended up meeting, like Nappy Tabs and Chris, you know, they’d come in and they’d be like, oh my God, I like, or what are they going to say about my number? And I was like, and I remember telling them that because I had been there a bit and went through that same thing. And so I felt it important to say, Hey, listen, you know, they can say what they want about your number, but the truth is is that you leave here with that, that’s your work and next week, no one’s ever going to remember what they said. So it’s like, you just stay, stay, stay with you. You know? So, because I have learned that I’ve learned that, um, early on there, cause it’s, it’s a daunting experience because  

For sure. And I think that actually spreads beyond that show into, into everything. I think the, the work is what people remember. Um, I’m thinking about myself, like YouTubing specific numbers from that show, I would scrub right through all the chatter at the beginning and I would not stick around for the chatter at the end. Um, I thought that I was alone in that, but I don’t think I am. I think you’re spot on. Um, so maybe let’s stick on that theme for a second on the subject of competition. Um, we talked about the choreography worlds being kind of a dog eat dog world. And we are a community. We are an industry that’s working desperately to organize and find ourselves a home, find ourselves some, some semblance of collective bargaining somehow. Um, and it’s challenging to do when, when there isn’t a sense of unity. Um, I know it’s possible because the dance community did it. And I came up through the dance community, which was also dog eat dog, tremendously competitive. And I think there are more dancers than choreographers. So if the dance world could do it, I think the choreography worlds can do it. Um, but I would love to hear your thoughts on competitive nature within our industry. Is it useful? How do you manage it? 

That’s an amazing question. I’m glad you asked. And, um, I guess after, after, after 2020, um, but even before that, I think for me, I think I was starting to formulate. I’ve never, you know, I grew up, you know, in the competitive world for a little bit, you know, I, I maybe did competition dance world for like four years, you know, and I grew up competitive and you know, I’m competitive with myself, but I do remember being like seeing some great dancers, like male dancers when I got to LA and never, I never felt the better you were and the more talented you were, I was like, we’re going to be friends because I, I need what you have. So I re I never remember being like sharky about any of that ever. The better you are, the more talented, the more we were going to be friends. And I have so many friends that are so, you know, talented and have all those great qualities. So, um, I feel about competition in the industry. I feel even after last year, I, I think, you know, we all have a whole different perspective on life in the world. And so many things that I just decided like, yeah, I know, no, no. 

Yeah, no, I’m not going to do that. Oh,  

I mean, I mean, I’m an adult, but like, I don’t, you know, I just think like, to be competitive and, you know, it’s just, that’s just not important. It’s just so it’s so not important. It’s so 10 years ago, 

it’s not in fashion, 

It’s not even important. Oh God. Like even more so now it’s just, yeah. And especially the industry being as hard as it is, you want to add another layer of a layer of competitive newness on it. I just think it’s, doesn’t serve it. Doesn’t serve me. That’s for sure. You know, and having to like, yeah, just all the things you have to do in this industry, like, you know, putting the pressure on yourself or, you know, feeling like I have to achieve this by this. I I’m like no, none of, none of that, none of that is important at all. You know? Cause again, it’s really about process. It’s about connection. I think it’s about, um, you know, just get, getting, losing yourself in your art and, and, and not being so results driven because that’s, that only can equate to one thing and, you know, and just, and think, think about all the artists you love and that you admire and respect. I think it’s really important too, that you know, that the, the, the artist meets the person to, you know, like where the artist meets the person. Cause it’s like in our industry, as long as we’re talking about industry and the, the reality of it is, is, um, you see things on a TV screen or, um, you know, on, on your phone and it looks as if it’s a certain way, but that is not the reality. The reality is, is it’s not everything is, as it seems is what I’m saying. So when you, what’s great, is that when you meet an artist, whether it be an actor, a singer dancer, choreographer director, yada, yada, yada, that the person actually meets, uh, the artists they’re as great as a human, as their artistry, you know? And I’m just keeping it real. I I’m just trying to keep it real just because we’re having a conversation. So we’re going to talk for real about, yes,  

Let’s go! There are a lot of smoke and mirrors and that, and actually, and nobody’s trying to hide that it’s an industry that’s based on making things look like something else, the actors are doing it, the set designers doing it, the lighting team is doing it. There’s no mystery. Like we are in the business of making something that isn’t what it is. Right. So really useful to be what you are to know who you are, so that you can do that with, with clarity and go home and get a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. However, it was that you spent your day before that point. Um, okay. So now let’s get into talking about how we got to spend some of our days during the summer of 2019. Um, you, you talked about finding a friend in Christopher Scott, and you talked about, you know, the pressure of being on. So You Think You Can Dance the pressure of having a great number. And I think that Chris is somebody who balances being a friend and being a professional who has a seriously high bar of expectations. Um, during the process, it was like no end to achieving the dream. Yeah. It was very rare that he felt like we’ve got it even up to the days before the shoot or during the freaking shoot. It’s still like trying to make it that much better. And one of the, one of the ways I remember you coming into play of this film is we were casting this number. That’s very special number in the film called Paciencia y Fe and we, uh, he, he wanted real looking humans, different ages, different sizes, different shapes, but like real looking people that have magic and charisma. And he said, Tyce has to do this. Tyce would be so perfect. Um, and this was, you know, not a, not an easy or natural step for you. I’m sure you were in the middle of other projects and life and work and things. So how was it that, how was it that the project came to you? How did you feel about doing it and what are your thoughts about the process?  

Well, um, wildly, you know, I’m wildly a fan of Chris Scott because it’s, it’s so rare. Um, Chris is, is rare in this industry. And so when you find those golden nuggets, you hang on to them and we really connected at So you Think as people, as people and we just really respected each other’s craft and artistry, so that was good. And we just became friends and then, um, cut to, um, you know, I, I had been choreographing at the time. Uh, well I worked with Taylor Swift for about nine years, you know, on yes,  

That’s right. That’s an overlap. Okay. Yes.  

And I, um, and we had Chris come in on the 1989 album and do like two or three numbers. Um, and so we connected even more there. And so, uh, it’s always been a, uh, uh, like a love fest, like just, you know, and so I was in New York and I got a call and he was like, Hey, um, I think I saw, he might’ve seen from my Instagram that I was in New York or whatever. And I was like, yeah. And he had mentioned, he’s like, I really want you to do In the Heights. And I was like, oh, okay. I was like, I was like, definitely. Absolutely. And the dates ended up working out. And so of course always, always always know, you know, like when, when there’s an opportunity to dance and it’s people you love and admire and respect all day every day. And I’ve always done that, you know, as like somebody who’s got a project and they asked me, you know, you’re more selective now that you’re, you know, you know,  

Now that the cartilage in your knees is wearing out.  

I mean, listen, thank God. My knees are good, but you know, it’s like, but I just, I just, um, I love to dance. So, and I love to be with good people that dance and create, so,  

Oh, we had so much fun and you’re going to be so proud Mayor LaGuardia.  

I’m sure. I’m sure it was amazing time. It was amazing. You were so brilliant and perfect as always. And it just like damp that in for sure. It’s like a process and process of that was so beautiful and so great. It was run so well, everything was just, it was just such a great experience, you know? And I, I definitely will remember that and, you know, and I got to meet Ebony Williams. And so I was so like enamored by her. I was like, wow. And then I watched her dance and then I was like, wait a minute. I was like, hold on everybody. 

Yes, everyone. Hold on. 

Did everybody just see that? I was like, we’re not just gonna like keep talking after she just did that. What a amazing dancer.

Incredible there is. I’m convinced nothing that she cannot do.

Wow. Now and I saw her in, um, um, jagged little pill.  

Yeah. Okay. So you’re a unique person. Well, you’re unique in many ways, but you’re unique in one specific way, which is that you have been a Broadway dancer who has also been in Broadway film adaptations. I am so curious because I don’t have, um, I’ve workshopped, I’ve skeleton crewed, a few shows for Broadway or off-Broadway to become Broadway shows, but I am so curious to hear your thoughts on what the biggest difference is in terms of being a dancer in each of those spaces, because you take In the Heights, for example, with a few tiny script changes, it’s the same show that was on Broadway as it is on film, but what’s the difference for the dancer. I would love to hear you thoughts.

To be honest with you when I was in New York working on that film, particularly it did, it felt, um, like a product exactly like a Broadway show. What made it feel that way? Well, because there was so much because you’re, you are dealing with a theatrical piece that has a, you know, it’s a script with song and movement and all the things, all the elements. And for me, I was, I was, and as being in New York and with all those beautiful New York Dancers, um, I just felt like, Hmm. I mean, with the difference of there’s no, there’s no live orchestra and you know, it,  

Or a live audience.  

So, um, for me, I mean that particular experience was unique to its own because it felt, it, it felt like we were working on a Broadway show for sure. Yeah, definitely. Because it was just so, um, you know, well thought out and just had so much purpose and  

And so much plot. There are so many stories to tell. Um, yeah. And everyone did it. Every ensemble dancer was dancing the story of a main character. Um, and in many cases it also is their story in, in our case, how lucky did we get to have such giving dancers talent in general, who brought themselves their struggle, their success to this process? I mean, I get chills thinking about it. And when I tell you you’re going to lose your mind. That 191st street tunnel, uh, you taking that step into that line, in that hat, in that fit, shout out, Mitchell Travers come on, killed the wardrobe. It’s one of. Paciencia is one of my, uh, one of my favorite parts of the film. It really feels like the heart to me. I hope that you love it.  

Um, sh I’m sure. I’m sure. I mean, it was like when you see the trailer it’s, um, in the casting and you hear the music, it’s like all the, all the elements have to come together seamlessly. So that it’s one thought. And that I felt like, I felt like when I saw the trailer, it’s like, you know, you just know, like, you know, when I’d walked down the streets in New York and I’d go see shows all the time you go in, you hear the overture, whatever you’re listening to, you, you know, you’re in the presence of greatness right away. It doesn’t take long, you know, especially in theater, because there’s so much, there’s so much of the puzzle that goes into making that one overall piece and picture and thought. And so I think in the I’m I know that with In the highest, and I will say I was highly impressed, highly impressed with John Chu and his, and the way he walked by and addressed and spoke to dancers and people and the way, and I was like, it starts at the top  

Trickle down.  

And he, like, he came over, we were on the train and he was like Tyce. And I was like, what, how do you know my name? And so like, just, and this is where, this is where I go back to saying where the artist meets the person. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m talking about because not everybody, not everybody is that human, you know? Yeah, it’s true. But John Chu was, I don’t have enough words.  

I, uh, I love the way he leads and damn I love the way he makes movies. Um, okay. So I, while we’re kind of, while we’re on the subject of character and working on, on movement, that’s human, right? That, that part of the film is a very human moment with a backdrop of beautifully crafted contemporary, and honestly, a gorgeous collision of styles of movement. But the moment itself is a human moment. The backdrop of dances is it is inhuman in a very beautiful way, but I, I, a part of my work that I really, really love is working as a movement coach, much less to do with 5, 6, 7, 8. 1e and a 2e and a. And, um, but I love story. I love characters and I love non-dancers. I know that you also movement coach, and I would love to hear a little bit about your approach to being a movement coach. Um, you’ve worked with Cameron Diaz, Megan Mullally looking at my notes, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Christina freaking Applegate, who I simply adore Queen Latifa, Toby McGuire. I mean, come on. Um, so yeah. Are you, are you open to talking a little bit about your approach to that kind of work.  

I absolutely love, love, love working with actors and, and just, um, you know, I mean, working with Toby McGuire, let’s just say, you know, he’s an such an actor’s actor, so, you know, but, but the great thing about actors, as you know, it’s like, I love approaching it from that perspective. Do you know what I mean? So it just, I always say when I’m teaching, it’s like we have to lose the dance in order to get to the dance, you have to lose it. You have to be willing to lose it. And it’s very hard for a dancer, especially a dancer to lose the dance because we train to dance. But when you’re talking about a story and you’re talking about why are we all here? What is the point for us to all be here? And when we’re looking at this movement, why are we looking at it? Because it can’t be because you do it well, you have to come at it with, what’s your, what’s the reason for moving? What made you want to take that first step? What is it about the music? What is it about the story? What is it about you, your intention? What are all the things that make you, we want to see you? Yes. So, so I try to approach it that way. And you know, I’m working with Katie Holmes, who’s a dear friend. And I mean, I remember working with her very closely and, um, she wanted a dance. She wanted to dance more dance, and then we had done a couple of TV shows and, and then, um, I actually had this great idea put her on So You Think You Can Dance with a bunch of guys and Nigel gave us some funding to do this. Um, and I recreated Judy Garland’s Get Happy. And so, and I got to direct it. And so it was absolutely beautiful. So,  

Oh my gosh Tyce! We’re going to link to all of the performances that you’re talking about in the show notes to this episode. I haven’t seen that. I cannot wait to see that. I cannot wait to find it and share it with the world. It  

It was a wonderful moment. And, and, and working with someone, I love Katie Holmes. I love Toby Maguire. And, you know, and even Taylor Swift, who is a, um, a recording artist, a writer, uh she’s, you know, and working with her in movement. It’s like, it’s so interesting because she’s not, she’s not a natural dancer. And, you know, she would tell you that, but, but what what’s, so, and I’ve worked with her for so many years and I’m fascinated at, and I wouldn’t change a thing because she is such a storyteller, such a storyteller. So when she moves at, when she approaches something, she’s always like, well, why am I doing that?  It’s and she really is such a great artist. I mean, such a good writer. And so it was really, I loved, loved every second of every album and tour I’ve ever, you know, and we’ve always done great work together. And so I, I, um, I love it. And Megan Mullally is, is completely different. And Megan is like, you know, she’s like, okay. And I love people who are interested in how the dance gets made. She called me, I wanna, I want to know how you’re gonna approach this. Let’s talk about it. She’s like, because the way I dance is not the way everybody else dances. And I was like, amazing, great. We’re on a, we, we’ve got a, we’ve got a base that we can work with. So it’s sort of, she’s like, and, and, you know, each person comes with their own set of ideas that adds to the it’s a real collaboration. And, you know, I mean, it’s, and it’s, I think it’s all, it’s also as well. It’s all in the communication too. It’s all in how you communicate, how people are going to move and why, and, you know, because it’s a very haunting experience for some people to move, right?  

Oh, they’ve got ideas about what choreographers are and what dances. And I don’t know who is responsible for this, but somewhere along the line, dance and choreographers became terrifying for many actors. I don’t know who was, who was responsible for that, but it’s, that’s the thing that happened for sure. I see one of my, one of my many roles in being a movement coach is like deconstructing what those beliefs about what is dance and what is a choreographer kind of breaking those down to be far more human. Yeah.  

When someone walks into the room, whether they dance or don’t dance, or, um, I usually, I usually take how they walk, how they talk, how they are in life. And then you go with that grain. And when you’re approaching movement with someone, because you don’t want it to be scary, you don’t want it to feel like they’re, they’re having to like, like climb up at it and like not achieve it. And you want to empower people, you know? So you highlight how they walk, how they talk, how they behave, how they are in it, just in life and how they speak. You know, I, I always find that it’s helpful that you find out who they are and how that works together with the movement, you know? And, and so that’s always helped me tremendously.  

Thank you for sharing that. I think we overlap in our, in a lot of ways there. Um, one of the things I love most is explaining, you know, you talk about the importance of communication, and I love the creative challenge of explaining dance in non dance language. Um, it’s a creative, it’s a way for me to actively be creating when I might not be creating phrases per se, but, uh, creating new pathways in the brain and new ways of understanding a thing. I might be explaining a step in a way that I have never thought of it before, because this person doesn’t know the way that I’ve thought of it before all of the ways that a pas de bourres used to make sense to me, I’m now getting to question in order to help it make sense to somebody who’s never heard about it. It’s some of my favorite words. I love it.  

And I’m sure you do it so well. I mean, yeah. I mean, I, I got to see you work up close in, In the Heights, which was amazing, you know? And so you’re like a force and I got to dance right opposite you.  

Oh, I, yeah. I didn’t mention that is one of the only two numbers in the movie that I got to perform in and how much fun. Yeah. We have, uh, we have a moment you and I walking dead on towards camera. It is a very fleeting moment. It happens extremely quickly, but there we are. That’s our, it’s our, um, secret, secret duet where we have a lot of people around us. Um, okay. Well, I, I know that your time is valuable. I do want to do one more thing at a time valuable. That was a weird thing to say. I know your time is valuable, but I could talk to you for five hours. Um, I’ve noticed that five-hour podcasts only do well If you’re Seth Rogan, I always say Seth, by the way, Joe Rogan, that will tell you what kind of podcaster I am. I’m the type of podcast or that doesn’t know Joe Rogans name.  

It’s all perfect. There’s nothing you can say, Dana.  

That will not be perfect. Okay. Well, I’m so glad you said that because do you know how I want to close out right now? I’m grinning so hard. I’m about to cry.  

No, no, I know. I know what you’re going to do. What you’re going to do. Okay. Go do it. It’s like. 

I saw Will Loftis last night and I told him that I was going to be with you today. Immediately. He was like, it’s like the, 

I just had a heart attack. Okay. Give me, give me a word. I’ll start with your word. Um, cup. 

It’s like the cup without the water. It’s like a mother without her daughter.  

You so good. Its like a candle. 

No, you have, have to start, right? 

I have to start with the last part. I got you.  

Start with a word that I finished with. Oh. And then make the, um, it’s like, I don’t know. It’s like a cup without the straw. It’s like a courtroom without the law.  

It’s like the law without the judge. Its like the steeple without the justice. You have to rhyme!

Yes. I know. But you have to rhyme. The last one has to rhyme the second one. Oh man. Okay. So for everyone that is confused right now, this little rhyming game is the game that on the night we were shooting Paciencia y Fe shoot, which turned into a morning shoot because they were lighting the 190 first street, uh, tunnel. They were lighting it for probably six hours. So we were all in a holding area and Will freaking Loftis starts playing this rhyme game. And he is so very good at he’s extremely good at this game. Um, and Tyce, you were newer to the game and I cry, I cried off my makeup, laughing at how willing you were to be playing this game that you were not any good at. And that spoke to me. And I think that that is a life lesson that we could all glean from. You can have so much fun and you can be the life of the party and still be new to something.  

So hideous said that, and I’m like, why? Everybody’s a rapper And like, oh my God,  

Do you want to try one? Do you want to try one more?  

Yeah. Okay. Always. I should practice for the rest of my life. 

Here’s how it goes. The first word. And the second word are related. They’re related, but they don’t rhyme. And then the third word is not related at all to the second word. It doesn’t rhyme with it either, but it is related to the fourth word and the second and the fourth word must rhyme. Second and fourth must rhyme. Your first word is my fourth word. Whatever my fourth word was, we’ll go super slow.  

Yeah. Or how slow, like turtle slow.  

I won’t even keep a rhythm by the way. The rhythm is the fun part. The rhythm picks up. And then, and then your Will Loftis and you’re actually a rapper. Oh, he’s so good. He’s got to come on the podcast. We’ll do a full episode of, of just this game. Okay. Uh, blah, blah, blah. Okay. We’ll go. Thematic. It’s like the podcast without the host. It’s like the breakfast without the toast. Yes, yes, yes. Okay. Now toast to you. 

It’s like the toast without the jam. It’s like the it’s like the, um, wait. It’s like the, oh God. Yeah. You know? Oh, skillet without the spam. 

Yes. You’re frying the spam. I get it. So right. You did  

Okay. Okay.  

Okay. I’m kind of on your tip now. Okay. Yeah. So you had spam spam to me. It’s like the spam without the salt. It’s like the milkshake without the malt. Malt is a tough one. Malt is tough. I would have definitely, probably won that round malt malt.  

It’s like the malt. It’s five o’clock apparently it’s fine. Yay. It’s five.  

We made it to five. It’s like a malt. It’s like the  

Malt without the,  

You can use, you could, you might use ball like a multiple, like a melted milk,  

Milk ball. Like the mall without the ball. It’s like, uh, it’s like the, the school without the hall. Okay. Now I got you. Dana, 

You Got me. It’s like the hall without the lockers. It’s like the electric shock without the shockers. I don’t know that didn’t make sense. Does that makes sense at all? I would have lost that round. It’s like the electric shock without the shockers, whatever. Tyce It’s five o’clock it’s time for us to park today, but not forever. I’m so excited to see you again. Soon. Let’s go see In the Heights together. I would love to be like elbowing you in the ribs for, for an hour and a half. That’s what I want. Um, so thank you again for being here. I just had a ball. I smiled the entire time. My cheeks hurt. 

That was amazing and terrifying all at the same time. 

Are you sweating? I always sweat. Sweating. 

Sweating. So fun though. So fun.  

Fun. Okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to set a schedule for us to meet and play that game. And then just without telling Will we’ll be like, Hey, Will, do you want to have lunch? And then we’ll meet we’ll for lunch and we will crush him.  

Okay. So now I’ve got a little, little seed of good things to come because you taught me now slowly. You also were playing and all were excellent. Oh,  

That’s true. You jumped into the deep with us. Yeah. Oh God phenomenal. All right. My friend have an amazing rest of your day. Thank you again for doing this. Bye.

I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Tyce. And I really hope you take this rhyming game and become a master of it because it is genuinely so much fun hours, hours just flying by and makeup melting off from tears. So much fun. Don’t piss off hair and makeup. You don’t want to be that guy. Try to preserve your makeup as best as you can. Um, all right. Y’all, that’s it for me. I’m going to get out into the world. I am going to encourage every single person whose path I cross to go see In the Heights in a theater. So Latin people receive only 4.5% of speaking roles in films like dialogue in movies, only 4.5% of it is spoken by a Latin person. Yet Latin make up 40% of the audiences that is so wildly out of balance. And as frustrating is that is to me right now in this moment, I’ve got this kind of like super, super sad satisfaction, knowing that studios listen to dollars. And so if people show up at the box office and the box office doesn’t lie, studios will see that people want these stories. People want to see these people in leading roles and people will pay for representation. I think that is the ticket. If you can, if you’re healthy, if you feel safe, go see In the Heights in a theater and bring as many people as you possibly can. That’s me asking you straight up because the box office is where you, the audience member get to ask for what you want and you ask for it with your ticket admission. That’s how you do it.  So please go out there, go see In the Heights. And of course go keep it exceptionally funky. And you know what else though? Keep it saucy because holy hell the sauce, the heat that comes from that film. Oh, yep. You’re not ready. Or maybe you’ve already seen it. You are ready and you just want to keep filling the cup. Please go, go and go again. All right. That’s it. That’s it for me really. But I want to keep talking about it. I’m going to reserve for Choreo team episode coming so-so so soon. Thank you guys for listening. I hope you’re great.  Thank you guys for listening. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me too. Number two things, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, That’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #75 Being Creative Idiots with Smac McCreanor

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #75 Being Creative Idiots with Smac McCreanor

What do Tik Tok, a hydraulic press, and my favorite city in Australia all have in common?  This week’s guest, Smac McCreanor. In this conversation, Smac and I dig into TikTok, commercials, building creative spaces, and living the lives of our dreams, so get ready to giggle, take notes, and maybe even tear up a little bit, because … This woman lives to laugh, she is strategic AND silly, and she knows how to turn 1+1 into 1 million.  Wait, sorry…more like 1.5 million. 

Quick Links:

Smac on the gram: https://www.instagram.com/smacmccreanor/

Smac on Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@smacmccreanor

YT of her remake Britney Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQk1lzbtzyo

Ryan’s Back Flip to the Head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8kFJIt6xtg


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: Welcome my friend. This is Dana. This is words that move me. And this is a truly special episode because today I’m sharing a conversation with a person that I have adored at a distance for a very long time, but only really shared time and space with them. A few, uh, very cherished times. My guest today is Smac McCreanor. You may know her as the hydraulic press girl. You may know her as a Tik TOK star, but if you know her at all, you know her as many, many things, because she is many things. She is a very multi type and a man she’s talented, she’s smart. She’s savvy. She’s seriously funny. And she’s also super, she’s also super generous in sharing her experience, um, this entertainment industry thing that we’re doing. So y’all are lucky ducks to be listening in on this conversation. Now, if you know me, which some of you may not, but most of you do, if you know me at all, you know how much I value humor and play in my work. Yes. Play in my work. I really do think that is the sweet spot. So of course, I’m excited to share this conversation because I think Smac is giving new meaning to playful work. And I’m so jazzed about that. I’m so excited to share, but first wins. If you are new to the podcast, this is the part where I share a little personal victory sometimes it’s big, usually it’s small, uh, because I think it’s really important for us creative types, AKA perfectionist types to take a few minutes out of our day of criticizing and scrutinizing and analyzing to recognize what is straight up going well. So first all go, and then I will yield the floor to you. So get your win ready. Uh, today I am celebrating a play date with my fellow Seaweed Sisters. We have some things special up our sleeves, um, and that was a really evil laugh, but, uh, that we are not so evil surprise actually does not fit up a sleeve. That was misleading to say that, um, our special new project does not fit up a sleeve. Unless of course it would be a very big sleeve. Um, and all of this conversation about sleeves is reminding me of a joke that I have is a very good joke that is now probably ruined because I just ruined it. But I’m going to tell it anyways, because I think it’s a win in and of itself. Where does a king keep his Armies? Where does a king keep his armies? Obviously he keeps his armies in his sleevies. Too good. It’s too good. Okay. So today I’m celebrating really good, bad jokes and also the seaweed, sisters, new work in the making, all right, that’s me now. It’s your turn. What is going well in your world?  

Congrats rock on. I am proud of you keep winning. Okay. I probably should also mention if you are not aware who the seaweed sisters are or what I produce, I should really say what the seaweed sisters are. Um, they are, we are one of my favorite things in the world made up of two of my favorite people, Jillian Meyers, Megan Lawson, and me. Um, and if you, if you don’t know, you can absolutely go find out the Seaweed Sisters on Instagram and also on YouTube, but not on Tik ToK, which is a perfect segue. Let’s do this today, Smac and I talk tik-tok we talk social media at large. Um, we talk commercials, we talk contracts, we talk creative spaces and we talk living the lives of our dreams. And I don’t think we say the word influencer even once. I think I could be wrong, but I don’t think we say influencer. So there’s that, so go ahead and, um, grab your favorite snack bonus. If it’s from Australia and enjoy this conversation with the one and only Smac.

Dana: Holy freaking smokes, I am really, really excited to be just, I’m really excited to hang out today, virtually not really in person, but with the one and only Smac McCreanor Hello, welcome to the podcast, Smac.  

Smac: Hello, everyone.  

Dana: I’m so excited. I’m sweating already, also wearing a long sleeve turtleneck and that was not a smart choice. Um, okay. Smac, I think you and I have only technically overlapped like in the workspace. Um, one time, which is Kat Burns’ Raggle Taggle Dance Hour where I was absolutely smitten by your performance. Um, but I’ve been a long time fan of yours and an admirer of your work and of you as a human. So I’m really thrilled to be getting to chat with you today. Thank you for being here.  

Smac: Thank you so much for having me all my God. You’re legendary. I love you so much.  

Dana: The love is mutual. It is, it’s palpable. I feel it in my armpits, in the form of heat. Um, okay. So the – the, the workflow here on the podcast, every episode starts at the same. It’s troublesome for some, but I ask all of my guests to introduce themselves. So w what is it that you would like us to know about you?  

Smac: Wow. Hey everyone. My name is Smac. I don’t know. I’m giving away my secrets already, but my real name is Sarah. Sarah McCreanor,  Sarah Mac, Smac. I get that question a lot. So I’ll just put it out there, but I’m an Australian dancer, actress, comedian, artists, photographer, business owner, I guess, choreographer and creative director and chocolate lover.   

Um, co-sign on so many of those titles, but can we loop back really quick to business owner? Talk to me about it.  

It is, it’s just been a COVID. It thing, like Covid had changed everyone, hopefully for the better, in most sense. But, um, so as you know, Ryan, who’s my boyfriend and a dear friend of yours, and he’s, he sends his best wishes to you right now. 

Shout out Ryan Conferido whats up. Oh, we love it. It’s so great. We really we’re really big fans. I mean, you’re, you’re a bigger fan, Is a given, but wow. Okay. So you and Ryan, its a given. 

Uh, we are creative idiots and just basically I’ve rented spaces before to like, do my own production work. And so is he, and just together while like let’s design a creative space, like a studio production space that people can rent from us and do all the creative work in, and also we can use it for ourselves. Um, and so that became a business and we just like invested in this last year. Um, coincidentally the same day we opened business was the same day that LA shut down for COVID. We literally had our opening night party, and then we got that like notification, how, you know, everyone got one and it’s like, Hey, Go Home,  I’m like all happy opening business day, gosh, like the worst timing ever. But we had no idea what was going to happen. We didn’t know how the year was going to pan out. Obviously everyone was just on edge a little bit. Um, so we did what we could and just went with the flow, but it honestly worked in our favor because both Ryan and I work full time in the creative world and taking on this business was a little bit scary because it’s full-time as well. And we’re like, we just started a whole new career path right now, just on top of our lives. Um, and with COVID, since Hollywood shut down, it actually gave us full time to just focus and just start all this from scratch and like, figure it out.  

Nurture this little infancy of a business that you had.  

It was such a big learning curve. And I loved every step of it. I’ve always been, if I can toot my own horn, I’ve always been a little bit business-minded and obviously Ryan is a genius in every way everyone knows it. Well, we kind of just stumbled upon this and I guess figured it out and cause I haven’t caught up with you. Um, we signed another lease for a second location just a few weeks ago. So straight after this, I’m going to go paint some walls and like we’ll finish renovating for a second location.  

Hell yes. Yeah.  

Just switching career paths right now, switching, adding on a career path. 

Adding on exploring or rounding out on an interest that used to manifest in other people’s spaces, the interest is the same, right? Exploring for yourself and facilitating exploration for other people, which in your own ways, you and Ryan both do, you’re like tremendously influential in your, in your fields. And I think you’re really encouraging people. You make work that is accessible and helps. I in, in my view anyways, helps people to feel like I want to be making, um, I, my husband is in rapid prototyping. He’s a machinist. He is an optical engineer. He is also many things, right. He’s like Ryan in that way. And one of our biggest dreams is to have a live/work space together. Um, you don’t live at the studio, do you? Your, is your space different? And by the way, we can definitely cut this part. If you don’t want people to know where you live.

I live at so-and-so street. Um, no, I mean, It would be awesome to have, I mean, I think that’s a lot of artists kind of dream living scenarios and absolutely I’d love to have that. At some point we started a small obviously, cause we’d had no clue what we’re doing, but um, yeah, at some point to be able to just have a place where I can live, create, eat, sleep on my, that is like great,  

Wake up coffee, be making. That’s the dream. I, I really, I’m excited to pick your brain about having big space and all of the things that that means. But I think maybe, maybe my biggest question is this sounds like a dream. What parts of it are a nightmare? Like what could you prepare me for? What are the dumpster fires that I might walk into that you could help me to avoid? 

Okay, well, I’m gonna  Start by saying I’m I’m someone that just always goes with the flow. So I, I think, uh, something I like about myself as, I really don’t try to get upset certain things because I’m like who cares, whatever. No worries, Hakuna Matata, because everything usually works out. So I’m like, okay, cool. Um, but in saying that the thing I was most nervous about just, and it’s purely just an LA thing is the traffic. I was like, I don’t want to get in my car and drive for an hour to go to another place that you know, but, um, I’ve never experienced it. I’ve been in LA for like 10 years now. And you know, we’re always in traffic every day going anywhere. And this was the first time in the last decade that I’ve never been upset about sitting in traffic because I’m going to my own place. I’m going to a place that I love that I built. So  

Because you’re going to a place that you love traffic no longer carries a wrath over you.  

No, not at all. And like, it’s kind of weird that that was the biggest thing. I was not looking forward to just getting to the place it had nothing to do with place the business, the stress that it might cause. Um, but I was like, oh gosh, the traffic is such a chore, but it hasn’t affected me in a bad way at all. Cause I just am excited to go there. Um, and then I guess the other thing that was that you could probably relate to a lot is, um, just scheduling because our lives all over the place, any type of creative artist or, um, you know, freelancer as well is like, you’re just always on call. You’re always on hold. Some people have multiple agents and stuff like that as well. So you don’t always get a full say in things. And I was very nervous about that. And the best thing that came out of COVID is that that part stopped for me. So I got to take a break and just kind of learn how to do the business side of it. And now it’s merging back together and sometimes I panic, but it’s always a good problem because it’s usually things overlapping, right? So it’s just managing that. But like, that’s why we have a team like me and Ryan together can manage it fine. Like we just was such a good tag team in that way. We’re just lucky that we can work well like that. And just, we both have similar schedules where we can just pick up for each other and yeah. 

That is a dream. Congratulations and keep winning. That’s massive. Oh, we do wins on the podcast by the way, every episode includes like a micro win and that win, like having a partnership that is business and beyond is such a massive win. Ah, good on you. Good on you. Oh, which brings us back. Okay. So now I’m moving back to move forward. Okay. You’re from Australia. You mentioned that, but you’re from Brisbane, which is probably my favorite city in Australia. Yes. Um, I’ve been there twice on tours and I know Sydney has its thing and Perth is super charming and like people have their favorites, but Brisbane is my favorite. It is also where Wade Robson is from, was born. And he’s a very special person.  

Yes, he absolutely is. But I met him when I was a kid because the dance studio, I grew up to where I grew up in, uh, doesn’t actually like exist anymore. It’s motion to something else is where he used to dance, but not for a long time because I didn’t ever cross over paths with him. But it was like the claim to fame kind of thing, where it was like, for sure, probably once took a class here, but it was like a thing. And he came back when I was a teenager or tween and did a master class. And this is me in Brisbane, a little Bogan Aussie kid didn’t know anything about anything anywhere. And I just remember he picked, he pointed me out and he like made me dance by myself. And I was like, oh, I was like 12. So he, uh, I really liked him.

I love those moments. Um, okay. Jumping ahead. In time you live in Los Angeles, you are a person who works in with, with different paint brushes, be it as an actress, a comedian, a full-blown dancer. You did have the, So you Think You Can Dance moment, which I thought was phenomenal. I don’t know what your experience was with the show. And we can talk about that if you’d like, or we don’t have to, but it feels like you’ve had your hand in a lot of different, um, you know, parts of the entertainment industry. Is there, is there one place that you love to be working the most?  

Um, okay. I think because it was something I had never experienced until I moved to LA I am a sucker for the commercial industry, I mean, I guess I think this is where like, as a dancer, you know, it’s really typical that way behind someone it’s like the whole backup dancer vibe. Not that that’s bad thing at all, but once I’ve booked my first commercial and I was like, oh, um, I’m kind of the main thing here. My ego just went, okay,

This is all I want to do forever. Thanks. 

I love it. I’m always trying to be that person, you know, like I, I like to entertain people. I like to make people laugh and I think I just had a really good first experience with it. And then as it went down the path and the flow started to get real nice and I don’t know how it fell into that, but, um, it was just commercial after commercial for a little bit there. And I was like, this is a real, really nice. Yeah. 

I could do this for my living. And you did. And you could do that for your life.  

I really could. And you could, and I will,  but I’m a bit of a scatterbrain. So I think I love how short all of those jobs are. Sometimes it’s literally half a day. Sometimes it’s a week. I’ve not really done a commercial it’s more than a week, honestly. So I love little pockets of jobs and gigs, and it’s always a different scenario. And I kind of love that  

Pockets of gigs that keep filling up. Even after you’re done working, we talked, uh, in a previous episode, I had Money March on the podcast and we talked about residual structures and how,  

I listed to that! 

Oh did you?  

Absolutely. Because I am a sucker for all that stuff. And I have learnt stuff from experience, but even just listening to you, break everything down again, I was like, gosh, there’s just so much that people don’t know about and that I don’t know about. And it’s how do we even find all this information from you obviously,  

From words that move me podcast, go check us out. Uh, thanks for being here. Um, well I’m glad that you listened to that and if you haven’t go back and check out if you, the listener not you, Smac, haven’t uh, then go back and check out Money March. Cause we do talk a little bit about the nuance of the difference between commercial or TV/Film, uh, or music, video contracts. Very cool stuff. Glad to hear that. Now let’s talk about how you can take a love for the commercial industry and turn it into its own little sub career by doing whatever the hell you want on social media. And I might be a little too liberal when I say that. I don’t know if that is actually your approach, but that’s what it looks like when I watch your stuff on social media. I’m like, she’s doing exactly what she wants to be doing. And that’s attractive because all of us inside want to be doing what we want to be doing. And most of us aren’t, which makes people like you all the more attractive. Um, so I want to talk a little bit about social media. Um, today’s a big day for me.  

Oh my God. What’s happened. Oh my god, you downloaded something?  

I got tik-tok today.  

I’m going to wake up my re my pet bunny by clapping so loud.  

I downloaded tik-tok today. Okay. Well, okay. Let’s start. Let’s start. So here’s what I want to do. I want to take two different points of view. Let’s say that I just downloaded tik-tok today. I have no videos, no uploads and no views and no followers. What do I need to know?  

Okay, well, um, there’s also two parts of that as well. Cause what do you need to know as someone who has potential as a creative or just someone who’s working, because it matter for you because you’re not just a lurker, you’re someone who..

I’m excited to engage because for a long time and people listening, people who’ve been listening for a long time, know this, I’ve got thoughts about Tik Tok dances and the trends and challenges and things like that. My thoughts were not really helpful. Most of the time they were just kind of grumbly to boil it down, My thought was tik-tok celebrates mediocrity. I celebrate excellence. I can’t reconcile these two things with just a little bit of thought management. I can absolutely reconcile these two things. You can be excellent on tik-tok you are proof. So I’m thrilled at the possibility of that. And I can also decide that I don’t like it after having been in it. Why would I decide? I don’t like it from the outside and just say no to something forever. 

I think thats the first thing, people go into some sort of pressure, like, okay, I’ve got to become famous tomorrow. I’m like guys chill out. It’s going to happen at some point or it’s not going to happen at some point. Just have fun.  

Just have fun. Just do the things that are exciting for you. Yeah. Okay. So I’m a lurker. I’m not here to watch. What do I need to know?  

Okay. I think, um, I always try to tell people, because I do get people asking me just for general advice across the board. 

I’m sure. 

Yeah. Cause everyone’s like, should I just do these trends? I’m like yeah, you can go into this trend, but just like darn do something that is not enjoyable because it’s just, unless you’re making fun of it, which I do sometimes. But like literally if you all sit in there watching cat videos all day long, do a cat video, like do something that you enjoy watching because otherwise, what, what is the connection there? Because why are you doing it then? So obviously we’re dancers, we’re creatives it’s makes sense for you to do something that’s movement-based if you liked doing it. Um, and I think tik-tok what I love about it compared to other social media in the past anyway, is that literally anyone can get rewarded acknowledged, viral if that happens. 

Yes. This is, this is a core belief of mine. I believe that dance is for everyone. Yeah. I don’t love dance. That is elite and exclusive. I like part of the, part of the charm. I think of the Seaweed Sisters and what we make together is that it is human dance and creature dance, and it is not “dancer dance” necessarily. We’re still trying to figure out what exactly it is, but yeah. Dance for everyone. Okay. So, uh, at the beginning I was not a fan of Instagram, either. I had similar thoughts about Instagram. I don’t need this. It’s going to destroy all my time that I have and whatever. Um, and then I realized that what I was actually avoiding was shipping like producing. I was really good at having ideas, not great at making them happen and certainly not great at sharing them or getting feedback about them.  So I wanted to improve this, you know, this creative workflow, this life cycle of an art baby. And I decided to do a video every single day on Instagram, I wound up doing like 400 and some, and eventually I saw like, you know, I left, my rule is always be rolling. Like I have footage upon footage upon footage. I got very good at knowing myself on camera, knowing places and other people and boundaries and the frame like boundaries of the frame and boundaries of other people and of myself, um, and of my audience even, oh my God learn so much. Can’t even, can’t even explain how much I learned if you’re listening to this episode and haven’t listened to others, go back and listen to episode one I go in on my doing daily year, but towards the end, I caught myself in between takes, hating what I was doing, but people have a good bull ***t meter.  

I think for the most part, people love, things are authentic and, and that are exciting to the person. And so if you’re not excited about what you’re doing is not going to hit. So I think right now I’ve got like six different interests that I want to play with. And I’m just not sure what to do. So that’s my next question. This is totally selfish. Do you have to do one thing? Do you have to choose that you are the funny YouTube collaborator person or you’re the hydraulic press girl or you’re the, um, Jacket kick girl, or like what?  

Um, yes and no, it either way it can be brilliant. Cause I’ve seen it happen both ways. I’ve seen it happen both ways with myself because sometimes I go through a month or I do one thing and it has gotten me amazing opportunities because of it. And then sometimes I do different things every five minutes and I get amazing opportunities from it. And I’m like, cool. So I think, um, you’re obviously smart enough to know how to brand yourself. You already are a brand, you already have everything. You have all the resources in that sense. Um, I think Tik Tok is the perfect platform to not overthink that. It’s very rare that people are just going to your profile to look at the whole thing. It’s they just come across your videos. Yeah. Cause people were videos without having to follow you. That’s the difference between at least in my head that made difference between Instagram or the old instagram and Tik Tok is that Instagram only people who follow you are seeing your work. So it is kind of like Instagram seems at least for Cray, uh, for creators, it seems a little bit more like a professional standard. Like I absolutely make sure every single week on Instagram, I post something that shows, um, my face because I book work off my friggin image. I have something that’s dance related. I have something that I’m speaking in. I have something that’s a bit more professional looking like even posting a commercial I’ve done just so. If anyone looks at it without even having to scroll, they can see all the five or six things that I try to represent in myself. Tik tok, I think it’s like, you can really get rewarded for just doing it. Doesn’t have to be a pattern at all. But then you’ve obviously seen people who have done just the same thing taken off and yeah, I it’s just such an experimental thing.  

Oh, I love, it’s a playground. 

It’s a playground. And it’s really good because if it doesn’t work out, it’s like not going to hurt you at all. Like if someone doesn’t see your video, you’ll like, okay, cool. I’ll just make a new one.  

Wow. That I didn’t, I didn’t ever consider that.  

I think just like, like people don’t care enough about how much you might care about your work. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s how I treat it for myself because I’m like, Hey, this is fun, but I never go, will people like that song choice though. I go, I don’t care. I love this song because people don’t care,  

Lower stakes higher reward. 

Yeah I think take talk really thrives in that sense. And I would try to, if you were really trying to push yourself and your maybe a main struggle is you are not comfortable just sharing. If you’re really wanting to push yourself, just be like, okay, this week I’m going to share, um, two videos a day, three videos a day and five videos an hour, whatever it is, they don’t have to be anything important. It doesn’t have to be polished. It doesn’t have to be rehearsed. Just try something because that’s what people like watching. It’s literally like a reality TV show. Not every scene is perfect. So just do it just like Nike, it, just get it done. Just post it. Don’t sit there, rewatching it too many times. Just press post.  

J P P just press post. Just go. I, that was maybe one of the things. One of the most rewarding things about my year of Instagram, because I knew I would just be doing it again. The next day, the release part got really natural. It was way less precious than I had been treating things before. But at that point you’re right. The, I think what Instagram is used for has changed dramatically. That is even an understatement. Um, but it, yeah, it is like this living, breathing resume, get to know me place. And I love the idea of that, being that, and then having a freaking playground to go play at it’s something that I, that has truly been missing in my life is this idea of play. I know I’m not alone. Um, but the Seaweed Sisters fragmented during COVID. We were all in different places. The places where we play were all shut down. So all of a sudden I found myself shockingly doing quite well because I also have a business brain that I love to nurture and, um, kind of a home body that didn’t get to really thrive until 2020. And I a thirved like no pants and lots of plants. That was sort of my, my 2020, I had a great time. But at a certain point I found like, oh, I haven’t really played in a while. And in one month I like purchased roller skates enrolled in clown school, like fully enrolled in clown school and was shopping for a dog. I was like, all the play, give me every, all of the play. Um, so adding, Tik ToK to my play plate feels totally appropriate and I’m thrilled about it. Okay. So now now second perspective. Let’s imagine that I’ve been on tik-tok for a long time. I have 1.5 million followers. What do I need to know? What does that person need to know? 

I think the main thing that people realize once they start getting a following is that the journey of consistent likes is just like ridiculous. It goes up and down. It’s not going to happen yet. So as much as it annoys me, like even yesterday, like I might post something in an hour, I’ve had things grow to 5 million views in an hour. Yesterday I posted one and got a hundred views in 10 hours. So it can like super drastically change. And it’s just the, the playground of the algorithm. So I think, um, like as much as it can dishearten you just like, just let it out. Don’t think about it. I catch myself sometimes being like, well, cool. But you know what? I’ll just post the same video tomorrow. See what happens cause no one cares, because literally no one cares. 

Oh, the experimental element of it really speaks to me.  

I, you know, for me personally, I approach a lot of things with humor. The fact that I might post the same video of myself seven times in a day with like, you know, kind of making fun of myself. Sometimes that’s worked. Cool. Thanks Tok Tok. Like it’s, it is absolutely the best platform in my opinion, to just make a fool of yourself if you’re down for it and then yet fully experiment and just like, just, just no worries. Yeah. It doesn’t like, it’s almost, it’s better if it’s less polished, it’s the rehearsal room and then Instagram can be the stage  

That makes total sense. I love it. Um, okay. So on this subject of, of kind of on the subject of comparing those two, I have a question about ownership and credit. Um, and, and I saw you post something recently. It was a screenshot of somebody’s DMed you saying “like, please stop with the sponsored content it’s annoying” and you’ve responded, or you said something to the effect of, ‘sorry, I don’t get to decide when Instagram sponsors my content.’ Then that sparked, that was like a great living, breathing example of this question that I get all the time does Instagram own my stuff or do I own my stuff? And I’ve done a little digging, but please weigh in. If I, if I’m wrong on this. I think that the bottom line, um, is that social media is a public venue. It is public space. So although you, the creator does retain the copyright of let’s say that image or that video, um, because we’re engaging in the space, we’ve accepted the terms and conditions we’ve agreed to Facebook’s, non-exclusive transferable, sub-license royalty-free worldwide. They can use that wherever the ***k they want newness of it. So is that what has happened to your posts? And do you, are you aware of when that happens?  

Well, okay. This is a very specific one. Um, there’s definitely so many versions of this, but this one, the reason I repressed that is also because I’m always self promoting myself. And that was a way for me to be like, Hey, yeah, I’m getting paid to do this. This is a job I’m doing, ah, ha playing the game where I’m like, oh, but, um, what that translates to, but I love telling people about this kind of thing, because this only happened to me a month ago, so I’m like, anyone can do this in my opinion. Um, but I’m now in a contract with official Instagram. So that’s why they’re using my videos for their sponsored ads. But I was honest when I say, I don’t know which ones they using because yeah. We’re on a contract where they, um, I’m creating certain videos for them. And at the moment they’ve got maybe like 10 or 15 videos that I, that they have access to use, but I don’t know which ones they’re going to use and where they’re going to pop up, but it’s a contract, so I’m fully down with it, but that’s, that was that specific post. But then there’s the, in our every day, even this morning, like a bunch on Tik ToK, I’m always getting sent. Um, people it’s really cool that like the past year I’ve kind of got this following web people are recognizing me in my specific videos. So if people see people post it, that isn’t me, they’re like, Hey, that’s Smac. And I’m like, that is so cool that people are like recognizing me that way. And it’s definitely humbled by that, that people go out of their way to be like, Mmm, that’s not your video. I’m like, dang, those people are cool. But I’m seeing that like all day, every day, my videos circle around the internet and people are reposting them. Obviously my name is not attached to it. And I think you can be really upset about that. Or in my opinion, the videos that are going viral, are kind of videos that people aren’t doing.  

W-what are you talking about specifically? Those things.  

Yeah. Different random videos that I would’ve just done that completely. I don’t think about too much, but the hydraulic press videos that has become a series that I’ve just kept going because it’s  

Evergreen. It’s evergreen. I mean, sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off. I get excited about those videos. I think I’ve watched all of them and I do have my favorites. I can sum it up by saying anything where your shoes fly off. But I remember my husband showed me the hydraulic press channel when we lived in Sunnyvale. So this must’ve been 2015, maybe that channel on YouTube popped up and he’s a machinist and I’m a mover. And I remember watching it and be like, oh, that’s great. That’s so funny. I could watch this all day. And then I did, but I didn’t get up and move to it. That is where that is. That is where one plus one equals a million. You have a hydraulic press crushing stuff. That’s one. And that’s really awesome. And then you have an incredibly aware and talented, physical being recreating it with her body. And that is 1 million, like that’s one plus one equals a million to me. That is, that is nothing better than that. Um, I just think the world of those videos and of you for having the, whatever, whatever it was that got you up off your ***, into a pink outfit to embody like unicorn horn or something. 

Yeah. It was a fluke, but I’m not mad at it. You know? Cause usually that’s what I mean, like with the whole experimental thing, that was a split second, I had a five minute window to film something. I was like, I just want to quickly film a video because I’m going to be sitting down for the next five hours. Um, and I was like, I just randomly have a lot of outfits. I have a lot of block color outfits for audition. Perfect. No branding on it. And I love that kind of stuff. So I was wearing like a full, I was wearing a yellow shirt and a pink and pink pants. And obviously the hydraulic press videos, the original ones are so viral. And I always see people duet them. So it’s side-by-side videos and they’re doing their reactions and they go viral just from people watching it. They’re not even talking nothing. They’re just watching the video that’s next to their face and they go viral and I was like, huh, I’ll just be the hydraulic press. And it took that long to think of it. I did it, I did uploaded it done. So I’m like, I don’t think it through or anything. I just watched it. I saw it melt down and go up. And I was like, that looks like a frickin yoga move easy.  

That’s Floor Bar. I know this, I know this,  

But yeah, it really is. But then that’s the kind of stuff that at least for me personally, those are the videos and other things that are kind of in a similar nature that have gone everywhere. They’re on the front page, front page of Reddit. Like even some random celebrities like reposting them. And even if my name isn’t on there, I know that if the time happens where someone important needs to find out who it is, they can, but yeah.  

Thank you for that. Thank you for that insight. That’s, that’s a really empowering position. Um, and also thank you for staying on track. This subject was credit. I forgot about that. I it’s something that’s very much at the forefront of my mind right now, um, In the Heights is about to come out. I was one of the Associate Choreographers. Chris, the choreographer, Chris Scott, um, is really, really adamant about, you know, sharing credit and making sure that people are aware that this was a team event. Um, of course he was steering the ship and I just, I really so admire how much attention and effort he’s putting into sharing this credit. And, um, I just, I, I don’t know enough yet. I’ve fully watched two videos inside of Tik ToK today, but I don’t know how that works credit or captions or like there is no place to know who started that dance. 

Is really wishy-washy, which can suck as a creative because I’m all about being ethical. And I sometimes spend hours or days finding the person who kind of came up with something and then six months later you find out they stole it from someone else and you’re like, damn it. I gave them credit, and they didn’t even think of it, but like, 

Which, and it makes you wonder there’s a purity spiral of credit. Like if we’re really gonna get granular about it. 

Exactly. Everyone’s inspired by something. My hydraulic press videos were literally inspired by the hydraulic press video. But I think just because of my position and like what we know as professional artists, um, I love giving a hundred percent credit where I can, well, I mean, if I can’t then I usually just don’t use that idea life. It’s not mine. I don’t want to use it. Or I love the, this is what I love about Tik ToK and Instagram. Now the duet feature means you can put the original video next to you, which is why I started recruiting because I was like, I could just do this or it worked in my favor that you can see it side by side. So I actually love doing duets because then I giving credit by capturing the name and visually give them credit to them, which I, I really liked doing that just to be someone who wants to give them credit.  

Oh, I love that. Okay. That’s good to know that that’s a good newbie newbie lesson. Um, okay. I want to do a quick little burnout round. Um, the first question that I want to ask is actually, maybe not a burnout question. This is kind of maybe a hard question. If somebody asked me this today, it would take me 45 minutes to answer. Um, but I would love to know what do you want to do the most?  

Oh, you know what? My whole entire life is just make someone giggle. That’s it. I really don’t. I, the two things I’ve always thought about since I was a kid, cause I’m really, haven’t leveled up in terms of like my, what I do or who I am. I’ve been like this since I was about eight and I’ve always been doing this stuff. So I love it. That’s I literally, I just love being an idiot, a professional idiot.   

A creative idiot. I really like that. I like that. Even more than creative director, because let’s be real. Yeah. Well, some creative directors at the core are creative idiots. It’s  

Title yourself, whatever you want. So, so,  

So this is it. You’re doing it.  

I’m happy with this. I really am. I’ve been doing it for so long. Like, I mean, even when I chat to my good friends from Australia, like when we were all teenagers, they’ve sometimes pointed out being like, man, you’ve never once changed because even back then when I was 16, I was like, guys, we’re doing a music video to toxic in the car park right now. Like put on your outfits. And I have videos of that on YouTube. Like I just was always that person.  

Well, I will be sharing that in the show notes to this episode, FYI. Can’t wait, can’t wait. Um,  

But yeah, so I think I’ve always just loved making people laugh. And the other thing that I love just from my own experience, um, because we all idolize people and I would love the, to have an impact on someone, the way that my idols have impacted me to the point where the reason I am today is because of like these two comedians that I grew up watching Lano & Woodley. They’re a hundred percent the reason why I do anything. And I’m like, if I could just somehow spark that motivation to someone, I don’t want any credit for it at all. But I’m like, that is awesome. Cause they gave me this kind of sense of freedom to be a fool. Like they, I just love them so much. And if I can, I’m tooting my own horn a little bit here, but just because I just, it gives me the feels. But these, um, people that I idolize, like the fact that later on in life, it came full circle where they were then watching me perform and were congratulating me on my career. And that is something that I’m like, I, since that moment I’m like, okay, I’m done. I have, my life has made, I don’t need anything else. I am. I’m fully content with that. That’s something that I’m like, that feeling is really special to me. I know it would be just cool to know that like maybe someone else is trying to do a hydraulic press squishing routine because they saw mine  

100%. They are yes. 100% there. Um, okay. So if, if you’re tooting, then I’m going to toot, because you just reminded me of an incredible story that I don’t think I’ve shared on the podcast before please. So I’m 34 now, which puts me squarely in the midst of NSYNC and Britney mania when I was like going to concerts for the first time and stuff. True story. Okay. Who is your first concert?  

Kylie Minogue  

Work. Mine was Ricky Martin. So basically same.   

Okay. I love that. Yeah, exactly the same.  

Exactly the same concert that we went to. Um, okay. But I really, really loved NSYNC. They were it for me, I knew people would get into fights about Britney or Christina. I didn’t really, I mean, I love, I love Britney, but I didn’t really get into that. But if you tried to tell me, the Backstreet Boys were better than NSYNC, I would literally fight you. Now, in hindsight, I’ve worked with both groups, love them both adore all PS. JC was always my favorite and JT knows this. I have made it explicitly clear. He was so full out. I just love, I love full out anyways. I would. I watched bye bye bye and every, I watched every single music video and every VMA or live performance had them all on VHS studied within an inch of their lives. And then when I performed with JT, uh, during his MTV video Vanguard awards, he brought the Boys back and they did a little bit of, of Bye Bye Bye. And I was helping Marty out on the project and it became my job to help recall Bye Bye Bye. And there was a moment where the gentleman from NSYNC asked, can we, can we film you doing that so we can rehearse. And it was just like, oh, I have no idea how full sir. Like I watched you, you’re watching me. I I’ve learned this from you now. You’re learning it for me. It was the wildest strangest I had to. I had to like, I had to take a seat later and just recall how, how, how you just never know. You just never know. 

You’ll never forget. You know, I love that.  

Yeah. I’m dripping now I’m so sweating so much. Um, okay. Now we get into the rapid fire round. This question that came up in last week’s episode, which was Live episode I did with the zoom audience. And uh, the question is you are on a desert island, stranded for perpetuity, as long as all of your contracts are and you get to have eight songs. Oh my God. Eight songs. I know guys. So I was so mad at this question.  

Eight songs, Boogie Wonderland, Shake your Groove Thing, Bohemian Rhapsody, 

Why did I not have any queen on my list? Technically not true. Cause I had Christine and the Queens, but it isn’t. Okay. Keep going, keep going.  

Um, I would say the song Sarah, Fleetwood Mac. Oh, okay. I’ve done Four  

Sick. Is that what you were named after?  

No, I was named after my mom’s dog, so fun. Um, but I do love what else? My mum she’s like, yeah. I had a dog named Sarah. I was like, cool. Thanks. Love it. I love animals. That’s fine. Okay. Well what else? Oh. Oh, you know what, if, even if it doesn’t exist a song that Ryan plays piano at or anything just him playing piano. Um, three more. I totally lost track. Yeah. Uh, the theme song of Lano Woodley, which is the comedy duo that I love. And, um, this is so weird. I’m thinking of the jingle of a commercial. The other thing I don’t want to use that one. Nevermind. 

Oh no, not hot pockets.

No, no. It was definitely an Australian jingle and I can’t even remember the brand of it. So I can’t use that. Um, oh my God. I have two more. I’ve done disco. Um, I feel like I need some like eighties. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I’m probably gonna put in some Spice Girls.   


Don’t know which one, maybe probably Wanna Be,  

Unless you wanted to do the ballad. What was their ballad? Two, two into one. Is that what it was called to become one. 

I don’t have time for slow songs on a desert island, 

You’re busy, cramped.. You need the energy

Maybe. Um, um, my gosh, I just want to look at my playlist is only eight songs anyway. Um, I’ll be listening to the same music since I was born. That’s why I don’t know any,  

All throw backs. Okay. I’m going to give you one more. Cause I completely lost track. What are you?  

Well, I mean maybe ABBA something ABBA.  

Okay. I’ll take it. Same question. But with dance steps, you get to do a dance steps again for, for evermore. Okay, cool.  

I will do a, uh, just a great pose. Cause I don’t like using energy, but I love a pose. Um, I would probably do the worm, um, a front walkover, just basically all my freestyle moves  

The book. The book of moves.  

The book of moves. I’ll put my jacket kick even. That’s not a dance step, but it  

Definitely is. 

What have I done? 

It’s an arabesque.  

Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much.  

And your hip is down by the way your placement is ACE. It’s done.  

Geez. I feel like, can I just put in like a simple, like touch step bounce kind of want to do in my life? You know, like a step click, but a bit uncoordinated and dorky. Um,  

Got it. So less swivel in the hips and just more vertical, this more vertical, but  

We like that. More mom vibes, no offense mums. Um, geez, what else?  

I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a serious relationship with pas de bourses and Rond de jambs I can’t freestyle. If I had to pay someone a dollar while we’re on the subject of credit. If I had to pay someone credit for every time I do a Rond de jambs or a pas de bourses would have no dollars. I would have no home. Yeah. Fully in debt, like, like Ivy league debt for using those steps. That’s it for me.  

You know what Tik ToK has made me realize that obviously I use the same eight steps over and over. Yeah. This is my eight steps. Um, and I always do a pelvic thrust and whether that’s comedic or serious, I always do one. So we’ll put in a pelvic thrust, but it wasn’t a creepy. It’s never like perverted club scene style, unless that was what it called for.  

In which case, if it was called for, you would do it.  

Um, I think I have one more move and like, I can’t, I can’t do it, but I just, like, I really loved my boyfriend. So I’m going to put in Ryan’s a backflip to his head move and it would probably end my life If I’m in the desert island. But I would end with a bang  

Kamikaze, it would go, go out with a snap from  

Beap bop done. Okay. 

We’ll  also be linking to a clip of Ryan doing this movie. I can find a clip of him doing it like 9,008 times back to back, back then  

Its in the, the old, um, intro for, so you think.  

That’s him. That’s the move. That’s it  

In my bedroom when I was a kid watching the first season in Australia, which I didn’t really watch it that much, but all I remember was that. And that’s when I started to learn headstands in my lounge room, I was like, oh, Hey Ryan,  

And now he’s your boo cup business partner done. But wait, you can’t tell me that you do not also remember Blake McGrath’s shoot the duck forward jete thing. Oh yeah,  

Yeah. I do. I was more, more into doing the headstand because for sure energy, for some reason  

All about conserving energy, like minimum input, maximum output, that is what you do tremendously well, and I, that celebrate the  

Laziest hard worker ever. 

It’s an excellent thing to be. 

Yeah. I love it. I love being that kind of person.  

I admire it. You inspire the shit out of me. I was so thrilled to have gotten, to talk to you about these things that I’ve always been curious about and so many more. So we’re gonna, we’re going to wrap this up here today, but you and I are, have, have plenty of making to do and plenty of catching up to do. Congratulations on the new space. I can’t wait to see it. Oh my gosh. You and Ryan  

You have to come over and we can do Tik Toks together. 

I’m extremely down and unlike my husband, I love painting. So if you need a paint partner, I’m happy to do that with you. I could do it all day long. I love it. Oh gosh.  

Well I’m going there right now. Not that you have to come right now, but also because I was obviously telling Ryan I was doing this and we just want to hang out with you. So please.  

Okay. Thank you. So, so, so much. 

Thank you so much. Bye bye. 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that. Chat with my friend Smac and I hope that you begin preparing for the day that someone asks you for the eight songs you would choose to listen to in perpetuity forever, as you are stranded and probably sunburned on a desert island somewhere. That is it for me today. I hope that you dug this episode. If you are digging the pod, please go leave a review and a rating. So super helpful to me. But the most important thing to me is that you go keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye  

Me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review 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. 

Ep. #71 Dance as Discovery with Lily Frias

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #71 Dance as Discovery with Lily Frias

I’m celebrating Cinco De Mayo this year by sharing this conversation with the FABULOUS Lily Frias.  Lily is simply sensational and in this episode we cover everything from her style, her process, her history, Mexican history (and what you SHOULD know about Cinco De Mayo), to her take on using dance as self discovery.  I absolutely light up for Lily and I hope you do too!   Truth is, you don’t know how fabulous she is until you have seen her get down, so I strongly recommend you check out the show notes to this episode!


Lily’s Vid on IG: https://www.instagram.com/tv/COI9NO6lrhp/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Femme Fatale on IG: https://www.instagram.com/femmefatale_official_/

Femme Fatale at Arena 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MwoTxo_bsYFemme Fatale Crazy In Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdsTDLQcF-k


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

Dana: Hello, Hello. How are you? My name is Dana. This is words that move me. I am stoked that you are here. This is a really special episode. I am thrilled about introducing you to my guest this week. Her name is Lily Frias, and she is simply sensational. In this episode, we cover everything from Cinco de Mayo and what you should know about it, uh, to her style, her process, her history and Mexican history, her crew, her crews, plural, and her take on using dance as self discovery. It is a good one and I’m excited to get into it. But first wins this week on the podcast. I am celebrating that we got this episode done despite me being abroad. Um, I was in Atlantic City, New Jersey when we recorded this episode. So I do apologize in advance for the audio quality of the interview being a little less than A+. Um, but I am honoring sticking to the schedule and getting it done no matter what really is my goal, to bring you the good stuff. And I’m stoked to be bringing you this interview on Cinco de Mayo. If you are listening on the day of its release, which I think is really important. So I hope this episode catches you on the day. And if not, I hope you keep it in mind for next and future Cinco de Mayo’s. Um, all right. So that is my, when I’m honoring the schedule, we got it done. I’m accepting B maybe B minus work on the audio front, but listen, I’m not apologizing for any of the content of this episode. I’m thrilled about this conversation. Uh, and before I share it with you, you share with me, what’s your win. What is going well In your world?  

Congrats. I am so glad that you’re winning keep winning. Um, and while you were talking to yourself and maybe to me out loud, I realized I have another win. Um, I do this a lot. I have a lot of, a lot of things to celebrate. I’m a celebratory type. I forgot to let you know that I’ve decided to invite you and all other human types. Yep. This is very open and open invite to another live podcast recording. That’s going to take place on May 11th, 2021 at 2:00 PM Pacific. May 11th, 2021, 2:00 PM. Pacific. You don’t have that long. Um, I just I’m doing this because I had a ball with the last one. We’ve only done this one time, uh, live podcast recording with a bunch of listeners via zoom, and we had a ball with it. If you want to go back and listen, that was episode 46, had a really good time. Um, I’m excited to bring it back. I’m excited to hear from you. Talk to you, answer any questions that you might have, and in general, continue to get to know my listeners. I’m stoked about it. So Mark your calendar May 11th, 2:00 PM. PST. Excellent. Okay. That’s that? Let’s get into this conversation with Lily, enjoy. 

Dana: All right. My friend let’s do this ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls dancelings of all types. I am so excited to be having this conversation right now with Lily Frias. Welcome Lily.  

Lily: Oh, Dana. Thank you so much for having me.  

Dana: Oh my goodness. I cannot wait. Um, I’m excited for you to, to introduce yourself because I came to know you first. I was a fan of you. I saw you on ABDC probably a thousand years ago with your crew Funkdation. Um, then I got to know you more personally. I would love to just, uh, lend you the floor and let you introduce yourself to everybody that’s listening.  

Lily: Aw, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Uh, Oh, where to start? So my name is Lily Frias. I’m a professional dancer and choreographer based in LA. I was born and raised in Mexico in the state of Durango in a very small city called Lerdo. And, uh, I actually lived in New Mexico for a little bit when I was a kid. Uh, my dad was studying his PhD. So we had a little bit of years in my childhood where I got to be exposed to hip hop. And my older sisters were going to middle school and high school in the US and they were just lost in the nineties, like Destiny’s Child, Usher. They were going to the concerts. I was trying to recreate these music videos and be like “sings” Come on, like all of that, I was just, just baffled in love. And, um, I just always had a lot of energy and just fell in love with dance. Took my first dance classes there. Then, uh, by the time I was like seven turning seven, we returned to Mexico and, uh, took me a while to find a studio out there. But then I got back into my dance training and haven’t stopped ever since.  

Dana: And you are a force to be reckoned with my friend. So, so is that writings on the wall album though and confessions?  

All of it. All of the, all of it, Brandi, all of the nineties that was in their life  

Full moon is untouchable. Untouchable. Okay. Yeah. So in addition to having exquisite tastes in music, your family also supported or helped encourage this dance, um, career and pursuit of yours or,  

No, they, they are, uh, very much involved in my life. I am from a very tight knit family. I actually, in Mexico, I grew up neighbors with my family. So it was my grandma’s house, my house in the middle and my auntie on, on my left side. So we were just basically neighbors. There was no escaping. I had friends over and my grandma was always like, Lily, who’s this. So they were fully involved in my life and with dance, I think as a little kid just really saw a lot of energy in me. I was a non-stop and I think they were like, okay, we need to do we need to channel this crazy. And I always just used to recreate movies and sing, and, uh, they took me to a ballet and jazz class and I did a piece to my favorite things. I was wearing like some like itchy mittens. And it itchy tutu. But I was in there living my best life. And, uh, then after that, when I got to Mexico, when we moved back to Mexico, it was definitely very much like self-discipline and self-love that I was just like, I need to find somewhere to dance. I was just, I used to do it all the time by myself, but they, they were fully invested. My mom after school would, I literally had like a one and a half hour break to eat, digest, and then she would drive me to classes and sometimes she would stay there hours, wait for me. Sometimes I would ride back with other people until this day it’s been like a up and down journey, but my family is like, I’m blessed. They are my number one supporters. 

That’s so cool. I love that. Yeah. I, I share in that, I also got lucky in that department. Um, I, maybe this is a gentle segue. I would love to hear, because I know this episode will release on Cinco de Mayo. And I, I know that there are a lot of misconceptions about number one, Cinco de Mayo, but Mexico in general. Um, I think Americans have the idea that this is Mexican independence day or Mexico’s independence day. And, um, that’s, that’s not, uh, I also think Americans probably party harder on Cinco de Mayo than move most Mexican people do. So I’m curious, as you were growing up, was Cinco de Mayo something you celebrated?  

Uh, to be honest, we, we did not. Uh, we did not. I mean, uh, officially independence day in Mexico is celebrated on the 15th of September or September the 15th. 

I thought it was September 16th. Am I crazy?  

So basically we do something that’s called el Grito, which is kind of go like, get shouting out there’s this whole thing. So you kind of stay up on the 15th, eat, celebrate, and then at midnight, uh, the president rings a huge bell that kind of just declares that independence and you just stay up and party. I mean, I learned about Cinco de Mayo in school, but not until I moved into the US and really started seeing everybody celebrate it so much. I was even, I had to go back to my school books and be like, like, I know it’s, uh, the Battle of Puebla. So there’s, um, when the French wanted to come on to Mexico and there was a little battle and that’s what happened, but we don’t even get like no days off in school and work, or so it’s really just a day that we, we commemorate that it happened, but it’s not a big deal at all. Like I could probably ask one of my cousins in Mexico right now, and they’ll be like, what? I was talking about this with a friend last night, that’s also Mexican. And it was like, this is such a cool opportunity for us to also go back and dig into our history in order to answer these questions properly. And, uh, it was just fun to go look and to see how and why this celebration moved into the US and now it’s this big, big thing.  

Um, I’m excited to be shedding some light on it. I, I vaguely recall learning about it in school, but not with any depth. Um, but now as an, as an adult, who’s been taking much, um, uh, much more interest in the history of all sorts. I do want to take a pause in a moment to like, to, to honor the history. And I think the coolest thing about this holiday, if I could, I think the coolest thing about this holiday is that the Battle of Puebla was one, not because of like great power in numbers. Mexicans at that I think were outnumbered by like 4,000 or something insane. I think there were 2,000 Mexican soldiers and 6,000 French. And so one of the things that I am a proponent of always is rooting for the underdog. And so I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate. And I, when I see like imagery of the Mexican person with a poncho and a sombrero covering his head and taking a nap, like that’s not the person that just won a battle outnumbered by 4,000, it’s such a misconception, such a, such a, uh, wrongly perpetuated stereotype. So, um, yeah, I, I, I’m glad you’re open to talking about that. And I’m curious about how Americans might change their celebrations, knowing a little bit more about the context.  

Yes, no. I mean, thank you for wanting to talk about it. To me, I feel like it’s super important to, even as a Mexican myself, to reclaim all of this history and to inform ourselves and shift that energy to be more than like a proud way, rather than something that is being used.  

How, how do you think you’ll celebrate it this year? 

Ooh, I would probably say dancing on Wednesdays, I train house. So I would just probably dance, uh, maybe get together with friends. I haven’t really planned out. I had a friend that actually got into she’s also Mexican, but she got into like celebrating it here. So I feel like she was the main, like spearhead on being like, let’s do something, but I wasn’t really passionate about celebrating.  

Right. Well, that’s awesome. I will be celebrating by releasing this podcast, and history. And, um, if you could, I would love if you could give any, any of your Los Angeles insider tips, I would love to patronize authentic Mexican restaurants. If I could be putting some money in the pockets of the real thing and the real people from the real place, I would still love to be doing that.  

Yes, absolutely. Boyle Heights, East LA. I felt like going there and supporting small businesses. Really. I went to this place called Gracias Madre, and I really was investigating like, who owns this super Mexican vegan spot? Like it made me think like, as somebody who moved here, where is it going to like, is it cycling full circle into uplifting the community that I, that I, I fight to be a part of and fight to represent. So there is a lot of really good spots right now. I felt like I would just say one that my friend she’s Mexican as well. She put me on to it’s called El Cocinero and it’s all vegan, all plant-based like tacos, this many other dishes and it, and it’s bomb. 

Let’s go. Okay. So that this is, this is an awesome, like help kit. I think. So the dues of it are like do focus on history, do partake in authentic cuisine, do a little extra digging in terms of finding out whose pockets you’re filling with your patronage.  

I think with everything, it goes into that life, where am I putting my money  

Hopefully being more deliberate all across the board. Um, but especially in these, as you mentioned, heavily marketed, uh, Americanized holidays that have nothing to do with Americans. It’s wild.  

Yeah. So I’m like what it’s, it’s learning also, I’m learning so much about myself and, and going back into my history and like, thank God I have my parents. I ask them questions all the time and about even cooking. Hmm. How do I want to do better as well so that I can share that with other people in like learning how to cook vegan things, myself using maybe cactus and flowers and, uh, just other ingredients that are still, you know, that the yummy that I can make myself  

I am now having a mouthwatering situation side note, if ever there is a Lily Frias cookbook, I will buy it. Yeah. Thank you. Um, okay. So I, on the subject of your heritage and how proud you are about it, I would love to talk a little bit about this, um, Instagram video. I, I, I call it an Instagram video. That’s only because I saw it there in the, in the caption you addressed, how important it is to you to break norms of all kinds, but specifically gender norms in Latin America and, and how important it is to be outspoken about who you are. Um, you talk about queerness, you talk about, um, using your voice in a community that sometimes those voices are less, you know, less outspoken, less heard, less embraced, perhaps. And I’d love to hear more about how you experienced that, um, in the dance world, how you came to find your voice and your freedom through dance, um, and perhaps any words of encouragement for people following in your footsteps.  

Absolutely. Uh, this is such a, I didn’t get emotional. It’s like such a dance for me is, has always been such a, a blessing. I am so grateful that I get to move my body and that I really get to, to channel all of those emotions and all of those voices and everything through dance. Like, I really don’t know what I would do without it. And, um, I think my heritage and self discovery and self exploring is, is it hand-in-hand with my dance, whether it be a job or a performance or a battle or a cipher, or at a party where I was dancing and like discovering new things about myself, whether it’d be good or bad or new things, a lot of new things came into place in, in my journey through dance and through people around me that, you know, just mainly talking about my family, my friends joke a joke about my grandma, like things my mom says that are funny. So I really do feel now more than ever that I really carry proudly carry the weight of like all my sacrifices and all of the people that came to, to make me be here. Like my mom, my parents, my sister, all of them influenced me. And I think I channel all of that into dance. I’m sure a lot of women, a lot of women have suffered from abuse, sexism, like machismo, a lot of gender norms. I grew up in a very, very religious, I mean, I was going to religious Catholic schools until I was 17. I was wearing a uniform and going to church every Friday. Like it’s, uh, if we then school. So having to digest all of that and break that all down in my brain still till this day. And I use dance as a tool to help me be like, Oh, like, what do I feel like, what do I want to do?  So doing, doing that video was, was really special. And like I wrote in the caption that, uh,  the singer, Chavela Vargas uh, she, she made her career in Mexico and in a time where it was never like women were barely wearing pants, like it was, I was hardcore and I give it up to her and being, being in spaces where it was male dominated. And she was just like F it like, and you hear it in her voice being like, ah, like you can hear the weight of just like, this is who I am. And it is with every type of song you hear from her. So I, I connect so much to that  

And I feel that when I watch it, I feel, wait, I feel questions being answered for you. And I feel your answers being sometimes shouted sometimes whispered, but really embodied, like it’s, it’s such a powerful thing to watch. I’m really excited to share it with our listeners. 

Dana: Okay. So one of the things that I love most about that video is a fusion of styles. Um, I think if somebody asked me, like, what does Lily do? I’d be like, Oh, she’s a sick popper. And she’s a sick Wacker, but you’re, you’re many, many things. Um, how would you explain your style in general and how would you explain the style of that video?  

Well, particularly of that video, I really learned, uh, what the meaning of, uh, punking. And I’ll go into a little bit of history, but, uh, uh, from what I learned from, uh, Viktor Manoel, one of the OG punkers in LA that was going to the clubs and Gino’s where Michael Angelo was mixing and LGBT people of color were coming together. But obviously when you learn whacking, the first things that you see are like the arms and the speed and the disco and the *dance gibberish*. But I love that. I mean, I’m that person at the club going crazy. I am that I’m one of the curtains on the floor and like, woo. But, uh, I heard punking what, where Punkin came from. So they used to call that, ‘Oh, gee, look at the punkers punking.’ So they took that, that word of oppression and turned it into expression. When I heard that it just, I connected deeper with what I thought it, that dance had to look like and what it meant for me. And I think that’s how, that’s how I’m able to tell stories and to express that way, using that type of movement, it doesn’t have to be arms and flip and turn and all of this, it could just be you telling your story. And because they were so inspired by a black and white movies, like Gretta, garble, all Judy Garland, like, you know, when you see these movies are like, they’re not dancing, but you could feel that they’re like Turn. Yeah. Often people say like, voguing is the runway, the picture and whacking is the movie. So, so that’s how sometimes I tell to people to differentiate. Obviously it’s completely different, but I using punking and using whacking vocabulary in that video. And also, I mean, also learning, popping and other styles, just, I really love to like isolate and wave and just changing the posture of what, what maybe doesn’t look as pretty and as disco diva, and like, Ooh, but that is more raw and original to what I like to do. And I think that inspires other people to, to explore. Like even when I teach, I’m like, I’m not teaching you to do this dance exactly like me. Cause that would be boring as hell. Why would I go to a battle where everybody knows a song? Everybody’s going to say the same thing. Everybody’s going to do the same move. I’d be bored. Like I want to see these styles. All of this was meant for individuality to celebrate you and celebrate the history and celebrate what it was created for. So I think just, I didn’t always who I am into the dance. I don’t, it’s so much more gratifying and  

I love this and I don’t even, I, I don’t even know which direction to go from there. Cause you’ve piqued my interest. A lot of mixes, several, several different levels like this idea of individuality and, and the notion that teaching someone to do it like you is actually a disservice when it comes to teaching, especially a street style or, or, or teaching someone who will eventually end up in a battle. If there are a bunch of ‘yous’ running around, then no one would ever win the battle. There’s every time. So I love this idea of encouraging individuality. Um, I also love I’m a sucker for it. Um, I know the word fusion has annoyed has annoyed me in the past. It, it annoys people, things will annoy people. Um, I remember being at Toni Basil’s house once we were jamming and she was, she was watching me get down. And after, you know, after I was through, she was like, what do you call that? I was like, 

I could clearly see her just being dry and looking at you like that, Why do you call that one hand on the hip? 

What do you call that? I was like, I that’s just my style. And she said, right, you, you, you, you can like tap a little too. Right? And you do jazz and all the things, I mean, jazz, what a dance studio calls jazz, not vernacular Jazz. That’s a whole other story conversation. But, uh, she, she encouraged me in that moment to dance my history and use all of it, which for me, my history is a dance studio with exposure to many, many different styles, but I didn’t go deep on any one thing. And I, for a long time punished myself for that for not being a specialist at anything. And it wasn’t until I decided to use all those things, um, in different balances, dialing this up, dialing this down and having that mix of skill, become my mix of style. And I see a similarity in you. Um, and I guess my question would be this when you’re, when you’re dancing all styles or battling and all styles battle. Are you thinking about what goes, where are you dissecting the music thinking, Oh, that’s a funk groove. I want to pull from my seventies locking infusion, or this makes me feel like the disco ball itself. I am at the club I’m whacking, or this makes me feel still and picturesque so I am voguing, or is there a switch that flips and you kind of go out of body and whatever style shows up is what shows up?

Yeah. I am very much of a free spirit. I am not that type of a freestyle dancer and like honestly, props to everyone who can create like combos and hat tricks and all of this. Like, of course you, you train all the time. You train the foundations, you train variation, you train all of that takes so much work separate from before when you’re in there in the present. But once I’m in there in the present, I’m just trying to be present for it to be redundant. Honestly, a lot of the times, uh, everyone has different battle tactics, but me, I always think, especially cause sometimes I, I battle a lot of people who don’t do my styles and those occasions, for example, for like dancier style, I battled all b-boys I don’t break. I don’t break. Like I’m not, I’m not one to like flip and do tricks and headspins or all of the amazing things that, that these people can do, but I’m like, what can I do? So I think it’s just channeling the emotion, like immediately, like flipping that switch and, and not even, I don’t think I’m even preparing anything. I’m just writing the music. It’s, it’s very organic. A lot of the times when I’m battling, I’ll watch the video and be like, well, that happened. Okay. I’m happy. I had a good time.  

I can tell that you have a good time when you dance. It seems, um, sensational in two ways. Number one, meaning like it’s excellent, but two, it looks like you are sensing, like you’re experiencing sensations in your body and you’re, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, an emotional sensational ride. Like you, you mentioned the ride of the music. Um, and that is a quality that I so much love in a performer. I love someone that experiences dance versus demonstrates dance or performs dance. Um, so here’s the ultimate segue. I try to accomplish that. And I think we, we three seaweed sisters, Oh my God, my dearest, Jilian Meyers and Megan Lawson with the seaweed sisters, that’s almost exclusively what is going on is, just experiencing dance. It’s just happening. Dance is happening to us and we’re just there for it. Um, but you also rest in a powerful triad of dance. Can you please talk a little bit about Femme Fatal? Yes. Take the floor and let’s shed some of my global super sensations. I adore all three of you.  

Yeah, I am. I am so honored and so grateful to, to get down and create with these ladies. The crew Femme Fatal, uh, the company, I would say now it’s me. I’m Marie Poppins from France and Dassy Lee from Korea. I feel like we’ve been together for about four, four years, I would say. And, uh, we came together just like randomly to Marie was invited to perform a piece in Sweden. And then she was like, Oh, would you and Dassy like to perform? And there’s also this competition called Dance Delight. And if the wit whoever wins goes to Japan and we were like, uh, sure let’s do it. So that’s the first time that we ever started creating from scratch together and put this piece together. And we were in the living room of my old apartment, just like making so many creative things and creating step-by-step together. Like we use everyone’s super power, even though it makes no sense. Like I’m like little Brown and short and then Dassy, and then Marie, and just, we’re also so different, but at the same time, just kind of merge in super unique way. So that was the beginning that we got to dance together. And then ever since just things have been blooming and I’ve just had the, the amazing ride of like traveling and teaching and performing all over the world with my sisters. They’re, they’re my, they’re my peers or my coworkers. And I respect them so much as, as freestyle dancers and individual choreographers and artists and just everything they do. And we get to just bring that together and just create. 

Awesome.I, you know, I had no idea, but the seaweed sisters kind of share a similar origin story. It wasn’t deliberate. We weren’t trying to create a dance trio. We were I got invited to do a thing and we’re like, Oh,  I love, I much prefer dancing with my friends. Do you guys want to join me? And then when it’s good, it’s good. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It just keeps getting better. Uh, so cool. Um, do you guys have any shows or projects coming up that we should be on the lookout?  

Well, we just had a, our first online intensive in April and we are planning to do it again this year. And, uh, we just did a, uh, performance for the VS style anniversary. So we created something for that. And we have a group of girls that we’ve been training for over a year now called, uh, the Fam Fatale like family. So we are teaching them and trying to build a company which we, of course, one day we want to perform, bring them into theaters and just get to choreograph and open doors. Like we kind of opened doors for each other. So lots of, lots of things in the works.  

What a dream though. That’s beautiful. Um, I would love to talk more. Maybe we maybe later down the road, Words that move Me has all fatales on the podcast. Yeah, I would love to, Oh my God. Or what if we do a seaweed sisters, uh, co episode, maybe it’s like, that’s a lot of sisters.  

Love that. I love it. Everything y’all make, I’m always just like, how do you think of this? Is this only, it’s so unique. It’s like, yes, of course, of course they’re doing, like, if I, if I’m being honest, even before I moved to the US I was watching videos of like Jillian and you and Megan, I actually met Megan when she was on ABDC and like Fannypack and the Jillian, even seeing you with like, Rock your Body. I was like, Oh my God, is this Dana Wilson? I was like, I was losing my shit. So until this day I have like so much admiration for strong women doing what they do and that like, that’s it.  

Yeah. Likewise, my friend and that is why you’re here. It is, it is incredible. And I think dance has this ability to both make the world seem really, really big. Like I could never get to the bottom of all of the styles that I think are incredible. I can never become as good as I want to be at all the things that I think are fascinating. Um, but it also has this way. Dance has this way of making the world feel small and like the, our, our, our ability to meet each other and meet our heroes and yes, and form a crew with, with somebody from France and somebody from South Korea. That’s, I’m pretty sure that’s where she’s from. Right. Um, yeah, it just like, it is a truly remarkable and precious and awesome thing. Um, and I count it as like number one, dance blessing is the dance world.  

Like I met Marie and Mexico, and then I met Dassy here. And I feel like they, that we have so many things in common, like moving from another country and, you know, missing our families. We always talk about work as well, but we always just come back to places where it’s like, Oh, today is my niece’s birthday and I’m not there. And they’ll, they’ll give me a word of like, no, but you’re there and what you’re doing. And they’re so proud of you. So don’t, don’t doubt your journey. Like we’re, we’re here for it. Cause there we’re all going through the same thing. So  

That’s huge. Yeah. That’s huge. 

I love them. 

Well, I’m thrilled to see what you, uh, what you three and you as an individual do next interview. I’m really thrilled about sharing time and getting to know you a little bit better. Thank you so much for being open about your culture, about what’s important to you about, uh, the way you feel and the way that you create. It’s just all of it I love.

No, likewise. They not for real, like, I, I have little, little like small memories. I remember quick, quick story. I wasn’t even, I wasn’t even living here and Funkdation my crew from Mexico. We, we came here and we were kind of just riding buses and I mean, public transportation in LA is not it, but we wanted to take Popping Pete’s class in the old Evolution, the one that was near universal studios. And you knew they had like those little windows. And then we were just, we got there late because of public transportation. And I just remember watching the class and I remember you were in it and you were wearing like shiny shoes and like slipping around and in there getting funky. And now actually sharing, you know, sometimes the cipher, like taking your class or sharing movement. And then just hearing you want to hear about my story. It was just like, damn, it’s it’s full circle. So like you, you never really know where being yourself and, and connecting genuinely with other people can take you. Like, that’s just a part of the journey. So thank you for having me,  

Lily. I could not have closed it up any better than that memory. And I do remember that class that you recall that to my memory brings a big smile to my face. Um, well thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to share any and all of the work that you’re up to. So on that note, everyone who’s listening on the day of its release, I will send you out into your Cinco de Mayo. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you Lily, for being here. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye. 

All right. My friends, how fabulous is Lily? The truth is you don’t even know how fabulous she is until you’ve seen her get down. Holy smokes. Uh, so that said, I have linked to the Instagram video that she and I were discussing and some other essential femme fatale videos that I think you must watch immediately. Those are all in the show notes to this episode in whatever podcast forum you’re listening to, or you could go to theDanawilson.com/podcast Look up this episode, which is episode 70, 71. Where are we? Oh my gosh, this will be 71 amount by, um, so if you want to check out all the fun, quick links and stuff like that, go to theDanawilson.com/podcast or check out the show notes of this episode, dig in, enjoy. And don’t forget to Mark your calendars for May 11th, 2:00 PM Pacific and enjoy Cinco de Mayo with reverence, with responsibility, with respect and keep it funky. I will talk to you soon. 

Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave the rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more then weekly podcasts. So please visit  thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #70 Being a Real Character with Erika Mori

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #70 Being a Real Character with Erika Mori

My long time friend, Erika Mori, joined me on the podcast today!  The conversation bounces between sensitive, smart, and very silly as we walk down memory lane, dig into the importance of technique to access emotion, and discuss the inevitable “professional heartbreaks” that we’ll experience in our work.

Quick Links:

Life is Strange Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6CkzwVAr0M

The Lucid Body: A Guide for the Physical Actor by Fay Simpson



Eduardo Salsa Teacher: https://instagram.com/saucedotango?igshid=14j87dzgsep44


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 though. 

Dana: Hello, My friend. Welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana. This is words that move me. And this episode is so much fun, If I do declare.  Today on the podcast, I am talking to one of my longest time friends. Her name is Erika Mori, and she is sensational. You are about to find out, uh, Erika and I grew up dancing together. We’ve known each other since we were probably nine, maybe younger. I’ll have to check the date on some of the footage that we have uncovered. Yeah, you’re going to definitely want to tune into the Instagram to see some, some proof of our friendship and talent and how it has evolved over time. Um, but I’m, I’m jazzed about this episode because in it, Erika and I discuss a wide range of topics from climbing corporate ladders, uh, the importance of, and the place for our emotions and landing the job of your dreams with arguably no experience. In Erika’s case, very little to no social media following either. She is an exceptional person with an exceptional story, and I’m so excited to share it with you. Uh, but first we’re going to do some wins. Um, if you’re new to the pod, this is, this is what we do. We start every episode off by talking about what’s going well. I think it’s important. I’m going to take the stage first and then I’m going to pass the mic to you. So be thinking about your win and what’s going well in your world. Um, today I am celebrating last week’s free live career coaching call that I hosted. I got to meet so many awesome people. Thank you for bringing yourselves you’re vulnerab— Well, that’s a tough one. It really is a tough one. Your vulnerability, your questions. Um, I think everyone walked away with, with a better idea of what career coaching is, period. Um, but also with a lot of insight and awareness as to how to move forward with clarity and confidence. Um, so that is my win. Awesome free career coaching call. If you guys happen to have missed it, I did not record the call and I won’t record those calls in the future, but I will certainly be doing more of them in the future. So stay tuned over @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram and my website, theDanawilson.com

That is where I will always be sharing. That is the home of those free calls. Uh, okay. Now it’s your turn. What’s going well,  

Do keep it up. I’m stoked for you. All right. Now, I don’t want to borrow any more time. I want you to meet Erica so bad. I’m so excited. This episode is truly equal parts, smart, sensitive, and straight up laugh attack. So buckle up and enjoy this conversation with Erika Mori.   

Dana: Holy Freaking Smokes, ladies and gentlemen, boys, girls, and all humans alike. Please welcome my guest today. Erika Mori, Erika, thank you so much for being here.  

Erika: Uh, what a delight, a pleasure.  

Dana: So I, you are one of my longest oldest, dear, not oldest. Uh, I’ll be careful. One of my longest time friends known each other since, since we were children. Um, I’m really excited to talk to you on the podcast today about some exciting things going on in your creative world. Um, and we’ll take a little journey into the past of child Dana, child, Erica. I’m so excited about this. Um, but before we do any of that, I would love for you. Uh, as I love for all of my guests to endure the struggle of introducing themselves, uh, what would you like us to know about you?  

Erika: Oh, wow. Well, my name is Erika Mori and I currently live in Denver. I am a voracious reader and a dog mom, which seems like pretty basic, but I’ll take it.  

Dana: Oh, there’s nothing but nothing basic about being a dog. Mom. I’m a plant mom and I’ve got my hands full.  

Erika: Yeah, but you have a, your plant mom to a plant in eight disco ball planter, which is true, like fairly eccentric. And it’s really fabulous. It’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party. And also life  

Photo evidence will be coming soon to an Instagram account near you. Um, okay. Thank you for that. Thank you so much for the introduction. Albeit a very modest introduction because I do want our listeners to also know that you are, um, the face, the voice and the body of the lead character, Alex, uh, from the video game, Life is Strange, which has been, award-winning like, this is a big, massive deal this game. Um, this narrative adventure video game thing by SquareEnix. Is that correct? Yeah. Okay. And we’re going to talk about that because this is a big, massive, exciting job of yours, but first we’re going to go, uh, stroll down memory lane. If you wouldn’t mind,  

I would love to  

This, this blast from the past is brought to you by Chiquita banana head dresses and Michelle Latimer Dance Academy. Oh yes. Photo evidence of that coming soon as well. Um, what was that? I like it like that. Yeah. Before it was a Nicki Minaj hook. We danced too. I like it like that with Chiquita banana head dresses on which may be slightly insensitive if done today, perhaps. But I will say that,  

How old were we? I mean, we were like 12, probably 12, 12, 11. Yeah.  

Yeah. Some of my fondest memories took place in those, in those four walls at Michelle Latimer Dance Academy. Um, I’m, I’m wondering if you could just dish a few of your favorite memories from being a comp kid?  

Oh God. Um, I think one of my favorite memories is actually like pretty disgusting. It was, do you remember how we would spit on the floor and rub our feet in it? Like our shoes in it to like basically be rosin? Yeah. Um, S four turns so that we wouldn’t slip just loogies everywhere. 

100% everywhere. I actually caught myself in the act of this, um, of this spit resistance very recently. Like during COVID times. And I spit on the floor and it was like, Oh my God,  

I am so sorry. It’s like, now we’re just like a Petri dish of disease  

For real. I mean, when you consider, I just, I just hit my disco ball. I’m getting, so I’m getting so excited when you consider that later on, I rolled around on that same floor and the other people that would be rolling around on that same floor. It’s a miracle 

We ate off of that floor. 

Um, such a wonder that we didn’t all get ringworm, right? Yeah. That was a disgusting, that was a disgusting habit that we had. We had some wardrobe, some hot wardrobe fashions. I remember, I remember specifically wearing little boy underwear in dance class as if they were briefs like dance briefs.   

Yeah. That was kind of like some of our costumes. I just, now I know how upset my dad was about just all of it, how, um, there just weren’t many pieces of fabric or for a lot of our costumes and he still, you know, religiously went to every single dance competition. Bless his heart. Yes. You know, um, and probably just like closed his eyes for all of it. 

Super shout out Rick Mori. Well, you know what? I didn’t expect the conversation to go there, but this is a really interesting topic. That’s seeing quite a bit more light, uh, of, of late. I think as a lot of people are becoming more aware of some of the things that might be happening unintentionally in the convention and dance training worlds that are not so safe for young people. Um, so I think a lot of, a lot of people at the moment being more responsible for, um, not just the costume, but also the music being age appropriate, the intention behind the music being age appropriate. I really am seeing a trend towards the safer in that space in the convention space. Um, but since our competition days, your relationship with dance has, has changed a lot. Could you talk a bit about that, about your relationship with dance today and, um, kind of how it’s changed since, since we were up on that stage? 

Oh God, God bless it. Um, it, you know, I I’ve had dance in my life consistently. Um, right after high school, I went to college at the University of Southern California. And I was, I think this experience is, is pretty shared amongst a lot of incoming freshmen where you get really close with a group of people that you meet at orientation or on your dorm floor. And then you realize that you don’t really like them, like a month, a month and a half later where you’re like, huh, we weren’t actually bonding over things that we actually enjoyed. It was that we were just balls of hormones shoved together in the same place at the same time. Exactly. No parents, lots of booze. Um, I need to find some of my own friends. And so I saw a flyer up about dance auditions and I ended up getting on a dance team called the song leaders or song girls. Um, and they dance at football games, basketball games. It’s, it’s a, it’s a big deal, but that was, that became my, my social group for the rest of, of college. Um, and so I was dancing all through college. I did like adult dance classes when I lived in San Francisco just to like keep it going. And then I actually was in Buenos Aires. I was living there for five or six months. And your mom Steff 

Shout out Stan, 

Shout out, shout out to Stan. She got me into contact with her tango instructor. Oh my God. He’s amazing.  

The name is for real. His last name is Saucido and he’s this sauceiest. Just super shout out. Yes. He is an incredibly talented dancer and a really gifted teacher. I did not fancy myself an excellent partner dancer. Actually my mom’s schools me still she’s very good, but I found that a lot about tango is opposite our training. Um, first of all, in that you’re moving backwards most of the time, but it’s like a weight control relinquishing control. Well, that’s even outside of my dance life a subject, but, um, yeah, I really, I struggled with tango a lot, so Eduardo not only talented, but also very patient teacher. Um, and he’s in BA okay. So wait, you were there before you knew that, that my mom was traveling there. My mom, by the way, for those of you who are just tuning into my life and my mom, um, she was a flight attendant for several years and was flying Buenos Aires turns so that she could be dancing, uh, during her layovers, which I just think is the most heroic and romantic thing to be doing.  

So fabulous. Yeah. So it was really serendipitous because I was already planning to take a sabbatical from my corporate job. I was planning on living in one of the side days for a set amount of time and we reconnected and she was just like a total angel. I saw her every time she would come through, we would do dance class together. Sometimes we go to a Milonga and I just think the dance has been a really grounding experience for me. So even though I left the competition world, I didn’t pursue it. I kind of always knew I wouldn’t pursue it professionally. Um, I actually blast from the past, I remember we were at some convention, we’re all sitting down and I maybe it was like Mark Meismer or somebody was walking around with a microphone and was asking like, what do you want to do when you grow up? Some, some question like that. And I like, my little hand shot up and I knew I was like, he he’s expecting, like, I want to be a professional dancer. And I like grab that microphone. And I was like, I want to make enough money so that I can pay for her. And I pointed at you, should be, that she could be a dancer my God. And he was, I just remember him being like, okay,  

But that’s not the message we’re trying to put out. We’re trying to encourage dancers to be dancers without sponsors, but work or, I mean, you know, we’re, we’re coming fresh out of, um, not at the time of this interview, we’re coming fresh out of Money March where I’ve spent four episodes talking about kind of the economics and the, the ins and outs dollar bills of a dancer’s life. And man, as I was doing research, I found some, some numbers that were quite startling. Um, and I, again, there’s such tremendous range in the dance world. It’s hard to get like a grip on how much it answer makes, if you haven’t already people listening, go give a listen to those four episodes, but I’m touched that you would sponsor my dance life for me. And you probably still would today. I would, I would imagine  

I can recognize like unique talents when I, when I see it and I rub up against it.  

And yo likewise, by the way, because I want to just point out, you might not have been the one that was like, I want to go on tour with Britney Spears, but you were the one that was winning first overall with all of your solos and all the scholarships and the feet and the legs and the turns and the personality and and and 

Thats because I was an absolute ham. Like I can’t even watch videos of myself performing because you know what it feels like. It feels like those first few episodes of a new American idol season, where there is just the general auditions and there’s just like a dumpster fire going on on your screen and you can’t look at it because then you’re afraid that you will in fact burst into flames yourself. It’s just like, there’s so much awkward. That’s what it is. I can’t, I can’t watch myself. It’s it’s so, Oh, I’m sorry for everyone.  

I’m going to make it more job to find some video footage to accompany this episode, because if you were a dumpster fire, my friend, I was a dumpster fire Slingshot to hell. Like it was a hot mess, but we really enjoy yourself. Um, we, we really enjoyed each other and I remember spending some like out of dance class time together, inventing fake products and writing jingles for them, which I far too sophisticated for this audience.  

You wouldn’t get it haha 

Um, but we would, we would like spend 30 odd hours a week at the dance studio and then be making up dances in your garage over the weekend. So we did love this thing and it’s really cool to see that you continued to love it in different ways throughout your adult life. Um, and what’s really, really cool is the way, what I think is the way dance has showed up to support you in this next chapter of your life. So let’s, let’s talk about you and being the star of this narrative adventure video game. Um, you have a really unique story about how you came upon this role. I would love to hear a little bit about that and then maybe we can dig into some conversations about mocap because, I’m obsessed. Um, so how did you, how did you come upon the role?  

The truth of it was I kind of tripped and fell into, into the role. Um, I had gotten into kind of a season of, of my career and my life where my corporate job was really taking over. And it was just working all the time, coming home, eating dinner, feeding the dog, going to bed. And it was just a rinse and repeat. And I was really feeling the strain of that. I think in general, I do try and do a good job of infusing something creative into my daily life. Um, and I just, that was a season where I wasn’t as fastidious about about it. And so recognize that signed up for an adult acting class at the Denver center, um, here in town. Excellent. Excellent. Um, excellent place to, to hone your craft. They do all sorts of classes, acting playwriting, dance, um, voiceover, on camera. I mean, it’s, it’s a really amazing resource, um, for folks here in Colorado and my, so I signed up for a class and my instructor happened to be a casting director who was the casting director for this game. And after the class was over, I get an email from her and be like, Hey, I think you should do this audition. Didn’t have a, obviously no agent, no idea.  

No headshot, no resume, no reel. 

What was, I know It was just a selfie. I’m deaf. I still don’t have a real, like, it’s just, you know, it’s just what it is. And so she sends me, she’s like, okay, yeah, I think you, you should definitely go to this audition. I almost called it an interview. Uh, and I was,  

That’s how one foot in each world you are, but you’re like one foot in the top of each of the worlds. This is amazing. Keep going  

Well. And, and I was like, okay. Yeah, I think, you know, one o’clock could work, but it would be better if it was at two. And she was like, you need to clear your schedule. Like this is not, this is not a negotiation about like, when you can be there, you are not the one dictating the timing. And I was like, okay, I’ll put it in the schedule. So I get up there, I do the audition, I get a call back. There were multiple callbacks. I want to say maybe like four callbacks, which is pretty intense. And I didn’t realize until maybe the first or second callback. And it was the first call back I’d ever done. Like, I just, it didn’t, I didn’t know what was going on. Um, but it was, it wasn’t until like the first or second callback where I realized that I was auditioning for the main character. I was like, Oh, surely this is like a tertiary character, because I don’t know the difference between my ** and a hole in the ground right now. Like just no clue what’s going on. Like nobody, nobody would, would gamble, gamble the house on somebody. Who’s never done this, but they ended up gambling the house on somebody who had never been the industry. I have no formal training. Um, I almost think it’s better that I didn’t know until that point because I just, and I had never experienced the life is strange, uh, games, the fandom, I, I just had no idea. And I think it was probably for the best for my nerves. And I didn’t have any idea  

So that you, so you got it. You’re plugged in to the epicenter of this universe that is already spinning with all sorts of planets and moons and things orbiting. And there you are, the warm fuzzy center of it. And this is so I think for people listening, it’s important to know that when you’re doing I’ll call it performance capture because it was way more than motion, right? You had sensors on your face, we’re capturing facial expressions, you are miked, we’re capturing audio. We’re, we’re what we’re hearing is your voice. And so this is full-blown performance capture that happens in a motion capture studio, um, or in some cases in some, um, or in some cases, because there’ve been such tremendous advances in the technology, performance capture and motion capture can be done outside, like in normal daylight and sunlight and stuff. Um, but where you on, on a studio for the most part,  

I was in a studio for the most part, except for when COVID hit. Like we still had pickups from, uh, different chapters and the end of the game to film. Right. And so for the most part, yes, there are, there are different technologies in terms of, of, of mo-cap. So we used one that required you to be in, in a studio with 24 cameras surrounding you, plus a couple regular cameras to get different shots, to like so that the animators can see your hands move. There were things that you can’t do, um, because it looks janky with the avatar in terms of like crossing your legs because of the hips on, on Alex or any, any of the characters. Like it just looks weird. And so finding like I would, we do, we’d do a scene and we’d have the writer, the director, um, audio guide, mocap folks. And they would bring in the animators, um, to make sure that they were getting what they needed. And it was just, it was super fun. And I think it comes back to, um, what we were talking about in terms of dance and just, I have a lifetime of experience being like truly grounded in my body 

And awareness and able to make small changes or big changes for that matter.  

Right. And so I think the coolest part of, of doing this performance capture was being able to make choices, how Alex moves, that’s different from how Erica moves and what informs those choices or how she sits or how she like holds her body. Um, the, the game is about empathy and how you embody what’s the physicality of emotions, different emotions for this character was super, super important. And it was the coolest part of, of the creative process,  

The greatest buffet for an artist, because, you know, you will not just get to, but you’ll be required to experience at varying levels, every single emotion on the spectrum and in every circumstance. So stop me if I’m wrong, but in my experience with, with motion capture, which we can talk about in a second, in a, in a narrative type of game, you more or less have to capture every possible outcome of what this character might do and with who and in what emotional state. Um, and so the, the shoot schedule is tremendous because you’re creating a world from scratch. You’re creating a human and all the infinite variable outcomes of, of what might happen in this world. So, number one, I would love to hear about how those shoot days looked, what type of like bites were you taking in a day of work? And then also how long was the shoot schedule? How long was this your nine to five?  

Whew. Well, we, I was, let’s see, I was cast in July of 2018 and I wrapped September of 2020,  

And the game isn’t coming out until September 2021,  

Right. September 10th. But it’ll come out all at once. You can binge it like you would binge Netflix. Yeah.  

You better believe I’m going to, I was, and this is a person who doesn’t really play games, but you better believe it would be better. I was so excited. 

But yeah, the, um, the creative process there, I mean the Alex that exists in the game now, it’s not the Alex we started with, right. So it was like incredibly collaborative. And I was told by the game director, by the writers that at some point when they had gotten to know me well enough and had seen my output, the performances that I was giving, they started to write for me. And so I think that there was a real, which I didn’t know was, was a thing, but apparently when there is, um, a really good relationship and an understanding between an actor and the writers’ room, real magic can happen. And I think, I think that’s, uh, I attribute that relationship among, among many others it into why Alex is, I think a really sensational character, um, as part of the life is strange universe. Um, so gosh, days could be anywhere from 5 to 10 hours of shoots. Um, a lot of scene work because it is narrative driven and the, to your earlier point, the script is branching, right? Because the script is conditional. I can’t, I mean, thousands of pages for a script. And so the performance started to get more like specific and nuanced as we got deeper into the story. And especially like at the very end, because it was like, okay, there were all these critical choices 

And How do you wrap up all those possible?  

And so like the prep was, the director would come out and okay, we’re running the scene. You, you know, I was given the script ahead of time. But remember this choice in this branch, this choice was made. This choice was made, this choice was made, this choice was made. And so the, the, the performance needs to have flavors of X, Y, or Z. And it was the best. I loved it.  

This is seriously like strong man universe of acting. Your muscles, even for somebody with zero experience. We all know that like, even as human beings that have never stepped foot in an acting class, you act different around your grandmother than you do around your boyfriend, or then you do around, you know, the Amazon delivery guy. So like, well, we’re all, we’re all actors in our way, but you must have been so strong to begin with and even more so now, what, what, like, do you think this is a type of work that you’ll be pursuing forevermore? Do you feel confident in your skills? Do you want to be doing this?  

Yes. I, I really like this, this genre of acting, um, career option that I stumbled into. I also think I was able to do what was required to me later in the script, because this was such a long running production that I was basically just living and breathing Alex. And so there was like a very, there is a very close connection with myself and my character and that character. And so I would love to continue to do that because I think it is a really nice meshing of the physicality and the body awareness that I have. And now I know all of the like unique little minutia that goes into doing performance capture for a game.  

How would you say that dance prepared you for this other than being able make micro adjustments and take direction? Well, how, how did dance prepare you? And were there any circumstances where you felt totally unprepared where you were like, Oh, I have no idea what, wait, what someone help.  

Yeah. I think in terms of how dance helped me. So kind of going back to your comment about tango being almost antithetical to our training, because you are following in the moment, I’m a terrible follower. I just want to lead. Poor Eduardo was always like, stop it,  

He’ll wait for you to stop. He’ll stop until you surrender.  

I mean, we were both, we would always be like drenched in sweat because it was basically a battle. Like you need to stop trying to lead. Yeah.  

Okay. So, but, but you were able to like quiet down and, and listen.  

I was, but I think our training as competition dancers, the memorization, um, the quick picking up of choreography really helped me here. So for example, you already mentioned that there was facial capture. So I had like a helmet with a rig on that came out. I don’t know, maybe a foot or more from my face with a camera. So, and it’s filming, it’s filming my face. Um, and she just it’s used by the animation, but even, I think in the, the, the release trailer, you see Gabe hug, Alex, you can’t do that with a helmet on, or you can, or you have to like move it around. And so for that sort of character intimacy for a lot of it, we would have to, we would put on these like silly little hats we take off our rig, we would perform the scene and then we would have to redo it with the facial, uh, the facial camera on with the hat rig on. And so we would have to remember exactly what we did on the circle take. Wow. And it was just, yeah, it was, I mean, it was second nature to me where I was like, Oh yeah, I absolutely, Nope. The hand went here. Nope. It was two seconds on the shoulder. And then it came down to the forearm. Like it, it was just second nature because it was in my body already to pay attention to that kind of stuff. And I would say the hardest to the second part of your question, the most challenging stuff for me was actually, um, going to those deep, emotional levels, um, that were required, especially for this game, especially for this character. I think I’ve, I’ve grown up. I’m Asian. I don’t know if know, 

This is a podcast, so anybody who’s listening,  

I’m, Asian-American, I’ve grown up in an Asian-American household and, um, wonderful childhood happy childhood. My parents did a bang up job because I was quite a handful, um, Dana, you know? Um, but there, there is, there has been a culture of like, you figure things out on your own. You don’t necessarily always show what you’re feeling. I’ve always been so bad about that. But then I really, really learned that lesson when I entered corporate America, I was specifically told, yes, I know you’re upset about, you know, this, this conflict that happened with your coworker, but in order to go to the higher ups who were always male, um, you can’t have any emotion when you tell them it just has to be the facts. And I remember early on in my career asking like, well, wouldn’t him seeing how this affects me emotionally. Um, like be a benefit, like give the whole story. And I was like, no, they won’t take you seriously. And so in order to, I thought, and it was erroneous, but I thought, and I was, I was coached to, in order to move up the corporate ladder to get into spaces that I wanted to be in, I needed to tamp down the emotion. Yes. The emotional side of me. And I think not to make this gender focused, but I do think that there was more sensitivity around it because I was female. I took it upon myself to say, like, if you want to get into these spaces that you desire to be in, this is something you need to work on. And I tend to be a woman of extremes. Like I will swing to one end, realize it doesn’t work swing to the other end. It does realize it doesn’t work and then figure out where I need to be in the center. And so I really did swing to the extreme of like no emotion. I actually only want to do analytical work. Um, and I’m a language arts girl, not necessarily like a math sciences girl, like that’s not where my strength is. And I think this game helped, helped me scratch off the scabs over my fear of, of being emotive 

Or, or quote over emotional.  

Yeah. And I was required to do that. And so when I first started again, back to being aware of your body, I know where grief lives inside of me. It like lives in a specific part of my body. And I know how to access it. Same with rage, right. Same with same with joy and all of that. And so before I realized, um, that I could go to that specific part of my body, I used, um, this is, this is part of the Lucid Body methodology by Fay Simpson that I, um, was introduced to in early 2019. But before that, right, we’ve been filming for six months before then. And I was just re-traumatizing myself to get to those emotions. So for example, um, Gabe, my, the, my brother Alex’s brother dies in the game and for one of my auditions or for one of the callbacks, they wanted to see that, that, that emotion. And I remember being like, I don’t, I can’t do that in front of people. And one of my closest friends at the time told me, like, just imagine if it was Evan, Evan is my younger brother. And as soon as  

Super shout out Evan! 

He’s just the best, Oh my gosh, doesn’t wear power ranger onesies anymore.  

That’s how I will always remember him. Actually. Maybe it’s better. I would love to see him again, but I don’t mind keeping that, that person precious in my mind. Okay. So you’re basically your friend is telling you more or less kill your brother in your, in your mind.  

Well, it’s like in order to get there, just imagine if Evan died and as soon as he said that I was crying completely unraveled. Yes. I like, I, I, it was, I found it, I found like the pain and the grief and the rage and, and all of it. And I use that in my audition. But then as I was, I think I’m sure it helps me get it because it was so very real. Like it almost didn’t feel like act acting. I almost said the wrong name. I almost said Evan’s name in the scene, just because that’s how closely connected to the grief of that scenario I was. And then I realized as we’re going through shoots. I was like, man, I can’t, I can’t keep doing this. Like, this is not good for me emotionally, psychologically. And I’m so, so glad that I found, um, the Lucid Body, because it does talk about how do you go as a performer. It can be a dancer. It can be a singer actor, whatever it is, you are going to be asked to go out on a limb of emotion, whatever that emotion is. If it’s grief, it’s rage, it’s happiness. You’re going to be asked to go out there, but you have to find yourself. You have to find your way back to the center, to the trunk of who you are. And I can do that now. Right. I, I’m not afraid to go out onto, you know, a sadness limb, because I know that when they say cut, I won’t still be out there without any sort of tools or recourse to come back to center. And it would just, it used to take so long and I would use to try and like hide, but I, I needed, I needed a five to, just to just come back to myself. Um, and I’m able to do that much more quickly and without fear, um, I used to have a lot of anxiety before some of the more intense scenes, just because I was like, well, if, what. I think that, that was a very real fear of, um, I was in a play called The Wolves in the fall of 2018 and it’s very, very emotional. It’s about a high school girls, soccer team, very fun. Um, but it requires a lot of, of the character that I was playing emotionally and I hadn’t found lucid body at that point. And it was a re-injured every single night to get to that emotional state. And it’s just, it’s just not healthy. It’s not sustainable  

And its not necessary if you have another way. Yeah. So do you feel that with the lucid body technique that you were able to achieve the same, um, level of emotion without it needing to be, um, imagining a real life, your life scenario to get it?  

Yes, absolutely. And I think it made it, it made it possible for me to only access that emotion as Alex  

Interesting, like her emotion.  

Right. And of course, exactly. And of course, like, I don’t think that we are ever fully divorced from our character. It’s why, like, if I play Lady Macbeth, people are going to come see my interpretation of Lady Macbeth, not, you know, Meryl Streep’s interpretation of Lady Macbeth. If they do that, they go see Meryl Streep. They probably should. Um,  

Oh, I just watched the Manchurian candidate the other night and she is flawless Okay. So I’m fascinated. I want to do a little bit more digging on that lucid body technique. It sounds like, um, you know, lately I’ve been working a lot on managing my mind and finding fuel in my feelings instead of like, feeling like I needed to manage my feelings, but enjoying that my feelings are what get me places. My feelings are what have me doing things. My feelings are, are also have me not doing certain things. So kind of circling back to the conversation about when do feelings help, or when do feelings hurt your chances of getting a thing or getting in a room or getting a certain job? I regard feelings so highly, such as they’re gold to me. Um, and in our work, I suppose that’s tremendously useful that I think so highly of feelings and experiencing all of them. Um, but it’s fascinating to me that you’re a person who’s lived and performed at really high levels in worlds where emotion is not only demanded, but encouraged. And then in a space where it’s like shunned, ignored, really not recommended. Um, I think, I think we could go on at great lengths on that topic alone, but do you want to talk about something that came up when you and I had a catch up recently, we wound up talking about voice and you know, your we’ve talked a bit about how dance and physicality showed up for you in this role, but you weren’t a person that had a tremendous amount of vocal training were you? 

No, I did choir in high school. Um, mostly because I really liked the teacher and my friends were all in choir and I liked to sing, but no,  

We used to write jingles.  

I know, I know. And we, I think that is a career option for us, if everything else falls through.  

Yeah. Uh, look out like Simon and Garfunkel at the piano. Um, but, uh, I, I think is something of interest to me lately partially because of the podcast and partially because I can’t seem to keep it healthy for, for any extended period of time. Um, so I would love to hear about your growth as a voice actor and your journey of becoming more aware of your voice as a tool through this work. Like what did you learn about it? What did you struggle with and, and who helped you? What helped you, is there, is there a lucid body equivalent, but for the voice or does lucid body account for the voice?  

I think lucid body accounts for, for everything, how, um, voice and what you, what you vocalize externally is, it should, um, come from what’s going on in the body? I think, you know, a lot of times we can conceptualize almost anything. Scenarios, what it should be, but until it’s like actually seeped from our head into our body, it’s not real. And so by the time it comes out of your mouth, like I hope to God that it’s in your body. Um, I learned through, and it was all, it was all on the job training. And luckily, you know, uh, the directors at deck nine, uh, Web and Zach and the audio director, Chuck, like, they are excellent at giving cues that make sense to me. And when they didn’t, they were totally open to having a conversation. Right. Because the important thing is that I understand what they want. Um, and so I just learned that like vocal, inflection volume, um, the pace of a line can change It’s feeling it’s it’s tone, it’s meaning and getting more comfortable and confident as the game went on. Cause there’s so much VO, there’s so much voiceover for Alex because in these games, you know, there’s like, Oh, well, you know, the players doing one thing, but they haven’t solved this piece of a puzzle. That’s going to unlock another part of the game. So there a lot of voiceover that are just like nudges, like I wonder if I should go over to the bridge of flowers or, you know, so just a ton of voiceover, sometimes that would be all we would do for a shoot is catch up on voice on all these VO lines. Um, but I would say that the, the biggest learning came, um, because Alex, wasn’t always a singer when I joined. Yeah.  

She’s the character is a  

Singer/songwriter. Yeah, yeah. Plays guitar. And she wasn’t that at the beginning, but you know, the writers, the creatives really, really wanted that to be part of her story. And so, and I really wanted to support that part of her story. And so I took, was taking voice lessons. Um, I, and that really helped me understand like placement of your voice within like your head. Right. And, and how to safely shout, um, which is,  

This is the lesson I keep missing. I’m always absent on that day. Um, so do you feel that you’ve achieved some, some level of proficiency or dare I say, mastery of your voice? Like if we went out to a karaoke bar, would you sing and would you sound like fabulous?  

Well, I would sing, and I think that sounded pretty good. I was actually, um, it was my singing voice in the game. I was Alex in her entirety until last summer when they decided to swap out her singing voice for MXMtoon. And it was, it was pretty devastating to have done all of that work and have gotten through all of these like approval phase gates with, with square and with the other creatives. And then with, you know, she sinks creep. Um, and, and so getting nine inch nails on board, getting B the artist who wrote and performed the songs originally on board. Okay.  

Everybody signed off on you. Yes. And then switcharoo. Somebody made the money decision to go with a popstar.   

Yes. Yeah. And she’s got, you know, I think she has a lovely voice and she has a much broader reach than I do. Like I am a nobody, you know, I don’t, I, I have, I had like four friends on Twitter. Like I just don’t have the reach. And so, I mean being completely vulnerable here and, and transparent, like I had a lot of emotions around, around that decision, which like, I, I was really, I was really hurt because it was such a, I think that was one of the most personal parts of the game for me, because it was a skill that I knew I had, but I had never cultivated it in the way that I did with dance or even that I had done with, um, with acting. But I, I wanted to, I knew the strength of having Alex as a singer songwriter to this story. I knew the strength of what that would bring to, to the story, to the, you know, to our gamers experience. And so I was, I think very, very understandably wounded by it. I think where I am now is I know that MXMtoon has such a broad reach. And if this is reaching even one person who would not have played the game before, I believe so much in the game and the message and what it will bring to people that I’m like good. I think, I think it was worth it then. And I still have all of the music that I perform. It was all I saw it in game when I was playing the builds. I, you know, I have them. And so it’s not like my work is, is gone or the journey is. And you and I had talked about heartbreak. That’s, that’s just, that’s kind of part of, of being an industry and you take the good with the bad. And luckily in my case, the good is greatly vastly outweighing you know, some of the heartbreaks of the creative process.  

Thank you for sharing that. That’s, it’s, it’s probably to be expected that during the course of a project is spanning, as this one that you would have some pretty remarkable highs and some pretty, pretty low lows. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. The professional, the professional heartbreak is real. I’ve, I’ve felt feelings from gigs that I have not felt in some intimate relationships before. It’s a very real type of, um, type of hurt.  

Well, and I wonder if it’s because like, as artists and I, and I speak about this only from my personal experience of being in corporate America, there isn’t the same blood, sweat, and tears that I put into my organizational design work that I do to my acting work. Like it’s, it’s, it is personal. And I think that good art is personal, but the, the dancers that I love to watch the actors who I buy tickets to see the comics that I, that I watch, they, it is personal to them. And I can tell.  

And so it’s not, it’s not possible to not seek something personal and not personally it’s personal. Um, okay. Kind of on a similar tangent, when you talk about having, you know, favorite comedians, favorite actors, favorite, you know, musical beings that you follow, are you now coming to a place where you have like mocap heroes? Do you have game heroes? Do you have, are you familiar enough with that world now to know the key players and, and who should I know about as a person who doesn’t know much about the world? Although I have, I don’t know nothing about this world. I haven’t been, um, several characters in a two K game that I was so hysterical. The process that from the audition on was just a ridiculous process. In the audition I had to die in every way imaginable. It was so much fun. I’m I remember calling my agent immediately when I left, I was like, more of this, please love this. Hysterical. And then I booked it and I found out what a 10 hour day of dying while holding a, uh, like, um, a mock machine gun, but, uh, a fake weapon that is roughly the weight of a real weapon and doing that for 10 hours a day. I was like, Oh, no, we’re good here. But are there people that you, that, that you now know of that have become heroes to you in this space?  

You know, I didn’t do a lot of, I am historically really bad at the comparison game. Um,  

Meaning you do it a lot and it’s not good for you or meaning? 

Yeah. Where I am competitive and where that comes out is in comparison. Like for example, I used to do orange theory, fitness  

OTF. I was in that orange zone.  

See right. You’re in that orange zone, but as long, like in you wear your little heart rate monitor, and it’s all displayed as long as I wasn’t the last person, or like had, had like the least amount of calories. I was, I was good, but goddammit, if I was close to the end, I would just be busting. I mean, I probably like, you know, pop a hammy,  Trying to make sure the last  

That type of workout can be very, it can be done this when you’re that. Okay. So, so did you, you intentionally didn’t do much digging into the world.  

Because I didn’t want that necessarily like their, their tricks or whatever, informing what I was doing with Alex. Um, I did, you know, I did do some play throughs of life is strange 2. And like the strange 1, as well as before the storm, which deck nine, the developer also, um, developed alongside like the strange, true colors, which is the game that Alex is in. And I mean, I just think that those performances are the reason why this, this fandom is so strong, why there is a third game, um, why this universe is still around is because they got some real ringers, um, in, in every single one of those games. Like those, the emotions are real, like the, the relationships they feel so real. Um, and so I don’t have role models or, or, you know, icons that I look up to yet, but I know that, that I will, I mean, I’m like a baby, a babe in the woods on this one. Um, and I have so much to learn and I’m so ready to learn from, from the best.  

Oh man. Well, I think you’re, you will probably be becoming a movement hero and emotion hero, a performance capture hero to so many people because of this. And I’m thrilled for you. And so grateful to you for sharing some of your experience here today, but mostly just for being an example of, of what type of unexpected things can come from being a person in pursuit of a full creative life. I just think it’s the coolest thing. And I’m thrilled for you. I cannot wait to see the game. Um, I I’m emotional, like talking about it and I, and I wasn’t there for any of it.  Um, the trailer looks beautiful. I will absolutely link link to it in the show notes for this episode. And if you’re listening after September, 10th did you say? Go find it, go find Life is Strange. Starring the one and only Erika Mori.  

That’s right. Although, Oh my gosh. You have to be careful because you Google Erika Mori. And I was like, that’s my name? I’m not adding like a letter in the middle of it. That’s that’s my name now. 

Not Erika Danger, Mori? 

Yeah, exactly. Which was, which was on the table. But I’m not the first one that comes up again because I I’m a nobody, which is kind of how I like it. Well,  

You were about to go into this kind of PR ringer, right? For the game for promotion, you know, a whole circuit probably of, of engagements. Do you plan on being more involved socially as far as like a presence as a, um, w what do we, what do we call them? Oh, God, everybody in their darn Instagram profile social figure is that they call themselves?

Oh, they call themselves public figure public figures. Influencer. Not, not an influencer. I would not. No, I should not influence. 

You’ve influenced me tremendously. And I turned out all right,  

Really? It was, it was that rainbow-rhea, diarrhea, jingle. 

Wasn’t a to pull out the name, if you’ve made it this far in the episode now, you know, the name of the imaginary product that we created was Rainbow-Rhea, diarrhea control. And we sat at your piano in the living room and knocked out a jingle. And not only that, but then we printed out the jingles.  

Yes. I think I, it, I like printed it out in like rainbow font on like Microsoft paint or something, very professional and framed it for you. And I hope that it it’s still around. It is. I think I might find it just like speak. I think I just might for the gram. I still remember the lyrics. I’m not going to sing them.  

Both: If you’re getting diarrhea a want relief real soon. So keep watching this commercial, I will get it right to you.  

And then we do the talky part. Were we talk about the symptoms and the side effects. And then we had a wrap-up too, but I don’t know.  

I don’t remember the wrap-up, but I think that the jingling part, obviously the one that we both remembered, and I think the fact that we still remember, it means that it was a damn sticky  

Sticky. I’m Oh my God. 

I feel exposed on your own podcast.  

I do my cheeks hurt and I was just, I like, dang it. I knew I should have done a full vocal warmup. We were talking about my insecurity with voice, and then I wound up singing and guys that’s life. Sometimes. That’s what happens. Um, Erika, you’re a treat. You’re an absolute light. A joy. Thank you for being here today. Um, and congratulations.  

Thank you. Yeah, we should do this again sometime. Oh yeah. We should bring Michelle in. 

We should, Michelle in and wait. That’s going to happen by the way. Let’s do an Instagram live with Michelle, because now you can have three people on an Instagram live, Michelle, Erika Mori, and Dana Wilson. We’re doing the IG live. We’re going to talk about, I like it like that. We’re going to talk about spitting on the floor and rolling in it.  

We’re going to talk about you. Yes. And you being, um, Sebastian in our ballet of little mermaid and me being the chef. Yes.  

What’s the chef’s name from Little Mermaid like food. No, that was, yeah.  

Louie. Yeah. He sang Les Poissons

A really good song. So we had that magical duo.  

Yeah. We had a duet. I think we choreographed it 10 minutes. Yeah. With Michelle, like dying laughing, Stage Directing, and we’re like, okay, we have to find this. We have to find this  

Wait Erika we have to find this. Life Is good. See you, aren’t a, nobody you are Louie the very least and Louie and your talents are so wide reaching Instagram, live coming soon. I adore you. Thank you again. 

I love you so much.

I’ll talk to you later, my friend. Bye. Bye.  

All right. What did you think? My friend, what did you learn? What did you love? Um, Oh, I do want to back up and call myself out. Um, my reference too. I like it like that. The song that Erica and I danced to as tiny dancelings, that’s not a Nicki Minaj, uh, sample that that was confusing. That’s a Cardi B song that I was thinking of. So I apologize if that took you out or threw you off or hurt your feelings. Um, Oh, speaking of feelings, I was super inspired, um, to take a deeper dive on what Erika had talked about, the lucid body technique, which was created by Fay Simpson. There are classes, there is an awesome book. Um, and I w I will share the link to a few different places. You can find the book I’ve been digging into it and loving it. Um, and I think that you might too. So if that’s something you’re interested in, in going deeper on, take a look at the show notes to this episode, um, and of course be on the lookout for the new SquareEnix game. The next game Life is Strange starring our friend, Erika Mori. And with that, everybody, I think I am through now go out into the world, feel all the feels. And of course, keep it funky. I will talk to you soon.  

Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe, and leave a rating or review because your words move me 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.