Ep. #23 How to Have Uncomfortable Conversations

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #23 How to Have Uncomfortable Conversations
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It’s time to have some uncomfortable conversations.  Being uncomfortable goes hand in hand with learning, and people, we need to learn because we need CHANGE!   In this episode, I give a few first hand accounts of uncomfortable conversations about racism. I also give you my lesson plan for having uncomfortable conversations of ALL sorts. With a little bit of curiosity, compassion, and some good old fashioned listening, you can stop the cycle of confusion and find yourself in the driver seat of change; well on your way to creating the world you want to live in

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Follow, Learn, and Donate:

NAACP

ACLU

Campaign Zero

Color of Change

The Equal Justice Initiative

Fair Fight

How to Vote in Every State

Read:

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

 by Michelle Alexander

Watch:

“13th” Directed by Ava DuVernay

“The Black Power Mix-Tape” Directed by Göran Olsson

“When They See Us” by Ava DuVernay

Listen: 

1619 Podcast by The New York Times

Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell 

The United States of Anxiety “I did not watch the video” – WNYC

Truth Be Told – “You’re ok, I’m Not: Black Men & Therapy” – KQED

Code Switch – “A Decade of Watching Black People Die” – NPR 

While Black – “Black Teachers Matter” 

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello? Hello everybody. Okay. How are you feeling out there today? I am feeling okay. And that is okay today. My win is that I have been learning from some really uncomfortable conversations lately, and I am proud of that. This episode is all about how to navigate those uncomfortable conversations that you may be having as well. But before we dig into that, I do want to give you a chance to tell me about your wins. I think it is very important to celebrate them, especially the small ones,  

Go for it. What’s going well in your world. Congratulations. And I am so glad that you are winning. All right, in this episode, I’m going to be dishing out my lesson plan for how to have difficult or rather uncomfortable conversations. I’m getting a lot of opportunities to practice this lesson plan right now. And you probably are too, by the way, right now is the first week of June in 2020, a couple of facts about today or this week, I suppose, is that the global death toll from COVID-19 is over 374,000. Few more numbers for you. Over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the pandemic. The real jobless rate in America is 23.9% today. Also on May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by policemen on camera. Since then people have been protesting. Some have been burning buildings, some burn cop cars, many are taking to social media in response. Now there is a lot of opportunity to practice having uncomfortable conversations. So let’s get better at it. Before I get any further. I’d like to say that conversations are great. This is an excellent starting point, but if you are inspired to learn more and if you are able to take action, please do so. If you don’t know how please see the show notes of this episode for links to resources and ways that you can help make a change. Some of my favorites include the NAACP ACLU Campaign Zero Color of Change The Equal Justice Initiative  and Fair Fight , but there are many, many more. Please see the show notes for this episode or visit theDanawilson.com/podcast And look for episode 23. All right, let’s dig in now to this uncomfortable topic.

I was appalled when I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered. I felt that way because I got caught in a cycle of very confused thoughts. I don’t understand how this could happen. How could this possibly be happening? How could somebody do that? I don’t understand. I don’t know what to say. That’s a sample of some of the thoughts going through my mind, my mind at that time and that, you know, confusion spiral resulted in inaction. The more I thought, the confused thoughts, the more I didn’t act. That’s the funny thing about confusion. It is self perpetuating. It leads to more and more of itself, more confusion, which leads to more inaction. And without action, there is no change. You see where this is going. You stay confused. Now. I was confused for days. I’ll be very honest as the unrest escalated. So did my confusion. And that’s where I was when I got a text from a dear friend, Ava Bernstein, Mitchell, Ava is a world class dancer.  She is also a journalist and a choreographer. She’s better known as Ava Flav to many, but she is best known to me as my better half from the first world tour I ever danced on. People called us Ebony and Ivory. We called us Ebony and Ivory. Today I don’t think that we would, but back in 2007, we were absolutely inseparable. Have you ever had a friend that, um, you’re so close with? You’re so tight with that. Hugging is actually uncomfortable because you so rarely say hello or goodbye. There’s rarely a cause for you to, to be a part or to part. So you don’t actually have the embrace that is so commonly associated with Hellos and goodbyes. That was, that was us. It was uncomfortable for us to hug because we were almost always together. Anyways, the years have brought some distance. Although anything relative to being on tour together is distance. But I am always excited to see her name pop up on my phone and we’re still quite close. That day she texted me a little flashback tour memory and I LOLed to myself. And then I quipped back and I quote, “these days are pretty tough, but I’m glad those days are behind us.” She replied “just a little levity in these times, [smiley face.]” And then my heart sink. I had downplayed our current circumstances without thinking of how she and I are experiencing those circumstances very, very differently. My heart hit the pit of my stomach, and I immediately asked her if we could talk on the phone, we set a call. And as that time approached, I actually got lost driving to my curbside produce pickup. That I go to once a week, every single week, same location I got lost because I was thinking of all the things I wanted to say and ask and apologize for. I physically got lost because I was mentally swimming in confused thoughts. I was swimming in that confusion pool with all my confused thoughts. Good news is I didn’t stay lost for very long. Thanks hugely to our conversation. Ava helped me manage my mind that day. This is true. And then she helped me to make this episode and I am so, so grateful for that. We talked about what we were seeing on Instagram, what people were saying. We talked about what I learned from reading the book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. And we talked about the importance of talking. If you listen, you will walk away from this episode with an idea of how to navigate difficult conversations.  

All right. Part one, define difficult, define uncomfortable. What makes a conversation difficult? What makes anything difficult? Is your thoughts about it? Because difficulty is relative. For example, fifth position was very, very difficult to my three year old self. Another dance example, 32 fouettés would be very difficult for me today, but probably not very difficult for Misty Copeland or my friend Tiler Peck running a six minute mile would be very difficult for me. I don’t even think I could run a 10 minute mile today, I think a 10 minute mile would legit be for me right now. But I know there are people that can run six minute miles that have trained themselves away from that being a difficult thing. How about dating in a way? I know a lot of people that say that’s very difficult. I date my husband all the time. We live in Los Angeles.I think that’s pretty okay. Now how about this one? Having a conversation about race. Difficult, right? Especially right now, right? Wrong. Having a conversation about race is very easy for the author of white fragility, Robin de Angelo. She literally wrote the book on it. It’s also her job to have those conversations. She does it all the time. So let’s switch a roo here. Let’s not use the word difficult. Let’s use the word uncomfortable. A conversation about race is not difficult. It is uncomfortable. Now uncomfortable, just like with difficulty, comfort and discomfort are still subjective, right? Everyone has their own sliding scale of what is comfortable and what is uncomfortable. Now I want to talk about the range on that sliding scale, right after comfortable and just before distressed or fearful for your life. Now, if I were to ask you to put discomfort on the spectrum of human emotion, right? Negative or positive, it’s probably one of those things that would land on the negative side, but it’s also one of those things that if you work through, there’s a pot of gold on the other side. In fact, I am hard pressed to name you an accomplishment that I am proud of that did not come about through a period of discomfort or on the other side of a period of discomfort. Take, for example, learning how to walk, right? I’m super proud. Every day. That was definitely uncomfortable. Little rug burns on my little baby knee caps. A lot of crying, a lot of falling. How about learning how to read? I remember trying to make out sounds trying to spell out the word, THE, shout out dumb and dumber T to hae to her that was uncomfortable. Learning anything, especially dancing on pointe super uncomfortable. How about relationships, that awkward get to know you phase or the super awkward breakup phase, uncomfortable. Starting a business, uncomfortable. Getting into anything you don’t know a lot about can be uncomfortable. Now here’s the thing. If we stopped doing all those things, the moment that we got uncomfortable, we would all be adults crawling on the floor, not having babies, not having businesses, which is kind of an interesting version of a very dystopian future. That there is not a movie about yet. I call dibs. Anyways to me, not learning to address racism and other difficult subjects because it makes you uncomfortable is kind of like not learning how to walk because you fall a lot in the process.  

Okay. So how do we do it? How do we have uncomfortable conversations? Not just about race, but about anything asking for a raise, parenting, tough patches in romantic relationships or friendships. All of the things. Here we go. I’m going to talk you through my five best practices for having uncomfortable conversations. 

Step one, take a look at the thoughts that make you uncomfortable. A few examples of thoughts that would make a conversation uncomfortable are ‘nothing’s going to change’. ‘I don’t know what to say or do ‘’I’m afraid I’ll mess up or make it worse.’ ‘I don’t respect the person I’m talking to.’ ‘I don’t agree with the person I’m talking to.’ Right? All of those are examples of thoughts that would make a conversation uncomfortable. Okay. 

So now that I’ve identified the thoughts that might be making me uncomfortable, I challenge those thoughts. That is step two.  My favorite way of challenging. My thoughts is by asking “how’s that working out for you” or simply asking how does thinking that thought line up with your values? For example, if I’m a person that wants to create things and repair things is thinking ‘nothing’s going to change’ helpful to me. No. If I’m a person that wants to be knowledgeable is thinking, ‘I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand. Is that helpful?’ No. We already talked about confusion. That is a cycle that ends in inaction. If I’m a person that values inaction, I’m going to want to choose something other than confusion. Now, if I’m a person that values equality is thinking, ‘I don’t respect that person’ in alignment with my values. No, if I’m a person that values understanding does checking out with thoughts. Like ‘I don’t agree.’ Stop the listening and stop the understanding? Yes, it does. It stops the listening. It stops the understanding. 

So now that I’ve identified the thoughts and challenged them here comes the good stuff I trade in confusion for curiosity, I get informed. I trade in the thought I don’t understand with I’m willing to understand. I trade in. I don’t know with I’m learning and all of a sudden that confusion cycle that lends itself very well to  inaction has opened me up to taking actions that will make me more informed. 

The next step of that, of course is being responsible. I replace, ‘I don’t know what to say’ with, I am responsible for what I say. And I’d also like to remind you you’re responsible for what you do. And that brings us to step four, choose compassion, for yourself and for others, choose compassion for yourself because you will mess up.  You will fall, you will fail and you will likely offend someone no matter how hard you try not to, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, it will probably be the wrong thing to someone. And if you want to be able to get back up and dust it off and really, truly make a best effort at change, you’ll need to try again and compassion will get you up faster and move you further than guilt, shame or the desire to please. So get compassionate with yourself because this is about the long game. Now it’s also important of course, to choose compassion for others, your fellows, right? Your friends, people that are on your side, and this one actually comes quite naturally. But when you’re in the confusion spiral, it can be really easy to miss. Try trading, “How do I show that I care with, Hey, my friend, I’m thinking about you. I care about you. I am here for you. I will be here for you.” That is a great place to start. All right. That brings us to the not so easy kind of compassion, compassion for the other side, I would like to offer you this. You can love people you disagree with, and you can disagree with people that you love. Take your family. For example, also, you don’t need to love someone to be compassionate or curious about their point of view. I like to trade in the thought ‘I don’t like this person’ for, ‘I am capable of loving and all people are lovable. They are able to be loved.’ That brings us to the most important step. 

Step five, simply listen, compassion and curiosity, both lend very well to listening. Listening is probably the most important part of having a useful, uncomfortable conversation. And it is almost certainly the most underestimated part of using your voice to me. The most important step of using your voice is listening to other voices. Let’s talk really quickly about listening. Listening does not mean that you agree. Listening doesn’t weaken your position. Listening does not strip you of your power. If anything, listening could give you an understanding that also gives you power. Listening could give you an understanding that helps strengthen your position. All right? So those are my five steps. Identify the thoughts that are making you feel uncomfortable, inspect and challenge those thoughts. Choose curiosity, choose compassion and listen.  

Now I want to share a couple real life scenarios, real life conversations, real life, real uncomfortable conversations that I’ve had recently, because I think it will be helpful now without talking for hours and hours to give you all of the context there’s room for you to put yourself in the shoes of either side of these conversations. And yes, there is also room for you to judge me and that’s okay. I’m going to start with a conversation that I recently had with one of my mentors. Just a few days ago, I wrote a note to my mentor, an African American man that I admire and respect tremendously. The note included among many things, an apology for not using my voice to interrupt racial injustices in our dance community and in our society at large, he called me immediately and the heated uncomfortable conversation ensued. He started by saying, “why are you doing that?”  I said ‘what?’ He said, “why are you apologizing to me? Dammit. I don’t want your apology. I am tired of all these apologies.” I thought, Oh God, I thought it was supposed to apologize. He’s going to hate me forever. I don’t know what to say. The only thing I want to say is I’m sorry. And we already covered that. He really doesn’t want me to say, I’m sorry. Loud and clear. I get it. Okay. Those were my thoughts. Then I challenged my thoughts. I thought to myself. Okay. Who said you had to apologize? Someone on social media. Could they have been wrong? Yes, absolutely. Do you like your reason for apologizing? Yes. Okay. Moving on. How about this one? He’s going to hate me forever. Well, he’s taking time to have a conversation with me now. Does he hate me now? I don’t think he hates me now. Okay. Let’s focus on now. Shift the focus to now, but even outside of now, would I be okay if he hated me? Yes, I would be okay. I would be sad. I would be hurt, but I would be okay. How about, how about my thought? I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. There’s no time to ask Google. How about, do you need to say anything? No. He’s talking. SHHH. Listen. Then I asked questions. I got curious. I asked him to tell me everything you wanted to say. He talked about protests that I wasn’t even alive for. He talked about the values that he raises his kids with. He talked about things that his grandmother saw in her lifetime. He talked about why he’s annoyed. And I listened. Then I chose compassion for myself and I dusted myself off. After a pretty shaky start. I cared for myself and the person that I want to become. And I stuck with that discomfort. Then I cared about him. I thanked him, but mostly I listened to him and our conversation ended passionately and compassionately with me listening and with him being heard.  

Here’s another example. This one’s a conversation that I had with a peer. Now, a tiny bit of backstory. I started reading the book, white fragility, why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. That’s the full title. I read that book back in April of 2019, because I had taken a job as part of the choreography team for the feature film adaptation of, In the Heights. That’s Lin, Manuel Miranda is Broadway hit. In case you don’t know anything about in the Heights, strongly encourage you do a little digging there. I’ll give you a little tiny brief summary, no spoilers. The story takes place in Washington Heights, a Latino community in New York city. And it follows a very tight knit group of characters over the course of three days. Now, if you zoom in, you get a lot of beautiful story, but if you zoom out, the story is really about human flow.  What makes us leave one place to go to another? And what makes us stay? If you zoom way, way out. It’s about dreams. One little dream in particular, but the big, big dreams of so many in this country. Now I was hesitant to take the position. I had insecurities about being a white person, taking on a creative role in telling the stories of Latino and Latina people. But I also knew that this story and its audience is global. The people watching and the people learning from it and the people loving it will not be exclusively any one race. And I had big plans to learn about a culture other than my own. I thought I will use my role to share and inspire more stories, not claim authorship of them. I thought I will make copies and share all the keys to all the Gates I’ve ever entered.  I won’t guard them. And I liked my reasons for saying yes and I love my In the Heights family that so warmly welcomed me. So back to where I left off, I started reading the book, white fragility in search of new information and thoughts and awareness. And honestly, in search of the words that might help me have the uncomfortable conversations that I was sure would take place during that five month production. At the time, me simply carrying the book, brought on some of those uncomfortable conversations, conversations that started like this. ‘Isn’t the title itself racist?’ ‘Do you think you need to read that book to understand racism?’, people would ask, or ‘If you believe race exists, if you see in black and white, then that’s part of the problem.’  I try to explain what I was learning. The difference between being a racist or a person who discriminates based on skin color and the systemic racism that’s so deeply woven into our society in very complex and very nuanced ways. I tried to explain, my conversations about the book were often met with defensive arguments and proclamations like ‘I don’t see race as a problem because I don’t see color.’ Or ‘I grew up in the hood’ or ‘I was the minority where I grew up.’ ‘All I see as equals I’m not prejudiced.’ I had so many uncomfortable conversations like this, but one stood out among the rest. And I want to tell you about it.  

I overheard somebody talking about me one day. This is what I heard them telling the other party, this white B word rhymes with itch thinks that she can learn it from a book. I listened long enough to be sure that the white B word rhymes with itch in question was me. I heard my name. I heard my accent being mocked. I listened as I was made out to be a clueless white person. My skin got hot. I started to sweat. I thought I might cry. These were some of my thoughts. No, no, no, no, no. They’ve got it all wrong. I’m not a white B word rhymes with itch. I’m not clueless. I know it’s pollo, not polo. I felt tremendously misrepresented. And that was a feeling I don’t feel often. So then I challenged my thought, am I the only person feeling misrepresented right now? No, definitely not. So then I got curious and I got compassionate. This person probably feels misrepresented every single day. I’m standing here sweating and angry and about to cry for maybe the first time in my life, in this exact way. And he might feel this way every single day. What can I learn from this? What can I learn from him?  I said, when I spoke to him after a moment to cool down and process, I said, “it’s okay. If you don’t like me, it’s okay. If you think I’m a white, B word, rhymes with itch, we don’t need to be friends, but we do need to work together on this project. And on this problem, I want to understand why you feel that way. I want to be a part of this conversation instead of listening to the conversation happen about me.” And then it was off a perfectly uncomfortable conversation that resulted in more compassion and more understanding than either of us had at the beginning of it.  

I’ve learned a lot from having uncomfortable conversations and I will continue to have them. And I plan to continue being uncomfortable. And I continue to continue to bring the fruits of those uncomfortable conversations here to share with you. I hope that this conversation with myself, this monologue in front of a microphone has helped to give you tools and an understanding and a desire to navigate uncomfortable conversations of your own. I hope that some of these tools and all of these conversations get you further from confusion and closer to change. And I hope because I must hope and I learned because I must learn and I change because we must change. So please see the show notes to this episode for links to several incredible resources about how you can get informed and how you can make change. Thank you so much for listening. Now. Go be a good listener to somebody else. And of course, keep it funky

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

Ep. #22 Dance Class on ZOOM

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #22 Dance Class on ZOOM
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I’ve been using Zoom for over a year (for non-dance related meetings)  but I’ve been teaching dance classes on Zoom for about 10 weeks now.  I have learned A LOT, and let me tell you, there’s a lot to learn! Yes, there are a handful of really great videos on Zoom Dance Classes out there already, but my goal with this tutorial is go beyond how to download and install the app and set up glasses.  My goal is to share all the things I’ve learned about being creative and effective with the platform.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

YT video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW3U2Fv2CY8

Patreon: www.patreon.com/WTMMPodcast

Amazon Shopping list: https://amzn.to/2TFwoL2

Other Tutorials:

For Beginners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbYHa…

General Audio Settings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKAgX…

Audio Settings (Focus on Microphones): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr9v1…

Audio Settings for Musicians (that’s YOU tappers!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoXM5…

For Dance Teachers! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mws5n…

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hey there friend and welcome to episode 22 how you doing? How are you feeling? I am feeling accomplished. Yeah, it was a big week for me and I will explain that with my win. My wind today is that I wrote, shot, edited and shipped and by shipped I mean shared on YouTube, a massive project this week. Woo, super personal project. Victory dance. Okay, now you go, what’s your win today? What’s going well in your world? I’m so patient. I can wait forever. Keep going. Alright, awesome.  

Keep winning. I’m proud of you. All right now the project that I finished and that you can now find on YouTube is a video tutorial about how to use zoom for dance class. Yes, I’m aware there are already a handful of really great tutorials out there, but my goal was to go beyond the technical downloading, installing, setting up classes, et cetera. My goal was to share all of the things that I’ve learned about using the platform creatively and most effectively. I’ve been using zoom for over a year for non dance related meetings, but I’ve been teaching dance classes on zoom for about 10 weeks now and I have learned a lot. Whoa buddy. There’s a lot to learn in there, a lot going on and to be honest, I’ve actually had fun digging into the settings and preferences and in general just poking around and learning what everything is and does and means, but I’ve also had a ball creating lesson plans that don’t rely heavily on timing. In case you taken a dance class using zoom, I’ll tell you right now, audio and video sync is a big, big challenge.  Anyways, I have found settings and methods that work really well for me and I’ve had a few dance studio owner buddies ask if I would host classes for their faculty on how to teach dance on zoom. Well I know if there are a few people asking for that and there are probably many, many more people in need. So I made a tutorial video and I made it available to everyone. Now I’m going to share the audio for that video with a few tiny edits here on the podcast today I am addressing zoom specifically and the talk is geared towards dance teachers but students and even non dancers stand to gain a lot from this episode because at its core it’s really about being resourceful and adaptable and effective and that’s important no matter who you are or what you do for a living. So I hope you enjoy and I hope you head over to YouTube to watch the whole video, which has some really important visual guides as well. You’ll be able to find the video link in the show notes for this episode and of course by visiting theDanawilson.com/podcast/ep-22 there it is. Okay, everybody enjoy.  

Okay. The location of Dance class has changed from your studio to the internet. A very wise man once said, “changes are never as good as they seem or as bad as they seem.” Now, zoom was designed for corporate conference calls, not dance, but there are actually some really great things about teaching dance. In zoom, for example, even if there are a hundred students in class, everybody’s in the front row. You can address each student by name, even if you’ve never met them. Classes can be huge. Even in the smallest bedroom studio. That’s amazing. Now there are already a lot of really good tutorials about how to download the app, install it, schedule meetings, even use virtual backgrounds, play music. A lot of fun stuff. Yeah, I made this video for dance teachers to help you use the platform creatively and effectively. 

Lesson zero.  

The elephant, in the zoom. In the studio, timing is everything, and on a good day, everybody’s on time and on beat. Online, this is actually impossible.  impossible for all your students and do you to be dancing on your beat. Impossible. Not possible. It’s not possible. It’s impossible. Why? In a word? Latency. In short, your video has to travel over the internet to get to your students and then their video has to come back to you. So everyone will always be late or offbeat and they’ll be offbeat by different amounts. That can be frustrating. Yeah, we can put a man on the moon. Okay. Can’t have precision timing in a virtual dance class. And if you can’t accept that, then stay off of zoom.  And probably close this video right now, but first subscribe ,like, comment. Bye. Now for the rest of you that would like to continue making money as a dance teacher.  And keep pushing our art forward and our artists forward. Then stay with me here. Here’s the thing. Dancers deal with latency all the time. Think of the last concert you went to. Ahh a concert. Anyways, If you were anywhere other than the front row dancers probably looked off to you, even on the big screens, what you saw, it didn’t quiet lineup with what you heard because sound travels slower and light, so it takes longer for sound to reach you and visual information. That doesn’t mean that people stop going to concerts. It simply means we don’t have perfect audio video synchronization, but the show is still great. In short, we’re going to be okay, so we can’t have perfect timing. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a great class.  

How to set up your space and your body to look and work great on zoom. So if zoom is the new studio, I recommend you figure out how to get there. Make sure you can get in and turn on the lights before your students arrived. I’m not going to teach you how to download the app and install it and start your classes. That part’s on you. So is getting dressed. Let’s talk dressing first your body because you’ll be seen on a laptop or worse an iPad or worse, and iPhone your picture will be really, really small. So every pixel counts wear form fitted clothing. Your outline needs to be visible. It will be doing the primary communication. Also solid colors are a solid choice to stand out from your background choose a color, the contrast your background. I prefer it darker tones. For maximum effect, choose colors that  also contrast your natural skin color. More on this later. Oh and if you happen to love footwork, as much as I love footwork, then your students will love you for wearing high contrast shoes and socks. Okay, let’s talk. Dressing the space. De-clutter clean up. Get anything unnecessary out of the shot and pay close attention to the borders of your frame. Mirrors are a huge plus. Yeah. If you have a messy space, mirrors can duplicate the mess. So I hung curtains to separate my messy living room and messy kitchen from my dance space. I used the fancy 3-D printer to make mounts for curtain rods. Yeah, you can probably accomplish the same result with thumbtacks and a bed sheet. Oh, and speaking of mirrors, your students will likely be facing their screen when they watch you and for you to watch them, you’ll need to either use mirrors and face away from the camera or face the camera and say the opposite of what you’re doing.  Let’s go a little deeper on that. If you have mirrors in your space, you can be fully visible to your students by setting your device up behind you and looking at the mirror so that your body is between the device in the mirror. This way your students can see what’s happening in front of your body and the back of your body and beyond the correct foot or arm. My method, I’ve retrained myself to say the opposite word. If I’m facing my camera and stepping on my right foot, I say step left. As a convention teacher this comes pretty naturally to me. Yeah, it may take some practice and certainly some forgiveness on your part. To simplify. I like to tell my students that I’ll be dancing as their reflection and they seem to do just fine. Now there is a setting in zoom that allows you to mirror your video, but in spite of my best efforts, I haven’t found out a way to make this work the way that I want to. 

So moving right along. Lighting the golden rule here, is that right? Brighter is righter. I use these led lights and parchment paper taped around to diffuse the light, but the internet is full of ring lights and softboxes and all sorts of stuff that will make you look beautiful. Take it from me. Don’t take lighting advice from a dancer. Take it from my podcast episode called the past, present and future of live shows. Now moving on. Your computer is your camera, so take the time to set it up well. Find a flat, solid and level surface for your device. I find that a folding chair, an ironing board, stack of books. Shoe boxes are great. Also, your students have to see you fully from head to toe. So find a place for your device where this can be possible and if you’re doing long stretches of classes, you will also want your computer close to an outlet or to have an extension cord. All right. 

That brings us to lesson two. Make zooms video features your ***

You and your students have two modes for experiencing the classroom in zoom gallery mode, which looks like the Brady bunch and speaker mode where the person who is speaking is featured or biggened. Note, you’ll want to make sure that all of your students are muted at the top of class. Otherwise, speaker mode can be very distracting. Now, as the host of class in either mode, you can hover your mouse over a person’s video to reveal three dots in the top right corner. Click Pin video to keep somebody featured on your screen. Regardless of who’s talking. I use this when I want to keep a close eye on somebody in particular without the risk of the class knowing it, clicking a spotlight on somebody’s video. Will feature that person’s image on all of the students’ screens so your participants will hear your voice, but see the image of the person that you’ve selected to be spotlit. It’s spotlighted. This feature is clutch for those of us who rely heavily on assistance or people to demonstrate during class. Here’s how I use it. I spotlight a dancer who is confident and on track so that everybody sees them in biggened. Meanwhile, I press my face up to the laptop and watch everybody as best as I can. Without spotlighting anyone. All of the other students are just looking at my big mugs staring at them and they have no reference for what they should be dancing. A spotlight is also useful to keep dancers on their toes. When I spotlight a student, all they can see is themselves. This means they can’t rely on their neighboring squares for cues. This is a great test and great training for real world dance. 

All right, moving on.  Now, whatever you do, don’t group dancers based on where their picture falls in the grid. Those pictures move around during class and this causes a lot of problems, so don’t rely on the grid. I like to group by birthdays, January through June, July through December, et cetera, or colors of clothing or bedroom group, basement group, garage group, et cetera. Now a cool way for you and your students to watch each other. If you ask only the group that is dancing to keep their camera on, everybody who’s not in the active group, stop sharing their video and then zoom prioritizes the squares who are sharing video so that there’ll be grouped together. Simple as that. Sort of simple, I guess. 

Lesson Three audio settings that work. Audio is surprisingly tough to get right, especially if you’re teaching tap. I have tried and tested a huge number of options and I might actually write my dissertation about that someday. I might also just make a separate video dedicated exclusively to audio settings, but for now I’m just going to tell you what works for me. I use a Samson Go Mic mobile professional laviller wireless system. Yeah, that’s what it’s called with a JK electronics headset. microphone. It’s very Britney. I keep my mic volume, which is controlled here on my wireless adapter at about 90% and you should keep your mic volume at 90% too, even if you’re not using an external microphone. To select your microphone and control its volume, click the carrot, not carat, yeah, caret but okay. Caret, which is the upward facing arrow. It’s next to your microphone in the bottom left corner of your screen. Then select audio settings. You can do the same for speaker volume here as well. 90% A Strong Mark if you will. For music. I find that students get the best sound. If I do what zoom calls, share computer audio. To share computer audio, click share screen, intuitive that buttons at the bottom center of your screen. Then select advanced from the top menu bar, click music or computer sound only and then click share. Lastly, I keep in my music volume in my audio player. Which for me is Spotify at 90% as well. It just seems to be the sweet spot. If you have any further questions about audio, which I’m sure you will leave them in the comments below or reach out to me personally for a consultation. I am happy to help.

Now lesson four hacks to avoid unnecessary lag.  

First and foremost, close all of your unused apps. Yes, zoom. It can still operate with your browser closed, so get rid of Safari, Chrome, Firefox, your text messages, any other open and unused apps. Also keep your wifi to yourself and I don’t just mean tell your kids to get off of it. I mean literally unplug or powered down. Alexa, nest, other cameras or devices that might be in wifi, transmitting mode, including your phone because those are competing with zoom for bandwidth. If bandwidth is a word that stresses you out, pretend I said attention. Those devices are competing with your zoom for attention. Just imagine being in the middle of a solo and three other dancers jump on stage and do whatever they want. That might be entertaining for you if you’re in hour eight of solo competition. Yeah, really devastating for the soloist, which in this case is zoom, so let zoom have its moment and turn off and disconnect all other devices.  Speaking of getting attention, this hack is simple but really important. Dancers clinging to laggy video for information is bad. Autonomy. It’s good. In my classes we do the same warmup every single week so that we all get off on the same foot. 

All right, now let’s talk about my favorite Lesson Five nonverbal communication. One of my favorite new made up terms in this zoom era is  AZL or American Zoom Language. Yes. I find that there is a pretty universal understanding of thumbs up. It means I’m doing good, ready to move on. Thumbs down means something that’s not quite right. This means go on. This means from the top. That means one more time, et cetera. Now to make my hands super legible, I like wearing dark clothing. Adjust for your skin tone and environment as needed. The same advice applies to your students because they spend most of class muted and they communicate primarily non-verbally. Now you could use this universal language or you could establish your own at the top of class. For example, I prefer a floppy thumbs up instead of a normal thumbs up because when I’m standing six feet away from my computer, I can’t tell the difference between a thumbs up and thumbs down and instead of a thumbs down I like to use it big old X. It’s easy to see and fun to do. Establishing this language, it’s like having a secret handshake, like an actual bond with the person that’s in on the language with you and I find that they kind of look forward to using it. 

That brings us to Lesson Six. Q. And. A. I find that I get a lot more questions, especially from the quiet ones. If I encourage the dancers to use the chat box for questions that said it’s yet another thing I have to click and keep my eye on during class. So instead I prefer the old fashioned method. I asked the human to raise their human hand. By the way, I do this way more often in zoom. Then I would during an in person class because video calls strip away eye contact and the ability to read nuances in the room. So ask often ask clearly and be patient.  

That brings us to Number Seven maybe my favorite, come on, you know this one already. The teacher establishes the tone of class, the energy you bring to the room. It’s still important even though we aren’t all in the same room. If you decide to get frustrated about audio and video lag, your students are likely to become frustrated too. I know timing will be challenging. I also know and love that there’s more to dance than timing. So before each class I decide on a focus or a theme per class. That has nothing to do with timing. I leave myself little notes to help me stay on track cause this can be hard. Here’s a couple of examples. I teach freestyle techniques with focus on shape. I teach scale or performing for the frame by putting them in gallery view and standing like eight feet away from the screen and then I asked them to catch my eye.  Also let’s not ignore this opportunity to improve at dance on camera. I teach dancers how to speak camera and how to be directed enter-stage right exit camera left the full frame for the chorus ECU or just your right eye for the bridge. This is the language there’ll be speaking for the rest of their lives. So let’s do our job and prepare them and that brings us to 

Lesson Eight go the extra mile. We know that if the focus of your classes, timing, you’ll fail to teach a great class, but that doesn’t mean you throw your hands up or lower the bar. It actually means you raise the bar. I make a tutorial for each of my combos available online via unlisted YouTube link several days before my zoom class. The pre-taped tutorial has solid timing. Musicality is clear and students can learn at their own pace.  Plus, they’re already used to learning on YouTube. They do it all the in fact, being able to learn off of a video has proven to be an essential skill in my professional life. Dancers have to learn off of video a lot, so let’s train them to be good at it. One of my eight eight counts combos typically boils down to a 20 minute video. I teach faster than I would in person and I time code the video into sections so that students can easily go back and rewatch. Section one with counts, section two with counts, Full combo from the top with music, et cetera. If you’re committed to making it and the students are committed to learning it, then zoom time is used for what matters most. Interaction questions, answers, careful watching and effective working and that my friend is all you get for free.  

All right, my friend, that is pretty much where I leave it in the video tutorial, although I do go on to plug the podcast pretty heavily, but if you are still listening and still have questions about teaching dance on zoom, please feel free to contact me in any number of ways. You can contact me through the website, theDanawilson.com/contact or you can direct message me on my personal Instagram page @DanaDaners and of course messaging me @WordsthatMoveMePodcast is always a great way to get in touch. Thank you guys so, so much for listening. Now go get out there and make great dance and make great dancers. It’s one in the same thing. Thanks for listening and keep it funky. 

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

Ep. #21 Not Booking (A.K.A. Not Getting What You Want)

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #21 Not Booking (A.K.A. Not Getting What You Want)
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This episode goes out to everyone that wants to be booked and isn’t.  It goes out to the Graduating Seniors that want the cap and gown gathering.  It goes out to the dancers that want to win a title at Nationals this year.  This goes out to everyone that wants to have their highest earning year (you still might by the way… but you might not).  This episode is about not getting what you want.  And news flash… most of us aren’t good at not getting what we want… so let’s get to work

Show Notes

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello. Hello, hello. And welcome to episode 21. Oh my gosh. I am jazzed as always about this episode. Thank you so much for being here. Uh, let’s do wins really quick. Holy smokes, you guys, words that move me is in Apple’s top 100 performing arts podcasts this past week. So thank you so much for that. That is a huge win. Um, we’re number 88. I don’t know, uh, how many there are, but safe to say more than a hundred. Um, and that’s so sweet. So thank you so much for that. I do believe that part of what factors into that ranking is a ratings and reviews on Apple. So if you are listening on Apple podcasts and you’re digging what you’re hearing, please think about leaving a review or a rating so, so appreciate that. Um, okay, let’s not waste any time. Let’s get into you and your wins. What’s going well in your world? Hit me now you  

Great. I’m so glad that you’re winning. This episode is about not booking. Speaking of winning, it’s my favorite subject. Honestly. Actually here’s the truth. This episode is not just about not booking, it’s about not getting what you want period. I am very familiar with not booking and as a self proclaimed movement master that might come as a shock to you. So here’s what it really boils down to. I try a lot, I fail a lot, I succeed a lot. I want a lot and I often get what I want. Now there is a very specific brand of not booking that comes along with the audition process. It’s a very particular sting and I’m going to talk about auditions and that particular brand of staying in depth a little bit later on. Like, actually I have a plan to be talking about auditions for all of August. I’m very excited about audition august, so tune in for that. But um, what I want to talk about right now is the cringe that I feel when I hear people, usually outsiders talking about high performers who miss the mark. Usually they’re talking about competitions and competitors. They say that he or she won because they really wanted it. Or they say that he or she didn’t win because they didn’t really want it that bad or they didn’t want it bad enough or somebody else wanted it more. Well, I’ve seen people really want it and not win. And I’ve seen people that are just really good at stuff who don’t really care a whole lot, win a lot, and at a certain level, everyone really wants it. Everyone that moves to LA to become a whatever really wants it. But auditions don’t care about how bad you want it.  And competitions don’t care about how bad you want it. The Olympics, Oh man, don’t get me started. The Olympics really, really, really don’t care how bad you want it because everybody there really, really wants it. That guy who didn’t win didn’t not win because he didn’t want it. He didn’t win because he wanted it so bad and he was running so hard that he broke his leg. That is a black hole. You don’t want to go down. Olympian breaks their leg. Don’t even do it. Don’t even do it. I did it, anyways. All that is to say wanting it won’t get it. Even wanting it and training really, really, really, really hard for it. Doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it. Sometimes you simply won’t get it. Period. The Olympics are a really great example of this, but also on a smaller, slightly different scale, no pun intended. I want cookies almost all the time, so there goes the proof that wanting equals getting it’s out of the window. Wait, did I say that right? There goes proof that wanting is not equal to getting, yeah. If I got everything I want, I would be eating cookies all the time and then who? Yikes up there. 

Okay. So most of us, especially right now know this all too well. We want to be working. We want to be hanging out with our friends. We want to be hugging, we want to be being places and doing things with people. Yes. This episode goes out to all you graduating seniors who wanted your cap and gown gathering. Yes. It goes out to all you dancers who wanted to win title at nationals this year. Yes. This goes out to everyone that wanted to have their highest earning year yet. And you still might, by the way, but you might not. This episode is about not getting what you want and newsflash, most of us are not very good at not getting what we want. So let’s get to work.  

Yes, I am a professional dancer, choreographer, movement coach and I am also a professional at not getting what I want. Some early memories of this include, uh, as a tiny, tiny little dancingling I received honorable mentions a lot. Second or first runner up also happened to me a lot my senior year at nationals. Actually, I was 16th runner up and I was supposed to win that year, by the way, in my head. Anyways, let’s take another example. When I was like 14, maybe 15, I remember terribly wanting to be in the big kids dance that the senior dance that was choreographed by Dee Caspary shout out to Dee. And uh, I was old enough to be considered. So I auditioned. I did not make it, but Dee and his big, big heart invited me to be in the room for the creation process and learn it as what we call a workshop. Um, and even jump in as a swing. If anybody was to become injured during the season or something like that, I would know the dance. I could, I could jump in. Honestly, that seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me. It wasn’t until Dee asked me in his own way to stop moving because I was distracting him. Ooh. Crushed. I was crushed and I sat crushed on the floor of the dance studio for two whole days. While he choreographed and all the big kids danced a dance that I so badly wanted to dance man. 14-15 years old. I got crushed a lot. Oh, here’s another good one. When I was 16 or 17 three of my closest friends, Randi Kemper , Tony Testa  and Misha Gabriel
all still incredible and all still dear friends by the way. They all booked a tour. Brian Friedman what up, B-Free, booked all three of them and a different curly haired brunette girl named Kalie Kelman to go on tour with Aaron Carter. I was crushed. Yes, deeply. And then again in 2011 Oh here’s a different kind of crushed, I booked a feature film, the remake of Dirty Dancing and it was directed by Kenny Ortega who choreographed the original and we were weeks into rehearsal. Several dancers. Oh, what a good squad. Whoa man. My heartbreaks, just thinking about this and Production pulled the plug, production completely ceased to exist. I was crushed again. We were all crushed weeks of team building, dancing, endorphins, man. Cloud nine and then right back to not being booked. So what did being crushed really look like for me? Here are a couple of versions. First, the ugly cry, that’s still a pretty common action by the way. Even today, tears, hot tears of self pity, some anger occasionally. Um, usually some jealousy, sometimes the victim mentality, not always, but sometimes that’s where thoughts like “This always happens to me or when am I going to get my break? Or I did everything right and the world is just so wrong.” Those are some of my victim thoughts. Usually some entitlement as well. Thoughts like “it was supposed to be different this time. This was supposed to be my big gig, my moment, my movie, my award, my project, my thing. I am perfect for this thing. How did I not get it? “ Yeah. “Is it because I’m not perfect? Is it because I’m the worst?” Oh God. Then the shame spiral. Ouch. Tears. Now sometimes I’d see myself through the ugly tears. I’d sit with them long enough and be with them long enough to come out on the other side, so to speak, or at least come out with a different feeling.  Okay.  But all too often buffering would be right at the heels of those ugly tears. Buffering is giving into the urge to feel better. Buffering is resisting, avoiding or ignoring feelings that you don’t want by seeking the immediate comfort and temporary pleasures that you do want. Buffering, especially with food and drink. And yes, the Instagram scroll are super common. But here’s the sneaky thing about buffering. It leaves you with an unwanted feeling in the end anyways. You feel awful. So you eat, which kind of feels good. So you keep eating and then you overeat and then you feel awful and then you feel awful and then you feel awful or you drink, which kind of feels good. So you keep doing it and then you feel awful because you are drunk or you have a hangover or you feel awful about yourself. So you scroll through Instagram seeking that dopamine hit of the likes and the comments, the love.  And for a while that feels pretty good. So you keep going and all of a sudden an hour has gone by and you’re crumpled over your phone with three chins and a furrowed brow. And you’re most likely just judging and comparing yourself to other people and now you feel awful. Oh, sneaky buffers. I’m going to go deep on buffering in another episode, but for now I want to talk about not getting what we want and not buffering. 

Think about a time when a child in your life has really, really wanted something, a cookie, a new toy, maybe, uh, maybe to go to school with pajamas on anything. This plays out usually in a few different ways. Number one, they ugly cry a tantrum, in other words, until the adult buckles under the pressure and gives the kid what they want. Number two, the ugly cry or the tantrum go on for so long without the adult buckling that the child becomes exhausted and eventually moves on with their life and wanting something else. The third outcome and my personal favorite happens occasionally when the parent says to the child, Oh yes, you can have X if Y you can absolutely have dessert. If you finish eating your vegetables or yes, you can definitely have that toy. If you save up your allowance and buy it or yes, you can wear your pajamas to school. If you tell them you’re somebody else’s child. True story. I have heard that one out loud before. Anyways, this third option is where I think I live most of the time. I am the parent and the child in this equation by the way, so not getting what I want occasionally fuels me to stay the course long enough that I wind up getting it or something like it. Eventually. This is what happened with my friends and that tour. Yes, I was crushed. I was obliterated. I did cry, ugly cry, yaks ugly teenage cry.  

This is really good stuff. Anyways, I would cry. I would imagine them all out there having fun. I would imagine myself on stage with them. I’d imagine what I would look like, I’d imagine how I would dance. I’d imagine the music and the fans and somewhere I held onto the thought that that could still happen. Maybe they do a really, really big show and decided that they needed more dancers or maybe, God forbid somebody could get injured and they would need a swing, right? They’d need a replacement. Well, that tour came and went. It turns out I would not dance for Aaron Carter, but I thought I could still be a touring dancer if I worked really, really hard and just stuck at it. I imagined it all the time. I imagined myself dancing behind Britney Spears. I imagined myself dancing behind pink. I imagined myself dancing behind B2K True story. I could literally see it. Knee pads, crop tops, short shorts, boots. Well, it turned out I was wrong, very wrong about a lot of that, but I was right about some things too. I would not dance behind Pink, but I would play volleyball with her at Tujunga park, occasionally. I would not tour with Britney, well not on stage anyways. I would go on to be filmed as a silhouetted background body dancing on a big led screen back behind her. I would not dance for B2K total dead end there, just nothing. I think they stopped making music anyways. I was wrong about the crop tops and shorts too. Instead it was a suit and tie. I was wrong about the boots. It was sneakers most of the time and heels some of the time. Yeah, big stuff did eventually happen and it was never what I thought it was going to be. To be honest, it was better.  

So we’ve talked about not getting what you want and crying about it. We’ve talked about not getting what you want and crying and buffering. We’ve talked about not getting what you want and staying the course until eventually you get something and now I want to touch on those times when you think you got what you wanted and it turned out to be something else all together. Cookies for breakfast for example. Yeah, I’m an adult and I do what I want. I’m the boss of what I put in my mouth and sometimes I put cookies in my mouth for breakfast and then 2:00 PM rolls around and I’m at the mercy of a brutal, brutal blood sugar crash. It gives me every time or let’s take the movie, for example, dirty dancing. We dancers were flying high. We were working hard. Yes, like eight hour rehearsal days of almost nonstop movement, but we were also dreaming big and we were fueled by this momentum of this thing that was bigger than us.  We were fueled by our imaginations and dreams of what the red carpet premiere would feel like and then sugar crash. No more movie, not what we’d imagined, not what we wanted back to not being booked. If Corona virus has taught us anything, it is that anyone, no matter how booked you are can become unbooked, crushing. Right. Okay, so there are a lot of ways someone can be crushed. Dana, I thought you were going to tell me how to not get crushed. No, I never said that. I said that this episode is about not getting what you want. I do not have the answer for you. See that disappointment that you’re feeling. See how you’re not getting what you want right now. You really wanted an answer to this. You really wanted a solution. Okay, we’ll hold onto that feeling. Hold onto that disappointment because we’re going to work on that.  

Most of our desires are sprung from how we think. We’ll feel with a certain thing. I want to go on tour because I think it’ll feel amazing to get paid to travel the world and have thousands of people cheering. For me, I want to be in movies because I think I’ll feel important. I think I’ll be a star. I want a glass of wine because I think I’ll feel relaxed and rewarded. See, I want the thing because I think it’ll make me feel a certain way. Now, what I’d like to offer you today is that all of those feelings are available to you without the accompanying criteria of the circumstance. In other words, you can feel amazing without touring the world. You can feel important without being in movies. You can feel relaxed and rewarded without a glass of wine. You can feel like a winner without going to nationals. You can feel accomplished without having a graduation ceremony.  In addition to that, you can survive feeling crushed. Even furthermore, you can survive feeling crushed without buffering. Think about the last time that you went to the doctor for a shot you usually, well I usually have to take a deep breath and kind of rally myself into believing that needles are okay. And then I have a seat on that weird rubber cushion covered in weird wax paper. Makes weird sounds. And then I feel this thing and then my arm is kind of sore and sometimes it hurts a little bit to move and then I get a bandaid and then it’s over and I feel okay. I do not go into the doctor’s office and get a shot and immediately start eating and drinking and scrolling through Instagram. No, I breathe, I sit with this thing. I sit with a soreness. Sometimes I even move around extra in the soreness because it’s kind of interesting to feel and then I leave better than when I went in. I leave. Totally. Okay. So what if not getting what you want was like getting a shot. What if you knew that you would feel okay and even be better for this? What if you were like the parent who knows that the kid is going to be just fine without the cookie, the kid is going to be just fine. Without the toy, you will be just fine. Without this gig, you’ll be just fine. Without the title, you’ll be just fine without this job. What if  now it’s okay to want things so bad that you can taste it or in a dancer’s case, usually so bad that you can see it, like you can feel it. It’s also okay to not get it. It’s okay to be wrong. When you imagine your future, you likely will be. Yeah, it’s okay to want things. It’s okay to not get them. What’s not okay is stopping. In fact, the only way you can be sure that you’ll never go on tour or never be in a movie or never work with so and so is to stop trying, so keep trying, keep working, keep not getting what you want and watch how much you get in the end. That’s all I’m saying. I’m done.  

Really. That’s it. I hope you dug this conversation about not booking as much as you like actually booking. And if you do go leave a review, go leave a rating and I will talk to you soon. Keep it funky y’all. That’s different. Keep it funky y’all. I dunno. It’s not not so good. Stay safe. Stay soapy and keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon. 

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

BONUS EPISODE: Mother’s Day with “Stan”

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
BONUS EPISODE: Mother’s Day with “Stan”
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Happy Mother’s day to all you funky mommas out there!  Thanks for tuning into this super special suuuuper bonus episode! Today, I time travel to have a conversation WITH MYSELF 35 YEARS IN THE FUTURE… AKA, I Have a conversation with my Mom.  I thought there might be no better way to get my mom to come on the pod than to create a new Mother’s Day tradition.  A cross interview Mother/Daughter podcast!   So without any further ado, here is the first installation of Mother’s Day conversations with my mom, the artist, the seamstress, the philosopher, the DANCER, Stefani Wilson

Stan: https://www.instagram.com/stefawils/

Ep. #16 Serious Silliness with Kat Burns

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #16 Serious Silliness with Kat Burns
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Plainly put, Kathryn Burns is fascinating.  The only thing that is more exciting than her choreography, is the work she did before she even owned the title “2 Time Emmy Winning Choreographer”.  From a post production machine room to UCB and beyond,  we hear about how she learned by DOING, and what it takes to do what she does.  Over 160 episodes of scripted TV is just the beginning… 

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Kat Burns

WTMM Patreon

UCB

My Crazy Ex Audition Submission

Raggle Taggle Dance Hour

Totally Unmorganized

The Dance Room

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello. Hello, hello. Hello. How are you doing? How’s everybody? Man, if you are like me, then these days are going by so quickly. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s, I’m just being inside and so many days are the same. Um, maybe it’s that I’m filling my schedule every minute of it. Uh, but it’s strange, this sensation of time passing and standing still all at the same time. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. Um, this episode, ah, I’m so excited for it. I’m so excited for you to listen to my guest today. Kat Burns. She’s one of my favorite well people period, but also one of my favorite choreographers and she shares so much, um, tremendously valuable insight in this episode. I’m jazzed about it. Uh, but before that, of course we have to do a quick round of wins. My win this week is that I am becoming a person, day by day, meal by meal. Uh, I am becoming a person that is confident in the kitchen. I’m having more fun and I’m having more creative freedom in the kitchen. And I think that’s a win. It’s something that for me has always been a kind of point of insecurity. Um, my husband traditionally is the cook of the household and I’m having so much fun, uh, exploring a bit, really digging that. Okay, so now you go, what’s going well in your world?  

You might need a little bit more time. So I encourage you to pause right here if you’re really, really winning, which I really, really hope you are.  Um, but this episode is just, it’s something else we gotta get to it. We’re jumping in. Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Kat Burns. 

Dana: Yes. Kat Burns. Welcome to the podcast. 

Kat: Yeah!

Yeah! Oh, I love wees and woo hoos and yeas, it feels so good. Just smile and I cannot not smile when I, I think Kat Burns. So welcome to the podcast. Introduce yourself for those who may not know who you are, those fools, 

Kat: Those nincompoops! Um, people call me Kat burns. I’m Kathryn, uh, Kathyrn Burns, AKA, you know, Kat Burns is my like cool choreo alias. I suppose that that is just kind of taken over. And I’m a choreographer mostly for scripted comedies.

Nice. Um, I really love intro asking people to introduce themselves because it’s sometimes a different story than what the bio would read. Um, uh, your bio leads with, and I think it should, your Emmys your double. Is it two? 

It’s two, right. She’s a two timer. 

She’s sure. Just a two timer, a measly two time Emmy winner. Um, and I do think it’s, it’s cool to like acknowledge the wins, but it’s also speaks a lot to you that you do not lead with the accolades, but rather with the work itself. And I love your body of work. I love it so much. I love it. Primarily because it’s funny, but also because it’s diverse. Um, can you talk a little bit about the range of work that you do and what is the difference between a digital or scripted format or you do also a lot of live work. I know you came up through UCB, like what is the difference really truly when it comes to choreography between all those different formats. 

Oh goodness. Well I appreciate your kind words cause you know, I’m a huge fan of yours and I believe I introduced myself on a street corner and I was like, Hi. Hi. You guys are awesome. Do you want to do my UCB show? And you’re like, okay, great.

I recall, I recall. It’s so funny. I do recall, I recall because I, well it was a seaweed sisters related, um, acknowledgement and the seaweed sisters, uh, Jlilian Meyers, Megan Lawson and myself, we don’t get recognized outside of dancers very often. Um, and when we were not in a dance studio setting, we were literally on the street corner. Uh, so it, it made me feel like, Oh my God, pay attention. This is happening. You guys this, the seaweed sisters, are a thing, we’re being recognized. 

It’s like five years ago, I want to say. 

Yeah, it was a while back. Yeah. Oh, cool. Um, so thank you. Thank you for your fandom. We can, this is a safe place where we can absolutely be gushing over each other. So don’t let it stop. Um, but I am so curious about the different, um, uh, places that your work lives. 

Yeah. So there’s, it’s a, it’s a multi folded, I was gonna say two fold, but it’s uh, you know, lots of folds type an origami fold of answers if you will. Um, I, I think what’s really fun about working scripted comedy  or scripted in general is that the choreography is always dependent on the scene. And so by default I’ve been able to hire a lot of experts in a specific genre and then play within story, but still making it proper. Um, and so whether it be like a tango or a musical theater, traditional dance in the street vibe, or a tap dance or a fill in the blank, or even just like specifics that are funny or trying to make, like one of the tricky things was trying to make ’em like a viral video. Like, you know how like video or people like quote unquote dancing bad. Why? What’s the tipping point? Like why is it popular? I need to like recreate those moments as a choreographer when you have two people, it’s like the note was like, it’s too good, it’s too good. And I’m like, it’s not, it’s just like when you have two people dancing together in unison, it’s automatically going to seem more better, more, better. Just the word I like to use because it’s like, I don’t like to say something’s bad. I like to say it can be more better. 

It can be more and better and you are the more better maker. Um, I think part of that recipe is definitely accessibility. Like you don’t want to choreograph steps that only a trained dancer could do. So it’s like every, every man dance. Um, and do you do a good job at choreographing dance on a normal non dancing type characters? 

I like to call them dance enthusiasts. 

Dance enthusiasts. That’s way kinder than what I call them. I call them, I call them normies. 

Normies that’s cute. I just think Norm McDonald dancing. When you say normies.

Many Norm McDonald’s. Normies plural. Um, uh, so how many episodes of television would you say you have choreographed to take a ballpark for me?  

Well, I actually did a show a year ago celebrating a hundred, cause I was like, when I graduated college, people are like, what’s your dream job? And I said I wanted to choreograph for TV and film, but I have no idea how to do it. And you know, I had to celebrate that because I was like, I guess I figured it out. Yeah, you did. And so well sometimes you’ve got to celebrate a little milestones cause we can be so hard on ourselves on a daily basis that we’re not doing enough or creating enough or being disciplined enough or right. 

Girl, I am here for celebrating. Actually I just started a new podcast habit. I start every episode with wins. Were I just talk a little bit about what’s going well. 

That’s awesome. I used to have a thing where I would keep champagne in the fridge cause there was always going to be a reason to celebrate. 

Yes, I am about that life. And now since we’re in lockdown you’re going to need to keep at least five cause you can’t be leaving. The house as often. 

Exactly. 

Um, okay. So let’s back up a teeny tiny bit. You mentioned after college when they asked you that question and you answered, I want to choreograph TV and film but you didn’t know how, what was your next step?  

Uh, well it was more of like that’s a, that’s a fantasy job that doesn’t really exist 

Or not for you. 

Right. Uh, so I worked in post-production for years and thought I could use my degree and be an editor and I worked in post houses and like lob dailies and patched digie betas, for recording. Like lobbied editor’s reels over and was just like in the machine room learning about editing and the more responsibility I got, the more anxious I got. But I started, you know, I studied film in college and Mmm. So I was already doing that. And then, you know, you talked about the difference between scripted and stage and then I started at UCB right when they opened their doors pretty much like I was working next door at the clothing shop, um, when they went door to door to meet their neighbors and I was like changing and I stuck my foot out and I was like, “I’ll be right with you!” and my mom was in town and was like, “Hi, welcome to Native.” I was like, “she doesn’t work here. I’ll be right out”. And, 

And they were like, you’re in. 

And they were like, you’re funny, you should take internships. And I was like, great. And then I just started being a part of that community, like from the ground floor. And so I learned the art of choreographing for a script in a way to like heighten the joke without distracting. And I was already, I’d got a dance agent. I was taking Aisel’s hip hop class. Yes. After like six months of living in LA. So I got the agent, I was dancing sporadically doing like show girly type musical theater, tall girl jobs and realized quickly that I was much taller than everyone else in LA.  

Tiny. We’re all micro types. Yeah. 

They move so fast? How did they get down to the floor and in one count, tiny legs. Tiny legs. Yeah. I was like, I still have my bevel. You know, you gotta have a sensible walk and a good bevel if you’re tall.  

Oh, you ma, you have to have a sensible bevel no matter what I would argue. But definitely if you’re tall. Um, okay. I wa I want to branch in a hundred different directions. I am taking notes. 

Uh, but I very frazzled. I didn’t even answer your first question. 

I’m pretty sure you did. We talked a little bit about formats and the places that your work lives, which is on 160 episodes of television primarily, right. But also on stages because you do that. 

Yeah. And I just did a musical here in LA and I, I’ve done like comedy musicals and LA, uh, which obviously like stage is, is much more collaborative I think is the biggest difference. You have the writers in the room sometimes or you have the director in the room and you have the actors in the room and you have time and you’re playing and you’re creating, I mean obviously like a, the UCB schedule is like, learn it, do it, done. It’s very quick.

And that’s the point. 

Yeah. Yeah. Your dress rehearsals off in the performance cause no one’s getting paid and to learning learning curve. But I just did this musical with a wonderful New York team. The musical was called Found and we did it at, um, it’s, Iama Theater Company ’s musical. It was our first ever done at the LA Theater Group. And it, got closed, you know, three weeks before it was supposed to finish. It was New York team. Um, and they were so collaborative and awesome and I was like, Oh, this is what process is, you get to actually create in a room with creatives. Yes. Often on television schedules. You’re often trying to get into the minds of creatives. Like you’re each department heads given a specific ask very, very quickly and within like a 10 minute or less creative conversation, you have to then go off and do your work, present it, change it on the fly if it needs to be changed and be like, this is what I think you want. And from all your references, ID do deduced yeah. Anyways,  This was the dance pretty much. 

Um, ah, okay. That’s fascinating. So a difference between stage and film being, the amount of time you have and the people that are part of these creative conversations.  

Everyone’s process is different. I mean, I think a lot of choreographers, and this also totally depends on the budget of the show they give. It has a budget for rehearsals and the choreographer can have a skeleton crew. They can kind of like massage the choreography and change it and get it to a way and have a few days and have a process. But if you’re like, hi, hired for two days, you have one day of rehearsal, slash prep, slash casting, slash creative slash, whatever, and the next thing you know is you’re on set trying to like leave this dance with a bunch of people you just met. You’re also trying to figure out their personalities and how not to step on toes, but also do your dance, be professional, be fast, pleasant and you know, protect the dance and protect the dancers but also serve the story and serve the process of that. That is making television. 

Okay. I had to jump out right there because that’ll just happen real, real fast and I want to make sure that you all caught all of that. Kat just gave a lightspeed masterclass in what it means to be a choreographer. Yes, we decide what the dance is, but then we must lead the dance or teach the dance and occasionally that’s to people that we’ve never met. We have to navigate so many personalities, not just the dancers, but the entire teams. Then we have to protect the dancers, of course, meaning looking out for their working conditions and making sure they’re taking breaks and well taken care of, et cetera. But also we’ve got to be fast and I mean we don’t have to be, but it really helps if you’re pleasant or easy to get along with. And then of course there’s the whole serving the story and serving the big machine that makes the TV show or the stage show or the music video or the fill in the blank. I think it’s super important to remember, especially for the young aspiring choreographers that being a choreographer means so much more than making up the steps. Okay. Let’s get back into it. Kat and I talked about the many hats that she wears, the many jobs that she’s had and the thoughts that led her to become an Emmy winning choreographer.  

Dana: What was the, um, what was the step or the chase or the kickball change that took you from editing room to, uh, dance studio or choreography, I guess?  

Um, I was always that kid that did a million things so differently. Like when I was young. It was like suck or student dadadada that every dance class imaginable. I was always booked, right. Like I my and I would like highlight all of my times that like college thing happened and I’d be idea as an adult to just do one thing stressed me out and made me so anxious. I felt like I was making like, like signing a death sentence of being like I’m going to do this for the rest of my life and I was super scared. Um, so I think a lot of times I just did a bunch of side jobs. Just that I wasn’t working towards a career necessarily. Like I went, I went, I went to college. I thought state school was supposed to be the thing that you do. And I was like such a rule follower that I had a hard time listening to myself and people were like, I remember like the advice being like what do you think about when you’re at a stoplight? I was like, Oh like I’m always making up things in my head. And even when I was like bored at concerts, I would just zone out cause I’m like, no one’s dancing. This is boring. And I would like choreograph something in my head and I would feel better. And I just realized if I wasn’t dancing or moving, I was sad. I honestly feel that a lot currently with what we’re going through and like I’ll feel such an angst for the world and my heart would be so heavy. And then all, I’ve been just dancing in my studio for hours on end because it’s the only thing that makes me feel relief and joy. Um, so I, I think, I think I, I worked in posts, I thought I wanted to be an editor. I had a million side jobs, I was a paramount page. And then I would like work at a steak house. And like I served, well when I first graduated college I thought I was going to be a Rockette. I made it through all of the, the cuts and stuff and then they just never called.  

Well, I’m so glad they didn’t because we got to have you instead. I get that dream though. Oh my gosh. And that audition process is brutal. Congratulations.  Holy smokes. 

What was my first professional audition ever, ever. And then at the end of the audition, um, this is the second day,  they’re taking all my measurements and I said, “I just wanted to let y’all know this was my first audition and you were so nice. Oh really? Oh, is it? Okay.” I had a four by six picture. I just didn’t know. I went to the University of Missouri. I didn’t do like, I never went to New York for a summer or anything. I had never taken from like professionals ever. Actually.

I love this. That’s such a great example of all the grooming in the world doesn’t ensure that you will get your foot in the door and at the same time you can be totally ungroomed and come through the side door or the back door and do phenomenally well. 

Yeah, I mean, I envy  people that had all this, this massive education and like mine was just like the local dance studio or the dance team. And that was that. And I just was always dancing in my room. Or like at the time it was recording VHS is and learning the dances of Britney Spears, you know, or whatever, studying for exams while watching Cats,  the VHS recording of the Broadway show. 

All right. Jumping out again this time I had to do it because I think it’s very, very interesting that the thought of doing one thing made Kat anxious and propelled her into doing so many seemingly odd jobs that really stands out to me because to so many people, there’s contentment in doing one thing and having one career and having their job. I think that a lot of people out there would actually feel anxious at the thought of doing all the many things that Kat did from serving steaks and working retail to working as a paramount page, um, pages by the way. Uh, give tours and direct guests and do a great number of tasks on the paramount lot. Um, but dang, she, she even worked in an editing bay. I guess what’s so special to me about Kat and about her journey is that at least from the outside looking in, all of those experiences gave or refined the skills that made her a great choreographer. Yes. Like the dance, the passion, the love of movement and moving has always been there for her. It always brought tremendous joy. But what brought success was the combination of that love of dance plus her many, many unique skills and experiences. Let’s jump back in and hear about the one moment. Well, the one heartbreak that changed the way Kat thought about being a choreographer.

It took a heartbreak. Uh, I was with, I was with someone for eight years, my whole entire twenties, and when that ended, I was so heartbroken that I had no choice but to make myself happy. And that was after I’d been doing UCB classes. I liked dance at Christmas times. I had like dance gigs and I was still doing a million jobs. But there was something about that timing that I was so desperately sad. Like, he kind of was my whole life and when that ended I was like, it was a very clear change of thought. I had been doing this musical that I choreographed and was in called Freak dance the dirtiest forbidden boogaloo at UCB and Matt Besser  wrote it, And the premise is whoever dares dance the nastiest wins. And it was like a spoof of all the dance flicks and like the white girl learns how to be poor so she can be a good dancer they lose the community center and then they have to do this dance battle and they make just enough money to win back the community center, yada yada.  

I’m so glad that exists. 

We did it every Friday for two and a half years at UCB and then one day they were like, we’re making this into a movie. And we all thought we would get replaced by everyone bigger and better. The only person that got replaced was the 20 year old playing the mom and she was replaced by Amy Poehler. So like that makes sense. Um, and right around the time of this breakup, I was filming this movie and they had asked me to like storyboard, what some of the dance numbers would look like. And I was like, I’m not an artist, but I knew it. And there was, there was a something called Work that Butt, and I was like, well, what if there was like a butt flower from overhead? And I was like, butts coming in at like an encapsulated her. And then she had this reveal and was a different outfit, but like storyboarded what these two, they couldn’t afford anyone else. It was also, Mmm. So that was my first job and I was also in it and I also didn’t have an assistant, so it was crazy. And we shot it all in 13 days. It was an original movie musical. With original music with the non dancers as leads and like Drew Droege is one of my favorite comedians and one of the stars and Hal rudnickthey were like the two world’s best dancers. And then we hired, Matt Besser was obsessed with America’s best dance crew. So we hired like Quest crew and The Beat FreaksAnd, um, anyways, so like all of these comedians were like dance dancing in front of all of these crews and I’m just there heartbroken. And I had this epiphany that I was like, Oh, I thought my whole life was supposed to be love and appreciation from this one person. And if they weren’t there I would crumble. And I quickly said to the cast, I was like, I love you guys so much and I need you guys so much. So that was a pivotal moment for me as a creative to have experiences with the people I was having camaraderie with at the time. My coworkers were my family and I would experience and be alive with all of this creative camaraderie that got me through a dark time. And it was just, it’s kind of stuck. It’s kind of stuck with me. Like I, I really, I really feel fortunate that I’m able to like dive into a project with an open heart because I truly look at my collaborators. I mean you like, we’ve gotten to know each other through working together and I have so much love for you but we haven’t, yeah, separate  doing something together really. I mean like maybe a few times, but it’s always like let’s get a glass of wine. Great. I see we’re working together. I’m going to like suck up as much yummy hang time as I can. Cause I don’t know, again, cause we’re both busy as the way LA is. Everybody has something next, you know.  

Well that is the way LA was my friend.  

Certainly people are still like, Oh I can’t, I’ve got a zoom it two. Or Oh I can’t, I stopped like I said 1130 this morning. And I was like, can we do four? Can we push back?  

Kat and I talked for a while about the way the LA and the entertainment industry are uh, maneuvering through this COVID crisis. But the radio waves are pumped and coursing with that talk and there’s just so much other goodness to come in this episode. I thought I might just leap frog over that if you don’t mind. And skip ahead to my favorite video submission ever. And the importance of good lip syncing because why not?  

When you get an audition submission request from your agent for a Kat Burns project, you go, ALL IN, because working for you is such a treat. Really, truly, I am a sucker for a lovely process. So I got this audition notification and I was like, Oh yeah, I can do this. It’s asking for a doo-wop style background singer and she’s singing to her mom. Um, I happened to be in Denver at the time that I got this notification and it was with my mom and it was in my sister’s gorgeous house and it was like, okay, yeah, this is, this is a no brainer. So I taught my sister the shots and she filmed it for me and I lightly choreographed this thing with just like a chain here and a hip hip here. Nothing like crazy cause I had watched the show before and it’s never, um, it’s never meant to be the like, uh, sit down and watch this dance. It’s like you could do this dance  It was a sidebar side side thought of mine to be a dance commentator for dance, YouTube videos in that same, in that same voice. Okay. So made, made the an audition submission sent it in. And I don’t remember if you texted me directly or if my agent did, but you were like, that is obnoxious and hysterical. And will you assist me on this project? Yeah, it was so funny. It was also cool to get my family a peek into my world, right? Like, uh, audition submissions happen or happened pretty regularly and in a very like in a three hour turnaround, I’m expected or asked to create a, create a thing, memorize the lines, make up the moves, capture it, edit it and submit it. And so they got to be there for that. That was super fun. And then  

What I loved about your video too is like, a lot of times, you know, as much as I say like I want good acting, the lip sinking is really important. Like, I trust that dancers can nail a dance step, right? It’s really important to me is how you’re emoting. So I see you as this like 1960s, like, you know, shoo bop, shoo whatawhata to dancer. Um, and you totally embodied that character and the lip sinking is really important. Like, um, I had an audition for Carly Rae Jepsen and it was, um, well holding an audition for her and it was like two backup singers that were dancing. And so in the audition I was like, you guys, you’re moving your heads too much. Like you’ll never believe that they’re singing into a mic to like actually pretend like you’re seeing into the mic. Um, don’t you have to, it’s a strange thing to like not whip your hair around because a lot of times dancers really aren’t that focused on- on being the star and being seen and like with our hair around our face and like make some sexy faces was not really about the face, you know? 

Right. I have this theory that we’re dancers are um, attractive, not necessarily because we’re good looking but because movement attracts your eye. Like if you imagine a jungle setting and a bush rustles over here, your eye goes to that and I think dancers have gotten really are the good ones anyways, have gotten good about being attention, getting when they need to and just the right amount of rustle versus being distracting. And especially if you’re in a tight shot, moving your head around is distracting and its as you mentioned, very plainly, not the way that background singers would do it. Um, that’s a great consideration. I think it’s an important skill and maybe we don’t spend enough time on it. 

And you also the the why it’s hard is that to believe that we believably be a good lip syncer you have to sing out loud so your breath is different. So although it looks like an easy dance when you’re actually singing out loud, the, the, the beats are counterintuitive to like, like the pickups of the lyrics are going to be before the one. And it’s tricky to get your brain around the lyrics and have your body do what the music is doing. As you’re acting, and singing out loud and thinking about your breath, you can’t just breathe through your nose and make whatever weird sounds you need to make to get through the aggression of the dance 

It’s a much different skill. I came across this issue, uh, a handful of times like hands full, like multiple hands, like NBA basketball player hands full of times working on In the Heights where we had huge groups of dancers, a part of musical numbers, but we weren’t the people that recorded the vocals.  

We weren’t the people that um, you know, not all 150 of them have the script, you know, for a chunk of time during rehearsal we would sit down with pages and learn the lyrics. But even that is expected to happen quite quickly. And not a lot of dancers have the same memory for words that we have for moves. So it, it really is a special skill. I suggest that everybody listening to this podcast right now pick a a movie musical moment, whether it’s LA LA land opening number or anything from crazy ex-girlfriend challenge yourself, give yourself how much would, how much time would you say is allocated to learning lyrics for an episode of crazy ex? When we did the tap number? Um, the prescription one, it wasn’t that long. I want to say that was like maybe 30 minutes. 

Well, probably like it was like 30 minutes at the top of rehearsal and I’ve actually had an, I had a big audition in New York.  Um, there’s a really great show out now called, uh, Dispatches from elsewhere. It’s Jason Segel ’s new show on AMC. I worked on the finale number and they’re singing and dancing, spoiler alert. Um, and I had to just teach the lyrics real fast because people saying the lyrics was as important as the dancing and there was this really amazing dancer. And then I looked back at my video because I don’t like making cuts, so I just filmed everybody, I really want to see everybody. I want to properly give everyone a chance to be seen by me cause I don’t come to New York, I don’t have auditions much. Um, so anyways, he was like, I was like booked and then I looked and I was like he didn’t Lip sync, a word. And on most of the jobs I do dancers get Face-time like closeups and like, Oh and I’m so, so for “antidepressants”  and the, it was all, it was all like fluoxitine, fluoxetine, Our lawyers won’t let us say brand names. Like it was very tricky vernacular. Yes. Medical terms on top of that medical terms, you get pills, pills, therms. Um, but, we had, we had a, we have one day of rehearsal so you could like overnight rehearse it. That’s true. I remember on the day Rachel changed, she changed the lyrics. So what’s tricky is that you had to learn it and then on the day after you’ve been practicing, I think you said change the name of the dog and then change this lyric we’ll re-record it in post. So you guys had to say lyrics out loud. This was what was 30 minutes or less. You had to say lyrics out loud that did not match the audio you are hearing all while doing choreography, you’re fast tap dance and then staying in line and it was like super precision based and like you’re high, you’re a little high here on your airplane arm you need a little bit lower.  

We’re taking in all of the, you know, the movement notes that we’re used to, but there’s also not just the learning of the lyrics but the unlearning of the old lyrics and then the relearning of the new lyrics. This is great. Really, truly, if you’re listening, make that an additional challenge. If you’re listening, you’re listening, you’re listening. If you’re, if you’re hearing, um, then yeah, try to learn a thing in 30 minutes and then change it, but don’t change the thing that you’re playing back. That song has to say the same. Your lyrics change. Oh my gosh.

And the timing varies slightly and then the moves or shot. It’s like you have to adjust your timing and your blocking based on what the steady cam operators doing or, or at any point in time, the show runner who’s a showrunner is basically the one that hires all of the writers.  They’re like the head, they don’t usually say head writer, but they’re the one who like keeps a tone of the show in general, you know, on the right track and everything and they’re the one that’s sold the show in general. But at any point they can come in and say, why are you doing this? Or, or like, um, or like for that number it was like as you guys were holding, I like added a like a little, a little bop. Yeah. Yeah. And then, um, just constantly finding it until you, like for me it’s like playing until you find what makes you laugh and like got there. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. Okay. Do that. And then, and then at any point someone could say, no, don’t bounce. And so you’ve just been rehearsing it with the bounce and something as simple as that.Like your body wants to bounce, but you can’t. Um, tricky. I don’t know. It’s tricky. And then, and then when I favorite things to like hark on park, her harp, whatever you look that up as I finish this, this tale of woes, but basically. Once it’s cut the end of that she goes Mmm. Basically it’s just like, Oh you guys are, Oh you don’t want to dance anymore. Okay. Like going from dance or to pedestrian and now

Oh wait, this is one of my favorite things to do. 

Walk like a dancer. Like it’s hard cause we do that in real life. I act sporadically. And um, I was in a commercial and I had to walk to the elevator and I was wearing heels and they were like, um, excuse me Kathryn, you’re like standing like pretty cause I was like beveling, 

Your just like, it’s my Rockette in me. 

I just like can’t, you know like when we’re in heels and more like a tight skirt, as a dancer you walk differently naturally. So I had to be like, Oh, I have to ditch how I naturally walk and walk pedestrian, just go to the elevator, like for don’t dance, walk to the elevator, don’t sit in your hip. Pretty  

Just pretend like you don’t know how to walk in heels as well. 

It’s actually for me, kind of difficult to navigate the middle ground between like dancing like a pro dancer, like JT, backup dancer, pro dancer and dancing like a non dancer that moves well. And then dancing goofy like uh, your, your UCB show right now. Raggle Taggle Dance Hour which I do want to give the floor to for a second cause it’s amazing. We did an opening number, which I want you to talk about, give a little context. Um, but I watched the footage back and I looked at myself, I was like, dude, you were bad dancing. And that’s not the goal. The goal is actually to be dancing really well, but not to be a dancer. And so that’s another layer of intricacy.  

Yeah. I think that’s what I’ve found with my work. It’s like, it’s, it’s easy, not easy, hard, not hard, but we’re properly living in a world. Right. So like the reference for this number was the pink Mr emus pink windmill kids, the mill kids or something. It’s like an eighties dance show. 

We’re going to link it because it’s, it’s a game changer. 

So I, the end of season one wanted the cast of crazy ex to recreate this video and I had that had the costume department hand dye sweats to match the color palette of the early eighties.

This is what we call full out. 

And then obviously everyone was like tired or busy and so they’ve just been sitting in my storage for four years. 

The costumes or the people that were tired? 

The costume department ready to go whenever there very expensive to keep, but it was worth it at the end. But we did the, we recreated the opening video finally. And my dream came true and it’s like feel like, like why it’s so funny and enjoyable is because they are trying to hit it so hard, these little children and it happens to be sloppy and fast, but like you have to go for it with the Gusto and energy of like this is the best thing anyone’s ever seen. And it’s like eighties. You just have to hit really hard. Also like nineties hip hop. You have to hit it so hard that your every bone hurts and it doesn’t look like much or just punching. But like woo, there’s a difference. Um, so you have to hit it with full exuberance.  

There is a difference. It’s those shows. Okay. I want to talk about something you just, you mentioned, um, I, well blah, blah words. So I wanted to ask how do you do funny, but I think you’ve already answered my question when you’re talking about the crazy ex episode, uh, with the pharmaceutical drugs and we’re just sitting there, Bob like hands on knees just bopping. And you said you just play with something until it makes you laugh. Is that your general approach to humor and dance

Kind of, I mean, and even like in a good way I, I’ve said this before, but like, um, I think it’s a lot of times when I approach my work, like if it wasn’t funny it’d be cool. No, like we’re trying to like properly live in a genre and a lot of times it feels a bit like a puzzle in my brain for a while. So like it’s important for me to know the tone of a show and to know what their funny is. Like I worked on workaholics and their village is much different than the crazy ex village. What they find funny and their sense of humor, I mean comedy is also super relative, just like dance. There’s like a wide array of good dancing or what you think is good. Right? I can’t tell you how many times a script is like Fosse and you’re like, but what about Fosse are they referencing to? Do they want it to be hyper-sexual? Do they want it to be awkward? Cause like when I think about Fosse it’s like, well he’s, you know, he did like he was inverted, he had, he had musicality that matched his movements, you know what I mean? So it’s like trying to find what it is about that reference that they like. So you kind of have to like get in the brains of the reference and then play within it and then for me it’s like, because I’ve studied comedy and I’ve, I spent my whole childhood watching movie musicals and things like it’s um, I dunno, there’s like a, there’s a, there’s a good or bad or creative process you have to like know when to put the pencil down I guess. So for me it’s like finding it and then sometimes like in crazy ex we kind of found this thing of like, Oh gross.  Okay. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. And you kind of have to push the envelope. I mean there was like S and P issues to standards and practices. So we’re a network show. You can’t just create whatever you want. It has to be approved. And West side story is super particular and has like legislation against you doing like exact choreography, same with Fosse foundation. So, but you know, choreographers don’t own their work and aren’t unionized. So you know 

Kat Burns, enter Kat Burns the organizer. I wasn’t sure if we would get to this point and I know that not everybody listening is a choreographer, but I do think that this is really important too. Everyone in creative fields, no matter what they are, uh, choreographers right now, specifically an organization called Choreographers Alliance, which is a nonunion organization are working really, really hard to win choreographers SAG-AFTRA contracts for our work because unlike everybody else on a TV, film or digital sets, choreographers do not have the protection of those union contracts, which means no healthcare, no pension and no residual structure.  Um, 

No minimum hours work, uh, overtime or anything like that. 

So Kat is a staple in the community that’s working to win us an agreement that would support us in that way. Thank you so much. 

It just seems like it needs to happen. Everyone else, literally everyone else on set, unless you’re in an assistant role, has union protection and then they have it for SDC, which is stage directors and choreographers Guild. So for Broadway shows, Vegas shows some touring shows, they get a royalty every time their work is used, they own their work, they can, you know, that’s obviously not going to happen necessarily in TV because it’s called a work for hire clause. If you’re a freelancer, um, and writers as well, like, but if they use their work again, they have to pay them. Um, and if you have the union then let’s say dirty dancing, right?  Like that’s been like Kenny Ortega . His work has been used so many times and he’s never made any money past that. Same with Vince Patterson from smooth criminal, you create like how easy would it be to be, Oh, we’re going to use this choreography. We’re not going to hire Kenny because he’s off directing in Canada. We’re going to pay him X amount of money just like you would a song. And then the, and then like they can just take the exact choreography and never pay the choreographer or anything. It’s so broken. It’s so broken. But we did it. And it’s about celebrating the wins. As you say. I was asked to recreate Christine and the Queens “Tilted”

Werk, my favorite,

It’s one of my favorites for Better Things for season one. And, and the reason why I was asked this, cause I work with non dancers and they, and it was, it was the whole family. It was the mom, the grandmother and the two daughters. But put on a performance for you. I don’t want to ruin it if you haven’t seen the end of season one. 

I haven’t done, I’m going to, I’m writing it down right now. That sounds fascinating. I already, 

You already know what’s coming, but it’s okay. There’ll be emotional and beautiful. And I said they were like, we already got the rights to the music and everything and I was like, well did they pay the choreographer? And the awesome line producer was like, well, let me look into it versus saying we’ve already paid. But, um, they actually paid the choreographer for the usage of that work. Um, but that was a big win. They paid the court and I said, you have to credit, there is no union. Like I wouldn’t get credit. And then the person who originally choreographed, it wouldn’t get credit.  Right? Like they can do whatever they want. But I said the original choreographer, Marion Motin and I was like, you have to say originally choreographed by and then like adapted by me cause it’s not my choreography, but I was hired as quote unquote THE choreographer. But I need, I just think it’s interesting because now people are doing like Tik Tok videos and they understand currency of dance and like even in this time we’re giving away or work for free, we’re teaching classes for free. We’re trying to help the community. But like, you know, this is how people make their money. 

Ah, I, I do want to dig into more of those technical issues and I want to celebrate you going to bat for an instance like that, which I’m sure happens all the time and I’m sure that choreographers who, uh, maybe don’t have as much experience or aren’t as in passionate about the subject as you are, wouldn’t even to ask if that had happened. So I’m really glad that you spoke about that. I think that’s super important. 

Choreographers definitely have asked me like even what should my minimum rate be? So like if you’re getting a job and you don’t know what to ask or even how to run a set or anything, like reach out to someone that you know that’s working if you don’t have an agent yourself. And then also I think it’s important that we ask those harder questions. People are only going to give you what you fight for, you know, otherwise they’ll just take advantage and also to know when to back off. I have a solid rule of threes. Like I’ll ask something like three different ways just to make sure that I was heard. And then the answer the third time is still no, I go, okay, well I at least try it. 

Here we go. I at least tried thrice. Yeah man, I really wish we had more time to dig into all of these lovely icebergs that we just saw the tip of. But I think that there will be time for that and I hope that people will go find you. Find more of you. Um, you’ve done a handful of podcasts as well. I think that you can be found in this, in this audible world as well. What other podcasts have you jammed on? 

Totally Unmorganized. Uh, uh Oh and then Heather and Ava’s, yeah. Yes,The dance room  the dance. And then there’s been a, Oh, the Bigfoot Collectors Club . My friend Michael McMillan has a, she has a podcast about, um, about Bigfoot. So I have a lot of non, non dance related content in that. Then my mom and I did a podcast for, My friends, a beauty beauty vegan podcast called Natchbeaut She’s a passionate vegan and finds women owned businesses through beauty and beauty is not my world. So my mom was really good at being the guest, I was just there to be made fun of. Pretty much, which I’m..

You were the link. You were the link between the worlds. Um, well thank you beyond for being my guest today and for sharing so freely. All of your wisdom and humor and insights and tips about lip syncing. You know, there is not a podcast for that yet. Thank you so much for being here. High five across the screen. Great. I think we missed 

Your, you’re doing such a good job. 

Ah, I so appreciate that. Thank you so much. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye. 

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

Ep. #15 The Seaweed Sisters: WHO ARE WE, AND… WHAT IS THIS???

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #15 The Seaweed Sisters: WHO ARE WE, AND... WHAT IS THIS???
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Without giving away ALL of our secrets, Jillian Meyers, Megan Lawson and I demystify our unicorn performance project– The Seaweed Sisters.  This episode lets you into our world and our process. At the core of every seaweed spore, you’ll find serious silliness, Discovery, Exploration, and COLLABORATION!

Show Notes

Quick Links:

The Seaweed Sisters: https://www.theseaweedsisters.com/home

Megan Lawson: Megan Lawson

Jillian Meyers: Jillian Myers,

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello everybody and welcome to episode 15. I hope you’re doing good out there and I hope you are ready for this. This episode is a good one. If I do say so myself, although I guess I am pretty biased, but let’s get into it. Starting off with wins. I’m very proud of my win this week because it was a big challenge but a very worthy one. My husband and I shipped over 200 reusable face shields directly to the doctors and the hospitals that need them the most. I’m super proud and if you are interested in how you might be able to, uh, help in a similar way or if you’re interested in helping my husband and I should we decide to do a repeat effort, then go ahead and send me a direct message @danadaners on Instagram. Very much looking forward to hearing from you. Okay. So that’s my win. Now you go, what’s going well in your world? Oh wait.  

Okay. Killer. I’m so glad you’re winning. Congratulations. 

Now speaking of winning, I finally got to sit down with my two seaweed sisters. It’s okay if you don’t know what that means yet cause you’re about to, um, these two women are probably my biggest influences and I’m just thrilled to share some of what, uh, we, we dug up and dug into. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Jillian Myers and Megan Lawson, my seaweed sisters.  

Dana:  I can’t think of a better day than this rainy day to invite my two favorite people, Megan Lawson and Jillian Myers, my seaweed sisters to be podcasts sisters today. Welcome to the podcast, ladies. Thank you for being here. And I’m going to ask you really quickly to introduce yourselves.  

it does feel like there should be an applause, right? Like a cheer.  

Jillian: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Or I can imagine your theme *sings themesong*

Dana: It’s funky, right? It’s very good. I love it. Much shout up max the music man. Thank you for that funky jingle. Okay, cool. I I take it away. Someone who’s it gonna be, who’s it gonna be? 

Megan: And this is probably our most dreaded part. Um, I am Megan Lawson. I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. And like my fellow sisters, I am a dancer, choreographer, director, movement coach, teacher, you name it. We got it. 

Dana: Beautiful list of things to own. Yeah. 

Jillian: And most importantly Seaweed sister 

We’re all wearing our matching seaweed sister blouses today. It’s still a blouse. If it’s denim. 

Yeah. Why not? It buttons. It’s good. I think, you know, it’s definitely our best swag. Maybe our only swag, but it is the best swag. 

So currently our only swag, let’s get on that after the call. We’ll get on the merch. Merch front. Okay. Jilly, who are you? 

Oh my gosh. Well you said half of my name, Jillian Meyers. That’s me. Uh, and I, I, I liked the location base. I grew up just outside of Portland, Oregon and have lived in LA for a very long time, I think. Okay. 14, 15 years, something like that. And, uh, dancer, choreographer, teacher, director, mover maker, doer, lover, seaweed, sister.  

All right. Um, beautiful, brilliant intros. Thank you. Yes. Okay. So I think I haven’t really kept, uh, a tally. Yeah. But of all the people and ideas that I mentioned on the podcast, I think, I think the seaweed sisters are front runner on most mentioned. Um, and every time I mention it, I feel the need to, uh, introduce or explain us to people who might not know who the seaweed sisters are. And every time I start to do that, I stopped doing that because it’s kind of a challenge to explain exactly what it is that we are. So what I would love to do today is without spoiling any of the magic, just demystify a little bit. Mmm. Who we are and what we do and what is at the core of our universe. You know, what are our guiding principles? What is the seaweed sisters North star?  Um, so, so that’s kind of a big bite actually for if for type of podcasts. So I’m going to start with one of my favorite questions to receive about any of our work. And that is  Mmm. “What is this? “Usually people are watching or listening and they’re looking and they’re like, okay. Oh yeah. So it’s a video and it’s sorted. Is it dance? Is it, what exactly is this? So on the theme of what is this, I’m going to ask just kind of a, uh, blazing round of questions. Um, and I’m going to ask what is blank? So, uh, let’s start with, Mmm. Ooh. I’ve got a shortlist and they’re all, you’re all kind of challenging. Um, let’s start with… Okay. What is the process, in other words, when Dana, Jillian and Megan get in a room, what is happening in there?

A lot of that, a lot of giggle’s, that’s for sure. We laugh our butts off cause I think, um, we like to do things that tickle us genuinely, genuinely. There we go. Um, so, and if it doesn’t have a tickle or a funny fancy, then a lot of times those things don’t stay. That’s one. I dunno. Magoo what do you got? 

Megan: Uh, acceptance, which comes in, uh, in the form of “yes, and” uh, seeing an admiring each other and  being a fan is it makes it so easy to make, uh, in the studio because we see one move, we say, yep, That and add a little flippiety floppity. And on it goes. 

Yes and, okay, yes. This is a great place to start. Actually. A really good tip of a very big iceberg is this concept of taking silliness very seriously and our general rule for that is to say yes to whatever happens in the room and a modification. Um, this is a widely known improvisation concept. Uh, nothing that we invented or that’s new to the world of creating things actually I think is also even outside of the creative world. Helpful in relationships, helpful in business, helpful in all realms of life. Just saying yes, and 

Dance lessons are life lessons!

Dance lessons are life lessons and improv techniques should be life techniques. Um, so it definitely helps that we adore and admire the things that come out of each other.  Um, so saying yes is never, I’ve never felt like, Oh, uh, I want to say no. Um, but the answer is always yes, and how else or yes, and what else? Yes, and what more yes, and what does it mean yes, and in what direction? Yes, and can we do it backwards, sideways, upside down in a circle? 

Yes, and how many times should we do it? Four times, for sure. 

So really, I don’t remember when that began for us, but it has been there almost the entire time, if not the entire time, because with um, I think all three of us are, uh, pretty juicy on the thoughtful front. We’re not ever lacking ideas, I guess I would say, dare I say. Um, so the actual, the editing can be hard and that usually happens in the and part. So all the ideas come up with yes. And then in this and process, we revise and refine and we sort of edit down and we get to a place where all three of us are. Like, I love that. Mmm. And then occasionally in the event that we don’t all three agree, which has happened maybe once or twice, we do kind of go for like a vote. Okay. I really love it. I really love it. Okay, great. I think it’s good. Let’s go for it. Yup. 

The real two thirds. Yeah. I think we’ve tried to really stick to that. Like two out of three are in, then we go and we keep moving. 

Yup. Nice. I love that. Beautiful. Okay. Tie that up with a bow. Um, what are the seaweed sisters? What are we doing?  

Hmm. Long extended pause. For me. This question, the answer is sort of varies depending on who I’m talking to and that might be awful and it might surprise you to hear. Like that. I, I don’t have like an elevator pitch, one size fits all answer to that question. But if I’m talking to an actor or comedian, I say that we are dancers that call on comedy. Whimsy, Mmm. Site specific. Even acting. Mmm. And then if I’m talking to dancers, I say we’re a Yeah. Clown, clown types, actors that use movement to, um, to, to tickle. Um, if I’m talking to parents, I say that we are the Disney and Pixar of dance, which, which is definitely self flattery, 

but I don’t think it’s untrue though. not untrue. 

It’s not untrue, accessible and relatable to very little young, young ones, young minds, but also, uh, big picture ideas that really hit home for people that have lived a lot of life.  

So that I, yeah, I guess my answer to what are we kind of shifts, um, depending on who I’m talking to. Do you guys want to add anything to, 

Yeah. I mean, we started as a couple of friends that wanted to dance together. Right? Right. Yeah. As you’ve shared, we are our tribes ladies. We’re, we’re of the same, uh, thoughtfulness and curiosity and desire for, uh, for something different. And one of our bedrocks being discovery, uh, I think that comes into our dance moves themselves. Like, Hey, how else can we move? Uh, but also the, the why and the where and uh, the imagination of, like you said, if you’re talking to parents, we go Disney because it feels relatable and appropriate for everybody. And that inclusivity is important to us. 

Yeah. Inclusivity, discovery. These are like  are hugely guiding principles and also otherness being being a, um, less identifiable as dancer or woman or lady.  And we are this thing, 

Oh man, I think, yeah, I’m with you Willis. As far as like kind of the description, you know, kind of being malleable. I think a lot of times I, or what I’ve found myself recently saying, it’s like we’re seaweed sisters is a performance project because it’s like, I like that it can then take on many different shapes because yes, we make videos. Yes, we do. Mmm. You know, live shows. Yes, we do kind of site-specific interactive shows. We’ve done this. And um, I think even though we’ve been at this for six years now, I think, you know, which is wild and awesome. I think we are still kind of like just the way seaweed is a little eh anamorphic or kind of like ever moving an amoeba that kind of is continuously changing shape. I think we want to have that flexibility to try all those different things.  Also as you said  without a shortage of ideas, we, there’s a lot of things we want to try. So um, yeah I find that I try not to describe it too much so that it can kind of be anything that might appeal to you or you or you, I don’t know. It’s hard but also that’s what I love about it. 

That’s a great point is that the seaweed sisters might actually suffer from too much definition, too much description and too much pinning down because although we are six years old, we are only six years old and there is so much to be done.  

So that’s, that’s what we are, what we do, what we’re about a little bit video, a little bit, live a little bit site and we also teach because we all teach individually. Sometimes we teach together and because the work is so much about discovery and individuality, personality inclusivity, okay. When we teach seaweed material all and like those little spores go out into the world. Some of the weeds that come back out of that like, Oh man, our extended seaweed family, all of our students. Um, I’m so grateful to them and seeing that because it, okay, after six years of working together, it’s sort of like we’ve established a language in these characters sort of accidentally. Like we never sat at a drawing board and said like, Oh, okay, you’re the dumb one. You’re the dumber one, you’re the dumbest one.  We never had that, in that sense, like very different than Disney, way less strategy in terms of like, you know, building the thing that the consumer will love is just like we say yes to ourselves and we say and to each other and, and then, and then the seaweed falls out, go, go, go. 

Oh no. Well, I mean I agree so much with what you’re saying. I think a lot of it just kind of is our alchemy Like when we come together, the things that happen and that we don’t question that we just kind of go with it. And what I actually, I’m having memories of like, I think what we most discover or define those things are at like a Q and A situation. Yeah. When students ask us questions or propose things and we’re like, Oh yeah, that, that, that is true. You know, or like I’ll never forget the time and she phrased this question or slash statement so beautifully about women in the industry of physical comedy and, you know, and we were like, Oh, not even something that is consciously on our radar, but yet that is really subconsciously important to all three of us and also just comes out.  It’s, you know, a part of who we are. But, um, I remember after that point I really like kind of doing a little research and yeah, just kind of considering that now at the forefront of my mind as a part of what we do, where it’s, it was always present. I just hadn’t thought of it that way. 

Yeah. Right. You know, I’ve always in my life valued humor, um, but moving to LA in like 2005 and really gearing my efforts towards becoming a entertainment industry dancer. Okay. Whether that’s backup for an artist or in commercials and film is almost always about being cool or being sexy. And a maybe a combination of the two, a different ratio of those two things, but pretty exclusively cool and sexy. And the seaweed sisters helped me remember how important humor and otherness is to me. And so I think for me, the expected benefit is like rediscovering one of my huge values in life and, uh, delivering to a world that I know and love, right.  The entertainment industry, a healthy dose of that, of those values. So that’s been really cool. Um, but what else has sprung from this? Other than some pretty awesome relationships. 

Yeah. That actually, that comes to mind so quickly for me is just this sisterhood, uh, yeah. Both creatively, but also you two just activate, uh, the human in me, uh, 

Oh, tears. 

Yeah. Yeah. That, uh, I don’t have any sisters biologically. Uh, so you two. Uh, yeah, just, it really opened me to a world of, um, honesty and Whoa, sorry. Wills that just went vulnerable really quick. 

That’s the part of it!

Yeah. Yeah. I can, I can offer up anything without fear with you guys. And then that can maybe go into the world and that’s, yeah, it was special and very unexpected. Just like ms emotion.

Oh yes, and. Yes. Yes. Tears and I applaud them. I applaud you. That is another, this is brilliant. Emotionality. Is one of art talents. I think one of our strengths. Oh, and we do have a slogan by the way. 

We do, I know, I’m like, which one? 

Speaking of strengths. 

Oh, strength is not our strength. 

Strength is not our strength. If you, if you watch our work, very capable dancers I would say, but never calling on great feats of strength, endurance, stamina even, but emotionality. Yes. You will find. And the, and the full human spectrum. Um, and I, I think that that’s special. Mmm, and unique to us is that even in one work you, you’ll probably see the whole, the whole spectrum. And I think that’s super fun. 

And on that same note as well. Uh, and we talk about it and giggle about silliness and how one might watch our work and think like, Oh, that’s funny, but we take our silliness very seriously.  And that is how it also is able to connect because we’ve got, it’s still athletic. It still has the dance to reinforce what we’re trying to pass on and it’s, it’s not just a flip flop, but it’s got a lot of work and thought behind it. 

Curation, thought. Yeah. Thought and really like specificity. Which yes, at a glance it might seem very more so happenstance, but yeah. Each of those flops and little eye twitches are considered. We talk about them, you know, why is that happening? How do you feel when you do that? Okay, cool. Maybe I’ll try that. And yeah, I think  that is also what kind of sets apart our work is that it doesn’t feel hazardous. It isn’t just a kind of cacophony of like things and faces and you know, cause that also happens and can be great. But Mmm. even in it’s kind of, it creates a very specific harmony.  I think of that, that it, you know, it touches on all those things quickly. It is like dance that is very at times like very specific and then very loose or free. And uh, we value all of it and try to make it all happen and clear and um, it’s an important part of what we do. And we love that. It’d be a good thing. You know, 

Cosign! 

Yes. Yeah. Brings us so much joy. 

Yeah. It’s the, the process itself, like fuels more process. Um, and the process is deep, right? Like there’s the brainstorming, you mentioned the yes part and then there’s the editing and there’s the stepping back and taking a look. Um, we also are getting pretty, uh, refined in the process to the point where if for example, we’re making a video work, we usually start by settling on a song and then we see, uh, location where this might take place and environment.  Yep. And we get in the studio and brainstorm the bits and we say yes. And then we usually make a prototype video. 

Which shout out to Dana Wilson who is our technical weed. Yes, yes. It’s come into play to help us so much in our weedness. It’s true. 

It’s, it’s definitely helpful when you’re trying to do something that’s difficult to explain as we already demonstrator. So sometimes the best, the best way for us to get a team on board or to explain our vision, um, is to just show. So we’ll do a little prototype. Um, and that helps us get to the next step, which is ultimately producing these things. Um, and let’s talk a little bit about that. Oh guys, I’m reworking my thoughts around passion project that phrase. It’s, it’s a project project. They’re all passion projects because I love what I do. Passion project usually comes with the notation of like low budget project.  It is an out of pocket project for us. Nobody’s paying for us to do these other than ourselves. Uh, because of that we, we want to, we want every moment and every dime of it to be a memorable and lovable moment and dime.

Ooh. And wills. Can I throw in also in the thought of like, you know, that collaboration like being such a big part of all of our projects that we’ve made and also is like kind of the origin seed of the seaweed sisters. Why we made anything in the beginning is because none of us had ever gotten to work together. We’ve never all made something together, three dear friends that like, as you said in the commercial kind of sense as far as work goes, had never ended up in the same place. So it was the ultimately the impetus to want that we wanted to make something together to collaborate and that’s how our first making ever happens.  

Yes, And! after we made that first thing, which was actually a piece for a live performance, somebody, Lando Wilkin’s approached us about making it into a video. We didn’t even, that was, that happened to us, the, you know, the invite into the video realm, which, 

And I wouldn’t even say approach. He just like, yo, you have to, you have to film it at a pool. 

I was like, I got up and he was like, I got a friend, we got a camera, let’s go. 

Oh, that’s so, yeah. And I love that for anybody. If you see something, you, you never know what those moments are going to turn into. If you hire someone and you, and you’d just give him a little poke. It could, yeah. Ignite so much. Um, okay. This what the heck? Six years later, I’m not sure, inevitably we would have worked together again. Um, but I don’t know if it would have totally, really bonded this puppy. Yes. Thank you. Lando. 

Shout out. Do we call him Papa weed? I something like this or elder weed. I don’t know. He’s something.  

Um, I think that we just gave new meaning to see something, say something. And I think that’s also part of our process. Right. And we’re always kind of like all eyes on each other in the room and it a little, a little something comes out and we’re like, Oh yes. uh. Um, so see something, say something. I think that’s a great attitude to have out there in the world. Mmm. And in a studio in a creative place. Yeah. Um, and I also want to take a moment to thank you guys for the say something part, always coming with kindness and with consideration. Mmm. Because anybody that’s working in a creative field knows that collaboration is not always encouraging. There’s, a lot of places, points in the process that you can get ripped apart. And, um, I’ve, I’ve never felt that with you guys and I don’t know if that’s the secret to success or if maybe we’re missing something by being less critical. I don’t know. But I love, I subscribed to the sistership and this is one of my favorite creative processes to be that I’ve ever been involved in. It’s just so nurturing and I think it’s great. Yeah. Amen. 

And to like expand that back out to kind of where we just were. I think that would go towards all of our collaborators as well. Like have people that are very like Uber creative people, but that care. And um, yeah, I would say any of our collaborators really, especially as far as like friends when we coming to filming things. Um, people that see us, people that are excited about, you know, what, what we want to do and they want to get in there and get dirty. Especially as far as like it being a, a project of love and lower means sometimes, but we really make it mean something. 

Yes. Um, financial means and meaningfulness. Yes. Yeah. Or not, uh, not directly linked. Okay. Let’s take a second and talk about our teams then. So we talked a little bit about Lando and the first video, which is called Get Free, right? It was shot by Andrew Rose 

And the song is called Get Free, but we called it Get Sea. 

Oh, great point. Because we love a play on words if you haven’t noticed. Mmm. And then piece number two, we called the “Sea”quel. Whoa. See what we did there. Um, and that was shot and directed. Bye Isaac Ravishankara   um, with Danny Madden as well at the helm. And I don’t know how we even divvied up the titleship to those. It really is it’s big stew. And we just stew in it together. 

You hold the camera, you throw the water balloon no more in the face. Now hold it. 

Right, right. Um, so and so’s working on storyboard. Will so-and-so is cutting a wig. Well, so-and-so is making the costume. Well, so and so is making sure that hard-drives are all freed up. 

That was such a wild weekend. Yeah. We had rented an Airbnb in Joshua tree and it was a weekend of executing the sequel and I have this memory of Danny Madden who is also an animator drawing out the entire storyboard beautifully. I think we still haven’t sent her and uh, and then more friends arrived the next day because we also were performing at Coachella with Hozier that weekend. 

Yes. Yes. And Issac who is a dear friend and director is his job. One of his jobs, he danced with us. Yes. He was my partner. I needed a partner. 

We were rehearsing Friends were filling up water balloons. Matty Peacock’s in the back filling up balloons, all hands on deck, just all the friends and rehearsing in the Airbnb that night, 

Amidst air mattresses. 

And you came out. Mmm. Our jackets our weed jackets, which were so dirty, so dirty with lit, with actual dirt. 

Shout out Pono, cutting our wigs, getting our jackets. Yes. Yes. There were so many good memories that weekend 

Also, I think building and like reinforcing the yes. And uh, there were supposed to be two friends that in the middle of that video there was supposed to be a duel who ended up not making it. And so on the fly in like in the middle of our day when we’re like supposed to shoot it in an hour, we like took like a stop.  Everything stopped down. Yeah. Okay. What else can this be now? Because that was accounting for a big part of the song. And so that’s actually when the kind of water balloon fight, idea of Mirage born, and then there are good. The bad, the ugly moment. Yes. Yeah. It was never, that’s not what that, what we thought we were making, but that’s what we made. 

That’s incredible. I think that’s another kind of brilliant, Mmm. Metaphor is one of the best properties of seaweed is it’s looseness. Right? Totally. Yeah. And we’re, we’re were three ladies that individually have a lot of plans. We’re very good at making plans, but we’re also very good at rolling with it. When the plans change, would they, which they ultimately will 

Always, and again, like two collaborators that are also very strong suited in that remark. Like, Oh, not this. Both of them.  Yeah. Like, Oh, not that. Okay. Then what about this, this or this? Like they’re both so good. Another great chance to learn from others in that skill, you know, which was, it’s such a gift.

Oh yeah. I remember being holed up in that bunker. Wait, hold up. H. O. L. E. D. I struggled with that in a previous podcast and I talked to my mom last night, who is my editor. And she was like, honey, it’s hold up like you’re in a hole. And I was like, okay, great. So we were holed up in a literal bunker, like, what are we going to do? But are we going to do? And in my mind, I was like, Oh, we’re going to have to pay for another Airbnb day. We’re gonna have to wait. We’re going to have to blah, blah, blah. And then the answer to that was like, no, thats one of the nos that we did accept and it was substituted by it.  Uh, a very colorful and bright and fun idea. I think that’s, yeah, some of the, some of the ways that we solve problems. Mmm. Because of our limitations in time and in finance, uh, are the most creative things. Right? If we had all the money in the world, we’d have just extended a day or hired two new dancers or whatever. But I, I love the creativity that’s resulted from those limitations. 

Million percent agreed. Seaweed solutions

Seaweed solutions. While if we get, we should sell a toner, like a facial toner or like a full face line in seaweed solutions. 

That’s what you are also our merch captain. I think you’re already tech weed and our merch weed. You’d have a million ideas for seaweed merch. 

Mind you, we don’t have any yet, but that’s okay.  

Pins, Puzzles magnents. 

Oh my gosh. Okay. Listeners vote toe vote on this. Do you guys, are you guys familiar with toevote? Okay. <inaudible> vote on this right now. 3D printed seaweed faces that are a mockup of Mount Rushmore. Yeah. Like just our three faces. Little 3D prints come on. 

Toes voting. Yes, So vote yes on that. Yup. 

Okay. Let’s keep walking through the catalog really quick. So part tree, um, Isaac and Danny both. And Jackie. Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes. Jackie. Yes. Super shout out Jackie. The best. Yes. If you’re gonna be holed up in a cabin with five people, I would definitely want you five people to be there. 

Oh and greer! 

There we go. We had a super, super helper. When we say helper, we mean like contributor, energetic healer, um, the many hat wearer. 

Many hat wearer, we need a glue gun and a water. And thinking ahead, 

There is also the only human, the seaweed universe has ever seen or interacted. It’s her in the soubs with Subaru at the end. So good

Okay. And then from part tree from the lush, lush for us, we go color wise, we jumped back in time, back in time to the birth of weeds. This superstar, crystal clear, pristine, clean, blank space. Um, and we really wanted us to all have been born from the same pod. I remember for a long time of trying to figure out how we could like build a sheth or a cocoon, something where we could be born from. And that was one of the, one of the ideas that I think we did edit out. A Peapod, a pea pod or maybe maybe it didn’t get edited out, just moved to the parking lot for another time. Mmm. But for that, we recruited our dear friends Angela Kohler and  Ithyle Griffiths to direct and shoot. 

And Ang suggested this place. Right. I feel like, yeah, we kind of had the idea, but she was on the kind of scouted this place and made it possible to have, like, we, I think we, yeah, we thought about a starker environment and she, she made that happen. 

You’re so right. And we says, okay, what was it called? Weeses Pieces  is that whats its called? Yeah. A little outside LA. A magical place. You’ll, you’ll recognize it from Um, several commercials. And music videos. Uh, Brittany Spears did the one with the Sharks there. Um, and uh, that also cool feature or cool behind the scenes note for the listeners was shot on the summer solstice. Uh, also the hottest day of the year that year. And we are wearing essentially trash bag suits that seal at the neck and rubber hats. So none of us blacked out that day is magical to me. 

Not to mention that the way those suits state taught and full is a little fan on the back that pushes air from the outside and pushes it in 114 degrees that day. And we chose that. That was our choice. We also wore unitards underneath those. Oh my gosh. Yes. Holy moly. Oh guys. Oh, the choices. Yeah, we do. We laugh all the time. We choose, we are responsible for all of it. 

Right. And we’re standing there looking at ourselves wearing sleeping bags with cut out for arms and we’re like, we chose this. This was our choice. A white unitard white this is great. 

Wouldn’t change a thing. 

Nope. That was such a fun and challenging day. I also speaking of challenges on that day. Okay. Um, unique challenge to the seaweed sisters. Uh, it’s not every set that you walk onto that you’ll hear somebody say how, how do we make the Flamingo fart? And the answer to that question Daniel Reetz. the Daniel Reetz also known as vice chief, also known as my husband, also known as MacGyver. Yes. Who engineered a remote detonated Flamingo fart enhanced by our editor and special effects super guru Arian Sohili 

Who was also camera that day and in the water. And then like sunglasses, the glare from the sun on the water couldn’t like see, I think Ann’s got a migraine that day also for him cause it was so bright. Like she was a pregnant as well. Oh my gosh. 

We also bought a trampoline transport and built a trampoline in the middle of nowhere and it just was easier for us to leave it there. So donated that to Reese’s Pieces. Good Job, good job. That took us airborne. We were such little balloon weeds. 

That was so much fun. Oh my gosh. As the light was going down, just like hurry, get in there.  Jump! Oh my gosh. We were fighting the sun that day even though it was one of the longest days of the year. But Whoa. 

We used every bit of that sunlight. Sure did.

Have we ever done a shoot that took more than one day? 

I mean, technically sequel, exactly. The second day we did, I think we did a lot of inserts of the water balloons, hence why friends were filling them up in the morning. Like we had to get some stuff, I think flying through the air, the pickup. But other than that, everything has been contained to one day or, or early morning. 

So that brings us to the rather important video that we, it’s our most recent video work, which we shot in the back bottom of an empty pool. Yeah. All through the night. So it was a night shoot. And that one was directed by dear seaweed, sister friend and ally Mimi cave.  

And it was produced by Heron Bourke and the DP was David Bourke, her husband. Mmm. We had an assistant camera that day. That was Walter Dandy and a gaffer, Austin Michaels. Um, we had an electric, we had a lot of hands this day. Yeah, yeah. Um, and a key grip. Even we had a key grip you guys, that’s important. Uh, Colin Lindsey was our grip and then we even have a magical mystical drone shot at the end of that. Um, and our drone was piloted by Jacob Patrick. Um, but the rest of everything was shot on steady cam by our barnacle brother Devin Jamieson coming through in the clutch.  Biggest love. 

Who also kind of helped coin or what is this? Because the first time Dev came to her rehearsal cause he’s like, I’d love to see it. Of course. We’re like, yes, come watch end of rehearsal. That was his first remark after we showed him the whole thing, he looked at us and he’s like so what is this like with excitement and curiosity and confusion? Um, and I think that’s the, one of the biggest compliments I have taken away from our seaweed showings is that remark. 

Oh my gosh, you’re so right. It’s a compliment. Like when somebody says, what is this? We go, thank you. Thank you. Totally 

Confusion, encouraged 

New tagline. Um, and that is, that’s where we left off with our video works, but that is certainly not the last thing that we have done together. Actually rather important birthed a really, really special and unique and cool and magical and cherished insert. Other positive adjectives, um, relationship with two women who go by Lucius, a musical group. Uh, Jilly, do you want to talk about that a little bit? 

Oh man. Uh, yeah, actually again, a pivot point is Mimi. So, um, like rewind back a little bit. I think the ladies from Lucius were looking for just kind of some movement coaching. They’re about to go on tour and Mimi suggested me and so we only got to have a couple of like dance sessions before they left and then I left, I forget. I think we were leaving for Rocky horror. I think this was like at the end of 2015, something like that. And, um, yeah. So it builds a little connection, friendship there and fast forward, kind of keeping in touch. These two ladies are not only incredible, incredible singers, but also lovers of dance. And, uh, they had a couple of shows for new years that they w-wanted to opening acts and they wanted one of their opening acts to be just dance or not just but dance. How about that? And they reached, they reached out to me and they were like, do you happen to know a group of maybe two or three people that would come to San Francisco, it’s not a lot of money and do these couple of shows. And I was like, well, I’m kind of a part of a group of two or three.  And they were like, okay, great. They were like, we wanted it to be the, this you guys, you ladies the seaweed sisters, but you know, it, you know, they were like, didn’t want to impose or ask, ask too much. But anyhow, uh, so that provided this really beautiful opportunity for us to, uh, perform live and to make a longer, long, longer work essentially because it was a set. So just like an opener would have a 20 minute set before the band. That’s what they wanted. So in a small space and for people that would have surely never have known who we are before that and maybe let alone ever gotten to just see a dance performance and uh, they brought us into that space with so much like, uh, I think just enthusiasm and support and we’re like, yeah, do your thing. And that was such a gift, not only just the moment itself, but I think for us to then consider what yeah, what, what is a live performance for us?  How do we want to interact with people that don’t, wouldn’t know dance or wouldn’t necessarily yeah know who we are. So, Mmm. I dunno. yeah. I really love this moment is a part of our path in the sense of, again, widening and expanding what seaweed, where seaweed can show up, you know. Um, so that was, yeah, send you gifts. So shout out to the Lucious ladies, 

Oh, I love big love and, and huge honor. Right. It was very cool. Usually dance and music when they’re together is dance in support of music and in the form of like backup dancers on a concert tour or something like that. Yeah. But we were on the marquee. We had, we were billed as like, you know, the opening act and I remember that being huge as well. I’d never seen that. 

And guys, we, we continued on with them. We did two tours with them. Like on the bus, sleeping in the bunks, going to beautiful venues. Uh, and Opening Newport Folk Fest. We did, yes. 

That’s where we got these. 

That’s right. That’s where we got our blouses Thank you. Wrangler for our customers. Seaweed capes, they are in, I do feel that I have super powers when I wear this thing. Great. 

And I wish I could remember. It’s a company that does all the embroidery shoot. Maybe we can look it up, insert later. I forget what it was they were, they are the ones that made it personalized. 

We’ll add it to the show notes, be on the lookout show notes. Um, okay. This is, that was a beautiful walk through kind of a And of course the seaweed sisters had big plans for it. 2020, the month of April was deemed seaweed month. Yep. And then the month of April was slapped in the face by COVID-19  we are all three keeping to the social distancing.  

Mmm. And I’m proud of us high five across the screen. This was an awesome day. I woke up and my husband was like “Babe, Babe it’s working. “And he showed me this graph that was like what models had projected, um, the reported cases and deaths to be and what they actually are right now. And it’s really looking like this huge social distancing effort, at least in the California area. Is working. So I think that’s super cool. 

So that was a lovely walk through the life of the seaweed sisters up to this point. Yeah. And there is certainly much more to it to come. Obviously we period. But now I want to ask, what is, what is seaweed sisters in 10 years, 

That’s even harder than, what is he, what sisters now. 

Seaweed is a, is a, a live show. Uh, a short film series a animated adventure, 

A travel series, a children’s show. series. Series regulars on the Sesame street. 

Yeah. I’m an elderweeds puppet experience. Shout out Katie. Katie green. Yup. 

Oh man. A feature film. Why not? Let’s throw that out. Okay, excellent. Yeah. Um, Oh and there is also another thing I didn’t mention as far as our identity goes. Uh, on the subject of otherness, we do not speak this language. Um, we speak and other language and I think it’s called seaweed, is that correct? Except to, uh, and it is an improvised language. It doesn’t have a vocabulary or a dictionary or grammar.  Just sounds. Um, and we also are coming upon our names, our characters names. And I do want to talk about this for a second cause it’s a fun story. Um, I, an unexpected treat that came as a result of us doing this work is that we have now a lot of young fans out there. We’ve established relationships with some young people. And by young I mean like five years old, three, three to seven have somehow struck a chord unintentionally. Like we didn’t design our work to be that. But somehow, you know, we started hearing from, um, parents in our world saying, I literally use the seaweed sisters as the carrot and stick of my parenting. Like when the kid is good, they get to watch seaweeds sisters. And if they’re bad, they don’t get to watch seaweeds sisters. And like they’re, it’s, it’s hard to rip them from the screen when they’re watching you guys.  And that’s such an honor and a treat to hear that. But also I think I find that there’s a like-mindedness to a five year old to a seaweed sister and, um, I, I got my name, my seaweed sister name, which is Zaggy. Yep. Uh, from Megan’s niece, 

Sadie. But she’s been, she knew the pink is Megan and Dana is the blue and Jilly is the green one day, uh, her mom Poppy was asking her again, just okay, and who’s that? That’s auntie Megan and who’s that? And she said, that’s Zaggy she just said “What” She said that’s Zaggy and we went, we went with it. I was no, Julian was still Jillian. Dana became Zaggy that day. 

I feel like it’s also kind of like, in a way, I think, uh, B-Boy culture, you can’t decide your own name, you kind of have to be gifted it or given it. Also learn same in sign language. Like you have a sign name, something that is only particular to, you know, uh, being able to sign it not audibly say it and it has to be given to you. Same thing. So yeah. Oh, so we’re getting there. Look at you lucky listeners. You get to find us at this cool fork in the road where we’ve been doing stuff for six years and still don’t know our names.  

I, I so look forward to seeing future weeds and I’m so grateful for present weeds. Thank you so much for  uh, for all of it. Um, but also for being here and sharing some of the super special thing.  

We love your Willsy. 

Thank you Dana for doing this podcast and making a space for all kinds of thoughts and people to share.  

You better believe it. My pleasure. I won’t stop for at least a year. That’s my promise to myself and I’m pretty good at those.  

You can do it. You are very good at.  

Thank you. It is. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I love you and I’m going to keep my Cape on.  

Yeah guys, well done. Love you Dane. Love you so much. 

I love you. You’re the best weeds on the planet. Okay, bye. Bye.  

And how was that for your daily dose of love and laughter? I wanted to jump out and check in with you and also leave you with a task. But first I did a little digging and I was able to rediscover the custom embroidery company that, that did our denim blouses. They’re called Fort Lonesome. And they do exquisite work. So thank you Fort Lonesome. Shout out. And also we left off an important helping helper from our rather important shoot. And her name is Gina Menchino. Thank you so much Gina for your help. I’m sorry that we got sidetracked before we mentioned your name in the episode. You’re so great. Thank you so much. Um, okay, cool. Now let me leave you with this task. One of my favorite things that came up during this episode was this idea of see something, say something. And of course that’s S E A something, say something. It’s very on-brand. So clearly the seaweed sisters are a nurturing bunch and I think that that’s served us well. And I think that in times like these, a little nurturing could do everybody some good. So I would like to task you with the task of thinking of an artist or a group of artists whose work you adore and admire and then shout them out or call them up better yet blasts in any way, shape or form that you choose and let them know that they’re special. Let them know that their work is making your world a better place. That is what it’s all about after all making the best of this world that we’ve got. So get out there and do it. Get it out of there and keep it funky. Thanks for listening everybody. I’ll talk to you soon. 

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

Ep. #13 “Winning Even When You’re Down” with Tiler Peck

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #13 “Winning Even When You’re Down” with Tiler Peck
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Tiler Peck, principal ballerina with New York City Ballet talks training, streaming class on socials, and finding herself AND HER STRENGTH thanks to the most challenging time of her life.
This episode is all about flipping the question: “Why is this happening to me” into “How is this happening for me?” and THAT is a winning mindset.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Tiler Peck: https://www.instagram.com/tilerpeck/?hl=en

New York Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/13/arts/dance/tiler-peck.html

Words That Move Me Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/WTMMPodcast

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 than sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.  

Dana: Hey everybody, and welcome to the podcast. I am so excited that you’re here. I am very excited about this episode and I’m very excited to try something new for the beginning of every episode. Um, yeah, I think I’m gonna make a new habit. Tell me if you love it. Tell me if you hate it. I actually mean that. I want you to give me the feedback. So, uh, send me a message at words that move me podcast or we could do a little callback from episode seven and you can toe vote. Toe voting is a game nay an art form that my husband invented and I talked about in episode seven. I use this game when I’m going through the airport, but you can use it right now or all the time. Toe voting is, um, when you silently and invisibly vote in favor or against, um, someone’s choices or behavior out there in the world. It is silent. It is invisible. It is just for you. But, uh, the toe vote works like this. Your little toes and your shoes will respond either by jumping up and down and approval or frowning and digging themselves into the floor. That’s what a toe vote is. Um, we’re back. My new top of the cast habit is called wins. Now, I did not invent the concept of starting with wins. Actually, I became familiar with this concept. Thanks to my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff who teaches the professional artists workshop here in Los Angeles. Cannot say enough great things about Gary. But, um, it’s been awhile since I took an acting class. It’s been awhile since I did wins and I cannot think of a better time to, uh, remind ourselves of the things that are going well then this very moment. So here is how wins works. I’ll go ahead and start.  

All right. I’m actually busier than I have ever been, which is ironic because I’m a person whose work almost exclusively depends on large groups of people. Um, but I’m getting to do a lot of things that I’ve always wanted to do. Number one, train more. It seems like a lot of people are offering Instagram live or otherwise livestreams classes. I think it’s so much fun. It’s very cool. Um, another win, I actually added curtains to my dance space, um, which required a sewing machine and a power drill, which usually gives me the nervous fields. Um, but because I had to use it for like an hour, I got really solid. I’m much more confident with my power tool skills right now than I was, uh, a week or so ago. Um, let’s see, what else. Oh, also upgraded the Ram on my computer. Did that myself as well. Um, I also started a Patreon account for the podcast and it feel really, really good about this is the first time ever that I have opened up a membership option for any of my services.  And I think it’s very cool. It’s uh, a way for you to get even more value out of this exchange and it’s a way for you to help me by keeping the lights on the disco ball as it were. Uh, speaking of disco ball, I made one out of aluminum foil. It’s hanging in my dance space, so that’s also definitely a win. Um, okay. I think that’s great. That’s a really good start on wins for me. And now it is your turn to go. A win is just an answer to the question. What went well and I really am, I’m going to leave a gap here for you to fill in that blank on your Mark. Get set, go. 

Maybe I’ll play a little music for you so that it’s not as awkward.  

Okay, great. I’m not just saying that wins are important because we’re having a tough patch. Is that safe to say? We’re, this isn’t the a high point of civilization. We’re not at our pinnacle right now. This isn’t our best performance, I would say. But I’m also saying it’s not all destroyed. I’m saying the sun comes up and the sun sets and we wake up and we go to sleep and somewhere something went well. So let’s share it for ourselves at very least to ourselves. But even to someone else, I think it’d be a good practice to start a wins group. This is my wins group. Thank you for joining me. Speaking of winning, I see you daily doers out there and I honestly am so inspired. I am. I, it’s always a treat to see what you guys are daily doing. If you are new to the podcast, please circle back to episode one and have a listen as I pose a daily creative challenge to all of you out there. I think this is a perfect time for it. I think oftentimes great restraint breeds great choreography that too. Um, but great restraints can cause great creativity. So please keep it up. Um, keep tagging your videos with the hashtag doing daily. WT M M the doing is the important part. So it comes first hashtag #doingdailyWTMM go take a look at that hashtag as well. You’re going to find some super treats. Um, okay. Moving right along. I am thrilled about this episode. Um, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Tiler Peck, principal ballerina for New York city ballet and all of the things she had to say I find so applicable and so valuable in a time like this. She talks about injury, she talks about training, she talks about family, she talks about the most challenging time of her life and she talks about finding herself and her strength within it. So without any further ado, enjoy this conversation with Tiler Peck.  

Dana: Yes! Tiler, thank you so much for being here first and foremost today. It is a special time. It is a crazy time. Mmm. And it’s just very cool to see your face and hear your voice  

Tiler: Thanks for having me.  

Dana: Let’s start with having you introduce yourself. How do you like to introduce yourself?  

Tiler: All right. Now let me just say I’m Tyler Peck and I’m in principal ballerina with New York city ballet. 

And that is enough, my lady. Um, okay, cool. So you and I actually in years, years passed our timelines, our dance timelines overlapped when we were little NYCDA competition kid. Um, and I find something very interesting is very few of those Danclings pursue classical ballet and even fewer wind up in soloists roles and fewer still in principal roles. I think that speaks so much to your training but also to your talent and your drive. And I want to spend some time talking about that. So could you talk a little bit about your pre-professional training and uh, even before you and I met  maybe a little bit during that timeline and then before going to the company,  

Of course, I think that I am just as shocked that I became a ballerina’s probably like anybody else. I know Joe actually, Joe Lanteri always says like, I mean she can do ballet, but if you ever saw her do like jazz, then you would really see it. It’s the truth. I never thought I’d be a ballerina. I grew up first in my mom’s school in Bakersfield, California, and you know, her, her dance school, it has every style. So I grew up doing jazz. I was really bad at tap, so I can’t say that I ever really was good at that. But, um, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, gym, you know, everything. I did everything and I did take privates. She did have me take, um, ballet privates with this, um, Russian teacher who actually is from California. Her name is Alla i and I believe the last name is Khaniashvil or something like, and she was a former principal, the Bolshoi ballet and they were my least favorite classes. Not because she wasn’t a good teacher. It just took the most discipline. Like I think ballet, when you’re younger it’s really hard because it takes the most focus just because you don’t get to dance to feel good music, you know, like a song that you love or a word that you can like relate to. It’s like classical music is sometimes honestly a little boring and especially when you’re younger. So I’d always try to get out of my ballet classes. I tell him I’m, Oh, I think when they feel sick today, I don’t think I should do ballet.  And she’d be like, okay, well then if you’re sick for ballet, you’re also sick for jazz. And I would say, Oh, I think, I think I’m feeling better. I think I’m better now. So I’m glad that made me stick with it. Cause clearly I wouldn’t have made it as far in the ballet company. But, um, what took me to New York was getting the Music Man on Broadway and Mmm, that was just because, you know, in California, I, I did lots of commercials and like more commercial dance and theater. And so when my agency, um, sent me to New York to audition, my mom was like, we’re not going in New York. And I said, mom, let’s just go. And she goes, okay, we’ll just make it a fun trip. No pressure. You know? And I ended up getting it. And then she was like, you’re definitely not moving to New York. And I said, but mom, what if I never get this opportunity ever again, and you, you didn’t let me go. And she was like..

Ooooh! The guilt trip! 

I know. And I was only 11! Yeah. So that was kind of what made me go to New York. And then from there I started taking at the school of American ballet, which is the company that feeds into the New York city ballet. And that was the first time where I ever felt like, wow, ballet is actually really interesting. And I think it was the Balanchine like technique style that I really, really love because it is a little bit jazzier and you know, all of a sudden didn’t seem so boring. And I was like, I also didn’t feel like I was really good at it. Like I felt like I looked like a jazz dancer trying to do ballet and I was like determined to not be that one that they were like, Oh, she’s just from the jazz world. You know? I was like, no, I’m going to get this. Then it’d be a ballerina.   And I’ve always kind of been like that. Like, where if something isn’t easy, that’s like the route I go, I’m like, you know what, I’m going to do this and I’m going to be a ballerina. And that’s kind of what happened. 

I love this. It’s actually one of my questions later down the, the stream that it was going to ask it, has it always been ballet and will it always be ballet? So now I know it hasn’t always been, but do you see like what is future Tiler? Is she like a tango dancer or ballroom or is she strictly choreography? Do you, do you think about her a lot? 

I mean, I love ballroom actually. Like I don’t know it, but I Mmm. It was on a gig once. Then this ballroom dancer like took me on the dance floor just at the after party and I was like, this is literally the coolest thing ever. Like he made me feel like I’d been taking ballroom forever, but I don’t think that that’s going to be my route. Um, but no, I definitely want to always other things. I, I don’t think I want to do, um, ballet for a very long time. I thought this is when I should do this because it’s such a young career. So I got into the company at 15  and you know, I’ve already been in the company 16 years. I’m 31 and I’ve never really wanted to be someone like in my mid forties still in point shoes. I always kind of want to leave when I can still do everything in such a classical company. But then I would love to do like, you know, theater or choreograph or something like that and move back into  you know, not doing just classical ballet. Um, but I just felt like this was the time for me to do it. If I was going to do ballet, I was going to pursue ballet this was the time. 

Got it. But you do also pursue these other avenues even now, a little bit of acting, a little bit of choreographing. Um, do you want to talk about any of those?  

Yeah, I mean, I think because I did grow up in California and you know, I did do a lot of acting and stuff like the story ballets at New York city ballet the most for me just because you get to tell a story, we don’t use your voice. But, um, that’s why when Susan’s Stroman like talks to me about doing this new musical that’s coming out, um, to be the lead and that I’ve kind of been a part of for like 10 years. Um, it was kind of the perfect thing for me because it has ballet, it’s about a ballerina. I get to carry this show, so I’m have to. Mmm. Basically I’m on stage for two and a half hours singing, acting and dancing. So it’s like, it was like such a challenge for me and I was like, I haven’t used my voice and like 10 years, but let’s try it, you know? Yeah. And also when I just got through this injury, I use that as a lot of time to do other things like choreograph and you know, do a few acting. Mmm. Acting jobs on TV shows and things. So it was a good time to make my mind. It was like a forced time to, to do everything you love because I had the time and I love it. Mmm. With my New York city ballet crazy schedule.  

Cool. That is a, I think an excellent segue. I couldn’t have written that myself. I’m talk about being forced into certain things or away from certain things. Um, I would love to talk to you more about  the type of training that you’re used to and how different your life is now that we are in, um, I’m going to use the word lockdown. It’s not technically a lock down, at least here in California. We’re both in California right now. So I guess what I’m asking is what is the importance of training to you? And if you could actually be interesting to hear a day in the life of principal ballerina, how much of that is training, how much of that is performing and what are you doing right now when we don’t have that, or our traditional flow. 

Yeah. So every day we work every day, but Monday just kind of like Broadway schedules. Um, but we’re training all day. It’s not like a Broadway show where one gets up, You’re just performing at night. Mmm. We start class at 10 30. They have class every day for an hour when we’re in season and then they can rehearse us from 11:30 to 6:00 and then they show at 8:00. We do that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday we had two shows on Saturday. And then on Sunday we have class at 10:30 they can rehearse us It’s for like three hours and then the matinee. So it’s crazy. Yeah. By the time you get to the show, a lot of times you say to yourself, I’m so tired. I literally don’t know what’s going to happen right now. Sometimes that’s when you do your best performances because you don’t have the nerve because you just don’t have the energy for them and you just, you know, so grounded. But yeah, so I’m used to dancing all day long and um, right now in order to, to keep that up, I’ve been taking class every day. You know, my mom has a dance studio, so it’d be really easy for me just to go down there.  But Mmm. You know, I’ve been listening also to what they’re saying, like stay at home and she shut her studio. And so I’ve just been doing classes in my mom’s kitchen and using her kitchen countertop as my bar. And I just thought, you know, I’m going to do this every single day for myself because I have to keep my training up. So I thought, why don’t I open it up and let people take with me on Instagram live. And I did it the first day and I was like, you know, let’s just see if anybody liked it. Then it seems like a really big thing and everybody’s really looking forward to it, I think during the day. So I thought, you know, if I’m going to keep up my training, I might as well let everybody do it with me because I’m sure so many people are missing being in their dance studios.  And it’s hard to get motivated when you’re just doing it by yourself. I mean I just came off of a huge injury where I was off for six months and I couldn’t do anything. And then it took me, you know, like another probably three months to get back and I had to do class every single day and I did it with a teacher because I needed somebody to be motivating me. And so that’s what I thought is like if I do these live classes, at least somebody can. I can be, you know, I could be leading the class and trying to motivate these people to keep moving so they’re not having to do it by themselves. Cause that’s hard.  

It is. It’s so hard. Yeah,  

It’s keeping me accountable too. I feel like because if I were doing it myself maybe it would skip combinations or do it at different times or, and this is like, no, it’s an hour every single day or Monday through Saturdays. 

People show up  for class.  

Yes, people show up. So  

I took, I’ve taken a couple, um, I was there, I think I was there on day one. I’m not sure if I was there.  

You were there day one! 

I was a day one or I have not been in everyday or a more a more often dayer or I think finding some sort of normalcy in a day is valuable. Um, but I love the normalcy. I love the sharing and I love the accountability. All of these things to me are what the internet has always been good at. Sharing information, finding solutions to urgent problems and connecting and we’re really, we’re using it for that.  

Yeah, it’s true.  

Dana: Okay. Tiler and I talked about the silver linings of this Corona virus crisis situation for quite a while, but I wanted to take a second and pop out to reflect on her training regimen and man! Hearing about the day that Tiler goes through. Made me want to up my training regimen. That is for sure and actually reminded me of episode 9 when I spoke with Jason Bonner who says if your show is two hours long then you’re training for three or in Tiler’s case if your show is two hours long, you’re training for the remaining eight hours. Hearing about this honestly made me want to up my game and it reminded me of a saying, you will not rise to the occasion. You will fall to your level of training, so train up everybody train up, now is a perfect time. 

We’re going to jump back and talk a little bit more about training with Tiler, but we’re also going to talk about the injury that put her through the most challenging time of her life. Tiler wasn’t just unable to dance or train. She was unable to execute normal daily tasks like turning her head or lifting her arm for five months.  To get even more backstory about that injury and her road to recovery. I strongly recommend you read the New York times article called Am I more than just a dancer? I will link to it on the website, theDanaWilson.com/podcast under this episode, which is episode 13 but I’m also just Google the New York times and Tiler Peck and you will probably find it. Am I more than just a Dancer? Fabulous read. Okay, let’s jump back in. 

Dana: Okay, so if you went five months, we can definitely do several weeks. My question for you is this, how does one go from five months of not even doing normal range of human motion stuff? To Sugarplum. Was that your first performance back?  

Tiler: Yeah, it was sugarplum because I did everything with every other part of my body that I could work out, so like I couldn’t ride a bicycle because they’ve thought that was too much. 

Dana: This was a neck injury right? 

Yeah, a herniated disc in my C-5-6 which is the neck and mine was so severe that it was touching my spinal cord and we all know that like that’s not good. So I had to wait and I was told I would like never dance or could be paralyzed if I was walking and got slightly pushed. I mean I went through a roundabout. Mmm, very scary time. But I had this one physical therapist who just, I like literally trust my life, who’s the New York city ballet doc therapist. And she just kept saying, I don’t know, I just don’t feel like you need the surgery like they’re saying. And we just kept searching and searching. But she, I met with her every single day and we just did like cranial sacral work and I met with an energy healer. And so we were healing my body kind of from like the inside out, you know, she made me wear my point shoes around the house every single day so that my toes and my feet would be strong. And then we actually started, she made me keep my bottom half working. You know, I’d do relevés me and my point shoes, I do a little moving. I just wouldn’t move my arm or my neck. So yeah. So she was really smart with the way that she brought me back and I really don’t know what I would’ve done without her. And um, Rob, who’s the energy healer. But yeah, it was all about finding what, how I could stay in shape without doing anything to hurt my neck so that it could heal.  

Right. The healing is so, so, so important. Um, what did you learn about yourself during that period while you were know..

Yeah. I mean the energy healer is an hour and a half session that I did every single Wednesday and 45 minutes of that hour is just talking. And so you start to learn a lot about yourself, about where your stresses are in life, where you want to get better. You know, your, your weaknesses, your tendencies and it’s kind of like you begin to heal yourself. Is what he’s there for, to kind of help you heal yourself. And I learned so much about myself. I learned, you know, that I’ve always wanted, I’ve always, and like a very empathetic person where I, I really not a people pleaser, but I really don’t like when anybody’s upset at me or I really feel when somebody’s going through something and kind of what I learned with this is that I had to sort of,  not distance myself but still have those feelings, but realize how much of that I was going to allow to be my energy of the day. You know? Like I could still have those feelings, but at the end of the day I needed to be able to stand up for what I believed in. Somebody you know, um, didn’t like something or got their feelings hurt like I’ve learned now that like I just now tell them like honestly, like, I’m really sorry if that happened that’s so not what I thought this is, you know? And it makes me feel so much better because I’m being true to myself. And also I feel like when you do tell the truth and get it forward, the problem just goes away that much faster. So I think, I think in this whole thing, I just kind of learned how to be a little bit more Mmm. Like real with myself and my own feelings. And I think that in the end that kind of like also helped the healing.  

Oh, okay. Would you say that that might’ve been like the brighter light at the end of the tunnel? Like you maybe went into this injury being injured in another area and then this injury somehow wound up healing both. 

Of course. Actually the first day he always reminds me that when I went in I said, you know, I had a back injury. You know, my body has been pretty good to me for as long as I’ve been dancing. And the only other injury I had was a back thing when I was 18 and I felt like from that injury, what I said in our first meeting was I came back such like more of an artist, like I was more mature, I was able to be more vulnerable. And I said, you know, I’m wondering what this one is going to bring, you know? And Mmm. The other day I said to him, I was like, I really just feel like I’m a different person. Like a better version of myself and I’m able to say what I feel a little bit more and not keep it so bottled up and I just feel like I’m more open and I was always warm, but I feel like I’m able to receive things a little bit easier now.  

Oh, I love this phrase. What will this bring to me? Like even an injury, I think, you know, I, I struggle with patellar tendonitis in my knees and when I have that pain or when I’m going through, even when I’m training, like when I’m doing PT, my thoughts are like, ah, I don’t have good knees. I don’t ha, I’m like, I’m without good knees. Instead of thinking, what will this like, how is this actually an active  experience instead of how is this taking away from something that I think should be fine and working perfectly with what we do? Are you kidding? Of course knees will be wonky and backs will be out in all the things like, Oh man, what we do is unnatural. So it makes sense that we experience unnatural pain at times. And I really love that thought. What, what will this bring me? And I love what it brought you, this sense of self, um,  and this idea that you can still be  empathetic and a person that’s warm and a person that cares without carrying all of that. 

Yeah. And I think I also just um, yeah, I kept worrying like, Oh my gosh, when I come back everybody is going like be judging me and what am I not going to move my neck the same way? And I finally came the conclusion. I was like, I am a different dancer. It’s okay. I’m going to be a different ballerina. But like that doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong kind. Like I’m going to be a different, Tiler and I might have to do you think a little bit differently and be a little bit smarter when it comes to the way I move my neck. But I’m going to enjoy it and love it that much more for being out there again, when they told me I would never be, and at the same time like maybe it’s going to bring a different and better quality to my dancing.  

And do you think it has?  

I do think it has even, it’s funny. It’s like I did full length Swan Lake. I mean literally they told me and I was never going to dance and then we just had this season and I did full length Swan Lake and like I got there and I said, I’m on. I was like, I didn’t just get through it like I was DANCING, I did it, I was moving. But yeah, you know, I did. I did. There were things I couldn’t do. Like I can’t jump every day because it’s bad for the my neck still. So I would really waited to do it till the show to do all of my jumps. That was the first time I did everything and I got through it. But you know, there are things now that I just have to deal with and it’s okay, you know? But yeah, I do think it is. And sometimes I think, Oh, might not look that good. And then I watch a video and I’m like, Oh, I’m moving my body. I’m moving my neck. Not so bad.  

Yes. I love that. We can’t go back. Like you won’t be the Tiler that was Tiler before you hurt your neck or your back, but you might be better. So keep going. You must go through that like cause it, it could truly be better on the other side.  

Yeah. I just kept getting stuck and then I was like, why am I so concerned about that? Like I’m just going to be the different Tiler and I’m going to be happy in that.

Oh, that’s so great. I am definitely happy when I watch this Tiler previous Tiler also was, but watching you dance, especially lately, even just watching you teaching your class, there is a sense of Mmm. Freedom and joy that I’m just like, even in a routine task, like a, uh, you know, rond de jambs we’re just doing the rond de jambs. We’re checking to make sure that all of the all of the things and all the gears and all the nuts and all the bolts are working. But it looks somehow liberating freeing and fun. And it’s incredible to watch. It’s been very fun taking class with you. I would have never for the record, um, walked into a studio in New York and taking class with you. Cause it’s all the things that we hold in our heads, but like who does the thing so, so, so good. Um, and then to put yourself in the room next to them, it can be very, uh, intense.  So there is a lot of, from the comfort of your own home happening right now. And I hope that a lot of people will progress and find, Mmm. A foothold into a world that maybe they might have otherwise been too afraid to step into. Mmm. Yeah. I, I don’t mean to say that I’m afraid of ballet. Um, it’s certainly not been my favorite style. I remember being competition kid crying, actually hot tears down my face during Adagio and I probably still would if I really got into a tough one. 

Isn’t it funny! Adagio has always been my favorite and I, and I think it’s the thing, kind of the worst at. 

No, that makes sense actually to your lean in personality. Like I didn’t just want to become an okay ballerina. That was okay. Taking class with ballerinas. No, I’m going to be the principal ballerina from injuries dancing, full swan lakes.

You know, it’s been so great with these classes. It’s like, I think because it’s like at a certain time every day, you know, that people really build in their lives. I wouldn’t get to teach half of these people, if I were going around studios or something, I would never reach the people that I’m able to. Yeah. I think yesterday like, or 15,000 people were taking class.  

Its amazing! Yeah. Any knowledge that I have passed it on to them and the one hour a day at 10, you know, Pacific standard time or whatever. That’s so exciting. 

Right. There’s not, uh, uh, uh, a classroom big enough to have that ballet class. The only a place that we could do that is on the internet is incredible. I’m so glad that we’re using it for the for good. Um, but that does beg the question. Um, is there a downside of this social media training stuff? 

I do think and what I’ve noticed, cause I’m asking people to like hashtag turnout Tyler’s that I can see, see the videos because I don’t like the one thing I don’t like is not being able to see the people that I’m teaching, because, and it was really good for me because now they’re all sending the video, then I’ll like send them back corrections. But I also seen, um, the variety of people taking the class. So then I realized three days into like, I need to be making a beginner combination and an advanced one for every single um, combination because I don’t want the little ones that aren’t up to the advanced level to be trying to do something that their bodies are not ready for. You know? And so that’s, that’s the one thing if you were like super hands on, right? Yeah. What the, what your students are ready or not ready for throwing a class out that you would want to take and it might not be a great thing for everybody.  Yeah. That’s, yeah. So that’s why I’m like, make sure and send your videos. And then like today, a little girl sent it and I was like, that’s not a high enough passe. And then she’s in another video or photo back then I was like, that’s right. You know, because I do think it’s important that they’re not just taking these classes and doing their technique wrong, you know, so, so that’s the one downside I think. 

Cool. I appreciate that. I love that. Um, okay. Speaking of downsides, um, what do you consider to be downtime? Like is this downtime, are you working? What’s your attitude about downtime? Do you have it between acting, choreographing, a clothing line, being a ballerina? Like does that exist for you or what’s your, what’s your, what are your thoughts around downtime? 

Okay. Anybody who knows me really well would probably laugh because they’re like, you don’t know how to have downtime, but I will tell you, I do love sitting in front of the TV and watching movies. And last night my family, we all watch together, dirty dancing, all six feet apart and it was just something I grew up watching and it was so amazing and my dad got so excited. My dad was like,  I think we should all pick our favorite movie. He was like, cool, I want on the phone and he went into the other room and he brought back like ghost, sister act and something else. I was like, dad, yes. I could just tell. This is the first time I’ve been dancing I guess professionally since I was like six. I think that’s when I had my first commercial and honestly I’ve been home now I think for eight days and it’s the first time I’ve ever been with my family. Like today, we went on our first walk together and I said, as we were walking, I was like, I’m pretty sure this is the first walk we’ve ever taken as a family. And they were like, for sure, because when I was younger, my grandmother drove me three hours to take class at Studio C with Dee and Tina and Dennis Casberry three hours there and hours back from age. Um, I think like seven to 11. So this is the most family time I’ve ever had. And so that is what I’m really enjoying and I’m trying to be like, okay, I need to get off the phone now and really just enjoy this time that I have because when would I be able to be here that much? 

Right. This might be the other slight downside to the social streaming class thing is that if you have that many students in class and you’re encouraging the discourse right, the back and forth, which I do. Yeah, I think that’s very smart. Um, you could spend 24 hours a day giving feedback to all of those people in class and you wind up literally stuck to this thing. 

Yeah. I’m like, how am I busier now than normal? And it’s classes and interviews. Yeah, you know, but I said, I know the weekends, like I’m definitely not going to be on the phone and I really, really want to really just enjoy my time with my family at night. Okay, fine. I’ll let you go.  

Um, okay. Yes, and I so agree. I think this is a very valuable time, not just for self-work, but for those of us that are uh, lucky enough to be in it with the family, with the people actually like hands on in person stuff. Dad said to me, can we play monopoly? And I was like, you said yes three times in a row. Dad, um, 

Ps has great taste in movies, dad, I really love that. I think this will be the birth of great new rituals and well, we’ll remember things about this time that are truly special. I’m so glad about that. Definitely. All right. Well I do want you to get back to family time. Thank you so much for sharing this time with me. I learned a lot and smiled constantly.  

Oh, I’ll see you. Hopefully soon. Not sure how summer in summer intensives are gonna work out. Um, we might have a long, Mmm. A long haul ahead of us, but perhaps a reschedule or a same schedule for your event this summer. Do you want to talk about it a little bit? 

It’s my first summer course and basically I just had this idea because I love teaching. Obviously you can tell, but I, especially if for ballet I feel like the ballerinas don’t always get a range of movement. And I think that is what it really helped me be a different kind of a ballerina. And so I kind of wanted to be how I was brought up and I wanted these dancers to get that type of training. I want them to have hip hop or funk or whatevr you want to call it. And I want him to be able have jazz. And what’s funny is like, honestly, the teachers that are teaching this intercourse are either people I grew up dancing with like you or the teachers that taught me. So I’m like, it really is like, um, like Marguerite and Alex and people. I used to take classes from that I love and Mmm. So hopefully it will, all of this will pass and if not, we’ll figure out something. I don’t know. Maybe it will do zoom classes or something, but  

Hey, we will get creative. That is what this time calls for lots of creativity.  All right, Tiler thank you so much again. I will talk to you very soon.  

Okay, bye.  

Dana: Oh right. Talk about a myth. Oh, a meaning wind set. Talk about a meaning wind set. Everybody talk about a winning mindset rather. Jeez. Winning on winning, on winning. I really love the way that Tiler thinks about emerging different, not wrong or not worse from her injury. It honestly reminds me of episode eight and talking about doing it bright instead of doing it right. Finding the value in doing it your way and that whatever your way is is the best way for you to do it. I especially love how Tiler reframed her thoughts around the injury from being the victim to being the beneficiary. She literally went from thinking, why is this happening to me? Or why is this happening at all to how is this happening for me? What could this bring to me? And that’s something I think we could all use a little practice working on right now.  So let’s get to work. Grab a pen, grab a piece of paper and think of a topic, a circumstance. Maybe it’s the Corona virus, maybe it’s lock-down, maybe it’s training at home. Now dump all of your thoughts about that topic onto the page. But first split the page, hot dog style. On the left, we’re going to keep all of our negative, dark, nasty, big, ugly thoughts. We’ll call it big ugly column. And then on the right we’ll put all the positive captain brightside, we’ll call it the bright and beauty column. Now for every negative thought, I want you to write two positive ones. Since our brains are wired to care about disease and danger to keep us alive, this might be challenging. So I’ll help you by giving a couple examples. 

Big, ugly thought. People are dying. This is true. Bright beauty thought. People are coming together. People are caring for each other. People are fighting to keep each other alive.  

Let’s take another big ugly thought. Um, I could get sick. I could die. Bright beauty thought, let’s go with the obvious one. You could also not get sick. You could live to be a hundred. It’s a possibility. Uh, let’s do one more big, ugly thought. Um, I’m going to lose my job and run out of money. Bright beauty thought I cannot lose my talent and I will not lose my training. Prepared with those things and my bright mind, I can make more money. Notice I’m not encouraging you to delete or resist big uglies. They are worthy of your attention and they are valid, especially right now. I guess I’m simply encouraging you to spend equal air time on the bright beauties, the winning thoughts, if you will. I will leave you with that for today, and also I will leave you with my new tagline. Stay safe, stay soapy and stay funky. 

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

Ep. #9 3 Words That Changed My (Dance) Life with Jason Bonner

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #9 3 Words That Changed My (Dance) Life with Jason Bonner
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Episode 9 will leave you feeling fine. Personal trainer to the stars, Jason Bonner is on the podcast to talk motivation and excellence.  These words will help you take your work to the next level whether you’re in the gym, in the studio, on screen, or on stage.  Warning, you may leave this episode feeling very VERY motivated to make things happen.

Show Notes:

Enter our instagram contest!

https://instagram.com/wordsthatmovemepodcast?igshid=ctagczvve4kf

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. 

Dana:  Hello, hello friends. Welcome to the podcast. We’ll come back if you’re a recurring listener and welcome, welcome for the first time. If this is your first time listening, I’m stoked to be talking to you today. I’m very excited about this episode, but before I get into that I want to talk about something else that I am very excited about and that is the Instagram contest that we are having right now. We definitely are wanting to spread the words that move me and make sure as many people find the podcast as possible. So to do that we’re having an Instagram contest and I would like for you to take a look at all the details @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram. It’s in our story. It has a special little album there. I think I’m using the right words all of a sudden I am not the master of Instagram anymore. I’m learning and I’m right there with some of you as I learn. Anyways, I’m very excited about the contest in order to see all the terms and the ways that you can win and also the things that you might win. Make sure you follow us on Instagram. That’s going to be the best way.. Well it’s the only way to be a part of the contest. Um, and it’s the best way to make sure that you are playing by the rules. Although occasionally I do recommend breaking them. Okay. So in addition to the contest, I also want to clear up a few things. Cause the other day I ran into a human being, an actual human in the flesh and she was like, Oh my gosh, I’m doing the daily challenge and I absolutely love it. I was like, that’s great. What’s your handle? And she told me her name, she told me her handle and I didn’t recognize it. I was like, I don’t think I’ve seen your project out there. And then through a little bit more digging, we discovered that she had been hashtagging “daily doing” instead of hashtagging “doing daily” And honestly you guys, I think I’ve probably said it both ways from the start of the podcast until now and this is something that is definitely worth a little clarification and carving out a special place for this. I want to see your daily projects.  

So I have decided to create a special hashtag, a bucket that we can put all of those beautiful things and that is #doingdailyWTMM as in words that move me. So if you are a daily doer, which is confusing cause I do say that a lot. If you’re a daily doer then you are hashtag doing daily. Yes. It feels really good to have that cleared up. Excellent. If you have no idea what I’m talking about right now, that is probably because you haven’t listened to episode one or episode two where I pose the challenge to all of my listeners to take on a daily creative act every single day. For some amount of time, preferably an amount that’s slightly longer than what you feel comfortable taking on. I promised myself I would make a video every single day for 365 days and I did it plus some. It changed my life. And I know that a project like this can change yours. So jump on over to episode one and two after listening to this episode and happy making, I’m so excited for you and for the ways that this can change your life. Hats off to all of my daily doers. Keep the hashtag doing daily. This is how I remember it by the way, hashtag doing because the doing is the important part. #doingdailyWTMM now let’s get into it. 

I’m stoked about today’s episode because I got a chance to catch up with one of my favorite people, Jason Bonner. Jason and I met when I was a dancer on tour with Justin Timberlake in 2007. So this was the, um, future sex love show tour. I was 20 years old. I turned 21 while we were on the road. Um, so I’m this tiny young danceling and this man who at the time was Justin’s personal trainer became my trainer as well and a very, very dear friend.  He’s one of the relationships that I made on that tour that has stood the test of time and is still um, a great friend and inspiration to me up until today. So I got to catch up with Jason and I have to be totally honest with you. We talked for over two hours and a lot of that talking is actually just cackling like words and sounds that you would need subtitles to understand. So I did edit this episode down into some really good digestible chunks of information and inspiration and I really hope that you dig it. Okay. Before we get into the words with Jason, I want to explain the being that is Jason, I want you to imagine a life scale GI Joe, like actual man sized GI Joe and then turn that up to X. Like, he probably isn’t, but it feels like Jason is eight feet tall and his like the circumference of his bicep is probably the circumference of my thigh at its widest.  You will probably hear in this interview him slamming his hands on the table and the microphone responds to that a little bit. So I do apologize. This is my first phone interview ever and I’m still learning a lot about that technology. So bear with me on the learning curve. Also, did I mention I am coming to today from my hotel, actually my hotel closet in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is where I am working right now. So I apologize if the sound is different or if there’s an occasional passer-by in the hallway, a door slam, a weird pipe sound. My pipes are making weird gargly sounds. I can’t explain it, but I think we’re safe. I don’t see any water anywhere, so I think we’re safe. Anyways, all sound aside. I’m very, very excited to share this conversation with Jason Bonner. So let’s dig in.  

Dana: Jason Bonner! I am so excited about this call. Really, truly, utterly. I can’t even handle it. Um. All right, so, the podcast, because it’s young and I want to tell you a little bit about the podcast and our listeners. Its primarily about creative careers and making art in entertainment. So some of my guests might be confused as to why I am speaking to personal trainer to the stars and I would tell them that is because you are much, much more than a personal trainer to the stars. So number one, please introduce yourself, all of your interests and all of the many different hats that you wear. 

Jason: How are you doing Dana?  My name is Jason Bonner, whether it’s training, whether it’s life coaching, whatever it is that I’m doing, I really love helping people. And through my friends in industry, the people that know me, they call me like the Jack of all trades because I really can do whatevers thrown at me. So I do everything from training to styling to image to branding for an artist, this is actually what I do. I kind of wear many different hats. I’ve done everything from A&R record to written on records before, as a writer. In it past eight months or so. I’ve uh, I started a management company. I have a two artists that I manage and a songwriter. And I wrote a film, with one of my best friends. About something that happened in my life, true story. It’s a comedy. So we’re in the process of getting that done now, so excited about it. The movie is basically like a mixture of Friday and Ferris Buller’s Day off. That’s the best way I can describe it. 

Dana: I want to live at the center circle of that Venn diagram that is exquisite.

Jason: I am, I’m beyond excited about it because it was something I didn’t really think about getting into. Oh. So it just happened. Mmm. The working out  on is really the easiest part of it. That’s like the easiest thing to do. Um, I work with, uh, Josh Groban, the a Joe Jonas, Frank Ocean, hit boy, Bruno Mars producer Rob Knox. This new kid. Aaron Wright, he’s amazing You hear about him soon? I worked in Luke James. Mmm.  Another producer named Monsour Producer Harvey Mason Jr before? I’m actually working with Chris Stapleton right now. Amazing guy. Flat out. Amazing. Mmm. I take it very seriously because I was on my way to be a pro athlete. Before, I got hurt. So I’m very competitive when it comes to what I do when I work with somebody in that capacity. Whether it’s training, whether its, branding whether it’s you know, conditioning for shows or whatever we’re doing. I’m really serious about it. And part of it is, you know, when you’re working with artists and people you’re close to, you kind of have to read them and understand the mannerisms. So part of why it worked so well with the people that I work with is because I studied their habits, I studied everything about them. So like, like for example, um, I’ve been working with Justin Timberlake since, the year 2000 so I pretty much know like the back of my hand. Like I can walk into a room and tell him, “you need something to eat or you need to go to sleep? Mmm. Anything. Literally anything.” 

It’s true. Jason is a great study of subtlety and human behavior in general and I think he gets a lot of that intel from movement specifically like posture, someone’s walk , their body language, their performance at the gym or their performance on stage. He could almost always tell if something was off, like if something wasn’t quite right and some of the time he could tell exactly what it was, whether it was not enough rest or too much rest occasionally or homesickness, relationship drama, family drama and by family drama I of course mean tour, family drama because when you eat, sleep, breathe, work and play together, that’s exactly what you become. You are family. So Jason’s eye for detail and like Olympic level people watching skills are what taught me that you don’t need to perform all the time. In fact, being a good audience member, being watchful that can help you do your job even better than all of the, all of the uh, exporting, right. Do a little importing. Just sit and watch. When I was on the road and training with Jason, his type of watchful felt a little bit like, um, like a law enforcement officer or like the way that a teacher watches over their classroom taking a test and they’re like looking to see if somebody is cheating or passing notes or something or a little bit like a referee watching a game like very, very closely. But I really think there’s more compassion to Jason’s style of watching. And actually one of my favorite things about becoming a people watcher thanks to him is that it helps me feel more compassionate towards others. And I like that. Okay. So now we’re going to talk a little bit more about my first tour and Jason’s style of quote, compassion, which is a special brand of no BS. Tough love.  

Okay. So I want to really quickly go back to the year that we met, which was, um, I believe it was 2007. The future sex love show tour. And I was a dancer and I assisted the creative director and choreographer, Marty Kudelka on that tour. I was 20 years old and I was green. And I remember meeting you and you, you make quite an oppression, quite an impression on a young lady, um, because you are so certainly who you are. And I remember at that time, I’m still figuring out who I am and I, um, I had these ideas about what a personal trainer to the stars was and you certainly look like that. Like you look like that guy. But I remember being very taken aback by how generous you are in giving your attention, your time, your talent. And I was very interested in getting healthier, getting more fit.  And I remember you, I remember thinking that a personal trainer was a certain thing and that I would have a whistle in my ear at 6:30 in the morning and you’d be a drill sergeant and you’d be like, banging down my door, get me to the gym. And you really weren’t that. So I would like to hear a little bit about how you encourage people into their own greatness without being a drill Sergeant and a heavy hand, even though you look tough. Mmm. And it was your voice in my head when I was like, no, get to the gym, get to the gym. But you only showed up for me when I showed up for myself. And I would love to hear more about why it is that you, why you operate that way. 

Hey Listen! This is the only thing in life. Only thing in life, no matter how much money you have, no matter how much you think you have,  that nobody else can do for you, right? You have to do it yourself. Like there’s, there’s no way around it you have to do this for yourself? So it’s one of those things where it’s like, listen, I could yell at you, I can scream at you, I could get mad at you, whatever did you face, whatever. It’s not going to matter if in your head you don’t want to do it. So I don’t care who you are. I can look somebody in the face and tell them you’re not serious. And there’ll be like, why is it because I know people, okay, who have that look that they want to change their lives. You don’t want to change your life? I say, so don’t ask me again or waste my time. Ask me something that you’re not serious about. So for me it’s like I don’t have the patience to deal with, with BS. So it’s just like you don’t take yourself serious. So why should I? Again, because I was a, you know, I was working on trying to be a professional basketball player. My drive for myself was very high. Right. So I learned how to channel into me, erm, at an early age, so when everybody else would be partying or people would be asleep in the dorm, I was up at five in the morning running stairs, you know, getting ready for the season. Mmm. In college, the basketball season. So I kind of took, well not even taken, I, I’m actually wired to, to be self motivated. So if I see that somebody has something in them, I feel like if I have the tools to help them get to that space, have the obligation to give you, if I genuinely care about you as a friend or as a family member, I’m going to give you this information so you can be great.  Um, so saying all that to say, so like when I got called to work with Justin for the first time before I met you, I meet with them in the first thing I say to them, this is a true story. The first thing I say to him, I said listen, before we start this meeting, let me tell you who I am. I don’t care about being seen next to you on TV, film, magazines, tabloids, anything. The only thing I care about is if you take this serious. I say, because I am very competitive and if my name was attached to you, I’m going to make sure I pull whatever’s out of you. I’m going to pull it out of you to be great. I said because of what I think thats inside of you. You have the opportunity and hear me when I say this, the opportunity to be one of the best people in music history. If you take this serious, I said, you have to come to a world where you make it. You have to make a guy like me, like you. And he’s only there because he has to bring his girl that he come see you and he’s mad. That he’s there to watch you, So I say, so whenever we do in the gym, we’re at rehearsal, dance rehearsal. If it takes you a hundred times a thousand times to get a dance step, right? You want to do it a thousand times still you get it right. Thats it. Because you don’t have the luxury to mess it up and that’s it. And , I said, so when you see that guy, he’s looking at you like this <inaudible> you have to get that guy to move. And I told him, I said, you can get that guy to move. You get the world to move. You hear me when I say that? If you get that guy to move, you can get the world to move 

Um, did you write that down? Literally one of my all time favorite ways to lock in an incredible performance is to lock in on one person. The one person that’s not feeling. It’s a game. Of course, I don’t know actual voodoo or like mind trickery, but after hundreds and hundreds of shows, I became able to get at least a smile and a step touch out of even the most unenthusiastic concert goer or chaperones as I like to call them. They’re the ones giving off the, Oh no, no, no, no, no. Um, I’m not here for you. I’m here for my girlfriend or my daughter or my wife or whoever. Okay. Don’t get me wrong though. There is something very, very moving about a room full of screaming fans, but if you can make the not a fan move, Oh my gosh, it feels like winning the lottery. It is incredible. Although I have never actually won the lottery, so maybe that’s not the right analogy. Also, I’ve never actually bought a ticket. I’m getting off topic. Okay, we’re back. Okay. Let’s get back into working out with Jason and the three words that changed my dance life forever.  

I remember a lot of our workouts. I remember your pushup routine that I still do occasionally. I remember you bench pressing me as your weights. I remember, um, frog jumps. Is that what we call it? I don’t remember. I got so ridiculously sore that I couldn’t dance and I had to like dial it back. But this one moment it was not workout related. This one particular show during the 20/20 experience, um, I was, I think I was under the weather. I was either like physically sick or maybe homesick. I don’t, I don’t remember exactly what I was going through. But I came to you as I often did and I was like, yo, Jay help me get through this show. Like what is going to get me through the show tonight? I don’t, I don’t, I need fuel, I need juice. And you said “You only have three things that you need to worry about in this show. Three that is all, hips, lips and fingertips. And it sounds silly, but within that confined I found tremendous freedom. So by cutting my mind off from the things that were distracting me and focusing it on just three things. I was able to go so deep on hips, lips, and fingertips, and it was just so liberating. I think I delivered one of the best shows of my life that night. Um, what other wisdom might you have for people that are feeling less than.And that can help us focus into being more than. 

Well, my motto is I’ve been saying that since I was a kid. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. Because you have to be prepared for whatever’s thrown at you in this entertainment business at all times. You know, you’re gonna have random sleep. You know, you’re gonna have random food. You know, you don’t know if the hotel beds going to be comfortable, well, you don’t know. Did she just prepare for anything? If your show was two hours long, then we’re training for three hours? The main thing is to get your mindset ready for anything. This is always my answer is always do you have to program your mind to already be ahead of whats about to happen to prepare yourself for anything. If you’re the sports team and the star players coasting everybody on the team is not going to give that kind of effort. You have to give the effort to set the example.

I think that’s an important note because not only for the leader or the the front man of the group, but for everybody in the group because you’re leading somebody, whether you know it or not, someone is looking to you for the tone, for the vibe, for the energy. It might be a fellow dancer on stage or it might be somebody in the audience. I think setting a bar, setting a high bar is so important. It’s why people are drawn to you. It’s why I was drawn to you. It’s why we’re still friends and I just, I can’t thank you enough for being so excellent.  

So being somebody that’s so, uh, face to face with popular culture all the time, do you have any recommendations for how to drown out the noise in terms of what people should be and how to reinforce all the lovely things that we are 

The biggest thing I would tell people is to understand your inner voice. And what I mean by that is the only person that knows what’s really going on in your head is you. And if you understand the field, or the business that you want to get into. Meaning, something tangible that can work in this space and you know your work and you really understand what it is then don’t listen to anybody but yourself. Your intuition is never ever wrong. It’s something that we are born with, that we have inside of us that connects us to everything that’s happening around us.  And if you really understand it and you really listen to it, you understand how much you’re in tune with the world and other people. But you have to be open to receive it. If you’re not open to receive it, then you’ll miss it. Listen to yourself. No. Then if you put a really, if you put your mind to something, you can do it with no problem. You just have to understand that it’s not going to be, nothing is a cake walk. There are very few people that are like  gifted to do certain things. It just give a born to do that thing and there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s just, there were born to do that thing. They were built for that thing. Body’s constructed for that thing. Their mindset, their feet, their hands, everything about it was built or that thing.  Most of the people have to work towards that thing. Even though you understand that you might have to work towards it. But some people are just gifted to do that thing. You know, it’s like by Kobe Bryant, his passing, he was built to play basketball. Everything about his body was built for that sport. It wasn’t built to play football. He was good for the sport of basketball. Michael Jordan, the same way. Certain people are just built for that sport. No. Um, and then you have an exception to the rule. Mmm. Like 

There’s always an exception

Ryan Williams who’s know, six, seven, six, eight 285 pounds. He looks like a defensive lineman and he jumps like he’s 160 pounds. It doesn’t make sense. So you have those anomalies every once in a while. But again, that’s just a gift that they’re born with. But most people, again, I understand it’s something you really have to study it.  If you want to, you know, learn how to be a great dancer, then you study with other great dancers. If you want to be a great artist, study with great artists, you have to be around people who are great, In order to observe, greatness, unless you’re just a freak of nature and you just born with that gift of whatever that thing is that you’re doing know. So like when my, my godson, who’s an artist, right? The only person who’s want to teach them showmanship is you like, you’re on what you’re already on. Are you already on my list of people who are going to be part of his team? Because because of what you are, he needs what you are. He needs you to teach him. That’d be a certain way on stage because he doesn’t know. Mm. Yeah. He can move. He has natural talent. He can dance, but he needs YOU.. 

Yeah, I am flattered and you know exactly where to find me.  

It is really, really cool to see how far time, talent and connections can take someone because over the years that I’ve known you, you’ve been so many different things to so many different people. I cannot wait to meet music producer Jason. I cannot wait to watch the movie that you wrote and produced and or directed. I cannot wait for the world to see these things. I’m just so happy to put you in touch with a part of my world. Introduce them to you because you’ve really helped mold me into what I am today. Thank you so much for doing this. 

You don’t have to thank me. You know i’d do anything in the world for you. I’m your family. You already know that, so thank you. I appreciate it. I’m glad I could help you. 

Oh by the way, I have on the podcast, I have a a sign off line. My sign off is “keep it funky.”

Oh, I like it keep it funky. 

Yeah. Okay. Keep it funky everybody. I’ll see you next week. 

Good. If You smell something, It’s just Dana.