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

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #79 Revelations and Life After Rejection with Karine Plantadit
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I have been a fan of Karine Plantadit  since I saw her perform at the Tony awards in Come Fly away in 2010 (FYI she was Tony Award and Drama League Award nominated for that role) AND THEN we got to work together on “In The Heights”!  I jumped at the opportunity to have a conversation with her because it isn’t hard to tell that she is as strong in mind as in body.  She is delightful and insightful and she blows my mind (and my heart) wide open in this episode.  In this episode, Karine and I talk In The Heights, we talk Buddhism, we talk process, we talk goals, and flash flood warning… there are tears because we also dig into professional and personal heartbreaks.  Life after rejection. It might sound dreadful, but when you are talking to someone like Karine… even tough subjects can feel like a glass of cold water on a hot summer day… So get ready to drink up!  

Quick Links:

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

https://www.karineplantadit.com/

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

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

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

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

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

Dana: Karine my Queen! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just so, so incredibly inspiring. 

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

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

Oh, very rarely because we are not fortune tellers. 

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

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

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

The ripples will be going far, far beyond. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow. What a great question.  

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

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

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

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

You are the one processing. 

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

You’re in the empowered position. 

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

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

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

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

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

Oh my goodness. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s talk about that day. 

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

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

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

You are keep going. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello? Dana Wilson. 

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

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

Is that why I’m sweating profusely? 

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

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

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

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

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

Ep. #29 Movement Matters with Jermaine Spivey and Spenser Theberge

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #29 Movement Matters with Jermaine Spivey and Spenser Theberge
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This episode explores movement through “movements”.  We know that dance lessons are life lessons, but now we get to look at how an artistic partnership can mirror a romantic partnership and how dance can be a physical practice of empathy. Join Jermaine, Spenser on this BIG bite in Capital D Dance… and beyond.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Watch Jermaine in Kid Pivots’ Betroffenheit https://www.marquee.tv/watch/crystalpite-betroffenheit 

Revisit Episode 3 with Chloe Arnold: https://www.thedanawilson.com/podcast/ep-3-dance-lessons-are-life-lessons-with-chloe-arnold

Amazon Shopping List: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/208ZBEMH1NK8H?ref_=wl_share&_encoding=UTF8&tag=thedanawilson-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=c3b3604249eb6e654753fedb0ccdc8e8&camp=1789&creative=9325

Transcript:

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

Dana: All right. All right. Hello everybody. And welcome to words that move me. I’m Dana. I am so jazzed about this episode, and I know that I always say that, but really this one is special. It is special because my guests are special, so special. It is special because I learned so much about myself, about my craft, about my relationship to the world that I’m living in right now. Um, and I also learned a lot more about audio editing. So here comes the heads up. The audio quality is not the greatest on this episode, but the, every other quality is the greatest. So this episode is my win for the week. Your turn, what’s going well in your world. Let’s see if I can keep tempo.  

Oh, don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t do that. Don’t don’t boom, boom, boom, boom. Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t tell, don’t do that. Don’t tell him  Five, six, seven, eight.

Yes. Good for you. I’m so glad that you’re winning. Keep it up and celebrate yourself. It’s so important. Okay. Now I don’t want to take too much more time before I invite you to the table. Well, the zoom, I guess, with my guests today, Spenser Theberge is originally from Portland, Julliard Grad danced for NDT two and NDT one that’s Netherlands Dance Theater for you, non dance types. Um, the Forsythe company, he’s the winner of the Princess Grace Award. He currently teaches for Cal arts. Um, but most importantly, I want to tell you that his choreography makes me weep tears of laughter and also tears of a very special brand of admiration. He is a truly special artist and I am so honored and flattered to call him to call both of these gentlemen, my friends. All right. So up next, we have the one and only Jermaine Spivey He is from Baltimore, also a Julliard grad. Also a Princess Grace winner also has danced for all of the, that I oogle and all of the companies that you should Google. Um, he is currently teaching for USC Kaufman, but beyond all of those things, I can not think of a single thing, more mesmerizing in this world than watching Jermaine dance. That was at least until we had this conversation. And I learned that it is equally mesmerizing to dig in to words with him, with him and with Spenser, both truly mesmerizing. Um, this conversation simply blows my mind wide open. So without any further ado, please enjoy this conversation with Jermaine Spivey and Spenser Theberge

Dana: Spencer and Jermaine. Holy smokes. Thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. I am thrilled to have you! Welcome. 

BOTH: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  

Dana: Um, this is kind of par for the course. This is sort of how I do it on the pod. Please introduce yourself.  

Jermaine: Um, okay. I will introduce myself. My name is Jermaine Spivey. I am an artist. I’m a performing artist. I am a choreographer.  I am an educator. I am a learner. I am a person in this world that um, loves to create. And connect to people through that creativity. 

Dana: Thats a beautiful introduction. Thank you. Nice to meet you. Alright, Spenser hit it.  

Spenser: I’m Spenser Theberge. And that is how you say my last name. 

Dana: I’ve been saying it wrong for like four years now. 

Spenser: Yes, it’s true. I am Spencer Theberge. Uh, I also echo what Jermaine says. I am an artist. I work in, I work in dance, but I don’t feel like I only live in dance. I am excited by interdisciplinary things. I’m interested in collaborations and the permeable worlds in terms of art and genres. Um, I teach. I dance, uh, and I’m also, Jermaine and I are partners. And we’re partners also in the work we’re making too.  

Dana: You Guys. This is the first time I’m having a couple on the podcast. I’m so jazzed about this. Okay. Um, thank you for your introductions. I have a million questions for you. About your work and what it’s like to collaborate with your significant other and what it is to be in an interracial Relationship in the summer of 2020 and how the black lives matter movement is impacting you and how are you impacting it and what it means to be like, Whoa, all the things I have, all the questions. So slow down, Wilson. Um, let me simplify and ask you. 

Jermaine: There’s a lot. It’s a lot. 

Um, let me just simplify and ask you to tell me something you would like for people to know about your relationship.  Or is it top secret?  

Jermaine: Oh, no, I think, yeah. Okay. I’m gonna start that off. I think I would like people to know that it is, it’s a constant effort and I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s actually very positive that its constant effort, but constantly trying to see each other for who we are and how we’re evolving and how we do that together. How we do that side by side, I really, really, really don’t respond to the idea of, you know, you meet someone and its the same and that is happily ever after, like, you’re the same person I met and it’s like, yes, I am a version of that person, but I’m also hopefully changing and growing and evolving the entire time and definitely tries to do that next to the person that I love. We’re next to each other we’re with each other. We’re changing. Okay.  Talking about summer of 2020 

Dana: Change baby change.  

Jermaine: We’re both changed from how we started this year. 

Spenser: I would also add or piggyback then say that, um, there’s the idea that we’re always partners. It’s not like we are, we are. And then what I mean by that is our relationship as partners. We’re always doing that. We’re doing that when we’re making work together, we’re doing that when we’re making breakfast together, we’re doing that when Jermaine’s on a tour and I’m home, and we’re not physically together. We’re always partners. Sometimes I think that there’s, um, you know, the compartmentalizing idea of we, you’re not, we’re not in our relationship when we’re making work together. For instance, like once we entered this room, it’s a different, it’s a different story or something. And that’s not the case with us. We very much are always exploring and interrogating, but our relationship feeds and that’s the art we make as well. Uh, and I think that we hope that our art changes and develops over time. And so why don’t, why not treat ourselves like that too, that we can change and develop over time.  

Ah, I love that sentiment. I love the idea of perpetual evolution and, uh, specifically hopefully progress, right. Um, also Jermaine I’m so glad you brought up effort. And that is what I would like to segue with into this next part of the conversation. So I think it was after, and we can go back a little bit to our history as friends in a second, but I think it was after Gen Four, which was certainly the most, um, amount of time I spent with you guys like period. But I think after Gen Four, um, I dug into a search for more of you both because after that week of watching you dance, I just could not sate myself. So I was just looking for more. And I remember stumbling upon, um, short film that was directed by Dana Casperson and it’s part of her, um, changing the conversation book. I think she made little chunks from her book, changing the conversation, the 17 principles of conflict resolution. And, um, I was so delighted by this thing. Uh, and then I dug more on Dana and I became so delighted by her. Uh, she says that conflict is the origin of all creative action, which is like the smarter older sibling version of my saying, which is creativity is simply problem solving. But she, she says that conflict is inevitable and she adds that destructive conflict is not inevitable. That’s the choice part. Um, she, she explains describing nondestructive conflict as just dynamic tension. Effort. And to me that sounds kinda like fun dynamic tension reminds me of a first date or of like the early years of a relationship. Dynamic tension, sounds like, Oh, I like that versus conflict is something that I think is, is kind of has this negative connotation. Um, but, uh, one of the things I like most about you guys, both in your life, in, in your work is that you don’t avoid conflict or effort, um, or tension. Actually, I would say that you guys are both masters of tension and release of tension. Spenser, you do it with humor Jermaine, you do it with your body. Um, could you guys talk about how you use tension in your work and in your relationship?  

Spenser: Woah, Dana, thank you. I love that. That’s some something you’re observing because it’s, we talk about conflicts all the time and it is really at the heart of our creations. It’s also at the heart of the process of creating. Um, we get along really well. We disagree, I wouldn’t say we fight. 

Jermaine: Maybe once in 10 years have we fought. 

Um, however, we’re both really, um, we really believe what we believe and we really care about the things that we believe in and those things are, are often at odds and that doesn’t feel good, but it’s sort of like a thank goodness type thing, because, uh, what I want to relate it to is this idea that you have to have conflict in order to have good theater. Otherwise the curtain goes up and maybe somebody proposes to the other person. And that person says yes, and then it’s over, there’s no conflict and the curtain goes down and it ends. And so there’s the thought that if you want something to be sustainable, if you want, and I’m talking now in a performative way, if you want to sustain interests for the audience, there’s gotta be conflicts there for people to have a hook, so we lean into the conflict. Um, and since our work is usually a kind of lens into our, into our relationship as partners, we then lean into the inherent conflicts between each other, um, and allow them to be present in the work. So that the work can sustain yeah, it’s a belief. I mean, if it feels like a belief, like a value for making work to me is this idea of conflict. So I love that you see it and that you’re aware of it. 

100%. Um, do you have anything you want to add, Jay?  

Um, I’m just listening to, I feel like conflict is also about diversity and, uh, it’s about opposition. Uh, I think we’re realizing right now in this moment that we can’t continue to curate this weird streamlined version of reality where there aren’t, there’s no diversity, right? Like where we, force people to conform to be the same, where we force people to have the same values and the same way of expressing these values, it’s not realistic. 

And there’s no opposition, there’s no opposition. And we know because we’re dancers, who’ve done pirouettes before that you cannot lift up without also pushing down. You won’t have a successful rotation if you don’t do both. Um, this is what I’m inspired by right now is this idea. And I know it’s very self-gratifying, but it’s this idea that dancers just might be the best people to deal with and lead in a time like this because we have understanding and the ability to think kind of physically and know the importance of something like opposition. Know, the importance of something like spacing, for example. But I just, I, I would love to hear a little bit more from you guys on what some other dancer or choreographer characteristics might be helpful right now to, to all, not just to dance types.  

Spacial awareness is the first thing that came to mind, um, is not just about avoiding bumping into people on the street. It’s about space. It’s about an understanding of how to occupy space, not just how to leve room for other people. Which is something from the conversation in our way of life here in the US, created a lot of extremes and not so much space or room for people to exist in. And I think that it is work. 

Actually, I think we experienced that in the dance world was maybe we’ll have a chance to kind of get into a little bit more, uh, later, but this idea of where you exist inside of the dance world, and things sometimes not. I mean, sometimes for a lot of people, it’s always feeling like there’s, there is no intersection or blending of worlds and experiences. And I’m also thinking about blending of forms and blending of techniques. But, um, I’d like to first, before getting into that talk about also, I think dance has the ability to help us train an idea of empathy. I was just thinking about a rehearsal Jermaine and I had the other day where we were doing some partnering and I needed to know what something’s felt like for him in order to do my job for him to help him. So I, he had me do it, do his role, so I could feel what it felt like in his body. And then I knew better. It didn’t change instantly, but I had a better ability to make a helpful choice for him as a partner. And that made me feel like what we’re actually doing is training that thing we’re trying to talk about right now, which is, this is how this feels for me. Can you hear me say that? Like, can you put that on, this is how this feels for me. And, and we do that sometimes without even knowing that that’s unusual for some people in their world and in their life. And right now, since I’ve been teaching a lot online and, you know, theoretically everyone’s alone in their kitchen, like I am, teaching, right. And so I’m trying to still figure out how to teach this idea or promote this idea of empathy. And I think we can relate to ourselves in our own bodies, empathetically as well, and have that same process of like, what does that feel like for you knees? And then if I’m, if I’m fostering a sense of empathy in my own body, isn’t it then? Couldn’t it then be easier to be empathetic with the wider world.  

Okay. Pause for the cause and let that sink in for a second. All right. In episode three, with Chloe Arnold, we talked about how dance lessons are life lessons. We talked about all of the different ways that dance has prepared us for life, and we dug pretty deep. Um, I highly suggest you go back and check that out if you haven’t already, or maybe even revisit that one, if it’s been awhile, but even in all of that discussion with Chloe, it had never dawned on me that perhaps the most important and powerful and dare I say essential human quality, empathy can be practiced physically through dance. This was a massive a-ha moment for me. I, I danced as a swing on my most recent world tour. And, uh, for those of you that don’t know a swing is somebody that knows and must be able to dance anyone in the shows track, um, a track just means their part, I guess. So for that show for the man of the woods tour, I learned all of the ladies and even took it upon myself to learn my male counterpart dancers tracks. Um, and it was my job to jump in for anybody in the event that they needed me to fill in. And man, wow. If it is recommended to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes, I highly recommend that you try dancing in them. I gained a tremendous understanding and appreciation for my fellow dancers by learning their show, by dancing in their shoes. I did wear my own shoes, but that’s neither here nor there. I think that perhaps the best part of what I’m learning from this conversation and from what Spenser is saying is that learning and appreciating can happen for me in me, like having empathy for parts of myself. Wow. Just Whoa. Okay. I had to jump out and highlight that and sort of plant a seed. So that next time you find yourself in conflict with yourself or with someone else, you might find an opportunity to practice empathy. Okay. That’s it let’s jump back in.  

Jermaine: Yes. I can still connect and you know, physically partner with this person that doesn’t weigh the same as I do that has a different shape than I do that. That comes from a different understanding of dance in terms of their background than I do, but we can meet, we figure it out. I mean, that’s what happens. It happens again all the time. In a company its a whole new group of people, and you start that process all over again. And just thinking about how many times, whether it’s a company in a gig or in a shoot, you meet these people may never see again, but you have to come together for the common goal. We’re so versed at that. It can be bumpy along the way. It’s not always great. It’s not always whatever perfect supposed to mean, but I think that’s also the point.   

Those are excellent points that I really hadn’t considered the concept of actually sharing weight and feeling feelings of, you know, trading roles. Like we do that in dance. I will dance your role. I will try to be your track. Um, I’ll try to lift you the way that you lift me in that lift. Like I can’t think of a, of a better way to practice empathy. Um, but also this idea that we are basically constantly, uh, building and then breaking down and then rebuilding new teams with different objectives. And that is such an important skill to have. I think dancers are really, really good at being quick to volunteer, quick to make changes, quick to make friends. And part of that is the nature of how quickly our world and our creative processes work, especially here in LA. There certainly aren’t, we, we don’t have the luxury of long rehearsal processes for most projects. And I mean, no rehearsal process now. No in-person rehearsal process now. So yeah, we we’ve gotten very good at doing certain things. Um, what are we not good at?  

Well, we’re not always good at recognizing individual contributions to the mess. I feel like I’ve.. I’ve been a performer in a contemporary concert dance company and I’ve been in these moments with company where we’re complaining and we’re like, this is happening. And this is happening, this company sucks. Everybody gets under this company sucks train. And it’s like, we’re the company, you know? I mean, yes, there is an administrative body that is governing  

The situation, but also we actually have a lot more say on the dynamics of how things go than we think. there’s something in structure. There’s something in the way a lot of things organize that causes us to forget that. I mean, every company that I’ve ever been a part of with the exception of maybe one has had like really rocky shit and again, that’s not a dig it’s layered, right? I think that’s something that happens because there’s many different aspects to running a company. And then of course the dancers feel the brunt of that, but then we can get caught in just complaining about it and just suffering in and that becomes our story. Like I’m just suffering this situation and this is how it has to be, woe is me, I’m a dancer. And then at some point you have to realize other things that I can do. And other ways that I find to this situation that will change me, and usually If I change myself that is reflected in the person next to me and the person next to them.  

I would like to talk a little bit more about voice specifically. You’ve used it in your work in a way that I think is very attractive, but I know that for a lot of dancers using our voice, like our actual vocal chords is terrifying. I’ll speak for myself as for one. Um, could you guys share maybe a story of, of being asked to use your voice or maybe why you, why you love to use voice?  

Yeah. I’d love to talk about that. I, I think a bit of context is helpful and to know that I grew up, um, like equal parts. I was training at a dance studio, uh, after school, but in school I was training in theater. I was a drama kid, and I was really, really torn between these two worlds. And I felt a lot of angst, of like this having to make a choice. And I ultimately chose dance because I love it. It wasn’t like depression or anything. I, I knew dance in my body and I didn’t know theater in my body if that makes sense, so I followed it, but I definitely felt like I’ve made a choice and closed a pathway, closed some kind of world in myself. And it wasn’t until I moved to Europe and I was working on a creation with the choreographer at Netherlands dance theater. And I was, I was asked to use my voice and I was sort of, Oh, I know that person, that’s that person from high school, like who knows, how to use their voice and who loves to speak and has this sense of theater and drama. And it was like inviting a part of myself to the party who hadn’t got to be at the party for like 10 years. And from that point on, that was it. I was, I was like, if I’m not getting to explore all of me, I’m just not sure if I’m that interested. And sometimes it feels right to make the choice to just dance. But there’s a difference between saying you can only dance. And right now you’re just dancing. Versus like, just knowing that it’s always, like, I always have the ability to use my voice if that’s the right choice for this particular communication right now, or to, I don’t know, sing, or make a dress or dance, or like get behind this camera and operate this projector or whatever, like whatever the moment calls for. I want to feel like I am allowed and have permission to, to deliver that. And that feels like, that feels like pursuit of, of me, to me.  

That’s awesome. I love the, the 360 degree approach to making. Um, I also love the, the concept of giving permission to use voice. And when you said that, I realized that, um, I would say like fully 50% of my professional work is me lip-syncing to something, but you, you cannot be lip syncing because it looks like, you know, your, your neck, your muscles aren’t working, you can tell somebody lip-syncing. So even on the projects where I’m lip syncing, they ask you to sing out. And as I say so to me, that’s permission, right? You’re playing a track at volume. That’s not my voice. They, they, they, they won’t hear my voice. Maybe. I don’t know. They probably have a microphone hidden somewhere, but to me, that’s permission to sing out. And I, I wonder if that metaphor kind of breaks the part of this conversation. That’s important to me, which is it being your voice, but, um, Jermaine specifically, I’m curious what you’d have to say about this, because now that I’m talking about lip sinking, I’m remembering that maybe my favorite performance of yours is Kid Pivot’s Betroffenheit, your, your lip syncing, right? Is that your voice? Are you, are you lip-syncing?

Jermaine: I’m lip-syncing. You never hear my voice in the entire show 

Spenser: That’s embodiment  

That’s Embodiment. You could not tell me that’s not your voice. It’s okay. So just straight up curiosity, what was your approach to making somebody’s voice? That’s not your voice look like your voice.  

Jermaine: Um, that is a good question. It was, it was a few different things. It’s the physicality of just the steps in the way that, uh, you know, with Crystal, we decided my character would, would move that movement directed the character. Then that character tells me how I need to lip-sync. Then the other level of that layer of that was listening to the track and getting familiar with the rhythm, the cadence and the timing of Jonathan speaking. And when there was breathing and wasn’t breathing. And every year that we performed the show, we peel back another layer of the audio I think when we first did it, we were not in the place where we could hear every breath, for example, that was in the audio track. And then when we came back to do it, we remounted it. We were like ‘has the breath always been there? Like I hear it differently now.’ So then the second year was really all about trying to embody now all of the breath. And then the third year was like the breath and the little crackles, you know, saliva, like when he’s opening and closing his mouth. We’ve done that also with reviser. 

Uh, Jermaine. It’s so good. It’s one of my favorite things to watch. Um, I’m not sure if Marquee TV is still doing a 30 days free thing. 

Um, and his Betroffenheit is still up, and Revisor is now there as well.  

I will be linking to that in the show notes, please. You guys, this is mandatory viewing. Um, okay, cool. Moving right along. Um, you guys both went to Julliard. You’re both teachers you teach at the college level. And I know I have a lot of listeners out there who dream of attending prestigious schools like that and of having careers like yours. Um, what would you tell them that you wish somebody had told you when you embarked on your journey of higher education?  

Yeah. Something comes in mind for me instantly. And I remember, I think it’s so, so important and so wonderful and so necessary to have goals. But what I remember is that I had tunnel vision with my goals, especially going into college and through college, into, into like the professional world. So my goals, um, confused me at times because they, what they did is they said this is important for your goals and this isn’t important for your goals. And so there was a bit of, I love school and I love to learn even as someone who loves to learn, um, there’s a little bit of like, I’ll need this. I won’t need this type of thing for the goals that I know, what I wish someone had told me is what I’m experiencing now and continue to experience is that you don’t know what your goals are going to be after you get a taste of maybe the goal that you’re interested in, the goals might change, they’re likely to change. And aren’t you, or maybe you will wish that you had absorbed a little bit more completely, then you did, when it was offered to you, I’ve found myself wishing often that I had taken better notes or paid more attention in a particular course, because I feel like I need it now, you know, 10 plus years later. And I just didn’t know that at the time. So that thought of hoarding information with accepting the idea that you don’t know what you’re going to be interested in. And you don’t know what you need .. 

Um, will you guys play a game with me really quick? So it’s, um, full disclosure. It’s not actually a game, it’s an exercise, but we’re going to call it a game cause that’s more fun. So I have started, um, categorizing my goals now in tiers, I do these three tiers. My first tier of goals is the goals I could accomplish right now. If literally, if I just did it, like the action is the missing part, not the resources or the, um, the ideas themselves, but like right now I could accomplish this. Um, tier two is with a little bit more support, whether it’s in manpower or finance or time or whatever, with a little more support I could accomplish this. And then tier three is rip the lid off, no ceiling nobody ever would say, no, you will not hear the word. Know what? Like that’s tier three, no rules, no limits at all. So I would love to hear from you guys, three tiers of goals.  

You know, I’m already, I’m already going to do the game. The game is supposed to be played. 

Break the rules.

I’m am. Because It’s really, really, really layerd  

Okay. Go. I want the depth.  

I think I have learned from a very young age not to set goals. That has been a super power for me in my life. It hasn’t actually had a negative effect on me, but it may come from something that is a negative, which is related to being a black person in this country and my mom because I grew up with my mom in Philly, feeling sometimes like she was not supported in the way she needed to really get to that goal or just feeling like.. I just, I, I, I watched my mom do that and survive the most beautiful work. And I feel like I learned from that, life also just be about adapting and that isn’t a lack of openness or power

Or imagination, 

Or imagination. Um, well, there are many ways to choose, you know, how to organize it. And I, I don’t really set goals. Um, I know that sounds weird, but I do, I do stuff. I do stuff. And then I pay attention to how that feels and where it’s leading me there. And when I’m there I feel led to the next and that’s how my whole dance career has been. I never decided I want to go study at a conservatory. I just, I decided I liked dancing. So then I continued, I didn’t even want to dance. My mother forced me to go. Then I realized that I like it so I continued to go. Then someone was like, you should audition for this school. I knew nothing about Juilliard, but I went because I trusted that person’s opinion. But they were right. While I was at Juilliard actually, I had a teacher that was like, you should look into this place, which I did. And, you know, listening to the voices didn’t mean that I only listened to what people told me to do, I just took in that information, sometimes they were exactly right so I went with them. But sometimes it was just hearing what they had to say, to help me understand what I was feeling so that I can make my own choice intuitively. It continues to be that way. And the older I get, I feel like it’s really just about deciding to do stuff. Um, for me personally, I think people should set goals if that is how they need function and to plan ahead. But that just hasn’t really been a part of my spirit as a person. To plan ahead, It gets me into trouble in different ways because of the world that we, that we live in. But it also provides me a lot by not feeling, um, I don’t feel precious about the trajectory of my life in that way. 

Would you be willing to go into what you mean when you say gets you in trouble?  

Yes. I mean, in the, in the kind of like little micro versions of that, it’s like sometimes I don’t plan far enough ahead. So that I can be on time. So then I’m late, you know, and that’s, that’s like a little, little tiny version of that. Um, I think it gets me in trouble with sometimes because then with the interactions with other people, sometimes there are expectations that are not met and yes, because I think the way that I do, I understand that. And I, I see sometimes what that means for certain people in certain circumstances. But I also feel like I am not always responsible for delivering that expectation.

Full Stop. Wow. In hearing Jermaine’s point of view about setting goals, I experienced the moment that I’ve felt quite a bit lately, the shameful moment that many of my listeners out there maybe feeling lately as well. And that is the moment where your privilege is revealed to you in a place that you hadn’t noticed that before. I truly relish the goal setting practice, I called it a game. It literally is fun to me because my goal setting practice doesn’t get me in trouble. It gets me my desired results. And what I learned from Jermaine is that the accomplishment of my goals is absolutely not entirely attributable to the goal setting practice itself. I am a white, able-bodied, heterosexual woman who grew up in a middle class, suburban home with two parents who although divorced, both loved and supported me tremendously. And my life experience has taught me that dreaming big, mostly works. Someone else’s experience might teach them that dreaming big, mostly hurts. I know that now, and that doesn’t mean that setting goals is bad. And that doesn’t mean that I am bad for setting goals. It means that setting goals is not a default setting. I do think it’s important to mention that the thing that excited me and still excites me most about setting goals is that especially in that third kind of no ceilings, impossible tier something is only impossible until it’s possible. And I find tremendous inspiration and power in that. All right, let’s jump back in and hear what Jermaine, the man who seemingly defies gravity and every other law of physics in his dancing makes of doing the impossible buckle up.  

For me. I respond to what if it isn’t impossible? Like what is impossible? It’s a construct for us to relate to, but it’s not really a thing. And I say that because like often when I improvise, I use tasks. And I talk about that I’m never TRYING to do something cool or impossible I’m never deciding now I’m going to do something that is anti-gravity like those things happen because I’m doing something that is really similar to me in the breakdown of all of the things I am moving my shoulder to the right and at the same time sliding my chin to the left. And if I do that and I involve my hip and my heel I miraculously made it around 4 times. I lived that experience in various ways in my life and I’m never really trying to do something impossible or spectacular. 

That is, That is very important to me on the subject of effort. If we could circle back to effort, you look effortless when you dance, but it’s not because what you’re doing is easy is because you’re focusing your efforts into very specific, simple places or simple tasks that is fascinating.  

And I’d like to jump in on that. As someone who gets to watch Jermaine a lot, his sense of validation is really inside himself. It’s not, it’s not bound to external sources. 

And a small interjection I had to work on that because for so much of my younger life, I felt really bound to what I thought were people’s expectations of me and that it hurt. I hurt myself. No one did that to me. I did that to myself, fulfilling that expectation for everyone else. I caused myself hurt and suppression and guilt for things that I shouldn’t feel guilty for. And I don’t know, I think at some late twenties, I really started to come to terms with that. 

What was the shift?  

I think, I think it was it’s, it was physical and emotional. Um, I mean, they’re the same thing, but you know, it was this me on a path of diving deeper in my artistry, which pushed me to dive deeper into my person. And what, what am I expressing? What am I living, what am I doing what am I thinking? Um, it was me coming to terms really for real, with my sexuality and realizing how much of that, uh, was weighing on me in ways that I didn’t know that it was weighing on me. And through that realizing I have all of these boxes that I’m trying to fufill for other people, but I care about people that care about me, people that I need in my life. And so not only do I have the boxes, but then I also have the fear of not filling the boxes and what will they do if I don’t fill this box for them?  And I’m trying to make it a long story short, I saw therapists and one was a craniosacral therapist, in Stockholm. Shout out to Banks Elmstron, My superhero, wizard, Swedish Man. He it’s very confronting to see someone that you’ve never met before and have them just read you like a book in one sitting. And, and to realize that they can do that because they’ve learned the skill of being sensitive. So he could feel these things in my body to feel them through the tissue physically, but he could also feel them energetically emotionally. And if I’m walking around with that all the time, that’s not going to be cute, down the line. So then, Hey, may, Hey, maybe there was a goal that was like my one goal, you know, it’s that to, to fix myself, like change my relationships with these expectations. He would, he would say to me like, wow, you put so much pressure on yourself. Why do you do that? And I’d be like, what, why are you saying that from holding my ankles? I don’t understand. And it wasn’t just him. I saw a few more craniosacral therapist over the years and had very similar experiences one with a person in London, with a person in Hawaii and every time it was very consistent, the things that they had to say to me very spot on, and these are people that I never met before in my life. And it was the last time in Hawaii where I was like, okay, do you, be you, live your life and your intuition. Trust that people will accept. And if they don’t, they don’t. And that has to apply to everyone.  

Uh, yes, those, those boxes checked makes sense. And I, I remember coming up in dance, I actually wonder, I wonder if there’s a way to train dancers, um, that doesn’t perpetuate external validation, right. Is there a way of teaching anything that puts the authority in the hands of the students instead of any authority figure? I mean, dance specifically, I mean, I remember a very literal stick that was either, you know, it was slamming into the ground, counting the music, or it was slapping me on the back of the knee or my belly if, if I was doing something wrong. So, and you look to that person for, did I do it right? Am I enough? And that started for me when I was three and I didn’t go to college for dance, but I would imagine an institution like Juilliard, it’s that like dialed up, you’re doing that hours and hours a day for years on years on years. I don’t know how to remove that portion of, of our training process.  

This is something that’s really on my mind. Um, and I’m, I know I’m not alone in that, but, um, this idea of, especially as someone who teaches ballet primarily, um, how to approach teaching ballet in a more inclusive way. And, um, you know, my, all of the readings I’ve been doing lately, um, the first thing that seems important is that you gotta name the problem and not pretend like it isn’t there. So we have to name, name the idea that Ballet is rooted in whiteness and name the idea that it is somehow, um, has been self described as this pedestal, um, this pillar of dance. And I think  

That’s essential to all other dances somehow.  

Yeah. Yeah. Well, there’s that, that thing that I’m sure we’ve all heard is like, if you know ballet, you can do everything or ballet is the basis of all forms. And that is, um, it’s a lie, that’s not, not a true statement. It’s true for a particular path, which is a particular path. That’s not the path. So this, I think first and foremost, we have to establish that ballet is A form of dance, not THE form of dance. And then how do you approach learning it, honoring it, without letting, without, um, allowing it, and I mean, this both as a teacher teaching it, but also as a student taking it, how do you, how do you make sure that you’re honoring it without letting it tell you that it knows something about you as a dancer, because many of us have this relationship with ballet as it being a standard of dance, then the aesthetics of ballet become a standard that I know my, my body doesn’t always accomplish.  Um, my feet don’t do the thing that it’s both that they’re supposed to do for ballet, my rotation, my range of motion, all of those things. I don’t, I don’t check those boxes, but I can still honor that work and ballet and approach it, honoring my values about capital D dance, not ballet as dance, if that makes any kind of sense. 

But even that is, it’s a deformation of where it came from, because it was never intended for people to rotate their feet away from each other, 180 degree or to lift your foot above your head to the 12 o’clock. That was never the intention. We applied that all of that came later, with ballet and many other genres, right? So even that thing that we’re, we’re fighting up against we have to remember  that comes from people that comes from a particular person or a particular desire. And now we’re all trying to fit into that fantasy. We’re missing, we’re missing the root. Everyone can rotate their legs in some degree or fashion, because legs do that. Everyone can turn the arms in and out in general because arms do that. So it’s not about, well, your body does something, my body doesn’t do.  Everybody’s bodies do exactly what they need to do.  

That’s why I like to talk about turnout and experience, as opposed to, a shade. Like, it’s not a result. It’s something that you’re actively doing. And when we make things a movement, I think we allow them to be fluid as opposed to the static idea of arrival and position and aesthetic and shape. I think we get bogged down in ballet by that a lot, like moving from pose to pose. Like you heard me talk about today, how do I mean, let’s emphasize the move part moving from pose to pose instead of moving from pose. Oh, that’s right. Like, what are you emphasizing? I think it’s real important to stay curious for more information and to assume that they’re more that you don’t know, then they’re like there is that, you know, always assume that there’s more out there. However, you do know what your values are as a dancer and you know, what your values are from an early age and you can pursue those values. In any form you go into. There is not, um, like musicality coordination, organization, relationship to space, relationship to time, those things exist across dance they’re not, they don’t belong to any particular technique. So whatever you love about those things find that in whatever form you’re working on and then you’re working inclusively in your own body.  

Well, I think Spencer, the other thing that you did in class today that I thought was very inclusive was, um, you talked about energetic ideas, opposed to physical explanations, physical ideas, or physical pictures of what is right and what is wrong. Um, it was very much about energetic ideas and the, the one that stuck with me and that I’ll be hearing in my head as I turn out. And as I lift, and as I oppose. Is this idea of forever. You said, turn out forever, open your back forever. Uh, root your legs forever. And it became like, this makes me emotional because it’s now timeless, which is something that kind of breaks my heart about dance, especially live dance, is that it only truly exists in that moment, even if it’s captured on film, the actual moment of it is so temporary and so fleeting, it’s what makes it so beautiful, but God, I just wish that it could last forever. But when you explained those shapes those poses, if you will, as becoming eternal, it was an emotional experience. And, and that is inclusive.  

I thank you for that observation. And I, I totally, I mean, speaking about bringing information from other forms and other experiences into right now, we’re talking about ballet. So into this particular farm, that information I’ve learned and developed from, from learning and developing my relationship with Jermaine, uh, this idea of endless directionality and opposing forces and opposing energies in the body. That’s something that I was first introduced to by him. And it’s something that we really privilege in the work that we make together and in our, in our improv practice and in all of that stuff. So then again, the thought is that it doesn’t have to just belong to that practice like that improv face or that creative space with Jermaine, but I can actually invite it with me into my ballet practice or any other practice that I’m in. And I just think, I just think that that matters.  

That does matter. Is it possible? You guys new idea, auditioning it on you now? Is it possible that improvisation is the foundation of all styles?  Because everybody’s body is their own. And if the body is the tool of dance, then a degree of mastery of your own body and a communication of your own body in the moment from moment to moment is, is essential.  

I’ll tell you what I, my experience with improvisation is that I really didn’t like it because no one was me what to do and I didn’t know how to be good at that. I didn’t like it until post my time at Netherlands dance theater. So I’m like a grownup person running around the dance world, not loving improvisation and not making improvisation into my world until I joined a company that is rooted in improvisation, the Forsythe company. And that was a real hard, um, awakening to, to have somebody say to me, well, how do you want to do it? Which is essentially what that proposition was. You’re going to improvise in this show. So you’re demonstrating what do you think essentially. And I was like, I don’t know what, what should I think is how I answered that. I didn’t know how to answer that. And I was 26-27, something like that at the time. And I just felt like, wow, this is, this is really late in the game to not even have a clue what my, how I want to move, how, what are my instincts? What are my values? And it was in those two years of working there that, and just being immersed in improvisation that I really learned, what do I care about? What are my values? What are my impulses? And that work, that exploration has just fully permeated everything. I mean, it’s, it’s like, um, like a good kind of infection not like COVID It’s just, I find it everywhere. Now. I didn’t know that person before. I didn’t know the person that knew what, uh, what they wanted in dance and knew how to make choices in dance. I only knew the person that knew how to be told what to, right? 

I think it is a risk, um, to be always told what to do and told what to think and not taught how to think dance taught me a lot, you guys. Dance taught me a lot. And some things that you might not expect, like how to manage my time or how to, uh, work in a group, how to resolve some conflicts. Right. Um, but it did not teach me HOW to think. And it certainly didn’t give me confidence in my thoughts if I ever had it, if I ever had any confidence at all, it was because somebody told me that it was good, but I, I rarely had confidence in my thoughts.  

That’s right. And I feel like we’re touching on something that, especially in this moment, uh, is important to be thinking about is that, you know, we’re speaking a lot about dance, like less than civilization and culture. I’m speaking about concert, dance, culture, fine arts, in quotation marks, education. Why are those fine, we’re talking about, but I didn’t know, like someone taught me how to dance. Well somebody taught you these particular forms, but again, everyone knows how to dance because they have a body like everyone dances. We’ve been dancing since the beginning before somebody decided to hold a class, you know, like people were teaching and learning from each other as a way of communicating as a way of expressing, as a way of existing  as a way of keeping track of their stories and their history and all those things. So it’s just, it’s very important to remember. You’re really affected by like the forming and the codifying of the idea.  But everybody dances.  

I know this because, I know babies, that wiggle in their car seats when music comes on and nobody said do that. And nobody said, put your shoulders down.  

I just think it’s also worth noting that the way that Jermaine was just talking about that need to codify is also like this idea about the needs to define in terms of goal setting, like what he was speaking about before this idea to just let it be experienced is, is the information you need in order to know how to engage with it. Um, yeah. What is, what is this need to define it, to like set it in concrete and make a statue out of it? Um, and is that what we have to do to it in order to relate to it? 

Or is that what we need to do to it in order to remember it like 400 years from now, if my generations pass down, want to find out what I was doing at this time, how would they find it? You know, how, how would I know the important players of this thing, if this thing didn’t have a name, um, in this, in this kind of information age where you have to know what you want to search for in order to find it, I mean, that’s, to me that’s maybe the only, well, certainly the best way that I can, the best reason I can think of giving things a category or a name is simply so that they can be recorded and found later. Um, but yes, I’ve seen that genre-fecation as being so divisive and Jermaine, you mentioned earlier, like you mentioned that the dance world is very separate and it’s weird to me that for as small as it is, there is so much distance between the groups. It is so section off. 

Because there’s so much hierarchy and the structure of it that is about creating exclusivity and elitistsm and ultimately I think we all don’t respond to that very well. I mean, at the top of it is, is whiteness and privilege. 

And I think you you’ve touched on right away with that idea of like, who decided what was fine, because that’s, that’s why we spend more time in ballet, in college programs then other forms of dance. Because those things were defined and those things were defined by white people.  

Yeah. That’s heartbreaking to think how much is being left out. Um, I think about when you use the word fine in relationship to fine art, I think about fine China and that, that, and, and how rarely it gets used and dance is so useful. It might be weird coming from somebody who operates primarily in the commercial space, but dance is useful. It has function connective, um, expressive, and to think of how much dance isn’t getting used, because it’s not considered fine. Like how many hip hop programs are there on the university level street styles, freestyles. There’s a huge problem there.  

I mean, there’s also a problem there though, because the idea is like, you need to access information through this place in order for it to be successful? And that also isn’t true. You can be phenomenal, incredible artists without having to go to a university. The university doesn’t benefit from telling you that.

Certainly not 

Thats coming from a person that teaches at a university so that might be really weird for me to say. But its something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, like I have to go to this place in order to attain success to get to the next level. But that aint true because the teachers that  teach hip hop at the universities they taught themselves. Right?  

You have, you have proof that it isn’t essential yet, yet the high price point would make you believe that it is simply because it’s that expensive. It must be important.  

You know, we have to remember that, even though we see that, and it’s super shiny and impressive, that is not the end all. That is not the only definition of success. Everyone does not to be Beyonce  And everyone won’t be Beyonce. You know, we’re saying, look at Beyonce and say, look at how she did it, you can do it too. this is a way to inspire people. But the flip side of that is like, there is one Beyonce, and if you don’t become her, that’s also, okay, you can do something else. You can still make music on a different level for a different person that can be successful. 

What is success to you Jermaine? 

I think success is living in tune, I was going to say with your purpose, but I don’t want that to sound too esoteric and like religious it’s living with your intuition and letting that also cultivate how you interact with your community and the people around you. 

Spens, I’m curious what you’d say.  

Yeah. I think especially lately I’m feeling similar to Jermaine. Um, I can recognize different times in my life when I felt feelings of success and what it feels like to me is purposefulness. Um, happiness is in there. And I think that that has come in my life when I felt like I’m really listening to what I actually want to do, as opposed to what I feel like I should do and have like a good, um, balance of those moments. What I’ve struggled with in the past is worry about what I should do. And I guess I never spoke about the goal setting idea, my relationship to goal setting. Sometimes it’s complicated for that same idea of creating tunnel vision, like talked about early on this thought about the goal, kind of taking over my sense of self or, or being present with what’s actually happening and what I, how I’m starting to understand it now is to be just a little bit vague blurring edges so that things can transform. When I try to specify the goal, sometimes I made pursuit of my happiness, not so honest. So to me to circle back success feels like really being honest with myself about what I’m actually looking for, as opposed to what I expect myself to be looking for. 

Gentlemen, I cannot thank you enough. You’ve blown my mind several different points during this conversation. I’m not shocked by that because this is what you do. I love you. Thank you so much.  

Though 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, 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.