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

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #84 Replay: Ep. #5 Is Fear Keeping You Alive, or Eating You Alive?
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This week is the first of our replays for the month of August! Starting out with Episode #5, and it is frighteningly good.  It digs into concepts of FEAR.  The kind that keeps you alive and the other kind that keeps you from LIVING!  Give a listen and cut the ties to fear that are holding you back.

Quick Links:

The Power Of Vulnerability – Brené Brown

The Call to Courage – Brené Brown

Daring Grately – Brené Brown

Failing Your Way to Success

How To Be A Successful Failure

Gift of Fear – Gavin de Becker

Brooke Castillo’s Thought Model

The Farwell – Akwafina Movie

Episode Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ep. #47 Lady Boss: Diana Matos

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #47 Lady Boss: Diana Matos
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What happens when the commercial industry doesn’t make you happy anymore… Reinvention, that’s what!  My guest this week is a pro at exactly that.   Diana Matos bridges the space between street and commercial dance.  She dives into the importance of using her creative voice, and the challenges of having a company with members all over the world.  We also go deep on the difference between SELFISH and… SOMETHING ELSE, so do a spinal roll down and a few jumping jacks to get yourself warm, and LET’S GO!

Show Notes:

Quick Links:

Diana Matos: https://www.instagram.com/dianamatos/

Motus the Company: https://www.motusthecompany.com/

Fenty Show: https://www.amazon.com/Savage-Fenty-Show-Vol/dp/B08JQNCY8R

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 to the podcast. Welcome. Welcome. If you are a first time listener and welcome back. If you are a returning mover and shaker, I am so glad that you are here today. I am thrilled to share this interview with you. I think it is simply solid gold and a very fun listen. But before we get into it, I want to draw your attention to a couple things, because I am seeing some new daily doers out there. I want to make sure that you guys know, I offer some support on my website in the form of an interactive PDF that can help you with your daily projects. If doing daily is a new concept to you, go back and listen to episode one and two. But if you are a daily doer, I do so strongly encourage you. Go visit theDanawilson.com Take a look at the store in there. I have a downloadable PDF that helps you organize your project and really make the most of this daily creative challenge. So want to make sure that I say that before I forget. Um, also before I forget last week’s episode was so much fun. I did my first ever live Q and a via zoom. And so many of my listeners were there with me asking questions, interacting. It was just so much fun. Um, go back and listen to that. If you have a chance, if you dig it, if you’re loving it, please do download these episodes and leave a review. If you’re moved, if it was helpful, give us a rating, leave a review. It makes it so much easier for other people to find the podcast. And that is definitely important to me. So thank you in advance for doing that. 

Okay. Let’s get into it this week. As my win, I am celebrating the reconnection to old friends. I probably am not alone in that during the lockdown I have indeed locked in. I’ve gotten I’m pretty self focused, and I think this is a very important win today because in this interview with our guests this week, the lovely Diana Matos, we talk a lot about being self-focused or selfish and the difference between the two. So my win. This is that I, I reached back out to a network of friends that have supported me for a really, really long time, but also to new friends, people that I’ve met during the course of the quarantine during the course of this time, since having a podcast. Um, and I definitely am feeling connected. I am feeling supported. And of course I’m feeling so grateful to have you and this forum to share. So yes, my win is my connection to my friends. And I would love to encourage you if you haven’t in a while to reconnect to yours. All right, now you go, what is going well?  

Awesome. Congratulations. I’m so glad you’re winning. Keep on crushing it. All right. My friends, I don’t want to spend too much time. Preambling here pre rambling here. I want to get straight into this interview. My guest this week on the episode is the one, the only Diana Matos in my eyes, an untouchable dancer, um, an incredible presence and incredible friend and an incredible role model. I’m so excited to share what she shared sharing on sharing. Um, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it. Please. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram. She is @DianaMatos on Instagram. D I A N A M A T O S. If you do not already know her, or aren’t already familiar with her work, please do go get an eye full. All right. And with that, let’s get into it. Please enjoy this conversation with the fabulous Diana Matos.  

Dana: All right. Holy smokes. Let’s do this Diana Matos, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here. 

Diana: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure. It’s an honor. You are an inspiration to me and to everyone around me so down always. 

Oh my gosh. Uh, likewise and I’m, I’m honored, lucky, count myself extremely special to have been able to share the stage with you before we’ve gigged a little bit, nowhere near as much as I would like actually. Um, you are now a person that you have your own company. You’re still crushing it in the industry. Most recently performed in Rhianna’s Fenty fashion show, which I do want to talk about. I want to talk about all the things, but before we dig into it’s, uh, it’s commonplace here on the podcast that all of my guests introduce themselves. So tell us anything you would like us to know about you.  

Diana: Hi, my name is Diana Filipa Pereira Morais de Matos Koumaev originally from Lisbon Portugal, I have lived there till I’m was 21, uh, danced trained, um, moved to London 2011, started working commercially and 2014 moved to LA. Um, yeah, I’ve been working since then, uh, hugely in the industry, but also very important to me that I stay true to myself, to my voice, to how my body moves what feel as good and organic to me and trying to build from there, especially right now at this stage of my life.  

Okay. So let’s talk stages then if your, if your dance life was a book, what would the chapters be? What do you chapter it out by like Portugal, London, LA, or is there like training, touring, stage? Like how does that get compartmentalized in your brain? How do you think about your dance life?  

I think to me, it definitely, I definitely com uh, compartmentalize it, uh, it being Portugal, it’d be in London and it being an LA. Um, also because to me it felt like a restart every single time professionally and personally, I have to reinvent myself, I have to drop everything financially, everything. It just, it’s always like a big step where I really, I go through a really rough time and then things finally start happening. Um, and especially within that time, there’s crazy amounts of growth personally and professionally. Um, so I would say that’s the way I sort of, you know, separated looking back. Um, I guess I was a little bit lost in Portugal. I learned a lot very limited, but at the same time, I found a way to sort of teach myself and reinvent myself because it wasn’t a lot back then. And, you know, there was no social media, there was YouTube and it’s a really, really small, town. So I had to work with what I had. I had to sort of re reinvent myself, which those are tools that till this day I use, um, me moving to London, it’s me, you know, finally breaking through. I barely spoke English at that point. So it’s also me understanding, you know, the language and how to talk to other people, how to, how to network, how to audition, how to even submit for an agency, all those things. Um, and then eventually coming to LA where I felt like it was sort of like my last attempt to have a career. I really thought I was maybe only coming for like a year or something. And then maybe going back to Europe and truly that’s when my career exploded. Yeah, exactly. You know? Um, so yeah, that’s, that’s, I would stage it.  

I love that. I, and I think that a lot of the people listening can relate to this feeling of starting new and being leveled, being baseline, trying to navigate, trying to transition and really trying to skill up as fast as possible and by any means possible. So this like this hungry student in you has been there for every single chapter and, and even as currently, and now you are attracting hungry students, um, with your company, talk a little bit about motus, what’s the mission, um, to tell me everything,  

Um, motus, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to create, right? Because as much as I believe in training and, and, and being in the room with as many choreographers as I could, and to, to sponge as much knowledge as I could through my journey, um, huge, uh, on, on understanding where my voice is as an artist, right. And I’ve always felt that I had that and very much so because of one, my life journey into my culture, um, which is half Portuguese, half African from Mozambique. So, um, motus has always been something in the back of my mind where I wanted to create a group of people that I’m able to, to utilize my voice into create this voice in the industry. Right. Um, not only that within the, the, the, my experience as a professional dancer, I’ve understood that we sort of have two options, which is to be an artist behind, uh, to be a dancer behind an artist, or to be a teacher slash choreographer, where you travel the world or you do conventions or right.  And those are like the two big options that you have to me is start after, you know, after a, while it started feeling a little bit like, Oh, this, this is all I have. Um, as an artist, if I don’t necessarily want to dance behind an artist anymore. And if, either I don’t want to teach, uh, or if I, choreographing is not my thing, where do I stand? You know? Um, so I think the industry sort of lacks specially for commercials commercials slash street styles, there’s a huge gap when it comes to, if I just want to be an artist as a dancer, where do I fit in? So I think motus, motus, motus’ goal is to create a company where artists can come and can sort of create a career off of it, where they travel. You’re getting paid, they’re dancing, they’re exploring their artistry, but not necessarily either in the commercial world or they don’t have to, you know, there’s a lot of people that are not teachers and they end up being teachers because that’s really the only option, which is not a good thing, you know? Um, so I think motus down the line, the big, big picture is to create, to have a company commercial slash, uh, streets out a street styles company that, um, that we can, can give a voice and give a space to all these dancers and artists.  

Cool. I, 45 follow-up questions. I’m going to start with this one. Um, so does the company, or do you envision that the company performed together? I know at this point it’s a training based company and the people that become members, the people that get involved, get their butt kicked. I know that this training goes above and beyond what somebody might expect to find in an in-person masterclass. Um, but tell, tell me about how, like, how is this next level training and do you visualize in-person performances with a company in the future?  

Definitely visualize performance companies. I think when motus started with me with COVID in quarantine and lockdown happening and me, um, understanding, okay, truly this is a time for me to, for me to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. I was never really able to, cause I was just overwhelmed with, you know, job here, rehearsal there. Um, so it’s time to do this, but now I’m limited with the circumstances that I can do it. So it has to be online based. So it has to be as for now and is until I’m able to train these dancers to be able to, uh, create whatever I can with no limitations, I have to train them. So right now in this first stage is very much so a program, an online program, um, where not only you train with me heavily, Um, two times a week, 

Oh, I’ve seen the videos, it’s heavy training. I like I sweat and I’m sore as I watch. It’s incredible just to watch incredible, by the way, do you take drop-ins because I have got to do these moves. I need a full 45 minute warmup and then I need to do the moves.  

Absolutely. You’re allowed to actually, that would be a great segment to this. If you would come in and film like your whole experience. Good idea. Love it. You’re  

So down. So now coming soon, coming soon. 

Um, so you’re not only trying to heavily with me, but also, um, you ha we have a grounding, uh, class 30 minutes before mine to prep and to sort of, uh, condition your body for all this training. And then on Sundays you have a different style, every single Sunday different style. And that goes from foundations, from like Afro, from, um, whacking, voguing house, popping, locking, like all of it and stuff that actually we don’t have access to often. And, and, and with the variety that, you know, also at the same time that we can have people from Switzerland to, to South Africa, we also have teachers from everywhere in the world. Um, so that’s huge,  

Massive. I love that silver lining of this moment. It’s remarkable. And what’s odd. I mean, it’s not odd at all. It’s been there for years. I mean, zoom has been there for years, but we only see what’s right in front of us and now we’re looking bigger. We’re zooming out and it thrills me to no end. Um, and so it’s, let me just  

Let me just add that. It’s actually really good in the sense that it created this, this almost like this relationship between me and the members and the sense that, you know, if it’s a regular class, you come in, there’s 60, 70, a hundred people who teach, groups, thank you for coming. The zoom It’s so personal. I’m looking at Dance, I’m looking at you dancing individually. Like I’m stopping you and saying, you see how you did that leg. You see how you did that weight. Wasn’t right. It’s such a personal relationship so much more than a regular class.  

I agree. I know there are several people that disagree that think that the screen, the layer between is a disconnect. I couldn’t disagree more. And because you and I are people who, whose work does show up on screen a lot, actually understanding how you look on a screen is an important element that you might not achieve in a, in an in-person class. There is a difference to those dynamics to the way that your shapes and your lines look. So, although it might be technically easier to correct someone in three dimensions, like in person, hands on corrections, you might not have seen the thing that you want to correct in person because the dance on camera element, at least to me, is hugely important. And so appetizing, I love working in this medium. 

Its so detailed. 

I love it so much. So let’s talk about the beginning of modus. I would love to hear what was the most challenging thing about making it?  

I would say one, understand how to keep people engaged. A lot of these people, we have people from South Africa to Australia, to New Zealand, to Europe, to London, right? Um, there’s people taking class at 5:00 AM that just barely woke up in their little living room or their rented room, you know? Um, so how to keep people, cause also we’re challenging people so much to after three, four or five weeks, you feel drained almost right. So to me was how to give a lot and how to really push these people with information, with the level, with the how to keep them motivated, uh, to want to keep cook, to come back and to continue this so we can actually get to the end goal. Um, it was that it was how to structure it, how to, how to finesse having that many people. And how do I give attention?  Suddenly I have 45 little squares, what I have to have individual feedback. So how long do I determine that feedback? You know, there’s so many little levels, um, training who to choose to, to, to invite for these guests teachers for every Sunday. And then it has to be sort of, if I give a little footwork this Sunday, then that next Sunday, maybe you should be a popping or then it should be, uh, maybe it should be a salsa, like how to completely shift every single Sunday to keep them almost like to have their bodies, uh, be pulled so many directions. And that, that creates, um, a body development and a body flexibility that that’s what we’re trying to achieve. Right? So as a mentor, director, however you want to call it that’s those are like my biggest challenges till this day. Honestly.  

What you mentioned earlier about there being kind of a divide in terms of once you, once you reached the level of being a professional dancer, you have a few more commonly traveled paths. There’s the backup dancers slash commercials, TVs, film type, where you’re a contributing part of a big, big picture, or there’s the, you are the traveling teacher, choreographer person where there’s this kind of celebrity it factor, but you’re, you’re teaching your moves. And then there’s the kind of less glorified version of a teacher, which is the person in there doing the daily grind. These are our dance studio owners. These are our teachers who are putting together programs, making them attainable, making them feasible, doing the structure, like financing it, deciding budgets, like all of that big stuff. I want to put my focus there because those, those people get so overlooked. And I want to emphasize and highlight that that is a creative mega challenge to, to, to actually build a program is tremendously creative. To strategize and finance. You have to get creative. So I, I just want to do my part in kind of dismantling the stigma that the people behind JT or the creatives or the people, you know, the, the headliners on your convention are wildly creative. I think the people on the ground building these programs and getting them out into the world and changing lives one little dancling at a time, those are the creative heroes. And, and I think I’m just smitten by that.  

No, absolutely. And that’s so funny because to me at first, when I thought about the concept, I was like, okay, I’m going to have to teach, you know, four times a week. And I have to create something new every week. There’s a lot of creative choreography or, uh, as a teacher, uh, pressure, right. That I thought that that was going to be my biggest challenge and truly is not, is, is how to manage it all, how even I finish class and how do I have to come back and manage all this stuff that I’ve truly never done in my life. Um, you know, and, and then finding an assistant, find the, how to delegate. It’s a whole process.

Building the team. I’m with you, my friend, this is, this is my first time managing a team in my life and I’m learning so much all the time. So what would you say in a, maybe we stick on that subject on the subject of managing a team. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?  

And I think this might be my come from a perspective, from a personal perspective, but think how to always put myself in these people’s shoes and how to not let either my, my day, my emotions, what I’m going through really give to that. I’m very, I’m very passionate. And that comes with a level of perfectionism, a level of expectation that is quite high that I expect not only for myself, but I can handle that, but to other people. And then it’s to really understand that I, it’s hard for me to think that someone is good unless they’re at my level, which is not right for me to do. You know, so understanding that  

I call this, um, comparing somebody’s chapter three to your chapter 30, or comparing your chapter three to somebody else’s chapter 30.  

Yup. That’s exactly what it is. So, yeah, it was really hard for me to like step aside from me and myself and everything. And, and, and to understand that someone is as valuable and as competent to, to do that job, uh, perhaps just differently. That was a huge lesson  

Compassion. Right? Ooh, that is so important. It’s so important. Okay. Is there a lesson since you started the company that you, I mean, you probably expected to level up on managerial skills and to level up on the technical side of things and to level up an organization, but is there, is there a lesson that you’ve learned that you did not expect you would learn?  

I would say, I would say vulnerability because a lot of people, you know, I’m suddenly starting a company and all these people see me as a mentor and you call it director because you have to call yourself and then there’s a whole marketing team behind saying, Oh no, you’re this. And no, you’re that. And, um, at the same time that I own one and want to own this, I want to be, I want to pave my way. I want to climb the letter respectfully. I don’t want, I’m not trying to rush into any sort of name. Um, but at the same time I have to, in order to, to make people feel like I got this together right. And jump on my boat, but I got this boat together. But at the same time to see the, the, these members every day and to have vulnerable moments in the sense where I forgot my step, I forgot my counts. Or there’s days. There was one day my dog passed away right before class. I got it like out of texts, like two minutes before class. And I was just in tears. And how do I zoom in with 40 people around the world saying good morning. And I’m in, you know, so, so, so to find that vulnerability and to, to, to make people feel like they can count on me, even when I’m on I’m at my lowest. So am I, I’m at my most vulnerable self, you know, that to me was a huge lesson to be okay with that. For me to be okay. Cause I’ve always tough, tough to, I got this together. Always. I have to be smiley and ready to go professional. Right. And sometimes that just doesn’t happen. That’s just life. Um, so I think that was a lesson that I was ready for.  

Thats huge. I, one of the things that I’m working to embrace, especially I’m giving a Supreme opportunity to practice it during the lockdown is to embrace the full human spectrum of emotion. And to understand that even at my best, I can’t make you think that I am the best,  No matter what I bring to you, you might still think I’m full of shit. Or you might still think I’m lame or I could be, you could call me president of dance and somebody might be like, yeah, she’s all right.  

Its so subjective, yes.  

So if it’s up to them, what they think and what they experienced, it’s up to me, what I think and what I experienced. And if I’m here for all of it, then buckle up because we’re going on a ride. Like you never know what you’re going to get. You never know. I might be in tears. I might be in tears.  

Thats truly. Yeah. That’s truly the journey. Yeah. It’s just, it’s just being down, being okay with whatever it comes. That, that that’s. Yeah. That’s a beautiful lesson.  

All right. So let’s talk about the journey now and let’s talk about what’s next. What are you most excited about right now?  

I think commercial jobs is don’t fulfill me the same way anymore. Um, just where I’m at in my life. And I think now is to really, I think my whole life was to check, check, check what I’m supposed to do to either being deemed as successful or, or, or great or undeniable, however you want to say it. Right. Um, and I think now life has showed me or has been showing me that things have to come from me first. And it took me a really long time to understand that to be, to be very honest. Um, so I think now I’m relearning myself and understanding like what makes me happy with, uh, within what I do will make me happy. What will would, this would this spark? My, my, my, my creative juices where what I’m interested in, like all these things, even quarantine finding out hobbies, I’ve never had time or mental space for hobbies like, Oh, that right.  So I think that’s the future for me, motus is, is something that I’m super passionate about. And I truly want that to be my, my, my legacy also, I feel like it’s, it’s a side of me. I’ve been somewhat, very selfish my whole career. Me, me, me. I go here to get this for I perform here so I can have this to say that I had that it’s very me. Right. Even though I’m offering my talent to this artist, that whatever. Um, but I think with motus, which was huge is that I’m not only of course helping me and creating this huge thing, but I’m also helping me helping others. Like it’s a whole different level, a whole different level.  

Dana: Alright. I just had to pop out right here because I want to shine a light on this, on this idea. D said, I’ve been selfish even though I’m offering my talent to someone else it’s still for me, is this something I can really relate to after 15 years, I guess, 16 years now of gigging in LA for Target or Amazon or Microsoft or Southwest airlines or any of the pop stars and TV shows and movies that I have, um, sold my time and talents to, and now I’m creating the podcast for free. Now I’m doing coaching programs. Now I’m finding ways to share what I’ve learned and empower. I’m really becoming less self-focused in that. But to be honest, I work on myself and my project and I’m thinking almost exclusively about them for at least eight hours a day or more. So how is that not still selfish. I really wanted to get to the bottom of this kind of discrepancy here that I’m going through internally. Um, and I wanted to go a little deeper. I want to get all the way through it. So yes, I did the thing where I Googled the word selfish. And here is what I found with the Miriam Webster definition. Selfish means concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or wellbeing without regard for others. I’ll say that one more time. And I’ll say it a little bit quicker and I’ll say it in pig latin. I’m kidding. I won’t say it in pig latin. Selfish means concerned exclusively or excessively with oneself seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure or wellbeing without regard for others. Okay. Now hear me out. Some of that actually sounds kind of all right, to me, seeking or concentrating on pleasure, wellbeing, and advantage. That’s actually kind of, kind of rock solid. It’s the disregard for others and the excessive or exclusive that rubs me the wrong way. Now what Diana is saying here. And what I want to underline is that there is a way to put yourself first so that you better, your ability to service others. There is a way to concentrate on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or wellbeing, air quotes with regard for others. And to me, that looks a little bit like saying yes, and. My good old fashioned favorite improv principle. Yes, I can do well for myself. And you can do well too. Yes, I can go far in my career and we can go further, farther, further. What do you say further, further, further? I think together. Yes, I can have a successful career and I can tell you everything about it. Yes. That might help you. Yes. I want to help you. This can be, Yes, And this can be Me, and you. So to everyone out there listening who wants to change the world and who wants to do better for themselves, I would say start by taking care of yourself and end with sharing what you’ve learned. I know that that’s not the end of it, but I think that’s a pretty good place to start. And that’s where I will leave it for now, because I’m excited to get back into it with D. 

You, you mentioned success, and I think you might’ve just answered it, but I would love to, like, if we could wrap this up with a bow on it, what is success to you?  

Success is true fulfillment. True. And what is fulfillment though? Right. 

You know I was about to ask, I wasn’t going to let you off that easy  

Nothing. It’s so crazy. Cause nothing is black and white and that’s why it’s so hard to define anything.  

That’s why you have to answer with gray. Right?  

I would say success to me is understanding what will make me truly happy. What will make me feel fulfilled and made me make me go to sleep at night in peace and wake up excited for another day. I think that’s the best way I can explain it. I like that success is good.  

Going to sleep at peace and waking up excited. I love that answer. Um, to me and I’ve been working on this definition to me, success is simply doing what I said I would do.  

I can’t beat you. 

I say, well, girl, I’ve been at the table for like nine months. Now, since March 6th, I’ve been in here. Like, what do I think about things? What do I have to say? I’m going to put a microphone in front of my face. Every, every Wednesday. It better be good. So that really that to me. And then on the flip side of that coin, of course is the, the opposite question is what is failure? And to me, it’s not doing the thing that I said I would do. Even if it’s as simple as taking out the trash or calling you when I, if I said I would, you know, um, I really am excited about accountability.

What is the things they used to told yourself that, okay, I’m going to do this, this and this. I’m not necessarily. Cause you know, we go through journeys is not necessarily what pleases you. So even though you said that you were going to do it and you end up not doing how many times have you not done it and realize, Oh, that was actually great.  

Well, I’ll back up a little bit and say that, first of all, I don’t prioritize. I don’t always prioritize pleasure or things that please me or things that will make me happy. Um, I mentioned already embracing and honoring the full spectrum of human emotion. Even if it’s devastation, embarrassment, humiliation, um, disappointment, or a feeling that I’ve let somebody else down like, Ooh, yikes. I don’t like those. Wouldn’t deliberately show up on my list of things to do. But, but my pursuit of success is not. Is not a pursuit of happiness. It’s a pursuit of a full life.  

Dana: Oh yes. My friends were going in. We are definitely getting into the depths here. Now this news about my priorities, not being the pursuit of happiness might seem like a shock to you because I am a joy machine. My default mood is sunshine and glitter and moonbeams, but I think that in our human lives, like the full scope of them, we will probably experience a real natural distribution of emotions, half positive, half negative, half good, half bad, some really bad, some really good most of them falling somewhere in between. I don’t personally chase happiness because I believe that out there, wherever it’s led me, that, that pursuit, I know that out there, even if I, even if I catch it, life will be 50/50. I think there is a full episode here. And I do really want to dig into this idea of 50/50, but I’m going to put it in the parking lot for now and jump back in with D because I actually really, really loved her ideas about success. And we’re going to dig into those a little deeper  

To sleep at peace and waking up jazz. Yep. That’s it? That paints a pretty serious, like a pretty pretty specific fixture. And it’s simple as well. Yes, but also not easy, simple, not easy going to sleep at peace by itself. I mean, how many things are there in the world for us to get restless and wrecked up about right now? Countless impossible. I mean, come on. But really I do believe that the facts of the world are actually quite neutral. Once we apply that it should be some other way and we’re wrestling and we’re like on the mat, sweaty, you know, with all this effort, that’s not going to sleep at peace, going to sleep tonight, knowing that  A is A, B is B, C is C. I can apply whatever thought I want to that thinking that is going to keep me up for several more hours. 

It is what it is. 

This is the fact I have another favorite saying is simply to let the easy be easy and let the hard be hard. Some shit will keep you up at night. Let that keep you up. That’s hard. Let that be hard, but there’s other stuff that doesn’t need to be that hard. And you can just put that to sleep when you hit the pillow. Good night. 

Good night. Dana you’re my life coach. 

Absolutely. Let’s go. Um, all right. I love talking to you and I could talk to you all day. Um, but I digress. I’ll let you back out into all your fabulousness. It’s an honor. 

Again. Thank you so much.  All right, my friend. 

And I hope that you got a lot out of this episode. I know that I absolutely did. Um, and I hope you do continue digging into the wondrous work of Diana Matos. Um, I hope that you take a Me, and approach to your life and your career, and she is such a good example of that. All right, now, go out into the world, focus on yourself, share it with others. And of course keep it Funky while you do it. Have a great rest of your day. Everybody. I will talk to you soon

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

Ep. #38 WTMM x CLI with Joshua Smith

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

Show Notes

Quick Links:

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

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

Transcript:

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

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

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

Dana: Hi everybody. I’m Dana.

Josh: I’m Josh. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dana: Thank you so much, man. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dana: And so talented. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh: Happy belated birthday! 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dana: Great example, great example.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dana: Let’s hear it. Let’s see it.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh: Upside down,  

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

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

Dana: The conversations is training and experience  

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

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

Josh: Well, it’s the kinjaz 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ep. #26 Still Taking Notes from Dominique Kelley

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #26 Still Taking Notes from Dominique Kelley
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This conversation with the legendary Dominique Kelley dances on subjects including race, appropriation, protests, and progress, but it is REALLY about the responsibility of teachers, AND students to know the backdrop they are dancing in front of.

Show Notes

Quick Links:

Follow Dom Kelley! https://www.instagram.com/domkelley/

In case you want to move with us →  patreon.com/WTMMpodcast

Father’s Day Episode: https://www.thedanawilson.com/podcast/bonus-episode-fathers-day-with-gary-wilson

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. Don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.  

Dana: Hello, my friend, how are you feeling today? I am feeling a little bit tense. I am having one of those days where it takes like three times longer to do all of the things than I expect it to take, or then I have allotted it to take. So I’m having a day, but I am having a great day because I am recording episode 26, and this is such a doozy. This episode is a gift because I didn’t expect there to be a part two from episode 25 with Dominique Kelly. And then he and I had an incredible IG live conversation and I simply could not keep it to myself and by myself, I mean my Instagram account. So that is what this episode is going to be. I’m going to tell you a little bit more about it in just a second, but first let’s talk wins.  

My win this week is a super emotional win and it is that I had an awesome conversation with my dad yesterday. My dad and I live in different States, but sometimes it feels like we live in different worlds. We’ve got different political opinions. We have different ideas about sports. Um, for example, he likes them and I like being outside and eating peanuts and drinking beer. So maybe there is a little overlap there, but ultimately we are very different beings. I’m considering this conversation a win because we went way deeper than the weather. Although we absolutely did start by talking about the weather as always it’s our warmup, but I feel like I got to know him and understand him. And honestly, I think I heard him understanding me. We did a little emotional, heavy lifting as well. Just warning. We do both cry when we talked about his dad, my grandpa, and what it means to be without a dad on father’s day. And as if that wasn’t enough, this conversation really revealed the thing that I should have known all along really truly connects us other than our DNA, obviously, and that is music. It was very, very cool to connect on that. So if you’re interested in listening in on that conversation, check out my most recent episode, which is actually a bonus father’s day episode. So it doesn’t have a number associated to it. It’s just a bonus episode, but you’ll find it in all the same places where you normally find the pod. Okay. That is my win. Now you go, what is going well in your world?  

Alright, killer. Congratulations. And I am stoked for you. Keep winning please. Okay. Let’s talk. Taking notes. So episode 25 was action packed with golden nuggets. And in this IG live that I did with Dominique Kelley, he was hitting it with the combos, all of the great analogies that you would expect to come from Mr. Dominique Kelley. Also, we go a little bit deeper on some topics that we covered last week, for example, um, the difference between cramming and learning. We talked about practicing change instead of just memorizing change. And I think that’s super, super important to, to address. So I’m jazzed that we get to go a little bit deeper on that. We talk a little bit about the protests and what it means to be convenient or inconvenient. We also talk about Dominique’s relationship to timing, which is a very, very particular one. We talk about how restraints can be liberating. We also talk about history, the importance of names and remembering and cataloging things. And we talk about fusion. We talk about style. We talk about origins. We talk about how to frame boundaries as opportunities. My friends, whether you are in coronavirus lockdown, or not, whether you are a teacher or not, whether you are a dancer or not, there is so much to be gained from this episode and from this man, Holy smokes, get your pen and paper ready and enjoy another conversation with Dominique Kelley.  

Dana: Hi, I’m good. How are you doing? 

Dom: I am empowered.  I am surprised that people want to hear what I have to say. It, it, it humbles me every single time, literally

Dana: Because your words are gold. My friend. 

Dom: Thank you. I appreciate it. 

Also, if you’re being good to your, to your vocals, you stay hydrated.  

Oh yeah. All the hydration. And I had French fries too. So it lubes it up nicely.  

Cause I don’t think that’s um, well I have a handful of things that I would love to talk about today. Um, some questions that I got about the podcast and then a few things that I, because I also edit the podcast. So as I’m editing, I’m like, Ooh, I didn’t even, that didn’t even sink in that moment. And I, there are things that I would love to revisit. Um,  

And I actually went back and listened to because you know, sometimes you’ll put it out there and then I want to be like, Ooh, what did I say? Okay. Just to make sure you know.  

Yep. I’m with it, Dom. I did want to ask too. Is it okay with you if we open the floor to questions from.. 

For sure. All the questions. 

Yeah. Cool. So here’s what I would love to talk about from the podcast. One of the things that I noticed, I asked you a question I asked, um, as a, in dance and in life, how do you encourage people to avoid learning with a cram mentality? Like quickly, quickly get the information, pass the test and then yeah, because what we’re experiencing right now, may be the result of a problem that is about that. Like we crammed to get through this movement or that moment or this thing. And then nobody .. there was no deep change made. There was no deep learning done. And so we’re still here is it, it might be because of that cram mentality. That’s like, okay, just enough to get over this difficult moment , just enough to get through this quiz just enough to get through that test. But, but nothing, no deep learning, no deep change. And you, you talked for a good moment about as a teacher, what you do, how you encourage that. And as I was listening, I realized that a unique thing about dance is that you really cannot cram and truly pass because, Like I might be able to cram so that I remember the names of the positions, but I, if I can’t do them, you don’t get to cram for that test. You can’t cram a triple pirouette you either practice doing it enough so that you can do it or you can’t do it. So I think that we might, what I hope is that we might see dancers as being people who are used to practicing change instead of cramming for change. And I really am hopeful that a dance community will be one of the first places that we see big, real change that started on an individual level. Like it’s a triple pirouette is not a team change. It’s not a universal change. It’s like I do my triple pirouette  work. You do your triple pirouette work. And then we can do a triple period together. I got so hopeful when I heard that little hidden gem in the episode, that’s like, Oh wait, dancers, can’t cramp because you can’t pass. If you don’t do the work.  

No. And then not only that, at least you talk about cramming, which means reading. People don’t even know what book to read. They don’t even know that we’re all reading a book. Let’s start there because we’re talking about like cramming and getting all the knowledge in. There are still some of us who don’t even know that we’re being tested. Some of us are being tested. Other people are the tests, the ones who are writing those tests, it’s like, what’s what’s happening. So it’s not so much, even the people cramming. I mean, I’m kind of giving credence and credit to the people who are actually trying to ingest the knowledge. Now how much of it’s getting in. It’s like, you’re doing stomp on your forehead. Like it’s just not getting in. You know what I mean? But, um, in moments like this, it’s remembering something has to settle something like take one of those gems and elaborate on that.  Like you, you have to, you have no other choice, but to do that because that’s how we learn anyway. That’s how we learn all of the things that we love. Whether it’s a mistake, whether it’s something like it’s learning about somebody, when you first go on a date, you don’t go on a date for 15 hours. You spend that time. I mean, speed dating happens. But still what you have a half an hour? You know what I mean? So like, there’s, there’s nothing you can do to cram all the information in jest. And then not only that we’re very much black lives matter, but look, what’s happening in Yemen. Look, what’s happening in China. Like it’s very easy to be like, Oh, we turn into superheroes with our knowledge where it’s like, well, I have to save this person. I have to save this person. And that’s a great place to be in your life. But at the end of the day, you have to ground yourself in something in your learning.  

Thank you. 

Welcome. Sorry. 

I love this. I in the episode, if you haven’t listened yet, please do check out episode 25 of Words that Moved Me. Dominique has a lot of solid gold. And now you are analogy master. And in the, in the podcast, we do talk about analogies being a little bit dangerous because what we’re doing is we’re relating two things that are not the same thing, but we’re saying this is like this. And it’s so that we can wrap our heads around things that are difficult to understand, but it’s also, I think very important to be very specific about what things are and aren’t is this something you’re so good at doing? And I just want to applaud you for that. My favorite one that you just dished was this idea of speed dating. And I see in that such incredible value, especially because in dating, after the date is over, you can’t stop replaying it

Good or Bad. 

So I’m hoping that as people are learning right now, whether it’s reading a book or watching the doc or listening to the pod, I hope that we replay it afterwards and talk to people about it afterwards and, and, you know, stay with it. I think that’s one way that cramming, you know, that’s, that’s not cramming. That’s deep learning.  

Yes. And then not only that back to the speed dating, not only do you learn about somebody else, but most importantly, you learn about yourself. You learn about what you want, what you don’t want, how you feel, like do you have commonality? It’s all of those things. So I think when you’re learning about someone else, you’re learning about yourself and, George C. Wolfe  always said we complete each other’s history. And that is true. So in these sessions, when we’re cramming, I mean, I know we like to go to an empathy place and try to relate it to ourselves, but that’s how we see ourselves in the world. That’s the whole competitive, that’s sports, that’s dance competition. That’s a little moving up in life, seeing where you fit in the strata with this cramming and learning about other people. You have no choice, but to ingest that and see, see the opposite view and then see how you fit into that.  

And that can be so tough are what we know about ourselves. What other people tell us about ourselves? And then what we have no idea about what we’ve never seen, the blind spots  

And what you’re starting to learn. You know what I mean? Because what I just heard recently is, um, and this is just like a random jump, but it makes sense. You know, sometimes we don’t like what we see in other people and that’s why we don’t like those other people. So when that mirror is really reflected, so with all of these world issues and the issues that we’re dealing with now, and whether it’s a protest or unlearning, relearning, all of those things, you have to sit and sit with your feelings and go, Whoa, why don’t I like this? Do I not like this? Because it’s illuminating a blind spot in myself that I, that mirror, you know, and that goes back to living in Hollywood versus New York people go, New York is so real. And then sometimes I go or is Hollywood also so real that it illuminates everything, everything that you want to be and don’t want to be that mirror just turns around and you’re just like, Oh, you know what I mean? So like, I think in situations like this, when you’re seeing where you fit in the world, that mirror hurts, it can feel really good, but you’re also hurting.  

I have a question from an audience member. Um, and this is a very specific question asking for tips on transitioning from concert dance to commercial. You’re a person who knows many different worlds Dom. You just touched a little bit on being in, living in New York versus Los Angeles. You have deep, deep roots in tap, but your education experience and talents span far, far wider and many different styles. Um, so, so I’d love to hear, what do you think on tips? What if it’s not transitioning from commercial world to, or sorry, contempt company to commercial, but transitioning from world to world period.  

There it goes. Um, I think, um, I, that’s probably coming from Xavier who I had a Jacob’s pillow and he is one of my favorites. He’s really great. So if you don’t know who he is, just look him up. He’s great. Um, I did not come from company world. I like to dance with my shoes on. I never wanted my potatoes out. I wanted my feet in. Yeah. I wanted my feet in. Um, so I don’t know much about that world, but what I do know is the world transition that a lot of my friends did from company world is they went through musical theater. And I don’t know if it’s so much because the discipline meets the discipline because a lot of my friends who did company world into like commercial world, they were like, what is this? Why is everybody late? Why, why did we not warm up? Why did we do all those things? So I think sometimes from company to musical theater is a very disciplined, disciplined match, depending on who you’re working with and working for. I also encourage you to get a mentor, everybody out there get a mentor, whether you’ve been doing this for a long time or not, hello, to all the people out there, get a mentor, because I feel like that person will usher you into the greatness and the fullness of who you’re supposed to be because sometimes these questions, um, they’re great. And it’s great to ask questions, but sometimes it’s great to have somebody to walk you through that situation. Like for example, Jamal Story knows about that life. Desmond Richardson knows about that life. Anthony burrell,Ebony Williams There’s a lot of great people like Rasta Thomas, like people know that world. Um, so if you need me to, I will direct you to those people. I literally will do that all day long. Cause it’s been fortunate for me that I’ve gotten to be a part of all of these worlds and I pull no punches. I don’t hold any secrets. So if anybody out there needs anything, I can at least direct you. And then not only that stalk people literally see how other people did. Like, I like to be keen on people’s process. Like listen to their podcasts. If they wrote any articles, if they have anything in dance magazine. And I feel like sometimes that’s the best knowledge you can get if you can’t definitely like get to the person, see how their mind flows.  

Um, I would love to hear about your relationship to timing and this time right now.  

Yes. Okay, great. Now just another little fun thing. I literally bumped into not bumped into cause we were doing some Dana Foglia and I felt so crazy because like I felt like I was like word vomit about how I felt. I felt guilty that I feel like I’ve done well in COVID meaning like handling it. I’m an introvert. I don’t get stir crazy. I don’t need to move around. I don’t need to do any of that. What we were talking about is my relationship to time, being a tap dancer, I’m used to the beat being on the beat, rhythm. What’s the time signature, all of that stuff. Like even hearing the tick. Oh, I guess it would be this way. The tick tick, tick of the clock, I’m automatically like, Oh, where do I have to go? Where do I have to go? What do I have to do? And it’s been so liberating. Not having time constraints. Not only that, I didn’t have to worry about leaving here. I didn’t have to worry about being in traffic. And then not only that, as an African American, we still have that implanted in our brain that it’s like, you can not be late. You always have to be on time. Because if you’re late, people are gonna think you’re late because you’re black. So I always try to be extra early and time, everything out. And in this time I have not had to like maybe now and then being like, Oh, I should zoom with this person, but it’s been so liberating to not be on a timed schedule. Not only that, it was the most consistently present I’ve been in my life, literally in my life. And it’s been so rewarding to then go. It’s not about the past and it’s not about the future and anybody who does freelance work and who is an artist, you’re always worried about the future. I mean, I got safe, so I’m never really worried about the future, but even sometimes it’s like, what is the future what’s going to happen? And you know, it’s going to be good, but you’re still like there. And to literally not have a care where people ask me, what am I doing today? I don’t know I’m going to do what I feel like doing. And that was the most liberating experience of this whole time.  

That’s poetic, fighting, finding freedom in restraint, in, in what most people are calling lockdown.

That’s ballroom, freedom and restraint, you know? So it’s been, it’s been nice to also share these things because again, people will hit me up. They’re like, how are you doing? And I was like, I don’t mind it because I can literally be my full, authentic self. Not that I’m not, but I mean, like I can do all the things that I wouldn’t do in society. I can wear my do rag all day. I can sag my shorts down if I want to, I can play whatever music I want to and not technically have to worry, even though we’re always not necessarily safe, but I still had that womb, I had a creative womb in here that I could be whatever I wanted to be. And as somebody who’s African American and in the arts, that is the one of the most liberating freeing places to mentally be that I’ve been consistently in a very long time.  

What is your game plan to maintain that? Do you think you can? Is it possible?  

That is the question because I was telling a friend we’re about to reenter back into a different society. So we’re all going to be relearning how to interact. Like we’re not going to be running up and giving each other hugs, um, the way we’re going to, um, interact as you know, just people and citizens is all going to change. So I’m excited to see how that’s going to change and all the mechanisms and habits and things that I’ve brought in here. There were things that I was already doing, but I don’t know if it will be the same because life is starting back up again. So that’s the thing I’m going to try to keep as much of me as possible, but even still, as things are ramping up, I’m like, Ooh, I have to do this. Ooh I have to do that. And I think it’s not so much I’m blocking out the noise. Cause I’m not necessarily one who has to like sit, I can, I can be doing things and still feel at calm and peaceful. But the interesting thing is, um, maybe going out into the world and then not feeling guilty for not wanting to be out in the world all the time, because we always feel guilty If we stay home, you know, where it’s like, I feel like I should be doing this. I feel like I should be doing that. I think it’s more taking onus of not feeling guilty for preserving and protecting my magic.  

Thank you. I, uh, I think that it’s part of dance culture that, uh, I’ll speak specifically for the industry that I know this Los Angeles community and the commercial industry that working is good. Busy is good. Like actually when you, when you ask somebody, how are you doing? And they say, Oh God, so busy. You’re like, Oh good. Like we really busy is good because busy means working. And, and I think that well from the sounds of it, anyways, the guilt in getting pleasure or joy from not being busy might be doubly compounding the unnatural because we’re so used to be busy being good. So yeah, I really enjoy the idea that busy doesn’t equal good and not busy doesn’t equal bad.  

Very much that. And not only that too, it’s like, I almost felt guilty that I didn’t feel like dancing for the first two weeks or even after that, I did not feel the need nor sense to create. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m fortunate that in my career, I have been able to create and create freely and just put work out there. So during this time, people are like, well, you should be creating and doing all these things. And I was like, I feel like I need to turn that off for a second and ingest and take all of the knowledge and all of those things in and just rest my brain because this hamster wheel that’s going like every single time, like so many tabs that were open. So it was nice to like click those tabs off and, and just be, you know, and, and honestly for maybe the first two or three weeks, I felt guilty. And then after that, I was like, no, no need for that because guilt is not a productive, positive emotion. Like conviction. Conviction is good. Guilty is bad  

Conviction. Compassion. Yes. Yup. In the podcast you mentioned, I think it’s in the same section where we’re talking about deep learning versus cramming. Um, you mentioned, sit down, like take this round out, watch the groups, right. You don’t need to dance in every group. Nope. Sit down and rest your mind. And I think it’s very interesting, the timing of our civil rights movement that we’re in with the pandemic that we’re in, where, um, yes, we are in some senses forced to be still enough to watch what’s going on outside. Um, and I want to segue if I can, with that, to talking a bit about protests. Um, I mentioned Los Angeles specifically being a world that loves to work. And I noticed last Friday, which was when we entered phase three, um, I was driving to my husband’s workshop and I got my first road rage in four months because there was legit LA traffic again. Yeah. And it, and it flared up and I was like, Oh, I don’t, Whoa, that’s a thing I used to have that a lot. That’s a thing that’s not so familiar anymore. Anyways. I’m wondering if, and I’m afraid that I’m wondering this, I’m embarrassed that I’m wondering this, but as Los Angeles gets back to work, are our people that used to be at protests going to be annoyed by protests because they’re road closers they’re keeping them from getting to work. Like I don’t have a question about this, but I’m really wondering what’s what’s the fate of the protest  

Protests are made to feel to let you feel a little bit of inconvenience. People do not like inconvenience. We only like being inconvenienced when we’re not being inconvenienced. So I think in this moment, once life opens back up, you might see less and less. Never know. You never know. You know, for the most part, remember how many people got mad when people were, um, shutting down highways or walking or like blocking traffic or any of those things. People hate inconvenience, but little do they know they don’t go to the point. Like this little bit of inconvenience does not amount to what other people are going through in their lives, in other countries, in different homes. You know? So I think the most part, the protest that happened, people weren’t really out anyway. Now on the flip side, there were more people who were freer to join into those protests because this was a world wide phenomenon worldwide, you know?  And would people have been like, I’m not going to go because I need to go to work. Or Ooh, if I call out of work, they’re going to be mad. Then I’m going to get fired. Nobody cared at this moment because nobody was really doing anything anyway. So I think it was divine timing of it happening when it did, because if everybody would have been working and traveling and whatever people would have been more annoyed, even more so of the protests that were going on than normal, because people were like, well, I’m not outside anyway I can cheer on. We can hold our flashlights. At the end of the night, we can be on our, we can be prone. We can be on our knees. We can do all those things because it didn’t inconvenience us. And I think that’s one of the problems because we saw us in them. Usually that’s a good thing. But sometimes when that moment happens, we just see like us, us, me, how is this going to affect me? As opposed to, I need to be there for somebody else and support, you know,  

Thank you for helping me understand protests better. It is important to think about that inconvenience or like annoying annoyance being the tool, not the purpose. Like somebody poking you over and over again becomes annoying, but it’s not, they’re not trying to poke you. They’re trying to talk to you

Get your attention. Exactly.  

They’re trying to, it’s not the poking. So I, I hope that things do open up. I hope that protests continue to annoy people and more so than before. I think they will, because more people are going back to work. Like you said, they weren’t that annoying because they weren’t in the way. And then in Los Angeles, in many cases, they’re a beautiful, a beautiful, beautiful spectacle. Dare I say entertaining for some people. Ooh. You know, but I, Right, right. And I’m here, I’m here for all of it. But um, I really hope that they do continue. Don’t get me wrong though. Please. If that’s the sound bite, you take away from this. I don’t want protest to continue. I want change.  

There we go. I was about to say that I want some action after that  

Change to have, instead of, we don’t need to keep poking  

Cause that finger is going to get burnt out fingers, going to get burnt out. It’s going to be bent like that. Like in the cartoons,

Whats a bunion  if it’s on your nuckle, 

A Nunion? I dunno. I dunno. 

Beautiful. Well, I know that you are a busy, busy person. I,  

I’m not too busy to talk. I love it. Especially you.  

Ah, thank you. I’m enjoying this so much. Um, anything else coming up from people in the room? Jessica Castro. Love you love that you’re here.  

Yes. That finger is going to enlist the other fingers,  

This is great. And then if you learn nothing good people learn that a bunion on your knuckle is a nunion  I love this. Um, you know, it’s interesting. Speaking of this, just this thought is just now jelly. In locking. We have a sam point. We have a sam point because of Uncle Sam and we want you, and I’m so curious to see what dance right now will look like to people like me, locking is one of my favorite styles of dance. And you know, I I’m, I’m far from a club in the early seventies, but something about it resonates with me. And I really love the way that, um, dance is kind of a portal into the moment in history, uh, of when it was created locking for example. But I’m, I’m so curious for people 30, 40 years from now to look at this and I wonder what dance will be saying about this time right now.  

I hope there’s a Milange. I really do. Um, one thing that is not a gripe, but I wish I got to talk to more of my brothers and sisters who do hip hop. I feel like a lot of the tokens or some of the other African Americans who do other dance styles we’re talking to each other. But when lists are made or like when people want to do a benefit or anything, if you don’t necessarily do hip hop, then you’re not necessarily enlisted. And I’m not like trying to be like, but it’s more of, I understand that there’s a bigger Brown community in hip hop and a lot of those dance styles, but I wish we all came together. Well, not now because of COVID, but I mean like mentally came together to really try to unite everybody because like I said, not necessarily like commercial and company or this in that, I just feel like sometimes I’m like this when it comes to the hip hop community, when I’m, when I’m speaking on anything.  And I would love to hear in compare and contrast and have these conversations too, because my blues are different than yours and yours are different than mine. My outlook is different than yours and yours is different than mine. I’m used to being, you know, one of the few in what I do. And a lot of times, you know, you might be around more people. So I would love to have not only a mental Milange, but see a merging of the styles and see what happens and all of those other things, because I think there’s beauty and mixture and there’s beauty and separation.  

I, you know, I was just about to zero in on that, we talked a little bit about ballet, the technique of ballet, how saying that ballet is the foundation of all styles is tremendously exclusive. Um, but also I believe that style A. if you’re a smart person, knowledge of style, A. if applied to style B can give you a deeper understanding if for no other reason than because the body is the vessel. So is there a right or wrong in terms of purist maintain, this is this, it won’t change. It is what it is that blah versus, well, this can grow into that. And I’m open to your take on this. You know, the end. 

I think I’ll start by saying this, that one problem that the vets or the OGs or the old heads have is not necessarily the styles, morphing and changing because that’s what it was for us. You don’t want anybody admonishing you for trying to do your own thing. I think where the friction comes from is not calling it what it is or giving the respect It’s due. For example, I like to do, I like to teach jazz. Um, most things have a contraction, a kickball change, a triplet, a pas be bourres and an envelope. You know what I mean? Like things that in my head are considered jazz, jazz. Now, most people go like, Oh, well that’s not really like jazz funk. And I was like, no, it’s not because it’s not that I’m a purist. It’s just that if I’m calling something this and I’m billing it as that, I want people to go, Oh, that’s what that is.  So if you don’t know what the pure part is, the derivations won’t make sense to you. And as much as I love a derivation, like I’m one of those people that I’m like put it together. Sure. I just feel like if it’s organic, all day, if it’s not, I feel like we can, we can sense that it’s something in your spirit that can sense that. And it’s not necessarily that you’re putting it on out on a platter for us to judge. It’s just more of, does it feel organic for you if you’re sharing it that way? Cool. Maybe that’s just you. But I think the problem that I have sometimes when styles form in milange and everything, I think it’s called one thing where it’s like, but to have the technique, to be able to do this, you need that in all of this is missing. If that makes sense a little bit.  

Yeah. I think you’re bringing up an interesting point, which is, um, not only in acknowledging and then knowing origins, but also referring to the origins with the words, the names, the people, the, the dances is unique and that you cannot learn how to dance from a book. No, but you must be able to point to, without, with something other than movement, the sources, the places you have to have words that explain the thing. You have to have names and dates of where it came from. Otherwise it dies right there with the moment that it flourished and bubbled and then was gone.  

Cause we’re, grios, it’s a pass down, especially a lot of our, you know, black dance form. It’s passed down from generation to generation. And um, the more you know about it, the more everybody else will know. And then you won’t get clocked on appropriation anyway, you know, either way, because you know the history you’re giving credit to the people who came before you, you’re giving a nod. I’m giving a nod to the Luigi. I’m giving a nod to Matt Maddox. I’m giving a nod to Frank Hatchett. I’m giving a nod to all of those people, just in my being in paying it forward and passing it forward. Because you know, we hear all the time, tap dancing is dying. Jazz is dying. All these things are dying. One. Why is it all the Brown stuff dying. Two Is it really dying? Are you just not doing it. Three. How can we help to not make it die is by passing along what it is in its true form. So by the time you do your derivation and you put your own sauce on it, you put your own stank, you filmed it and then you put it out there for the world to see people aren’t going like, Oh, are you a culture vulture? No, I’m not a culture vulture. I’m giving the history as I’m doing it. I’m a living, breathing museum, work of art. And if you go into it, knowing that and being firm in what you know, and then researching history. Cause I know a lot of things, are social dances, we did them at a certain time and everybody did them, but who did them? Where did they do them? What was the time? We all have to turn into sociologists and anthropologists in this moment. Sorry, I use a lot of big words, but you know what I’m talking about. You have to do your research because again, if you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going and that’s even with dance styles, like you just have to know. And again, knowledge is so important in, in, in just all of the things, because somebody may try to tell you what it’s not, but at least you can tell them what it is.  

The backdrop. Yeah. We stand in front of all the dance that came before us  

All the time, all the time, we are living, breathing repositories of everyone and everything that came before us. So give them some credit because they worked really hard. They came through the plagues, they came through the trail of tears. They came through the interment camps. They came through being enslaved. They came through Ellis Island, give them, give them a click, give them some love. These people worked hard. And not only that, this was their tribute. This was their, this was their party. This was their joy in the midst of everything they were going through. So by you trying to just make it monetary, come in a half an hour late, not even tell that, not even tell the full story and you make money off of it. What are you doing? You’re stopping it at you. The whole thing is to be a repository of that gift and pay it forward. What are you doing?  

Jess Castro is asking. I’m going to kind of meld them together. Sure. She asks two questions. She says, do you think that the problem is that when students start dancing their foundation, they start by taking these fusion type of classes. So then there’s no actual foundation and they don’t have the origin. That’s A, part A and then B is, why do you think it’s not attractive to the new generation? And I think she means why, why do you believe the foundation is not that attractive to the new generation? Jess am I, am I, am I right in that second question? Feel free to chime back in.  

Cool. So the first one about fusion, I do kind of feel that way, but I think it starts with your teachers. If your teachers want to be famous and not want to educate you, it’s also the intention behind it because we have to hold our teachers accountable. Now it’s hard when you just don’t know, we all came from somewhere that was not New York or LA or Atlanta or Chicago. So we all came from maybe a Dolly Dinkle or if you were privileged enough to have the best choreographers come in, I didn’t all the time. So I use TV. That was my substitution back in Connecticut we didn’t really have hip hop. And this was like 93, 94 95. So what I learned, I watched by watching TV. Now, the good thing was I did stalk dance. I literally was a dance crazy. Um, I was one of those people that I started off in the beginner class. But by the end of the year, I was in a more advanced class because I went home and I did it myself and I looked it up and I wanted to know the words. I think it came from a fear of sounding nuts. I wanted to know all the fancy French words and it wasn’t being elitist. You’re using those fancy French words. I want to know what those fancy French words are because for me having that knowledge, nobody could take that away from me. You can tell me maybe my foot wasn’t pointed, but I can tell you what step, you know. So it was always the specificity of the movement that I wanted to know. I wanted to see you do it. So another thing is I, my dance teachers, I didn’t grow up with my dance teachers doing the step. They were all older. My dance teacher was not about to do no saut de chat. Her assistant was about to do no saut de chat. So they had to explain to me what your body was doing. And I had to use my imagination. And then once I got to the point they were saying, then that’s it as opposed to let me show you what it is, let me dance in front of you. Let me do the combo. That was never it for me. So I came up learning that way. So to go back to the question, I think maybe there’s a little bit of that because it’s the education of our teachers. Our teachers don’t quite know what the words are and we need to just hold them accountable here. You know, in Canada, they have syllabus, here we don’t necessarily have that. Like, um, for example, I had gotten to an argument here that says like a pique turn or a pique, we call it pique, but other people don’t call it that. And then somebody else was like, no, it’s French. It’s just what it is. It’s a pique. And I said, no, in Canada or Australia, it’s called pose. Like opposed they turn. And they were like, well, that’s not right. And I said, see, but I just told you, I went to those places and that’s what they call it. So it’s educating our educators. So everybody in competition, convention, world who are teaching teachers tell them that. So the second part of the question about, um, what was it, why doesn’t the new generation? I don’t think the new generation likes limits. I think that’s why contemporary is so popular in other forms where they get to just be themselves because our generation and above was taught to do this and learn this way. Granted, we have free thought. We have all of that, but I think hip hop was radical Street Jazz was radical. You know what I mean? And I think the difference was our vets didn’t really look down on it. They were just like, Oh, you talk took it to a new place where now like, even with tap or even with other things, people saw what I was doing. And I think the vets were like, yes, but now us being the vets doing to the younger generation, I don’t think it’s necessarily the dance form and that it’s fusion. I think it’s the integrity behind it because I am, I have gritty integrity, you know? And not just, we say integrity in the movement, keep your hips down. When you’re sitting on the floor and hip integrity, make sure your knees are facing up. We’re used to that integrity where sometimes people want more of a free flow. And it’s not just an LA thing where people go like, Oh, they just want to perform.  And they just want to live live. See, we were taught to live and practice, but live within the confines now, which one is better or worse. Now, nowadays, people take the information and write poetry with their body. They write a sonnet, with their feet. They do haiku with their chest, you know? And um, and I think it’s all the same glo-. I was about to say that it’s global now where people do not want to be limited. And I wonder if that has to do with our labels, for gender, our labels for sexuality. I wonder if this is just where we are in our lives. Because remember where we were in our lives, we had, we had some boundaries, we had boundaries, just societally everything we didn’t, we were in boxes, but now the generations are pushing those boxes away and really challenging how we feel about ourselves, our world, how we interact with it and what we mean, what dance means to us and what we mean to the dance. So I don’t think it’s that it’s necessarily admonishing the younger generation. I think as long as they’re doing it with integrity, I’m kind of here for it. I’m here for it all day long, because I remember how it felt when people tried to look at me and be like, Oh, is that what you’re doing? And I’d be like, yes, that’s what I’m doing Now again, I take great delight that I get respect from my vet. There’s very few that’s that I get respect from. But I think it’s also because I did the work. And I think if people did the work, it would be more respect, live your life. We all know a young one that inspires us. You know, my little mini me Ryan Vettle when he puts those shoes on, I’m like, Oh, all day long, you know what I mean? There’s just certain young ones in our lives that get it. And they’re like 12, they can be like 15. They could be like 19, 20, 21. We all have those ones, you know? But the thing is, it’s instilling in them the work. And it’s not that it’s not trauma. It’s not that you have to beat them up. It’s not that they have to keep doing the steps a million times. It’s having the integrity and doing the work.  

I love this idea. And I love that. You’re talking specifically about responsibility of teachers and then the leveling up of the students, something you said also just gave me an idea. And I know that there are a lot of parents in the room and I wonder if it might not be the responsibility of the teacher, just like it’s the responsibility of the parent to say, eat your vegetables. And you know that there are parents who get real creative with how those vegetables show up like peas all of a sudden are in a pureed sauce of some sort, whatever we put honey on him or what, I don’t know what the tricks are to get your kids to eat vegetables. But what if it’s the job of the teacher to present the boundary as an opportunity and not a boundary? 

There we go

This is what you get to do high fifth, fourth, whatever. This is what is available to you. This is what you get to do versus this is what it was. This is how it is. This is how it has to be. It’s a teacher’s creative challenge to present the boundaries as opportunities  

Because they all are, nothing is an obstacle. It’s not, it’s just a different way to think about it. And that’s what I try to do in class in general. I mean, anybody who knows me knows that’s just like, even when I do, um, Demi Demi Grand, I tell the people in my class, the bottom half is strict, the upper half lives. So I want you to remember the progression and I want you to remember the pedagogy and the technique in that, but the upper half should be able to flow. You know, the bottom half should be in print type set and the upper half should be in cursive. You know? And I feel like a lot of times like that, if you let people know they can be an individual because we were taught to be a group. A lot of times, you know, if you went to a dance studio, whether you competed or not, or a company you were taught to be as one, and that’s great and all, but I feel like a lot, like, like I said, with society and everything, people are living for their stars, you know, in their company, because at the end of the day, everybody who’s in LA was either the best in their studio or the best looking one. But what did you learn? What did you learn? You know?

I think that if, if there’s anything to be learned from movement, it’s that you’re able to move best when you have, when you’re solid someplace, some thing has to be anchored in order for there to be freedom. And dance is a great metaphor for this technique itself as a metaphor for this. And I will, I would like to share with all of you guys that are here right now, um, something that I’ll dig into on the podcast much later down the road, but Dom and I talked about, and I would like to touch on this. Um, here, this concept of technique versus style, are people missing something by not getting the foundation? If, if foundation is technique and fusion is style, then what are we doing? And what kind of future are we looking at? If all we’re teaching is style and no foundation, I’m not saying that it would be bad. I actually am really curious as a person who’s shoulders were always up in belly was always out and supporting leg was never straight. Like I’m curious about a world where style is the currency. I’m curious about that. I think there’ll be a lot wrong with it. The Rockettes wouldn’t exist, right? Like technical details. It’s like essential, Maybe? I would love to be questioned on that. Like, and we might be finding out Jess, we might be finding out what a dance world looks like. That doesn’t have technique, but we also might be finding that there is technique And this is why this is a hard question. Not, this is why I ask everybody. I talk to you because take Fosse For example, whose style was born from his physical limitations, right. We see pro nation, we see not high legs. Um, but that became its own technique. You can do Fosse well and not, well, you can teach it. It is like, this is why that question is so hard to answer because they’re actually not. 

It’s cyclical. It’s cyclical. Yeah. I’d like to have another life. Sorry. I was going to say, I have another analogy like that. Um, when I’m teaching, I tell my students it’s all about lines. And I said, think of yourself as an actor, if you know your lines and you know, what’s happening, then you can improvise off of that. So as a dancer, once I tell you what the line is, if you want to improvise off of that, at least you have the baseline. And then from there you can create because, um, again, just with acting or improvisation or building blocks in order to form sentences, you need to have words in order to have words, you need to have letters. So you have to do the building blocks. So then you can just knock all the blocks and then switch the words around and do all of that.  Because at the end of the day, passion overcomes technique anyway, because we can watch somebody do something technically perfect, and I’d rather drink a Yoohoo, but then there’s somebody else who might do something else, and it’s like, Ooh, that made me feel something like, for example, Fosse easiest, hardest thing ever to me in the beginning, it felt like I looked like I was taking a hot shower. I was just like, what are these positions? Why is that? You know what I mean? But then you realize you either have it or you don’t, but you still have to actively be working towards it. And I think that’s the thing with technique and style style. Sometimes you can acquire. Technique you have to actively work towards  

If dance is the universal language technique is the dictionary technique is the alphabet. Like you don’t get to speak universally without having words with which to say  

Yes. And to add on to that, then those, those letters can make other languages, which is even better because that’s how you become multifaceted in different styles.  

This is huge. This is huge. I love where this conversation is going. And I honestly, I could, I would love to maybe make this a weekly recurring moment because I think honestly, Dom we’re scratching the surface. Um, but I do have to run. I really, really appreciate your time. 

Thank you. Thank you. Oh, can I just do a quick shout out thing? Oh, praise him. So, okay. So I know this is weird, but my birthday is on Sunday and I know when you said birthday, I was like, does she know? So my birthday is on Sunday. So a couple of things. One, if you donate to a charity of my name, cool, if you want to donate to me for Apple juice or whatever you want. Cool. If you don’t want to do any of those things, if you post a quote that you’ve heard, that I’ve said, do it or anything that is empowered you because I want the day to not necessarily be about me. I want it to go through me and go to you. So anything that you’ve, that’s been mind blowing for you or anything that you want to put out into the world, be like Dom said, just be better. Or Dom wanted me to do this. Please do that on Sunday. I’m going to post about it. Dana. Thank you so much for having me and letting me just talk. I appreciate it.  

Oh, absolutely. It’s my absolute pleasure. I’m going to go find out how I can loop this video all day long on Sunday. I love it. Okay. Have a great rest of your evening. Thank you everybody for being here.  

Thank you later. I’m not going to leave until you leave. Okay.  

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

Ep. #25 Taking the Note with Dominique Kelley

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #25 Taking the Note with Dominique Kelley
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This episode addresses Learning vs. RE-learning,  YOUR truth vs. THE truth, and the best type of questions you should be asking yourself (and your students) right now.  Epiphany chaser, teacher, re-learner, and dance extraordinaire Dominique Kelley joins us to shine the light exactly where it should be… on CHANGE.

Show Notes

Quick Links

Patreon Worksheet: https://www.patreon.com/posts/38208623

Dominique Kelley with Zach Saunders: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CBEwx9jp6CE/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Fave Socratic Method Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB4MYGInRl4

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello, and welcome to episode 25. Yes, I did it 25 episodes. And is if that wasn’t when enough. My win for this week is that my team and I have really, really refined our workflow and we are bringing you more stuff that moves you. We are ready to ship on some awesome behind the scenes and deleted content to our members. And we’re getting really, really excellent feedback about our weekly worksheets. Um, those are downloadable and editable PDFs that our members have access to so that they can listen and work along with each episode and really get to commit and apply what they’re learning to their lives, like right now! we’ve posted a free to all sample worksheet from episode one, over at patreon.com/wtMMpodcast So be sure to go take a look at that and subscribe to either of our top three tiers. If you want the whole kit and caboodle, I love kit and caboodle, by the way, that should be the name of a tier right let’s focus. I have four tiers of membership. The first one includes a thank you note, a sticker, access to a playlist of the month, behind the scenes, videos, bloopers, all sorts of good stuff. And then the top three tiers, believe it or not have even more. I mean, really, really cool perks parked over there. So you want to give patreon.com/wtMMpodcast a visit. Okay, that’s it for me. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.  

do do do do do bam!  Okay. Great. I am so glad that you are winning. I’m proud of you keep crushing it. All right. Speaking of crushing it, our guest today is Dominique Kelly, an undeniable talent, a bright, bright mind, and a dear friend, as well as a leading voice in the dance industry. He is a shining example of excellence with roots in tap that actually branch out as wide as styles can branch. Um, and I’ve had the honor of working with him on several different projects. And recently I saw an IgG live that he did with Zach Saunders. Um, I will definitely be linking to that in the show notes because it is high, high quality. Now I was not shocked, but I was very, very moved, um, by Dominique’s compassion and eloquence in discussing and explaining some really complex and nuanced stuff, broadly racism, but very specifically racism and dance. Racism in the entertainment industry.  Man, I watched that IG live. I grabbed a pen and paper and went to school watching it. And then I promptly called him and asked if he would be willing to go a little bit deeper here on the podcast. And he said, yes. And then we talked for about 45 minutes about all the things. Um, the conversation you are about to hear is not that conversation. This is an altogether different 45 minute conversation that really shines a light on very important things. And I certainly walked away with it knowing more and doing better. And I really hope you do too. Please enjoy this conversation with Dominique Kelley. 

Dana: This is huge. I’m so, so excited to introduce the one and only Dominique Kelly. Hello, Dominique.  

Dominique: Hi. How are you doing? so great to be here. Thank you for having me.  

Dana: I am doing well. Thank you. It is great to have you here. I am all already cheesing pretty hard. My cheeks are going to be sore after this. I can tell, um, thank you for being here, man. You are just a master of words and a master of your craft. Please take a moment, introduce yourself. Tell us what you want us to know about you.  

Dominique: Great. Well, first and foremost, my name is Dominique Kelly. It sounds like Jonathan only it’s Dominique and, um, I’m a jokester, but more importantly, I’m a human. Yeah, that’s what I’d like to get across first, not my accomplishments, but my humanity. Now, when it comes to props for the business, I first I became professional at 12, 12 years old. I did my first show, black and blue, which was a European tour and it was a tap, a tap show and it was all black people. Um, my next show after that was bring da noise, bringing da funk and you know, another pivotal tap show that talked about American history through the lens of African American history and tap and another monumental show. And then after that, I co choreographed of my first musical at 16 with Omar Edwards, another black tack show ironically. So the first five years of my career were all black tap shows, which shape Mmm.  The way I learned the way I improvised, the way I saw the world, the way I saw myself. After that, I took a year off. I went to high school my senior year and I was valedictorian. And then I went to the University of Connecticut, um, originally on an animal science partial scholarship, which was fun. Okay. Clues you into how my brain thinks. Graduated after four years, I was homecoming King, which I was happy about. Um, especially at a school that big, it wasn’t necessarily, um, how you saw yourself, but it’s also how your peers saw you. After that, I moved to New York. I did Broadway, Film, TV the, for about two years, and then came to LA. Yes. And you know, just trying to do all the things, break down, all the barriers, love on all the people have those conversations that I could, and keep striving for more and 13 years later, I’m still here.  

Well, I’m glad that you are here. And I am glad that we are witnessing and getting to engage in a conversation with you. This is super special.  

Thank you.  

Now, one of the things that stood out to me in a big, big way about the conversation you had with Zach is that you are a master of the analogy and you’re an exceptional master of the dance analogy. I want to start with one of the things that stood out to me the most in your conversation with Zach, you said, listen, ‘to all of my white friends, my, my white people out there. This is not your moment to be in the spotlight. This is not your moment to even be an understudy or a swing. You know what? You are the lighting technician right now. It is your job to hold the light and shine it where it needs to be most.’ So I would love to, I I’m working to be a better lighting, lighting technician, myself. And, uh, I want to start by asking if there’s a takeaway that you had from that conversation with Zach or from several conversations. I’m sure you’re a part of right now. And is there a place, is there a topic you want highlighted here today or something you want to go deeper on?  

Sure. First of all, let me just say, um, about being the lightining tech. A lot of us want to start with empathy, which means you have to think of yourself in that category or what’s happening to somebody else. Also, a lot of us like to think of ourselves as prisms so if the light hits us, we’d like to refract it. But in this moment, move out of the way. And what I was saying was to accurately amplify other voices, they should not, and could not come through you because then you put your own bias on it. So just let people speak. And whether it’s a freestyle dance battle, when you get tired and you have no more moves, you pass it on. If it’s like beatboxing and you’re rapping in your freestyle and you have nothing else to say, you pass the mic, you don’t hold the mic and put it by you while somebody else’s rapping into the mix. So in those moments, like being a lighting tech past the light, don’t say anything present and jazz hands to somebody else. And when people asked to be an ally or to be a great support system, the best thing is to stand out of the way or stand down and have that humility and drop the ego and just go, I don’t know, I barely know much about this topic, but I know someone who does let them speak for themselves, you know? So I think in those moments, that’s what I’m talking about when I want you to be a lighting tech, as opposed to somebody who wants to stand in front or stand behind or go like, ‘Okay. Um, so what they really mean’ is there’s no, what they really mean, just let them talk. Because lot of times people don’t have that voice. They’ve never been listened to, you know, in certain moments. So I think it’s important to be a lighting tech. 

Now, what I would love to talk about some of the little things that I think, um, we all go through, but I have a different lens if it’s like, you know, little things while we’re on set. Um, if it’s little things within the dance industry that I’ve, um, we talked about it earlier. Um, I usually say learning unlearning, but now I have to revise it. Thanks. Thanks to you, Dana. It’s not necessarily learning it and unlearning it’s learning and relearning. So I would love to talk about some of the things that even I’ve had to relearn in this process. 

Nice. Let’s yeah. Let’s have that conversation. 

Yes. In teaching dance. Mmm. I’ve had to be impeccable, because of COVID, I am not there in the studio with people. So I really have to be very impeccable with my words in what I say. Now, dance is very strict. Anyway, when it comes to certain disciplines, it either is, or it isn’t. Then from there, you can show the variables and intricacies and the derivations of it all. Now, when it comes to talking about certain things, we can use our French words, you know, it’s like, is it a grand jete, or is it a saut de chat? Or even for tap, we can do, is it a four count rift? Or is it a five count riff? You know what I mean? Like there’s just certain nuances that you need to know to make sure. It’s just like, okay, so which Boogaloo are we doing? You know, like which, which vibe, what is, what is the vibe there. Now when it comes to teaching, I like to meet everyone where they are in their learning.  Not everybody has had the same education. Not everybody has the same relationship with dance. Not everybody wants to be a professional dancer. So I like to teach from a bare bones learning point of view. Being African American. I also liked to teach black art forms. I would like to give some history because if you don’t know where you are, where the dance form came from, you don’t know where it’s going to expand upon thus, leading too sometimes people appropriating because they don’t know where it came from. 

Okay. Another thing I like to do is, um, lead from the place of, and I think you and I were talking about it. I had to relearn a little bit ago about ballet. Now we slash all of us were taught. Mmm. That ballet was the foundation of all the dance styles. And I remember coming up, people should, they would say, well, everybody, whenever you dance, they should see that you have technique and technique, meaning ballet technique.  Now, a couple of things that I had to relearn about that one, everything has a technique. Salsa has a technique. Gumboot has a technique, um, waving and popping have techniques. Everything has a technique. And a technique just means the way you go about sequentially step-by-step to learn the specifics of a dance style, whether it’s cultural, whether it’s improvisational, like all of those things. Now, the next thing I had to wrap my head around is that thought is Euro-centric bordering on white supremacist. Now I know that seems very far reaching and all of a sudden people hear that word and they get very scared and turned off. Just think about all the things that are encompassing ballet, the positions, um, the feet, um, the pink tights, where it came from the derivation. So if you are not doing something that’s African base, which is Afro-centric, which a lot of our dance styles came from.  A lot of our hip hop styles, a lot of our dance hall styles, um, whether it’s, um, Afro Afro fusion, whether it’s Afro funk, whether it’s even jazz, tap like a whole bunch of those, then you have a lot of branch offs from there. So if you believe that your ballet style, you found it a whole bunch of other styles and should be seen in those other styles, I don’t think that’s exactly right and I don’t think that’s exactly the technique because a proficient technician we’ll show proficiency in that technique. And a lot of times, as we know, ballet will help with your upper body, but isn’t necessarily helping you with tap steps. No, not necessarily. You know, so there’s a lot of things that I had to relearn in a nap and nice analogy that I would like to use is, bleach. Bleach is good and it’s bad, and it’s good for what it’s good for and it’s bad for what it’s bad for. So in order to be able to use it and to properly clean, you have to dilute it with some water. And sometimes that relearning is the water that takes away and cuts, and it becomes more accessible to clean around people  

That just reminded me. Um, there’s a photographer named Greg Heisler who talks about technique as, um, another analogy. And I do think it’s important to be careful with analogies because although they do make a lot of sense, what we’re doing is saying that two different things are the same thing. And they are obviously not like that’s part of the reason why we’re having a lot of misunderstanding and relearning is because it’s very easy to say that this is just like this. And in honesty, it’s so much more complicated than that.  

Exactly.  

So for, you know, with a little bit of fear of being a little bit of wrong here, I want to share this quote, Greg Heisler, the photographer says that techniques are like gloves. Everybody can buy a pair of gloves and you do different gloves for different occasions. Um, right. Like a dentist uses different gloves than a gardener, um, or a motorcyclist, right? You wouldn’t want your dentist wearing motorcycle gloves while performing the surgery and the gloves exists to help get the job done. Yeah. Different gloves, different jobs. But the interesting thing here in what relates to artistry specifically is that gloves also cover up your fingerprint. And if your fingerprint is your voice, then it can be very harmful to be told ballet technique, ballet technique, ballet technique. And we’re not getting to see the individual voice, the signature of the artist. So I wanted to throw that in there as an interesting analogy. And I’m glad you brought up glad you brought that up. I never, honestly, until you said those words, I had never considered the thought that ballet is the foundation of all styles. I never, that’s a phrase that was meant to be inspiring, like men to get people in ballet class, but unintentionally is really exclusive. And,  

And I’m guilty of it. It’s almost like a leader because think of it, what is being taught in our conservatories, in our universities, it’s very ballet and modern based, and you’d be hard pressed to find any Brown or black styles of dance. I’m very guilty of it too, because especially in the industry, I’m just like, Oh my gosh, they would be so amazing if they had ballet technique, like just think of the refinement that they would have, not saying that that is wrong or right. But I had to relearn that they have a set of skills that is kin to them and akin to their culture and akin to their movement and what they want to do. Who am I to say that this Eurocentric style would make them better?  

Dana: Oh, right. I love what Dominique has to say about technique. And I had honestly never thought of how a statement like ballet is the foundation of all styles could be so exclusionary and, and also so untrue, just straight up, not true. Now I am a fan of cross training. I am a fan of using what you know about style A to help inform style B. And although you might not see it much in my choreography, I do love a Demi Demi Grande, but I am absolutely committed to changing my language around this topic when I teach, I am also excited to dig deeper into my understanding of other non-classical techniques. But for now let’s dig a little deeper on learning and knowing, and really making change with Dom

The subject of learning and relearning. I want to mention something else I’ve been a little bit sensitive about and hear your thoughts on this. Mmm. Uh, I think that there’s a lot of pressure on learning right now. Act now, speak out now, donate now. And I think it’s hard to argue against that. It is very important that change happen now, what I’m concerned about is this cram style learning the way that you crammed for a test and the, and then forgot everything that you learned, the way you are able to hold onto names and dates for like the day. But then they go away and the actual knowledge doesn’t stick. So what I would love to talk about is, you know, in class and in life, how do you encourage deep understanding, deep knowledge, opposed to just cramming and reciting or following along with the flock, if you will.  

Um, from a teaching standpoint, what I love to do, especially in my class. Yeah. Um, put the onus on my students. So for anybody who’s taken my class, I asked them, what are they working towards today? Don’t let me validate you. You validate yourself. If you come in working on one thing, whether it’s specificity, whether it’s picking up quickly, whether it’s being able to perform it quickly, there’s nothing that I can say or do in this class or pull you out to do, that will take that away because you’ve been working on it. So I think it’s up to us to do the work instead of somebody else doing the work for you, you have to pick today, what am I learning about? Is it something historical? Is it something that I’ve been complicit in? Is it something I’m adding to? Um, am I learning about, um, somebody who lives totally different than me or somebody who’s lived beside me that I didn’t know what they were going through. So I think that’s one thing. Choose what you are personally learning in that moment and what you want to learn because in school, and when you were younger in dance class, you were told what to learn. You necessarily have a choice. So in these moments we have choices. So if one thing is speaking to you, and one thing is not maybe focused on the thing that’s speaking to you, but still come around to the thing that’s maybe not because maybe you’ll be in a different place, in a different head space to be able to totally receive that. 

Another thing I do in my class as a teacher that hopefully will help people out there. I give knowledge that is widely known, just so we’re all on one accord, just so we know I make people’s shout it out with me just so that we can be together. And I think being a group is very powerful. Then the other exercise that I just told you about to make us feel like individuals to talk about what we’re working on individually. So then that pulls the onus on you to be like, okay, we’re a group, but I have my individual thoughts and traumas and weaknesses and strengths. 

The third thing I do in class is teach whether it’s history or something, no one knows.  So it always shows a need and a room for growth. Because at the end of the day, if you came into my class and killed it all the way around, you feel like you’re done and you do not need to come back. And what I like to do is show people, there’s always room for growth. Even with myself, I’ll pose a question that I don’t know the answer to I’ll pose the question like, okay. ‘So what’s the difference between this step and this step?’ And they could tell me the differences, or they could say nothing. They’re still the same, but we still would have had that conversation. Now I realize a lot of teachers and dance educators don’t approach it like I do. But this is where we take the onus back. Instead of cramming, basically space out your own curriculum. I understand speaking out now, donating now, I’m all about that. I say, do it. People are afraid to jump on a bandwagon. If there was not a bandwagon to jump on in your life. I think this is probably a good one to jump on to, you know, show solidarity and show humanity and empathy and love, and then all of those things. But in that rush, do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Like just because you cannot ingest it all at one time, nobody can ingest anything like that. At one time, whether it’s information, food, water, TV, you just can’t do it. You have burnout. So make up a curriculum for yourself and be honest with yourself. Be completely honest with yourself. This is where I am in this moment. If there’s one day, you have to take a break, take a break because, just bringing it back to dance. If you get injured, the teacher tells you just sit down physically, but we never did tell people to mentally sit down. So in these moments, sometimes you have to mentally sit down. So you’re able to really absorb it and then come back stronger the next day. And that’s my spiel.  

Thank you for your spiel. That was, that was beautiful. I think we all just became better teachers and better learners from that. Um, it reminded me of the power of, you know, seeing both short term and long term. Um, and I think oftentimes we overestimate our ability in the short term like, Oh, I can definitely watch six documentaries and listened to 14 podcasts and read three books this week because I need to catch up. I overestimate my ability, my abilities in the short term, but at the same time, and on the flip side of that coin, we underestimate the longterm. It’s a stretch to dream that we could achieve real fair justice or real true equality. But, but I think that we can, I think we might be underestimating the longterm by thinking that way. So the same way that okay. When I was learning fifth position, I didn’t think that I would be dancing on a world tour stage someday. Yeah. Right. And even when I was 16, I had moments of serious doubt, like look at all my friends going and doing that. And I’m still not what’s wrong with me am I broken? Underestimating long term dedication, knowledge, challenge, um, persistence. Yeah. And I think that that’s like, that is perhaps my biggest lesson right now is to be compassionate for myself in that short term, learning like this week. It’s okay that you didn’t achieve the things that you want to achieve in the next 30 years. And then at the same time, my 30 year goal probably isn’t as high as it could be. I, I I’d really like to see more massive action in dreaming big. 

Yeah.  My drug of choice are epiphanies.  

Hmm. Explain  

Meaning I will search out an epiphany any, um, I love having these conversations because as I’ve been talking to you, I’ve been having epiphanies, you know, and I think in those moments, it’s okay to sit with that. Like even when I take dance class, I do not want to be in a dance class where I don’t have an a-ha moment. And I think I blame Oprah for this, but you know, if you’re not having an a-ha moment about either, what your learning, the teacher or yourself, why are you still going? You know, in the book you’re reading the documentary you’re watching the podcast, you’re listening to, if you don’t have an a-ha moment, I understand everything. I mean, entertainment, you can turn your brain off, but I’ve chase epiphanies is because I feel like that’s how I grow and that’s how I connect. And that’s how I love is through, through a moment of, I call it cracking my face where I’m like, Oh wow. What I thought I knew. I didn’t know. Or I thought, I didn’t know that, but I’ve been implementing that this whole time. So I’m an epiphany chaser. Hello, my name, my name is Dominique Kelley, and I’m an epiphany chaser.  

I’m going to add that to your opening intro. 

You mentioned earlier being the type of teacher that teaches to wherever your student is in their learning journey. And I, I think that that highlights something very important, which is they’re a different type of learners. Um, not just different places in our learning journey, but different ways of learning. So I’m so curious to hear when you have an epiphany moment, how do you let it process and sink in? What is it maybe, maybe that would shed light on a way that we could be learning deeper right now?  

Um, when I have those epiphany moments, I immediately write it down because at the end of the day, you’ll forget it just as quickly as it came, like it happens all the time. We were like, Oh, what was that? Um, sometimes I like to keep talking through it and start linking other concepts and then talking about how I can implement it quickly. Take the note. That’s what we’re always told to take the note. And I’m honestly trying to take the note in that moment because you know, whether you’re spiritual or not, I feel like, you know, sometimes you just get flowing and you’re a conduit or a vessel and you have to, they take that spiritual note in that moment, you know? So when I have any epiphany I’m like, Oh, or sometimes I share it with somebody, I’ll call somebody and be like, look, this is what I just said. Learn, tell me it sounds crazy to you, but it just seems like it really makes sense to me right now. Let’s talk about it. Let’s break it down, let us critique it and then let’s build it back up and try to implement it quickly. So quote, unquote, take the note.  

Thank you. And how about this? I am right now going to take that note and I’m going to tell you something I’m, I’m workshopping this idea. I don’t know if it holds water. I don’t know if it holds weight, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this concept. I’ve been thinking a lot about humor lately because I have not been laughing a lot lately. And, um, I’m excited to have this conversation with you because you and I have worked together a lot specifically on shows like crazy ex-girlfriend, which makes big, big jokes out of big, big, serious topics. And they do it so well, they do it smart. They do it thorough. They do it with undeniable talent. It’s not sloppy. Um, but it is, it is feather, ruffling and unsettling. I think that humor is as nuanced and individual as, as ideas about race and racism might be. Yeah. So am I, am I nuts in that hypothesis? 

No, let’s see a couple of things that I took from that one. There are certain comics and comedians who put a black against the white issue, you know, is how a black person would do it. This is how a white person would do it. And you know how there’s like black jokes and white jokes in comedy and everything like that. I feel like there is some truth to that because it’s an experience. So there’s certain nuances in the experience that you would know about to be able to laugh about. And there are certain experiences that you do not hold that you’re like, wait, that’s not funny at all. You know, if you can present in a way too, it was a group to say, I’m with you and I support you, but let’s look at this in a humorous way that often leads to healing into more conversations. For example, um, after 9-11, it was hard for us to try to laugh again. You know, um, after big events have happened in this country, it’s hard to laugh, immediately cause you almost feel guilty for it. And I feel like laughter is a sense of healing. That’s why especially talking from the black community. Um, there’s a lot of satirical comedy where we joke about things like that, because sometimes you have to laugh, so you don’t cry. You know? Um, other parts of it just are rooted in our history. Like we are given the worst and we’re taught to make the best of it in any situation, whether it’s food, whether it’s a tragedy, whether it’s clothes, whether it’s anything like that. Black people have managed to take the trash and turn it into treasure. And we’ve managed to take the chitlins in turning into a delicacy. So in terms of humor, when it comes like that, I feel like depending on the group, you’re a part of, I think you can only laugh from your position. People call it punching down. You do not want to punch down, especially in your, if you’re in a position of privilege. And that’s another word that we talk about that we’re going to demystify privilege just means you can not necessarily succeed and excel in the world, but there are certain things that will not hinder you and block you as other counterparts. So when punching down, punching down would be, if a millionaire it’s punching down and making fun of people who have less there. So like the poor, middle class, working class, that’s when you don’t want to punch down for all the dancers out there, that’s like dance comedy. When we go look at those dancers, why are you stretching everywhere?  Or like, why are you dancing everywhere? Can’t you just be excited and say, you’re excited instead of starting Crump. Like, why are you doing that? Especially when we watch certain reality shows, you know, we see the reaction of people getting happy and then they do like a toe touch or a tumbling pass or multiple pirouettes. And you’re like, why are dancers weird? What? But if a director said that same thing, like dancers are horrible. Why do you do that? That would almost be like punching down if he’s not, or she’s not part of the group. So I think with humor, you have to be very specific and you have to be witty. You have to be smarter than most. And you have to be self aware that even if the joke goes flat, you have to be ready to apologize for it or trace the steps back to why it did work.  

You are helping me connect my learners web right now. Mmm. I suppose in that sense that a comedian or, uh, an entertainer telling a joke, whether they’re a comedian or not a comedian is like the ultimate light technician. 

Yes. 

They shine the light on the thing and they’re like, Hey, everybody look at that thing. And then it’s on the audience to like, get on board with like, ah, yes. Or I don’t get it.  

Yes, exactly. They’re like the ultimate jesters in the King’s court. Yeah. They’re the ones saying the emperor doesn’t have on clothes and not only does the emperor not have on clothes, they have cankles. Yeah. You know what I mean? Like it’s, it’s just one of those things where you just keep, keep going and doing the layers. Now, if you can make people laugh and forget about their problems, you have done the work. If you cause more problems for yourself and other people, you need to go back to the drawing board and be ready to apologize, if that’s your speed. Some people just go, that’s what I felt in the moment, which I understand, but you know, it’s case by case basis.  

Let’s talk about that for a second. Let’s talk about that’s what I felt in the moment or speaking my truth versus speaking the truth and the, the importance of accountability right now, the importance of Mmm. Information. And, uh, I guess I say real information, which to me in my mind means true information, tested, dried provable in  

Empirical.  

Yes. Thank you. Yes. So, um, one of the things that sprung up in our like dress rehearsal conversation yesterday, which I wish I recorded by the way, not that this isn’t divine, I’m loving every moment of this, but, um, we came up on something that I would love to, to share the floor with right now. And that is the concept of the Socratic method, um, which is, uh, asking questions to reveal a person’s understanding of a thing opposed to telling them the thing. And you, you talked a bit about, about this when you explained the way that you teach, which is not just by giving a seminar. Right. But by asking for discussion, but by inviting your students to say, what do you think about that? Why do you think that? What do you, what is your lesson plan for yourself? What would you like to learn today? Giving responsibility and accountability. So, yes, I suppose I’d like to hear from you about your thoughts on how we can better question ourselves in a way that, that works for the community.  

Mmm. Going back to college, I studied mass communication and research. That’s what I graduated with the degree. And one big thing that I tookaway from that was gatekeeping. The people or systems put in place that sift the information that you know now, um, sometimes it’s best because if you get all the information at one time, it would be what we talked about, where you’re just overwhelmed with too much information. But, um, let’s do a little exercise if you’re watching ABC news, ABC is owned by Disney. So they’re going to put on ESPN because Disney also owns ESPN. So they’re going to talk about certain sports. Now, Disney also owns the Anaheim Angels. So they’ll probably talk about the Anaheim Angels and they’ll put Disney commercials on there. Then they’re also talk about their cartoons. That’s a part of gatekeeping. It’s not necessarily wrong or right. But what it is is, um, there are certain people that own certain things and they want you to know more of what they’re promoting. Now, not necessarily good or bad. 

They’re also absolutely protecting their self interest. 

There, there, that goes to. So when you are getting the information, sometimes you have to follow the paper trail and see whose interests are being kept in being, um, shrouded in mystery a little bit. So when I like to read something, I like to curate my opinion and curate my opinion, meaning look at different sources and see the behind the scenes of the source that I’m receiving. Like for example, I’m sure a lot of the people who told me ballet was the foundation for everything came up loving ballet. But what about those people who hate ballet and reject ballet? You know what I mean? What about those people who don’t even have ballet at their studio? So just know that that’s a form of gatekeeping because she’s saying like, or he’s saying I won’t call them out like that, but they are saying that we believe ballet is the foundation. So why don’t you come here and learn it as opposed to saying, we believe, um, the foundation for whatever you want to expand upon and your dance career can be found here. And if it’s not found here, we can direct you to somewhere else. Now, when it comes to learning, one thing that I like to add is if you can teach someone who does not know about it, do you have to explain it the same way they do it? No, you can put it in your jargon, your terms, your slang, your all of those things, because that is truly how you ingest the knowledge. You take it from somebody else and you demystify it and you decode it and you, you take it into your brain and you work your magic. And then when you can talk to somebody else about it, that’s the third step in learning for me. Like even though some people may not think that is for me, that seems when you’ve completed the journey of learning. Now, when it comes to sourcing information, that’s still a part of it too. You really have to do your behind the scenes and checks in and look at Snopes, look at a whole bunch of other things in just with everything going on in the world. Part of it, you do have to take with a grain, a grain of salt and the other part of it, you have to take it very seriously and just follow who’s telling you what, like, for example, when your parents said, I want you to do it, why just do it? Okay. They didn’t have to keep going to say, we want you to do it because it will help you become a better human later on in life. Because if you know how to clean the bathroom, you will always have a job at least cleaning. And then when we come by later on in life, people won’t think that your bathroom looks horrible and it’s just healthier because they don’t need to do that. You know? So when it comes to learning and sourcing, figure out who the source is, first, what interests are serving them by saying it. And then what their message is, are they teaching or are they sharing? And you have to figure out which one of those best serves you.  

Okay. I want to jump out and touch a bit more on the Socratic method and critical thinking. For the philosophers in the room. I know, I know. I hear you stay in your lane Dana. I know. Well, my lane is teaching and this tool is the ultimate teachers tool. So before I leave it to you and Google and a great video that I will link in the show notes about the Socratic method. I just want to be clear that simply asking any old question and credit checking your sources is not the Socratic method. The Socratic method named after Socrates is the process of uncovering the essence of a thing or an idea by asking questions of different types questions that probe assumptions like what might someone assume instead, or what else might explain that, um, questions that probe reasons or evidence like, why might someone do that? Or what would be an example of that? Or my favorite questions that clarify or define, like, if a triangle is a shape, then is a circle, a triangle. The person on the receiving side of that question would have to further define a triangle as perhaps a three sided shape and so on, and so on. Let’s apply. If I were teaching ballet and I asked my students ‘What is a plier?’ They would likely either just show me with their bodies, a Demi plier, or they would report back the French translation that I have drilled into their minds to bend. Plier means to bend. So my Socratic questioning might begin with, ‘so if I bend at the waist and fold forward, am I doing a plier?’ No! Bending your knees. They might say, Oh, okay. I might say ‘so when I sit and put my shoes on, am I doing a plier?’ No. Oh no, no, no. It’s when you’re standing and you bend your knees. Oh, okay. Okay. ‘Could I be standing on my hands and do a plier or standing on my heels and do a plier?’ No, no, no, no, no. Not if you want to do a ground play, then your heels have to come off the floor. Well, unless you’re in second position, in which case they stay on the floor, you see where this is going. I might then say, ‘Oh, Oh. So is a plier when my feet are flat and I bend my knees as far as they can bend until my heels come off the floor, unless I’m in second position. Of course. In which case they stay down and then do I just stay down there? Bent need forever?’ No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You have to straighten your knees again. That’s a plier. ‘Oh, I see. Okay. Okay. So you mean to tell me that a plier, correction, a grand Plier is a knee bend where the knees bend until the thighs are horizontal to the ground and the heels rise up off the ground, except for when I’m in second position. And then the heels are lowered as the knees straighten.’ Yes, that’s a plier. Okay. Okay. I could have easily started at the definition, which no five-year-old could possibly ever remember, but instead, careful questions and critical thinking, help the students arrive at the definition themselves. You can see the value here. You can probably also see how explaining something as simple as a plier could drive a person, totally bonkers. If it’s this hard to explain the essence of a plier, just imagine how hard it is to explain or define love or faith or justice. It’s, it’s clear why this is not our default method for teaching or thinking for that matter because it takes a lot of time and a lot of work, but it also results in a deeper understanding in a stronger argumentative standpoint or plier point or pointe point. So yes, Socratic questioning takes time. It takes effort. It can be annoying. It can come off as aggressive or argumentative, but like everything, the more you practice, the better you get. And also the more you practice, the more you will understand why Socrates was not the most popular guy at the Acropolis. Okay. Enough about old and very dead Greek guys, by the way, for a little extra credit, you might want to learn a little bit about how Socrates died, fasanating, but for now, let’s get back to Dom and some different types of questions. 

Asking people to explain and redefine and re-explain and challenge themselves can be taken as being, um, uh, combative or disrespectful or, um, agitating. And I think that there is a way, and I would like to think of dancers as being a type of community thats sensitive and knowledgeable enough to ask those difficult questions in a way that doesn’t point a finger. But that is more of an open hand in asking for, will you share this with me? instead of what you think about this? And so I, I, that’s the type of learner that I would like to be. That’s the type of learner that I like encouraging and my students, um, you know, we probably grew up hearing. The only stupid question is a question that’s already been asked or a question that you don’t ask. There’s all these ideas about what is a stupid question.  And I really love, Mmm. The idea of asking a question that shows how much, you know, instead of how much you don’t know in class that would show up, for example, as student raises his hand and asks, can you do that again versus, Hey teacher, I understand that you’re stepping on your right foot on one, but I not sure what comes before that or immediately after. Can you talk through that? I’m like, wow, there’s a person that’s listened to me so far and wants to, and wants to know more. I’m really eager to help that person understand. So if I’m, if I could give an encouraging thought to our audience today, it would be share the floor, shine the lights, and ask questions that show your interest in understanding, instead of question, that deliberately challenge or seek to disprove somebody else’s understanding. 

Or very self serving questions just for the attention we don’t, you don’t, don’t need the attention that much. Remember that you’re a cog. And if you’re working, working hard again, you don’t really need to seek the validation from the teacher to be like, I have a question I’m I’m with you. It’s more of, I only have a question because I’ve been with you and then all of a sudden I fallen off.  

That’s huge. Okay. I want to close off with one more thing. Um, you and I sit elbow to elbow in organizing, um, the choreography community, a community of choreographers here in Los Angeles, specifically. Um, but you are also a part of Dancers Alliance, um, a group that seeks to organize the dance community in a non-union type of way, but in a, uh, simply outreach and education type of way, that’s primarily our work there. So my question to you in the experience that you have with organizing, which is really important that we be doing right now, What can we do now as a community to make sure that we later are more inclusive, more fair, more representative of the big picture?

I’m going to have the worst answer for you.  

Oh, I can’t wait  

To say, I don’t know. I have no idea. Um, for a couple of reasons, um, the dance community is a very nuanced community based on especially the industry. So the industry is the wrench that messes up the machine because, um, for example, for a lot of people out there who don’t know, when you go to an audition, a lot of times you are broken up by your race, not your ethnicity by your race. That’s how you’re auditioning. Or if you get the job, depending on what the job is for, then you are doing it based on, okay, we need this type of dancer or that type of dancer or that type of dancer. So it is already skewed in certain directions based on the trends. Now, when it comes to the dance community at large, even in LA, in New York, all of the places, it gets really hard because we all have different education levels. We have different backgrounds, we have different traumas. We have different strengths, different weaknesses. Um, even though we are one of the most expressive, colorful, loving communities, there’s a lot of infighting in between so many different groups like men and women, like, um, what I will say is this, we represent what’s going on in the world in the best, and the worst way, demographically, sociologically, like for example, the people in power, in a lot of the dance industry, things are white, straight men ironically, and you wouldn’t think so. Mmm. A lot of the people who are on the front lines are women. A lot of the people who are making the decisions are older and out of touch with a younger generation. So there’s a lot of nuances in the community that I will ably say, I don’t have the answer to that, but I love to be a part of the solution. 

Yes. Word. And wouldn’t it be incredible if in looking at our smaller, relative to the global community, the dance community is smaller. If we can learn from our community, employ and, and implore policy changes and new ideas that could be applied on a larger scale, could we fix this thing?  

I think we could. I think, um, what happens a lot of times for the dance community is art starts to meet commerce. So when the art meets the commerce, that’s when things get really, really tricky. If you can create art in a vacuum with no, just liberation and freedom, um, that would change things, but we have to make money. And there are certain bills in California and there are certain things being freelance or doing 1099 that restrict that and limit that. And also because of the administration we’re under now, we’re not getting funding for the arts, like we used to. So now we are creating art, not only for joy, but for protest, for money and to just feel better about life. So when you have all those things, it gets really hard to really come together as a community because everybody’s out for themselves just trying to make it in this business.  

Oh yes. Well, there wouldn’t, there would be no Victor, if there was no challenger. Right. And that is our unique challenge in this industry is that yes, our work are the thing that we do for a living is also the thing that we do for joy, for therapy, for community, for belonging, for expression. And so, yeah, that introduces some, some levels of complexity.  

Oh yes.  

But, but let’s not underestimate the longterm. I’m so excited to work at your side in those efforts. I’m in the dance community and beyond I just admire the heck out of you. And, um,  

Thank you. Same same here.  

Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. Uh, is there anything else that you would like to say before we wrap it up?  

What I would love to say is don’t stop now. Don’t stop here. Don’t stop. Just in general. Um, I realized in my life, there are those moments that I feel a little hopeless when I look out my window and I’m like, what are we doing? I feel hopeless that a lot of times I’ve been talking about a subject for so long and then somebody else comes and goes, well, have you thought about that? And then they get the credit. Sometimes I feel hopeless when I think about how certain communities can’t unite and just overtake, but what keeps me going is not stopping. And I realize, um, you know, there’s a misnomer, there’s an Dodge, but I think it’s a misnomer where it says time heals all, but I think healing heals all. So if you use your time to heal, you’ll be able to make it through everything. So do not stop  

On that note. I’m going to go ahead and stop the podcast. That is a beautiful sentiment and it is so inspiring. Thank you and beyond for sharing and for talking to us today. I appreciate that. Yay. I’ll talk to you soon. 

See ya later! 

The waving. Why do I wave? They can’t see me.  

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

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

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #5 Is Fear Keeping You Alive, or Eating You Alive?
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Episode #5 is here and it’s frighteningly good. This episode digs into #FEAR; The kind that keeps you alive and the other kind that keeps you from LIVING!  Give a listen and cut the ties to fear that are holding you back.

Show Notes:

Quick Links and Further Readings

The Power Of Vulnerability – Brené Brown

The Call to Courage – Brené Brown

Daring Grately – Brené Brown

Failing Your Way to Success

How To Be A Successful Failure

Gift of Fear – Gavin de Becker

Brooke Castillo’s Thought Model

The Farwell – Akwafina Movie

Episode Transcript

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

DANA:   00:33    Hello and hello. Welcome back to the podcast. This is episode five. Can you believe it? Episode five already. I’m stoked. Thank you so much for joining me. Thank you for tagging me for communicating with me on the socials. Um, a lot of real creative types popping up there. So hip, hip, hooray for all my daily doers. Um, if you are not daily making jump back and listen to episode one, very inspiring, exciting stuff back there. I am daily doing in some way, shape or form working on this podcast. Whoa, podcasts are way more work than I thought, but I’m learning so much about myself. The things that I know, the things that I don’t know, the way that I speak. I’m also learning about, for example, right now how to transcribe my episodes and leave you guys all the awesome show notes so that will now be available to you on all previous episodes as well as this one. If you are listening via Apple podcasts, you click the three little dots in the top right corner, you’ll be able to access shownotes from there. If you are not listening on Apple podcasts, go directly to my website, Thedanawilson.Com/Podcasts and you’ll have all my show notes available there.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ep. #4 Stop Thinking Like a Caveman

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #4 Stop Thinking Like a Caveman
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Episode 4 of the podcast gets into your head, literally.  I’m talking BRAINS, and  specifically what makes the modern human’s brain so powerful — The Pre-frontal cortex! I introduce you to Brooke Castillo’s Thought Model and tell you why it is my new favorite tool for managing my mind, and my work. 

Show Notes!

Quick Links:

Brooke Castillo’s Thought Model

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

Dana: Hello. Hello and welcome to episode four. Thank you so much for being here. I am jazzed about this episode and I’m jazzed about this year. So far I’ve been doing daily all over the place. I just worked on another music video in New York city that I am very excited about because I made new friends and learned new things. Learning is good. I love learning. I also spent the weekend teaching some workshops in Portland. Well, I guess technically it was Vancouver, Seattle. Um, I was super motivated by Chloe’s interview in last week’s episode, episode three, and I also wound up taking some class over the last week, which is honestly is my first class of the year. I took hip hop with David Moore. So much fun and then over the weekend I took a ballet class, which is only a little bit less fun because I get really stressed out when I take ballet class.
I’m working on it anyways. My daily doing has been going well. How about yours? In episode one I posted a challenge, really encourage you guys to make something creative every single day and so far so many of you guys have given me feedback about your projects. A special shout out to @RebeccaWrangler for tagging me every single day this year so far it is really, really cool. Like such a treat to see what you come up with every day. You’re doing great. Keep it up. Keep the communications open. Please feel free to ask me questions. Tug on my ear or send me a little message if you feel like you’re running low on inspo, let me know know, I really did. I said that. Okay, so everybody’s crushing it at 2020 looking good. Feeling good must be good. Today I toss that up to being humans. We are humans. And that is such a great thing because according to humans, human beings are regarded as the most intelligent being on the planet. Now, of course, since humans are the one doing the regarding, it’s kind of biased. So I decided to dig around on the internet and um, learn a little bit about intelligence and intelligent beings. Uh, so basically I’m an expert now on brains and intelligence and I want to tell you a little bit about what I’ve learned recently. Okay. Number one, the primary difference between modern man and our planetary cohabitants like, um, plants and animals, and even historically cave people. The biggest difference between us is our brain. So our brains have evolved a lot over time. Well, they evolve a lot just in a human’s lifetime. But in the history of the human race, the human brain has evolved a lot. The average human brain weighs about three pounds.
That’s roughly the same weight as a dolphin’s brain and that is a lot less then a whale’s brain, which weighs on average like 13 pounds and a human brain weighs way more than the average orangutan’s brain, which weighs only 13 ounces. Okay, so now that you know how much, several different brains weigh I should tell you that it’s not actually the size or the weight that’s linked to intelligence, it’s actually the ratio of the brain mass to the body mass. For humans, that’s about 2%, 2% of our entire body mass is our brain. Okay. Go ahead and file that under possibly useless information. What I really want to talk about today though is the ratio of one particular part of the brain in relationship to the rest of the brain. That part of the brain is the prefrontal cortex, the prefrontal cortex of a human’s brain makes up 10% of the brain mass and that is a lot. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for personality, expression, decision-making, complex behavior and social interactions. Pretty important stuff, especially when it comes to dance. It’s, it’s also really the fun stuff. It’s the stuff that’s not exclusively vital for survival. All of that stuff is the primitive brain, sometimes known as the reptilian brain because as far as the evolution of our brain goes, the reptilian brain came first. The reptilian brain controls the body’s vital autonomic functions like heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Also, all very important for a dancer, I might add.

I like to think of the primitive brain as a five-year-old Danceling that wants to do her own makeup for a competition. Her intentions are good and her instincts are spot on, but that lipstick goes everywhere and the blush is a pink stripe across the cheek and the eye shadow extends all the way to the hairline and the glitter. Oh, the glitter goes everywhere, which is where it will remain forever. In this analogy, the prefrontal cortex is the parent of said, comp kid, and they watch with curiosity and compassion and they hide the eyelash glue because that stuff is toxic and they might even derive a little bit of entertainment out of the whole show. And then of course they clean up the mess.

Now I’m going to stop right here because I don’t want to offend any brain scientists or neuroscientists that might be listening. I’m going to stick to what I know. I am a dancer slash choreographer slash movement coach. Slash. Slash. Slash. I am interested in the majesty of movement. All of it, even non-human movement. Think really quickly about the really awesome, um, fan powered, uh, dancing men. Are you seeing it? Um, the, the, how do I explain them? The guys at the car wash, the dancing car, wash kites. What are they? They’re not inflatable because they’re open-ended. Wow. This is a really good question. Does anybody know what those things are called? (**edit note: They are called air dancers) I would love to know the car wash guys. Those things are incredible. I’m so inspired by those guys. Or, um, the Boston dynamics robot dog called spot. Have you seen him? Have you seen him dance to “uptown funk“? It’s incredible. I would have made some different choreographic decisions there, but regardless, still quite impressive. Speaking of impressive, have you seen the, I think it’s called “Our Planet”. The Netflix special. It’s narrated by David Attenborough. There’s a section specifically about birds and there’s a bird called a Blue Manakin, M, A, N, A, K, I N. and the blue manakins actually rehearse a bunch of guy mannequins will rehearse together and perform for a female bird. And the thing that’s most special about this other than the rehearsal and the exquisite like formation changes that they do is that they actually have a, a ranking, there’s like a lead bird and then three backup birds. It is fascinating. It is almost my favorite. Actually. My favorite one is the bird of paradise mating dance. I think it’s from the same special. I’m going to find all of these, by the way, and put the links to these videos in the show notes because you will be moved, I promise you. So other than the, uh, the robot dog and the dancing car wash man who don’t really need dance for evolution per se, these birds use dance to attract a mate. Now it is very possible that there was a time when humans used dance solely to attract a mate. In fact, that likely is happening right now somewhere on the planet. But I want to touch on the ways that all of our dance is different. For example, we have organized and categorized techniques. We have disciplines, we have genres, we have our imagination, we have storytelling and narrative style dancing and character style dancing.
And how about therapeutic dance and how about the social benefit or dance that’s made purely for entertainment value. We even have a full blown dance business. See, look at all the ways we are not cavemen. We are so evolved. Our dance is so evolved and the reason for that is because our brain is evolved. Now I’m all for dance, being attractive. Like go out there, get to the club impress all the honeys with your sweet, sweet moves. Yeah, I said, honeys, I’m also all for dance. The business. I’m here for dancers doing well. Go out there, make that money. But I’m most interested in when the body and brain work together to make meaningful movement.

Okay, so what does meaningful movement mean? Well to me that’s any movement that is deliberate and purpose built. For example, some movement might be designed to sell something like commercial style dancing. Whether that’s selling an album by performing with an artist on tour or selling a person by dancing behind them in a music video or selling a product. While, kickball changing in a commercial, all deliberate, all purpose-built might not be earth shattering or emotionally charged, but it is in fact deliberate and purpose-built and it speaks to me in some way. Meaningful movement to me could also be dance that’s designed to connect or express or explore. Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Contact improv, interpretive dance, um, performance art, dance that’s made to challenge the status quo. Or there’s also the dance that’s simply designed to entertain. I’m here for all of it. Of course, you can use a prefrontal cortex to make more interesting dance, but you can also use it in your daily life. Human beings are uniquely capable of choosing our thoughts. So please choose wisely.

Today I want to tell you about a technique that helped me make meaningful work and own it in my business and in my daily life. This is really, really huge. This is like episode four early on for reason cause I have a feeling I’m going to be talking about this a lot in upcoming episodes. I like to think of this as a technique for thinking. This technique for thinking is called the thought model and it was created by a woman named Brooke Castillo. Brooke is a life coach and she is also the creator of The Life Coach School. Now I want to take a moment to step aside and say I was very suspicious of this life coach concept at first. After all, I have been living literally my entire life and I’m still alive. So do I really need a coach? Like where does that fit in?

I suppose when I think about the number of hours I’ve spent training at dance wouldn’t be so unreasonable for me to spend some comparable amount of hours training my mind for life, which is what I’m doing all the time that I’m not dancing. So to put it bluntly, I was curious about the life coaching stuff and my sister had an incredible experience in working with her coach. Uh, she’s the one that actually introduced me to the thought model and you know me and my thoughts on learning, I will try anything. So I really dug into this thought model stuff. I fell in love with it. Although it’s not quite love, it’s definitely work. I fell in, work with it and it works. So I want to tell you about it and hope that it can help you along your creative journey as it has helped mine. Before I go on though, I want to say at this moment, I am not a certified life coach, although I may become one someday. Today I am not. I am simply a person who has practiced self coaching for years and spent several months working with a coach of my own and I’ve got a boatload of enthusiasm about it. So I’m here to share.

Alright, here’s how Brooke breaks it all down. And by all I really do mean everything, all of it. And it all starts with a circumstance. A circumstance is a neutral fact of your life. It’s provable. There is no argument. Circumstances trigger your thoughts. Thoughts are just sentences in your head which you can control. Thanks of course to the prefrontal cortex, thoughts cause your feelings. Feelings are sensations in your body and feelings lead to actions which are the things that your body does or does not do. Those actions cause results, results are the outcomes of your actions. Results are your life, so let me run that through one more time. Circumstances trigger your thoughts, which are just sentences in your head. Thoughts cause feelings which occur in your body. Your feelings lead to actions which are what your body does about those feelings or it doesn’t do in many cases and those actions cause results. That’s what you’re wound up with. Now, the real magic of Brooke Castillo’s thought model is that the result is always proof of the thought. Again, your result is proof of that first thought.

Now I’m going to give you a practical example here. I’ll try to keep it simple, although simple isn’t really my style. Okay? Let’s say you wake up in the morning, you open your window and there is water coming from the sky that is rain. That’s your circumstance cannot be debated. Water coming from the sky is rain. No matter what country you live or what language you speak, or if you’re an optimist or if you’re a not-ptomist or whatever religion you are, you know that is rain. We cannot argue that it is raining. Now the rain triggers a thought, which for me is probably dang it. People are going to be awful drivers today and I’m going to be late. Uh, it’s going to be a crappy day. So that thought then causes a feeling, which is I’m going to go with de-motivated. The circumstance which is rain triggered a thought which was today is going to be crappy, which made me feel demotivated and that lack of motivation probably keeps me dragging my feet a little bit, move a little slower to get out the house, get out. Yeah, this is probably a circumstance. LA drivers really truly are indisputably bad at driving, but I digress. That’s not the point of this model because I’m motivated. I’m moving slow, I’m late all day long, and that usually results in a crappy day. Now, let’s go back from the top and rethink this. What if for the same circumstance, which is I wake up and it’s raining, I open the window, I see the rain and instead I think, Oh my gosh, yes, this reminds me of Gene Kelly in “Singin’ In The Rain” That is my favorite movie. How did today even know to show me my favorite movie right now? This is great. It’s going to be a great day. I’m already inspired. There’s my feeling. The thought of it’s going to be a great day. Gave me the feeling of I’m inspired. The feeling of inspiration is going to send me into action that is quite the opposite of dragging my feet. I’m going to move through my morning activities with momentum, with gusto, maybe even with a hop shuffle step or a step scuff hop, Step scuff, hop, hop. I might even create a piece today. All of the actions that come from feeling inspired are going to land me at the result of having an awesome day. So see how on the result line for each of those things. In the first version, my result was I had a crappy day and was late all day. We’re proof of my initial thought, which is, ah, it’s going to be a crappy day. People can’t drive. I’m going to be late. It’s proof of that thought versus the second model. What an amazing thing. The day to day is showing me my favorite movie. This is the greatest leads me to having a great inspired, romantic, creative, all the things type of day.

Okay. Now I got a little sloppy. I’m going to give you one more example and this one was really big. This is, this is probably the one that tipped me onto the side of the scale of really loving this thought model stuff. So you may have noticed it’s a trend of late to film dance class. A lot of the dance videos you see on YouTube are taken in dance classes at dance studios. Usually towards the end of class, but there’s this like performative show moment at the end of class where a camera man or occasionally the teacher holding a camera. Will film select groups and then that footage will wind up online. This used to really give me some primitive thoughts like some real kid playing in the glitter type of mess. To illustrate, I’ll walk you through my old model with the unmanaged thoughts and then I’ll let my prefrontal cortex take the reins and show you how that changes my end result and ultimately my relationship with dance class and the use of cameras in the classroom.

The circumstance, the neutral indisputable fact is that there are now video cameras in dance classes. Now I can’t really get much more neutral than that cameras in the classroom. I’m not saying it sucks that there are cameras in the classroom. I’m not saying that everybody films class and that’s awful. I’m saying the neutral circumstance is cameras in the classroom. Now that neutral circumstance for me triggers some thoughts that look a little something like this. You have to be perfect on camera and class is supposed to be a place where you can be imperfect. Class is supposed to be a place where you can be vulnerable and mess up and look bad and then get better. Class is ruined. Now that thought, or I should say those thoughts make me feel robbed. I feel like I had a special thing with the class that used to be, and that class has been robbed by this stupid camera device and now I don’t have it anymore. I feel robbed, feeling robbed. I don’t know if you’ve actually been rubbed. Oh my gosh. It’s so awful. I don’t know. I remember I had my cell phone stolen once and I felt like never leaving my house again. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. Um, we felt insecure out in the world. Kind of a awful feeling in general, but feeling like class had been taken from me felt kind of similar. I didn’t want to go anymore. I just didn’t want to leave the house. Once I started seeing all these class videos pop up, it made me stop taking class. So feeling robbed led me to the action of actual inaction, not taking class anymore. So the result of me not taking class anymore is that class was dead to me.

Okay. Let’s rework this model, circumstances the same. There are cameras in the classroom. Now before we go any further at all, I want to ask, what is a camera? How would you explain a camera to an alien from another planet or to a five year old? I would explain it like this. A camera is a collection of glass parts and plastic parts and occasionally some metal parts that is put together in a way that allows it to capture light and remember a moment or a series of moments forever. Okay? Nothing about an actual camera means that you have to be perfect. See, that is the real breakthrough. The circumstance is a camera in a classroom and I can choose a thought that is not, I have to be perfect on camera. So what if I decided to choose this thought? What if the camera was actually the way I measure my progress and show the world this is what dance class is about. Progress, not perfection. Well, dang, if that’s my thought, then all of a sudden my feeling becomes not only empowered but in some crazy way responsible. Now, feeling responsible, feeling empowered. That gets me out my front door and into dance class where whether there’s a camera or not, I will improve because that’s what I believe in. That’s what is important to me. That really changed the game for me. It helped me show up for myself in a way that I had really kind of ruled out. And there’s such tremendous power in that. Now that’s an example of how the model can help in terms of the way you show up for yourself in a training sense. But there is another way to use this model that I really found helpful when it comes to making my work and having a happy and healthy creative process

In this mode, I’m going to start at the end. I’m going to start with the desired result and work backwards to try to find out what thought I need to plant in order to get the results that I’m striving for. So let’s say for example, I’ve been hired to choreograph the new year’s Eve ball drop for Fox. This, by the way, is a true story. Um, back in 2019. Holy smokes, by the way, does anybody remember new year’s Eve of 2019 the times square ball drop? It was for reasoning cold. It rained all day long. Holy smokes. It was nuts. So before I went into that day, I ran myself through a thought model. I knew that my result wind, the result that I wanted is work that I’m proud of. So for me to land at work that I’m proud of, the actions I wanted to take are being prepared every single day, treating my team with kindness and giving them the tools that they needed every single day and not doubting myself in the past. Doubt has really sucked a lot of time out of my creative process. So the three actions that I was committed to are being prepared myself, the individual supporting my team, giving them all the tools they needed and promising to not doubt myself. Those were my three action points. So then I have to ask myself what is the feeling that will lead me to take those actions? That feeling is capable. If I feel like I can do it, I will be prepared. I will support my team and I will not spend any time doubting myself. All right, now let’s keep working backwards. Then what is the thought that will make me feel capable? The thought that I chose that made me feel capable, and this is the thought that I love, is I was built for this. Yeah. Waking up in the morning thinking I was built to do this is maybe most empowering thought that you can give yourself. Walking to the train, I’m built for this. Listening to the music, I’m built for this. Warming up my dancers, I am built for this. Talking to the hosts, staging the scenes, working tiny ins and outs, talking Snoop dog through his staging, I am built for this. That thought constantly gave me the feeling of I am capable and the feeling I am capable sent me into actions that landed me firmly at work that I am proud of and the thing that I’m most proud of in terms of that work is that it was created and a happy and healthy environment. Well, aside from the rain, that is, that was super unhealthy. I am surprised nobody came down with pneumonia. That was crazy. I wonder how, how cold it actually was. I’ll find out. I’ll put that in the show notes too. (** Edit note, can’t find exactly what the temperature was but it looks like it was around 50* with rain. The coldest ever new years eve in New York was -1 degrees in 1918)

Okay. That’s the thought model in a super, super fast nutshell. In a fast nutshell. Imagine a nutshell going really fast right now. All right. It’s a big bite. It’s a lot to think about. So try to remember C T F A R circumstance, thought, feeling, action result. Should we give that in? My very excellent mother just made us nine pancakes thing. What are those called? Numeric device. Pneumonic device! Okay. Circumstance. This is happening in real time. C T F A R come through for absolutely. Oh, come through for … didn’t results…come through for candy, tiger fiction action rendezvous. You know, I don’t… dancer’s choice! Okay? Try to remember. Circumstances lead to thoughts. Your thoughts cause your feelings, your feelings cause your actions and your actions create your results. Your results are your life, so dang it. Celebrate that your prefrontal cortex makes up 10% of your brain and choose your thoughts wisely. All right, now go. Go out there. Use that prefrontal cortex. Make interesting work. Work on yourself. Work together and keep it funky. Makes me smile. Keep it funky.