Ep. #69 Three Heartfelt Life Lessons from 7-10 Year Olds
I hope this episode reminds you of the brilliance of children… and gets you more in touch with your brilliant inner child! I have started to look at young people as little Baby Yodas. Full of potential, wisdom and plenty of life hacks up for grabs! In this episode I focus on the willingness to play (and walk into every game like a winner), the bounce back (after our losses), and the importance of asking questions… especially the BIG questions. ENJOY!
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. Hello.
Dana: Hello, my friend. And welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana, this is Words That Move Me. I’m so glad that you’re here today to talk about three heartwarming life lessons that I just learned from seven to 10 year olds. Um, so let’s get right into it. I think this is a really, um, a really lovely topic and a nice moment to take pause and look back at our young selves, um, and also head forward with some new perspectives. Um, now before I get into it, I do want to do wins and my win this week. We’ll give a bit more context to this episode this week. I am celebrating that. I just, I mean, just like a few days ago taught at my first in-person dance convention in 14 months. Wow. That is a long stretch for me. Um, I’ve been teaching on a dance convention at New York city Dance Alliance. Uh, super shout out to my episode that I did with Joe Lanteri, which is episode number drum roll 43 episode 43. That is our winner. Um, so I, I teach for this dance convention, New York city Dance Alliance, and, uh, the due to the pandemic. Um, the convention was completely canceled for, uh, most of 2020. They slowly trickled back at the, uh, a few months ago. Um, and it is now April and I’m finally comfortable, you know, traveling and being in rooms full of lots of heavily breathing humans and man, Oh man, what an experience I’m not going to lie a little bit of shell shock. Um, I went from, you know, pretty much myself and my husband in our house, occasional distanced hangs with the homies to pretty crowded rooms and dancers doing a really great job, staying in their little taped off squares, dancing and masks teaching in masks. Holy smokes. Um, so wow. I did it. I felt safe. That is a tremendously huge win. Um, Oh, I will say traveling the actual airplane portion, not my favorite. Uh, I forgot. Oh, and LAX also. Definitely not my favorite. I was very much okay with not visiting lax 30 times a year. Um, yeah, that drive that number dropped down dramatically in the pandemic, uh, to zero. So anyways, that’s my win at first convention back out and feeling great about it. Thank you, Joe and NYCDA for keeping a really safe environment for us faculty and the students alike. Um, thrilled about that and excited to share with you guys. Some of the things that happened over the weekend. Um, always a good story to be told first, let me hear your wins. What is going well in your way?
Okay. Congratulations. Very well done and do, keep doing all of that very well done stuff. Um, all right. Let’s jump into it. Shall we? Three heartwarming life lessons brought to you by seven to 10 year olds AKA my mini ballroom from this past weekend in Greenville, North Carolina. My aim for this episode really is to remind you of the brilliance of children. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the mini ballroom. Um, so my goal is to remind you of that and to perhaps get you more in touch with your brilliant, younger self. I really do believe the kids have it all figured out as challenging is that age group can be, especially in a dance education environment. Um, my favorite moments came out of that mini ballroom this past weekend in Greenville, North Carolina. So shout out minis. If you’re listening, I had such a ball with you. Um, and for all of my adult humans that are listening, I want you to remind you that these people minis, uh, the convention world affectionately refers to them as minis. They’re seven to 10 years old, which places their birth year between 2011 and 2014. So for context, some of these people are younger than Game of Thrones. Um, so here’s what I think in these three different areas. We have a lot to learn from seven to 10 year olds. Number one, self confidence, totally off the charts. Number two, the asking of questions now. Sure. That can get a little out of hand from time to time. But for the most part, this is an admirable quality and part three, the bounce back or the bounce in general. So we’re going to dig a little bit deeper into those three areas of expertise of, of this particular age group. I’m so stoked about it. Here we go.
I want to start with this illustration of confidence and enthusiasm. Certainly something that we could all learn from a 7 to 10 year old. Um, I’ll start with this story. I’ve been putting a more pointed focus on history when I teach even to the young ones and, um, basically to start every class, to see where the group is at in their understanding or exposure to history, um, making it a habit to kind of check the temperature in the room. Before I start my lesson this week, I was teaching what I call jazz plus, which we could do an entire side episode on jazz plus by the way, and I probably will someday, but for now I will say this jazz plus is my dance history, mostly jazz plus a whole lot of other stuff. And that is exactly what you can expect to find when you take my class. Um, but most of the 7 to 10 year olds, uh, in my class over the weekend had never seen jazz plus on a schedule. So before I addressed what jazz plus is, I decided to ask the students for a show of hands and fingers, um, to show me if they could explain jazz, like a one finger up, it means I’m sort of, kind of not really. And five fingers up means. Yeah, totally. Uh, so I said to the room, all right, um, show of fingers, everyone. How confident are you in explaining jazz on a one to five? Hands started flying up and overwhelmingly. They were displaying in many cases more than five fingers, like were tagging both arms shooting up five fingers on each hand, 10 out of 5 confidence here. Now their enthusiasm did start to dwindle a little bit. Once I started asking them for their answer, what is jazz, but for those who did answer the question for those who kept their enthusiastic fingers up, I was shocked actually to hear some very broad and not so technical, but kind of true answers. Like for example, jazz is energy. Jazz is energy or jazz is fun. Or my personal favorite jazz is kind of everything put together. Like everything put together. These are exact words. ‘Jazz is kind of everything put together,’ which really that’s that’s, that’s not true. Jazz is not ballet and braking and ballroom and a grilled cheese sandwich put together. But when you consider that jazz dance and jazz music spring from roots of rituals and celebrations of black people from way, way, way back as early as the 17 hundreds, then yeah, I can absolutely see how you might find elements of jazz in many, many other styles and in many, many other things, but I digress that is not what we’re here to talk about today for now. Let’s simply Marvel at the fact that although these young people have very little experience as humans, like only 7 years of experience as humans when asked for their level of confidence at something these littles jumped straight to a 10 out of 5, like they weren’t thinking, I don’t know, or I have no experience. They were thinking, yeah, sure. Why not? Let’s engage with this. Let’s yeah, let’s jump in. Yeah, I could, I could probably know the answer to this or I could probably be good at this thing or yeah, I bet I could be really, really, really good at this thing. That’s where the mindset of the mini is at. And I was very interested to find that when I asked the same question to my teens and seniors who are between 13 and, and 17 or 18, I barely saw a single hand with five fingers raised, I saw mostly ones and twos. So, but you, I mean, could you explain to a friend, what jazz is, how confident would you be to have that connection? One out of five? What is jazz? Right? It’s it’s, it’s not an easy or simple question to answer, but what this exercise really illustrated to me other than the general lack of understanding of jazz and jazz history in a convention setting is that a lot happens between seven and 17 years and beyond. Um, we, we really lose that 10 out of 5 confidence and enthusiasm, and I can only speculate at how we lost it or why we lost it, but I can think of a few ways that we might get some of that, the good parts of that anyways, but I can think of a few ways that we might get some of that back regarding the confidence specifically.
One, one could argue that kids have more confidence because they don’t yet know complete humiliation. Right. They haven’t experienced being broken up with or cut from an audition or fired from a job job. Their experience is that they learn and they play and sometimes they get in trouble and that’s life and that’s okay. So what if we could think more like that? What if, what if we could think yes. I’m game, even if I lose playing is fun, let’s go. No, I’m not suggesting that you risk it all or pretend to know things that you don’t know. This lesson in confidence and enthusiasm is actually, we all about willingness to play, just willingness to play and the willingness to go into the game, like a winner before you’ve already, even started, versus walking into the game like a beginner who’s never or tried anything ever, right? It’s likely that even if you’re playing a game for the very first time, you have some other skills or training or experience that will give you some foundation to stand on. Maybe not a competitive edge per se, but by the time you’re 18 years old, you’ve got to experience some rudimentary exposure to a lot of things. So let’s, let’s lead with that. Shall we? The willingness to play and to walk into the game like a winner. Now that’s actually a good segue.
Let’s skip ahead to, um, lesson number three, the bounce back. Kids don’t just jump into a game like a winner with 10 out of 5 confidence. They bounce back fast. Even if they get completely leveled by the game. Even if they find out that they have zero confidence in the thing, that moment usually quickly resolves with something else. That’s interesting. Yeah. So, um, you actually, you made, we’ve seen this more in babies and toddlers than in 7 to 10 year olds, but it’s this really remarkable, quick shift, um, on the emotional spectrum, uh, extreme discontent moments, moments away from like total satisfaction, these quick recoveries like crying, crying, crying, and then we’re moving on. Like we’re literally skipping on and I love this. I aspire to the bounce back like this. Um, I aspire to let go of drama that quickly, man. I have so much to learn. Uh, now I know that that, uh, this anomaly is not because young ones don’t feel as much. Actually they, I think they feel tremendously even loss or a rejection or failure. I believe they really do feel those things and they feel it fully. And then they move on instead of the adult way of handling it, which looks more like ignoring it or resisting it or denying it or reacting to it with an alcoholic beverage or a shopping spree or a scroll down Instagram lane. So what if we get, allow ourself to lose just, okay, I lost that round, right? Or what if you could allow yourself the bummer of not knowing the answer to something or of getting the answer wrong or of not getting the gig and then literally skip along on your way to the next game or question or gig like actually bounce, truly hop. Now, this is where your homework comes in before the next episode comes out. I do challenge you to actually skip somewhere and tell me that you don’t have an absolute ball when you get there. Skipping is so powerful, like fully be sad and then be hopping up and down and tell me that you don’t giggle. Honestly, I think laughter and tears are very closely linked. I call it the laugh cry, happens to me all the time. Um, but yes, knees permitting, bounce back, try it, just try it.
Okay. And that brings me to our final lesson, a very admirable quality of the 7 to 10 age range. And that is the asking of questions. Oh man. In my mini classes this weekend, so many questions, I’m sure some of them were, can I go to the bathroom? Even after I said, you do not need to ask permission to go to the bathroom. I still got that question like four or five times, man. I really could have taken questions top to bottom the whole class without ever teaching a single step full of questions. Um, but I did want to share my favorite question with you here. Uh, today I’m in the middle of teaching combo and I see a hand raised into the air. Adorable young person raised their hand and, and approached the stage. Even though she’s supposed to stay in her little taped in box. And she says, “what do you do? When someone tells you, you should know something and you don’t know that thing” like arrow through my heart. What do you do? When someone tells you, you should know something and you don’t, this was a full stop moment for me. I asked everyone in the room to sit down because we were going to engage in this discussion. So I asked, all right, what might you do when someone says that you should know something and you don’t know that thing, you might feel bad. You might feel sad. You might get angry at them and walk away. Yes. All valid. We discussed these options, but none of those options get you the answers. So I asked, okay, what else, what else could you do? When someone tells you, you should know something and you don’t know it. We as a room collectively decided that you could get really curious. You could wonder why they think that you should know that thing you might wonder who might know that thing. And who would be willing to tell you, you might wonder, well, geez, I’ve made it this far. So maybe I shouldn’t know it. Why is it really that important? You might also wonder what else should I know, what else do I not know? So we discussed all of the different ways. You could respond to someone saying that you should know something. And we decided that getting curious was the best thing to do. Not. So surprisingly after we had this discussion, I got another great question from the same dancer, she was my gem. She asked, “what do you do when this part is hard?” And she demonstrated the parts, me, what do you do when this part is hard? And man, I just love this question so much. And I wanted to ask you for your answer to that question. What do you do when this part is hard? Like, what do you do when anything is hard? What do you do? When it gets hard? I either stop or keep going. Those are my two options. When I keep going, it usually gets less hard. And when I stop, it stays hard to me, but I’m not doing it. So it doesn’t matter. So in both cases, things are less hard. But if you’re a person who enjoys being able to do hard things, I strongly recommend you keep going. And that’s what I asked my little mini in this moment. I said, do you like being able to do hard things? And she said, yeah. And I said, then keep doing it. Even if it’s hard. And I thought that was a marvelous adult moment as well, a healthy adult reminder. So as, as adults, as grownups, I’m assuming listening to this episode also. Hi, again, minis. I love you. I had so much fun and I loved talking to you. I’m learning so much from you. Um, but to all of my more grown types listening, have you stopped asking questions? Like, do you ask questions in your head and not say them out loud deliberately? Do you sensor your questions? If so, why do you think that, you know everything like do you generally genuinely not have questions because you think, you know, everything, which trust me, I met a few of you in Greenville as well, teens and seniors who think they know it all I’m talking to you. They’re probably not listening. That’s okay. Um, but are you, are you genuinely not asking because you feel like, you know, things or are you afraid of looking dumb or inexperienced? That is probably likely the case. Well, interestingly you learn when you ask questions. So if not dumb is the goal, then not asking questions is not how you get there. I think that was a triple negative that I just said. So here’s the question. If a double negative is the same as a positive then is a triple negative. The same as the single negative? Negative. I’m I just confused myself. Okay. Enough. I would like to suggest to you that you don’t ask questions for no reason. Don’t ask questions just because Dana said that minis asked questions and you should do that too. No, I’m suggesting that you ask questions when you have them and that your questions reveal how much, you know, instead of how much you don’t know, super shout out to Episode 28, how to ask good questions. If you have not given that a listen, strongly recommend you do that. Um, all right, so, wow. Let’s wrap it up. Three takeaways for my seven to 10 year old students who schooled me this weekend. Number one, be willing to play and walk into the game, like a winner. Number two, bounce back and walk out of the game a winner, even if you just lost. And number three, ask more questions, ask questions that reveal how much, you know, not how much you don’t know. And no, you no longer need to ask permission to use the restroom. Please just handle it now.
Now before you go, I want to draw one really interesting parallel or at least it’s interesting to me. And it might be interesting to you this right now is a huge blinking neon sign to me in my life because I’m reaching peak interest in my clown training. Yes. Uh, but what I’m noticing is that much like children clowns wear their hearts on their sleeve, like right there, their feelings, their observations about the world, their willingness to play on their sleeve. And perhaps it’s this, you know, childish newness that gets clowns and comedians alike into the hearts of an audience member, right? Perhaps this is actually why children and clowns and comedians can get away with all sorts of stuff and still be loved. Perhaps this is why comedians are among the most important artists in my eyes. So if in the heart of audiences is where you would like to be. Then these lessons from children are what might get you there also take clown class, huge, huge, so important. Okay. My friends, that is what I have for you today. Take it from the children, take it from the clowns and take it from me. Thank you so much for listening. Everybody get out there into the world with that childlike confidence, enthusiasm, that willingness to play, the ability to bounce back and the where with all to ask questions. And of course keep it funky while you do it. I will talk to you next week.
Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing, I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more.
All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit
Dana: Hello, Hello, my friends. How are you? And welcome to the podcast. I’m Dana. And if you are new here, welcome. If you’re a returning listener. Welcome back. I have a treat for you all today. Holy smokes. My guest on this episode is Martha Nichols. She is a dear friend and she is a bright, bright, light, fascinating human being. We laugh a lot. You will learn a lot. I really don’t want to keep you too long from this interview, but it is customary on the podcast. We always start by celebrating wins and this week my win is small, but really important. Actually, technically my win was about one and a half by two feet cubed. Um, does that make sense? It doesn’t really make sense. This week, my win is a box. I have had a cardboard box full of miscellaneous items in my living room, like right in the middle of my living room in plain sight, like an eyesore every single day for the last, like probably three months, it’s been there on my list of things to do, but nowhere near the top. You know, one of those type of items or areas in your house, you might have an area like, um, a junk drawer or a room. Some people have a full like junk room. Um, or a basket or a suitcase full of stuff that you just haven’t looked at or thought about for a long time. This was that box for me. And a few nights ago, I just sat down with my phone to take some photos of these remarkable items and a big glass of water. And I was like, I will get all the way to the bottom of this box and everything will either have a new home or will get donated. And I felt really, really good about that process. Most of the things in this box by the way, were artifacts, (um, underline the art part of that) from a project that I started back in 2015, 16. Oh yeah. I talk about it in this episode, actually. Um, I think it was back in 2015 into 2016. I started a company in Northern California. Well, where I was living at the time called The Bureau of Nonverbal communication. We were a fake government that was meant to kind of take place in the period, Late seventies, early eighties, we carried badges. We invented, um, all sorts of tools to measure dance. We were there to defend, protect, and investigate all things. Non-verbal. Um, actually because of that project started learning ASL American sign language. We did shows, we made videos, we trained, we had an absolute ball and you know what? After going through that box, I’m thinking about maybe, maybe revisiting the bonk, the Bureau of non-verbal communication. We might need a Los Angeles branch. We might need a branch in your city wherever you’re listening. If you’re curious about the Bureau of non-verbal communication, you can go ahead and visit @the_BONC on Instagram, THE underscore B O N C. You are really in for a treat. All right. That is my win today. I got all the way through that box. I found some stuff that made me smile. I found some stuff that made me want to cry. Everything found a home. And if that is not worthy of a celebration, I don’t know it is all right. Now you go hit it. What’s going well in your world.
Awesome. Congratulations. I’m proud of you. Keep crushing. It. Keep winning. Even if it’s just little wins every single day, it really adds up. Really matters. Celebrate yourself. Okay. Speaking of celebrations, y’all this episode is a party, Martha Nichols, and I have known each other for a very long time. You can hear it in our voices, the enthusiasm to be connecting and we connect on a lot. Uh, we also dig in to some difficult questions. We talk process, we talk humor, we talk music. Um, we talk a lot, so let’s go ahead and get right into it. Enjoy this conversation with the fabulous Martha, Nichols,
Dana: Martha freaking Nichols welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here,
Martha: Dana freaking Wilson. Thanks for having me. I’m so pumped.
Dana: I’m pumped. I’m jazz. I’m ready to get into what is sure to be a very bright and I mean that in so many ways conversation. Um, but before we do, I it’s, it’s, uh, routine on the podcast that I ask all of my guests to introduce themselves. That is on you. What would you like us to know about you?
Martha: Ooh. Wow. Um, I am an artist who believes in humanity and faith and the spiritual aspect in all things, which opens the door to faith and hope in all things. I love to create in the expansive, um, sense of the word, whether it is creating art or creating safe spaces, creating conversation, creating safety within other people. Um, yeah, I am a creator. I am an artist. I am somebody who loves Jesus.
Dana: Yes. That is you. That is Martha Nichols. That is the Martha that I know today and have known for a really long time. So it will give the listeners a bit of context because I’m sure people will be. Um, if they’ve listened to any other episodes that I have made, if they’ve listened to them. Um, I think relative to previous episodes, I expect in some ways, um, a deeper dive here with you today. And in some other ways, there will probably be way more cackling than usual. So I’d like to shed a little bit of light on our history because that I think will inform people as do I there’s so much laughter. Um, so let’s see, Martha, I don’t actually remember when we met like our first, our initial meeting. Do you? I’m not offended if you don’t.
Martha: I think it was, I mean, honestly I think it was at a function at Tammy Faye’s house.
Oh my God. Okay. That far back. So the year probably 2006, maybe.
Yeah. Somewhere in 2006, 2007.
Okay. So tell me this. What year were you on So you think you can dance?
And how’d that go?
Um, it went.
Up? Down? Spirals?
Um, I would say for me personally, it went according the first, not according to plan and then according to plan, um, I never wanted to win. I honestly thought I was going to get cut early on and my hope was to go ahead and get cut so I could go back home. Um, and then I kept not getting cut. And then once I made top 20, I literally thought to myself, maybe we should try. Like you like you’re here. And despite you trying to not be here, you’re here. And there are people who wanted to be here, who are not here. So figure it out. Don’t take this for granted, actually apply yourself and try. Um, but for some reason I just was like, I don’t want to win. I think it’s more beneficial to build relationships with the choreographers, the producers and directors. So my personal goal was to come out with a good relationship with the people who are truly wanting to work with and to make top 10, and that’s exactly what I did.
All right. So really loved that. I don’t know how it is. There, I guess I suppose, is a similarity in the sense of humor that you and I share for sure. Um, but uh, I’ve talked about on the podcast before a serious silliness. Um, and I would love to hear, because I think that you’re somebody that takes their work very seriously. Where, where do you find space for humor? Is it in the work? Is it in the process? Is it everything in between?
I think I find humor everywhere except in intention. Hmm. Explain. Um, cause I think with intent, actually, I just listened to you and Dexter’s podcast, shout out to Dexter Carr where you were talking about, um, what you, uh, wow. English, Martha, what you learned from, uh, the paint, painters and like sculptures and how there’s not a neutral stroke and how it either adds or takes away. Um, and I feel the same way with words and words are language. Art is a language. I think it’s the same thing in my personal process in creating. So like the by-product of intent can be humorous like, Oh, this might be funny, but in intention it’s like, no, I take my intent very seriously. So it’s like the intention itself, there’s humor in that for me. Process, I want to laugh. I want to laugh. I love it. I like to have a good time. As far as like me creating something and saying something, I need to know what I’m saying. I need to have a clear understanding of it because words either build or destroy, there is no neutral and I don’t want to unintentionally add, even if it lands differently than the way it’s launched. I still have to have a clear understanding of where this sits.
This is something I’ve been rapping with for a while now. Um, and I talked about it on my episode with Taja as well, which is this concept of words and their meaning and when they are flexible, when they are rigid. And I really do think that words, and this is like, this is where the wrestle happens. That words are very important and, and they are also neutral because they’re only as important as the person receiving them, believes them to be like, if you say something with words, your very deliberate words. And I think that they’re a lie, or I think that they don’t matter to me, or I think that those are your truth, not the truth. Then all of a sudden they become very light. They don’t they’re they’re, they’re not binding or rigid to me at all. So in, yeah, I I’m wrestling with it.
I wrestle with that as well. I think for me, they are definitive. And I’ll say that because I think words have two meanings. There’s a universal understanding. And then there’s a personal understanding. I think we get into dangerous territory when we allow the personal understanding to maybe erase the universal understanding. I think there’s a world where both have to be respected. Um, and so I cannot worry too much about how it’s personally going to be received because that I can say what I want,
It’s out of your control.
Yeah. It’s outside of my control. But for my part, it’s like, if I’m saying anything, I need to know what it means and if it’s heavy to me or if it’s a way to, to me, I need to know that that is my personal experience with that word, but somebody may not have it, but I think there is a universal definition. It’s like in the dictionary, this is what this word means. And then everybody has their personal understanding and relationship with that word.
With what it means to them. Or just say like, Oh no, that, that, that doesn’t work for me. This is interesting. And on ongoing. And certainly not one of those, like the answer that I land on today will be my answer forever. And it should be everyone’s answer. This is just one of those things that we could talk about forever to everyone all the time. And I’m always fascinated in this conversation. Um, okay. Speaking of fascination, I, and speaking of words, actually, this is a perfect segue. I did not plan by the way. I don’t know if I’ve said this out loud yet, but I have no plan in this conversation. Um, but this is a beautiful segue because one of the things that I have always admired about your movement is your ear. So let me elaborate. If you are not a person that is familiar with Martha Nichols, with her dancing or with her choreography, there is a heavy focus, a heavy a super-strong spotlight on music, on instrumentation, on composition of the actual sounds. Um, and so I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about your creative process. Do you like is music King, are words is a message King or queen, or like what’s the most important thing to you while you are making?
It fluctuates. It definitely fluctuates, um, really the spirit of it all. The spirit is the most important to me in all aspects. Um, and so in process I’ve actually recently switched my process to something that I’d never done before, where normally I have a song and I know the song kind of in and out, and this is what this is. Um, this is what it sounds like to me. And then I kind of see it musically in movement phrases, as in like these notes are higher. So this shape should elevate or, um, this sound is a timpani and not a bass drum, a timpani has a rounder sound. So, okay. This needs to be somewhere in circular space. Um, yeah. Usually music is kind of like the first with the intent of what it is I’m trying to say, and then movement comes. But recently I had to choreograph something over zoom, which personally is an enemy to all things musical.
Oh we can, we can go into that.
I don’t like it here. Like I don’t like this, but I also do love a challenge. Um, but choreographing over zoom. I was like, okay, like this act like low key, this sucks because I want to do all these things, but I don’t know y’all, I don’t know if y’all know how to dance. I don’t know if you can hear the music. I don’t know if you’re on or off. Um, and then me being a slight perfectionist and by slight, I mean, massive I’m now looking at the time in between the shapes to understand if they’re rushing or not. And so I’m like, okay, it was like Martha, you can’t do this. You’re going to drive yourself nuts. So I actually created movement to random songs and then challenged myself to create a piece of music, myself that fit what I’d already choreographed. Um, and I loved it.
That’s great. Wow. That is awesome. What an incredible solution to all of those, I don’t knows. Like, I don’t know if you can hear the music. I don’t know if you understand this timing. I don’t know if you understand this rhythm, but I do know myself, my capability, my vision, my aptitude for, you know, creating a sound space and then you did it. It is brilliant. Martha, congratulations. I love, um, okay. So where your understanding of music come from, because I don’t think I’m far off in my guess that you have a deeper understanding of music than most dancers. Um, do you, do you have a background in singing or in musical groups or is it church or where does your understanding of music come from?
All of the above, my entire biological family is musical. Mandatory coming out of the womb. Everyone sings and everyone plays an instrument. Those are non-negotiables, you can dance, you can play basketball, you can draw, but those are secondary to everyone is singing and everyone is playing an instrument. Um, both of my parents played instruments. My mother was a vocal coach. She played piano and organ at the church and was always a minister of music. So I could actually read music before I could read, because she would take me to whenever she would go teach, but she also taught at schools. And so she would have me instead of me coloring in like coloring books and whatnot. I was coloring in the musical staff. Like there was always, and if somebody in class didn’t have an answer, she would look at me like you should know this answer. Um, like there was no nothing about it. Um, and so once I got into like middle school, you choose instruments and I wanted to play saxophone. They make you start on clarinet. Um, and I just was like, ah, I don’t want to do any of that. Actually. I want to play drums. And my mother was like, no, I said, okay, it’s a very elaborate answer. Um, can I get a why? And she said, no. And after about two or three months, I was like, no, I really wanted to play drums. And she was like, you’re not going to take class in something that you can teach yourself. And I was like, yeah, but people study that. She’s like, yeah, but that’s not you. So in class you have to go learn another instrument. You can teach yourself drums. So I started on clarinet, um, highly competitive, got to first chair, all the clarinet players were going to saxophone. I thought I already beat y’all. I don’t want to do this again. So I switched to bassoon, um, super competitive. And I also wanted to learn bass clef because a clarinet is treble clef and bassoon is bass clef. Um, and once I got to sixth grade, my mother was like, have you been paying attention in your band classes? And I was like, why? And she was like, because you can learn to play anything if you just pay attention. And so she talked the church into buying a drum set, and we would go early on Saturday mornings and she would say, figure it out. And she had perfect pitch. She had great tempo. So she would just check me on things. And whenever we’d go play at other churches, she’d be like, pay attention now, go play what you just heard. Um, and so, yeah, got a drum set at home and I would after school play music and just play along to what I heard. And that’s how I learned drums, but still played bassoon all the way through high school, still have my clarinet. Um, and then I can figure it out keyboard. Um, yes. There’s always been like, like I love music actually still have a drum set. Um,
Like legit, I have a drum set. yeah, like music has always been this, like this like safe Haven. It’s like curiosity, the known and the unknown music is like, she’s my girl. She’s one of my besties. I love her. And my whole family, everyone sings.
I don’t sing. You probably know this about me actually. There’s another, there’s another circle back. I remember a, um, uh, Las Vegas afternoon, maybe a lunch break. I was in a car with you and Matt Carroll. And we were going to get food somewhere and you guys started singing whatever it was on the radio. And you instinctively harmonized with each other and started talking about the harmonies, like, Oh no, go a third higher. Or like you were using language that I didn’t understand. And I had this moment of absolute awe and it felt like I was listening to people speak a different language. I didn’t know what you were communicating or how you knew to do what or to meet each other in those places. But I knew that it sounded beautiful and I had never done that. I had never had that. Um, I tell you, what I do have is vocal nodules. So singing, not so much happening for me these days, but a lot of cup bubbles. So we’re working through it. We’re training. Um, I love this, this like underlined idea that your mom instilled in you, which is like pay attention, look around and listen up and pay attention. And that was always, I, you know, for as much fun as you and I like to have, or you and I and Logan Schuyvink or You and I and Pam, or you and I, and Ben Susak, like, we like to have fun. But when, when I think about you in those rehearsal days, you were the person that was like, y’all pay attention. People, listen up, pay attention, people, pay attention, pay attention. That might be the title of this episode. Pay attention! Okay. So where are you when you’re not paying attention? Like what’s the flip side of pay attention. And is there any value there?
Um, I don’t think I know that place, um, because if I’m not paying attention on this, I’m paying attention on something else. Um, yeah, so I’m always paying attention to something. I may not be paying attention to what the people around me are currently focused on, but I’m always paying attention to something. Um, cause there’s a lot to learn.
Oh my gosh, the world is so vast and we’re newborn babies. We know nothing. Okay. So let’s start learning things right now. You and I, um, I am wondering, I it’s this incredible thing that I, it happened to us just today, before we got on this call, I was extremely frustrated. I’ve had an, a very technically challenging day where all of the things that I expected to take 20 minutes have taken two hours. And all of the things that I told myself, just accept it. I look at, and I’m like, I can’t accept that. I have to try again. I, you know, nothing seems to be going as planned today. And until I jumped on this call, that was eating me alive. I was nasty in my self-talk. I was nasty in my outside talk. Um, before we hit record, there were several an F bomb. Um, and it wasn’t until I verbalized that to you and to my technical assistant Riley, who is invisibly, who is listening. It wasn’t until I shared that, that I really belly laughed and genuinely was entertained by my circumstances instead of was wrestling them. I was like, I even in the moment before we started rolling, I was like, let me turn on some way I walked just four feet, four feet is all I had to go. And it tripped on my purse and spilled out all the contents. My hand sanitizer, the gum is now everywhere, which means like it, my life is everywhere right now, but it wasn’t until I started talking about it. That that was fun to me versus a threat to me. So I guess if I have a question, it would be like, what is your process of going through it? Like, do you, do you go through it in a dark place with like swearing and cursing and pressure? Or do you call up a friend and laugh? Like what’s the way that you go through it?
Oh, the way I go through it is I’m very, I’ve learned the cerebral. I kind of knew about myself, but a lot of my friends have said it even where recently it’s like, I’m extremely cerebral. Like I am all in the mind. I could sit and have a three hour conversation in silence by myself, on my couch without anything,
No stimulation, just
No stimulation. Like I’m just sitting in a moment in the dark candles lit and let’s process it. Um, so going through it for me is kind of giving myself therapy. Um, and also, yeah, it’s just like, where, where did these thoughts come from? What, like, what are you actually mad at? What is it really? And who are you mad at? Are you mad at them or are you disappointed in yourself for allowing this even happen? Okay. So that’s on you. Why are you disappointed? Because you didn’t exercise boundaries. Got it. Why didn’t you exercise boundaries, Martha, like, it’s me just like going down all the way through it. Um, and then usually it gets not dark big. It’s a little heavy because I am extremely hard on myself. Um, and so what brings me out legit is the Bible. It’s like, okay, so how are my thoughts right now in this moment, whatever they may be in alignment with God’s word. And if it’s not, I need to throw them away. Like I can process them, but I’m not supposed to hold on to that because it’s not serving me. Um, and also if I get in such a dark place, I can’t help other people I’m best to other people when I’m best in myself. So yeah, a lot of silence, a lot of just like me on the couch, staring at my screensaver. Um, and then journaling. Hmm. Yeah. And just to write, like, what, what is it, what are you going through right now? How did you get here? Yeah.
Giving it a name, understanding it, and then owning it,
Owning it. I am all about individual accountability, I’ve gotten in arguments about it this year, but like individually accountability, like the responsible let’s be responsible. It’s your life. Yeah. And
And we share the planet, right. We share spaces. Yes. But it is, uh, you know, all those individual contributions really, really make a massive difference. So be responsible for your contribution.
Absolutely. Like you can’t understand communal responsibility. If you don’t understand individual responsibility, the community is made up of individuals,
That’s it. By definition, that is what it is
Like verbatim. So you have the individual responsibility of it all. Um, like yeah, just ownership, ownership. What did I do? Like Martha, you keep having this issue. You’re the only common denominator. So its you.
That’s hard, hard truth right there. Okay. So I, I, relate and I understand, and actually you and I talked recently and had this moment of like absolute agreement in this realization, which is the source of our results in our life stems, from the way that we are thinking period, the end. So, um, I would love to talk a little bit more about that and figure out, um, you know, find some, some good life hacks for our listeners out there who might find themselves in, um, common and undesirable results perhaps, and maybe guide through like some, some quick fixes on how a mindset shift might be the solution. Um, but before I do that, I do want to check in that last time that we talked, you told me that you have retired from dance. And then when we were scheduling this conversation, you were like, I have a rehearsal. I can’t, I can’t be there. So I’m wondering what is going on in your world right now?
Right. I know we’re also quite an extremist, so there’s that, um, yeah,
I’m here for it, I am really patient. So you could retire and get, and come back to the workforce. The workforce is that where we call it? You can retire 15 times my friend and I will still be here ready to hear what you have to say.
I’m like, I’m here, I’m back. She’s back. Um, retired from who I thought I was going to be and who I wanted to be.
Say that one more time. You’ve retired from the expectations of yourself?
Yes. I’ve retired from the expectations of who I thought I was going to be and who I thought I wanted to be.
And who was that?
Well, A. lost there’s that? Ooh, reel it back girl. Um, I realized that like, I wanted accolades, but didn’t want to do the work. So like, somebody was like, Oh, like, do you want to do Broadway? And I was like, I want it on my resume, but I don’t want to do eight shows a week. Yeah. I don’t, I, I know for a fact, I don’t want to do eight shows a week. I don’t want to do that. Um, and if I’m this passionate about not wanting to do it, I’m not going to do it. And even if I did, it would not be up to my own standard. Um, so yeah, really sitting with like, what are you retiring from? Like, okay. And, uh, I think all I’m retiring from old mindsets of what dance was to me as well. So I think I’ve had a deep recalibration with my relationship with dance, like put the shoes up for like eight months. And I was like, you don’t get to dance until you figure out why you do it anymore. Because I realized my old understanding and reason for dancing was kind of expired.
What was it? And what is it now I’m asking the hard questions, girl, but this is for you and for the listeners.
Um, I know we’ve already sat with all these questions for sure. Well, before it was definitely fun, only fun. And I danced and created because I didn’t have the words. It was a way to say what I couldn’t say. And over the past year and a half, I’ve been working on the words and I love the words. Like I love writing. I’ve always loved writing. And so I came a point where I was like, well, now that you have the words, what point, what purpose is dancer?
So especially if it had stopped being fun somewhere along the way.
Yeah. So it’s like, you’re just physically moving your body in empty space, which means you’re not dancing. You’re just moving. You are just aimlessly out here taking up space. You need to sit down. And so you figure out what you’re doing, sit down, you don’t get to participate. Um, and so now it’s definitely like, woof, I create, because I have something to say, um, and is a gift. And if the Lord gives you a gift, it’s not my job to judge it. It’s my job to share it, my job, to work on it and elevate it and expand it and to use it and to wield it as a weapon. Um, so yes to that. So it definitely retired from like the industry. I like went and like quit every job for a moment there. Um, this is like, take me out and remove my face from the website, take it off. Like I remove it all. Um, I’m now in a place where I realize that I’m going to sum it up this way. I’ve been writing a lot about the difference between destinations and doorways. And I always thought that dance was the destination, when I realized it was the doorway I was moving and acting in this world, like it was the destination. And now it’s shifted is that I’ve not only understood that it’s just the doorway. I’ve also internalized and I’m shifting everything in my life to move according to what it is now. And so with it being the doorway, I love creating. Like dance is a medium, a medium that I love. Sometimes she loves me. Sometimes she doesn’t. Um, sometimes I love her and I don’t get that love back and it’s okay. You know, growth. Um, but, um, yeah. Now dance is, this. It’s, It’s still deeply spiritual on a selfish, personal level. It’s a moment for me to say, thank you for having a body for having the medium, for being able to use it, um, for being giving the opportunities to train and to study and to master certain things. Um, so it’s always a moment of gratitude now in a place where I’ve fully learned. And I understand that if my spirit is good, then I can properly steward whatever project, room, group of people are in front of me and dance is the bridge that like opens the door. Dance is a doorway for them and their art for me to them, from them in themselves. It’s like, it’s a doorway. Dance is a bridge, it’s a doorway. Um, and so I went from being like, I’m not doing anything I’m quitting to Ooh, A. you don’t get to quit yet.
Not as long as you have a body and you have ears in the world makes music
Yeah. Like you, yeah. Like, no, you’re not doing it, Martha. Um, so now fully creating again and recalibrate it, my thoughts about creation and what it is I’m creating, why I’m creating it, how I’m creating it. Um, so I have been commissioned by Kyle Abraham’s company AIM to do a new work. And so I’m in rehearsal for that right now.
Awesome! Can you tell us anything about it? What’s your inspiration or what, what do you want the audience to be left feeling after this year?
I don’t quite know yet. Um, I would say questionable.
Like a sense of curiosity. Um, I think always a sense of peace, always a sense of, uh, what I’d like to create a safe space for you to dive into areas that you may not know necessarily go into. But I like to always package you back up before I send you on your way. Um, yeah.
Something, something easy. I don’t mean simple. I mean, full of ease.
Um, I, I remember seeing your show, um, I don’t remember what it was called though. So help me. What was your show called?
The Wider Sun.
Wider Sun. Yes. In New York city and that was out, Oh, this is going to be fun. Oh, this is going to be so much fun. Um, and I remember just feeling like it was easy to watch and digest and it looked good. Like the sounds sounded, and I could imagine what it felt like to be dancing it, and that felt good. And I, from, from the feedback that I heard from the audience around me, which granted were mostly dancers, even those who weren’t like, even those who don’t know what it feels like to be dancing, those grooves or in that mood seemed transplanted to that mood and seemed to like, get some residual feeling of what you had intended. Um, so Kudos to you and to that show. And I’m gonna like kind of sidebar, Um, and talk about, uh, Myself, Because this is important. And actually it’s something that I am working, um, with a lot of my peers and clients on is this idea of jealousy, um, or the concept of jealousy. So I know, uh, you’ve talked a bit about processing, right? Especially the darker corners of yourself or the unwanted feelings or feelings that we’ve been told are undesirable. And I think jealousy is top of that list. Um, you know, when we’re children we’re told, like don’t be jealous just because she, you know, has a nicer car or Sketchers or whatever it is that you’re jealous of. Don’t, don’t be jealous was always the message. And, um, I remember sometime in 2016, when I decided to rewire that, uh, message and get really curious about jealousy and start to use it as a map, I cannot fully take credit or any credit at all for this concept. Um, Julia Cameron, who is the author of The Artist’s Way, has an exercise in that, um, in the artist way called the jealousy map, where you look at somebody who you are jealous of and you really work your way down to the actual seed. That’s at the core of your jealousy. It is usually not the person. Um, it is. So anyways, long story short, I now look at jealousy as like this check engine light that comes on in, um, not in protest of something going wrong, but it, that starts blinking to help me look at something that needs my attention. And I want to let you know, here live on the podcast. You are one of the first people that I ever jealousy mapped, and it was shortly after you had won the, the ACE awards. Um, and I think you’ll probably relate to this I in the moment that I received that news, I, I got the news scrolling through Instagram one day and I saw that you had won and I scrolled right past it because I got that ping. That was like zeal, you know, somebody is doing something awesome. And it wasn’t you that moment always, always ready with that hot poker. So I got that hot poker and it was, as I was learning about jealousy and I was like, Oh my God, go back, look at that. What was that? So I asked just like you had talked about like sitting on your couch and conversing with yourself and talking yourself down, like off of all the cliffs and into the belly of the beast of what is going on. And I, the way that the jealousy map works more or less is you ask the question why over and over and over and over again as if you were a five-year-old. Yeah, basically. Well, I’m, I’m taking that away and I actually really love the way you seem to be parenting yourself at all times, all times. I don’t know if being a parent is on your list of things to do, but I think you’d be great at it because you’re, you’re constantly parenting yourself. Okay. So we’re back to the jealousy map. I see this post you’d won the ACE awards and I became jealous and I asked myself, why, why are you jealous? Do you want to win the ACE awards? And I answered that question. No. And then I asked myself why. And I was like, well, because I don’t really want to be a choreographer. And then it was like, okay, so why are you jealous? Is it because, um, that distinguished panel of judges thinks that Martha’s good? And then it was like, well, no. Cause I think I know that distinguish a panel of judges thinks that I’m good too. I don’t need them to think that I’m better. Okay. So why, like, I didn’t even submit, like, I didn’t even put my name in the hat. So why, what is going on here? And after like seven rounds of asking why I found that I was jealous of the bullet point, the line item on the resume, um, I was jealous of the visibility that that would probably afford you, you know, it probably meant a magazine article or a cover or a, something like that. It definitely meant you got your own show. That was part of the prize of winning that. Um, so even more visibility and in that moment, uh, that moment by the way, was, I think it was 2014 maybe, or must’ve been 2014 or early 2016. Okay. So I was still in, I was living in Sunnyvale at the time I was away from Los Angeles away from my usual work network. I had not, I had not gained any new resume bullets in quite some time. I was feeling invisible. Yeah. And that feeling Is what I responded to when I saw that good thing happen for you. So instead of swiping it away and just writing Martha off as a person that I’m jealous of, I started getting into the idea of visibility. I started getting into the idea of credits and work, and if I wasn’t working, why wasn’t I working? It’s certainly not because, um, the industry wasn’t busy. It was because I wasn’t putting my name into hats of projects I wasn’t creating. So at that time I decided to make a project. Um, I made a performance piece with my company at the time there in Sunnyvale. I reached out to all of my contacts in the world that write articles. I became visible simply by reaching out simply by. And I, I gave myself more bullets. I also redid, uh, shortly after that epiphany redid my, um, reel. So all of the existing work that I had done became more visible. So thank you for being on my radar and being part of my check engine light that helped me nurture this vehicle. That is my creative life. Um, and I really encourage anybody out there listening. Who’s ever done that rapid swipe to make things go away that might be causing temporary discomfort. Don’t swipe those things away because if you do, you will experience almost certainly experienced some mandatory suffering later down the road. So, um, I’m so grateful for you and that moment, um, and I don’t know, I, I guess that I’d like to open the floor to you and as a person, especially a person who’s a perfectionist, a self-proclaimed perfectionist. How do you deal with those with, with jealousy maybe, or with imposter syndrome or with, um, anything else that’s on the quote unquote unwanted side of the emotional spectrum. So what do you do when you don’t get what you want?
I asked myself why I want it. Um, so case in point I was choreographing this musical and there are, ee do I share this? Do I not? Okay. Yeah. So I..
You can use code names too, if that is helpful.
Okay. Work. Um, I love research. I love research. I’m always reading something like I love, yeah. I love information. I love to learn. I am a student of life and everything. Um, and so in looking up awards that I wanted to win, I was like, okay, because we will always be like, Oh, do you want to be famous? And be like, Ooh, I don’t want to be famous. I want to be respected. I don’t wanna be famous. Um, and so it’s interesting that you’re like, Oh, the visibility and that’s something I’m like, Ooh, I don’t, I don’t need to be visible. I just want to do what I do. And if people like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t, but I’m just mind my business over here. Um, so looking up certain awards. So, cause it’s like, I have goals. Like I am ambitious as it’s like, Oh, I want to get one of those. I want to get one of those. Well enough if I would’ve went to Tony, um, for choreography, because like you’re not dancing anytime soon, like on Broadway now that you know of. So what would be the way,
Because you don’t want to do eight shows a week.
Because I don’t want to do eight shows a week. So like, you can’t want something and not, and, uh, you can’t want like this thing and not be willing to do the work required to get there. So I know
You can, but you’ll just suffer miserably. What do you, when you don’t get to have it,
I’m a huge fan of acceptance. So Martha accept the fact that like, that’s not your way. There could be another way. So I was like, ah, I would love to choreograph and direct on Broadway. Love to. Um, and then I was handed this musical and I was, Oh, this is amazing. And at, just kind of like in my season of recalibrating, it’s like, I’ve been a part of the musical for over a year. And uh, after the year it’s like a recalibrating this year and it was just like, I need to quit that I need to quit this blah, blah, blah. And so I put everything, but the musical and the whole time, I just kept questioning myself. Like, are you supposed to be doing this musical? Or are you not like, are you, are you, are you supposed to like take a seat from everything in the current moment and then be reintroduced to it a little bit later? Or are you supposed to hold onto this? And I remember walking in my grandmother’s driveway, just like it’s at my grandma’s house. That’s the only place I have this quiet and alone. So I’m like pacing up and on the driveway. And we’re thinking to myself, it’s like, well, yeah, you want to do the musical, Like you enjoy it. The cast is amazing. The creative team is epic. And if I was to be a part of any project, it would be this, like everything checked, the boxes, content, people, music, all of it. Um, and then I thought to myself, Oooooh, you’re only doing this musical because you want to want to Tony. And that’s the way to get the Tony. But did the Lord asks you to do this musical to begin with? And I went, Oh, okay. So sit back down, sit back down, Martha and respectfully declined and stepped away. And it was just like, honor to be here. I would be doing you guys a disservice if I stayed. Um, but it took me a second to be like, do I like, what, what is this actual feeling here, Martha? What, what is going on here? Um, so again, like quiet time and reflection. And I taught, I had talked to myself all the time. Um, fun fact when we were filling out the psycheval for, so you think they asked like, do you hear voices? And I remember like having a moment being like, well, I mean, I do, but like its me, but like
Probably should say no, but if I’m to be honest, then hell yes, absolutely. The majority of the time. Yes.
But they’re all mine. So I don’t know. Yeah.
When you say voices,
Can we elaborate on that?
I love this.
Yeah. So like when I sit with like, I question myself all the time, all the time in everything I do, why are you creating this? Why are you friends with this person? Why are you taking this job? Why are you in this situation? What are you, what, what are you getting out of this? What are you adding to this? Um, and so those negative or not so fun kind feelings I sit with as well. Like, there’ve been a few friends where I’ve been jealous of. I’m insane. I’m just like, but why are you jealous? Like you don’t even want that. So what is lacking within you that this is a trigger, go sit with that.
Or what are they doing well that you’re not doing well? What is that? What is it that’s a hook in you right now because there’s something to be learned. And, Oh, I forgot to mention this in the jealousy map, once you get to the very kernel of why that person or that thing that they are doing is speaking to you so loudly, there is right at the core, an action that you can take now, right this second, that will get you closer to it once you understand it. But if you, you know, if you just keep swiping and ignore, then, then you won’t get any closer to solving that riddle or, or gaining that, um, that win whatever it is that, that they’re winning at that you think you’re losing at. Yeah.
Yes, yes, yes. I think, I mean, Yeah.
So I think I cut you off. And I think, I, I think I totally hijacked your thought when they went back to the jealousy map. I’m sorry.
No, you’re good. I’m still kind of like sitting in that space of just like, yeah. I, I feel like I I’ve always had the tool of why and growing up, it was annoying to most adults and teachers. Um, but now it is serves me like now it comes in handy. Um, and it was definitely, I’m realizing a lot of things that were spoken over me in my childhood were misunderstood. And those are the very same tools that actually helped me advance now.
Like why and what else?
Like why. And, uh, sometimes I kind of like think clearly I can think objectively, which sometimes is some people comes off as cold.
Copy that. I’m getting it a lot lately. Matter of fact, which when you’re warm, like bubbly people, like we are even neutral can read as cold relative to our normal mode, which is like sunflower. Copy that. So I want to talk really quickly about visibility and about respect because, um, you know, I mentioned visibility showing up in my jealousy map. And you mentioned this idea of respect when you decided that you wanted to win a Tony. So I would put visibility and respect as being absolutely relative, subjective and like feeling seen, feeling visible is a feeling, feeling respected is a feeling it’s very possible that you could win a Tony and feel totally disrespected and creating that same moment. So those like, you know, and me making the piece to feel, you know, visible or whatever it means putting a call out to dance magazine is not the thing that made me feel visible. I think in that moment, like really looking at myself, helped me to feel seen. And so that kind of speaks to your ability to walk away from this project is by knowing that that project doesn’t equal respect. I mean, even, even if that project equal to Tony, that project doesn’t actually equal respect, um, especially not of thyself. So, uh, speaking of respect, I respect you for making that decision. That is huge. And I think especially in quarantine times, which is where we are speaking from right now, the, the word, no with regards to work doesn’t happen a whole lot. Um, so it’s, it sounds like you are really, really dialed into the things that matter to you. Um, and, and I, I commend you for that. That’s awesome.
Yeah. Um, okay, Martha, I just, I simply think the world of you, I could talk to you forever, but I, I do want to send you back into your evening of what, whether it’s drumming or creating or sitting silently to yourself. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I just, I think the world of you,
Love you Forrest Gump! Thank you.
Um, wait, can we like demystify that story really quick? Why are you in my phone as Jenny with like eight A’s and why do you call me Forrest? Like where did that come from? I think it was someday on, In the Heights.
I have no idea. I think it has something to do with running and then I yelled forest and then, you yelled Jenny.
Um, okay, so there’s there’s room to still go deeper as there is in all things, in all areas, in all lessons yet to be learned. Um, and I hope you, and I get to do this again very soon and you’re awesome. This was awesome. I think the world of you. Thank you. Love you.
Thanks for having me. I love you so much.
You’re welcome. I love you. Bye.
All right, everybody. What do you think that believe it or not was the, uh, abridged version of our conversation. Um, Martha and I will absolutely be doing a follow-up tune into the Instagram, the Instagram tune into the Instagram. We will be doing an Instagram live tomorrow. If you’re listening to this on the day of its release, which is Thursday, but we do save those lives to the Instagram account @wordsthatmovemepodcast So you can check in there. Um, here, our followup with Martha Nichols and so many of our other guests from the full from the whole year, almost a year, you guys, Oh my gosh. I hope you’re still loving the pod. I hope that if you do, you are downloading it so that you can have it with you at all times. I hope that you are leaving reviews and ratings if you are so moved to do so, it really does make it easier for other people to find the podcast sharing is caring. That is what I believe. I care about you. Thank you so much for caring about the pod. All right. Y’all that is it for today. Get out there, pay attention and keep it funky. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website. theDana wilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me. Remember. 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.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello everybody. And thank you for being here today. I’m Dana. This is words that move me and I’m jazzed about this episode. Yes. Um, if you are new to the podcast, I start every episode with wins. I’m going to tell you mine, and then I’m gonna leave you a little bit of time to tell me yours this week. My win is that I have graduated from a coach certification program. Yes, I am now a certified coach. My area of interest and specialization is in career coaching specifically for individuals in art and entertainment, which if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, should come as no surprise to you. Um, if you’re curious about what career coaching is, what coaching is in general or what it might look like to work together, head on over to theDanawilson.com/coachcurious, that is theDanawilson.com/coachcurious. Okay, that’s my win. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.
Alright. Nicely done. Way to go. Congrats. I’m proud of you. Keep on crushing it. Okay. Today I am joined by my longtime friend, Taja Riley and her alter Kim Visions. In this episode, we get to learn about the Riley record industry, Royal family, and we discuss mental health. I learned so much about stigmas that most of us carry around mental health disorders and the importance of really personalized treatment. Really. I actually learned the importance of listening, and I hope that you enjoy and learn from listening in on this conversation with Taja Riley and Kim Visions.
Dana: I’m so excited to be doing this thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. Um, I, this is, this is common practice. I like to have all of my guests introduce themselves. So have at it my friend. What would you like us to know about you?
Taja: Okay. So my name is Taja Riley. My parents gave me that name. Um, but I have also discovered there’s another person that would like to be introduced that I, um, I guess the host of her name is Kim Visions. And, uh, she may answer some of your questions today, but I’ll always refer to, this is what Kim is saying because I am in the driver’s seat so.
Dana: So lucky to be the recipient of two guests, but only one email, one email thread, um, welcome Taja and welcome Kim Visions. I am so excited to get to know you. Um, I’ve been watching Taja grow up on a stage, um, as a competition dancer, since what, like, I think the first time I watched you dance, you were probably 12, maybe 13. And, um, men that, that entire time I knew it was very clear that you are a force to be reckoned with on the performance level, on a creative level, on a technical level I might add. And, um, I, I’ve always been fascinated with your work. You are captivating to watch. Um, so I might might just start if we could, by talking a little bit about the way that you grew up, um, which was as a competitive dancer or a studio kid, as they are affectionately known, I watched you grow up on a competition stage. I knew you more or less in and out of, you know, studio workshops, summer intensives, things like that. But eventually we became colleagues teaching for NYCDA. We spent every summer for how many summers in New York city, Midtown at that Sheraton every year for nationals. Um, your trajectory, so many nationals. Um, but your trajectory has fascinated me. I’m hoping you can talk a little bit about your training at Denise Walls and how that prepared for you for the quote real world. And what does real world look like?
Taja: Okay. So real world back then, I started training at Denise’s funny story, very quick one. Um, but I started training at Denise’s when I was seven. I used to go to this other studio. I’m not going to name the name just in case they’re listening. Um, but, um, it was tech rehearsal day and my mom got me and my sister’s surprise tickets to spice world concert. And it was like, this is like the day before the show. And I was like, I’m not missing Mel-B or Mel-C. There’s just no way. And, um, we went and we went to tech rehearsal and then we were like, you know, we have to leave early because we have to get ready for the concert and they were not having it. She was like, if you walk out of this though, you ain’t coming back no more. And that’s literally what happened. I said, I said, okay, um, you clearly don’t have my best interest at heart. I would really like to go see SpiceWorld. And I went and we got kicked out of his studio,
What a fateful day
but it was thanks to the spice girls. You know, I found Denise’s and it really was, we were out of like a place to train me and my sister. That’s why I’m saying we, and, um, my dad was rehearsing at Denise’s at the time doing his stuff for black street. And, um, I guess it came up in conversation one day, Denise brought it up and she was like, “you have daughters?” like, cause he said, he mentioned something about us and she was like, you have daughters and you have not brought them to the studio. And she was like, live it. And so he was like, okay, okay, okay. I’ll talk to, I’ll talk to Donna. That’s my mom and my mom ended up bringing us in and yeah, I just like, from there, I think, uh, Denise and the whole faculty at the studio just kind of fell in love with us. We became those regulars and um, yeah, I mean, I, I had like three recreational years and then moved into the junior company, which is what Denise wanted to test out. And I remember just feeling so electric about dance just from, from that time that like, you know, when people are like, when did you start dancing? And I’m like, uh, well, technically I say like seven, because that’s when I was on a comprehensive level where I was actually taking things in. And it’s also when I started dancing at Denise’s. But, um, but yeah, like I remember like this feeling, it was, um, it was it’s raining men. That was the, that was the dance. And I remember like they gave me a little solo to, no, it was 1999. It was 1999. It was 1999. And they gave me a partnering solo.
Wait, what’s a partnering solo?
Okay. A partnering solo is when they ask you to partner with somebody, but then it becomes a solo.
I love, Taja, you might have just named the episode. Partnering Solo with Taja Riley and Kim Visions. You heard it here first. Okay So that’s when it kind of jelled for you. When you really felt like a dancer?
Yeah, it did. It really felt like I’m a dancer, but it was even more than that because I felt, I think because my music is my first love. Like I was born on the same day as one of my dad’s concerts. So I do think that there’s such a musical, um, tie that I have outside of the fact that my family’s a music entertainment family. Um, but I was also the kid that did not have rhythm. Um, my dad was actually very embarrassed by me and he was like, Oh my God, Donna. He was like Donna, Oh my God, I can not have a child that has no rhythm. This is just so this is not good. Like he was like, you have to throw her any and everything. So my mom put us with four instruments. We were in the choir at school and we did dance and I did gymnastics and it was rhythmic gymnastics that I had to do because I had to get musicality.
We can’t just be having you on those parallel bars. You need to be parallel bars on beat
On beat on beat.
I had no idea that that is how your relationship with Denise Walls started. So that’s fascinating. So Taja’s, dad is Teddy Riley. He is a legend to put it very simply. Um, he produced Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. He is credited for pretty much single handedly, creating new Jack swing, which is one of my favorite genres of music and dance. Um, he and his group Black Street brought us No Diggity, which is for the record. Like if you really had to ask me for one song, like if I had to listen to one song over and over and over and over again until the end of time. It would probably be that.
Close sec. Well, yeah, It’s a tie with a superstition by Stevie wonder.
Okay. Okay. Yeah,
A fair up toss up. But I would love to see those two songs do get out by the way. Okay. Anyways, so that is Teddy Riley in a nutshell. So let’s talk a little bit about other than him, um, at first being suspicious of your rhythm, what is it like growing up with a music mogul dad and how did that shape your relationship with dance and music?
You know, it’s funny because well, the entertainment industry, as you know, it’s, there’s so much, it’s a whole nother, it can be high school sometimes it can be this workplace of a community or a village that you find, but it can also be very like cutthroat in terms of relevancy. And I know that there’s like this inward battle with even people that feel like they, um, have a place in the industry or they feel like they have to stay
It’s the battle of now I have to stay on top and how do I stay on top? How do I one up my top? How do I one up myself? How do I one up my competitors? How do I bring something different to the table? And then also you’re probably collaborating with people and passing on your formula. And then those people that you’re, you’ve actually helped and, you know, through God or whoever you answer to divinely, they, they become a competitor. And so, and they become like, you know, obviously, um, it’s just, it’s just a, it’s just a, it’s a constant cycle of try, try to survive, try like it’s that rat race to try to survive. And with doing that, uh, some people’s priorities, you know, are simply that, that those are the top priorities for them because it actually is. They feel like it is the excuse for what they, what they call their priority, which is family, you know? And so for my dad, his belief was I believe to my perspective, right. Um, I think I saw and observed that he wanted to provide so much for my family, that he, you know, dove into a zone of his work and, and that allowed him so certain doors to open for himself, even certain doors to open for us. And in, in a way that’s kinda like your, your trust fund, right? You’re uh, as you, as you get older, that, that cushion, um, that allows you in a, in like a Royal family, it’s like you you’re underneath that family. So you automatically have that favor, you know, um, or people automatically see you in this light or this class or this cast system. Um, so in that way, I think it was a great help. But then in other ways, you know, did I ever really play ball with my dad? No. And I’m like a tomboy. So like sports were my thing. I’ve never played a soccer game with my dad. I did get a chance to share moments with him at like, you know, the movies and going bowling and, you know, different like really, um, like family outing type things. But it did seem a lot, like he was very focused on other things, you know, and I don’t blame him for that. I think that, you know, we’re all human and we’re all just trying to figure it out. And I think whatever is passed down from the other generation, we’re also trying to learn or separate ourselves from that, or try and try and up that ante. And I think for him that was his major priority, but he kind of lost sight of, you know, maybe the, the extra personal time he could have spent what that said though. I think he, um, is teaching me so many new things now, you know, as an adult and, um, he’s still my dad, but he’s not, it’s not the same kind of responsibility of like, you know, pick me up after school and make sure I get my lunch on time. Yeah. Yeah. It’s more of like, uh, there’s a nurture that comes into play where I’m realizing that, um, this is an even bigger coaching and mentorship than I could’ve ever desired from myself because music and entertainment is truly where I need the tutelage, you know? And he has so much to offer that in terms of, even if I were to just go on the internet and search through him and see his interviews and see the things I can still get that coaching. And then I have the extra personal time backstage, you know,
I’m so glad that you mentioned that not only does he have so much to offer in terms of being a mentor in the field of music and entertainment, but he is actually also your dad. So he has a lot to offer and he has a lot of interest in you, right? So many people, especially today, the climate for mentorship programs is, is, is thick. Like this is a, it’s a time when people are able to be training. It’s a time when people are capitalizing on their experience, their education and their interest in connecting in a deeper way. But could any one of those mentors offer their mentee as much individual care, compassion and genuine interest as your dad gives you? I mean, he’s your dad. So maybe, maybe yes. Maybe no. It’s very interesting that I hadn’t thought about that in terms of a mentor, mentee relationship, your dad is invested in you because you’re a part of the, the family band,
The family band. Yeah. No, but you know, I love the guy. I love that guy. And I think he’s great. You know, I think he, what he does is absolutely it’s astonishing to have this sense. Like, there’s this one thing that I can’t shake. I haven’t been able to shake over my entire careers that I don’t know my whole, my dad’s whole discography, like from top to bottom. But if I were to ever hear a song on the radio that was either influenced by him or created by him, I know instantly. And it’s like a, it is a second sense, but not a second sense. I think it’s six. Maybe it’s a six. I think, I think we have five senses. If I’m, if I’m correct.
Some movies try to tell you there are six and that the sixth one is love or, or something, but I don’t know.
Never heard of that one.
That’s what I think. The movie, Um, Oh, what’s his McConaughey. Matthew McConaughey the movie about space. Was it called? Not, Oh God, I don’t interstellar. I think that movie was trying to tell me that love is the sixth, sixth dimension and that if we’re going to time travel, we talk to each other through love and connection and bookshelves. That’s what I walked away from that movie with. But that’s neither here nor there have you seen it?
I have not.
That’s why you’re confused. Go check that out. Check that out and tell me I’m wrong
I will. I will not probably tell you you’re wrong. I’ll probably agree with you
Well dang it now I’m wishing I haven’t tainted your, um,
Oh, it’s fine. I’ll probably forget. I’ll probably forget while watching it. And then when it occurs to me, I’ll be like somebody said something about bookshelves
This reminds me. Yeah. Okay. You’re going to love this. Okay. I’m sorry.
I sideswiped us. I got distracted. I feel like, you know, on the subject of your dad and his signature, his musical signature, he’s very clearly left a legacy and imprint on the industry and on the sounds. Um, but you know what I was, as I was researching, um, you and your dad, matter of fact, I discovered something I did not know. And I think many people don’t know that your dad is actually the first African American producer to use, uh, to actually produce K-pop and bring it to America. And so I, his legacy is even deeper than what I knew or expected to find out. Um, so my question for you let’s get back to you is what do you want your legacy to be? What is the imprint that you are making that will last long after
I think what’s really important to me, because I feel like you leave a bit of your legacy in everyone you encounter. Right. Um, so I think for me, it’s just to be an example of my core values, you know, continue to be that example. And I think, I don’t know, I have this like big desire over all of my other desires to, to be the matriarch of my family, you know, um, of the family that I create. And that’s like, I want to love to be able to look back on grandkids and great grandkids and know that, you know, I built a solid foundation with either just even me through me or with me and my partner or me and my village, or, you know, me and my alter, who, whoever is entangled in my life, that I’ve been able to create multiple generations or have a hand in involvement in multiple generations, watch them grow, watch their process and have been able to live it and be present with them. Um, I think that in itself, if I can remain present in every moment, whatever legacy I end up creating in the end will be something I’m like super proud of. Um, I don’t know if that answers your question and I think I generalized it.
Spot on. It’s beautiful.
Just want to keep it open.
You know, I think it’s, to me, If I were to, um, write the Twitter version of that answer, um, if, if your dad put his fingerprint on, you know, his time in this world, it was in music and when you do it, it will be through a network of people and you have a network of gifts, a huge variety in ways of expressing yourself. Actually that might be a good place to go next. Um, you DJ, you teach, you perform at like insanely high levels in an insanely diverse range of styles in terms of dance. Um, absolutely. I mean, I, you are, you’re one of my favorite dancers that there is,
Oh my God. What. That is like the biggest compliment ever!
Oh my gosh Taja watching you is such a ride. It is such a ride. It is. I think maybe my favorite reason if I could really back myself up here in saying, why is that when I watch you dance, I watch you experience your dance as opposed to just demonstrating or performing your dance. I’m watching you experience very viscerally. And that is a quality that I’m very attracted to. So you are definitely tops my friend, but you do so many things in addition to performing, um, as I mentioned, the DJ-ing, the teaching, you assist you choreograph a question, what is your favorite mode for creating?
I don’t have one. You know what, like I read somewhere that they say that when you wake up, the very first thing that you want to do is what you were born to do. But I feel like every 24 hours, like something, something, it just changes. Re-invent updates. You know, I think I find if I can say for right now in this particular phase that I’m in, I think I find the most, um, enthusiastic for me is definitely just conceptualizing, creating a full idea and then trying to make it as interactive and immersive as possible, of going into the dimension of my mind. And I think that that is like, it’s, it’s so challenging for me. And it’s equally pleasurable for me to experience because I really get to get very clear on what it is that exists in my frame of mind, my perspective in my, like in the metaphors, within the metaphors of what I’m trying to mean and what I might mean for that moment and what that could mean for other people. Um, that is, yeah, I think that, that, that’s where I’m at right now, but yo give me two, two decks. I will be DJ the most delicious set ever in the world. You know,
That’s a great answer. I feel like that question is a setup and anytime you set up, when people ask me, you know, cause I, you know, I love to edit. I love to capture, I love to choreograph. I love to teach. Um, but I think what you’re like, what you’re shining your light on, is that any opportunity that you get to do, all of them is really the sweet spot. Like yeah. That’s, that’s the coolest and it sounds like, and I, I don’t, I know you’re not able to say too much, but it sounds like you’re working on right now, exactly that a project where you can call on all of your many interests and talents. Um, what are you able to say about where you’re working on?
So don’t get in trouble.
I can’t get in trouble cause I’m the boss and that’s why it’s really fun. But, um, but what I can say, cause you know, like, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen fyre festival, but nobody wants to fyre a festival. Right?
Except the the internet, the internet had a heyday with that. The internet loved that internet loves it.
Netflix loved it. And I think Ja Rule loves it as well, but yeah, but yeah, I mean, like getting away from that, um, but what I, what I am creating right now started off as just a project, even like a few years back that was just portions of other projects, all coming together in one. Um, I can say that, you know, originally this started off with two meetings, um, I had gotten approached by a digital platform, um, and that digital platform gave me the opportunity and the permissions to create my own virtual event. And, uh, immediately after like I had another meeting with, uh, a VR company, um, that decided to move forward with me and forming a relationship and green-lighting um, my dance VR video game concept. So I basically, I sat with it for a while and hadn’t, I had a conversation with my sister and she was like, ‘Taj, you’re so good at everything, but you’re so ADD’ like really, like, she was like, you should just pick like one thing and I’ve had a couple people tell me this, that like, you know, I will start in, you know, consume myself with one idea and then I’ll just like float to the next. It’s like some segue, you know, to, to another idea. And then another idea is born and another idea and I love ideas. I really do. But she was like, ‘if you just put all of your focus and attention on seeing this one idea all the way through, she was like, everything else, you pick that one idea that it’s going to be that, that base and that foundation for all these other ideas to STEM off of.’ And I just kept going back and forth in my head. Like, but like, but both of these, like I wish I could get both of these to work. Cause I think both of them are great. And what ended up happening is I decided I will combine both of those ideas into one and treat my development stage, um, as my show and as the event. So on a subconscious level, I’m teaching other people how to play my video game before it comes out.
I think that’s like the most fat I can give you
You certainly piqued my interest. Um, and it sounds like you are creating a solo duet.
That’s what it is, another partnering solo.
So you’re bringing two ideas together to be one thing. And I understand the challenge of focus in that way. When, when you are weaving so many different ideas together, it takes extreme attention and focus. But my friend between all of the things that you are and find interesting, I cannot wait to see what this partnering solo becomes I’m so excited
Oh my God, I will say this because she will not let me live it down. If I don’t mention that this is not my idea alone. This is an idea that actually is very much coming from her mind and her dimension and her vision and what she’s given me in her, meaning Kim. Um, and I’m still on that journey of figuring out what, what exactly this walk is, mentally, spiritually for me with this other voice that I tendency here and this other. Um, yeah, I don’t know if you want to segue into that a bit.
I would love, and I hope that we can segue with some compassion. This is my first time talking about, um, a person with a person that is an alter. Is that perfect? Is that the correct word to use? Do you consider Kim an alter ego or, um, what, what’s the verbiage I should be using?
I would think, I would think it was an alter ego, but funny thing happened, right? Like couple of years ago, um, which, you know, I was in a, I was in a cult and um, I got out and it was a pretty deep way, um, that I got out and there was a start over restart that happened. I do believe in a lot of ways that when that night occurred, that there was a rebirth or a transformation, I just feel very far from any of the other previous lives or phases that I have gone through. Um, as a person, I don’t really feel connected to those, that persona or that part of myself anymore. Um, I feel a different energy and I think a lot of my friends have shared that it is different. Um, even the way that I look is very, very different. Um, when I did actually start seeing a trauma specialist, they shared that this is my brain’s rewiring. The brain is so powerful and it wants to protect you. It wants to make sure that you are you’re good.
Dana: This is where the conversation gets real. Now I may be a certified coach now, but I am not by any means a neuroscientist, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a behavioral scientist, or even a person that knows what is best for people who are dealing with trauma. I don’t have the tools, the training or the experience to speak to the way that our brain handles traumas. But I am a person that thinks it’s tremendously important to shine a light on discussions about mental health. In the next part of our conversation, Taja talked about the way that she got out of the cult and the things that she experienced afterward. I’ve edited that conversation to be age appropriate for my young listeners, but in the edited portion of the interview, Taja talks about having difficulty, recognizing people, not eating, not sleeping gaps in consciousness, sensitivity to certain materials and textures and even colors and various other experiences. If you or somebody that you know are experiencing something similar, I don’t personally have the tools to help you here, but in the show notes of this episode, I’m including links to the international society for the study of trauma and diassociation. I’m offering links to resources where you can find professionals or more professional help visit the department of mental health at dmh.lacounty.gov That’s a great resource, especially if you are in the Los Angeles area and don’t have insurance. Other resources are MHAnational.org for complimentary and alternative medicine, as well as the national helpline for substance abuse and mental health services. That’s SAMHSA.gov All of those resources will be linked in the show notes of this episode, along with some recommended reading from Taja and the mental health center locator, that’s www.nimh.nih.gov One more time. That’s the mental health center locator, N I M H dot N I H.gov. I hope that within those resources, you are able to find someone you can trust and that can help you. All right. Let’s jump back in now with TaJa and Kim.
Experiencing one of my first episodes was so catastrophic for me in terms of my emotional intelligence and where I felt like I was, but like, I literally went through a weekend where I could not use my hands. Like it was preventing me from that. And after coming out of that, um, and getting a sense of, okay, you’ve got to do something about it. Having a crying moment is not going to help. How do we, how do we, uh, navigate this? What, what do I need to learn? How do I need to get educated, um, to define, and, or even, I don’t even need to define it right now just to collect right. And ha take data, take inventory and examine things that maybe I’m adding to the pool. That is, that’s making me go into this crazy time, you know, to a point where I’m locking myself inside my door, you know, like I’m locking myself in my room at night, so I don’t go traveling that’s that’s not okay. You know?
And with that data, did you take all of that information you’d collected and seek help or, or get medical attention? What was your, you know, what does that help structure look like for you right now?
Yeah, I mean, at first I wanted to find somebody that could spiritually keep tabs, you know, and going that route without God in it, for me. Um, I thought worked out, but I, I don’t think I actually found what I was looking for in terms of receiving that truth. I dived into, you know, the trauma specialist route after months of being like, I’m not going to any hospital for a number of reasons. One because of the whole COVID experience that we’re going through. And then on top of that, I’ve always felt squeamish about, you know, being treated or being diagnosed, AKA, somebody speaking something on your life that you, you feel like you can lose power. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve heard friends of mine that even with Denise, you know, hearing, hearing a doctor tell you, you have cancer is way different than you saying to your body there’s something weird. I need to go fix it. And yes, sometimes learning that information from other people is helpful, but there’s something about multiple people knowing that and thinking that, and being in agreement with that, that can change your, your recovery process or change the energy towards getting better, finding health. You know, somebody gives you a certain title. You feel like you have to act that certain way, or you feel like you have to prove that you’re not acting that certain way. When people say that you’re crazy, anything that you try and demonstrate to them to prove that you are otherwise makes you crazier, to me. Like, yeah. And I think that just even the term usage of disorder, that’s what makes me squeamish. It’s like, it’s like saying moist, like it’s really about, you know, you’re like, um,
Dig into that. You’re saying .. Are you saying that the word disorder makes you uncomfortable the same way that the word moist makes you uncomfortable?
Yeah. It is not my jam. That way. I’ve got three words that drive me nuts, but are you saying that it’s the sound and the like the look of the word disorder or what it means?
I think it’s, I think it’s what it means. I was thinking the feeling in terms of how moist makes me feel. Um, but, but in terms of the actual usage, I have a problem with people saying disorder. So I I challenged, it was saying, if I do I experience, I am experiencing these symptoms right now that you would put in this category of dissociative identity disorder, but I’d like to refer to it as if I’m, if I have that multiple personality that I’m multiple personality proficient, or I’m a multihyphenate human being that is hypersensitive to triggers. You know, I feel like for anybody that is dealing with their mental health, and I would say, I would venture to say, everybody’s dealing with their mental health right now. And, um, it could be in a, in a, in a place of, you know, trying to figure out what, what is the key to happiness or success in isolation, uh, even that, um, on a mental level, it’s a lot to handle. I just think that that’s where I’m at right now, but the usage, the usage of the way people position things, sometimes I think could use a little re-up, a little update, you know, and I think it’s time we’re at a place where people are, are experiencing the reform, you know, of many things, you know, so
I think reforming and reevaluating language and terms, um, the way that we speak, the way that we address each other, I think so much of this is, is necessary. And I think that even when it comes to like the DSM four like describing conditions, medical conditions, I do think there’s language changing all over the place around certain things. Um, I’m glad to see language changing. I’m glad to see human beings taking advantage of our, uh, self-awareness and this, like this evolved brain that we have, where yeah, we are actually able to think about thinking, like, we can think about our thoughts and we get to decide what we make certain words mean, but you can see the problem where if everybody had their own meaning for every word, we, all of a sudden are a completely disjointed, broken community that can’t connect on anything. If we don’t know what anything means or what it means to you is different than what it means to them. And what it means to you today is different than what it means to you tomorrow. And how do we move forward?
Dana: How do we move forward? When language is always changing? How do we understand each other? When words mean different things to different people? Are words neutral or are words and their meanings set, rigid, binding. And in that ultimately powerful, I don’t know the best or the right way to answer those questions today. But if I’ve learned one thing in recording a weekly podcast, it’s that words are important. Especially a word like disorder. The public stigma towards mental health disorders has built a pervasive barrier that prevents so many people from access to jobs, education, and even prevent some people from engaging in mental health care. Again, I’m not a brain scientist. Again, I am not a brain scientist or a scientist of any sort. I am a dancer. I am a choreographer. Yes, I am a coach. But I think that to say this discussion is none of my business or not my problem is a disservice to myself and to others. This conversation with Taja and Kim has reminded me that I can be a part of a peer support system. I can share resources that connect them to professional support systems, and I can evaluate and dismantle my own stigmas around mental health. That is my personal goal. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask for a world that is completely free of judgment, but I do think we can help each other find more freedom by being better listeners and encouraging personalized treatment.
Dana: This, this quest for freedom to me, begins with awareness. And it sounds like you are doing the work to become aware of your, uh, your feelings, your experience of this life. It’s, it’s cool to hear you writing the empowering stories and taking stock, collecting data on what you’re experiencing and using all of your many gifts, tying them all together to create value in this world. Um, and I’m, I’m so interested. I’m very curious in what it is that you’re experiencing, um, you know, sensationally in your body, but also mentally and what’s going on in there. And, um, man, I’m, I’m inspired by your journey. I’m very interested in it. I think I’ll be going to do some more research myself, man. I just thank you so much for sharing so openly. I really appreciate,
Taja: Of course. Yeah, no. Um, thank you for being open with me so that I could do that and have that platform. I really appreciate it Dana and, um, everybody out there stay safe. Okay.
Yes. Thank you, Taj. I’ll talk to you soon.
Alright. Everybody. That is it for me today. I am so glad to have had this conversation and so happy to be sharing it with you. Again, don’t forget to check the show notes for all of the helpful resources that I’ve mentioned. And if I have missed any, if you are a person that has found support in other ways and places, I would love to hear about it. A great place for us to be in touch is over at words that moved me podcast on Instagram, I look forward to hearing from you. And of course, I look forward to talking to you. Thank you so much for being here everybody, talk to you later.
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 word that I remember. 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.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artists story than sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hey everybody, and welcome to the podcast. I am so excited that you’re here. I am very excited about this episode and I’m very excited to try something new for the beginning of every episode. Um, yeah, I think I’m gonna make a new habit. Tell me if you love it. Tell me if you hate it. I actually mean that. I want you to give me the feedback. So, uh, send me a message at words that move me podcast or we could do a little callback from episode seven and you can toe vote. Toe voting is a game nay an art form that my husband invented and I talked about in episode seven. I use this game when I’m going through the airport, but you can use it right now or all the time. Toe voting is, um, when you silently and invisibly vote in favor or against, um, someone’s choices or behavior out there in the world. It is silent. It is invisible. It is just for you. But, uh, the toe vote works like this. Your little toes and your shoes will respond either by jumping up and down and approval or frowning and digging themselves into the floor. That’s what a toe vote is. Um, we’re back. My new top of the cast habit is called wins. Now, I did not invent the concept of starting with wins. Actually, I became familiar with this concept. Thanks to my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff who teaches the professional artists workshophere in Los Angeles. Cannot say enough great things about Gary. But, um, it’s been awhile since I took an acting class. It’s been awhile since I did wins and I cannot think of a better time to, uh, remind ourselves of the things that are going well then this very moment. So here is how wins works. I’ll go ahead and start.
All right. I’m actually busier than I have ever been, which is ironic because I’m a person whose work almost exclusively depends on large groups of people. Um, but I’m getting to do a lot of things that I’ve always wanted to do. Number one, train more. It seems like a lot of people are offering Instagram live or otherwise livestreams classes. I think it’s so much fun. It’s very cool. Um, another win, I actually added curtains to my dance space, um, which required a sewing machine and a power drill, which usually gives me the nervous fields. Um, but because I had to use it for like an hour, I got really solid. I’m much more confident with my power tool skills right now than I was, uh, a week or so ago. Um, let’s see, what else. Oh, also upgraded the Ram on my computer. Did that myself as well. Um, I also started a Patreon account for the podcast and it feel really, really good about this is the first time ever that I have opened up a membership option for any of my services. And I think it’s very cool. It’s uh, a way for you to get even more value out of this exchange and it’s a way for you to help me by keeping the lights on the disco ball as it were. Uh, speaking of disco ball, I made one out of aluminum foil. It’s hanging in my dance space, so that’s also definitely a win. Um, okay. I think that’s great. That’s a really good start on wins for me. And now it is your turn to go. A win is just an answer to the question. What went well and I really am, I’m going to leave a gap here for you to fill in that blank on your Mark. Get set, go.
Maybe I’ll play a little music for you so that it’s not as awkward.
Okay, great. I’m not just saying that wins are important because we’re having a tough patch. Is that safe to say? We’re, this isn’t the a high point of civilization. We’re not at our pinnacle right now. This isn’t our best performance, I would say. But I’m also saying it’s not all destroyed. I’m saying the sun comes up and the sun sets and we wake up and we go to sleep and somewhere something went well. So let’s share it for ourselves at very least to ourselves. But even to someone else, I think it’d be a good practice to start a wins group. This is my wins group. Thank you for joining me. Speaking of winning, I see you daily doers out there and I honestly am so inspired. I am. I, it’s always a treat to see what you guys are daily doing. If you are new to the podcast, please circle back to episode one and have a listen as I pose a daily creative challenge to all of you out there. I think this is a perfect time for it. I think oftentimes great restraint breeds great choreography that too. Um, but great restraints can cause great creativity. So please keep it up. Um, keep tagging your videos with the hashtag doing daily. WT M M the doing is the important part. So it comes first hashtag #doingdailyWTMM go take a look at that hashtag as well. You’re going to find some super treats. Um, okay. Moving right along. I am thrilled about this episode. Um, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Tiler Peck, principal ballerina for New York city ballet and all of the things she had to say I find so applicable and so valuable in a time like this. She talks about injury, she talks about training, she talks about family, she talks about the most challenging time of her life and she talks about finding herself and her strength within it. So without any further ado, enjoy this conversation with Tiler Peck.
Dana: Yes! Tiler, thank you so much for being here first and foremost today. It is a special time. It is a crazy time. Mmm. And it’s just very cool to see your face and hear your voice
Tiler: Thanks for having me.
Dana: Let’s start with having you introduce yourself. How do you like to introduce yourself?
Tiler: All right. Now let me just say I’m Tyler Peck and I’m in principal ballerina with New York city ballet.
And that is enough, my lady. Um, okay, cool. So you and I actually in years, years passed our timelines, our dance timelines overlapped when we were little NYCDA competition kid. Um, and I find something very interesting is very few of those Danclings pursue classical ballet and even fewer wind up in soloists roles and fewer still in principal roles. I think that speaks so much to your training but also to your talent and your drive. And I want to spend some time talking about that. So could you talk a little bit about your pre-professional training and uh, even before you and I met maybe a little bit during that timeline and then before going to the company,
Of course, I think that I am just as shocked that I became a ballerina’s probably like anybody else. I know Joe actually, Joe Lanteri always says like, I mean she can do ballet, but if you ever saw her do like jazz, then you would really see it. It’s the truth. I never thought I’d be a ballerina. I grew up first in my mom’s school in Bakersfield, California, and you know, her, her dance school, it has every style. So I grew up doing jazz. I was really bad at tap, so I can’t say that I ever really was good at that. But, um, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, gym, you know, everything. I did everything and I did take privates. She did have me take, um, ballet privates with this, um, Russian teacher who actually is from California. Her name is Alla i and I believe the last name is Khaniashvil or something like, and she was a former principal, the Bolshoi ballet and they were my least favorite classes. Not because she wasn’t a good teacher. It just took the most discipline. Like I think ballet, when you’re younger it’s really hard because it takes the most focus just because you don’t get to dance to feel good music, you know, like a song that you love or a word that you can like relate to. It’s like classical music is sometimes honestly a little boring and especially when you’re younger. So I’d always try to get out of my ballet classes. I tell him I’m, Oh, I think when they feel sick today, I don’t think I should do ballet. And she’d be like, okay, well then if you’re sick for ballet, you’re also sick for jazz. And I would say, Oh, I think, I think I’m feeling better. I think I’m better now. So I’m glad that made me stick with it. Cause clearly I wouldn’t have made it as far in the ballet company. But, um, what took me to New York was getting the Music Man on Broadway and Mmm, that was just because, you know, in California, I, I did lots of commercials and like more commercial dance and theater. And so when my agency, um, sent me to New York to audition, my mom was like, we’re not going in New York. And I said, mom, let’s just go. And she goes, okay, we’ll just make it a fun trip. No pressure. You know? And I ended up getting it. And then she was like, you’re definitely not moving to New York. And I said, but mom, what if I never get this opportunity ever again, and you, you didn’t let me go. And she was like..
Ooooh! The guilt trip!
I know. And I was only 11! Yeah. So that was kind of what made me go to New York. And then from there I started taking at the school of American ballet, which is the company that feeds into the New York city ballet. And that was the first time where I ever felt like, wow, ballet is actually really interesting. And I think it was the Balanchine like technique style that I really, really love because it is a little bit jazzier and you know, all of a sudden didn’t seem so boring. And I was like, I also didn’t feel like I was really good at it. Like I felt like I looked like a jazz dancer trying to do ballet and I was like determined to not be that one that they were like, Oh, she’s just from the jazz world. You know? I was like, no, I’m going to get this. Then it’d be a ballerina. And I’ve always kind of been like that. Like, where if something isn’t easy, that’s like the route I go, I’m like, you know what, I’m going to do this and I’m going to be a ballerina. And that’s kind of what happened.
I love this. It’s actually one of my questions later down the, the stream that it was going to ask it, has it always been ballet and will it always be ballet? So now I know it hasn’t always been, but do you see like what is future Tiler? Is she like a tango dancer or ballroom or is she strictly choreography? Do you, do you think about her a lot?
I mean, I love ballroom actually. Like I don’t know it, but I Mmm. It was on a gig once. Then this ballroom dancer like took me on the dance floor just at the after party and I was like, this is literally the coolest thing ever. Like he made me feel like I’d been taking ballroom forever, but I don’t think that that’s going to be my route. Um, but no, I definitely want to always other things. I, I don’t think I want to do, um, ballet for a very long time. I thought this is when I should do this because it’s such a young career. So I got into the company at 15 and you know, I’ve already been in the company 16 years. I’m 31 and I’ve never really wanted to be someone like in my mid forties still in point shoes. I always kind of want to leave when I can still do everything in such a classical company. But then I would love to do like, you know, theater or choreograph or something like that and move back into you know, not doing just classical ballet. Um, but I just felt like this was the time for me to do it. If I was going to do ballet, I was going to pursue ballet this was the time.
Got it. But you do also pursue these other avenues even now, a little bit of acting, a little bit of choreographing. Um, do you want to talk about any of those?
Yeah, I mean, I think because I did grow up in California and you know, I did do a lot of acting and stuff like the story ballets at New York city ballet the most for me just because you get to tell a story, we don’t use your voice. But, um, that’s why when Susan’s Stroman like talks to me about doing this new musical that’s coming out, um, to be the lead and that I’ve kind of been a part of for like 10 years. Um, it was kind of the perfect thing for me because it has ballet, it’s about a ballerina. I get to carry this show, so I’m have to. Mmm. Basically I’m on stage for two and a half hours singing, acting and dancing. So it’s like, it was like such a challenge for me and I was like, I haven’t used my voice and like 10 years, but let’s try it, you know? Yeah. And also when I just got through this injury, I use that as a lot of time to do other things like choreograph and you know, do a few acting. Mmm. Acting jobs on TV shows and things. So it was a good time to make my mind. It was like a forced time to, to do everything you love because I had the time and I love it. Mmm. With my New York city ballet crazy schedule.
Cool. That is a, I think an excellent segue. I couldn’t have written that myself. I’m talk about being forced into certain things or away from certain things. Um, I would love to talk to you more about the type of training that you’re used to and how different your life is now that we are in, um, I’m going to use the word lockdown. It’s not technically a lock down, at least here in California. We’re both in California right now. So I guess what I’m asking is what is the importance of training to you? And if you could actually be interesting to hear a day in the life of principal ballerina, how much of that is training, how much of that is performing and what are you doing right now when we don’t have that, or our traditional flow.
Yeah. So every day we work every day, but Monday just kind of like Broadway schedules. Um, but we’re training all day. It’s not like a Broadway show where one gets up, You’re just performing at night. Mmm. We start class at 10 30. They have class every day for an hour when we’re in season and then they can rehearse us from 11:30 to 6:00 and then they show at 8:00. We do that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday we had two shows on Saturday. And then on Sunday we have class at 10:30 they can rehearse us It’s for like three hours and then the matinee. So it’s crazy. Yeah. By the time you get to the show, a lot of times you say to yourself, I’m so tired. I literally don’t know what’s going to happen right now. Sometimes that’s when you do your best performances because you don’t have the nerve because you just don’t have the energy for them and you just, you know, so grounded. But yeah, so I’m used to dancing all day long and um, right now in order to, to keep that up, I’ve been taking class every day. You know, my mom has a dance studio, so it’d be really easy for me just to go down there. But Mmm. You know, I’ve been listening also to what they’re saying, like stay at home and she shut her studio. And so I’ve just been doing classes in my mom’s kitchen and using her kitchen countertop as my bar. And I just thought, you know, I’m going to do this every single day for myself because I have to keep my training up. So I thought, why don’t I open it up and let people take with me on Instagram live. And I did it the first day and I was like, you know, let’s just see if anybody liked it. Then it seems like a really big thing and everybody’s really looking forward to it, I think during the day. So I thought, you know, if I’m going to keep up my training, I might as well let everybody do it with me because I’m sure so many people are missing being in their dance studios. And it’s hard to get motivated when you’re just doing it by yourself. I mean I just came off of a huge injury where I was off for six months and I couldn’t do anything. And then it took me, you know, like another probably three months to get back and I had to do class every single day and I did it with a teacher because I needed somebody to be motivating me. And so that’s what I thought is like if I do these live classes, at least somebody can. I can be, you know, I could be leading the class and trying to motivate these people to keep moving so they’re not having to do it by themselves. Cause that’s hard.
It is. It’s so hard. Yeah,
It’s keeping me accountable too. I feel like because if I were doing it myself maybe it would skip combinations or do it at different times or, and this is like, no, it’s an hour every single day or Monday through Saturdays.
People show up for class.
Yes, people show up. So
I took, I’ve taken a couple, um, I was there, I think I was there on day one. I’m not sure if I was there.
You were there day one!
I was a day one or I have not been in everyday or a more a more often dayer or I think finding some sort of normalcy in a day is valuable. Um, but I love the normalcy. I love the sharing and I love the accountability. All of these things to me are what the internet has always been good at. Sharing information, finding solutions to urgent problems and connecting and we’re really, we’re using it for that.
Yeah, it’s true.
Dana: Okay. Tiler and I talked about the silver linings of this Corona virus crisis situation for quite a while, but I wanted to take a second and pop out to reflect on her training regimen and man! Hearing about the day that Tiler goes through. Made me want to up my training regimen. That is for sure and actually reminded me of episode 9 when I spoke with Jason Bonner who says if your show is two hours long then you’re training for three or in Tiler’s case if your show is two hours long, you’re training for the remaining eight hours. Hearing about this honestly made me want to up my game and it reminded me of a saying, you will not rise to the occasion. You will fall to your level of training, so train up everybody train up, now is a perfect time.
We’re going to jump back and talk a little bit more about training with Tiler, but we’re also going to talk about the injury that put her through the most challenging time of her life. Tiler wasn’t just unable to dance or train. She was unable to execute normal daily tasks like turning her head or lifting her arm for five months. To get even more backstory about that injury and her road to recovery. I strongly recommend you read the New York times article called Am I more than just a dancer?I will link to it on the website, theDanaWilson.com/podcast under this episode, which is episode 13 but I’m also just Google the New York times and Tiler Peck and you will probably find it. Am I more than just a Dancer? Fabulous read. Okay, let’s jump back in.
Dana: Okay, so if you went five months, we can definitely do several weeks. My question for you is this, how does one go from five months of not even doing normal range of human motion stuff? To Sugarplum. Was that your first performance back?
Tiler: Yeah, it was sugarplum because I did everything with every other part of my body that I could work out, so like I couldn’t ride a bicycle because they’ve thought that was too much.
Dana: This was a neck injury right?
Yeah, a herniated disc in my C-5-6 which is the neck and mine was so severe that it was touching my spinal cord and we all know that like that’s not good. So I had to wait and I was told I would like never dance or could be paralyzed if I was walking and got slightly pushed. I mean I went through a roundabout. Mmm, very scary time. But I had this one physical therapist who just, I like literally trust my life, who’s the New York city ballet doc therapist. And she just kept saying, I don’t know, I just don’t feel like you need the surgery like they’re saying. And we just kept searching and searching. But she, I met with her every single day and we just did like cranial sacral work and I met with an energy healer. And so we were healing my body kind of from like the inside out, you know, she made me wear my point shoes around the house every single day so that my toes and my feet would be strong. And then we actually started, she made me keep my bottom half working. You know, I’d do relevés me and my point shoes, I do a little moving. I just wouldn’t move my arm or my neck. So yeah. So she was really smart with the way that she brought me back and I really don’t know what I would’ve done without her. And um, Rob, who’s the energy healer. But yeah, it was all about finding what, how I could stay in shape without doing anything to hurt my neck so that it could heal.
Right. The healing is so, so, so important. Um, what did you learn about yourself during that period while you were know..
Yeah. I mean the energy healer is an hour and a half session that I did every single Wednesday and 45 minutes of that hour is just talking. And so you start to learn a lot about yourself, about where your stresses are in life, where you want to get better. You know, your, your weaknesses, your tendencies and it’s kind of like you begin to heal yourself. Is what he’s there for, to kind of help you heal yourself. And I learned so much about myself. I learned, you know, that I’ve always wanted, I’ve always, and like a very empathetic person where I, I really not a people pleaser, but I really don’t like when anybody’s upset at me or I really feel when somebody’s going through something and kind of what I learned with this is that I had to sort of, not distance myself but still have those feelings, but realize how much of that I was going to allow to be my energy of the day. You know? Like I could still have those feelings, but at the end of the day I needed to be able to stand up for what I believed in. Somebody you know, um, didn’t like something or got their feelings hurt like I’ve learned now that like I just now tell them like honestly, like, I’m really sorry if that happened that’s so not what I thought this is, you know? And it makes me feel so much better because I’m being true to myself. And also I feel like when you do tell the truth and get it forward, the problem just goes away that much faster. So I think, I think in this whole thing, I just kind of learned how to be a little bit more Mmm. Like real with myself and my own feelings. And I think that in the end that kind of like also helped the healing.
Oh, okay. Would you say that that might’ve been like the brighter light at the end of the tunnel? Like you maybe went into this injury being injured in another area and then this injury somehow wound up healing both.
Of course. Actually the first day he always reminds me that when I went in I said, you know, I had a back injury. You know, my body has been pretty good to me for as long as I’ve been dancing. And the only other injury I had was a back thing when I was 18 and I felt like from that injury, what I said in our first meeting was I came back such like more of an artist, like I was more mature, I was able to be more vulnerable. And I said, you know, I’m wondering what this one is going to bring, you know? And Mmm. The other day I said to him, I was like, I really just feel like I’m a different person. Like a better version of myself and I’m able to say what I feel a little bit more and not keep it so bottled up and I just feel like I’m more open and I was always warm, but I feel like I’m able to receive things a little bit easier now.
Oh, I love this phrase. What will this bring to me? Like even an injury, I think, you know, I, I struggle with patellar tendonitis in my knees and when I have that pain or when I’m going through, even when I’m training, like when I’m doing PT, my thoughts are like, ah, I don’t have good knees. I don’t ha, I’m like, I’m without good knees. Instead of thinking, what will this like, how is this actually an active experience instead of how is this taking away from something that I think should be fine and working perfectly with what we do? Are you kidding? Of course knees will be wonky and backs will be out in all the things like, Oh man, what we do is unnatural. So it makes sense that we experience unnatural pain at times. And I really love that thought. What, what will this bring me? And I love what it brought you, this sense of self, um, and this idea that you can still be empathetic and a person that’s warm and a person that cares without carrying all of that.
Yeah. And I think I also just um, yeah, I kept worrying like, Oh my gosh, when I come back everybody is going like be judging me and what am I not going to move my neck the same way? And I finally came the conclusion. I was like, I am a different dancer. It’s okay. I’m going to be a different ballerina. But like that doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong kind. Like I’m going to be a different, Tiler and I might have to do you think a little bit differently and be a little bit smarter when it comes to the way I move my neck. But I’m going to enjoy it and love it that much more for being out there again, when they told me I would never be, and at the same time like maybe it’s going to bring a different and better quality to my dancing.
And do you think it has?
I do think it has even, it’s funny. It’s like I did full length Swan Lake. I mean literally they told me and I was never going to dance and then we just had this season and I did full length Swan Lake and like I got there and I said, I’m on. I was like, I didn’t just get through it like I was DANCING, I did it, I was moving. But yeah, you know, I did. I did. There were things I couldn’t do. Like I can’t jump every day because it’s bad for the my neck still. So I would really waited to do it till the show to do all of my jumps. That was the first time I did everything and I got through it. But you know, there are things now that I just have to deal with and it’s okay, you know? But yeah, I do think it is. And sometimes I think, Oh, might not look that good. And then I watch a video and I’m like, Oh, I’m moving my body. I’m moving my neck. Not so bad.
Yes. I love that. We can’t go back. Like you won’t be the Tiler that was Tiler before you hurt your neck or your back, but you might be better. So keep going. You must go through that like cause it, it could truly be better on the other side.
Yeah. I just kept getting stuck and then I was like, why am I so concerned about that? Like I’m just going to be the different Tiler and I’m going to be happy in that.
Oh, that’s so great. I am definitely happy when I watch this Tiler previous Tiler also was, but watching you dance, especially lately, even just watching you teaching your class, there is a sense of Mmm. Freedom and joy that I’m just like, even in a routine task, like a, uh, you know, rond de jambs we’re just doing the rond de jambs. We’re checking to make sure that all of the all of the things and all the gears and all the nuts and all the bolts are working. But it looks somehow liberating freeing and fun. And it’s incredible to watch. It’s been very fun taking class with you. I would have never for the record, um, walked into a studio in New York and taking class with you. Cause it’s all the things that we hold in our heads, but like who does the thing so, so, so good. Um, and then to put yourself in the room next to them, it can be very, uh, intense. So there is a lot of, from the comfort of your own home happening right now. And I hope that a lot of people will progress and find, Mmm. A foothold into a world that maybe they might have otherwise been too afraid to step into. Mmm. Yeah. I, I don’t mean to say that I’m afraid of ballet. Um, it’s certainly not been my favorite style. I remember being competition kid crying, actually hot tears down my face during Adagio and I probably still would if I really got into a tough one.
Isn’t it funny! Adagio has always been my favorite and I, and I think it’s the thing, kind of the worst at.
No, that makes sense actually to your lean in personality. Like I didn’t just want to become an okay ballerina. That was okay. Taking class with ballerinas. No, I’m going to be the principal ballerina from injuries dancing, full swan lakes.
You know, it’s been so great with these classes. It’s like, I think because it’s like at a certain time every day, you know, that people really build in their lives. I wouldn’t get to teach half of these people, if I were going around studios or something, I would never reach the people that I’m able to. Yeah. I think yesterday like, or 15,000 people were taking class.
Its amazing! Yeah. Any knowledge that I have passed it on to them and the one hour a day at 10, you know, Pacific standard time or whatever. That’s so exciting.
Right. There’s not, uh, uh, uh, a classroom big enough to have that ballet class. The only a place that we could do that is on the internet is incredible. I’m so glad that we’re using it for the for good. Um, but that does beg the question. Um, is there a downside of this social media training stuff?
I do think and what I’ve noticed, cause I’m asking people to like hashtag turnout Tyler’s that I can see, see the videos because I don’t like the one thing I don’t like is not being able to see the people that I’m teaching, because, and it was really good for me because now they’re all sending the video, then I’ll like send them back corrections. But I also seen, um, the variety of people taking the class. So then I realized three days into like, I need to be making a beginner combination and an advanced one for every single um, combination because I don’t want the little ones that aren’t up to the advanced level to be trying to do something that their bodies are not ready for. You know? And so that’s, that’s the one thing if you were like super hands on, right? Yeah. What the, what your students are ready or not ready for throwing a class out that you would want to take and it might not be a great thing for everybody. Yeah. That’s, yeah. So that’s why I’m like, make sure and send your videos. And then like today, a little girl sent it and I was like, that’s not a high enough passe. And then she’s in another video or photo back then I was like, that’s right. You know, because I do think it’s important that they’re not just taking these classes and doing their technique wrong, you know, so, so that’s the one downside I think.
Cool. I appreciate that. I love that. Um, okay. Speaking of downsides, um, what do you consider to be downtime? Like is this downtime, are you working? What’s your attitude about downtime? Do you have it between acting, choreographing, a clothing line, being a ballerina? Like does that exist for you or what’s your, what’s your, what are your thoughts around downtime?
Okay. Anybody who knows me really well would probably laugh because they’re like, you don’t know how to have downtime, but I will tell you, I do love sitting in front of the TV and watching movies. And last night my family, we all watch together, dirty dancing, all six feet apart and it was just something I grew up watching and it was so amazing and my dad got so excited. My dad was like, I think we should all pick our favorite movie. He was like, cool, I want on the phone and he went into the other room and he brought back like ghost, sister act and something else. I was like, dad, yes. I could just tell. This is the first time I’ve been dancing I guess professionally since I was like six. I think that’s when I had my first commercial and honestly I’ve been home now I think for eight days and it’s the first time I’ve ever been with my family. Like today, we went on our first walk together and I said, as we were walking, I was like, I’m pretty sure this is the first walk we’ve ever taken as a family. And they were like, for sure, because when I was younger, my grandmother drove me three hours to take class at Studio C with Dee and Tina and Dennis Casberry three hours there and hours back from age. Um, I think like seven to 11. So this is the most family time I’ve ever had. And so that is what I’m really enjoying and I’m trying to be like, okay, I need to get off the phone now and really just enjoy this time that I have because when would I be able to be here that much?
Right. This might be the other slight downside to the social streaming class thing is that if you have that many students in class and you’re encouraging the discourse right, the back and forth, which I do. Yeah, I think that’s very smart. Um, you could spend 24 hours a day giving feedback to all of those people in class and you wind up literally stuck to this thing.
Yeah. I’m like, how am I busier now than normal? And it’s classes and interviews. Yeah, you know, but I said, I know the weekends, like I’m definitely not going to be on the phone and I really, really want to really just enjoy my time with my family at night. Okay, fine. I’ll let you go.
Um, okay. Yes, and I so agree. I think this is a very valuable time, not just for self-work, but for those of us that are uh, lucky enough to be in it with the family, with the people actually like hands on in person stuff. Dad said to me, can we play monopoly? And I was like, you said yes three times in a row. Dad, um,
Ps has great taste in movies, dad, I really love that. I think this will be the birth of great new rituals and well, we’ll remember things about this time that are truly special. I’m so glad about that. Definitely. All right. Well I do want you to get back to family time. Thank you so much for sharing this time with me. I learned a lot and smiled constantly.
Oh, I’ll see you. Hopefully soon. Not sure how summer in summer intensives are gonna work out. Um, we might have a long, Mmm. A long haul ahead of us, but perhaps a reschedule or a same schedule for your event this summer. Do you want to talk about it a little bit?
It’s my first summer course and basically I just had this idea because I love teaching. Obviously you can tell, but I, especially if for ballet I feel like the ballerinas don’t always get a range of movement. And I think that is what it really helped me be a different kind of a ballerina. And so I kind of wanted to be how I was brought up and I wanted these dancers to get that type of training. I want them to have hip hop or funk or whatevr you want to call it. And I want him to be able have jazz. And what’s funny is like, honestly, the teachers that are teaching this intercourse are either people I grew up dancing with like you or the teachers that taught me. So I’m like, it really is like, um, like Marguerite and Alex and people. I used to take classes from that I love and Mmm. So hopefully it will, all of this will pass and if not, we’ll figure out something. I don’t know. Maybe it will do zoom classes or something, but
Hey, we will get creative. That is what this time calls for lots of creativity. All right, Tiler thank you so much again. I will talk to you very soon.
Dana: Oh right. Talk about a myth. Oh, a meaning wind set. Talk about a meaning wind set. Everybody talk about a winning mindset rather. Jeez. Winning on winning, on winning. I really love the way that Tiler thinks about emerging different, not wrong or not worse from her injury. It honestly reminds me of episode eight and talking about doing it bright instead of doing it right. Finding the value in doing it your way and that whatever your way is is the best way for you to do it. I especially love how Tiler reframed her thoughts around the injury from being the victim to being the beneficiary. She literally went from thinking, why is this happening to me? Or why is this happening at all to how is this happening for me? What could this bring to me? And that’s something I think we could all use a little practice working on right now. So let’s get to work. Grab a pen, grab a piece of paper and think of a topic, a circumstance. Maybe it’s the Corona virus, maybe it’s lock-down, maybe it’s training at home. Now dump all of your thoughts about that topic onto the page. But first split the page, hot dog style. On the left, we’re going to keep all of our negative, dark, nasty, big, ugly thoughts. We’ll call it big ugly column. And then on the right we’ll put all the positive captain brightside, we’ll call it the bright and beauty column. Now for every negative thought, I want you to write two positive ones. Since our brains are wired to care about disease and danger to keep us alive, this might be challenging. So I’ll help you by giving a couple examples.
Big, ugly thought. People are dying. This is true. Bright beauty thought. People are coming together. People are caring for each other. People are fighting to keep each other alive.
Let’s take another big ugly thought. Um, I could get sick. I could die. Bright beauty thought, let’s go with the obvious one. You could also not get sick. You could live to be a hundred. It’s a possibility. Uh, let’s do one more big, ugly thought. Um, I’m going to lose my job and run out of money. Bright beauty thought I cannot lose my talent and I will not lose my training. Prepared with those things and my bright mind, I can make more money. Notice I’m not encouraging you to delete or resist big uglies. They are worthy of your attention and they are valid, especially right now. I guess I’m simply encouraging you to spend equal air time on the bright beauties, the winning thoughts, if you will. I will leave you with that for today, and also I will leave you with my new tagline. Stay safe, stay soapy and stay funky.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move me member, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now i’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 and welcome back everybody. This is episode seven. Holy smokes. So much fun. Really digging the podcast, really digging, seeing what you guys are up to out there with your daily doing. Um, daily creativity is the name of the game. This episode, however, is going to focus on something that I get a lot of comments and questions about and that is travel. So moving but moving around the world, I get a lot of questions and comments from people asking for tips and tricks and how often I travel. Um, I would ballpark and say I travel, you know, probably get 20 to 40 ins and outs of airports every year, but that depends on my gigs. That depends on, um, if I’m on tour or working a really strong convention season or if I’m working on a film or something longterm, I’m probably not traveling quite as much, but ballpark 20 to 40 ins and outs of airports, that is a lot. This podcast in particular is going to focus on a convention weekend type of travel. That’s a carry on. That’s a couple of days. That is intense. Yes, I will be talking about things that I love for sure, but I’m mostly going to talk about the way that I operate and why, but for those of you interested in hearing more about specific items that I talk about in this podcast, go to my show notes for this episode thedanawilson.com/podcasts and there you will find links to my Words that Move Me Amazon shopping listwhere you’ll find all of my favorite things and little comments about why I love them. Okay, so let’s get into it. I like to travel light, but I really like to have all the things, so I wind up traveling kind of heavy. When I’m traveling for a convention weekend, I try to go carry on only, so that means I bring one roll aboard and one backpack. My roll aboard, by the way, is spray painted with my initials, REAL BIG because it’s one of those roller boards that looks like everybody else’s. So now mine has a gigantic D W on the front and on the back, which makes for very easy retrieval if it has to get checked. And I think it’s super chic and funky, which pretty much explains my fashion and my function. Now on a travel day, I try to wear my biggest items that makes more room in the bag and more warmth on the plane. I’m one of those types that gets cold on airplanes. If you see me at an airport, you will probably see me wearing fatigues, like my big army cargo pants. Wearing those through TSA practically guarantees a pat down, which I’m so not mad at. It’s kind of like a free shiatsu massage and no, I don’t ever get a private screening, but I’ve essentially another carry on worth of stuff in my pockets. What’s in my pockets? You might ask the essentials, you know, wallet, phone, AirPods, um, Burt’s Bees pomegranate chapstick. I love a pen or a pencil, my fire incident report all weather notebook and floss. I cannot think or speak or dance. If I have something in my teeth. It’s very important, always carry floss. And almost always pretty much always hand lotion because I’m really grumpy when I have dry skin and I prefer to not be grumpy. My favorite hand lotion by the way, does come in a travel size and it is called skin food byWeleda, which I think I’m saying that correctly. Not sure. Anyways, that’s what’s on me. Here’s what’s in my bag.
In my suitcase for a convention weekend, I will need to have two dressy outfits. For me, it’s really the little things that make an outfit dressy and when traveling that is super convenient. For example, earrings, rings, scarves, lipstick, a headband, I recently got into headbands ever since I cut my hair. And as I say that out loud, I’m realizing those are almost exclusively lady type hacks. I would love to hear what my gentleman do for quick outfit upgrades. That doesn’t require a garment bag. Seriously though, I’m curious. Leave me a message on Instagram or the website because I would love to know. Okay, so that does it for the dressy outfits. Let’s talk sweaty dance times. Typically three classes a day for two days. I go through three shirts a day, so that’s six shirts and then just pants, you know, standard pants. I can move in, which unfortunately are usually kind of big, so you’d be surprised. The carry on gets full fast. Okay. Then I’m going to need a dance shoe and a dressy shoe. Dressy shoes for me are anything from a loafer to a combat boot. On a weekend I’ll probably wear my combat boots on a travel day and maybe I’ll pack a dressy flat. I’m typically not found wearing heels on convention weekends. It’s not because I don’t love them, it’s because they take up more room in a suitcase and because I don’t really love ‘em. I mean they’re okay. They really, they’re good looking. But I’m not really about being good looking on convention weekends. I’m about being high functioning. Okay. So let’s keep it pushing the socks get stuffed into the shoes and the shoes get stuffed into little plastic shower caps that they sometimes give you, um, for free at hotels. This is a hack by the way that I got.
Thanks to my mom. Shout out mom. Mom, you’re going to get a shout out on every episode. By the way, my mom was a flight attendant for many, many years. She started training with United airlines three days after she turned 20, which was in 1972 and then she retired in 2015 so math, that’s several trips she knows what she’s doing and she introduced me this little shower cap, shoe bag hack. Now I do want to say I try to not use all the plastics out there, but when I do, I re use them, as shoe bags. Almost always. Sometimes I use those weird grocery bags as shoe bags too. Anyways, the socks go in the shoes, the shoes go in the shower caps. Sports bras get tucked in between items and undies go in their very own mesh bagbecause God forbid I am living a movie and my zipper breaks open and my intimates go flying all over the airport. It could happen but it won’t because mesh bags.
All right, final note on what’s in the roll aboard. I just have to say, cause I know there’s a lot of conversation about this out there. Always be rolling. If you listened to episode two I mentioned always be rolling in terms of recording, like capturing with a camera. Always be rolling, but this applies here too. A fold is a waste of space, trust me, always be rolling. Okay. That’s what’s in my roll aboard. Let’s move on to the backpack. You can probably hear in my voice, I have feelings about backpacks. I could talk about backpacks for a very long time. I could probably start a spinoff podcast where I just talk about backpacks. I’m trying really hard to keep this not a backpack review. This is a travel podcast. Please. Dana, please don’t spend the whole episode talking about your backpack. I really could. We’re just going to talk about what’s in it. What is in my backpack is all of the stuff that I cannot live without, my computer, my favorite cameras, which are at the moment, a DJI pocket Osmo, which is essentially a steady cam that fits in your pocket, especially if you’re wearing fatigues, but don’t get me started on the lack of pocket in lady pants. It’s inexcusable and really frustrating. Why can’t we just have pockets that run the normal depth of a normal pocket or normal human hip? It’s ridiculous. Okay. Moving on my Canon VIXIA mini, which I also mentioned in episode two and my Insta 360 if you only have time to take one photo, it should be a 360 degree photo because it captures everything. It’s really the best. Okay, so I’ve got all my favorite cameras. Of course. Then I have to have all of their charging elements and batteries, card readers, adapters, et cetera. By the way. I have a lot of that now since I upgraded my computer, which was like 104 years old, so now I have the new MacBook pro and now I need a USBC adaptor for literally everything. Also frustrated. Wow. I’m getting really heated about my everyday carry. Oh! speaking of heated, also in my backpack. Baby Tabasco sauce, baby meaning travel sized, not baby meaning hot sauce for infants. Right now. My husband and I are very into hot sauce. Shout out Sean Evans on hot ones. Man, you are good. That show is so good. YouTube series. Check it out. Favorite episode, probably Paul Ruddwith runner up Charlize Theron. Hope I’m saying that right. With second runner up. Probably Shaq. Maybe tied for, tied for second runner up withGordon Ramsey. He was a hot mess. No pun intended. Okay.
Other stuff that I have in my backpack staying focused here. KT tape. Kinesiotherapy tape. Wow. I really cannot say enough about KT tape. There are days when it is the difference between dancing in pain, and dancing completely pain free. I’m really, really a big fan of KT tape. You do need to be sure that you’re taping correctly though. I’m going to link to my favorite knee taping method for knee stabilization. Uh, okay. So on the subject of pre-hab rehab and in general pain management, I travel with a 14 inch Tigertailwhich is a rolling massage stick. Um, I’m going to link to that in the Amazon cause it’s kind of hard to explain, as well as a travel sized foam roller. The one that I use is by a company called go fit and it looks like they don’t make the one that I have anymore. Mine is red and it’s hollow, which means I can actually put the tiger tail and anything else inside of it makes it much more travel. Um, and it’s, it’s small. It’s uh, 12 inches I think. So that one fits in my backpack. The other travel sized ones from go fit that I’m seeing online right now are not hollow. They have some sort of HDPE which is high density polyethylene, some kind of plastic on the inside so you can’t stuff them, which makes them w like basically useless as far as I’m concerned. Let’s see what else, what else? Um, Kay moving right ahead. What else? What else? Oh, my favorite role on fragrance because these weekends can really bring the funk out of you in more ways than one. My favorite role on fragrance is actually the only one that I’ve found that doesn’t leak when I travel. And that is Aesop’s Marrakech intense. Not cheap but lasts for ever and doesn’t leak. So come on. Win-win also smells fantastic.
What else? We have, oh, a personal reading light because I have tried to get more in the habit of reading pages, not pixels on airplanes. And I don’t like to interrupt my, um, airplane neighbors with my bright, bright light. So I keep a personal reading light. Also, a lot of colored pens, uh, rarely use them, but I’ve got them. Also really old tea. I guess I’m a hoarder whenever I see interesting tea, I just grab it and put it in my backpack. I’ve got like four or five different tea bags in there, but they’re very thin and they’re individually wrapped and you never know. You can find hot water just about anywhere and then all of a sudden you’ve got a cup of tea. Okay. Also, Oh, in the same pocket that I keep my tea, I keep my glasses. They’re in their very own hard case because you know, accidents happen.
Speaking of accidents happen. I also carry ibuprofen all the time. And um, for the emotional inflammation, a bar of dark chocolate almost always have dark chocolate on me. 85% or higher preferred. Um, I like things that tastes like asphalt it turns out. Trader Joe’s has a 100% dark chocolate bar called Montezuma’s absolute black. Um, it is exquisite. Really, really love it. A warning though, it is not for the faint of taste buds. Pretty heavy duty, that guy. So that pretty much covers the packing element. Now we’re at the airport. Let’s talk TSA for a second. Woahhoo. Favorite subject. Really quickly. I want to do a compare and contrast of TSA precheck versus clear versus priority boarding versus global entry. I’m excited about this.
They don’t have clear at every airport, but when I lived in the Bay area, SFO and SJC San Jose both had it and Denver has it as well. That’s where I’m from. I’m in and out of there a lot. So I was a clear member for a couple of years. With clear and I don’t remember how much my membership was. Darn it. Darn it. Maybe a hundred bucks. ** (Edit note its $179 for 12 months) You go straight to the front of all lines. You just become the first person. You walk right up to the agent, you give him your phone and your ID and you’re through. Oh, but you do have to give them also your fingerprint and I don’t know what they’re doing with that information. Full disclosure. So that’s clear.
TSA precheck. You would think that I actually liked the feeling of watching all my friends fly by in the TSA line while I wait for a long time in general boarding. I have never had TSA precheck and that shocks everyone because I travel so often. Here’s the thing, I tried to get it once I missed my appointment, complete fumble and I just never recovered. So TSA precheck, which is $85 for five years, means that you don’t have to take your shoes off. You don’t have to take out your liquids bag or your computer. Um, and you get to take the shorter line. Although I have noticed at least of late, there are so many people that are TSA precheck. I’ve found once or twice that the general boarding line is shorter, but most often they’re about the same. It’s just the TSA line moves away faster cause you don’t have to take your shoes off. You don’t have to take the stuff out of the bag, you don’t have to take your computer out. So on and so forth. So that’s TSA precheck.
All right, moving on to global entry. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t know a lot about global entry, but I just signed up while I was preparing for this episode. Global entry means $100 for five years. It comes with TSA precheck and you get expedited entry at customs in foreign countries, which is definitely part of my plan in the next five years. Also, my capital one venture card covered this fee for me, so yahoo, free global upgrade. Super, super cool. I find this to be way better than simply paying to upgrade through your airline. In other words, if I buy a general faire when I check in, some airlines will let me upgrade for $70 or something like that and that means I get more leg room priority boarding and occasionally at TSA you’ll get your own premium boarding lane occasionally. So first that’s expensive. Second, it’s not consistent. I really think this global entry thing is the jam. I’ll let you know. Stay tuned.
All right, so now I’m up to the TSA podium. I have to say my TSA choreography is very refined. My shoes, the bins, the water bottles empty. I left all my knives at home. I am very well rehearsed. The hardest thing for me about the whole TSA system is being patient with people who aren’t as well rehearsed as I am or with the occasional grumpy TSA agent. And by occasional I mean frequent, but yo, I get it. We all have our days. My husband actually gave me the best tool for coping with my, um, we’ll call them mood swings as I go through TSA. It is truly the funnest game ever. So here’s the game. My toes inside my shoes will either Yahoo like cheer or boo people based on their etiquette going through TSA.
Sometimes I do this with hairstyles as well. I’ll just like my, my little toes will give like jumping in and out of their seats like yahoo. Um, lots of vertical hops, hands in the air. My, my toes by the way, have hands now or they’ll give like big thumbs down to people with poor etiquette or people with crazy hair. So now you know what me and my feet are going through while I’m going through TSA and for all of you infrequent flyers out there that my toes might be booing at, please check out and I avoided doing this, but I’m glad that I did. Please check out tsa.gov/travel/traveled-tips/travel-checklist. Whoa, a lot of really good pointers about traveling and exactly what you’ll get stopped for and what will slow you down going through TSA. Okay, I know that was a lot. It’ll be in the show notes. Check it out. Also, do not forget to remove your theragun from the backpack. Did I tell you that I have a third gun in my backpack? I think I left that out. I travel with a theragun now. It was an awesome Christmas present. Shout out SIS. So I keep that their gun on me, not because I’m going to use on the airplane, but because the battery doesn’t come out and I don’t want that to be in my checked bag if I do actually have to check my roller board. So don’t forget to remove your theragun when you’re going through TSA. It is an electronic device larger than your cell phone and it also happens to have gun in the title. So TSA, a no-likey
Once we are past TSA, your travel experience all really depends on the airport and the terminal that you’re at. I want to quickly shout out lax terminal one for now having an urth cafe that’s urth with a U. “U R T H” cafe at terminal one. best. coffee. EVER. It is really the only argument for flying Southwest out of lax instead of Burbank. Also shout out Burbank airport. You’re the best. I don’t want to get too graphic here with this next bit, but sometimes travel can really mess up my digestion and by that I mean put my digestion on hold and I know I’m not alone. I’ve commiserated over this with so many people. Um, I have found that fasting on a travel day or at very least not eating airport food has really, really helped the way that I feel and the way that I flow on travel days. Okay. Speaking of flow, let’s get into my weekend survival flow.
My biggest rule on these convention weekends is that I drink a ton of water. I travel with a 25 ounce fluorescent orange vacuum, insulated swell water bottle. Number one, it’s fluorescent so that I don’t lose it. This is my seventh reusable water bottle and , again, really trying to do my part to save the good old planet. I love my reusable water bottle. I love it so much because it’s bright, reusable and I don’t lose it. Number two, because on weekends I prefer to drink warm water for my voice and I don’t know something about it just feels better than cold water. Um, I do try to drink like four of those per day, if not more. So keeping the body hydrated, very, very important. I also hydrate my face. I travel with face masks. They are one of the like simplest and lightest traveled treasures that I could imagine. If you really want to take your spa game to the next level, keep your face masks in the little mini fridge or put them on ice. Oh, so good. I’m going to link to my favorite face mask, um, on the Amazon shopping list. It’s by KORRES and it’s like Greek yogurt face mask or something. First of all, I don’t think you’re allowed to eat this face mask, but I bet you could if you had to. You just might get sick and it would mess up your travel day fast. So forget about that.
Also, hugely essential to my weekend survival. I’ve started traveling with anelectric heating blanket, a very small one. It’s like maybe a little bit longer than a foot, maybe it’s a foot and a half. Um, and I use it to stay warm in between classes. I don’t teach straight through during the day.
Uh, and the warm up, cold down, warm up, cold down can really take a toll on the body after a while. So I love using this heating pad to stay warm in between classes and at the judges’ table for those long judging shifts. Good for the hips, good for the low back. Good for the neck. Oh, so good. Okay. I did mention the theragun a second ago. This one’s self-explanatory and such a game changer. Love it. Um, let’s see what else. Ah, here’s another one. I am not afraid to ask front desk staff for a room on a floor with the ice machine and a room with a bath tub. If they need some coaxing. My sports medicine doctor has given me permission to use him as scapegoat. And I tell the front desk, I’ve got patellar tendonitis, which is true and I have to ice frequently and take Epsom baths. Ah, that reminds me. I travel with reusable silicone food storage bags.One of them comes in the suitcase full of Epsom salt so I get a couple couple of good bats out of it and one of them comes empty. And I use that to fill up with ice because if you know hotel rooms and ice machines, you know that those little baggies they give you for the ice there are certainly not meant for icing body parts. Leakage. I’m going to link to my favorite reusable silicone food storage bags on the words that move me Amazon shopping lists because they don’t leak and they are great and colorful and also save the planet. Okay, so I ice, I Epsom, I thrive. On the subject of thriving. I have gotten in the habit of no booze on Saturday nights. Now, after a long day of classes and a long night of judging competition, I’m not gonna lie a glass of wine sounds pretty good, but I’ve noticed that it makes Sundays way more difficult. So instead of having that glass of wine, I have a face mask or a bath and wow, that is discipline, right?
Okay. There you have it. My convention, weekend travel hacks, short and sweet. I hope that these hacks are helpful for you. Whether you travel for conventions or not, please be sure to check out the words that moved me shopping list on Amazon and of course, leave a comment and review. Share it with your friends. If this podcast is helpful, let’s make it easier for other people to find and let’s keep it funky. UH. It’s getting more natural now. The more I say it, have a great day everybody. I will talk to you next week. Bye.
Ep. #5 Is Fear Keeping You Alive, or Eating You Alive?
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.
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. #3 Dance Lessons are Life Lessons with Chloe Arnold
If knowledge is power… this episode is a super hero! I talk to Emmy nominated choreographer and master teacher, Chloe Arnold, about the education that didn’t only land her at the top of the industry.. it taught her to elevate her community along with her. If you’re looking for the motivation to take your training to the next level, this episode is for you
Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover, Dana Wilson, and if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh, and is looking to rewrite the starving artists story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hi there. I am so excited that you’re joining me. Today is a big, big day. It is a great day. It is a super day. I’d like to dig right in, but first a word from our sponsors. No sponsors, just my words. So let’s dig in. We start with a story. It is a true story. Once upon a five years ago, I was teaching a dance class, big old dance class. Picture, a hotel ballroom with low pile carpet and one of those wooden like wedding dance floors right in the middle of it. Now add about 100 to 125 dancers. Oh, and those dancers are between 7 and 10 years old. Oh yes. I know what you’re thinking. That’s a lot of 7 to 10 year olds. I agree and I think that life is like a ballroom full of 7 to 10 year olds. You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s cartwheels. Sometimes it’s a deeply insightful conversation and sometimes it’s a pants pee. You really never know. Now there’s loud music. We’re in the thick of it. We’re sweating, we’re dancing. It’s going well. Everybody’s hitting the steps, which is dance talk by the way, for doing the steps well, and there’s maybe like 20 minutes left of class. It’s usually around this time that I like to throw a little curve ball, not an actual curve ball. Of course, I’m not a sports type. This is basically the point of the class where I like to shift the focus to being more about a verbal communication. So I decided to ask the room a question and I’m expecting a few brave souls to raise their hand and answer, Oh no, no, not this group. A sea of tiny arms and hands sprout up. I swear nearly every person in the room raised their hand or both hands in some cases.
You know it’s very funny actually. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they raise their hand. Think about it and observe next time. Okay, so cut to the chase. I asked the room of seven to 10 year olds, mind you, “why do you dance?” And these are some of the answers that I got back. Okay. Anonymous dancling number one says “because I can’t not dance” and I thought, Hmm, I’m impressed. I would go to your birthday party. Anonymous dancling number two says, “because it’s how I choose to express myself.” Also a good call. I love that you’re 7 to 10 years old and you have a number of ways that you can express yourself. This is just one of them. Your chosen way to express yourself. This is great. I’m thinking I can’t get enough. Who’s next? And a young danceling catches my eye. She’s wearing thick glasses and I can’t remember what color, orange maybe. I remember looking at her and thinking, Oh, you’re little miss sunshine. I cannot wait to hear what you have to say. So I call on little miss sunshine and she says, “because dance lessons are life lessons.” And at this point I’m blown away. I’m speechless because she’s right or her mom was right or her PR coach was right, but something about her delivery and the slight veil of steam on the inside of her glasses where it rested on her cheeks. Something told me those were her words and she could not be more right. Dance lessons are life lessons. Now the message here is not for everyone to go and enroll in dance class so that they can start kicking butt at life. Although that would be great for my industry. The message is actually that if you can master the art of learning, you can master anything.
Now, not every one of my students will grow up to be a professional dancer or choreographer, but they will grow up to be something special because they have a place to practice. Things like taking direction, giving direction, and my personal favorite changing direction. And that’s even on top of things like managing a schedule, articulating complex thoughts and feelings and of course sewing. That’s right. Point shoes. Don’t come with the ribbons on them. You have to do that yourself. Today’s guest has more to say about tap shoes than point shoes, and she’s also going to tell us about how her education shaped her life. Chloe Arnold is an Emmy nominated choreographer, master teacher, entrepreneur, co-creator of the globally famous syncopated ladies, and she’s a dear friend of mine. I’m so lucky. It’s insane. Chloe is a bonafide master learner and I am thrilled to get to learn from her. I can’t think of anyone that’s a bigger advocate for dance and she’s got an Ivy league education to boot. I hope you enjoy and learn a boatload from this conversation with Chloe Arnold.
Dana: Holy smokes. Um, introduce yourself.
Chloe: Well, hello everybody. I am so excited to be on your podcast. Dana Wilson. Um, who am I? Well, I am a professional tap dancer, entrepreneur, choreographer. Um, I created a company called syncopated ladies, which is an all female tap dancing band with a mission to bring tap dance to pop culture in a respectful and uplifting way. I also choreograph television. I was recently nominated for an Emmy for the Late, Late Show with James Cordon. Um, I’ve been working with them for about five years. I’ve choreographed over 50 episodes of television now. And um, my work has been seen online by about 50 million people, uh, from the work that I’ve created. So I’m a content creator and, um, one of my, one of my pinnacle moments and turning points for me was, uh, when Beyonce shared my work and hired me to bring syncopated ladies, um, to represent her. And I am a protege of Debbie Allen and that’s where I learned almost all of the lessons that I’ve applied to my life as a dancer and a business woman entrepreneur.
Oh. So outside of the school of Debbie Allen, you are also a Columbia graduate.
So I have this theory that you don’t have to be book smart or even necessarily street smart to be a great dancer, but it’s not a coincidence that the best dancers are also very intelligent. I would love to hear if you could pinpoint the qualities that you gained from your dance training that carried over into helping you through your Columbia days. And also what Ivy league lessons you learned that crossover into making you such a successful dance unit.
Woo. Okay. So my dance training was quite unique from the standpoint. Well, it started very normal where I was in a strip mall studio and I took ballet, tap, jazz. But my mom recognized that the training wasn’t really, really good. Um, and she had us re choreograph a tap duo that I was a part of. She was like, this is not good. We need to go figure this out. And she sent us to our friend, my friend, my partner’s basement and left us. That’s the interesting thing. She didn’t like come and have oversight. No, she’s like, go figure it out. So, so that was my first experience with a couple of things. One, understanding what it is to have a quality education, right? So understanding when you don’t have someone that is, um, insisting upon your excellence that you have to, you know, look inside yourself and find it and level up yourself. Right. And so that was a really great lesson and I remember that the teacher ended up letting us keep it because it was good, but that was also the turning point in my mom saying, okay, we need to find somewhere else. But also recognizing that I had this love for tap. So she looked into the newspapers, the trades, well not the trades, they were no trades, the newspaper regular, it’s called the city paper, DC and there happened to be an audition for a youth tap company. And so I went to that youth tap company audition and I got into the company on probation. So I had three months to improve as a tap dancer or I would be out. So I was on probation, and I did improve. And um, and I think that it was wonderful for me to have that deadline because who was practicing? I was in the kitchen when my tap shoes.
In the everywhere.
Everywhere. Yes. But I re I remember the kitchen the most because that’s where, you know, the loudest part of the house. Right. So, um, and but no, absolutely under my desk in school, everywhere that I could possibly at the bus stop, et cetera, et cetera. So it was great because at a young age, uh, I was responsible for the outcome of my education. So it wasn’t like, Oh my mom can just pay and I’ll get it. If I didn’t level up. It doesn’t matter whether you pay or not, you’re not in it. So that was really great. Then I was in that program and uh, there was this big audition coming to town for a tap show and the teacher told me that I wasn’t ready yet for that big audition. So this is another example where my mom was like, you don’t limit what you’re capable of. You go try. If it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, but you’re not going to not go. So she sent me against the advice of the director. I ended up getting the audition and I was the youngest kid. Again, I wasn’t, wasn’t necessarily at the level, but you know, people we know as teachers you feel someone’s spirit and the grit. And so that’s what I really learned is through that experience is you can’t let other people set the ceilings for your success or your potential. Even if they love you, even if they’re nice to you, even if you know they believe in you to a certain extent. There are things that you can imagine for yourself that are just far beyond what someone can know is in your imagination. So at a very young age, I learned this idea that there are no ceilings and even if I’m not good enough yet, which I wasn’t and I knew that, that I, I have the ability to practice to become better and I just need an opportunity to go and try. Yeah. So then I had a, there was an African American woman in DC who had been watching me over these years and she approached mom and said, I really think I can do something for your daughter. I would like for her to come work with me. And in actuality, her technique was not necessarily as good as the technique of the program I was in. But my mom again had like a, a vision for like, I think this woman is going to see her in a different way and pull her potential out. And that’s exactly what happened. So I went to this woman, she actually mandated that if we were going to tap, we had to take ballet, modern and jazz, cause she had been on Broadway. So she was like, you’re not going to just be over here just tap dancing by itself. You have to augment, learn as much as you can and it’ll all work symbiotically together. So that was another experience of just because you love one thing, it does not make it the exclusive thing you should learn about. Right. So diverse education of every genre of everything you can do, the more you can learn, the more you’re empowered. So that was an incredible lesson because then it came to save me when I auditioned for my mentor, Debbie Allen and I went in because there was a tap role. So I went in like, Oh am I get this tap role? And I went to the tap audition and Debbie said, that’s great. She loved the tap. She said now go put your jazz shoes on. And that was the big gulp moment. But if I hadn’t had that teacher who had made me diversify, I wouldn’t have known what I was doing and I wasn’t the best again. But I was able to, you know, bring a fire and I was able to get the tap duo role at the show and also do the other genres.
And also choreograph 50 episodes of James Cordon, which was definitely not exclusively tap.
No, I only for James cordon, we’ve only done tap on two episodes.
There you have it.
And so God bless Debbie Allen and my teacher Toni L’ombre for expanding my education because without that greater knowledge I wouldn’t be able to, to have the freedom of expression that I have right now. I learned through all of these and I have to say, in my case, very empowered women. That education will always come to save you in the long run, like your training and education. You don’t know when, you don’t know how, but you will one day hit a roadblock and the things that you learned somewhere from your, your childhood to through college, through your adult life. There will be a lesson in there that will help you surpass that obstacle.
Okay, I’m going to pause right there because there is a lot of greatness to sink our teeth into. Firstly, I love how much emphasis Chloe puts on quality training. It’s good to have a sense of when you are or when you aren’t getting what you need, but what I really love is the way that she talks about improving even without someone else insisting on your success because to an extent we can’t always choose who our teachers are, but we can choose what kind of student we are and that is what really determines our progress. Chloe was and still is the type of student that puts in time and effort on her own. Even without the supervision or encouragement from others. She also takes big leaps even before others would say she is quote “ready” and I think there’s a lot to be said for that. I really love the way that she talks about not letting other people, even the people that love you, set the ceiling for your success and what’s possible for you. I really believe that your vision for yourself can be far beyond what others could ever have imagined for you and dreaming that big can be uncomfortable. I’m still getting better at it myself. It takes practice and patience. I’m really interested in the power of goal setting and I’m excited to dig into that in future podcasts. Now, before we dig back in with Chloe, I want to add some thoughts about the importance of diverse training in Chloe’s story. She talks about auditioning for Debbie Allen and the way that her jazz skills came in handy in support of her tap skills and that may have been what tipped the scale in her getting that job. Now, like Chloe, I grew up in a program that required training in many styles. I was what you would call a “Jack of all and a master of none.” I wasn’t the best at any one style, but I genuinely loved elements of all of them. When I first started auditioning for professional work in Los Angeles, I remember being frustrated because it seemed like all anybody ever wanted was a specialist. They wanted the sharpest of sharp jazz dancers or the most technically flawless ballerinas or the Illest of the illest B-boys, or the sexiest of the sexy ladies. You get the just what I wish somebody had told me then was that by nurturing my diverse training and indulging in other genres, even outside of dance, like acting or mine for example, I’d become not only the best, but the only person quite like me. Let’s jump back in with Chloe and find out more about what makes her so singular.
In my research. Chloe, I discovered that you were president of your high school all four years, so I’m wondering, have you always loved school or was there something else driving you to the top in terms of education?
Okay. I’ve always loved school. I’ve always, I’m an overachiever and I think it’s fun. So it’s not like over achiever because I need somebody else’s accolade. I derive pleasure from hard work and like achievement. So from, I was captain of the patrols in fifth grade. Okay. That’s the safety patrols to make sure that everybody in school was A-okay. Like I’ve always, and I’ve ran a campaign at a sash and I had a badge and it’s the captain on it and um, and he had to learn how to like fold your belt. Anyway, I took great pride in it all. I’ve always loved leading and I’ve always been the um, like anti bully campaigner. So I was always very popular and I, and I liked using my popularity to create equity and that is what I still do right now. I want to make people feel good. And so I think it started at a very young age and then.. And then again in high school, his class president LOL. I was very aware and that was very, I stood up for people. I just stood up for the kids and because I was quote unquote cool, I was able to get the cool kids to be nicer cause I was a nerd. I was a cool nerd. So I was living in both worlds. And as the seeing both sides and also like for the kids that were struggling, a lot of the younger like underclassmen, I would like make incentives cause I, I would be like, I’ll take you to lunch, mind you, like look at a $2 lunch if you get on the honor roll. And so we’re like, you know, try to use my leadership roles to affect a change. And so now with like syncopated ladies, we just perform for example in, um, Folsom state prison. But the way we were brought there is because the work we created online and we, they knew we had choreographies and pieces of work that could speak to the inmates and give them hope and um, inspiration. And fortunately that’s what happened. And we got so many beautiful messages. For example, one of the inmates said it was the first time in 20 years that he felt free. And so for me, like that’s how education and empowerment come together cause I studied filmmaking at Columbia and I knew going in I was like, I’m going to put tap dance and dance on film and television and that’s how I’m going to change the world.
If your history is any indication of what’s to come, then I’d say you will be changing the world.
Thanks Dana Wilson. Thank you so much. We’ll Do it together.
Yeah. Ah, thank you so much. You’re an inspiration. Alright, in Chloe’s story, her mom always saw great things for her and several other people stepped into the picture because they saw her potential. That’s not a tremendously uncommon narrative, but what is unique and most appealing to me about Chloe’s story is that the guidance and generosity extended by others was not only matched but exceeded by her appetite for hard work and her big picture vision of how she will change the world. My biggest takeaway from this conversation with Chloe is that education and empowerment really go hand in hand and if we’re doing it well, one leads directly to the other. Thank you so much for listening and I will talk to you soon.
KEEP IT FUNKY
Sign up for links to free workshops, tools, and project updates