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

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

 
 
00:00 / 00:27:15
 
1X
 
Episode 9 will leave you feeling fine. Personal trainer to the stars, Jason Bonner is on the podcast to talk motivation and excellence.  These words will help you take your work to the next level whether you’re in the gym, in the studio, on screen, or on stage.  Warning, you may leave this episode feeling very VERY motivated to make things happen.

Show Notes:

Enter our instagram contest!

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

Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s always an exception

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, I like it keep it funky. 

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

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

Ep. #3 Dance Lessons are Life Lessons with Chloe Arnold

Ep. #3 Dance Lessons are Life Lessons with Chloe Arnold

 
 
00:00 / 00:21:08
 
1X
 

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

Show Notes:

Quick Links:

Follow Chloe: Website, Instagram, Youtube

Transcript:

Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover, Dana Wilson, and if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh, and is looking to rewrite the starving 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. 

Oh yes

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.