Ep. #85 Replay: Ep. #3 Dance Lessons are Life Lessons With Chloe Arnold

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #85 Replay: Ep. #3 Dance Lessons are Life Lessons With Chloe Arnold
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On our second replay of the month, take a dive into my 3rd episode with the lovely Emmy nominated and master teacher Chole Arnold. If knowledge is power… this episode is a superhero! I talked to Chloe 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.

Quick Links:

Follow Chloe: Website, InstagramYoutube

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.  

Hi, this is Dana and I’m not here right now. The words that move me team is on vacation. So leave a message and we’ll get back to you in a few weeks. I’m sorry, the gimmick I had to do it. It just felt so, right. Honestly, I used to get such a kick out of recording clever and witty, outgoing voicemail messages. Like when was the last time that you did that? Was that ever a thing in your life like amongst your friend group, like clever, witty, special outgoing voicemails? Um, my friends used to like fully have music playing in the background. It was, it was a real thing. Oh man. Uh, anyways, it’s true. We are on vacation, but don’t go anywhere because this month we are replaying some of our favorite words that move me podcast episodes. These are ranked among our highest listens and our most beloved internally as well. And it just so happens that today’s episode is one of my first and all time favorites today. I am replaying episode three, Dance Lessons are Life Lessons with Chloe Arnold. Now this is obviously among my first, it’s episode three, and it’s certainly one of my first interviews. I sat down with Chloe Arnold and had this conversation. Man, I would have loved for that to have lasted another hour, but there we were sitting in a convention center ballroom on an weekend and you know how those weekends go, or if you don’t, they go really, really fast. Um, and if you know, Chloe, you know that she also moves very fast and is always up to really exciting things right now is no exception. She is still teaching all over the world, performing with her fabulous group, the syncopated ladies, and at the current, she is choreographing a feature film with our dear friends, Ava Bernstein and Martha Nichols as associates and holy smokes I can’t wait to see it. I simply love celebrating these women. I think that all three of them are examples of what is possible. I count Chloe among my superhero friends. She is just so absolutely capable. Determined has a strong mind and a super strong skillset. Uh, so I’m thrilled to be celebrating her today and resharing this episode. And while we’re on the subject, if you are celebrating the podcast, I would totally celebrate you for leaving a review. Um, I really do love hearing what you think about the podcast. And I know that reviews and ratings help other people to find the podcast too. So I encourage you to do that if you are so moved to do so. All right, my friends with that, we will get into it. Enjoy this episode with Chloe Arnold, because if knowledge is power, she is a dang superhero. Please enjoy this replay of episode three dance lessons are life lessons with Chloe.

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. 

Ep. #50 The Voice Doctor: RAab Stevenson

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #50 The Voice Doctor: RAab Stevenson
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When I asked RAab Stevenson (vocal coach extraordinaire) “what makes a GREAT singer?”, his answer was not what I was expecting… Listen in as we talk greatness, training, lifestyle, myths about the voice, and warnings about the recording industry.

Show Notes:

Quick Links:

Liv’s Music Video, “OVER” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmEXH0oHAR0

Work with RAab Stevenson: https://kimadproductions.com/?page_id=50

Voice Goodies:

Throat coat tea: https://amzn.to/37ORrRF10:23

Throat comfort tea : https://amzn.to/2K1tcY710:24

Menuca Honey: https://amzn.to/2VQfwBW10:24

Airwaves Gum: https://amzn.to/37MX0jy10:25

Grethers: https://amzn.to/3qDyoCe

Transcript:

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

Dana: Hello, Hello. How are you? Welcome to the podcast. I’m jazzed that you’re here and yes, I’m jazzed for this episode. Oh my God. You’re in for a treat today. My guest on this episode is Rob Stevenson, vocal coach to the stars. And this episode lines up perfectly with my win for the week. This is my win. If you’re new to the podcast, by the way I do wins every week. It’s how it starts. I start then you go, so get ready. Okay. My win this week is that I have directed my first official music video and it is out there in the world. Ready to be enjoyed by you or by anyone with access to the internet. I suppose, um, the, the recording artist responsible for said, video goes by Liv, shout out Liv if you’re listening. Um, and live is one of Rob Stevenson’s clients. So the world is truly a tiny little acorn. My win this week is live and my guest this week is lives coach. So cool. So excited to get into it. I do want to dig into this win a little bit more though, because I would be a fool to not talk about all of the things that I got to practice on this gig and just kind of take stock for myself, but also for you. Um, one of the things that I got to practice that I really encourage you to be practicing and be mindful of as well, is this, um, the, the ability to scale a vision in your head in accordance to the budget of the project. Uh, for example, in this case, do we use my busted projector from Amazon or do we use a 20,000 lumen projector that comes with his own projection operator?  Um, shout out projector, Paul, what up! Or, or do we go with the 30,000 lumen projector that weighs 200 pounds and might look better, but would also take like 45 minutes to move in between shots? Like, do we pay for the lumens or do we pay for the time? Um, another thing that I got to practice on set of this video is editing fast. I rescaled some of the video files for our projectionist. Like in real time, as we were shooting I’m scaling, um, the video files, it was a really awesome kind of higher pressure editing environment than what I’m used to. Um, obviously we were on a clock, obviously we’re on a budget and that really applied pressure that I have not been used to, um, before. So it was, it was super fun meeting that with a willingness to fail publicly willingness to, um, willingness for it to not be perfect on the first go round.  Another thing I got to practice is is this decision-making tool of when to budge and when not to budge, in terms of your vision, something like fighting for the dream location, for example. One of the other things I got to practice is preparedness. Just call me Sergeant Spreadsheet because I love a spreadsheet. I love a schedule. I love sticking to the schedule. Um, yeah, my spreadsheets, my shot lists definitely helped me deliver under schedule. Um, so did my kick butt team! Shout out to the, my new VIP DP, Luke Orlando, um, shout out to Artifact Content, the production house, responsible shout out to Arian. My buddy who helped me with the edit, um, super shout out to AJ, Harpold and Ivan Koumaev for being the management team that gets creative vision. And that gets the role of movement for recording artists. Um, and of course, super thank you to Liv for being the reason all of this came together. I could not be more thrilled, super win, super winning. Oh, that’s my hat. Super wining. Okay. How about you? What’s going well in your world. What are you celebrating today?  

All right. Congratulations. I am so glad you’re winning really truly. You’re crushing it. Keep going. Just keep going. That’s all you have to do. Keep winning. I got you. All right. Oh, I shouldn’t be whispering. You’ll find out why in a second. All right. So this episode is going out to all of my art types with a voice that is actually all of you. Um, but specifically vocalists recording artists, voice actors, speakers, or shouters. If you’re a director or a first assistant director, um, people with a voice all across the globe, this episode goes out to you. It goes out specifically. It goes out to anyone interested in using their voice and using it for a long time. The timing of this episode is absolutely perfect for me because just last week in my interview with Martha Nichols, we talked about my vocal nodules and my absolute awe of people who can sing. Um, and by the way, that includes Martha and almost all of the people that I work with all of the time. So I, in, in my life and my creative life, I feel a little bit like a black sheep, um, on the vocal front. And it is a huge point of insecurity for me. Um, my inability to sing or even in most cases hum the melody that I’m choreographing to, uh, anyways, well, we’ll talk about it later. I don’t want to spend so much time on the woe is me, but I do want to tell you that I am shifting my thoughts about my voice after this conversation with RAab and you might as well. So whether you are a super pro songstress or a person who is interested in becoming a song person, a songbird, this episode is absolutely for you. So go grab some tea with honey. He will tell you what kind of honey, by the way. So listen up for that, um, and grab a cup of water and a straw. If you would like and get ready to meet Rob Stevenson and get ready to meet your new and improved voice. Enjoy.  

**cup bubbles**

RAab: Hey, somebody has been practicing.  

Dana: Do I sound like butter? Thank you, RAab. Thank you! Gentle, easy-peasy okay. Everybody. I am so excited today. I cannot explain my enthusiasm and my history with this individual. My guest today is RAab Stevenson. I am thrilled, RAab, thank you so much for being here. Um, so it’s par for the course on the podcast. All of my guests always introduce themselves. RAab, what would you like us to know about you?  

RAab: Um, my name is Robert Stevenson. Um, my artist’s name when I was recording and putting out music myself, we called me RAab. Some people call it Ray-ab, uh, R with two As one B and the quick story behind that, we was just trying to find something to be cool. And one day we had a friend who was acting as a personal manager for me at the time Mike Berry, we were sitting behind a car that’s named a Saab and I was like, Hey man, how do you pronounce that car’s name? He said, Oh, that’s a saab. I was like, that’s it Rob Saab Raab. So I got back with the label and I was like, look, everyone just called myself. RAab was like, no, that’s not, that’s not deep enough. I like, no he’s gonna spell it. R A A B. And then the guys that the label, they were, um, part of the nation of Islam, it’s like, Oh man, we’ve got to keep the Quran and get deep with this thing. And I was like, we don’t have to. And that’s how the spelling came Large R Large A lower case a lower case b. So they put all that together.  

Dana: Like you think, you know, somebody and then you find out where their name came from. That’s so cool. Um, all right. So Rob, we met on my first world tour. Uh, it was Justin Timberlake’s Future Sex Love Show tour way back in 2007,  

RAab: 2006.  

Dana: Whoa. So I was, I was either 19 or 20 when we met. And you were a background vocalist on that tour code a shorthand for a background vocalist. We co we affectionately call them BVs. So you were a BV on that tour. Um, the show was in the round. You can watch it on HBO shameless plug. It was beautiful. And y’all BVs were all over that stage.  

RAab: We were dancing. Yeah. Yeah. It’s um, it was crazy. You guys had us all over the place as background singers. You normally don’t get that much attention. We’re normally stricken by just wearing all black sit in the background, basically seeing behind the curtain don’t get in the way that the artists do whatever they want to, but then you guys y’all show up. You Dane, you Dana AAJ, Marty, you know, comes coming to picture. It’s like, no, y’all got to be, get down everywhere. And sure enough, we went from one end of the stage to the other underneath the stage, singing and dancing, popping out, doing all the cool stuff. We were heavily involved in that. And, um, the thing that was really crazy is that which really helped us and, um, was, um, uh, the other vocalist Denosh Bennett. You know, she came from the world of, um, you know, broadway and, and dancing heavily and performing in music videos from Mystica to mystical, to Aliyah she’s she was heavily involved in that and she transitioned it to being a vocalist on that tour. So she was constantly in the background helping us out when you guys were out doing your thing with the artists, Justin as well. So it was really a big help. And, and what was crazy is that on the first tour Justified Tour that’s where I met Robin Wiley. She was a voice coach for Justin Timberlake, as well as the kids on a Mickey Mouse club. And, um, I would always ask her because we would have asked her, could I come to her hotel room, which was where we were staying at and we would have, um, vocal rehearsals there. Could I come in, just ask her a bunch of questions about the voice, never trying to be a voice coach, but just trying to be a better singer for the gig, you know? So I would be able to last and keep my job basically. Yeah. So she, she, um, after that tour, it was a success after that tour, leading in the Future Sex Love Show Tour, we had the promotional tour where we was doing all the club shows and stuff like that to kick before kicking off the arena tour. And, um, she fell ill and I was teaching people off of the CD that she gave me to warm up Justin or myself or the other singers when she wasn’t around. And I still carry that in my backpack in honor of her. So anytime I feel like I’m not good enough, or I need help, I’ll just put that in and I’ll listen. And she’s still giving me these little nuggets, you know, over the years. And that’s been since 2006, which is amazing. And, um, you know, at that point she fell ill. And one day we was here doing the club show here in Atlanta, believe it or not, which is where I live at the Tabernacle.  And my friends were coming to the show. I was so excited and I’m outside hanging with my friends and, and, uh, Big-E, Eric, Eric Burrows, I’m the head of security for Justin. He calls me, he said, Hey, what are you doing? And I was like, ah, my friends I’m getting, you know, bringing them into the show. And he was like, J needs you. I was like, is everything okay? He was like, yeah, he needs you to warm him up. And that was the very first time I started warming Justin up and I winded up, warming him up every single night for that whole tour. That was my job.  

Dana: I did not know that’s how that all went down. It seemed like such a natural progression to me. Um, and I suppose it may be, I mean, you, you alluded a little bit to trying to keep the gig. And I would imagine that for vocalists, like for dancers booking a tour is like kind of winning the lottery and they, there aren’t there aren’t 45 BVS on a tour. There are four or two. So it seems it must be a pretty competitive, um,  

RAab: It’s a, it’s an extremely competitive gig. And not only, not only just booking it, you have to be pretty, pretty, pretty talented to be able to sing multiple parts. You know, you gotta be able to sing a Soprano or Alto or Tenor. You gotta be really dynamic as a vocalist to be able to book a gig and really keep it. And in that case, it wasn’t like I was trying to be a brown nose or anything like that. I just wanted to do whatever it took to help because, you know, Darrell Diesel, who, unfortunately we lost this year, he passed in February. And, uh, he was how I got hired on that gig. I was in Atlanta and most people that get hired from gigs in LA, you normally have to be there in LA when you get the cattle call or, or a music director is looking for singers, dah, dah, dah, dah. And it’s a small window, you know, and just so happened. Justin was in Virginia Beach, finishing up the album with Pharrell and Chad and the engineered new diesel, you know, had them come by. They took them out to dinner and then that’s how he got hired. And then Justin had him to call and find the other guy. And when he called me, I was in a whole different space. I wouldn’t even thinking about coming on tour with anybody. I was trying to get back into the music industry, but my journey back in there, I had rededicated my life to Christ to God. And I was trying to move back to Orlando, which is where I’m from. So when he called, he was like, Hey man, you know, you’ll never believe who I’m working with. He was like, Justin Timberlake. And I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s amazing.  I’m so happy for you.’ And he was like, I was, I, my response to him was like, Hey, if you see his manager, Johnny Wright, let him know. I’m getting ready to move back to Orlando. And if I have to take out the trash at the compound, I’ll do that to get back in the game, you know, with, um, with that being said, he didn’t see Johnny Wright. But he, he asked me, he said, Hey man, but the guy, you know, Justin asked me to find the other guy to come on tour with him. And I was like, Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. Who are you going to call? And he was like, you, you big dummy.  

I’m calling you. This is the call.  

Nine days later. We were in LA on the microphone singing. Like I Love You get ready to do a promo run that we got there that Tuesday, Wednesday had a, uh, a single release party. It was Jay Leno. We did his show. It was, it was-you know how it works. It was pandemonium. It was crazy.  

Okay. So, so obviously that was a long time ago. A lot has changed since then. 

2002

Oh my goodness. So, okay. I know this is a tough question. I’m sorry to do this to you, but what would be, what would you say are the biggest changes in your life since then?  

Well, one of the biggest changes was on that particular tour. I was doing some really crazy stuff with the money I was making off of that tour. Like a lot of people that get on the tour, the first time I was buying all these shoes, I had a suitcase just full of shoes and another suitcase. At that time, they would let you have 70 pounds in a suitcase. And the other one had an outfit to match every single out, you know, a pair of shoes and I was getting money and I was just giving it away. I had nothing to show for it. That changed on after- on the future sex love show to them, you know? And I was like, okay, something’s gotta be different. That was one. When I met my wife, you know, when we was doing the I’m Loving It, promo tour over in Australia. So working with Justin, I met my wife, we had a baby, you know, it’s been a blessing. Yeah. So with all of that being said, um, that changed, um, by me working on that first tour and following Robin Wiley around, I would not be where I am today as a voice coach. During this pandemic. And I feel really bad for a lot of my friends that are in the industry and I constantly get other opportunities and pass them on to other people to help them out because I know it’s not easy right now, but had it not been for the stuff I did with Robin, it wouldn’t have led me down this path of being a voice coach where I’ve been able to work with a lot of big artists, you know, and young artists, new artists, and, um, un-signed artists, you know, COVID hits and we’re all stuck at home, but because of my business and because people are, you know, in this creative space where they’re writing and working on albums, I’m still able to coach. 

But you do more than just coach. I think this is unique. And I want to ask you about this, um, because you also develop artists, you’re working with a couple, couple artists on the come up. Um, and I’m curious about what artists development looks like to you. How does that, how does that look to you?  

Uh, for me as an artist, when I was doing the artist thing, I was 18, 19 writing songs. You know, I was given an opportunity by a guy that saw me outside practicing dance moves for a talent show. And I was just grabbed some guys that I thought could move this guy named Tyrone Wilson. He pulled over and saw us practicing. And he was like, Hey man, um, I see you guys are in a group, but we would like to, you know, um, you know, basically they were auditioning us right there on the side, asked us to sing something. And I was like feeling bad because I knew my group. We couldn’t do, they couldn’t harmonize. And they asked me to sing. And then at that point they asked me to be in their group, the two older guys, but they took me under their wings, developed me as a songwriter, um, a ranger and all of that stuff, um, gave me my first opportunity in a recording studio. And that changed my life. It really did. And so what does artist development look like for me is, is that a lot of times artists, you know, artists, they feel like once they get a manager, the manager or the label should do all this work, things have changed in so many ways. And I feel like for me, the artists is responsible for their career. If you’re waiting on somebody to do all that stuff for you, shame on you, shame on you. You’re only setting yourself up for one failure to let in your own self doubt, putting your career in the hands of somebody else to do what they want with it. Only for it to not work out. And you blame them for it. No, it’s your fault. You did it. You gave them the keys to your porche and they wrecked it. So I get artists that comes, that’ll come to me and talk to me about managing. And I’m like, I will not manage because I understand the challenges of management, you know, the frustrations of management and sometimes the artists and management, they have good intentions, but then a lot of times they’re bumping heads because they’re so different from each other, you know, and have different perspectives on how that particular artist needs to conduct their career. Now, I’m not saying they don’t need each other, but sometimes at the early stages, I feel like the artists can learn so much. If they, they, they get good counsel from someone. And for me, I just, I just say, okay, these are the things you need because I’m in these meetings a lot of times with the artists that they aspire to be like. You know, they welcoming in a lot of times, I’m in a room getting ready to warm them up. And then what do you think RAab? I’m like, man, don’t be asking me none of that. No, but seriously, what do you think? So I have those moments as well. And then I’m like, this is great information and great advice that I can pass down to a lot of these newer artists or artists that are signed, that are making, you know, really crazy decisions regarding their career. It’s just like, if you’re performing and you want to be like a Justin or a Rihanna or, or any of these artists that sing and dance, you need to start building a team around you that does those things. You know, we’re working with one right now, Dana, you know, and she’s amazing. And she’s a hard worker, but I would not have ever introduced her to y’all if I didn’t think she had what it took to do those things. And the funny thing is what sold me on her was that we were finishing up the, um, uh, Man of the Woods tour last year. And I got a phone call from a friend saying that dah, dah, dah, here’s this girl she’s talented. Me and her talk. I had to look at her in the eyes on, on the camera, like, ‘Hey, what’s up,’ you sure about this. You really want to do this. All right. I’m at this show right here. This weekend. If you can get here for me, it’ll show me how serious you are. Her and her mom was on the next plane. Next flight out met me there. We worked during the day, came to the show, saw y’all and it’s crazy. A year later working with you guys.  

Yep. I’ll say, okay. So Rob is talking about a young up-and-coming recording artist named Liv. I started with, I started working with live in January of 2020, I think. And let me tell you the moment that I knew other than she already has a good team around her, which, you know, the co-sign comes a little easier when you see the, the people that are surrounding her, but uh, come lockdown. She stuck that out the entire time, the entire lockdown, definitely a committed person. It’s inspiring to see that. And it’s so it sounds like you’re like me on the subject of movement coaching. I simply love sharing the information I’ve learned. Like, what good is it if I just keep it for myself.  

Right, right, right, right, right.  

Yeah. It’s part of why I started a podcast is part of why I love movement coaching so much is, you know, simply sharing. I do believe sharing is caring and I care about, I care about those people with the people that I work with. Um, okay. Question for you now on the, on the kind of relating what I do and what you do, one of the ways, but not the only way that I can tell a good dancer from a phenomenal dancer is their ability to multitask. Like in the moment they could be dancing Like I Love You and cracking jokes with JT on the side, like mid chorus, or they could be having a conversation during rehearsal while reviewing the steps it’s like happening almost in the background, um, versus somebody who’s new to dance or not quite to that level yet it would require 100% of their attention to do. Like, I Love You top to bottom without messing up. I think I could probably do, like, I love you bottom to top or without messing up while having a conversation. That’s partially because I’ve done it 4,000 times and because it’s my favorite, but, um, you know, that’s, that’s one of the things for me that tells the difference between good and great. Is there a tell for you and a vocalist? How do you, how do you tell good from great.  

You know what? Work ethic, Work ethic every time I’ve, I’ve been blessed to work with some of the most talented vocalist in the game. And the sad part about it is some of them that don’t have that work ethic, then they just go straight off of their talent. Like I’ve got this.  

So what happens then? What happens?  

They’re like, I’m good. And then they crash and hit it real hard. And then they’re quick to blame everybody else around them. And a lot of times, um, artists, they they’re like, Oh, why are you so you just blatantly honest with me and I’m like, I, how else should I be with you? You want me to sugar coat and lie to you? And I do it with a smile on my face. I’m not going to be angry. Now when you don’t practice it, do what you’re supposed to do. I get upset, but I have to do that. I have to tell you, this is you. These are your goals. These aren’t my goals. You know, I know what to do, but these are your goals if you want to be better. And so when I see an artist, it can be an artist that’s not a strong singer at all, but I’ve seen, I’ve had a kid from Australia. Parents found me, his name is Ky. They found me from Australia. The was on, America’s got talent and he’s a dancer tap dancer. Incredible. But he wants to sing. The mom calls me, Oh my gosh, we were talking to RAab Stevens about it. I was like, why are y’all fanning out? I’m just Raab. It’s all good. And she was like, Oh my gosh, we didn’t think you would answer it. And I was like, yes, this is my business. I haven’t gone to it. And it was like, Oh my gosh, my son he’s the, he was number five. And uh, Australia’s got talent, all this other stuff. And she was like, uh, well, my son wants to sing. We want to work with you. And I said, Oh, I said, okay. She said, well, he’s terrible. The mom is so honest too. And I was like, okay, you know what, let me talk to him.  I don’t want to talk to you not being disrespectful, but I need to talk to him and see how, if he’s focused to be able to do this kind of thing, because I’m going to not, I’m not going to treat him any different. I’m going to push them. Just like I would, if I was in front of a superstar, I’m like, because I want him to be that. Or then some, you know, and the kid was so focused and he did everything I asked him, if you hear this kid sing, now you’d be like, Oh, he always had that. No he didn’t. 

Um, I really dig that approach to a decision about taking someone on, not being about where they are, but about where they want to be and their determination to get there. Um, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve worked with actually, some of my favorite people to work with are people that have zero dance experience and they are a blank canvas and they’re here and they’re hungry. They don’t have any bad habits I’m telling you. It is such a sweet spot. Um, actually, maybe we stick on that topic for a second. If somebody with no experience came to me and asked, can I teach them or will you teach me to dance in one week? I would probably laugh at them. But then I would like, there are drills and techniques and there is, there are some building blocks. There are tools that I would give them a place to start that in one week could probably do a lot of good. Um, is there something similar in your realm? Like, is there like a crash course to using your voice?  

Do you know what, I think it’s so funny when, um, when record labels or management, they’ll come to me and they’ll say, yo, we heard about you. We want to do this and get our artists this way. Blah, blah, blah. No, they’re like, yeah. I’m like, when’s the show? Uh it’s tomorrow. Oh, I’ve had that. I’ve had the shows next week. How, how many sessions do you think it’s going to take? The tour is in a week and a half from now. Why are y’all waiting? Why are y’all waiting now? What are y’all doing? Yeah. And then it’s like, I’m like, yeah, for what we do for a living, this is a ongoing regimen. It’s almost like saying, and I’ll give them, uh, you know, my LeBron James thing, I was like, okay, so you think LeBron’s high school coach was all he needed in order to sustain him in it, to win this many championships, let alone go to nine NBA finals, you know? And I’m like, no, his coach, he set him up for excellence in high school, but somebody else had to pick up the ball when he got into the NBA. And that’s what it is. But I’m just saying, so it’s the work ethic, you know, preparation, all of that stuff. So I’ve had artists that are really talented and they, they do, they’re focused and they’re driven, you know, you know, like the artist I just told you, I just finished working with, I mean, she ain’t touring right now, but me and her in here three days a week and she’s killing it, you know, along with other artists, they’re recording, they’re putting out new material, you know? So that stuff inspires me. It really does. It gets me going as well.  

Um, the, the, the training conversation reminds me of a quote. It’s been attributed to several different people, um, like an anonymous Navy seal, and then like Aristotle or someone, I don’t know where this actually comes from. But the sentiment is that you will not rise to the occasion, you will fall to your level of training. And when you train all the time, you don’t need to worry about falling you’re there. Right. And I think that that’s, you know, one of the other things I love about being a coach, especially with somebody who’s willing to go in multiple days a week, because that’s when you really start seeing benefits. Not, not one week for two days a week, not, not one month, every like once a week, but I mean, we’re talking long game and it’s so, so rewarding to see those, to see that improvement.  

It is. Yeah. So when I see that it inspires me because I was that kid that when I stayed with my mom, my sister, or the Bixler’s, who is this family that took me in, when I left home at an early age. I was constantly practicing. Always some allowed me to do my thing. Some was like, RAab, could you just please just give us a minute. Could you please just take the night off? And at that point, I always tell my kids, if your parents aren’t complaining about you practicing all the time, you’re not practicing enough.  

Oh, I love that metric.  

They should be like, please shut up, give us a break. I mean, we love you. We love you. You’re super talented. I love you so bad, but can you just give mommy or daddy a little break for now? Can you go in the basement basement and close all the doors behind you, but that’s when you know, they’re they want it. Yeah. And I think that the depressing side of things is when I work with artists, that I have to constantly push and try and motivate and inspire them. And they really don’t want to do that. They’d rather just be in a studio and write and call that a day.  

Oh, I’m glad that you mentioned that because I said a second ago that if somebody asked me if I could teach them how to dance in a week, I would laugh. I would, I would laugh first. But the truth is, if you don’t want to, then the answer is no, no matter what, this is really something you have to have a desire to do. Um, and then also the desire, not, not the desire necessarily, but, um, uh, a pleasure or a joy for music. I know a lot of people that tell me, I have no rhythm. I have no rhythm. I, I can’t even find the downbeat. And I’m like, but do you like music? And if the answer is yes, then I’ll tell them. And now it will be telling the truth that yes, I can teach you how to dance. You want it, if you, if you want it and you enjoy listening to music, absolutely. I love it.  Um, okay. I want to segue a little bit. Um, I want to talk about before we get into some myths, some common misconceptions about the voice. Uh, I want to talk about like overall health, because I’ve been finding, especially lately it’s odd. And some people might be surprised by this, but I know a lot of dancers with very unhealthy lifestyle. Dancers in general, we like to party. We like late nights. Um, drugs and alcohol are not uncommon in the dance space.

And the singing world 

Okay. Okay. So we share that. Um, and I, I wonder, like, what would you say is the role of fitness and a healthy lifestyle for a vocalist?  

Well, it’s funny. I always have this thing saying when I’m around, especially my male, um, clients, like what’s happening, good doctor, how you doing? And they all start laughing and uh, every now and then they’ll ask me why you always call me the doctor. I’m like, cause you got the medicine for other people. They look confused. I’m like, yeah, your lyrics, your song, it’s ministry. You don’t have to be in the church to minister to somebody. You know what I’m saying? So if you can’t get up there and do your job, you’re not going to be a minister. You’re not going to be able to save somebody’s life. Because I got trust me every night when I’m working in the, in the arena and the artist is on stage and I’m walking around the arena, taking notes on my iPad. I always find those, those, those, those, those people that are being drugged to the concert with their friends and don’t want to be there.  And when you sit down and talk with them, they’re like, yo, I’m glad I came. I was thinking about committing suicide tonight. Really it’s very powerful and it was somebody that was, uh, it could have been a dancer. I ran into it to dance dancers, people that, you know, either got injured and can’t do it perform anymore. But by them watching dancers on stage, move the way they do it just took them back and brought joy back in. You know what I’m saying? So I see those things. So when I say the ministry of what singing does for people, you know, I try and remind artists that, that. 

Okay, so that’s so, so what we do, what we, and now when I say we, I mean performers. What we do. I mean, yes, I’ve heard, you know, we’ve all heard dance saves lives or music saved my life. And I think that that, yes, in some cases, that is absolutely true. Um, but what would you suggest for, for us entertainers? How do we save our own life?  

So a lot of times when I come out and I know certain artists like to drink or like to do drugs, like the party and I come in and I, the same thing, you know, good doctor or I’ll say, Hey mama, how you doing? What’s happening, mama, why you keep calling me mama? Ain’t got no kids. I’m like, yes, you do. You have 135 people on staff. Don’t you, you’re their mother. You’re responsible for all of their households, not how they do, not how they conduct their households. But if you get sick and you go down, are you going to pay them their full salaries when they’re down? And a lot of people don’t want to hear that. Especially the people that are close to that circle, you can’t talk to them that way. I’m like, no, you shouldn’t party with them that way you shouldn’t do it because you’re contributing to the whole problem.  You know what I’m saying? I’m not saying the person can’t celebrate and have fun, but at what cost, what is it going to cost you? Because logistically speaking and having to reschedule a show and come back months later, if they do it, that’s month, that’s the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe even millions. It’s a lot of money to deal with that. When you could save that, if you’re going to do a little bit of a party, if you like to drink, just understand what drinking is going to do for you. You know, drinking is alcohol. It’s going to dry you out. Well, does it reach the vocal folds? All right. You sit there and you inhale alcohol through your mouth all day long. Those vapors get on the vocal folds and it’s going to dry it out. Oh my gosh. I’m so dry. You in Florida. It’s humid down here. What you’ve been doing?  

Okay. This is, this is a perfect segue. Then let’s talk about these misconceptions because a few years ago, I, I lost my voice for several days in a row. I didn’t have a voice for seven days. This came after a stint of, uh, uh, I think it was two or three days and I taught 16 classes. So throwing my voice over loud music while moving, being exerted. And I, I suppose I never learned exactly how to do that properly. Um, so I, I learned that I have some damage, some vocal, I have a vocal nodules. Uh, I got a voice pathologist. I got a vocal coach and I started working on, well, number one, just awareness. Like not speaking my sentences all the way out in the end until I have no breath. And now I’m straightening and I’m still talking. I’ve started keeping an eye on that. Um, I drink warm water all the time. I’ve definitely tampered my alcohol intake. Um, okay. So here is my list of myths that I would like to be busted, or I guess some of them are just kind of questions. Um, is coffee bad for your voice?  

Coffee is a natural diuretic. It will dry you out. It’ll give you a boost of energy, but for every cup of coffee, you have to have three bottles of water to dilute it. There you go.  

Love it. Um, okay. Is Tea I mean, some teas are natural diuretics as well, I guess, but is there a kind of tea that is better or worse for your voice?  

Uh, I liked throat coat tea. I like, um, throat comfort tea. I like putting menuca honey, not the one from whole foods, but menuca 5-50. They have a 5-60 plus I like using that from New Zealand. Take scoop of that and put that into the tub, the tea, if the singer is still dry while singing that put a little, a few drops of licorice root oil in there, and drink that  

You crushed one of my other ones. So honey does help or certain types of honey.  

So I like certain types of honey. If you dealing with like severe allergies and certain regions during spring and fall, you know what I’m saying? So if you’re dealing with that, I will use localized honey because a lot of times that’s the remedy for whatever is setting off your allergies in that area. 

The bees are the secret. Yep.  As always, uh, okay. This one. Oh, my fingers are crossed about the answer to this question. I think I already know is dairy bad for your voice?

All right. So dairy, here’s the deal with dairy? I used to always think, man, every time I drink dairy, it messes up my voice, especially because I’m lactose intolerant. So that’s a bigger effect on, you know, for those that deal with that. But dairy, believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, dairy the particles are too big to get to the vocal folds. They never touch the vocal folds if they do, you’re choking on it,  

Which is bad for your voice, by the way, don’t be choking. Okay. This is excellent news  

Now. So you’ll have, you’ll have phlegm in the back of your throat as a result of it. And one way to get rid of that is, uh, get some salt water, warm water, and gargle with that. And then it’s out.  

Thank you, doctor. Okay. A few others, um, cold water superior to warm water. I think this one’s obvious, but  

Alright so cold water. I love cold water. I do. When I’m working out, do not give me room temperature, water. Uh, yeah, but um, anytime you’re performing, room temperature is always best because it takes your body more work to heat the water up to your body’s temperature. So you don’t want to have to deal with that. You got it.  

Hm. Okay. Interesting. I love it. I’ve since working with a voice pathologists, I started drinking warm water and I love it. I don’t ever want to stop. I love it. It’s my favorite thing. Um, oddly, okay, so we talked a little bit about honey question about cough drops. Do they work? I know you have a favorite.  

Okay. So, um, when you’re dealing with cough drops, you gotta be really careful. I mean, you know, let me, let me go down my little list. So let’s say for instance, like if singers are dealing with congestion or, you know, um, huge congestion in the nose, of course you want to consult with your doctor, but what I’ve always found that work is Mucinex sometimes Tylenol Severe Sinus. You know, it has a little bit of Mucinex then it has a four hour release in it. You take two of those and, um, I have this stuff, um, you, if anybody knows anything about doTERRA products. Yeah. So doTERRA has this oil, this little blend, and it’s a respiratory blend, which is really cool. And, um, it has Melaleuca in it. So like when you use you eustachian tubes by your ears, get impacted with mucus, from blowing your nose too hard. I always have singers put that around their ears. Uh, my mom, as a kid used to put what do you call it.. Vicks! Oh my gosh. Put it all on my nose, on my chin, on my neck and my chest,  

Uh, that lights you on icy fire. 

I know, right? Yeah. I have oil all over my face, but, um, that’s all, she, she, she knew at the time, but this has peppermint oil. Eucalyptus and all that other good stuff. You put it on your ears. And then, um, there’s a particular gum that, um, you know, I was put on to, by another friend of mine, um, from the UK, they sell it in the UK and all over Europe, but not here in America, coincidentally, and it’s called airwaves. And you can order it through Amazon. It takes about a week to two weeks to get to you, but you’ll chew on two pieces of that and that’ll open up your sinuses like that, like really causing the drain. Yeah. But don’t do the sniffles, just let it fall forward and then slightly blow 

Okay. Thank you, Rob. Those are all my, my myths. Did I, did I miss anything? Oh, I do know that. I do know that whispering is bad for your voice.  

Whispering is bad for your voice. It dries out the vocal folds and causes voice to fatigue really quickly.  

That is a good one, especially when you’re losing your voice. Don’t whisper 

Yeah. And for singers and dancers that like to eat after show food, laying down after eating cause you’re tired, you did a lot of work and you’d to get on their lap and laugh and laugh and laughing. If you fall asleep under three hours and you find yourself with heartburn or anything like that, try not to do that. Try and wait at least three hours or limit the amount of after show food. You eat, especially pizza. And there’s some tourists that are just give this the people, you know, singers the crew, Hey, just eat this pizza and call it a day and you’re hungry and you’ll eat it. But the tomato sauce and the pizza will trigger the reflux as well. So just be careful.  

I think that’s important. You mentioned that the amount of hours between eating and resting, but also the quantity over eating anything. Even if you’re eating good food, natural foods, not, not tomato, crazy sauce or anything like that, any time when you’re overdoing it, that reflux will kick up. For sure.  

It will definitely get you.  

Oh my gosh. You didn’t know you were getting into it like a health health lesson today. Um, okay. Rob, I know you keep a tight calendar, super tight schedule. So I just want to finish off by asking if you have any words of wisdom or thoughts, thoughts for aspiring vocalists out there. Um, eh, any last remarks,  

Listen, if you’re going to be in this music industry as a dancer or a singer, don’t wait for somebody to invest in you to do it, figure out a way to invest in your own self. And also don’t just get into industry because you want to be the star. You know, you want to get into industry, I’m going to be this star. Uh, you set yourself up, you know, and I’m not telling you this, a perfect opportunity to have a plan B. Go in there because you are, you love the industry. You want to be a part of that. If you’re going to be on broadway, you go all out and study all the great don’t just study your favorite study. The ones that have been, you know, in West Side Story for all these years and why they’ve had continual success, you know, don’t just study w just wicked that comes through your town, find out the history of all of them.  You know, you know, Disney is good about doing stuff like that, but you know, you just gotta be a student of the craft of singing. And one way to do that is to invest in your own self. If you want to work with an artist or work with a coach like Dana or myself, you know? Yeah. The rates may be a little higher in your eyes, in my eyes. I try and keep my rates at a certain way, you know, to where everybody can afford it. But in that particular instance, it’s worth the investment. You’re not only going to get good coaching, but you’re going to get the same type of coaching that you see these other artists that are out there, the same type of attention, the same type of love, you know, that’s going to be poored into you. Why not spoil yourself with that? You know, that’s important, you know, so that’s, that’s what I got. Keep God first. Definitely. Yeah.  

Thank you so much. That was brilliant and beautiful. And I’m inspired to go do some more cup bubbles. It’s honestly, it’s a part of my daily routine. I love the way my voice feels afterwards. It’s amazing. Um, okay. Thank you so much. I will absolutely be linking to you and all of your amazing work in the show notes of this episode. So go find RAab, RAab, thank you so much again for being here. Um, I have, I get to talk to you again soon.  

Thank you. Good to see you, Dana. All right.  

OKay. That is RAab. And that is one of the most talented and kind people that I, that I think I know I’m so happy to have introduced you to RAab and so hopeful that you will be becoming introduced to your new and improved voice. I really think that this man has so much to teach and that we all have so much to gain from taking care of ourselves in our voice. So I hope you’re as inspired as I am to take care of yourself. Um, your audience depends on it and I will be linking to RAab’s business in the show notes of this episode. Should you be so inspired that you decided to, uh, find him and seek him out for some coaching. Oh, and if you are at all interested in coaching with me on the movement front or otherwise, I have some very special news come 2021, which is not that far away. You will be able to do exactly that in a number of different ways. So stay tuned for more updates on the Words that Move Me Membership front. And of course keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon, everybody.  

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

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

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

Show Notes:

Enter our instagram contest!

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

Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s always an exception

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, I like it keep it funky. 

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

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

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

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #3 Dance Lessons are Life Lessons with Chloe Arnold
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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.