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 and hello. I am Dana and I am jazzed that you are here today. I’m stoked on this episode because it is dense. It carries a lot of value in a little bit of time. So whether you are an assistant or a person who has an assistant or a person who is looking to have an assistant, I think you will get a lot out of this episode, by the way. I think we all could use an assistant at some point.
So this episode truly is for everyone. So much value so much goodness, but first let’s talk wins. This week, coincidentally, I am claiming a win. That is a video project I created in collaboration with my podcast assistant Malia Baker. She choreographed it, I directed and edited it. And it is a video homage to Louie Prima and Keely Smith called “Smiling.” It was influenced by the golden age of movie musicals and our cast and crew was golden to truly such an awesome time capsule of a project. I loved every part of making this video and, um, man, we, we shot it just days before the lockdown was enforced and I’m so proud to be sharing it with the world right now. I think it carries a very important message and a handful of very fun surprises as well. So check that out. It lives on my Instagram @DanaDaners and also on Malia’s personal page. She is @MaliaBaker. Get into it. Do your face a favor, give a smile. Okay. Now speaking of your face and your smile, what is your win this week? What’s going well in your world.
Okay. Awesome. And congrats. Keep crushing it. If you are listening the podcast chronologically, you have just emerged from four back to back episodes about auditioning. This episode is coming at a very timely time because I want to acknowledge that auditioning for work is not the only way to get work. In fact, possibly the most fruitful way that I introduced myself to the industry was as an assistant, an assistant choreographer to be specific. Now I opened this episode by talking about my win with my assistant Malia Baker. That was unintentional, but coincidentally, very, very appropriate to this episode. Now there is a hot button conversation happening in the dance world right now. That’s probably happened in other industries forever. Um, sort of as language changes and our professional landscape changes. This conversation will continue to happen. Probably forevermore. The subject, broadly is the roles and responsibilities of assistants. Is the assistant the person that gets the coffee is the assistant. The person that remembers the steps or teaches the steps or cleans the steps or contributes steps? Question Mark. When is an assistant, not an assistant, what makes a great assistant we’re digging in to all of it. So buckle up.
Alright. So I have been an assistant and I occasionally still assist for about 15 years, world tours, movies, commercials, music, videos, award shows you name it I’ve assisted on it. I’ve also danced and assisted on the same project, which can be really, really challenging. I’ll explain why, as you’re about to find out the role of an assistant is very, very broad. And the role of a performer is very, very specific. Sometimes it can be challenging to have the bird’s eye view and the worm’s eye view at the same time. All right, let’s talk first about what an assistant does. Well, as I mentioned, it’s always a little bit different, not just from project to project, but from boss to boss, from person to person. So let’s consider what assistants might do. They might, depending on the project or the person, edit video, edit music, go pick up coffee, go pick up lunch, take lunch orders, book studio space, manage and coordinate schedules. That’s a start, but they always, they always facilitate a vision. They facilitate the creative vision of their boss or of the project that they’re assisting on.
Now let’s talk about the different types of assistance. A personal assistant, for example, might organize travel, like actually book the flights, the cars, the hotel reservations, they might run personal errands or organize a personal schedule. I have known personal assistants to actually buy the Christmas gifts and birthday gifts for their bosses, families and friends. Um, I’ve even known of a boss who trusted their assistant to decide on their future home. Yes. Like the house they will live in the assistant went and saw it and said, yes. Very wide range of responsibilities there for a personal assistant. And of course it depends on the person. Let’s talk now about a choreography assistant, a choreographic assistant or a choreography assistant or a choreographer’s assistant might be a moving body in the room during the creation process and during the rehearsal process. Occasionally they’re responsible for retaining the counts in the choreography, teaching choreography, cleaning choreography, even giving feedback on the choreography itself, If asked. I have also used and served as a technical assistant, this is a person that might film, edit and upload tutorial, videos, rehearsal videos, so on and so forth. Those are just a few examples of titles and responsibilities of assistants. I could really go on for probably a day about the things that assistants do. So why don’t we actually shift our focus to this question? When is an assistant not an assistant. First of all, I want to state that I see assistants as collaborators and possibly the most important part of the team. My assistants know my every move. They know my schedule, they know my values, they know my vision, they know how I like to work. And it is their job to work, to facilitate my vision. In the choreography space on a choreography team, by my definition, an assistant is responsible for facilitating a creative vision. That may mean tactical tasks, physical things like setting up the studio, organizing the schedule, organizing video footage, tutorials, et cetera. It might even mean systematic work, streamlining a process, making sure that things go smoothly with that being said to me, the moment an assistant crosses into another realm of collaborator is when they’re asked or expected to contribute their own creative vision for the work. I know many choreographers are totally okay with feedback when it comes to their choreography or process, but this is not the same as bringing a creative idea to the table. I’ll give an example. I know that many choreographers are okay, and even encourage getting feedback from their assistants. Feedback, for example, on things like weight transfers, transitions, or even presenting a step like, Ooh, it might feel better to ball change right left instead of left, right, Because my weight is already on the left side or, Ooh, I love that step. It reminds me of this. Or to get into that turn, it might be better if I start from this position instead of that one, that way I can move quicker and give you what you want, which is covering a lot of distance in a little bit of time. To me, that’s very acceptable and expected feedback from an assistant. And to me, that is absolutely not the same as bringing a creative idea to the table. To me, when a person is asked or expected to bring their own idea or vision, they are an associate or possibly even a co choreographer, not an assistant. An example of bringing a creative idea to the table might look something like this. Is there a world where instead of our hero woman being in love with peanut butter, she is actually in love with a frog that turns into a can of peanut butter. Example of creative vision, opposed to facilitating the creative vision and wow frogs and peanut butter, Welcome to my mind. Welcome to my very creative mind.
All right, now let’s talk about what makes a great assistant. I’ll give you a hint. What makes a great assistant is also what makes a great relationship. That’s really what we’re talking about here today. The relationship between boss and assistant. In my book, these are four qualities of a great assistant. Number one ESP, mind reading capabilities. In the event that you do not possess mind reading capabilities, which none of us do. Um, here is a great way to read somebody’s mind, ask them what they think and write it down. Great way to read somebody’s mind is to actually put it on paper, get a clear idea of expectations. And then you are so much better set up for success.
Another quality of a great assistant to me is somebody that has a good memory and mindset for not only managing information, but mining it. This is a person who knows how to ask the right questions. This is a person that knows where to look for information and how to get it and how to organize it. Another quality of a fabulous assistant. It sounds weird to say this, but customer service. The assistant establishes the flow of the project, the flow of information. And oftentimes when people think back about how the project went, it will be the work of the assistant that they remember, that they walk away with, that they think of as being either remarkably positive or not so much. Oh, here’s my favorite. My favorite quality of a great assistant is somebody that over delivers, under time. I love looking for the habit of somebody who over-delivers, because that’s a quality that I seek in my own career. And I like to think of my assistants as an extension of myself. If I do, they do too.
Moving right along, let’s talk about how to be a great assistant. There are notions that an assistant is akin to a servant role or a secretary role. If you are an assistant, what if, instead of believing those stories, you chose to believe the following. What if you chose to own your work and not do their work? What if you owned the value that you bring? What if you facilitate the zones for genius? What if you make the space and maintain the space for brilliance? What if that is your job? Instead of doing the jobs left undone by others, you make the space, you maintain the space, you make the zones for genius. What if instead of getting walked on, you wanted to grow. What if you wanted to be the best at what you do, not the second best to your boss, but the best you, this is abundance mentality. This is ownership, and this is very attractive.
Now I could not talk about how to be a great assistant without asking you to pay attention to the details, study, to learn the likes and dislikes of the person that you’re working for. And I don’t just mean what things do they like and dislike out there in the world, but what qualities do they like and dislike about themselves? Where can you supplement and help enhance the person that they already are with the person that you already are? For example, do they like knowing people’s names, but are terrible at remembering them? Do they have a preference for the way that tables and chairs are set up? Do they have a vibe that you can contribute to? Do they love the snacks that you brought? do they have any food allergies? Do they prefer their music loud or quiet? Do they like hearing your opinion? Do they work well with tech or do they get easily frustrated with tech? Are they an iPhone or an Android person? Do they prefer large or small groups of dancers? What are the tough parts and flow states of their process? In general, if they mentioned liking or disliking a thing, make sure that you note it, but don’t wait for them to say it. Most of this stuff can be very easily perceived if you are perceptive.
Alright. I think it’s really, really important as an assistant that you manage your mind. It’s important to remember that, although yes, you may be working for someone else. You are also a leader. People are looking to you as number two, to establish the tone. They’re looking to you for cues about what is trickling down. So be responsible for the way that you lead as well as the way that you follow. Lastly, I kind of touched on this before, but represent your boss. Try to show up always as the best version, not only of yourself, but of them as well. This preserves your relationship with them, as well as the relationship you have with yourself, show up as the best version of you.
Alright, now this might be sort of an unexpected spin on this episode, but I do want to talk about how to have assistants from the perspective of somebody who’s been one for 15 years, and now has a few of my very own. First don’t expect anyone to read your mind. You’re welcome assistants. For those people that seek to have the help of others. It is extremely beneficial to know what you want. It’s even more beneficial. If you write it down, say what it is that you want ask for exactly what you want. Now, to me, the first phase of a boss assistant relationship is establishing trust. I usually do this through a series of simple tactical assignments that an assistant can follow through on these are measurable they’re visible sometimes they’re actually physical. Make this order, pick it up, set up these chairs in this certain way, post this specific post at this specific time.
It’s very simple to see if these markers have been met. As the trust is established, as those markers are met, then the relationship between assistant and boss turns into one, that’s less about simply doing things and more about ways of doing things. Now you can delegate the process of getting things done, not just ask people to get things done for you. This is where real true collaboration comes into play. This is where you build systems together based on what works and what doesn’t work. Creating a process together and tweaking it together. Keeping a tight feedback loop is a step in the agent boss relationship that sometimes is expected to fall only on the assistance lap, but I see this as being truly a collaboration and when done well, this is a make or break step that can truly multiply your results your output exponentially. And here is why when you delegate a task to somebody, especially somebody who wants to do the task well, it’s usually met with a hundred questions at that point, you might be telling yourself, by this point, I might as well have just done it myself. Well it’s possible, but it really, really pays to invest in these systems and in finding ways to answer these questions early on so that you don’t have to later. Here is the critical step. I asked my assistants to come back to me, not only with their questions, but with what they think I would answer to those questions that helps me not only get to know them and the way they think, but it helps me get to know the way they think I think, and somewhere within that, I might even be presented with an idea that’s better than my own ideas. I love this step. Here’s an example. If I ask somebody to book a rehearsal space for me, I tell them the dimensions of the studio that I need. I tell them the hours that I need the studio and the preferred location, but perhaps they come back to me wondering what my budget is, instead of just saying, what is your budget? They might say, I think you’d prefer this budget, but these are the price ranges available. I love this answer because it shows me that my assistant has an idea of what they think my values are. They think that I value money in a certain way. Now, perhaps they’re wrong. Perhaps I value being very, very frugal when I rent rehearsal space, but it’s possible that I don’t consider money at all. I will pay any dollar amount as long as the dimensions are correct. There is adequate parking for example, um, and it’s within five miles of my house. Like maybe those are my values, but by responding to me with the answer that they think is best, then I’m informed of, of perhaps a blind spot that my assistants and I have in our understanding of each other and our values. This is essential. This step, I really, really strongly recommend this. I really also recommend that you treat your assistant as the most important part of your team. Take care of them, take care of them financially and otherwise. This is the person closest to you and your work. It’s essential that you hold them closely with care.
Alright, now, speaking of care and holding things closely, I have decided to much debate that I would like to share with you. Some of my assistant fails. Yep. I’m telling you all about the times that I have fallen so that you don’t have to fall down to. My first story is when I was assisting the one, the only, Toni Basil, who is still a dear friend and mentor of mine and a dance legend. I might add if you’re not familiar with Toni Basil strongly encourage, you hit pause on this episode, go do a little research. And then come on back. I was assisting Toni on an award show. I believe it was the Soul Train Awards. And I believe the year was like 1600 BC. It was a really long time ago. And I remember the director of the award show asked Toni a question. Toni paused and seemed like she was struggling to find the answer. So I answered for her because the answer to this particular question was right on the tip of my tongue. I did not exercise any restraint. I jumped in with all of my enthusiasm and willingness to answer and speak for my boss. Holy smokes. She was standing right there. A fully capable, fully responsible fully.. Did I say capable? Yeah. Toni Basil is one of the most capable human beings. I know she knows this industry and several industries I might add inside and out. She is, as I mentioned a legend and I thought it would be a good idea to speak for her. When for two seconds, she took pause to consider her answer. Oh yes, this was a fumble. And I knew it immediately. When Toni Basil’s daggers in her eyes shot back at me and almost physically zipped my mouth for me. I remember I wanted to just crawl into myself and die and never speak again. Instead I apologized and I’ve learned pretty well. Although my instinct to talk quickly has helped me in the past. It’s also hurt me time and time again. Take pause, consider, and always let number one, speak first. A piggyback lesson on that is that it’s also good practice to let number one, have the last word too. All right. Assistant fail number two. Oh, this one is cringy. I was assisting Marty Kudelka on a project for Justin Timberlake. We’re hiring dancers. I remember a table full of headshots. Some of them, my friends, none of them were me. Um, we’re discussing the people that would be the right fit and it fell on my lap to hire the dancers for the job. That means call the agents, make the official booking and make sure that the dancers have all the information they need to start work on the start date. Well, start date rolls around. We begin rehearsal and Marty looks at me and he says, we’re missing a girl. I look at my notes. I look at my outgoing email. I’m like, Nope, this is everybody. And then Marty said to me, yeah, but where is dancer X? My gut sank and hit the floor was I really that sloppy that out of like eight dancers. It wasn’t even like 56 dancers. It was like eight dancers. Out of eight I missed one. Oh my gosh. That’s definitely failing status right there. That is an assistant fail. Marty was extremely gracious. And let that one slide. I absolutely have not lived it down, but for that project, we made seven out of eight work.
Holy smokes. Do I still feel awful about that? So awful about that. Compassion, Dana, compassion. It’s okay to mess up. Okay. This one’s subtle, but I think it’s very important while I was working with Christopher Scott on, In the Heights, he pointed out to me one day that my feedback even nonverbal is very, very visible. I’m the guy that likes to report the news. I speak quickly. I speak my every thought, usually, podcasts, very appropriate place for me to land. But even in the room, the thing that I learned from Chris is that yes, especially in an associate role, my opinion is valued, but Dana, come on. It does not need to be given 100% of the time. I remember Chris making a joke about the bill of my hat, being my tell, that he could see it from across the studio, either nodding vigorously up and down or holding very, very still. The nodding bill of the hat obviously would suggest that I am in favor of this idea, this take, this pass. The stillness means I’m not buying it. Now. Here’s the important thing there oftentimes as an associate, as an assistant or as anyone other than the director, your opinion is not the most important thing happening in the room. I am constantly learning the value of being neutral, the value of allowing people, the space visually and audibly and otherwise to have their own opinions. Before I attempt to change the temperature of the room with mine. Exercise, it is my exercise, neutrality. Look out neutrality. Here I come. Wow. What a goal? Huh?
All right, everybody. I hope that this information is useful to you. Whether you are an assistant or someone who has an assistant or someone who is looking to have an assistant. And because there are so many different ways of working together because I’m an assistant and I have one, I would really love to hear your feedback on this episode. So head over to Words that move me Podcast on IG to leave a comment on this episode, and don’t forget to subscribe and download these episodes If you’re loving and finding value here, please share it. Let me know that you’re digging the goods and please don’t forget more than anything to keep it funky. I appreciate you go have a funky rest of your day. I’ll talk to you very soon.
Thought you were done, No, 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 though. theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have moved over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers. Like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello everybody. And welcome back to words that move me. I am Dana and Oh, how about also welcome if you’ve never been here. Welcome. Welcome. I am so jazzed to have you listening today. Um, I hope this podcast finds you well. I hope it finds you happy and healthy and if happy, fails, I hope it finds you human and healthy and you know what? I’m here for all life. Actually, if you’re not even feeling human today, if you are feeling more like plant matter or a geode, I will accept all of it. Welcome. Welcome as you are. I am as always thrilled about this episode, because it is a little bit different from your average. Um, in general, I like to think that they are all different than your average podcast, but this words that move me up episode is truly, truly different. Um, simply in format. Today is our fourth and final installation of Audition August half of this episode is going to be dedicated to questions and answers. Those questions were submitted by my personal clients. And from you listeners via Instagram questions about auditions specifically, the other half of the episode is going to be super special, firsthand audition stories from a handful of super special and very talented guests, that also happened to be friends. Ava Bernstein Mitchell, AKA Ava Flav, Kim Gingras, Hannah Douglas and Dexter Carr. I mean, wow, this is quite an episode and I want to get into it, but you know how we do here. We begin with wins.
Oh guys, I’m celebrating a special win. I am celebrating that words that move me. Podcasts has found itself in Apple’s top 100 performing arts podcasts yet again this week, actually last week. But this week, by the time you’re hearing this, I guess at spot number 83, now I am not privy to the witchcraft and wizardry that determines the ranking of podcasts on Apple. But I am certain that I could not, would not have achieved that very coveted 83rd slot without all of you. So thank you so much. I’m so glad that you’re here. I’m glad to have you, and to those of you that have been giving feedback via social media and on the website. I’m so grateful for that always and now, regardless of what Apple thinks of my podcasts, I’m getting some awesome feedback and some critical feedback too. I appreciate all of it. Thank you so much. All right. If you are digging the podcast, I should say some good next steps for you might be to share it with a friend, leave a review or a rating, and of course, download it and make sure that you’re able to have it with you whenever you find yourself in podcast, ready time, be it with or without your wifi. Okay. Now the important part, what is your win this week? What’s going well in your world.
Congratulations. Happy, win to you. Please keep winning.
All right. Let’s dig in to these Q’s and A’s, I got some really, really good questions from you guys about auditions, so thoughtful, um, so thought provoking and I’m actually really, really excited to begin. Let us begin. Oh, by the way, I should say that these questions were submitted via Google forms. So I’m not actually sure who asked them there were submitted anonymously and I will answer them anonymously right from my mouth. Here’s where I’d like to begin, listener asks
“What would you say to someone who was training in dance took a few years off to focus on an alternative career, but has started retraining during quarantine and would love nothing more than to dive back into the audition slash dance world.”
Alright to you dancer in her early thirties, I would say go for it. I would also say listen to last week’s episode where I talk to Meisha Goetz and Tim O’Brien from Clear Talent Group. They talk a lot about the lay of the land that we’re looking at now heading into, um, the post COVID work era and our industry is slowly starting to turn on kind of like a dimmer switch, less like a regular on off switch work is extremely slow right now, which means it is extremely competitive. It might be a tough time to catch your footing, but it will be a fruitful time eventually. Um, and from my personal point of view, most of the audition breakdowns that I’ve been getting, especially lately are looking for real people. The majority of the work that’s happening right now is not, you know, in person award shows, it’s not tours. Some of it is music videos, but most of this type of dancing is, um, TV, episodic, film, and commercial. Those are looking for usually real people, not backup dancer types. So for you, I would really encourage, um, to get in there, get your materials in order, headshots, photos and really good video links. Um, if you have a relationship with an agent already awesome, if not keep your eye out on the casting networks to be self submitting. This is the time for video submissions. It is a great day to be self submitting today and every day.
All right, next up, “I have heard a lot of stories about people sneaking into auditions, just out of curiosity, not like I would ever try it or anything.”
This person’s cheeky. “How are some people just able to sneak into private auditions and what would happen if they got all the way to the end, asking for a friend angel emoji.” I love this question. I love it so much. And I am going to leave it to my dear friend, Ava Bernstein Mitchell, to answer this question with her special story coming at ya in just a few moving right along. Ooh, we have a poll “technique versus style. Which one is more important to you at an audition? Of course it depends on the project, but for you personally, meaning me Dana director, choreographer, or person behind the table, which one do I side with? Or which one do you side with?” This is a great question. In fact, I Dana the person on the other side of the microphone am going to be bringing you an episode entirely dedicated to this conversation technique versus style in a knockdown drag out battle who would win? Well, dear writer, dear listener. I think you’re already onto the answer to this question, which is it’s different for every project. I know certain choreographers prioritize and champion style. I know certain others that prioritize and champion cleanliness, um, this, this ability to replicate, duplicate and do exactly as I say and exactly as I do. I personally, Dana am a fan of personal you and your style. I really love to see individuality. It’s something I champion with my work and it’s something I really look for in my team. So that is my answer. Bring on your style. All right.
Ooh, here’s another good one. “How important are looks AKA hair, makeup, clothes, et cetera. When you are at an audition?” I will answer again for myself, not nearly as important as your, your talent is numero UNO, but oftentimes especially because there are many, many humans and usually not a lot of time, your hair, your makeup or your clothing can become a quick and easy identifier a way for us to remember you. So although your talent is the most important thing you can bring to an audition, your hair, your makeup and your wardrobe are really, really easy way to become memorable. Hair, makeup wardrobe. Yes, important, but only fractionally compared to how important your talent is.
Okay. Ah, this is great. “If an audition asks for all black attire, what would you wear to stand out?” Oh dear writer slash listener. Please do go listen to episode 32, where I talk at length about exactly this. Okay. Next step. Next step. “How much research should you do on a project before an audition?” Oh my gosh. This is the fun part for me. I love research. I love digging. I love learning. I love trial and error. This is just a process that I so get into my recommendation is as much as possible before you audition for a project, you should. Absolutely. If, if nothing else have researched the choreographer, if there is one attached or the project itself, um, this is something that I could spend hours doing. But if you are limited, I’d say you get the tip of the iceberg in 15 to 20 minutes, but this is like bare, bare minimum. The more you can dig in, the more prepared you will be. Even if nothing else, you might simply enter the room differently, feeling prepared, thinking that you had done your homework. There is really nothing like the feeling of walking into the room, knowing that you didn’t do your homework. I am all for anything you can do to avoid that feeling. Okay moving on. “Are agencies, signing new talent via online submissions?” Yes, yes, absolutely. Yes. Off the top of my head. I know that at least Go2Talent agency is signing new talent. Okay. Next up. Ooh, this one’s a doozy. It’s a, it’s a bundle.
Okay. Listener asks “In response to the Instagram posts going around saying that Instagram is your new real slash resume. Has Instagram really become the dancers new reel?” Okay. I’m going to give you guys a little bit of context. I pulled up the, um, posts that has been circulating around Instagram. I’m going to read it to you now. It says this “To all of my dancers. Please, please show your versatility on your IgE page because when you’re sleeping, having your coffee… I am quietly trying to submit you for a gig. Yes. I’m sharing your profile privately. And when I have to literally search your page and scroll all the way down to show the client, some sort of versatility, it makes it hard to push for you. Please spread the selfies in between and add some content that will get you booked.” All right. So that’s the post that this writer is referring to. Now let’s listen to that question. One more time. Has Instagram become the new dancers reel? So that I would say yes and no. I don’t think anything will ever replace a good, reel, reels show many, many different projects, preferably your best work with one click with one view, no time scrolling in between, but in some ways Instagram can do one better because where a reel stops, right, Where it ends. Instagram does keep going. You can have an endless feed. I mean, maybe not actually endless, but close to it. You decide the same listener asks. Do you need to have separate IG accounts for personal versus professional to that? I would say no, probably not. I would actually say you don’t even need an Instagram account. I can say that because I know plenty of dancers that are plenty working that don’t have an IG account. Is it helpful to have one? Yes. Is it more common to have one probably. But do you need? No. I would definitely recommend anybody with questions about the use of social media. Go back and listen to episode 10. It’s called your social media storefront and a really, really dig in to my relationship and several different types of relationships you can have with social media.
Okay. Here’s another good one. “If you’re new and don’t have high quality content, is that still good enough to post or should you wait until you have the good content?” If social media is the new audition, then it doesn’t serve you much good to wait until you have good content so that you can get booked so that you can have good content. It’s this which came first, the chicken or the egg conversation. To this listener I would say it is not out of your reach to create good looking content. If you have a phone in your pocket and something to prop it up against, you have the sunlight, you have your body, you have your talent, get your talent out there. Just hit record and share. B minus work is still above average. It’s a great place to start.
Alright. One more question on this subject in this post “They say to show versatility on your page. What does that mean?” I really love this question and I’m going to answer it like this. If you’re a person that wants to be doing work, like what you see on TV, then post yourself dancing styles, similar to what you see on TV, put out into the world, the work that you want to be doing to that I would also like to add. It’s not always about being versatile. Sometimes it kills to be a specialist. If that’s you, if you specialize at one thing, show me that one thing. Show me you are the greatest at that one thing, if you’re a person that desires doing a lot of different types of work, then yeah. Show that you’re able to do different types of work. And that doesn’t just mean dance. Go take a look at the special skills section on your resume. If you don’t have a special skills section on your resume start considering what sets you aside, bring that, bring those special skills, bring those talents, bring those interests to your social media as well, because it isn’t just about how well you dance. It is about who you are. People want to work with people who do good work and people really, really want to work with good people. All right. I hope those Qs and As Aid, some of your Qs, and I hope that you are ready with a pen and paper because you have a lot to learn from these special stories coming up. On your mark, get set, grow. Oh yeah. I said, grow.
Kim Gingras: Bonjur! My name is Kim Gingras And I like to share this one audition. I will never forget. So we’re in 2011 and it had only been a few months since my move to Los Angeles. When a friend told me about this upcoming audition for Nicole Scherzinger from the pussycat dolls, which was very exciting because I knew their music well, I loved her style. I love the whole empowerment female in heels, a type of dancing. But I was a little worried because I never received a memo from my agency. So since communication is key, I reached out to my agent to clarify what the audition was about, why I hadn’t gotten the memo, if I could possibly go. And they nicely explained that it didn’t fit the specs that they were looking for. So an audition always comes with an audition breakdown and I didn’t fit the characteristics. Fair. That’s totally fair, but I wasn’t ready to walk away from that opportunity. I just knew it. I felt that in my gut, this was something I needed to show up to. So I found out who the choreographer was for the job, which was the amazing Jaquel Knight. And I had a connection with him through years back in 2008, when we were both in the cast of the Monsters of Hip Hop showcase. And I decided to reach out to him and he is so sweet and so kind and openly welcomed me to the audition. He’s like, yeah, just show up at this time. No problem. I got you. And he sure did. So I showed up over there and I mean, it was such an amazing experience. This audition lasted hours. It was dancing after dancing and so much sweating and people were getting cut. We had to stay longer. And Nicole showed up at some point. Then we all had to dance by ourselves, the entire song for her to watch. I mean, it just went on and on. I feel like we ended around like midnight or something. It was just so exciting. And I booked the job and not only did I book this right there, music video, but it turned into my first appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, American Idol. So you think you can dance, my first European tour and then nine more years of friendship and opportunities when Nick and the team, like what, I mean, she’s just the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve gone to Vietnam, Malaysia, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, together. And I’ve gotten, you know, amazing lifetime friendships through her and the team. So the moral of the story here is you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Of course I had to quote Wayne Gretzky cause I’m Canadian. But in all seriousness, I know we’ve all felt this fear take over us in specific situations where in reality, we had that little voice inside telling us this is for you. Go for it. So let’s be a little more daring. Let’s listen to that little voice inside. Let’s take chances. We owe it to ourselves.
Dexter Carr:Hey, what’s going on? Y’all my name is Dexter Carr. I am a choreographer dancer in Los Angeles, California, and this is my crazy audition story. So when I had just moved to Los Angeles, I was getting a lot of open calls from my agency. I was getting calls that had like literally 300 people in a room, all trying to audition for like three spots. So I was going because you know, that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You pound the pavement, you hustle, you move, you move, you move. So I went, one audition in particular was for an artist that was very, uh, eclectic and liked a lot of drama and like, you know, things and extra and lace and all the things, all the, all the, all the things. And uh, if you know anything about me that I have that side, but it’s not, it’s not something that I’m really, you know, like that’s not my go to, and especially not at that age, you know, moving here like six, seven years ago.
So I’m walking into this thing, thinking that, like I got to really come up with something. I got to pull something. I got to really like try to, you know, and that’s the energy in the room. Cause I already knew what the energy and the room was about to give. Right? So I come in there with like a little rip tank tops of ripped jeans and some boots and a bandana tied around my head. I’m like, yeah, this is it. This is edgy. This is the edgiest you’re going to get. I walked up to the parking lot, which is where all of the dancers were waiting to go inside. And the first thing I saw, we, God, I’m laughing. Cause I’m, haven’t told the story in so long. The first thing I saw was somebody with, um, wings, wings on like the size of Victoria’s secret angel wings. Like, you know what I mean? Huge wings. And then somebody else had their face painted one color half and then there are other, and like people got like weaves for this that were like down to the floor. And I was like, Oh wait, wait, wait, I missed the memo. I thought I was really doing it. I thought I was really going to be able to, you know, you know, rub elbows with these people. But no, no, no. They have surpassed me and we haven’t even gotten in the room yet. We haven’t even learned one step yet cut to, we all get in the room and you know, the choreographers is letting us know what the job is, how many spots there are and what he’s looking for. And basically what he said is that he wants a star. He wants somebody that comes in here and grabs the attention. Now, mind you, like I said, I’m in all black and some boots. So I don’t, I don’t have a leg up. I don’t have a leg up on the competition with this. When it was time for my group to audition, I was of course, in a group with the person, with the wings. And when I tell y’all they finished the choreography, which you know, choreography happened, boom, I’m set. I’m good. I’m clean. I’m probably not doing a lot. I’m probably not making a lot of choices. It’s probably not doing anything. You know, that’s like, wow, bam. But I’m getting through the choreography right. Time to freestyle. The person with the wings takes the wings, walks to the center of the room as if it is a runway flaps the wings in front pushes them back and struts all the way down to the table and literally stares at the people at the table. Now these wings are so large that it does hit you or move you or give you a gust of wind that if you’re not expected, may topple you over. Which is what happened to me. I literally like was not expecting these wings to come at me. And I looked up and I saw them and I fell over needless to say, no one got kept other than him. So moral of the story is if they say edgy, go, go for the gold go. Like no, no fear go for it. Y’all yeah. Thanks for listening to my crazy audition story.
Hannah Douglass:My name is Hannah Douglas and this is my audition story. So I have plenty of audition stories, but the most memorable for me is the very first audition. I was fresh off of Edge scholarship. I was 18 years old and it was for the Celine Dion world tour, which is so major. It was Nick and RJ. It was everybody who was, anybody was there at the time. And I was nice and green. And I remember loving the choreo thinking. I was killing the choreo in my little scholie corner with my friends and, you know, going over it over and over and over, and then going in a group with a bunch of OGs and then just like fully losing it and completely blanking. I basically stood there. It was a full tragedy and I just freaked out and it was, it was terrible. So I got chopped ASAP, obviously. Left and just couldn’t believe it. And then I remember the next day going into Edge and seeing Bill and bill was so excited, Bill Prudich, he’s the director of edge, the edge scholarship program. And he was like, you know, guru dance guru and cared so much about our journey. So I was, you know, kind of embarrassed to see him. Cause I knew I was terrible, but he was like, how was your first audition? And I just broke down crying. I lost it. I just lost it. And he was like, okay, so you should probably move home because these are your options. You either cry and break down right now because you got told no once or you get it together and you move forward. And I will never forget that moment in my life because the idea of moving home was just not an option for me. I mean, I love my home, but I just, I was so determined to just do better. And Bill saying that reacting that way was, you know, the option was to move home. Just really rocked me to my core. And I had an audition four days later, I think for Seal, for Dancing with the Stars. And I went in hearing Bill’s voice in my head saying, you know, move home or just figure it out basically. And I booked it and it was simply because of that mindset shift, which I’ve carried with me literally the last 14 years of my career. You know, you either choose to be rocked by who you’re surrounded by and you know, the, the caliber of the job in your mind, or you just do what you love to do to the best of your ability. You’re not going to be right for everything, but you can shift your mindset to the point that you offer the best that you have in that moment. And because of Bill’s wording to me that day, I will never forget that feeling of being hold. Like basically you just figure it out, you know, or you, or you leave because that’s the alternative to just break down every time you turn you’ll you’re told no, or just do your best. So, you know, that week of auditions really shaped the rest of my life because I had one of the worst auditions I’ve ever had in my life. And then just four days later, the best auditions I’ve ever had in my life. And it was just because of a mindset shift. So that is what I try to carry with me forever. Still, you know, 14 years later is how mental this game is and that’s what gets you through. And so, yeah, I’m forever grateful to Bill and forever apologetic to Nick and RJ for that tragic audition. Um, but also grateful for the lessons I learned. So that’s my story.
Ava Bernstein Mitchell: What’s up? This is Ava Bernstein Mitchell, and this is my most memorable audition story. I want to take you back to 2006 when I auditioned for Justin Timberlake. So let me preface the story with, at this time in my life, dancing for Justin Timberlake was my dream job. It was on the top of my wishlist. It was, it was it for me. And also I had met Marty at a hip hop intensive workshop. I would say, I don’t exactly know how much before, but it could have been a year. It could have been a few months, but I had met Marty and he said this to me and I’ll never forget after class. He was like, ‘yo, you’re dope. We’re going to work together someday.’ And I’ll never forget it. So I carry that into 2006, when it was all the buzz around town that Justin Timberlake was coming back. He had been gone for four years. So everybody knew this audition was coming up. But the thing about this audition was it was a picture submit only, which means Marty or whoever his team was, were picking pictures of the people who could attend the audition. First round goes around, I’m waiting. People are like, Oh yeah, I got called. Did you get called? You know, you know, everybody talks, I wasn’t called in. So I call my agent. I was like, Hey, was my picture chosen? You know, I really want to be at this audition. She’s like, sorry. No. And I was like, Oh, okay. So I let a few days go by and you know, still everybody’s talking about it, call again. I’m like, Hey, just checking to see if you know, my picture was picked and I really want to be at this audition. She’s like, no, I’m sorry. You know, just, it just wasn’t on the lineup. So again, I waited a little bit longer and then I’m like, I need to be at this audition. So I called my agent and she says again, no, I’m sorry. It’s just, the people have chosen. They’re actually doing a sign in. It’s a whole thing. And I’m really usually a rule follower as what I do. And I respect the construct, uh, that is audition process and whatnot, I just try to be respectful of it. So, but I said to her, I I’m going to go. And she said, well, if you do go, don’t tell them we sent you. And I said, okay. So that was that. So day of the audition comes a crash, the forbidden crash of the audition. And I was glad I did. It was all the hype was all the rage. I just remember there being a line outside then getting in and seeing all the familiar faces, your peers, your friends. We had a great time. I specifically remember though from this audition, cause I do have a bad memory sometimes, but this image is imprinted in my mind is that I remember auditioning and Justin sitting next to Marty and I’m right in front of him and his piercing blue eyes are just looking dead at me. Like I can’t get out and he’s just watching me and I’m thinking like, Oh my gosh, I really just have to, like, I just have to do me. I just have to go off. You know? And sometimes that can be very nerve wracking, but I honestly think, I just felt so deeply that this was my job that I was supposed to be there. That I really just enjoyed this moment. And I kind of remember what I was wearing. I was so basic. I had on some like loose jeans that were like a tie at the ankle, uh, with elastic at the ankle. And I had a gray tee shirt on it. Might’ve been a ACDC gray T-shirt like, I don’t even know. I don’t know. It seemed like a good choice at the time. You know, I wasn’t like sparkly and glitzy and glamorous. It was Justin Timberlake. Let’s be honest. So I think it worked anyways fast forward to, I don’t even know, maybe it was a few weeks later. Maybe it was a few days later. I get the email that I’ve booked this job, which entailed at the, originally it was for a music video. Then it was for, you know, the VMAs then it was for tour. But I think at that time we did know that we were being booked for the tour if I remember correctly. But when I say it was the greatest feeling, but I shared this story because for two reasons specifically why this is a very significant story. is that Un-officially I was the only one from this audition that booked this tour. And I say that meaning anyone else who was involved was either assisting him or part of a previous tour or chosen ahead of time. You know, that is what I mean by that. And I was the only person who one was not invited to, who didn’t have a relationship with Marty at that audition who booked it. And I’m very proud of that. And secondly, sometimes you just got to break the rules. Sometimes the rules are meant to be broken, but you have to use discernment. And you also have to know when that time is because you don’t want to just be out there running them up. But in this particular situation, I knew that was job. My spirit told me I just had to go for it and I’d have no other way. So cheers to being a rule breaker and cheers to going after your dreams.
Dana: All right, everybody, I hope you enjoyed those stories. I hope you learned a lot from this episode and I hope that you head into this new and slightly different audition season, audition life feeling informed and inspired. Thank you so much for listening as always keep it funky. I’ll talk to you later.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, we have a way to become a words that move me. So kickball, changeover to patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and all right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers. Like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello everybody. And welcome to words that move me. I’m Dana and I am stoked that you are here. Yes. This is week two of audition August all this month. I am talking to different people from all sides of the casting table about what the audition process is to them and what usually works. What usually doesn’t, how are auditions changing and how might we change to ensure our ability to create work for ourselves? It’s a big month. And at the end of this big month, really big event, I will be hosting a virtual workshop event via zoom on how to audition. Yes, I will be dishing out almost all of my personal tips and tricks. Come on. I’m no fool. And I will go deep on the art of the self tape as that is the primary way people are submitting for projects right now, the workshop itself will be on August 31st from 4 to 5:30 PM Pacific. More details and info about registering. It can be found on my website, the Dana wilson.com. And you better believe I will be shouting about this loud and proud from the gram I’m @danadaners and the podcast is @wordsthatmovemepodcast. So check out all of those spaces for more information, so jazzed about it. Okay. Let’s move on to wins. Yes. This week, I am celebrating a project, a new seaweed sisters project. If you do not know what and who the seaweed sisters are, I strongly encourage you take a google dive and watch our video work, but also give a listen to words that move me episode 15, where the sisters and I sit and chat about ourselves. Very, very special. Anyways. Yes. The seaweed sisters have another video in the works. It is in the camera already actually. And, um, I always celebrate my time with the sisters, but this one is particularly special, not just because we are creating with our dear friend and longtime collaborator, Isaac Ravishankara who also directed us in number two, the sequel and number three part tree. And not just because we shot it socially distant and, um, corona compliant. But also because we got the ball back rolling on this one. Now I’m sure that everyone listening has experienced an unusual pattern in their motivation. At some point, during 2020, for me, this is a matter of momentum, more or less when things especially projects are rolling, they stay rolling. But when they’re on pause, it can be extra hard to get things moving again. So I’m celebrating this project as a win because it is an awesome example of people coming together to push things into motion. And I’m so excited for it to exist. And I’m excited to share it with you. Okay. What’s going well in your world. What’s moving.
Okay. Killer great. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Congratulations. I’m so glad that you are winning. All right. Let’s dig into it. This week’s guest is Kristian Charbonier. He is an associate casting director at Telsey and Company. One of the biggest casting offices in New York city. And we met on In the Heights. Um, the feature film adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda is Broadway hit, In the Heights. Uh, we met last year and Oh, yes, don’t worry. We’re going to talk plenty about In the Heights, but this conversation really looks into what a casting director does and what you can do to create memorable casting and audition experiences. We talk collaboration, we talk inclusion and equity on Broadway, on stage and behind the curtain on screen and behind the camera. Oh, we talk a great many things. So let’s dive in. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Kristian Charbonier. I’ll talk to you guys later.
Dana: Kristian! Welcome to words that move me. Thank you so much for being here today. I’m jazzed about it.
Kristian: Thank you for having me I’m jazzed as well.
Dana: Yay. Um, okay. So one of the things I like to do on the podcast is I have my guests introduce themselves. So tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
Kristian: Yes. So my name is Kristian Charbonier. I reside in New York city. I’m currently, given the circumstances, in Miami, Florida with my family, where I was born and raised. Um, I am a casting associate at Telsey and Company casting in New York. Our office is a little different from most casting offices, just considering we do a very big collaborative situation of all the projects we work on. We work on TV shows. We work on films, broadway musicals, Broadway plays, commercials, any sort of situation where we need a cast dancers for fashion week. Like we’ve done some time. Throw us something we’ve probably done it. We’ve cast people for video games before. Um, and I have worked there for about four and a half years now. I started there right as I graduated college and I’ve been there since, and I have learned so much and I have grown so much as a person, as an employee. I’m sure we’ll get into it.
Oh, we’re going into it. We’re going into all of the things. Um, so I’m glad that you kind of dropped the line about all of the different things that casting directors, casting associates and casting assistants do. Um, but before we dig deeper on that, could you touch on the difference between those three titles?
Absolutely. So you typically in casting start as an assistant, which is the way I started as well. Um, assistant sounds just like it is, you are assisting on every single thing that the project calls for in regards to casting. So you’re putting out the appointments, you’re helping cut the sides for the auditions. You’re prepping the audition with the casting director and with the associate you’re uploading the tapes to send to the team. Um, you’re really the main point of focusing in terms of organization. I say to all of our interns and the assistants who come in and out of our office, that our main job there is organization. The best associates were amazing assistants as well. If you move from assistant to associate, then as an associate, you really take a lot more responsibility than you did as an assistant. You’re the one in the session, reading with the actors, coaching the actors, you’re really discussing with the creative team on a more personal basis, a lot more than an assistant would. Um, I think this is really the point in your career where you’re really formulating yourself into being a casting director, which the director is the face of the project. The person who’s on all calls is negotiating. The deals with the big agents is giving you the ideas that you might not typically think of as an associate. Um, you’re, you’re the main source of collaboration in that specific field. Um, I’m sure you know this because you are so collaborative in everything we’ve done together. Um, the collaboration is so key, especially in those relationships. You have to have an open form of communication. You really have to be able to trust each person that you’re working with because when you fall, they’ll pick you up when they fall you’re supposed to be there to pick them up.
I love this notion that behind every individual role, there is a team. Like there is no such thing, especially in terms of making a movie or a Broadway show of one person carrying all the weight. It might be one person carrying all the post its or highlighters, but it is absolutely a team effort and you have to be a collaborative person to succeed. So, okay, this week on actually not just this week, this month on the podcast, I’m talking exclusively, almost exclusively about auditions. So that makes me talking to you really, really exciting because not many people get a direct line of communication with the casting associate or the casting director. Um, other than that quick 20 minutes in the room. So I think this is an awesome opportunity to hear a little bit more about A. what you do B. how it works behind the scenes and, um, C. kind of what you look for, what stands out to you in the process. Um, so I, I guess let’s dig into it. You mentioned that Telsey does everything from Broadway to film to fashion week. All of the things. I know that in the past they’ve cast, um, actually current Broadway shows Hamilton, Wicked, West Side Story, Frozen to name a few, but in the past, everything from American in Paris to Fiddler on the Roof to, I mean, quite literally all the things Oh, in the Heights obviously, um, which transitions us into film, you guys were the agency behind, um, is that correct? The agency? What is Telsey? The agency.
Oh, okay. Great. So, so Telsey was the office behind, um, casting In the Heights. The film that I worked on with Christopher Scott, Emilio Dosal, um, Ebony Williams and Eddie Torres jr. What a dance team, shout out friends team, um, Telsey also was responsible for casting the Greatest Showman, Mary Poppins, the one with Emily blunt, which I love. And one of my favorite movies of all time Across the Universe directed by Julie Taymor, which between you and I, and now between us and the world, there is not one thing that I would change about that movie. I would not change a single character casting. I wouldn’t change a step. I wouldn’t even change the one part where the guy with the briefcase kind of slips and falls a little bit. I love it. I would, I love it all. It’s so great. Um, but you guys don’t just do musicals. I guess one thing I’m curious about is the difference in process. If there is one from casting, a Broadway show that involves singing, dancing, all the things to casting a dramatic film or TV series, um, I mean, obviously you would audition one for singing and dancing and not the other, but other than that, is there a difference in process for different mediums?
It depends on the medium. Um, I would say that in TV and film, there’s more structure to the process in terms of deadline and when certain things have to happen, because there are so many moving parts in that regard. Um, whereas in a Broadway show, there is a structure and a deadline, of course, because we have dates. We have first rehearsal, we have the presentation, we have all of those outlying dates. Um, but I do think that in terms of a Broadway show, there is a little more time to really amp up the pace. Whereas TV and film, you really got to go from the start just because you know, that that first day of principal photography is not moving and you have to get that that day, um, which is something you and I learned very well together.
That is exactly why I found myself in the middle of times square at Telsey and Company. Well after hours, I don’t even remember what time it was, but there was nobody there except for In the Heights choreography team and you and we were sitting in an office with probably a hundred headshots on the floor and magnetism or pinned to the walls. And we’re just moving people around, having conversations, imagining this person with this person, no, that person with this person, these people, as a group, this person as a standout individual, you know, all of the different combinations of people. And that was because we were pressed for time, extremely pressed for time on that project. Would you say that that’s standard when you work on films, does that sort of thing happen often?
Yes. I will say once we get past the point of the principal players in the film, which that’s not even ultimately true, because sometimes we are casting go, go, go, let’s cast every single principal, that’s cast every single supporting role, let’s cast all the dancers and singers at the same pace. In the Heights was a little different because we really had time to prep for those principles and then once we started together, as we’ve said, five times already, it was go, go, go from the start. Um, that to me is the way I love to work, so it was never anything alarming or crazy to me. It was just like the thrill of sitting there and just moving everything around is like, it’s just, I can’t explain that. I never will be able to. Um, so that, that in regards to again, a TV/film project is more so that way where let’s sit here for three hours at 9:00 PM and let’s go through it all and let’s make it happen.
Yes. Let’s make it happen. That is the energy. That was the energy of the room. Um, do you have a steel trap memory for names and faces? Are you, are you really like, even outside of your job training, have you been good at that?
I, I really, it’s kind of weird that I do have that and I don’t think I really realized it until I started working professionally. I still see people to this day who I remember, like seeing them perform it in high school at our like state competitions. And I’ll be like, Oh yeah, that girl sang this song from bat boy, my junior year of high school. And now she’s in final callbacks for Elphaba on Broadway. Like those things happen all the time. Um, which again, I think is such a healthy and good thing for my specific position in the company, because you have to be that person to be able to remember, um, Chris Scott and I had a big joke where he would always be like, who was that girl again? And I’ll say she was wearing the red shirt that I had like a T on the side. And then she had like purple shoelaces, remember? And he’ll be like, how did you remember that? And I’m like, I don’t know. It’s just the way my brain works. It’s the way we work. You know,
I love that. And in the event that your sticky brain slips and misses someone, tell me about the room that you showed us at Telsey that is literally floor to ceiling binders of everyone that is auditioned for projects in the past. Um, you keep all the headshots, resumes, bios, like that room was such an incredible archive of, of audition history.
Yes, it’s amazing because we, number one, thankfully have this space for that. And number two, um, we see so many incredible people all the time. That just because they’re not right in that exact moment, doesn’t mean that a year from now two years from now, six months from now, they will, they won’t be the right person. It’s it happens all the time. And the best thing is, is when we get a new project and you’re like, I worked on, I worked on this commercial like two years ago that I needed a 75 year old who could do a pas de bourses, let me go find those schedules and see who it was that got called back for that, because I knew those people again, right now. That’s an amazing archive that we have. And it’s also really fun as an industry slash theater nerd, to just look through those schedules. We do it all the time. We’re like, can you believe that? So, and so came in for this role in 1996 and got like, it’s just, it’s unbelievable. And you saw them yourself. There’s so many. Um, and it’s just
Floor to ceiling as big as my living room and bigger maybe. I mean, incredible amount of history and information. And yeah, as you pointed out like some super special, uh, like historic moments in terms of transformation and trajectory, the existence of that room in and of itself speaks to a motto that I hold when I go into auditions all the time. And that is, it’s more important to be memorable than to be perfect. And once I lift the pressure of being perfect, once my only objective is to be memorable, I opened myself up to new potential. That’s just not stressed out energy, but also to sticking myself into the mind of somebody like you, who really might remember that moment as being the right moment for something else, trying to be the perfect thing for every project just doesn’t exist, but trying to be memorable enough to stick in someone’s mind so that when the right product project comes along, you’re there at the top of the mind. Like that is so cool. And it’s so cool that you guys have a paper trail for that.
And I love that motto that you said, yes, it’s perfection. It, it’s not necessary. It’s for that specific, be the best that you can be in that moment. That’s it. There’s nothing more. That moment exists, one time, you leave. It won’t happen again. That’s it.
I love this. Let’s talk through the role of an associate casting director on the day of a massive audition. Go.
Great. So typically, because I, even though I just said, you don’t have to be perfect, am a perfectionist in my mind. So the night before I am very excited, but also just thinking about every single thing that I can do to make it go flawlessly, which again, we both know that that really doesn’t exist. Um, but we can try. But, um, so we’ll get to the studio about an hour before we start session, um, with our hundreds of schedules and all the names. Um, two days prior to that, I’ll spend all day on the phone with the agents talking about who’s new that I don’t already know that I haven’t scheduled yet, who they think I should try.
These are talent agents.
Yes. Talent Agencts. Um, we’ll get to the studio an hour before we’ll start to get the room going. Everything’s set up our systems. And then once we bring that first group in, it’s go, go, go. As you know, until that last second that the studio director comes and tells us you have to leave. Um, which once again, we have, we have experienced together,
Probably why we wound up back at your offices. They were like, you don’t have to go home, but you got to get out of here. And we all look at you like, uh,
And, um, as, as you associate in those moments, really what you’re there to do is to serve the creative team. We’re trying to help you guys figure out your vision and figure out what you think is necessary to achieve what you have in your mind. Um, we’re also there to help you out in the event that you’re not really familiar with someone and maybe you’re, you want some sort of extra feedback about someone that we’re very comfortable with and have tried multiple times and have booked on jobs or are big fans of, um, so there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of, again, the word that always comes to mind every time I’m discussing any of these things is collaboration and the best people to work with are the people who we collaborate with. That’s something that I experienced with you and Emilio and Ebony and Chris, all from the second I met you guys was that it was such a collaboration and it was such a dialogue the entire time, It was never, I want this and that’s it. It was, I want this, what do you think? Right. Which is so important.
So helpful. So helpful. Yes. Okay. So that’s a big day. Um, so you come in, sorry, you, you talk to the agencies, you make the schedule, you talk to the creative team, you have an understanding of what it is that the creative team is looking for. You have sign up sheets, you make sure everybody is where they need to be at the right time. And then we hit record on cameras. Choreo team kind of takes it away. We start funneling people through, we teach material, we break people into groups, make sure everybody’s visible on camera and that we know how to contact people when we’re ready. And then of course begins the, um, endless watching of the footage, which there was a bundle of. Um, and I love that by the way. I, wow. Can’t imagine how things were done before. Um, actually I can just much more labor intensive on the dancers behalf. Like I can watch you dance 12 times on tape instead of making you dance 12 times in person.
Exactly. Yeah. It’s amazing to think. And you see these old movie musicals with these hundreds of people in the background and you’re like, how did they do this without a computer. And they danced
They danced! And they took notes and they took notes and the danced, that’s it. Um, okay. So then you organize that, that footage I’m assuming, and that goes into an archive somewhere.
Yes. We upload ’em to a system that’s called Cast It, which a lot of TV and film offices use. And that’s another way that everything stays really organized. So that in the event that you’re asking me for tape on a person, I can just easily go into the, into the archive and find that tape and send that to you all.
So you’ve got all the digital organized, you’ve got all the material, you know, the paper headshots and resumes organized. And then the moment comes where creative has decided that we’re ready to book people in. What is your role in doing that? How does that, how does that work flow pan out from me saying, I want Sarah to Sarah getting a phone call saying show up at this time, on this day for this many dollars. What’s that work flow
Yes. So that’s the best part about our job is when you get to call someone and tell their agent that they got the job. Um, so once we hear from you and we have all approvals to move forward and hire this specific person, or people we’ll call the agent will say, Hey, so, and so’s getting the job. I’m going to email you all the offer details. We’ll send all the offer details. Once we close that deal, I will say, I will fill out a whole bunch of paperwork, send that over to production. And then production is the person who takes over and then does all the phone calling, sets up their fittings, lets them know what day they need to be where. Um, preps them for any sort of information that they would need in order to be there on that day. Um, and then believe it or not, people show up to set and shoot a movie. And then the movie is made. It’s unreal to me even now, even still, I still work on projects and I, I go to a screening of the film or the TV show and I’m like, they made this movie or this tv show, like it happened
That got done. That was headshots on the floor. And now it is a movie.
Yes. And even like specifically for a project like In the Heights where we did do a massive open call and found a whole bunch of actor, actors and dancers that we never would have met coming from an agency just specifically because they didn’t have representation to see them on screen in a trailer or in the film. You’re like, this was a person who just showed up to this audition and he’s now in this movie, it’s unbelievable. It’s so it’s so cool and rewarding.
Let’s dig in a little deeper on that. That’s one thing I think was really unique about In the Heights is our efforts to be as inclusive and true to the story and the culture and the time as possible. And I do think we made opportunities available in ways that maybe traditionally aren’t, um, you know, in other film projects, it’s probably standard for a casting director to call the talent agency. The talent agency sends their top five that might be a good fit. And then, then some, one of those five gets the job. But what about the people who don’t have representation? What about the people who aren’t uh, uh, the top five? We really had several opportunities for people without representation, people without having done a film or a TV show or an any show. I, I think that this project was very inclusive. I think that this project gave the floor to a lot of people who either haven’t seen it in a long time or aren’t used to taking the floor. Broadway has a nickname, um, the great White Way. And I can understand why, I do think that that’s changing. Um, but I can imagine that the casting directors are feeling a lot of that heat because a lot of people think that it is the casting director’s choice. You just highlighted that the casting director serves the creative team, it comes back to the creative’s decision. Um, do you feel in your role heat from Broadway and film entertainment, not being inclusive enough?
I have been lucky in, in my personal trajectory that I have worked on so many different projects that have started that very first conversation with let’s find the best person. It doesn’t have to be a specific person. Let’s find the best person, especially in regards to something like In the Heights where all we were looking for were people who would perfectly and realistically portray this very real story and this very real community. And I think that these creative teams and everyone in the industry has just tried to go the easiest route. And that’s why we end up in the place that we are instead of digging deeper and finding these underrepresented communities and trying to give opportunity to these people. Like we said, who have no representation who probably honestly never thought in their lifetime, they would even be in a major feature film. I think that that’s one of the main things that we, again collaboratively did together on this project. And I think it’s something that once you do it one time, you know, that it’s possible.
I might also add not only do you find that it’s possible, but you find that it’s worth it, especially on a project like In the Heights, which is about your dreams, it is about living your dreams, but more so it’s about fighting for them. It’s like the themes of this film are the themes of today. And I think it would have been a shame to watch that watch the leading roles and the supporting roles to watch the dance, to watch all of it, be danced by people who live on the silver screen and eat from a silver spoon. It just would have so missed the mark. Um, and what I experienced in working with people who have never been on set before, um, and working with people who are aren’t SAG card holders was not that it was a hot mess of disorganization and not that there was unprofessional, um, behavior on set, but actually quite the opposite, extreme respect, extreme enthusiasm, readiness, willingness. And I think that we’ll see in the, in the, uh, in the final cut how important it is to have representation, inclusivity, authenticity, especially when you’re, when you’re telling a story like that one.
Absolutely. And I started, I love that you used the word authenticity because In the Heights specifically means so much to so many people because it was something that they could see and see themselves on that Broadway stage, which is what we’re doing in the film now as well. It’s showing so many kids from Washington Heights itself that they can be a movie one day that they can be dancers in a film. They can have speaking roles. And if I’m that, it’s all doable.
I am wondering what are the things, the changes that you’ve noticed in your industry in the last handful of years and what do you hope to see in the next handful of years?
Yes. Um, something that I’ve seen, which again goes back to something we talked about a little earlier, is this idea of who else is out there. I think that’s always existed in our industry and we always, casting people specifically, like you’re never satisfied until you know, that you, until you see that electricity in front of that camera and you know, that that person is it, you know. How much more are we going to do to find that person? And what more are we going to do to find that person.
Leave no rock unturned?
Yes. Or just again, like we were saying re-inventing and thinking of things a different way. I mean, Ali Stroker who won the Tony for Oklahoma, um, that’s it, it’s just unbelievable to see Ali Stroker who we have auditioned for years. Like finally be raised up to this pedestal and be like, this is someone who is so talented and so worthy. And I also feel like that’s something we can do even more with underrepresented communities, um, with Latino communities, with Asian communities, with the black community. I think that those are so important and it’s something that maybe we produce more content that centers around these communities. Um, but I think it’s something that, that the, that the industry is in this moment focused on. And I hope that they continue to focus on that
All different levels, right? Like on the talent, of course, yes. Like the onscreen representation, but also behind the curtain, the writers, as you mentioned, producers, but on Broadway also, literally the people behind the curtain
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s something that I’ve discussed with a couple of people around my age, how we were all so lucky to end up where we are, because we were able to go places and intern for free and be able to be financially supported to do that where so many people aren’t able to, and that’s why they’re not able to break into the industry because they didn’t have those same opportunities that we had. And we have to find ways to be able to reach those people and allow them the same opportunities that we’ve all had. I think that’s another thing that the industry is really focusing on now is how can we bring people who don’t have the same opportunities that we’ve had into not just in front of the camera or on the stage, but into the costume shops, into the casting offices, into the tech sides of the industry, into the stage management offices, all of those different facets that the, the, the audiences don’t see, but surely exist and drive that product. And that product would never happen without those people. I mean, I, my family is Cuban and I’m so I’m so lucky to be where I am, So I could have been supported by my family. And I told my parents, I wanted to be a casting director. They didn’t know what that was, but they said, yeah, sure, go for it. Why not? Um, and it’s so important and so exciting to see other Latino people in the industry and be like, Oh my God, yes. Like, you know, it’s happening, we’re doing it. Um, it’s something that’s so spotlighted right now. And I think that once, like I mentioned before, once we, and we have started, once we continue to really drive that car forward, we’re never going to look back. We’re going to be like, this was the way we need to continue. And this is the way that we’re going to continue.
Yes. I’m just like, I wish that everybody could see me. I’m just like nodding perpetually nodding in agreement. Um, so it sounds like you are glad to see the, that casting directors and casting offices are doing more outreach, doing more in terms of going out and finding, but what would you say to somebody that might be listening that wants to be found? What would, what would you say to somebody who believes that they are talented and out there and don’t want to wait for you to come find them?
Right. Um, we’re lucky enough to be in the age of the internet and the internet has been just, I, I, I don’t know how people lived without the internet truly. Um, number one, I think actors, I think dancers are just the most gracious people because to get up every single morning and go to auditions and put yourself on the line every single time, I think that that is more commendable and more brave than I could ever be. Um, and I think that, that goes for the same, for the same people that you were describing, go to these open calls, we are looking, and we are paying attention. If you, if you see something about a video submission, take the time and make the best video that you can make and submit, do these things to put yourself out there and get yourself in front of all of these people who are looking for you because we are, um, and don’t be afraid to do it. I feel like there’s so, like, what’s the worst that could happen. You send the video and you don’t hear anything. At least you sent the video, you would never hear anything. If you didn’t send the video at all, you know, um, it’s it’s and again, it’s tried and true. We cast people from open calls. Like we said, so many of those people in, In the Heights where people who we just, I put out an ad and said, Hey, show up at this location on this day and be ready to dance. And that was it. And they showed up and then they ended up in the movie
Where was that ad. And where do people look to find those?
So our company has that, I would say, because I help run the social media of our company. I might be biased. So we do post our stuff on, um, our social medias. Um, our, all of our handles are @Telseyandco Um, and again, we, as casting, people are very good research papers as well. So I spent two or three weeks calling every salsa studio in New York, calling all the agents and saying, Hey, do you know this person who like shot this salsa commercial one day? Um, and the agent would be like, I don’t really know them that well, but I’ll shoot them the flyer and see who they want. Um, Eddie Torres Jr. Was a huge source of finding so many organic, authentic New York dancers.
People that don’t have studios that they train out, they train in clubs. They dance socially, not in, not in little structured pods.
Exactly. Um, so there’s so much research that goes into it. Um, but again, so many of these calls are now publicized on the internet that you you’ll be able to find them and follow our social medias. And I’m sure you’ll see. I mean, if you scroll for our Twitter and our Instagram, it’s literally all just ad after ad, after ad open call for Wicked open call for In the Heights open call for third, every, every project that we’re looking for, very specific people, it happens.
Cool. Very cool. Good to know. Good to know. Um, okay. Rapid-fire burnout round. What are the things that people who book consistently consistently do in auditions?
They exude positivity. They are on time. I love people who are on time. I highlight — I highlight them highly. If they’re on time,
Yes. I love. There was such a thing. Oh, yes. Amazing. Um, and people who are open and game to do anything, I think that you can really tell that from a person in a room very, very quickly. Um, it’s also so fun to be on the sidewall, the, the choreographers and the associates and the assistants are teaching because you’re watching these people and you really, really get to know the way they work. Um, and the number one thing that I see in so many people, and I find so commendable is if they may, if they mess up, they, you, you’re not really convinced they messed up by the second count because you’re, you’re like, wait, what? Like they, they just effortlessly go over that. I think that’s something that’s. So especially about dancers. So unbelievable is that you almost think you’re like, did I just blink and miss something? Or did they mess up? Yes. Yes. Because they just keep going. And that is the number one thing, not only in a specific audition, but just in the industry, in the industry in general, you should have to keep going. You have to keep doing it and it’s going to happen if you keep doing it. And if you are being the best that you can be,
Oh, that’s such great advice. I should have ended on that. But instead, I’m going to ask what, what are the telltale signs of somebody that is not ready to be working professionally?
That’s a little bit of a hard question, because if they’re not, if they’re not ready for that specific project, like we said before, they might be ready for something else. Um, what I, rather than not ready to work. One thing that I realized in people who don’t audition the best is that they are so in their heads, that you can see the, you can see them thinking above their head. Like you see the word scrolling over their head. Where it’s, I think that, that shuts you down so much, both externally and internally that you just got to roll through it. If you are, if you’re stressed about it, if you’re not having a good time, it’s okay to walk over to the casting person and let them know, Hey, this isn’t the right one for me.
Not my best take, not my best.
Absolutely. Or let’s say perfect example, someone who does perform for the camera, we say, thank you. And they didn’t feel that good. Come on over and say, Hey, I’m so sorry. Can I just do it one more time? Like I know that I can be better. I think that knowing that and being that thinking in that space makes you so much more successful. If you don’t think in that space, I think that you just, you’re doing yourself a disservice because the only person that you’re hurting is yourself. In that regard, you have to be your, you have to think for yourself and you have to be your biggest fan. In those moments, you have to trust yourself and know that you are doing the best you can do. And if you’re not doing the best you can do, if you’re not having a good day, come on over and tell us, let us know where we are there. It’s what I always tell people. Especially when I talk to like kids in high school, who I work with, or kids who have just graduated from college, our job is to cast the project. So all we want more than anything is for you to be amazing. Like that’s, that’s all we want. We don’t want anything less than that. So if you’re not being amazing, we want to help you be amazing. Let’s figure out what it is that we can do to help you be amazing. Lets figure out what we can do to help you be amazing.
Exactly. You guys are trying to cast the project. You want to cast the project. This is great. And somebody’s performance in an audition really doesn’t have everything to do with their readiness or not to work professionally. So thank you for calling me out on that. Very gently. Um, but also thank you for the perspective of, yes, you guys want them to be the right person. So although it can be tough, I’m saying this from the performer’s point of view, to be both inside yourself, enough to deliver an impassioned performance, but outside yourself enough to have seen whether or not that was your best work, it really takes a multilevel awareness of yourself and your performance be able to say, Oh, that wasn’t it. Let me, let me ask, let my outside self ask for one more time. And then let me go back in and make the corrections that really helped me hit. And that takes time. It takes practice and it takes permission. So I’m so glad that you opened that line of communication. Like, if you feel like you need one more, come and ask, it’s one of my favorite things to do at auditions. Whether I feel like I nailed it or not. I say, alright, that’s pass number one. Is there anything else you’d like to see differently? I love to be directed. And with that statement, very simple statement, you know, Oh, this is the person who can communicate and talk about their work. Oh, this is a person that wants to deliver. Um, and Oh, this is a person that actually likes feedback because that’s another thing that I know on both sides of the table. I like working with people that are open to feedback and open to making change and getting better. It’s what film productions need and film, especially you have to do those things quickly. So if you see somebody do that in a casting, when the, when you’ve got like a 15 minute window, if they can do that in that window, imagine how much they can do in a nine hour rehearsal.
Absolutely. And again, you, you said it exactly in the event that someone does ask those questions, you see, you’re like, okay, this is someone who, who does take direction very well and who is open to direction and is collaborative in that regard. Again, it all goes back to collaboration. We all want to work with people who are collaborative because it, number one makes the project more fruitful and you never know what any single person is going to bring and how it’s going to better, any single thing that you’re doing. But also it just makes it easier. Like, of course you want to work with people who are going to be easy to work with. That’s the whole point of collaboration it’s going to be. We’re all going to click where, and like our specific example is all of us together working on In the Heights. We all were there for each other. We were all collaborative in that regard. We were all doing the work together and that’s why we have a great final product.
Okay. Kristian, final thought before we go, and this is a doozy. So take a deep breath. What are your thoughts on the shutdown on Broadway right now? And what do you think we can expect once Broadway reopens? Give me the real, Real.
I think that we can expect joyous, joyous, joyous, first curtain calls. I think that people will be just so, I mean, it’s us New Yorkers, especially it’s our, it’s our life. We go to the theater all the time. You know, it’s something that, uh, number one, it’s, it’s a lifestyle for so many of the people who are on Broadway because they are so unfortunately unemployed right now because of the shutdown. Um, what we can expect. I think that there will definitely be a lot of internal look at everyone on Broadway and how we can better the industry. Once the industry picks back up again, although we are already doing that, I firmly believe, um, I think that the industry will look different in that regard. I think we’ll be a lot more discussion regarding inclusion and collaboration and bringing so many other underrepresented communities and underrepresented people into the industry. Um, of course that takes time, but I think that people are willing to put their thoughts and finances towards that. Um, as far as what it will feel like to be in a theater again, I, I, I can’t imagine it just because it’s been so long, but I know that it’s going to be amazing and I know that we need to make it happen because number one, it’s a lifestyle for so many people. Like we said, we need this to happen so that people can survive financially. And how boring would the world be without Broadway or without entertainment at all? Not interested. It would, it wouldn’t, it would not be a good one. My friends and I used to joke when we were younger. We’re like, what’s more important than Broadway, as a joke, of course, now that we’re older, we all understand, but it’s true. What, how, how could we live in a world without any of these parts of our industry and not specifically just Broadway, just TV and film and how all of these films are so delayed now because of the shutdown. And it’s like us, for example, again, I keep going back to us, but we thought the movie that we saw would have been out for a month today, and now it’s another year. You know, I think, I think it’s gonna be a very interesting world to go back to, but I think it will be a more open and more thoughtful world than it was before the shutdown.
It’s a beautiful way to wrap it up. I truly do believe that after the depression, after the recession, there is a Renaissance and I can’t think of a place better suited for that than Broadway. Because although you did mention it’s part of a New Yorker’s culture. Most of the people in the film In the Heights never saw the Broadway show In the Heights because they couldn’t afford. There are less jobs because if I’ve learned nothing, not every show on Broadway structure was built to exist forever. Maybe a new structure needs to show up probably in order to be fewer disdain. God knows what happens next. I hope it’s not enough pandemic, but I really do think, as you’ve mentioned, surveillance is a time where we get to look deep I and do the more time intensive and thought intensive work. I think that you are a person who is completely dedicated to doing that. I am working to become a person that is totally dedicated to doing that. I’m so grateful for you and getting to meet you. I think we learned a lot today. I’m so grateful that you, uh, decided to chat and share with us. Thank you so much.
Thank you. I’m so happy I could do this and I’m naturally such a fan and
Yeah, I would love to do an in the Heights exclusive super podcast someday. So perhaps we’ll get to talk again. Um, yeah. Okay, Kristian, thanks again. Have a great rest of your day
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 to become a words that move me member, so kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello friends. Welcome, first-timers and welcome back to those who are coming back for more words that move me. You are walking in to episode one of a very special series. This is week one of Audition August four weeks of talking almost exclusively about auditioning and booking work. Whoa, I’m jazzed. Um, I’m going to start off with a very special story. One of my favorite audition experiences, although don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to go into my least favorite audition experiences, but first wins this week.
My win is that I met Josh Smith. I have admired Josh’s sweet, sweet moves, uh, for some time now, but recently I got to interview Josh for a special episode of the podcast in partnership with CLI that episode will be available to you here after audition August. So be sure to stay on the lookout for that because Holy smokes, what a great conversation, what a great human, very stoked on that episode. Um, but I’m celebrating this as a win because I’d never met Josh. Um, and the thought of a 30 minute conversation with somebody that I’ve never met being live streamed, eventually reaching hundreds of thousands of dancers and educators around the world made me super nervous. Um, before I went into it, though, I remembered this saying that my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff once shared with me years and years ago. And it’s very appropriate for audition August that I’d be gifting you this thought. Now Gary said that butterflies or the fluttering feeling that’s rapping on your insides when you’re nervous about something, those butterflies aren’t nervousness at all, they aren’t self doubt, they aren’t fear. The feeling of butterflies wrapping on the walls of your stomach is actually your potential knocking and asking to be let out. This thought is one of my favorite thoughts to bring with me when I head into auditions or nerve wracking situations, um, in my case, this interview, and let me tell you what it went so well, Josh was so kind, so insightful and so open. Um, I really felt myself rise to a new level of potential in my question, asking in my interviewing and I sense the potential of a budding new friendship. So, boom, that’s my win. What’s yours this week. What’s going well in your world.
Okay, great. Congratulations. I am so happy for you. I’m so glad that you’re winning. You deserve it. Keep crushing. All right. Speaking of crushing, I’m going to start today with a story of my favorite audition experience. This is many, many years ago now, and I’ll start at the very beginning, which is a very nice place to start.. Name that lyric. Anyways, I got an audition breakdown for my agent that was for a project Rhapsody James, one of my favorite choreographers and dancers and creator types. Um, she was putting on a show called Sirens Assassins. It was actually a remounting of a work that she had already done. She had this, uh, this company, this creative project of hers called sirens assassins. And, um, the show is more or less. And I hope I’m not doing it a disservice by giving it the, um, the supermicro wrap up the cliff notes, if you will, but Sirens. Assassins is a show about women who possess very specific gifts, skills, or talents that make them in some way lethal. So these are not women that you want to cross. In other words, the show itself is very dark, very sensual, very mysterious, very exciting. It is like a film noir, but a show noir. So anyways, Rhapsody is remounting the sirens show. Everybody knows and loves the show. Everybody knows and loves Rhapsody in the breakdown of the audition. Now Rhapsody was calling specifically to replace a few existing roles in the show, but she also was asking for new characters. She asked to bring any ideas, bring yourself, bring yourself fully, of course, and is always dress body conscious, which is code for dress enclose that reveal your body not conceal your body. Another wardrobe note was to wear all black.
Okay. So this audition hit me with a one, two punch super combination, knockout. Number one, open call. So many people I’m already thinking, Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh. Number two, dress body conscious as a person that was not 100% confident with my body anxiety dials up a little bit. And number three wear all black. Okay. How am I going to stand out? I decided in that moment, that one way I could stand out, it would be two elaborately disobey the call to wear all black and wear all white. I imagine that is being a surefire way to stand out, although possibly not in a great way. So my mind kept massaging. This thought of wearing all white. And then I eventually thought to myself, what if I even painted my face white? What if I was a clown? What if, what if this call for new characters? What if that is where I stand out? Not just in what I’m wearing on my body, but what I’m doing with my mind. Oh yes. Oh, I like this. Let’s go deeper. What if I’m a clown? Scary clown. Yeah, it’s been done. Maybe that’s a little bit too on the nose. What about a mime? What if my mime character, my mime assassin had invisible objects that did real damage on the stage. What if the swing of an invisible machete sprayed blood across the back of the wall or the imaginary pulling of a ring out of a hand grenade thrown into a group of dancers that then jumped and hit the ground. Like, could we really dial up illusion and give this mime character a really, really cool and really, really invisible edge? I became so jazzed on this idea. I kept whirling and going and going deeper and digging in. At the time, also, I’d like to mention how lucky was I to have a makeup artist as a roommate? How lucky was I to have Gia Harris, makeup artists extraordinaire as a roommate? So she and I got right to work concept locked, loaded. Execution, oh my gosh, give me strength. I showed up a little late to the audition. Deliberate. Wouldn’t recommend it. I didn’t, I want to get there early and be tempted to converse with my fellow dancers or with Rhapsody herself. I had committed so fully to my concept that I knew I would not speak a word from top to bottom. So I arrived late partially for dramatic effect, but also partially so that I could really, really commit and sell the silence. I entered the room with the squeak of a door and almost every step that I took also had a squeak. You could hear a pin drop, a gasp, and it took people a while to recognize who I was obviously face paint. As soon as Rhapsody recognized me, she shook her head with a frown, but a sparkle in her eye that said, thank you. And also what in the heck are you doing. Now, I knew Rhapsody relatively well. Well enough to know that she favors the bold and brave ideas. Oh, that reminds me perfect example of one of my favorite quotes by Shirley McClain, who happens to also be front and center on the vision board of my life. Uh, she says, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where all the fruit is. I’d like to add that it is also where the branches get thinner and susceptible to breaking. So you might fall, but alas, it is where all the fruit is. So at very least it is worth a risk assessment. I remember dancers in front of me beside me, behind me in 360 degrees, absolutely killing themselves to get Rhapsody’s attention. I mean, flipping, turning, jumping in heels and not much else for most of these ladies. And all I did was stand, pretend to lean on a fake wall or table smoking invisible cigarette. And when it was time to dance, I danced, I found several places in the choreography to layer my ideas about these invisible weapons and something, whether it was visible or invisible sealed the deal for me that day, I booked the job as a mime Rhapsody wanted the mime. Let’s have a conversation about the difference between being special and having special skills. At the bottom of a dancer or performers resume. There’s a section for special skills. And honestly, when I’m sitting on the other side of the casting table, that’s where I look first. This is where you get to tell people if you know how to fence or do aerial work or operate heavy machinery, like a forklift, true story. I’ve seen it under special skills on a resume can operate a forklift. I love this stuff. It’s what really sets dancers aside from one another and under my special skills at the time I auditioned for Rhapsody, you could absolutely not find mime because it wasn’t a skill that I had. It was a special idea that I had not a special skill. Enter panic. I knew that if I wanted to portray this role and my creative vision to its fullest, I needed to back it up with actual skill, actual technique, actual mime training. So I did what I do. I hit the Google and I searched for best mime teacher in Los Angeles, kid. You not the first three results pointed me to Lorin Eric Salm and his mind theater studio. Lorin is a full time performer, mime instructor and movement coach. Most recently he coached, uh, Jesse Eisenberg in the role of Marcel Marceau himself for the film resistance, which is a must watch by the way, extremely beautiful and extremely relevant. Even though it takes place during world war II. Lorin brought me the tools that changed my craft more than any dance training I ever received. And he and I even went on to create our own curriculum. Mime technique for dance, which you will be seeing a second season of very, very soon. Please stay tuned For those details. We’ll talk a little bit about that in this interview. Um, but today I’m bringing you just a part of that conversation with Lorin, because believe it or not mimes can actually talk for quite a long time. The whole interview is available by becoming a member on my Patreon page, www.patreon.com/WTMMpodcast I will link to that page in the show notes where I will also link to Lorin directly. One of the great things to come from this pandemic is that right now, Lorin is doing all of his workshops online. He just started a level one intro workshop. It’s a six class series. Unfortunately the first workshop is already underway and sold out. But for anyone that’s interested in really blowing the lid off of their training, adding a super special skill, please email Lorin so that you can get information about registration details for the next workshop, email email@example.com.
Again that’s firstname.lastname@example.org or you could call 310-494-MIME (6463) which is super cheeky. I really do recommend that you seek him out. He is a busy, busy guy, but if you can train directly with him, Holy smokes, it is so worth it. Alright. Alright. That is it for me today. Enjoy the first episode of Audition August and enjoy listening to mime and movement expert Lorin Eric Salm. Oh, and trust me, by the way, the irony of having a mime on a podcast is not lost on me. All right. Enjoy.
Dana: Lorin Eric Salm. I am so excited. You’re here. Thank you for being on the podcast. I am jazzed about this.
Lorin: It’s great to be here. I’m really happy. You asked me to do this.
Dana: I’m thrilled. Um, let’s get into it. Let’s get the, let’s get this train and move in. Um, go ahead and introduce yourself.
Lorin My name is Lorin Eric Salm. Uh, I’m an actor specializing in mim8e and character movement. And I also teach mine and character movement. Uh, and I do that through workshops and classes and I do and private coaching. And I also do that through movement coaching for film, television commercials, music, videos, animation, um, all kinds of on-camera applications where character movement is important.
Dana: Okay. So on the teaching front, um, can you recall some of those first few sessions that we had together?
Lorin: I think that the thing I probably remember even more than specifically what we worked on was just us meeting each other and, and my getting to know who Dana Wilson is because, um, it was, I mean, I felt like we hit it off really well. Personality wise, you’re, we’re, we’re both so, um, enthusiastic and passionate about what we do. That it was excitement on top of excitement. Um, and I remember, I mean, I think I started, uh, by teaching you some of the fundamental concepts that I teach everyone who is new to mine. And, um, that’s always my first, my first step. And then the next thing that I, I think I did with you was try to focus on how, on what you needed to do, how you needed to apply this to what you’re going to do, how much of it was traditional mine, how much of it involved dance, um, or something else and how that was going to require us to, to tailor or work toward the goal of that particular role. I wasn’t sure what you knew and what you didn’t know and what was going to be new to you and what you were going to look at and say, Oh yeah, this is something I already know how to do. So I was, I was excited about the things that were new to you. And, and I remember some of them where it was like a revelation of an entirely new way of looking at something perhaps that you did know, but it was a whole new way of looking at it. And, and I know that that was an exciting part of those sessions that we did together was giving you a new way of looking at movement. I mean, for someone who’s experienced in movement, as you were at already at that time to give you a new way to look at it in a way to expand on that was exciting for me and for you.
Yeah. It was like, it was like dance gets in a room with mine and dance loves mine and mine gets in a room with dance. And my mime like, wait, are we the sec? Are we the same thing? Is this like weird self-love that we have? Um, yeah. In, in my studies with you, I was always blown away at the overlap between mime and dance. For me, I think mime does a really, really good job at explaining possibilities of motion and explaining combinations of movement and explaining parts of the body and explaining dynamics of movement. I just, I remember hearing you say words and being like, Whoa, that’s what that’s called or that’s what you call it. And I’m feeling so glad that there was in fact a name for things. And in mime that in many cases there’s a diagram for things. And, um, I am a sucker for words, obviously, cause here we sit, uh, in my podcast, but I also love notation. I love preservation. I like to think of myself as an archivist. Um, and I think you are as well. You are, you are writing a book about mime and you are one of the few, um, in our time. And certainly in this city that I know of that have trained with Marcel Marceau, one of the greats. So I knew that you were something special. And I knew that the relationship between dance and mime was something special, something that I wanted to dig more into. Um, and you and I did eventually create a, um, more or less, I guess I’ll call it a syllabus. We created a training program called mime technique for dance and we broke, we broke it down into a, a five week class course. Um, we’ll get, we’ll get to that in a second. But for those that are listening that don’t know much about mime or might think white face paint and white gloves when they think about mime. Um, could you tell those listeners which no shame, if that’s you, uh, could you talk us through the difference or the differences between pantomime, traditional mime and corporeal mime, which is what became such an important part of
Sure. Well, I think that, um, a lot of people’s impression of mime or knowledge of mine is limited by what they’ve seen. Film and TV tends to have a very narrow idea of what mime is and what it can be. A lot of it, if not all of it comes from stereotypes that grew out of Marcel Marceau’s work. Marceau of course is it was the world’s most famous mine throughout most of the 20th century and the, the first one to be widely covered on, on film and TV and for a very long time, for many years, um, as he helped, re-popularize the art. Most people were copying what he was doing and for, for a long time. So any stereotypes that grew out of that came from his, his look, uh, his costume and makeup, his style of performance, the, the, the types of stories that he would tell in mime and because Marceau wore white face makeup, that was probably the largest part, the largest stereotype that grew out of it. So almost universally when people think of mime, they think of white makeup. Um, it’s kind of a long story, but yes, the white face tradition came from a character named Pierrot. Pierrot was the central character in the pantomime of 19th century France. So to give honor to that tradition Marceau wore the white face makeup. It was never his intention that everyone wear white face when doing mime, but because people copied his style, they also copied the white face. Many of them have no idea where it originally came from. Um, also what people copied were the illusions that Marceau made famous, especially early on when, when people weren’t very familiar with mime, part of Marcel’s performance was performing the illusions almost separately from any other context so that people could appreciate the technique and the art and the virtuosity of mime. And that was one of the things that stuck. He popularized things like walking against the wind and an illusion that came from a piece he had called the cage, which involved creating the illusion of what looks like an invisible wall. Um, he also did the tug of war, um, which is holding a rope, walking upstairs, things like this that became very common illusions, um, attached to mime, but Marcel, his work went far beyond that. Um, he has, he had comic pieces, dramatic pieces, lyrical poetic pieces, symbolic pieces, and it’s a much deeper art form that goes far beyond simply creating illusions. There is of course acting involved. Um, when we think of pantomime and mime, nowadays, the terms are largely interchangeable. You really have to go back into history into the 19th century and even way back to ancient Rome and look at how at what mime was like in different periods in time to understand the differences between those two terms. And it would take a long time to go through those. So I’ll basically just leave it at, there are historical differences between the two and today we don’t largely differentiate between those two terms when it comes to you asking me about corporeal mime though, as well. Um, there is a big distinction between pantomime and corporeal mime. When if you ask someone who knows corporeal mime, what pantomime is, they will sharply distinguish it from what they did. Um, corporal mine is, is a technique that was developed in the early 20th century by Étienne Decroux like Marceau was also from France. In fact, he was Marceau’s teacher, um, around the late 19s and 20s and early 30s, Decroux decided to recreate mine from scratch and in studying the body, what you can do with the body, how the movement of the body works and how you can use it expressively in, in acting. He created this technique. He called dramatic corporeal mime. That’s the full name of corporeal mine. Um, and it’s based on a very structured technique, breaking down the body into individual parts and studying how to move those parts individually, isolated from the other parts and in groups of parts. So a lot of it is getting to know how your body moves very, very well, very technically and, and expanding, creating a movement vocabulary. I mean, corporeal mime offers a movement vocabulary and it expands the performers movement vocabulary, whether they didn’t have one to begin with or whether they have one that perhaps comes from a different, um, approach to movement like dance or acrobatics or, or, or acting, um, it offers a, an expanded way of understanding how you can move the body and how you can use it expressively,
Beautiful Put a stamp on that and ship it. Um, as you were talking about corporeal, mime being a very technical, um, or let me, let me say this corporeal mime has a very technical way of breaking down the body into parts and then groups of parts. Um, and there are names for all of these parts and groups of parts, and there are ways that they can move together or isolated from each other. And I remember that as I was learning this skill set from you, or as I was learning this technique from you. I remember being in a bathroom at SNL studios, practicing how to isolate my head from my neck, looking at like looking at myself in a mirror, in a suit and tie, we were, were, uh, going to be performing Suit and Tie with Justin Timberlake in like an hour and a half.
And I was standing in the mirror, looking at myself, trying to hold my shoulders still until my ear, closer to my clavicle without moving my neck. And it’s that degree of detail that corporeal mime really focuses on. And I had no clue how little control I had over my, over my body. I really fancied myself a person that, you know, knew what I was doing all the time with my body. And I really had to try hard to accomplish these seemingly very simple tasks. So I had, you know, from that point on, I was smitten with it and I really committed to achieving an awareness of my body and this kind of, I guess it’s more than awareness. It’s an awareness and a control and an ability to describe what I was doing that corporeal mime gave me. And I think those are the key points that we tried to bring forward with our workshop, mime technique for dance. It really was geared towards achieving this awareness and control and way to describe what we’re doing with our bodies. And, um, it was so much fun for me creating that syllabus with you was such a ball. It was challenging, but it was so much fun.
So our first class was isolation, which I, how would you explain isolation to a person that’s not a dancer or a mime?
Um, well, it’s, um, a little, like what I mentioned before, it’s learning, it’s first knowing the parts of the body that you’re working with, uh, in, in life, when we move one part of the body, we tend to move more than one part of the body without meaning to, or even being conscious that we’re doing so. You move your head and your neck almost always moves with it. Sometimes you move your head by moving your neck, but even when you, when you think you’re just moving your head, you don’t realize how much your neck is moving as well,
Or your hips for that matter.
Yeah. Yes. You, you go to move your chest or your waist and your hips or your hips naturally get pulled along the way. Um, it, it’s not natural for us to isolate one part of the body from the other. They usually isn’t reason to do so. So we’re not aware of how to do it. Um, but when you’re using your body, expressively and movement is everything. You want to be able to move the parts you want to move and not move the parts you don’t want to move. So that, um, because there, there is a difference. One, one thing, one movement says one thing and another movement says something else. So part of the work is understanding very carefully where one part ends and the other begins and working on different ways of holding some parts still, while moving other parts, it’s always a balance of tension and relaxation of movement and resistance. There’s a lot going on and it takes a while to learn how to do it.
I like to think of isolation as being how you direct the audience’s eye. Um, and I think of movement in terms of volume. And I would want to make very, very quiet a part of my body that I don’t want the audience to be looking at. And then I turn up the volume on the part of the body that I do want the attention to go to whether it’s my leg or my hip or my shoulder, um, everything else gets quiet, almost muted. And then I dial up that, that part that I want to highlight or spotlight. And, um, it’s a very important thing for a performer to know how to do be they dancer, actor, mime, you name it, um, that type of directing the eye or magician for that matter.
Yes, yes. For magicians. I I’ve taught magicians before. And of course directing the audience’s eye and their focus is, is extremely important. Um, and movement can attract the eyes. So if you want to, for instance, if you want to get them to look at one thing and not another, um, being able to hold one part still or minimize the movement of that part while moving some other part can be useful in getting the audience to look where you want them to look.
Um, and then week two, we dug into character and this, I think, Ooh, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but character might be my favorite part. In our character workshop we talk about a movement center, which I would explain to a dancer as being the part of the body that tells the audience the most about the character, um, with while saying the least. So I don’t have to do a full dance to explain. I could just stand there and by highlighting or spotlighting this one part of the body, the movement center, the audience would know who this character is and what’s important to them. Oh, I think we also, um, covered the Commedia in that class. Did we do that? Do we talk about Capitano and Columbiana and Arlecchino. Who else? Who am I missing?
Can you talk about those, those four characters real quick?
Sure. The Commedia dell’arte was the Italian comedy of the Renaissance era. And from that, um, tradition comes a whole set of characters that are very broadly defined, not only by their personalities, but by their physicality, uh, studying the comedic characters is a great introduction to understanding how clearly different one character can be from another, by connecting the physicality to the personality you’re trying to express
Well said, well said, um, let’s see, moving right along week three, we covered dynamo rhythms. Um, how would you explain dynamo rhythms? And, Oh my gosh, it would be a good test. If I can remember the 10
Well, the name dynamo rhythm, it’s a combination of the dynamics and the rhythm of a movement and of movements as they relate to each other.
And as they relate to time, like how they move quick or slow or a combination of quick and slow.
Yeah. Yes, exactly. Exactly. So, so the, the dynamic, the dynamic part is things like, uh, tension and relaxation, um, and an accent, I guess you could say. And the rhythm part is what you were saying. The relationship to time, the tempo, speed and the what ends up being a rhythmic relationship between each movement and the movements before and after it
Incredible. And we’re just halfway through our course.
You wouldn’t explain what those 10 different dynamo rhythms are. Otherwise we might be giving away our course.
Oh yeah. You don’t get that for free. Come on now. Come on now. Um, okay. In the next week we covered imagination. I suppose we dug a little bit more into illusions that week. Oh, segue in, uh, the difference between subjective and objective mime. Could you talk about that a little bit? I remember my mind being blown in our first couple of lessons. You helped me understand how I use my imagination to see an apple hanging from a tree, but how I use my body to show the audience how far away that tree is and what my emotional relationship to that tree and that apple are. Um, so, so using objective mime to explain the object and using subjective mime to, to explain things that do not have physical forms. Yeah.
So when you’re, for instance, creating the illusion of picking an apple off a tree, you’re using objective mind to show the tree, to show the apple and using subjective mime to show your thought process. What you’re thinking about when you’re dealing with these objects, why, what was the thought behind wanting to take an apple? How do you feel about it? How does it taste, um, what’s your reaction to tasting the apple? I’d like to think every performance involves subjective mime, if not objective mime, whether you’re you’re dancing or acting or, or doing mine or, or anything really it’s. If we can’t see some kind of expression of your interior state, of being, what, the quality of your thoughts, um, the, what kind of emotions you’re expressing, it can be a very dry expression of technique, or maybe not dry. The technique can be impressive or entertaining, but it can also, we can also feel like we’re missing a connection to it. Um, if we don’t get something from inside you and that’s, uh, the emotion or the thought behind the movement, um, adds so much more to it, and that helps you connect to your audience. So that’s where subjective mime comes in. There’s, there’s definitely something different when we can see that there’s a thought process there, and that the movement is the result of a character that’s thinking and feeling something and not just executing movement, no matter how well they do that movement,
That actually reminds me of an incredible quote that I have, um, from my acting teacher, Gary Imhoff, who says, I believe these are his words. That could be somebody else’s words that came through his mouth. Um, but Gary always said, and I’ll never forget “Stage presence is simply the amount of interest you have in what you are doing” and being engaged in some sort of imaginary thing is being interested in something and being interested in something is attractive. And so, you know, you will see, or you might say that somebody with stage presence, you might not be able to put your finger on exactly what it is that they’re doing, but I can tell you it’s that they’re interested in something they are thinking of something other than simply executing five, six, seven, eight.
So, um, come take our class. I’m not even, we’re not even done. That’s true. Okay. So that’s number four. Um, and then our fifth week, okay. This one might actually be my favorite on the subject of being interested and being interesting and being expressive. Um, week five is all about emotion. Uh, can you explain some mime attitudes for us? What, what is an attitude in mime?
Um, this is something that is very much from Marcel Marceau’s approach to my mom. Marceau when he, when he was asked to define mime or, or to describe mime, he would always say, it’s, it’s an art of movement and attitude. Attitude is part of subjective mime, really it’s expressing your internal state of being. So there’s, there’s an external, the external attitude is the, the position the body is in whatever, whatever position the body is in whatever posture or whatever your arms and legs are doing, what your head is doing. That’s the external attitude of the body. The internal attitude is the psychological and emotional state that you’re in. Which of course we can’t see. So it has to be in order for us to, to know what it is it has to be expressed with the body somehow. Um, so the attitudes are a series of, of movement studies, where we look at at different emotions and how those emotions express themselves, themselves in the body. And being able to do that involves exploring that emotion and finding, finding what is, what I like to say is essential about it, finding the qualities that are essential to that emotion. Um, and then once we know, once we can put it into a single statue, then we can start to move it around and know, know what elements of that statue to carry into the movement.
I love that explanation. And I think you just revealed one of the other reasons as if I needed any more reasons that I love mime and that’s that it is very deliberate, very specific, um, that all of the fat has been stripped away. You have what you called essential qualities. And to me, essential qualities become universal qualities. I grew up in the suburbs of Aurora, Colorado. So let’s say somebody grew up in the jungles of the Amazon rainforest. They might see the mime attitude for fear and understand that that character is afraid. These are like universally spoken and universally heard, but without words, it’s so poetic. It’s so beautiful. And I I’m geeking out right now, just thinking about how beautiful that is.
So when you’re not learning and you’re not teaching, you’re actively working, whether it’s with an animator or as a movement coach, actually, one of the things I’m very, very excited to talk about is your latest project as a movement, coach and choreographer, um, on the film Resistance, starring Jesse Eisenberg. And I’m thrilled to see it. It was just released
Movie releases right now are not what they usually are.
Yeah, it’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Um, but still it’s, it’s been a special release and Jesse’s talked a lot about the process of preparing for this role and he talks a lot about you, and I’m so glad that he does. I’m always fascinated in hearing about how actors prepare physically for roles that are very physically demanding. Um, and this film, Jesse is portraying Marcel Marceau and Whoa, what a daunting task. Um, I’m so glad they found you. Could you tell us a little bit about how they found you?
Sure. Well, uh, I’ve been, I’ve been doing movement coaching for film and TV for, I think about 18 years. So my name is out there as a, as a movement coach for this sort of thing. But when it came to finding a coach or not only a coach to teach someone mime, but to teach someone how to play Marcel Marceau. Who’s widely considered the greatest line performer of our time. That was something more specific. And, um, I actually heard about the film early on after the first press release was put out that the film was in development and that Jesse had been cast to play Marceau as soon as I heard that, I immediately started trying to do everything I could to contact the producers, to tell them I’m the guy I’m, I’m, uh, I’m the movement coach that you need for this project. Um, and, and I, I couldn’t, I couldn’t find them. I tried every bit of, um, contact information I could find for them and for their company. And I absolutely could not get through to them. I was as frustrated as I was about not being able to, to get through and talk to them. I finally had to give up because I didn’t know what else to do. Months went by actually I about a year went by, uh, and I figured that ship had sailed. They were making the film was made. They found someone else, and I lost my chance to work on it. And then one of my students said to me that they had just seen a press release about the film, uh, that they were still casting some other actors. And when I realized that they were still casting and hadn’t shot the film yet, I thought, wow, maybe there’s still time to get in on this, but I still didn’t know what else to do. Uh, I asked someone who I knew in the industry, um, someone who is a, uh, a manager that, who didn’t represent me, but I thought might have connections that could get to the producers in some way that I wasn’t able to. So I, I asked them for, for help with this. And, and they said they would, um, even though it seemed like kind of a long shot at this point, since the film was already so far in, but they said they would give it a shot. Literally two days after I asked them for help, I get a call from the director and he asks to meet with me. So I meet with, with him and the producer over lunch and somewhere in the conversation, I casually asked him how he heard about me. And, and he says, I found you on the internet.
See, I’m telling you Google
But, but I said, I said, w so you, you, you just did, uh, you just did a search on the internet and that’s how you found me. And he said, yeah. And I didn’t want to be specific, but I said, just to clarify, I said, did someone tell you about me before you looked me up? And he said, no, he just on his own, did the search and found me. And somehow his finding me had nothing to do with this person who just two days earlier, I had asked to try and get to the director. It was just some cosmic coincidence that when I took this one last shot at trying to get on this film, the film found me
It was destined. And I’m so glad that it happened. And I’m glad that you were found because it seems like, well, it sounds like, I haven’t seen it yet, but it sounds like from everything I’ve read that you did an incredible job and I’m not shocked by that. Um, it sounds like Jesse took really well to the training. Um, and in all of the interviews that I’ve read, uh, Jesse talks about working with you as being kind of a two pronged approach, this academic side, where you taught him a lot of history and gave a lot of insight into who Marcel, you know, the person that is him. Um, but then of course, there’s the physical side. Um, the learning of the techniques, the rehearsing, the learning the choreography. I’m wondering if, when you do this type of work, if that’s always your approach, do you always take an academic and a physical approach to teaching this type of work?
It depends who I’m teaching for what purpose. And in what context, when I teach my own classes and workshops, I, I do mix the history in with my teaching, because I think it’s important for our students. Not only to learn the technique and learn and learn how to use it, but mine is it’s different than if you go to take an acting class, or if I, if I might say a dance class, um, it would be unusual in, in either of those, for the teacher to feel the need, to give you the history of theater or the history of dance for you to be able to understand what you’re doing. Partly because more of those things are, are commonly known, whereas mime, most people, no don’t even know the history of mind back to the beginning of the 20th century, much less all the way back to ancient Greece. And not that they have to, but, um, I, I like people to know something about the art and where the techniques come from that i’m teaching them and what the difference is between one kind of mime and another kind of mime. Um, and so I naturally mix that in also because I’m very interested in it. So I think I naturally introduce that as part of my, um, teaching it to other people. But if I, if I was coaching someone, um, you know, sometimes if I coach for film or television, I have very little time to work with an actor. I may have a few sessions with someone. I may have one session with someone I might even be brought directly onto the set and coach someone right before they’re going to shoot a scene, which is certainly not ideal, but sometimes that’s all I get. So I don’t have time to, to add the surrounding material I have to get directly to, this is what you’re going to do, and this is how to do it. Um, with Jesse though, not only did I have a lot of time to work with them, we, we worked repeatedly over a span of several months. Um, and we had hours at a time to work together, um, sometimes consecutive days at a time to work together. Um, but for him, it was also, not only had to do a scene or two where he performed mime, he had to play the character. He had to play Marceau and understand the character and why, where Marceau learned mime and, um, how it figured into his life and him as a person. And, um, so I, aside from my natural tendency to introduce history into the lessons and be very academic about it, it was also part of helping him understand more so in where Marceau fits into mime. I mean, who this guy was and why he became the most famous mime in the world, even though Jesse didn’t really have to worry so much about that in the story, because almost the entire film takes place before Marceau began his career as a mine performer.
A lot of people ask me the difference between movement coaching and being a choreographer. I like to think of movement coaching is everything that doesn’t involve account all movement that is not count specific. Once you give a one, two, three or five, six, seven, eight, that becomes choreography, but everything else from the way a character sits, stands, walks, you know, all, all other movement elements of a character would fall under the scope of work of a movement coach. And I love doing that type of work. And I love the way that my mime training has supported me to do that type of work. Um, it’s, uh, it’s delicious. It’s so much fun. So on the subject of choreography though, because you also did choreograph the mime in the scenes of this film, um, how did you reference Marcel’s more familiar works and his style without actually ripping off or like in the dance world, we would call it biting. How, how did you show that this is Marcel Marceau without ripping off his moves or his phrases?
Well, that was a careful line to walk. We the director, and I agreed that we didn’t want to use Marceau’s choreography directly. We didn’t want to have Jesse perform an actual mime piece that Marceau had created, um, for, for a number of reasons. But one of which again is that this whole film takes place before Marceau started as my career and began creating the work that he’s known for. But it was important that particularly for people who know Marceau’s work, that they could see in this younger character, the, the person who was going to become that famous mime, that everyone knows. So we wanted to include it in my choreography I wanted to include things that alluded to was, were things that were recognizable, that someone might have seen in one of Marceau’s pieces that he choreographed, but it was also important to capture more so style in my own choreography. Um, so I, I guess I sort of tried to choreograph the pieces as if Marceau was choreographing them. It’s a combination of his technique, which, which he really didn’t have much of at the time the movie takes place, because like I said, he hadn’t studied mime. He hadn’t studied with Decreux yet, so he didn’t really have the technique, what he had was his innate talent for movement and his, his talent for imitation I’m imitating the silent film stars that were his influences, like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, um, and, and just imitating people. Um, but I, I put some of that technique on top of that, even though he wouldn’t really have had it yet, so that his movement would somewhat resemble the movement that we know when we think of more so, so I had to bring his style into it and at the same time, avoid my style because although I use his technique, I use it in my own way. And, and here I had to very careful that I was teaching Jesse to use more so style and not my style. So that was a part of the work. The other thing was, mime is not just movement it’s drama. So there’s more so has his own dramatic approach to telling a story, to expressing a thought. And that’s something that I know very well from having studied with him. So I put, I tried to put Marceau’s way of approaching drama into, and when I say drama, I mean, comedy and drama. I mean, I mean, that’s a lot of right there, there, there, there are other aspects of it, like the way that it was written when, when Jonathan Jakubowicz, who, who wrote and directed the film, when he wrote the mime scenes for the film, he had specific, well, someone’s specific sometimes general ideas of what was going to happen in the mime scene. And, and that was what I had to choreograph. So, um, I also was, um, I wasn’t just creating standalone mind pieces for their own sake. The mime pieces that were in the film were related to the plot. They had to further the plot in each scene. So that was a consideration I had to take. And of course each scene could only be so long. So I had to work within the confines of how long the piece could be. I sometimes had to have certain parts of a piece move faster or slower based on the scene or how they were going to shoot it. I couldn’t just choreograph these as if they were mime pieces that I was going to perform on stage any way I wanted to, they had to, it was done for a film. And that, that was something was something different, not to mention the fact that they were going to be performed on camera, not on the stage, and that also necessitated choosing movements and qualities of movements differently than I would if they were going to be performed on a stage
For sure, a whole different batch of considerations. Okay. Here’s what I want to finish with. I could not myself, If I did an entire episode and not talk about the one mime technique that changed my life and dancing the most. Um, when I say life, I mean, truly like the way I physically show up, uh, for myself in the world every day, and that is suspension. So when I put, um, a pin in breath earlier on in the conversation, this is what I’m talking about. Um, suspension, probably suspension was probably one of the first things that you taught me. So I am wondering Lorin Eric Salm, if you could talk us through a quick, um, explanation of what is suspension and maybe if we’re all in a safe place I.E. not driving, um, if we could join in on this, uh, physically as you talk us through it..
Wow. Okay. Um, maybe the notes suspension is, is very much a Marceau approach to mine. It’s the foundation of Marcel Marceau’s technique, but not all mines use suspension. Uh, some of them arrive at suspension through another approach to their movement. They, they arrive at something equivalent to, or similar to suspension without necessarily using Marceau’s technique. Uh, there was, there are plenty of mimes though, who don’t have suspension at all. Um, it’s not something every mime performer knows about. So I should say that. Um, but knowing that it’s the, perhaps the most important thing of Marceau his whole technique and knowing that Marceau was Marceau it certainly makes you, uh, hopefully interested in knowing what suspension is and learning how to use it. Um, suspension is, let’s see, I’m trying to think of how to put this. I always have the benefit of being able to use my body to explain suspension while I’m doing it
Right. Podcasts is such an unnatural place for a mime to live.
Actually it is. Um, suspension is a way of giving life to the body, visual life, to the body, making you, um, making you interesting to look at. And I don’t mean in a stylistic way. I mean, making people want to watch what you’re doing. It’s a way it’s a, it’s another way of giving. You talked about stage presence earlier. It’s a way of holding and moving your body in a way that, that adds something to it that we don’t see in everyday life. That makes it, I always like to say, if you want to see everyday life, you can just walk outside and look around and you’ll see people walking around as they do in life. That’s everyday life. When you see someone on stage or in a performance on camera or on a stage, we expect to see something more than that. And, and, and, uh, a theatrical performance. It seems like it’s missing something. If it’s, if we just move the way we do in everyday life, we have to add something more to it and make it more interesting. Suspension is a technique for doing that. And it’s rooted in the breath, I guess. Uh, you asked me to give you something. You could try, try breathing in slowly. Uh, and as you breathe in, imagine that you can actually see the breath entering the body and follow it. Not only down into your lungs, but imagine it could go up into your head and fill your head. Imagine it could go out through your shoulders, down your arms, through your hands, all the way, the tips of your fingers. Imagine that it passes your lungs and goes down through your abdomen, through your pelvis, your legs, all the way to the tips of your toes. So by the time you’re done taking in that breath, it’s the air is filling the entire inside of your body and not just invisibly, but let it change the body. As the air enters a part of the body, something that is visible. And then when you then breathe out slowly, and as the air leaves each part of the body, let that change go away until you’re back to where you were when you started then trying repeatedly to repeat that process slowly and then more quickly. And then just with a single breath, you breathe in, create the image of the air going everywhere in the body, all at once in, in the second, it takes you to take in a breath and filling the body and supporting it, holding it there. So your body is not just there. Loose as Mr. Marceau would say, but that you’re, you’re holding it up. Not, not necessarily physically up. It can be in the same position you were in, but it’s not just hanging there. You’re holding it there and using that image of breath inside the body to hold your body. And then of course, we translate that into movement where using the breath to support each movement Marceau would compare that to, to music, the way that music sustains. A note, a when, when you play a note on a wind instrument, the note only exists as long as the breath supports it, or when you sing a note vocally as the moment the breath has gone, the note dies movement can be very much the same way when it’s supported by suspension, by the image that there’s breath inside the body, throughout the movement. It gives visual life to that movement in a way that makes, that takes it to a new place.
Thank you. That is exquisite. That was a perfect rundown without saying too much.
One of my favorite things to do was to suspend with different qualities of breath, or in other words, the visual quality that I give to the breath that’s entering my body, depending on the character that I’m portraying might be, um, a pale blue kind of like the sky type of breath, or it might be molten hot magma, or it might be like the galaxy dark, dark blacks, and bright, bright whites and stars and swirls and colors and stuff. So, so the visual qualities that I give the breath that I take in also changes the way I’m held instead of hanging. I love that differentiation. Um, so there’s a lot of different ways that I’ve used suspension, not only in performance itself, but in the way that I train people to become aware of their breath and train people, to become aware of the quality of the carriage of their body. It’s a very fun thing to imagine and a super fun thing to practice. And I love practicing it. I love, uh, I love being able to practice this at all times. You really truly can practice it driving. I just didn’t want you to hear about it for the first time while you’re driving. Cause it does take some focus, but I remember learning a suspension for the very first time and practicing it while I was in the car being at stoplights. And I would look to see if the person next to me was noticing me, and if they weren’t, I would suspend and just count the seconds before they looked it, it is in re relationship in relationship to stage presence. It is an incredible way to get people, to look at you by being interested in your own breath, how you know, it, it makes you an attractive being to be inspired, I guess. Um, maybe we could close out with just a couple of words on, on inspiration. Um, what inspires you? What,
Wow. Um, I’ve always been inspired by movement. I’m not sure I can even tell you why it’s something that just feels right. I think always wanting to be an actor and having this feeling for movement when I found mime and could combine the two, I guess that’s when I realized that was my thing.
That is a beautiful answer. And I’m so glad that you love movement because I guess because of that, here we are a mime and a dancer, having a conversation talking, uh, for hours. I cannot thank you enough for sharing Lorin, your, your, your insights and the wealth of information that you hold are truly priceless. So thank you so much for being here.
Oh, well, you’re very welcome. And thank you for inviting me on the podcast. I’m glad to be a part of it. And of course, I always love having your conversation with you. My pleasure,
My pleasure, and likewise. Okay, everybody. Um, we’re gonna, we’re gonna sign off and see you all later, Lorin. Thanks again.
I’m waving. Like nobody can see that,
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 though. theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that member, so kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Dana Caspersen – the 17 principles of conflict resolution https://amzn.to/2ZOoDWI
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, sit tight, but don’t stop moving cause you’re in the right place.
Hello. Hello, and welcome to words that move me. I am Dana and I am as usual, very excited about this episode. Um, this week we are talking about disagreeing specifically disagreeing with people that you love, people that you care about very much. And this is becoming one of my favorite topics because it is starting to happen more frequently and I want to get better at it. I want us all to become better at disagreeing with people that we love, because I want us to be loving more people. And because I think that disagreeing is expected, it is part of the human condition. I don’t think any two people will fully and completely agree on all of the things. So we might as well get better at disagreeing with people. Before we do that, however, of course, let’s talk about some wins. This week my win is that I enrolled in an online course. I started last week and there are still two weeks left for you to get in on this. If you want to join in for the last couple of classes, um, the course is called Intangible Roots, exploring the heritage of black dance, culture and people. And it’s led by a USC professor, Moncell Durden, who I am learning so, so, so much from. Um, uh, the purpose of the course. I’m going to go ahead and read off the website, cause I don’t want to leave anything super important out. The purpose of the course is to illuminate personal and cultural dynamics of ethnic diversity through hip hop cultures, political, social, economic, environmental circumstances, and spiritual practice in the United States. I mean, Whoa, dig in to that. Um, and we do, we’ve been really digging in on some really, really important topics. Last week, we talked about stereotypes of black people are portrayed in cartoons, TV, film, right? Entertainment. Um, it’s been really eye opening to watch and then really soul opening to discuss these topics. Um, in the course we do little breakout rooms. I’ve met some really interesting people and I’m just so jazzed about being a part of this program. It is not too late for you to sign up, go to https://www.moncelldurden.com/onlinecourse And there’s a little link to register now again, that’s Moncell, M O N C E L L D U R D E N.com/online course. And of course I will link to that in the show notes. All right. That was, that was a big bite. Now you go, what’s going well in your world.
Okay. Congrats. Keep winning. I am so jazzed for you. And I would like to just point out, I am constantly reminded of human resilience, especially now that our unofficial teacher for summer school has become Ms. Corona as I like to refer to her. I’m seeing a group of people become extremely resourceful, become connected, even as they’re isolated. And, um, I’m, I’m watching people become better dancers. I’m watching people become better artists. I’m watching people become better communicators. And I am tickled by that. I am not tickled. However, when I think about the subject for today, disagreeing with people and um, I heard somebody say recently, you know, there’s just a lot, that’s up for debate right now. And it was interesting for me to hear that because coming from my viewpoint, my bubble, I see things very clearly. I’m like what’s to be debatable healthcare for all. Um, defund the police. Arrest, the cops that murdered Brianna Taylor. I am seeing certain points very, very clearly. As soon as I heard the words, “there’s a lot up for debate.” I checked myself cause I was like, Oh, Holy smokes. Those are definitely my thoughts. My points of view. As there is an upcoming election that is going to be heated, I believe to say the very, very least, um, with extremely important issues. I mean, there are always important issues around an election, but this year I think compoundingly important. Healthcare on the heels of this pandemic, or what if, what if what’s the saying for not on the heels, but like on the lap, on the shins, on the, in the arms of a global pandemic, cause I don’t think the pandemic will be over by November, not if we’re going on at this rate anyways. Um, so healthcare major, major issue, gun rights and gun control super important. Obviously the economy, which is not winning platinum overall high score at the moment and climate change. Let’s talk about it. Whoa. A lot of really, really big, important issues. So if you are like me and if your family is like my family, there are probably going to be some varying perspectives and different values on those subjects, even within your family, maybe within your own household. So this week I want to talk about the ways that I have found success in having difficult conversations. And we’re going to circle back to last week’s conversation with Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey who talked so eloquently about their partnership, both in work and in life. And I believe these two lead equally with soft and open hearts, but also very sharp minds. So I’m excited to share with you guys what they had to say about disagreeing with somebody that you love.
But before we get to that, I want to talk about why disagreeing with people can be uncomfortable, but why some people seem to have no trouble with it at all. You know, the ones, um, whether or not you’re comfortable, disagreeing with people, has everything to do with how you think about conflict. In last week’s episode, Jermaine, Spenser, and I talk about how conflict is essential in creativity and how conflict is pretty much unavoidable in life. So if you live a creative life, get ready for a lot of conflict, it is possible to view conflict as essential. It’s possible to view conflict as an opportunity for growth. And when you hold conflict in that frame, disagreeing with somebody becomes a lot easier to stomach. So when I find myself in a moment of not seeing eye to eye with someone, my little check engine light goes off and tells me Dana, check on where you might be able to grow right now. What could you possibly learn from having a different point of view about this? And um, by thinking that especially lately my worldview has really opened up. So it’s pretty common to think that people dislike or are uncomfortable in conflict. We’re raised with the values of getting along with people of being friendly, of being likable, of being happy. When those are the qualities and feelings that you prioritize conflict and disagreement get de-prioritized, they don’t get a lot of practice. That’s why some of us are very uncomfortable when we find ourselves in those situations. In other words, disagreeing or disagreements cause stress and often disagreements are interpreted as fighting. What if we could disagree? Not by throwing punches, but by massaging new ideas.
Okay. Let’s jump into a quick story. Time. The year is 2016. There has just been an election. I am sitting in the airport boarding area, San Jose international airport, which is called San Jose Manita. Is that what it is? Why am I drawing a blank right now? Anyways, I’m waiting to board a flight and I see an incoming call from dad. I answer because it’s dad. Now, my candidate did not win the election and my wounds are still pretty fresh. You would think it’s as if I personally had lost the election and my dad on the other side of the aisle was very excited to talk about our new president. I let my dad talk for quite some time. Uh, mostly because I couldn’t find words to express how I felt. I wonder if I’d stood up and danced if I would have fared any better. But in this moment I remember hearing my dad’s words and feeling physical pain, like as if somebody was actually paper cutting me or like poking me in one place for so long that that place actually starts to tingle in a weird way and like hurt a little bit. Um, he said some things that I couldn’t actually disagree with more like when we talk about polar opposite opinions, I mean POLAR. North, South as far away as you can get as possible. I remember thinking that I was going to throw my phone. I remember thinking that I was going to be escorted out of the airport for being belligerent and causing a scene and making, um, passengers feel unsafe. Fortunately, I remembered some awesome training that I have received recently. I remembered that words, actual spoken words, or even words on the page are neutral. They don’t hurt. They can’t cut. You know, the old saying sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me, man. Yep. On the nose. Words are exactly that. They’re just words. It was my thoughts about those words that were causing me to struggle. Not the words themselves. I thought that my dad should think differently. I thought that my dad should agree with me. I thought that the nation should agree with me. I thought that my values are human values. I thought that my interpretation of the constitution was the interpretation of the constitution. And that my interpretation of the law is the interpretation of the law. And I thought that everybody should be able to agree on that. But when we think that things should be a certain way and they aren’t, we struggle. We struggle when our right is someone else’s wrong. We struggle when someone else’s wrong is our right. Now, here’s the special catch I can feel, right? Without being righteous, I can feel supported in my beliefs without the support of agreement from everyone else. I can tell myself, here’s the part where you disagree with dad. Here’s the part where you and dad don’t see eye to eye on political issues. I can listen to my dad and his views and his values without making it mean that I’m right and he’s wrong or I’m wrong and he’s right. I can listen to my dad. I can connect with my dad without making his words mean that he doesn’t love me. All right. Now we’re talking love. Now we’re getting to the big stuff. Now we’re getting into why disagreeing with someone you love is different than disagreeing with somebody that you don’t know very well or that you don’t care about.
Because the stakes are higher or at least that’s what you think. You think that being on good terms, quote and quote with somebody that you love is more important than being on good terms with somebody that you don’t really know. In other words, it’s easier to agree to disagree with somebody that you don’t know at all versus somebody that you’re married to, for example. The reason it’s extra hard to disagree with people that we love shows us the problem with how we’re handling disagreeing with people that we don’t necessarily care about or as much about, which is usually some version of F you. And of course, F meaning forget you okay bye, the end, canceled, if you will. But we can’t cancel the people that we love. We don’t want to cancel the people that we love. That to me says that we need a new response to disagreement, not just for the people that we love, but for everyone don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of call out culture, but in canceling everyone that we disagree with, we’re missing a huge opportunity to understand ourselves and our world. All right, let’s get another perspective. Let’s hear what Jermaine and Spenser have to say, enjoy.
Dana: Here’s what we doing. Here’s what we’re doing. You said it doesn’t happen. Often. You said you don’t fight. Occasionally you disagree. Can you give me a tip, a pointer for disagreeing, with the person that you love,
Jermaine: Dana, Dana Caspersen and that conflict management, masterpiece. She says something like, ‘remember to always speak to that person as your best self. That’s what you want to be doing. At all times, right? And if you can’t, whatever the reason is, if you’re not in a place or that person is not place for you to speak as your best self, then maybe wait, then maybe try another time. It could be just two minutes later. You know, it might not be so important right in that moment, if you’re talking to or who you’re speaking from is not the best self.
Spenser: That is also listening to that right now. That’s like a singular reflecting because I can remember times and I I’ve done this, but I’m also just thinking about from Jermaine’s point of view, times when he’s needed to tell me, like, I can’t talk to you about that right now. Or like, we’re going to have to pick that up later. And that is so frustrating in the moment. It is so frustrating in the moment to not get what you want, right. And to not continue. And what I’m hearing right now is that actually that’s an incredible demonstration of respect and love, you know, does that sound right?
And then also circling back, like if you can’t laugh about it at some point, like, then you, then it holds too much power. Those moments of conflict, we gotta be able to have a little levity with ourselves. And with our ridiculousness, when we get into those conflicts.
Jermaine: Something I was saying earlier, earlier, you, you don’t have to agree. You don’t have to be the same person, and you can still love each other. So sometimes the disagreement is because like, I just don’t understand why you won’t come to my side. Agree to disagree.
Dana: That’s great advice. Not just for people in a relationship, but people having people in the human relationship, right? Like me talking to other human person, me talking to company, member, me, me talking to my mom, um, talk to the best version of that person and talk from the best version of yourself. That is huge. And then the other kind of caveat there that I took away from that Jermaine is this concept that, um, listening doesn’t mean you’re agreeing, like giving the person, the floor to speak doesn’t mean, you agree with them. They can be saying something that you fully disagree with. You’re listening to them. Doesn’t doesn’t mean you agree or approve. It’s just, it’s the respect of a conversation
Jermaine: Because how does someone feel like they’re being seen if they can’t say what they feel, right? And so if you’re not allowing each other to be fully seen, then good luck.
I love this idea of speaking from your best self, to the best someone. I’m making this, my new default setting for every uncomfortable conversation and argument or debate that I get into this election season. I am so excited to practice disagreeing with people that I love. I am so excited to think to myself. ‘What if this is a call to practice, unconditional love for myself and for this other person? What if this argument is a call for love?’ I can’t wait to try this on for size. And I hope that when you try it on, it feels as good on you as it feels on me. All right, everybody. That’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening.
Oh my gosh. I almost forgot. Holy smokes. How could I forget this? Guys yesterday, July 21st was my birthday. I can’t believe I totally left that out of the wins.
I guess it didn’t really rank and importance, uh, to the deep dive on learning and relearning that I’m doing right now. So yes, yesterday was my birthday. And as a gift to myself and to all of you. Oh yes. I’m that selfless *wink wink* I asked for some of my favorite movers and shakers to tell me the words that move them. Yes. I am making a master birthday mashup episode and all of these glorious golden nuggets will be coming directly to you next week. Always on Wednesdays. You guys. Thanks again for listening this time I mean it. I’ll talk to you soon, but there’s going to be an outro where I say it again. Okay,
Bye. Keep it funky. You know what to do. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers. Like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: All right. All right. Hello everybody. And welcome to words that move me. I’m Dana. I am so jazzed about this episode, and I know that I always say that, but really this one is special. It is special because my guests are special, so special. It is special because I learned so much about myself, about my craft, about my relationship to the world that I’m living in right now. Um, and I also learned a lot more about audio editing. So here comes the heads up. The audio quality is not the greatest on this episode, but the, every other quality is the greatest. So this episode is my win for the week. Your turn, what’s going well in your world. Let’s see if I can keep tempo.
Yes. Good for you. I’m so glad that you’re winning. Keep it up and celebrate yourself. It’s so important. Okay. Now I don’t want to take too much more time before I invite you to the table. Well, the zoom, I guess, with my guests today, Spenser Theberge is originally from Portland, Julliard Grad danced for NDT two and NDT one that’s Netherlands Dance Theater for you, non dance types. Um, the Forsythe company, he’s the winner of the Princess Grace Award. He currently teaches for Cal arts. Um, but most importantly, I want to tell you that his choreography makes me weep tears of laughter and also tears of a very special brand of admiration. He is a truly special artist and I am so honored and flattered to call him to call both of these gentlemen, my friends. All right. So up next, we have the one and only Jermaine Spivey He is from Baltimore, also a Julliard grad. Also a Princess Grace winner also has danced for all of the, that I oogle and all of the companies that you should Google. Um, he is currently teaching for USC Kaufman, but beyond all of those things, I can not think of a single thing, more mesmerizing in this world than watching Jermaine dance. That was at least until we had this conversation. And I learned that it is equally mesmerizing to dig in to words with him, with him and with Spenser, both truly mesmerizing. Um, this conversation simply blows my mind wide open. So without any further ado, please enjoy this conversation with Jermaine Spivey and Spenser Theberge
Dana: Spencer and Jermaine. Holy smokes. Thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. I am thrilled to have you! Welcome.
BOTH: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Dana: Um, this is kind of par for the course. This is sort of how I do it on the pod. Please introduce yourself.
Jermaine: Um, okay. I will introduce myself. My name is Jermaine Spivey. I am an artist. I’m a performing artist. I am a choreographer. I am an educator. I am a learner. I am a person in this world that um, loves to create. And connect to people through that creativity.
Dana: Thats a beautiful introduction. Thank you. Nice to meet you. Alright, Spenser hit it.
Spenser: I’m Spenser Theberge. And that is how you say my last name.
Dana: I’ve been saying it wrong for like four years now.
Spenser: Yes, it’s true. I am Spencer Theberge. Uh, I also echo what Jermaine says. I am an artist. I work in, I work in dance, but I don’t feel like I only live in dance. I am excited by interdisciplinary things. I’m interested in collaborations and the permeable worlds in terms of art and genres. Um, I teach. I dance, uh, and I’m also, Jermaine and I are partners. And we’re partners also in the work we’re making too.
Dana: You Guys. This is the first time I’m having a couple on the podcast. I’m so jazzed about this. Okay. Um, thank you for your introductions. I have a million questions for you. About your work and what it’s like to collaborate with your significant other and what it is to be in an interracial Relationship in the summer of 2020 and how the black lives matter movement is impacting you and how are you impacting it and what it means to be like, Whoa, all the things I have, all the questions. So slow down, Wilson. Um, let me simplify and ask you.
Jermaine: There’s a lot. It’s a lot.
Um, let me just simplify and ask you to tell me something you would like for people to know about your relationship. Or is it top secret?
Jermaine: Oh, no, I think, yeah. Okay. I’m gonna start that off. I think I would like people to know that it is, it’s a constant effort and I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s actually very positive that its constant effort, but constantly trying to see each other for who we are and how we’re evolving and how we do that together. How we do that side by side, I really, really, really don’t respond to the idea of, you know, you meet someone and its the same and that is happily ever after, like, you’re the same person I met and it’s like, yes, I am a version of that person, but I’m also hopefully changing and growing and evolving the entire time and definitely tries to do that next to the person that I love. We’re next to each other we’re with each other. We’re changing. Okay. Talking about summer of 2020
Dana: Change baby change.
Jermaine: We’re both changed from how we started this year.
Spenser: I would also add or piggyback then say that, um, there’s the idea that we’re always partners. It’s not like we are, we are. And then what I mean by that is our relationship as partners. We’re always doing that. We’re doing that when we’re making work together, we’re doing that when we’re making breakfast together, we’re doing that when Jermaine’s on a tour and I’m home, and we’re not physically together. We’re always partners. Sometimes I think that there’s, um, you know, the compartmentalizing idea of we, you’re not, we’re not in our relationship when we’re making work together. For instance, like once we entered this room, it’s a different, it’s a different story or something. And that’s not the case with us. We very much are always exploring and interrogating, but our relationship feeds and that’s the art we make as well. Uh, and I think that we hope that our art changes and develops over time. And so why don’t, why not treat ourselves like that too, that we can change and develop over time.
Ah, I love that sentiment. I love the idea of perpetual evolution and, uh, specifically hopefully progress, right. Um, also Jermaine I’m so glad you brought up effort. And that is what I would like to segue with into this next part of the conversation. So I think it was after, and we can go back a little bit to our history as friends in a second, but I think it was after Gen Four, which was certainly the most, um, amount of time I spent with you guys like period. But I think after Gen Four, um, I dug into a search for more of you both because after that week of watching you dance, I just could not sate myself. So I was just looking for more. And I remember stumbling upon, um, short film that was directed by Dana Casperson and it’s part of her, um, changing the conversation book. I think she made little chunks from her book, changing the conversation, the 17 principles of conflict resolution. And, um, I was so delighted by this thing. Uh, and then I dug more on Dana and I became so delighted by her. Uh, she says that conflict is the origin of all creative action, which is like the smarter older sibling version of my saying, which is creativity is simply problem solving. But she, she says that conflict is inevitable and she adds that destructive conflict is not inevitable. That’s the choice part. Um, she, she explains describing nondestructive conflict as just dynamic tension. Effort. And to me that sounds kinda like fun dynamic tension reminds me of a first date or of like the early years of a relationship. Dynamic tension, sounds like, Oh, I like that versus conflict is something that I think is, is kind of has this negative connotation. Um, but, uh, one of the things I like most about you guys, both in your life, in, in your work is that you don’t avoid conflict or effort, um, or tension. Actually, I would say that you guys are both masters of tension and release of tension. Spenser, you do it with humor Jermaine, you do it with your body. Um, could you guys talk about how you use tension in your work and in your relationship?
Spenser: Woah, Dana, thank you. I love that. That’s some something you’re observing because it’s, we talk about conflicts all the time and it is really at the heart of our creations. It’s also at the heart of the process of creating. Um, we get along really well. We disagree, I wouldn’t say we fight.
Jermaine: Maybe once in 10 years have we fought.
Um, however, we’re both really, um, we really believe what we believe and we really care about the things that we believe in and those things are, are often at odds and that doesn’t feel good, but it’s sort of like a thank goodness type thing, because, uh, what I want to relate it to is this idea that you have to have conflict in order to have good theater. Otherwise the curtain goes up and maybe somebody proposes to the other person. And that person says yes, and then it’s over, there’s no conflict and the curtain goes down and it ends. And so there’s the thought that if you want something to be sustainable, if you want, and I’m talking now in a performative way, if you want to sustain interests for the audience, there’s gotta be conflicts there for people to have a hook, so we lean into the conflict. Um, and since our work is usually a kind of lens into our, into our relationship as partners, we then lean into the inherent conflicts between each other, um, and allow them to be present in the work. So that the work can sustain yeah, it’s a belief. I mean, if it feels like a belief, like a value for making work to me is this idea of conflict. So I love that you see it and that you’re aware of it.
100%. Um, do you have anything you want to add, Jay?
Um, I’m just listening to, I feel like conflict is also about diversity and, uh, it’s about opposition. Uh, I think we’re realizing right now in this moment that we can’t continue to curate this weird streamlined version of reality where there aren’t, there’s no diversity, right? Like where we, force people to conform to be the same, where we force people to have the same values and the same way of expressing these values, it’s not realistic.
And there’s no opposition, there’s no opposition. And we know because we’re dancers, who’ve done pirouettes before that you cannot lift up without also pushing down. You won’t have a successful rotation if you don’t do both. Um, this is what I’m inspired by right now is this idea. And I know it’s very self-gratifying, but it’s this idea that dancers just might be the best people to deal with and lead in a time like this because we have understanding and the ability to think kind of physically and know the importance of something like opposition. Know, the importance of something like spacing, for example. But I just, I, I would love to hear a little bit more from you guys on what some other dancer or choreographer characteristics might be helpful right now to, to all, not just to dance types.
Spacial awareness is the first thing that came to mind, um, is not just about avoiding bumping into people on the street. It’s about space. It’s about an understanding of how to occupy space, not just how to leve room for other people. Which is something from the conversation in our way of life here in the US, created a lot of extremes and not so much space or room for people to exist in. And I think that it is work.
Actually, I think we experienced that in the dance world was maybe we’ll have a chance to kind of get into a little bit more, uh, later, but this idea of where you exist inside of the dance world, and things sometimes not. I mean, sometimes for a lot of people, it’s always feeling like there’s, there is no intersection or blending of worlds and experiences. And I’m also thinking about blending of forms and blending of techniques. But, um, I’d like to first, before getting into that talk about also, I think dance has the ability to help us train an idea of empathy. I was just thinking about a rehearsal Jermaine and I had the other day where we were doing some partnering and I needed to know what something’s felt like for him in order to do my job for him to help him. So I, he had me do it, do his role, so I could feel what it felt like in his body. And then I knew better. It didn’t change instantly, but I had a better ability to make a helpful choice for him as a partner. And that made me feel like what we’re actually doing is training that thing we’re trying to talk about right now, which is, this is how this feels for me. Can you hear me say that? Like, can you put that on, this is how this feels for me. And, and we do that sometimes without even knowing that that’s unusual for some people in their world and in their life. And right now, since I’ve been teaching a lot online and, you know, theoretically everyone’s alone in their kitchen, like I am, teaching, right. And so I’m trying to still figure out how to teach this idea or promote this idea of empathy. And I think we can relate to ourselves in our own bodies, empathetically as well, and have that same process of like, what does that feel like for you knees? And then if I’m, if I’m fostering a sense of empathy in my own body, isn’t it then? Couldn’t it then be easier to be empathetic with the wider world.
Okay. Pause for the cause and let that sink in for a second. All right. In episode three, with Chloe Arnold, we talked about how dance lessons are life lessons. We talked about all of the different ways that dance has prepared us for life, and we dug pretty deep. Um, I highly suggest you go back and check that out if you haven’t already, or maybe even revisit that one, if it’s been awhile, but even in all of that discussion with Chloe, it had never dawned on me that perhaps the most important and powerful and dare I say essential human quality, empathy can be practiced physically through dance. This was a massive a-ha moment for me. I, I danced as a swing on my most recent world tour. And, uh, for those of you that don’t know a swing is somebody that knows and must be able to dance anyone in the shows track, um, a track just means their part, I guess. So for that show for the man of the woods tour, I learned all of the ladies and even took it upon myself to learn my male counterpart dancers tracks. Um, and it was my job to jump in for anybody in the event that they needed me to fill in. And man, wow. If it is recommended to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes, I highly recommend that you try dancing in them. I gained a tremendous understanding and appreciation for my fellow dancers by learning their show, by dancing in their shoes. I did wear my own shoes, but that’s neither here nor there. I think that perhaps the best part of what I’m learning from this conversation and from what Spenser is saying is that learning and appreciating can happen for me in me, like having empathy for parts of myself. Wow. Just Whoa. Okay. I had to jump out and highlight that and sort of plant a seed. So that next time you find yourself in conflict with yourself or with someone else, you might find an opportunity to practice empathy. Okay. That’s it let’s jump back in.
Jermaine: Yes. I can still connect and you know, physically partner with this person that doesn’t weigh the same as I do that has a different shape than I do that. That comes from a different understanding of dance in terms of their background than I do, but we can meet, we figure it out. I mean, that’s what happens. It happens again all the time. In a company its a whole new group of people, and you start that process all over again. And just thinking about how many times, whether it’s a company in a gig or in a shoot, you meet these people may never see again, but you have to come together for the common goal. We’re so versed at that. It can be bumpy along the way. It’s not always great. It’s not always whatever perfect supposed to mean, but I think that’s also the point.
Those are excellent points that I really hadn’t considered the concept of actually sharing weight and feeling feelings of, you know, trading roles. Like we do that in dance. I will dance your role. I will try to be your track. Um, I’ll try to lift you the way that you lift me in that lift. Like I can’t think of a, of a better way to practice empathy. Um, but also this idea that we are basically constantly, uh, building and then breaking down and then rebuilding new teams with different objectives. And that is such an important skill to have. I think dancers are really, really good at being quick to volunteer, quick to make changes, quick to make friends. And part of that is the nature of how quickly our world and our creative processes work, especially here in LA. There certainly aren’t, we, we don’t have the luxury of long rehearsal processes for most projects. And I mean, no rehearsal process now. No in-person rehearsal process now. So yeah, we we’ve gotten very good at doing certain things. Um, what are we not good at?
Well, we’re not always good at recognizing individual contributions to the mess. I feel like I’ve.. I’ve been a performer in a contemporary concert dance company and I’ve been in these moments with company where we’re complaining and we’re like, this is happening. And this is happening, this company sucks. Everybody gets under this company sucks train. And it’s like, we’re the company, you know? I mean, yes, there is an administrative body that is governing
The situation, but also we actually have a lot more say on the dynamics of how things go than we think. there’s something in structure. There’s something in the way a lot of things organize that causes us to forget that. I mean, every company that I’ve ever been a part of with the exception of maybe one has had like really rocky shit and again, that’s not a dig it’s layered, right? I think that’s something that happens because there’s many different aspects to running a company. And then of course the dancers feel the brunt of that, but then we can get caught in just complaining about it and just suffering in and that becomes our story. Like I’m just suffering this situation and this is how it has to be, woe is me, I’m a dancer. And then at some point you have to realize other things that I can do. And other ways that I find to this situation that will change me, and usually If I change myself that is reflected in the person next to me and the person next to them.
I would like to talk a little bit more about voice specifically. You’ve used it in your work in a way that I think is very attractive, but I know that for a lot of dancers using our voice, like our actual vocal chords is terrifying. I’ll speak for myself as for one. Um, could you guys share maybe a story of, of being asked to use your voice or maybe why you, why you love to use voice?
Yeah. I’d love to talk about that. I, I think a bit of context is helpful and to know that I grew up, um, like equal parts. I was training at a dance studio, uh, after school, but in school I was training in theater. I was a drama kid, and I was really, really torn between these two worlds. And I felt a lot of angst, of like this having to make a choice. And I ultimately chose dance because I love it. It wasn’t like depression or anything. I, I knew dance in my body and I didn’t know theater in my body if that makes sense, so I followed it, but I definitely felt like I’ve made a choice and closed a pathway, closed some kind of world in myself. And it wasn’t until I moved to Europe and I was working on a creation with the choreographer at Netherlands dance theater. And I was, I was asked to use my voice and I was sort of, Oh, I know that person, that’s that person from high school, like who knows, how to use their voice and who loves to speak and has this sense of theater and drama. And it was like inviting a part of myself to the party who hadn’t got to be at the party for like 10 years. And from that point on, that was it. I was, I was like, if I’m not getting to explore all of me, I’m just not sure if I’m that interested. And sometimes it feels right to make the choice to just dance. But there’s a difference between saying you can only dance. And right now you’re just dancing. Versus like, just knowing that it’s always, like, I always have the ability to use my voice if that’s the right choice for this particular communication right now, or to, I don’t know, sing, or make a dress or dance, or like get behind this camera and operate this projector or whatever, like whatever the moment calls for. I want to feel like I am allowed and have permission to, to deliver that. And that feels like, that feels like pursuit of, of me, to me.
That’s awesome. I love the, the 360 degree approach to making. Um, I also love the, the concept of giving permission to use voice. And when you said that, I realized that, um, I would say like fully 50% of my professional work is me lip-syncing to something, but you, you cannot be lip syncing because it looks like, you know, your, your neck, your muscles aren’t working, you can tell somebody lip-syncing. So even on the projects where I’m lip syncing, they ask you to sing out. And as I say so to me, that’s permission, right? You’re playing a track at volume. That’s not my voice. They, they, they, they won’t hear my voice. Maybe. I don’t know. They probably have a microphone hidden somewhere, but to me, that’s permission to sing out. And I, I wonder if that metaphor kind of breaks the part of this conversation. That’s important to me, which is it being your voice, but, um, Jermaine specifically, I’m curious what you’d have to say about this, because now that I’m talking about lip sinking, I’m remembering that maybe my favorite performance of yours is Kid Pivot’s Betroffenheit, your, your lip syncing, right? Is that your voice? Are you, are you lip-syncing?
Jermaine: I’m lip-syncing. You never hear my voice in the entire show
Spenser: That’s embodiment
That’s Embodiment. You could not tell me that’s not your voice. It’s okay. So just straight up curiosity, what was your approach to making somebody’s voice? That’s not your voice look like your voice.
Jermaine: Um, that is a good question. It was, it was a few different things. It’s the physicality of just the steps in the way that, uh, you know, with Crystal, we decided my character would, would move that movement directed the character. Then that character tells me how I need to lip-sync. Then the other level of that layer of that was listening to the track and getting familiar with the rhythm, the cadence and the timing of Jonathan speaking. And when there was breathing and wasn’t breathing. And every year that we performed the show, we peel back another layer of the audio I think when we first did it, we were not in the place where we could hear every breath, for example, that was in the audio track. And then when we came back to do it, we remounted it. We were like ‘has the breath always been there? Like I hear it differently now.’ So then the second year was really all about trying to embody now all of the breath. And then the third year was like the breath and the little crackles, you know, saliva, like when he’s opening and closing his mouth. We’ve done that also with reviser.
Uh, Jermaine. It’s so good. It’s one of my favorite things to watch. Um, I’m not sure if Marquee TV is still doing a 30 days free thing.
I will be linking to that in the show notes, please. You guys, this is mandatory viewing. Um, okay, cool. Moving right along. Um, you guys both went to Julliard. You’re both teachers you teach at the college level. And I know I have a lot of listeners out there who dream of attending prestigious schools like that and of having careers like yours. Um, what would you tell them that you wish somebody had told you when you embarked on your journey of higher education?
Yeah. Something comes in mind for me instantly. And I remember, I think it’s so, so important and so wonderful and so necessary to have goals. But what I remember is that I had tunnel vision with my goals, especially going into college and through college, into, into like the professional world. So my goals, um, confused me at times because they, what they did is they said this is important for your goals and this isn’t important for your goals. And so there was a bit of, I love school and I love to learn even as someone who loves to learn, um, there’s a little bit of like, I’ll need this. I won’t need this type of thing for the goals that I know, what I wish someone had told me is what I’m experiencing now and continue to experience is that you don’t know what your goals are going to be after you get a taste of maybe the goal that you’re interested in, the goals might change, they’re likely to change. And aren’t you, or maybe you will wish that you had absorbed a little bit more completely, then you did, when it was offered to you, I’ve found myself wishing often that I had taken better notes or paid more attention in a particular course, because I feel like I need it now, you know, 10 plus years later. And I just didn’t know that at the time. So that thought of hoarding information with accepting the idea that you don’t know what you’re going to be interested in. And you don’t know what you need ..
Um, will you guys play a game with me really quick? So it’s, um, full disclosure. It’s not actually a game, it’s an exercise, but we’re going to call it a game cause that’s more fun. So I have started, um, categorizing my goals now in tiers, I do these three tiers. My first tier of goals is the goals I could accomplish right now. If literally, if I just did it, like the action is the missing part, not the resources or the, um, the ideas themselves, but like right now I could accomplish this. Um, tier two is with a little bit more support, whether it’s in manpower or finance or time or whatever, with a little more support I could accomplish this. And then tier three is rip the lid off, no ceiling nobody ever would say, no, you will not hear the word. Know what? Like that’s tier three, no rules, no limits at all. So I would love to hear from you guys, three tiers of goals.
You know, I’m already, I’m already going to do the game. The game is supposed to be played.
Break the rules.
I’m am. Because It’s really, really, really layerd
Okay. Go. I want the depth.
I think I have learned from a very young age not to set goals. That has been a super power for me in my life. It hasn’t actually had a negative effect on me, but it may come from something that is a negative, which is related to being a black person in this country and my mom because I grew up with my mom in Philly, feeling sometimes like she was not supported in the way she needed to really get to that goal or just feeling like.. I just, I, I, I watched my mom do that and survive the most beautiful work. And I feel like I learned from that, life also just be about adapting and that isn’t a lack of openness or power
Or imagination. Um, well, there are many ways to choose, you know, how to organize it. And I, I don’t really set goals. Um, I know that sounds weird, but I do, I do stuff. I do stuff. And then I pay attention to how that feels and where it’s leading me there. And when I’m there I feel led to the next and that’s how my whole dance career has been. I never decided I want to go study at a conservatory. I just, I decided I liked dancing. So then I continued, I didn’t even want to dance. My mother forced me to go. Then I realized that I like it so I continued to go. Then someone was like, you should audition for this school. I knew nothing about Juilliard, but I went because I trusted that person’s opinion. But they were right. While I was at Juilliard actually, I had a teacher that was like, you should look into this place, which I did. And, you know, listening to the voices didn’t mean that I only listened to what people told me to do, I just took in that information, sometimes they were exactly right so I went with them. But sometimes it was just hearing what they had to say, to help me understand what I was feeling so that I can make my own choice intuitively. It continues to be that way. And the older I get, I feel like it’s really just about deciding to do stuff. Um, for me personally, I think people should set goals if that is how they need function and to plan ahead. But that just hasn’t really been a part of my spirit as a person. To plan ahead, It gets me into trouble in different ways because of the world that we, that we live in. But it also provides me a lot by not feeling, um, I don’t feel precious about the trajectory of my life in that way.
Would you be willing to go into what you mean when you say gets you in trouble?
Yes. I mean, in the, in the kind of like little micro versions of that, it’s like sometimes I don’t plan far enough ahead. So that I can be on time. So then I’m late, you know, and that’s, that’s like a little, little tiny version of that. Um, I think it gets me in trouble with sometimes because then with the interactions with other people, sometimes there are expectations that are not met and yes, because I think the way that I do, I understand that. And I, I see sometimes what that means for certain people in certain circumstances. But I also feel like I am not always responsible for delivering that expectation.
Full Stop. Wow. In hearing Jermaine’s point of view about setting goals, I experienced the moment that I’ve felt quite a bit lately, the shameful moment that many of my listeners out there maybe feeling lately as well. And that is the moment where your privilege is revealed to you in a place that you hadn’t noticed that before. I truly relish the goal setting practice, I called it a game. It literally is fun to me because my goal setting practice doesn’t get me in trouble. It gets me my desired results. And what I learned from Jermaine is that the accomplishment of my goals is absolutely not entirely attributable to the goal setting practice itself. I am a white, able-bodied, heterosexual woman who grew up in a middle class, suburban home with two parents who although divorced, both loved and supported me tremendously. And my life experience has taught me that dreaming big, mostly works. Someone else’s experience might teach them that dreaming big, mostly hurts. I know that now, and that doesn’t mean that setting goals is bad. And that doesn’t mean that I am bad for setting goals. It means that setting goals is not a default setting. I do think it’s important to mention that the thing that excited me and still excites me most about setting goals is that especially in that third kind of no ceilings, impossible tier something is only impossible until it’s possible. And I find tremendous inspiration and power in that. All right, let’s jump back in and hear what Jermaine, the man who seemingly defies gravity and every other law of physics in his dancing makes of doing the impossible buckle up.
For me. I respond to what if it isn’t impossible? Like what is impossible? It’s a construct for us to relate to, but it’s not really a thing. And I say that because like often when I improvise, I use tasks. And I talk about that I’m never TRYING to do something cool or impossible I’m never deciding now I’m going to do something that is anti-gravity like those things happen because I’m doing something that is really similar to me in the breakdown of all of the things I am moving my shoulder to the right and at the same time sliding my chin to the left. And if I do that and I involve my hip and my heel I miraculously made it around 4 times. I lived that experience in various ways in my life and I’m never really trying to do something impossible or spectacular.
That is, That is very important to me on the subject of effort. If we could circle back to effort, you look effortless when you dance, but it’s not because what you’re doing is easy is because you’re focusing your efforts into very specific, simple places or simple tasks that is fascinating.
And I’d like to jump in on that. As someone who gets to watch Jermaine a lot, his sense of validation is really inside himself. It’s not, it’s not bound to external sources.
And a small interjection I had to work on that because for so much of my younger life, I felt really bound to what I thought were people’s expectations of me and that it hurt. I hurt myself. No one did that to me. I did that to myself, fulfilling that expectation for everyone else. I caused myself hurt and suppression and guilt for things that I shouldn’t feel guilty for. And I don’t know, I think at some late twenties, I really started to come to terms with that.
What was the shift?
I think, I think it was it’s, it was physical and emotional. Um, I mean, they’re the same thing, but you know, it was this me on a path of diving deeper in my artistry, which pushed me to dive deeper into my person. And what, what am I expressing? What am I living, what am I doing what am I thinking? Um, it was me coming to terms really for real, with my sexuality and realizing how much of that, uh, was weighing on me in ways that I didn’t know that it was weighing on me. And through that realizing I have all of these boxes that I’m trying to fufill for other people, but I care about people that care about me, people that I need in my life. And so not only do I have the boxes, but then I also have the fear of not filling the boxes and what will they do if I don’t fill this box for them? And I’m trying to make it a long story short, I saw therapists and one was a craniosacral therapist, in Stockholm. Shout out to Banks Elmstron, My superhero, wizard, Swedish Man. He it’s very confronting to see someone that you’ve never met before and have them just read you like a book in one sitting. And, and to realize that they can do that because they’ve learned the skill of being sensitive. So he could feel these things in my body to feel them through the tissue physically, but he could also feel them energetically emotionally. And if I’m walking around with that all the time, that’s not going to be cute, down the line. So then, Hey, may, Hey, maybe there was a goal that was like my one goal, you know, it’s that to, to fix myself, like change my relationships with these expectations. He would, he would say to me like, wow, you put so much pressure on yourself. Why do you do that? And I’d be like, what, why are you saying that from holding my ankles? I don’t understand. And it wasn’t just him. I saw a few more craniosacral therapist over the years and had very similar experiences one with a person in London, with a person in Hawaii and every time it was very consistent, the things that they had to say to me very spot on, and these are people that I never met before in my life. And it was the last time in Hawaii where I was like, okay, do you, be you, live your life and your intuition. Trust that people will accept. And if they don’t, they don’t. And that has to apply to everyone.
Uh, yes, those, those boxes checked makes sense. And I, I remember coming up in dance, I actually wonder, I wonder if there’s a way to train dancers, um, that doesn’t perpetuate external validation, right. Is there a way of teaching anything that puts the authority in the hands of the students instead of any authority figure? I mean, dance specifically, I mean, I remember a very literal stick that was either, you know, it was slamming into the ground, counting the music, or it was slapping me on the back of the knee or my belly if, if I was doing something wrong. So, and you look to that person for, did I do it right? Am I enough? And that started for me when I was three and I didn’t go to college for dance, but I would imagine an institution like Juilliard, it’s that like dialed up, you’re doing that hours and hours a day for years on years on years. I don’t know how to remove that portion of, of our training process.
This is something that’s really on my mind. Um, and I’m, I know I’m not alone in that, but, um, this idea of, especially as someone who teaches ballet primarily, um, how to approach teaching ballet in a more inclusive way. And, um, you know, my, all of the readings I’ve been doing lately, um, the first thing that seems important is that you gotta name the problem and not pretend like it isn’t there. So we have to name, name the idea that Ballet is rooted in whiteness and name the idea that it is somehow, um, has been self described as this pedestal, um, this pillar of dance. And I think
That’s essential to all other dances somehow.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, there’s that, that thing that I’m sure we’ve all heard is like, if you know ballet, you can do everything or ballet is the basis of all forms. And that is, um, it’s a lie, that’s not, not a true statement. It’s true for a particular path, which is a particular path. That’s not the path. So this, I think first and foremost, we have to establish that ballet is A form of dance, not THE form of dance. And then how do you approach learning it, honoring it, without letting, without, um, allowing it, and I mean, this both as a teacher teaching it, but also as a student taking it, how do you, how do you make sure that you’re honoring it without letting it tell you that it knows something about you as a dancer, because many of us have this relationship with ballet as it being a standard of dance, then the aesthetics of ballet become a standard that I know my, my body doesn’t always accomplish. Um, my feet don’t do the thing that it’s both that they’re supposed to do for ballet, my rotation, my range of motion, all of those things. I don’t, I don’t check those boxes, but I can still honor that work and ballet and approach it, honoring my values about capital D dance, not ballet as dance, if that makes any kind of sense.
But even that is, it’s a deformation of where it came from, because it was never intended for people to rotate their feet away from each other, 180 degree or to lift your foot above your head to the 12 o’clock. That was never the intention. We applied that all of that came later, with ballet and many other genres, right? So even that thing that we’re, we’re fighting up against we have to remember that comes from people that comes from a particular person or a particular desire. And now we’re all trying to fit into that fantasy. We’re missing, we’re missing the root. Everyone can rotate their legs in some degree or fashion, because legs do that. Everyone can turn the arms in and out in general because arms do that. So it’s not about, well, your body does something, my body doesn’t do. Everybody’s bodies do exactly what they need to do.
That’s why I like to talk about turnout and experience, as opposed to, a shade. Like, it’s not a result. It’s something that you’re actively doing. And when we make things a movement, I think we allow them to be fluid as opposed to the static idea of arrival and position and aesthetic and shape. I think we get bogged down in ballet by that a lot, like moving from pose to pose. Like you heard me talk about today, how do I mean, let’s emphasize the move part moving from pose to pose instead of moving from pose. Oh, that’s right. Like, what are you emphasizing? I think it’s real important to stay curious for more information and to assume that they’re more that you don’t know, then they’re like there is that, you know, always assume that there’s more out there. However, you do know what your values are as a dancer and you know, what your values are from an early age and you can pursue those values. In any form you go into. There is not, um, like musicality coordination, organization, relationship to space, relationship to time, those things exist across dance they’re not, they don’t belong to any particular technique. So whatever you love about those things find that in whatever form you’re working on and then you’re working inclusively in your own body.
Well, I think Spencer, the other thing that you did in class today that I thought was very inclusive was, um, you talked about energetic ideas, opposed to physical explanations, physical ideas, or physical pictures of what is right and what is wrong. Um, it was very much about energetic ideas and the, the one that stuck with me and that I’ll be hearing in my head as I turn out. And as I lift, and as I oppose. Is this idea of forever. You said, turn out forever, open your back forever. Uh, root your legs forever. And it became like, this makes me emotional because it’s now timeless, which is something that kind of breaks my heart about dance, especially live dance, is that it only truly exists in that moment, even if it’s captured on film, the actual moment of it is so temporary and so fleeting, it’s what makes it so beautiful, but God, I just wish that it could last forever. But when you explained those shapes those poses, if you will, as becoming eternal, it was an emotional experience. And, and that is inclusive.
I thank you for that observation. And I, I totally, I mean, speaking about bringing information from other forms and other experiences into right now, we’re talking about ballet. So into this particular farm, that information I’ve learned and developed from, from learning and developing my relationship with Jermaine, uh, this idea of endless directionality and opposing forces and opposing energies in the body. That’s something that I was first introduced to by him. And it’s something that we really privilege in the work that we make together and in our, in our improv practice and in all of that stuff. So then again, the thought is that it doesn’t have to just belong to that practice like that improv face or that creative space with Jermaine, but I can actually invite it with me into my ballet practice or any other practice that I’m in. And I just think, I just think that that matters.
That does matter. Is it possible? You guys new idea, auditioning it on you now? Is it possible that improvisation is the foundation of all styles? Because everybody’s body is their own. And if the body is the tool of dance, then a degree of mastery of your own body and a communication of your own body in the moment from moment to moment is, is essential.
I’ll tell you what I, my experience with improvisation is that I really didn’t like it because no one was me what to do and I didn’t know how to be good at that. I didn’t like it until post my time at Netherlands dance theater. So I’m like a grownup person running around the dance world, not loving improvisation and not making improvisation into my world until I joined a company that is rooted in improvisation, the Forsythe company. And that was a real hard, um, awakening to, to have somebody say to me, well, how do you want to do it? Which is essentially what that proposition was. You’re going to improvise in this show. So you’re demonstrating what do you think essentially. And I was like, I don’t know what, what should I think is how I answered that. I didn’t know how to answer that. And I was 26-27, something like that at the time. And I just felt like, wow, this is, this is really late in the game to not even have a clue what my, how I want to move, how, what are my instincts? What are my values? And it was in those two years of working there that, and just being immersed in improvisation that I really learned, what do I care about? What are my values? What are my impulses? And that work, that exploration has just fully permeated everything. I mean, it’s, it’s like, um, like a good kind of infection not like COVID It’s just, I find it everywhere. Now. I didn’t know that person before. I didn’t know the person that knew what, uh, what they wanted in dance and knew how to make choices in dance. I only knew the person that knew how to be told what to, right?
I think it is a risk, um, to be always told what to do and told what to think and not taught how to think dance taught me a lot, you guys. Dance taught me a lot. And some things that you might not expect, like how to manage my time or how to, uh, work in a group, how to resolve some conflicts. Right. Um, but it did not teach me HOW to think. And it certainly didn’t give me confidence in my thoughts if I ever had it, if I ever had any confidence at all, it was because somebody told me that it was good, but I, I rarely had confidence in my thoughts.
That’s right. And I feel like we’re touching on something that, especially in this moment, uh, is important to be thinking about is that, you know, we’re speaking a lot about dance, like less than civilization and culture. I’m speaking about concert, dance, culture, fine arts, in quotation marks, education. Why are those fine, we’re talking about, but I didn’t know, like someone taught me how to dance. Well somebody taught you these particular forms, but again, everyone knows how to dance because they have a body like everyone dances. We’ve been dancing since the beginning before somebody decided to hold a class, you know, like people were teaching and learning from each other as a way of communicating as a way of expressing, as a way of existing as a way of keeping track of their stories and their history and all those things. So it’s just, it’s very important to remember. You’re really affected by like the forming and the codifying of the idea. But everybody dances.
I know this because, I know babies, that wiggle in their car seats when music comes on and nobody said do that. And nobody said, put your shoulders down.
I just think it’s also worth noting that the way that Jermaine was just talking about that need to codify is also like this idea about the needs to define in terms of goal setting, like what he was speaking about before this idea to just let it be experienced is, is the information you need in order to know how to engage with it. Um, yeah. What is, what is this need to define it, to like set it in concrete and make a statue out of it? Um, and is that what we have to do to it in order to relate to it?
Or is that what we need to do to it in order to remember it like 400 years from now, if my generations pass down, want to find out what I was doing at this time, how would they find it? You know, how, how would I know the important players of this thing, if this thing didn’t have a name, um, in this, in this kind of information age where you have to know what you want to search for in order to find it, I mean, that’s, to me that’s maybe the only, well, certainly the best way that I can, the best reason I can think of giving things a category or a name is simply so that they can be recorded and found later. Um, but yes, I’ve seen that genre-fecation as being so divisive and Jermaine, you mentioned earlier, like you mentioned that the dance world is very separate and it’s weird to me that for as small as it is, there is so much distance between the groups. It is so section off.
Because there’s so much hierarchy and the structure of it that is about creating exclusivity and elitistsm and ultimately I think we all don’t respond to that very well. I mean, at the top of it is, is whiteness and privilege.
And I think you you’ve touched on right away with that idea of like, who decided what was fine, because that’s, that’s why we spend more time in ballet, in college programs then other forms of dance. Because those things were defined and those things were defined by white people.
Yeah. That’s heartbreaking to think how much is being left out. Um, I think about when you use the word fine in relationship to fine art, I think about fine China and that, that, and, and how rarely it gets used and dance is so useful. It might be weird coming from somebody who operates primarily in the commercial space, but dance is useful. It has function connective, um, expressive, and to think of how much dance isn’t getting used, because it’s not considered fine. Like how many hip hop programs are there on the university level street styles, freestyles. There’s a huge problem there.
I mean, there’s also a problem there though, because the idea is like, you need to access information through this place in order for it to be successful? And that also isn’t true. You can be phenomenal, incredible artists without having to go to a university. The university doesn’t benefit from telling you that.
Thats coming from a person that teaches at a university so that might be really weird for me to say. But its something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, like I have to go to this place in order to attain success to get to the next level. But that aint true because the teachers that teach hip hop at the universities they taught themselves. Right?
You have, you have proof that it isn’t essential yet, yet the high price point would make you believe that it is simply because it’s that expensive. It must be important.
You know, we have to remember that, even though we see that, and it’s super shiny and impressive, that is not the end all. That is not the only definition of success. Everyone does not to be Beyonce And everyone won’t be Beyonce. You know, we’re saying, look at Beyonce and say, look at how she did it, you can do it too. this is a way to inspire people. But the flip side of that is like, there is one Beyonce, and if you don’t become her, that’s also, okay, you can do something else. You can still make music on a different level for a different person that can be successful.
What is success to you Jermaine?
I think success is living in tune, I was going to say with your purpose, but I don’t want that to sound too esoteric and like religious it’s living with your intuition and letting that also cultivate how you interact with your community and the people around you.
Spens, I’m curious what you’d say.
Yeah. I think especially lately I’m feeling similar to Jermaine. Um, I can recognize different times in my life when I felt feelings of success and what it feels like to me is purposefulness. Um, happiness is in there. And I think that that has come in my life when I felt like I’m really listening to what I actually want to do, as opposed to what I feel like I should do and have like a good, um, balance of those moments. What I’ve struggled with in the past is worry about what I should do. And I guess I never spoke about the goal setting idea, my relationship to goal setting. Sometimes it’s complicated for that same idea of creating tunnel vision, like talked about early on this thought about the goal, kind of taking over my sense of self or, or being present with what’s actually happening and what I, how I’m starting to understand it now is to be just a little bit vague blurring edges so that things can transform. When I try to specify the goal, sometimes I made pursuit of my happiness, not so honest. So to me to circle back success feels like really being honest with myself about what I’m actually looking for, as opposed to what I expect myself to be looking for.
Gentlemen, I cannot thank you enough. You’ve blown my mind several different points during this conversation. I’m not shocked by that because this is what you do. I love you. Thank you so much.
Though you we’re done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello, hello. And welcome to episode 21. Oh my gosh. I am jazzed as always about this episode. Thank you so much for being here. Uh, let’s do wins really quick. Holy smokes, you guys, words that move me is in Apple’s top 100 performing arts podcasts this past week. So thank you so much for that. That is a huge win. Um, we’re number 88. I don’t know, uh, how many there are, but safe to say more than a hundred. Um, and that’s so sweet. So thank you so much for that. I do believe that part of what factors into that ranking is a ratings and reviews on Apple. So if you are listening on Apple podcasts and you’re digging what you’re hearing, please think about leaving a review or a rating so, so appreciate that. Um, okay, let’s not waste any time. Let’s get into you and your wins. What’s going well in your world? Hit me now you
Great. I’m so glad that you’re winning. This episode is about not booking. Speaking of winning, it’s my favorite subject. Honestly. Actually here’s the truth. This episode is not just about not booking, it’s about not getting what you want period. I am very familiar with not booking and as a self proclaimed movement master that might come as a shock to you. So here’s what it really boils down to. I try a lot, I fail a lot, I succeed a lot. I want a lot and I often get what I want. Now there is a very specific brand of not booking that comes along with the audition process. It’s a very particular sting and I’m going to talk about auditions and that particular brand of staying in depth a little bit later on. Like, actually I have a plan to be talking about auditions for all of August. I’m very excited about audition august, so tune in for that. But um, what I want to talk about right now is the cringe that I feel when I hear people, usually outsiders talking about high performers who miss the mark. Usually they’re talking about competitions and competitors. They say that he or she won because they really wanted it. Or they say that he or she didn’t win because they didn’t really want it that bad or they didn’t want it bad enough or somebody else wanted it more. Well, I’ve seen people really want it and not win. And I’ve seen people that are just really good at stuff who don’t really care a whole lot, win a lot, and at a certain level, everyone really wants it. Everyone that moves to LA to become a whatever really wants it. But auditions don’t care about how bad you want it. And competitions don’t care about how bad you want it. The Olympics, Oh man, don’t get me started. The Olympics really, really, really don’t care how bad you want it because everybody there really, really wants it. That guy who didn’t win didn’t not win because he didn’t want it. He didn’t win because he wanted it so bad and he was running so hard that he broke his leg. That is a black hole. You don’t want to go down. Olympian breaks their leg. Don’t even do it. Don’t even do it. I did it, anyways. All that is to say wanting it won’t get it. Even wanting it and training really, really, really, really hard for it. Doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it. Sometimes you simply won’t get it. Period. The Olympics are a really great example of this, but also on a smaller, slightly different scale, no pun intended. I want cookies almost all the time, so there goes the proof that wanting equals getting it’s out of the window. Wait, did I say that right? There goes proof that wanting is not equal to getting, yeah. If I got everything I want, I would be eating cookies all the time and then who? Yikes up there.
Okay. So most of us, especially right now know this all too well. We want to be working. We want to be hanging out with our friends. We want to be hugging, we want to be being places and doing things with people. Yes. This episode goes out to all you graduating seniors who wanted your cap and gown gathering. Yes. It goes out to all you dancers who wanted to win title at nationals this year. Yes. This goes out to everyone that wanted to have their highest earning year yet. And you still might, by the way, but you might not. This episode is about not getting what you want and newsflash, most of us are not very good at not getting what we want. So let’s get to work.
Yes, I am a professional dancer, choreographer, movement coach and I am also a professional at not getting what I want. Some early memories of this include, uh, as a tiny, tiny little dancingling I received honorable mentions a lot. Second or first runner up also happened to me a lot my senior year at nationals. Actually, I was 16th runner up and I was supposed to win that year, by the way, in my head. Anyways, let’s take another example. When I was like 14, maybe 15, I remember terribly wanting to be in the big kids dance that the senior dance that was choreographed by Dee Caspary shout out to Dee. And uh, I was old enough to be considered. So I auditioned. I did not make it, but Dee and his big, big heart invited me to be in the room for the creation process and learn it as what we call a workshop. Um, and even jump in as a swing. If anybody was to become injured during the season or something like that, I would know the dance. I could, I could jump in. Honestly, that seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me. It wasn’t until Dee asked me in his own way to stop moving because I was distracting him. Ooh. Crushed. I was crushed and I sat crushed on the floor of the dance studio for two whole days. While he choreographed and all the big kids danced a dance that I so badly wanted to dance man. 14-15 years old. I got crushed a lot. Oh, here’s another good one. When I was 16 or 17 three of my closest friends, Randi Kemper , Tony Testa and Misha Gabriel all still incredible and all still dear friends by the way. They all booked a tour. Brian Friedman what up, B-Free, booked all three of them and a different curly haired brunette girl named Kalie Kelman to go on tour with Aaron Carter. I was crushed. Yes, deeply. And then again in 2011 Oh here’s a different kind of crushed, I booked a feature film, the remake of Dirty Dancing and it was directed by Kenny Ortega who choreographed the original and we were weeks into rehearsal. Several dancers. Oh, what a good squad. Whoa man. My heartbreaks, just thinking about this and Production pulled the plug, production completely ceased to exist. I was crushed again. We were all crushed weeks of team building, dancing, endorphins, man. Cloud nine and then right back to not being booked. So what did being crushed really look like for me? Here are a couple of versions. First, the ugly cry, that’s still a pretty common action by the way. Even today, tears, hot tears of self pity, some anger occasionally. Um, usually some jealousy, sometimes the victim mentality, not always, but sometimes that’s where thoughts like “This always happens to me or when am I going to get my break? Or I did everything right and the world is just so wrong.” Those are some of my victim thoughts. Usually some entitlement as well. Thoughts like “it was supposed to be different this time. This was supposed to be my big gig, my moment, my movie, my award, my project, my thing. I am perfect for this thing. How did I not get it? “ Yeah. “Is it because I’m not perfect? Is it because I’m the worst?” Oh God. Then the shame spiral. Ouch. Tears. Now sometimes I’d see myself through the ugly tears. I’d sit with them long enough and be with them long enough to come out on the other side, so to speak, or at least come out with a different feeling. Okay. But all too often buffering would be right at the heels of those ugly tears. Buffering is giving into the urge to feel better. Buffering is resisting, avoiding or ignoring feelings that you don’t want by seeking the immediate comfort and temporary pleasures that you do want. Buffering, especially with food and drink. And yes, the Instagram scroll are super common. But here’s the sneaky thing about buffering. It leaves you with an unwanted feeling in the end anyways. You feel awful. So you eat, which kind of feels good. So you keep eating and then you overeat and then you feel awful and then you feel awful and then you feel awful or you drink, which kind of feels good. So you keep doing it and then you feel awful because you are drunk or you have a hangover or you feel awful about yourself. So you scroll through Instagram seeking that dopamine hit of the likes and the comments, the love. And for a while that feels pretty good. So you keep going and all of a sudden an hour has gone by and you’re crumpled over your phone with three chins and a furrowed brow. And you’re most likely just judging and comparing yourself to other people and now you feel awful. Oh, sneaky buffers. I’m going to go deep on buffering in another episode, but for now I want to talk about not getting what we want and not buffering.
Think about a time when a child in your life has really, really wanted something, a cookie, a new toy, maybe, uh, maybe to go to school with pajamas on anything. This plays out usually in a few different ways. Number one, they ugly cry a tantrum, in other words, until the adult buckles under the pressure and gives the kid what they want. Number two, the ugly cry or the tantrum go on for so long without the adult buckling that the child becomes exhausted and eventually moves on with their life and wanting something else. The third outcome and my personal favorite happens occasionally when the parent says to the child, Oh yes, you can have X if Y you can absolutely have dessert. If you finish eating your vegetables or yes, you can definitely have that toy. If you save up your allowance and buy it or yes, you can wear your pajamas to school. If you tell them you’re somebody else’s child. True story. I have heard that one out loud before. Anyways, this third option is where I think I live most of the time. I am the parent and the child in this equation by the way, so not getting what I want occasionally fuels me to stay the course long enough that I wind up getting it or something like it. Eventually. This is what happened with my friends and that tour. Yes, I was crushed. I was obliterated. I did cry, ugly cry, yaks ugly teenage cry.
This is really good stuff. Anyways, I would cry. I would imagine them all out there having fun. I would imagine myself on stage with them. I’d imagine what I would look like, I’d imagine how I would dance. I’d imagine the music and the fans and somewhere I held onto the thought that that could still happen. Maybe they do a really, really big show and decided that they needed more dancers or maybe, God forbid somebody could get injured and they would need a swing, right? They’d need a replacement. Well, that tour came and went. It turns out I would not dance for Aaron Carter, but I thought I could still be a touring dancer if I worked really, really hard and just stuck at it. I imagined it all the time. I imagined myself dancing behind Britney Spears. I imagined myself dancing behind pink. I imagined myself dancing behind B2K True story. I could literally see it. Knee pads, crop tops, short shorts, boots. Well, it turned out I was wrong, very wrong about a lot of that, but I was right about some things too. I would not dance behind Pink, but I would play volleyball with her at Tujunga park, occasionally. I would not tour with Britney, well not on stage anyways. I would go on to be filmed as a silhouetted background body dancing on a big led screen back behind her. I would not dance for B2K total dead end there, just nothing. I think they stopped making music anyways. I was wrong about the crop tops and shorts too. Instead it was a suit and tie. I was wrong about the boots. It was sneakers most of the time and heels some of the time. Yeah, big stuff did eventually happen and it was never what I thought it was going to be. To be honest, it was better.
So we’ve talked about not getting what you want and crying about it. We’ve talked about not getting what you want and crying and buffering. We’ve talked about not getting what you want and staying the course until eventually you get something and now I want to touch on those times when you think you got what you wanted and it turned out to be something else all together. Cookies for breakfast for example. Yeah, I’m an adult and I do what I want. I’m the boss of what I put in my mouth and sometimes I put cookies in my mouth for breakfast and then 2:00 PM rolls around and I’m at the mercy of a brutal, brutal blood sugar crash. It gives me every time or let’s take the movie, for example, dirty dancing. We dancers were flying high. We were working hard. Yes, like eight hour rehearsal days of almost nonstop movement, but we were also dreaming big and we were fueled by this momentum of this thing that was bigger than us. We were fueled by our imaginations and dreams of what the red carpet premiere would feel like and then sugar crash. No more movie, not what we’d imagined, not what we wanted back to not being booked. If Corona virus has taught us anything, it is that anyone, no matter how booked you are can become unbooked, crushing. Right. Okay, so there are a lot of ways someone can be crushed. Dana, I thought you were going to tell me how to not get crushed. No, I never said that. I said that this episode is about not getting what you want. I do not have the answer for you. See that disappointment that you’re feeling. See how you’re not getting what you want right now. You really wanted an answer to this. You really wanted a solution. Okay, we’ll hold onto that feeling. Hold onto that disappointment because we’re going to work on that.
Most of our desires are sprung from how we think. We’ll feel with a certain thing. I want to go on tour because I think it’ll feel amazing to get paid to travel the world and have thousands of people cheering. For me, I want to be in movies because I think I’ll feel important. I think I’ll be a star. I want a glass of wine because I think I’ll feel relaxed and rewarded. See, I want the thing because I think it’ll make me feel a certain way. Now, what I’d like to offer you today is that all of those feelings are available to you without the accompanying criteria of the circumstance. In other words, you can feel amazing without touring the world. You can feel important without being in movies. You can feel relaxed and rewarded without a glass of wine. You can feel like a winner without going to nationals. You can feel accomplished without having a graduation ceremony. In addition to that, you can survive feeling crushed. Even furthermore, you can survive feeling crushed without buffering. Think about the last time that you went to the doctor for a shot you usually, well I usually have to take a deep breath and kind of rally myself into believing that needles are okay. And then I have a seat on that weird rubber cushion covered in weird wax paper. Makes weird sounds. And then I feel this thing and then my arm is kind of sore and sometimes it hurts a little bit to move and then I get a bandaid and then it’s over and I feel okay. I do not go into the doctor’s office and get a shot and immediately start eating and drinking and scrolling through Instagram. No, I breathe, I sit with this thing. I sit with a soreness. Sometimes I even move around extra in the soreness because it’s kind of interesting to feel and then I leave better than when I went in. I leave. Totally. Okay. So what if not getting what you want was like getting a shot. What if you knew that you would feel okay and even be better for this? What if you were like the parent who knows that the kid is going to be just fine without the cookie, the kid is going to be just fine. Without the toy, you will be just fine. Without this gig, you’ll be just fine. Without the title, you’ll be just fine without this job. What if now it’s okay to want things so bad that you can taste it or in a dancer’s case, usually so bad that you can see it, like you can feel it. It’s also okay to not get it. It’s okay to be wrong. When you imagine your future, you likely will be. Yeah, it’s okay to want things. It’s okay to not get them. What’s not okay is stopping. In fact, the only way you can be sure that you’ll never go on tour or never be in a movie or never work with so and so is to stop trying, so keep trying, keep working, keep not getting what you want and watch how much you get in the end. That’s all I’m saying. I’m done.
Really. That’s it. I hope you dug this conversation about not booking as much as you like actually booking. And if you do go leave a review, go leave a rating and I will talk to you soon. Keep it funky y’all. That’s different. Keep it funky y’all. I dunno. It’s not not so good. Stay safe. Stay soapy and keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move me member, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/wtMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: All right. All right. Welcome to the podcast. This is episode 19. Holey Smokes! It’s going by so fast. Everything actually seems to be going by so fast and honestly this is getting somewhat easier and I shouldn’t be shocked by that because I’m getting better at talking to myself alone in a room, doing a lot of that these days. And that actually is kind of what this episode is about. I’m super stoked about it.
Um, but before we dig into that, of course we have to do our wins. My win this week is actually my mom’s. When my mom celebrated a birthday, I’m not going to say the number because the lady never tells. And we had an absolutely awesome virtual birthday party for her. And I was sensitive about that because I believe that certain things cannot be replaced or duplicated. Birthday parties up until this point were one of those sacred special things. And I’m going to be honest, we had a ball, my immediate family, my sister, her husband, her two daughters, um, my brother, his wife and myself and my husband and I all got together for a zoom conference, dinner and cake. And um, my brother also brought a life sized cardboard cutout of him. So there were actually two of my brother, his wife, my sister, her husband, myself, my husband and the nieces and my mom of course, the lady of the hour. And we sat and ate a meal and you know, shot the stuff and had an absolute blast. My sister works in a hospital, um, and she got my mom a bunch of the gifts that you find from the hospital gift store, including a family favorite, Haribo gummy bears, which are absolutely the best if you disagree. I don’t, I don’t know what to say. Um, and then also my sister and I put out the feelers to friends and family all over the world to send in video, birthday shout outs. Um, I’m telling you we got some video gems from old friends and some really priceless selfie sentiments and I got to throw down my speed editing chops and um, man, it was just so special. I got to watch people really well digitally really show up for a woman that is so, so, so special. A woman that must join me on the podcast one of these days. Mom, do you hear me? I mean it, I’m serious. Oh. And also I made my first loaves of bread from yeast that I grew off of raisins, like crazy advanced stuff here. People, I did it and it was decent, decent enough for me to eat two loaves of bread in two days and now I feel like a mattress. So maybe that’s not actually a win after all. But anyways, onto you. What’s going well in your world?
Okay, congratulations. Keep crushing it. So proud of you. Okay. This episode is short and sweet and sensitive. You could think of it as time sensitive, but it really isn’t. The lessons in this episode are fully applicable regardless of date or time or crisis. Let’s dig in to my letter from a friend.
Last week I received a letter in the form of a text actually from a very dear friend, an actor, a director, and one hell of a model American! Name that movie. Um, anyways, after I responded to his message, he and I talked back and forth a little bit and he said that his note was initiated by this thought. “Does everyone else know that this is kind of hard for everyone else?” That shed a light on a very interesting side effect of isolation that I honestly, I hadn’t really considered that much even in the pre covid times. I was the star of the film. That is my life and everybody in my life had a supporting role. Now, although I’m possibly more concerned with the public and public issues than I ever have been, I am absolutely thinking more about myself and my survival than I have before either. Right now my movie is way more monologue than dialogue. Basically all day, every day. I sit alone with myself and I and me and we’re really getting to know each and between you and me and myself and I, I’ve run up against some.. Woof, hard truths about myself and some challenging questions, so today I want to share this letter from my friend and I want to share my reply because I know that he’s not the only one up against challenging thoughts and feelings and it might be illuminating for you to answer some of his questions for yourself.
My friend writes, “I was thinking at first that our pandemic would be like when you hunker down for a snow storm, since I’ve realized it is so much more, obviously the realization though is full of confusion and fragmented thoughts. It feels like unless I’m thinking about or doing something specific, tire changing, setting the table, high knees, my mind drifts but it drifts in muddled, confused, fractured bits of thoughts. I’m struggling to plan things or collect my thoughts on things. I don’t know. Again, I just don’t know. I can’t get things straight in my head sometimes and I’m feeling like it’s a problem with me. I know it’s just a problem for me, but maybe it’s normal. Do you have disconnected thoughts? Trouble getting this stuff in your head? Straight planning our lives helps us define who we want to be when we can’t plan or get excited about something coming. It feels like we’re stuck. I’m just stabbing into the dark here, but I’m not really because someone might read this and think I’m stabbing too. I guess I’m trying to say this is way harder than I thought it would be and at times think that it should be. I get down on myself and that ain’t right. Also, dude, the world needs leaders to lead us, but the world also needs more lovers, not sex, to love us back in this world, you are loved, love back”
Beautiful doozy. I want to start here at the end because I couldn’t agree more. The world needs leaders to lead us and the world also needs more lovers. Not the sexy type. Get your isolated minds out of the gutter, but the type that cares about us, so think about the movies of our lives, right? They are far more powerful when the stories are about people not at person. They’re powerful when they connect. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Cast Away, but what if every single movie was Cast Away? I digress. So let us love by acting compassionately towards others. Out of sight should not mean out of mind and let us lead by showing that it is possible to live clean, to live gracefully, to live gratefully, even under difficult circumstances.
Now you could fully stop listening right here. There’s plenty of work to do simply by digging into asking yourself how you can be more compassionate towards others and how you can lead by example. Or you could keep listening to my reply to this dear friend. If you shared any of my friend’s thoughts and feelings about our current circumstances, then you can also pretend that my reply is to you. I wrote after several hours of thinking about a reply.
Dear friend, for the last year or so, I’ve been really focusing on managing my mind. I got a life coach. I’m doing the daily thought downloads the whole bit. I’m observing and I’m working on my thoughts nearly all day, every day, and if I could boil down what I’ve learned and what’s the most helpful to me, it would be this. Number one, feeling bad about feeling bad or resisting feeling bad is more than twice as uncomfortable as feeling bad all by itself. Being okay with negative emotions is where most of my work is at this time. Thinking about how or why this happened causes confusion. Instead, I choose curiosity and I am learning so much thinking that things should be different, causes suffering. Instead I choose acceptance. Things are this way period. Thinking that things can be better is empowering. I have a bright mind. I’m creative, I’m adaptable, I’m capable. I will figure out how to make the things that I can control better, better. I’ll make the things I can make better, better. Yeah, that’s right. And number two, our thoughts about the world, not the world itself are what create our experience of the world. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change the way we think about it. I hope this is helpful and I hope you keep writing. I love the way your mind works. There is no problem with your mind. Your mind is not wrong. We are all stabbing right now is just some of us are stabbing ourselves in the chest and wondering why we’re in pain. The goal is to be able to watch yourself with compassion and curiosity and to ask yourself kindly to put the knife down. I love you so much we can do this.
It’s true. We can do this totally possible to come out of our quarantine winter hibernation better than when we went in. I learned this week. This is an interesting story. I learned that I get really annoyed by questions like what are the three words that best define you? Like come on. I am COMPLEX. Those three words, those are the three words that best define me. But my husband recently said the one word that best describes this pandemic period is de-stabilizing. And yeah, I think he pretty much nailed it de-stabilizing. But if there’s one thing that a dancer’s good at, it’s stabilizing, think about that fight to really hold on to an attitude devant on releve or the mental and physical combat of a pirouette from a grand plie in second position. If it is possible for a human being to promenade in arabesque on point on another human being’s head, I’m going to link to that youtube video, by the way, in the show notes, then it is absolutely possible for us to stabilize ourselves in unstable times like these. It’s also no shock to me that ballet dancers are crushing it in this time. My favorites at the moment are Tiler Peck , obvi, uh, Skyler Brandt, Isabella Boyslton, James Whiteside and Maria , I’m going to botch the last name. I’m so, so sorry. Kochetkova I believe so, crushing it, but that’s, you know, literally part of our jobs as dancers to find and create balance. But beyond that, beyond dancers, I think about architects and the skyscrapers that they designed and think about the people that actually built those buildings. I think about teachers and the balancing act of managing information and actual human beings. I think about bakers and balancing time and temperature and the ingredients required to make like a perfect loaf of bread. Now obviously I can’t speak for bakers, but when I’m trying to find myself on my leg, it’s really a matter of, well, a couple of things. Number one, micro adjustments, small little changes and number two, trial and error. There will be many trials, there will be many errors, there will even be overcorrection, but eventually there will be correction. We will figure it out. We can figure it out. We get to figure it out and if you find yourself in a place of being unstable on your feet, write a letter to a friend or pull a Tom Hanks and make yourself a Wilson or the podcast can be your Wilson. I can be your Wilson. I am a Wilson. This is perfect.
With that, my friends, I will leave you for the day with love, with soap, and of course with funk. Thank you so much for listening.
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. Third, TheDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move member, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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 everybody and welcome to episode 17. I’m jazzed about it as usual. Um, in episode 16 I mentioned, well, I promised, I think that April’s podcasts would all be about bringing the joy, the silly, the bright, the creative. Um, and this episode is exactly that, but it is in disguise. This episode is about processing the darker side of the emotional spectrum. Sadness, stillness, anger, grief, anxiety, depression. Yes. All of those guys. And it’s really about coming out on the other side of them naturally without forcing anything. So thanks for joining me. Are you excited or what? Uh, before we dig into it though, of course, let’s do some wins this week. I have a handful of wins. I’m going to try not to say cooking again cause that’s what I said last week. I’m becoming way more comfortable in the kitchen and I’ve had some really killer dinners and leftovers. So I’m counting that as a win privately, secretly, and also now publicly. Okay fine. I’ll just call it a win. But I also want to shout out the handful of dance studios that I’ve been working with, eh, in the form of some digital support. Um, Dance ImpressionsMichelle Latimer Dance Academy and Cary Dance You guys have been so much fun to work with. I’m absolutely counting you and your students among my wins for the week. I’m just learning so much about, uh, transferring my syllabus and my teaching style into a different mode, different platform. Ultimately a different process and process is what we are talking about this week. So very appropriate. Um, let us, Oh, sorry. My bad. Let me give you your moment. Hit me with your wins. Say ’em out loud. It’s really important. Go.
Okay, great. If you need more time, please don’t let me stop you. Just hit pause. Keep going with your wins. It’s very important that you do that.
Okay. So the word process has been coming up a lot lately. Um on the podcast, I talk a lot about creative process and um, it’s also been coming up in like casual conversations. People saying things like, I don’t know, I’m still processing. Another example, the SBA, uh, assessing my application for the PPP, paycheck protection program. So fingers are crossed for that. Um, here’s another fun one that I heard recently. Uh, how long should I let this color process? Oh my God, I miss my hairdresser. Hehe, uh, yes, maybe you shouldn’t be, um, processing your own hair, doing your own color or cutting it. Just a thought. There are certain things that really ought to be left to the professionals and trust me in the COVID moment, we’re all experiencing new in terms of life and also our hair. I’m just going to encourage that you accept it for what it is and process that. Oh, also, here’s a fun game. Speaking of process, keep track of the number of times I say process in this episode and then do that many pushups per day starting now, whatever day it is, uh, for like the rest of the month or a month from now. And um, just go ahead and see how shredded you become. Look out beach bod. Even if it’s not for a year that you see a beach again, you’ll be ready for it when the day does come. Okay. So starting now it’s process time. So the word process when used as a noun means according to Merriam Webster, a usually fixed or ordered series of actions or events that lead to a result. Okay. Well this explains sort of the creative process in my mind. It’s something that moves forward or occasionally spirals. Um, but it’s always moving. And at the end there is a result. There’s this thing, whether it’s a show or a step or a film or you, you get the, gist in the last two episodes, I have talked to the seaweed sisters a little bit about the secrets of our process, which include saying yes, and to any idea. Um, and I also talked to Kat Burns in the last episode, which was 16. So let’s see, Seaweeds were 15. Kat Burns was 16, and Kat talked a lot. How processes differ depending on the format, um, or the medium, whether it’s scripted TV, a stage show or an improv show. Um, and honestly, if you haven’t listened to those episodes, go check those out. Some really golden nuggets in there. But long story short, every project and every person will have a slightly different creative process. So millions, so many different creative processes.
All right, so when used as a verb process means to refine or rectify or even to clarify, to me, it evokes this idea of sitting with something and chewing on it, digesting it until it’s gone. So that’s sort of a difference that gets stirred up in my mind. A creative process results in something, it leaves something at the end versus a process of refinement or clarifying results in having something completely digested. And then it either goes away or turns into something else completely. So there are probably as many forms of processing emotions as there are creative processes. It’s likely that everyone has their own way or even that their way might change over time or that they’ll use a combination of different ways to deal with different things. And I’m just fascinated by that. A handful of those styles of processing might include journaling or as I like to call it a thought download, which is where I try to just stream of consciousness dump whatever is in my brain. It goes through my arm and my hand and lands on a page or on a pixel via a keyboard or pen. Um, but there’s also therapy counseling, you know, talking to somebody. And then there’s also DMT or dance movement therapy, which is made up of countless techniques and exercises that are designed to ultimately create awareness of mind and body. I will be very clear, I am not a dance movement therapist. I use dance to tell stories. I use dance to make money and yes, sometimes I dance explicitly for fun. Occasionally I dance as therapy when I’m feeling down in the dumps as I’m sure several of us have, right? Oh and I am learning by the way that dance crying is actually a thing. Literally dancing up all the feels and then dancing them out via tears from your eyes. I love this concept and I really, really love the thought that the more aware we are of our minds and our bodies and the sensations within them, the more able we are to watch and regulate them and even generate new ones, right? Like new feelings in our body. We can control them, make decisions about them and our emotional experience of the world is effected. My job and a huge part of my life revolves around being in touch with my body and controlling it, being deliberate with its movements and using it to get a job done to craft shapes and phrases that convey emotion or information to give form to feelings to exteriorize the interior. That is my jam. That is what I do. Now, It’s the third week of April and I’ve been distancing since March 6th I have been regulating and controlling and deciding the crap out of my daily life. Are you ready for this? Okay. I coach on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I film new combos to send to studios on Saturdays. Sundays are seaweed sister sessions followed by deep household cleaning. Then I look at finances on money. Monday I do curbside produce pickup on Tuesday podcasts are Wednesdays, IgG live at five on Thursdays. All the food prep, all the dance classes, all the laundry are happening every day. And I also journal and I stretch daily. Whoa. So I really thought that I was processing these new circumstances along with all of my feelings pretty well. I seems to have found a schedule that appeared to be productive and fulfilling. Oh, but boy, spoiler alert, I certainly wasn’t processing, not all of it. Anyways, how did I find out that I wasn’t, Oh well, as you might imagine on a rainy day, the fourth in a row, I mind you, I had a breakdown, a full blown adult tantrum where hot water poured from my eye holes. And this tantrum was actually the good part. By the way. The water pouring out of my eyes was the release. It was the moment before that was actually super tough. The quiet before the storm, we’ll call it.
That was the moment where I was feeling heavy, slow, foggy, vapid, guilty, just gross. You name it. Dark end of the spectrum. I was feeling it. I tried to motivate myself up out of it. Go, go make up a new combo. I tried, my moves were lame. I stopped. I tried to write a new podcast, but my ideas were mangled and mushy, kind of half formed, gross. I stopped, I tried to make food. It was gross. Oh, you better believe I ate it anyways. And then I felt gross and then I stopped. I just felt stopped. All of it felt pretty stopped. I felt stuck like so many of us probably felt or are currently feeling and for a person who moves for a living, for a self-proclaimed movement master feeling stuck feels pretty awful. Now by default, I’m a person that’s a pretty positive thinker, captain, bright side, Susie sunshine. Like that is how I like to live my life. But I do believe that my life will round out with a natural distribution of emotions like 50% of the time I’ll be good or better. And then the other 50% of the time I’ll be sub good or bad or occasionally awful. Now for the record, I have no scientific evidence to back up that that’s actually how my life will round out. But I have a feeling that if you did analysis on like the past five years of my journals, you’d find some plot points that you could put on a graph and you’d probably be left with a pretty good looking bell-curve. So as I sat there feeling these awful things, I was sitting way at the tail end of my bell curve. I got on the phone for some coaching and this is what I asked my coach. I asked, how do you know when to sit with yourself and your big, ugly, deep dark thoughts? And when do you coach yourself out of it? When do you coach yourself off the ropes? When do you let captain bright side shake some sense into you? Well, here’s what my coach said, and by the way, let’s pause for the cause for a second because there are a lot of different coaches and styles of coaching. Now, there are the types that will break you down to build you up. And then there are the types that will give this air of being almighty all knowing, omnipotent, like they, they know you better than you know yourself and they know the answer to your question even before you know what you’re even asking. Yeah, those are not my coaches. My coaches honor me exactly as I show up. However, broken or built that may be, depending on the day and my coaches helped me see in myself a way that gives me the power to answer my own questions or to make my own decisions. So that’s the type of coaching I’m going in for right here.
So I asked my coach, how do I know how long I should sit with a negative feel? How do I know when it’s time to regulate and step in and do the self coaching or when is it time to move? Like move yourself out of it. Of course she didn’t answer. Instead she asked, okay, what exactly is this negative feel that you’re feeling? And the first word that came to my mind was stuck. I feel stuck. And she said, “okay, whereinyourbodydoyou feelstuck?” And I said, after a little bit of checking in and thinking I had a feeling she might be expecting like my heart or my throat or my forehead, which are all totally acceptable answers to where do you feel stuck? But I genuinely like I felt it everywhere. I felt it inside my body, every inch of it. I felt it in my blood and she was unfazed by this. Uh, she was a stonewall. She was like, “okay, great. Let’s talk more about your blood.” Which is so funny to say out loud right now, but it was a perfectly reasonable question in that moment. She asked, “what color is your blood?” And I was like, you know, close my eyes and really try to visualize my stuck blood. And I decided that it’s definitely gray but not even like a full, beautiful, deep, dark rich gray but like gray at 50% opacity, like puny, sad, weak gray. And then she said, “all right, got it. Okay, so, um, is your 50% opacity gray blood? Is it moving? Does it have motion to it?” And I said, no, it is definitely still, it is what is stuck. It is the thing that is like freezing up like concrete. And she’s like, “okay, great, great, great. So tell me more about your 50% opacity, concrete blood.” And I just kept explaining the image, my made up idea of what my blood looked like and moved like inside my body. And at a certain point all that digging in was starting to make me tense. So instead of just feeling stuck, I was now feeling tight and I said, man, my now my skin feels too tight right now. I’m really tense. And she said, “Ohgood, tell me about your skin.” And I said, it’s, it’s brittle. And she was like, “okay, okay, how else does it feel? Does it have movement?” And it was like, no, no, it’s, it’s too pulled tight to have movement. And she says, “okay, well how is it normally?” And I thought for a second, and I said, I think it’s normally kind of like a plum. You know what? I remember the book To Kill a Mockingbird. I think that’s where I got this from. I think there’s an explanation of skin in that book where they, uh, Harper Lee explained skin as like the skin of a plum. Like it’s supple. It would peel back if it got snagged, but my skin was definitely not that. So as my coach kept asking me to explain my skin, I was coming up with ideas like it’s not definitely not a plum, it’s more like a grapefruit, like thick, porous and, and, and instead of housing a grapefruit, my grapefruit skin is trying to contain a watermelon. And then she said, “okay, good. Let’s go back to your blood. How’s your blood doing?” I was like, are you kidding me? Okay. All right, fine. Was talking about my blood some more. I’m explaining my blood, I’m getting emotional. Then she says, all right, how’s your skin feeling? I’m like, it’s tight. It’s too tight. And she’s like, okay, let’s go back to the blood. Has the blood doing. So we, long story short, we bounced back and forth between talking about my concrete blood that was now bubbling to my grapefruit skin that’s trying to contain a watermelon. And then she asked one last time, how’s your blood? And I said, well, it’s not stuck anymore. The stuck was gone and it was replaced by, you know, blubbering hot waterfall of other emotions. But stuck was definitely gone. So the answer to my question, how do you know how long you should sit with the negative fields? Well, sit with them, be with them, experience them deeply until they’re gone. The answer to my question, when is it time to move yourself out of it is it’s time to move into it. The only way out of it is through it. And the answer to my question, when is it time to regulate? Oh, the answer to that is it’s not time to regulate. It’s time to process. So the next time you’re experiencing life on the downside of the bell curve, stop, look and listen. There’s a good song for that to your body and process. Now the process that I used talking about my, um, now the process that I used revolved really heavily around my awareness of the sensations in my body and my imagination. I mean, come on. Gray, half opacity, concrete blood, grapefruit skin. I mean what an imagination. That is like A plus super kindergartener type style of imagination. This process means giving a color, giving emotion, giving texture, and giving names to this sensation in your body, like to a high degree of detail over and over and over again. And that process might really resonate with you, especially if you’re a dance type that checks in with your body regularly. But it also may not resonate with you. It might not be your style of processing emotions, but it was hugely effective and profoundly moving for me. So I had to share it. My interest and curiosity in, um, we’ll call it mind meets body processing is absolutely peaking. So you better believe I will be getting into, uh, some DMT and other processes for processing emotions in the upcoming weeks and months and probably years. So take a second to think about it for yourself. How do you process emotions? How do you process the events of your life? I would love to hear how you do it. You can message me on the gram @danadaners or you can send me a message via the contact page on my website, which is theDanawilson.com.
All right, my friend, I hope that that um, glimpse at my process for processing emotions gets you thinking about how you process yours. Um, then that is it for today. Thank you so much for listening. Stay safe. Say Whoa. Stay safe, stay soapy and keep it funky.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, the Dana wilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a wards that moved me members, so kickball, change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host, master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh, and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello, hello. Hello. How are you doing? How’s everybody? Man, if you are like me, then these days are going by so quickly. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s, I’m just being inside and so many days are the same. Um, maybe it’s that I’m filling my schedule every minute of it. Uh, but it’s strange, this sensation of time passing and standing still all at the same time. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. Um, this episode, ah, I’m so excited for it. I’m so excited for you to listen to my guest today. Kat Burns. She’s one of my favorite well people period, but also one of my favorite choreographers and she shares so much, um, tremendously valuable insight in this episode. I’m jazzed about it. Uh, but before that, of course we have to do a quick round of wins. My win this week is that I am becoming a person, day by day, meal by meal. Uh, I am becoming a person that is confident in the kitchen. I’m having more fun and I’m having more creative freedom in the kitchen. And I think that’s a win. It’s something that for me has always been a kind of point of insecurity. Um, my husband traditionally is the cook of the household and I’m having so much fun, uh, exploring a bit, really digging that. Okay, so now you go, what’s going well in your world?
You might need a little bit more time. So I encourage you to pause right here if you’re really, really winning, which I really, really hope you are. Um, but this episode is just, it’s something else we gotta get to it. We’re jumping in. Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Kat Burns.
Dana: Yes. Kat Burns. Welcome to the podcast.
Yeah! Oh, I love wees and woo hoos and yeas, it feels so good. Just smile and I cannot not smile when I, I think Kat Burns. So welcome to the podcast. Introduce yourself for those who may not know who you are, those fools,
Kat: Those nincompoops! Um, people call me Kat burns. I’m Kathryn, uh, Kathyrn Burns, AKA, you know, Kat Burns is my like cool choreo alias. I suppose that that is just kind of taken over. And I’m a choreographer mostly for scripted comedies.
Nice. Um, I really love intro asking people to introduce themselves because it’s sometimes a different story than what the bio would read. Um, uh, your bio leads with, and I think it should, your Emmys your double. Is it two?
It’s two, right. She’s a two timer.
She’s sure. Just a two timer, a measly two time Emmy winner. Um, and I do think it’s, it’s cool to like acknowledge the wins, but it’s also speaks a lot to you that you do not lead with the accolades, but rather with the work itself. And I love your body of work. I love it so much. I love it. Primarily because it’s funny, but also because it’s diverse. Um, can you talk a little bit about the range of work that you do and what is the difference between a digital or scripted format or you do also a lot of live work. I know you came up through UCB, like what is the difference really truly when it comes to choreography between all those different formats.
Oh goodness. Well I appreciate your kind words cause you know, I’m a huge fan of yours and I believe I introduced myself on a street corner and I was like, Hi. Hi. You guys are awesome. Do you want to do my UCB show? And you’re like, okay, great.
I recall, I recall. It’s so funny. I do recall, I recall because I, well it was a seaweed sisters related, um, acknowledgement and the seaweed sisters, uh, Jlilian Meyers, Megan Lawson and myself, we don’t get recognized outside of dancers very often. Um, and when we were not in a dance studio setting, we were literally on the street corner. Uh, so it, it made me feel like, Oh my God, pay attention. This is happening. You guys this, the seaweed sisters, are a thing, we’re being recognized.
It’s like five years ago, I want to say.
Yeah, it was a while back. Yeah. Oh, cool. Um, so thank you. Thank you for your fandom. We can, this is a safe place where we can absolutely be gushing over each other. So don’t let it stop. Um, but I am so curious about the different, um, uh, places that your work lives.
Yeah. So there’s, it’s a, it’s a multi folded, I was gonna say two fold, but it’s uh, you know, lots of folds type an origami fold of answers if you will. Um, I, I think what’s really fun about working scripted comedy or scripted in general is that the choreography is always dependent on the scene. And so by default I’ve been able to hire a lot of experts in a specific genre and then play within story, but still making it proper. Um, and so whether it be like a tango or a musical theater, traditional dance in the street vibe, or a tap dance or a fill in the blank, or even just like specifics that are funny or trying to make, like one of the tricky things was trying to make ’em like a viral video. Like, you know how like video or people like quote unquote dancing bad. Why? What’s the tipping point? Like why is it popular? I need to like recreate those moments as a choreographer when you have two people, it’s like the note was like, it’s too good, it’s too good. And I’m like, it’s not, it’s just like when you have two people dancing together in unison, it’s automatically going to seem more better, more, better. Just the word I like to use because it’s like, I don’t like to say something’s bad. I like to say it can be more better.
It can be more and better and you are the more better maker. Um, I think part of that recipe is definitely accessibility. Like you don’t want to choreograph steps that only a trained dancer could do. So it’s like every, every man dance. Um, and do you do a good job at choreographing dance on a normal non dancing type characters?
I like to call them dance enthusiasts.
Dance enthusiasts. That’s way kinder than what I call them. I call them, I call them normies.
Normies that’s cute.I just think Norm McDonald dancing. When you say normies.
Many Norm McDonald’s. Normies plural. Um, uh, so how many episodes of television would you say you have choreographed to take a ballpark for me?
Well, I actually did a show a year ago celebrating a hundred, cause I was like, when I graduated college, people are like, what’s your dream job? And I said I wanted to choreograph for TV and film, but I have no idea how to do it. And you know, I had to celebrate that because I was like, I guess I figured it out. Yeah, you did. And so well sometimes you’ve got to celebrate a little milestones cause we can be so hard on ourselves on a daily basis that we’re not doing enough or creating enough or being disciplined enough or right.
Girl, I am here for celebrating. Actually I just started a new podcast habit. I start every episode with wins. Were I just talk a little bit about what’s going well.
That’s awesome. I used to have a thing where I would keep champagne in the fridge cause there was always going to be a reason to celebrate.
Yes, I am about that life. And now since we’re in lockdown you’re going to need to keep at least five cause you can’t be leaving. The house as often.
Um, okay. So let’s back up a teeny tiny bit. You mentioned after college when they asked you that question and you answered, I want to choreograph TV and film but you didn’t know how, what was your next step?
Uh, well it was more of like that’s a, that’s a fantasy job that doesn’t really exist
Or not for you.
Right. Uh, so I worked in post-production for years and thought I could use my degree and be an editor and I worked in post houses and like lob dailies and patched digie betas, for recording. Like lobbied editor’s reels over and was just like in the machine room learning about editing and the more responsibility I got, the more anxious I got. But I started, you know, I studied film in college and Mmm. So I was already doing that. And then, you know, you talked about the difference between scripted and stage and then I started at UCB right when they opened their doors pretty much like I was working next door at the clothing shop, um, when they went door to door to meet their neighbors and I was like changing and I stuck my foot out and I was like, “I’ll be right with you!” and my mom was in town and was like, “Hi, welcome to Native.” I was like, “she doesn’t work here. I’ll be right out”. And,
And they were like, you’re in.
And they were like, you’re funny, you should take internships. And I was like, great. And then I just started being a part of that community, like from the ground floor. And so I learned the art of choreographing for a script in a way to like heighten the joke without distracting. And I was already, I’d got a dance agent. I was taking Aisel’s hip hop class. Yes. After like six months of living in LA. So I got the agent, I was dancing sporadically doing like show girly type musical theater, tall girl jobs and realized quickly that I was much taller than everyone else in LA.
Tiny. We’re all micro types. Yeah.
They move so fast? How did they get down to the floor and in one count, tiny legs. Tiny legs. Yeah. I was like, I still have my bevel. You know, you gotta have a sensible walk and a good bevel if you’re tall.
Oh, you ma, you have to have a sensible bevel no matter what I would argue. But definitely if you’re tall. Um, okay. I wa I want to branch in a hundred different directions. I am taking notes.
Uh, but I very frazzled. I didn’t even answer your first question.
I’m pretty sure you did. We talked a little bit about formats and the places that your work lives, which is on 160 episodes of television primarily, right. But also on stages because you do that.
Yeah. And I just did a musical here in LA and I, I’ve done like comedy musicals and LA, uh, which obviously like stage is, is much more collaborative I think is the biggest difference. You have the writers in the room sometimes or you have the director in the room and you have the actors in the room and you have time and you’re playing and you’re creating, I mean obviously like a, the UCB schedule is like, learn it, do it, done. It’s very quick.
And that’s the point.
Yeah. Yeah. Your dress rehearsals off in the performance cause no one’s getting paid and to learning learning curve. But I just did this musical with a wonderful New York team. The musical was called Found and we did it at, um, it’s, Iama Theater Company ’s musical. It was our first ever done at the LA Theater Group. And it, got closed, you know, three weeks before it was supposed to finish. It was New York team. Um, and they were so collaborative and awesome and I was like, Oh, this is what process is, you get to actually create in a room with creatives. Yes. Often on television schedules. You’re often trying to get into the minds of creatives. Like you’re each department heads given a specific ask very, very quickly and within like a 10 minute or less creative conversation, you have to then go off and do your work, present it, change it on the fly if it needs to be changed and be like, this is what I think you want. And from all your references, ID do deduced yeah. Anyways, This was the dance pretty much.
Um, ah, okay. That’s fascinating. So a difference between stage and film being, the amount of time you have and the people that are part of these creative conversations.
Everyone’s process is different. I mean, I think a lot of choreographers, and this also totally depends on the budget of the show they give. It has a budget for rehearsals and the choreographer can have a skeleton crew. They can kind of like massage the choreography and change it and get it to a way and have a few days and have a process. But if you’re like, hi, hired for two days, you have one day of rehearsal, slash prep, slash casting, slash creative slash, whatever, and the next thing you know is you’re on set trying to like leave this dance with a bunch of people you just met. You’re also trying to figure out their personalities and how not to step on toes, but also do your dance, be professional, be fast, pleasant and you know, protect the dance and protect the dancers but also serve the story and serve the process of that. That is making television.
Okay. I had to jump out right there because that’ll just happen real, real fast and I want to make sure that you all caught all of that. Kat just gave a lightspeed masterclass in what it means to be a choreographer. Yes, we decide what the dance is, but then we must lead the dance or teach the dance and occasionally that’s to people that we’ve never met. We have to navigate so many personalities, not just the dancers, but the entire teams. Then we have to protect the dancers, of course, meaning looking out for their working conditions and making sure they’re taking breaks and well taken care of, et cetera. But also we’ve got to be fast and I mean we don’t have to be, but it really helps if you’re pleasant or easy to get along with. And then of course there’s the whole serving the story and serving the big machine that makes the TV show or the stage show or the music video or the fill in the blank. I think it’s super important to remember, especially for the young aspiring choreographers that being a choreographer means so much more than making up the steps. Okay. Let’s get back into it. Kat and I talked about the many hats that she wears, the many jobs that she’s had and the thoughts that led her to become an Emmy winning choreographer.
Dana: What was the, um, what was the step or the chase or the kickball change that took you from editing room to, uh, dance studio or choreography, I guess?
Um, I was always that kid that did a million things so differently. Like when I was young. It was like suck or student dadadada that every dance class imaginable. I was always booked, right. Like I my and I would like highlight all of my times that like college thing happened and I’d be idea as an adult to just do one thing stressed me out and made me so anxious. I felt like I was making like, like signing a death sentence of being like I’m going to do this for the rest of my life and I was super scared. Um, so I think a lot of times I just did a bunch of side jobs. Just that I wasn’t working towards a career necessarily. Like I went, I went, I went to college. I thought state school was supposed to be the thing that you do. And I was like such a rule follower that I had a hard time listening to myself and people were like, I remember like the advice being like what do you think about when you’re at a stoplight? I was like, Oh like I’m always making up things in my head. And even when I was like bored at concerts, I would just zone out cause I’m like, no one’s dancing. This is boring. And I would like choreograph something in my head and I would feel better. And I just realized if I wasn’t dancing or moving, I was sad. I honestly feel that a lot currently with what we’re going through and like I’ll feel such an angst for the world and my heart would be so heavy. And then all, I’ve been just dancing in my studio for hours on end because it’s the only thing that makes me feel relief and joy. Um, so I, I think, I think I, I worked in posts, I thought I wanted to be an editor. I had a million side jobs, I was a paramount page. And then I would like work at a steak house. And like I served, well when I first graduated college I thought I was going to be a Rockette. I made it through all of the, the cuts and stuff and then they just never called.
Well, I’m so glad they didn’t because we got to have you instead. I get that dream though. Oh my gosh. And that audition process is brutal. Congratulations. Holy smokes.
What was my first professional audition ever, ever. And then at the end of the audition, um, this is the second day, they’re taking all my measurements and I said, “I just wanted to let y’all know this was my first audition and you were so nice. Oh really? Oh, is it? Okay.” I had a four by six picture. I just didn’t know. I went to the University of Missouri. I didn’t do like, I never went to New York for a summer or anything. I had never taken from like professionals ever. Actually.
I love this. That’s such a great example of all the grooming in the world doesn’t ensure that you will get your foot in the door and at the same time you can be totally ungroomed and come through the side door or the back door and do phenomenally well.
Yeah, I mean, I envy people that had all this, this massive education and like mine was just like the local dance studio or the dance team. And that was that. And I just was always dancing in my room. Or like at the time it was recording VHS is and learning the dances of Britney Spears, you know, or whatever, studying for exams while watching Cats, the VHS recording of the Broadway show.
All right. Jumping out again this time I had to do it because I think it’s very, very interesting that the thought of doing one thing made Kat anxious and propelled her into doing so many seemingly odd jobs that really stands out to me because to so many people, there’s contentment in doing one thing and having one career and having their job. I think that a lot of people out there would actually feel anxious at the thought of doing all the many things that Kat did from serving steaks and working retail to working as a paramount page, um, pages by the way. Uh, give tours and direct guests and do a great number of tasks on the paramount lot. Um, but dang, she, she even worked in an editing bay. I guess what’s so special to me about Kat and about her journey is that at least from the outside looking in, all of those experiences gave or refined the skills that made her a great choreographer. Yes. Like the dance, the passion, the love of movement and moving has always been there for her. It always brought tremendous joy. But what brought success was the combination of that love of dance plus her many, many unique skills and experiences. Let’s jump back in and hear about the one moment. Well, the one heartbreak that changed the way Kat thought about being a choreographer.
It took a heartbreak. Uh, I was with, I was with someone for eight years, my whole entire twenties, and when that ended, I was so heartbroken that I had no choice but to make myself happy. And that was after I’d been doing UCB classes. I liked dance at Christmas times. I had like dance gigs and I was still doing a million jobs. But there was something about that timing that I was so desperately sad. Like, he kind of was my whole life and when that ended I was like, it was a very clear change of thought. I had been doing this musical that I choreographed and was in called Freak dance the dirtiest forbidden boogaloo at UCB and Matt Besser wrote it, And the premise is whoever dares dance the nastiest wins. And it was like a spoof of all the dance flicks and like the white girl learns how to be poor so she can be a good dancer they lose the community center and then they have to do this dance battle and they make just enough money to win back the community center, yada yada.
I’m so glad that exists.
We did it every Friday for two and a half years at UCB and then one day they were like, we’re making this into a movie. And we all thought we would get replaced by everyone bigger and better. The only person that got replaced was the 20 year old playing the mom and she was replaced by Amy Poehler. So like that makes sense. Um, and right around the time of this breakup, I was filming this movie and they had asked me to like storyboard, what some of the dance numbers would look like. And I was like, I’m not an artist, but I knew it. And there was, there was a something called Work that Butt, and I was like, well, what if there was like a butt flower from overhead? And I was like, butts coming in at like an encapsulated her. And then she had this reveal and was a different outfit, but like storyboarded what these two, they couldn’t afford anyone else. It was also, Mmm. So that was my first job and I was also in it and I also didn’t have an assistant, so it was crazy. And we shot it all in 13 days. It was an original movie musical. With original music with the non dancers as leads and like Drew Droege is one of my favorite comedians and one of the stars and Hal rudnickthey were like the two world’s best dancers. And then we hired, Matt Besser was obsessed with America’s best dance crew. So we hired like Quest crew and The Beat FreaksAnd, um, anyways, so like all of these comedians were like dance dancing in front of all of these crews and I’m just there heartbroken. And I had this epiphany that I was like, Oh, I thought my whole life was supposed to be love and appreciation from this one person. And if they weren’t there I would crumble. And I quickly said to the cast, I was like, I love you guys so much and I need you guys so much. So that was a pivotal moment for me as a creative to have experiences with the people I was having camaraderie with at the time. My coworkers were my family and I would experience and be alive with all of this creative camaraderie that got me through a dark time. And it was just, it’s kind of stuck. It’s kind of stuck with me. Like I, I really, I really feel fortunate that I’m able to like dive into a project with an open heart because I truly look at my collaborators. I mean you like, we’ve gotten to know each other through working together and I have so much love for you but we haven’t, yeah, separate doing something together really. I mean like maybe a few times, but it’s always like let’s get a glass of wine. Great. I see we’re working together. I’m going to like suck up as much yummy hang time as I can. Cause I don’t know, again, cause we’re both busy as the way LA is. Everybody has something next, you know.
Well that is the way LA was my friend.
Certainly people are still like, Oh I can’t, I’ve got a zoom it two. Or Oh I can’t, I stopped like I said 1130 this morning. And I was like, can we do four? Can we push back?
Kat and I talked for a while about the way the LA and the entertainment industry are uh, maneuvering through this COVID crisis. But the radio waves are pumped and coursing with that talk and there’s just so much other goodness to come in this episode. I thought I might just leap frog over that if you don’t mind. And skip ahead to my favorite video submission ever. And the importance of good lip syncing because why not?
When you get an audition submission request from your agent for a Kat Burns project, you go, ALL IN, because working for you is such a treat. Really, truly, I am a sucker for a lovely process. So I got this audition notification and I was like, Oh yeah, I can do this. It’s asking for a doo-wop style background singer and she’s singing to her mom. Um, I happened to be in Denver at the time that I got this notification and it was with my mom and it was in my sister’s gorgeous house and it was like, okay, yeah, this is, this is a no brainer. So I taught my sister the shots and she filmed it for me and I lightly choreographed this thing with just like a chain here and a hip hip here. Nothing like crazy cause I had watched the show before and it’s never, um, it’s never meant to be the like, uh, sit down and watch this dance. It’s like you could do this dance It was a sidebar side side thought of mine to be a dance commentator for dance, YouTube videos in that same, in that same voice. Okay. So made, made the an audition submission sent it in. And I don’t remember if you texted me directly or if my agent did, but you were like, that is obnoxious and hysterical. And will you assist me on this project? Yeah, it was so funny. It was also cool to get my family a peek into my world, right? Like, uh, audition submissions happen or happened pretty regularly and in a very like in a three hour turnaround, I’m expected or asked to create a, create a thing, memorize the lines, make up the moves, capture it, edit it and submit it. And so they got to be there for that. That was super fun. And then
What I loved about your video too is like, a lot of times, you know, as much as I say like I want good acting, the lip sinking is really important. Like, I trust that dancers can nail a dance step, right? It’s really important to me is how you’re emoting. So I see you as this like 1960s, like, you know, shoo bop, shoo whatawhata to dancer. Um, and you totally embodied that character and the lip sinking is really important. Like, um, I had an audition for Carly Rae Jepsen and it was, um, well holding an audition for her and it was like two backup singers that were dancing. And so in the audition I was like, you guys, you’re moving your heads too much. Like you’ll never believe that they’re singing into a mic to like actually pretend like you’re seeing into the mic. Um, don’t you have to, it’s a strange thing to like not whip your hair around because a lot of times dancers really aren’t that focused on- on being the star and being seen and like with our hair around our face and like make some sexy faces was not really about the face, you know?
Right. I have this theory that we’re dancers are um, attractive, not necessarily because we’re good looking but because movement attracts your eye. Like if you imagine a jungle setting and a bush rustles over here, your eye goes to that and I think dancers have gotten really are the good ones anyways, have gotten good about being attention, getting when they need to and just the right amount of rustle versus being distracting. And especially if you’re in a tight shot, moving your head around is distracting and its as you mentioned, very plainly, not the way that background singers would do it. Um, that’s a great consideration. I think it’s an important skill and maybe we don’t spend enough time on it.
And you also the the why it’s hard is that to believe that we believably be a good lip syncer you have to sing out loud so your breath is different. So although it looks like an easy dance when you’re actually singing out loud, the, the, the beats are counterintuitive to like, like the pickups of the lyrics are going to be before the one. And it’s tricky to get your brain around the lyrics and have your body do what the music is doing. As you’re acting, and singing out loud and thinking about your breath, you can’t just breathe through your nose and make whatever weird sounds you need to make to get through the aggression of the dance
It’s a much different skill. I came across this issue, uh, a handful of times like hands full, like multiple hands, like NBA basketball player hands full of times working on In the Heights where we had huge groups of dancers, a part of musical numbers, but we weren’t the people that recorded the vocals.
We weren’t the people that um, you know, not all 150 of them have the script, you know, for a chunk of time during rehearsal we would sit down with pages and learn the lyrics. But even that is expected to happen quite quickly. And not a lot of dancers have the same memory for words that we have for moves. So it, it really is a special skill. I suggest that everybody listening to this podcast right now pick a a movie musical moment, whether it’s LA LA land opening number or anything from crazy ex-girlfriend challenge yourself, give yourself how much would, how much time would you say is allocated to learning lyrics for an episode of crazy ex? When we did the tap number? Um, the prescription one, it wasn’t that long. I want to say that was like maybe 30 minutes.
Well, probably like it was like 30 minutes at the top of rehearsal and I’ve actually had an, I had a big audition in New York. Um, there’s a really great show out now called, uh, Dispatches from elsewhere. It’s Jason Segel ’s new show on AMC. I worked on the finale number and they’re singing and dancing, spoiler alert. Um, and I had to just teach the lyrics real fast because people saying the lyrics was as important as the dancing and there was this really amazing dancer. And then I looked back at my video because I don’t like making cuts, so I just filmed everybody, I really want to see everybody. I want to properly give everyone a chance to be seen by me cause I don’t come to New York, I don’t have auditions much. Um, so anyways, he was like, I was like booked and then I looked and I was like he didn’t Lip sync, a word. And on most of the jobs I do dancers get Face-time like closeups and like, Oh and I’m so, so for “antidepressants” and the, it was all, it was all like fluoxitine, fluoxetine, Our lawyers won’t let us say brand names. Like it was very tricky vernacular. Yes. Medical terms on top of that medical terms, you get pills, pills, therms. Um, but, we had, we had a, we have one day of rehearsal so you could like overnight rehearse it. That’s true. I remember on the day Rachel changed, she changed the lyrics. So what’s tricky is that you had to learn it and then on the day after you’ve been practicing, I think you said change the name of the dog and then change this lyric we’ll re-record it in post. So you guys had to say lyrics out loud. This was what was 30 minutes or less. You had to say lyrics out loud that did not match the audio you are hearing all while doing choreography, you’re fast tap dance and then staying in line and it was like super precision based and like you’re high, you’re a little high here on your airplane arm you need a little bit lower.
We’re taking in all of the, you know, the movement notes that we’re used to, but there’s also not just the learning of the lyrics but the unlearning of the old lyrics and then the relearning of the new lyrics. This is great. Really, truly, if you’re listening, make that an additional challenge. If you’re listening, you’re listening, you’re listening. If you’re, if you’re hearing, um, then yeah, try to learn a thing in 30 minutes and then change it, but don’t change the thing that you’re playing back. That song has to say the same. Your lyrics change. Oh my gosh.
And the timing varies slightly and then the moves or shot. It’s like you have to adjust your timing and your blocking based on what the steady cam operators doing or, or at any point in time, the show runner who’s a showrunner is basically the one that hires all of the writers. They’re like the head, they don’t usually say head writer, but they’re the one who like keeps a tone of the show in general, you know, on the right track and everything and they’re the one that’s sold the show in general. But at any point they can come in and say, why are you doing this? Or, or like, um, or like for that number it was like as you guys were holding, I like added a like a little, a little bop. Yeah. Yeah. And then, um, just constantly finding it until you, like for me it’s like playing until you find what makes you laugh and like got there. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. Okay. Do that. And then, and then at any point someone could say, no, don’t bounce. And so you’ve just been rehearsing it with the bounce and something as simple as that.Like your body wants to bounce, but you can’t. Um, tricky. I don’t know. It’s tricky. And then, and then when I favorite things to like hark on park, her harp, whatever you look that up as I finish this, this tale of woes, but basically. Once it’s cut the end of that she goes Mmm. Basically it’s just like, Oh you guys are, Oh you don’t want to dance anymore. Okay. Like going from dance or to pedestrian and now
Oh wait, this is one of my favorite things to do.
Walk like a dancer. Like it’s hard cause we do that in real life. I act sporadically. And um, I was in a commercial and I had to walk to the elevator and I was wearing heels and they were like, um, excuse me Kathryn, you’re like standing like pretty cause I was like beveling,
Your just like, it’s my Rockette in me.
I just like can’t, you know like when we’re in heels and more like a tight skirt, as a dancer you walk differently naturally. So I had to be like, Oh, I have to ditch how I naturally walk and walk pedestrian, just go to the elevator, like for don’t dance, walk to the elevator, don’t sit in your hip. Pretty
Just pretend like you don’t know how to walk in heels as well.
It’s actually for me, kind of difficult to navigate the middle ground between like dancing like a pro dancer, like JT, backup dancer, pro dancer and dancing like a non dancer that moves well. And then dancing goofy like uh, your, your UCB show right now. Raggle Taggle Dance Hour which I do want to give the floor to for a second cause it’s amazing. We did an opening number, which I want you to talk about, give a little context. Um, but I watched the footage back and I looked at myself, I was like, dude, you were bad dancing. And that’s not the goal. The goal is actually to be dancing really well, but not to be a dancer. And so that’s another layer of intricacy.
Yeah. I think that’s what I’ve found with my work. It’s like, it’s, it’s easy, not easy, hard, not hard, but we’re properly living in a world. Right. So like the reference for this number was the pink Mr emus pink windmill kids, the mill kids or something. It’s like an eighties dance show.
We’re going to link it because it’s, it’s a game changer.
So I, the end of season one wanted the cast of crazy ex to recreate this video and I had that had the costume department hand dye sweats to match the color palette of the early eighties.
This is what we call full out.
And then obviously everyone was like tired or busy and so they’ve just been sitting in my storage for four years.
The costumes or the people that were tired?
The costume department ready to go whenever there very expensive to keep, but it was worth it at the end. But we did the, we recreated the opening video finally. And my dream came true and it’s like feel like, like why it’s so funny and enjoyable is because they are trying to hit it so hard, these little children and it happens to be sloppy and fast, but like you have to go for it with the Gusto and energy of like this is the best thing anyone’s ever seen. And it’s like eighties. You just have to hit really hard. Also like nineties hip hop. You have to hit it so hard that your every bone hurts and it doesn’t look like much or just punching. But like woo, there’s a difference. Um, so you have to hit it with full exuberance.
There is a difference. It’s those shows. Okay. I want to talk about something you just, you mentioned, um, I, well blah, blah words. So I wanted to ask how do you do funny, but I think you’ve already answered my question when you’re talking about the crazy ex episode, uh, with the pharmaceutical drugs and we’re just sitting there, Bob like hands on knees just bopping. And you said you just play with something until it makes you laugh. Is that your general approach to humor and dance
Kind of, I mean, and even like in a good way I, I’ve said this before, but like, um, I think it’s a lot of times when I approach my work, like if it wasn’t funny it’d be cool. No, like we’re trying to like properly live in a genre and a lot of times it feels a bit like a puzzle in my brain for a while. So like it’s important for me to know the tone of a show and to know what their funny is. Like I worked on workaholics and their village is much different than the crazy ex village. What they find funny and their sense of humor, I mean comedy is also super relative, just like dance. There’s like a wide array of good dancing or what you think is good. Right? I can’t tell you how many times a script is like Fosse and you’re like, but what about Fosse are they referencing to? Do they want it to be hyper-sexual? Do they want it to be awkward? Cause like when I think about Fosse it’s like, well he’s, you know, he did like he was inverted, he had, he had musicality that matched his movements, you know what I mean? So it’s like trying to find what it is about that reference that they like. So you kind of have to like get in the brains of the reference and then play within it and then for me it’s like, because I’ve studied comedy and I’ve, I spent my whole childhood watching movie musicals and things like it’s um, I dunno, there’s like a, there’s a, there’s a good or bad or creative process you have to like know when to put the pencil down I guess. So for me it’s like finding it and then sometimes like in crazy ex we kind of found this thing of like, Oh gross. Okay. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. And you kind of have to push the envelope. I mean there was like S and P issues to standards and practices. So we’re a network show. You can’t just create whatever you want. It has to be approved. And West side story is super particular and has like legislation against you doing like exact choreography, same with Fosse foundation. So, but you know, choreographers don’t own their work and aren’t unionized. So you know
Kat Burns, enter Kat Burns the organizer. I wasn’t sure if we would get to this point and I know that not everybody listening is a choreographer, but I do think that this is really important too. Everyone in creative fields, no matter what they are, uh, choreographers right now, specifically an organization called Choreographers Alliance, which is a nonunion organization are working really, really hard to win choreographers SAG-AFTRA contracts for our work because unlike everybody else on a TV, film or digital sets, choreographers do not have the protection of those union contracts, which means no healthcare, no pension and no residual structure. Um,
No minimum hours work, uh, overtime or anything like that.
So Kat is a staple in the community that’s working to win us an agreement that would support us in that way. Thank you so much.
It just seems like it needs to happen. Everyone else, literally everyone else on set, unless you’re in an assistant role, has union protection and then they have it for SDC, which is stage directors and choreographers Guild. So for Broadway shows, Vegas shows some touring shows, they get a royalty every time their work is used, they own their work, they can, you know, that’s obviously not going to happen necessarily in TV because it’s called a work for hire clause. If you’re a freelancer, um, and writers as well, like, but if they use their work again, they have to pay them. Um, and if you have the union then let’s say dirty dancing, right? Like that’s been like Kenny Ortega . His work has been used so many times and he’s never made any money past that. Same with Vince Patterson from smooth criminal, you create like how easy would it be to be, Oh, we’re going to use this choreography. We’re not going to hire Kenny because he’s off directing in Canada. We’re going to pay him X amount of money just like you would a song. And then the, and then like they can just take the exact choreography and never pay the choreographer or anything. It’s so broken. It’s so broken. But we did it. And it’s about celebrating the wins. As you say. I was asked to recreate Christine and the Queens “Tilted”
Werk, my favorite,
It’s one of my favorites for Better Things for season one. And, and the reason why I was asked this, cause I work with non dancers and they, and it was, it was the whole family. It was the mom, the grandmother and the two daughters. But put on a performance for you. I don’t want to ruin it if you haven’t seen the end of season one.
I haven’t done, I’m going to, I’m writing it down right now. That sounds fascinating. I already,
You already know what’s coming, but it’s okay. There’ll be emotional and beautiful. And I said they were like, we already got the rights to the music and everything and I was like, well did they pay the choreographer? And the awesome line producer was like, well, let me look into it versus saying we’ve already paid. But, um, they actually paid the choreographer for the usage of that work. Um, but that was a big win. They paid the court and I said, you have to credit, there is no union. Like I wouldn’t get credit. And then the person who originally choreographed, it wouldn’t get credit. Right? Like they can do whatever they want. But I said the original choreographer, Marion Motin and I was like, you have to say originally choreographed by and then like adapted by me cause it’s not my choreography, but I was hired as quote unquote THE choreographer. But I need, I just think it’s interesting because now people are doing like Tik Tok videos and they understand currency of dance and like even in this time we’re giving away or work for free, we’re teaching classes for free. We’re trying to help the community. But like, you know, this is how people make their money.
Ah, I, I do want to dig into more of those technical issues and I want to celebrate you going to bat for an instance like that, which I’m sure happens all the time and I’m sure that choreographers who, uh, maybe don’t have as much experience or aren’t as in passionate about the subject as you are, wouldn’t even to ask if that had happened. So I’m really glad that you spoke about that. I think that’s super important.
Choreographers definitely have asked me like even what should my minimum rate be? So like if you’re getting a job and you don’t know what to ask or even how to run a set or anything, like reach out to someone that you know that’s working if you don’t have an agent yourself. And then also I think it’s important that we ask those harder questions. People are only going to give you what you fight for, you know, otherwise they’ll just take advantage and also to know when to back off. I have a solid rule of threes. Like I’ll ask something like three different ways just to make sure that I was heard. And then the answer the third time is still no, I go, okay, well I at least try it.
Here we go. I at least tried thrice. Yeah man, I really wish we had more time to dig into all of these lovely icebergs that we just saw the tip of. But I think that there will be time for that and I hope that people will go find you. Find more of you. Um, you’ve done a handful of podcasts as well. I think that you can be found in this, in this audible world as well. What other podcasts have you jammed on?
Totally Unmorganized. Uh, uh Oh and then Heather and Ava’s, yeah. Yes,The dance room the dance. And then there’s been a, Oh, the Bigfoot Collectors Club . My friend Michael McMillan has a, she has a podcast about, um, about Bigfoot. So I have a lot of non, non dance related content in that. Then my mom and I did a podcast for, My friends, a beauty beauty vegan podcast called Natchbeaut She’s a passionate vegan and finds women owned businesses through beauty and beauty is not my world. So my mom was really good at being the guest, I was just there to be made fun of. Pretty much, which I’m..
You were the link. You were the link between the worlds. Um, well thank you beyond for being my guest today and for sharing so freely. All of your wisdom and humor and insights and tips about lip syncing. You know, there is not a podcast for that yet. Thank you so much for being here. High five across the screen. Great. I think we missed
Your, you’re doing such a good job.
Ah, I so appreciate that. Thank you so much. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast finally, and most importantly now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball, change over to patreon.com/wtMMpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.
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