17 Jun Ep. #25 Taking the Note with Dominique Kelley
Patreon Worksheet: https://www.patreon.com/posts/38208623
Dominique Kelley with Zach Saunders: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CBEwx9jp6CE/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet
Fave Socratic Method Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB4MYGInRl4
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do do do do do bam! Okay. Great. I am so glad that you are winning. I’m proud of you keep crushing it. All right. Speaking of crushing it, our guest today is Dominique Kelly, an undeniable talent, a bright, bright mind, and a dear friend, as well as a leading voice in the dance industry. He is a shining example of excellence with roots in tap that actually branch out as wide as styles can branch. Um, and I’ve had the honor of working with him on several different projects. And recently I saw an IgG live that he did with Zach Saunders. Um, I will definitely be linking to that in the show notes because it is high, high quality. Now I was not shocked, but I was very, very moved, um, by Dominique’s compassion and eloquence in discussing and explaining some really complex and nuanced stuff, broadly racism, but very specifically racism and dance. Racism in the entertainment industry. Man, I watched that IG live. I grabbed a pen and paper and went to school watching it. And then I promptly called him and asked if he would be willing to go a little bit deeper here on the podcast. And he said, yes. And then we talked for about 45 minutes about all the things. Um, the conversation you are about to hear is not that conversation. This is an altogether different 45 minute conversation that really shines a light on very important things. And I certainly walked away with it knowing more and doing better. And I really hope you do too. Please enjoy this conversation with Dominique Kelley.
Dana: This is huge. I’m so, so excited to introduce the one and only Dominique Kelly. Hello, Dominique.
Dominique: Hi. How are you doing? so great to be here. Thank you for having me.
Dana: I am doing well. Thank you. It is great to have you here. I am all already cheesing pretty hard. My cheeks are going to be sore after this. I can tell, um, thank you for being here, man. You are just a master of words and a master of your craft. Please take a moment, introduce yourself. Tell us what you want us to know about you.
Dominique: Great. Well, first and foremost, my name is Dominique Kelly. It sounds like Jonathan only it’s Dominique and, um, I’m a jokester, but more importantly, I’m a human. Yeah, that’s what I’d like to get across first, not my accomplishments, but my humanity. Now, when it comes to props for the business, I first I became professional at 12, 12 years old. I did my first show, black and blue, which was a European tour and it was a tap, a tap show and it was all black people. Um, my next show after that was bring da noise, bringing da funk and you know, another pivotal tap show that talked about American history through the lens of African American history and tap and another monumental show. And then after that, I co choreographed of my first musical at 16 with Omar Edwards, another black tack show ironically. So the first five years of my career were all black tap shows, which shape Mmm. The way I learned the way I improvised, the way I saw the world, the way I saw myself. After that, I took a year off. I went to high school my senior year and I was valedictorian. And then I went to the University of Connecticut, um, originally on an animal science partial scholarship, which was fun. Okay. Clues you into how my brain thinks. Graduated after four years, I was homecoming King, which I was happy about. Um, especially at a school that big, it wasn’t necessarily, um, how you saw yourself, but it’s also how your peers saw you. After that, I moved to New York. I did Broadway, Film, TV the, for about two years, and then came to LA. Yes. And you know, just trying to do all the things, break down, all the barriers, love on all the people have those conversations that I could, and keep striving for more and 13 years later, I’m still here.
Well, I’m glad that you are here. And I am glad that we are witnessing and getting to engage in a conversation with you. This is super special.
Now, one of the things that stood out to me in a big, big way about the conversation you had with Zach is that you are a master of the analogy and you’re an exceptional master of the dance analogy. I want to start with one of the things that stood out to me the most in your conversation with Zach, you said, listen, ‘to all of my white friends, my, my white people out there. This is not your moment to be in the spotlight. This is not your moment to even be an understudy or a swing. You know what? You are the lighting technician right now. It is your job to hold the light and shine it where it needs to be most.’ So I would love to, I I’m working to be a better lighting, lighting technician, myself. And, uh, I want to start by asking if there’s a takeaway that you had from that conversation with Zach or from several conversations. I’m sure you’re a part of right now. And is there a place, is there a topic you want highlighted here today or something you want to go deeper on?
Sure. First of all, let me just say, um, about being the lightining tech. A lot of us want to start with empathy, which means you have to think of yourself in that category or what’s happening to somebody else. Also, a lot of us like to think of ourselves as prisms so if the light hits us, we’d like to refract it. But in this moment, move out of the way. And what I was saying was to accurately amplify other voices, they should not, and could not come through you because then you put your own bias on it. So just let people speak. And whether it’s a freestyle dance battle, when you get tired and you have no more moves, you pass it on. If it’s like beatboxing and you’re rapping in your freestyle and you have nothing else to say, you pass the mic, you don’t hold the mic and put it by you while somebody else’s rapping into the mix. So in those moments, like being a lighting tech past the light, don’t say anything present and jazz hands to somebody else. And when people asked to be an ally or to be a great support system, the best thing is to stand out of the way or stand down and have that humility and drop the ego and just go, I don’t know, I barely know much about this topic, but I know someone who does let them speak for themselves, you know? So I think in those moments, that’s what I’m talking about when I want you to be a lighting tech, as opposed to somebody who wants to stand in front or stand behind or go like, ‘Okay. Um, so what they really mean’ is there’s no, what they really mean, just let them talk. Because lot of times people don’t have that voice. They’ve never been listened to, you know, in certain moments. So I think it’s important to be a lighting tech.
Now, what I would love to talk about some of the little things that I think, um, we all go through, but I have a different lens if it’s like, you know, little things while we’re on set. Um, if it’s little things within the dance industry that I’ve, um, we talked about it earlier. Um, I usually say learning unlearning, but now I have to revise it. Thanks. Thanks to you, Dana. It’s not necessarily learning it and unlearning it’s learning and relearning. So I would love to talk about some of the things that even I’ve had to relearn in this process.
Nice. Let’s yeah. Let’s have that conversation.
Yes. In teaching dance. Mmm. I’ve had to be impeccable, because of COVID, I am not there in the studio with people. So I really have to be very impeccable with my words in what I say. Now, dance is very strict. Anyway, when it comes to certain disciplines, it either is, or it isn’t. Then from there, you can show the variables and intricacies and the derivations of it all. Now, when it comes to talking about certain things, we can use our French words, you know, it’s like, is it a grand jete, or is it a saut de chat? Or even for tap, we can do, is it a four count rift? Or is it a five count riff? You know what I mean? Like there’s just certain nuances that you need to know to make sure. It’s just like, okay, so which Boogaloo are we doing? You know, like which, which vibe, what is, what is the vibe there. Now when it comes to teaching, I like to meet everyone where they are in their learning. Not everybody has had the same education. Not everybody has the same relationship with dance. Not everybody wants to be a professional dancer. So I like to teach from a bare bones learning point of view. Being African American. I also liked to teach black art forms. I would like to give some history because if you don’t know where you are, where the dance form came from, you don’t know where it’s going to expand upon thus, leading too sometimes people appropriating because they don’t know where it came from.
Okay. Another thing I like to do is, um, lead from the place of, and I think you and I were talking about it. I had to relearn a little bit ago about ballet. Now we slash all of us were taught. Mmm. That ballet was the foundation of all the dance styles. And I remember coming up, people should, they would say, well, everybody, whenever you dance, they should see that you have technique and technique, meaning ballet technique. Now, a couple of things that I had to relearn about that one, everything has a technique. Salsa has a technique. Gumboot has a technique, um, waving and popping have techniques. Everything has a technique. And a technique just means the way you go about sequentially step-by-step to learn the specifics of a dance style, whether it’s cultural, whether it’s improvisational, like all of those things. Now, the next thing I had to wrap my head around is that thought is Euro-centric bordering on white supremacist. Now I know that seems very far reaching and all of a sudden people hear that word and they get very scared and turned off. Just think about all the things that are encompassing ballet, the positions, um, the feet, um, the pink tights, where it came from the derivation. So if you are not doing something that’s African base, which is Afro-centric, which a lot of our dance styles came from. A lot of our hip hop styles, a lot of our dance hall styles, um, whether it’s, um, Afro Afro fusion, whether it’s Afro funk, whether it’s even jazz, tap like a whole bunch of those, then you have a lot of branch offs from there. So if you believe that your ballet style, you found it a whole bunch of other styles and should be seen in those other styles, I don’t think that’s exactly right and I don’t think that’s exactly the technique because a proficient technician we’ll show proficiency in that technique. And a lot of times, as we know, ballet will help with your upper body, but isn’t necessarily helping you with tap steps. No, not necessarily. You know, so there’s a lot of things that I had to relearn in a nap and nice analogy that I would like to use is, bleach. Bleach is good and it’s bad, and it’s good for what it’s good for and it’s bad for what it’s bad for. So in order to be able to use it and to properly clean, you have to dilute it with some water. And sometimes that relearning is the water that takes away and cuts, and it becomes more accessible to clean around people
That just reminded me. Um, there’s a photographer named Greg Heisler who talks about technique as, um, another analogy. And I do think it’s important to be careful with analogies because although they do make a lot of sense, what we’re doing is saying that two different things are the same thing. And they are obviously not like that’s part of the reason why we’re having a lot of misunderstanding and relearning is because it’s very easy to say that this is just like this. And in honesty, it’s so much more complicated than that.
So for, you know, with a little bit of fear of being a little bit of wrong here, I want to share this quote, Greg Heisler, the photographer says that techniques are like gloves. Everybody can buy a pair of gloves and you do different gloves for different occasions. Um, right. Like a dentist uses different gloves than a gardener, um, or a motorcyclist, right? You wouldn’t want your dentist wearing motorcycle gloves while performing the surgery and the gloves exists to help get the job done. Yeah. Different gloves, different jobs. But the interesting thing here in what relates to artistry specifically is that gloves also cover up your fingerprint. And if your fingerprint is your voice, then it can be very harmful to be told ballet technique, ballet technique, ballet technique. And we’re not getting to see the individual voice, the signature of the artist. So I wanted to throw that in there as an interesting analogy. And I’m glad you brought up glad you brought that up. I never, honestly, until you said those words, I had never considered the thought that ballet is the foundation of all styles. I never, that’s a phrase that was meant to be inspiring, like men to get people in ballet class, but unintentionally is really exclusive. And,
And I’m guilty of it. It’s almost like a leader because think of it, what is being taught in our conservatories, in our universities, it’s very ballet and modern based, and you’d be hard pressed to find any Brown or black styles of dance. I’m very guilty of it too, because especially in the industry, I’m just like, Oh my gosh, they would be so amazing if they had ballet technique, like just think of the refinement that they would have, not saying that that is wrong or right. But I had to relearn that they have a set of skills that is kin to them and akin to their culture and akin to their movement and what they want to do. Who am I to say that this Eurocentric style would make them better?
Dana: Oh, right. I love what Dominique has to say about technique. And I had honestly never thought of how a statement like ballet is the foundation of all styles could be so exclusionary and, and also so untrue, just straight up, not true. Now I am a fan of cross training. I am a fan of using what you know about style A to help inform style B. And although you might not see it much in my choreography, I do love a Demi Demi Grande, but I am absolutely committed to changing my language around this topic when I teach, I am also excited to dig deeper into my understanding of other non-classical techniques. But for now let’s dig a little deeper on learning and knowing, and really making change with Dom
The subject of learning and relearning. I want to mention something else I’ve been a little bit sensitive about and hear your thoughts on this. Mmm. Uh, I think that there’s a lot of pressure on learning right now. Act now, speak out now, donate now. And I think it’s hard to argue against that. It is very important that change happen now, what I’m concerned about is this cram style learning the way that you crammed for a test and the, and then forgot everything that you learned, the way you are able to hold onto names and dates for like the day. But then they go away and the actual knowledge doesn’t stick. So what I would love to talk about is, you know, in class and in life, how do you encourage deep understanding, deep knowledge, opposed to just cramming and reciting or following along with the flock, if you will.
Um, from a teaching standpoint, what I love to do, especially in my class. Yeah. Um, put the onus on my students. So for anybody who’s taken my class, I asked them, what are they working towards today? Don’t let me validate you. You validate yourself. If you come in working on one thing, whether it’s specificity, whether it’s picking up quickly, whether it’s being able to perform it quickly, there’s nothing that I can say or do in this class or pull you out to do, that will take that away because you’ve been working on it. So I think it’s up to us to do the work instead of somebody else doing the work for you, you have to pick today, what am I learning about? Is it something historical? Is it something that I’ve been complicit in? Is it something I’m adding to? Um, am I learning about, um, somebody who lives totally different than me or somebody who’s lived beside me that I didn’t know what they were going through. So I think that’s one thing. Choose what you are personally learning in that moment and what you want to learn because in school, and when you were younger in dance class, you were told what to learn. You necessarily have a choice. So in these moments we have choices. So if one thing is speaking to you, and one thing is not maybe focused on the thing that’s speaking to you, but still come around to the thing that’s maybe not because maybe you’ll be in a different place, in a different head space to be able to totally receive that.
Another thing I do in my class as a teacher that hopefully will help people out there. I give knowledge that is widely known, just so we’re all on one accord, just so we know I make people’s shout it out with me just so that we can be together. And I think being a group is very powerful. Then the other exercise that I just told you about to make us feel like individuals to talk about what we’re working on individually. So then that pulls the onus on you to be like, okay, we’re a group, but I have my individual thoughts and traumas and weaknesses and strengths.
The third thing I do in class is teach whether it’s history or something, no one knows. So it always shows a need and a room for growth. Because at the end of the day, if you came into my class and killed it all the way around, you feel like you’re done and you do not need to come back. And what I like to do is show people, there’s always room for growth. Even with myself, I’ll pose a question that I don’t know the answer to I’ll pose the question like, okay. ‘So what’s the difference between this step and this step?’ And they could tell me the differences, or they could say nothing. They’re still the same, but we still would have had that conversation. Now I realize a lot of teachers and dance educators don’t approach it like I do. But this is where we take the onus back. Instead of cramming, basically space out your own curriculum. I understand speaking out now, donating now, I’m all about that. I say, do it. People are afraid to jump on a bandwagon. If there was not a bandwagon to jump on in your life. I think this is probably a good one to jump on to, you know, show solidarity and show humanity and empathy and love, and then all of those things. But in that rush, do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Like just because you cannot ingest it all at one time, nobody can ingest anything like that. At one time, whether it’s information, food, water, TV, you just can’t do it. You have burnout. So make up a curriculum for yourself and be honest with yourself. Be completely honest with yourself. This is where I am in this moment. If there’s one day, you have to take a break, take a break because, just bringing it back to dance. If you get injured, the teacher tells you just sit down physically, but we never did tell people to mentally sit down. So in these moments, sometimes you have to mentally sit down. So you’re able to really absorb it and then come back stronger the next day. And that’s my spiel.
Thank you for your spiel. That was, that was beautiful. I think we all just became better teachers and better learners from that. Um, it reminded me of the power of, you know, seeing both short term and long term. Um, and I think oftentimes we overestimate our ability in the short term like, Oh, I can definitely watch six documentaries and listened to 14 podcasts and read three books this week because I need to catch up. I overestimate my ability, my abilities in the short term, but at the same time, and on the flip side of that coin, we underestimate the longterm. It’s a stretch to dream that we could achieve real fair justice or real true equality. But, but I think that we can, I think we might be underestimating the longterm by thinking that way. So the same way that okay. When I was learning fifth position, I didn’t think that I would be dancing on a world tour stage someday. Yeah. Right. And even when I was 16, I had moments of serious doubt, like look at all my friends going and doing that. And I’m still not what’s wrong with me am I broken? Underestimating long term dedication, knowledge, challenge, um, persistence. Yeah. And I think that that’s like, that is perhaps my biggest lesson right now is to be compassionate for myself in that short term, learning like this week. It’s okay that you didn’t achieve the things that you want to achieve in the next 30 years. And then at the same time, my 30 year goal probably isn’t as high as it could be. I, I I’d really like to see more massive action in dreaming big.
Yeah. My drug of choice are epiphanies.
Meaning I will search out an epiphany any, um, I love having these conversations because as I’ve been talking to you, I’ve been having epiphanies, you know, and I think in those moments, it’s okay to sit with that. Like even when I take dance class, I do not want to be in a dance class where I don’t have an a-ha moment. And I think I blame Oprah for this, but you know, if you’re not having an a-ha moment about either, what your learning, the teacher or yourself, why are you still going? You know, in the book you’re reading the documentary you’re watching the podcast, you’re listening to, if you don’t have an a-ha moment, I understand everything. I mean, entertainment, you can turn your brain off, but I’ve chase epiphanies is because I feel like that’s how I grow and that’s how I connect. And that’s how I love is through, through a moment of, I call it cracking my face where I’m like, Oh wow. What I thought I knew. I didn’t know. Or I thought, I didn’t know that, but I’ve been implementing that this whole time. So I’m an epiphany chaser. Hello, my name, my name is Dominique Kelley, and I’m an epiphany chaser.
I’m going to add that to your opening intro.
You mentioned earlier being the type of teacher that teaches to wherever your student is in their learning journey. And I, I think that that highlights something very important, which is they’re a different type of learners. Um, not just different places in our learning journey, but different ways of learning. So I’m so curious to hear when you have an epiphany moment, how do you let it process and sink in? What is it maybe, maybe that would shed light on a way that we could be learning deeper right now?
Um, when I have those epiphany moments, I immediately write it down because at the end of the day, you’ll forget it just as quickly as it came, like it happens all the time. We were like, Oh, what was that? Um, sometimes I like to keep talking through it and start linking other concepts and then talking about how I can implement it quickly. Take the note. That’s what we’re always told to take the note. And I’m honestly trying to take the note in that moment because you know, whether you’re spiritual or not, I feel like, you know, sometimes you just get flowing and you’re a conduit or a vessel and you have to, they take that spiritual note in that moment, you know? So when I have any epiphany I’m like, Oh, or sometimes I share it with somebody, I’ll call somebody and be like, look, this is what I just said. Learn, tell me it sounds crazy to you, but it just seems like it really makes sense to me right now. Let’s talk about it. Let’s break it down, let us critique it and then let’s build it back up and try to implement it quickly. So quote, unquote, take the note.
Thank you. And how about this? I am right now going to take that note and I’m going to tell you something I’m, I’m workshopping this idea. I don’t know if it holds water. I don’t know if it holds weight, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this concept. I’ve been thinking a lot about humor lately because I have not been laughing a lot lately. And, um, I’m excited to have this conversation with you because you and I have worked together a lot specifically on shows like crazy ex-girlfriend, which makes big, big jokes out of big, big, serious topics. And they do it so well, they do it smart. They do it thorough. They do it with undeniable talent. It’s not sloppy. Um, but it is, it is feather, ruffling and unsettling. I think that humor is as nuanced and individual as, as ideas about race and racism might be. Yeah. So am I, am I nuts in that hypothesis?
No, let’s see a couple of things that I took from that one. There are certain comics and comedians who put a black against the white issue, you know, is how a black person would do it. This is how a white person would do it. And you know how there’s like black jokes and white jokes in comedy and everything like that. I feel like there is some truth to that because it’s an experience. So there’s certain nuances in the experience that you would know about to be able to laugh about. And there are certain experiences that you do not hold that you’re like, wait, that’s not funny at all. You know, if you can present in a way too, it was a group to say, I’m with you and I support you, but let’s look at this in a humorous way that often leads to healing into more conversations. For example, um, after 9-11, it was hard for us to try to laugh again. You know, um, after big events have happened in this country, it’s hard to laugh, immediately cause you almost feel guilty for it. And I feel like laughter is a sense of healing. That’s why especially talking from the black community. Um, there’s a lot of satirical comedy where we joke about things like that, because sometimes you have to laugh, so you don’t cry. You know? Um, other parts of it just are rooted in our history. Like we are given the worst and we’re taught to make the best of it in any situation, whether it’s food, whether it’s a tragedy, whether it’s clothes, whether it’s anything like that. Black people have managed to take the trash and turn it into treasure. And we’ve managed to take the chitlins in turning into a delicacy. So in terms of humor, when it comes like that, I feel like depending on the group, you’re a part of, I think you can only laugh from your position. People call it punching down. You do not want to punch down, especially in your, if you’re in a position of privilege. And that’s another word that we talk about that we’re going to demystify privilege just means you can not necessarily succeed and excel in the world, but there are certain things that will not hinder you and block you as other counterparts. So when punching down, punching down would be, if a millionaire it’s punching down and making fun of people who have less there. So like the poor, middle class, working class, that’s when you don’t want to punch down for all the dancers out there, that’s like dance comedy. When we go look at those dancers, why are you stretching everywhere? Or like, why are you dancing everywhere? Can’t you just be excited and say, you’re excited instead of starting Crump. Like, why are you doing that? Especially when we watch certain reality shows, you know, we see the reaction of people getting happy and then they do like a toe touch or a tumbling pass or multiple pirouettes. And you’re like, why are dancers weird? What? But if a director said that same thing, like dancers are horrible. Why do you do that? That would almost be like punching down if he’s not, or she’s not part of the group. So I think with humor, you have to be very specific and you have to be witty. You have to be smarter than most. And you have to be self aware that even if the joke goes flat, you have to be ready to apologize for it or trace the steps back to why it did work.
You are helping me connect my learners web right now. Mmm. I suppose in that sense that a comedian or, uh, an entertainer telling a joke, whether they’re a comedian or not a comedian is like the ultimate light technician.
They shine the light on the thing and they’re like, Hey, everybody look at that thing. And then it’s on the audience to like, get on board with like, ah, yes. Or I don’t get it.
Yes, exactly. They’re like the ultimate jesters in the King’s court. Yeah. They’re the ones saying the emperor doesn’t have on clothes and not only does the emperor not have on clothes, they have cankles. Yeah. You know what I mean? Like it’s, it’s just one of those things where you just keep, keep going and doing the layers. Now, if you can make people laugh and forget about their problems, you have done the work. If you cause more problems for yourself and other people, you need to go back to the drawing board and be ready to apologize, if that’s your speed. Some people just go, that’s what I felt in the moment, which I understand, but you know, it’s case by case basis.
Let’s talk about that for a second. Let’s talk about that’s what I felt in the moment or speaking my truth versus speaking the truth and the, the importance of accountability right now, the importance of Mmm. Information. And, uh, I guess I say real information, which to me in my mind means true information, tested, dried provable in
Yes. Thank you. Yes. So, um, one of the things that sprung up in our like dress rehearsal conversation yesterday, which I wish I recorded by the way, not that this isn’t divine, I’m loving every moment of this, but, um, we came up on something that I would love to, to share the floor with right now. And that is the concept of the Socratic method, um, which is, uh, asking questions to reveal a person’s understanding of a thing opposed to telling them the thing. And you, you talked a bit about, about this when you explained the way that you teach, which is not just by giving a seminar. Right. But by asking for discussion, but by inviting your students to say, what do you think about that? Why do you think that? What do you, what is your lesson plan for yourself? What would you like to learn today? Giving responsibility and accountability. So, yes, I suppose I’d like to hear from you about your thoughts on how we can better question ourselves in a way that, that works for the community.
Mmm. Going back to college, I studied mass communication and research. That’s what I graduated with the degree. And one big thing that I tookaway from that was gatekeeping. The people or systems put in place that sift the information that you know now, um, sometimes it’s best because if you get all the information at one time, it would be what we talked about, where you’re just overwhelmed with too much information. But, um, let’s do a little exercise if you’re watching ABC news, ABC is owned by Disney. So they’re going to put on ESPN because Disney also owns ESPN. So they’re going to talk about certain sports. Now, Disney also owns the Anaheim Angels. So they’ll probably talk about the Anaheim Angels and they’ll put Disney commercials on there. Then they’re also talk about their cartoons. That’s a part of gatekeeping. It’s not necessarily wrong or right. But what it is is, um, there are certain people that own certain things and they want you to know more of what they’re promoting. Now, not necessarily good or bad.
They’re also absolutely protecting their self interest.
There, there, that goes to. So when you are getting the information, sometimes you have to follow the paper trail and see whose interests are being kept in being, um, shrouded in mystery a little bit. So when I like to read something, I like to curate my opinion and curate my opinion, meaning look at different sources and see the behind the scenes of the source that I’m receiving. Like for example, I’m sure a lot of the people who told me ballet was the foundation for everything came up loving ballet. But what about those people who hate ballet and reject ballet? You know what I mean? What about those people who don’t even have ballet at their studio? So just know that that’s a form of gatekeeping because she’s saying like, or he’s saying I won’t call them out like that, but they are saying that we believe ballet is the foundation. So why don’t you come here and learn it as opposed to saying, we believe, um, the foundation for whatever you want to expand upon and your dance career can be found here. And if it’s not found here, we can direct you to somewhere else. Now, when it comes to learning, one thing that I like to add is if you can teach someone who does not know about it, do you have to explain it the same way they do it? No, you can put it in your jargon, your terms, your slang, your all of those things, because that is truly how you ingest the knowledge. You take it from somebody else and you demystify it and you decode it and you, you take it into your brain and you work your magic. And then when you can talk to somebody else about it, that’s the third step in learning for me. Like even though some people may not think that is for me, that seems when you’ve completed the journey of learning. Now, when it comes to sourcing information, that’s still a part of it too. You really have to do your behind the scenes and checks in and look at Snopes, look at a whole bunch of other things in just with everything going on in the world. Part of it, you do have to take with a grain, a grain of salt and the other part of it, you have to take it very seriously and just follow who’s telling you what, like, for example, when your parents said, I want you to do it, why just do it? Okay. They didn’t have to keep going to say, we want you to do it because it will help you become a better human later on in life. Because if you know how to clean the bathroom, you will always have a job at least cleaning. And then when we come by later on in life, people won’t think that your bathroom looks horrible and it’s just healthier because they don’t need to do that. You know? So when it comes to learning and sourcing, figure out who the source is, first, what interests are serving them by saying it. And then what their message is, are they teaching or are they sharing? And you have to figure out which one of those best serves you.
Okay. I want to jump out and touch a bit more on the Socratic method and critical thinking. For the philosophers in the room. I know, I know. I hear you stay in your lane Dana. I know. Well, my lane is teaching and this tool is the ultimate teachers tool. So before I leave it to you and Google and a great video that I will link in the show notes about the Socratic method. I just want to be clear that simply asking any old question and credit checking your sources is not the Socratic method. The Socratic method named after Socrates is the process of uncovering the essence of a thing or an idea by asking questions of different types questions that probe assumptions like what might someone assume instead, or what else might explain that, um, questions that probe reasons or evidence like, why might someone do that? Or what would be an example of that? Or my favorite questions that clarify or define, like, if a triangle is a shape, then is a circle, a triangle. The person on the receiving side of that question would have to further define a triangle as perhaps a three sided shape and so on, and so on. Let’s apply. If I were teaching ballet and I asked my students ‘What is a plier?’ They would likely either just show me with their bodies, a Demi plier, or they would report back the French translation that I have drilled into their minds to bend. Plier means to bend. So my Socratic questioning might begin with, ‘so if I bend at the waist and fold forward, am I doing a plier?’ No! Bending your knees. They might say, Oh, okay. I might say ‘so when I sit and put my shoes on, am I doing a plier?’ No. Oh no, no, no. It’s when you’re standing and you bend your knees. Oh, okay. Okay. ‘Could I be standing on my hands and do a plier or standing on my heels and do a plier?’ No, no, no, no, no. Not if you want to do a ground play, then your heels have to come off the floor. Well, unless you’re in second position, in which case they stay on the floor, you see where this is going. I might then say, ‘Oh, Oh. So is a plier when my feet are flat and I bend my knees as far as they can bend until my heels come off the floor, unless I’m in second position. Of course. In which case they stay down and then do I just stay down there? Bent need forever?’ No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You have to straighten your knees again. That’s a plier. ‘Oh, I see. Okay. Okay. So you mean to tell me that a plier, correction, a grand Plier is a knee bend where the knees bend until the thighs are horizontal to the ground and the heels rise up off the ground, except for when I’m in second position. And then the heels are lowered as the knees straighten.’ Yes, that’s a plier. Okay. Okay. I could have easily started at the definition, which no five-year-old could possibly ever remember, but instead, careful questions and critical thinking, help the students arrive at the definition themselves. You can see the value here. You can probably also see how explaining something as simple as a plier could drive a person, totally bonkers. If it’s this hard to explain the essence of a plier, just imagine how hard it is to explain or define love or faith or justice. It’s, it’s clear why this is not our default method for teaching or thinking for that matter because it takes a lot of time and a lot of work, but it also results in a deeper understanding in a stronger argumentative standpoint or plier point or pointe point. So yes, Socratic questioning takes time. It takes effort. It can be annoying. It can come off as aggressive or argumentative, but like everything, the more you practice, the better you get. And also the more you practice, the more you will understand why Socrates was not the most popular guy at the Acropolis. Okay. Enough about old and very dead Greek guys, by the way, for a little extra credit, you might want to learn a little bit about how Socrates died, fasanating, but for now, let’s get back to Dom and some different types of questions.
Asking people to explain and redefine and re-explain and challenge themselves can be taken as being, um, uh, combative or disrespectful or, um, agitating. And I think that there is a way, and I would like to think of dancers as being a type of community thats sensitive and knowledgeable enough to ask those difficult questions in a way that doesn’t point a finger. But that is more of an open hand in asking for, will you share this with me? instead of what you think about this? And so I, I, that’s the type of learner that I would like to be. That’s the type of learner that I like encouraging and my students, um, you know, we probably grew up hearing. The only stupid question is a question that’s already been asked or a question that you don’t ask. There’s all these ideas about what is a stupid question. And I really love, Mmm. The idea of asking a question that shows how much, you know, instead of how much you don’t know in class that would show up, for example, as student raises his hand and asks, can you do that again versus, Hey teacher, I understand that you’re stepping on your right foot on one, but I not sure what comes before that or immediately after. Can you talk through that? I’m like, wow, there’s a person that’s listened to me so far and wants to, and wants to know more. I’m really eager to help that person understand. So if I’m, if I could give an encouraging thought to our audience today, it would be share the floor, shine the lights, and ask questions that show your interest in understanding, instead of question, that deliberately challenge or seek to disprove somebody else’s understanding.
Or very self serving questions just for the attention we don’t, you don’t, don’t need the attention that much. Remember that you’re a cog. And if you’re working, working hard again, you don’t really need to seek the validation from the teacher to be like, I have a question I’m I’m with you. It’s more of, I only have a question because I’ve been with you and then all of a sudden I fallen off.
That’s huge. Okay. I want to close off with one more thing. Um, you and I sit elbow to elbow in organizing, um, the choreography community, a community of choreographers here in Los Angeles, specifically. Um, but you are also a part of Dancers Alliance, um, a group that seeks to organize the dance community in a non-union type of way, but in a, uh, simply outreach and education type of way, that’s primarily our work there. So my question to you in the experience that you have with organizing, which is really important that we be doing right now, What can we do now as a community to make sure that we later are more inclusive, more fair, more representative of the big picture?
I’m going to have the worst answer for you.
Oh, I can’t wait
To say, I don’t know. I have no idea. Um, for a couple of reasons, um, the dance community is a very nuanced community based on especially the industry. So the industry is the wrench that messes up the machine because, um, for example, for a lot of people out there who don’t know, when you go to an audition, a lot of times you are broken up by your race, not your ethnicity by your race. That’s how you’re auditioning. Or if you get the job, depending on what the job is for, then you are doing it based on, okay, we need this type of dancer or that type of dancer or that type of dancer. So it is already skewed in certain directions based on the trends. Now, when it comes to the dance community at large, even in LA, in New York, all of the places, it gets really hard because we all have different education levels. We have different backgrounds, we have different traumas. We have different strengths, different weaknesses. Um, even though we are one of the most expressive, colorful, loving communities, there’s a lot of infighting in between so many different groups like men and women, like, um, what I will say is this, we represent what’s going on in the world in the best, and the worst way, demographically, sociologically, like for example, the people in power, in a lot of the dance industry, things are white, straight men ironically, and you wouldn’t think so. Mmm. A lot of the people who are on the front lines are women. A lot of the people who are making the decisions are older and out of touch with a younger generation. So there’s a lot of nuances in the community that I will ably say, I don’t have the answer to that, but I love to be a part of the solution.
Yes. Word. And wouldn’t it be incredible if in looking at our smaller, relative to the global community, the dance community is smaller. If we can learn from our community, employ and, and implore policy changes and new ideas that could be applied on a larger scale, could we fix this thing?
I think we could. I think, um, what happens a lot of times for the dance community is art starts to meet commerce. So when the art meets the commerce, that’s when things get really, really tricky. If you can create art in a vacuum with no, just liberation and freedom, um, that would change things, but we have to make money. And there are certain bills in California and there are certain things being freelance or doing 1099 that restrict that and limit that. And also because of the administration we’re under now, we’re not getting funding for the arts, like we used to. So now we are creating art, not only for joy, but for protest, for money and to just feel better about life. So when you have all those things, it gets really hard to really come together as a community because everybody’s out for themselves just trying to make it in this business.
Oh yes. Well, there wouldn’t, there would be no Victor, if there was no challenger. Right. And that is our unique challenge in this industry is that yes, our work are the thing that we do for a living is also the thing that we do for joy, for therapy, for community, for belonging, for expression. And so, yeah, that introduces some, some levels of complexity.
But, but let’s not underestimate the longterm. I’m so excited to work at your side in those efforts. I’m in the dance community and beyond I just admire the heck out of you. And, um,
Thank you. Same same here.
Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. Uh, is there anything else that you would like to say before we wrap it up?
What I would love to say is don’t stop now. Don’t stop here. Don’t stop. Just in general. Um, I realized in my life, there are those moments that I feel a little hopeless when I look out my window and I’m like, what are we doing? I feel hopeless that a lot of times I’ve been talking about a subject for so long and then somebody else comes and goes, well, have you thought about that? And then they get the credit. Sometimes I feel hopeless when I think about how certain communities can’t unite and just overtake, but what keeps me going is not stopping. And I realize, um, you know, there’s a misnomer, there’s an Dodge, but I think it’s a misnomer where it says time heals all, but I think healing heals all. So if you use your time to heal, you’ll be able to make it through everything. So do not stop
On that note. I’m going to go ahead and stop the podcast. That is a beautiful sentiment and it is so inspiring. Thank you and beyond for sharing and for talking to us today. I appreciate that. Yay. I’ll talk to you soon.
See ya later!
The waving. Why do I wave? They can’t see me.
Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball change over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast to learn more and join. Alright, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.