There comes a time in a dancer’s life when the questions stop being about “favorite job or favorite dancer” and start being… USEFUL. In a short time, we covered everything from handling criticism, to audition mentality, and even a little dive into @intheheightsmovie
BIG THANKS to everyone who came to our live Q&A episode (and to those that submitted questions prior) for helping me to make good on my promise of delivering INFORMATION and INSPIRATION.
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: Sometimes in acting class, they say that being like — all you have to do to be a great actor is just be, um, and I really wish you all could just watch me being silent. As I figure out my life in this podcast booth before we have our second ever words that move me live Q&A, which I am stoked about. Thank you all so much for being here. And for those of you who wrote your questions in, thank you as well. We got some good ones. Like my brain was genuinely rattled, a lot of thoughtful things coming from my thoughtful audience. Thank you guys so much. Um, but of course, before we get into it, we will begin as always with wins this week. I’m celebrating that over the weekend, Malia Baker, Riley Higgins, and I had a work retreat, which honestly, I feel like we balanced very well. The retreat part and the work part. Um, we got a fancy hotel downtown. We also both have been both, both, both three of us have been vaccinated and, uh, for, for more than two weeks and felt safe being near each other, albeit in different bedrooms. Um, and I think we got a lot done. I also got home on Monday, slightly hung over, but really rejuvenated. And I wanted to thank you both for that time and also celebrate how it is possible to work and relax simultaneously. Does anyone in the zoom room have a share? Would anyone here like to share a win? Um, okay. Lady with her hand waving, um, I think your name there it is Stefani Wilson, AKA Stan, AKA, my mom, whatchu got Stan?
Stefani: I had a weekend to myself last weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. And I did all the things that I just wanted to do. And it started out with deep cleaning my house and I did it like happily, um, because it was what I wanted to do. And it set me up today to be able to work on the project that I’ve been looking forward to. So I did a thing I wanted in my free days off, which was cleaning the house, which I never want to do. Yeah. But then it freed me up to do something that I’m looking forward to. I thought it was like a huge win because I’m sitting here just so relaxed now and able to be immersed in a fun thing,
Dana: Able to eat off your floor if you want to do it is so great. So much freedom. You have all the options you could use anywhere you want right now. Congratulations. That is a big win. Um, okay. Listeners now it’s your turn. What is going well?
Did anybody notice in last week’s episode, the change to our wins music, that’s all I’m going to say. Okay. So jumping right in to our, a written question submission, I like this one so much. So within the words that move me community, which is a membership place that exists in Slack, for lack of a more graceful way of explaining it. Um, we have a community bulletin board and we have this open discourse with each other. It’s a lovely place. I love being there. I love connecting with my words that moved me listeners. Um, and one day I just shared with the world that I really missed doing daily. I missed it in a big, big way. Um, so this first question says, you mentioned experiencing, missing doing daily in a big way. And I was curious to know what you miss from your experience and also maybe what you don’t miss too. Uh, and if there are any actions that I took to process those feelings like to process missing doing daily, number one, if you’re listening and don’t know what doing daily is revisit episode one, I talk about doing daily. It’s the project that changed my life more than any other project. It was the year plus of daily videos that I made and shared on Instagram. And that was way back. Now, I think I ended in sometime in 2015. I think I started in 2014. It’s kind of a blur at this moment, but, um, it’s been years since I made a thing and shared it daily. I think I am still creative every day, but the making and sharing in a day, it’s been a long time since that happened. And the thing that I miss the most, the thing that is what made me want to share and connect with someone at that moment was the immediacy that snap between thinking, Oh, it would be cool if, and then doing it right then it’s been a long time since I acted that sharp and obliged with an immediate yes and immediate action. That’s what I miss. It seems like most of the inspiration that strikes me lately goes into a bucket or a parking lot to be excavated later on. And when you’re doing daily, when that turnaround is so fast, you don’t want to miss an opportunity, a good idea, a beautiful place, a silly thing. You just go straight out and do it. So that’s what I was missing on that day. I missed the immediacy. Um, anything that I do not miss about doing daily, fighting with uploads and wifi and idevices. I actually, my mom was there for one of my meltdowns. We were in Paris. I was using a Samsung because their, their charge port is a micro USB port. So you could actually plug in a memory card directly to the phone and just drag and drop access your files. Instead of the Dropbox that download the upload, the is your airdrop working, wifi was always an issue. I was at like 11:55 and hadn’t uploaded. And hadn’t uploaded my video that day. And my mom and our dear friend Leticia got to see the dark side of me. That was like probably 200 days in. I was not about to go out on some shady wifi, like not make my dream goal happen. So I just threw an absolute fit and did what I always do when I’m having technical issues, which is call my husband, um, shout out vice chief. I love you. And thank you for helping me meet my goal of more than a year of daily doings. He helped me with so many of those uploads. I can’t even count. Um, but yeah, I don’t miss fighting with wifi upload or download speed. That is a thing that I’m okay. If I never have to deal with again, what did I do to process those feelings? I don’t remember in the moment, honestly, I think I left that note, acknowledged that they were there and then kept going with my life. Thank you for that question. That’s a good one. Maybe now all open to the room. Any, any questions in the room? Yes. Ms. Baker.
Malia: When you are starting to like become a teacher in Los Angeles or a teacher on convention, there’s definitely a perception that more people in a class means you’re better. And more people like you, you’re more popular, yada, yada, yada, when you put all this effort into like promoting a thing and hoping that more people show up and then less people show up, how do you navigate your feelings around that? Maybe feeling of disappointment or do you feel disappointed?
This is a great question. Me personally. Oh yes. I feel disappointed all the time. And um, I think thanks to Glennon Doyle, I think it’s in Untamed. She has a quote. Uh, she says disappointment is evidence that imagination hasn’t given up on you. So whenever or something to that effect. So whenever I feel disappointed right on the flip side of that coin is like, nice. I can see something else. There’s something I’m imagining out there. That’s other than what’s happening now. And that’s, that’s incredible. I could take actionable steps to have that thing. Now let’s talk about in this scenario. Exactly. What is that is it? I can imagine being a popular dance teacher with a hundred people in class because the action steps to get there are different than the action steps to being a top tier educator. Like if you want to be an incredible educator, the steps you take to get there are different than the steps you take to get popular. I think especially in Los Angeles, those two things are not synonymous. If you want to be a wildly popular teacher, you probably choose wildly popular music. You might advertise in different spaces. You might advertise in different ways. You might start putting more resources and time into different avenues. But if your goal is to be an excellent educator, then that’s where you focus. And you’ll find that your student base will grow around that. You’ll, you’ll be training people who like great training instead of training people who like hot ish. You know what I mean? Um, but yes, I have felt, I have felt disappointed by class sizes before. Um, and usually what I wind up doing is celebrating space. Fewer people means more space. Sometimes it might change my lesson plan a little bit, and now we’re flying, we’re running, we’re jumping, we’re doing things that we couldn’t have done in a room with 500 people. So yeah, I really don’t think that popular classes are always the best classes. Just like, I don’t think popular music is the best music, but reach is important. If you’re a person that wants to share your information and share your knowledge, reaching a, a large number of people is important. So then decide what it is that you’re disappointed about. What’s the vision that you see that isn’t currently happening and what are the actions steps to get there? Get really clear about what that is. Yeah. I always like to, I like to remind myself, I care way more about teaching a memorable class and teaching valuable historically accurate dance education like that. I care about. I care about that so much. And once I remember what I care about a small class size is not, is not an issue for me. That’s a great question. Thank you so much for that.
Um, okay. I’m going to take another, uh, another written question. This is really awesome. Cause I’m actually in a great place today to be addressing this. The question is what are some reminders, mantras songs, TV shows, et cetera, that you turn to, to pull yourself out of a funk and feel inspired and creative. Again, I love this question because today I am in a funk, it started with the coffee that went wrong two times. And yes, I understand that that is a very privileged problem to have, but I let myself believe it, that that meant the day was going to be awful. And so I committed to the day being awful. I forfeited my schedule. I wound up buffering by bleach tie dying several of my garments that are now in the washing machine during the only one coveted time. Like the only time it’s important for me to be quiet and focused today is this call. And currently I’m washing bleach out of all my clothes. Cause I couldn’t be an adult about my mind this morning. So that’s where I’m at. I’m in a funk today. And I like this question because my answer to it is, is I’m answering from a wiser place. So when I was in a funk at 10:00 AM, I decided the answer to that was, bleach tidying Some clothing, right? Could have been watching a TV show, could have been listened to my favorite album. But in that moment I was like, Oh yeah, bleaching stuff. That’s okay. Um, but now that I’ve gotten to the other side of bleaching the garment and I find I’m still dealing with the funk that I had at the beginning, what I wish I had done and what I will do after this is sit down, brain dump, like write all the thoughts. Just kind of stream of consciousness, get on paper, what it is that’s going on upstairs. That’s making me abandon my plans. What are the thoughts that I’m thinking? That’s making me think it’s okay to quit. Now, Um, so to answer this question, yes, I have things that I love to buffer with. Um, my favorite movie to watch right now would probably be, well at any almost any time is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, anything Baz Luhrmann ever made, um, Across the Universe or anything that involves the Beatles and their music. Um, that really, that those things lift me. I feel lifted, but if I don’t deal with what is funking me up in the first place in mere hours after feeling great about whatever content I just devoured or sweatshirt, I just bleached I’ll be feeling the funk again. So my answer to that question is don’t pull yourself out of a funk, just be in the funk, manage your mind, sit with it. I just, it’s just, I’m in a funk. I can be in a funk and that’s totally okay.
Um, I did want to touch on another little question. This one I really loved, uh, the kind of relating to the TV shows and all of my favorite things. What have I learned from those things? And what have I learned from being a part of TV, film, touring, and stuff like that, that I implement into my own work. Um, the answer to that question is more to do with the process than the work itself. And this is something that I’m working on and reminded by all the time I am a person that loves to prepare. And the thing that I’ve learned from being a part of TV and film production is that no matter how prepared you are, you will need to improvise no matter how prepared you are, nothing will ever go 100%, absolutely. And entirely according to your plan. So I, I, I make sure to champion improvisation and remind myself that although I do love feeling prepared, what I really, really love is getting the job done. Sometimes preparedness is a part of that. And sometimes your plan just goes out the window and you have to improvise. Um, this is something I, I think I learned a lot during, In the Heights and working with Chris, he is so phenomenal at improvising. He’s phenomenal at getting information in the moment and doing something in the moment without needing a week to storyboard or draft. I mean, he’s very good at doing, doing research as well, pulling inspiration images, doing all the things that I love about pre-pro, but he’s like as good at not doing those things at just taking it and running. Um, and so that’s, that’s what I’ve learned from being a part of that world is like have a plan. Yes, that’s fine. But absolutely get really good at having no plan and making something great anyways. Um, so yeah, that’s, that’s my answer to that question. Has that stoked? Anything else in the room? Any other questions coming, William?
William: Um, what is the thought process, um, that comes to you when you’re going to an audition that you have no experience in or to style, but you want to talk audition for it?
This is a wonderful question. I’m so glad you asked it because I, I do consider myself an expert at audition mindset. And that’s a real thing. I think, no matter what, no matter how hard you train or what your mindset is not getting a thing that you want is going to sting a little bit. So you go into an audition knowing that there might be some pain on the other side. So that’s step one is just knowing that this might be painful and that’s okay. But the thing that, uh, the, the things I’ll just give you a couple helping hints, um, that I bring with me into an audition. The first one is that it is more important to be memorable in an audition than it is to be perfect. There is this one job that you are auditioning for now, but behind that job, there are several creatives, choreographers, casting, directors, other dancers. There are other people in the room. I do think it’s so much, it’s, it’s so much simpler. You released so much pressure and weight. When you say I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to be memorable. That’s it? When that becomes my goal in an, in an audition, my mind is a lot clearer. My body moves more freely. I listen more closely because I’m not spiraling through inner dialogue. It’s like, be perfect. Don’t do that. Do that. Oh, she did that. You should do that. Like all that gets really quiet when all I’m trying to do is be memorable. I should emphasize that being memorable in a good way is really the dream it’s possible to aim for memorable and just be a dumpster fire. That is not what I’m recommending be memorable in this case means focused, genuine, true to you, true to the dancer that you are that day and hoping to plant a seed of, of something special in the minds of the people that are in the room. And that isn’t even just the people on the other side of the table. You never know who you’re auditioning next to, especially in LA, in New York city, everybody’s got cool stuff going on. And so when you’re trying to be perfect to the one person on the other side of the table, you might be obliterating relationships or opportunities with the people that are around you as well. So memorable, not perfect. That’s step number one, step number two. And this speaks to your question about having never done something before. This is one of my favorite differences between confidence and self confidence, confidence like task based confidence like pouring a glass of water, for example, is built over time and practice. When you get really good at pouring a glass of water, you stop beating yourself up. When you spill a little bit of water, this time you poured it, you’re like, Oh, I made a mess moving on. So that kind of comes along with, with doing things over and over again. When you don’t have that, you can still have the same attitude. It’s just a thought, Oh, I messed up. That’s fine. That’s a thought that you can have, whether you’ve done something a million times or not. Do you understand? Like, does that make sense? As I’m saying it, I know sometimes in theory, people are like, Oh yeah, but could you believe that? Could you believe that it’s okay to spill water at your first audition and just walk in the room as if like, all right, here I go, I could do this a million times or not. I’m going to spill. I might be wrong. I might be bad. And that will be fine because I’ll get up and myself a glass of water again, you know, I’m going to, I might not have done this a billion times yet, but if I’m going to do this a billion more times, I better be kind to myself, have my own back, no matter what, because the harder you are in those early stages on yourself. Imagine if you really beat yourself up for spilling water, the first times you, you wouldn’t make it very far. If you, if you really beat yourself up every time you tried something and failed in the early stages, you wouldn’t get far. So, especially I’m a subject of auditioning except that there will be some spillage and get in the room anyways, knowing that your you’ll have your own back, um, and, and work to be memorable, not perfect. That’s that’s my bite sized, uh, feedback there. Or do you think cool, thumbs up. We’re all, we’re all spilling, spilling in the auditions. That’s great. Um, anything else from the room before I go back to a few more, um, written questions, go for it.
Question: I’m curious if, about like learning lessons and like consistently getting feedback and how to manage minds around getting feedback. So I have been getting the feedback and dancing that my shoulders are up for about how old am I? 24 years of my life. Um, and it’s like something that I know that I do, but for the life of me, I can’t fix it or I can’t fix it in the way that it needs to be fixed. Like, I don’t understand it and I’ve never got to understand it and it just keeps coming back. And I feel like I’m a bad student because I can’t figure it out and I can’t fix it. And so I just feel horrible about like my shoulders and it sh and then I think they go up more as I’m dancing. Do you have something about like managing your mind around getting like consistent feedback? Always the same.
Oh my gosh. This is phenomenal. Thank you for asking this question. This is a great teaching teachable teaching teach, teach moment. You just talked us through basically a textbook example of how the way you’re thinking affects your results. So if somebody says to you the words you need to put your shoulders down and you think A. I’m a bad student B. I need to do this. C. I could never w uh, all of the thoughts that you just like. I think, I think the most important ones are, I’m a bad student. When you think I’m a bad student, how do you feel?
Question: Oh, like, Oh, we don’t curse on this podcast. Um, awful, absolutely horrible.
Dana: Yeah. Right. And, and when you feel horrible, you probably retreat like in the lesson, in the class and also in your body, when you retreat in your body, like neck shrinks, shoulders come up, like the result is your shoulders are up and you are down. Like the student in you goes down and shoulders go up. When you think I feel awful, this is terrible. Can you see how, how thinking these words may, and I’m a bad student, but in fact, it’s the thought I’m a bad student. That’s rendering you with the result of being low and having high shoulders, which someone might make me in the you’re a bad student, but of course it doesn’t. So you get to manage your mind about what you think being a good student means. If being a good student means having your shoulders down, I could show you a lot of really, really good students that are really terrible dancers, but have lovely long necks and shoulders down. You know what I’m saying? So you get to decide what you make this note mean about shoulders. Um, could I deviate from that with a personal story for a second facts? This is one of my favorite stories ever. So when I did JT’s 2020 experience world tour, we were fitted by Tom Ford. We had custom Tom Ford, the whole band, all the dancers. And, um, halfway through the season, we got a second wardrobe because fancy, um, but that wardrobe was done by, uh, Neil Barrett. And when we were being fitted for our Neil Barrett stuff, it happened pretty quickly. I think they came out to us on the road and there was a lineup moment where they, you know, we they, they brought us things and then measured them and altered them on us. And then we did this big lineup. And as we were lined up opposite us was them, right? Like we’re looking at each other. And I that’s what a lineup is. Um, and I saw the associates, uh, kind of like whispering to each other. And they were saying, um, ‘What is she like? She has no neck. Like, she has no neck.’ And I was like, I can fully hear you right here. And for the record, I have no torso. My neck is fine. I just, but I’ve got thoughts about my proportions in my body, but they said she has no neck. And they were basing that off of probably the 1% of top models who usually wear Neil Barrett, clothing, walking down the runway. I could have made that mean that I’m awful and ugly and terrible. But what I reminded myself of in that moment was I am not a runway model. I am a really great dancer and it’s my job to have a long neck. It is my job to put my shoulders down and what I think I, cause I’ve received that note my whole life as well, shoulders down, shoulders down, shoulders down. I once got feedback to lengthen my neck. And that definitely helped. I think shoulders down just didn’t didn’t click for me. Somebody said to have a long neck and that helped, but I do think anatomically my vertebrae, like my actual bones and stuff, my neck is not very long. So it might even, even if my shoulders were as down as down could be standing next to Lindsey Richardson or Nat Gilmore, somebody might say, she’s got to put her shoulders down. She’s got no neck. Do you know what I mean? So you could make it mean that you’re a bad student or you could make it mean that you’re a great dancer. Who’s working to be a great student and maybe your neck is not very long and that’s fine. That’s totally fine. Oh, here’s another one though. Just while we’re on the subject of anatomical, you know, reminders and dance training, somebody told me lengthen your neck. That was helpful. And then I don’t remember who said this. I feel terrible. It might have been Jermaine Spivey or Spenser Theberge. I can’t remember who it was, but they, they gifted me this imagery of imagining a wet noodle being pulled between both ears. And when I think of noodle coming out of my ears, my whole body goes, I grew two and a half inches just saying that. So maybe think about noodle and see if that helps you with, with neck and shoulder alignment. Very, very helpful. Um, but yeah, I’m with you in the short neck crew and, and you could make notes about your alignment, mean whatever you want them to mean. You’re great. Okay.
So this segues very nicely into my next written question. Is there a criticism that has stuck with you and how has it influenced your work moving forward? Ha yes. This probably won’t come as a shock to you all. I mean, I’ve already told you about the shoulders down thing, the long neck thing. So that’s we covered it, but yeah, I got shoulders down all the time, but this one, um, the note was not, you smile too much, but in that family, it was the note was you look so happy, you know, you look very happy and what else is in there? Could you do it a little bit more like her, could you do it a little bit more like her? Um, and, and her and her was a sexier flavor versus my happy flavor. So yes, I’ve gotten a new smile too much or, uh, expressions are a little bit loud. Um, so what did I do about that? Uh, focused on it, beat myself up a little bit for it. I told myself that my face was wrong and that my body was wrong and that didn’t help at all. Uh, so then I started harnessing it and dialing it up. Um, and then the seaweed sisters were born and dancing with our face is basically the bedrock that we are built on. So I, I, you know, that’s one example of taking a criticism and turning it into solid gold, but I know that we’re not the only ones that, that have done that. Um, the critique about my face has influenced my work by number one, helping me to be aware that I do have control over certain parts of my performance, as hard as it is. I can control my face while I’m dancing. It takes a lot of extra focus. So the awareness number one, that the seating myself at the control panel of this feedback, like I can decide to oblige that note or not. But number two, to like lean into that note, lean into that criticism and find out if I, if I dial it up, instead of dial it down, what awaits me? Like what, what could I do with that? And depending on the, on the criticism, it might not be any good. So be careful with this advice. Um, if you get like your, Hey, your footwork is really God awful, and you just really try to lean into bad footwork, you could really hurt yourself, but leaning into a note about your face or something along those lines can really pay off in an unassuming ways. Weird, weird answer. Great question.
Anything else from the room or I’ll, I’ll take a couple more from the written questions. This one is great. And I think again, kind of an unassuming answer. Um, what from the pandemic do you hope sticks around in terms of the dance world? I know this is an unpopular opinion because everybody’s got zoom fatigue right now, but I really hope virtual training continues. It makes so many more people, more styles, a certain caliber of dance educator accessible to people who otherwise might not have access to that and I think that’s hugely important. So I do hope that virtual training continues. Um, also I’m not mad at video submissions for auditions. I think there is a magic to in-person, but I’m ever a curator. I love to be in control of my lighting. The number of takes I get how I edited it, how I present it. I’m not mad at a video submission. Um, so those two things I think I hope continue. Um, all right.
And the last question that I’m going to take from our written questions is drum roll. Do we have a drum roll sound effect? We should find one. Oh yes. Thank you for the visual aid live audience. That’s why live are fun. Okay. Desert Island, playlist, you have eight songs to be stuck with for ever go. I mean like that’s so brutally challenging Superstition by Stevie Wonder number one, Purple Rain by Prince number two, Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles, because if we’re stuck there forever, then it’s important to remember the sun’s going to come up tomorrow. And I think that song just puts me in a place. Um, Oh, this is really tough. I just, I really want to throw like full albums in there. I’m going to need some Frances in the Lights. Let’s go with friends, which might put me in a sadder place, especially if I’m alone, but I could pull a Tom Hanks and find myself a volleyball and name it after me. Um, okay. So yeah, I’ll go with friends, which I think is Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights. Um, Diana Ross, I’m coming out. It’s one of my favorite songs ever. And it’s one of my favorite dances that I’ve made. That’s I still enjoy even after years and years and years. Um, that’s five. Oh, this is so hard. Try this, everyone. That’s here. I dare you. This is not fun because I’m in the mentality where I’m thinking about all the songs I can’t have instead of the songs that all. Okay. So change the mindset. The song is that I also want to have are can’t get it out of my head, especially at this moment, Tilted by Christina and the Queens. It’s so good. It’s so good. Bill Withers Lovely day. Can’t explain. Why Annie Lennox Walking on Broken Glass Number eight. That’s what it was today. That’s what it is today. Come find me stranded on a desert Island doing progressions across the beach. It’s a broken glass by Annie Lennox. And now my friends is where we will wrap it up today. Thank you all so much for being here. Thank you all for listening. We’ll do, we’ll be doing more Q&A episodes in the future, but at any time you can drop us a question at words that move me podcast on Instagram. Um, I’m DanaDaners. You can send them there as well, I suppose. Um, um, keep it funky, everybody. I’ll talk to you soon.
Me, again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review your words. Move me to number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops and so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.