This episode’s guest is the reason I pursued a professional career in dance,but she isn’t only an inspiration and a hero in MY life, she is a creative leader in the entertainment industry at large. Nina McNeely’s work is singular… it is dark, it is bright, and so is she. I can’t wait for you to hear her thoughts about social media and the way it has changed BRAVERY in art. We also explore the side effects of “fitting in” and being too precious with our work and each other. We discuss the value of repetition and the impermanence of LIVE dance, and we go deep on what she thinks about thinking outside of the box. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, and on the other side of this episode, you’ll be ready to experiment and be bold with your work! ENJOY!
Black Midi – John L: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT0nSp8lUws
Caroline Busta’s article on Counterculture: https://www.documentjournal.com/author/caroline-busta/
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: My friend, Dana here. Welcome to words that moved me. I must admit it was a big talking weekend. You can probably hear it in my voice. I’m taking it easy today. I’m going to let our guest speak for herself. I am so beyond excited for this episode, but I am taking it easy on my voice. So let’s get right in to wins right now. This very moment. It is thunder storming in Los Angeles and I love it. This is a perfect win for today’s episode because today’s guest is both bright, like lightning and dark like a storm. She is simply so phenomenal. So celebrating my guest today, as well as this beautiful Los Angeles thunderstorm. What are you celebrating, what’s going well in your world?
Nice. Congratulations. I am so glad that you’re winning. Now. There are 100 ways I could go about introducing today’s guest. I could get nostalgic. I could fan girl. I could scream with enthusiasm, but I can’t, several months post vocal cord surgery. I am encouraged not to scream. So I will say this. If I were Harry Potter, today’s guest would be my dark arts teacher. She’s someone I admire respect and has taught me so much over the years. I am thrilled for you to learn from her as well, and I cannot wait for you to find out how thoughtful in hysterical she is. So without any further ado, go ahead and enjoy the eighth wonder of the world as far as I’m concerned, the fabulous Nina McNeely.
Dana: And we’re live, um, the dance duet, the virtual dance duet. That just happened was pretty epic. My heart rate is in fat burning zone. I’m sweating from both armpits and I am so excited to have you here. Nina McNeely. Welcome to the podcast.
Nina: Thank you for having me.
Dana: I’m so, so stoked about this. Um, okay. The first part, maybe the easiest part, maybe the hardest part kind of up to you. I’d love for you to start by introducing yourself. Um, simply let us know anything you would like us to know about you. I’m so curious to see how this goes.
Nina: My given name is Nina McNeely, and I would describe myself as a troll and that’s about it.
Dana: Uh, troll Nina McNeely, the troll, everyone. Um, I will only add to that, that you are a wildly talented troll. I have mentioned you on the podcast before as being the reason why I pursued dance. We sort of grew up together, shared a couple years at Michelle Latimer dance academy before making our way to Los Angeles. You a couple of years before me. And, um, I just so admired your career then, now, always. And so I’m really excited to get to talk about work with you today, work in life and things. Um, so I want to start actually by talking about, um, a moment that started to happen and then we put it in a parking lot. So I I’m thrilled by the way, to be like still getting to know you in our adult lives. Because in our teenage years we were teenagers. I came over recently. I was telling you about this movie, um, Mitchells versus Machines and the hero of this animated, like kids movie or family movie, I guess I would call it is a content creator. She’s a filmmaker and about to go to school in LA for film. And she’s explaining herself in her weird family and how they’re misunderstood. And she says, so I did what any other outsider would do and made weird art. And you were like, oh, weird. And it had this moment of like, don’t get me started on weird. So I want to start the podcast by getting you started on this concept of weird art. Like what adjectives would you rather use? Number one to describe your work and what would you say is out of the box, shall we say these days?
Nina: Well, I think it’s interesting that we’ve been reduced to weird. When you look in the art world, we have, you know, in the fine art world, there’s surrealism, impressionist, Renaissance, all these descriptive words. And we’ve just been reduced to weird, which I don’t understand how that happened. I don’t know if it’s because we abandoned those labels before or something, but if I would describe myself as one of those fine art things, I would want to be a surrealist or I would want my choreography and artwork to be viewed that way, because I do find myself making things in this more kind of like fantasy dream state kind of place that I think to your regular Joe, they’re like, wow, that’s weird. And I guess with the outside the box thing, well, I mean, I just get asked that all the time, like, Ooh, this new pop star is looking for something really outside of the box.
Oh yes. That’s code for weird. Okay. Yeah.
Code for weird. And I’m always like, well, what’s outside of the box to me is not what they think is weird. You know what I mean? Like to me outside of the box is like something ancient and old or based in tradition, you know, because we’ve gotten so far from that recently, you know, our, I even was, you know, one of my last pieces was kind of based in religion a little bit, also something unpopular right now. So I guess, you know, it’s in the eye of the beholder, what outside of the box actually means. And I definitely, I definitely think people try to be weird, um, which is very kind of obvious at first glance or something. But maybe to me, the people that I’ve found there are just subversive and interesting. And like, I can’t wrap my head around at first, like takes me a minute are maybe people that are just extremely like intuitive and trust their instincts. Like when I think of people like that, I think of like Kitty McNamee like when we danced on Hysterica back in the day we used to ask her like, you know, what’s my, uh, what’s my motivation on this part? Or what, what does this part mean? Or, you know, what am I supposed to be thinking of? And she’d be like, I don’t know. And we’d be like, what? She’d be like, what does it mean to you? What do you feel? You know what I mean? And I always admired that kind of openness where she isn’t trying to force or hyper control this idea, but she let something like take on a new life or become created in that rehearsal instead of being a control freak. You know what I mean? And I think I’m really trying to do that more and more with my work. Like I’d like to know less what my work is about and just trust it.
I love this notion. I think I would have a very hard time achieving that type of distance from my self in my thoughts about my work. I think that’s usually where my work begins thinking about thinking, um, partially, possibly, because that’s sort of a new space that I’m living in metacognition and just being, thinking about my thoughts, it’s a place that I like to be, but I can see the value in art and certainly in the creative process of openness and not knowing, I mean, in creative fields in general, they spring from not knowing or from not having already done. So there must be tremendous power there. That’s exciting to me. Um,
It’s hard though. It’s hard though, because I’m an extremely analytical person and I like, you know, I like being prepared and knowing what I’m doing, but sometimes in our industry, we are not given that, that luxury. Exactly. Like it was going to say on, uh, the Black Midi music video, John L, that I did, I tried to just like, listen to the music, go on a walk and see what was like the first thing that popped into my head. And first off I was like, well, this sounds like Primus and it’s fucking awesome. And uh, I love Primus. And then that somehow triggered this memory of the mascot of Domino’s Pizza in the nineties, which was this little guy called The Noid.
I remember this!
Yeah. He was in this red unitards with these bunny ears and he moved really fast and he was like a stop motion. Playmation kind of guy. And I don’t know why that song made me think of him. And I was like, fighting it at first. I was like, you are such a fucking weirdo. Why are you thinking of the Domino’s Pizza mascot right now? And then I was like, you know what, no, fuck it. Let her in, let it in. Hence the dancers being in red unitard. Yeah.
Yes. And then, and then turn it up. Like let it in and dial it up to 12. Turn it way up. Big, big fan, big, big fan of that work. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m not going to give away the ending. I want everybody to go watch it. Um, the Black Midi video, I will link to it in the show notes, click on over to the show notes for easy access. Um, I watched it two times back to back, laughed hysterically was concerned genuinely, um, may have, may have started sweating cause it really, it escalates and it’s wild and in, and playful and smart in so many ways. But one of the things I wanted to ask you because outside of my senior solo in 2004, you and I have not worked together professionally. So I am curious about your process when I watched that Black Midi video, which you, by the way, directed, designed and choreographed, correct. Edit, uh, edited. Did I say that as well?
Yeah, I did all the animations and compositions and stuff in a crazy time crunch where also when that happens, that’s another time that’s really good to trust your instincts because you don’t have any other choice. And you’re like, I don’t know what this is, but I’m going with
Nice. I don’t know an answer to that question in order to move forward. No,
I also knew with that one, because there were so many elements that I was like, you know, if I just make the dance really strong, everything else will kind of fall into place. And so I kind of made the dance, like the choreography kind of the first thought and then let you know, put all like put, made sure we had a lot of rehearsal, which in our world means four rehearsals back to back, no time to let it sink in for the dancers, just go. And that song is like five and a half minutes or something insane.
It’s an opera. I think it’s has different phases and life’s of its own.
And I was like, this song is pure fucking chaos to the dancers. I was like every five minutes. I was like, do you need water? And they were like, no, we’re good. And I was like, God Bless a dance company, Entity Dance Company. You know, now they’re not just music, video dancing. They’re used to being in rehearsal and like training all day, eight hours a day, they have a synergy with each other, you know, they can like, they, like as soon as they know the choreography that kind of get in sync through their peripheral vision. Ooh. You know, because
Yeah, that’s the thing that we, and we don’t have that as much in the gig to gig economy that is, you know, freelancing in LA. Um, I am, I didn’t know, by the way it was the Entity Cast. I recognized a few key players, um, Karen who I absolutely adore and, and a handful of others, but that was the company that was entity.
Raymond is not a part of the company, but he’s one of my favorite dancers in the world. And I just kept telling him, I’m like, you just need to give me that crazy Liza Minelli energy. Like every time just wide-eyed and insane. Yeah.
Okay. Brilliant reference Liza plus Domino’s guy equals Black Midi Nina McNeely. Okay. So here’s my question though. I’m going to call on two, uh, of my favorite creative types. This might surprise you by the way, Jack Lemmon, honestly, I fancy Shirley McClain, but Jack has this famous saying, he obviously is a comedian to choose the five funniest things that you could possibly do commit to the funniest one and then play it deadly serious. And then David Fincher has a saying something. He, he mentioned about fight club once. He said, fight club is, uh, a film that is about a very deeply serious subject made by deeply unserious people. And I think part of the reason why I was initially attracted to you and your work and am still is because of that intersection of serious silliness. I remember like watching you dance in that big room at Michelle Latimer Dance Academy was like watching someone be possessed. It could be terrifying. It could be beautiful. It was very serious in your execution and in the way that it made me feel, but you were one of the deeply funniest people I have ever met. And I think in your recent work, both are being explored this, this humor. Um, I would love for you to talk a little bit about how humor factors into your process, if it does and where it shows up in the work.
Yeah. Well, I was going to say, I should have mentioned earlier when I was listing all of the art forms. Um, but absurdist is one that I’m all that’s, what’s missing in the world right now. Nothing’s absurd. Everything’s so serious. They’re like very hard to be funny. Yeah. Instead of just ridiculous, you know what I mean? And I was like, yeah, I, I remember there being a lot more absurdist style work like in the nineties, like in the, even in the music video kind of realm, but I’ve always kind of felt like, I mean, I like extremely tragic and serious and dark things, topics and people, but I think when it takes itself too seriously, it almost like loses the darkness or the seriousness, like, I mean, any good horror film has all of this light, joyful dream-like stuff to create this amazing contrast for when the darkness comes and it makes it more unpredictable and surprising, you know?
Yes. It unpredictable and surprising that pretty much sums it up, especially for that video. Um, and I think we could be here for a very long time if we were to assess all of your works, even my favorite ones, um, all of your projection mapping feels that way to me. It is extremely dramatic and precise and odd. Um, but I mean, obviously the nature of projection, it feels bright. It feels thoughtful. I wouldn’t say it feels funny. Like nothing about it makes me laugh, but I definitely don’t get the feeling. That’s like this isn’t for you. This is for art people. This is this isn’t for you. This is just for dark people. It feels like I don’t care who watches this because it’s what I think is important.
And Surprisingly. Yeah. Surprisingly, my work does get laughs sometimes even when it’s a really serious piece, because I think it’s the sort of laugh of like, ha ha ha. How clever of her to do that? Like, there’s sometimes the strange giggle that comes out of the audience. That’s not like, oh, you tickled me. But something about the cleverness like caught me off guard and I have to be like, ah ha!
We laughed for all sorts of reasons that are not jokes. We laugh when we’re uncomfortable. We laugh when we’re jealous. We laugh when we’re oh yes. I think all sorts of reasons for that.
I also, I also love madness in general and I love laugh. Laughter can really have that feel it. You know what I mean? Well, that’s why I love Deena Thompson. She can always go to like a pure, that’s why she’s been my muse for so many years. She can just go completely mad in a matter of seconds. You know what I mean? Like when she laughs it’s terrifying, you know, like in a piece or something, because you’re like, fuck what this woman is on, on a good one. Like she’s losing it. I just love, I do love possession and madness. And like, I think I’ve been kind of digging into like what truly inspires me. And I’m, I really think it’s people and psychology even more than dance. Like I, that’s why I’m obsessed with true crime. Every, you know, I’ve watched every cult documentary ever made. I just put like cult new cult documentary, 2021 and YouTube, like everything to make sure I’m keeping up to date.
That is such a move. Such a strong move.
I just love that the power that people have over others and the confidence they have in their own bizarro ideas, you know, and I love to how something, I mean, we see this all the time, how something can start great with good intentions with pure intentions and then it can be so easily corrupted with greed, power, all of those things. And I just, I think people are absolutely fascinating.
Uh, I want to go in seven or eight different directions from there. If we were having a barbecue, we could do that, but I’m going to try to stay streamlined here on the subject of madness specifically. I did not see the film of Climax, but I did see the trailer. I listened to an interview, a podcast that you did. And you talked a lot about the production of the film dance induced, and drug-induced probably both in equal parts mania. And I could only imagine what the behind the scenes of that project looks like, looked like was there a behind the scenes, was there an on and off camera or was that a 24/7 rave? And there happened to be a camera in the room for it.
I mean the ladder, I, it was pretty like, I mean, just the energy of those style of dancers, like the way that they enjoy themselves as to like put on music and battle, like, you know, like all day, we’d have to be like, you guys need to save your energy. Like the camera’s not even on and you’re going insane.
Okay. That’s good to know. And that’s what I would, I sensed might be the answer to that. I do want to point out that my first film, my first feature film, I was, uh, I was technically a dancer, but what I was doing was more background material. Toni Basil was the choreographer. The film was Charlie Wilson’s War, Tom Hanks. There’s a hot tub scene.
Tracy Phillips is in that.
She is incredible
Shooting her sexy sword dance.
It’s riveting. I it’s, it’s the most memorable part of that movie, other than every single thing, Phillip Seymour Hoffman doesn’t says yes. And the girl in the red dress in the hot tub scene raises hand, kidding will not even recognize me. I’m off on the side somewhere. But in that scene, we were party goers, you know, fancy people hanging out with other fancy people. And we were asked at some point by the director, Mike Nichols, no big deal to go do some cocaine quote over in the corner. And I remember being like Basil, Toni, Toni, I don’t, I don’t know how to do that. I’ve never done. She goes, you’ve never done cocaine. I was like, and was like kind of embarrassed. And then she showed me like how a lady would with her little pinky fingernail. And she just taught me how to do cocaine for a second surreal moment. Um, but there’s a, by the way, I’m not condoning drug use. I am encouraging a broad view of human life and the things that might be a dancer’s job that you never expect it to be your job, by the way. I don’t think you have to do drugs in order to book movies or know how to do drugs in movies is actually very different. But what I’m trying to get to, and when I talked to Reshma about, is dancers being human first, before they are dancers. I think that’s why I love dance actually is because humans do it, not robots, not, um, silks or flags or, I mean, I do think it’s cool sometimes the way trees move, but I like dance because humans do it. Um, the cocaine story was a sidebar. I don’t know how that came up, but actually, well, in climax, you probably did have to be teaching or choreographing behavioral, like conditions. Like the condition of
I had to make, I had to edit together. Um, cause none of the dancers had done psychedelics before, which my jaw was on the floor. When I found that out, I was like, seriously, all you Europeans, have never dropped any acid or eaten a mushroom damn. Um, so Gaspar is like, we really need to help them because you know, as Gasper and I know not everyone acts the same on that drug. Like he would say like, you know, someone needs to be in heaven. Like the whole night never stops dancing. Is just on cloud nine in their own world. Cause there’s always someone like that at the rave, you know? And then cause at first when we’d be like, okay, you guys are starting to feel the drugs. They started all acting drunk. And we were like, no, no, no, no, no, no, not that, no, not that. So I edited together this horrid, terrifying, uh, video of people on PCP, Flakka, acid threw in some Butoh facial expressions for fun. And this is one where the sky just has all this drool doing that, like primal scream face. And I was like, this is also powerful. Um, but yeah, Yeah, Yes, this is an option, you know? And like some people really lose themselves on drugs and some seem like they’re barely affected even though perhaps in their mind, they’re going through something crazy. They’re more like still and kind of chill, letting the experience wash over them. So I did have to help them with a lot of that to give like a variety to all of it and not for everyone to just look drunk.
I think it’s important to point out to people listening who are aspiring choreographers, that there is so much more to this job description than making up cool moves
Or an eight count. Honestly. Like I always tell upcoming choreographers, like you’re going to be amazed that the amount of times you don’t have to make up a phrase, zero. Not that no, you have to like it’s movement direction or like storytelling or, or composition a still composition with a bunch of bodies. There’s so many, you’re painting a picture a lot of times for film. And it’s not really about the moves. So many things when it comes to like cam the camera and dance that you usually won’t do a phrase because or you do and then they don’t catch any of it
Or they cut away from it.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
It’s it is possible that you can love dance intensely and know that it is not the most interesting thing to watch.
Yeah. That’s why I think I will. I’m always attracted to dancers that are also actors where they can really be human in a moment. Like I think we were talking about this the other day. Like I prefer to just see two people stare at each other and that electricity that happens when two people look at into each other’s eyes over someone doing some long phrase of choreography. Yeah. Yes. I also was going to say like, I’ve always been a huge fan of Pina Bausch because she does praise work, but I love how she’ll just drill it into the ground. And it keeps repeating and repeating there’s something too about like young choreographers always want to make like every count and every move is something new and different, which I used to do also when I was young, you know? And then I started to learn about like the power of repetition and it’s like, once the audience is familiar with something and they know that it’s coming, then they can start thinking about, but what does this movement mean? Or like, what are they going through while they’re doing this movement? You know what I mean?
So you get to watch emotional trajectory instead of physical trajectory, physical movement in space. The, the idea of repetition has helped me tremendously in my freestyle as well, specifically in a circle or free-styling. I had this made up completely self-imposed notion that everything I did had to be cool and new and look good from all 360 degree angles. And it wasn’t until I started, like, let’s just do a jazz square this whole round. I’m just going to do a jazz square, except for you won’t recognize it as a jazz square. So is power obviously, but also great freedom in repetition. And it directs our eye to something other than the moves, which if you’re a choreographer working in the entertainment industry, it will almost always be moves to serve another purpose. Even if that purpose is make the pop star look desirable, make the pop star look dangerous. Um, explain that these two characters are now in love. I don’t recall ever seeing a breakdown or a treatment that’s like this video is about cool moves.
No, no, there’s always like a purpose and it’s usually not that. And I also feel like I can always spot a truly good dancer by seeing them on a dance floor at like rave or party and that they don’t feel like they need to do all this impressive phrase, work, freestyle insanity, but they just groove and like let the music wash over them. You know, it is funny when you see all these trained dancers on the dance floor, you’re like, this is embarrassing.
Yeah. Ironically, that is the thing that is not taught. And I know art people would argue that it can’t be taught. I happen to disagree. I don’t think I was a very funky person for much of my life. I moved to LA fell in love with fell in love. I, well, I just, I fell in love with street styles and got very lucky in my timing and in my placement and happened to have like in-person influence from some really key people who like were there at the beginning, Toni Basil Popin’ Pete Sugar Pop. I really don’t think I learned how to feel music in a non, like driving in the car headbop type away, like in my whole body, through my fingernails. And in my feet, I didn’t learn that until probably Lockadelic’s class at the old millennium. She taught locking every, I think two times a week maybe. Um, and we did not stop dancing for the hour and a half. There’s no like, okay then the right foot steps on one, let’s go from the top. That’s left on eight, right on like there’s no talking about it. You’re actively dancing for an hour and a half. And that’s how I learned to be funky. So I do think it can be taught, but it is interesting that people who have trained so intensely have such a little awareness of how to do that.
Yeah. And I, I also think that, you know, at Michelle’s like when I was younger, like I was pretty efficient in both hip hop and contemporary, but always was like obsessed with technique and contemporary ballet. And like, I just was, that was my jam. And so definitely
I can still see your passe. I can see your freaking posse hips are so square and that’s the highest possible you ever did see,
But I think it’s interesting. Cause at first, like when I started teaching and choreographing in LA, I did, it was very contemporary and like technical. And then one day I was like, I am denying my Michael Jackson Obsession. Like I’ve kept her in a closet, no pun intended,
That was funny.
Uh, for far too long. And as soon as I started, like letting that out more, which I don’t think people maybe recognize how many Michael centric kind of movements there are that I do. I love neck-ograohy and, uh, you know, hands and kind of intricate things that are very much him. Um, that that’s when I started feeling like I was starting to get a little bit of an aesthetic and everything I made, wasn’t like a brand new idea, brand new idea. Like it started to have a little bit of a shape, you know? And so I really just let it in. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I don’t have a gentle segway, but I do have a lot that I want to talk to you about. And actually, perhaps this does relate to the signature and what we were talking about earlier, um, being weird or out of the box, and I really want to talk to you because I know this is something that I’ve dealt with in different ways, in different phases of my life. But listeners I’m assuming must have is this notion of popularity and YouTube and Instagram have given this quantifiable number to your reach, your influence and to some people, your value. I would love to hear your thoughts on what is your relationship with popularity and social media in general? I’m just so curious.
Yeah. When I thought of that question, what is my relationship with popularity? My answer is that I try not to have one. You know, I try all that matters to me is like the pursuit of truth and self-expression, and if that is becomes popular. Cool. And if not, that’s cool too. And if it doesn’t happen until much later, you know, sometimes takes a little time for the world to catch up or whatever. That’s. That’s cool too. I think like you were saying, it’s quantifiable, that’s questionable to me because I think as a working choreographer, sure. Some people might be looking at your Instagram and your followers and stuff, but I think for a true, like for there to be longevity in a career and integrity, it’s a more about your it’s about, are you dependable? Are you easy to work with, do you know how to nurture someone else’s vision? Like those are the things that bring you, keep bringing you back and also
And those things don’t get a follower account.
Hell no, no one knows about those. You know? And it’s more about like your relationship with directors and them talking to other directors that are looking for a choreographer and actually most of the time has nothing to do with Social Media or your YouTube. You know, it’s more word of mouth because I think in the entertainment industry, people want to guarantee that they’re going to have someone dependable more than who’s hot right now. You know, because who’s hot right now might not be experienced enough to handle the job. You know what I mean?
Thank you for sharing that. I think that may come as reassuring or slightly intimidating depending on where the person listening falls on the timeline of their career. I can imagine somebody aspiring to be a choreographer like, well, how do I become dependable if I have not worked yet? How do, how does the word of mouth support me? You know, this chicken/egg conversation.
I will say though, that what I’ve noticed is it’s about like for a choreographer and I think times are changing. So it’s a little different, but you know, when I was younger, it’s like, there wasn’t any social media you’d have to be like in this group show and even carnival or whatever, but it’s about being prolific and like constantly making and constantly creating and not just being like, here’s me doing my process in my house and my sweats, no, put in the effort, put it on stage, get people there and, and be okay with maybe like being experimental and sometimes making some questionable, you know, the quality is questionable. Like that’s okay. I think before social media, we were so risky and brave because you, no one was going to see it. No one was filming it and you didn’t have like a fucking brand to protect, you know what I mean? It was like, you could just be really risky and experimental and just go for it. And sometimes like be maybe too experimental and it didn’t work and that’s okay. But I think that’s how you learn, learn yourself. And I feel like with all this editing and filtering and preciousness, like you might be just pigeon holing yourself. Yeah. You’re just putting yourself in even branding. Like you’re putting yourself in a box. Like what if that changes? Like what if one day you wake up and you want to do something totally different? Like then you’re going to feel ashamed that you want to change
Or no one that you think that you have to rebrand first before you can do that thing.
Yeah. I think there’s like a lack of flexibility and malleability. Like I’m totally okay with like my opinion changing, my art form changing, like all of that. Like I also get bored easily, you know what I mean? And I just want, I want to keep learning and trying and getting into new things. Like, and I think when you’re really confident, you know, that you will keep making great work. You know what I mean? I think if you really push yourself, you don’t need to be like someone stole my idea. You should be flattered by that. And you should also know that you’re going to have more great ideas. There’s too much preciousness these days. Definitely
On that thought. No. On one of the thoughts that came right before that, this notion of, of you being able to change your mind. I wonder how tightly, if at all, that relates to your, um, ability and willingness to change your medium as well. You talked about getting bored easily. You are absolutely a person that wears many hats. We’ve talked about your choreography, but, and a little bit of your animation and design skills, but you are also a full-blown editor, creative director, all of these things without having to stop being anyone being any part of the other. But it seems like you allowed your, you gave yourself permission to be a multi person without losing or making it mean something about the other parts of you that you also love and are good at. Is that a fair assessment?
Yeah. And I think, you know, anyone that wears many hats or is interested in many things might be worried about that, you know, that famous saying jack of all trades master of none, you know, and I, I always worried about that too. Like shit, I should probably just stick to one thing and really master it, you know, instead of always being like spread out like an octopus with my tentacles in so many jars, you know, that’s how I sometimes feel. But you know, like take animating for instance, like I have stopped myself from going into the world of 3D because I feel like it will suck all of my time and my soul and I’ll be obsessed technically with this 3D thing. And because I cut myself off from that, I’ve just keep diving further into like 2D and collage kind of like, you know, the Black Midi videos, like total collage, you know, it’s green screen with backgrounds and stuff that I’ve actually over the years have started to find like an aesthetic in that. Because I think people don’t realize that like how much restraint and restriction like actually opens new doors, you know, and pushes you, it pushes you to just think in a different way. And sometimes it’s good to just put rules on something and see what happens. Cause it forces you to think in a new way. But, um, I would encourage anyone in the realm of dance or choreography to try editing because a basic editor edits so boring for on the floor, you know, on the snare where we’ve been training our whole lives to like push the music, like go againist it. Yeah. Use, use the silence. Like, you know, go where the song might be really fast, but there’s this one underlying slow tone, like dance to that instead. So I think that most, most types in the dance realm would be surprised at how good at editing they are. You know what I mean? And that, and I’ll say to anyone to that, like if you have other things that you’re interested in and you found that you are skilled in them or that you’re really interested enough to like learn the skill, like do it because like, it was such a crazy lesson for a lot of people this past two years during the pandemic, like I had really geared my focus into like touring and live and creative directing for live stage and all this stuff. And then it was just all cut off, over. I was like, dammit, but I was so glad that I have also editing in my pocket and animating, cause I was able to do a bunch of jobs like that during this where I didn’t have to go anywhere. And I was in my own house just being a nerd, you know, for 14 hours a day. Um, but like it’s really helpful. I think it is scary though for most people. Cause they, they think they’re going to be too spread out and not good at all of these many hats, but just kind of mediocre at a bunch of things. So I don’t know. I think it’s powerful. I think if you are really interested in other things, like try it, you know, dance is the most like time consuming art form and it is kind of fleeting in a way, you know what I mean? Like it’s not like a painting. You can take a photograph of a dancer, but it’s not the same. You know what I mean? It’s something to be watched live. And in real time, you know, even like a film of a dance, doesn’t really capture what it feels like to see that live. You know what I mean?
No, it is fleeting. It is singular. The moment of it happens and then it’s gone.
And thats the beauty of it too.
It’s so special. I think I love it. I get really excited by it. I’m really grateful to count myself a person who has experienced that and helps other people to experience that or invites. I think other people do experience that. Um, and I also am a person, as I mentioned before, dance is not the king of my universe. It might be the queen, but people, I think dance is interesting because people don’t get me wrong. I will watch a Boston dynamics, robot dog dance for an hour straight, but I love humanness. And I mean, what is humanness, if not fleeting, changing, we’re mortal, it’s going to stop. So why not? Why not try a thing that interests you? I just, it makes, I understand the fear of not being good. I really do. But the only way you can assure that you will never become good at it is by not trying it
Its good to fail, if you want to be good at anything, you should be failing sometimes. You know, and I think the preciousness that we were talking about is like, you know, the first few things that some of my favorite things I’ve ever directed, just got canned and never saw the light of day. Some, some in some cases the music was never even released just a tragedy, but they know, uh, I had to learn, I think rejection is such a powerful thing for people to experience. And I think right now we’re really sheltering ourselves and the children from it. But I think it’s important.
By championing inclusivity and things. Yeah.
Yeah. And I think that is, I think that is a little dangerous. Like it’s cool to not be a part of a community or a group. It’s okay. It’s okay to be a loner. Like if we know anything about history, it’s that those loners created the best poetry, the best artwork, philosophies, all of these things. And that I think if everybody’s included, what is the art of the future going to look like? I’m a little scared, you know, I don’t
Think about let’s talk about it.
Yeah. I don’t think people should be just bullying kids left and right or anything. You know, I think we have to be gentle with each other. Absolutely. But I think it’s okay to not fit in and to not be popular that might actually really build some character and a unique voice. Like I, I try to not be like seduced by trends. You know, it’s very hard these days because they’re all over the place and they’re in your face
And they’re designed to be so seductive.
Right. And, and the, like this desire to be relevant again in the eye of the beholder, what does relevance even mean? You know what I mean? Does it mean that you’re getting 500 emojis a day from people? What does that, we know what happened to like conversation, phone calls? Like I’m sad that things, social media sometimes reduces our connection instead of increasing it. Like, we really think that like, oh, it’s so cool. How we’re all connected. I’m like, yeah, but you just watched something that I put so much of my heart into and you replied with a smiley with star eyes. I’m getting nothing from that. You know what I mean?
This is my philosophy. I believe that connection is a feeling and you can feel connected to someone through a two dimensional screen. Um, and if I can feel connected to you here, I can feel connected to you anywhere. I don’t think we have to be talking in person to feel connected. That said I would much prefer to be hanging out at your house right now. And I would much prefer to see your work in person, opposed to watching it on YouTube. Um, and, and the preciousness of knowing that it’s about to be gone versus this ‘Oh, I’ll just hit replay and I’ll watch it again.’ I there’s pleasure. I get pleasure from both because I can binge watch a thing. I have probably watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy 25 times the extended editions. And so I’m like, I love the availability to really go in on something. Um, but I digress. So that’s another direction I want to go with this.
I think I was going to say it’s more even like the difference between a text message and a phone conversation and a face to face conversation. You know what I mean, where they’re cool that we’re connected, but the electricity that happens between face-to-face like in a face-to-face conversation there, nothing compares to that. I don’t think, I mean, and unfortunately we’re in a situation where we can’t do as much of that, but I even mean like a phone call, you know, hearing someone’s voice and feeling their energy and feeling their tone and all of that stuff.
And, and, and understanding, pause and silence. Um, I, this is something that I got to know very intimately during my vocal cord recovery, and we all have different ideas about what silence means culturally, personally. Um, and I think that really is hard to detect through texts. Um, so interesting. I, I wanna dig into really quick counterculture. I want to share a reference. A reference is there’s an article that my husband shared with me in document journal by a woman called Caroline Busta. I think I am saying that, right. I hope I’m saying that, right. It is called the internet did not kill counterculture. You just won’t find it on Instagram.
And she writes, and I love this. I wanted to share this quote to be truly counter-cultural in a time of tech hegemony. One has to above all betray the platform, which may come in the form of betraying or divesting from your personal public online self. And I think it’s so true. This article has a lot of like peak insights and talk about old punk old, you know, underground type of art. Um, I’ll send you this article, Nina. I’ll put it in the show notes, but you know, when you, what year did you get to LA?
Okay. And you talked about creating work for clubs, where, what were these shows? Who, who was going to them? Like what was underground then? And what is it now?
Wow, interesting you bring that up because I did see, I’ve been kind of running into old homeys from that time. And I saw one the other day that I was like, oh my God. Remember when we did that cheerleading number and you guys threw me like two stories in the air and I almost shat my pants and yeah. And it was like, and it started with like a pollical ribbon dance. And he was like, yeah, but were you in the version with like the spaghetti and the kiddie pools where like rough the spaghetti all over ourselves? And I was like, no, but what the fuck happened? Like we fucking go in, so bizarre. So ridiculous. Like, it was all about props, like, okay, we’re going to fucking dip our face in Elmer’s glue. And then in this bowl of sequence, boom, look change, you know, or like, whatever, like we just used to do nutso stuff or like I bought the super high powered fan from home Depot, shout out to home Depot. They don’t know how much they have supported dancers club performances and careers.
I do not test me. I will come back with a sponsorship or endorsement deal. Um, everybody’s addidas except for us just solid orange home Depot.
Yeah. Well, for club wise, God, and I just saw some homies last night that we were like, you guys, we know I’ve known each other for like 14 years, like from when we were babies in these club environments at these raves and stuff, but like one of the most prevalent was Mustache Mondays, um, uh, Nacho Nava who rest in power, um, really started a whole counter-culture world in downtown LA when downtown LA was like gross and scary and no one wanted to be there. Um, and Marlon Pelayo, and I did a lot of duets over the years, some good, some horrible, but we always showed up, you know, and it was on a Monday night, Monday night. Yes. And it was weekly, not even monthly. We were all there at one point, maybe in like 2006 or something, there was something every night, there was also a party called Shits and Giggles. Um, that was in this huge space with like a balcony, like weird, like a gorgeous theater that we just did the most rowdy rug rat crap you’ve ever seen. And then, uh, Ryan, Heffington also had a show called fingered, which is incredible. That was a monthly, there was different themes, like back to school, fingered back to school, like a monster themed one or whatever. And Ryan, I mean, it’s so incredible. And also doesn’t take himself too seriously. There’s so many funny numbers he’d make all of our costumes we’d rehearsed in his house. Like it was incredible. Um, but yeah, we just used to do a lot, like every time someone’s like, oh, we need performers for this. And it was, we’d get like a hundred bucks, you know what I mean? And we’d use that mostly for materials and to like get some cheap wine after. But, uh, but yeah. And also, yeah, we didn’t need money to do shit back then either. Like, he’d be like, perfect. You’re going to come out of this cardboard box and like, yeah, me and Marlon did to duet once where I came out of a cardboard box, there’s a bag of Cheerios. That’s prop. I, my costume was like a little kid’s Rambo costume with like the bullets or two of those just duct tape pastries. I believe not very healthy, but, um, we just, we just went crazy and we, like I said, like sometimes there’s no one there, you know? And we were like, well, I guess we’re still going to just wear our heart on our sleeve and go, go the fuck in, even though there’s 10 people here, you know, but we learned so much from that. And also it was kind of cool to be like, oh, well, if you weren’t there, you missed it. You know, that was kind of like how you could be in. You have to know, you know, and you had to like, and you know, you couldn’t see it anywhere. And if you missed it, you missed it. Also there’s something to be said about when I first came to LA and started doing more like group shows that, you know, we’re not like in, that were in theaters and not in clubs. We’d get written up, uh, by the Dance Critic in the LA times, every time you did the live performance, like what incredible, where they, he was, what’s his name? Lewis Segal. He was so mean, but brilliant. He’d be like, this is a scatter shot of ideas. It makes no sense. I mean, you’d be like, oh, like you were actually getting critique. Cause I think that’s something also missing. Like, everyone’s like, oh my God, I love your stuff. It’s great. And I’m all I need some haters. Where are the people that are like, I hate how you always do this boring witchy, troll crap. Like I wish you would, you know, I’m so sick of seeing this. I feel like you can get a little bit of that on YouTube.
A little bit of that.
I don’t know who said this, but like, if you don’t have any haters, somebody lying
Or you, or you’re not doing something, right.
Yeah. Or you’re not pushing yourself. Right. You’re staying in something safe or whatever. So I don’t know.
All right, everybody go out there and get yourself some haters. That’s it for me, Nina and me, my mom is going to be so pissed. I do that wrong all the time. Nina and I, no, Nina and me, shit. I don’t know. Um, okay. This is, this has been lovely. I love this insight. I think you’re brilliant. I am just shouting your praises forever, but yo, if you want me to tell you that your shit is awful, I will tell you that. I don’t believe that it’s true, but I’ll say, uh, that’s very, that’s a very, um, LA thing to do. Like, wait, what do you want me to be to you? What do you want me to say? But, um, it’s not an LA thing. No, it’s a people pleaser thing. It’s uh, I grew up being a dancer thing. Really, really aiming to please. Yes. Um, okay. Here’s how I would like to finish. Speaking of, I grew up a dancer, we both grew up in Colorado and I want to play a quick little round of how do you know you’re from Colorado burnout, round of super questions. Are you ready for that? Yes. They’re going to come so fast. Okay. How often do you wash your car?
Just got a new one. Just got a new car, covered in dust.
Yeah. Yes. The answer is like almost never.
Yeah, almost never. And I think I need a shamwow. Well, I need to order one of those, I can just use the hose at my house and spray her down.
Um, everybody listening is probably thinking, well, not everybody listening. People who listen often are probably thinking of me fondly. I have a carwash across the street from my house. And as a person who has a podcast, that can be a tremendous challenge. I have, I hate them. Number one. And even when I liked them, when they were a hand carwash before they got the screeching eels of vacuum death, before that, I still never got my car wash and it was literally in my front yard. So
I do love the experience of going through the old school carwash with the flipping flap. It really feels like you’re going into a different dimension.
And when you do that, don’t you feel like you’re seven.
Yeah I love watching videos of kids going through them. Screaming How they terrified
You’re in the mouth of a beast and it’s got multiple good esophagus is a soft guy and tone
Its the birthing experience all over again
Too soon, too soon. Give me out. Okay. Were so much for rapid fire. Um, how do you get the ice off your windshield when you’re going to school senior year, let’s call it that
The scrape, a small enough hole that you can see through it with one eye
With what? With, what do you scrape?
Uh, it’s usually like a glove contraption, a little scrapey do at the end of it.
I usually, I don’t know how I would always be misplacing the scrape dues. I have used CDs. I have used my school ID. I have like taken off, taken off a shoe and stood sock foot. Okay. Good. Good. Don’t check, check, check. Um, what are Rocky mountain oysters?
Uh, those are, uh, bull balls. Yes.
Testes. I’ve actually never really tried those and I’m pretty adventurous with food.
The next time we go back home and do that. Okay. Final question.
Yeah set a date for balls.
Hot balls date done. Uh, what is the name of the theme park in Denver?
Yes. Only a tourist would call it six flags. Congratulations. You passed your from Colorado.
It was an actual garden. You remember the old one with the white, with the white rollercoaster. That was, yeah, that would rattle your brain because it was so old.
Terrible, terrible. They probably called it the brain scrambler. It was called the twister.
Yeah, the twister. Yes.
Wow. Good job. Okay. Um, all right. Final thoughts. This is how I would like to wrap it up as your PR uh, unofficial PR person. I strongly encourage everybody listening to go check out Nina’s website. I genuinely think that being there is more fun than going to a movie. It is more thrilling than going to a haunted house. It is the best of both of those worlds. Please go visit her work and get lost. Um, and we’ll see you later. Just go get lost for a while. Enjoy yourself. Um, I think the world of you, thank you so much for being here.
I love you so much, so much
There you have it. My friend, I hope you learned a lot from Nina. I always have, and I get the feeling I always will. I loved what she had to say about social media and the way it has changed our bravery in art. I loved what she had to say about preciousness and the impermanence of live dance. Oh man. The takeaways from this one, the list is long. I hope that after listening to this episode, you’re ready to think outside the box experiment, be bold. And of course keep it funky. I will talk to you soon. Bye
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 and review because your words move me too. Number two, 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.