Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #12 Caring is Cool with Nick Palmquist
Nick Palmquist Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/napalmquist/
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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: Hi there. Hello. How’s everybody doing out there? I am so glad that you’re here with me right now. I am so excited to talk to you today, number one, because if you’re tuning in on or around the release of this episode, then we are dealing with a global crisis and two, because the conversation with today’s guest is a light in dark times and it really reminded me the power of perspective. I am so, so, so excited to share it with you.
So the neutral facts right now are that there is a virus that is spreading and we do not yet have a cure and that is causing some thoughts, a lot of scary thoughts, some really sad thoughts, not many happy thoughts. And that’s honestly okay. There’s talk of death, there’s talk of doubt, there is talk of full-blown economic collapse. But with this episode, I really hope to remind you that after every dark, sad, gloomy recession, there is a Renaissance, a cultural, artistic, political and economic rebirth, if you will. And that that’s a time where the people with ideas that people with passion, the people with vision, those are the people that have the power. So yes, I’m talking to you, you thinkers, you authors, you artists, and this one goes out to, especially you teachers. Today’s guest is Nick Palmquist, a Renaissance man himself. He is the every man. He’s not always, but is most of the time a very happy man. He has cut out the middleman and he is one of my absolute favorite humans. How’s that for an introduction? Nick and I’ve recorded this episode days after California went into a state of emergency, but before most of the studios and conventions closed their doors to big group events. So now studios, most schools, theaters, museums, all of them closed. And today actually bars in LA have closed. So you’ve got nothing left to do. But listen. Listen and get creative, get organized, stay healthy. And uh, thanks again for being here. I really hope you enjoy the rest of episode 12 with Nick Palmquist.
Dana: Here he comes. We’re doing it.
Nick: This is so surreal.
A little weird. It’s, we’re talking. Happened really fast and thank you for that.
Nick: So honored. Like I honestly, you’re, you’re, I don’t know if you really are able to see like the impact that you’ve had on kind of the dance world, but it’s definitely like very amazing to be like on a first name basis with you. Let alone sitting at with a microphone between us.
Dana: Nick, hold a mirror up instead of that microphone and that’s how I feel about you. This is wild. Ladies and gentlemen, Nick Palmquist, my guest on the podcast today. Welcome Nick. Hello. First of all. Hi. And um, give us an introduction of yourself. I want you to do that.
Yeah, I was thinking about that and I really think, you know, if I were to introduce myself, it’s always as a dancer. I think dance lives in my choreography. It lives in my teaching. It’s just as much an outlet for me as it is. Anybody else in another context. Um, so I’m in New York, but currently in New York based, um, dancer and I also teach and choreograph
MmHmm. And an exquisite dancer at that might I add, um, okay. I want to replay the scene of us actually meeting in person for the first time. Uh, which was at Steps in New York. I was about to teach a CoLab class Koch co collab collabo collab class collaboration class with my fellow associate choreographers from In the Heights. And we were in this, I’m like, uh, is it like a faculty room, green room faculty area where you can, um, hide in very close proximity to each other and uh, you know, prepare your material, get your counts right, whatever, without being distracted with all the hugs and kisses and who I was and stuff. So I was in there and then, uh, we were prepared and then as I was on my way out, Nick entered the room and as I was about to say, Oh, Oh my God, I’m such a huge fan of yours. You were like Dana. And I was like, he knows my name. And um, I was like, I’m such a huge fan of yours. And I think you were like, no, I am a huge,
Yeah, I was a little annoyed. I didn’t get to say at first and like I didn’t get to kowtow to somebody who has really created an archetype of dance that I respect a lot. I said to you before, you know, I think it’s really amazing as a woman that you kind of created a whole new way of being seen and that, um, it’s not always to try to desexualize things, but to not just have it speak the loudest sometimes. And you had wit and humor and musicality and all of these things in your, dancing and, and I, I grew up being so inspired by that because I think, you know, even in that way it was kind of like a visibility thing. You know, I was like, I feel like to meet somebody who has consistently over their career kind of like carved out a niche for other people to feel like they can use dance to express who they really are, um, has been so amazing. And so then to walk into a place that feels like home to me, you know, Steps is like really where somebody first gave me an opportunity to like build my, my self perception, um, to meet somebody there who also had an awareness of me. It was just such an incredible moment.
That’s crazy. Right? I imagine it’d be like walking into your living room and seeing one of your like people,
idols you can say, I absolutely, absolutely. You know, it’s amazing.
Thank you! That blows my mind and it’s so kind and very thoughtful way to say, um, the way that you see someone in their work, right? Like, I think one of the, I don’t know if it’s a result of social media space or in the comment culture or whatever, but we do kind of truncate our thoughts about people a lot. And I, one of my favorite least favorite things that we say is like, Oh my God, you’re everything. Like your work is everything. So thank you for elaborating and unpacking. Part of what that means for you. And I want to talk more about what is attractive in a dancer to you. You touched a little bit on, um, the womanness and comedy and it’s something that I think really fascinating about your work. We’re just digging right into it.
Yeah. And also I’m even just, no, I’m just even thinking now like I hope I didn’t insane that I hope I didn’t say that you’re not a beautiful woman or that you can feel like a beautiful woman and how you do, but I felt like you’re, you’re, there’s like a variety of depth to your performance quality and each kind of dynamic in the way that you hear music is also an emotional dynamic. And so you’re giving people different facets of who you are in a pop song. And I I, that’s another thing that I think is so valuable that pop music is orchestrated. There are, there’s a lot of thought and genius that goes into pop runs and pop hooks. And if you can kind of tap into that as a dancer, then you really, people are relating to you because it’s been mastered that way. It’s been literally like orchestrated to have the most amount of people respond to that thing. And if you can find that in dancing as well, then you’re immediately super relatable to a lot of people. And I found that to be the case with you that I felt like anybody watching you saw maybe something different that we all loved.
Well, and sometimes, oftentimes, especially in when we’re talking dance in entertainment, then relatable is the goal or accessible is the goal. Not with all art, not with all dance. Like every, not every time I dance is my main objective to be relatable. Like sometimes there’s like, Ooh, I need to get these fields out of there or something like that. But oftentimes that is my goal and
In the commercial world in general, right, like the idea is to be palatable to a wider audience of people and that’s why it’s on TV because more people have access to that thing.
Yeah. Well that’s another segue. Another good segue is do more people have access to the TV right now versus phones? Because I would argue not and because of, I talk about social media a lot, especially lately on the podcast, we don’t need to spend a ton of time.
No, I loved, I listened to your podcast and you said like I love Instagram because it’s free and that’s something I really believe in. Like a lot of people can see something that I’ve put a lot of my heart and soul into, even if it’s 30 seconds long. I spent a lot of time on that thing and I, you know, I think it’s really great whenever families of people can enjoy something together and a lot of our mediums for, for live entertainment are very expensive and very difficult to, yeah, to try and have a, an experience with somebody that you communicate about. Because if only one of you got to see it, then you can’t really expound on how that really touched you. Maybe an Instagram is this way that in a matter of years the globe has become connected and we can have global inside jokes. Now we can have global, you know, idols that all all of us know who you’re talking about. Whenever you mentioned that person, that’s an insane thing and a huge responsibility
Truth. Um, but yeah, the shareability of work on Instagram in particular is something that I really love about it. Um, some getting the sense that you’re kind of pro that platform. Could you put a pin in, like if I asked for your relationships, that is your relationship with Instagram. Where are you landing? Right.
Absolutely. It’s, it’s complicated. Um, because I am of a generation that has used technology to cut out the middleman and a lot of ways, um, you know, Airbnb came out of a need of a generation not being able to afford hotels the way that other generations have Airbnb, uh, Uber, um, Instagram I think are all opportunities for people to cut out the middleman. So for me, I’ve been trying to get to my work seen and validated by established American institutions like Broadway and like colleges and like things that I’ve grown up being educated that once you put it on your resume it says something about you and your worth. And yeah, it is a stamp of approval. And um, a lot of times and at this point in time as a, a white male who doesn’t have a ton of bonafide credits, it feels like a risk to invest. Um, and someone that has potentially such new ideas and such new ways of using rehearsal time and using dancers that feels like, I don’t know that we can invest in this person.
Can you, can you give me an example of new ways of using rehearsal or your, a way that you use rehearsal that’s new?
I don’t know that it’s new. It’s just, it’s, my stuff is dense. My choreography is dense. And so for me, I think if I’m looking at that as a producer, I’m looking at that as like, well, we don’t have five weeks. We have two. And other choreographers have done it in two weeks. And so I can’t say that, I don’t understand that, but I can also say that like it can just be hard to get kind of your foot in the door. And so Instagram came about when I was trying to teach at Steps on Broadway and get people to come take my class because basically in New York, um, it’s, it’s expensive to take class. And so sometimes if you’re a choreographer that has, you know, a couple shows on Broadway, then people are going to come and take your class because it’s a way to meet you. And I, and I’m not trying to take away from that because now choreographers are, yeah, and they’re kind of only in the final callbacks. So if you’re trying to get seen at the, at the first stages of a, of an audition and you’re new to the city, it’s really hard to get in the room with some of those people you’re trying to connect with in class as a direct way to have them watch you do their choreography. So I get it. But for me, um, I kind of had to break the rules in New York and put cameras in my class, which was a whole separate thing. And I, I had some like on-camera experience as a dancer. And so I believe in teaching people how to perform on camera because it’s not an innate skill. We’re not born with an intuition for how to look best on camera and dancing live on the Tony’s and having things changed 15 times and then they say like, and then go, you know, you’re kind of, um, you’re put into a position where you have to rise to the occasion. And I think a lot of people would maybe like the opportunity to practice that. So I thought, you know, my, my hook in class could be, you know, kind of understanding the value of a camera in the room, taking it off the pedestal a little bit. So to answer your question in the longest possible way, I think my relationship with Instagram is really full of gratitude. And I’ve had a group of freelance dancers that have invested in me in a way that I wish a producer would invest in me. And they’ve spent their time and money and energy over the course of years taking my class and validating my opinions and making me feel like what I have to say is unique and special to them. And as my following and the classroom grew and as my following on social media grew, I felt really indebted to that community to make sure that they knew I didn’t take for granted that sometimes they paid to take my class three times in one week. And I mean there’s a lot of willpower and some of these dancers to, to maintain their body and to get into the next level. And um, so for me, I have nothing but great things to say about Instagram. It cut out the middleman. It kind of, you know, I know everybody in America loves to be able to say they went to Harvard because that means something and that they said they danced on Broadway because that means something. And for a lot of times I was on that hamster wheel trying to find that word that would validate me and then people are tempted to kind of reference me as an influencer. And I don’t necessarily think that that fits me either and not because I have judgment for it, but just because I don’t necessarily try to cater anything that I put out there for an audience of people. I post things I’m proud of. I joined products that I’m proud of. Yeah. And you know, so I, you know, I guess maybe I just need to get more comfortable with the term, but I feel like the way that it’s used to describe me is oftentimes derogatory and not positive. I’m just kinda trying to pioneer maybe a more positive view of that because I think people that look at my Instagram feel happy and I just love, I love that because I’m not always happy and I don’t always create things in moments of happiness, but I am really blessed to be able to use dance to kind of push me into a happier realm. So if people can relate to that, um, kind of aspirational tone of like, maybe I’m not in a good place now, but I hope to be by the end of the day or by the end of this class. Um, it’s really rewarding and I, and I owe, I owe a lot to Instagram. I’m meeting you, I think really because of, because of social media. So I could never, I could never talk more about it’s bad things and it’s positive things, but I will acknowledge that there’s some toxic behavior.
Yeah. There’s some, there’s some dark and ugly corners of the space, just like anything. Right. Then even the dance industry, or as I’ll speak for LA specifically, before there was social media, there was a lot of awful ways that you could get jobs or not get jobs. That’s in any industry and in any time a, it’s new, right? And then B, it’s changing so fast. So the rules are always changing.
Yeah. We don’t have a rule book, right. It’s, it’s very, we’re flying by the seat of our pants to keep up.
So your class right now has gotten to a point where it’s generated enough attention and stop me, I might have the wrong understanding here, but enough attention that you have people interested in sponsoring slots in your class so that people who might not have otherwise been able to afford it can take class as a guest. How does that work and how did that come up?
Um, yeah, I guess I guess that’s a fair summation. I, to be honest, I got to a place where I reached 100,000 followers on Instagram and I, I personally didn’t want to necessarily post about that. Um, because first of all, it could go back to 99 I posted it or, you know, like literally disappear tomorrow. Yeah. So I was trying to find a way to kind of like celebrate the moment because I am, I, you know, sure. There’s a reason to be proud of that, I guess. And um, I thought that the community of people that got me there was really, who deserves just as much of kind of a celebration. So I posted one day saying, you know, um, anybody that is struggling to take multiple classes this week, cause a lot of the people that take my class are taking one right before it. They’ve probably taken another one. I teach twice a week right now. Okay. Um, and so I was saying, you know, really for my freelance community, if you’re, if you said to yourself, I would love to take nick’s class tonight but I can’t really afford another class, send me a message and I’ll, I’ll pay for 10 people. Cool. And I think maybe people that have been following me for a couple of years might have this feeling of like, this guy has been for free. Like giving me what I feel like is, um, his heart. You know, whether or not it’s good or bad. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve really like appreciated following, you know, what, what he’s putting out there. And I think they felt moved that I was willing to give to another community they wanted to give to me so that, you know, so I think again going back to how social media can be really positive, it kind of set off this thing where a couple people messaged me and they were like, this is amazing. How can I sponsor a dancer as well? Cool. And I think what’s really amazing about the chain reaction of Instagram is each week then when I would post like I have five slots based on donation or I have seven or I have 10, it would lead to another five or seven donations coming in. Um, and coolest. Yeah, it’s really cool, right? Because you know, again, most of the people donating spots aren’t dancers themselves. They’re people that have just found their way to my, my people do be able to it.
Oh by the way, I live on auto row and there is a car wash across the street from me. So we are occasionally hearing, um, maybe drag racing, um, as we rev up as well. Uh, I think that’s a beautiful, like social media actually being a connective, um, device that brings more in person connections versus more, even even more engagement in the click sense is not what I really want. I want like, Oh my gosh, more people in class more shows out there in the world. Yes. Um, and so that, that is super special examination.
Thank you. Well, and also I just, I, I, you know, I want to clarify too that this conversation about class being expensive is fair, but a lot of the institutions in New York are also paying for youth programs. They’re paying for teachers to go to other countries to audition, to bring them back to America. So I don’t necessarily think that the people at the top of these dance schools are making billions stuff. Yeah. And I, and I, yeah. And I don’t want to encourage a thing that is going to inherently start to pay teachers less because I believe that in general in America, teachers aren’t really valued for what it is that they do. So it is a little bit complicated in terms of like, how can I try and lower the cost of class without like taking away my own income because, you know, I’m college educated in college, indebted for the rest of my life. So, you know, I, I, it’s not about making money, it’s about paying bills for all of us involved. Right. And, um, so I thought it was really amazing that the sponsorship, it’s like patronage. It’s like what used to happen with the arts where if I have and I want to be entertained in a certain way and I can help facilitate that thing, then it brings me joy to invest in somebody that can share their art in a different way. And it’s been pretty organic and um, yeah, I’m, I’m excited to kind of see where it can continue to go. I would love to set up like an actual fund or a scholarship that way other teachers can benefit from it. People can take multiple classes and not just mine. We need to assemble a team. Yeah, I would, I would. Yeah. Um, and, and I, and I know I know Steps and Joe Lantiri and Diane, the people there are really on board for, for helping offer education. Yeah. Offer education to people in communities that can’t always access it and knowledge is power. It really is. And if you don’t grow up with that access, it can be really hard to feel like you’re on the same footing as other people and isn’t Instagram and amazing leveler of the playing field. Right.
All right. In that first little chunk, we talked a lot about accessibility, a few different levels of accessibility. First we talked about making dance that’s relatable and accessible, you know, to the masses. Big groups like pop music is the style of it is inclusive and inviting. The vocabulary of it is catchy and digestible. Later on we wound up, uh, landing on one of my favorite thoughts. It turns out Nick and I both agree that we prefer the type of dancing that says, come dance with me instead of the kind of dance that says, sit, sit, sit, watch me dance. To me, that is accessible. Then we talked about the way that Nick’s called on Instagram to access new levels in his teaching career and the way that he’s using it to nurture and give more access to students.
The way I see it sharing on socials happens in two parts. The first part is the source. In this case Nick documents and shares something with an audience that’s part one. Then the audience shares it with each other and that’s part two. The new part though, part three is this way that the audience physically gives back to the source. Part three this some patronage like the monetary donation element is when more clicks, more engagement, more eyeballs actually turns into more bodies in the room, like the fact that Nick’s class videos are so entertaining and engaging and moving, for lack of a better word, that some people actually donate money so that more people can take the class. That is so cool to me. I mean I it’s, it’s it beautiful self-sustaining cycle. Only after my conversation with Nick could I actually like really digest what it is and I also gave it a name. I call it enter-training. It is when training that becomes entertainment then generates the funds for more training. Ah, I just, I love it. I think it’s so very special. Okay. Now let’s jump back in with Nick and hear about his training and his preferred approaches to teaching and taking class.
Dana: Okay. You went to college. I did not know that
Nick: I did. I was a dance performance major. I went to Oklahoma city university. Um, a lot of, lot of, lot of feelings about, yeah. A lot. A lot of feelings about that for sure. Yeah, I mean I think it’s hard and I think I’m only really understanding the value of what I learned now and on, you know, as I get a little bit older and I, and I do appreciate being able to kind of understand some historical references so that when I speak as an educator, I do feel educated and not just in the one lane that I’ve worked, but, uh, you know, dance in general and um, you know, it’s hard though. I also feel like had I moved to New York and just plugged in, that I would have met some connections that I thought college was going to create for me and possibly didn’t. You know? And so you learn, you learn in a bubble about what you think the real world is going to be and you try and take that knowledge there. And it’s evolved from what the teachers that taught you have learned any more. I understand the conversation surrounding college not being what it used to be. And you know, I kind of grew up this idea that if I didn’t go to college, that I was lazy and that there was, you know, there was something about me that wasn’t reaching my full potential because I think, you know, education was important. Um, yeah.
We have these ideas about what it means to go to college or not go to college. I want to talk about the idea of what it means to be a teacher versus what it means to be like a performer. And I think there’s, I think there’s a stigma around being a teacher. That’s oftentimes, and this is changing a bit, but oftentimes the idea is like, well, they’re done performing, so they’ll teach or they couldn’t really cut it. Yeah. So they’ll teach or they’re working their way up and they’re, you know, paying the bills or whatever.
So, um, my favorite thing is to, “so do you have anything cool going on? Are you just teaching?” Yeah, I hear just teaching really quite a lot and I get it. It’s, it’s like such a nonchalant way of just like, I am aware that you teach, is that what you’re doing? You know, I don’t think people are trying to turn a dagger in my heart when they say it, but, um, no, I, I totally agree. I think, um, there’s, there’s often that misconception that either like you didn’t quite make it and so now you’re trying to stay involved in the world by teaching what you do now or you’re at the end of your kind of career and now you’re passing on, you know, in the, in the, yeah.
Well, I think that you will be part if not like the leader of the person that changes that misconception because as a person that sees and loves what I see of the representation of your classes on the gram and a person that’s been in the room, you make education very cool. And I’ll speak to one part of class which I think is um, borderline dying art form and that art is across the floor across the floor where you asked it and up across the floor because this used to be um, Oh gosh, I could call, I could do across the floors right now that I did when 12 because it’s in my bones.
So it’s a good warm up to for your vulnerability, you know what I mean? People are running on the warmup anymore. There’s like just three of you going across, but then it’s also just across like once you’re over there,
Okay, we should do an across the floor, a global workshop and we call it across the world and we just go and we teach across the floors, across the world. Talk to me, talk to me funding. Where are you at? Where are you at of, across the board? And I guess on a long enough timeline, a dance class kind of, is that like in one, even even a two hour dance class in the spectrum of your whole life is a routine second across the floor, the fastest thing. So talk to me or talk to her listeners rather, excuse me about what is across the floor and how you use it. Do you have a set across the floor? I got the feeling that yours was like there were people in the room that knew it and I didn’t because I was newb but okay. So talk about what it is period. Like pretend like I’m five and I don’t know. And then for all my five-year-olds and then how you use it, but also specifically the function and the way that it’s different in terms of, um, being about work versus being about, um, a show like the production that that happens at the end of class.
Um, so for me, the, the dynamic and the flow of class that I liked the best is to be able to try and fit in about a 15 to 20 minute warm up a couple series of across the floor, which are different coordination usually for me it’s about coordinating the body and getting kind of movement, you know, now that we’ve warmed the body up, how can we move it and make sure that we’re using our upper body and lower body together and yeah, and it’s, and it’s, and it’s, you know, it’s a little bit shorter. It’s not a whole combination. It’s just something that can kind of get us moving. Um, and for me, um, I’ve really spent about two years teaching almost primarily when I started teaching a5 steps. I said this will be remembered for already. It is not my side job. It is something I’m really going to dedicate myself to. And so there are a couple steps that I like to claim and I like to say like these are kind of my isms. And so usually they’ll show up in my, across the floor just to kind of dip people’s toe into the feeling of like, yeah, this might show up in the combo later. Even. So it’s an effort to like put it in your body in a really quick way. We do it to the right and to the left. And then you’re kind of familiar with that shape. The style. Yeah. And I remember one time, uh, my husband, when someone asked like, what, how would you describe nick’s dancing? He said, he’s really coordinated. And at first I was like, okay, underwhelming. Like all of the adjectives. Um, and you know, and then I of course forced them to expound and you know, he was like, I think it’s really amazing to watch such a tall dancer be able to like kind of move their upper body and lower body without making it seem like it was coached. You know, like you are coordinated in the way that you, you take the effort out of the movement and that’s, that’s really what I try to do. So it really was a great compliment. Yes. Very well said. Yes, he’s, he’s, he’s the best cheerleader I could ask for. And I really agree with that, that a lot of times I see dancers trying to prove something to me instead of just trying to share something with me. I want you to know your value so well that it’s about letting me in on your performance, not asking for validation while you’re performing. And I think whenever we’ve trained for so many years to have aligned, be validated as correct when we’re asked to use that line and something that isn’t quite about to perfection, we still have this kind of like muscle memory, brainwashing tendency to click into a very performative way of accessing the line as if to say, is this correct? Right. And when you have a mirror in front of you and when you’re staring in that mirror constantly and when most of the day you’ve been given corrections, you are your harshest critic. And I think across the floor is a really great way to kind of just like shake people up in a fun way. If you don’t do it right, it was one time cross your fingers that it goes better on the left. Yeah. You know, it’s really non, consequential um, in, it’s inconsequential. I you haven’t, you’re like, I like non, um, yeah. So I, I enjoy it and, and I think other people enjoy it too because it’s either something you really grew up doing and you’re like, yeah, it’s across the floor or it’s new to you and it’s maybe kind of a, an interesting little thing to do. You know, when sometimes when my crosses are filmed, I don’t have time to do across the floor. So full disclosure, that’s not always what you might get from my class. But um, you know, when I, when I spend the last 15 minutes of class, usually filming, I try to have people feel really as, as prepared as they can kind of give to a new element that’s kind of you. What would you do? We’re going to do across the floor for an hour and learn a combo for 15 minutes and then film it for two seconds.
I love that. It’s fleeting. I love that. It’s about progress and to check in with the room with the choreographer and their style with your body on that day. And I do like a thing that repeats and that doesn’t happen very often in our world. It’s very much about new, now and there’s something very cool about measuring your progress by checking in with that warmup and checking in with across the floor. Like today. Wow. My turns were so much better than yesterday. Sure. The first time I took Nick’s class, I tripped on my own foot doing that thing and now look,
It’s even an etiquette thing, you know what I mean? Like I say three at a time, every eight counts, and if you’re the person that can’t do that, it’s kind of translating probably to how you audition or how you operate it. You know, one of your podcasts, dance lessons are life lessons. That is something that I really believe like I’m giving you the information. I know I’m speaking fast, but it’s in an effort to give you more information and so it focuses the room and people really get like, okay, three at a time. He said, eight count. People are over there counting on their fingers, making sure they’re not late. And I love that, they’re like, Just, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so it’s like for an hour and a half, we all go into this really focused. A lot of my times, my classes are really quiet. I’m not a very good hype guy. I don’t really, I don’t really coach applause because I think sometimes it robs from the moment of learning. And it’s about like, um, and that’s, that’s honestly just because to me it doesn’t feel natural. And when I go to other people’s classes where they are that energy authentically, then I’m a woo girl and I’m like, I totally get it. But for me, I don’t know how to direct that energy because I like focused direct feedback and I love to tell you, you’re amazing, but not in a way that is to applaud for two seconds because literally I need those two seconds. Right. You know, I like, I just feel like I have a lot to get through in my class and I, yeah. And so then the room kind of focuses with me and I try to check in and make sure we’re having fun, but I, I go pretty quick if this, if this level of talking is an indication I’m a bit manic. Very efficient. I’m a bit of a control freak. Yeah. I kind of map out my time.
How long is a typical class of yours?
An hour and a half. An hour and a half and then on convention typically an hour, an hour and 55 five minutes. Yeah.
So you clearly are a person that puts a lot of thought and effort into what you teach in class and that actually looping back is why you are changing my mind and hopefully changing the minds of many people about this paradigm, this like that, that it’s different to be a performer and a teacher or that teaching is somehow less creative or less creatively fulfilling even because I know that you have to get creative to reach every person in that room and you have to get creative with how you use your time and how you explain different techniques or how you explain different pieces. In fact, to be a dance teacher, I can’t think of a thing that requires more creativity because you have to deliver the art, I’m going to call it an art product that makes some people cringe and vomit, but to me that’s what a class combo is, is like this is my artistic art product and it’s short and fast, but I made it and it’s made with my training and my experiences and my imagination and my body and that’s that. And so a, you have to make that and then B, you have to verbalize it. You have to prepare the room to receive it and then you have to give it to them. Oh man, it, it’s like, as I say those things out loud, I’m like, Whoa, I’m actually a dance teacher.
I agree with you more. I agree with you. That teaching requires more for me than performing did. And I didn’t have to open my perspective as much because I was told what to do as a dancer and as a teacher, I’m leading the room and I just think the more inclusive you can be in your language, then I think that’s also going to show up in your choreography. Right? Like if you’re, if you’re thinking to different groups of people and how they might be feeling about something, I think that’s gonna start to abstract the shapes you’re making with your body when you’re preparing a combination. And I don’t know that a choreographer has that much exposure to the learning process. You know, like you’re making it up and you’re not thinking about teaching it to somebody that has never done your moves before. You’re thinking about your company, you’re thinking about your muse. So you’re, you know, again, not that it’s bad, but I think you’re a little bit more zoned in on the product rather than the process of like, well, I kind of had this in mind, but now that I saw that I’m going to kind of shift. And I think constantly having to do that and constantly have to teach your own work makes you really understand it. Yeah.
Right. It sounds like you treat class more like a collaboration than most people treat actual collaborations. Like you consider the people that are taking your class as collaborators from the sound of like you’re giving great, great regard to their experience.
Yeah. I would say maybe like an emotional collaborator because then I don’t let you do anything that I’m not asking for the in the choreography. Oh yeah. I’m a total control freak. I mean, I spent five hours making this thing up, so, you know. Yeah. I mean obviously whatever classes you’re a class. So I, and I say that a lot, like if you want to do it, how you want to do it, do it. But this is what I want to see. This is like the intention in the choreography and you know, if you listen to me count my choreography, there’s a lot of and counts. There’s sometimes i-e-and-a in there, you know? And so yeah, it can get dense. Yeah. I am the one and uh, yeah, so it’s, I’m, I’m more trying to be emotionally inclusive to people so that they’ve been, don’t feel so overwhelmed by the physical things that I’m asking for.
Um, I have to say, speaking of when I first saw you and your work on the Instagram long, long time ago, I don’t remember how many years ago, but definitely before the a hundred thousand Mark, I remember feeling like, okay, here’s a guy that has a very unique style, but everyone in the room is doing it.
I grew up, you know, and I think what Oklahoma city really encouraged was to embrace the ensemble, to embrace the idea of such versatility that you can be as impactful to the overall show as somebody in the leading role. You know, I think the Ensemble’s a great place to be. You get to be 16 characters in one show, you get to your dancing, the whole show. You’re constantly changing your costume. It’s such a great feeling. Um, I always like to say to myself, if I weren’t in the show tonight, would that be different? Would there be some kind of magic missing from the show? And for me personally, Yeah. For me, a lot of the times I, the answer was like, not really. I don’t know that anybody would have really noticed my involvement in that particular show. So my personal endeavor as a teacher and choreographer was to create a show that would highlight an entire ensemble of people and that you would see the singularity in choreography, but kind of abstracted across different perspectives. And sometimes those perspectives are race or size or, um, social class. You know, that has a lot to do with I think how you see yourself and all of those things. And I think that’s ultimately what’s really relatable to people. This idea of the every man, because most people are the every man coming to see a show. And I wanted to really highlight and elevate that idea of like, these people in this show are making the show. And, um, so that’s like the ultimate compliment to hear that. I really do. You know, because if there’s too much chaos, people can’t take it in. Right. You know, so it’s like I want to see you, but I want to understand the language that I gave you as well. So there’s a real art and that’s part of what I teach. There’s an art to putting yourself into someone else’s choreography,
Um, earlier you mentioned that performing for camera is not intrinsic. It’s not built in. And I wonder if that’s changing because it really used to be that you had to teach a young person to look at the camera and I kid you not right now, like six months, I pull my phone out and my niece who’s seven, change her tone of voice changes. She slips into like um, blogger vlogger mode. Yep. Um, and like the posture changes and emotive dance, they notice, smile and turn on. It’s very odd. And so I, I really think there might be like a kind of a longterm,
Oh for sure happening there for sure. I teach on convention and when the camera comes out on convention, these kids are unfazed. And when I teach in New York, you know, it’s, it’s a different generations like relationship with that camera. And so a lot of what I’m trying to do is just encourage them that it’s, it’s not really kind of what you’ve made it out to be or what past generations have made it out to be. Cause I think some people are afraid. Like if I mess up on film, it’s going to follow me. And I’m like, how, you know, as somebody collecting your bloopers and like blackmailing with that, like honestly, what narrative are we telling ourselves that we’re so afraid to make a mistake on camera because we kind of live in a really content rich world. So it’s all just, yeah. Yeah. And if there’s really somebody that’s trying to hold you accountable to a mistake you made in class, I kind of feel like that’s their issue more than yours. And if they’re really trying to stick to that, then maybe that’s a project you wanted to avoid in general.
I love that.
Cause you know, people always say like kind of the New York mentality is like, I want to be able to make mistakes in class and I totally understand that. And you can do that when there’s a camera. Yeah. And again, I think you have to, you have to trust me. I’m the person in the front of the room that’s trying to help you. So if, if the, if that was not your best take, I’m not going to post it. I’m also not gonna make you feel bad that it wasn’t your best take. And I think that’s where people feel like, Oh, if I’m the one that messes it up, then the video is not viable. And I don’t want to be that person and ensure I understand that. But I also don’t feel like I have put that pressure on you. So if that’s a pressure you’re putting on yourself, you need to let it go. Because what I’m asking for is to just go and let the camera catch you surprising yourself. I want it to end. And you’d be like, Oh my gosh, I’m so glad I just did that. And it’s a marginalized. Yes. And then you have it. I can watch that. Yeah. It’s the coolest thing.
Although I will say that is coming from you and from me, people who are historically very well supported by the platform I bet that there are people whose days have been ruined by a video going around the school or a something. There’s so much bullying and there’s off again the dark, the dark corners. So there may be scabs and scars that were not, you know, definitely, definitely more nuanced than just like it’s just glass and plastic. But really technically, really it is. It’s really just the way you think about it. Yeah.
All right. This is a great segue into today’s, uh, current events portion of the episode. I, I know I’m not alone in being tremendously moved and inspired by the number of people participating in live-streamed, be it Facebook or Instagram or Twitch or some otherwise online streaming platform for dance class or even yoga class. I see. I’m seeing a lot of things pop up right now and I really think that it’s a fascinating thing. It’s a beautiful thing that social media happens to be what’s bringing us together during this time of strongly encouraged social distancing. Now it’s not just the place for promoting class, but it is the actual place that class lives and entire class is now living in the social media sphere instead of the last two minutes of it. And I want to take a second to point out that just last week in episode 11 we were discussing the potential damage that social media is causing our industry. I can’t even count the number of conversations I’ve had with parents and dance educators around the world who think that it’s damaging our youth, that it’s ruining their self, self esteem and their sense of a sense of self in general and that it’s a pool for bullying and criticism and competition and I think that this is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of context and how quickly we can change our minds about something. See a camera is still a camera. It is pieces of glass and plastic and a screen is still a screen. It is a piece of glass and some light source, whether it’s an led or an LCD, and by the way, I do know what those mean. Do you? Pop quiz… light emitting diode and liquid crystal display? I’m just saying that’s neither here nor there. Honestly, social media is also exactly the same. There’s been no rollout of new features, no massive overhaul. It’s still just social media. Now in this new context, a camera is not a threat anymore. It’s a portal to improvement. It’s a direct connection with our teacher and a screen isn’t a surface that we project all of our self criticism on. It’s become more of like a, I can neutral like a page of a book that holds information for us and social media itself is no longer a cesspool for comparison and criticism. It’s a support system. It is actively helping us. It is unifying, so what’s changed our thoughts, our thoughts about it. That’s it and that is incredible. Just let that sink in for a second. I can’t help but wonder in this case what other thoughts have been flipping because of current events.
I want to leave you with some time to actually inspect that. Think about the way you used to think about social media and the way you think of it right now. Think about the way you used to think about your job or how you make money and the way you think of it right now. Think about the way you used to think about time off and how you think of it now or your family. I’m curious about how those thoughts have changed and if they have, has the change, has the shift been beneficial for you? I really, really hope it has. And if it hasn’t, I’m inviting you to submit questions or subjects that you would like for me to touch on. Tough questions don’t always have hard answers, but it can be hard to start the conversation. So over the next several days, uh, let’s see. Today the release of this podcast will be March 18th. So between today, Wednesday, March 18th and Sunday, which I believe is the 22nd right to me in a direct message on instagram@wordsthatmovemepodcast or leave a comment under this episode at thedanawilson.com/podcast under episode 12. And, uh, I will do my best to get to everybody’s question or concern in the next episode. Uh, this is a really, really exciting thing to do, by the way, especially at a time like this. And I don’t think it’ll be the last time that I do this. So if you haven’t to have missed that cutoff, uh, fear not just sit tight and stay tuned for the next time I have a Q and A episode. So now let’s close out with Nick and a reminder that it is cool to care, especially in crazy times.
I really try to walk into things without expectation and it’s nearly impossible. Right? Um, I’m, I’m just, I’m always excited for the opportunity to teach. I love it, Dana. I love it so much. I feel so, you know, like people clap for me and I feel like they really wanted to clap for me and that’s why I try not to coach applause for people because you know, like I wanna I want to work hard to elicit a really natural response. And if your response is to be like, okay, right. You know, that’s fair. You know? And if your response is to just like really give, because I gave and we feel that, then I want that to feel natural. And a lot of times it is. So a lot of times I can have that stance because I don’t have to coach people into it, right? Because people are generous in spirit, especially if you’re leading with generosity and spirit as the teacher. Um, and so, um, but that being said, it is so incredibly rewarding to end the class or to say like, I’d like to show it to you once you understand the musicality. Cause that’s the kind of learner I am. I’m a very visual learner and I try and pass that on. And of course there’s some ego involved in that. Um, and uh, it’s, you know, teaching on a convention to, if I can get a ballroom full of 13 year olds to feel like something is cool and really all that I’m doing is caring. I care a lot. I care about what I made, I care about how I’m performing it.
If you can convince one 13 year old, that caring is cool. I’m on your team.
Absolutely. And caring is cool. And so to have them cheer for you and be like, Oh my gosh, cool. Now I want to try it. Part of me is like, you know what you should try no matter what. But the other part of me is really validated by a kind of hard demographic of people saying like what you do is cool and it makes me want to do what you do. And that’s, that’s the world I came from. I traveled out of my town of 3000 people and I wasn’t really ever intimidated growing up. I was like, wow, they were amazing. Like I’m so glad that I got to see that. And I, you know, I would go home and I would try and work on that. I try and try and be like those people and I say that in my class all the time. Be inspired, don’t be intimidated because you’re just telling yourself something that no one else is telling you. Right. You know? And if you start setting goals for yourself that are so unachievable that all you feel is negative, then they’re not goals. They are their limits, you know? And there you can, you can change your goal within one class period with one eight count. Okay. Like, I need to change what my priority in classes and I’m not at fault for having to change what my mindset was when I came in the door. And if I can be that adaptable, then maybe that’s part of my marketability that somebody sees that they’re ready for more notes, they’re ready for more feedback, they’re not overwhelmed by wanting more from them, they’re ready for that.
And I think people that work the longest are people that operate like that. For sure. I’m here early, I’m warmed up because I know that I’m gonna use my body all day. I’m a little overwhelmed at the denseness of the choreography, but I’m going to go home and practice it. So therefore my confidence is intact because I know what it takes to go home and work on this and come back the second day just as good as anybody else that could learn quickly. And I think if, you know, really I’m speaking to other people about things that I’m learning later in life and that I am no in no way a master on, but realizing really the importance and especially as a teacher you have a different perspective. You’re watching people’s energy, you know, one of me watching 70 other, yeah. Oh yeah.
Well it sounds like you and I kind of got the luxury of growing up in similar pockets. The dance community in Denver that I grew up in was really nurturing. I mean I did grow up in the competition scene, but the studios, you know, I’ve been gone for a long time now, so to speak for the time the studio has at the time really encouraged each other. I had to duet with Misha Gabriel, who we didn’t even go to the same studio. Like we had groups like that to really, really cool. And I think that what social media and what you are doing right now is making really big communities of people that support each other.
It’s, I, I live in a really a time full of opportunity and I’m just trying to do my best to, um, navigate with kind of some integrity. And I’m, I’m so fortunate in the mirrors that I have in my life of other people that they talk about me in a way that that’s how they see me. And I want to be that person. And Instagram, the danger for me is, is adding too much ego into my sense of like platform or, or the ability to speak to people means that I am owed something that a lot of times I work hard for my confidence. I educated myself. I put the time in to feel confident about what I’m doing. But the second I expect the world to give me something because of my talents, it dips into ego. And you know, I say to my dancers all the time, you have earned the confidence of this 90 minute period of class to look in the mirror at your own eyes and say you’re doing a good job. And if you’re giving a hundred percent energy, nobody can take that away from you. And if you’re giving 90% of energy, your answer is to push it up to 10 or to give yourself grace that you’re at a day where all I can get with compassion and uh, cause we need them. We get it. You invested your time and money. So take the class how you need it, but also be realistic with yourself. If you could have worked harder than don’t beat yourself up that you didn’t just work harder the next time. That’s the beauty of class as well. You can take another one. Oh my gosh. Across the floor, across the floor, across the world, across the world across the floor!
And I think with that we will sign off on episode one with Nick Palmquist always we could do episode to episode three and I would love it. Really, truly. Let’s do this again sometime. I can just thank you for being here. Oh my God. Thrilled. Um, across the mic. High five. Should we see what it sounds like? Crisp. So Crisp um, all right. Thank you. Till next time. Ah, I’m sweating. Sweating. Not even cause it’s hot.
Wait, wait, don’t leave. I have a few more very important announcements to make. Number one, I’m going to be teaching a lot more live stream classes in the weeks to come. So make sure you follow me on Instagram @danadaners so that you know when and how you can be a part of those. Also, it’s true, we can dance alone. We’re proving it every day, but of course it’s way more fun to do it with your friends. And I’m actually learning that the same is true with making and sharing a podcast, and this podcast has become my absolute favorite way to connect during social distancing. So now more than ever, especially after listening back to Nick and this episode, I believe that the power is with the people. So now I’m giving you an opportunity to help me power the podcast. I started a Patreon account so that you can become a words that move me member, which means you not only help me keep the lights on the disco ball here, but you also get some super cool, very funky incentives like exclusive merch, live Q and A’s behind the scenes videos and bloopers. You know, those are going to be good, um, daily creative prompts and even one on one sessions with me. So head over to patreon.com/WTMMpodcast. That’s P A T R E O N.com/W T M as in moves, M as in me podcasts to become a member. Oh, also the first 25 patrons will get a special Instagram shout out. So hurry, run, run, go. Be safe though. There’s furniture everywhere. All right, everybody. Now I’m truly, truly done. Thank you again for listening and we’ll talk to you very, very soon.
Brought to you by Dana Wilson of Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson