Intro: Welcome to 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, Dana Wilson, and I move people. I am all about the tools and techniques that empower tomorrow's leaders to make the work of their dreams and live a full life while doing it. So whether you're new to the game or transitioning to your next echelon of greatness, you're in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello my friend. Welcome to words that move me. My name is Dana. Thank you for being here. I'm stoked about that. Um, also stoked about this episode as per usual. Today I am talking to Imania Detry. She is my new friend and an amazing, extraordinary talent currently living in Chicago. I am really, really excited to share this conversation because industry work was never her end game, but it is where Imania landed.
Um, she has a really interesting trajectory, a lot of important insights, and this conversation goes in some very important directions. I cannot wait to get into it, but first, let's do some wins. <laugh>, I'm already laughing at my win cause I have so many very fond memories. Today I am celebrating wrapping up a gig that lasted a couple weeks, but I wish it could have lasted forever, Actual forever. I had the wonderful privilege of assisting kat burns and also getting to perform, uh, getting to dance for a few episodes of a brilliant and hysterical game show along some really wonderful talents. I got to dance with Brandon O'Neill, Taylor Thomas, and Corey Graves. Shout out my friends. And y'all. <laugh> I'm dying. I have actually new laugh lines, new wrinkles because of this gig. Um, we had so much fun and did such great work. If I, if I do prematurely applaud our accomplishments before the show even airs.
But, um, I, I'm excited about it. I'll tell you more once it's out there in the world. So, be on the lookout or, uh, maybe be on the listen out. How do you do that when it's, it's hard to say. If it's a podcast, I'll be telling you about it. So you wanna be on the listen out. But it is also a show that will be on television, so you'll wanna be on the lookout. Any who? I digress more on that later. That's my win. I'm sticking to it. Great gig with great people. Now you go, What are you celebrating gig wise or otherwise?
Whoa. All right my friend. Congrats. Keep it up. Keep winning. Keep crushing it. You're awesome. I've got your back. Let's keep going with this episode. I wanna talk about Imania Detry. I wanna talk to her. I mean, I did talk to her. I want you to hear our talk. Um, because this person is fascinating. She has like one foot in the community, like her community and one foot in the industry, and both of them so firmly grounded. Um, you, she's a fantastic teacher and you're about to find out for yourself and outstanding overall human being. My friends. I'm so excited to introduce you to the one and only Imani Detry.
Dana: Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for being here.
Imania: Thank you so much for having me, Dana.
Dana: So excited. Uh, I mean, I, it's rare. I think usually the people that join me as guests on the podcast are people that I know very well. I am genuinely excited to get to know you because when I saw your dancing in person the night of the Africa in America, uh, the launch party, my mandible, like my jaw was on the ground. And then the following day I got to take your class and was even more inspired and in awe by not just your movement, but your way of explaining it and encouraging others to, uh, uh, surrender to it. I mean, not surrender, but like accept the challenge of it and engage with it. I am just, I'm floored by you. So excited to meet you. Thank you for being here.
Imania: Same. Thank you so much. It's so exciting. And the saying you were just so bubbly the first time I saw you, I'm like, She's right. And it's just your energy is, that's what I feed off of. So, because I, I give it just as much. So it is such a pleasure meeting you and being in the space also. Um, who am I? <laugh>, Who is Imani? Uh, you know, Yeah. Um, I am Imani Dietrich. I am from Chicago, Illinois. Um, born and raised my whole life, uh, except for when I went to undergrad school, Born to parents. That's from Chicago. Well, my mom and my father's from the islands. He's from Jamaica. So I grew up in a very cultural household, <laugh> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but, uh, two parents that were very much committed to, um, their culture and who they were. So like, just from birth as, as far as I can remember, um, just being around community and, uh, learning about who I am and where I came from was always like betting any ground cuz my dad was, is still, uh, you know, very much into, you know, his culture and keeping it as well as, you know, my mom, you know, just being a, a black African American woman in Chicago, you know, she was very much invested in continuing to learn about her culture outside of just being, you know, from Chicago.
So she was very much into, um, research and, you know, the black power movement and you know, all those different things. So growing up that was kind of like right in in the forefront.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, um, that's, you know, pretty much in terms of like my parents, you know.
I love this. And am I, is it correct, I did a, a tiny Imania review before the episode. Was your dad a dancer as well? And is that how you were introduced to, to dance period, but also like dancing professionally on a company?
Awesome. Yep. Absolutely. Um, yes, my dad, even still now, he still dances. He, um, was a part of a dance company, um, major dance company in Chicago. Moved to Dance Theater of Chicago, um, 50 year, um, dance run dance company. Yeah. This year they celebrated 50 years
And oh, 50. We'll, we'll shout them out in the show notes for sure. That's awesome.
For sure. Yeah, he, um, was a part of like the first wave of, um, performers that was a part of this organization. And again, it started literally off by just being a, an organization of people who wanted to know more, where they came from, you know, studying more about African culture, specifically West Africa. Cuz if you think about it, a lot of the diasporic dances movement is coming from Africa throughout the Caribbean, South America, and then to the United States, of course with slavery and things like that. And then you, you know, transfer it up until present day, everything kinda leads back to that coastal area. So, um, that's where a lot of, in terms of where I got into that style of learning dance, um mm-hmm. <affirmative> was, uh, from West African, you know, and that particular company that my dad, um, danced in, that was their focus on, you know, um, learning and training.
He continued that. I actually joined the same company, um, when I was 10 years old actually. Um, so I grew up being there all the time and, you know, just learning. I was a part of a children's dance component growing up in Chicago also mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But there, that was the adult company and him being a part of it, I was just there by default sometimes. So then as the training started to go and, you know, my parents saw the discipline and how I really enjoyed doing it, you know, they never pushed me, but I kind of got like just carried into, um, taking on that journey. Um, and joining that company, the director, um, Imani a Payne at the time. She was one of my, that's like my dad's mom. She saw it in me and you know, she said, Hey, I want you to do something.
Uh, we have a big show and I want you to be a part of it. You'll be the youngest member, but you know, you got it. You'll be a part of it. And I'm like, Yes, of course. And that was my first time on such a big grand stage. Um, it was taking part of a big, uh, concert, dance concert, uh, that was a, a collective starting from, um, a man named Bob Chuck Davis, um, is a big annual concert that happens in different cities and run who was a part of that concert at the time that I was, I was 10 years old and she asked me to be a part of that. Um, and from there that's where, um, right after then, uh, she said, Hey, it was me actually and a couple of other, um, young girls that were around my age and a little bit older that took a part of this. And once she saw that our dedication and love for the dance was like, Okay, we can do this on big stages,
<laugh>, you know, let's push them into these, you know, being a professional company. And so from there like that just, you know, is where my foundation of professionalism got started, I would say at 11 years old.
Okay. So yes, you were, I, I love the distinction you made, um, about being pushed versus carried and the support from your parents matched by being pushed by this company director. Um, to, to like that allowed you to find greatness and to step into some uncharted territories for sure. And to right, like to find yourself in professional circumstances at that young and age. I'm just imagining how exciting and also maybe terrifying and also maybe you're so young that you don't even know any better, that you should be nervous or scared or, or maybe intimidated. How did you experience that? Did it feel Yeah. What did it feel like?
I, as I can remember, it was really about just like having fun because it was such a family based community. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, organization. We were always around each other. Um, my God sisters, you know, you have people that you call your cousins that you grew up with from young. We were all growing up together. And that's the, that's one thing that was very strong about, you know, the community then is like, we gotta stay together so we can be able to teach our children these disciplines, teach our children about the culture so they can be able to pass it on. And that's where I just kinda, um, you know, have moments of being in these spaces. Like, I'm supposed to be here cuz mama here and I see my auntie here and I see my sister's friends, so I'm got nervous cuz they all here, so we good. You know. But of course, you know, having those, you know, just being human of being in big spaces and like, everybody's looking at you and it's like, you gotta do the best. That, of course those were, I think those were the moments that like, kind of made me be in spaces now and know how to take in. So being able to get that experience at that younger age, it was very, um, I'm very appreciative for that.
Uhhuh <affirmative>. Okay. So let's talk about now, what kind of work are you doing now? Cuz I, I see you as being somebody who's really straddling the community dance world and the industry dance world. You're Yes. Working on industry shows with Pop or, I, I don't know, would you call Chance the Rapper at Pop Star? I would, cuz I think he's popular
<laugh>. Right, right, right. It definitely, But he definitely, it generational. It's like in, in the realm of, you know, all type of, uh, mediums of the world from our street to hip hop to Oh my goodness. I have, he does all type of stuff. So yeah. He is a popular guy.
<laugh>, he's a, i I see him as a pop star who makes way more than pop music. Um, how would you say you, uh, where do I wanna start this man?
I think, I think you, you know what?
Yeah. You it when you, you straddle, you Straddle. S straddling. And that's what I think that's what got me is because somebody like him, he kind of straddles his community. Like he always stays connected to, you know, where he grew up around the people who's doing what and things like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and the young people that I connected with at the time, they had did a couple of projects with them and mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they looked up to me because I'm older than them. And so my sister, um, Donette a little bit, Jackson, I'll say her name very much so, um, she's a amazing artist. She's a, um, tap dancer and a Chicago dance foot worker and her style of, um, Chicago footwork from house music and stuff like that, that's very grounded in the culture and that's something that Chance always puts in his music stays connected with. So during that time he was doing something I was working with Little Bit and she was actually seeing the connection more.
Of course, she already always knew us growing up about how the tap dance and the footwork connected to African dance, but us as adults now, we were able to connect with each other. And so then that's how we started to, I was like, Well, let me take that music you're dancing to and put some Africans to it. It, and you see how it's the same movement. And she like, Yes, that's, Oh my goodness, that's amazing. And so from us making that connection like that, that's when I got the opportunity, she said, Hey, we gotta do this thing with Chance. I'm doing some choreography and you'll be great. Let's, let's work it. And that's how that connection happened. And then from there, I just think the space that I was in, in terms of, um, where I wanted to see, cuz that was the thing, you know, growing up doing traditional African dance and being in the dance community, I saw the dance world.
I saw industry and LA mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But I never thought to the capacity that my dance style would be that far. So I was like, Right. I wouldn't take the chance, you know, I can't, I could do hip hop, but I can't do it. Like, you know, it's so much competition out there. So I never really took the chance, but I always knew that it was something different about my style that could put me in different places. So I just, I think I really, um, thought about, you know, speaking about now it's like, why didn't this happen at 21 or 22? It, it needed to happen in this time and space and age that I am now just because of the, the way I can adapt in certain places and, you know, move forward. So that is definitely connecting in that straddling that of community and being in this dance world and taking that chance with Chance <laugh>.
That's awesome. I love taking a chance with Chance we might have an episode title Friend
Um, I think it's very refreshing to hear that like, that industry work was not your end game. Um, it sounds like something that you saw. I mean, like we all saw we watching music videos and mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Oh, now, Yeah, now, now the internet is always around, but I'm, um, I'm so used to, because it's my experience, I grew up very competitive in my dance training that people wanted to either go pursue a prestigious company and that, you know, the, the, the number of positions available, very limited. The number of prestigious companies also limited <laugh> funding also limited. But there was that route, or it was like, you know, after competition, if you're still, if this is still your thing, you move to a big city and you try to do it. Was there, um, am I, am I totally off Target? Was, was pursuing dance in the industry ever a goal of yours?
Yeah, it was, it was in the space of, let's say during the time, um, I was going to school in high school, think about it. I was like, Oh, I wanna go away to, um, college. Cuz that was just like, you finish high school and you go to college. I thought about art schools, like, oh would be nice if, But I thought about that for high school in it. I was like, well since I didn't get into Arts High School, it would be hard for me to get in the arts college. You know, that feel mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I was like, but I always had a love for science. And so, and then during the time I can honestly say my dad, which is a very much, I'm a dad's girl still. Like that's my, you know, very close. Um, during the time I looked up to him, very much so seeing of uh, how amazing artist he was.
Um, the types of things that he did and draw people to him and things like that. But his focus for me was like that, go to school, get your degree. Do what you need to do so you can be able to have substance. I don't want you to struggle like me as an artist. Aha. There it is. Yes. Those, yes. And it wasn't a negative tone. It never was a negative tone. It was more so of a protective tone. Like, absolutely I want you to, you know, even though I never saw it as a struggle for me, I never, from my lens looking at him, I was like, Wow, he loves what he's doing and is working. And so, but that was kind of cloudy then. Cuz again, during that age, it was like, okay, so I love engineering, I love science. I'm gonna work for, for nasa, let's go, let's go to college.
<laugh>. And I was, Let's go. Yeah. And I went to Univers, uh, Xavier, University of Louisiana in New Orleans. So that's the only time that I lived outside of Chicago. And Okay. During that time I was excited. I'm like, Yes, I'm gonna go to school. I always got dancing. When I go back home to Chicago, I danced with my dance company, That's no problem. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and so, but during that time, as you start to get older and know yourself and what makes you happy and what's your passion, I was doing more artistic things in school than school work, <laugh>, you know? Yes. From doing hair to, you know, Oh, I'm gonna go dance with my dance family down here. Those type of things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and I saw again that reset of community, that reset of, you know, that's where I started to realize that I had a different type of passion for what I wanted to do.
So that's what shifted me back into, um, you know, finding that I had talents that could really sustain me getting what I needed to do so I could go back to school. Cause that was really the thing. It's like, you never stop learning. My mom always made that thing. She said, It's okay, you know, if you're in this space, you go back to college when you're this age, just know that these are different levels of discipline that's gonna help you get to the next level. So I always, wherever it is, wherever it is, you know. So all of that, to wrap up, just to say that when it was younger, I didn't think that I was gonna take the dance career until I really, you know, came back from, um, college
Wow. From fully committing to something else.
Yeah. Yeah. And that's when I started to come home and know that, you know, when I came back to my company that I can give work, dance, teaching in the schools. And so that's how the little things started. You know, I was always, um, not even pushed, but encourage, like, Imani, you really know how to work with the students because you are a great student, so go ahead and teach them. And I'm like, Oh, I gotta teach today. And it was more so that type of feeling of not, of wanting to be like perfect on point. I'm like, I don't know all the terms and things like that. They're like, No, just do it. Like, just connect with the students and show them what you know. And that's how my teacher training started, you know, probably in the form of the class with my teacher, she'll say, Okay, Mari, now do two steps and then I'll do the two steps.
And then she said, Now take those group of people across the floor and, you know, do it. So then that's how I started to learn and get this process of learning how to, um, you know, be a student as well as lead to. And, um, that's where I started to, you know, get the passion for teaching because I could get the next student to do what I did. You know what I'm saying? Like, no, it's okay. You can get it just like I did. No, don't think cause mm-hmm. <affirmative>, Oh, she's your best student that I'm not gonna get. Nope. Come on, let's do it. And that's how I started to, you know, teach, you know, people's connection. I think that's something that, um, really takes you further as a teacher, um, is really staying connected with the last thing that you did. You know, the last opportunity that you got some, you know, it may be done, but staying connected helps build that bridge. And I think that that's what have gotten me into a space of being like this teacher that I never asked or thought that I would be
Right. And this industry professional that you never thought you would be, or never, you know, never put all your eggs in that Exactly. Industry basket. And you became that by learning little lessons and engaging fully with where you were at, uh, like trusting your interests. Like you were going to school for engineering and you trusted that what you needed to do was go dance that night. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> or what you needed to do was express yourself through different creative venues. I, I, I love, and I'm not shocked that this is all coming back to learning mm-hmm. <affirmative> and being a student and being a leader. Like leading students a but also leading your life to an extent mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and sometimes we do that with a plan, and sometimes we do that without one. Oh, okay. By like, following What's interesting, right? Um, is it's wonderful. I thought that I was making a podcast about dance and choreography and creative careers, but what I actually made a podcast about is learning. It's all, it's what it always comes back to. Yeah. Like, and, and I say it all the time, my listeners, it probably like can fill in the blank for me right now. <laugh> dance lessons are life lessons. What you learned from dance, we apply to our lives and it is rich that well is deep. Yeah. The amount we can learn about ourselves through this art is like, it's unlimited.
And I have definitely gotten those type of feelings when I've gotten put into big rooms for the first time. And I can honestly say that I've gotten, um, I've watched and, and been inspired and I have close friends and brothers, my brother Iel Hardison that I've been able to watch and see create and being in these spaces, but be grounded and being back at home too. So knowing that like, you know, I may be nervous in this space, but I'm thinking about the fun I would have dancing with my sisters. And I, I think that that has put me in spaces, like when I got put in a big room and it's like, she's happening. You supposed to know this and you supposed to get that. And I've been like, come. Okay. Just listen. Grab Yeah. Ground yourself. And you, you may not know that terminology. Wow. I don't know what a foxhole is, but we gonna learn about it later. Okay. Okay. Oh, <laugh>. Did she now sue? What that mean? You know, just being in new space Yes. And not freaking out or, or being a big hair, like, oh, I know what's gonna happen next. But just being in a a, you know, a peaceful space to know that, you know, you're learning <laugh> a life lesson. <laugh>. Yes.
Yes. Yes. Learning like I'm learning right now gives you permission to keep going mm-hmm. <affirmative> and to not be perfect and to return to later, um, without totally shutting down. Right. Like, just that sentence on its face I'm learning helps me to move forward, especially into uncharted spaces. Um, it helps me move and because I love learning so much, I'm even excited about it. Yeah. So it's like, be, it's better than like, neutralizing the moment. It's energizing the moment.
Do you say, Trust me, once I learned it, I'm locked and loaded. That's it. Like, once I get it, it's a wrap. Come on, let's fly. But work with me in the process. <laugh>.
Okay. This is a perfect segue. So in your class, um, at the Boby event Yeah. You said something that rocked me to my core and I wanna talk about it because I still don't entirely know how to do it but you, and so I'm gonna ask you to help me do it. Okay. Okay. And it's not a step. Okay. And where is this conversation even going? You're like, what the heck is happening? So I, I don't remember the name of the step that we were doing mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But you said, try not to learn this through the lens of another step that you already know. You basically said like, try not to relate this to something, you know, just look at what my heel is doing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, look at what my knee is doing. Look at the like, anatomical relationship. You have to put your hips back in order to do this thing.
And what, like, as you were saying those words, I kid you not, I was relating the step to a step that I knew already <laugh>, and I was like, she caught me ready. And I, I was using, which I think is a skill, right? Like I have all this body knowledge mm-hmm. <affirmative> from my lifetime of dance time and l specifically learning dance in a class setting. I, that's how I've, for the most part, that's how I have learned dance is in class. Only in my adult life, like more recent years of my adult life have I learned dance socially. Okay? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I'm in the class, I'm doing the thing where I relate my body to itself and to others in the room. I, you know, I orient myself anatomically, I, I look at your body, I compare it to my body and I, somewhere in my brain I'm comparing moves to other moves that I know to try to call on some physical memory of like, how do I do that and not fail?
Like, that was the bottom line is like, how do I do that without looking stupid, without failing? And what, what that question brought me face to face with is like, nope, that part is probably just gonna happen. Like, you might actually just fail or you might actually just look stupid. But it's so important that you learn this step, especially a West African step, which is undeniably the source of all the other steps. <laugh> that I know. <laugh>. So for me to learn it through the lens of another step is to learn it backwards. Um, but I, I did want you to like maybe share a little bit about where that advice came from. Uh, you're very, you're a very tuned in teacher. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Understood. But is there, is there a way that you can really do that? And is there a reason why you ask people, uh, to do that?
Yeah. Reason why in learning, um, especially traditional West African dance, you're learning cultural dances, right? So you're learning from different teachers. Um, some, well, especially from my upbringing and training, I've gotten training from teachers that are from the continent that came over to the States. And let's say for 30 or 40 years ago, they came to the States. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, of course, they go back and forth home, but them making a home in the States, they started to share their culture and share their dance training. And then that's how they got into the settings of doing dance conferences and things like that. So now with you thinking about, um, uh, I'm gonna speak on generations too. So if I'm thinking about some of my teachers now, they're more in their elder years. So what they brought from their upbringing, what they knew about their culture, what they deliver, they stayed consistent with it for the years they've been teaching it.
They, their dance style. When you see some of my teachers, you'll know, Oh, you're doing that dance step from that teacher. Oh, that, that particular style, that's that person's style. Um, but they may be from the same country. So what happens is, I have four teachers that are from Guinea, West Africa. Right. And they all, this is their culture, but one may be from a specific co region that that dance is solely from their people. But these three other people are from Guinea, but that's not their tribe. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But they still teach that dance, which is respected mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which is, you know, as they, once they've all danced together in a ballet or in a company together. So they've all have years of dancing, but when we, they come to sharing and things like that, but when they come over and teach us, when I learn from one teacher, this dance, the same dance, I'm gonna look at her and do the step that the way she's doing it, because that's how mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's from her, These are my people, this is where I was born. So we do this dance stuff, I'm gonna do it that way. That doesn't mean,
And the other three, they do it differently or they do it like her. But you can Tell, you can tell because it's not from their, it's not from their village. Uhhuh <affirmative>. But it's a part of their culture. It's a part of their dance. They've done the dance training, they've been in a ballet doing it, but when they teach it, they may teach the step where their back may go a little bit further than that. And so me as a student, I would go, I would say, Oh man, she did it that way, but I'm in this person's class. I'm not gonna do it the way she did it. I'm gonna respect the teacher and do it the way that the teacher's doing it because maybe they're trying to get something from the student that they wanna see. You know? So through my years of being a student and you know, going to different dance conferences, I've always made that something where I respected what the teacher was doing.
Nine times out of 10, I off top respect the teachers because they're delivering the correct information. Now that's the thing is in terms of technique, in terms of, um, if I'm giving you spit exactly what my teacher gave me from their village, then yes, do it exactly the same. But then if I'm having a vibes with I mania class where it's my style, then I wanna tell you that this is the step I'm referring to. But now take this arm mm-hmm. <affirmative> and flow a little bit different with it, and now you're starting to mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, do it the way that the teacher at the time is doing it, but you recognize that the step comes from someplace else.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I think that's where the importance for me in terms of, if I, if I tell a, a student, Hey, do exactly what I do, you can make reference. Or like you said, you can say, Oh, that's mm-hmm. <affirmative>, oh, this comes from there. But I know I can't just leave the step here, I have to go a little bit further or I have to pull back a little bit. Yeah. Maybe cuz some steps, I'll say this step, you usually see the arm usually spins all the way around today. Us mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we're not spinning the arm all the way around. I want you to just go here. And that's because I wanna see a different type of dynamic happen in the class of what I'm looking for in the movement.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's about like getting as close to the source as possible and and maintaining a respect for the origins of the thing. As well as like, I mean, in, in my case anyways, I was fully barking up the wrong tree. Like the dance that I was relating this step to was like, not even gonna get me close. So it's like, to be as useful in your teaching as possible, you're asking people to focus on the thing that is the thing versus the thing. That's something else. It makes total sense <laugh>. Yeah. But in that, in that moment, it was like I had never, I had never been asked to like, not reference my Rolodex of other steps or like not reference my physical memory to learn something. And it was exactly what I needed. And I see like the function of it is to respect the technique and get as close to the source of the Thing possible. And I, I've experienced it helping people get the step better. I'm like, because you're not approaching it like that other step, you can actually get what you, you what I'm trying to show you. So then like a, a person's like, Oh, I don't have to do No, because this is not that step. You can actually just go into it, you know, instead of like double stuff. And that's, that's cool that to speak on that. Oh my gosh. I mean that's enlightened to me too, even when I just being conscious of speaking that, but also being able to let people understand cuz that, that was, that was cool king that you said that.
Well, it, I felt like embarrassed to ask it because obviously you do it for a reason and the reason is because it works. But like, I I, it was a a profound moment for me, so I wanted to bring it up. It was so cool. Um, okay, now I wanna kind of go along on this like regional granular. Granular. What is what and who is who, because my experience with West African movement is, I mean, the majority of my experience happened on the day that we met. So I would consider myself an absolute beginner, but I was fascinated when you explained the difference in styles by region based on their geography. Yeah.
When you think about West African dance or cultural dances, they're usually done for reasons, right? They're usually something is happening. Yes. Um, if you think about harvest dancing and you think about, um, doing farming things are, you're very connected to the earth, so you have to bend your knees, you always have to stay connected to the ground. A lot of times you're doing stuff where you're carrying things. So a lot of dance steps that you see done in African dance styles, you're using your arms, you're expressing, you're showing the action of what you're doing. Or if we're celebrating coming back from fishing, you're showing that you, you got your basket and your hand and you're, you're dancing. So dancing with movements are very intentional. So when you think about certain areas in West Africa, which is very much heavily harvest areas, you'll see a lot of stuff more grounded to the ground, more so than being standing up straight.
Yeah. Now, in terms of when you see hype and, and jumping high and in terms of West African dance, now when you talk about like the jumping that's going into like east and Maasai and Kenya, where, you know, that's a different thing. But West African dance, when you see them flying big, that's the energy building up of what they're doing to get them off of the ground. Um, so when you see what I taught in the class that day about our arms jumping and going big and high, that's more so like you're expressing, you're expressing to the highest, like, I'm doing the best this watch me dance and watch me kick my leg high up high. And that's more in, in terms of celebration, celebration dances. If you see something where it looks like somebody's holding like a knife and a machete and it cutting, they're giving the action that they're cutting down trees to move out the way or to harvest dance, that's where you start getting in particular like technique styles where you see, Oh, the arms are doing this, or the back is contracting and releasing because it is imitating the post that's happening in the music.
And, you know, oh, you know, they stay real low to the ground. That type of thing. Yeah, for sure.
I now, I have a new name for what I wanna call this episode, which is every movement is intentional. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and everything comes from Africa. I have just never been more certain of it in my life.
I mean, it, I know it's a, it's a big, a big like lid to lift up and look into that topic. But I, you know, I I I'm just grateful for all of my years of dance training, but never did I ever have a jazz class. Like until my adult life where I knew where jazz came from mm-hmm. <affirmative> and never, you know, never was there conversation about great jazz dancers that mm-hmm. <affirmative> weren't white mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was like Bob Fosse, gean Kelly. Like that was the metric. And so it's been, you know, over these last couple years, I'd say probably three, four years. Um, and actually, you know what? Really starting going deep on that, in 2019, I worked on in the Heights Okay. And got, uh, you know, different, different angle of the African diaspora working on a lot of Cuban mm-hmm. Cuban, Afro Cuban, really, really specific mention the mm-hmm. <affirmative> that up, boom. And I just was like, Oh, oh yes, this is, this is undeniably everywhere that my dance focus has been, that is underneath it. But I'm, I am grateful now to be looking deeper and closer and just trying to have, uh, trying to not beat myself up for not this's so wrong, but here I am in my journey at the point,
And it's the same way I feel about when I go into spaces, like being in a class in LA or like being in a audition at a, at a studio and everybody has agents and they got experiences and years of dancing here and dancing there. And then I'm like coming in like, Ooh, ooh, well I didn't know how to actually get into that movement, but I'm gonna, you know, and not beating myself up, but learning like, okay, so well this is where I have to tap in or this is where I have to connect so I can be okay from where I am and make the connection. And I'm so glad that in terms of, you know, like, like when you think about or community side or the side that's been doing African dance, they like Africans being around, it's been gone, which it has been.
But the, the, the way that it's making the connection now in reference to where dance is, is only inevitable. It's only grateful. It's only great things that should be able to inspire and happen from this. And lids be taken off and be exposed like, Wow, this is how it connects. I can dance more freely now. Or like you said, you know, it's like a person in a, in a room that think they have to be so, like, hard going in the African dance class where you feel the music a little better now I can go in this hip hop class and feel it because I felt that in African dance and the vice versa for me stepping into these places and to say, you got rhythm. Get the rhythm of what they're trying to do. It's in a different pocket than what you're used to.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but you got rhythm. So learn it from this perspective. And that's what has, you know, I see mm-hmm. <affirmative> it just on both ends of the stick. It, it is helping each other out in both ways. And I'm so happy even more that we are having this conversation. So it, you know, just wakes, you know, wakes me up even more to continue to work and continue to make the connections. Cause I do feel sometimes where it's like, uh, is this it? No, that's not it. No, no. This is just the beginning. It's just the beginning. It's just the beginning, you know, stay strong with it. Yes. My friend, you know, shift forward and continue to inspire.
Thank you <laugh>. Thank you for that grace and for the reminder that that like, yes, yes, this is the beginning or this is the beginning of my particular journey. And other people will have the beginning of their journey at a different time and will be in the middle at different times. But the ticket to that journey, no matter where you are on it, is learning. Like, that's what opens the door, That's what starts the conversation. Um, so thank you for that reminder and for being a great teacher and for giving, you know, really open forums for people to learn things for the first time and or really be the specialist. There were people in that room that we're flying, that we're having a religious experience that we're like spiritually connected to something else, and they were able to be there. And I was able to be at step one in the same room, which speaks to your, uh, your leadership style. And I just thought that was so awesome and I'm in awe, and I cannot wait to the next time we get to do that again.
Yeah. That's why I like to call it kind of like a, I, I'm gonna work on words and things like that, but it started off with just vibes because like you said, and because I come from a community based teaching class, when you say community, you're getting anybody, you getting anybody from a grandma at 60 to a little kid from off the street that's at eight, but what can you give them in this room because they wanna be here? You know what I'm saying? And that's, I wanna make sure, of course I have been challenged, which I'm so happy for, to be in spaces where there's, there, there are, um, trained dancers to where I can start to do the choreography and my style the way I want to, but in terms of teaching mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I want everybody to be able to get something from it.
You know what I'm saying? And again, it's like you're not gonna get it absolutely a hundred percent this first time. You shouldn't, If you, if you you do, then you're not supposed to be here. Right. But again, just taking that opportunity, get one step to the next, and that's, and that's for me, again, just with teaching, reading a room, you go in a room, you feel the people, you can see people's faces, you can see people's energy. I, I can say, Oh wow, okay, I got some movers. I got some people. That's their first time. I got some people that frightened as shit. Okay. Yeah. And, and what am I gonna, you know, give to that energy? Because I've been every one of those people in that room before and I felt that, and I've been looking at my teacher like, Oh, that was so mean. Why did, why did you just go and tell her? Or, or vice versa? Like, Oh, she getting to work. Thank you. You know, so that all of those are good experiences. Mm.
I love, I love for sure. Thank you for that. Um, uh, you've sort of touched on it a little bit, but I would love to hear more where do you see the industry today with relationship to West African movement? Are we having an awakening? Are we having a, uh, is like, is the spotlight on it? Is it, has it always been there? Am I just now like, noticing it and, and what do you hope for the near future?
Yeah, definitely. I, um, yes, we was talking about it earlier, just for me, learning from it from three years old. I'll be 39 next month, so just been doing it. Okay. I've been doing it for so long. It's always been the most amazing grandest connection. Um, dance form, dance style technique has always been at its top tier from how I've been exposed to it, from the ballets that I've seen from my dance teachers. So I can say in one hand, yes, it has always been amazingly what it was. Um, because of, when you think about cultural dances, when you think about Africa, when you think about the drum, all of these things, and the grand scheme is about sharing. It's about, um, you know, when you go there, it's about connection and, you know, letting you know that it's okay, I love the, the music, I love my culture.
So then you love it. There's that grand thing of giving because of what the country brings. Okay. Now, once you start breaking it down and thinking about how appropriation and exploitation, that's always has been a part of this world space that we live in. So it has always and will be a thing, I feel like the same way we have Y and yang, we have positive and negative, we have challenges and great things we have in the industry. You have positivity, you have negative. We try to find a balance and what's happening in this world, in the dance world, for me, in terms of, well, West African style and dance is happening, all of these things are happening, but there's all so amazing great things that are happening too. So I would say for the, the pushers, the, um, what do you call the gatekeepers, the people that are staying true to the technique and the teachers that are pushing it and continuing to teach from the disciplines that they will learn from.
I think if those people get the big hype and get the big recognition and get the big showmanship when it comes to flexing inside of the industry world, it will always be acknowledged and respected in the grand way that it's supposed to be. Now, I get it. When we think about entertainment, when we think about TV and things, all of those things happen. You're gonna have, you know, stuff that just is not gonna be the exact same of what this tradition is. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and I feel like again, that's where the balance of, you know, respect and acknowledgement comes into play. You know, we may be talking about this, uh, woo, but here's a reference to where the real thing is, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I, I can, you know, I can say in reference to where the industry now is, I'm so happy that it's being exposed in the light and it's people in the spaces that are saying, Hey, if this is gonna be shown, it has to be shown this way.
If this is gonna be dance like this, it has to be danced this way. We understand that we are, we gotta sauce it up a little bit for the tv, but also making sure that you're connecting with the right people to get it from, you know. Um, so I think in reference to where the state of the industry is right now, again, I am, I've been blessed to be in spaces and opportunities where I've been able to just be me, um, and just do what I love to do. And sometimes in these, in those type of spaces, it's like, Okay, you may love to do this, but we need what you trained and know how to do right now at this moment. Mm-hmm.
<affirmative>, there's another version of balance, right? What, what exactly what I wanna do versus what you want me to do. And you're like, Okay, for right now, I can do the thing that you want me to do, and then for the rest of my life, I'll do the thing I want <laugh>.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I just, all of that to say, there's so much more to talk about that we need ours. And, but there are, and I'm so happy that you're creating spaces for these type of conversations to have, because then it's only gonna enlighten the next person that was a little, maybe close-minded or maybe didn't know, or they're like, Oh, actually if I actually just tap into her, maybe she'll do the African part for me and we can go from there for me trying not to do it, it, you know, and then I'll get caught as being appropriate, you know? So I think it's more so just making sure that we keep the connections open in a way that, you know, in reference to, you think about Beyonce when she did Black is King. I feel like her team or the people that they were very much invested in finding all the pockets of traditional things that can be able to uphold that, you know?
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Representation is important. Getting as close to the source as you possibly can with the resources available is important. And when you have Beyonce level resources, yes. Go straight to the source. Yes. And you don't get as close as you can. And, um, I'm really grateful for teachers like you for making that possible and for entities like Bob City for helping make that more accessible to everyone. Um, yeah, stoked, stoked to be having this conversation. Humbled and enlightened. And, and also, I wanna say this because I'm on a roll with my adjectives.
The experience I had in your class was equal parts release and challenge. And that if that is something that anybody who is listening is seeking right now, you need to go find Amani to get it <laugh> or, or some one of your teachers, or it, it might be a genre thing. Um, I I, I did find it throughout the day. It wasn't only in your class, but I did find that this, like, maybe it's, maybe it's intrinsic to the style. Maybe it's a part of the atmosphere you created. It is probably both, but if you are looking for a way to release and challenge yourself, this is where you find it. Um, so thank you for making that available to me. Thank you for being available to all of us today in this conversation. I so appreciate your time and, and your talent. Uh, I just, I think the world of you,
Thank you so much, Dana. I'm so happy. And I needed it to, you know, sometimes all of the thoughts stay in your head and you really don't have nobody to challenge you to speak on it. Like, no, tell me about it. And then when you start talking, it enlightens me in a whole nother way. Like, Okay. Yes. You know, <laugh>, get it together, girl. <laugh>.
Yo, I am telling you, if you ever wanna start a podcast, I will be a resource to you. I will tell you everything I know, but I encourage people to do it because of exactly what you just said. Yeah.
I would like to write, I, yeah. Journaling, I will start and then it'll just like fizzle out, you know? So,
But when you speak on it mm-hmm. <affirmative> yes. You, you find your position on things. Uh, and like, you know, me, I, I committed to a weekly podcast and every single week I learn, and every single week I decide where I stand on something or I decide that I'll decide later where I stand on something. There's a lot of times I stand here and I'm like, Listen, I've got questions, <laugh>, Um, I'll decide later where I stand. But this is, it's such a great conversation, is a great exercise for connection to yourself and to other people. Um, so thanks again for connecting with us. I hope to connect with you soon. Will you please let me know next time you're in la?
Yes. I'm trying to make it as soon as possible. Okay. I really enjoy my time out there and I need to create and, and, and make more connections. So I'm so excited to meet new people, reconnect and mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, just engage more. So thank you again, Dana.
You're so welcome. I'll see you soon.
All right. All right, my friend. What do you think? Do you feel lightened, enlightened, <laugh>, um, inspired, I hope. I really, really loved hearing about how family based community organizations and companies and, and projects that Imania was involved with early on prepared her to be doing the work she's doing now. And I specifically love the difference. She underlined between being pushed and being supported into greatness. Like there's a difference. Both are useful, but there's a difference. And, and, and each might be useful at different times or in different ways. So I really love that. Um, what a cool thing to share. I also love the thought of thinking about dancing with your family. Like when she was young, when she was coming up, she was actually dancing with your family, but stepping into new spaces on new projects, if you can think these people are my gig family.
Like I mentioned Taylor and Brandon and Corey early on, they were my family for two weeks, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That was kind of where it was at. And when you get to think of what a cool thing it is to share this passion with your family, um, I think that's so special and we're lucky to get to do it. We're lucky to get to, you know, be introduced to new people and, and meet new brothers and sisters who share similar interests or even different interests, different backgrounds, what we do. This dance thing brings us together as this big dancing family. And it's, yeah, call me Positive Patty or I don't know, maybe there's <laugh>. Maybe it is just my nature to think it's a small world after all, <laugh> in this moment. But it really does feel that way, uh, to hear Imania talk about it.
So that was awesome for me. Um, I also thought it was really refreshing and hugely important to talk about the state of the entertainment industry, um, and even the teaching industry, to be honest, specifically with regards to African diasporic movement. I do very much feel like a beginner in these conversations, um, about race and the lineage of American dance styles. But dang, having a guide like mania makes that journey all that much more appealing to me and also empowering to all involved. Um, so glad to have had this conversation. So lucky to have had it and thrilled to be sharing it with you. Please, please do not sleep on the show notes of this episode. All of the people we mentioned, the companies we mentioned in this episode will be linked there. Go get more of Imani, go get as close to the source as you can, and of course, keep it very funky I'll talk to you soon. Bye.
Outro: This podcast was produced by me with the help of many music by Max Winnie, logo and brand design by Bree Reetz, and big thanks to Riley Higgins, our executive assistant and editor also massive, thanks to you. The mover, who is no stranger to taking action. So go take action.
I will not cannot stop you from downloading episodes or leaving a review into rating. I will not ban you from my online store for spending your hard earned money on the cool merch and awesome programs that await you. There. I will. 100% not stop you from visiting wordsthatmoveme.com. If you wanna talk with me, work with me and make moves with the rest of the words that move me community. Oh, and also I will not stop you from visiting thedanawilson.com. If you're curious about all the things that I do that are not words that move me related. all right, my friend, keep it funky. I'll talk to you soon.