Speaker 0 00:00:03 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. And my friend, my friend, hello, welcome towards the move. Me. I'm Dana and I am stoked that you are here. Ill. I just had the greatest conversation with my friend, Jessica Castro, and I cannot wait to share it with you. If you do not already know Jessica she's based in New York city, we got to spend a lot of time together working on in the Heights. She is a dancer, choreographer, mentor, educator, mother. She is hysterical. She is thoughtful.
Speaker 0 00:01:15 She is a very straight talker and I'm so excited for you to hear everything she has to say. Um, today we're digging into social media, choreographing being an artist as your business and longevity. She's so fabulous. And, uh, this is a good one. I'm excited to dig in, but first who wins? Yes. Today I am celebrating a successful and safe road trip. Yeah, an actual vacation, no work obligations whatsoever. My husband and I drove to and from Phoenix, Arizona stopped in Palm desert. Um, I got to see my brother's new house. Spend time with the fam spend time, obviously with my husband be outside in various pools of water. Um, I did multiple cannon balls. You guys, what a feeling is a Cannonball. Oh, I also did a, uh, a Kiwi dive and almost cracked my melon on the bottom of the floor, but I didn't so wins. This is a big win. Uh, do you even know what a Kiwi dive is? Is that a nineties kid thing or a Midwestern kid thing? Kiwi dives, anyone anyways, celebrating that my melon is intact. Celebrating a great trip. Um, so, so, so good road trips for the wind. What is going well in your world? No whim is too small. I just celebrated the Kiwi down. So speak it. What you got, what's going well in your world.
Speaker 0 00:03:17 All right, congrats. Do keep winning. You are crushing it. I'm stoked for you. I'm excited for you. I'm excited about you. Keep winning, keep swimming. What was the fish's name? Dory. Um, keep cannon balling Cannonball. Every chance you freaking get. And now let's roll into our interview. That was a cannon ball. Roll segway ball. Rolling. Anyways, I already told you that today's guest is fabulous, but I did not tell you that she really means business. She is about that business and there are so many golden nuggets of business wisdom, tons of social media insights, best practices and guide rules. In this episode, I'm smitten with it. I think anyone who is interested in a long lasting career has something to gain from this one, but especially those starting out and picking up momentum. This one is for you. So enjoy the fabulous Jessica Castro. Holy smokes, Jessica Castro. Welcome to the podcast. My friend. Thank you for being here.
Speaker 2 00:04:40 Thank you, Dana.
Speaker 0 00:04:42 Uh, we've been, um, pre podcast chatting for several minutes now and we have so, so, so much to talk about. I'm excited to dig into all of it, but let's go ahead and start with you. I'll let you introduce yourself and simply tell us everything you want us to know about you.
Speaker 2 00:05:01 Um, well, first of all, Dana, thanks for having me. I'm when you hit me up, I was like what you want to, yeah, of course. I'm going to be honest.
Speaker 0 00:05:12 I'm
Speaker 2 00:05:12 So excited about this. Hello everyone. I am Jessica Castro. I have been in this business for almost 26 years. I am a dancer, turned the choreographer. Now I am a mom to a beautiful 10 year old. And um, yeah, that's me in a nutshell,
Speaker 0 00:05:33 I love a nutshell. Oh, there's a really funny joke about an acorn. And now I can't remember. Oh, you know what an acorn is right way. In a nutshell, it's a tiny Oak tree.
Speaker 0 00:05:52 Okay. Welcome to the podcast. Everybody we're here to help you become better dancers and choreographers and art types. Um, through the majesty of dad, jokes is what we're going to do it through. Um, okay. Well I think what I am, one of the things I'm most curious about in hearing from you and one of the things I really focus on in my professional life still, and I know a lot of my listeners care about is training. I'm fascinated in learning fascinated, fascinated by not so much grammar, but learning. And so I would love to hear a little bit about your pathway to professionalism. Um, I know you got a relatively late start, but got exposed to some great training and I want to hear all about it.
Speaker 2 00:06:40 Yes. You know, so, you know, I wasn't really sh I was really shy as a kid. And the funny, the funny thing is that my dad was the one that when I was really young, like Joseph, my daughter, his age, he put me in piano lessons. He put me in dance lessons. He put me in voice lessons and I was so shy that he basically took me out because I would sit in the corner. I didn't know what to do in an environment full of kids. Um, yes. And so I, I, he stopped. He stopped.
Speaker 0 00:07:16 Well, that sounds like a lot of, a lot of extracurriculars I can understand.
Speaker 2 00:07:19 So he stopped and it wasn't until, um, later on I, um, I moved to New York and of course I always say this, I feel like as a dancer, you know, you're a dancer. Somehow you, you look at something, a choreography and you can, your body just digests it different. Like you're able to like mimic it without really understanding how you just did it. Even if you have no training, somehow you're able to like, look at it, mimic it, understand it, but not really fully technically understand how to execute it. If that makes sense.
Speaker 0 00:07:56 Tik TOK is a beautiful example. Everybody can like almost Osmos this movement without mechanically understanding really the nuts and bolts of what's going on from the neck down. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:08:10 Yes. So I moved to New York. I went to fit fashion Institute of technology, and I started taking classes at BDC. Um, and I started taking like beginner, um, just beginner classes. Honestly, they, Dana, I don't even know how I got into dance, but something in me was like,
Speaker 0 00:08:33 I should take a dance class. Yeah, yeah. Simple.
Speaker 2 00:08:37 Yeah. I got here and I was working at banana Republic at the time and I became really good friends with my friend, Lisa Lewis, who was, um, dancing for dance theater of Harlem. So at the time, you know, uh, and, and one time she was coming out of a ballet class and I was in a ballet class in a, in a absolute beginner ballet. And she waited for me after class because she saw me in class and she says, um, you have really great natural lines about you. You should think about, uh, doing the Alvin Ailey summer intensive. And I looked at her, I said, girl, you crazy, almost like me audition for an intensive Alvin Ailey. I was like, what? She's like, trust me, Jessica. Just do it. So I did it. I got accepted. I did the, the summer intensive and I fell in love with it. And that was the start of it. That was a start of like this, this love, this fire, this passion. And, um, then I stopped going to fit. I told my mother, she thought, I wasn't out of my mind.
Speaker 0 00:09:47 You said, I'm going to be a dancer. Now
Speaker 2 00:09:50 I'm going to be a dancer. Now this is what I want to do. And she looked at me and she said, are you crazy? She was like, you're too old. Does it go, what are you going to do? You, you know, you should have started when you were younger. You know, all of this. And I was like, mom, I want to be a dancer. I want to be a dancer. This Lord I want to do. So I stuck with it. Didn't know what I was doing. Didn't realize I could make money. <inaudible> didn't realize I couldn't make money. I honestly, Dana, I didn't realize I could turn this into a career. Well, at the time,
Speaker 0 00:10:27 And yet you were ready to make that shift. Yes. I want to do this all the time. And you didn't even know that you could do it all the time and stay alive. Yes.
Speaker 2 00:10:36 Yes. I didn't realize I couldn't make money. I could turn this into my career. And so I guess, which was, which worked to my advantage because if I understood how hard it was, I don't know how long I would have stayed. I think what, what drove, what I had was a passion in me for it. And also once people kind of questioned what I was doing, it kind of gave me that fire to be like, oh no, this is happening. I'm going to do this. But I, I think I w I'm also very stubborn. And so in my mind that was like, no, I'm going to do this. I don't know how I'm going to do this, but I'm going to do this. And so I stuck with it obviously. And, um, my first professional job was as a New York Knicks city dancer. I tried out that year before got caught right away, got caught right away. And they came back the next year and got cut again. However that still made it all the way through to the end. The second time got cut a month later, they call me because they needed to replace. One of the girls came back for a smaller audition and I booked it. And that was like the beginning of my training. It was the first time I had ever been in a professional environment. It's the first time I, I, I had to put lashes on like makeup. I didn't, I didn't understand any of this. And so
Speaker 0 00:12:16 Yes. Or rehearsal mode, you new training mode.
Speaker 2 00:12:20 Yes. So it literally, for me, the New York Knicks was probably the best training for me, especially because I didn't grow up in a studio. You know, I didn't, I didn't understand formations. I didn't understand
Speaker 0 00:12:36 How to keep
Speaker 2 00:12:37 It for me, how to keep it formation, spacing. I didn't understand how to put makeup on. So all of this was new to me and the girls were so amazing on the team that they kind of just took me under their wing and kind of just coached me and helped mold me. And that was also at a time where there were no agencies in New York. Hm. LA had agents, but there were no agencies in New York because all the auditions were word of mouth at that time, all the auditions were word of mouth. And so I was able to build a really strong community, a very supportive one. So yeah, the nix was like my first like real gig.
Speaker 0 00:13:15 That's awesome. I did not, I did not know that. And when I think about it, when I visualize it, I really like it. Um, I think it's, it's, it makes perfect sense to me that you experienced something like that in your early professional days, because here you are now creating mentorship and training programs of your own and being that guide, being that kind of business leader, um, for young professionals today. Uh, so that's cool. Bravo. Um, here's something I want to, I didn't think we'd talk about this until later, but this is a beautiful segue. Yeah. You have used Instagram, I think really, really directly to address an audience that is young professionals and early professional dancers aspiring for, you know, work in TV, film Broadway, um, and you speak so directly to them about what you wish they would do and stop doing. I can tell that you are a person who values quality over quantity. You are a person who, um, curates themselves, their work, their F their Instagram feed. You're a straight talker. You're a person who works smarter and not harder. And that is something that my audience is very interested in as well. Um, so I would love to just hear your message for up and coming professional dancers and choreographers. What do you, what do you wish people would be doing? What do you wish people would stop doing?
Speaker 2 00:14:59 Wow, Dana. So when Facebook and even Instagram started, I was very like hesitant and reluctant. It just wasn't, it's very much of this generation. Right. And that's not how I didn't understand it. I didn't, I didn't understand it. I did not understand it. And funny enough, I was having a conversation and I'll get back to your question. I promise I was on set with Chloe Arnold, right. Uh, doing, uh, the sidewalk, um, musicals that she does for the late show. And I had forgotten to post about a class that I was going to teach. And, you know, w w with everything, it's like, if you forget to post and people don't come and you know this, and I had a moment and I looked at her and I was like, oh, I was like, how do you feel about Instagram? I was like, sometimes I'm still annoyed with it.
Speaker 2 00:15:54 And I was telling her, and I was like, I, I, I feel like it's this love, hate relationship with it. And she looked at me and she said, you know what? I love it. And I looked at her and I said, really? And she says, yeah, because everything that's on my page, I'm proud of. I was like, it represents me. I was like an, a D brought so many great opportunities into my life. She, you know, and, and when she said that, I was like, I literally, I took me a second out. And I was like, am I proud of everything on my page? Huh? Mm. I was like, does he represent me? And so I, it was like, yes and no. Yes, no. So then once you put it that simply I thought to myself, right. That's kind of, when my mind flipped it, the way I thought about social media flipped, I was like, right.
Speaker 2 00:16:48 This is something that I can cure rate. Yes. I can cure rate it. So that it's authentically as authentic as social media is ever going to be. But nothing on my page is fabricated. It is me. It is my life. And hopefully it, it might inspire and teach someone that I may not even meet ever. And the beauty of it, of course, as you know, it you're able to connect with so many people, um, across the globe really. And then as Instagram became bigger and bigger, bigger as our started to assist more as a choreographer. This is when I was, I kind of had a moment where I was like, oh right, this is the, this is the new, new meaning about, I would say, I don't know, maybe, uh, six years ago or so, uh, Patima Robinson, uh, hits me up, right? And she's like, Hey, Jeff, I'm doing a job in York. I need, uh, this type of a dancer. This look, uh, for this skill, this training for this specific, uh, thing. And she was like, uh, please, uh, send me anybody that you want to refer in. My DM, send me their ID handles. And I thought, at first I was like, wait, what does she mean? And I was like, like their Instagram page. And she was like, yeah, just send it to me in my DM. I'll look through them. That's when I said to myself, oh, wow, it's shifting. Oh yeah. So now it's
Speaker 0 00:18:30 Crashed. And that, and the ripples are still
Speaker 2 00:18:34 Because I thought to myself, because my, then my second response was, you don't want me to email you their headshots and resumes. She goes, no, just send me their handles.
Speaker 0 00:18:44 And that's years
Speaker 2 00:18:45 Ago. And that was like six years ago. And I thought to myself, and after that,
Speaker 0 00:18:51 I'm sure any agents that are listening are cringing right now.
Speaker 2 00:18:54 Absolutely. And they absolutely are. And the thing is everyone. And then it wasn't only her. It was like rich and tone everyone. So my communication turned from emails to now DME and sending profiles, because the thing is, what would happen is what dancers don't understand. Because a lot of dancers are reluctant to really look at their page and curated it. Right. Maybe they don't understand how to. And that's why on my page, I try to give tips. I, I, as, as, as clear and as concise as I possibly can, you know, especially now Dana, when you can have two or three or four pages, like, you know, one of them should absolutely be geared towards your profession. You can't say model actress, director, creative director, choreographer, and then your page is private. Or you can't have all of these things in your Bible. And none of it, I look at your page and you have nothing that represents you,
Speaker 0 00:19:53 These items. Oh, I love that notion. Like don't tell me that you're a slash slash slash I call them slashers. Yeah. Show me.
Speaker 2 00:20:04 Yeah. It's a very, uh, obviously Dana you myself. We've also transitioned into this time where there is no time. There is no time. Th th th th the, the days of having two weeks over Hersel for a late night performance, it's no longer there. Right? Everything has switched to, we have a late night performance on Thursday. They're booking people on Monday night and they want to see who they want to see to book them to be in rehearsal by Tuesday. So what happened and agents, aren't going to, like, when I say this, the easiest thing is to send people's Instagram handles to the producers, stage managers, directors, whoever it is, that's approving this, getting me basically hitting everybody up. Hey, are you available for these dates? And then once they see, once they get all the handles and they're like, okay, I like this person, this person, this person.
Speaker 2 00:21:07 Then I reached out to their agents because by the time I reach out to their agents, their agents reach out to the talent. The talent gets back to the agent. They need to get back to me. It's already done. There is no more, there is no more. The producer's not going to wait. The choreographer is not going to wait. The manager's not going to wait the artist isn't going to wait. It, it happens Dana within minutes, within minutes. And there are times where all, you know, hit people on DMF. If I don't have their contacts. And by the time they get back to me an hour later, everyone's been booked. It's like, you know, gotta be fast. You have to be fast. And the thing is, it's not always like that, but that is why, you know, think about it. Chloe Arnold, I just finished doing the film with her in Boston. Everything has gone virtual. She literally hired an entire cast of dancers virtually. So let's say an audition in
Speaker 0 00:22:10 Person.
Speaker 2 00:22:12 And let's say, let's say she's questioning. Oh, I'm not sure she's on the she's on the board. She's she's borderline. Do I like this person? Do I not? Where do you think she's going to go to kind of get her final? Like, do I hire this person? Or don't I have this person to their Instagram page or their Instagram page? Because an Instagram page honestly says a lot. And, and, and people can argue this, but an Instagram page says a lot about who you are professionally. If you curate your page the right way. Yes.
Speaker 0 00:22:48 So here's what I'm hearing. Yeah. Instagram's important. Yes. We
Speaker 2 00:22:53 Know this,
Speaker 0 00:22:54 Right. I love what you brought up the option for having multiple pages. Um, I super duper love cause, cause right now we're putting a lot of pressure on this space. We're putting a ton of pressure on Instagram. Like your book ability depends on if you have acute feed or not. That can be a lot of pressure, but I want to circle back to something that you said that Chloe said, which yes, Chloe Arnold leave. It's Chloe Arnold to like demystify and illuminates something that can seem so dark and terrible and don't get me wrong. It can be dark and terrible Instagram. It can be a dark and terrible place. But if you have two criteria to meet before you post, if all you are concerned about is am I proud of this? Does it represent me then that decision like to post or not to post can be so easy?
Speaker 0 00:23:48 Am I proud of this? Does it represent me? Boom done. That's that's it. I love making complicated things simple. And I think that's the ticket on this subject anyways. Not, not to say like case closed. There's so much more to it than that. But, um, I used to have a philosophy. Obviously my relationship with Instagram has been through phases. Full-blown chapters love, hate Mead, crave, all of those things. But, um, I used to have, uh, this philosophy. I, I imagined Instagram as my storefront, you know, as dancers and most independent contractors who are creatives, we have agencies that have storefronts, but nobody goes there to shop for a choreographer. They go to the website maybe, and Instagram has become my brick and mortar. That's where you go to find all of my air quote products. Um, and I love shopping. I am a product of the consumer era. I genuinely, you used to find me at the mall. If I had any free time, I was usually at the studio, but if it wasn't, I was at the mall. And when I think about my favorite places to shop, they're bright, they're colorful, they're eclectic. They have a personal touch. Yeah. Clean there. Um, you know, and I just tried to make my feed those things. But even that is a little bit more complicated than am I proud of it? Does it represent me go? So I'm glad you brought that up. Thank you for sharing.
Speaker 2 00:25:32 No, you know, honestly, listen, Dana, I think we all kind of have this. Like sometimes we love it. Sometimes we don't, but I think they're, if, if they're, if for me I have surrendered to it in a really great way. Um, and I have accepted it for me and it's, it's been honestly a blessing for me. I have gotten work because of my page. Um, and so I knew
Speaker 0 00:25:57 Professional relationships. Yo I've fully met my heroes on thanks to Instagram. Like people whose work I drool over and now we like text because we became friends on, on. Awesome.
Speaker 2 00:26:12 And you know, for, for all of your young listeners that you know right now, I think right now what's crucial is that everything has gone virtual, right? So if you have no representation, we're living in a time right now where no one is having auditions, no one is having auditions and you know, people, I also wanted to bring up something where, when you said something, I was like, ah, that it's held Dana this because I think right now, what dancers confuses, how many followers do I have and to curate your page for the business, there's two very different things, right? Being an influencer and being a professional in this business are two very different things. And I think somehow they've gotten meshed together where, you know, young dancers, creatives get worried about how many followers they have, right. Has nothing to do because I've spoken to Jamaica, I've spoken to Fatemia, I've spoken to so many choreographers and I always ask them, I was like, do numbers matter to you? And they're like, no numbers do not matter to them. What matters to them is the content that's on their page. There are some, uh, odd, uh, you know, castings where they want to know how many followers you have. And, and that's always going to be
Speaker 0 00:27:27 The commercial specifically, I think commercials or, or what I'm seeing a lot of time is new artists who want to draw attention to what they're doing, want to use dancers with a bigger following than they have so that they get more eyeballs. It's it's marketing wise. It makes a lot of sense. But I think that really is quite exclusive to not exclusive. There are always exceptions, but that works specifically in the favor of commercials and new artists for films. I don't think I've ever looked at a FA for in the Heights. Do you think for one second that we considered anybody's Instagram following? No, no, no. That was about talent. It was about lifeblood. It was about energy. It was about all, I want to say, like everything, but the social media following. So if you gear your whole life towards that number, you're, you're missing out on, um, in enriching your life, your skillset, what you bring to the table professionally. That is what people actually care about.
Speaker 2 00:28:33 Yes. It's like, you know, you know, cause the loving, younger dentists who will say, but just, you know, I haven't done this. I said, but ha the beauty about living in a time right now is that you can find a videographer. You can find a studio, you don't need to have professional work. You literally, all you need is a nice studio, a videographer, and you can showcase what it is that you do best and put it on your page. It, you know, and I think for young dancers, it's, it's confusing right now. It's confusing. It's like, I need a following. I need this. I need that. No, I just always tell dancers, listen, in your bile, have your agency. If you don't have an agency, your email somewhere where we can contact you. And now obviously, because things have changed and you know, you have to be vaccinated or we vaccinated or not, you
Speaker 0 00:29:25 Know? Oh, go ahead and consider that. Yes.
Speaker 2 00:29:28 It's such an interesting, yes, because in film right now, you have to be vaccinated. You cannot, I mean, I can't even tell you just recently this project, the amount of dancers I couldn't hire because they weren't vaccinated, which is obviously everyone's rights. But right now to work on set on pretty much any set, whether it's film or TV, you have to be vaccinated, you know, and then, uh, on their page, I oh, okay. My rant on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, because
Speaker 0 00:30:03 It's important. Yes. Let's get specific about this subject, especially I think my audience is, um, largely women and I think what the world, the dance industry, sorry, the entertainment industry knows that sex sells, but we're just as about to blow the lid off of is that sex is not the only thing that sells. And we certainly don't need to see your booty cheeks and Tatas in it, especially if that's not what you lead with. And if that's not the work you want to be doing, um, can be so uncomfortable to scroll through an entire feed of just that when what we're looking for is real people take it, just let them have it.
Speaker 2 00:30:51 Dana baby. So a couple of weeks ago, obviously I was casting for a film that, um, I'm choreographing and we needed a variety of looks, right. We needed, um, dancers that look at played the part, um, that looked like backup dancers for a huge pop star. We also needed young, young looking dancers that could possibly play 15 to 18 year olds. You know, that could possibly play high school.
Speaker 0 00:31:21 Right. Even though I'm 35. So get carded absolutely like recently carted to buy a freaking lighter. Like, do I not look, that's great. I'll take it.
Speaker 2 00:31:32 So my thing was, you know, in, in China find versatility on these pages. Again, I go to my Instagram feed. I'm like, ah, I think of the dancers, right? So I'm going through, I'm going through, I'm going through. Um, because at this point again, there is no time to have an audition, but the problem was for a lot of my young girl looking dancers that I knew that could have played young, you know, I would go on their feed and it was like hot picture after bootie cheek, after selfie at nowhere, could I find a, uh, just a nice clean
Speaker 0 00:32:10 Parents, the word wholesome,
Speaker 2 00:32:12 Wholesome picture and nowhere near as versatile, as I knew that these answers were on their page, I literally had to scroll all the way down to, to find
Speaker 0 00:32:25 The one where there's no makeup, no, or even
Speaker 2 00:32:31 Video where they're not on the floor where they're not in heels and I'm talking and I'm talking versatile dancers. Hmm. It's almost as if they w they were, they were selling one thing. Right. And again, you know, people can argue this, you know, it's my page. I can do whatever I want with it, with it. And that's fine. And you absolutely have that. Right. You have
Speaker 0 00:32:56 Indicated to, you know, you should be posting the type of work that you're proud of. And if that's what you're proud of is that if that's what you think represents you, I get that, that be what you post. And I also get ha feeling conflicted about the notion of versatility. I think in LA specifically, we champion specialists. We were looking for the one or three sexiest heels dancers, and everybody's vying for those roles. I get that. But as somebody who has wrestled with this, my whole life, versatility is an asset. It is. If you know how to weave those threads together, it really, really is.
Speaker 2 00:33:37 I, I say this to you, Dana, right? When you started in this industry, when I started in this industry, I wanted to be a working dancer. I wanted to be a working dancer, meaning I wanted to do film TV tours, industrials, live performances, you know, whatever there was to do. I wanted to do that. So as an artist, as an artist, we should believe we should be a blank canvas. We should be a blank canvas. So that when we are hard, we are able to come into these spaces and help bring this vision to life. Whatever that may be, whatever that may be. And what's happening right now is that when, and again, we're specifically talking about pages, right? These Instagram pages in a time where people want to work in the industry, however, that's not what you're promoting on your page. What you're promoting is that you're a very specific type of artist dancer.
Speaker 2 00:34:45 I don't know how else to say it, but for me, the way I see it. And when, as a choreographer, when I'm trying to hire artists dancers, I need to be able to see everything that you do. I need to be able to see all sides of you, not just, and listen, you should be the Hottie in heels. You should also be, you know, the one that is bookable for a tour or for the Colgate commercial or for the pizza hut commercial or for the Saturday night live, you know, it's like, you have to be able to curate your page so that in those little, like nine squares that you see, I should be able to see one of each of you, unless that's not who you are. That's not what you can
Speaker 0 00:35:40 <inaudible>. Yeah. I think a lot of us specifically, women feel the pressure to be all the things for all the people, right? Um, the muse, the Vixen, the girl next door, the best friend, the, the mother, the hero, you know, and I think that trying to be all the things you could make this, um, you could relate this to trying to learn all the styles as well. You might never become the best at any one of those things by trying to be all of the things. But I think you dropped a special clue if you are a blank canvas. And if you are an artist that is constantly looking for new materials, oh, I love that color red. Ooh. Um, let's work in clay today. Um, this brush makes this type of stroke. This brush does this type. You know what? I'm just going to use my hands.
Speaker 0 00:36:38 You have different materials, different techniques and different tools with which you paint. And if we are telling the world that we are painters dancers, then show us the dance that you can do, create using, using many different colors and many different techniques. And I think that is empowering and will lead you to, um, a longer life, a longer shelf life as a dancer where Lucy narrowly that one, you know, style, you might not, might not last forever or might not last you forever. And so, yeah, I don't know. Maybe that's actually, oh, sorry. Do you want to weigh in on that?
Speaker 2 00:37:23 No, no, listen, I always say this. It's like you have, uh, you have, uh, you have a piece of pie in front of you, right? And there was a slice, there's a veggie slice of cheese slice pepperoni. There is
Speaker 0 00:37:35 Lots of great things about pizza for me.
Speaker 2 00:37:37 Absolutely. And so, but yet you continue to try to eat off of that cheese slice when there's a whole pie in front of you. Like, why wouldn't you want to enjoy the entire pie, but yet you still continue to eat off of that one slice. And that's, I mean, I don't know if that made sense to anybody, but for me, I want to have the whole pie. I want to be able to,
Speaker 0 00:38:02 I want to always be fed. I want to not, not, not, not be able to eat,
Speaker 2 00:38:06 But I basically want to take advantage of every avenue and every platform that this industry has. That's, that's how I, that's my way of thinking in it. And it goes back, Dana, for me, it's like, I've always just wanted to be a working professional. I didn't want to go back. Yes,
Speaker 0 00:38:25 Yes. And you still are late start rocket ship to success. I mean, I, Jesse didn't give a ton of, you know, depth on like your chronology, like your professional dance history, but we're talking Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Farell, black IPS, Rihanna films, TV shows. I think I first saw you in Idlewild and they loved, I could not stop watching you. Um, so from film to TV, as a dancer, um, you're also an educator. You mentioned your mom, you wear a lot of hats and you're still going, like nothing seems to have stopped you. I would love to hear your thoughts on longevity and any, any tools or techniques that you use to keep going.
Speaker 2 00:39:25 You know, Dana, it's funny because I get this question a lot. I, and I'm, I know, I know you get this question a lot too, but I get this question.
Speaker 0 00:39:33 I'm starting to be able to answer it too.
Speaker 2 00:39:37 Yeah. And it's a hard one. It's hard, but it's not, it's almost like why reinvent the wheel when it works. Right. And when I say that, I always tell anyone I'm mentoring or, or anyone that will ask me. I say, you know what? I try to stay as professional as I can. What does that mean? Simple show up on time. Be the person that they've want in the room all the time, be able to execute whatever it is that they're going to give you a be a smart dancer. I mean, it, it like it, honestly, it really is simply that. And, and also to be as versatile as you can be, again, you're not going to be a master of all. However, I can come into a room and when they hire me, they know that the job is going to get done. Now, Dana, there are dancers right now that literally could back flip dance circles around me. I mean, these dancers are doing somersaults and heels and flipping off walls. And like it's honest,
Speaker 0 00:40:51 Maybe the level is incredible. The level, the average skill level of this annual dancer, you put all the dancers in like a football field and picked any one of them. I think the average level of dance is probably quite high, maybe higher than it's been. But the level of professionalism, can't say the same thing for that.
Speaker 2 00:41:14 And obviously I didn't start off like that. It's not like I knew everything. It's not like I, once I started, obviously I learned I had so many great mentors. Uh, Tina Landon was my very first, uh, I worked with her in 1999 on the VMAX with Ricky Martin and R and a funny story. Oh,
Speaker 0 00:41:40 Loca. Yeah. I'm walking out of my booth right now. So good. So I know also that was my first concert. You need to know that everyone needs to know that
Speaker 2 00:41:53 It was my very first via amaze. My very first time working with Tina Landon and Jamie king, Jamie king was a creative director. Tina Landon was a choreographer. And um, you know, he had already had his, his dancers from tour. Um, and so they added on dancers, uh, from New York. I was so green. You know, I, I, I literally was on my first job again, the Knicks fresh off the Knicks, literally literally fresh off the next, you know, eager beaver, everything was full out. Didn't understand dynamics. Everything was just full out, especially in front of Tina Landon, like of course I'm going to be full out in front of DLA. And there was a moment, there was a moment in rehearsal, right? There was a moment for her soul, but it was honestly, and this was like the start of our relationship.
Speaker 0 00:42:48 There was a moment.
Speaker 2 00:42:52 It was nice. Shake her bottom, bounce, shit, your bow. And I literally, when I tell you Dana, I couldn't shake my hip harder than I was. My hip was gonna fall out. That's how hard I was shaking it. And she literally looked at me and she said, Jess, she said, understand how to take your moments. And I looked at her, I said, she was like, you're working too hard, Dana, my heart. I was like, oh my God, this is Dina. Landon.
Speaker 0 00:43:26 What did you think? What was your thought? Were you like, I'm an idiot or were you like, thank you. I love you this.
Speaker 2 00:43:31 No, no. At first I w I was like, oh my God, I disappointed her,
Speaker 0 00:43:36 Right? This is so embarrassing. This is
Speaker 2 00:43:38 So embarrassing. I can't believe this too. And then she pulled me aside and she was like, judge. She was like, just start to understand where you can breathe, started to understand the dynamics. And she had a whole moment with me, which as an artist, just beginning, this is like, there are things that you will never learn in a studio that you will learn on a job, especially when you have such great. Um, I conic women. I honestly, Dan, I've been very lucky to work with so many great women in this industry, right. That have taught me how to be powerful, how to be sexy, how to, how to, how to stand in my greatness. Although I didn't fully understand it yet. So slowly, eventually I started to understand it, you know, and, and just being surrounded by that. But yeah, that's my Tina Landon story. That is my story. And so basically from there, I, I, in, in going, but circling back to your, uh, uh, question about longevity in this, in this industry, it's taken me a while, but I understand who I am as a human and as an artist, I understand what our brain, I I'm very clear on that, right? No, I may not be the most amazing dancer, but when you hire me, you know exactly what you will get and you know that I will get the job done. And you will always wants me in the room
Speaker 0 00:45:12 As someone who worked with you for six months, I can tell you that every word of that is true. I would've, I would have had that working relationship go on for many months more. You, you are a dream to have in the room, a dream, you ask clarifying questions. You are on time, you are warm, you are ready. You are a problem solver, a troubleshooter, a great communicator. I think these are all things. You know, that when I think of the professional dancer, you know, the, the, um, what's his name, the David, like if we were to sculpt the perfect professional dancer, they would be all those things. Um, so I'm glad that you are helping shape the next generation. Um, I did want to throw in an Andy blank can be lyricism that I got kind of on the same note as your Tina Landon note, he, he taught, I was taking his class virtually a lot during COVID and he dropped this one, like, it was nothing. And I ran for a pen and paper so fast. He said, if you are extraordinarily good at something trust, you don't have to show it all the time. And I was like, Ooh.
Speaker 2 00:46:27 Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:46:28 Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for that.
Speaker 2 00:46:30 Great. That's great. Yes.
Speaker 0 00:46:32 So dropping the, dropping the golden nuggets on, on all of you today from our collective experience, as people who love working hard and want to be so right, you will occasionally be wrong. You can always do things differently. You will always be growing. You are still growing, learning, evolving. Um, and I think that's, I think that's the funniest thing about what we do is that it is never the same. There is always room for growth,
Speaker 2 00:47:04 Absolutely. Dana, and you know what, now that you, you say growth and it hits me because, you know, I think for this generation and for, for your young listeners that are, um, that are tuning in, I just, I, I, I encourage you to not worry about being perfect. I encourage you to fail and get up again. I encourage you not to worry about what you look like. I, I encourage that. I think right now in a time where everything is so instant and people are filming classes and no one wants to everyone plays it safe in a way, because no one wants to look bad in front of the camera, where before you and I, you know, in, in a classroom setting, we didn't have that. So there was a freedom to fall, a freedom to fail, a freedom, to learn, to look ugly. And I think right now, um, a lot of, cause I've, I've heard it from dancers, you know, that they feel as if they can't look wrong in class or they, or they can't, they just, they have to come in polished our rate. And I encourage all of you young and old in anybody in the business. Never allow the time that we're in right now to stop
Speaker 0 00:48:27 That,
Speaker 2 00:48:29 Just stop that because it is, it is the process. The process is so important. Don't skip a step. Don't skip this step.
Speaker 0 00:48:37 I love that. I can't think of a better place to end. Um, but you know, me, I always have more to say, um, I think that on that subject, although yes, there have never been more cameras in a dance studio, right? Every single person that walks into a dance studio has one in their bag. They usually come out at the end is an unusual amount of cameras, first per studio. But at the same time, there's never been more media turned through the pipeline. So you might have a terrible fumble. People will see it today and they will see 75,000 other things before they see you again, they will not be thinking about it. Like it, it refreshes constantly. So I would argue that there's less pressure because everybody's always looking at different things. There's always something that's true. Someone else's falling, someone else's, you're not special because you fell. It released that pressure. Um, and I think I've said this before on the podcast, but I believe this camera film does make it forever. The internet is forever. There are copies of everything everywhere, but at the same time, a camera is just plastic and glass.
Speaker 0 00:50:05 We give it all the rest of the meaning. We make it stressful. We make it high pressure. We make it different. It's it's just, uh, it's materials. Everything else comes from our head. And so get, get straight about what a camera is to you get straight about what Instagram is to you and live your life, man. That's at least that's what I'm doing.
Speaker 2 00:50:33 I don't know if we have time, but I wanted, I was like, I didn't tell Dana this because you know what I get asked a lot about in the Heights, tell me, I get asked a lot from a lot of dancers. They'll say, Jessica, how are you able at promise you Dana, they were like, just go, how did you get so much screen time? Like, how do you get so much screen time? Right.
Speaker 0 00:50:56 I need the camera operator. I've gotten the same question before I've, I've gotten like, are you paying the camera person? Like be real with me,
Speaker 2 00:51:07 To me, that question is so odd because they want to know how I was able to get so much screen time, right. As a dancer. And I answered it this way. It's a very specific scene, got an alive. Right. And because this is the only this, I was like, this is how it works. Yes. Now you were staging. Remember you were, you were staging the scene it and how many of us there were at least what 70, there were 75, I think 75. Right. And so, and obviously this specific scene is so special to me. I mean, it just it's beyond
Speaker 0 00:51:43 The heartbeat of the movie.
Speaker 2 00:51:45 It's so great. So I remember you were staging it and I was with Lele Montezuma and Liz Ramos. Right. And obviously you're, you're staging it and you have 75 people in this room. And so, you know, there were so many seasoned dancers and not, there were so many newbies that had never done
Speaker 0 00:52:07 Uncles and moms
Speaker 2 00:52:09 That didn't understand how this scene should flow. And so
Speaker 0 00:52:12 You were saying who was 80?
Speaker 2 00:52:14 Absolutely. And so you were staging it and Leo and I saw gaps, right? Cause obviously as you're trying to stage a scene, which is not putting people in the formations, it's very different. You are creating an actual scene
Speaker 0 00:52:29 With breathing organism that
Speaker 2 00:52:33 You have to tell a story at this point. So Leo and I looked around and we were like, we looked at you what you were doing. And so Leo and I created this backstory between us, right. We were cousins. So we ha we had a whole backstory and we dragged Liz with us. And so as you move people around Leo and I were moving with you and filling in the gaps, right. Building
Speaker 0 00:52:56 With, with purpose, with, uh, with, uh, with a reason for being there, opposed to an objective.
Speaker 2 00:53:03 Yeah. And for all our listeners that are listening, when I say filling in the gaps, understanding the acting beats, understanding what the story needed, because of course, right, right.
Speaker 0 00:53:12 Not just negative space, not just like, there's a gap there. I should go there. But like, there's a bench there I'm thirsty. I should sit and be hot and have a drink,
Speaker 2 00:53:21 Understanding what, trying to help you. Dana choreographer, Phil in this scene, this acting scene without disturbing what you're doing. And as we did it, I remember, I don't know if you remember, but you, you looked at us and you said, I see what you're doing. And I like it.
Speaker 0 00:53:47 I think I do remember that. I remember you guys being on the picnic bench is that
Speaker 2 00:53:53 Yeah. So we moved cause you ha you had stages. We were somewhere else. And we moved to fill in that space. And then I moved, we kind of just bulls with the scene without telling us, but without overstepping any boundaries, understanding what the scene needed. And I, and I answered the question and I told them about that story. And I told them, I was like, listen. I was like, I understood what she was trying to do without overstepping her without, without overstepping, without overstepping. I understood what the scene needed as an actor again, without overstepping.
Speaker 0 00:54:29 And sometimes the only way to learn where that line is, is by overstepping. And you learn in some nut and you learn the hard way sometimes. But in the, if you can imagine having to tell seventy-five people exactly what to be doing and where to be doing it and all to at all times, during a six and a half minute, seven minute, top to bottom scene, we didn't have enough time for the whole film. Like let alone that one scene to do all that. So we relied a lot on dancers like you, who could fill in the blanks as it were, or paint the canvas, like take a look at what was, what had been painted on the canvas and say, oh, I think we can make a gesture there. I think we could add a splash of yellow over here. I think there, yeah, that's, that's brilliant.
Speaker 0 00:55:20 And of course you would be doing that in your, in, in your quiet and respectful way, contributing to the world in response to the way the leader was, you know, you know, we all were kind of building this thing, you weren't off on your own plotting your own world, you were listening, then you were like chatting and then you listened and then you, yeah, I remember that. I was so pleased in how that scene turned out, because it truly was one where we had to sacrifice some rehearsal budget time and give, give that budgeted time to other numbers. So that piece firmly relied on the people and their stories. That is exactly what it was meant to be. That is exactly what it should be. And thanks to talented artists like you, um, it did not fall flat. It D it was the opposite. It got so elevated by the freedom that people had, um, to bring themselves. And I'm so grateful for you for doing that. And for telling that that's what was happening. Um, I do, I will say, not every choreography team works that way. I think Chris is a great collaborator. He leaves a lot of room for people's voices ideas. Um, he runs a tight ship for sure. He knows what he wants to see, but he is not closed to, you know, ideas, other ideas. So I think in that scene in particular, we got to w we were, the project itself was enriched by that.
Speaker 2 00:56:53 Again, this is something that you've learned throughout the years when you've been on set for so long, you know, I'm different sets and understand how different people work. Of course also, you, you, what you needed was you needed people to bring themselves into the room and not just be dancers. And I think a lot of dancers get caught up in just learning the step and not understanding how to fill in that empty, that empty space
Speaker 0 00:57:22 And brings it back to what you were saying about so many young people on Instagram, showing the combo and not showing the colorful life that they live, the human being, that they are outside of fish nets and heals and at an studio. Now, I'm wondering how you might show on something as superficial and two-dimensional as an Instagram feed, I am the type of person that keeps a safe space in a creative process. How could it, how could a young dancer advertise? I'm a person that helps creative processes go smoothly, because that is something that that's part of the reason why the working people stay working. And it's tough to catch a break because that's, that's a quality that's difficult to advertise on a, on a resume, a headshot or an Instagram feed. What
Speaker 2 00:58:16 So it is, and it isn't Dana think about it. I think about it. Think about it. It's almost like, um, I think about it when you go on somebody's page, you may not know them, but regardless if it's fabricated or not, they can curate it so that they can give you a sense of who they are as a person, you know, as an artist, as a person. So it's almost, it's like, cause you can, you can also quickly go on some of these pages and go and say, I don't, I don't know. I don't know if this, I don't know if I want this person in a row with this particular artist or actor for the next two weeks or eight hours a day,
Speaker 0 00:59:02 Put your, your right. It is simpler than I am making it out to be. And of course the mind, the mind to decides, but
Speaker 2 00:59:08 Let's not forget that we are artists Stena. We are artists. We are chameleons. We are, again, it goes back to all I wanted to do was work in this industry and be able to take of every avenue, every platform. So if you know me playing a show girl, or me playing, you know, a girl that lives on the block in the Heights, or, you know, if it's me playing this girl and to get down that, you know, does the hustle at night, you know, like, or, or, or, or, you know, like playing the different roles at greatest showman, I played a Buddha twin. So it's, it's almost like just being for me again, we are working artists. We are a blank canvas. We are chameleons. We are artists. And that's how I see it. The more you have, the more doors will open for you. You know,
Speaker 0 01:00:06 That reminds me of a Kiarra Kiarra <inaudible> quote. That is somewhere else, but she'll be joining me on the podcast. The fingers are so crossed, uh, maybe before the end of the year. So we'll dig into that then Jess, you are a fountain of information and enthusiasm. I cannot thank you enough for sharing both of those with us today. You're the greatest, listen, let's do this again sometime. Oh, and let's make more movies together, Circle it back. Okay. My friend enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you again. Thanks Dana. Bye. I always wave.
Speaker 2 01:00:51 Nobody
Speaker 0 01:00:52 Sees that.
Speaker 0 01:00:57 All right. All right. My friend, what do you think? Are you lifted? Are you lightened? Are you inspired and informed? I so hope so. I am for sure. Um, for more Jessica, make sure you follow Eliya Jessica Castro on Instagram. That's I L I a J E S S I C a C a S T R O on Instagram. And keep an eye out for her future intensives. Make sure you follow at lip. Is it lame that I say at first, do you just assume, oh my goodness. Lipstick diaries NYC. That is lipstick diaries, NYC, all one word, no spaces, dashes underscores, or emojis. Can you even put any emoji in a handle? I guess, probably not. Anyways. I really loved her definition of longevity as simply maintaining professionalism, not redefining or reinventing the wheel or reinventing yourself, but simply being consistently professional. Um, I continued to think about that about longevity, and I think it means something slightly different to me.
Speaker 0 01:02:20 I think you can achieve longevity by changing, without quitting. That's what I think longevity is changing a lot in your skills, your tools, your ideas, even your style and, and, and changing a lot, but staying the same, a little in the ways that matter, like what Jess said, staying professional, staying consistent, staying accountable, you know, staying solid. Um, and then of course not quitting. So change a lot, stay a lot professional. And don't quit with that. And this tiny nudge of a reminder to be proud of what you post ask yourself, why am I doing this? Am I proud of this? Does it represent me men? Those are such great check boxes to tick every time before you post, um, with that, I'll send you out into the world to make great work. And of course, to keep it very funky. I'll talk to you all soon. Bye me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you're digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don't forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review. Here's your words. Move me to number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit <inaudible> dot com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that's it now for real talk to you soon. Bye.