Callout for Connectivity, Creativity and Humanity
Tips for Dancers to Reset Their Ideas of Normal
Interview by Chris Duncan
Continuing our series of conversations with key people in the dance world, this week DanceLife spoke to the one-and-only Jason Winters while he is isolating at home. He is taking a philosophical approach to the affect of COVID-19 on the dance industry both here and abroad, and he offers some tips for those looking to adapt their businesses to the new challenges being enforced on studios and artists.
In particular, Jason is urging as all to take this unusual time to ‘reset’ the buttons on our lives and the world and consider the positives we want to take out of this experience as we re-engage with each other. He also looks at the effects as we adapt such a contact-physical artform as dance in this new technological era of virtual dance. Jason for one, embraces the power of technology at this time and thinks it will have long lasting affects on the industry in the future, while also reminding us all that what artists upload digitally is out there forever.
At this pivotal time in history, Jason also empathises the importance of kindness, being empathetic to others and engaging in creative pursuits and personal development at this time in our lives.
Enjoy Chris Duncan’s conversation with Jason Winters.
Q: How are you approaching the challenges from COVID-19 as a professional?
There is an opportunity that has been given to everyone on the planet right now, and how you respond to that and what you do with it is completely up to you. Everyone is trying to get new business… what you should do is retain your clients. Retain them by nurturing and comforting them that your product is simply continuing, not losing momentum.
Q: What are you doing to stay mentally and physically fit during this time?
I have been doing 2.5 hour walks everyday … just walking around the neighbourhood and in nature every day … especially because we’ve had such beautiful weather … that has been a huge thing for me and on top of that I always do one activity of exercise every day … like yesterday I did F45, you know the fitness App … and this morning I could barely do a demi-plie because my quads were so sore! Then today I’ll be in the studio and create; tomorrow I’ll do yoga but it’s so essential that that is part of the schedule .. part of the daily routine.
Q: How are you coping with this situation where we have such limited human contact when ‘connectivity’ is so important to us both personally and through our expression within dance?
This is the question that is on everyone’s mind and they’re actively searching for answers online. The whole mental health & wellness industry was already doing really well online but it has just exploded now… it leads me to think that what has happened is exciting and not depressing. The depressing part is obviously this virus and the death of so many worldwide, which is absolutely devastating, … but the thing I find fascinating is I feel like the world has been FAST FORWARDED by at least ten years! It’s exciting about that is that because this is the first time in human history that the ENTIRE WORLD is connected and can have a dialogue about it at the same time.
Q: Has your perspective of the world changed?
This virus has shown us that everyone on the planet should have national health care … if the poorest countries don’t have the funds then all the other countries of the world should be collectively contributing to the healthcare of those countries … it’s a wake up call! You want it to bring out the best in people not the worst.
A book I read that changed my entire perspective on myself – which i thought was interesting that one book can do that – is called ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain … it’s about people who are introverts and what their positive traits are in a world that has been on steroids for how many years … the world has been in a non-stop state of stimulation now for so many years that we think that it’s ‘normal’ … and what’s funny is that I’ve never thought that was normal … in fact I moved away from Sydney to beautiful Woolgoolga to try to slow down and reconnect to myself and to nature and other human beings … I thought of this book today because this is what’s made me feel confident in being STILL and being QUIET … and now the whole world is being made to be still and quiet while we heal and this is a book that which has made me feel comfortable, not scared, not depressed … it’s made me feel like this is a necessity in the world and I’m gonna embrace this time.
We have been brainwashed or convinced that what we had in the world before this was ‘normal’ … and that’s just not true … what we are in right now is more normal … I mean we should still have the ability to roam freely and visit people in real life… but what’s happened is that the ‘reset’ button has been pushed in a way that it shows us the extreme opposite of what we have been doing. So when we come back from this, what we should have learned is BALANCE.
Q: Do you think this new greater embrace of technology will stay around after we emerge from ‘hibernation’?
Yes, like I said I feel like we’ve had to fast forward by at least ten years. If people find it is more cost effective they will, firstly, put a portion of their business online… secondly, if they can retain their clients, they’ll continue to do it … and thirdly, if it brings in new clients, they’re definitely going to do it.
Right now, it’s harder, it takes more planning … because if you want something to be seen by the world you have to understand that what you put out there into the world is PERMANENTLY out there! So my advice is to take the time to BRAND yourself or your products in a way that in will still be relevant. What is the product? And can you maintain that?
You need to spend time thinking about it, there’s no need to rush. We’re all in the same boat. I see so many videos popping up of the same delivery formula from a person’s loungeroom or bedroom … and now I just go right past it … But then I see someone who has taken the time to add a great background or a great graphic or they have really good lighting … and I’ll stop … it stands out against the noise … it can be simple things.
This is an opportunity for us to learn new tools, find new pearls of wisdom, and about what we see ourselves doing in the future. I love the concept of ‘personal development’ … when I went to Bali to study yoga I hadn’t done anything for myself for at least ten years … now we’ve got ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD!
Q: Are you delivering your content online?
I’m doing everything I possibly can that’s available to me! I’m doing Zoom and Instagram Live classes … Instagram Live was really fun but fascinating because there is NO visual feedback … no way to see how everyone is doing … to be able to judge if you should be going faster or slower. It is literally the strangest feeling because I LOVE teaching and being around other human beings and I love the immediate visceral feedback that I get from sound, sight, and touch. I found I became super animated, super loud … it was so funny! But I loved that I did it and had the experience. Zoom is a great option as the features are amazing so you can be much more communicative with the students.
I’ve also put together lots of tutorials for a new project I’m working on called ‘Teaching to Thrive’… and my syllabus with ComDance (formerly CSTD) is now available in a downloadable format which I’ve been pulling together for over many years, but with what’s happened now it’s just pushed that development forward.
This has just fast forwarded everything for me. The Winters Experience website is currently being built and I’ll be delivering really exciting content and preparing it to be accessible to anyone in the world. The first thing is going to be ‘Teaching to Thrive’ … which is not just for teachers of dance! It’s for educators in any field and parents too.
Q: What are your Top 3 tips for dancers at this time?
One: Actually realise we don’t need as much STUFF as we think we need to survive. I’m talking about literal ‘stuff’… and also the stimulation that’s constantly going on in our lives… and we don’t NEED it to thrive. What’s happening now is we are learning to be happy and to get by with LESS STUFF! Now, when you get one thing instead of six things coming at you at once you can actually look at it, appreciate it, absorb it, and be grateful for it! Fully value that one thing.
Two: Everybody should look at every single day that they’re living and try to see that they’re moving forward. The world does not stop … even though we think right now that we have stopped .. we haven’t! One of the best videos about this I’ve ever watched is on YouTube and is called ‘The Energy Alchemist’ … it’s only 30 minutes and it examines the cycles of daily, weekly, monthly routines etc… stating that cycles and purpose is what keeps us moving forward. We have the time and ability right now to take control of how each day moves forward, what we do for ourselves, what makes us feel good, what helps us with personal development, what helps us with the connection to people we are living with. Come to realise the importance of those CYCLES and that PURPOSE for LIVING, for BREATHING, for EXISTING in that one day really translates to your entire life!
Three: READ BOOKS! Something that lets your brain be creative … do you know why reading a book is different from watching a movie? Because in the movie you’re not allowed to have any imagination … it’s already done for you! So read a BOOK or write or do something creative … it’s your imagination that’s doing the work and that’s stimulating the brain in the best possible way!
Jason Winters, originally from the US has had a long and lustrous career. Not just as a world class dancer, but also as an associate choreographer for institutions such as The Walt Disney World Company, Radio City Music Hall, On and Off Broadway, Cirque de Soleil, and So You Think You Can Dance to name just a few. Currently as one of the most sought after teachers, Jason’s faculty positions have included The Joffrey School, Broadway Dance Centre, STEPS on Broadway, Amsterdam Dance Centre, The American Dance Awards, Sydney Dance Company, and many more. Jason is the founder/creator of the Jason Winters Contemporary Technique offered exclusively through Commonwealth Society of Teacher Dancing, the first and most comprehensive, original syllabus of contemporary training distributed worldwide. Beginning in 2015, Jason founded “The Movement – Youth Contemporary Dance program” a one on one mentoring and training intensive for aspiring dancers between the ages of 13-18. The holistic approach to conditioning the body, mind and spirit which is set to lead the way for future generations of highly intelligent, motivated, confident and connected artists.