Feb 1st, 2021
In today's episode, I welcome Jami Robben! Jami is a professional dancer with VidaDance Company as well as a student majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish at the Univeristy of Missouri. She shares about her unique path from teaching herself dance movements from videos on YouTube to taking in-person dance classes to apprenticing with a professional company and beyond, as well as her latest endeavor, being the Director of National Dance Week Kansas City. (Fun fact: this episode's cover image is of Jami dancing in a performance with VidaDance!)
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Episode 38 - Jami Robben
Lindsey Dinneen: Hello, and welcome to Artfully Told, where we share true stories about meaningful encounters with art.
[00:00:07] Krista: I think artists help people have different perspectives on every aspect of life.
[00:00:13] Roman: All I can do is put my part into the world.
[00:00:16] Elizabeth: It doesn't have to be perfect the first time. It doesn't have to be perfect ever really. I mean, as long as you, you're enjoying doing it and you're trying your best, that can be good enough.
[00:00:24] Elna: Art is something that you can experience with your senses and that you just experience as so beautiful.
[00:00:32]Lindsey Dinneen: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Artfully Told. I'm your host Lindsey, and I am so very delighted to have as my guest today, the absolutely wonderful Jami Robben. She is a dancer, currently, a student at college, and also has done so many other different kinds of art forms. And I'm just so excited to have her as my guest today. Thank you, Jami, so much for being here.
[00:01:00] Jami Robben: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited!
[00:01:03] Lindsey Dinneen: Yay! Well, please do tell me a little bit about maybe your background, how you first started getting into maybe not just dance, but other art forms as well, and sort of where you are now, if that's okay.
[00:01:16] Jami Robben: Yeah, yeah, of course. So I actually started out as a swimmer. I grew up swimming. That was kind of my thing. I did it with my sister and so I never really was put in any kind of, like, dance or anything like that. And especially having five older sisters, you know, they, they all kind of did it and were interested in it. So when it came to me, my parents were kinda like, "Okay, we'll just let her figure it out." So it really wasn't until--I think it was the 2008 Olympics--when I saw gymnastics. And I was like, "Okay, like, I definitely want to do that. That looks so much fun." So I started taking gymnastics classes, but the only thing I would do is the floor. I hated the bars and the beam and the volt, and I just refused to do it. And I remember my gymnastics coach went up to my dad and was like, "You know, she--I don't know if this is the sport for her, she just does not want to do anything. And you know, maybe you should try putting her in dance too. Just seems like she really likes the floor."
[00:02:26]And then I went home and was watching TV and I saw "Dance Moms" and I was like, "Okay, maybe I should start dancing." But at that point, my parents were kinda like, "I feel like you've tried a lot of sports and just haven't really stuck with it." So maybe wait it out a little bit. So they didn't end up putting me in any classes. So I ended up going on YouTube and just YouTubed doing all sorts of different videos and tutorials with dance. And of course on "Dance Moms," they'd go and do competitions. And I was like, "I want to do that too." So I ended up enrolling myself in a competition with no studio or no training. And, I choreographed myself a dance, made myself a costume, cut myself some music, and went to the competition and ended up getting third place. And ever since then, I just kept dancing, and it wasn't until I met Lindsey, when I first started taking actual dance classes and training with that. And ever since I've just been dancing along.
[00:03:41] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes. I love that. Yeah. Okay. So, so many questions are popping in my mind. First of all, kudos to you for being so brave to--I cannot imagine your level of bravery, honestly--to be like, "Okay, I've learned a few things off of YouTube. I kind of know sort of the way that things go, and I'm just going to dive in and do it." So, wow.
[00:04:06] Jami Robben: I think I didn't even know the weight that a competition had on a lot of people. And I just kind of walked in and was like, "Okay, this is cool." And then I'm seeing all these girls, you know, like training, like ridiculous amounts for these competitions. And I was like, "I did not realize they were this serious."
[00:04:24] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, definitely. Probably a bit of a culture shock, but honestly, coming at it that way was probably a lot better because, I mean, I'm sure you felt a little bit of nervousness or nervous energy, but you wouldn't have had nearly the level that maybe some of these other girls and boys did when they were coming in from a really, really serious, like "we have to win" kind of mentality. So, there you go!
[00:04:50] Jami Robben: Well, I definitely remember being nervous, but it, it probably wasn't for the same reasons the other dancers were nervous. I think I was more nervous that I was like, "I don't even know." I just remember being so nervous, but not even about like forgetting my dance or anything. It was more so I was like, "I just paid all this money of my allowance to this competition. I hope I get a trophy."
[00:05:15] Lindsey Dinneen: Awww! Priorities, people. Let's be real.
[00:05:20] Jami Robben: I was like, "I don't care what I place, I just want a trophy to take home."
[00:05:24] Lindsey Dinneen: Awww, and you did! That's fantastic. I love it. I love it. Okay. And I'm so curious. So do you think having had the background--and granted you didn't continue with these, which is totally fine--but having the background in swimming and gymnastics, I mean, obviously those kinds of activities are really strength building. Do you think they ended up helping you in any way in your dance in the future?
[00:05:49] Jami Robben: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think swim really brought up my endurance to be able to perform, well, when I did gymnastics. And then of course, gymnastics, you learn so many acro tricks that you can use in dance in, especially in competition dance. I feel like acro and tricks is really big in the competition dance world. And so I feel like it definitely gave me an upper hand in the fact that I wasn't necessarily trained in dance, but I could do acro tricks. And so I guess it gave me a little bit more of a dancer kind of, you know, way to compete. But I, for sure think, if I didn't have those two backgrounds, I don't think I would have kept doing competitions, 'cause I don't think I would've gotten anywhere with them.
[00:06:38] Lindsey Dinneen: Sure. Yeah. That makes complete sense. The endurance for sure. And that's something that's hard to build up that kind of stamina if you aren't doing cardio related things. Even as a dancer, it can be difficult 'cause we do a lot of bursts of cardio and then a lot of more sort of resting and then bursts. And so it's, it's harder to build up that endurance over time. So that's cool. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. So, and then, okay, so you had that first competition and then how many competitions did you do on your own before we started getting connected and, you know, you started taking classes?
[00:07:13] Jami Robben: Yeah, I think I ended up doing, I remember doing-- the first year I competed, I did one regional and one national. And then after that, it really was just a matter of I would compete and, you know, spend all my allowance money 'cause at that point I still didn't have a job. I was, I think I was 14. And so I would save up my money and compete, be broke, save up my money. So it really was just a matter of whenever I had enough money to compete again, I would compete. And so I think I was ending up doing maybe three regionals and one national for maybe three years before we got in contact. I think it was three years.
[00:07:57] Lindsey Dinneen: Nice. Yeah, that sounds about right, I think. Yeah. And you know, what's so amazing to me and, I have the great privilege of calling Jami my friend, and, but I've been her teacher as well, but I am so, so always so impressed with Jami because she is such a hard worker. And when she sets her mind to something, she's going to do all the hard work it takes to get there, not just skate by, which I've always really admired. But speaking of which we have to tell the story, this, this poor girl, I, I, I have a bad/good habit of always sort of pushing people to their next level. Very, very first thing poor Jami did with our company was, I totally threw her into this piece. So, so her and her mom and I met, and it was back in the fall and then we were having a performance coming up in the winter. And I, I met her mom and her mom told me all about Jami and, you know, what she was kind of interested in doing and showed me some videos. And, and I was really, really impressed with how much she had been able to do pick up on her own from YouTube. I mean, that's frankly, anyone listening, that's like a novelty story. Most of the time you cannot learn as well as Jami did off of videos just to--for context. But she's again such a hard worker that she really put time and effort into to learning. And so then we connected and, you know, hit it off. And then your first experience in any kind of like formal setting, poor thing, was to jump into rehearsal with three professional dancers. And you, and how did that feel? I mean, oh my gosh, you know, looking back I always thought, "I know you can do this because I could see your raw talent." I could see your drive and ambition, but like when I look back, I think, "Oh my gosh, I really put a lot of pressure on you."
[00:09:54] Jami Robben: Yeah, I remember. Well, first of all, I appreciate those kind words. So nice of you to say, but I just remember being, I was so excited, first of all, I could not believe I was going to be able to dance with professional dancers and be able to go into a studio because I'm pretty sure when we had rehearsals for the performance, that was my first time in an actual studio. And so I was so excited. I was seeing all the studios' like competition trophies on the wall. And I was like, "This is the coolest thing ever." And then we started rehearsal and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I don't know anything that they're talking about." and I was like, "Okay, I need to go home, and like Google all these terms." And, and, you know, and so I would go through with rehearsal, we would learn a chunk, I would go home, I would look up all of the terms, make sure I had all the technique right and everything. And then the day of the performance. Oh my gosh. I was so scared. I was really nervous. I think the thing I was the most nervous for it was for getting the dance just 'cause I, I had never done anything with other dancers.
[00:11:07] So, you know, if you forget your solo, it's, it's a solo. It doesn't matter what you do really. And especially because the competitions, I wasn't affiliated with any kind of studio. So it was the only thing I could mess up is like, you know, it, there was no pressure to it. It was very pressure-free. And then this performance, I was like, "Oh my gosh, if I forget the dance, oh, they're never going to ask me to dance with them again." And all this stuff, you know, I just like putting all this pressure on myself and it ended up being probably one of my favorite experiences. But looking back at it, I was telling you a little bit ago, how I resurfaced the video that my mom took of it. And I was just like, "I hope no one ever sees this video of me dancing. It's just, oh my gosh, you can see the fear on my face the whole time. And you know, you and the other dancers just dancing beautifully, like effortless, slowly and gracefully. And then I am trying my hardest not to forget this dance and you can tell, but, but the good thing was, you know, it was only uphill from there. I feel like after that, I was like, "Okay, you know what? Like Lindsey asked me to come back. So something went right with that. So it's okay."
[00:12:31] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes, absolutely. And then after that performance is when you started taking classes and was that a big change for you? I mean, did, did it feel just weird to kind of go from like, learning on your own to then having a much more like structured environment with other people and kind of just really honing on like, "Oh, this is basic technique. Like I have to get back to the basics. Was that, was that a weird transition for you?"
[00:12:59] Jami Robben: Yeah, I think the thing I was most likely kind of shocked by was how, like, detail-oriented, especially ballet was. I was just so used to these YouTube tutorials, and a lot of them that I was doing wasn't necessarily technique. And if it was, it was like how to do a pirouette. It wasn't a ballet class or anything like that. And so a lot of it was just like dance tutorials and dance combos. And so it was at first, I, I almost felt like it was, you know, more--I don't even know how to describe--not taking a step back in the sense where it was like easier, but more so like slower-paced than just learning a combo off of YouTube and calling it a day, but more so like learning the positions and everything technique-based. And it was kind of like putting a name to something. I kind of recognize from the things I was learning on YouTube, but I feel like the biggest change was, when you learn things on YouTube, obviously it's mirrored. And so, you know, the people I was learning off YouTube, they were all right turners, but I was turning on my left side because it was mirrored.
[00:14:16] And I had no idea that that was not kind of the normal, like most people were right turners. And so I remember coming into class and everyone's turning on the right, like really, really well. And I was like, "How, how did they turn so well on the right? Like that's not normal." And it was like, "Oh my gosh, you're a lefty?" I was like, "No, I turn on my right foot." They're like,"That's, that's a left, like you, you're a lefty." I was like, "I learned everything backwards." So I feel like after that, I was just, I, it was kind of having to relearn a lot of things that off of YouTube I learned incorrectly or backwards, honestly. And so it was weird seeing how things are supposed to be in, in learning like my placements were wrong and stuff like that. So a lot of it was even more so like corrective work than like learning from the beginning, kind of trying to correct some of the things I taught myself wrong, but it was so nice, especially to be able to be surrounded by other students kind of going on the same path and, you know, you feel inspired by them and you want to work harder just in a class setting. So it was really cool to be able to do that.
[00:15:28] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. And then, so after you started classes, you basically have then been a part of the company ever since. So after that , we invited her to be an apprentice with the company. And so Jami performed with us as an apprentice all throughout high school. And then at graduation, that was a really fun moment. Do you want to talk about that?
[00:15:51] Jami Robben: As an apprentice with the company, I thought that was like the peak of my life. Like I thought it was just the coolest thing ever, especially because everyone in VidaDance Company is just so kind and professional. I feel like a lot of them are rare to find in, especially the group that we have. It's just so special. And I just felt so lucky to be able to learn from such professional and amazing people. And so when I was an apprentice, I just, I never even really thought that, you know, there was a next step. I was just like, "Okay, this is the best." Like I'm so happy. And then at my graduation party , Lindsey came up and she made an announcement that I was being promoted to full company member. And I bawled my eyes out. I was, I was so taken off guard, but in such a good way. And I still have, she gave me a little stuffed animal flamingo for kind of the company mascot, and I still have it on my bed. And it's probably one of my best memories of my high school experience or honestly like my entire life up to this point. And yeah, after that, I just have been able to be full company member and still dance with the company, even throughout college, which has been such a blessing, especially just because I love dancing and I feel like in college, it's very much academic-based and so being able to dance and have that outlet while I am in school, it's just been so great. So I'm so thankful to still be able to be a member of the company.
[00:17:33] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, of course. Well, and we of course love having you. So it's always exciting. There's always these moments of excitement when people are like, "Okay, well, when is Jami coming back?" Because you know, we have performances throughout the year that, you know, unfortunately since she's at school, she doesn't always get to participate in, but, but the summer is always a really good time. And sometimes the winter too. And it's always like, "Count down the days, when is, when is Jami coming back to rehearsals?" is always fun for us too. We, we love having you be a part of the company, but...
[00:18:04] Jami Robben: Awww, I love that!
[00:18:07] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, so, okay. So now you are in school. So do you want to talk a little bit about, you know, maybe what you're pursuing and then kind of-- and I know everything is so hazy, of course, so, it's, you know, no worries about kind of the future--but are you, are there certain things that you're kind of working towards, or tell us maybe a little bit about your college experience?
[00:18:29] Jami Robben: Yeah, so I went into college thinking I was pursuing just a journalism degree. I wasn't exactly sure what in journalism, but I really enjoyed writing and everything with that. And then I wanted to continue my Spanish and so I decided to go in with majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish, but I was still pretty confused because I knew that I loved dancing so much and I wanted to do something with it in the future, but I just didn't really know how to pursue that while kind of pursuing a degree in journalism. And so going to college, I just remember freshman year was so--I was just so confused. The whole year I was in the GEN EDs, which didn't help because those are classes that every freshman has to take. So none of them really have to do with your major. So I was in like math and English and science, and I just was not enjoying it at all.
[00:19:29] And I was really questioning if I was making the right decision by going to college, and if I should be doing something else. I just didn't feel like I was making the right decision, but it wasn't really until first semester, my sophomore year, when I finally applied for my emphasis area, which is in strategic communications and I have an emphasis in strategic communications on data journalism. So it's a whole, it's a whole train of things, but I, when I started doing classes in my emphasis area, I started really enjoying school and feeling like I was making a good choice and that it--just because I was majoring in data journalism, it didn't mean that I had to give up dance. And I, I feel like it took me so long to realize that there's no specific path, there's no steps. You don't have to graduate and then get a degree in your major and stick with it for the rest of your life. And I feel like once I realized that, I just took so much pressure off of myself. And so I was dancing with the competitive dance team at Mizzou. And so I put, started putting a lot more effort and time into that.
[00:20:44] I started getting involved with our homecoming. We have an annual Fling event, which all--a lot of--organizations on campus will compete dances that go towards points, 'cause homecoming at Mizzou is this whole thing that everyone tries to win. And so I choreographed a few dances for that. And with that, I started finding more of a balance between dance and school and realizing that I can do both. But I don't have to make a decision and stick with only that and pursue that in the future. And so that's where I'm at now. I have been dancing a lot more in school and it's just been a, really, a lot better of a balance. And the dance takes a lot of stress off of me with school, but I'm still really enjoying my major. And so for the future, I'm just kinda gonna wait it out and see what happens. But I feel like the people, I feel like students all the time, they put so much pressure on themselves to know exactly what they're doing in life. And so I feel like once I took that pressure off of me, I'm just kind of chilling and seeing what the next step is when I get there. So that's about where I'm at now.
[00:22:05] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. Yes. I think that there is this misconception that is very widely spread that you have to have it all figured out. And that is so not true. As any adult should tell you if they're being honest--which you're an adult now, too, I don't mean it that way--but you know, an older adult who's, you know, been through some stuff should tell you, you don't have to have it all figured out. It comes, it comes as it, as life unfolds. And that just makes it so much more fun and adventurous.
[00:22:34] Jami Robben: Exactly.
[00:22:36] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, and then you're more open to opportunities that come your way that you might not have had in your original plan, so to speak, but that might be perfect. So yeah. I love it. Awesome. Well, that is exciting. And so I'm curious, with the journalism aspect, you know, of course writing is an art form in and of itself. Now you're kind of combining the science with your data emphasis, but do you find that that is another creative outlet for you on some level to be able to be a writer and to be expressing yourself that way too?
[00:23:13] Jami Robben: Oh yeah. Especially when I'm in school, I, you know, I don't always have like a big studio accessible to me to where I can just go dance and kind of relieve my stress. And I live in the, you know, this tiny shoebox room when I'm at school. And so it's very hard to kind of move around in it. And so I feel like now more than ever, I've definitely been using writing as an outlet, and and even in school with my assignments, I really enjoy writing papers, which I know scares a lot of people. But for me, it's like, I hate tests. I hate projects, but it's like writing papers, I'm okay with. And so even with that, I've found a lot of enjoyment with it. And just being able to kind of just start writing and seeing where I'm at mentally and kind of, you know, mapping where I'm at, so I can look back at it and see kind of how much I've grown or improved with my mentality towards things. And so I've really been enjoying writing and journaling every night. I think it's such a good stress reliever for sure.
[00:24:24] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. And then pivoting back to dance. Now you've had some pretty unique opportunities--and you've, you've touched on it a little bit--but to choreograph quite a bit, which is usually a skill that's developed--not all the time, but often--with the dancer it's developed later, just because of circumstances or kind of what your, your goals are, but you are becoming quite a, an adept choreographer and you have so many layers to what you do and stuff, but it's interesting how have you kind of evolved over time. Because again, originally you were choreographing these solos for yourself that might miraculously morph onstage, shall we say. Jami's a little notorious for this, which I love, but, oh my gosh, when we give her a solo, you just don't know what you're going to see every night.
[00:25:17] Jami Robben: That is very true.
[00:25:19]Lindsey Dinneen: I love it, but how has that changed for you going from like, you know, you choreographing on yourself to then setting works that involve multiple people and trying to figure out layering when you're not necessarily a part of the piece. How, how did that all kind of work out for you?
[00:25:34] Jami Robben: Yeah, I mean, like you said, when I was choreographing dances for myself, I would kind of do like a skeleton outline and then just whatever happened on stage would happen. And I just, I didn't even know what was gonna--what I was going to do until I was doing it, honestly, and that kind of became my thing and it wasn't always a good thing. Like sometimes I would work so hard on choreographing a dance for myself and absolutely love what it became. And then as soon as I get on stage, I would just, it's like, I didn't do a single step that I tried to do. And so I was like, what was the point of me choreographing that? But when I-- I think the first dance I choreographed that was for other people was for National Dance Week for the company. And with that, I believe it was for, maybe it was Fringe. I'm not, I don't know. I don't even know. I feel like a lot of them blend together.
[00:26:35] Lindsey Dinneen: I know!
[00:26:36] Jami Robben: I think we did it for Fringe and National Dance Week, is what it was. It was ...
[00:26:40] Lindsey Dinneen: I think so too.
[00:26:41] Jami Robben: Yeah, it was "On My Own," and it was maybe four or five dancers. And I remember trying to choreograph it in my living room at home and just being so confused on how to do like formations and how to do even, you know, like choreography where all the dancers are moving together. And so I remember the first dance that I did, all of the choreography was very individual. There wasn't a lot of like work together or like partner work necessarily. And if it was, it was, it was very brief just because I had no idea how to do that and how to do it in my living room and, and try and give it to other people. And, so I remember that dance was hard. And then the second dance was another one for National Dance Week. And that one, I felt better about it. I felt like I was kind of getting down the process of choreographing it and making sure it had counts just because the first dance I did, I, I had never counted my choreography for my solos.
[00:27:54] And so I remember, you know, they were, the dancers were asking for counts, which obviously you need, so you can do it at the same time. That's kind of how that works. And I was like, "Counts? Like, why do you want counts? Like you don't need counts." And so the second dance, I was like, "Okay, like, that makes sense. They need counts so they can do it together. It's not a solo. This is a group dance." And so I kind of had a go back and relearn how to choreograph stuff and make it so it was cohesive and it was an actual step that I could explain. And that was technical to where they could also be doing it the same. And so I feel like it was definitely a process of going from just choreographing stuff for myself that if I messed up or did something completely different, like it didn't matter, to choreographing a group dance where all the dancers need to be doing the same thing. And it has to tell a story and they have to do it together. So it was definitely a roller coaster trying to figure out how to do all of that, but it was such a great learning experience. And I'm, I'm so happy. I was able to be able to do that.
[00:29:10]Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, every single dancer goes through that because it is a transition learning how to put together patterns and some things also that you, you work out beautifully in your head, you do in real life and you realize very quickly, "Oh, that's not physically possible." Yeah. And then it's just a matter of tweaking and kind of being open to the fact that, you know, different bodies move in different ways. And so some things that might actually look beautiful on your own body because of your own abilities or flexibility or whatever, it might look a little different on someone else, and kind of being willing to adapt. So yeah, that's, that's a normal thing for choreographers to go through and it's definitely a bonus that you got to kind of learn it early and then, you know, now you've gotten to use it at school and all those things. That's great. Yeah, for sure.
[00:30:04] Jami Robben: Yeah. And I'm so grateful to have been able to do it with the VidaDancers, because I, I know for a fact, if I had gone somewhere else and was trying to learn with them, they probably would not have been as gracious as the VidaDancers were for me, trying to figure everything out on the spot. So I'm, I'm very grateful that it was with, with you guys.
[00:30:26] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes, I think, I think our, our dancers--and I'm so, so thankful for this group all the time--but I think our dancers are very good about kind of gently--and they do this with me too, they do it with everyone-- they, they sort of gently point out when things might not possible. Or they'll say, "You know , like I see what you're trying to accomplish here, but it looks like maybe if we did it this way, that could work better." And that's, that's our whole environment is very collaborative and how can we make the best art together, which is, is unique, but I also love it. And then it's, it doesn't feel so intimidating as a choreographer because I think also, again, kudos to you for your bravery, choreographing on your peers is hard enough, let alone when you're the apprentice and then you're choreographing on professionals. Like it's, it's already difficult and then you're adding another layer. So yeah. Kudos to you for again, stepping up to my, my challenge is where I'm like, "Hey, you want to choreograph?" And you're like, "Sure!" And, oh my gosh, you are so amazing. Anyway, so, and then also, I know you've had a lot of opportunities to teach both now through school, not at school, but through local studios. And then you've taught elsewhere too. Has that been kind of a learning curve too?
[00:31:45] Jami Robben: Yeah, I definitely the first time I kind of transitioned more into a teacher role at school was with one of the local studios. And I remember, I mean this specific studio, they're not, it just ended up not being for me. Just kind of the way they, they ran the studio, but when they first hired me, it was through a girl that I'm on the competitive dance team with. She works there and they were needing another teacher. And I just remember, I walked in my first day and she just was like, "Okay , you're going to go teach ballet. It's in the studio. Go ahead." And she didn't really know my, like, skill set or anything. And I told her, I was like, "I am not very technical at ballet. I, I need, I need a lot of improvement to be able to teach ballet level, to, to kids and teach them correctly. I just don't feel like I'm at that level yet." But she said it was fine and she let me teach it. And I just remember being so scared because I knew a lot of the things I was teaching these kids, I was like, "I don't even know if this is necessarily correct." And so it really limited a lot of what I was teaching them because I didn't want to teach them something and it ended up being wrong. And so I was very limited on what I could kind of do with them for class.
[00:33:20] And so after that experience, I was like, "You know, maybe teaching isn't for me. I just, I feel like I want to challenge dancers and help them grow. And I just don't know if I'm ready to do that yet." But then I ended up just trying one more time and I tried a different studio. And with this studio, I felt like they were a lot better at kind of listening to what you're comfortable with, and what your skillset is. So they allowed me instead of teaching my own classes, they let me assist classes with a teacher that's been there for 20 years and kind of shadow and be mentored by them so I can learn how to teach students. And that's what the dance studio did to me too, with, with you Lindsey, like being able to assist your classes helped so much because I had no idea even how to teach a class. And so I was so grateful for that to be able to assist you and kind of shadow your classes so that when I was able to sub at VidaDance, I knew exactly how the classes were supposed to go.
[00:34:26] And I felt so comfortable there and I knew what I was able to do and what the dancers were able to do. And so I think it just threw me through a loop when I went to school and tried a different studio and it was just so different. And after that I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I just, I don't know if this is for me." And so finding a studio at school that's similar in the way that yeah, VidaDance was where they allow me to be comfortable with what I'm doing, has been so great. And I'm, I'm really happy with the studio I'm at now. And I feel like at this rate, I'll be more comfortable teaching classes on my own in the future and having more of a technical background as I take more ballet classes and more technique classes that I can use in classes that I ended up teaching.
[00:35:18]Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. That makes complete sense. And that's so cool that you have that opportunity because I think a lot of times, that's such a great way to learn. I mean, I did the same thing at my studio growing up. I would assist, especially with the little ones' classes, and learn all the tricks and tips and all those kinds of things that help make it, you know, a good experience for everyone. And yeah, so that's, that's a great way to learn. That's very cool. And now this was another thing. Oh my gosh. I just, I--all right, folks, I just have to just totally be frank--I am definitely a person who's like, I see potential in someone and I'm like, "Okay, you can do this thing. I'm going to ask you if you can do this thing," and then they take it and run. And I'm always so proud because it's amazing. And, but I, gosh, I have--maybe it's a bad habit of like pushing people to the next level. Anyway, the point is, I did the same thing to Jami last year, and I asked if she would be interested in taking over National Dance Week Kansas City. And that is an annual event that I founded, oh gosh, now what? Four or five years ago? And it's really fun. It's just, it's a day of all sorts of different dancers, choreographers, companies, studios, anybody who wants to dance, come together for this one event. And we just perform and it's just free. It's for the community. It's just a way to kind of give back and show each other what we do. And, and it's, it's a lot of fun. And you know, about like a little over a year ago, I said to Jami, "You know, I'm kind of at a point where I personally need to transition out of this, but I, you know, I, I don't want it to die. I trust you completely with this. Would you want to take it on?" And she miraculously said yes. So tell me about that experience and like, how is that going now? Because you've had quite an experience of last year, you know, with COVID having to pivot and then, oh gosh. Tell us the story.
[00:37:25] Jami Robben: Oh yes. Well, I remember going, going to National Dance Week the first couple of years that you were running it in, it was always something I look forward to. And especially once I left for college, it was something I was always so excited to come back for and be able to perform. And so when you asked me to kind of take on this position, I was so scared. And I remember I called my parents and I was like, "Do I say yes?" Like, "Should I say no?" They were like, "You know, if, if Lindsey is saying that she believes in you for this, that means something like, you should just give it a try." And I was like, "Okay, I guess I will." And so I was excited, but I was scared at the same time. I was nervous. I was feeling all the things, but luckily you were so great at kind of walking me through what exactly needed to happen. So there wasn't ever moments where I was confused on what I was doing or, or anything like that. You just, you did a really great job of kind of transitioning into it. And so I felt like I had a better grip on what was supposed to happen and what was the event was supposed to look like from my point of view.
[00:38:37] And then right as I'm starting to feel really good about it, of course COVID happens. And I was like, "Oh great." Like, "I have no idea what the heck I'm supposed to be doing for this now." And I knew I still wanted to have the event in some way. And of course, when I was thinking this, it was still the early stages of quarantine and the shutdown. And so of course, all of us are thinking by April, we'll be completely fine. And so I'm still, you know, trying my hardest to get everything in order. And I remember I started making the schedule for the lineup for all of the dancers and then right as I'm making it, I get a call from Leawood Stage Company, which is the sponsors for our venue that we have it at. And they were just kinda like, "Yeah, this is, it's not going to happen in April." And I was like, "Okay , I guess we'll move it to August." So we spent the whole summer working on stuff for it. And of course we get to August, things are still pretty rough. So I remember I was, I felt--I was pretty bummed, of course, that that wasn't happening. But at the same time, I felt super lucky to almost have like a trial run where it wasn't necessarily all that work for nothing.
[00:40:00] It was more so all of that work to be able to practice what to do for this year, when we'll actually be able to have an event. And so I'm really grateful in a weird way that everything happened the way it did, just because I, I don't know how things would have played out if it was, you know, we actually had the event last year. I'm sure I would have forgotten something or, you know, just, I felt like I was still in the early stages of just figuring out what the bare minimum of what I needed to do to make the event happen. And so luckily that I had that run now, I kind of know the basics of it. And so I feel like I've been more able to kind of add stuff in and see where we could take it in the future, which has been really, really fun.
[00:40:50] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. And so that event is coming up. So what's the date?
[00:40:57] Jami Robben: It is April 17th at the Ironwoods Amphitheater outside.
[00:41:03] Lindsey Dinneen: Awesome. Yeah. And what's great about that venue is easy to social distance, easy to wear masks, easy to do all the things, you know, assuming that that's going to still be, you know, the case. So, and I, if I'm not mistaken, registration is still open.
[00:41:19] Jami Robben: Yes. Yes. I believe registration will be open until exactly one month before the event. So March 17th is kind of the tentative date to close registration.
[00:41:30] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. Yeah. So if there's anyone local to the Kansas City area that's a dancer, choreographer, studio owner or whatever, just know that this is something that's free to participate in. And it's a fantastic way to share your gifts with the community. And definitely it's, it's a lot of fun. You get to see so many different kinds of dance. We also have a lot of ethnic groups that perform, and so you get to see like traditional Chinese dancing, you'll get to see usually some--oh, gosh, I'm, I am blinking, but there's always so much--some Irish steps sometimes. Yeah.
[00:42:06] Jami Robben: Yeah. There's a lot. There's a lot of it. I remember the first few years when I went, I was so impressed at all of the cultural groups that were attending, and it, it definitely opens up the world of dance and just makes you see different sides of it that you don't necessarily see every day.
[00:42:27] Lindsey Dinneen: Exactly. Yeah. I've, I've loved that about it, 'cause it's just been so much fun to see different cultures come together, and that's something that unites us and it's just so fun to see dance represented that way. So, yeah, definitely. And if you're not a dancer, but you're local to Kansas City, it's so much fun. You can come and go. There's no pressure, obviously it's free. So tons of fun and just keep your eyes out for all the details as they kind of come in the coming months. But so first of all, Jami, thank you so much for being here and for sharing all your stories. I do have a couple of questions to ask you that I always like to ask my guests, but before we get to that, I have one other question. Are there any moments, or is there any particular moment that kind of has stood out to you as something where you had an encounter with art and it was just a moment that you wanted to tuck away forever? It was, it was a moment that matters that you wanted to remember. Is there anything that stands out to you?
[00:43:30] Jami Robben: Yeah, actually I remember right when we first got in contact through my mom, I remember we met at the coffee shop and we kind of discussed where I could be mentored by you. And you said that you had a performance coming up that weekend that I could go and see VidaDance Company at, and it was at the Kansas City Day of Dance at the Kansas City Ballet. And I will forever remember that performance of you guys doing the "Call Me Maybe" number. And that was so amazing to me. I could not believe that such talented dancers, especially you, Lindsey, took interest in me, 'cause I just looked up to you guys so much. And so that is a performance I will forever remember for the rest of my life.
[00:44:22] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, that makes me so happy! That was such a fun piece too. Oh my gosh. I love that piece. Yeah, that needs to be reprised. We'll have you in it next time.
[00:44:34] Jami Robben: Oh my gosh. that would be a full circle moment.
[00:44:38] Lindsey Dinneen: Right? Oh, I love it. Oh, well, okay. Wonderful. And then, okay, so I just have a couple of questions. So, first of all, how do you personally define art, or what is art to you?
[00:44:53] Jami Robben: I would say art is just anything that expresses someone and it doesn't take any sort of level of talent or anything like that. It just is something that you express yourself with and it makes you happy. And it's something you're able to share with others and make them happy with it too.
[00:45:13]Lindsey Dinneen: Beautiful. I love that. And what do you think is the most important role of an artist?
[00:45:18] Jami Robben: I would say the most important role is probably sharing your gifts with others, just to again, make them happy. I think a lot of times are sometimes can be, you know, just kept to yourself if you're scared of showing other people. But the best thing you could do as an artist is share it and inspire others with it.
[00:45:40] Lindsey Dinneen: Absolutely. Then my final question, and I'll define my terms a little bit, but do you think that art should be inclusive or exclusive? So inclusive referring to an artist who puts their work out into the world and provide some context behind that, whether that's a story or program notes or a title or something to sort of help the audience understand what the artist was experiencing when he or she created it. Versus exclusive meaning that the artist puts something out there and doesn't provide context so that it's completely up to the viewer to make of it what they will.
[00:46:14] Jami Robben: Yeah, I would say for me personally, I really enjoy it when artists kind of leave it up to the viewer. I think it just allows you to make it more personal and have it resonate with you more. And so that's what I really enjoy, but I also see the importance of the inclusivity and, you know, allowing them to kind of show where they were at when they created it and kind of let you in on their world. But for me personally, I really like it when they leave it up to your own interpretation.
[00:46:48] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, well, again, thank you a million times for being here today, Jami, and sharing all your stories.
[00:46:57] Jami Robben: Of course.
[00:46:59] Lindsey Dinneen: And then is there a way for us to get in contact with you? Whether that's just to, you know, kind of follow your artistic journey or whether that's to, you know, go see or get involved with National Dance Week? Are there ways for us to do that?
[00:47:13] Jami Robben: Yeah. If you want to just kind of keep up with me personally. My Instagram is just Jami Robben, J A M I R O B B E N. If you have any questions about National Dance Week or anything like that, you can email me at robben.jami@gmail.Com with the same spelling as before. And then if you want to keep up with National Dance Week in general, I would go ahead and like the page on Facebook, just at National Dance Week Kansas City, and we post all the updates that you need to know about the event on there.
[00:47:44] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. Thank you so much. Well, and thank you everyone who's listened to this episode, and if you're feeling as inspired as I am right now, I would love it if you would share this with a friend or two and we will catch you next time.
[00:48:00] If you have a story to share with us, we would love that so much. And I hope your day has been Artfully Told.
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