Jan 4th, 2021
In this episode, I welcome Joseph Pilgram! Joe is a professional dancer, ballroom dance instructor, and art-lover extraordinaire! He takes us along his journey from how taking a single ballroom class in college led to him pivoting his career goals from nurse to dancer, and has both heartwarming and humorous stories to share along the way. (Fun fact: the cover image for this episode is of Joe and Lindsey dancing their ballroom-inspired pas de deux, dance for two, "Wonderful World.")
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Episode 34 - Joseph Pilgram
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.
[00:00:14] 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 delighted to have as my guest today, my good friend and dance partner, Joseph Pilgram. He is based out of St. Joseph, Missouri, and he is an incredible artist himself. He is a professional dancer. He's a ballroom dance instructor. And Joe, I think you've probably dabbled in a bunch of other different things. Well, I would love if you would share just a little bit about maybe who you are and how you kind of got interested in art.
[00:01:13] Joe Pilgram: All right. Well, thank you for having me. And, yeah, I'm definitely excited to be here. So with dance is one of those things that I got into as a little kid with break dancing and watching the kids on TV, but I was more of a closet dancer and, you know, you'd watch "Footloose" with Kevin Bacon, and I'd do some punch dancing in my basement or, you know, secretly, and I never went to really any high school dances or any school dances except my senior year. And, that's how I ended up getting into dance was because of a girlfriend I had at the time that we went to a wedding and she saw her aunt and uncle doing some social dancing. I can't remember if it was a polka or swing dance or whatever it happened to be, but she said, "Oh man, that'd be fun to learn how to dance like that. Do you want to?" And I said, "Sure," knowing, you know, in my heart that music made my body move. I just never had any formal lessons. So, so we signed up for a class together at Missouri Western State College, which is now Missouri Western State University.
[00:02:29] And she, she and I broke up, but I thought, "Well, maybe I'll see her in the class." So, I, I held on, and classes started and she had dropped out of the class, but there were only three guys in the class and about 30 girls. And I thought, "Oh man, I better learn these steps pretty quickly because I don't want to look foolish in front of everybody." You know? So while taking that class, that the dance teacher, Paul Chambers, who also had studied modern dance under Hanya Holm, who was one of the pioneers of modern dance. He said, "You look to pick up the steps fairly quickly. I think you ought to look into other forms of dance." And so I, I took his word and I joined his Missouri Western dance company. I can't remember its technical name, but it was something along those lines. And, so he, he got me into doing modern dance.
[00:03:34] And, from there, I quote/unquote defected to UMKC after about, after about three years of taking ballroom, social dance and modern dance. And, so I followed a friend down to UMKC, a friend named Elisha, and she, she had already taken classes at UMKC and had enrolled there. And so I, I followed her down there and started taking classes, and very similar experience with Paul. The teachers said, "Hey, why don't you come back? Looked like you really liked dancing and you're picking up the movement at a decent rate. You're a little rough around the edges. Let's clean you up."
[00:04:20]Lindsey Dinneen: Love it.
[00:04:21] Joe Pilgram: Yeah. So that's, that's how I ended up getting into dance.
[00:04:25] Lindsey Dinneen: Wow. Yeah. And so then you, okay, so then you enrolled in college for dance, which I imagine had probably never been on your radar before, is that correct?
[00:04:39] Joe Pilgram: Correct. I didn't know a dance degree existed .When I started college the previous summer I was working construction and traveling to Omaha, Nebraska to work construction with a friend up there, and I realized, "Wow, this is a, this is a lot of hard work, maybe out-- see what, what other things are out there that might be indoors? I didn't mind really being outdoors, but I knew that, you know, by the time you're 60, you might not want to have that kind of a rough and tumble lifestyle where you're around a lot of heavy machinery that's really loud. And, you know, the possibility of getting injured and getting blasted by the sun nonstop. It was, you know, to each his own, I have a lot of, a lot of, respect for people in that field. I just knew that it wasn't cut out for me. And so, my dad said, "Well, you know, nursing is, male nurses are high in demand. Do you want to go into that field?" And so that's what I started initially at Missouri Western was looking into a nursing degree.
[00:05:50]And then, because I enrolled in the dance class, I found out pretty quickly that guys were also really high in demand within the dance world. It's kind of a joke. I tell the people, even at my ballroom classes is that, you know, I thank the ladies for, for bringing their husbands along and to, to have them there. Usually to get a guy to dance, it takes alcohol and yeah, and then he can't remember the steps in the class. So we're thankful that he's there and that he's, you know, here to learn to dance, and that everybody's sober and we're going to have a great time. So, so, yeah, it's one of those things that, guys... still are the competition's pretty steep among ladies, as far as I can tell. I mean, it's, it's always been fairly steep competition, wouldn't you say?
[00:06:47] Lindsey Dinneen: Absolutely. Oh yeah. Hands down.
[00:06:50] Joe Pilgram: Yep. And, yeah, at some point, guys stop dancing. My wife and I have a couple of kids and, and they dance to music. I think lots of kids dance to music, but at some point they either get shamed or feel ashamed or feel awkward, or maybe they just go into sports hardcore or, and they don't think about dance. But, another brief story is my dad. I was watching something and I don't even remember--it must've been the Olympics or maybe it was a pre-Olympic show that involved dancing. And I was, and I mentioned something, he said, "Well, that's pretty impressive what they're doing." And I said, "That looks easy." And he said, "Why don't you try it?" And I found out pretty quickly, it wasn't as easy as I thought. Yeah.
[00:07:48]But yeah, it was definitely stuff that, that I found interesting. You know, it's a form of art that is very physical, with your body being your instrument, you know. If you play piano, your fingers are very important, but you can replace the strings on the piano. You can tune the piano. A dancer's body, you know, has a limited amount of time, as far as what it can do. And, your whole body is your instrument. And so you, you start talking with people that are much wiser than you, that have lived longer, that help you understand how important it is to take care of your body if you want to have a lengthy dance career.
[00:08:33] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes, absolutely. I have those conversations with my students regularly about how important it is to think of your long-term plan, not just your short term disappointment that you can't do something because you're injured. Because those injuries, if you don't take care of them, can develop into something that does end your future, right? So thinking about in terms of, "Okay, I missed out on this one opportunity, which is disappointing," but ultimately, like you said, you only have you, so you've got to protect your body and treat it right.
[00:09:11] Joe Pilgram: Yes. Yeah. And, also sometimes those injuries change your trajectory, or maybe how you interpret things as an artist, how am I gonna, how am I gonna work through this? Because when you're dancing professionally, sometimes you don't collect a paycheck if you don't perform. So you have to find ways either to make sure that you don't get injured, or how am I going to work through this safely? Can I alter this? Can I sculpt this thing differently and still get, you know, the, the idea across that I'm hoping to do?
[00:09:53]Lindsey Dinneen: Yes, exactly. Yeah, that's a really good point too, because there are certain circumstances where that's really important. I mean, I think both of us have dealt with that at various points in our career to just sort of, okay, this isn't going to work the way it used to anymore. For me, it's always back-related things, so I can't bend like that anymore. So how can we do this safely? Yeah. And supportive. So, yeah, absolutely. Cool. Okay. So then, all right. You went to UMKC, you got your degree in dance. And then where did life take you after that?
[00:10:32] Joe Pilgram: From there, while at UMKC, they offered professional dance experiences and worked with Wylliams-Henry Dance Theater, and gained some great knowledge, worked with some great choreographers through them. While at the same time, working with a couple of local dance studios that needed guys to perform in their Christmas shows, whether it be a "Nutcracker" or "Coppelia." I think we did "Sleeping Beauty," "Cinderella," that the classic ballets that are performed. And so that, that really bumped up my level of partnering really. Because that was why the studios would bring me in around Christmas time and that was something that was, you know, it was great that UMKC had those opportunities to provide. But, did those, and ended up heading down to Branson, Missouri, I'd probably say around 2004 and work a show there.
[00:11:39] The job itself actually felt more like factory work because it was cookie cutter dancing in the aspect of when you do a concert dancing, you know, it's artistic and it's all about the dancer, but when you go and do a show for somebody like Andy Williams, he's the headliner and you're the icing on the cake. You, you aid to them. And, you do, I don't know--I think with, with some of these shows, you do 200 of the same shows in a year, a couple of shows a day, depending on what the show was. And if it was, you know, around Christmas, I think Branson, Missouri's Christmas season started up November 1st. And, I know to maintain my sanity during that time, because you'd start rehearsals-- sometimes you'd have Christmas rehearsals in August, and you'd hear Christmas music starting that early. And to maintain your sanity, you'd find other things such as The Beach Boys to listen to, to throw your mind into like a different state to go, "Okay. I need to get someplace else so that I can get through this." And, well, like I said, the opportunity was a great opportunity. Sometimes you don't know what you want until you try something and you go, "Okay, that was all right. But I think I want something different."
[00:13:16] That's the beauty of working in the United States that you're not sealed into doing something that you, you don't want to do that. You can work towards finding that perfect job. A lot of times there'll be people that complain about different work. And I had a, a guy at Shoji's--we were complaining about rehearsals or something. And he, he said a hilarious line. We were complaining about something small, but we felt like it was a big issue. And, he was an older fellow that was in the army at one point, he was in Vietnam and that was his response was, "Well, this sure beats Vietnam." Okay. And that, and that shut us up pretty quick. Really puts things into perspective. We were like, "Okay. Yeah, yeah. He's totally right. Everything is great here. We're doing fine. We're not in a war." But, yeah, my journey from Branson took me back to the Kansas City area where I started working with Storling Dance Theater, and I ended up meeting you performing in that company. So that was a blessing.
[00:14:34] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah.
[00:14:35] Joe Pilgram: And, then worked with you in your dance company, VidaDance. And, so had some, some fun doing that, and now you and I kinda catch up when we can, just to do independent work together and, yeah. That creative process, we can chat about that in a little bit. I always find it fascinating. Yeah. It's pretty cool.
[00:14:57] Lindsey Dinneen: It is cool. Yeah, actually, I think we should dive into that 'cause that is kind of a unique thing that we've been able to find this kind of synergy in the way that we approach music and choreography and all of that. And it's, you know, it's not necessarily the typical way of creating new work, but we've actually been really happy with the results of it. And I think, because we infuse so much sort of joy into the process, it's really obvious to our audiences too. And I think that that's kind of a fun, it's a fun, unique thing. So yeah. I'd love if you chat more about that.
[00:15:33] Joe Pilgram: Oh, definitely. Yeah. A lot of times when we get together, we've both been working so hard and pulled in different directions that we might show up and not have even focused on a specific song. We might not even know a song that we're going to dance to and haven't thought about any kind of movement to it. And so we show up and say, "Hey, how's it going?" And then we just start moving around, and yeah, art tends to just transpire. It's actually magical that it happens the way that it does it. I don't think that usually happens with other dance related choreography that, that I've ever fiddled with. Usually I racked my brain trying to think of, of things, but when we catch up, usually there's a, yeah, there's definitely joy involved and just art happens. It's, it's phenomenal.
[00:16:43] Lindsey Dinneen: Yes, it is. And it's, it's really fun too, because I mean, one of the craziest examples that I can think of right off the bat is in this case, we did know kind of what the task at hand was. We knew that we needed to create a really fresh take on the "Nutcracker," you know, sort of grand pas de deux because it is, it's kind of a well-known thing. But when we created "Cracked! A Reimagined Kansas City Nutcracker," it was really important to us that we create something that was unique and was sort of the VidaDance approach. Yeah. And I don't, I had like a series of unfortunate events the morning that we were supposed to start this piece. And I was, I was so late to rehearsal. I was probably--how much time do you think we actually had to start that piece?
[00:17:36] Joe Pilgram: I think we had about a month, but when I say a month it was like four or five rehearsals.
[00:17:44]Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, it was crazy. And so in that particular day, we had like two things on the docket and I needed to do another thing right after it. I just remember like getting into the, into the studio, thinking, "Oh my goodness, we're starting from scratch. I have nothing in my head." And we just started moving to the music and that's a pretty epic pas that we created. It's really fun. It, the process is so fun when you can just kind of play around. But I think, you know, one of the things is so interesting-- an audience member pointed out to us last year after we finished performing--was, "t's obvious that you to trust each other a lot." And trust is such an important element in creating, you know, partnered choreography. Do you want to talk about that at all? 'Cause that was, that's definitely something that's like, especially free for you-- I mean, you're lifting, you're spinning, you're, you know, you're doing--oh, my gosh--is it ever like super intimidating or are you just like, "No, I've got this."
[00:18:46] Joe Pilgram: You know, I had never really thought about this until maybe having kids or getting married, but I always knew my limitations, but that's because I was always pushing my boundaries growing up. And I, you know, as an artist in general, I think that's really important to keep that in mind is, you know, having not being restricted, not, not cutting yourself short on experimenting with different things. And I remember just even running through the creek with my brother, pretending to be ninjas and jumping across the creek, or, you know, sometimes you'd make it. And sometimes you wouldn't, but at those moments, I didn't realize that I was calibrating my system and finding those boundaries. And so when it came to partnering, I already was familiar with what I could and couldn't do. And so, you know, it, it became second nature. And for the most part, it wasn't about me when I partner, that it was always about the person I was partnering, that the main focus was, make them look good. And I, I take a lot of joy in doing that. I think I like to help people. And that is a hands-on, direct thing that can happen on with doing pas de deux work is you're making someone look, you know, the best that they can, whether it's doing more turns than they usually could on pointe or, or flying them through the air for a lengthier amount of time. And, and I get a kick out of that.
[00:20:44]Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, you. Yes. And I think that you've mentioned before you actually don't really prefer solo work. It's more partnering that, that really kind of resonates with you. Is that?
[00:20:56] Joe Pilgram: Yes, definitely true. Yeah. I, I'm not a soloist. I can do solo work, but I prefer not to, I believe that yeah, being out there--and I've joked with you that like hiding behind you is so much easier as a dancer. You know, obviously this, you know, I'm helping you stay on balance or, you know, different things, that, that we collaborate together. And I think there's a lot of fun in that collaboration process.
[00:21:27] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, definitely. I agree, yes. And, and just to be clear for anyone who's listening, who maybe hasn't hasn't had a behind-the-scenes sort of glimpse into the rehearsal process, but let's wait, there are a lot of funny moments that happen when we're rehearsing and the lift or something doesn't quite go as planned. I mean, thankfully, you know, as an audience member, you get to see this final image and it's, it's glorious and it's wonderful, but, yeah, it's, it is not always like that. So yes, yes, yes. Yeah.
[00:22:04]Joe Pilgram: Well, part of that is, is, you know, a to add to that backstory is I've never dropped a partner, which gives you the confidence to go, "Well, he's going to swing me upside down. My head's going to be close to the floor as we take this pendulum-like swing and then he's going to flip me back up."
[00:22:26] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. Yes.
[00:22:29] Joe Pilgram: And having that, that confidence that I'm not going to drop you is huge. Now, when we were getting into the move and getting out of it is just as important artistically. And so those are the moments where, you know, things might be a little awkward where we're like, "Huh. Well, you did that little shimmy shake in the video that didn't really fit with the ballet. What was going on?" "Oh, well I had to reposition my legs and then you were moving your arms." And so, yeah. There's yeah, we get to, to try and try again during that rehearsal process, which is, is key to cleaning and, and, and making things look finished, but it's a lot is discovered in that rehearsal process.
[00:23:17]Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. Because the two of us tend to work by ourselves, without necessarily a third person to comment during the, at least the creation process of it, we actually utilize video quite a bit to capture it and then watch ourselves and go, "Oh, that didn't work very well. What is my leg doing," or whatever. And so that's part of our process first. And then kind of at the end is when we bring in, you know, other people to go, "Oh, it didn't really read for me or, you know, whatever it needs to be." So yeah. That's fun. Yeah. So, yes. So I was wondering if any stories come to mind, either like funny behind-the-scenes stories or a time when you felt really inspired or just is there anything that kinda stands out in your mind as, "Oh gosh, this is a moment to remember."
[00:24:11] Joe Pilgram: Oh, there's lots of them. How long do you have--two hours now? Oh, man. Yeah, there's, there's definitely been some, some silly stories. You've experienced a couple of them where I've ripped my pants. But, this is a great story. Yeah, the show must go on, right? I believe that was in a rehearsal. We were, I had bought these dress pants to perform. We were getting ready to do a show in Paola, and Lindsey, you were supposed to run facing me on a diagonal and then jump into the air and do a 180 degree turn and then land on my shoulder. And I squat down a little bit lower and I, and I go to lift you and during that time, there was a, a girl that was interested in your company and we just met her like maybe 15 minutes before and said, "Hey, you want to stick around and you can, you can check out our rehearsal."
[00:25:16] And, so you, you went running toward me, jumped into the air and I squatted down. And most people are familiar with when you have a can of biscuits that you get from the grocery store and you unravel that cardboard, and then you hit it on the, the cabinet, you know, the corner of something to get it to pop. And that's just what my pants sounded like. Yeah. And they exploded, the seat of my pants completely exploded, right in front of the person that we just met. So from there, I think I sit you down as gracefully as possible while backing up away from everyone and said, "I'll be back. I need to change my trousers." But that's happened in live in one show when I was in Branson and I had to kick my leg over my partner shortly after that. And pull her through my legs in a swing dance type move.
[00:26:21] And, oh, I, I was laughing hysterically. Well, I was holding my breath, trying not to laugh on stage. And then, yeah, when we left stage, we were both laughing pretty hard. And another time it happened just before the curtain went up and I had to race backstage and change into another set of jeans that did not match what anybody else was wearing. And that was a question after the show, they're like, "Hey, your jeans didn't match that first number. What happened?" I'm like, "Yeah, I was stretching and I jumped into the air. And then when I landed, they, they split out." But, it's yeah, I've been cursed with that, but, but yeah, it's definitely been other humorous stories, behind the scenes, things that do occur.
[00:27:09] Another one was when I was doing Shoji's. Yeah. And we were supposed to come out as tap dancing soldiers. They had this Christmas tree that was, it had hydraulics that, that allowed the Christmas tree to split in two and open up like a double doors. And these tap dancing toy soldiers would come out. And, we're getting ready to go out and we hear our music coming and then the stage techs, which they're a huge role, you know, it's one of those things, stage techs, whether it's in pro wrestling or theater, other sorts that they're, they're very important, but it's also, they're like backstage ninjas. You don't actually see them work. And so, the tech pushes the button to open the hydraulic tree and we hear him go, "The button didn't work, the tree's not opening." And it sounded like from a movie like "Predator," where you have this war type scene and things are going wrong. And, so the music's playing, the tree doesn't open and one of the guys gets on the radio and he said, "Guys, the tree isn't opening." And this, we probably lost about 15 seconds in which I think at least 12 soldiers were supposed to march out on stage, toy soldiers.
[00:28:38] And one of the texts says on the radio, we'll tell them to go around the tree. And, the original tech standing by says, he said, "Just go, go around the tree and dance." And the dance captain looks at him and says, "We don't know where we are." And he meant to say, "The music has started and our starting point has passed. We don't know where we are in the music." And he looked, yeah, he says, "We don't know where we are. " And you know, the guy looks at us, quizzically, the tech. And then he hesitantly gets on the radio and says, "He said he doesn't know where he is." And we hear the other guy on the far end shout, "He's behind the tree." Just the misinterpretation of, you know, the context of the wording and everything coming together and just miscommunication. But, yes, lots of humerous experiences that, that do occur.
[00:29:39] Lindsey Dinneen: That's amazing. That is such a good example of miscommunication. When the two worlds' sort of languages and common phrases don't translate because that makes complete sense to me as a dancer going, "Yeah, of course you don't know where you are in the music. That makes complete sense." But of course, that sounds absurd to someone else. Like, "Well, you're right here. Nothing's changed." Oh, I love it. I love it.
[00:30:08] Joe Pilgram: But, but yeah, dance has been an interesting journey. You know, with it being a conglomeration, I feel, of other artistic elements. You know, most of the time we dance with music, but there are some times where we dance with no music. Dancing with live music is different than dancing with prerecorded music. And, and interpreting dance and making those connections with other forms of art, whether it's music, how you have the dynamics of sustained notes or loud and soft pianissimo. And, and, what's the other one? Is it fortissimo?
[00:30:57] Lindsey Dinneen: That sounds right, but it's been awhile.
[00:31:00]Joe Pilgram: But, but we interpret those with our movement and whether our movement, we have high notes. You think about dynamics and things that make things interesting. And as an artist in general, whether it's spoken word, music, theater, even graphic design. How are you going to use these colors? Well, this is a bright color or, you know, moments like that, that we take in as dancers. And we go, "Okay, well, this is we're going to find something that's symmetrical. Okay. This part's going to be asymmetrical. Okay. This part's going to be--so-and-so's going to be on the ground and this other person's going to be in the air," and it's taken all of these elements in from, from different angles of art and applying it choreographically to make it an interesting thing.
[00:31:58] You know, that I had, a teacher at UMKC, it was Catherine Plotkin and she said, "You know, there's two ways that you can interpret this. You can have dance that tells a story, or you can have dance for dance's sake." And when I look at dance for dance's sake, I think about a kaleidoscope of shapes, moving from lines and curves and different designs happening, which, you know, falls under abstract art. As far as when you're watching a performance, some people don't get that, and we hope to, to allow them to, we want to bring them in. We want to show them, you know, whether it's from the description of the piece or maybe just a, a small writeup, and even you had mentioned that you don't want. Dance does seem like this insider's club, like, "Oh, you know, they don't, they don't get it because they're not artistic enough." And that doesn't seem like a great avenue, at least in my opinion to take. What was your take on that? I think maybe you're in the same boat.
[00:33:13] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I definitely think that art shouldn't be an exclusive club at all. I think that art is really special. It, it helps people grow and connect and feel alive, feel all sorts of different emotions. And I think that whenever we, as artists, can connect with someone who doesn't have the same experience, I think that's a really special moment of humanity coming together. So yeah. That's you, you said it perfectly.
[00:33:55] Joe Pilgram: Yeah. Yup. Just taking those, those dynamics and you even touched on something when you said it, the feeling and I think in general, art should make people feel something. You know, you want to feel alive, whether it's happiness, sorrow, the gamut of emotion, you know, a wide range of emotions. But dance just feels like this outward expression of something that's like an inward feeling.
[00:34:24]Lindsey Dinneen: I know this is a tough question to answer, but are there any pieces that you've performed that really stand out to you as being extra meaningful or special or something like that? Just, you know, specifically things that kind of stand out as, "Wow. That was a really cool experience. Or I, I really could connect with the audience here," or, or anything like that.
[00:34:48]Joe Pilgram: Well, a lot of the pieces that you and I have done . But the stuff we've done together from "On a Whim," I enjoyed that, to even the "Nutcracker" that we did. You know, it was, I think there's a lot of passion, I think in the, the creative process that you and I enjoy versus, you know, performing is a great thing. And that's, that's your way of sharing it. I think that's that term, share, is more key to, to not being locked up as an artist and not being paralyzed as an artist because when you start thinking of it as a competition, then you start worrying about what are other people gonna think, "Is this good enough?" And, and I've been in those places where artistically I've had this giant block and, how do you work past that? You know, it's, for me as a Christian, through prayer and listening to the Lord that He gives you that, that confidence and says, "You got this, you have everything, the gift, the gifts that I've given you. Don't don't let these things beat you up. Don't slow down."
[00:36:19] A friend of mine, we were talking about one of my sons that has high-functioning autism. And she had said, "I think God makes up each kid and gives them gifts. I've watched kids in my career get medicine to help calm them down. And it changed who they were. What if the gifts they were supposed to have are supposed to be there. And what if their strength, or their super power, is something that we change and alter their personality to make them fit into a system better?" And, I really respected what she said with that. WE, there, there are signs of people all over. I think Steven Spielberg is a huge one. I believe he has dyslexia. And look at the amazing things that he's done with what people would say is something that's crippling, but he found ways artistically to, to bring out that, that super power. And, it's the same with, with my son, Timmy, how he, he sees the world differently and I really appreciate seeing the world through his eyes because, yeah, he, he just has this really interesting way and there, there is no fear in trying stuff. He hasn't gotten caught up in how things are supposed to be, which I think is key to an artist.
[00:37:54]Even Giorgio Moroder, the godfather of electronic dance music, had stated in the song with daft punk called "Giorgio by Moroder," you know, he talks about as experimental process. If, if you haven't heard that song, it's, it's a pretty cool song to listen to. It's was definitely influential and I've played it to my students, through the years just to let them know, 'cause he was from a small town and he didn't think that he had a chance, but he started tinkering around with a synthesizer. And I want to say he said something about the concept of harmony and then just, you know, you have a certain amount of rules, but how do you break through those rules? You know, if somebody is telling you this is the way it has to be, then some people don't question why they just, they just follow that instead of asking that important question.
[00:38:57] Well, why, and some of us out there, you know, your artists, your engineers, your creative people, that's what it is, at the root, is trying to unlock the creativity in people in general. Yeah, that's, it's, one of those things that took me a while to understand that. And I want to say Hanan Misko, he had said, you know, as an educator, that it's important to him as an educator to help unlock those, those hidden superpowers of those talents, you know, to enhance it. I think that's additionally, what I think about with partnering and marriage. I know it's like all different kinds of things that come at you, but, you know, that the person that you marry, you know, you should enhance each other's lives. And I feel like that's how dance partnering is artistically, that we're enhancing the audience's experience through the partnering process. And, rolling back to educators, that's it's not, telling these young fertile minds, this is the only way to do something. It's, it's hard to just sit there even as a parent, when you ask your kids to do something, it's better to give them a little wiggle room and see where they take something.
[00:40:36] Instead of what we usually do is we, as parents become impatient and we go, "Oh, just give me that. Let me, let me do that for you," instead of how maybe you and I grew up, it was, it was different. And our parents did give us that freedom to make mistakes, which rolls into a Bob Ross saying, " There are no mistakes. We just have happy accidents." And yes. Yeah. I mean, that's how you and I have even fiddled with the dance process, but you know, the kids' discovery process artistically to grow, or I say artistically, I really creatively because, because if you have creativity, I think that's actually a more marketable skill. With creativity, you can apply that to mathematics, to the language arts, to dance, to other forms of art and just finding different ways, whether it's to get to the same point or to have, you know, mold and sculpt and, and unlock something new.
[00:41:50] That's a story that my dad had told me, about air conditioning and its invention. And I, I don't know if you were familiar with it or not, but it was these guys that wanted to get the, the air conditioned. The humidity level would fluctuate and they were printing stuff. And so when it was laying down the print, I want to say it had to go through three times and it was, you know, something like blue, red, and yellow, or, something along those lines, the different colors. And so it had to be perfectly lined up well. In between the humidity might change and cause the paper to expand. And now the ink doesn't line up. So they figured out how to condition that air to make it very even, and the by-product was what you and I are comfortable with with air conditioning in the summertime. And have a really happy accident. Wow. Yeah. I have cooler temperatures inside your house in the, in the heat of the summer.
[00:43:04]Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. I, that's a great, that's the perfect illustration of a happy accident and how sometimes you just have to be creative and maybe try it a few different ways and keep tinkering away. And if, like you said, if you're, if you're creative and you're not putting yourself or someone else in a box and saying, "This is, there's one way, no other ways." Yeah, I really think it's when you start exploring that, that is where the magic happens and that is where these cool things get invented and, and, and everything. And all of that is an art form, kind of in and of itself. Well, that's great. Those are some really great insights and fantastic stories. So thank you, Joe, so much for sharing. I do have a couple of questions. I always like to ask my guests if you're up for that.
[00:43:53] Joe Pilgram: Alrighty.
[00:43:54] Lindsey Dinneen: All right. So first of all, how do you personally define art or what is art to you?
[00:44:01]Joe Pilgram: Wow. Art could be so many different things. you know, for, for me, it's definitely passion. Whether it's, you know, I use art as a way to, to get my emotions out, to be able to dance it out. But other people as an art will sling paint or, you know, do different things. I believe that musician Sting, like the best songs that he wrote when he was with the police, he talked about, it was when it was a really bad time in his life, he and his wife were having problems and some of his best art came out at that moment. And I, I feel that, you know, art is definitely a, a human expression, that, that we all have. I guess I look more at other artists for the guidance in that realm, that it's, you know, it should be something that's explored, that it's something you create. You have people that are, that are machinists that some create some pretty fascinating stuff. 3D printer guys, doing things with that, and I don't know if I know you asked me what, what I think it is. I might throw this little plug in here from Felicia Rashad and it was, she was talking about art and she said, "Children," and she said, "Before they write, they draw. Before they stand, they dance. Art is a human expression. It's a fundamental human expression." And so I, I guess I'd like to hop on her bandwagon with that.
[00:45:56] Lindsey Dinneen: Absolutely. Perfect. I've always loved that quote. It is, it is so true. It's so, yeah, fundamental is the right word. Okay, great. Well, and secondly, what do you think is the most important role of an artist?
[00:46:13] Joe Pilgram: I believe that as artists, we should hopefully be able to, when people see it, that it reflects whether it's the personal things going on with that person, or maybe it's things going on around them that, that, content shapes context, is it? No, I want to say it's the other way around that context shapes content. And a Rodney Mullen, professional skater that I've told you about several times that that's, what he talks about is when he sees, you're going out and he talks about how the environment, how can the environment change the very nature of what I do. And I think as artists, that's an ebb and flow ever changing. A lot of the times that as artists, I don't think we ever stand still. Do you?
[00:47:13] Lindsey Dinneen: No, I don't. I think I, in one form or another there's something, there's something. I don't think I do. Yeah.
[00:47:23] Joe Pilgram: Yeah. And like you, hope to find you hope to be content. I think that's what we strive for is to be content, you know, or definitely happy with something that we're sharing with the world that you're, you're putting out there. I think, you know, being, being content with it is know, a, a big thing with art. We can always nitpick and tear things, you know, make things better. We feel, but, it never seems like your work is done. You could come back two years later and look at the same piece that you did and feel differently about, you know, your, your concept of what it was based on. And, you and I have probably experienced this with choreographers that set something on you, and then they say, "Oh, so-and-so is coming back to restage this piece on everyone." And in your mind, as an individual artist, as a dancer, you think, "Oh, this'll be easy. I already know this piece inside of the house," and the choreographer comes in, and there's a lot that's changed.
[00:48:42] And, you know, to, to maybe finalize on that is, you know, you see different quotes around. And even at my work, one of my work buddies has a thing posted up that says something along the lines of "Perfection is the enemy of the good." Like, you can have something that's really good, but maybe not perfect, but to get something perfect, it's like, you're going to reduce morale. You can tear yourself up terribly, emotionally trying to get something 100% perfect. And finding that contentment and going, "Yeah, I think I'm, I'm okay with that."
[00:49:23] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. Yeah. I absolutely agree. I have a saying, a mantra for myself and tend to share it of "done is better than perfect." You know, excellence in everything, but ultimately done is better than perfect. You have to get, you have to allow yourself to, to do your best, and to do good and not be so obsessed with chasing perfection that it, it stops you. Perfection kills creativity too. Well, final question is, do you think that art should be inclusive or exclusive? And I'll define my terms a little bit. So inclusive referring to an artist who put something out into the world, whatever it is, and provides some context behind it, whether it's a title or show notes or, you know, just the inspiration or something. Versus exclusive referring to artists who put something out there, but don't provide any context. So it's exclusively, essentially up to the audience to kind of decide what they think.
[00:50:28] Joe Pilgram: You know, I, I guess I leave that up to the artist. I think there are moments where maybe I, I choreograph something and not really care because the art has to escape somehow because it gets bottled up in you. And I, I think a lot of artists feel that way, that when, when you're not creating art, it starts hurting other parts in your life. And so I think sometimes it's the artist is going to create something that they don't really care. It just has to get out. And then other times they might be a little bit more inclusive and try to somewhat steer the narrative, but not, not be too controlling with it. You know, just giving a little context clues here and there. Yeah, sometimes you, you see pieces of art that actually--I'll give you an example.
[00:51:36] I, I'd choreographed a piece called "Battlefield for the Mind," but I didn't get it typed up properly. And it came out as "Battlefield of the Mind.? And that one word changed how people interpreted the dance. Because what I was trying to convey was "Battlefield for the Mind" would be controlling people, whether it's through the media or other avenues. But when one of the students that I had came up and asked me. She watched the show and she said, "Oh, I love that piece. What was it about?" and I said,"What did, what did you take from it? What, how did you apply it to yourself?" And she said, "You know, I've been dealing with depression. And for me it was a bunch of different voices and what was going to survive." And I actually loved her interpretation of that, and that she was able to apply it to herself in that fashion. And so I think both have valid merits, inclusive and exclusive for, for what they are.
[00:53:00]Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. Yeah. That makes absolute sense. So, well, again, thank you so much, Joe, for being a part of this podcast and for sharing your art with the world. Obviously I'm biased. I'm really thankful that you are a dancer and we do get to dance and create together. But, you know, you have many avenues for that and I just appreciate that you do, and speaking of, I know this is kind of a weird time of life for everybody, but under more normal circumstances, you are a ballroom instructor. Is there any way for anyone who's interested in maybe taking lessons with you that they could at least keep in touch when you do resume?
[00:53:43] Joe Pilgram: Yes. Yeah, actually, at this moment, I'm, I'm not teaching obviously with the lockdown that, but if people would like to contact and ask me about dance when ballroom classes would start up, I teach more along the lines of social dance versus choreographed. So it's a, I look at that like Legos or any kind of construction material or scrapbooking material that, that you can have different materials and piece them together in different ways, multiple times. It doesn't have to be the same way you piece it together every time. But, and so with social dance, that's how it is. And, and I teach genuine lead and follow. But people could contact me either by finding my website, which is stjoeballroom.com. And that's STJOEBALLROOM.COM or you can call my, my work phone for the ballroom classes and it's area code (816) 265-1444.
[00:54:53] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. Thank you. Yes. Well, and if anyone is in the market for ballroom instruction, I have to say, Joe is a really, really fun teacher. So he's good at making everyone feel comfortable, even if this is your very first time. And, yeah, there will definitely be a lot of, a lot of laughter and giggles and it'll, it'll be good. Well, thank you again so much, Joe. I really, really appreciate you being here today and, Yeah, I appreciate all that you contribute.
[00:55:22] Joe Pilgram: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
[00:55:24] Lindsey Dinneen: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, and thank you so much to everyone who's listened to this episode, and if you're feeling as inspired as I am, I would love if you would share it with a friend or two and we will catch you next time.
[00:55:39]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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