Daniel S. Harder

@theonlydanielharder


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EP 161: Daniel S. Harder (autogenerated)

Dane Reis: [00:00:00] You booked it episode 161.

[00:00:06] Okay, let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Daniel S harder. Are you ready for this Daniel?  Brilliant. And Daniel began dancing at a Suitland high school center for the visual and performing arts in Maryland. He attended the Ailey Fordham BFA program in dance on full scholarship. And before graduating in 2009 performed in an international tour of West side story with Camille, a Brown and dancers.

[00:00:37] Daniel joined the Alvin Ailey American dance theater in 2010, where he was featured in works by Alvin Ailey, Rennie Harris, Ronald K. Brown, as your Barton and Kyle Abraham to name a few recently, mr. Harder made his Broadway debut in Disney’s. The lion King Daniel has had the privilege to work as a choreographer’s assistant with powerhouses, including Debbie Allen and 

[00:01:01] christopher L Huggins and also teaches masterclasses at high schools and universities in the us and abroad Daniel. That is a quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, fill in the gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

[00:01:24]Daniel S. Harder: [00:01:24] absolutely. Well, um, I grew up in Bowie, Maryland, and went to a performing arts high school there. And, um, Ended up finding myself, making my way to New York. Uh, and I’ve lived here for the last 15 years. Um, having worked with different concert dance companies, as well as making my Broadway debut. And I am a professional dancer, a teacher and assistant, uh, coach.

[00:01:51]Um, I like to try to, uh, Navigate as many different avenues as I possibly can within the dance and arts industry. Yeah.

[00:02:00]Dane Reis: [00:02:00] very cool. Well, let’s dive into this first section here and Daniel, look, I am a sucker for a good quote. what is your favorite quote you’d like to share with everyone?

[00:02:11]Daniel S. Harder: [00:02:11] well, a mantra that I discovered, I don’t know how many years ago, but I have, uh, adapted it to my own life and to my career is to never hope for it more than you’re willing to work for it.

[00:02:26]Dane Reis: [00:02:26] Oh, that’s so good. I’m not heard that one on the podcast before. Can you expand on that a bit on how you’ve worked that into your career?

[00:02:36] Daniel S. Harder: [00:02:36] Absolutely. Well, I think with. The, the mini highs and lows trials and tribulations, obstacles and challenges that we all can face as performing artists. I think it’s important to remember that anything worth having is worth working hard for, so that’s really, uh, something that I’ve tried to remind myself that particular mantra.

[00:02:59]Uh, definitely keeps that at the forefront of my mind that even with the, uh, unforeseen circumstances or obstacles that may come my way to remember that as long as I am steadfast and continue to work hard and be diligent about the level of success and excellence that I’m trying to achieve, that I can keep moving forward.

[00:03:22]Dane Reis: [00:03:22] Well said. Yeah, , everyone is always looking for a shortcut, a shortcut, right. We all want the expedited way to all the successes and goals that we want to achieve. But at the end of the day, nothing beats hard work and consistent hard

[00:03:37] Daniel S. Harder: [00:03:37] indeed. Indeed. I know.

[00:03:40]Um, I was going to say, I know there’s a, there’s another quote that I heard, um, from of course a claimed actress and. All around star Jennifer Lewis. And I love it because she says the elevator to success is broken. Take the stairs. You know, you You know, you have to put in the work.

[00:03:58] Dane Reis: [00:03:58] Yeah, you do. And that’s also, I think why it’s so important do find things that you’re passionate about. Find things otherwise it’s easy to get to burnout. It’s easy because it does take a long time. It does take a lot of work and you’ll have highs and lows that entire journey. And you ha it has to be based on something that you, you know, that you can keep going through, even when it’s read, even when it’s tough.

[00:04:25] Daniel S. Harder: [00:04:25] definitely. And I think, you know, if 2020 and the many different. Obstacles that it has thrown our country and the world’s way, uh, reignites, that idea of you have to keep pushing forward. You have to keep working hard in order to get to the other side.

[00:04:44]Dane Reis: [00:04:44] for sure. I was, I was watching a YouTube video the other day, and a guy was trying to explain this kind of concept. He wasn’t talking about performing, he’s talking. About business and people creating businesses. But I think the concept still rings quite true for us entertainers. And he said, look, find something that if in 10 years time, You could go, you know, you know, I did that and  if in 10 years time, you could still see yourself doing that thing.

[00:05:08] And even if it didn’t accomplish all of the wildest dreams that you could fantasize about, if you could, in 10 years time still be happy with just doing what you’re doing, doing, doing the work he’s like, then you found your thing.

[00:05:21]Daniel S. Harder: [00:05:21] absolutely. Absolutely. I think that’s, that’s what makes. Artists so successful. It’s not just necessarily the accolades or, uh, you know, the applause or the different, um, the other things that might come along, the other parks that may come along with our particular career, it is the, uh, assurance of self that your passion is worth exploring and worth pursuing.

[00:05:48]Dane Reis: [00:05:48] Yes, absolutely. And let’s dig into this next section here. And Daniel, of course you are an entertainer. I’m an entertainer. And I think that you would agree that this. Industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally, emotional industries in existence. And you know, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like your having now, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work.

[00:06:17] Like we were just talking about and. Well, of course, yes, there is an outrageous amount of fun and excitement doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, challenges, and failures. We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through. So tell us, what is one key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because of it.

[00:06:42] Daniel S. Harder: [00:06:42] there has been many, but to name one, I think a failure of mine that actually had a great impact on my journey was I was in college, uh, in the Ailey Fordham BFA program in my senior year. And I had been quite. Successful, uh, throughout my time in the school, I was in a lot of the workshops. I was getting to work with the who’s, who of the concert dance world, even just as a student in the school.

[00:07:13] And so it was kind of assumed that. When I auditioned for the Alvin Ailey American dance theater, or as we affectionately refer to it in the school as the main company, because of course there’s the main company and then there’s Ailey too, which is the junior company, but I was invited to audition for the main company.

[00:07:31] And I kind of, kind of, I would say I, I, I kind of kind of bit into the hype a little bit, that everybody was kind of, um, Sending my way. And I auditioned for the company and I made it to the end of the audition. I felt really great about my performance and my number wasn’t called. And I remember leaving the room, not necessarily feeling defeated,  just.

[00:07:56]Almost dumbfounded because I had allowed myself to buy into this idea of now’s my time, but it actually wasn’t. And that really taught me to embrace the moments as they come and to not. It’s okay to have a vision and to have goals, but to also be open to the possibilities of, of what if or when things don’t happen.

[00:08:24] And out of that, I was able to work with, uh, the second company Ailey too. And I gained some of the best toodling and guidance from then artistic director, Sylvia waters, and really got to. Submit my foundation for what it meant to be a professional in this industry and without her guidance, who knows if I would’ve been ready to step into the Ailey company when I eventually did, but that, that setback actually set me up for what was to come, which was great.

[00:09:00]Dane Reis: [00:09:00] , that’s set back, set you up. Love how you said that. And there are so many factors, right. That we sometimes take for granted and unfairly take for granted, you know, you know, we. Or egotistically take for granted even sometimes. And we have to be careful with that. And to just, like you said, be present that you learned that lesson to be present, do the work because clearly, I mean, you eventually of course went into the Ailey company, the main company.

[00:09:28] Right. Right. But clearly they saw something, they say, you know what. I think the, I think we need to, they probably thought we, maybe we needed to help develop him a bit more. And they put you in the Ailey two company. And like you said, you grew so much and it’s cemented your foundation and it’s one of those things that you don’t know what you don’t know.

[00:09:47] Right. Right. And I can imagine. I’m going to assume and tell me if I’m incorrect or not, that now you’re looking back hindsight on that experience and you go, you know what? Aly two was the perfect place for me to be so that you were ready and prepared for the main company. When that came

[00:10:03] Daniel S. Harder: [00:10:03] absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. I would not have, I would not trade that experience for anything. Um, you know, stepping into a large organization that is rooted in, um, such a strong legacy and so much history, I was able to gain so much, so much insight. And so, uh, so much information from ms.

[00:10:24] Sylvia waters, uh, guidance, and to tillage that it, it made the transition into the main company a lot easier. You know, You know, you’re already a. A small fish in a very big pond. So she almost kind of helped me figure out how to navigate those waters, not just what I did on stage, but also what it means to be a professional off-stage as well.

[00:10:47]Dane Reis: [00:10:47] Yeah. And that is so much part of it has well that a lot of us like to look at the, the outside image, the people on stage and how you celebrate the accolades. Right. You celebrate the spotlights and. It takes a lot of work. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into it, the consistency, that little things, every single day that allow you to be in those spotlight.

[00:11:11]Daniel S. Harder: [00:11:11] indeed, indeed. And it, I think, as you mentioned earlier, it just reminds you to be present, to be present in every moment and to. Take full advantage of the moment, you know, allowing yourself to be open to the unexpected, but also allowing yourself to receive exactly what is for you in that particular time.

[00:11:30]Dane Reis: [00:11:30] yes, for sure. Thank you for sharing that story. Yeah. And speaking of some spotlights, let’s talk about. Your spotlight moment. That one time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for a living or maybe it was, yes. This is what I need to be doing as an entertainer. Tell us about that.

[00:11:54]Daniel S. Harder: [00:11:54] I’m only laughing because I, I don’t have a. Probably, uh, a similar story to many. I didn’t have, I didn’t start training, uh, in dance until I was 15 years old, but I knew prior to that, that I wanted to be a performer. And my aha moment, if you will, I was actually nine years old and. I tell people all the time, I call myself a student of music videos because I studied and emulated Michael and Janet Jackson, and learned all the choreography still know it to this day.

[00:12:31]Um, but I begged my mother at the age of nine to take me to see Janet Jackson for my birthday. And. I was already a big fan, but of course it was my first time seeing a live performance of hers. And at the end of the concert, I looked at my mother and I said, I know what I want to be when I grow up. And, you know, you know, like all supportive parents, she was like, well, what’s that?

[00:12:54]And I said, I’m going to be a professional dancer. And she just kind of looked at me and was like, okay, thinking, you know, all kids have. Dreams. And of course I was still on a high from the incredible performance I had just witnessed, but I didn’t realize that that one particular moment actually lit the torch that led me to explore this, uh, really blessed career that I’ve been able to have.

[00:13:18]Dane Reis: [00:13:18] beautiful. Yes. that is really like that story. You should also have a listen of Theresa Espinosa’s interview that I, um, she was on the show a couple of days before you have listened with her because she, uh, won an Emmy as a contributing choreographer on the velvet rope tour. And she has, it’s a great interview.

[00:13:39] So have a listen to that thing. I think I would think you would really enjoy that

[00:13:43] Daniel S. Harder: [00:13:43] I definitely will. And you’re right. She was one of the dancers that I got to see, um, during the velvet rope tour, which was the concert that I went to.

[00:13:52] Dane Reis: [00:13:52] Oh, very

[00:13:53] Daniel S. Harder: [00:13:53] she’s just someone I’ve always admired, um, would love to work with one day, but also her insight and her generosity as an artist is just incredible.

[00:14:04] So I will definitely take a listen.

[00:14:06]Dane Reis: [00:14:06] Yes, absolutely. And let’s piggyback on that story real quick and talk about your number one, booked it moment. Walk us through that day, the auditions and callbacks. If they happen to be a part of it, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment? Makes it your favorite? Booked it moment.

[00:14:29]Daniel S. Harder: [00:14:29] Well, I will say my favorite is probably my most current book did moment, which was finding out that I had been asked to join Disney’s the lion King. So. The Ailey company has two seasons, uh, an annual season in December, uh, five weekend you season. And of course there’s a smaller two week season, uh, during the summer.

[00:14:54] And so we had finished our summer season at Lincoln center and we actually had some time off. So I was sitting on my couch enjoying, you know, being at home and finally having a chance to rest. And I get it. And email saying that there are emergency auditions happening to replace a few of the ensemble members in the lion King.

[00:15:18] And was I interested? So I of course was taken aback because I had auditioned for the lion King prior to, but not realizing that somehow, I guess I was still within the, uh, perspective or the periphery of. The casting directors and the Disney company. So I go to the audition and of course I’m excited, nervous, anxious, because Broadway has always been something that I’ve wanted to pursue.

[00:15:52] I. Started my first real professional experiences were working with Debbie Allen at the Kennedy center. So she had already ignited that bug within me. So here, this opportunity was finally presenting itself and I audition and the audition probably lasted, I would say a good four to five hours of just dancing.

[00:16:14] This is before we even get to the singing part and. Cuts are being made and I’m there till the end. And finally, I go back into sing and I remember the casting director asking me, well, what is your situation with Ellie? And I said, well, I said, the faster that I know. If there’s a new opportunity being presented to me, the faster I can make a seamless transition happened for all parties involved.

[00:16:47] That was kind of kind of how I tried to, you know, be very slick about saying, Hey, if you let me know,

[00:16:52] Dane Reis: [00:16:52] Bookman now

[00:16:53] Daniel S. Harder: [00:16:53] can do this. And probably a day or two later, I was told that I was being given an official offer and it was. Probably the most unexpected, but thrilling time in my life, because I had been with the Ailey company for 10 years and I was looking for some sort of change, still wanting to dance, still wanting to perform, still excited about sharing my gifts and the universe just pushed this experience and this opportunity.

[00:17:28]In front of me and the fact that it was, I was able to realize another dream of mine really just tugged at my heart strings and made me so, so humbled, but also so grateful for that to be happening to me.

[00:17:44]Dane Reis: [00:17:44] Aw, that’s such a great story. And I think it’s really good to note, you know, you were in that audition and you were clear with them, you know, you know, I think it can be very awkward, maybe not awkward, but overwhelming to have. Them ask you, you know, what’s your situation with Ailey, right? Or whatever the other project might be.

[00:18:04] If you’re in another show, if you’re in an experience like this and remember that the casting directors, they simply want to know, you don’t need to make things up or just say I’m a hundred percent available for you. If you’re really not. Right Right is to be very clear because at this point, this is also, it’s also business, isn’t it?

[00:18:25] And you have to think of it that way in the same. You have to respect it as that. And no one’s going to be offended either way, but to be very clear and to just be honest with what the situation is, and that’s completely fine. And that’s what everyone wants from you at the end of the day.

[00:18:40] Daniel S. Harder: [00:18:40] absolutely. I think transparency is something that all of us appreciate and respect and. I think if you are in a position where somebody is inquiring about your availability, um, you know, speaking of particular moments like this, you’ve already kind of, uh, peaked their interest. So I think being as clear and concise as possible about what your reality is and how you are able to, or not able to, um, transition.

[00:19:10]Is is appreciated because it doesn’t mean that again, kind of going back to my failure, uh, and not getting into the Ailey company at first,  you could be setting yourself up for another opportunity. You know, these casting directors, choreographers, all of these people in the room, you know, have their hands in many different pots.

[00:19:29] And so even if it’s not that particular moment, It doesn’t mean that they might not see you for something else. So being clear, being transparent is welcomed because it lets them know, you know, you know, where you stand and how you’re wanting to, or able to move forward in your, in your journey.

[00:19:49]Dane Reis: [00:19:49] yes. And that you’re a professional.

[00:19:51] Daniel S. Harder: [00:19:51] Absolutely. 

[00:19:52]Dane Reis: [00:19:52] Yes. Great. And let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And it’s a weird time, right? We’re amidst this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:20:11]Daniel S. Harder: [00:20:11] well, I’ve been very fortunate during this time to really, uh, Continue to fall into different opportunities. I’ve like many, uh, am now furloughed, uh, for a load employee of Disney and. Still different opportunities have come my way. I’ve been able to work with a former colleague, a dancer and choreographer hope Boykin.

[00:20:36] And I worked on two projects with her, one for the Kennedy center, dance lab, one for the 92nd street. Y I also participated in a project with, uh, Broadway for Biden. And got to dance with so many wonderful, uh, performers in time, square and supportive. Uh, now president elect Biden. And so, and most recently I actually performed last night in a freelance project with the choreographer here in New York city.

[00:21:08]Uh, Rodrick George is his name and we presented a virtual performance of his work entitled flesh beast, which was really great for me because I actually, I kind of got to step back into my concert dance shoes and we learned a. 27 minute excerpt of his work, which is probably about an hour long. It’s an evening lengths work and, learn this valet and two to three weeks and then got to present it, uh, on a digital platform so that so many other people could enjoy it.

[00:21:43]But you know, it it’s been nice to still have the opportunity to, explore my gifts and explore my. Passion and my creativity, but to kind of examine where the world is going and where the arts are going. I think moments like what I experienced last night, uh, are going to become more prevalent. I think artists are the most resilient individuals, um, on the earth.

[00:22:08] Maybe I’m a little biased, but that’s fine. But I think that. We are going to find and create avenues for us to continue to survive and thrive. I mean, the world stopped and it’s still trying to figure out this new normal with the COVID 19 virus. And yet the arts kept the heartbeat of the world going. And so I think that artists now are really just.

[00:22:39] Trying to figure out these new ways, these innovative ways to continue, um, providing those gifts to the world. And I, I’m excited to see what people come up with, what I come up with.

[00:22:52]Dane Reis: [00:22:52] yeah. Love your insight. It is really cool. I think what is happening with this digitization of our industry of specifically the live performance part of the industry? I mean, clearly we’ve had movies and television for a long time. Right. Right. But making that transition in, I don’t know if you could ever replace.

[00:23:13] Being in a live in a theater in person with other people, sharing that energy in that space. But I think that all of this technology is going to only lift up and just make our entire industry stronger and better because more people are going to get exposed to this. Do the different art forms and the content we’re going to be able to audition and see more talent, the casting directors and things for their various projects versus only have to having to be a new Yorker only having to be an LA.

[00:23:48]Right. And. , I guess, even from a financial pro producer side of things, it’s also a potential way to increase revenue, right. For live performances. You can do both. Um, so it’s going to be really interesting. I think there’s going to be a massive boom as well. I’m very, I’m very, uh, positive about what’s happening.

[00:24:04]Daniel S. Harder: [00:24:04] absolutely. And if you think about it, technology is paramount to our evolution these days. So we’ve had to redefine what it means to connect. And so I’ve, I’ve mentioned yesterday, uh, we had a Q and a for our. after the performance of fleshly beast, and I mentioned it is challenging to think about presenting art with no audience, you know, that that kind of, uh, visceral connection that we’re able to have.

[00:24:34] But then you also think about the proverbial fourth wall that we as performers try to maintain in order to be authentic to the environment or the space that’s being created on stage. And so not having that audience last night actually allowed us as performers to connect in a much deeper way. So it’s just, you know, you know, we’re all redefining.

[00:24:57] What this means. And so that’s like you said, I’m excited to see the different ways that, um, artists are going to be able to present themselves. Those that are interested in producing art are going to be able to see the talent, cultivate the talent. I mean, it’s gonna, it’s going to be great.

[00:25:13]Dane Reis: [00:25:13] for sure. And it is time to move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it B grease lightning around. I am going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you ready? All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

[00:25:40]Daniel S. Harder: [00:25:40] Money, the challenge of getting paid to really do what it is that you love to do.

[00:25:46]Dane Reis: [00:25:46] And it is possible. Isn’t it?

[00:25:49] Daniel S. Harder: [00:25:49] It is possible yes.

[00:25:50]Dane Reis: [00:25:50] The second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:25:56]Daniel S. Harder: [00:25:56] To remember why I started down this journey, never losing sight of that passion.

[00:26:02]Dane Reis: [00:26:02] Third question. What is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on pause?

[00:26:12]Daniel S. Harder: [00:26:12] my network. My connections definitely have kept me involved in the arts in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined.

[00:26:21]Dane Reis: [00:26:21] yes. Network is everything and relationships are everything in this industry, especially for creating longevity.

[00:26:31]And the fourth question. What is your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video, maybe a podcast or piece of technology that you’ve found is helping your career right now.

[00:26:43] Daniel S. Harder: [00:26:43] I can’t pick one, but I’m a YouTube junkie. And so 

[00:26:47] Dane Reis: [00:26:47] Yeah. 

[00:26:49]Daniel S. Harder: [00:26:49] Everyone. I mean, I remember having to go to the library to see things. And so now that everything is online, I spend hours studying past performances, watching documentaries, you name it.

[00:27:01]Dane Reis: [00:27:01] beautiful. And the fifth question, if you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry. What would you do or not do, would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

[00:27:17]Daniel S. Harder: [00:27:17] I would not change a thing. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful journey, but also the learning and learning experiences are really what make my career so special to me.

[00:27:31]Dane Reis: [00:27:31] last question. What is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:27:42]Daniel S. Harder: [00:27:42] I’m going to go back to my mantra. Never hope for it. More than you’re willing to work for it. Marry that passion with your dedication and your discipline and your commitment, and you can achieve anything.

[00:27:57]Dane Reis: [00:27:57] So well said. And to wrap up this interview, Daniel, it is time to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote?

[00:28:12]Daniel S. Harder: [00:28:12] nothing to promote at the time. Um, I guess except myself. Um, but I can be found@thedanielharder.com and I can be found on Instagram at the only Daniel harder.

[00:28:27]Dane Reis: [00:28:27] beautiful. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to everything Daniel just said into the description of this episode. So you can easily connect with him and also be sure to share this podcast with your fellow entertainers, coaches, teachers, and art and entertainment educators, and anyone, you know, you know, aspiring to create a career in the entertainment industry.

[00:28:50] You booked. It is the number one resource of expertise on how to actually create a successful career in this crazy wild, exciting industry. It is integral to helping them succeed in helping you create a better, more fulfilling career. Daniel, thank you so much for being here today. I’m so glad we got connected.

[00:29:10]Thank you.

[00:29:11] Daniel S. Harder: [00:29:11] thank you so much for having me.

[00:29:13]