Michael Balderrama

@baldy_michael
@lizkimball

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EP 177: Michael Balderrama (autogenerated)

[00:00:00] Dane Reis: [00:00:00] you booked it episode 177. Okay. Let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Michael balder, Rama. Are you ready for this, Michael? Right on Michael is a choreographer, a director, producer, artists, and philanthropist. He has a drama desk in a CCA award winner. He has been part of almost a dozen Broadway shows both onstage and on the creative side, 

[00:00:33] he is currently associate global supervising choreographer for Hamilton and associate choreographer for the upcoming MJ musical. Some favorite credits include in the Heights  where he was Lin Manuel’s understudy moving out. Willie Lopez in ghost.  He has also choreographed performed for and or worked with Michael Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, Sutton foster, Andy Blankenbuehler, Christopher Wheeldon, Twyla Tharp, Julie Taymor, Maurice Hines, and so many more.

[00:01:07] Michael. 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, filling the gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

[00:01:20]Michael Balderrama: [00:01:20] Awesome. Absolutely. Um, I just want to say first thing, thank you so much for

[00:01:23] having me on so excited.

[00:01:25] Dane Reis: [00:01:25] Thank you for being here.

[00:01:26] Michael Balderrama: [00:01:26] you bet.  , so, like Dan said, Michael Baldor I’m I’m I’m um, I like to say I was born and raised both in South Texas, San Antonio, Texas, and Northern Illinois, Rockford, Illinois spent equal times, both those places growing up.

[00:01:40] Um , um, Currently married to one of the most inspiring women in the world list Kimball. Um, and we have a brand new son who is , um, gonna be four months old. His name is  and I also have a daughter and a grandson. My daughter, Samantha has a son Reiland. Um, I start with that because that’s sort of the biggest things in my life right now.

[00:01:59]Um, I am living in New Jersey, just got back out here and after being in Chicago for quite some time, taking care of the Hamilton company out there. Um, but , uh, I’m back over here on the East coast sort of , um,biting time too, until the pandemic starts letting us all back into the theaters to get going , um, and , uh, excited to get going back on the Michael Jackson project , uh, of course for a local thing and , uh, continue , uh, helping out with the, all the Hamptons.

[00:02:22]Dane Reis: [00:02:22] fan tastic, busy guides, especially during the pandemic time and congrats on the new one.

[00:02:29] Michael Balderrama: [00:02:29] Thank you. Thank you.

[00:02:31] Dane Reis: [00:02:31] Yeah. And let’s dig into this first section here. And Michael, look, I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote you like to share with everyone?

[00:02:41] Michael Balderrama: [00:02:42] You know, it’s so funny. I was thinking about this and I was like, Oh gosh, we’re hammering it down to one quote. That’s so hard. So I can’t necessarily say it’s my favorite. You know, I have this idea that quotes sort of come in and out of your life as you need them much , like, you know, people’s opportunities, you know, struggles in your life.

[00:02:57]They, they show up as you need them. But the, the one that we, that I is sort of forefront for me currently is, um  , Uh, we are what we repeatedly do excellence then is an act, not a hap. Yeah.

[00:03:09] It’s from Aristotle. Yeah. 

[00:03:11] Dane Reis: [00:03:11] Really like that, that has not been on the show. And I completely agree. Can you. Expand on that a bit on how it’s worked its way into your life.

[00:03:19] Michael Balderrama: [00:03:19] Yeah, absolutely. You know, that there’s everyone’s paths through their, um, through their careers, through their lives. Uh, you know, depending on how linear it may have been or how, how , um, up and down it may have been. You can start to think and imagine yourself as a, just a certain type of person. And I’ve gotten caught in that myself sort of while I’m just this type of person.

[00:03:42] And as I’ve gotten older and started to realize that the thing that is consistent is something that I can control, which is small little tacks of, of. Process small little acts of ORC throughout the day, sort of small morsels to chew of life that are forward progress. And this quote, these days has really been sitting with me because, you know, excellence, as Aristotle said, it’s really just.

[00:04:08] Small moments of choice in moving forward and moving forward, you know, that another quote, as they say, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, you know, that’s exactly what it is. You take it in little chunks, you take in a little bites. And when you find yourself in sort of a Groundhog’s day, lifestyle is most as a world has for a while.

[00:04:26] Now this past year, you really can. Hopefully, you sort of filter your focus down to small things. And as long as those things are forward progress, you’re going to continually continually , um, find yourself progressing.

[00:04:38]Dane Reis: [00:04:38] Yeah, I really liked that. You said small morsels of life that you can chew up. And I really liked that. I think it’s really great that you brought that up to bring some perspective to our journeys, through, to success, to our careers. Because I think , a lot of us will look, especially when we’re younger, look at someone who has achieved some level of success that maybe we are striving for.

[00:05:03] And we’re like, Oh, I want that. Right. Right. And everyone wants the end goal, but it really, when you break it down, it is that one step every single day, if that little tiny thing that you can do that little morsel of life, right.right. That you can take on every day and that just incrementally moves you forward.

[00:05:21] And that then compounds into something fantastic that you can then look back and go, ah, look what I’ve accomplished, but it’s not just a one and done kind of thing. You don’t just magically achieve what it is you want to achieve. You have to do all the things that are almost imperceptible from the day to day.

[00:05:38] Michael Balderrama: [00:05:38] Oh yeah. I mean, it is, it is, it’s required to some extent, you know, you know, w what ends up happening I feel is that, is that, like you said, People managed to find them to finally accomplish things that are recognizable by the world. And so they come into focus for the world and what very rarely is anyone privy to their journey to get to that point where they’ve come into focus for, for the, the masses.

[00:06:01] And it’s that. That journey, those small, tiny, hard, difficult steps that really are the foundation for how they were able to accomplish, you know , from, from Malcolm Gladwell’s book outliers, which I loved as well

[00:06:13] speaks, you know, came up, you know, the 10,000 hours. It’s a very basic idea of like, listen, if you want to be, you know, at the pinnacle of a certain.

[00:06:21]Um, um , um, industry, a certain career , any, any type of endeavor that you take on, you need to put in the hours and, you know, every hour is made up of 60 minutes and every minute is made up of 60 seconds and you can’t have one without the other. So the idea is that you have to do, you can do the same in life and you can do the same in your career and sort of break it down into those smaller increments and know that that’s still so working forward.

[00:06:43] I love that you said, you know, incremental, that’s actually a thing. Well, I didn’t even realize I’m gonna be throwing out those, all these references, but like um, , um, a book that is sort of sort of is my mainstay for me right now is the, is the 5:00 AM club, you know? And I really sort of have been , um, keying into that and it speaks about incremental evolution and it’s basically that the culmination of a large changes.

[00:07:05] Is all of the small incremental steps. It’s, it’s , it’s, it’s these larger, this larger themed idea that you see gets repeated and it gets repeated because it’s, it’s good and it’s correct. And it can, it can drive you in the right direction and help you accomplish those things that at the four at the beginning seemed so distant, you know, but you take a step that’s one step closer.

[00:07:25] Dane Reis: [00:07:25] yeah, for sure. And I, like you said, you know, when , you look at what you’re trying to achieve, and it seems so distant. What I find about. Tackling a goal or an objective or whatever it is I’m going after. It’s kind of like kind of like traveling to me where you go, I want to go to Europe. Right? Right? So you start with Europe and Europe could be the, you know, you know, the big goal.

[00:07:45]Right. I want that. So then you get there and you’re like, great. So now I’m in Spain and in Europe. Okay. Well, Well, that’s in Europe then you’re like, Oh, I’m in Barcelona. Oh, I’m you can just keep them. It’s like the more you see of something, the less you realize you’ve seen. Right. 

[00:08:01] Michael Balderrama: [00:08:01] Yeah. It’s it’s it’s, it’s that? It’s that, it’s that lifelong idea that as you get there, the world gets smaller. Well , it, it, it hasn’t actually gotten smaller. It’s just your perspective of it has because you’ve actually experienced more. And so all of a sudden it seems managed. All of a sudden it doesn’t seem so, so, so, so attainable and you know, you know, the idea, the idea of crossing an ocean, you know, when you’re, when you can barely cross the street at a certain age, seems completely unreasonable.

[00:08:32] And then as you get older and as you , you, you put in the time and you put in the work too. To solidify your abilities in whatever career that may be, you know, across the board in life, whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, all of a sudden, those feats, those crossing oceans, those getting to different continents , those, those meetings, certain people, and like having an audience with somebody within your industry. They get a little closer each time and you get a little more focused. You get a little more confident than you and you understand it. And the things that were work to do on a small steps in the beginning, sort of the way that you train your body in it’s anything. But for me, it was dance within dance.

[00:09:13]Those, those little things that you had to focus all of your time on within your body to simply turn out correctly and to really rotate from your hips, as opposed to letting your knees and like all these little things. The repetition of them make them become second nature. And you don’t have to put the work in for those, how you built that and that’s ingrained, and then you build on top of it and then the next step, and then the next step.

[00:09:34] And before you know it, you’re standing in the top. It’s, it’s pretty, it’s pretty wonderful. The

[00:09:38] Dane Reis: [00:09:38] Yeah, absolutely. And let’s get into this next section here. And Michael, of course you are an entertainer. I am an entertainer. And I think that you would agree that this industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest and 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 you’re having now takes a lot of  dedication and hard work.

[00:10:08] And while yeah, there is an outrageous amount of fun and excitement. Being an entertainer, doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, 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.

[00:10:30]Michael Balderrama: [00:10:30] Yeah. You know , I, I was thinking about this and , and, and it’s funny because every time I sort of thought about a, say a certain incident or a moment within my auditioning career, or even my work process , um, This sort of consistent thing that came up, unfortunately, as my biggest obstacle, I would say a lot of times it was myself, is my getting in my own way.

[00:10:51] Um , um, you know, something as simple as that sort of a funny story for me, I think maybe it wasn’t, but , um, the chorus line , um, revival was coming and. You know, I I’ve always, I’ve been, I’ve been an odd ball in, in the fact that like I sort of was one of the few who always enjoyed going to auditions. I sort of always, it seemed to me like a free class.

[00:11:10] I just really went into it. And I think that helped me in the audition process. My mentality of it was like I was going there to enjoy myself within a process, as opposed to like stressing myself out about having , um, about getting a job. Um, If this happened to be the one instance where when I went into enjoying myself, what I didn’t realize is that, of course I was such an iconic and it’s such an iconic movie and show that.

[00:11:35]The audition process is very well known. The audition combinations like free and available to any and everybody. And basically I went in there and as they started quote, do with air quotes, quote, unquote, teaching the choreography, I have never even. Seen it, I have never learned it. Everyone in the room seemed to know it.

[00:11:54] Everybody knew exactly what was going on. They maybe ran through it a few times and then we were doing it in groups. I mean, I mean, it was very much a, they turned left. I turned right. I just was walking in the wrong door. Like it was probably one of the most embarrassing auditions I’d ever had to boot. This happened to be when they were doing the behind the scenes.

[00:12:13]So. Thankfully, it never made it onto film anywhere, but that sort of, that really gave me a solid point of reference to the only person I had, sort of the only reason that that went that way was it was me. I didn’t do my research. I didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t prep prepare for that audition beyond what I just assumed was the norm.

[00:12:34]Um, you know, I did a lot of my own prep. I’m very, you know, I I’m, I worked very hard. In what I believe is necessary to be prepared for any opportunity that comes my way. And I’ve , I’ve, I’ve sort of really enjoyed the fact that I’ve been fairly lucky within my career. I consider myself middle luckiest people.

[00:12:50] I know, but also when those opportunities of luck showed up, I was also the most prepared in the room. And that was one of the few times where I walked in and it was like, This is on me. I did not do what I needed to do if this was available to me and every other person in the room seem to know it, have it and did whatever they need to do to get that information.

[00:13:11] That means that I was the one who fell short. So yeah, that would be, I think one of the biggest challenges is getting out of my own way and always making sure that I’ve crossed the T’s and dot the I’s in every way possible to be prepared for when opportunity presents itself.

[00:13:27] Dane Reis: [00:13:27] for sure. A hundred percent agree. But what I’m also hearing is that it’s also about taking responsibility. For that. And that you go look, it’s on me. Right. And you have to own that. You can’t put that on anyone else. And to, and it does take some, a level of vulnerability of , uh, confidence in yourself and to say, you know, you know, what, everything that happens is is me.

[00:13:51] It’s all on me. Right? Right? The good and the bad, but you can’t just, you can’t just Pat yourself on the back. When the good things happen, right. right. When the bad things happen, you have to go, Ooh.

[00:14:00]Michael Balderrama: [00:14:00] well, absolutely. And I think what’s, you know, we, it’s such a it’s , it’s, it’s such a polar opposite to be part of this industry and be in performance because. You know, we are built on trying to, to basically give ourselves out there to be accepted and, and , um, and sort of chosen a lot of times while at the same time we live in such , um, in such fear of being injected in such insecurities and to be flawed and to not succeed and to fail can’t feed into those insecurity so much. The way that I feel is a real, real clear opening in order to avoid getting caught in any defensiveness or, or worry or inability to do some self reflection on things is to look at every one of those as an opportunity. Every one of those is an opportunity to grow every time. Like you said, you allow that vulnerability to look at a situation that didn’t go well and say, God, what was my part in it?

[00:14:53]What is, what is the version that I did there? Um, I believe it, might’ve also been Aristotle as well that said, um , every, every man terms of changing the world, but not every manager is changing themselves. And really , it,it, it needs to, it needs to start with us. Like you said , if, if there’s anything that we can be in charge of, it’s ourselves.

[00:15:12] So when we get into a situation that circumstance and, and we have the opportunity to look at what our part of the responsibility is, that always needs to be the first place that you start

[00:15:22] and social we’re going to gain them the most growth.

[00:15:24] Dane Reis: [00:15:24] Yes. Yes, absolutely. So good. So glad you brought that up. It’s such a huge lesson for everyone listening out there, especially if you’re aspiring to be in this industry as a professional, that is a massive part of being successful and having a long-term career in this industry. Thank you for sharing that. And let’s move on to a time that I like to call your. Spotlight moment. That one moment in 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 in the entertainment industry. Tell us about that.

[00:16:08] Michael Balderrama: [00:16:08] Yeah. Um, I thought back to that there’s so many sort of spots along the way where we, we sort of have these, these aha moments, as you say these revelations. Um, but I’d say one of the early, you know, I always loved it. I always loved dancing. I always loved performing. I did it in school. I didn’t start training sort of.

[00:16:25]Really directly in dance until right before I graduated high school. And I sort of pick that as my real aha moment. It’s um, what happened is I actually was going to go to my first outside of like theater. Dance class in school, in public high school, which can barely be called dance class. But , um, I was going to go to a local studio where a friend of mine had asked me to come by.

[00:16:49]They were, they were looking for boys, men to be at the dance studio. And the first class I was supposed to go to, I ended up having that day having to have all four of my wisdom teeth. Um, Um, unexpectedly, but I just did not want to miss this class. I didn’t want not want to miss this opportunity. So I went in, in, I had convinced my parents to still take me then I’m 17 at the time.

[00:17:12] It’s a couple months before I graduate high school. And I went to just sit in and watch the dance class. And within 20 minutes I had to get up. They, they convinced me that I could get up and I had cotton in my mouth and bleeding into my, into the back of my throat. And, but yeah. But it was actually, that was, that was even more of a realization.

[00:17:33] The fact that in that moment, when I got up and I started trying to learn things, there’s plenty of moments. Like you said, that, you know, as I try to do something, the voices in your head, you know, start to go, Oh, what do they, Oh, you look stupid. Oh, this doesn’t, you know, feeding all these insecurities and , and, and working against you.

[00:17:48] And for that, in that magical moment, I remember specifically , uh, It , it, it didn’t Dawn on me that was sort of this, this peering up everything except what I needed to accomplish in that moment. You know , it, it was, it was, it was a very surreal experience that I continue to have. I try and tap into it more because it’s a little less often as you get older, but yeah.

[00:18:09]Whenever I was in dance class in that very beginning when I was trying to learn really the basics of dancing. And I was so driven, I just remember thinking in hindsight, I was never concerned up on if I looked bad, if I did it wrong, if they. I was working so hard and wanted to do it and learn it so bad that like it was the, it was almost meditative.

[00:18:32] I was so driven that everything else sort of disappeared except for the work that I was trying to do, what I was trying to accomplish. And it was in that moment more so about. Being a dancer, then a performer, but that’s what I needed to do. And that’s what, what I was going to spend my time and spend my life doing, which of course led to, in what way would I be a dancer in that way?

[00:18:53]Performance, performance, spaced. And then. That led me into what I really realized is within that performance and even through dance, what I was really, really drawn to and needed to do was storytelling. And that’s, that’s how I’ve gotten to where it was. But yeah , that, that dance class as towards the end of high school with cotton stuffed in my former wisdom teeth positions , uh, was my aha moment.

[00:19:17] I need to spend my life , um, creating and telling stories and moving.

[00:19:23] Dane Reis: [00:19:23] such a good story. And I really like how you said, you know, when I think back on that time when I was just starting out and I can, I can relate cause I didn’t start dancing until I was about 17 and a half. Uh, Uh, and I hit a real hard, you know, when I did, cause I came, I was played sports and uh, it’s worked out well for me, but the.

[00:19:41]The focus. I remember having, I think it just really resonated with me and you’re right. It was just about improving and just being meditative, like you said, and just being in it. And I think in some ways, maybe that’s a bit of a challenge these days for people that are younger, that are training right now because of social media, because a lot of training has become more about.

[00:20:06]Uh, performance versus training. And I think, yeah, while yes, Instagram is great. You need to, you need to still do the work and that’s, you’re not in class to perform.

[00:20:18] Michael Balderrama: [00:20:18] Yeah. And it’s , uh, you know, it’s, you know well, , well, it’s that double-edged sword and I hopefully won’t go down too far, but I’m in social media rabbit hole because I’m sort of straddling and living within this sort of, eh, you know, you know, excited for the opportunities that it seems to bring while also feeling like the old curmudgeon waving his fist time.

[00:20:34] His, yeah, like that’s like , uh, that’s not how we do it. And. And understanding that I think what I’m, what I’m sort of wanting is that everything has its time and place and everything has its benefits and its hindrances. And I think if you can afford, you know, I think the kids today are going to be dealing with that difficulty that every morsel of every moment of their lives has the ability to be open for, for public consumption.

[00:20:59] And that’s gotta be daunting. That’s gotta be completely, you know, exhausting while at the same time. That age-old phrase what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger that they’re going to come out with a skillset and they’re going to come out. If they really sort of manage it and learn at an age younger, how to navigate what is for lack of a better term, this isn’t meant, you know , um, negatively, but for the ability to compartmentalize.

[00:21:26] When things have their place and when things don’t and when you’re there to work and when you’re there to learn and to you’re there to literally create a space where you can fall down, because that is making you better. That’s where you really want to be able to make a safe space and do that for others.

[00:21:41] So that growth can happen outside of judgment. And so the, you know, the hope is that with all these new tools, like anything, like any, any sort of advances into society, you have to be conscious of how they are used when they’re used and what they’re used for. So I think that’s, that’s a, that’s a really large opportunity with a lot of pitfalls that net and that, like you said, that they have to deal with.

[00:22:07] But hope is the hope is if you can, again, sort of, if you can really get into the place where you’re there to just do the work and, and grow and push all of that out, you have the ability to push out more than say I would be because I’m not used to it.

[00:22:22]Dane Reis: [00:22:22] right. right. And it it it’s really, I guess, about your about  like you said, compartmentalizing and focusing. And being very specific and purposeful. That’s it being purposeful about the way you use technology, the way you use training, the way you use class and to not just fall into, Oh, let’s film this because that’s what we do.

[00:22:44] Yes for sure. And let’s piggyback on that last question and talk about your number one book. That moment, walk us through that day, the auditions and call backs. 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.

[00:23:06] Michael Balderrama: [00:23:06] Yeah. Um, I mean , it’s, it’s , I, I’m very blessed to have several very strange and wonderful versions of this. Um, you know, from. From how I ended up randomly working with Michael Jackson to how I ended up getting my equity card by crashing an audition in Vegas. I mean, there’s, it’s just so fun. The one that actually actually sticks out to me as a combination of several little things that came to pass, I had just recently finished doing , um, urban cowboy on Broadway.

[00:23:35] And so there was sort of a general rush of auditions right after that. Um, for several shows , um, And it was, it was a really great time. I was, I was feeling really strong about where I was in the industry and, and I. Again, I was hitting all these auditions. I auditioned for taboo. I auditioned for the workshop of sweet charity.

[00:23:54] I auditioned for moving out. I went through several processes of moving out and the movement itself just really spoke to me. So then I was explicitly ecstatic to be getting a final call back to actually go to dance at the Richard Rogers onstage for Twyla Tharp, with several others. Um, gentlemen , um, what was really crazy was that I had just received a call.

[00:24:16]Well, two different calls, one that I had booked the workshop for sweet charity and one that I had booked taboo. And I bet we’re waiting on an answer from me and I, the call back for moving out happened to be on my birthday on May 29th. And so I went in on my birthday and danced. Got I think, close to five hours, just me and about five other guys.

[00:24:36]Um, several of my friends, good friends of mine. And, and it was just, again, like I said, I always enjoyed it. The audition process, because it felt like a challenge. And at the same time a gift, it felt like I just got to be working with people and surrounded by people that were at, you know, firing with , um, you know , um, on all cylinders and really the energy and the enjoyment.

[00:24:57] And I liked having it feel like a sort of comradery type of feeling. That’s exactly what it felt like. It felt really great on stage and right afterwards, they actually pulled me on the side of the stage or the Richard Rogers. And they told me they’re like, they would like to offer you this part. Um, and I was just enthralled and I, this speaks to my youth a little bit and you know, my exuberance and at the same time, a little like, sort of just sort of diving into life.

[00:25:23] I was like , well, you know what? I haven’t actually seen the show. Could I, before I make a decision, could I, could I see the show? And they said, yes, you know, we’ll get you a ticket. And I was like, good. I get two tickets. Um, Um, because I have a friend and uh, , uh, there was a very good friend of mine who I had also known from Las Vegas who had also just booked taboo for as long as we known each other.

[00:25:43] We’d never worked together. And so our first job together was going to be. In taboo on probably. So we went to see moving out that night and as the lights came up at intermission after I was just sitting there watching and moving out and seeing what these answers and what these performers were doing in this story that was being told, I turned and looked at her with tears in my eyes.

[00:26:03] And I said, I’m so sorry. We are going to. Have to find another job to do, because I have to do this show. I have to do the show and that, and I, and I, I actually called it right in at intermission to let them know. I didn’t even need to finish watching the show to that. I, I would like to take the job that I wanted to, and I stayed with the show until it closed.

[00:26:25] And , um, it was also the beginning of a beautiful relationship with me and the Richard Rogers. I’ve been involved in three different shows there I’ve spent about six and a half. Like , uh, years of my life and my career in that theater. And it is, it’s like home away from home there. I love the Rodgers

[00:26:39] Dane Reis: [00:26:39] Aw, such a good story. I love that you had to call him an intermission as well. You’re like, yep. This is what we gotta do.

[00:26:47] Michael Balderrama: [00:26:47] Doing it, take it, take it.

[00:26:48] Dane Reis: [00:26:48] So 

[00:26:49] good. 

[00:26:49] Michael Balderrama: [00:26:49] challenging show I’ve ever done in my life. Like it was, it was a bit of a, there I, there was some faith I had to have in myself. To even accept that job. There was a little bit of me, cause I’m not, I didn’t come from a classically trained. Like it was mostly company work, ABT, city ballet, you know , um, all sorts of, of company dancers that, that really inhabited that name.

[00:27:12] And I was more of a calm kid and theater person who sort of worked his way up from the West coast and, and. To find myself on stage with all of these amazing people like it, just Elizabeth Parkinson and, and with , um, with , uh, Keith Roberts and with, you know, it was just cutting plate the day by show and just all of these amazing performers.

[00:27:32] And it ended up being the largest girls period of myself, me personally, as a dancer of my entire

[00:27:39] Dane Reis: [00:27:39] Wow. So good. I mean, I unfortunately never got to see that show, but I’ve consistently heard just stunning, stunning things about that show and how it was such a difficult show to

[00:27:52] Michael Balderrama: [00:27:52] yeah, it was, it was, it was amazing in the fact that like, it was one of the first shows that really. Sort of catered to the difficulty of what they were asking the performers to do while still maintaining an HR week , um, schedule and basically was one of the first shows to , um, really pretty much completely double cast or stage the principles.

[00:28:13] By the time I was, there were only doing five of the eight shows. And the ensemble , uh, only did seven of eight shows and everybody was swung out once a week. So it was a constant rotating. And so there was an equal number of offstage people. Uh, Uh,

[00:28:28]Dane Reis: [00:28:28] Oh, wow. But yeah, you need that. Otherwise too many bodies break down and then you have injuries and then you go down that whole path.

[00:28:35] Yeah. Wow.

[00:28:36] Hmm. 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? When it’s this global pandemic, how do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:28:53]Michael Balderrama: [00:28:53] Well, like I said, I mean, I I’ve been very blessed in that. I am keeping pretty busy in preparing , um, I will be leaving in , um, and heading to Australia to , uh, set the new , uh, brand new company of Hamilton out there in Sydney, Australia very soon. And I’m excited about that. Um, that’s also well-intended yeah, I’m working with the amazing and brilliant.

[00:29:14] One of the most wonderful people in the world, Mr. For Christopher Wheeldon, I’m his associate choreographer for the new Michael Jackson musical, just it’s it’s phenomenal. I’m so excited about that project. And it’s, you know, we were lucky enough that the, the unfortunate state of the world with a pandemic and the difficulties for everybody , um, happened.

[00:29:35] Schedule wise right before we were going to get started. So we didn’t get caught in that limbo of like, Oh, we’re in rehearsal. Oh, put things on hold half. The set has been built half this. So it basically has just been put on pause. And then when things start to reopen, they’ll set the official dates for coming back , um, in the next season that’s available.

[00:29:53]So, but we’re still, you know, doing our work on the side and me and Chris, you know, have our conversations to keep things rolling. Um , And, and that, and you know what , um, by, in getting Australia ready, I worked this whole year to do a lot of casting. And this sort of feeds into what you were saying , like, what is the future of our industry?

[00:30:09]I mean, talk about, you know, adjust, you know, grow and change it. You either have to adapt or die is basically so true for this. And the industry itself has been finding its way. And again, I can say. Absolutely. One of the commercial. My wife was far ahead of me when I was supposed to have a trip to Australia in , uh, I think for final casting sometime in may.

[00:30:33] And I was like , well, no, we have to go that we have to figure out how to go. You can’t do this remote. You can’t do this over zoom, you can’t. And she’s like , well, you’re going to have to. And I was like, no way. Yep. We spent that whole last year. Basically finishing all of casting for the entire Hamilton cast over.

[00:30:52] Remote zoom meetings, phone calls, dance classes, through camera, dance, auditions, work , work,work sessions, all kinds of stuff. And so, you know, you have to, you know, the returns, if there’s more work on the front end for smaller returns on the back end, it’s just better to be there with them. But if it’s either do or don’t, you have to figure out a way.

[00:31:14] And so I think. Basically the idea of being able to adjust and find different ways to navigate , um,restrictions is going to be a big thing that’s , uh, that is going to come to pass with the industry. And I think just, you know, mixing mediums is just inevitable at this point, you know, that the. The combination of remote access and , um, videography.

[00:31:38] And , um, the combination of the mediums is just, is just gonna, it’s gonna have a real resurgence once you can do both.

[00:31:46]Dane Reis: [00:31:46] Yeah, for sure. For instance, are you potentially for seeing, say, selling. Virtual tickets to a Broadway show where they’ve done a really good job to place cameras that are non-invasive for the live audience, but you can still kind of, kind of, it would be two different experiences completely because you could do camera changes and angle changes and be weird.

[00:32:07] But is that something that you maybe see as being tested?

[00:32:11]Michael Balderrama: [00:32:11] I think, I think that that is, I think that that is something that will come to pass in some capacity. I think that there, there will be somewhat of a version of that that has to be explored. I think it’s going to be, I’m going to , like, I will be one of the people who considers that its own thing like that is going to be something that is, that is a version.

[00:32:31] This is a way you can enjoy a live show, but. there’s going to be a special place for the ability to go and share space with an artist and actually exchange energy. Because that is the thing that I think becomes very special that we, I’m not saying it’s not possible.

[00:32:48] I’m not saying there will be no breakthroughs within tech and within the world. And not even in my lifetime, that will remedy that, but there is an exchange of energy. When you are sharing a physical space, even if it’s a large space and especially with masses, that can’t be duplicated , um, over film, over remote access.

[00:33:14]Um, but like I said, this is, this is a time that speaks to adapt or die, make adjustments. The industry needs to thrive, needs to needs to survive. And. Again, it’s sort of like I was saying with say, holding an audition and doing a work session for dance over a video , it’s, it’s like twice as much work for, I’d say, you know, just for numbers half as much really understanding or really getting to know the person.

[00:33:40] So efficiency isn’t on your side. You’re, you’re working more to get less, but. It is possible. So it is a version. Um, so I think it could come about, I think that will be navigated as a possibility for survival, but I think there will always always be a certain standard that is set by live shared space, theater and performance.

[00:34:06] Dane Reis: [00:34:06] Yeah, I agree. I mean, technology’s fantastic, but nothing really replaces that exchange of energy. You’re totally right. And it is time to move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightning round. 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.

[00:34:28] Are you ready?

[00:34:31] All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

[00:34:37]Michael Balderrama: [00:34:37] My mama , um, the short version of that is there’s still a, there’s still a part of her. Every time we speak to her that she’s basically waiting for me to get a quote unquote real job. Um, so the fact that I was supposed to be a lawyer, not an entertainer. That’s probably, that was the biggest thing.

[00:34:52]Dane Reis: [00:34:52] Right. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:34:58]Michael Balderrama: [00:34:58] careful whose advice you take. That was probably one of the best pieces of advice. Careful as advice you take. Um, Um, that sort of couple was my, my favorite is, you know, this was, I can’t remember who, but I feel like it’s a slash advice slash. Mantra is just to the work. Just do the work. If there’s a moment where you find yourself worrying about what someone thinks.

[00:35:16] So having like, just sort of this idea of just do the work, see the task in front of you and get it done. And that’ll sort of recenter you refocusing.

[00:35:24] Dane Reis: [00:35:24] Yes. 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

[00:35:35]Michael Balderrama: [00:35:35] I would say the ability to collaborate , um, and I’d say that’s good for both. They don’t almost has been amplified by , um, COVID, you know, this, again, feeding back to what is going to sort of sort of ground the industry gonna grow and collaboration is really it really collaboration hand in hand with. We will all do better and we will all reach bigger Heights if we are trying to lift each other up as opposed to just ourselves.

[00:36:00] So collaboration I say is the hugest thing that I sort of really love and  

[00:36:03] Dane Reis: [00:36:03] Yes. Fourth question. What is it your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video, maybe a podcast or a piece of technology you found is helping your career right now.

[00:36:16]Michael Balderrama: [00:36:16] Um, right on, right on my desk and write in my work area. I wake up every morning and read a little bit more of it. And it’s the second time through is the 5:00 AM club. Um, I get up at 4:50 AM every day and I have my routine and read a little bit of the 5:00 AM club and I sort of, it anchors me and that is what’s really the driving force.

[00:36:32] And then if I need any more inspiration, I actually just jump on my, on my wife’s Instagram account.

[00:36:37] Dane Reis: [00:36:37] brilliant. 

[00:36:38] Michael Balderrama: [00:36:38] really is. She’s a light in the world. She is a light in the world. So whenever in doubt I go check her out.

[00:36:44] Dane Reis: [00:36:44] brilliant. 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?

[00:37:00]Michael Balderrama: [00:37:00] I would, the number one thing I would do, and this is very particular to me is I would be much more deliberate and conscious of the care. Um, I took physically of my body. I, I worked at an extremely high level with a bit of abandoned within my partnering in my dancing and sort of every moment, as much as that was special.

[00:37:19] And I sort of. sort of. Nothing mattered. But that moment I would have been much more conscious of what the results would be down the line for the pressure and the damage and everything that I would be putting on my body. So I would have invested a lot more into my physical therapy , my, my care with injuries , my, my consciousness of what my routine was around pre and post shows.

[00:37:44] And 

[00:37:48] Dane Reis: [00:37:48] Yeah. So glad you brought that up because that is such a huge piece of advice for anyone listening, especially if you’re in the beginning of your career, because when you’re 18, 19, 20, 22, your body can, you can pretty much put it through anything and it can bounce back and you’ll be all right to keep going.

[00:38:07] But the, but that really does, you’re doing damage long-term even though you don’t really see it. But just take care of your body.

[00:38:17] Michael Balderrama: [00:38:17] Yeah, and well, and like you said, the body at that age is , is, is built to recover. It’s built to recover. And as you get older that the length of time, and even the ability to recover starts to wane, but what you don’t realize, it’s the same as sort of like, and this is the other thing. If I had a second one for that, I’d be like putting little bits of money away.

[00:38:35] Sooner because just like, sort of like, sort of taking care of yourself, it actually extends the life of how long your body is capable of taking care of itself. It like, it actually keeps its youth longer, if you take better care of it. So in other words, yeah, so it’s a huge.

[00:38:50]Dane Reis: [00:38:50] yes, it keeps its youth longer. If you take care of it. So good. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge or drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:39:04]Michael Balderrama: [00:39:04] the last one little nugget I would say is that nothing is ever done. if you ever stop, then things will slowly dissipate and you will be done. That’s this desire to always create and to be involved and to look for the waste, to improve and look for new ways to create. And you know, this old phrase, use it or lose it kind of thing.

[00:39:30] And it really speaks volumes because. For me, what that does it, that feeds into the idea that every single artist, every single human is unique on this planet, which means that no matter what anybody says, anything that you imagine, anything that you create, anything that you come up with is unique in itself and the world needs it.

[00:39:49] So don’t let anybody ever tell you that what you create or what you bring to the world is not necessary because we need all of it. You need all the artists, we need all the creators. We need all the thinkers and imaginers and, and players and, and all of the things to really lift this world up.   

[00:40:04] Dane Reis: [00:40:04] that is. An amazing golden nugget, please. Everyone rewind that. You need to hear that again. And to wrap up this interview, Michael, 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?

[00:40:25]Michael Balderrama: [00:40:25] Well , uh, honestly, what I would just say is I would want to promote the arts in general is we’ve spoken about this a bit and it’s such a weird time, such a strange time, finding new ways to support the arts. If you want to find me and see what sort of I’m supporting or where I’m, where I’m really, you know, putting my efforts or what I’m up to, you can find me on Instagram.

[00:40:43] That’s usually the best. Place Baldy underscore Michael. And that is where you can find me if in doubt. And you really want to have , uh, the ability to see where you can really support the arts or support society, or really get out there. You can actually find a lot of the things that I do on my wife’s Instagram, at Liz Kimball , um, on Instagram.

[00:41:04] Yeah. So those are the two places and you’ll see me just trucking along, trying to make my part in the world. 

[00:41:11] Dane Reis: [00:41:11] Yes, fan tastic. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to everything. Michael 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, arts, and entertainment educators, and anyone, you know, you know, aspiring to create a career in.

[00:41:32] The entertainment industry you booked. It is the number one resource of expertise on how to actually create a successful entertainment career case in point, everything Michael just dropped here today in the episode. So many bits that you need to go back and rewind and listen to again, if you enjoyed this episode, please hit that subscribe button.

[00:41:53] So you don’t miss the next guest. And Michael, thank you so much for being here. It’s such an honor to speak with you. I’m so glad. Stephanie connected us

[00:42:03]Michael Balderrama: [00:42:03] Absolutely. Thank you so much. And thanks Stephanie. As always. She’s a champ, everybody.

[00:42:09]