Photo by Nathan Dale Studios

An actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, director, emcee, and international teaching artist, Brian Bose sits down with Quinn Villagomez to talk dance, confidence, empowerment, and how to SLAY every day.

My mom said I started running before I could walk, and also that I started dancing before I could walk.

I went to Chatsworth High School, in the [San Fernando] valley, and along with mainstage productions and theater shows, I did these drama competitions, where we’d go and compete with other high schoolers around the area and do scenes—from monologues up to big musicals. All we could use was our chairs, our bodies, and simple clothing—not even costumes. It was all about the creativity of what we can create. That just really led me onto the path of what I wanted to be—an all-around performer and storyteller, using all of me.

I met Jack Reuler, from Mixed Blood Theater Company, and a year after I graduated, he had me come out and choreograph and also be in the production of “DJ Latinidad’s Latino Dance Party;” that was my real introduction to Minnesota and Minneapolis. He told me I should move here because I’d get the chance to not only do a lot of what I do, but the Twin Cities is just a big theater town, so I could build myself from there.

It’s not really a competition, which is definitely different than California or New York. I didn’t feel that competition; I felt like we could all lift each other up.

Accepting the snow, and barreling through it. Just put your layers on and keep pushing, and if it’s negative 60, keep your ass at home.

I was living with my boyfriend’s family in California before we had moved here. And I was really struggling to make money. I was in-between, and about to move, and I didn’t know what to do. I was hitting up studios and being like, “I can come teach a master class or workshop.” And this one studio, the Movement Lab in San Diego, I pitched three ideas—one was like a Beyonce class. She came out with “Lemonade” and “Formation”—so, the whole, “I slay.” So I thought, okay, a “Slay like Beyonce” class.

I’d tell people, “I’m going to do this workshop” and they’d say, “Oh, I can’t dance. I’m scared. I can’t do that. People are going to look at me, make fun of me”—all these ideas and insecurities and doubts and fears. That really troubled me. I love to dance, and dancing can transform you. It can make you feel so much better. It can make you feel like you can do anything. So I created a class with no dance experience necessary, and I try my hardest to just focus on the learning of dance so that we can get out of our way and slay.

I ended up doing it at the Guthrie, and teaching at the Guthrie, and I have to thank them. They’ve fully supported the class and they wanted to really create a platform where I could facilitate it. They’ve really done that and fought for me—this gay, black boy from California, amongst this pretty white space, if we’re being honest. It’s the Guthrie Theater—even though they’re pushing for diversity, we have a long way to go in terms of making all people feel like they are seen, and they are heard, and it’s okay for them to enter this space and be themselves.

Dancing is more than just dancing to music; it’s the movement of your body. Right now, we’re dancing. Just sitting on this couch, just vibing and talking. This is dance.

Brian Bose // Photo by Tj Turner

Here’s a platform where I can share myself—doing the sound scoring of the music, putting in samples, being very intentional about what I’m putting out sonically and what we’re dancing to—so people can feel a sense of empowerment through dance. Like they’re going to a therapy session, but they’re dancing their way through it, almost, and we can do it together.

To take care of people, to guide them and be clear about what you want, and what you feel, and to be open and vulnerable. To create a space where people can actually share their fears. You know, sometimes we’re in class and I’ll say, “Is anyone scared right now?” and people raise their hands, and I say, “Great! Me too! Let’s go. Let’s have fun.”

I always try to find the balance of what can be challenging and what can you just grab on to, and find a good mixture of the two, so everyone feels like they can succeed. And we can all learn from each other. With the SLAY Workshop, I try to celebrate everyone’s bodies. We are all made differently, we all have different bone makeup and bone structure, and we will all move differently. And that is to be celebrated. 

It shouldn’t be a radical idea to create spaces that accept people for who they are.

Photo by Nathan Dale Studios

I’m able to create a space where people are able to experiment with their superstar selves, and that’s so important to me. So much community and culture are created in those kinds of spaces.

Throughout college I went through this period of great depression, where I was really unsure of myself. I saw this big dream of how I wanted to be, and I was afraid that I could not make that happen. And I was also, more importantly, afraid to fail. Because failure, somehow, in my mind, in my spirit, meant death. The end. I went to Steppenwolf West, an acting conservatory during the summer, and I had this teacher, Alex Billings; she was on “Transparent.” In one session she said something that changed my life. She said, “You can’t do it wrong, you can’t fuck it up, you just gotta try.”

Failure is just a different direction. Oh, you didn’t get it right this time? Choose another path, maybe you’ll get it right that time. It’s about the journey and the process.

You learn it in the moment—that was a big key for this class. I wanted to obliterate all borders and barriers to people’s minds saying, “Oh I can’t do this.” No choice. You’re going to try right now. You don’t know what’s coming next so you’re going to learn right here. And by doing that, your brain is training itself to mirror movement, and that’s what it comes down to [when you’re] learning dance. I’m trying to get people out of their heads. Stop saying you can’t. Yes, you can, and you’ll do it right now. Because you learn so much more if you mess up.

To see all my students transform. And to feel different. To talk different. To carry themselves differently—it really brings me joy. It gives me hope that yes, we can actualize change in this world.

My purpose is to move, to move others, and to be moved. It’s through movement that we can transition, and energize yourself, and change. Movement is change and transformation.

Brian Bose will resume the SLAY Workshop at the Guthrie Theater later this fall—check for updates. Quinn Villagomez is a co-host of Fresh Fruit on KFAI.