Farah Nanji  0:01  

Thank you so much for joining me today. We're almost at the end of ADE and I know this is your first ADE. So how's the whole experience been for you? What have been some of your goals going into this conference? 

 

Vandana Hart  0:13  

Yes definitely. So my name is Vandana Hart. I'm the creator and host of We Speak Dance on Netflix worldwide. This is my first time at ADE. And the thing that actually drew me in was that dance was on the title. And I know this is a big music industry event. It's been really exciting to experience the panels, and the thought leaders around the music industry, there's a lot of buzz, but I also feel like this is a moment in time where the music industry is transforming so it's exciting to hear those conversations, and see that change happening.

 

Farah Nanji  1:53  

Definitely. It's such an exciting time with disruptive technology, this focus on the creative economy, and how as creators, we can really leverage our art and, go to another level with it. So tell us about the whole Netflix series, we'd love to allow our listeners to hear a bit more about your journey and what the mission is behind the show.

 

Vandana Hart  2:13  

Definitely. So We Speak Dance is really my passion project. I worked for the UN for seven years on women, girls, women's rights, and safety in cities in 50 countries. And then I was also a professional dancer at the same time I trained at Alvin Ailey in New York. And I never thought dance was enough to change the world. So I just kind of, oh, I have to work at the UN. But then I became a judge on So You Think You Can Dance in Kenya?

 

Farah Nanji  2:39  

Really, really amazing. 

 

Vandana Hart  2:43  

So I lived in Nairobi for two years. And I  was in all these music videos with all the top musicians in Kenya. And then I got a phone call and they're like will you be the judge of So You Think You Can Dance Kenya? I thought was a joke. But then I got to see the whole nation of Kenya dance, that dance culture is incredible, right? It's so incredible. All the styles and also a lot of the kids are just learning off YouTube videos. There aren't like traditional dance schools as much. And it made me realize actually, dance is the language that can unite the world. This is the most powerful visceral art form. And we're not tapping into the power of dance. So I created We Speak Dance, seeing that there wasn't any TV show dedicated to the power of dance culture. So the show is filmed outside and in cities in the streets, in the culture with the dancers and asking them how dance speaks in your city. And, you know, from Nelson Mandela's family in South Africa, liberation to the Fela Kuti family in Nigeria, to gay dancers, and Lebanon, dancing as protests for LGBTQ rights. So it's really not just about dance, but how this language transcends all our differences.

 

Farah Nanji  3:53  

Fantastic. And so I knew that you were speaking yesterday ADE how was that? What were some of the key takeaways from that?

 

Vandana Hart  4:00  

Yeah. So really, I also think We Speak Dance now is much, much bigger than my passion project. It's become a movement. So we've been organizing dance and music leaders around the world to join, we speak dance, and our campaign is we dance for the planet. And I really see that dance and music working together in a unique way, where the dancers and musicians at the grassroots level become our ambassadors for our planet, as a potential to really create massive change, massive impact, and excitement for the youth culture globally to take action on things like climate or refugees or women. So I think two dancers who are overlooked don't have a sense of purpose. So building this global network of real industry, around dance and connecting it with music in any way that's never been done, was one of the goals.

 

Farah Nanji  4:49  

So what was the impact of launching the series on Netflix to achieve this move?

 

Vandana Hart  4:54  

Definitely. So one of our dancers in Lebanon. He'd never been to a refugee camp before and he was actually part Syrian. So we went to a Syrian refugee camp and we shared dance there on the TV show. And then he ended up teaching dance there afterward for years and then started teaching dance across Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon. And, you know, just that one little interaction led to a whole movement where kids who never had any art, now get to dance every week with this incredible dance leader. So I just spent three months traveling around Brazil filming the best dancers in Brazil, my gosh, and retraining them to be our ambassadors to the planet. And they're super pumped, and it's so cool. Like, we want to activate each city, in the world with musicians and dancers and create content. So we're launching our app, also called we speak dance, where we're gonna release dance tutorials like Tiktok, that all filmed outside to connect to the planet, and really want to celebrate the diversity of cultures. So we're really like handpicking and curating the platform to ensure that the real dance leaders and creators of the culture are being featured. And we're also including masterclasses on our app. So when you get to watch the show on Netflix, then afterward you get to try all the dance moves.

 

Farah Nanji  6:26  

And so it sounds like for this mission, it's about scalability and reaching as many communities as you can. And of course, I'm sure that the app will play an important role in that. What are some of the other ways that you can achieve scalability?

 

Vandana Hart  6:39  

Great question. So, you know, I feel like this like, dead feeling in my heart. Like, you know, everyone's just facing the DJ, and we're not facing each other. You know, I feel like, dance music is like the ultimate lovemaking it's the ultimate affair. And when we separate the music and the dance, we're not really tapping into the full power and magic that our ancestors used for 1000s 1000s of years. So I would love We Speak Dance to birth, this new movement of dance in circles. So kind of taking from the ancient way of moving, but then bringing in that new innovation of like, you know, like Cirque du Soleil performances, as well as simple, immersive, repetitive dance from all these different dance languages to connect people to make the look into each other's eyes to feel the connection is one. Yeah, versus I think sometimes you can feel a little bit empty and separated when there are so many people at an event. And you're just looking at the DJ. So I think there's a way that we can partner with big DJs musicians, and producers, to create like a circle culture, going back to the way we dance around the fire,

 

Farah Nanji  7:43  

That is just so interesting to hear. Because for sure, the DJ booth was never the focal point it back in the days when, you know, house music started in Chicago. And, it wasn't, it wasn't the center stage. And, of course, as a DJ, I don't discredit that we have a huge role to play in the way that the room moves. But it is, it is intimidating. Sometimes when there's that pressure, everyone has to stare at you and it's just it's too much. So it's very interesting to hear how you might like, sort of change the movement in the room. And also, as you say,  unite people through that primal essence of movement. So yeah, really interesting. Is there any interest in maybe looking at investors? And what would be some of the things that you'd be looking for, from investors, if that was the case,

 

Vandana Hart  8:30  

Definitely, we're looking for investors. We want to scale this app, we've done our first round of investment, and we're starting to fundraise again. Where we built our beta for the app, and we want to do launches in different regions of the world. So I think, yeah, the music industry, versus going to a tech event is really interesting. Because dance really, like people understand dance. We're in the music industry. And there isn't much of a dance industry like there is like talent agents and managers, but dancers aren't monetizing digitally. So music has already set up a whole legal system around the artist, the artist's development as well as how to monetize the music. But that hasn't happened with dance. So I think there's this really beautiful kind of big, big brother relationship that the music industry can have with the app to really strengthen this business. And we've been kind of talking about original music and publishing and creating original songs with artists around the world for our platform. So that's kind of come out that original ideas come out listing conversations

 

Farah Nanji  9:33  

And does the metaverse play a role in any of this?

 

Vandana Hart  9:36  

Definitely. I mean, I have dreams about like our dance avatars. And I think you know, the beauty of dance is like dance has been used to speak to the gods to pray to connect to the earth and indigenous cultures. And they have visions of these otherworldly beings and to create that in the metaverse for people to transcend the body and become free and imagine what it can be pretty incredible.

 

Farah Nanji  10:03  

The final question I'd love to ask you, something we ask all of our guests on the show is what are some of the misconceptions behind what you do and what it's taken for you to get to this point as well.

 

Vandana Hart  10:12  

I think there's a misconception that like, because I'm on Netflix, like, it's really easy, and it hasn't been like, it's been like a grassroots movement where I've filmed in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Brazil. And it's just been a movement of me and my friends. You know, and now I want it to be something much bigger than me, I want We Speak Dance. It's not about bonding or heart, it's not about my brand, I want this to be like the top 10 dancers in the world than the top 100, the top 1000 are the global community that is there showing up to dance to work with the DJs and musicians to change the world. I think, there's a misconception that there's a movement about me and I'm, I'm an igniter, and in a facilitator, but I really want to unite all of our tribes of dance and all of our tribes of music to work together. So that's my bigger goal. And music and dance with the UN would be pretty cool.

 

Farah Nanji  11:11  

Yeah, definitely, I actually DJ a lot for the UNHCR, and, you know, it's so interesting to try and bring some of that ethos because not only just from movement, but also from the healing frequencies of music and what it can do to a mindset of change, you know, hopefully, transcend some of the pain. And also, it's a very interesting point, you touched on there because I think that success is not about getting a platform just like Netflix, it's, it's the continuation of all of those things, and the amalgamation of all those things. Like it's very rare that one of those things, for the long term creates that, that level of what you've alluded to, so yeah, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been an absolute pleasure and wishing you all the best on this mission. And of course, we'll plug in all of the places for our audience to come and check out your work.

 

Vandana Hart  11:58  

Amazing. Well, I would love to do some kind of dance circle experience with you djiing! Thanks for having me.