Lauren: I had the pleasure of working with Lyman years ago in New York City. He is a dancer, actor, singer, delightful person, and we're excited to find out more!
JP: Let’s do it! Hi Lyman!
Lyman: Hello! Hello!
JP: Where are you from and where do you reside?
Lyman: I was born in Hawaii, raised in Hong Kong, did college in the UK, and now I’m here in New York City.
JP: Wow, all over! You are a world traveler!
Lyman: I was lucky enough, yes! I was lucky enough to actually go to different places.
Lauren: Does New York City have the best weather?
Lyman: Umm… yeah, sure!.. Well, no. I mean compared to the weather in UK of course! I was born and grew up a little bit in Hawaii and not a lot of places can actually top that if you love summer. I love the sun, I love the beach, I love that type of vibe as well.
JP: We're with you on this one, we love summer. Give us never-ending summer, right!?
Lauren: When did you get involved in performing arts and when did you say to yourself, “Okay, this is what i want to do, this is for me”? When was your “aha” moment?
Lyman: Let’s start off with that first part of the question. I got involved in performing arts when I was a kid and if I remember correctly in kindergarten. We would always have performances for parents such as Christmas carols, choir, and all that kind of stuff. For me, it was just a fun thing to do.
Then in primary school or elementary school, that was the first time my teacher, his name was Scott Gibson, was like “hey you are a very loud, energetic person. We have a school play, you are going to be the main guy, can you do it?” I’m like “what does that entail, what does that mean?” He said “ you just need to be you, remember lines, and sing a little bit.” I thought "oh okay...I’ve got no experience in both of those things but if you believe in me and if you want me to do it, yeah sure!”. I did it and I think that was one of the first moments when I thought, okay all I have to do is be myself and remember some lines which was the most difficult part. The feedback from the audience was the thing that got me thinking this is pretty cool that there’s some acknowledgement I can do this. That was one of the first moments I felt this was something I was comfortable doing.
From that point on that’s when more extracurricular activities took off. Mom actually started putting me into a dance school and into all these different activities that could help me with performing arts. Not until, I think, I was 16 when I actually started joining youth theaters, had directors, and choreographers. That helped and guided me through the process. I was like "yep" this is what I wanna do, this is what I love doing. I’m happy with the people I’m with, I love working with a group of people and I love the performing side of things. That’s when I knew this is what I want to do.
Lauren: That’s great you had people like your teacher and mom guide and help you along the way.
Lyman: And that’s what I started thinking about when you sent me that question...I was thinking it’s really about the people that can influence what you like doing. If you have the right group of people guiding you, you would feel okay doing a difficult task.
Lauren: Yeah, absolutely.
Lyman: I remember there was a time my mom actually...okay...good thing about mom and then I’m gonna do bad thing about mom...
Lauren: She might see this Lyman.
Lyman: Hopefully she won’t see it but if she does, sorry mom I love you. She’s really real. She would support you in things that you are good at. Things you are not good at, she would actually tell you in your face. So I don’t know...however one takes it. She was always very supportive in terms of my dancing. She would say "you listen to music well, you always move about at home, and you dance in front of the mirror all the time." I was also doing musicals back then and my mom would say "I don’t think you should sing". I remember her telling me that, because I thought “But I love this! This is something I want to do. Why would you say this?” but she would always say “It’s not in our blood, we don’t have that gene of singing”.
Lauren: Is she okay with your singing voice now?
Lyman: This is the thing...just prior to Covid I auditioned for the national tour of Chicago (the musical), and I got in. I told my mom ‘”Hey, I want to treat you so you should come watch my first ever national tour but I will only invite you at the end of the tour”, which was supposedly scheduled for June of 2020. We started performing in February, so technically she could've watched my first performance but I thought “don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it." I told her "I want you to come when I fully feel that I’ve gotten this musical.” She still kind of blames me for not inviting her earlier to watch. She said “I don’t know how your performance is.” She hasn’t seen me perform in a while.
JP: You probably didn’t want to have another discouragement from your mom.
Lyman: Yeah, I know, I know. Hopefully when theaters come back out again, I’ll ask her “come watch the first one. I’ll sing for you and then a live performance at home as well, if you want, I’ll just give”.
JP: You're engaged in so many different types of dance and studied many different forms of it. Why is it important for you to be multi-talented and why many performance avenues?
Lyman: I don’t really see the importance to actually try do as many things as you should. I think if it’s aligned with what you are passionate about yeah give it a shot. I always think as long as you are open to taking information, give it a shot and then if you really don’t like it, that’s okay as well, don’t do it.
It was only around the age of 21 I started realizing, there are some things that I'm really not good at. There are also some things that you can not do well but can actually slowly get better at. There are some of those things…like tap dancing…I’m still working on it. It’s been a good five years and my legs and feet just don’t do "tika-tika-tika-tika-tik". Even though I like it, I’ll keep it as a hobby. I’m not going to have someone pay me to watch me tap. That is not gonna happen.
JP: I’m fascinated by tap dance. Secretly I wish I could tap dance.
Lyman: Exactly, one of those things that looks so cool.
Lauren: As dancers we’ve all been performing and "something" happens. You can have this routine so well rehearsed that you can do it in your sleep but maybe your mind goes blank or something doesn’t work well with the costume. When something embarrassing happens as a performer, it’s our job to keep the show going, maybe recover, and hopefully nobody noticed. What was the top embarrassing moment for you that you felt like you recovered and came back from?
JP: Sorry for putting you on the spot!
Lyman: Luckily, I mean, really luckily, I don’t have a lot of those embarrassing moments in performance. I’ve done a lot in rehearsal so was lucky enough not to actually publicly show it. If I go to Latin dance competitions, yeah, there are those moments where I do forget the routine but luckily, the music keeps going and all you have to do is follow, really follow the music. At that point, all you can do is follow the music, dance with your partner, try to get a feel of what’s happening, try to not change your face and show "what the hell is going on". Somehow because the music takes you, you just keep going.
In terms of performance-wise on stage, yeah, I’ve tripped on stage before but luckily it was in rehearsal. I remember it was with another dance member. I forgot how I got to the floor but somehow his shoe and my shoe caught one another. We had to run all the way back stage, back to the other side and I tripped...boom...he left, everyone left...but I keep going. Even though it was a rehearsal I was thinking it was a live performance so it was no problem.
Luckily that scene was a lighter scene and could be comedic so I just took it as that and the choreographer said “totally fine, it worked well as long as you kept going, that’s okay” and I think that’s one of the key things. Whenever you do make a mistake, like you said, you just got to keep going. Follow, really really just know what position you are in, what you're doing, what is happening in that scene, what is happening with that part of the song. Is it a love scene? Keep it romantic even if you fall down or make a mistake, just follow through with what you already know. I think it slowly works that way because everyone knows when it is a mistake. Everyone knows “okay, yep, you kinda f'd up over there, you kinda fell down or whatever”.
JP: It’s how you pick yourself up, right?
Lyman: Yeah, exactly and they love those moments. I love when I see a performer, if they make a mistake, when they recover. I think “you recovered really well” and that for me leaves an impression as well.
JP: Yeah, exactly and it opens up an opportunity!
Lyman: Exactly, exactly! And you’ll surprise yourself sometimes.
JP: If you had no work hypothetically, we know you're a busy man, you had no phone or internet and let’s say it’s not Covid, what do you do? How do you unplug? Where do you go? Take us through the week of time off.
Lyman: Since you're asking me this question right now, let’s just say hypothetically it’s post-Covid. I would call family straight away. I’d say “Hey, we're going on a trip, my treat, let’s go to Hawaii everybody, I need the heat right now!" I went to Hawaii two years ago with Zoe and the good thing is there are some places where you still don’t have phone reception. The good thing was we were camping and it’s one of those moments when you actually realize, hey you don’t need to look at the phone, I don’t need to scroll through Instagram, I don’t need to look at YouTube. You are just really listening to nature, you are present with the person you’re with, you have random talks on various topics, which I love and you start to appreciate different stuff.
Hawaii, for me, is definitely a place to go because I love hikes over there, the nature, and the people are also very very chill.
Lauren: Sounds relaxing! We’ll have to check that out.
We wanna know is there coffee in your life now? Do you drink coffee or tea? What do you drink and how do you prepare it?
Lyman: Okay, so, I'm definitely not a coffee connoisseur and I don’t have much knowledge in terms of coffee but I do drink it now. The time we met, yes, I didn’t drink a lot of coffee but New York changed me, okay! New York has changed me. Sometimes we have to wake up really early and my body is just not quite ready and my mind is not quite ready. Coffee really does help. I mean, with also a whole gallon of water.
I started preparing coffee a little bit more now. I went on a trip one time to Italy, on the Amalfi Coast, and there was that moment when someone served me a coffee. I thought “I don’t really drink this...okay..what do I?...do I have to?...what type of milk?” so they prepared everything and suddenly in the background, I believe Pavarotti was playing in the background (an amazing Italian singer), I was looking at the view with the cup of coffee and I thought “oh okay this, this is how to drink coffee. I don’t mind drinking coffee like this. This is the way to do it.”
From that point on, I wanted to relive that moment. When I came back to New York I thought “you know what? I’m just gonna sit in front of the window, and listen to some music”. I started first off with instant coffee, it didn’t taste the same. Now I use Moka. That’s how I prepare it and I kind of froth my milk on the side.
Lauren: Wow this is fancy!
JP: Very advanced!
Lauren: When I worked with Lyman, co-workers might ask as they went on break, “hey do you want coffee?” and Lyman replied “No, I just drink water”. I found that amazing!
JP: That’s a long way from drinking water to frothing your own milk!
Lauren: Well every performer needs a little caffeine!
JP: Tell us about your next project. What’s coming up for you and what are you excited about?
Lyman: The next project at this moment is still open-ended in terms of the world of theater. We are (the cast) waiting to see if the tour continues or actually when it continues. On the side, while we’re waiting, it’s still the whole audition process. Luckily we have things like Zoom so auditions can take place and luckily vaccinations have been given out so there’s light in the end of the tunnel in terms of the theater or performing arts world. In terms of ballroom and partner dancing, I'm also teaching on the side right now while I wait for that to happen.
Lauren: Are they giving you any kind of hope as to when the theaters in New York City start opening?
Lyman: They’ve already started opening up. Just a few, I don’t know the names off the top of my head but I believe it was in May or June they were thinking of starting the first show. I think once they set an example and the ball gets rolling then I’m hoping for fall.
Lauren: We're keeping our fingers crossed for you! As a dancer, performer, or singer, some rely heavily on only technique when fine tuning their craft. They focus on a technique that will carry them to success or some rely 100% on feeling, hoping to go out there and let the journey take them. Did you find what works for you? Did you have to combine these two worlds? What did you do for your "fine tuning"?
Lyman: I personally don’t believe in one specific technique. As a kid I used to think it was feeling. If I feel this way, if I’m happy and if I’m in this mood, I will do X,Y,Z, specific things. Then it came to the point when I was competing a little bit more in Latin and there was a lot more technique and technique drilling in that aspect.
Yes, there were moments when it worked and there were some moments when I realized “I understand what you’re saying coach but how you’re delivering it to me, I’m not taking it well...you’re like really really drilling it, this Rumba Walk, drilling it into my head for the past three hours” but in my head I’m thinking “what are we really doing here? What are we doing today? Am I going to spend another three hours doing this Rumba Walk with this type of turn-out and holding of the core? What am I really doing?” Because of those two things, I thought at this moment you really have to know yourself.
As I grow older, slowly I realize you really have to know yourself and ask those questions to yourself. What type of person are you? How do you learn? How do you learn best? Once you know those things, you will know what type of avenue to go for. If today I wake up and I’m feeling bad or wake up really tired before you do a dance practice, prime yourself. If you have to meditate, meditate. If you have to stretch, stretch. If you have to grab a cup of coffee, grab a cup of coffee. Have a moment for yourself so when you go into the practice or rehearsal you exhale, be neutral and open. Open to technique, open to just listening to music and feel. You are ready at that point and there’s no extra baggage you're taking into rehearsal or training process. That’s what I feel is the most important to actually be neutral, prime yourself, and then you are ready.
JP: Last question for you! Can you give advice to aspiring artists?
Lyman: Yes, yes. My main thing now, because I’ve gone through different phases, I’m sure other performers go through the same thing when having moments of doubt. Feeling like it really isn’t working, or see where it's going, or even simple things like this doesn’t really pay the bills...yet. All these type of questions create a slight doubt, slight demotivation for the artist.
My advice to the ones that think that they can really do it is to be patient, be really really really patient with yourself, trust in the process and constantly ask yourselves questions. Whatever goal you have, whether being a super Broadway star, one of the competitors in the ballroom world, a mom, father, or a parent...be patient, trust yourself, and know everything is step by step.
You can’t get too angry at yourself but you can still acknowledge the moments like "today is not good". You have to also allow yourself a moment "If I do it everyday (whatever is that you do) you're going to get somewhere". I learned this not because of dancing but because of my singing. I’m going go back to singing because my mom said I wasn’t good at it. It was only three years ago when in my head I thought “No, mom, I’m going to sing!” I actually started taking lessons and in the beginning I still had in my head that I wasn’t a good singer but my voice teacher was really patient with me. He told me to get rid of that thought and not let it ever define who you are because that will stop you.
Acknowledge you are not good right now and that's okay to not be good right now. Every day, slowly but surely, I practiced a little bit more, I had my lessons every week, and trusted the process. There were moments when I had doubts thinking I will never be able to do it. Little by little, because I recorded myself and practiced in front of Zoe, which does kind of annoy her because I do it every day, I noticed my voice really changed. I started doing things I never used to do and it kind of gave me satisfaction. I started thinking I’m not there yet but the process and patience will help me.
Lauren: I love this question. I’m finding that this advice is for everybody, not just artists so that’s amazing you said that. "If you believe in it, trust the process and be patient" is what I’m taking with me today. Lyman, thank you so much for joining us!
JP: We really appreciate your time with us! Don’t forget to drink good coffee and stay entertained! Cheers!
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Dancing Ox Coffee drink pairing: Moonwalk