Has it ever cross your mind who is the one person behind the awesome dance routine that you have been seeing in your K-pop idols and artistes these days? Well, I guess there is no need for an introduction to Shaun Evaristo, the award-winning dance extraordinaire and celebrity choreographer. Originally from San Francisco, the Filipino-American dancer and choreographer is of no stranger to K-pop fans, as you could have probably heard of his name countless times, especially if you’re fans of Big Bang, 2NE1 & Se7en.
HallyuSG was lucky enough to score an exclusive interview with Shaun Evaristo while he is in Singapore for the mega dance festival – United We Boogie Singapore 2011 – taking place from 11th to 20th December 2011. (Special shoutout to Danz People & Boogiezone.com for facilitating this interview!) Be sure to read on and find out about Shaun’s upcoming plans, inspirations, personal thoughts on dancing and more!
Back in Singapore specially for the United We Boogie Singapore 2011, a dance festival jointly organized by Danz People & Boogiezone.com, Shaun says about the country, “One word that I have about Singapore is ‘Fusion’. When I look around and see things, everything is just exciting! There’s a great mix of food and people here! I also tried the xiao long bao (a type of Chinese steamed bun) and it’s good!”
Q: What is/are your upcoming plan(s) after the United We Boogie Singapore 2011 festival?
Shaun: After this, I’ll be returning home to LA (Los Angeles), where we have an official Movement Lifestyle store and studio which we’ll be starting a tour next year from February onwards. I’ll also be working with Show Luo (Mandopop artist) in Taiwan too.
Q: Is/Are there any role model(s) whom you look up to? Where does your motivation comes from?
Shaun: I like to look at people who came before me, like Michael Jackson. Recently, I’ve been re-inspired by Prince, Gene Kelly, and the list goes on. I’m very musically inspired by people from the past as well. I grew up watching different crews and from there I kind of found music and dancing and was able to understand that I wanted to take it to another direction, completely somewhere else. That’s when emotions came flowing in and my life experiences came into play.
As far as inspirations, I think my friends and peers are my source of motivation too! Jillian Meyers, Lyle Beniga, Pat Cruz, Tony Testa,…Well the list just goes on and on! My peers constantly push me on such that I want to do better. Because they are doing such an amazing work, I feel that I got to work just as hard and create my own path. My friends inspire me. I think my friends are the best dancers in the world.
It is difficult to properly describe Shaun’s personal style of dance in words. More complex than traditional hip-hop, he is one who combines intricate movements with smooth control and takes dancing to a new level. And as the interview goes on, he continues sharing with us his feelings about dancing and choreography.
Shaun: That’s a difficult question… I’ve created so many pieces but at the end of the day I just try to create and continue moving forward. I would utilize the tools that I learn from the past, and propel myself to the future. It’s always like a learning tool which I can go back on.
Shaun: I used to take up tap and jazz classes when I was younger and from there I got exposed to other styles like the hip-hop culture and pop music. I don’t think there’s that one style that attracted me the most. If it’s anything, it’s the foundation in hip-hop that I would always love. Hip-hop gets you moving and makes you want to rock and groove with the music.
For K-pop artistes, what I do is, I let the song speak to me. I may not know the language but eventually it’s about me feeling something out of the song. It creates an idea in me and I’ll then bring it to the artistes.
There ought to be some difficulties or obstacles that people may encounter in life while pursuing their dream. How about Shaun? He was all smiles when we were on this topic about the language barrier in Korea. Let’s find out more from his answer below!
Shaun: One of the very first countries which I travelled to was Japan – that was when I was 18. I had a really big culture shock as I had to find my way around. By the time when I ended up going to Korea, I spent one whole month there without knowing anything. The artistes do talk to me, but they would only use minimal English to communicate. It’s like, “I want to talk to you, but I just don’t know how“. My first month there was very difficult but I’m used to breaking down barriers and being the first one to go and make things happen. So that was what the whole experience was all about.
Q: Can you speak a few words or phrases in Korean?
Shaun: “An-yŏng-ha-se-yo!” (안녕하세요 – Hi/Hello)… I don’t know…Maybe”peh-goh-p’ah-yo” (배고파요 – I am hungry) or “Jin-jja-yo?” (진짜요 – Really?). I think I’m a little better inside the rehearsal room because I can say things like ‘From the top’ or ‘Again’, yeah things like that.
Q: Did you know the popularity of Big Bang and who they were when you first met them?
Shaun: At first, I got this email on Myspace where they showed me a link, saying that they wanted me to work with these artistes. Back then, I wasn’t very interested as I had another job in mind which I was trying to go for. Eventually some things didn’t managed to fall through, so I thought to myself, “Let’s just try this.“
(Us: And now they’re one of the top acts in K-pop.)
Yeah! Not until I got there, did I understand that they’re big in Korea. I’ve been travelling and working in the industry for a long time. When I was able to understand the Korean pop culture, I became more and more in tune with the Korean music. When I went overseas to teach, I would warm up to the music, tell people about who I’m working with and I would say that a lot of the dance cultures are into Korean music. I guess there was some sort of connection between myself and K-pop. From there, I kind of let it open and wow, now it’s crazy! Even before me, Korean pop music was big. Now that there’re so many dance artistes like myself and my peers contributing to the Korean pop culture, I feel really proud of it.
Q: I understand that you’ll be working with Show Luo on your upcoming plans. Is there any difference in the way in which a K-pop dance and a Chinese-pop dance will be choreographed?
Shaun: It all depends on skills. I’m not going to give the artistes something that they can’t handle. I believe I’m the artist behind the artist, so if I don’t do my job right, I’ll be really angry at myself. If they don’t look good in front of their fans, it’s kind of depressing to me. I’ll have to make sure that they look good enough to be loved by fans. For me, knowing that you’re part of that success behind them is what makes me happy.
Q: Since we’re on a topic about dancing, how do you actually stay in shape? How many hours per day or week do you usually spend on dancing?
Shaun: Well, it’s hard trying to balance everything. I have my Movement Lifestyle company to handle since I’m the CEO, and I’m also doing my own choreography as an artist, not forgetting that I have to find time for myself (personal life) too. Basically, I just stay health-conscious. I try to eat the right food and take more vegetables. I’ve been juicing a lot recently too, I think it kind of helps. I’m not strictly juicing though, I just take that in between meals. Dancing really helps out a lot as it gets your blood pumping and constantly builds your body. To me, dancing isn’t just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle too!
Q: Have you ever thought about doing anything else other than dancing?
Shaun: I like film. I feel that I will be able to handle my own project and I don’t think I’m far from those dreams being that I love being creative and artistic. But if I weren’t dancing, I guess I will be into skateboarding.
(Us: Are you good in skateboarding?)
Q: If you were to judge a dance audition, what will you look out for in the contestants?
Shaun: What I will look out for depends on the project. If it’s for an artist job, they will need to have a certain look and style to represent themselves. They’ll have to be able to adapt to what I want and provide me with more. That’s why it’s important for them to know their foundation first.
Q: Fans are curious as to how they could remember the dance steps easier and faster. Are there any techniques or tips that you would like to suggest to them?
Shaun: It’s about putting in the hard work. If you really love something, you would go for it and that goes to speak for anything. Particularly, you can study videos and ask questions. I think that the greatest thing about dance is getting to share with one another. It’s a fact that you can share a language without speaking. Dance is the only language that you don’t have to say a word to communicate. You can tell a whole story by just moving! That’s what makes dance so special. Even working with K-pop artistes or any artistes for that matter, I don’t particularly have to say anything. Well, obviously we do say something, but we can just use our body movements to communicate with one another. It’s a really great exchange of languages between us.
Q: Lastly, do you have any words of encouragement/advice for those who are learning dancing?
Shaun: One thing that I always say is, “Explore”. It’s very important to understand fundamentals to go back and know your roots. Know where you came from and study what they are now. Once you understand the base, the whole world will be for you to learn and explore. Utilize your tools. Your body is your instrument to explore. If you don’t know your own limitations, how do you expect to push yourself further and to discipline yourself?
We had a really great time catching up with Shaun during his visit here and hope that you guys enjoyed reading the interview! Special thanks to Cherie & Eileen for facilitating the interview, the organisers of United We Boogie Singapore 2011 – Danz People & Boogiezone.com, and of course Shaun Evaristo!
Join us at the United We Boogie Singapore 2011! You know that you don’t want to miss this mega dance festival which is happening right here in Singapore! 😉
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