(x)clusive’s Interview with Shaun Evaristo
Curious about the choreographer behind those awesome dance moves of Se7en, Big Bang and 2NE1? Then wait no further as (x)clusive brings to you an intimate interview we had with Shaun Evaristo when he was in Singapore for United We Boogie Singapore 2011.
Is this your first visit to Singapore?
Nope, I was here earlier this February for Danz People, and I absolutely love it. Before I was doing more of workshops, now I’m doing a whole experience, so that’s the difference.
So what do you like about Singapore?
One word that I have to describe Singapore is fusion. I like what I see when I go around to see things. Everything is just a mix, like a great mix of food, a great mix of people… For me, above the scenery and all the places I go to, getting to meet the people was the coolest thing. Overall the people I’ve met are really really nice and shy, but are also very very cool people.
Have you had a chance to try local food?
I believe so. I mean like wherever they take me, I will be like “Let’s go! Take me, I want to eat!” We just had Xiao Long Bao so my tummy is happy. (beams) The last time I was here, I also tried Malaysian food. It was really good. Yeah, so every time I will be like, “Take me where you want to take me.” (extends hands)
After United We Boogie Singapore, what will you be working on?
I will go back home to Los Angeles and I’ll be doing a lot of work with Movement Lifestyle, a company I help run. We’ve now got a store, an official Movement Lifestyle store next to the official Movement Lifestyle studio and we are now starting a tour, starting February or March (in 2012) so I’ll suggest everyone to check out the movementlifestyle.com, where they can see what’s new including news about the tour. But as far as 2012 goes, I will be going to be working closely with Show Luo in Taiwan.
You’re considered a very renowned choreographer, where do you get your source of inspiration from?
It’s basically like I live life to create. The more life I experience the more I’m able to create because I’m able to understand certain emotions and the more experience I have, it’s like a vault or a pocket full of experiences. You know the perfect song when it hits me and I’m ready to use it, I can just pick from these different emotions and kind of input them. Sometimes they are true stories, other times they might be pretend stories. Sometimes just things I imagine in my head but end of the day, they really come from a true place in my life and I’m able to express it right.
Is there anyone that motivates you, any role models?
There are a lot of big names, but as far as dance goes, some of the very first people that have inspired me are some of the jabbawockeez when they were a different crew and I kind of grew up watching them and also Martin Kadoko who is Justin Timberlake‘s choreographer. I wanted to take it in another direction and take it somewhere else and that was when emotions came and where experience came into play.
My inspiration for now is my friends and my peers, Jillian Meyers, Lyle Beniga, Pat Cruz, and the list goes on and on. I don’t know. I just think that my peers constantly push me to want to do better because they are doing such amazing work that I feel like “Oh man, they’re working so hard, I’ve gotta work just as hard” and I’ve got to create my own path, so. My friends inspire me. I think my friends are the best dancers in the world.
So which choreography thus far is your favourite or most memorable?
Uh, that’s a difficult thing, I’ve made like so many pieces, but at the end of the day, I try to just create and continue moving forward. I do utilize the tools that I learn from the past to propel me into the future, like a learning tool that I can go back on. I get to create a move that I’ve never done before and then get to use it for my next piece or do it for something else or maybe it’s like a new piece that I’m like “oh that move that I did in 2000, I don’t know whatever 2001 I should use that one, that’s cool. It’s old but it’s still good, you know”. Just having a vault full of moves is always great, having a repertoire.
What kind of dance genre attracts you the most?
I was predominantly exposed to hip-hop when I was younger, also along with pop icons like Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. But you know doing different styles of dance or just even seeing different styles of dance like I don’t think one style attracts me like the most. If anything that is because of my foundation in hip-hop that I will always love it. You know there’s just something about it that excites you, there’s something about it that gets you moving or make you wanna rock your head and move and groove or something, you know even if you can’t dance you still wanna do something and that’s what it’s about.
So when you create the choreography for the different artiste, do you like actually create them based on their ability or do you expect them to like match up to your expectations?
I think in the beginning I kinda just did what I wanted but now it’s great to come up with an idea or a concept and then go there and then mould it to like either that specific artiste especially with K-Pop artistes what I do is um, I let the song kinda speak to me and I may not know the language from the get-go but it’s about me feeling something the same way as it is in my own choreography, and then you know creating an idea based upon that feeling and then bringing it to that artiste and then say: okay, how can I feel and mould my stuff along with what’s gonna work with this person.
Speaking about Korean artistes, was it hard for you to adapt to the Korean culture and people? Like in comparison to the people in other countries that you worked with that are English speaking?
When I went to Korea, I spent one whole month there not knowing anything. Though it’s my first time around, even the artiste, the ones that I work with aren’t willing even to talk to me. I mean they would, but it was very minimal English, you know. They were shy and I was like I don’t know what to say to you. So it was like a bunch of um 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 happens. So that’s kind of what the whole experience was. Like let’s say “let’s use small words like Food, or Bathroom or hello, hi.” Eventually I was able to understand and speak, you know, just about enough to get by.
So has your Korean improved?
I haven’t been there for a couple of months now. When I go there, it always gets better and then as soon as I leave, it sort of drops. But I can tell you that my love for Korean food or people will never die. I love it, I love it there, it’s like my second home and yeah, I think a part of me is Korean at heart. I feel like maybe in the past life I was like part Korean, part Japanese, part African American and part Filipino.
Could you speak a few line or a few words of Korean for us?
Annyeongaseyo, cheoneun Shaun Evaristo imnida. I don’t know. I can say little things like “baegopayo, jjinjayo?” I think I’m a little bit better in the rehearsal room because I can say like “from the top” or “again”, things like that.
Did you know how big Big Bang was when you first started working with them or…?
When I found out who I was working for, I got this email on MySpace and they showed me the link “we want you to work with this artiste” and I was like okay. I was actually not that interested at first because I had got another job in line and I was trying to go for that job, but something didn’t fall through so I was like why not try this thing? So I ended up going and that was how it all worked out. Pretty crazy.
And now they are one of the world’s best acts.
Yeah. It was only until I got there that I understood the severity of it all. I knew it was big at that time, like it was big in Korea, but I’ve been travelling and working in the industry for a long time. So when I was able to understood the Korean pop culture and going to overseas for each country, Europe, different parts of Asia, the UK…you got it. I was becoming more and more in tune with Korean culture. I was warmed up to their music; I would tell people who I’m working with.
I would say a lot of dance culture really tuned in to the Korean music because there was some sort of a connection between myself and I guess K-Pop. So from there I guess it sort of opens and now it’s crazy. But I just think that now, so many dance artistes, like myself or my peers are really going out there to make a name in K-Pop. I’m so proud of it.
When you are choreographing for K-Pop music and when like you do for Chinese pop, is there any difference?
Yeah, definitely, it all depends on skill. You know, I’m definitely not giving an artiste something they can’t handle. And then, my goal as a choreographer is to make them look good. I believe I’m the artist behind the artiste, right, so if I don’t do my job right, I will be really angry with myself. And if they don’t look good, it’s depressing for me. I’ve got to make sure they look good enough to where their fans love them the same or more.
To be blunt and truthfully honest, as far as the dance work goes, sometimes the artiste will be up to par, sometimes they won’t be, or sometimes they excel, but at the end of the day, it comes down to that artiste’s fans, those following or whoever idolizes them. My goal is to make them happy and to add on new fans. I would love people to say “I’ve never been into that artiste, but now that you’ve worked with them, I like what you really do and that’s fantastic.” To me, that’s what makes me happy.
Talking about dancing, how do you actually stay in shape?
It’s hard balancing Movement Lifestyle and then doing my own choreography as an artiste, and then also finding time for Shaun, myself as a person, balancing that time and trying to figure out when I put time to work out, especially with all the travelling. I just stay health conscious. I may not like it, but I try to eat all the right food, like I try to eat more vegetables.
I’ve been juicing a lot lately. I think juicing kind of helps. I’m not just doing a juice diet, but in between meals, I try to juice a little bit. Dancing kind of helps out a lot and I’m constantly moving, so even if you’re not a dancer, I suggest you go and dance. Get your blood pumping, go move. You like K-Pop music right? Then you should go and dance.
Have you thought of doing anything else other than dancing?
Yes. I mean progressively, choreography transits into film and I think eventually I’m going to dabble in it as well. By no means am I gonna be an actor or director but will be able to handle my own projects and I don’t think it’s far off for me to handle my own things, being that I love being creative, so I can just be myself. But if I weren’t dancing, I think I would be into skating. I’m not good at it but I was on the verge of wanting to really go into skateboarding but now I’ll just be on my long board going down the streets. Or I would have been an interior designer. I love design and I think design kind of goes into my work as well.
So to all aspiring dancers, could you give some words of encouragement and probably tips?
The one thing I would always say is to ‘explore’. It’s very important to understand the fundamentals, to go back and understand your roots, know where your dance came from and then really study how those things started and what they are now and then once you understand and have a good base and foundation, you have to go away from it and learn and try to be creative. Like what else you can do with it. The whole goal as a dancer is to explore your body, the movements. So utilize your tools and use your body as an instrument. If you don’t know its limitations, how do you push yourself further within this discipline as a dancer?
If you were to judge a dance audition, what will you look out for in the contestants?
I look at all different kind of things. It all depends on what the project is. If it is for a job, you need to have a certain look, you gotta have a certain style but you also have to adapt to what I want to do. If you can’t do the style that I have, then how am I gonna pick you? You got to be able to work with what I’m doing and then provide me with more. The more versatile you are, the better. That’s why I think it’s important to know your foundation so that you can do a little bit of this and that and then when you do ex-choreographers stuff you will be able to revitalize it.
Any tips or suggestions for K-Pop fans that have a problem with regards to remembering the dance routines?
It’s all about putting in the hard work. If you really want something, you will go for it. This goes for anything. But it’s also studying videos and asking questions. I think one of the greatest things about dance is to share with one another. It’s such a social thing to do. If I have a question about a move, I can ask my friend. You don’t even need to say anything as dancing is a language where you don’t have to say a word. You can express a whole story by just moving. That’s what makes dance so special. Even while working with K-Pop artistes, I can show it with just bodily movements. It would be like a great exchange of body actions.
Artistes portray a different image on stage and off stage. Of all the artistes that you’ve worked with, are there occasions whereby the artiste disappoints you?
Without naming any names, I was actually upset before. I was actually hoping for a really focused and motivated artiste but by the time I was on set and we were ready to shoot, the artiste was late and then we only did a few takes and the artiste was like ‘Are we almost on the last shot? Can I go to my trailer already?’ I really couldn’t stand that and it struck a chord.
I’ve worked my whole life too. If you don’t take your job seriously, I can’t take you seriously. Plus you are out here making x amount of dollars and you are getting all these kids and children and fans to buy your stuff. Seriously it just seems like a marketing and money making thing for you, while for me it is the art, so it tears something inside of me and it bugs the crap out of me.
Shaun‘s such a happy person to talk with and it resulted in the whole session being a really enjoyable one. Many thanks to the people at Skyy and Danz People for this amazing interview session. Would totally love to meet the man again if he were to come to Singapore for another event. Keep on moving people!!
Here’s the official video for Shaun Evaristo Experience if you’ve missed it this time around! It is simply amazing.