Exclusive interview with S.M.Entertainment’s choreographer Mihawk Back!

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After being invited to review the third anniversary Dance Workshop held by the dance troupe “LOKO“, I did a little research and realised that they were no ordinary dance group or K-pop coverist. Starting as a group of friends who had a love for K-pop and dancing they then began to hold workshops to help teach other K-pop fans how to dance the ever complicated yet fascinating choreography.

Over the past three years they have held numerous events and each time the number of participants have grown bigger and bigger. For those that don’t know about Mihawk, he is a choreographer at S.M.Entertainment, one of Korea’s biggest entertainment companies. He is a member of BeatBurger and has choreographed dances and performed as a backing dancer for the likes of TVXQ, SHINee, Super Junior and EXO.

When I walked into the hall and saw a crowd of around 30 – 40 people all drenched in sweat, I thought I had walked into a gym by accident. Then I heard the sound of Korean voices bellowing from the speakers. There was a real electric atmosphere. When I began to talk to some of the people in the studio I realised that none of them actually knew each other, yet everyone was interacting, laughing and joking together. There were people from all kinds of backgrounds and it really looked and felt like a lively and fun community rather than a dance class. The event was also attended by the UK’s very own YouTube famous K-pop reaction duo Sabrina and Raphael, also known by the name of K-Spazzing, both of whom looked like they had a great time. There were some lessons held by the LOKO members in the morning and as 3:00pm approached Mihawk arrived and was ready to take part in an interview for MCM Buzz.

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How does it feel being back in the UK doing a workshop after three years? What is it you like about the UK K-pop fandom?
When working as a professional choreographer and dancer there are times where I don’t like to dance. I have to do things I don’t want to do, but the K-pop fans and dancers are very inspiring to me. Every time I check their videos, such as K-pop dance covers, their passion is amazing and it’s the most beautiful thing that I respect and it’s what I use to bring myself to carry on.

Do you feel that the Kpop fandom internationally has changed? If so, in what way?
Year by year the K-pop fandom has become bigger and bigger, and it’s really amazing. I have been around the world for concerts and tours with S.M. Entertainment since 2010 and I have seen many fans who are crazy for K-pop, which is great. K-pop internationally has grown as well as the love for the culture of Korea; it’s just amazing for me to see its growth.

S.M. Entertainment are renowned for having groups with very prolific and powerful dance routines. Over the years which has been your favourite to watch and perform?
That’s a pretty hard question to answer as a lot of the dances I didn’t choreograph, fully but if I had to choose one dance that represented me, it would have to be the one I choreographed for SHINee’s Taemin’s recent release “Pretty Boy”.

When learning a new routine, how long do you take to practice it?
I would have to say I’m the fastest out of the dancers in S.M. Entertainment, it takes me about one hour to learn a full choreography, but it does depends on the difficulty level, so can range anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour. Just memorising the routine is not important, if you love dancing you will put in more time and effort to practice a dance.

Who would you say are the best natural dancers in S.M. Entertainment? 
Well if a natural dancer defines a talented dancer then I chose Kai from EXO. He is a little under the level that I want him to be, he can probably improve more. For me I’m not a talented dancer as I started dancing at the age of 10 as K-pop began to appear on the TV. At the time I danced to the older groups like H.O.T, Shinhwa and G.O.D. I am still loving to dance but I feel time has made me look like a natural dancer.

There are many talented and amazing entertainers around the world, who is it that you look up to and who inspires you to keep pushing further?
For me I love every type of entertainer from around the world. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female, young or old, but as a choreographer and as a producer I do like Tony Tiesta’s work as I have worked with him for several projects, and he really inspires me in many ways with his dancers or even his producing.

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Loko have managed to gain recognition around the world for their on par dance covers. What is it about them that really sets them aside from other dance troupes you have seen?
The first time I saw their work was when I was in Paris doing a workshop three years ago. I was shown a video from a friend of Loko’s dance cover of TVXQ “Why”. I was one of the dancers in the video and one of the choreographers and I was really amazed by their work, as they seemed to be really professional with their dance skills and expressions. I could see they were really different from other K-pop dance coverists.

Being a dancer you need to keep your health in check, what is your daily routine? 
I don’t really have a daily routine as my work time means I have to be very flexible to fit all the concert schedules as well as choreography schedules together. The way I work is not good for my health but to keep a good balance I try to stick to three rules. 1) Eat little but often 2) Sleep well 3) Enjoy everything you are doing.

You will be travelling around Europe holding some dance classes. Do you ever look for people who might want to become a backing dancer or work in the K-pop  industry? Have you ever recommended anyone from one of your dance sessions?
If there is someone who I feel is really able to be a singer or dancer in the K-pop industry and I find them talented enough I would suggest that they should come, but as I have grown up in the industry I know how hard it is to make a dream come true. It is a very competitive world and you need to be ready financially, mentally and physically.

Your closeness with fans of K-pop and dance has meant you have become an idol to many people. What does it feel like to know that you inspire others?
I can’t imagine that I inspire people but I do feel very grateful. I am just trying to be someone I want to be, and if that inspires people it’s really awesome; I’m amazed.

There are many dance styles and genres out there, which ones are your favourite or least favourite?
As I have been dancing a long time I have tried all the different genres, I just wanted to watch and dance whatever I could to see if it suited me. If it annoyed me or if it didn’t suit me I just pushed forward and tried to keep updated. Dance is just dance, an expression. I don’t have a style I like more than another.

There are a lot of comebacks, tours and debut’s within S.M.Entertainment at the moment. Have you been involved with any directly, and is there any news on what we can expect from S.M.Ent?
I was working hard with SHINee’s Taemin on his solo album before I came to London. This is hard to answer as I can’t say too much. Though the BeatBurger Project is to help promote for Super Junior’s comeback, but there is really nothing else I can share.

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I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Tammy and Caroline of LOKO for arranging the event and for the communication, to Haekyung Um for her help during the day, and to Mihawk for taking the time out of his busy schedule to hold this interview with me.

Be sure to keep checking back to MCM Buzz for information about the next LOKO event, or check out the Facebook page. For more images from the event covered in this article be sure to check out the LOKO Dance Workshop gallery on the MCM Buzz Facebook page.

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