August 2, 2012
- by Anna Pazderski
The first thing that triggered my interest in South Korea was its dance scene. While Korea is known for its Hallyu stars who dance to their songs, I have also heard praise for its break-dancing scene and hip hop world. So, when I came to Korea, one of the first things I wanted to do was somehow take part in this side of Korea.
I took classes for two weeks at a studio called EZ Dance, right next to Ewha University. I will remember my experience there for the rest of my life. It was unlike any other. The whole process was unique from the start, from my friend helping by being a translator to entering the studio and needing to put on slippers.
In my past experience, classes in studios are usually conducted once a week. In my experience, in hip hop, my teachers usually taught us a dance to a different song every class. In jazz it was similar, or we just worked on technique. However, in Korea, the class were conducted 2-3 times a week, and the choreography for the same song is built and worked on for the whole week. If you missed one of the days earlier in the week, you either had to play catch-up or not come to class for the rest of the week. When my friend (and translator) and I first came to the studio, this was very shocking for me. I thought I would only come once, or maybe twice a week for class, but the number of days in a week was shocking. It created a need for more dedication. I had to build my schedule around the classes to get the most out of them that I could.
In addition, I was amused by, but really loved the choice in classes: hip hop, k-pop hip hop, k-pop, and jazz. I had never seen such a choice of classes before. Because of the limited time I had left in Korea, I ended up taking around 7 classes a week. I took mainly two “classes,” k-pop hip hop and jazz.
As I watched the class being conducted on the first day, the use of Korean and English was interesting. The teachers would switch between Korean and English when counting or directing movements, and they would use both songs from Korea and the US.
Even though I could not communicate very well to the students or teachers, I still feel like I made a strong connection. Every day I attended class they greeted me with a smile and “An nyoung ha seh yo,” which means hello. My hip hop teacher would always do a happy wave whenever she saw me, and it made me so glad to be there. Learning k-pop dances from her were interesting because she would do the really cutesy girl dances with a lot of swag. It was amazing and made it very fun. It was also a challenge listening to the songs and trying to later find them online. Eventually, when I couldn’t find a song, I learned the phrase, “What is the name of this song?”
My jazz class made me feel very nostalgic for my old jazz classes. The place was foreign, the music too, but the movements were like old friends. The teacher was very sweet, and the class was intense. We did not work on technique, but instead worked mainly on choreography. Despite barely knowing me, she still would push me in class to work harder. Because of nervousness I would try to stand in the back of the class, but she would push me front and center.
Both classes made me very comfortable. Language is not very needed in a dance class. A lot of the time the k-pop hip hop teacher didn’t use words, but instead would annunciate dance moves with “hoy, hoy, hoy,” bringing out a snicker from the students and herself. At those times, even though I did not understand what she was saying, her movements and voice communicated a pretty clear picture.
My last day I learned the phrase, “I am leaving tomorrow” in Korean. I said it to both teachers, and they both expressed sadness to see me go. They both asked if they would see me again, maybe next year. I miss them a lot, and I really hope to someday see them again!