Choreographer Aimee Lee Lucas talks about dance, dreams, K-Pop and more (Part 1)
Filipino-American K-Pop choreographer, performer and businesswoman, Aimee Lee Lucas, is currently in the Philippines. She started her career as an assistant choreographer for Uhm Jung Hwa and later on worked with YG Entertainment. She is most famous for her appearance in BIGBANG‘s Number 1 music video and G-Dragon‘s performance of Breath among others. She also worked on the choreography of different songs of YG artists.
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Now, Aimee is making waves not only by spreading love for dancing, but also for K-Pop in different places all over the world.
Hellokpop is privileged to have an exclusive opportunity to get to know Aimee deeper as she shares about dancing, working with K-Pop artists, her love for the Philippines, her dreams and future plans.
Check out the first part of our interview below:
Q: Welcome to the Philippines, Aimee! First of all, how’s your stay in the Philippines?
Aimee Lee Lucas: The Philippines is amazing. It’s hot which I am not used to. Everywhere I go I have to paypay (fan). No actually I don’t paypay but I just complain. But other than that, Philippines is really amazing. It’s cool to see the culture, to be in the streets and walk around. I can just sit in a cafe and drink coffee and just watch everyone. It’s been a very nice day.
Q: What were the places you’ve been to so far?
A: I went to Jollibee (fast food restaurant). We went everywhere. We went to Greenhills for shopping. It’s my first time. We also went to the National Museum. It was really nice. Where else did we go? Oh and we went to a Korean store, and then I also bought some tea and some ensaymada (bread). We’ve been to a lot of places.
Q: You will get fat here in the Philippines!
A: I am getting fat already! I’ve been here for just 2 days and I gained like 10 pounds or so. Thank you, Philippines, because the food is so great here.
Q: Any other activities you are planning to do in the Philippines aside from the dance workshop?
A: Apparently, I’m gonna be having a pretty packed schedule. Today was our tour day which was really nice. But tomorrow, I’ll go see the kids and we’re going to the village. We’re going to Ga…
Q: Gawad Kalinga?
A: I’m so scared to say Tagalog words because it’s not really perfect. So yeah. Gawad Kalinga. (practices some more) So, in going there, I’m just gonna say, GK.
(Gawad Kalinga is a development foundation that helps alleviate poverty. Learn more by visiting the website here).
Q: That’s better.
A: Ah yeah yeah! I’m going to GK and met the coach yesterday who helps run and oversee the whole development. For me, it’s really important that I don’t just reach out to the Kpop community but that I also reach out to the kids. You know the kids empowered will determine what’s the future’s going to be. So, it really touches me when I come to the Philippines. It is my second time. When I see the poverty, very different in Hollywood as you can imagine, this trip is basically a non-profit trip for me too. I was in Singapore for a week and I hit PKCI (Philippines Kpop Committee Inc.) up. And I just wanted to come in here and work with the kids. So we organized tomorrow as a party with them.
For me, it’s really important that I don’t just reach out to the K-Pop community but that I also reach out to the kids.
Q: Where exactly here in the Philippines?
A: You know it’s like an hour and a half away. It’s in Pateros. So we’re going to Pateros and have activities with the kids and play. I think they are going to show me some dance. Little acts!
Q: You’ll be surprised with how very talented the kids are!
A: There’s so much character and they have so much energy. I feel like I can feed the energy of the kids. I’m very excited.
Q: How did you learn about Gawad Kalinga and their connection with PKCI?
A: Just through PKCI. Mirzwee (PKCI representative) contacted me last year for Kpop Convention and we weren’t able to make it happen for reasons. Everything happens for a reason. I hit her up this time and said, “Hey! I’m going to Singapore! Let’s do Philippines! Is it possible?”. I just told what I wanted to do like meeting you, guys, and the kids. And tomorrow night, I’ll be teaching at Sunday All Stars (Filipino noontime show). I’ll be teaching the artists, actors and actresses.
Q: We’ll watch out for that episode! You became famous through dancing. How did you became inspired to dance? When did it start?
A: My dancing started in a very small garage team. We practiced in the garage. We got locked up in the garage. It was a fun time because I was dancing as a ballerina. When I saw hip-hop for the first time, I opened my eyes and like pping! “What is that?” They looked so cool. I felt like a… I don’t know. Like a loner because I’m doing something else. I ended up loving it. I tried it out and started dancing with the team but I was horrible. I was the worst dancer in the team. I was the tallest, because we were a bunch of Filipinos or Pinoys in the city, I was like, “pinkies out, posh down, posh is too high” so they always put me in the back corner. I’m like, “hey! all the guys are so good. They always got solos. They always get their own piece”.
…I was dancing as a ballerina. When I saw hip-hop for the first time, I opened my eyes and like pping! “What is that?”… I was the worst dancer in the team… I was like, “pinkies out, posh down, posh is too high”
So for me, I inspired myself to like, I wanna dance with the guys. I wanna push myself and be better and practice everyday. I practice at like 4 in the morning even though I go to college. And a friend would help me and I would cry sometimes. But I think, all those nights, in the garage, really, helped me where I am today.
Q: It’s like a where Aimee became the Aimee that we know now.
A: It’s really sweat, blood and tears. Literally. You really have to put that in.
Q: Is there a specific someone who inspired you to practice more?
A: Yes. Yes. Yes. (smiles) Oh okay! So… this specific person helped me and pushed me. A very good friend of mine and still is. It’s nice when we have someone who is like a mentor who really wants to see you do well and sees your potential. They look at you for your best interest. That’s why it’s almost hard not to have those family around because a family will not try to take it away from you.
Q: Speaking of family, did your parents agree on your dancing at first?
A: No! No. Of course not. (Smiles)
Q: How were you able to convince them that this is what you really like?
A: I don’t know if I convinced my parents. Of course they are proud of me. When I was younger, my parents were very strict. I’m the youngest of a lot of children. I had ates (older sisters) and kuyas (older brothers) which were all busy. Like my sister would like be too much of drugs or too much of boys. There were too many things so my parents locked me down, you know.
But in America, when I turned 18, I ran away from home. And I’ve actually never been back. I’m very independent, I guess? I take care of myself. And there are pros and cons to that. Your parents want you to do well, to not struggle. They want you to make a better life than they did. Listen to your parents.
Your parents want you to do well, to not struggle. They want you to make a better life than they did. Listen to your parents.
Q: You were in the U.S when you discovered your love for dancing. How did you move to Korea and have a career there?
A: It’s really good because dancing is like a “career” now and I get to travel. But with Korea, I was working for a choreographer. I was helping Uhm Jung Hwa the artist. I put up my videos, sent it to Korea, they liked it, they sent me up to Korea. At first I was like, watch and help, but slowly after some time, you need to pay your dues so you become choreographer, from assisting, from performing, and I started training Hi-tech and Crazy girls. I was training BIGBANG and 2NE1. There was no girl in YG before other than the workers.
Q: You were there before 2NE1.
A: Yes! I guess what I mainly did was to have them be more sensual, that’s for Crazy girls. For 2NE1, I wanted them to be strong but fun, young women but not too girly. Because that’s what we were trying not to do. Not to be too cute but not to be too hard like guys.
Q: How many years did you stay in Korea?
A: I think it was like 2 and a half maybe? From around Number 1 until 2NE1’s Fire.
Q: Was it difficult to adjust in Korea?
A: No! No. That’s the one thing my friends say is that I adapt very well. YG asked me to stay as I was planning to leave. I had my bags packed. So I’m gonna go back to U.S. and celebrate Halloween? I stayed. He said, “we like you to stay and enjoy Korea. We’ll pay you and you can just see our country!”. I took the offer. He put me up in an apartment. It was also very fun.
Q: I think this has been asked a lot of times but for the curious fans, can you share to us how it was like to work with BIGBANG and 2NE1?
A: BIGBANG has already been seasoned artists so it was nice to work with them except in the beginning they didn’t speak a lot of English. But you know, dancing is a universal language so we didn’t need English, we didn’t need Korean. But with 2NE1, they spoke English, but they were new. They were still learning each other and learning the chemistry, how to work with each other. It’s very two different dynamics but all in all, BIGBANG was already having fun. They were already comfortable when they sing and dance. 2NE1, they were so new, so they were so respectful, so quiet, you know. But, in the end, YG family has been a family.
But, in the end, YG family has been a family.
Q: You still get along with them?
A: Oh yeah. When they go to the U.S and have concerts, I will go and would see them backstage. We hangout. We get coffee sometimes and go to party with them. And when I go to Korea they just open, like open arms, you know.
Q: It’s great that you still get in touch with them.
A: Yeah. I can go there and they invite me to the office. We were catching up. It’s really like I haven’t been gone.
Q: Do you have plans to go back to Korea?
A: You know, Lydia‘s working with them now and she’s a good friend of mine. We’re trying to do something together too. Maybe our own little workshop.
Q: I’ve seen that you’ve had a One Of A Kind Music Video Party dance lesson and the I Am The Best video covers which were really good.
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A: With Ellen? That’s my apartment! Fun fact!
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On the second part of our interview, Aimee talks more about her life after leaving Korea. She shares about her K-Pop dance classes and future plans. Be sure to stay tuned at hellokpop!
To all Filipino K-Pop fans out there, don’t miss Aimee’s Dance K-Pop class on October 12, 2013, 2PM, at the function hall of EDSA Starmall. Registration fee costs 200 pesos for regular passes and 500 pesos for VIP passes. Walk-ins are accepted. This fundraising event for the benefit of Gawad Kalinga, and is brought to us by the Philippine Kpop Committee Inc.