Anime Expo Con Recap (Continued): Catching up with the AX KPOP Dance Finalists


Anime Expo Con Recap: Catching up with the AX KPOP Dance Finalists by Eli Shand

Last year I had the chance of reporting on the 2012 Anime Expo convention held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and let me say that this installment will be full of Hallyu goodness!   For the first time, Anime Expo has chosen to host a KPOP dance cover competition for all the fans looking to showcase their best moves for a chance at a $700 grand prize.   I had the pleasure of being able to root on two of my friends in the final rounds, as well as meet a new one in the process.


So I’ll start with this year’s champ, the 17 year-old Nikko Durian from LA.

So what exactly brought you into the world of KPOP Dance?

I’ve always been into dance, but the thing that caught my attention was the choreography in kpop. It has a certain flair to it that simply can’t be described in one or two words. I remember watching som2 perform I Wish back in elementary school and I was hooked.

Where did you hear about the contest?

My friend actually signed us up. We were supposed to be a 5 person group, but after a strange turn of events, I ended up performing solo in their place.

How do you feel you did during your performances?

Overall, I felt I did my best at the competition. I know there were places where my nerves got the better of me and I threw my moves, but I think I was able to recover well and come back even stronger.

What was the most memorable event that occurred while participating?

The most memorable event for me personally was walking into the room without my partner. I remember being so afraid because I didn’t know any of the other participants, but they all seemed to know each other. I sat in a corner debating whether or not I should just drop out altogether when one of the girls came up to me and handed me a good-luck Pocky stick. She was really kind and introduced me to the other dancers and that really helped to calm my nerves.

How do you feel the AX Dance event has helped you network with fellow dancers/talent scouts/etc?

AX Dance has definitely helped me connect to different people. I’ve met new dancers, new friends… It’s so easy to make that connection because we all have a common passion. Just being in the presence of so many great dancers and watching them do what they love is in itself inspiring. As for talent scouts… I’m not really sure about that one. I heard there were a few, but I didn’t really get a chance to touch base with them. Maybe next time!

As the winner of the first AX KPOP dance competition, how do you feel about competing in more contests like this in the future?

I would LOVE to come back and compete again. Being able to dance in front of people is what I enjoy the most and if the opportunity arises, you can bet I’ll be there.

Have any special plans in regard to where the prize money is going?

Most of the money will be going towards buying a car, since I’ll be needing that for school soon. But I have a teensy bit set aside for cosplay. And for all of the Mcflurries I promised my friends!

If given the opportunity to perform with any idol group or idol onstage, who would you choose and to what song would you dance?

It would be my greatest honor to perform Suspicious Man with Lee Jung Hyun.

Is there a special reason you chose to perform a girl group dance versus a male group dance?

Well, for starters, I’m not as strong in male group choreography as I am with girl group choreography. My forte lies in my body rolls~ I also felt that my personality was better portrayed with these dances. Ultimately though, I felt that a guy doing a girl song would be fun to watch, since it isn’t something you typically see everyday. I really wanted to surprise everyone!

Oh, and by the way.. what’s the secret to owning those girl group dances the way you do?

I think the secret is all in the attitude. Perform like you own the entire stage, don’t be afraid to throw it all out there because when it’s your moment, you are the stage diva. Embrace it and show everybody that you’re a force to be reckoned with!


Now moving on we have our runner-up, the 17 year-old Ryan Hsu from San Diego, CA.


 So what exactly brought you into the world of KPOP Dance?

I have loved korean music ever since my early childhood (2006) with artists such as BoA, Epik High and Big Bang, but what really skyrocketed my interest in the dancing aspect KPOP was SHINee’s dance for ‘Lucifer’ (2010). The choreography was so unique and mesmerizing. The main dancer from SHINee, Taemin (이태민), is/was my inspiration for dancing and auditioning. His audition video encouraged me to pick up pop and locking and hip hop. These dancing styles (along with kpop choreography) have been my greatest passions since.

How do you feel you did during your performances?

I feel like I did a relatively mediocre job. I practiced multiple hours everyday for a month before the competition. I think the hours of hard work paid off. I still have many flaws in my dance that I need to tweak out. I love to dance so it doesn’t seem like a chore to me.

What was the most memorable event that occurred while participating?

I met a lovely girl named Jane at the competition as we both decided to head to the room early so that we could practice. There, we danced and talked non-stop until I had to leave. I am so lucky and thankful to have met her.

How do you feel the AX Dance event has helped you network with fellow dancers/talent scouts/etc?

Going to dancing events is always fantastic and thrilling for me because I always meet the coolest people. I have met most of my greatest friends through dancing (and KPOP).  Dancing in front of large crowds of people always gives me a rush that makes me want to improve so that I may please the audience even better than before. At AX, I was scouted for the 2nd time by an anonymous Korean Talent Agency. They offered me an audition at their studio. I cried.

I know you’ve received a great response after having danced previously at KCON’12, how do you feel the AX experience was similar/different from that?

Because Anime Expo is a convention that revolves around Japanese Animation, I did not expect the turnout of people to be nearly as large. KCON is a convention that revolves around Korean Pop-Music, so my repertoire of dance choreography was a bit more useful when it came to dancing. Anime Expo is planning on holding another Dance Competition next year and I plan on winning this time.

How do you feel about being known as the “Lay Fanboy”, or any claim to internet fame?

As one of EXO’s greatest fans, I think it is quite the honor to have the amount of popularity that I do. Next to Taemin, Lay, Kai, Se Hun, Lu Han and Xiumin are all fantastic dancers and continue to inspire me to work harder as a dancer. All of EXO’s music speaks to me like no other group can. Many fans of EXO say that I look similar to Lay which is a HUGE compliment. EXO is also my inspiration for style. One thing that everyone should know is that I love ALL KPOP, not just EXO. KPOP is one what motivates me to keep pushing myself in life.

Are you planning any special performances for this upcoming KCON?

KCON is just around the corner and I am planning on performing a few covers (including group/couple covers) including Phoenix, Time Control, Only One, Wolf and more.

If given the chance to perform alongside EXO on stage, what song would you choose to do?

KJHASLDFKHALSDKFJAKLSJDFHLAKSJDHGLAKJSGHSDGLKJAH;SLK. It has always been my dream to perform alongside EXO (I have re-occurring dreams of this). I would be willing to perform any of their songs as I know the blocking for each member, but if I HAD to choose I would choose MAMA because I think that it has the most energy and impact of any of their other songs. The choreography for MAMA sits right next to SHINee’s ‘Lucifer.’


And last but not least, we have the 19 year-old Emily Tsou hailing from Chula Vista, CA.

So what exactly brought you into the world of KPOP Dance?

My best friend showed me a video of SHINee’s Amigo way back in 2009-ish and I’ve been in love with them since. SHINee has always had some of the best choreography.

How do you feel you did during your performances?

It was my first time performing in such a large crowd by myself, so I’m grateful for not messing up too horrendously out of nerves. That’s pretty much all I could say haha.

How do you feel the AX Dance event has helped you network with fellow dancers/talent scouts/etc?

The AX Dance event was surprisingly a great opportunity for making friends with similar interests and ultimately networking. I originally thought most of the attendees would be the average die hard Kpop fan like me, so I was surprised to meet people from various age groups and influential backgrounds.

I know that you’ve had experience being in school dance teams,so do you think that the experience has helped you along with your personal dancing endeavors?

My dancing experience in high school was a definite leg up in my opinion. Not only did it bring me experience in showmanship, but also comfort in different genres of dance and music.

I heard that you were approached by a YG trainee/scout after your performance, was this something you would’ve expected?

I completely did not expect to be approached by a trainee/scout!! Like I said, I had thought the event would be filled with average joe fans of Kpop so I was incredibly surprised to have gotten opportunities to talk to certain people about my future.

If you could choreograph a dance for any idol or group, who would you choose and why?  

Although I do not feel qualified at the moment, I’d love to choreograph for B.A.P or 2NE1. I’ve always loved powerful and charismatic dances that show a lot of character and are overall amazing to watch.

Also, if given the chance to collaborate with any choreographer, who would it be?

In terms of choreographers, Rino Nakasone is my idol as much as other celebrities. Being on par and choreographing with her would be a humbling experience and is a dream in itself.

How was it being the only girl in the final round?

I was a bit nervous about being the only girl in the finals since there are certain expectations and gender roles that may not have been advantageous for me in the beginning as male idol groups have usually more difficult and varying choreography than females’ (who either fit in cute or sexy). I feel as though the main factor in my advancing to the finals was that I had chosen to perform a very traditionally masculine style of song and dance that no one had expected of me to do therefore having the element of surprise. I mainly wanted to convey in the finals that girls could be powerful and cool and stand (or in this case, dance) as equals to boys. I hope it showed.


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