It’s that time again — time to celebrate the year’s end with some great music. The country’s concert halls are each holding their signature year end concerts, along with fireworks at the Seoul Arts Center and light shows at the Lotte Concert Hall, after great classical music performances.
This year, the Lotte Concert Hall said it will go a step further by inviting dancers and a DJ for a “Hip and Hot” concert. To the music of Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen,” which will be performed by violinist Cho Jin-joo with Hankyung arte Philharmonic under the baton of maestro Choi Soo-yeoul, popular Korean dancer Lip J will show off her signature waacking dance style. If you’ve seen Lip J waacking, which is a form of street dance created in the LGBT clubs of Los Angeles during the 1970s disco era, it is hard to imagine what the dance that has rotational arm movements will look like alongside a piece of classical music inside a classical music concert hall.
Violinist Cho is already known for her passionate, charismatic flair. She’s not a typical classical violinist with a glittering evening gown. Her stage presence is simply so electrifying that it has always surprised audience members. That is why many of Cho and Lip J’s fans are counting down to New Year’s eve for their collab on stage.
Though her dance style is a popular one in America, it only became familiar to Koreans along with the dancer herself through Mnet’s dance competition show “Street Woman Fighter” (2021).
To hear more about Lip J’s upcoming performance at the Lotte Concert Hall in southern Seoul, the Korea JoongAng Daily recently conducted an email interview with the dancer. The following are edited excerpts.
Q. You’ve performed all over the world but doing waacking inside a classical concert hall with a violinist and a full orchestra will be a unique experience for you. How do you feel about the upcoming year-end concert at the Lotte Concert Hall?
A. One of the charms of street dance is that there are no strict boundaries to where or when it can be performed. Thanks to that, I think I’ve danced in a variety of venues for different events. Whether it’s for filming or performance, street dance can be staged anywhere, anytime — on the street, on stage, in an alleyway, in front of a city hall, by a riverside, and so on.
However, this upcoming performance, where I will be collaborating with a violinist in a classical music hall is something I’ve never experienced as a street dancer. I am also looking forward to how it will turn out. It will be a memorable event to wrap up my year, and an enjoyable one for the audience.
Will you be freestyling in the upcoming performance as well?
There will be an overarching concept and format with fixed choreography in certain areas but I’ll definitely dance freestyle. When I danced to the same music in Russia in 2017 I had prepared the choreography but in the end, most of the performance was done freestyle. Back then, I was focused more on showing the “texture” of the sound of the violin through my dance style known as waacking. But this time, since violinist Cho Jin-joo is going to be on stage with me and I’ll be dancing to a live violin performance, I think it will be a totally different performance to what I’ve done in Russia. I can’t wait to show the audience how we — a dancer and a musician — can sync perfectly on stage.
The video of the waacking you did to “Zigeunerweisen” in 2017 in Russia has more than 2.3 million views on YouTube. What was that performance for?
It’s a judge’s demo clip for a Waacking Sharing event that gets held in Russia every year. It was my second solo performance at that event and during that time, Tyrone Proctor, the late waacking master who is one of the dancers that popularized the dance craze, was present. So I remember being so honored to see him and remember that day as a significant day in my waacking dance career because I met him in person. That is why I was quite hesitant to dance to “Zigeunerweisen” in front of him. Until the last minute, I was agonizing whether I should change to a disco song. But I just decided to stick with it because I know I’ve worked so hard on it and I really wanted to use classical music. It’s a personal reason, but my mother loves classical music and is a big fan of Korean violinist Chang Young-joo. And that day was my mother’s birthday. Though she couldn’t make it to Russia, I wanted to show her my performance at least through a video as a birthday gift. I wanted to perform to the music she can sympathize with because I know she wouldn’t been able to relate to my other performances. It was a big challenge for me as well.
Are there any similarities between “Zigeunerweisen” and the dance style waacking?
Just as we use a lot of gestures when we speak, waacking has the charm of showing the dramatic emotional expression and melody of music in a very direct way, which is felt in the fact that we use a lot of arm and hand movements. In that sense, waacking seems to convey its charm as the song’s expressiveness becomes more dramatic. The violin is the main protagonist in “Zigeunerweisen,” leading the entire song. In particular, the mood felt in this song is really captivating. For the whole eight minutes, it just draws you and then pushes you away, and then draws you back in. For example, it’s sad and lyrical at one point then becomes very intense, then suddenly very empty, then passionate and then cold, then romantic again. In this respect, I think “Zigeunerweisen” fits really well with the waacking dance style. Moreover, I think waacking dance moves are very similar to the sound of a string instrument.
You’ll be able to witness the true nature of waacking when it’s done to a long piece of music. If you listen to underground disco music, which is the basis of waacking, there are many breaths similar to the narrative of classical music, only the tempo and composition are slightly different. Even in classical music, there are many songs that tell a dramatic story as the movement develops, and I felt it was similar to waacking.
What did you feel when you first listened to “Zigeunerweisen,” which translates to Gypsy Airs in Spanish?
I can’t say that I’ve listened to a lot of classic music, but when I first heard this piece, the intensity of it was similar to the dramatic aspect of waacking. I think this piece, in which the violin plays the main role, contains everything that can be expressed with the instrument. The violin player must be equipped with the technical skills to captivate the ears of the audience throughout. And I thought it would be really great if I could express and harmonize those captivating sounds with a crazy performance. When I found out later that the piece is a dance song filled with the energy of gypsies, it made me want to dance to the piece more.
Is there any other classical music piece you want to dance to?
Because “Zigeunerweisen” is a very passionate song, I want to try something that is the opposite if I get the chance. Something calm, relaxing and peaceful — like Debussy’s “Moonlight.”
The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets range from 60,000 won ($46.80) to 120,000 won.
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [firstname.lastname@example.org]