By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Founder and Editor-in-chief
To say that Aimee Lee Lucas is a triple-threat would be an immense understatement. At just 28 years old, she has held the titles of professional dancer, blogger, artistic director, choreographer, entrepreneur, CEO, and more. After spending 2007 – 2010 choreographing and directing concerts for YG Entertainment artists like Big Bang and 2NE1, Aimee returned to Los Angeles, California, where she is now a local celebrity in the K-pop community. Aimee now runs M.V.P (Music Video Party) dance workshops, where she teaches eager students the choreography routines to their favorite K-pop songs. She is also the desinger and CEO of her own brand and clothing line, which she just recently released. Aimee took the time to sit down with moonROK Editor-in-chief Hannah Waitt to chat about her experiences with YG artists, her industry insight as a professional choreographer, and her current and future projects.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is your personal history, and how did you get involved with dance and with K-pop?
A few have heard and read my story but when I was younger, I was everything from a victim of bullying to a model child, a teacher’s pet to a prom queen, and ran away from home after graduation. Since then I’ve been on my own and living life one day at a time. When I dissect my life decisions the following adjectives come to mind: impulsive, haphazard, and rewarding. I NEVER thought I’d be where I am today. I’ve had a career as a professional dancer, assistant, choreographer, artistic director, talent manager and agent, and now a CEO. It boggles my mind; it’s so surreal to sit back and think about where I came from. As far as my involvement in K-pop goes, it fell into my lap. I believe I was in the right place at the right time because I had no idea what kind of world I was stepping into 7 years ago.
You have worked with some of the best in the K-pop industry – who were some of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Yes, all thanks to YG! Every artist I worked with was my favorite including Uhm Jung Hwa, Se7en, Big Bang, and 2NE1. They each have a unique story and I have fond memories with each individual. I was also able to sit side-by-side with YG, Jinusean, Teddy, Danny Im, Choice37, Masta Wu, and the rest of the artistic team that makes magic happen at YG Entertainment. They invited me in like a family member and it became normal to stay up until 6am in the studio, go out to eat, get food delivered, and go out to dance at NB. I would go out with the famous stylists and even train the Kwon twins.
Having worked with various K-pop artists, you’ve no doubt become close with some of them. What is something interesting or funny about K-pop idols that fans might not realize?
K-pop artists are very different on stage than they are in real life, and there are so many different scenarios that come to mind with this question. I went shopping one day with Teddy and Taeyang and it was my first time inside Louis Vutton. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed watching the guys shop. They were trying things on and asking for my opinion. When they were checking out, I was at the counter looking inside the glass case at a few wallets and Teddy asked if I liked it. Of course I smiled and nodded. When we walked out of the store they handed me a box and inside was that wallet! They said it was a gift to me from the both of them. I still have it and treasure it.
As many already know, you’re Filipina, not Korean – was it hard communicating with the various Korean artists that you worked with? What was it like trying to work around that language barrier?
Oh definitely! Luckily, Big Bang had had a few English classes when I started working with them, so they could understand but couldn’t really translate it when words came out. There were a lot of choppy conversations! Thank goodness dance has existed for centuries and is thus a universal language. I learned “hana, dul, set” almost immediately! Obviously, as the years went by they improved dramatically and by the time I worked with 2NE1, they all knew English.
What is the creative process for choreographing a pop song like? How involved are the artists themselves in creating the choreography? Do you come in with a set routine for them to do, or do you create it together?
The process for choreographing a song has evolved. In the beginning we received the song without lyrics or translation. We would ask our Korean friends to come over and help translate key words but they would also get confused. It was a whole different ball game when we were able to fly to Korea and work with the artists. We could develop the style of movement and make things tighter. I felt like that’s when things changed. We were creating an American, genuine feel in K-pop. Female back-up dancers were touching the artists and really clawing and grabbing. The hardest thing was choreographing an elaborate routine, presenting it to YG, and changing everything to a simplified format right then and there. He would give comments and demonstrate what he wanted. In the end, we worked all day and all night until it was perfect.
A few years ago, you got a lot of heat from BIGBANG fans after a live performance of “Breathe” with G-Dragon. Can you talk a little bit about how it felt to be victimized by the fans and to be in the center of a controversy like that?
What a crazy experience! I went from being hated by fans to being loved by fans then being hated on again. Timing was weird because I went back home for the holidays and it looked like I ran back home when the controversy started heating up. I had to watch and read everything overseas and I felt so guilty. At that time we were turning Taeyang and GD into men and into individual artists which meant drastic changes and pushing envelopes (i.e. Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”). GD and I would mess around during the “bed scene” in rehearsals so no one knew what was going to happen until we performed it LIVE! I knew it was risky but I had no idea GD would almost go to jail. In the end I learned that bad publicity is good publicity. It drew attention to YG, GD, and me.
What are some of your favorite routines of all time that you have helped choreograph?
I really enjoyed Number 1. It’s an obvious answer to many fans but the work behind the scenes was what I enjoyed the most. In LA, we were working with some of the best choreographer and dancers standing in as Big Bang. I was one of them playing both a male and female part. In Korea, we were slowly pulling Taeyang out of his shell and getting him to slap my booty without being shy. On set, they made me beautiful like a doll and spent a lot of time on my lip synching part. I felt like a K-pop star.
These days you teach K-pop choreography at M.V.P. (Music Video Party) dance classes in Los Angeles – can you tell us a little about M.V.P. and how it got started?
The idea started when I was sick and tired of my 9-5 desk job as a talent agent in Hollywood. I thought it was time to strap down, be an adult, and get a normal job, but it turns out I wasn’t capable or ready to do so. I’ve always been more of a dancer than a choreographer because I lacked confidence in myself. I thought, “Why don’t I teach a FREE K-pop class” as an ode to my friends, Big Bang. This was a milestone because it was their first concert in America. Over 200 people showed up and I was freaking out. I was a one woman army doing all the heavy lifting from the advertising, marketing, branding, booking the studio, checking-in students, teaching, and any post production work. But I stepped up to the plate and everyone gave me the confidence I lacked in myself to continue this K-pop movement. M.V.P. stands for “Music Video Party” because I know people are intimidated by a dance class. I wanted to take some of the most listened-to songs and have a party!
What is your ultimate goal as a dancer/choreographer?
The ultimate goal in life is to find purpose. I believe K-pop opened many doors for me and helped me find mine. I am so fulfilled by teaching, traveling, and meeting fans around the world. I hope to continue being a positive influence, even if I can change just one person’s journey. One day down the road I want to be a motivational speaker and, possibly, write a book of my trials and tribulations.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young dancers and choreographers?
Believe in who you are, what you do, and share it!
Tell us about your new clothing line! How did it begin and where did you get your design inspiration from?
I was able to work with Wong Fu Productions years ago and learned that they were able to make big steps in the beginning from the revenue of selling merchandise. I’ve tested and tried several designs but I think I finally found the right formula with Deep Fried Productions. I know now that I could never sell anything I wouldn’t wear myself. I hope people are drawn to the designs as much as I am and I hope it’s what elevates the company.
So you’re now a choreographer and a designer – what’s next for you? Any big projects coming up?
My mind is constantly tossing and turning so there are always projects in line. I know that I’ve been procrastinating at blogging and vlogging so I hope to connect with you further that way. I’m currently working on a little show that will be posted on YouTube in the very near future so stay tuned. Thank you again for all the love and support through the years.
You can also shop Aimee’s new clothing line here, so make sure to check it out!
Tags: Aimee Lee Lucas Exclusive Interview