Poppin’ Hyun-joon pops into L.A.

April 8, 2014

 On his marriage to Korean traditional gukak singer Park Ae-ri 
“People think we’re interesting because I’m doing the moonwalk to her Arirang

Poppin' Hyun-joon truly found hope in dancing.  (Poppin’ Hyun-joon Art Company photo)

Poppin’ Hyun-joon truly found hope in dancing. (Poppin’ Hyun-joon Art Company photo)

By Tae Hong

Poppin' Hyun-joon plans to reach out to U.S. audiences soon(Poppin' Hyun-joon Art Company photo)

Poppin’ Hyun-joon plans to reach out to U.S. audiences soon (Poppin’ Hyun-joon Art Company photo)

Before he became a pioneer of Korean breakdancing, Poppin’ Hyun-joon lived on the streets.

It was two years of being called a “hobo,” two years of living on the cement in Shinsa-dong, on apartment rooftops and underneath bridges, two years of never enough food and the loss of nails and hair.

One thing — dancing — pulled him out.

Now, Nam Hyun-joon, 35, sees that period of his life as the catalyst for his passion and the reason he’s persisted for almost 20 years in the notoriously difficult entertainment industry.

With films in China, consistent variety show appearances with his wife and noted Korean traditional singer Park Ae-ri in Korea and plans to perform in the U.S., Nam is following in his idol Charlie Chaplin’s footsteps as not just a celebrity but as a man of many talents.

“They’ve put me in as a pure artist now,” he says. “On [popular Korean search engines] Naver and Daum, I saw that I’m listed as ‘performing artist.’”

“Performing artist” certainly has a nice ring to it, but as he will tell you, it’s been a long road from homeless teenager to Korea’s first mainstream poppin’ breakdancer.

Nam was 15 years old when his parents left him following bankruptcy in 1995.

He was just someone who liked dance, he says. On the streets, people who would look down on him for his situation would cease to do so after watching him dance. They would stop calling him names.

“I saw that and thought, ‘I need to stake my life on dancing and find success through this,’” he says. “Because the moment I danced, I felt alive. I could run away from reality.”

It wasn’t until he was picked in an audition and given a home in the practice studio by Seotaiji and Boys’ Lee Ju-no that he had a roof over his head. In 1998, Nam found himself as a rapper in Lee’s idol group Young Turks Club. The gig, however, didn’t suit him.

He wanted to dance, but he also wanted more.

So he released a few records of his own — three singles in China (where he was once the nationwide model for Pepsi Cola) and a full 2007 album in Korea. He acted in a drama (“Over the Rainbow” in 2006).

By the mid-2000s, he was a sought-after dance teacher by entertainment companies like S.M. and JYP. He’s taught them all, from BoA and H.O.T.’s Jang Woo-hyuk to 2PM and actor Lee Jun-ki.

Above and beyond, though, his biggest passion is still the stage, he says.

It was through the stage, during a concert called “His and Her Story” four years ago, that he met and married Park. Their performances, a combination of her traditional gukak and his modern breakdancing, are the fusion of cultures, the story of today’s South Korea.

“People think we’re interesting because I’m doing the moonwalk to her ‘Arirang,’” Nam says.

Plans for a series of fusion concerts, tentatively called “Dance Dance Dance,” are already underway. With it, he plans to reach out to U.S. audiences soon.

“We want to create a unique brand, one only we can do. The meeting of tradition and poppin’,” he says.

Meanwhile, a new dance sports competition show called “Dance Takes Love” featuring the couple will begin airing on TV Joseon in mid-April, he says.

 

 

 

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