Posted on February 05, 2015
Eshe : Although both my maternal grandparents were Royal Scottish Country dancers and teachers, I'd never done any form of dancing before I started bellydancing in Tokyo in 2003. When I was a child, my mother thought dancing was too competitive and wouldn't foster healthy self-esteem. Before moving to Korea, I lived in Japan for a few years. While I was there, I saw an ad for free bellydance lessons in a magazine. It sounded like something cool to do, so I tried it. My first lesson was at a tiny apartment in Tokyo with hippie tapestries on the walls. My teacher was really charismatic and enthusiastic. I felt like I was doing a kind of moving yoga. The movements, although difficult to execute, felt good. I was hooked pretty much instantly and quickly began taking as many lessons as I could. My teacher asked me to dance at a huge Japanese bellydance festival after about three months of lessons. Being in the studio and on the stage with my dance sisters was so inspiring. From there my love of bellydancing has continued to grow and grow.
Eshe : I've loved every country I've ever danced in. In Seoul, I’ve recently been very inspired by the work of the Rainbow Teen Safe Space, who want to develop a self-sustaining long-term shelter, and the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association, who are advocates for the rights of unwed pregnant women and unwed mothers and their children. They are fighting to make Korea better for everyone and they do so with great strength, compassion, love, dignity, and grace.
Many of the artists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with here have definitely inspired me. Hongdae can be very much a boys’ club at times. I love connecting with other women who are artists. Jane Ha from Loro’s, the ladies in Juck Juck Grunzie, the entire crew that puts together the Meet Market shows, Whang Boryung from Smacksoft, Trash from …Whatever That Means, and my Navah bellydance troupe have all been so supportive and amazing. It’s beautiful to be able to create in a sea of love and consideration and togetherness. I’ve had wonderful teachers and dance sisters who set an example of women working together, building each other up and mentoring each other.
Seoul has been my home for the past seven years and my friends are my family here. It's been very special to work with so many people I deeply love, respect, and admire. Not everyone is so fortunate to work with people they love. I take time during every single show and class to reflect on my blessings.
Eshe : I'd been living in Japan for about five years and wanted to try some place new. I wanted to stay in East Asia and go somewhere that had a great bellydance scene. Korea fit the bill and I knew I loved the food, so I moved here. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
My involvement with the indie music scene came through making friends and reaching out to people whose music I liked. The first band I collaborated with in Korea was the fantastic rock group Cocore. That happened in March 2008. I met them through a mutual friend, and they invited me to come and see them play at DGBD. Their manager was standing behind me at the gig and saw me dancing along to their music. She later asked me to collaborate with the band at Seoul’s Festival Bo:m. That was the first non-traditional collaboration I’d ever done. I was really nervous about the show, but had so much fun working with Cocore. As time passed, I became really good friends with Cocore and we worked together a few more times as well. I met lots of other great Seoul musicians through them.
The day after performing with Cocore at Festival: Bom, I had my first show with Orgeltanz. During my first few months in Seoul, I emailed countless venues, charity events, art shows, and DJs to ask about performing. I emailed pretty much everyone I could find contact info for! Orgeltanz were one of the few people that replied. I had come across a video of theirs online and thought bellydance would fit well with their music, so I decided to reach out to them. I’m glad I did! Our first meeting happened after a concert they did at Badabie and did not go so well. Everyone was really shy and nervous and no one wanted to speak so it made for a very awkward situation. But luckily they agreed to meet with me in their studio for a practice to see if we had any chemistry together. During the first song, I was dancing and trying to make eye contact with anyone in the band to try and make a connection, but no one looked at me. When the song finished, everyone was completely silent. I started panicking and trying to think of ways to gracefully exit the studio. But then the bassist smiled and said, “This is the best day of music life!” Suddenly everyone started laughing and became much more relaxed and we worked on some more songs together. Then after practice, we walked around Hongdae visiting different venues to try and set up shows.
I was the dancer for Orgeltanz from March of 2008 until the act amicably disbanded in the fall of 2010. Working with them was a great experience! We played lots of small club shows together and also played at some major festivals like the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival in 2008 and 2010, Grand Mint Festival in 2008, and the Jeonju International Film Festival in 2008. We were on couple of TV programs, and were featured in the Korean versions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and did photo shoots with both magazines too. The band also named a song after me! The track is called “Dancing Eshe” and appears on their debut full-length album, “From the Cradle to the Grave.”
Photo : Heedoo Jung
Eshe : My friend Jimin gave the accurate and wonderful advice to just drink with everyone! Hongdae is so big but so small at the same time. So everyone knows everyone in the indie scene. I feel more relaxed performing with someone to whom I have a personal connection – the energy flows more freely. For those living in Korea that want to find out more about the local music scene, my advice is just go to lots and lots of shows. Support your scene. Get involved. Be someone who is standing up and changing things for the better. It's so much easier to do with all the information that's online nowadays. The title track from Seoul punk band … Whatever That Means’ “Sixty-Eight, Twenty-Two” album contains the lyrics, “Come on in. Make yourself at home, and maybe stay here for a while. Don't waste your time on the outside looking in.” I think that’s good advice to follow if you want to find out more about the local indie scene. I've been so fortunate and have had so many amazing experiences. I wouldn't change a single thing.
Eshe : Performing with Apollo 18 when I was nine months pregnant was so special to me. They are my family and their music is a lullaby to my daughter. If she's not dancing along, she often deeply relaxes and sometimes even nods off when she hears their music.
Eshe : Navah means “beautiful” in Hebrew and “tune” in Farsi. I started the troupe because my students were working really hard, and I thought the world should be able to enjoy their art and passion. For Navah’s first show, we put together a small charity event at Ape With Pipe (which is now Berlin) in Itaewon in July 2008 and things snowballed from there.
Eshe : The performance I mentioned before, when I danced with Apollo 18 when I was nine months pregnant, was kind of a Shake Shop prototype. In November 2012, to celebrate becoming a mother, I organized a special show six days before I gave birth and invited Apollo 18, Ninano Nanda, and Romantiqua to collaborate with me and Navah. It was so much fun and went so well that I decided to make it a regular series. Two years have passed and we’re preparing our twentieth edition of Shake Shop, which will also be the final one as I’m moving back to Canada this spring. Navah and I have been so blessed to work with so many amazing bands as part of Shake Shop. The concert series has been a lot of work, but it’s been loads of fun as well!
Eshe : After I invite the bands and set the bill, I suggest three songs for each band. They let me know if those will work or not. Then I spend several hours listening to the music and probably three to six hours per song making choreographies. From there I teach them to Navah and we spend roughly 20 hours rehearsing in- studio together. Everyone also does hours of at practicing at home too. There are so many bands still on my wish list! Underwear’s Band, Mukimukimanmansu, Bulssazo, L.O.D., Bascussion, 1 Ton, The Barberettes, Billy Carter, Loro’s, and Crying Nut are all bands that I would have loved to collaborate with at Shake Shop. And I’m sure the Navah ladies have names they’d like to add to that list too.
Eshe : If I've invited someone to perform at Shake Shop it means I love and respect them and that I can imagine dancing to their music. It all flows from love so I don't find it difficult to create. Sometimes speed can be a complicating factor. I generally try to use songs that are slow to mid-tempo so when I was listening to The Geeks to prepare for Shake Shop 13 I was a little worried. But then I ended up coming up with more material than we could use, and they were one of my favorite bands to work with.
Eshe : The best compliments, from my perspective, are always the ones from the bands. We are painting their music with our bodies and it is such a pleasure when they enjoy it.
Eshe : My daughter is usually on my hip or in my lap while I'm researching, writing, listening, or creating. I try to do most of my work while she naps but there’s always so much to be done. She occasionally sits in on rehearsals at the studio too and always comes to my shows. Basically, we’re always together. She's only two years old but has already spent a lot of time in live music clubs and tattoo shops, so my husband I often joke that she's going to rebel when she gets older by becoming an accountant.
Eshe : Thanks, I’m pretty excited about the lineup too! We’ve got Apollo 18, Galaxy Express, Goonam, and ...Whatever That Means playing at the last show. And like all other Shake Shops, Navah and I will be collaborating with all the groups.
I chose all of those bands because I’m a big fan of the music they create, and also because they are all friends of mine. I thought our last collaborations at Shake Shop would be much more fun if we were working together with friends. One thing I’m a bit worried about is that I think it’s going to be really hard for me to hold it together at the show. It’s been very emotional for me preparing this last offering of dance and love.
Eshe : I'll be doing my first ever drag performance during Goonam’s set. I always think of all of our shows as special. It takes hours and hours or preparation, teaching, rehearsing, videoing, and polishing to make a single dance for Shake Shop. On top of that, we only do each performance one time. Each band is unique, so we make unique dances to perform with them.
Eshe : I'd been hanging around with the Apollo 18 boys for a little bit at that point. We were at The Plastic Day’s "30 Seconds Between the Dreamer and the Realist" album release after party eating barbeque and drinking soju. Hyunseok from Apollo 18 told me he'd written “Orbis” after meeting me and seeing me dance. He then asked if I'd be their “Angelina Jolie” in their upcoming video. That night got even better, later on, when my boyfriend proposed to me!
Eshe : I think everyone has art inside of them. My advice would be to just do it! Find a teacher and go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain.
Eshe : I hope that people outside of Korea learn what a hidden gem this is in the bellydance world. There are heart-stopping, amazing shows happening here all the time.
Eshe : After seven years in Korea, I’ll be moving back to Canada this spring. Choosing to leave was a very difficult decision to make, but my husband and I think it will be a good move for our family in the future. We’re sad to be leaving but we’re excited to see what new opportunities the world has for us too.
My first show when I return to Canada will take place on April 26. I’ll be performing at the Raqia Hassan Gala Show at Le Royal Resto & Lounge in Mississauga, Ontario. Raqia Hassan is a bellydance legend so it’s a huge honor to be a part of this show. I actually spent a month studying intensively in Cairo with Raqia Hassan in 2007 shortly before moving to Korea. So to perform with her after I move back to Canada kind of feels like things are coming full circle. My life changed wonderfully after my time with her before. Maybe I’ll get lucky again!
Interview : Patrick Connor / Brian Gilbert /Jamie Leigh Gilbert
Korean Translation : 이윤지 (YoonJi Lee) / 임도연 (Doyeon Lim)
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Date : Feb 14th (Sat) 19:30
Venue : Freebird2 (Bigbird)
Door : 20,000won (1 Free Drink)
For more information on Eshe, check them out at the following sites :
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eshe/360253000343
Official Site : http://eshebellydancer.homestead.com/
Twitter : https://twitter.com/eshebellydancer
Yotube : https://www.youtube.com/user/Eshebellydancer