This is the eleventh in a series of articles about rising stars who are expected to stand out in the coming year. - Ed.
By Lee Yong-sung
"Who the heck is Nam Hyeon-joon?" would probably be your most likely first reaction to his photo. Well, he is not a pop star yet, but as far as dance is concerned, he is an internationally known figure whose name is mentioned in Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that gets more than 9 million worldwide clicks a day, as a "notable popper".
If you have ever seen last year's television commercial of LG Telecom or Hite Beer, it would be much easier to explain. The guy who dazzles with robotic dance movements in the commercial is Nam Hyeon-joon, who also goes by his nickname Popping Hyeon-joon.
Also known as electric boogie or electric boogaloo, popping refers to both the sudden contraction of muscles and a dance form composed of a series of those contractions from the funk era. Dancers incorporated popping into both the hip hop and electronica dance scenes where it ranks below breakdancing in recognition and popularity. "I started to dance and people passing by stopped to clap and cheer, I felt like I was having my own concert. It was cool", Nam said in an interview with The Korea Herald, looking back at the time when his Hite Beer commercial was filmed in Kuala Lumpur. "Dance is my life. It is me".
Nam says that he doesn't expect a penny for his dance and does it because he enjoys it. Currently, though, the king of popping is preparing for his debut as a singer, an ambition not unrelated to unfair and comparatively ill treatment that the country's professional dancers have to stand.
"The problem is not with those dancers who seek to become singers but with the double standard of the public and the entertainment industry for singers and dancers", said Nam, the one and only trainee of Lee Ju-no, former member of now disbanded legendary idol group Seo Taiji
and Boys. "Dancers don't even have a waiting room", continued Nam, putting a rather cynical smile on his face. "When a dancer gets injured during a rehearsal, they don't get sympathy. They get harsh remarks about their carelessness, while the exact same person keeps his forehead to the floor to say sorry for recklessness in preparation when the exact same thing happens to a singer".
Preparing for a successful career as a singer, Nam recently signed on with Star Empire, a major management company that represents such top stars as girl group Jewelry and actress Hong Soo-ah
. "I owe Ju-no much for the contract. Although he has his own management company, he pushed me to make the move because he wishes for me to succeed as a singer from the bottom of his heart", said Nam, adding that Lee, along with Michael Jackson, has had the greatest influence on his dance.
He confesses that he has much to improve when it comes to his singing skills, but the dance champion has a lot to comment about singers, as far as their dancing skills go. "I've found dances of local pop groups are becoming closer to circus movements, not that their skills are good, but that their showy movements lack focus on details", Nam said. He has collaborated with many top singers and groups, including Cho PD and JTL, as a choreographer, and only a few top singers who can be called decent dancers come to his mind.
) is a hard-working guy. I see how much his skill has improved now from the time of his debut", Nam commented. "Lee Min-woo
(also known as M) is another fine dancer. Among female singers, BoA
is the best. She is better than Lee Hyo-ri when it comes to pure dance skill".
Earlier this year, he danced in performances based on the story of Peter Pan with contemporary dancers in both Korea and Germany. During the performances, Nam enacted Peter Pan who is brought back to life by Wendy's love.
"Dancing with new people always gives me new inspiration", Nam said. "I'd like to continue to dance with others even after I become a pop star".
Besides his new album, he is also busy filming. The upcoming film "Fly Daddy Fly" features Nam as a friend of Lee Joon-gi
, star of the current mega hit "The King and the Clown
". "Of course I dance in the film", Nam said with a smile.
"Popping seems to be popular in television, for which I'm glad. But the best is yet to come", said the 27-year-old popping king. "You will see that soon".