Updated: May 15, 2021
We are so excited that our guest bloggers this month are Caroline and Tammy from London Kpop Dance Workshop, LoKo: the duo who started LoKo and are celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year!
Caroline and Tammy met in 2011 through Caroline’s sister. Since there weren't many Kpop fans and Kpop events at the time, Caroline's sister thought it would be good to connect Caroline and Tammy. At the same time, Tammy realised that there were others like her who wanted to learn Kpop dances. She knew Caroline had a dance background and there began the first conversations about starting Kpop dance classes in London.
We know you’ll enjoy reading all about how LoKo started, its adventure-packed journey over the last 10 years, the much-deserved exposure and recognition it has received nationally and internationally, and its vision for the future. We, at LKS, have so much pride and joy that LoKo is a London-based Kpop dance workshop with so many accolades to its name. It has a wonderful reputation in the Kpop community and we feel they are the heart of the London Kpop dance community. We hope they do indeed keep “kpopping when they’re 80”!
We will now let Caroline and Tammy from LoKo take the stage!
LOKO BEGINS AND RIDES THE HALLYU WAVE
We were originally going to hold dance classes during the school holidays as we knew the demographic of fans was quite young. However, after our first class, we realised that we needed to hold them more often and ended up doing them every month.
We decided that these would be day workshops where we would teach four pieces of K-pop choreography. We posted messages on every K-pop UK group we could find on Facebook asking if anyone could be dance instructors and that’s when our team grew from two to four.
Not long after our first class, Korean network SBS got in touch with us to feature on their show, Morning Wide. The Hallyu Wave was finally here and they were trying to cover all K-pop exposure in the UK.
Our first major event was in October 2011, just one month after we’d launched ourselves as LoKo. We were approached by someone who was hosting a masterclass with the now prestigious Mihawk Back, who was then a backup dancer and choreographer for SM artists. We’re so grateful that Mihawk agreed to come to London to host a workshop masterclass with us attended by over 30 people, which was mind-blowing. The masterclass was featured on the Korean news channel YTN, who also interviewed us. Mihawk's class had been a roaring success, our exposure exploded and soon our monthly workshops became a well-oiled machine.
Our Facebook page also began to grow and word spread about our workshops among the small online K-pop community. Our aim at the time had not been to be a K-pop cover group, but since there were more and more people and events appearing in the community, we knew our team would have to grow.
In the summer of 2012, we were asked to perform at the All Age KPop Party which was LoKo's performance debut. We hand-picked some of our students to join the team, all of whom had different strengths and skills, and we rehearsed for around 27 hours over a few weeks to make sure we got it right! There were very few K-pop cover dancers/groups at the time and as we were starting to build a name for ourselves, the pressure was on to be good. We did a mixture of crowd-pleasing songs, including f(x) "Electric Shock", SHINee "Sherlock", BAP "Warrior", EXO "History" and Super Junior's "Sexy, Free and Single". Dancing in front of a crowd that was whooping, cheering, singing along, and doing fan chants gave us a small glimpse into what it's like for a K-pop Idol when they're on stage - it's an amazing feeling knowing that people are enjoying your performance.
LOKO’S OWN GANGNAM STYLE
Of course, we can't talk about 2012 and not mention Psy's Gangnam Style - the song that put K-pop on the global map. Suddenly, every K-pop fan's aunts and uncles were doing the famous horse dance at parties and weddings.
We were approached by a YouTube channel called Video Jug who asked us to film a Gangnam Style dance tutorial. (This video, to date, has been seen an incredible 17 million times!) The Gangnam song was inescapable, and with it came more attention to LoKo. Channel 4's Sunday Brunch invited us to come on their show to teach the presenters and guests how to do the dance. We arrived at the studios and sat in the green room with Ross Kemp and the cooking duo Hairy Bikers!
The next TV appearance came with the BBC. They were recording a programme called This Week, which is a satirical and political show with sketches. At the time, Downton Abbey was incredibly popular, so we were dressed as maids and filmed dancing to Gangnam Style around the manor. It was all quite random, but a very fun experience.
Nowadays we like to keep Gangnam Style where it belongs....in 2012, haha!! But we of course are grateful for the opportunities that it brought us.
COMPETITIONS & SHOWCASES – LOKO HAD ARRIVED
Team LoKo (Tammy, Caroline, Isabelle, Deanna) entered our first global dance cover competition - the 'Be My Baby Cover Dance Contest' by Wonder Girls. We had very little money for studio hire so we rehearsed where we could. When it came to filming, we decided to do it on a rooftop in Luton, in the dead of night, in November, the weather was freezing, and we were in mini dresses! We were very excited about filming our first "formal" dance cover and although we didn't win, we got over 20k views on YouTube, and it's still one of our most popular videos to date.
The year 2013 was a major year for LoKo, not just because we started organising our first showcase (Hallyu Stage) and our first overseas performance (Paris Manga convention), but also because we decided to enter another global competition - KPop Cover Dance Festival.
K-pop was gaining more popularity worldwide and we figured our chances were slim, but at the same time, what did we have to lose? So we entered at the last minute and decided to do "Rock Your Body" by VIXX as it was a really fun choreography. We rehearsed for just 5 hours, recorded on a different day, uploaded our entry, and hoped for the best.
Amazingly, we got through to the regional round so we turned up at the KCCUK alongside other contestants and their supporters. When they called out, "Number 8, Team LoKo", we proceeded towards the audition room and noticed that the large crowd behind us was following us. At first, we thought they were competing teams but began to realise that the people in the crowd were there to watch us. The crowd was so big there were no more seats left and many had to stand! Even one of the judges jokingly asked how much we paid them to come and watch us! We were amazed and overwhelmed by the support we received, and as the crowd clapped and cheered during our performance, it really helped us melt all those emotions away and just enjoy dancing. We had so much fun performing in front of everyone but the wait for the winner announcement was nerve-wracking. As the day drew to a close, we were all called in and then they made the announcement: TEAM LOKO!!!"
The crowd erupted into applause, we all started crying, inhuman noises were made, and our legs shook as we walked down the steps to claim our prize - an all-expenses-paid trip to Korea to compete in the KPop Cover Dance Finals!
Our Hallyu Stage plans were temporarily on hold as we flew out to Korea for the Finals. We met 12 other groups from Japan, Thailand, Canada, USA and Russia, to name a few. We took a 5-hour coach ride to Gyeongju where the finals took place. The stage was set up like a music show (as it was being aired on Arirang) and the effort the other groups put in was immense; you could tell everyone was having loads of fun but people took the competition very seriously too! We were all going to be judged by KPop Idol group Boys Republic and we were up first. At the time, our performance felt very much like a blur but we managed to get through it as we did our rendition of "Hyde" by VIXX - a very different concept to our regional entry. The standard was exceptionally high and although we didn't make it to the Top 3 teams (who then performed at Dream Concert), we were elated at being given such an incredible, unique opportunity, plus the chance to represent the UK.
After heading back home, there was no rest for the wicked as we were straight back to work with Hallyu rehearsals and getting the final parts put in place to later produce Hallyu Stage 2 (2015) and Hallyu Stage 3 (2017). Rehearsing for the Hallyu Stage and KPop Cover Dance had been tough. Some of us had full- or part-time jobs, or were students, and we were still doing monthly workshops, so there was so much going on in our lives. We weren't just rehearsing for Hallyu Stage but also leading it; learning choreography and teaching it to Hallyu participants, writing down formations, booking studio time and organising rehearsal dates, researching venues as well as rehearsing for our own numbers, finding volunteers to help us on the day... looking back we have absolutely no idea how we managed to fit it all in, but of course, we made it work.
After the Hallyu Stage and KPop Cover Dance competition, our opportunities just snowballed...
THE NEXT STAGE
Tammy later became the Dance Coach for the KPop Cover Dance Finals and returned to Korea for two more seasons to coach the finalists and teach flash mob performances that the contestants did around Seoul and Gyeongju. This opportunity came up as she vacationed in South Korea in June 2014, and the KPop Cover Dance PD was looking for a dance instructor to coach a special stage performance for foreigners in the 2014 Dream Concert in Seoul. Tammy, along with Deanna and Nikki, coached and danced with 42 foreigners, living in Korea at the time, on stage in the Seoul Olympic Stadium in front of 40,000 people.
It was these kinds of opportunities that put us in contact with competitions that we became judges for. We were three-time judges for a Kpop Swedish competition (with the opportunity to perform also), the regional final for KBS Cover Festival hosted by the KCCUK, competitions held in Kingston and New Malden, and also the UK Inter-Uni Kpop Competitions.
By 2015, Mihawk Back had returned for a third time and he had gone from backup dancer/resident choreographer to becoming EXO's performance director, who also brought along another choreographer, Kasper.
We hosted masterclasses for Bongyoung Park, one of the original dance instructors at the 1 Million Dance Studio.
We collaborated with Swedish organisation Kpop NonStop to host a masterclass for BTS' Mr Son, and also with Korean organisation KDA to hold masterclasses for Bae Yoonjung, Park Junhee, Park Hyoje and Prepix's Haw. The most recent collaboration was with Bonjour Coree and KDA to help them host the London leg of the Kwon Twins (from YG X) workshops.
Amidst all this, workshops carried on and LoKo has collaborated with UK-based Korea organisation KBCE to produce UK Kpop National Competition and UK Kpop Camp.
The year 2017 brought us one of our most favourite K-pop performances of all time; performing at the Feel Korea concert with Kpop idols Snuper. Although as a team we had performed on other stages overseas, this one meant a lot to us as we got to perform on home turf, representing our community. The crowd was incredible and seeing our name in lights was surreal. Snuper was lovely to work with.
ALL CHANGE IN 2020
Unfortunately, when the coronavirus hit in 2020, our workshops came to a grinding halt. Although it was upsetting to have to pause our workshops, it did give the team a much-needed rest and gave us time to reflect on how much we had achieved, and just how busy we had been for nearly a decade.
A lot can change in 10 years, including people's priorities and direction in life, and our team is no exception; we are extremely understanding of our team's needs and 100% supportive of all our past, present, active and non-active amazingly talented LoKo members. Life happens, but we still share an unforgettable bond.
This gap in activity this past year has given us time to concentrate on our wellbeing and personal lives in general as burnout was imminent, if not already surpassed. However, we do miss teaching and seeing our regulars as well as meeting new faces, and we can't wait to be back in the studio with everyone and celebrate our 10th anniversary properly! Now that things seem to be getting better (fingers crossed), we are going to pick up where we left off and start our workshops again soon. Then maybe later we can think about Hallyu Stage 4..... keep your eyes peeled!
Just like our team, we have watched the community grow and we feel extremely fortunate to have had such longevity in the community, and we feel like as long as the community is here, and people still love K-pop, then we can stay too. The last 10 years is 10 years longer than we ever imagined, so who knows... maybe we'll still be k-popping when we're 80 :)
For future updates on events, you can follow us on our social media:
Londonkpopdanceworks (fun fact about our YT name: the word "workshop" didn't fit, but we didn't realise until we hit the submit button!)
Hope to see you all soon,
Tammy and Caroline