As of last year, KAZUHA had been doing ballet for 15 years. Starting this year, she’s a full-time member of the girl group LE SSERAFIM. And we heard all about her feelings surrounding that choice.
How do you feel with your debut coming up so soon? [Note: This interview took place before the group debuted.]
KAZUHA: It’s really intriguing the way everyone is so interested in the content that’s being put out. And you know how there are YouTubers who talk about idols? I’ve always watched a lot of their videos, so it’s amazing to hear them talking about me now. (laughs)
Your reveal in a video titled “LE SSERAFIM ‘KAZUHA’” shows you performing ballet. How did it feel doing ballet again?
KAZUHA: It’s actually pretty hard to do ballet after not doing it for so long. I was practicing my ballet continuously before the shoot for the video so that it would look good. As far as I remember, we shot the video not too long after I stopped doing ballet, so I still looked good doing ballet. The concept behind the video was ballet and was supposed to show what kind of person I am, so I wanted to keep it simple and show all the ballet I’ve done. I also never filmed on a set like that when I did ballet before, but I still wanted to show a cool, new side of me in the video.
When did you start taking ballet?
KAZUHA: When I was three. I think I was five in Korean age.
You were very young when you started out.
KAZUHA: Yes—it wasn’t my choice to start learning. (laughs) My mom sent me to a ballet studio near our home and I didn’t even realize what I was doing. (laughs) When I was young, I felt like I was just having fun with friends whenever I was there. And as I slowly started entering competitions, too, I found out there are professional ballet dancers. They looked so cool to me, and I felt like I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer, too.
It must have been a tough decision to audition after having done ballet for so long.
KAZUHA: The more I did ballet, the more I wondered if it was what I wanted to focus my life exclusively on. The process of doing ballet itself was fun, of course, and I learned a lot, which was nice. At the same time, I couldn’t stop thinking, Is this really my dream? And then I started to feel like I wanted to express myself in different ways through K-pop performances and in other genres. But it isn’t easy to start something new, and I didn’t know how to get into the K-pop world since I was studying abroad, so I felt really frustrated. And at that time, all the K-pop auditions moved online because of COVID-19.
That was quite the unexpected opportunity.
KAZUHA: Yes it was. I didn’t have many ballet classes at school at the time, and spending all that time at home filled me with thoughts and concerns. I thought that, while being a ballerina was an attractive option, what I do now would open up more opportunities for me to follow my dreams. I kept deliberating about it, but finally said, Let’s just do it! And I sent in my audition video.
What was the video you sent like?
KAZUHA: I submitted a dance cover of BTS’s “Dynamite” and a video of me doing ballet. There’s a dance break in “Dynamite” that’s so cool that I wanted to try to do it. (laughs) I was really impressed watching BTS’s performance while I was getting ready for the audition. Even though they’re all doing the same choreography, each member has their own style, which I think makes it cooler. I thought Jimin’s dancing was especially beautiful when I saw it. I was impressed to see someone balancing classical dance with K-pop choreography so well, which made me really interested in performing.
Some of the moves in “Blue Flame,” one of the songs off your debut album, are reminiscent of ballet. What was it like mixing ballet with a K-pop song?
KAZUHA: To be honest, it wasn’t easy mixing ballet with K-pop choreography, but I wanted to make it look as cool and balanced as possible. I didn’t start K-pop that long ago, so when I do ballet moves they just look like regular ballet, and if I don’t, it just looks like K-pop, so I think it was a little hard to find the sweet spot.
It sounds like there’s quite a difference between ballet and K-pop choreography.
KAZUHA: You have to move your body a bit differently, but I think it’s similar in that you have to be good at the basics. You have to be good at the basics to do ballet, and it’s important to be good at the fundamentals in K-pop choreography, too. Actually, when I was first learning K-pop dances, it was completely new to me, so it was difficult. I tried to stay true to the basics as I was learning it. And, unlike when idols perform, ballet isn’t filmed that often. The stage is pretty far from the audience, so they can’t really see details like your facial expression. So up until now I was more focused on my movements than on my face. But seeing as K-pop is always filmed and has so many close-ups, I realized I better pay close attention to what my face is doing from now on.
Not only did you have to practice your facial expressions, but you also had to practice singing and rapping. Wasn’t it hard learning both of those right after you were casted?
KAZUHA: When I came here, it was my first time ever rapping, so it was sort of hard. So I did my best to imitate the way the instructor rapped. I think after all that practice I was eventually able to do it as well as the instructor. (laughs) I didn’t really start singing until I got here, but I always liked listening to music, and just went to karaoke for fun. (laughs)
Were there any songs that you really liked listening to?
KAZUHA: I fell in love with K-pop after I first listened to BLACKPINK’s music. I think I randomly saw the “BOOMBAYAH” music video on YouTube. I can still remember how amazed I was when I first saw it. I was like, What is this whole new world? (laughs) And I saw them perform live in concert when they came to Osaka.
Oh, you went to their concert. (laughs)
KAZUHA: When I saw the performance with my own two eyes, it was so impressive and moving that I literally cried. I had seen many ballet performances up to that point, but it was cool in a totally different way from ballet. I think that was when I thought I wanted to be on stage, too. The members of BLACKPINK are cool and pretty at the same time and really charismatic, so I really had this kind of feeling that I wanted to be like that, too. Not the cute girl image, but like a cool woman.
I heard that you liked the lead single, “FEARLESS,” when you first heard it.
KAZUHA: You’re right. “FEARLESS” has a different vibe from the other K-pop songs out lately, which I liked. And it’s not just about being cute and pretty—it lets us show our thoughts and feelings and look cool doing it. The song is catchy and lots of the choreography is fun to dance along to, so I’m looking forward to putting on an energetic and cool performance live. All of us members were living our own lives in different places, but now we’re all in the same place with the same dream and the song shows how we’re going forward fearlessly. I started getting curious why they casted me after they contacted me about it. (laughs) But now that I think about it, I think the direction the group is taking is a good fit for me since our team is all about doing whatever we want. In my case, I used to do ballet, but now I’m doing K-pop like I wanted to.
Would you say that “FEARLESS” is about you in some ways—doing all these things in a new environment, without fear?
KAZUHA: When they contacted me about casting, I was actually getting ready to audition at my school for ballet companies. At the time I did a lot of thinking about what I should be doing in the future and where. Because I didn’t even really know what I could do for the future. I felt like there were no stable options anywhere. Because of that, I kept thinking about what I wanted to do in the future, and then I felt it would be the right thing to set out on a new path for K-pop and become a singer. Whenever I have to come to a decision, I write it in my diary. When I look at my thoughts and worries from that time, it’s obvious that what I wanted was to take my life in a new direction. That’s what led me to be able to choosing this path.
But aren’t there a lot of difficulties to face when you enter a completely different world within the span of a few months?
KAZUHA: I think the two are completely different. For example, when it comes to photoshoots, the photo you take for a ballet profile picture is just used for auditions, so you take it like a passport photo, where the only thing that matters is that you can see your face. (laughs) But it’s different when you have to do something like an idol profile photo. You have to put on so many different facial expressions. I keep worrying about my facial expression, so I practice alone in the mirror a lot, too.
You must have needed the other members to help you adjust to the new environment.
KAZUHA: I try not to ask every time there’s a Korean word I don’t know, but SAKURA lets me know every time anyway. (laughs) And the other members are all nice, too. The whole atmosphere was pretty good right from the beginning. They made the place really welcoming when I first came, so I had no trouble adjusting. When we first practiced, though, I felt sort of lost, so I thought, Let’s just do this. We took a video of when we were learning our first choreography, but watching it now, there’s no way they can make it public. (laughs) But both the older and younger members gave me a lot of advice about dancing while we were preparing for the debut since they all went through being trainees. I learned a lot thanks to the way they taught me everything in specific detail, and I also think I adjusted well thanks to them.
It sounds like both the older and younger members play a big role. (laughs)
KAZUHA: Exactly. I’m an only child. I didn’t know what to expect from having older and younger girls around me since I don’t have any siblings for real. But it’s like it’s just my everyday life now. I’m an only child, I went to study abroad by myself, and I like my alone time, too, to be honest. (laughs) But life is more fun this way, where the older girls set the mood and the younger ones act cute and lovely. We all spend a lot of time together now, but we’re always considerate and understanding of one another. And when we practice together, we swap feedback with each other because we all want to put on a good performance together. I think it’s unique the way everyone in our group shares the same goal. I love that I could be a part of this group for that reason.
It won’t be long now until your like-minded group gets to meet your fans. What do you want to do when you meet them?
KAZUHA: Since I’m just starting out as a K-pop idol, I want to get better and better over time and show them that. Our group wants to show how we’re chasing after our goals and dreams. Even when I did ballet, I wanted to be the kind of person who could give strength, positivity and an emotional experience to lots of people. I’m taking a different path now—being a K-pop singer—but I still feel the same way. I want to be the kind of artist who always feels that way and gives strength to a lot of people through our performances and our music.
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