C: I’m here with Livia, aka Nyappicat.
N: Hello, hi.
C: She’s got her own Youtube channel, where she’s been doing Kpop cover dances since what, 2014?
N: Yeah, since mid 2014.
C: How did you get into K-pop? It’s so popular but also not well-known in a lot of circles, so how did you discover it?
N: It was really random, if I go back all the way. I used to watch Shane Dawson like way back in the day. So he made this video called the “chubby bunny” challenge and I found it really funny, so I started looking for other ones, and I found a video by a girl called Bubz Beauty.
C: Bubz!!! That’s a throwback.
N: Yeah, and that was really long ago. I think that was 7 years ago now? And so I found her challenge, and then I started looking at her channel, and there she had made a hair tutorial for a K-pop group’s music video – so i watched the original music video and that’s how i found K-pop.
C: And the rest is history.
N: Yeah basically. (laughs)
C: What made you get into dancing from there?
N: The thing is, I’ve always loved dancing. When I was a kid I used to do ballet, and after that I stopped doing any physical activities.
C: (Laughs) Same.
N: Yeah, because I moved, and I didn’t get into ballet in the new city that I moved to so I just dropped it. I didn’t really start dancing until years later. When I was watching different music videos, I thought the dances were pretty cool so I started trying to learn them by myself. At that point I didn’t record anything, I just found tutorials so I started following those. And then after that, I started watching mirrored dance videos and learning by myself.
C: Is that still your technique today – just taking from dance practices, or do you take from live performances as well?
N: It kind of depends. Sometimes when I cover the dances, the MVs not out yet, and they’ve just done their first performance, or they haven’t done a dance practice video, but I can watch their performances. Sometimes I have to draw from the MV, because they haven’t performed it, I do stuff like that and it kind of depends between songs. Some songs have several different versions of the choreography, and I just choose the one I like more.
C: You mentioned to me once that sometimes you have to fill in with your own choreography…
N: Back when I did the whole song, I would find it really boring when I got to the really slow bridge parts and I had to do it exactly like the video.
C: Because when they’re singing at the bridge, there’s usually not much to do, right?
N: Yeah, they’re just flailing their arms or, I don’t even know, caressing their body…
C: It doesn’t really make sense for a dance cover.
N: So I just decided to I make up those parts, but nowadays I try to do it pretty similar to the original.
C: What pushed you to filming the dance covers and take the jump to make your own Youtube channel?
N: This was I think it was late 2013 to very early 2014, and then I heard that there was going to be a dance competition that was going to be held at this Kpop event that was going to be hold on January 24th in 2014.
C: Was this gonna be in Malmö?
N: Yeah. So I decided to join it. This was the first time I was dancing on my own, and by that point I’d been practicing dances at home, and I decided to join the competition literally a week before it happened. So I practiced, and put together a mix of songs. There wasn’t an official, like this is who won, this is who came second or third, but the consensus from the other contestants I talked to, and my friends, was that I came second or third, which is understandable cos I hadn’t been dancing that long, and I was happy to even get that. It was decided on the audience’s…
C: Oh, audience reaction.
N: Yeah, so the audience wooing, and who gets more woos, I don’t know. But it was really fun, and it made me really motivated to start my own channel, so I did. I think my first video came out in May that year, and I just started making videos from then on. And the year after I joined Oppa’s Angels. I was with them for one year, and I was in a group that branched off from Oppa’s Angels, called FACT.
C: I remember FACT!
N: Yeah, it was very recent! Then after that I moved to Scotland, so I had to quit. Since then I’ve been doing solo stuff, and been teaching dances to people at my university. So that’s my origin story.
C: I see – I finally reached level 10 friend and I unlocked everything.
N & C: (Laugh)
C: How did you get started with it? What equipment did you need to buy?
N: I think the most important point to think about is that you have to have a camera. When I started off, I told my Dad, hey, I want to start filming videos and stuff, can you help me buy a camera? So I got a camcorder. If you don’t have the money to do that, you can start off recording on your webcam, or something that isn’t as expensive – you can record on your phone, even. I just think it’s important that you synchronise the video file with the music file when you upload it. Otherwise, I think it’s completely fine. You can record on a potato. I think it’s more about the talent.
C: I think it makes sense to build up equipment slowly, rather than paying a lump sum all at once and then realise it’s a pain to do.
N: You obviously have to see if it’s for you, as well. You can’t just buy all the equipment, and then say “I don’t like this! Nevermind!” That would be a shame. So you have to get a camera, and a tripod as well. I know some people start stacking books, and tables and chairs, and that’s just difficult to get it to shoot nicely, and you might get those things in the frame. And then the studio space. Obviously I see people record at home, and that’s acceptable. It’s up to each and every one, but I think your viewers get kind of distracted if there’s a bookcase at the back, and then they see that there’s a Harry Potter book, and then all the viewers will talk about Harry Potter instead of focusing on your dancing. But I think the surroundings can complement your covers as well, so I think it’s important to have a nice studio place. Also a place where you can practice and see yourself in the mirror, even if it’s just a full sized mirror in your room.
C: Where do you find studio space? Right now you’re performing at a studio space founded by the government, right?
N: It’s funded by the municipality.
C: So you get a really good deal when you practice there?
N: Yeah, it’s really great. When I go back to Scotland, I think I pay for a full gym membership but I only use the dance studio there, and it’s about £130 for 3 months.
C: That’s a lot.
N: And it’s something that not everybody can spend on dancing, so you can also look at those, “fritidsgårdar,” after school activities, where you can dance. The point of those places is to keep you off the streets, so if you’re under a certain age you can go there and it’s free.
C: Do you have any advice to give to rookie dance cover artists?
N: I mean, I’m not that experienced or high level.
N: Stoppppppp ;)))))))
C: To a beginner, you’re up there.
N: I’ve done this for 3 years, I think, and I think the most important point to realise, and something I also find myself forgetting, is that you’re never going to be the best when you start out. You learn a dance, and you film it, you might get dislikes on your video. Or you learn a dance, and you look back, and you think that doesn’t look like the original, what am I doing wrong, you can take that as something to improve on.
N: I’ve always been kind of self-critical, which has worked in my favour. I would look at my dance videos and not be completely satisfied, and if I didn’t do that then I’d stay at the same level the whole time and not see my flaws and improve on them. So I’d look at my videos and think, “ugh, I have no energy”, and then I’d think about that the next time I record. Or I’d say “hey, my arms are kind of floppy when I do that move”, or “it looks like I’m scowling through the entire thing”, and I’d take that and improve little by little. I think by this point, I’ve gotten so used to incorporating all those parts that I can get a good shot sooner than before.
C: I think it’s hard when you’re starting out, because you put in a lot of effort and you don’t get the returns that you want. It’s so easy to get discouraged.
N: What’s going to help you is asking “why did they dislike this video?” You have to look at it critically. Like, “Oh, I did that move wrong, so I have to work on translating the moves better” or whatever. So it’s better if you take it very constructively, whether people are “hating” on you or what you want to call it. You’re have to think about it in another way.
C: So don’t be hard on yourself.
N: So don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t be like “everyone hates me, I suck so much” because that’s not going to help you.
C: And speaking of which, how does it feel to get recognised by the groups that you cover?
N: Sooo crazy. I was ecstatic about it. For a long time I just did it because I thought it was fun, but then I started working harder on it, and I feel that my hard work has been recognised and that it’s payed off. I feel like a lot of people give up very soon if they don’t get that instantaneously…
C: You’ve been working on this for 3 years, so it didn’t happen immediately.
N: I didn’t just make one video where people were like “HOLY SHIT!!” because I wasn’t that great at that time. But it feels really nice. Like I haven’t done this in vain.
C: Is there anything that you’ve changed since you first started filming your covers? Like setup, or the equipment?
N: Well, I got a new camera and I’ve only used it once, as it’s better for vlogging and talking videos. But I’ve been using the same camera for covers the entire time, which is kind of interesting. I also had a really messy setup. There was a lot of depth in the video, so I wasn’t really that close to the camera. So I took criticisms that I got, like, “you’re too far away from the camera” and I tried to improve that with the same setup, just closer. I still got some criticism, so I was like ok, let’s change it again. And I just turned the camera 90 degrees…
C: Just towards the mirrors, right?
N: Yeah, and I haven’t gotten any negative criticism for that since.
C: Does anyone help you? I know you invited me over for the first time to see you dance recently…It seems like a very one man kind of job
N: It is.
C: Do you get any moral support?
N: As much as I do it for myself, doing what I love, it’s fun when people see it and give you recognition.
C: Would you consider that the best part of your channel, other people interacting with your stuff?
N: That’s my entire motivation! I remember the first couple comments that were really nice, and people being like “you’re so good!” and it would make me really happy and motivate me to keep going, and it’s still like that.
C: And for people reading this, you can still see my thirst comments on every single video.
N: Oh my god..
C: Is there a specific dance style you’ve developed?
N: I mostly cover girl group dances, and I want to get into boy group dances, as I’ve said before, I feel like when I watch a lot of performances – no shade to the artists, because they work very hard and they have several gigs in a day, and they barely get any sleep, so they can’t give their full 100%, so I feel like me as a regular person that’s not that busy, I need to give my 100%. Like “I need to keep my arms really straight at this part to make it look good,” and that’s something that I’ve been very strongly developing, like using a lot of muscles to do quick movements, and try to make it look precise.
C: I think you mentioned to me once waacking, and that you try very hard to make it precise. Are there any other techniques you’ve been working on?
N: When it comes to steps that are based on stuff like popping, or locking, very distinct styles where you have to use a lot of muscles to make it sharp, that’s what I work very hard on. I once got a comment on a video I was really, really pleased with. I’d practiced on it longer than I usually do, and it came out pretty much exactly like the original
C: Which song is it?
N: Lucky Girl. I didn’t make any mistakes in that video at all, and I was so proud of it. Someone was like “I think it would look better if you don’t use as much strength, because it doesn’t look like a girl group dance.” I was like “excuse me!!! If you watch the performance! It looks like that!” I didn’t say that, obviously…
C: (laughing) Very professional.
N: I try to stay calm, but I feel like I’ve started using so much strength in my videos, which also limits me when I record because I get so exhausted after every take, but I feel like I already have a lot of power to begin with so doing a powerful boy group dance wouldn’t be too far off from what I’ve done before. Obviously, I’ve always been self taught in dances like this, but I still feel like I have to do my best to make it look kind of legit, and not sloppy.
C: What’s stopping you from getting into boy band covers? You’ve already memorised some of GOT7’s cheesiest dances from a few years ago.
N: I want to cover stuff that’s new, and all the boy group songs that have come out recently are very intricate, and I feel that for me to jump on that now, when I’m at a level zero of development might be too soon. But I feel like I’m putting this unfair limitation on myself so I’m going to start working on a boy dance soon. [Since this interview was taken, Livia has released her first boy group dance cover! Watch it here.]
C: Which group’s skill do you admire?
N: For boy group dances, I would love to be at BTS’s level. I’ve learnt some of their dances, but I feel like I’ve never reached a point where I feel satisfied. But for girl group dances, I want to work up to Dream Catcher, because oh my god. They have really sharp moves and they’re really quick. I think that’s my next challenge.
C: Is there a particular song that you’re working up to?
N: A lot of Dream Catcher songs are similar, but their last song, Fly High, they have a lot of waacking in the bridge, and mmm!!! It’s so good!!! That’s my next challenge, and then I’m going to work on Cherry Bomb.
C: (gasps) I’m so excited for that.
N: Well, we’ll see how long it takes for me to upload. (laughs)
C: How do you choose outfits for your videos?
N: At the beginning I wanted the exact clothes, but I looked online and saw that it was really hard to find what I wanted, so a lot of the stuff I make myself – it’s not that difficult. Plus, I grew up in a family where we DIYed a lot. My mom taught me a lot about sewing, and making stuff myself, and I kind of developed on from there. Nowadays I try harder to copy the outfits, and if I can’t do that, I’ll at least do a similar style or use the same colors. For example, for my Dumb Dumb video, I did every outfit in their music video as spot on as I could. I worked on just finding the outfits for a whole month. Meanwhile I was just practicing the dance. It depends from video to video, how much I like the group and how much I’m willing to invest. I do use my own money and my own savings to do all that.
C: Are we going to see any more sewing tutorials?
N: That took me, legitimately, one full day. It’s difficult because I have two cameras, so I could do two setups, but I don’t have two tripods. It just feels like the way people shoot their tutorials is usually “here’s me cutting the piece, and here’s me sewing it!” and moving back and forth during the shots took so much time, and then just keeping track of how much memory you’re using on the camera, and battery levels…It’s a lot of work. Plus my dorm room at the time was absolutely tiny. I rewatched the tutorial the other day, and there’s one shot where I’m like “I couldn’t fit the entire skirt in the shot!!” I was like “Oh my god, this is embarrassing.” I might do another tutorial if I find something easy, and if I get a lot of requests. I think the first thing I got a lot of requests on was this fur coat that lit up, that I made myself and I never did a tutorial on it because it took me 15 hours to make and I’m not going through that again (laughs)
C: What did you have to overcome in order to succeed?
N: In the beginning I had really bad stage fright. I’ve had it all my life, but it’s gotten better since I’ve started dancing and putting myself out there on the internet. In the first few videos, I was so nervous that I couldn’t look into the camera. I was just looking straight ahead, or down at the floor and just focusing on the dance. It slowly got better because I looked at myself critically and thought “I can’t keep doing that, it’s not going to work.” I’ve always had body image issues, and it’s gotten better – I’ve just gotten to a point where I’m like “fuck it, I don’t care!” But I still have these moments where I look at a video and go “urghh, lot of jiggle going on there…” But I feel that people aren’t going to care about your appearance if your dancing looks good, instead of using it as another way to hate on you for. There’s this girl, Yumie; she’s a bit of a bigger girl but her covers are really good, and it’s like “this girl is so amazing.” She’s not the stereotypical dancer – she’s not a tall ass model and neither am I. It’s more about what you convey, and if you convey it well people are going to look pass what you look like.
C: You get some interestingly creepy comments…
C: Do you think that you get any of these comments because you’re a biracial girl?
N: Sometimes I do get those comments that are like “sexy girl yes!!!” but I feel like I can’t really judge them because I’m not putting myself out there as a person, I’m putting myself out there as a body doing a dance. So I shouldn’t be surprised by people giving me those comments. Getting those comments, if it’s not too bad, something like “sexy baby yeah!!” or whatever, then I can just be like thank you because I know their intentions are good. If they’re going too far, I’m going to tell them that. I have to be realistic, because if I’m putting myself out as a dancer then that’s what people are going to comment on. They’re going to comment on my body, both positive and negative, and I’ve realised I can’t please everyone.
C: Looking at your comment section, you have a thousand subscribers so about 10 comments per video – they’re usually really positive. You have a pretty safe space on Youtube.
N: I love my viewers!! I think it’s because I don’t upload that often, so these I’ve accumulated these 1 thousand subscribers over the course of 3 years. So the people that are still watching me are the ones that still like me, so I get a lot of positive comments.
C: How about editing? (dryly) The favourite part of any video maker.
N: It’s actually my favourite part!! Most people would say the dancing is the fun part, but for me, the editing part is the reward, seeing that you did it right, and it came out really good. It really symbolises that this is the last 20 minutes before it’s out there, and you’re done with this project, and it’s really satisfying in that way. Especially with the split screen videos, I get a lot of good feedback for them. Knowing that motivates me a lot.
C: What program do you use?
N: I used to use iMovie, but it can’t do split screen videos, which is why I got Final Cut Pro X Cut instead.
C: How do you edit?
N: I usually use a template that I’ve made for the intro, usually from past videos, so I just duplicate them and then I make a new project, and insert a new video and delete the old one. If I’m just doing a regular video where I’ve done everything in one cut, and it’s not split screen, it takes me about 10-20 minutes to edit, and adjust it and make sure the song matches up with the video. When it comes to split screen videos, that’s where it gets more complicated. It can take me about 5-6 hours but they fly by. I don’t have a specific tool or method I use, it changes between videos. First I align all the videos in layers on top of each other, and change the opacity so I can see what the final video is going to look like. Then I use a cutting tool and I start cutting the video and changing different parts of it to different styles of editing. Sometimes it’s the clean, 3 Livias next to each other, or in my last video, Red Velvet’s Red Flavour, there are some parts where the 3 characters go through each other. That’s where I need to change the opacity so that they’re all visible while they change position. If I don’t do that, you’re only going to see one clip going on top of the other and the other will be invisible. For Rookie, I faded the clips in and out so it would look good, with Red Flavour I do that as well as changing the opacity. It’s a lot of editing. It keeps you creative. What I like a lot about editing is that I can spend an hour planning out like which each clip is going to include, and then seeing it all come together and look nice and then being creative about how I need to edit it to make it look good is really exciting. It’s never the same for each video. The choreography is different, so the editing has to be different.
C: Where did you get the idea to do split screen videos?
N: I got it from this girl called JellyBeanNose. She did a partially split screen video of Full Moon. I did basically the same video with the same outfits, and I did give her credit in the video, don’t catch me on that (laughs). She really inspired me and I think she only did that for a couple videos, and I started doing that for the whole song, and not just 30 seconds or whatever. I think some videos need you to showcase several parts at the same time, if it’s a group dance, not a solo dance.
C: What inspires you to perform?
N: It has a lot to do with audience responses. When I perform live I don’t get a lot of responses during the performances, people kind of sit there with unamused faces, but when I’m done I get a lot of applause, and sometimes people approach me afterward and give me compliments. it makes me so happy and motivates me. Plus I like being on stage, even though I get very nervous. It’s kind of the same thing as when I make videos. When I go and perform at other places, it’s also the journey. It’s not just me standing on a stage, it’s getting to the event, and meeting other people with similar interests.
C: If you could meet any dancer, who would that be?
N: I really like Momo from Twice. In Signal, she made the dance look so amazing, and she expresses dance moves in a really nice way. I guess in a way she’s like a role model. I don’t follow a lot of dancers, but people from 1 Million are really talented, really good actual dancers, not just cover dancers. I’d love to go to a class, or just get pointers or tips from one of them, or get advice on how I could improve certain steps that require more techniques, rather than imitation. I imitate a lot, but because I don’t have the technical base I feel like I don’t do them 100% correct as such.
C: Do you think you’ll be taking dance classes in the future?
N: I might, but I’m still got too much stagefright to dance with other people, and I feel like they’re all going to be better than me.
C: Do you have any plans for the future?
N: In the future, I’d love to go to Seoul… I have a few friends that have actually gone to Korea and done busking performances in HongDae and other places in Seoul, and it would be really great to go there and do something similar. It would be really great, to do a cover and meet J-Young…(laughs) But it would be really fun to keep going as well. I teach a lot of choreographies at my university as well, and maybe forming a group from there…I’m more of a live in the moment type person, so I haven’t thought too much about it. I take everything as it comes. I feel like if you have too many goals for the future, if you feel like you can’t reach them you get more disappointed than if you take everything one step at a time.
C: Where do you think your dance covers could take you?
N: I don’t know…it’s such a niche thing so it might not take off. If it doesn’t, that’s fine, because it’s something I enjoy doing. Maybe teaching kpop dances for a living…well that wouldn’t be a living (laughs). Maybe I’ll be able to work in the actual industry – even being a background dancer would be very fun. It’s a hobby. It’s something that makes me happy so I don’t care if it’s a living.
Featured image from Nyappicat’s Red Flavor cover