We had the good fortune of connecting with Vivian Kim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vivian, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Sometimes I wonder myself why I chose this career path, but I know that there really wasn’t ever another option for me. Something in me always knew that dance was going to be my hobby, passion and career. There was never a “plan b” for me. It was all or nothing for me with dance. I solidified this thought after I auditioned for the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s dance program in Spring 2010 (my senior year of high school). UNL’s Dance Program focus is Modern dance, up until that audition I had done nothing but studio dance styles (jazz, tap, lyrical, ballet, pointe), but Modern dance opened a new door of movement for me.
During my time at UNL, my passion and interest in dance grew more and more. The guest artists that were brought in to set dance works did Q&A sessions with the students on what it’s like being a dance professional, and I got glimpse of what was potentially in store for me post-graduation.
In the four years I attended UNL, I taught for various dance studios in the Lincoln/Omaha area, taught a few masterclasses of my own, had opportunities to set works on competition dance teams, and had performance opportunities through UNL that really solidified my decision on this specific career path.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As one of the only (as far as I know) Asian-American choreographers and performers in the Denver/Boulder area, I find that my style and narratives for the pieces that I choreograph are vastly different from the choreographers that’ve been established in CO for an extended period of time. My work focuses on Asian-American adversities, predominantly from a narrative lens; so much of my work, focuses on the Asian-American experience living in the United States. Specifically discussing my personal experiences of East Asian traditionalism intersecting with 21st century individualism in the US. This is just a portion of my research, the other part of my choreographic research also highlights the general Asian-American experiences with topics such as: anti-asian rhetoric, “model minority myth”, the White and Black racial binary, hyper-sexualization and exoticisms of Asian women, etc.
I’m incredibly proud of myself, my skills and how my work has transformed from 2010 to now. I feel like without the advice and support of my mentors, friends, and family I wouldn’t be where I am today. Additionally, the “behind the scenes” work I put in with networking, showing up to events in support of other artists, and continuing my own dance education has been a vital part of my progress and success as a choreographer and dance educator today. It most definitely is not easy – It never will be! I have very little time for play, but the pay-off and the payback that I receive is unexplainable. Choosing to be a dancer will always have it’s challenges, but as long as you know your end-goal, everything else is a just a little speed bump. The most important thing I’ve learned along the way is to be adaptable, over-communicate, to be honest to myself and my art, and to know your limits and when to say ‘no’.
I want people to know that I am 100% authentically myself, when I each, when I choreograph, when I research…. 100% all the time. Each time I am brought in as a guest, or even in my weekly classes, I aim to deliver an EXPERIENCE, not just dance technique or a dance lecture.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a HUGE foodie… My latest thing has been to follow suggestions from Denver Food Scene’s instagram page and just go with what sounds good. BUT if I had to come up with some sort of Itinerary, I would take them to visit these places (in no specific order) African Grill and Bar in Lakewood
Red Rocks Amphitheater
The Selfie Museum in Denver
Dae Gee Korean BBQ in Arvada or Denver
Hot Pot Noodle House in Boulder
Bad Axe Throwing
Denver Botanic Gardens
Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There have been so many amazing people that have helped me find my voice as a dance professional…. I’d like to shoutout My parents
Kevin ‘KO’ O’Keefe
Helanius J. Wilkins
And my friends
My boyfriend, Avery Lashley
These individuals have been with me from day 1. Constantly pushing and encouraging me.
Photos taken by: Gretchen LaBorwit Josh Pacheco Photography Cindy Brandle Attiyya Fortuné Ian McMorran