Spreading Love Through Dance | Meet Ellen Kim

Author: Kristen McCloud / Photos: Ja Tecson
03.20 / MB Series

We met Ellen Kim at femme power dance benefit FLYGRLS LA, where she and her all-girl dance crew showed us just what being a Fly Girl means. Ellen has been in the dance world for a while now, choreographing and performing alongside major artists around the world. But getting to this point has been no easy feat, especially while being a mom. After having her daughter Kaya, Ellen's passion for spreading positivity and love through dance has only grown. Get to know how she balances motherhood and being a bad*ass dancer below!

How did you initially get into dance?
I was around 7 or 8 and I used to watch my mom's VHS tapes of Madonna’s live tour. I would put that on and watch them back to back; I don’t know why but I loved what Madonna was doing even though I didn’t really understand exactly what she was doing. That's what sparked my interest in dance. That, and I grew up watching music videos back in the TRL days.

What about making the transition into becoming a choreographer?
I used to be on this team called Funkenometry. I love Bay Area music--I’m from San Francisco--and at that time it was crazy, like E-40 and Clyde Carson era. I loved that music so much and they knew that, so they asked me to make a piece and I said sure. I didn’t even know what that meant or how to do that, but I would just freestyle to all of this Bay music and I just kind of became the choreographer for my team. From then on I started teaching open classes and then got put on YouTube; after that I got introduced to teaching internationally.

Since starting to dance professionally, what has been a highlight of your career?
I have several, but one is for sure Diplo. I did his music video and his show on Catalina Island. What I loved about working with him is that although at the time I had already given birth and it was three months in, he specifically wanted to book people who were just going to get down. Obviously, I wasn’t at the weight that I was at before but to book a job and be appreciated no matter your type of body or ethnicity, and for them to just be like, "Hey, we just want to guys to be dope..." That was one of the best feelings when coming back to working.

Who would be a dream artist to collaborate with or choreograph for?
That’s so hard because there are just so many great artists, and I’ve already worked with some that I love like Pharrell and Diplo. But I also love artists who are up and coming. There’s just this drastic difference. Artists I’ve worked with who are established, they’re amazing and they know their craft which is incredible. But there’s something about up and coming artists, like their hunger and their appreciation of everyone hustling--that energy is amazing to work with.

" I really want to show my daughter that you can show love and be about positivity within your career and your life."

How has becoming a mom changed your outlook on dance and life in general?
My daughter literally changed my life. I know you hear a lot of people say that but to be honest, now I understand what it means to sacrifice for what you love. Me wanting the best for her makes me want to become a better person every single day. I’ve always cared about women empowerment--I only use females in my videos mostly. But for some reason when she popped out of me it was on a hundred, or even a thousand. That’s why I do things like FLYGRLS. We don't get any money but I’m willing to sacrifice my time for things that I think are beneficial for others in the world. I really want to show my daughter that you can show love and be about positivity within your career and your life. She really changed my life and made me want to be a better person in all aspects of life.

Any advice for others trying to get into dance professionally? Tips on getting rid of nerves, building confidence, etc?
To be honest, I’m 32 now and I started when I was 8 years old... Whether it’s one person or a thousand people I’m still a nervous wreck to this day. Before I perform I’m like, praying to god and looking like Gumby because I’m stretching so much--just freaking out.

When I moved to LA I lost a lot of confidence and a lot of who I was because I felt like I had to portray a certain image. The only way I built it back up had to do with having my daughter. Right after I gave birth I had a huge job with a huge artist and even though I worked my ass off--I mean, I always work my ass off--I got fired from the job because the choreographer thought I was too fat. Getting sent home because someone tells you to your face first to lose weight, and then that you’re fired, that was really tough and really broke me. The only thing that got me back on my feet was understanding that you literally only have one life to live and that I started dancing because it took me away from my problems growing up. I got my ass to the f*cking gym and just kept going... And now I really just don't give a f*ck. It just boils down to how much I want it because I’m so passionate about it. So either someone can take this from me or I can keep on fighting. That's what you have to realize.

Who's your MISSBISH?
Kaya is my MISSBISH. She has such a personality of her own, all kids do. They’re very true to who they are and it’s inspiring to watch. It really makes me realize how we can get jaded as we get older. If we just live in the moment and are honest with ourselves we can live a much more loving and simpler life.