Interview with: HOK KONISHI
Hokuto Konishi is better known to reality show fans as simply “Hok.” A well-traveled bboy who now lives in California, he was featured on the third season of So You Think You Can Dance. For myself, the show started as a guilty pleasure but grew into something more. For a summer-slotted reality competition, there was a surprising amount of sincerity and genuine talent on display.
Hok exemplified the show’s potential and central premise — taking a dancer and putting them out of their element, a premise that simultanesouly creates the fish-out-of-water scenarios that so many reality programs thrive on, while also displaying to a mainstream audience the virtuosity, artistry and sheer athleticism present in the world of dance.
As a bboy, Hok’s exuberance takes precedence over his (formidable) technical skills. Not one to rely on mere tricks, Hok’s strength is his performative instincts. He’s not just dancing; he’s entertaining, he’s emoting, and he’s engaging with the music, the movements and the audience. So it’s not surprising that Hok is an artist in other mediums as well — he’s a talented visual artist and accomplished violinist, other forms of expression that he plans on pursuing after his arms and legs can no longer do the things he wants them to. “Dancing is something you can do only while your body functions, so I decided to take that as my career for now,” he says.
I talked to him over the phone from Toronto to L.A.
Scene Guy: How you doin man?
Hok: I’m good!
Tell us a little about your background; you originally come from…?
Yes, I born in Japan and then my whole family moved to England when I was three. And I moved back when I was 12. And then I came to America three years ago.
So do you identify yourself as being British?
Uhm, I would say Japanese and English. I mean, I’m 100 per cent Japanese by blood, but still, I’ve lived half of my life in England.
It’s one thing to move to the states, but it’s another thing to go to L.A. Was there a lot of culture shock coming to California?
Yeah… I think I’ve gotten used to a lot of things already, but most definitely it was a big difference for me.
You said after your elimination from the show that you “kind of knew it was coming.” And with this season especially, there were a lot of left-field decisions where judges were saving people or eliminating people even though they had strong performances. Given that unpredictable atmosphere, what made you think that this was your time to leave?
Well, just because of the comments I had been getting from the judges. It seemed, well — it did make sense in one way — but it’s just like, there’s different perspectives on how to actually see the piece. It just seemed like ever since [I danced] the waltz, it seemed like whatever I did I was unable to bring their wall down. And it felt — and I mean I might be wrong — but it felt like they had made their mind up already. That there was nothing I could do to change it. I really felt, for the solos – whatever I did, they had their minds made up already.
With your final performance, the broadway number by Tyce D’Orio… A lot of the fans were saying that it should have been the choreographer’s fault that you didn’t have enough to do during the dance. Is that something you would agree with?
Uhm, I really don’t want to say it was the choreographer’s fault, because they really do an amazing job every week, and it’s hard work for them to choreograph something every week. And yeah, honestly, I think if I wasn’t a breakdancer, Tyce would have been able to put more stuff in there for me. But I guess he doesn’t know a lot of the things I could do either. So we probably needed a lot more communication there. But it was sad that the other judges didn’t like it. If we had a stronger number, it might have changed [the outcome]. But then, you can say that for anyone.
Who was your favourite choreographer to work with?
Definitely Wade Robson.
Was it the dance itself, or was it him as a person?
Well, his choreography itself is amazing. The ideas, and the way he thinks, his mind, is what really interests me. And just being an artist myself, I can connect to the way he thinks. He is something that’s way beyond a dancer and a choreographer.
Was there someone that you wanted to work for but you didn’t have the chance to?
I would have wanted to work with Mia [Michaels]. I don’t come from a technical background so of course it would have been really hard, but still, I love her work, so I wanted to experience her through that. It was sad that I got cut before I got the chance, but yeah. At least I wasn’t cut before doing Wade’s.
Is there anyone from the show that you think you’ll stay in contact with?
Yeah. I’ll probably, most likely, stay in contact with Lacey, D-Trix [aka Dominic], Sabra and Lauren.
Speaking of D-Trix, what was like with the other breakers, Dominic and Sara? Because of your background, were you guys drawn together at the beginning?
I knew Dominic from around two years ago. We met at this competition from another audition together. So we were just really happy that we were able to go this far together. Just supporting each other. And I hadn’t met Sara before the show.
In the world of b-boying, how unique is a girl breakdancer?
It depends on the b-girl, but a lot of them tend to be weaker just because a lot of the techniques and stuff. But there are some b-girls definitely, because obviously there are some things that girls can do and guys can’t, and there’s a lot of b-girls who pull that off too. And Sara’s an amazing b-girl, and what I think is great about her is when she breaks, she has that real hip-hop attitude, really hard. But when it comes to dancing the other styles she can be really feminine, and switch it up, and that’s what I think is really great about her.
You’ve said before that you’re “obsessed with beauty,” and we saw some of your artwork and saw you playing violin on the show. I’m wondering, was there any dance numbers this season that stood out to you as particularly beautiful?
A contemporary piece done by Lacey and Neil by Mia Michaels. That was just amazing. I don’t know the words to describe the piece, it was just… they created a whole new world. I actually feel from the bottom of my heart that when you see something so beautiful, it’s like nothing else in the world matters. And it really seemed like time didn’t matter. When you’re in the moment, you don’t have to think about time going on. It was a really amazing thing to actually see that.
A lot of people think the same thing about your own number, the Hummingbird and the Flower by Wade. When you were going through the rehearsals for that, did you know that dance was going to have as much of an impact as it did?
Definitely that piece was really different. Not just the depth of the music, but we had to go in depth on what the piece was really about, and how it feels inside. I think during the rehearsals I didn’t know what it would turn out like, just because I’d never done anything like that before. When I watched it on TV back in the apartment it was really weird because I love that piece and I felt it was beautiful – but the person dancing on TV was me. It didn’t actually connect when I first watched it. It was amazing.
How has the show changed you as a dancer or as a person?
It made me widen my horizons so much and because of that it opened up my mind and really helped me with the way I think. And I think that’s the way it helped me grow as a person.
What can we expect next from you?
I’ll hopefully be able to go travel and inspire people with my dancing. Because that’s how I actually started dancing. As I would watch it on TV in Japan, the feeling I got was nothing like anything that I’d ever felt. The feeling you get… It’s just amazing.