[TRAN] Esquire February Issue - EXO Kai's Interview
Perhaps he knew dance before his name. Strength over dance, melody over strength, he felt that energy more than anything else. He's solely innocent, and has an attitude that says there is nothing else in the world other than my body and music, so I'm free. As you follow that one person's movements out of 12 as if chasing them, there should only be one question. "Do you by chance know who that person is? What's his name?" After (hearing) this question, I often thought of the name 'Kai'.
It's like basic knowledge to know that his name (Kai) is read as the hanja/Chinese character 'yeol gae' 開 (he's used this before when talking about open mind Kai), his real name is Kim Jongin, and the fans think he's so sexy that they unknowingly call him 'oppa' and end up overlooking his age to call him the proper noun 'Jongin Oppa'. So that's not a variety of something you feel, but something you learn. Something like pushing the doorbell before saying a greeting. However, isn't Kai's essence a bit further away? Even if that's a little abstract, isn't it something to willingly find out about? Because we're all passing through one time period. I thought of something as I watched Kai moving in front of the camera like a dance. To what point/how far does 24 year old Kai want to go?
"When I dance? First, it's fun and enjoyable when I dance. I dance almost as if I'm unconscious, but not. I'm not concerned about genres. Since I was young, I danced various genres so rather than only dancing one genre, it's more like I pull out and use whatever I need when I need it."
In some moments, it was fine without music. Putting my phone down and watching the scene of Kai dancing was like music. Dance? Ballad? Fast or slow beats? What kind of mood? I don't think any of that was important. Perhaps it's possible for Kai to dance in a forest with only the wind blowing? Even to the 'seu seu seu seu' sound of leaves rolling as they brush against each other. Wouldn't his body again respond to the sounds he makes if he danced barefoot atop leaves? Like something you can't stop once you start, as if you're wearing enchanted shoes. Not a dance that you dance because you promised, but a dance that you dance because your body can't help but move and draw its own shape. Is that perhaps Kai? Kai indifferently said he sometimes feels something similar onstage.
"It's not easy to be satisfied regarding a performance. Rather than divide it by times when it's good (dancing/performing) and times when it's not, there just are those days. There is also a sense of becoming sharp because my focus is severe. In those moments it feels like I'm in a vacuum state, like I'm the only one onstage, and especially when I'm dancing onstage alone, sometimes I get the feel that every single cell comes to life and moves. It hurts, but because it hurts, my senses become more sharp."
A low voice. It's not the sound made by scratching something, but it's definitely the sound of stepping on the ground. A way of talking that exudes confidence of being able to start running anytime since it's strongly walking the ground. A 24 year old who laughs and says that he once thought 'There isn't anything that I want, but it would be nice to just have a practice room at home.' In times like these, what is the point of growing a year older every year? One person, even before becoming 10 years old, steadily pours in the amount of concentration that another person spends their whole life doing. There should be people who think the achievements of those people are coming early when compared to their age. And people who feel that it's a bit excessive in according to circumstances. I can say this because I don't know anything. Kai first started dancing in 3rd grade of elementary school.
"I vaguely remember it. I went to a private jazz dance school. I can remember up to the point where I sat in the back with my dad and watched. But they (his family probably) say I started dancing from the very beginning that day. They say I went out (to the jazz school) whether it rained or snowed following that day. They say I went to the jazz school everyday. And I was very happy while learning ballet. I think that's when I started to love dance."
What difference is there between now being unable to remember the moments of elementary school student Kim Jongin whose body responded and experienced, and EXO's Kai who was so concentrated that he can't remember anything once he gets offstage after a performance? Is that not perhaps truly the moment when Kai came to enjoy his own performances? Is that not why he danced and sang like that, then and now? Has time passed quickly in remembrance from the moment that child who loved dance became an SM Entertainment trainee to the time he became part of EXO? Behind the moments we are cheering, who else can estimate the weight of time as 'Jongin oppa' knows?
"Dance is (like) food. When I look back, it's chaotic. Dancing and singing are things that I've been doing everyday, so I don't think that they're lacking. However, I do think that I am lacking in life itself. Since I don't know how to do anything apart from that (dancing and singing)."
The numerous question marks that emerged upon seeing Kai in front of me disappeared in the end because of these words. Words that are ordinary but hard to keep, words that only a person who achieved through concentrated experience can say. It's also the language of someone who always looks back and makes a great effort not to stagnant. Kai also said this.
"When I'm satisfied, it's like I stop there. There were many times when I felt stagnant since I was a trainee. Wow, times when I really wouldn't improve. But in order to overcome that, I just practiced without a word and at some point realized that I improved. I'd say 'Why can't I dance this dance?' abd move on to another dance, but when I go back to the previous dance, I can do it easily. There were things like that. If I practice without an answer, it works. If I dig without an answer, it also works."
Nowadays also, on days with no schedules, it's consecutive practice and practice. Because he wants to sing better, lately he's practicing Miguel's 'Diamond' (I looked it up and I think he means a Rihanna/Miguel mashup called 'Diamonds/Adorn' by Travis Garland). He's singing the cover song by Travis Garland as a guide. "My teachers are probably really annoyed of me. I really bother/pester them. Because they need to teach me." This is why even among EXO's fanclub 'EXO-L', the hearts of fans who love Kai are undoubtedly just. January 14th is a day scheduled to spend together with the fans to celebrate his 24th birthday.
"I like meeting the fans. I think my fans are a bit similar to me. Our sensibility is strong, and I think there are many (similar) sides like that. It's something I am very thankful for. I'm happy. I think I'm all set if I'm happy."
'Even if other people compliment me, if I say no, it's no.' Wrapped in the ability to cross Asia and the world, he doesn't even feel the stimulus of others. He only gets angry at himself when something is stuck, when something is stagnant, or when an idea won't surface. Living a life that is exposed on a scale that is hard to estimate, Kai is strong and says he doesn't know anything else, but happiness alone is important.
"Happiness itself is the joy and driving force of living life. I think obtaining that (happiness) is no different from obtaining the world."
The eyes of people who know how to speak like this do not waver. There is no reason to wander or avoid either. It's just a straight line that's stuck as is, an energy that is strong with the force to break through yet also harmless. Maturity is like a gift that finds you by passing age or transcending, and Kai's time flows without any anxiety/worries. Standing straight even alone in this shining state.
translation credit: @ctribeat
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