Good looks, a great voice, and a winning demeanour, Uriah See Khai has it all. But, the Malaysian singer still felt like he needed some extra oomph.
That took the charming lad to South Korea in March for a K-pop makeover that has given him some fancy footwork and snazzy new moves.
“I was there specifically for dance training and some image makeover, with a focus on styling of hair, clothes and makeup,” said the singer, who turns 23 in September.
In Seoul, he made his temporary base in the Hoegi neighbourhood of Dongdaemun district, which was surrounded by universities.
Every morning, he would hop on a train for a 30-minute ride to the Cheonho neighbourhood of Gangdong district to attend his daily training sessions.
For that one month, his schedule was packed with daily training at the E-Dance Studio with Kim Tae-wan, a dance choreographer managed by Kim Eun-ju, who is known for training K-pop acts from South Korean companies like JYP Entertainment, YMC Entertainment, and Jellyfish Entertainment. While formal classes took only two hours, See would spend four or five hours more practising on his own.
“I would go there an hour earlier to warm up and recap before my one-on-one class. Then, I would stay back and practise some more until night-time. Usually I’d be there for at least six to seven hours.”
But that wasn’t a problem for See. The real challenge for him was finding suitable food. Being a vegetarian, See said he had very limited choice for meals in Seoul.
“I was practically eating the same thing everyday for a whole month. It was either bibimbap (Korean mixed rice) or fried rice without the meat. It was challenging because their concept of vegetarian is different.
“But, towards the end of my stay I did find a vegetarian restaurant. Their food was quite yummy and they did catering too,” he said.
See described his newly-acquired dance skills as “a little bit hip-hop meets K-pop”, and proceeded to explain the difference between the two.
“There’s many different genres of dance. The one I learned can be categorised under hip-hop and K-pop.
“Hip-hop dance moves are usually very powerful and agressive and you’ve got to have a lot of groove.
“K-pop is very similar, but the moves are clean and stylish. They focus a lot on style, such as the position of your hands, the angle of your body, how your face looks, and the attitude in your dance moves.
“They focus a lot on these kinds of elements. The moves are slow and then fast, slow and then fast, so you create the fluid effect. That is the speciality of K-pop,” explained See, demonstrating his nifty new dance moves as he described them.
It may look like second nature to him now, but See would be the first to confess that picking up street dance skills is a rather huge leap for him.
As a classically-trained vocalist as well as violinist, See admitted that he hardly attempted any form of dancing before his month-long stint in Korea.
He only recalled one instance where he had to dance. It was during the finals of the Astro Star Quest Chinese Singing Competition in 2014, where he performed K-pop boy band EXO’s hit Overdose.
“I did try to dance during the Astro Star Quest competition. I had to dance for one of my segments. But it’s not really my forte,” he recalled.
“That was the only time I danced, and I never really danced after that.
“It’s quite a challenge for me to pick up dancing, because there’s a lot of body language involved, which you have to train for years and years to master.
“But in Korea, I had to condense everything into one month, so it was a very intensive course.
“I guess my sports background helped me a lot, especially with picking up the pace,” said See, who used to play badminton for the state team.
Speaking of badminton, See recently made a foray into acting, playing a rival badminton player in the biopic Lee Chong Wei: Rise Of The Legend earlier this year.
He will next appear in Malaysian actor-director Teddy Chin’s romantic flick In My Heart (Xiang Jian Ni in Mandarin).
“I hope to be offered more roles. I think acting is really very fun, because I get to immerse myself into a different character.
“I was happy with the badminton movie, because I once had a dream of being part of the national team, so participating in the movie sort of gave me the opportunity to fulfil the dream,” he said.
After his month-long stint in Seoul, See is raring to go.
He recently released a new single – Now Or Never – an upbeat Mandarin song with an English title. He is in the midst of shooting the music video.
He explained the message of the song: “Basically, it means you have to grab the opportunity while you can, because time is gold.
“I want to become a better person, and I’m trying to break free of old habits.
“The music video will showcase my dancing skills, with moves which I learnt in Korea, specifically for this song.”
See has also recorded a follow-up to Now Or Never, which is a Chinese pop ballad.
His plan is to release a single every month and compile them to complete his album, targeted for release at the end of the year.
The Johor-born singer was only 19 when he won both the Astro Star Quest Chinese Singing Competition (2014) as well as the TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship (2014) held in Hong Kong.
Following that he released a mini-album titled The Only Thing That Matters (2015).
More recently, See served as one of the judges for the Malaysia Preliminary Round of the 2018 Changwon K-POP World Festival, where he showed off some of his new moves.