Touring with JYJ in America and performing in the JYJ Worldwide Showcase in Seoul has turned dancer Telisha Shaw into an enthusiastic new Cassie.
Only two days after her return to LA, still slightly jet-lagged, Telisha agreed to a phone interview with DBSKnights. She was excited to share about her experience with Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu (whom she called "JJ, Micky and Jun"). In the past, Telisha has also danced with artists such as Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, and Green Day. But her experience is not limited to dancing, her "first love". Telisha has also acted in television shows Weeds and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and in the Hollywood film Step Up 2; The Streets as Felicia.
DBSKnights: So how did you get involved with JYJ?
Telisha Shaw: I knew of an acquaintance out here in LA that I had worked with before and he randomly gave me a call and asked if I knew anyone that could choreograph for this new group that they were working with. I immediately thought of Jeri (Slaughter). Based on our friendship and his repertoire, I figured he’d be a perfect fit especially because it involved the artist dancing. ... I suggested him for the job and everything worked out. ... [JYJ's management] fell in love with him. And after Jeri came aboard, he brought me on as a dancer. ... Pretty quick process! (laughs)
As the JYJ trio were busy in Korea, Jeri Slaughter sent them footage of the choreography to learn. At the same time, the dancers started rehearsals in LA. A few days before the New York concert on November 12th, they finally all met in a studio in New York.
Telisha: That’s when we learned the power of their work ethic. 'Cause usually when you send an artist material, 9 times out of 10 they really don’t go over it or they come in and you can tell they have no idea what’s going on. [JYJ] knew things better than we did. They were correcting us. I remember one day Jun came in and started going like, “No, that part goes here” and we were like “Are you kidding?” (laughs)
From the getgo, Telisha Shaw knew this experience would be extraordinary. "It was just like an establishment of a little family – the JYJ family. We had heard how amazing they are to work for ... but instantaneously when they walked in the room, it all set in." On November 15th, she tweeted "Thank you God/Universe...thus far this is the best gig I've ever had." DBSKnights asked her what made it one of the best gigs:
Telisha: It’s really rare that you get a total package from the artist where a) they act real in front of you, b) they’re not afraid for you to shine around them and just other variables that you really just don’t encounter.
As a whole, from top to bottom, I’ve never worked on a job where there was so much good energy. There was not one negative person or a weak link. Even when people were tired or even, you know, having one of those days where you’re just messing up, there was always this camaraderie, this support.
I’ve danced with Janet (Jackson) in the past, and in all honesty, that was a very high bar. Because of her work ethic and her just being an amazingly nice person. And surprisingly, it got topped. I never thought it would get topped and it did by this experience.
Telisha explained that before October, she didn't know anything about of K-pop and didn't realize how deeply rooted the K-pop fandom is. When the the US tour began, Telisha and the other dancers were shocked by the turnout. 'When we were in New York, we all had friends and family coming to the show and [they] were just like, “Um, the line is a couple of avenues long.” I was like, “No way, you’re exaggerating.”'
Thus followed the whirlwind tour through New York, Vegas and Los Angeles. Directly after the show at the Galen Center in LA, Telisha and the JYJ dancers hopped on a plane for Seoul. (We showered in the USC locker room and then got on the plane. I was like “Whoa, this is so rockstar!” (laughs). Then in Seoul, they began rehearsals for the two day finale on November 27th and 28th.
Telisha: On our first day, JJ lost his voice so everybody was kind of nervous about that. Everybody was getting sick cause you just get so run down. I don’t know if people understood this but the show that Jeri put on in Seoul with his team at Slaughterhouse - usually a show like that takes two months to rehearse. We had nine days to do it together. We knew some of the material just from the US shows but we had brought in additional cast members so that’s teaching them, learning the (new) material and we did all of it in nine days.
In addition to the time crunch, the production was plagued by bad weather. Although the Jamsil Olympic Stadium was covered by a canvas roof for the JYJ concert, the roof was torn and had to be taken down because of snow and hail early in the morning on the 27th. Both the performers and the fans were exposed to the elements.
Telisha: When we rehearsed outside, I had on three pairs of leggings, some tights, three shirts and a down vest. ... To go from that to literally a bustier, leggings, a small skirt and some boots (for the show) and to stand there during the intro - I was like “Oh my God!” There’s ice on the steps, there’s snow on the ground.
When we came off stage, you know, you try to find a portable heater just to warm up a little bit. It came to a point where I couldn't feel my fingers one time. But you just keep going and try to do the best show ever.
Telisha and the JYJ dancers were very impressed by the fans who attended the showcase in Seoul.“This is really fandom right here. Because the fans were like, 'I'm freezing and I'm sitting here watching this entire show.' They were definitely troopers."
DBSKnights: Was there a difference between fans in America and fans in Korea?
Telisha: No, not really. As a whole, their fans are consistent. Whether it’s two thousand or twenty thousand, you’re still going to get that intensity regardless of if it’s in America (or Korea). ... As far as the intensity, and the pride of being a Cassie, there was no difference to me. Across the board, it's a strong support system and I know [the fans] traveled and came from all walks of life. It was amazing to see.
DBSKnights: What was Thanksgiving like in Seoul?
Telisha: It was kind of unexpected. We just walked in. … It was one of those days where we were like, “Is it Thanksgiving here or back home?” We couldn’t figure it out. And finally I was like, “Oh no, it’s Thanksgiving here.” They had taken care of us, getting a turkey – I have no idea where they got this turkey from! We had a pretty nice Thanksgiving dinner.
Jun was teaching us magic tricks backstage. He’s really good with cards and sleight of hand! We were just cracking up, like, “Oh my god!” We couldn’t figure it out. (laughs)
DBSKnights: From your tweets, it sounded like Junsu hung out with the dancers more. Was that the case?
Telisha: JJ and Jun hung out with us the most. ... Micky is amazing at disappearing. Like literally, you could be in a full on conversation and see him across the room and you look again and “Where’d Micky go? Did you see Micky? Where’d he go?” (laughs) He’s so good at vanishing! It’s like he evaporates. I remember at the after party, he did it again. We were just like, “Have you seen Micky? Okay. Wow. He’s gone.”
Definitely Jun hung out with us and so did JJ. JJ was super playful, getting on the aerialist ring and goofing off. It was super funny! (laughs) ... They were just amazing people, amazing guys to work with. Really deserving of everything that they get.
One of Telisha's favorite foods is kimchi, and when the JYJ boys discovered this, they teased her. "They thought I was kidding. But no, I really love this stuff! So every time they came out, they were like, “Teli!” – which cracks me up that they call me by my nickname – and they were like “I see you! Stop eating everybody’s food!” (laughs)"
Telisha talked briefly about the JYJ boys learning English and I was struck by her great respect from them as artists. "I think it’s an extension of them communicating with their fans and having their music come across more clearly to a wider audience," she told DBSKnights. "I think it has to have been hard. … When it comes to verbalizing and expressing yourself, to not be able to – I know sometimes they were getting, you know, a little frustrated because they couldn’t express themselves. That’s what they are, they’re vocalists. But I can definitely see them learning English even better because it will give them another channel for them to reach people with their music.
DBSKnights: Any final words for the fans of JYJ?
Telisha: For JYJ fans, I want to thank them for welcoming me and being such an amazing support group for the boys. They’re really amazing people and really amazing artists to work with. I can’t wait to do it again. I can’t wait to see everybody’s faces again. … I’m so overwhelmed and so overjoyed by the support that they get. And I think it’s really amazing. I loved it, I really did. And I can’t wait to experience it again.
Telisha says, "I’m super geeked to be a newfound Cassie now and so excited that everybody accepted me so well!" Please welcome her at @telishashaw. This December, Telisha will be going in to the recording studio to record with Justin Timberlake's artist Free Sol. We look forward to seeing much more from you, Telisha!