Erika L Holmes(MCCN): Are most people surprised to discover that you were born in a Latin American country and speak Spanish?
Harry Shum: Yeah most people are. It's strange that I am full Chinese and born in a Latin country but I love the fact that I was immersed in that culture at birth while maintaining my Chinese roots. I need to sharpen up on my Spanish though. Learning Chinese (Cantonese) and English sort of confused me as a kid.
Erika: How do you educate people about the Chinese diaspora in Latin America? With that said, do you consider yourself 'Latino'?
Harry: Well I'm no historian but I do know that it all started in the late 1800's where Chinese immigrants arrived to engage in the construction of the railroad throughout the Atlantic coast. There is a small Chinese community in Costa Rica and most of them speak Spanish. My parents would always tell me that learning Spanish was so much easier than learning English for them. Not really sure why but they do not have an accent when they speak Spanish. I think the cultures share a lot of similarities as far as family values and the love for flavor in their foods. Even though I don't have it in my blood, I do consider myself somewhat Latin.
Erika: What is the reaction from Asian youth about your presence on Glee? I find a lot of fans on the boards are dying to see you have more lines. Do you find yourself in the role model seat?
Harry: It's been great. I love the support that the audiences are showing and without them Mike Chang wouldn't have gotten a bigger role this season. It's really amazing to see how the voices on the internet can make an impact on pop culture and what you see on television. I believe when you are in the public eye there is a sense of being a role model but there definitely should be a line where people can look up to someone in their career and be able to separate their personal life and their professional life.
Of Course We Have to talk About Food
Erika: Could you please share a favorite dish from each of the cultures you grew up in?
Harry: Costa Rica- Salsa Lizano con Bistek y Patacones
Chinese- (There are too many) Ha Gow (homemade) Rice porridge (with my mom's touch of course)
Dance/Choreography (Stars in Stomp the Yard & Step Up, 2 and 3D)
Erika: What is your process when choreographing?
Harry: First I look at what the story is about. What has to be achieved? Then a million concepts are thrown out along with music choices which is then narrowed down. Each time it varies because sometimes we have choreography that we will stem together from the dancers individual movements or we might put in specific movement and draw up the style that would move the story forward. That is what I love about working on the LXD because each episode is a different genre and we get to play with different styles.
Erika: From where do you draw inspiration?
Harry: I always look to the originals and the dancers who defined their generation. The greats that not only innovated movement but gained the respect of millions through dance. I loved how Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly took everyday settings and objects and dance around them so effortlessly. They made everything exciting and made you want to get up and dance.
Erika: How would you describe your 'style'?
Harry: My style would best described as eclectic and multi-dimensional. I like to blend styles and create something that I could call my own.
Erika: How did you develop an interest in dance?
Harry: I think the fascination began when I was a kid but I was too shy to ever do it in public. I would watch Michael Jackson videos and dream of doing what he did. It wasn't until late in high school where I decided to join the dance team and finally do it in public. Through that I realized I could do it physically and not only in my dreams.
Erika: Did you ever imagine that dance classes would lead to such an interesting journey?
Harry: Never in a million years. This journey has been so magical and I have gotten to do so many cool and interesting things. It is amazing the things I have seen and the places I have traveled with dance. I would not trade those experiences for anything.
Erika: What does dancing mean to you?
Harry: Dance in my eyes is the universal language. You can speak to someone with no words and the first thing you do to celebrate is DANCE. For me it produces a sense of joy that can not be substituted, Dancing in front of an audience is addicting and making people smile while sharing your energy with them is exhilarating.
Harry Shum Jr. Dance Off With Mathew Morrison (Glee Singing Teach)
Erika: Thanks Harry for taking the time to share with our readers.
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