Bursting onstage in colorful matching costumes, Salang Yang and Hyein Kang effortlessly transitioned from old school hip-hop locking moves to a playful cha-cha in their debut performance on World of Dance to the sultry voices of The Pussycat Dolls’ “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.” The dynamic duo from Seoul—known together as All Ready—is looking to carve out its own niche in the world of dance through its signature blend of choreography that draws inspiration from Latin dancing, hip-hop, and jazz.
All Ready blew viewers away during the third season of NBC’s hit reality dance competition show World of Dance, bringing its unique mix of Latin dance and street dance to television screens around the world and making it to “The Cut,” the third round. Previous seasons had given rise to legendary dance troupes like Les Twins from the first season in 2017, and All Ready had been called to perform in Season Two of the show, but were unable to make it because of scheduling conflicts.
Now, Yang and Kang are the choreographers-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (ISG), putting together three new dances specifically inspired by and for the ISG, set to premier on Oct. 17 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Yang and Kang met in Latin dance school 13 years ago when Yang was in fifth grade and Kang was in eighth. After losing touch and going to university seperately, the pair reconnected years later and realized they were the only people from the original Latin dance school still dancing.
“Because we knew each other when we were young, and we liked each other, we knew that we would be able to connect,” said Yang, speaking through an interpreter. “And we knew that we were a good match for each other, so we decided when we met again as adults we wanted to try out a group, a duo.”
Wanting to make its own mark, the new duo looked for ways to innovate. Both dancers had gone through many years of training, graduating from university with degrees in dance. Consolidating their extensive knowledge to find their own fusion of many different types of dance. All Ready found its style—a mixture of established styles that meld together seamlessly to become an entirely new one.
“I wanted to try something different, something outside the mainstream,” Yang said.
An official duo for four years, All Ready also teaches group lessons and workshops in Seoul as a day job. Never missing an opportunity to learn, they still take lessons in social dancing and partner work to further hone their skills.
Its name is a testament to its intention of bringing many different forms of dance together. The “All” refers to their mastery and application of all genres of dance in their choreography, and the “Ready” means that they are always ready to dance.
The pair’s dancing is often playful, with the choreography blending beautifully with the music and their bodies moving with a natural swagger that complements their street-heavy dance style. In their debut dance on World of Dance, Yang and Kang danced onstage in bright and colorful patterned costumes—a consistent theme in their numbers and a fitting choice for their bubbly personalities and their high-energy routines. Their vibrant, character-filled choreography brings a smile to the audience’s faces as they find ways to also inject humor into their dance.
All Ready credits World of Dance for helping its career beyond just pure exposure, giving it more sophisticated tools to fine-tune their craft. Accustomed to training by themselves, the pair found the help of professional trainers from World of Dance immensely helpful to their development as dancers, helping them identify their flaws as well as increasing practice efficiency.
“[When] we were training alone in private, we were unaware of how other people viewed us,” Kang said. “But when we received formal training, we had another perspective—we were able to share feedback.”
Yang was used to learning to dance on her own—growing up in a rural community she didn’t think she would have a chance to dance at all, much less perform professionally. When she was young, she would watch TV and imitate the dancers, singing and dancing at home as her pastime.
Her real chance came when a dance instructor who visited her elementary school reached out and offered free lessons in the fourth grade. In fifth grade, a studio manager reached out to her after she participated in a dance festival and offered her a place in the Latin dance academy.
“In order for me to go to this new dance academy, I had to pay,” Yang said. “And because I was part of a big family and my parents had to support many family members, I was hesitant to ask my parents for help because I didn’t want to be a burden.”
Eventually, Yang decided to join the dance academy, working part-time jobs to afford the tuition. This resilience to overcome difficulty was a constant theme throughout her life, as she also worked to put herself through university, studying hip-hop and ballroom dance at Baekje Arts University in Busan, South Korea. The tuition costs became too high for her to bear just with part-time jobs, so Yang looked toward merit scholarships, eventually graduating top of her class.
Kang also grew up with a big family and first began dancing by imitating numbers she saw on television. Formally exposed to dance in eighth grade, she went to the Latin dance academy near her home because she wanted to lose weight, where she eventually met Yang and sowed the seeds for the future duo.
“I actually had some hardship during my middle school years,” Kang said. “I had experienced some kind of personal crisis. My parents were worried about my growth. … But when I was exposed to dance, that really transformed my life and my personality by engaging my interested and making me interested in something worthwhile.”
Kang later went on to study sports at Sungshin Women’s University, with a focus in ballroom dancing. She credits her supportive parents for her persistence in the arts. Their open-mindedness and willingness to accept nontraditional careers in the arts helped Kang follow her dreams.
“I wanted to try something different, something outside the mainstream." - Hyein Yang
For Kang, a big part of her life’s success involves being a good mother, as she expressed her love for her daughter, whom she affectionately calls her “princess” on the third episode of World of Dance.
Both performers and choreographers, the women of All Ready find themselves constantly inspired by music to exercise their creativity capability to create their pieces.
All Ready also has a fascination with the link between objects. Placing a tissue box between two water bottles to demonstrate during the interview, All Ready sees a connection and a flow between just those objects, and that insight to see something profound in even the mundane inspires its choreography.
George Steel, the ISG’s former Visiting Curator of Performing Arts and current Abrams Curator of Music, reached out to All Ready on Facebook and went to South Korea to visit the group. After meeting in person, Steel extended an invitation for All Ready to serve as choreographers-in-residence for 2019 and begin to collaborate with the museum.
Yang and Kang had already performed at the ISG in May of 2019 with three pieces from their repertoire, but the dances they will debut on Thursday celebrate the museum’s art.
Bringing three pieces: El Jaleo, Life of Isabella, and All Ready Festival, All Ready will meld their own personal style with themes of the museum. El Jaleo is inspired by the John Singer Sargent painting of the same name, which is on display in the museum. The piece features flamenco recordings given to Isabella Stewart Gardner, the namesake of the museum, by Sargent, mixed by Korean DJ Donghyun Kim to really blend the background of All Ready with that of ISG.
Yang and Kang are currently enjoying their international success, as well as their personal development, and the duo is All Ready to brighten up Boston and ISG on Thursday.
Featured Image Courtesy of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA. Photo by Matt Teuten