by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Lew

Sean Lew's New Film is Bound to Leave You Speechless

If you know Sean Lew (and let's be real—you should), you know that he pours his heart and soul into his craft. Born a star, Lew has danced alongside artists like Sia and Janet Jackson, choreographed for names like Justin Bieber and Meghan Trainor, and performed on two seasons on NBC's "World of Dance."

At only 19, Lew's worn more hats than your average human (or even superhuman), and yet he continues to build upon his long list of natural skills—by adding "producer" into the mix. This time around, he's focused on his own passion project. He produced, wrote, directed, choreographed, edited and even stars in his upcoming film II: An Unspoken Narrative, which also features some of our other fave dancers like Kaycee Rice, Zach Venegas and Bailey Sok, just to name a few.

More than just a dance video, and described as his "life's work put into motion," this experimental film fully encapsulates the past four years of Lew's life, depicting an unspoken narrative expressed through dance. There's no dialogue—everything is up for interpretation. Keep reading to get the inside scoop, and be sure to follow Lew at @seanlew as he continues to influence the world with his endless creative ventures.


Dance Spirit: How did the idea for II come to be?

Sean Lew: It started in 2016, when I came up with the idea of wanting to use dance for another purpose. I wanted to portray a certain message that wasn't the easiest to share, but I didn't want it to turn into a sappy message. So, I felt like dance was the best way to express that.

I created "Wrong Words" in 2017 and asked my dance partner, Kaycee, to be a part of it. That was actually our first time dancing together under my direction, and when we officially became a duet. I knew then that I wanted this life experience to be a continuation of more videos like that.

DS: What's something you were surprised about in your new role as a director?

SL: The fact that I was directing! Going into this, I didn't tell myself I'm gonna be a producer, director or any of these different roles. I just wanted to be sure that I could make it work.

The fact that people see me under that title makes me curious about what can make me an even greater director for future projects.

DS: What was it like to work with some of your closest friends on set?

SL: It's what made the film. Getting to work with them was a dream, because I knew from the moment I first saw them dance they didn't care about anything except just dancing. And when you think like that, you end up inspiring so many people when they watch you. They were so open, and that's what made it so easy.

DS: You've choreographed and danced for a multitude of artists. What was it like to be focused solely on your own passion project?

SL: It was tough at first. Working behind the scenes, you have the pressure of people thinking that you're doing nothing. This was my first time stepping into a passion project this big, and I did question what I was doing at points—almost giving in to that pressure to keep people entertained. But the project was my priority.

There were a lot of fights with my parents. A lot of injuries. A lot of tears. It was definitely a journey transitioning from dance jobs to an independent passion project.

DS: Were there any dance artists that served as inspiration?

SL: Honestly, the goal of II was to give people the same feeling I got the first time I watched Ian Eastwood's ADULTLESSONS, or Keone and Mari's visual book, Ruth.

They were sharing a part of their life through an art form, which is not an easy thing to do. Experiencing those projects, I wasn't just inspired to dance, but I was inspired to rethink my life.

DS: What's a message you'd give to all of your friends, family and supporters that have helped bring this project to life?

SL: Well, there's no possible way that I could've ever done it without my family.

All my friends, crew and fellow dancers, they helped me bring this to life without question, so anyone that played a part is family to me now. I don't even have the right words to explain how much it meant to me and how much of an honor it was for them to even agree to the idea. Honestly, they're all icons to me. "Thank you" is barely enough to everyone who was a part of the project.

Catch the digital premiere of II: An Unspoken Narrative streaming on YouTube this Friday, February 26, at 7 pm PST.

Latest Posts


CalArts dance students. Photo by Josh S. Rose, Courtesy CalArts

4 Reasons Interdisciplinary Education Can Make You a Stronger Dancer, According to CalArts

After years spent training in their childhood studio, it can be hard for dancers to realize exactly how many pathways there are toward career success. The School of Dance at CalArts aims to show its students all of them.

Built with the intention to break barriers and bend the rules, CalArts' interdisciplinary curriculum ensures that students take classes that cover an entire spectrum of artistic approaches. The result? A dance program that gives you much more than just dance.

Last week, Dance Magazine caught up with Kevin Whitmire, assistant director of admission for CalArts School of Dance, and recent alum Kevin Zambrano for the inside scoop on how an interdisciplinary curriculum can make you a stronger artist. Watch the full event below, and read on for the highlights.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
July 2021