A quick search on YouTube will bring up hundreds of videos of K-pop “cover dances.” All over the world and here in Korea, fans of K-pop are fascinated by the dance moves of idol stars and hope to imitate them.
That desire to learn K-pop dance moves has led to a boom in classes that offer the chance to learn both cover dance and the general style of K-pop dance.
Renowned choreographer Hong Young-joo, most famous for choreographing for singers Wax and Baek Ji-young, said she first started teaching in 1997 through her own segment, “Hong Young-joo’s How to Dance” on MBC’s “Music Camp.” The segment had the highest ratings of the show, reflecting the early interest in K-pop dance. But it wasn’t until after Wonder Girls’ “Tell Me” came out that fans started signing up for classes in droves.
“Before the ’90s, people didn’t really follow the boom of K-pop dance. They were just happy to watch the dancers,” she said. “The dance trend has changed, but the strong point of K-pop (dance) is that it’s easy to follow.”
Hong said looking back at the history of dance trends in Korea, from go-go dancing to line dancing, the one thing that made them popular and that makes K-pop dance popular today, is that people can enjoy doing them together.
She said her own studio, Hong Young-Joo Dance Center, doesn’t teach cover dance. Rather the teachers create new choreography put to popular songs. But she said it is important to offer cover dance classes.
“I think that’s needed for people out there to learn first and enjoy together,” she said.
Kim Ra-young (left) teaches a K-pop dance class at Negative Motion Dance Studio. (Lee Sang-sub/ The Korea Herald)
Dance teacher Kim Ra-young from Negative Motion Dance Studio said she enjoys teaching K-pop cover dance and through teaching she is also developing her own dance style.
“The students think it’s a lot of fun. They want to follow the artists they like. And K-pop dance is easier than (Western) pop dance,” Kim said.
While it might be easier, for some like Janet ― a student at Negative Motion Dance Studio ― it’s also the challenge that keeps them coming back.
“I like the challenge. I’ve never taken a dance class before, just club dancing. So it’s a challenge for me and I keep coming,” she said.
Anna ‘J Kingdom, a singer from Brazil, came to Korea specifically to learn K-pop dance, as well as the language and how to sing K-pop.
“I like the emotion in the dance moves. It’s not like what we have in my country. Korea has a very unique type of dance,” she said. “It’s something that I could learn only here in Korea.”
Negative Motion owner and choreographer Hwang Tae-youn said K-pop dance has transformed over the years. At first, it was easy to follow, but it has changed in line with the changing trends in dance. Now, the choreography, specifically that of boy bands, has become more complicated.
“Some parts are very easy, but some parts are hard and complicated,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just a funny dance, like Orange Caramel and Crayon Pop. Some other groups’ choreography, like Got7’s ‘Girls, Girls, Girls,’ you’ve got acrobatic moves, also. So, some moves are hard.”
Teacher Kim agreed, saying the choreography for boy bands was following dance trends and becoming more difficult, while choreography for girl groups was getting easier, depending on the group’s concept.
Hwang said a lot of that has to do with the idol groups themselves. K-pop singers are often trained in various styles of dance ― Block B member B-Bomb is a former student of Hwang’s popping class ― which is reflected in the choreography and in the dance classes.
“K-pop is not a genre, I think. It’s just kind of Korean pop music. So it’s changing,” he said.
By Emma Kalka (firstname.lastname@example.org)