Why have K-pop dance practice videos become so popular? - The Korea Times
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Why have K-pop dance practice videos become so popular?

BLACKPINK's dance performance video of
BLACKPINK's dance performance video of "How You Like That" surpasses 500 million views on YouTube, Jan. 6. / Courtesy of YG Entertainment

By Park Han-sol

Low-quality videos, casual looks and outfits, tacky practice rooms and the high-pitched squeaks of sneakers scraping on floors. These elements have been typically associated with K-pop idols' dance practice videos, which were often released as a bonus for fans, apart from the much more glamorous and publicized official music videos.

BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" dance performance video became the first of its kind to surpass 500 million views on YouTube this month and the feat has made it evident that dance-centered videos have evolved as an important part of the K-pop phenomenon.

What distinguishes such dance clips apart from music videos or onstage performance videos are the noticeably minimized visual effects as well as camera movements and cuts, which allow viewers to concentrate solely on the performative aspects in one take.

Recently, these clumsily shot videos released as a bonus have evolved into clips with high production value in terms of visual and sound quality, after talent agencies recognized their marketing potential and the growing demand among fans for them.

"In K-pop, the element that is as significant as the music itself is the group dance. When idol groups get a chance to introduce their new releases on non-music TV shows, they often don't sing the songs but simply play them in the background, while showing off their perfectly choreographed moves," Lee Gyu-tag, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at George Mason University Korea, told The Korea Times.

"Because the dance is essential to the genre, dance practice videos have naturally become a component that fans came to anticipate as much as the music video."

By presenting the images of stars at work, the rehearsal videos also turn the idols into more accessible and relatable figures, Michelle Cho, assistant professor of popular culture at the University of Toronto, explained.

Niki Chen, a K-pop fan who lives in New York City, echoed the sentiment: "Showing a less polished side of idols than what's seen in music videos is proof of how hard they work as you can see the whole performance more clearly and notice little aspects of the dance. Something about that is appealing; it makes you want to become a bigger fan."

A screenshot from EXO Baekhyun's
A screenshot from EXO Baekhyun's "Candy" dance practice video / Captured from YouTube

In BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" performance clip, fans can see the details of each member's movements and costumes in an aesthetically pleasing studio imbued with pink lights. The dance practice video featuring EXO Baekhyun's title song "Candy" takes it one step further with extravagant lighting and more dynamic camera movements using 180-degree turns and sudden tilts according to the song's beat.

Sometimes, the artists collaborate with other YouTube dance channels. After the release of the group's hit song "HIP" in 2019, MAMAMOO members performed with the key choreographers in the famous dance account 1MILLION Dance Studio. The clip was uploaded in addition to a more standard practice video, where members danced in "plain clothes" inside their talent agency's building.

A screenshot from YouTube channel 1MILLION Dance Studio's
A screenshot from YouTube channel 1MILLION Dance Studio's "Hip" choreography video in collaboration with girl group MAMAMOO / Captured from YouTube

The trend of releasing multiple versions of dance rehearsals for the same song is becoming more common as well. Girl group TWICE showcased two choreography videos for "Cry for Me" with different lighting and camera movements, while new all-female quartet aespa also released two separate videos of the choreography used in "Black Mamba": standard and "techwear" versions.

For the Billboard chart-topping "Dynamite," the megastar group BTS released an additional dance practice video, in which the septet performs the "dance break" version. It includes an instrumental break with extra choreography that was not featured in the music video.

A screenshot from EXO Kai's
A screenshot from EXO Kai's "Mmmh" dance performance video for YouTube channel Studio Choom / Captured from YouTube

The popularity of such content even led to the birth of a YouTube channel called Studio Choom operated by the entertainment giant CJ ENM's cable music channel Mnet. The channel only features one-take dance performances of a number of K-pop idols from multiple angles and under different lighting.

The growing demand among fans for this type of content is related to the proactive cultural consumption trends of Gen Z, who are the main consumers of K-pop, according to professor Lee. These devotees are used to watching cultural content and also voluntarily produce, edit, upload and discuss their own versions.

"The fan culture of producing various secondary, derivative creations from actual K-pop music and videos took root in the late 2000s, helping K-pop become more viral as a result. The most important parody content would be dance covers and reaction videos. Fans would upload and react to each other's versions, thereby using YouTube as a kind of giant K-pop online community," Lee said.

But in order to produce dance cover videos, fans have to be able to learn and follow the moves. Music videos and onstage performance videos are not ideal for this purpose, Lee explained, with their constant insertions of other shots driving the narrative or focusing on particular gestures and expressions.

In the end, dance practice videos, which only showcase the performative aspects with no dynamic visual interruptions, provide a solid base material for choreography enthusiasts.

"Learning K-pop choreography strengthens the fans' embodied sense of connection with their K-pop idols, as well as with the fan community," professor Cho added.

Chen recounted the story of her friend in a dance cover group who learns the moves as a way to get closer to their favorite stars as they become more knowledgeable about the details of their performances and even enter online contests that might be noticed by the group.

"It also means you get to have a set of people who are really interested in the same group and idols as you. It's an automatic bond you can build."


BLACKPINK's dance performance video of
BLACKPINK's dance performance video of "How You Like That" surpasses 500 million views on YouTube, Jan. 6. / Courtesy of YG Entertainment

By Park Han-sol

Low-quality videos, casual looks and outfits, tacky practice rooms and the high-pitched squeaks of sneakers scraping on floors. These elements have been typically associated with K-pop idols' dance practice videos, which were often released as a bonus for fans, apart from the much more glamorous and publicized official music videos.

BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" dance performance video became the first of its kind to surpass 500 million views on YouTube this month and the feat has made it evident that dance-centered videos have evolved as an important part of the K-pop phenomenon.

What distinguishes such dance clips apart from music videos or onstage performance videos are the noticeably minimized visual effects as well as camera movements and cuts, which allow viewers to concentrate solely on the performative aspects in one take.

Recently, these clumsily shot videos released as a bonus have evolved into clips with high production value in terms of visual and sound quality, after talent agencies recognized their marketing potential and the growing demand among fans for them.

"In K-pop, the element that is as significant as the music itself is the group dance. When idol groups get a chance to introduce their new releases on non-music TV shows, they often don't sing the songs but simply play them in the background, while showing off their perfectly choreographed moves," Lee Gyu-tag, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at George Mason University Korea, told The Korea Times.

"Because the dance is essential to the genre, dance practice videos have naturally become a component that fans came to anticipate as much as the music video."

By presenting the images of stars at work, the rehearsal videos also turn the idols into more accessible and relatable figures, Michelle Cho, assistant professor of popular culture at the University of Toronto, explained.

Niki Chen, a K-pop fan who lives in New York City, echoed the sentiment: "Showing a less polished side of idols than what's seen in music videos is proof of how hard they work as you can see the whole performance more clearly and notice little aspects of the dance. Something about that is appealing; it makes you want to become a bigger fan."

A screenshot from EXO Baekhyun's
A screenshot from EXO Baekhyun's "Candy" dance practice video / Captured from YouTube

In BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" performance clip, fans can see the details of each member's movements and costumes in an aesthetically pleasing studio imbued with pink lights. The dance practice video featuring EXO Baekhyun's title song "Candy" takes it one step further with extravagant lighting and more dynamic camera movements using 180-degree turns and sudden tilts according to the song's beat.

Sometimes, the artists collaborate with other YouTube dance channels. After the release of the group's hit song "HIP" in 2019, MAMAMOO members performed with the key choreographers in the famous dance account 1MILLION Dance Studio. The clip was uploaded in addition to a more standard practice video, where members danced in "plain clothes" inside their talent agency's building.

A screenshot from YouTube channel 1MILLION Dance Studio's
A screenshot from YouTube channel 1MILLION Dance Studio's "Hip" choreography video in collaboration with girl group MAMAMOO / Captured from YouTube

The trend of releasing multiple versions of dance rehearsals for the same song is becoming more common as well. Girl group TWICE showcased two choreography videos for "Cry for Me" with different lighting and camera movements, while new all-female quartet aespa also released two separate videos of the choreography used in "Black Mamba": standard and "techwear" versions.

For the Billboard chart-topping "Dynamite," the megastar group BTS released an additional dance practice video, in which the septet performs the "dance break" version. It includes an instrumental break with extra choreography that was not featured in the music video.

A screenshot from EXO Kai's
A screenshot from EXO Kai's "Mmmh" dance performance video for YouTube channel Studio Choom / Captured from YouTube

The popularity of such content even led to the birth of a YouTube channel called Studio Choom operated by the entertainment giant CJ ENM's cable music channel Mnet. The channel only features one-take dance performances of a number of K-pop idols from multiple angles and under different lighting.

The growing demand among fans for this type of content is related to the proactive cultural consumption trends of Gen Z, who are the main consumers of K-pop, according to professor Lee. These devotees are used to watching cultural content and also voluntarily produce, edit, upload and discuss their own versions.

"The fan culture of producing various secondary, derivative creations from actual K-pop music and videos took root in the late 2000s, helping K-pop become more viral as a result. The most important parody content would be dance covers and reaction videos. Fans would upload and react to each other's versions, thereby using YouTube as a kind of giant K-pop online community," Lee said.

But in order to produce dance cover videos, fans have to be able to learn and follow the moves. Music videos and onstage performance videos are not ideal for this purpose, Lee explained, with their constant insertions of other shots driving the narrative or focusing on particular gestures and expressions.

In the end, dance practice videos, which only showcase the performative aspects with no dynamic visual interruptions, provide a solid base material for choreography enthusiasts.

"Learning K-pop choreography strengthens the fans' embodied sense of connection with their K-pop idols, as well as with the fan community," professor Cho added.

Chen recounted the story of her friend in a dance cover group who learns the moves as a way to get closer to their favorite stars as they become more knowledgeable about the details of their performances and even enter online contests that might be noticed by the group.

"It also means you get to have a set of people who are really interested in the same group and idols as you. It's an automatic bond you can build."


박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr


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