There are many different things needed to form a top Kpop group, including the music, lyrics, choreography, company support, costumes, the talent of the idols themselves, and more. All these need to come together to create the perfect whole. Of course not all groups are equal and some are acknowledged for being better at one feature than another. And it is the ability to perform the choreography at a top level that sets some groups apart.
I’m a big fan of dance practice videos because they allow me to focus on the dancing without all the distractions of a MV or the often weird camerawork of music shows. Originally dance practice videos were just that, a video of the group practicing, and were a little rough around the edges. They were unlike the more polished ones we see today, but even back then you could see how difficult and complex the choreography often was. I also enjoy the ‘dance’ version MVs that many groups put out, but even some of them fall prey to weird camera angles and zooming in and out. I like to be able to see the whole dance performed by the whole group.
The Kpop dances we see today grew from the work of earlier groups and global influences. Rather than write a whole history of Kpop dance I’ll begin with some of the groups who were popular when I started following Kpop. (around 2009). Groups such as TVXQ, Super Junior, Big Bang, 2PM, Beast, MBLAQ, UKiss, Brown Eyed Girls, T-Ara, 2NE1 etc. produced some of the songs and dances which have become classics of the genre.
While all of these groups sang and danced, some came out with amazing pairings of the two. Who can forget TVXQ’s Mirotic which came out 5 years after their debut, or SHINee’s Ring Ding Dong which may be one of the best loved song and dance pairings for all fans, not just Shawols. Super Junior, the first ‘large’ group (13 members) to be successful, has had multiple hits many of which can be recognised from a single dance move. Think Sorry, Sorry, which was choreographed by Nick Bass and Trent Dickens.
2PM were known as ‘beast’ idols for their powerful dance moves as seen in 10 Out Of 10, while Beast showed understated, but distinct dance moves for Fiction. Big Bang was, well Big Bang, with all the foibles and idiosyncrasies we’ve come to love. Taeyang has always been acknowledged as one of the best dancers in Kpop, but as a group, not so much.
So which of these groups had the ‘best’ dances is hard to say, but personally I have a great fondness to Ring Ding Dong. Even though SHINee went on to produce a whole string of fantastic dance videos Ring Ding Dong will always be special to me. I also enjoyed 2PM’s Heartbeat, and then I have to say that 2009 was basically the year I actually followed girl groups. Their dances of that era had a uniqueness that seems to have disappeared from the recent Kpop scene.
Brown Eyed Girls came out with Abracadabra, T-Ara with Bo-Peep Bo Peep, BoA with Eat You Up, and 2NE1 with Fire. Of these I liked Abracadabra the most, and the Brown Eyed Girls’ signature dance move (the Arrogant Dance) is still seen throughout the world as Psy used in his Gentleman MV.
Did all of these have the most complex and difficult choreography executed in the most perfect way? No, but they had interesting dances, that fit the songs, kept ones attention, and highlighted the dancing skills of the groups members.
As dancing skills have improved and the importance of other criteria such as Youtube views have become more important to the entertainment agencies, even more focus has been put on dance and choreography. It is therefore unfair to compare the skill level of that time with now as it is inevitable that people will improve over time. Needless to say I think some of these earlier groups deserve recognition for helping Kpop improve in multiple areas, and dance skills is definitely one such area.
Part 2 will cover the early 2010’s. If you have a favorite song/dance MV from 2009 please feel free to share it in the comments.
Have a great day everyone.
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