Dance Diary: Tackling BTS’s ‘On’ choreography

By Nadine Kam I

For a student dancer, watching the choreography of BTS’s “On” Kinetic Manifesto Film was really intimidating to behold, but the more I watched the video, the more I wanted to try it because it looked so dynamic and fun.

I talked about the young choreographer from Hawaii, Sienna Lalau in my last post, as well as my wish that she would consider what their bodies go through and how much these dances hurt. And I’m not talking about me. There are videos that show the chronic pain Jimin lives with, that has his doctor feeling sorry for him.

👁 Learn to dance like BTS in the privacy of your home:

It didn’t help that I watched a tutorial by cover dancer Brian Li, and you can see how he feels so tired midway through, just walking through the steps, and doing little dancing at 100 percent capacity. If he was tired, I was afraid of what I would feel. I already hurt a lot after dancing “Black Swan,” which seemed easier, but because of their wide stance and back flexing, it was actually more taxing on back and thigh muscles. Even so, in a recent video I posted, you could see I look like I’m putting only 25 percent of the effort they put in. In dance, to look like you’re exerting energy, you really have to push yourself 300 percent (as if there’s more than 100 percent effort, but you know what I mean.)

Midway through class I was seeing stars. The only other time that happened to me was when I was in in a bootcamp fitness class led by Egan Inoue, a jiu jitsu champion and mixed martial artist. Well I wanted to know what causes that phenomenon and TheNakedScientists website had two explanations both revolving around the eyes (since I didn’t bash my head) as follows:

“If you stand up too quickly you can have what’s called a “postural drop” in blood pressure. Blood comes up from your legs into your heart to get pumped around the body. When you stand up, and before your heart compensates, the return of blood drops slightly which causes the perfusion pressure to drop briefly. That causes a momentary reduction in perfusion of your retina. That slightly reduces the supply of oxygen and sugar to the retina from the blood, which causes the retina to start to fire off abnormal signals, which we experience as “sparkly” light signals; the brain is fooled into thinking you’re seeing light when it’s not there.

“Now, conversely, when you bash your head, what’s probably going on there is that because the brain is bobbing around inside your head in a fluid – the cerebrospinal fluid – and has a very soft, blancmange-like consistency, if you have a sudden interruption of movement to your head – so you hit your head very hard against the wall or pavement for instance – the brain cannons into the inside surface of your skull; it then can rebound and hit the back of your skull as well. And if you irritate the part of the brain that decodes what you’re seeing – the visual cortex which is right at the back of your head – then it’s possible that, in the same way that irritating the nerve cells in the retina by not having enough blood flow makes them fire abnormal signals which you see as stars.”

To avoid pain, this time I prepared by doing a lot of plies and tendus throughout the week and I bought a foam roller to stretch out my back muscles. I may not move that well, but at least two years into this I have learned to look at a dance and analyze its difficulty level and understand the kind of physicality it demands.

So what you see here is the class alone, the class side by side with BTS, and lastly, me juxtaposed with Jimin. Keep in mind I am old enough to be his mom!

You can see how clear their movements are in the turning and placement of palms and fingers, the definitive angles of their knees, the precise head turns, etc. There are so many little details that are overlooked by viewers looking at the big picture. The level changes is something we missed that adds to the visual flow of their dance.

Also, I appreciate the hours of practice it takes for them to move in unison, especially when considering individual stylistic differences. I’m always amused that Jimin is so extra that he has a tendency to make the line look out of sync, so he has to rein it in when dancing in a line. Otherwise, it’s OK in a live performance but really noticeable in their videos.

We shoot these videos of our classes after only 45 minutes of learning the choreography and practicing the whole routine a couple of times, so I end up flailing around and lurching from one move to the next. It would take so much more practice to get their sharp moves, especially considering the fast pace of the dance, which doesn’t leave much time to finish a move.

Like most of BTS’s dances, this one was super fun and I would definitely want to try it again. I am hoping our teacher will teach the dance break, which looks even more energetic and difficult! In that, maybe I can understand why Jimin dances through the pain. For certain people, there’s a strong desire to push limits—not for fame, glory or money—but just to know the full extent of our capabilities. You never know until you try, right?

Finally, as a student dancer, I always feel I need an external edge to boost my confidence level in class, and costume is a big part of that.

My hiphop teacher said that when she was a student she did it by tying a flannel shirt around her waist or hips to raise her awareness of the body parts and where she should be moving. She also said she wears a bold red lipstick to make her feel more sexy and powerful.

Usually I wear yoga pants, but this time I was looking for something looser in a color to match the mood of the song. When I started dancing I didn’t want to stand out in any way, so I wore the shabbiest clothes possible, but then for a year I felt bad about myself every time I saw myself in the mirror, and was a blow to my confidence level so I started dressing better, and in that gained the confidence to finally be in the class videos. I wasn’t dancing much better, but felt better about my appearance to the point where I don’t even care if my pot belly shows. Whatevs!

They’re baaack: BTS’s self-reflective ‘Map of the Soul: 7’ is breathtaking

By Nadine Kam I

A shot of a 19-year-old woman from Waipahu is one of the first we see in closeup in the new BTS “On” Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima” music video.

She’s Sienna Lalau, a choreographer from The Lab who now resides in L.A. and was also responsible for coming up with the whiplash choreography for BTS’s “Dionysus” and the J-Hope and Becky G collaboration “Chicken Noodle Soup.”

BTS’s “On” choreography was created by 19-year-old Sienna Lalau, from Waipahu, who also appears in the music video.

This time there were many more moving parts as the boys fronted an army of 30 backup dancers and the Blue Devils drum and bugle corps who created a martial vibe for the anthemic song, filling the role of a marching band that, on the recording, was performed by musicians from the UCLA Bruins marching band.

So, are you ready for another BTS takeover of the media? Every release brings a flood of reports from, not only music publications and websites, but the likes of Time and Forbes magazines, the L.A. and New York Times, the Washington Post, the U.K.’s Guardian and Telegraph, and many, many more newspapers and magazines, including many a fashion bible such as Vogue.

This video is so fierce, there were many times that I forgot to breathe,
especially at the dance break.

They already appeared on “The Today Show” on Friday morning, and this is their late-night schedule this week:

Monday, Feb. 24
“The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”: The BTS Special will have them enjoying quintessential New York, from Katz’s Delicatessen, to the subways to Grand Central Terminal, where they will perform “On,” the lead song for their latest full album release, “Map of the Soul: 7.” How they managed to takeover the always-busy train station is beyond me. At 10:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

Tuesday, Feb. 25
“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: During their last appearance of the show, they recorded a carpool karaoke segment. No doubt they’ll be singing some songs off their latest release, but question is, will James be singing the Korean lyrics, or just sticking to English? At 11:30 p.m. Hawaii time.

This comeback is an important one and the number 7 is significant as a representation of the number of members, the 7th anniversary of their debut, and marking their rise from rags to international stardom. The album may also be their last as a septet because the oldest, Jin (Kim Seek-Jin) will turn 28 this year, the tail end of the mandatory age of enlistment for the South Korean military.

👁: Some background on the recording of “On”

While continuing their use of positive messaging, the album is certain to be an emotional roller coaster for ARMYs because of its autobiographical nature, recounting their story since coming together as a group, which every fan knows was not an easy road. In spite of the appearance of seeming overnight success they achieved in the west, it was not the case in South Korea where they were reviled in the underground rap scene, attacked by mainstream K-pop fans and endured so much that up until two years ago, they had considered disbanding. To this date, the average South Korean does not know who they are.

There is a lot of reference to pain and shadows that early on, they had no coping mechanism to deal with, save for their own isolated camaraderie. They have since come to accept that it was those hard times and those experiences that shaped who they are today, their message to fans being that—knowing everyone goes through hard times—you can face the worst scenarios and come out stronger if you refuse to give up.

It’s a story that resonates with millions of fans around the globe and helps to explain the group’s international stardom.

Dance Diary: BTS ‘Black Swan’

By Nadine Kam I

I wanted to dance BTS’s “Black Swan” choreography ever since they debuted it in the United States on James Corden’s “Late Late Show” on Jan. 28.

After putting in my request at our beginner K-pop dance class, I finally had the opportunity to learn the last chorus during a Hawaii Dance Bomb class on Feb. 10. I was hoping we could get to the end of the song but unfortunately we couldn’t. I was hoping for a follow-up class, but that looks unlikely.

We took so much time to learn just a brief segment that we ran out of time to record the dance as a class as usual. Afterward I wanted to film a reaction to the video with one of my friends in the class, and when we finished we decided to give the dance one more try and see how much of it we could remember. It’s funny how so much is forgotten the minute we walk out the door, and after no more than a half hour we struggled to remember which parts came next.

👁 We tried a little bit of the last chorus at the end of this vid:

Anyway, because BTS performed the dance barefoot, I went barefoot the whole class—which was pretty typical every time I took a modern or contemporary dance class—and continued to dance it barefoot on the concrete outside.

I was afraid it might be painful but because it is more of a modern dance piece there were no jumps that might have caused pain. A few weeks ago I tried to learn Dawn’s “Money” by myself, and even on a wood floor it became painful because of all the jumps he does.

👁 BTS “Black Swan”

Just watching the dance ahead of time, I knew it would be painful in other ways, such as trying to match their wide and low stance. The flexing of their backs made me realize it was an area I had to work on because my back is too stiff to get the arch and flow of their swanlike stretches. I spent about three days trying to stretch and flex my back without the help of an exercise ball, which I really should get. I also kept up my plies and tendus, adding squats, just to prepare for a few minutes of dance! Even though classes are an hour long, about 15 minutes is spent in warmup and socializing, and much of the time we are walking through the moves. We are only dancing at 100 percent for about 10 to 15 minutes.

This dancer outlines differences between major Korean entertainment company dance styles. I favor sexy SM style and Big Hit (BTS) style, but this explains why I feel so tired and hurt so much every time after dancing BTS! Turn on subtitles.

Yet … a day after class my muscles were aching, from my core to back of my thighs. I mean, BTS puts a lot of rigor into the dance but I hadn’t felt pain after a dance class in a long time so I thought I had done enough prep. That just shows how grueling BTS choreography continues to be. I haven’t hurt for a long time after many of the other boy dances that call for a lot of powerful and rapid movements. When I look at the video of myself, I see I’m putting in a quarter of the energy BTS puts into their performances.
I know the millions-strong ARMY already respects and admires BTS, but if they tried their dances they would respect them even more.

BTS launches ‘Connect,’ a global art project

By Nadine Kam I

BTS is not only a music phenomenon, but a cultural phenomenon, and one reason for the group’s popularity has been its use of its influence to foster optimism and forward thinking around the globe. This time, they’ll be doing it through art, with a new global project called “Connect, BTS,” a series of large-scale art projects involving 22 artists and five cities on four continents.

Experience the sights and sounds of a first via Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s “Catharsis,’ at https://catharsis.live

The intent is to connect people across continents, via art. The first work, an immersive audio-visual forest experience titled “Catharsis,” by Jakob Kudsk Steensen, opened yesterday at the Serpentine Galleries in London. Other works will be unveiled Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and New York through spring.

Kim Taehyung is the group’s resident art lover and painting enthusiast, and during tour downtimes is known for seeking out museums and galleries. He has surprised gallerists around the world by walking into their galleries and openings unannounced, and leaving with purchases.

You can read more about the project at the links below:

Art News: https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/bts-art-project-1202675373/
BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-51106206

BTS’s V (Kim Taehyung) is known for his love of the arts and has been known to introduce himself abroad as Vincent Van Gogh.

While BTS is once again building bridges around the world and spreading their brand of positivity, inclusiveness, culture, artistry and intelligence, it made me think of their detractors, for whom BTS seems to be a trigger for their xenophobic and homophobic sentiments.

BTS’s army of fans has a history of going after such detractors, and in doing so, amplify their rants. Two of the biggest trash talkers have mocked Army for doing just that, and in so doing only spread the negativity and increased the audience of those pot-bellied buffoons with dinosaur-age thinking.

RM at a museum in Vienna.

They think of Army as no more than “a bunch of teen-age girls,” but already those “teen-age girls” are a force to be reckoned with and will be the ones wielding political might in the future. Yes, they pool their resources to do some pretty fangirl things, like buying billboards in Times Square, newspaper ads and subway ads to celebrate their favorite K-pop stars’ birthdays, but following BTS’s lead, they’ve also used their numbers and resources to build wells in Africa and fund humanitarian projects around the globe. Connected through a love of BTS, they’re able to mobilize for good causes.

Jin (Kim Seok Jin) in a key scene from the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” music video.

So, going forward, I am not naming those major detractors in favor of suggesting a new tack. That is, just ignore the naysayers. The impulse of Army has always been to protect and defend BTS, but for the most part, the antis are nobodies who want attention. So, don’t give it to them. Don’t give them a voice so they can just go back and crawl back under the rock from which they emerged.

Kim Taehyung in a key scene from the the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” music video, with a painting attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder. “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” in the backdrop. Just analyzing the artwork in this video could be the subject of a college course!

The ones most vocal in the west most only reveal themselves to be intellectually inferior, racist homophobes. History will have no place for them, but BTS is already in the pantheon of greats as musicians. As a force for change, fostering peace and diversity, they are doing much more than politicians. Imagine if they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize sometime in the future. Then the whole world would have to pay attention.

And based on some early numbers, there are more who want to hear their messages. Today their management company Big Hit Entertainment announced that “Map of the Soul: 7” has sold a record 3.42 million preorders in its first week of availability, making it likely that the album to be released Feb. 21, will top sales of last year’s chart-topping “Map of the Soul: Persona,” which sold 2.685 million preorders in its first five days.

BTS ‘Map of the Soul: 7 Shadow: Interlude’ shows Suga’s power

By Nadine Kam I

HONOLULU — In my corner of the world, people seem to need three weeks to recover from the holiday season, as slowly the social calendar is beginning to fill up with events.

But K-pop never rests, and in my anguish over the terrible treatment of X1 and their disbandment and the excitement of Treasure being liberated from its prison at YG, I overlooked the Jan. 7 announcement that BTS will drop the next chapter of its “Map of the Soul” series on Feb. 21.

Pre-orders for “Map of the Soul: 7” is going on now, and two days later Big Hit Entertainment released a beautiful comeback trailer, “Interlude : Shadow,” featuring Suga (Min Yoongi). This song makes me feel really sad to think of all that he and BTS have been through to get where they are, only to find how lonely it is at the top.

Ah, it’s so good, but I’m glad I didn’t know this was going to be out ahead of time. I probably would have tried to record a reaction video and end up crying as soon as his singing kicked in.

So instead, check out this explainer from DKDKTV’s Danny Kim on the Jungian perspective that defines the “Map of the Soul,” and a music producer’s perspective on the song.

Super M: Avengers of K-pop coming to America

By Nadine Kam I

Everybody say “Yeah!” On Aug. 7, SM Entertainment formally announced the formation of Super M, a supergroup the company has dubbed “The Avengers of K-pop,” comprising a stellar lineup of SM stars from its established boy bands.

This supergroup, set to debut in October, will feature SHINee’s Taemin, EXO’s Baekhyun and Kai, and NCT’s Taeyong, Mark, Ten and Lucas (WayV). This is a crazy, crazy exciting lineup featuring multiple main dancers, vocalists, rappers and visuals. Wow!

It makes sense because there’s been a sort of “land grab” going on in the music industry as Western companies have finally awoken to the sizable following of K-pop around the globe, and all want a piece of the action. It’s not like they have the capacity to create their own groups so they are looking to Seoul to see who has the most potential to break through. First, Interscope signed a joint agreement with YG Entertainment to manage the global promotion of Black Pink, and this time Capitol Music Group and its independent label service Caroline announced their partnership with SME to promote Super M in the United States.

Members of Super M, top left to right, top to bottom: Taeyong, Mark, Lucas, Taemin, Ten, Baekhyun and Kai.

With BTS commanding so much attention over the past two years, this supergroup is just what SM needs to enter the American market in a meaningful way. Because, in spite of fans’ devotion, K-pop remains a niche market, and most groups are unable to sell out stadiums the way BTS has done. They need the power of many—like how KCON has been able to bring fans to L.A. and New York for concerts with diverse performances.

A lot of people assume people who say they like K-pop support many bands, but it is no different from American music lovers who really only love a couple of groups out of 100. A lot of BTS supporters will say they love K-pop, but really love only BTS. That’s because of the power of the fandoms that make people feel disloyal if they stan another rival group. The rivalry between BTS Army and EXO Exo-Ls is particularly intense, as big as the feud between the Montagues and Capulets of “Romeo and Juliet.”

👁 Check out the teaser for Super M!

By uniting the fandoms of SHINee, EXO and NCT, hopefully Super M will have the numbers needed to support a single act. Not to mention making the most profitable use (this is K-pop after all) of Taemin, Baekhyun and Kai before they are forced to enlist in the South Korean military in the next two years. It makes a lot of sense for Taemin because he is already promoting solo while the three other members of SHINee are serving their country over the next year-and-a-half. EXO’s lineup is also being slowly decimated as each member reaches the outer limit of service age.

The real biggie is that members of NCT 127 speak English. In SHINee, Key was the one English speaker. The others focused on speaking Japanese for the Japan market. EXO had no English speaker after losing its Chinese members, so it made it socially awkward when they tried to give interviews in this country when they could only say stuff like “Yeah,” “Come on man,” or just parrot the interviewer. It was painful to watch.

The move also will strengthen the recognition factor of relative newcomers NCT, guaranteeing a certain amount of fame so these members may also be able to strike out solo or do collaborative work with Western artists when Taemin, Baekhyun and Kai exit.

👁 Let’s see what Taemin has done on his own:

But the fandoms are fickle, and days ahead of the formal announcement, there was already a lot of negativity in the air, from worries about overworking the boys, to the need to promote their current groups better.

A lot of people have been saying that they wish Lee Taemin didn’t have to work so hard, but in his documentaries, his love for the stage is obvious, as well as his compulsion to work hard and further his career. Since his trainee days, he also has always wanted to be in the same group as his bestie Kai and as he reflected on his career during SHNee’s 10th anniversary promotions, he said that he initially did not want to join SHINee and always wondered what would have happened if he had debuted in EXO.

🎧 Let’s listen to NCT 127:


I think things worked out for the best. As a member of EXO, he might have been lost in that initial field of 12. With SHINee he got so much attention. So he can consider this his reboot. He must be so happy to be dancing alongside Kai again.

This push into the U.S. is necessary for the company as South Korea is now engaged in a trade war with Japan, stemming from grievances dating back to the Korean War.

Most recently, Japan targeted South Korea’s electronics industry, restricting the export of materials used in smartphones and chips, and removed South Korea from a list of countries granted preferential trade status. South Korea retaliated by launching a boycott of Japanese goods and services, ranging from cars, beer, travel and patronizing Japanese restaurants. The Associated Press reported that a recent survey showed 80 percent of South Koreans are reluctant to buy Japanese products.

👁 Here’s a Kai focus cam for “The Eve” (green shirt):

Tension between the two nations has been building over the past few years, and we already saw the anger directed toward BTS’s Jimin last fall when a photo of him wearing a Hiroshima atom bomb T-shirt in celebration of Korea Liberation Day resurfaced just before the group’s trip to Japan. A BTS TV appearance on a Japanese TV station was cancelled as a result.

Neither side shows any sign of backing down, and if the trade war intensifies over an extended period of time, it will likely have a negative impact on the K-pop industry. Currently, Japan represents 80 percent of the market for K-pop music. If Japan were to block import of K-pop music, merch and put a ban on concerts, Super M may truly be the Avengers who save SM.

I am really looking forward to seeing them together and seeing what they do come their debut in October.

My only prob is the name of this group. In the U.S., where they plan to promote, it’s gonna sound like sperm! That’s why I think all the Korean music agencies should hire me as an English language consultant. I could fix a lot of their mispronunciations when they’re singing! Some are cute but some are just painfully wrong.


Third BTS film ‘Bring the Soul’ is here

By Nadine Kam I

“Bring the soul” is the third in a series of BTS films, this time documenting the Korean super group’s “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” tour last fall, which took them from Seoul to the United States and Europe.

The film opens and closes with the group enjoying an intimate dinner party on a Parisian rooftop at the end of the tour, and press materials promised members would share “their own stories as never heard before.”

That promise of intimacy is what lured me in, but the film didn’t deliver in that regard. There is more intimacy in their VLive self-cameras and “Run” episodes than in this film. I would have appreciated more insight than I already know, and less of the fast-paced montages that fill up time without adding to fans’ knowledge of the group. The films, to me, always feel like an introductory calling card for non-fans who want to understand the BTS phenomenon that Army is already well aware of.

That said, I went with a super fan who doesn’t hesitate to fly off to their concerts, sang along with each of their numbers and on Day 2 of the film’s release, was watching it a second time. I think it’s safe to say she loved it.

Like “Burn the Stage” and “Love Yourself in Seoul” before it, the film contains a mix of concert and behind-the-scenes footage. In between performances we see a lot of them eating, sleeping and working out. I’m pretty sure fans feel some relief in seeing them sleeping because in addition to providing constant joy, they bring out the nurturing instinct in fans who worry about their health because we understand their drive to push themselves to their physical and mental limits to put on their best performances for their millions-strong Army.

This point is driven home from the start when, all smiles on stage, maknae Jungkook bursts into tears off stage after the initial Seoul concert because his voice cracked during a song and felt he didn’t show his best. RM shrugs off that minor incident, saying he missed two verses of a song.

Fans will feel a roller coaster of emotions, from the exhilaration of their high-energy performances to the pain of seeing how much the boys suffer for their art and for their audience. It really hurt to see Jimin in a leg brace, and it reminded me of hearing in real-time last fall incidents in Europe when Jungkook’s heel injury prevented him from dancing. There was reference to Jimin’s inability to perform in London a day after Jungkook’s injury, but the film didn’t show him in the back brace on his birthday, when he suffered severe muscle spasms.

In light of the severity of their ailments, much less attention was focused on Hoseok and Taehyung’s illnesses which were brought to light here. I recalled hearing Taehyung was sick, but it’s more visceral to see it, and again, their heartbreak when they are unable to be at their best for fans. I actually cried when I saw him unable to sing on stage, but mouthing his lines, with the fans filling in the gap with their own vocals. Of course they know every line.

Backstage, he starts crying but even then must smile for the cameras because press photographers are waiting, which has to make fans wonder how many times they are forced to smile through tears.

BTS members, from left, V, Jin, Suga, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope.


I know there are a lot of anti-fans out there, and people who just don’t understand the devotion people feel toward this group. Antis and the oblivious seem to think of them as just a trivial, lightweight K-pop band. A typical response among those I know is, “I don’t get it.”

My K-pop professors at the University of Hawaii at Manoa would often say to our class, “Do you believe BTS really loves you? Don’t believe everything you see. It’s show business.”

Yet, fans often mention how BTS helped them get through dark times and how the group saved them with their messages of light, hope and self love.
I think a lot of fans do believe in BTS’s sincerity that sets them apart from other groups, both western and Korean. With cameras on them at all times, I really don’t think they can hide who they are. I think most people are smart enough to detect B.S. Even when they do indulge in their share of B.S., other members quickly call them out, letting the audience in on the hilarity of the situation.

You can bet the rest of the music industry is trying to dissect the BTS formula for success. But it can’t be replicated because it is the sum of these particular seven guys: Kim Seokjin (Jin), Min Young (Suga), Jung Hoseok (J-Hope), Kim Namjoon (RM), Kim Taehyung (V), Park Jimin (Jimin) and Jeon Jungkook (Jungkook).

I think about this a lot. Even the casual observer can see their talent. On the surface, they are not much different from any Korean male group. Some would say they don’t even sing or dance as well as others. So, why this group above all their contemporaries?

I think fans look deeper to see them as more than a singing-dancing phenomenon from South Korea. Beyond the obvious, we also see their human dimension, knowing them to be comical, hard-working, often hungry, worried, thoughtful, lonely. While others see the costumes and glitz associated with worldwide fame, we are fed with constant livestreams and news of plane trips that start at night, flying into night, the early morning wakeup calls, the detachment of unfamiliar hotel rooms, the longing for foods from home. It is this part that brings them closer to earth and so relatable. In spite of the joyful facade, we understand the hard work it takes to make it in their tough industry.

Western stars lack this relatable quality because they flaunt their wealth and have an air of entitlement and superiority over fans.

In their words and actions, BTS always makes it very clear they don’t take fans for granted. This film shows how much they put their fans’ hopes and expectations above considerations for their own health and well-being. Because few bands in Korea last five years, they know their time could be up tomorrow, so they make sure they are giving their best today.

Dance diary: BTS ‘Dope’ and ‘Not Today’

By Nadine Kam I

In beginner K-pop dance class, we did BTS back-to-back on Feb. 16 and 23, “Dope” and “Not Today” on the respective dates.

Their dances are always energetic and fun. For that reason, more people tend to show up whenever BTS is being taught. That’s how I ended up not appearing in my own video for “Dope,” because I didn’t check to see whether I was in the frame when I positioned myself. Usually the class is small so I stand in my usual spot, but this time I had to go to the far end. So I don’t know how I did. Even when it looks bad, the videos are a good tool for knowing what you did wrong, what you could do better, etc.

As much as I hated to be in class videos a year ago, by now I feel a little more comfortable and around this time started dressing up more for classes, knowing the teachers always want to have videos as part of resume building and to have something to share on social media.

The timing was good to post these in light of my recent post about BTS being a force for good in this world, using their platform to speak about societal issues and deliver hope to their ilpo, or give-up generation, a name given to the current generation of Korean youths who have given up on their dreams due to intense competition for higher education, a high unemployment rate. Without employment, one also gives up hope for marriage, children and home ownership, and with so much sacrificed, it’s a generation that has given up on having a better life than preceding generations.

These are the issues raised in “Dope,” as well as the anti-establishment “Not Today,” that includes lyrics: “A day may come when we lose / But it is not today / Today we fight!” pushing back against corporate and government corruption.

I really enjoy dancing their choreography because it’s fun, and while there are those highly stylized movements that are a signature of K-pop, there are not as much as other groups so you can enjoy more of the song’s vibe without worrying about a hundred small details!

👁 🎧 Watch BTS’s practice and MV

Yoongi and the Dodgers posts shed light on BTS’s power as a force for social change

By Nadine Kam I

The central idea behind Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Batman trilogy is that the Batman exists as a symbol of hope that allows people to wake up every morning in hope that today will be a little better, a little safer than yesterday. Symbols/ideas are important because they live on beyond an individual’s lifespan and transcend geography.

In the music world, BTS was created by Bang Si-hyuk, also known as “Hitman” Bang or PD Nim, to fulfill that need.

That might sound like hyperbole, but consider that Bang, who got his start within the idol-making machine, wanted to fix what he thought was wrong with K-pop. That is, the industry is built on blank slate talents that can adapt to any music trend, whether they like it or not, to serve the need of their puppet-master producers. The result is “artists” that have no control over the style or message of their music.

Bang worked as a songwriter and producer with one of the Big Three companies, JYP, until 2005. He was disillusioned by the lack of personal expression in the music and set out to establish a different kind of company, one willing to support individuals who could express themselves through their art and storytelling. This was the root of Big Hit Entertainment.

In 2010, he began to assemble a rap group reflecting youthful resilience, that he named Bulletproof Boy Scouts to express toughness needed to navigate modern life, along with strong moral character to be a source of sincerity and goodness lacking in public figures ranging from entertainers to politicians. In interviews, he said he thought of BTS as sympathetic role models or heroes for fans who don’t need someone dogmatically preaching at them from above, but is peer who shares similar trials and anxieties, who can empathize and offer words of support.

As underdogs in an industry that did not receive them well, BTS members did not shy from speaking their minds in songs ranging from “Not Today” to “Dope.” They spoke up for a generation that feels powerless in society, reflecting on a wide range of issues, from job insecurity to prejudice and human rights.

Even so, it was still hard for me to imagine BTS as a significant force for greater good. That is probably the cynical journalist in me, thinking that the world is doomed by a larger population of haters and bigots, who are fearful and close-minded, and don’t hesitate to drown out any voice of reason.

But what changed my mind about social change being possible for the next generation is the online exchange that followed Suga’s (Min Yoon-gi) appearance at a Los Angeles Dodgers game, while he was in town for concerts, to support South Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers posted a series of pictures of Suga at the game, that were picked up by ESPN’s social media channels. Harmless sharing, right?

But some sports fans responded with racist, sexist, xenophobic comments such as “Americans don’t like that crap, except pre teen girls,” and, “JUST Another rich Chinese kid,” which set Army into caption to shut down the haters.

I was heartened that Army, once again, was there to take a stand against the haters accustomed to drowning out other voices by sheer show of force and puffery. Clearly, BTS’s message is getting through to the 94,000 who appeared on ESPN’s Twitter page in defense of Suga, with messages like this one from @taeyeol_bts: “Bts teach to love yourself and accept yourself whatever you are. (Haters) please learn to respect and love yourself first. Then you can love and respect other people! I am Army who loves bts with all my heart. I’m proud of BTS.”

I’m proud of Army fighting hate by spreading BTS’s message of love and acceptance.

And the BBMA award for faux pas of the evening goes to … Sofia Carson

By Nadine Kam I

It was another history-making moment for BTS at the Billboard Music Awards 2019 on May 1, when they took home their first music prize in the United States, as Top Group, finally breaking that barrier as the first Korean group to do so. As expected, they also took home the Top Social Artist Award for the third year in a row, besting Ariana Grande, Louis Tomlinson, and fellow K-pop rivals EXO and GOT7. 

In the music category, they beat Dan + Shay and such heavy hitters as Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, and Panic! At The Disco. I had seen oddsmakers predict Imagine Dragons to win before the event took place so didn’t want to get my hopes up too high for BTS’s first shot at a music award in this country.

Naturally fans were thrilled, but beyond the two awards, the most talked about moment took place on the red carpet when actor Sofia Carson inserted herself into a photo of BTS. Carson is obviusly too unschooled in the world of K-pop to know she was playing with fire when she grabbed her moment in the spotlight, winning herself a flood of commentary from a livid Army who started to fill Twitter and her IG feed with angry messages. In the two languages I could understand, English and Spanish, the words that came up ran along the likes of describing her behavior as “gross,” “rude” and “disgusting,” with a lot accusing her of “clout chasing,” which doesn’t sit well with Army.

Here’s a link to a story and the video on Koreaboo: https://www.koreaboo.com/news/sofia-carson-gets-backlash-taking-picture-bts/

As it went down, she was ahead of them on the red carpet, and said something along the lines of, “Hi guys, I’m gonna join your guys photo,” and jumped in without waiting for a response. They did say hello, but it was because she had already attached herself to J-Hope.

There were people, including other Armys, who criticized those jumped on Carson, saying what she did was harmless and perfectly fine … that is, if you’re among those who can’t even recognize a lack of manners anymore.

Probably not the way she was hoping to be trending.

Here’s why it was wrong of her to do so.

There’s a right way and wrong way to pursue a photograph at an event like this. People are accusing Army of being immature and jealous, but the reality is that a lot of female entertainers had their photographs taken with BTS that day with no incident. Her behavior stood out because it was perceived as rude, aggressive and disrespectful. Army is sensitive about the specter of people using BTS as “clout” to further their own careers, whether through photo ops or collaborations, even guest appearances on TV shows because their fanbase is larger than any of their collaborators thus far. 

1. The red carpet was their moment, not hers, and she treated them like props, not people. If she had been sincere, she would have waited until they got off the red carpet and properly introduced herself and asked for a photo.

2. She wasted everyone’s time. From my journalist perspective, when this happens on a red carpet it is a waste of time because photographers have to wait for the nobody to leave before they can get their shot, or crop her out of the photo later. The way she placed her hands over Hobi made her impossible to crop out, so that was a wasted shot. 

When this has happened at red carpet events I have photographed, I have yelled at people, “Get out of the picture.” Photographers who did take that photo likely didn’t know who she was, so would have left it for editors to weed out a usable photo. Of course no serious media outlet picked it up because people want to see the red carpet shot of BTS, not BTS plus one nobody with no affiliation with the group. If she were a star of greater or equal caliber, it might have been different. BTS with Madonna? Yes. BTS with Taylor Swift? Yes. The story was picked up by Korean and gossip media who made note of the backlash against her behavior, probably not the kind of attention she wanted.

Army had no problem with Becky G, Halsey and Madonna who got their photos the respectful way:

3. In her defense, some have said, BTS is in America, not Korea, and they didn’t seem to mind.

Since when doesbeing in America become an excuse for not having basic manners and common decency observed in countries around the globe? Oh, I forgot, we are living in the era of Trump rudeness and indecency. 

BTS and every other K-pop band is trained to be ambassadors for South Korea. They are raised at home to be polite, show class and manners, which is reinforced by their companies as they travel the world, often to places more conservative than South Korea. So of course that meant going along with her intrusion to avoid causing a scene.

It is true that the “manner hands” — that is, avoiding touching women out of respect — they employ in South Korea go out the window when they are in this country, they still have conservative values and it showed in V, Suga, Rapmon and Hoseok’s expressions of distaste over her stealing their moment because they do know what is appropriate and what is not.

4. It was not as “innocent” as her defenders are making it out to be. She was not trying to get a personal selfie with her own phone. She knew she was leaving that image behind in hope that media would pick up when they ran photos of BTS on the red carpet. But of course no one bit in a legit context because she is a nobody in context of BTS making history at the BBMAs. Again, only Korean outlets and gossip columns ran with the story of the hate she was getting because Army saw the livestream video. She only succeeded at becoming known as that stereotypical Ugly American around the globe.