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.