Dance Diary: ‘Produce X 101’ ‘Move’ 3.14.2020 + X1 where are they now

By Nadine Kam I

I requested this “Produce X 101” concept evaluation dance last summer, while the K-pop survival show was airing, and now that it came up I don’t even know why I requested it.

Two of the trainees got seriously injured from this dance and one ended up dropping out of the competition because of it.

“Produce” became the 3rd biggest Kpop scandal in a year of scandals because of vote-rigging that went into whittling 101 trainees and formerly debuted artists down to the 11 who formed the group X1. Sadly, I was a big fan of the group and about half the members, but X1 was forced to disband in January after only 2 months of activity due to the scandal which ended up with several managers from top entertainment agencies going to jail.

This vid has the “Move” trainee team in practice before the trainers, and their TV staging. You can see the harshness of the trainee system in that they’re wearing their ranking numbers from 1 to 101, so everyone is aware of their standing at all times, same as within their companies.

The 2X speed dance is a K-pop fixture and apparently it came as a surprise to the trainees.

Maybe it’s too early for an update on the X1 members, but here is what has ensued in the aftermath of their disbandment:

Kim Yo Han, center, with cast and director of “After School.”

Kim Yo Han: X1’s center will be starring as the lead of KBS 2TV’s series drama ‘School 2020,’ which will air in August. “School 2020” is the eighth drama in the “School” series. Yo Han will play Kim Tae Jin, a promising taekwondo athlete who suffers a severe ankle injury and quits taekwondo and transfers to a vocational high school. The drama just started filming. He doesn’t have a viable group to return to, but I think he wants to be a movie star anyway and X1 gave him instant name and face recognition, a big following and this initial TV offer. As a taekwondo junior champion himself, he is perfect for this role as a competent athlete who is socially awkward! He won’t even have to act!

Han Seung Woo: Has rejoined his former group Victon, and their comeback appears to be their strongest ever! Victon just made its first full group win on “The Show” with their latest song, “Howling.” Han Seung and fellow Victon member Choi Byung-chan appeared on “Produce” because prior to their appearance on the show, Victon hadn’t been very successful.

Kim Woo-seok: He has not rejoined his group UP10tion, but is working on music for a solo project, following in the footsteps of groupmate Lee Jin-hyuk, who was rigged out of X1 but because of it has had more success with the jumpstart on a solo career than all who won a place within X1. Woo-seok can be followed on IG @woo.ddadda.

Kang Min-hee will redebut with Starship Entertainment’s Cravity.

Song Hyeong-jun and Kang Min-hee: Two of X1’s 2002 liners will debut with seven other Starship Entertainment labelmates in a group named Cravity. Starship began introducing short promo films March 15. The lineup includes their fellow “PDX101” contestants Ham Won-jin and Koo Jung-mo. Others in the lineup are Seo Woo-bin, Allen Ma, Park Se-rim, Kim Tae-young and Ahn Sung-min.

Nam Do-hyon and Lee Han-gyul: The MBK Entertainment labelmates, whose strengths in X1 were rap and dance, respectively, teamed up to perform as Pocketdolz. This unlikely duo have been the most active in their post X1 activities, starting a vLive channel, release a new song, hosting a fan meeting and making the rounds of the TV music shows.

Lee Eun-Sang: I expected him to rejoin the Brand New Music labelmates he entered the PDX101 competition with, who, during his promotions with X1 debuted as BDC (Boys da Capo). But Brand New has him promoting solo with vLives, and most recently, a starring role in As One’s music video for the song “February 29th,” which he also covered. He also released a dance video set to Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes’ “Señorita,” which he covered as one of the last releases for X1. I am really hoping for some new music by him.

Cha Jun-ho: He has returned to his agency, Woollim, implicated in the “PDX101” scandal, and has reported he is in training and awaiting debut. The most likely lineup would include fellow trainees Kim Dong Yun, and fellow “PDX101” participants Joo Chang-uk, Lee Hyeop and Hwang Yun-seong.

Son Dong-Pyo: Like Do-hyon, he is enrolled at the exclusive Hanlim Arts School that accepts only about 40 students per year for its arts-focused education curriculum. He is part of a pre-debut boy group lineup dubbed DSP N. Other members are Lee Jun-hyuk, Song Jae-won, Lee Sang-min and Park Si-young. 

Cho Seung-youn: The songwriter who also known by the names WOODZ and Luizy is continuing to write songs and otherwise seems to be in no rush to return to the stage. I think all X1 fans, called One-Its, are holding out hopes that he will be able to form an X1 subunit along with other X1 members not part of the labels able to form bigger groups. The lineup would most likely also include Kim Yo-Han, Lee Eun-sang, Nam Do-hyon, Lee Han-gyul and possibly Kim Woo-seok. It would be great if it could include some of the other Top 20 who fans wanted to debut as BY9 (Be Your Nine).

Dance Diary: SB19’s ‘Alab (Burning)’ & the question of who can represent K-pop

By Nadine Kam I

On March 7, 2020, we learned SB19’s “Alab (Burning)” in our beginner K-pop dance class. It was an outside pick emailed in by a non-student who never showed up for the dance she requested. 

I say outside, because I don’t consider them to be K-pop at all but Pinoy pop. This is a Filipino group trained in K-style by a Korean entertainment company, who perform in English and Tagalog, promoting in the Philippines. What I find with these sort of groups—like the Z-Girls and
Z-Boys—is that they are Kpop lite at best. Their music and vocal style is closer to American than Korean pop and their choreography doesn’t come close to the difficulty level of Korean groups.

They are, however, an extension of the K-pop industry overseas, insurance that after K-pop’s heyday passes—after all, music moves in cycles and it may one day go the way of J-pop—there will be regional stars created around the globe in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, China and India, who continue to enrich the Korean entertainment companies that invested in forming these groups.

I didn’t like the song and didn’t really want to learn the dance, but it gave me an opening to talk about one of the big controversies among Western fans of K-pop, which is, what makes K-pop K-pop?

For the Korean entertainment companies, it has become easier in recent years to fill their artist ranks with talented youths from China, Japan and Thailand, who—unlike their countrymen—don’t have to enlist and disappear into military for two years, throwing groups into long hiatuses from which few have been able to recover.

The clash of cultures hasn’t always been easy. EXO lost three of its four Chinese members who sued to be released from their “slave” contracts, citing long hours, second-class citizen treatment compared to their Korean counterparts, and health issues as a result of intense labor with little time for rest. BlackPink’s Lisa often receives hate, in part, due to her part-Thai ancestry.

This specter of having fewer Koreans in K-pop was a big debate in our University of Hawaii K-pop class last summer. As minorities who don’t like to see appropriation of culture, the class was upset when our professor showed us videos of an American Caucasian male group, EXP Edition, trying to perform as K-pop artists in Korea. For us, their lack of talent added to the cringe factor, but Koreans who watched them perform liked them because they were flattered that white people would want to emulate them!

You can expect this debate to continue as the globalization of K-pop has inevitably given rise to people of every nation who want to follow in their tracks. Right now, it feels wrong, but as they say in this video, you can expect it to happen as each music form evolves. White men in rap weren’t accepted until Eminem came along, and now of course, every Korean idol group has its rappers as well.

Dance Diary: Red Velvet’s ‘Psycho’ & the psychology of costume

By Nadine Kam I

On Feb. 13, 2020, took a second stab at Red Velvet’s “Psycho.” We had started with the lead-in to the chorus on Jan. 9, but didn’t get to complete the chorus and ran out of time to shoot a class video after that session.

I kind of felt I did better the last time because my head was in a better place. This time, we were supposed to learn Everglow’s “Dun Dun,” but our teacher forgot she had taught all she was going to teach of that dance the previous week, when I couldn’t attend.

So I showed up dressed for “Dun Dun,” and as a beginning dancer, switching gears messed with my head a little. As I mentioned in my last post, I feel that costume contributes to my confidence level. I suppose there’s a similar kind of psychology at play when athletes don’t want to enter the field/arena without their “lucky” underwear, socks or whatever ritual they perform to get themselves psyched up for a game/match.

The she took requests and I wanted to finish up BTS’s “Black Swan” but the kids wanted to do “Psycho” so I was outvoted. Oh well.

I love the boldness of Seulgi’s black lipstick in this image.

The costuming for “Dun Dun” and “Psycho” are totally different. “Dun Dun” is a more powerful dance, and “Psycho” has a femme fatale quality, so it just felt wrong dancing “Psycho” in sportswear!

I love the Victorian, romantic, bewitching, dark and unbalanced vibe of Red Velvet’s music video, wardrobe and makeup, and just to get a little of that essence, I showed up to the first class with black lipcolor.

This time I didn’t have the clothes or makeup, so it just didn’t feel right and I couldn’t get into it.

👁 Here are the videos:

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!

Dance Diary: SF9 ‘Good Guy’

By Nadine Kam I

On Jan. 30, 2020, I took on chorus choreography for SF9’s “Good Guy” during my weekly K-pop dance class. Even when it looks fairly easy and doable, it never is because of the speed of these songs.

In this video, I wanted to show more of the process and the false starts as we make our first few attempts at the dance at 100 percent speed. We generally start at 50 percent, and move up to 75 percent before taking on this challenge.

I wanted to show this because the bane of one of my former hiphop and heels—and perhaps every—dance teacher is encouraging new students to try a class. People who have watched my videos—no matter how sloppy we look—nevertheless are intimidated and tell me they don’t think they could ever do the moves shown.

I tell them I am just as uncoordinated as they believe they are, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. Because I always love a challenge, I see it more as fun than intimidating.

What may have boosted my attempts from the beginning was that I didn’t listen to K-pop at all, and wasn’t even sure what K-pop dance was. I approached these classes more as fitness than dance classes. I think that if I started with the idea that I wanted to master dance, I may never have started, because I think people always assume that one must start dance at an early age and toil for years to gain proficiency. I’ve found that’s not true at all. One can start at any age and mastery comes with effort and discipline, not any prescribed length of time.

At the time, I just wanted to move, I hate exercise, and this seemed more like learning an artform than a rote workout. Even so, it didn’t take long for me to really get into it and want to improve, so that’s when I went from a single class to nine a week in many styles to gain more technical skill: ballet, hiphop, heels, Afro-Caribbean, jazz, modern, body mechanics, etc.

Yes, of course, during my first year of trying to learn to dance (I enter my second year at the end of this month, February 2020) I stepped off the floor during the filming. No one wants to be looked at and judged. But one thing dance has given me is some fearlessness. Of course beginners are going to make mistakes, but it isn’t the end of the world, and even though I am not particularly gifted, so what? I am learning every day and it allows me to enjoy dance performances with a whole new level of understanding.

Dance diary: Playing catch-up with Pentagon, Twice and EXO

By Nadine Kam I

It’s funny how we lose motivation so quickly after the new year. Last year I wanted to post my dance videos to track my progress over time. I had some catching up to do, as this thought occurred to me after I had already built up a 6-month backlog of videos.

Well, now I find myself 10 months behind, so I will probably try to bunch them up. These dances are from March 9 and 16, 2019, Pentagon’s “Naughty Boy,” Twice’s “Yes or Yes” and EXO’s “Love Shot.”

At any rate, this is a good time to talk about my journey to date. When I started, I didn’t know what I was getting into. A friend wanted to learn to dance, and it sounded like fun so I said OK to K-pop dance. I didn’t even like K-pop. I was the only anti in class and I couldn’t understand why women my age were gushing over young boys. Whenever the teacher asked for requests for favorite songs or groups, I said I didn’t know any and that I was just there for exercise. This was in late February 2018, but by the end of April I was hooked.

A switch came in May when we did EXO-CBX’s “Blooming Days.” It’s a really difficult dance and at the time I didn’t want to be recorded on videos, but even without seeing how I looked, I never felt good about it, so I knew I had to go back for some remedial technique, having never danced in my life. Also, prior to starting K-pop dance, I was living a sedentary life for 30 years, but I wanted to lose some weight and become stronger as I thought about issues associated with aging, since I am no spring chicken and want to remain ambulatory in my old age.

I also had regrets about never having taken dance classes when I was a child, the result being I was never a good mover, and never had the coordination one develops when making those brain-to-limb neural connections in childhood.

I’ve made some interesting discoveries along the way. I once thought that dance is a purely physical activity, but I have learned the physical part is the easiest. I believe that dance is 1 part physicality, 1 part musicality and 1 part mental strength.

The hardest part is mental, not only remembering the moves—which I have extreme difficulty doing—but also having the focus and confidence to get out there in the first place. You really have to believe you can do it. I struggle with the mental challenge of dance, and it’s not something that instructors—who are typically natural movers and naturally gregarious—can help me with. I feel like what I need is a good sports coach.

Although K-pop is one of the few styles that requires no dance experience to get started, to improve my lines and form, I added on ballet, modern, jazz, hiphop, heels, some African-Caribbean and body mechanics, everything employed by K-pop choreographers. I did all that for the next six months and came out of it ready for the camera by February 2019. Well, imperfect of course, but I wanted to track any improvement over time.

Even though I’m still not very good, I am enjoying the journey, and I both see and feel some improvement. I have a long way to go, but along the way, I hope I can inspire others to get up and move. Don’t let the fear of learning something new stop you from getting started. You may surprise yourself. I know I did.

Dance Diary: Taemin’s ‘Move’

By Nadine Kam I

I wanted to dance to Taemin’s “Move” for a long time and tried to learn the choreography on my own at home.

This is where memory fails me, coz I actually made it through the entire song, but in dancing it could never remember the order of the segments. Just like working out at home, people don’t usually push themselves as much as when risking humiliation in front of other people in a class. So at home I just didn’t do the number of repetitions that would drill the movements in brain and body.

I feel like this is a dance that could be done in its entirety if given three class sessions or so, but I didn’t like the way the segments were chopped when we did this on March 2, instead of staying true to the choreography. It kind of messed me up because the flow of movement was lost.

Oh well, enjoy Taemin in action:


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

Dance Diary: Chung Ha ‘Gotta Go’

By Nadine Kam l

Skipped ahead to March 14, 2019, because I wanted to post this in honor of Xiumin, who danced a bit of Chung Ha’s “Gotta Go” as part of girl group dance medley to entertain fans during his “Xiuweetime” fanmeet May 4, prior to his May 7 departure for the South Korean military.

We danced this during beginner K-pop dance class. The video with Xiumin is followed by another segment featuring more of the dance.

This dance called for bringing out a little sexy, which is not really me. So this is part of the psychology of dance that I always talk about. It really calls for acting and embracing certain feelings, emotions and characteristics that one may not possess.

You have to will yourself to be sexy, strong, cute, whatever the dance calls for. Sometimes I’m really resistant, which makes it hard to perform well. I really hate cute dances because that’s so not me. I think of myself as a strong person and my preference is for strong male dances. When we do cute dances, everyone is always smiling, and I’m the only one who looks really grouchy and serious. I just cannot smile. So these dances really call for a strong will to overcome one’s prejudices and predilections, and embrace the choreography presented.

👁 🎧 The official music video: