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: 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.

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: Red Velvet ‘Russian Roulette’

By Nadine Kam I

Did Red Velvet’s “Russian Roulette” twice, once back on March 2 through Star Fitness, and the second time May 11 with Hawaii Dance Bomb at Paradise Park. I went there because I had a feeling she would be teaching BTS “Boy With Luv,” but I was wrong. She had already done it in an earlier class. Oh well. I’m not especially fond of girl songs, and you can kind of see it in my bored expression in the first video.

I often talk about dance as being a mental a game. We don’t even realize how many mental blocks we have until we start something new like this, that puts the focus on our bodies. There are the initial body hangups, and for non-dancers, the embarrassment of being looked at and most certainly, judged. It’s a lot to overcome. It took about 2 months until I decided I could be filmed, and once I looked at said film, I went underground for another three or four months until I happened to take classes from a teacher who would not allow us to escape the scrutiny. Her rationale was that if we were to ever dance in public, we had to grow accustomed to eyeballs, activity around us, cameras and other distractions that could faze us.

As much as I hated looking at those early videos, I did see where I needed a lot of improvement, including amping up the energy level. In dance, if you are giving 100 percent, you look like you’re walking through a park, so you really have to put in 200 percent energy to look like you’re dancing.

Beyond the physical limitations of being a non-dancer, there was more mental difficulties. Dancing requires acting and I am a terrible actress. If I don’t like something, I can’t pretend I do. And I found I really dislike cutesy girl K-pop dances. I just don’t like to project cute because I happen to be short, and all my life “short” has been associated with “cute,” and I have fought that image since I was 5 years old. I always wanted to be perceived as strong and tough, especially in my field of journalism.

Well, K-pop generally sees women two ways, cute or sexy, and when it comes to the sexy dances, it’s hard to project because I don’t view myself as sexy either! So it’s really hard to get into those characters. When we’re doing cute dances, I watch the videos and everyone is smiling and acting cute, and I’m the only one with bitch face.

Luckily, there’s a new generation of girls fighting both images to project strength and sass, so that works for me. For that reason I enjoy doing the boy dances, but when you look at cover dances, most of the dancers tend to pick the girl dances because they look good solo. The boy dances are made to be performed in a group with a lot of formations, so can be weird to dance alone, though I saw one guy do “Fake Love” solo.

Overcoming mental blocks is harder than learning choreography, and there’s definitely something about movement that doesn’t click with me in the same way that it was difficult for me to learn how to play the drums via lessons. It was only when I quit lessons and got off sheet music and started playing with other musicians after a year that it clicked and I was able to play. I am waiting for such a breakthrough with dance.

Meanwhile, there is interesting research going on regarding dancing and the brain, and how it is the one activity that is proving to stave off mental decline and manage symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

You can read more about dance and brain here:

https://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/dancing-and-brain

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201805/the-powerful-psychological-benefits-dance

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:

Dance diary: BTS ‘Idol’

By Nadine Kam I

We spent an hour learning BTS’s “Idol” during our beginner K-pop dance class at Star Fitness Hawaii on Feb. 9, 2019. It is the most high-energy dance we’d done so far, and after dancing it at 100 percent about five times, we wanted to collapse.

Now I understand why I’ve seen BTS also collapse on the floor after performing nearly 4 minutes of this choreography. When I saw it happen I was wondering why they would be so exhausted after one dance because they often perform several of their dances in succession during live shows.

I have to admit it scared me to see them, especially Taehyung, breathing so hard when they are so young.

After doing this dance, I now know why. We only learned about 40 seconds, so would have only done 2-1/2 minutes of the dance at 100 percent and it is way more exhausting than we make it look. The song is nearly 4 minutes and they are dancing that whole time. It’s all the jumps that make it so exhausting.

BTS choreography is actually much easier than most K-pop dances. It’s not that they can’t do sharp moves, but they sacrifice detail for high energy that is exciting for people to watch and more engaging during a live performance. It also makes it much more fun to dance. An EXO dance, for instance, is so intricate that it’s hard for me, as a beginner, to escape into the mood or feeling of the song. Every second is spent thinking about the small technical details that make it more stressful than fun.

👁 🎧 BTS “Idol” dance practice:

Dance Diary: IU’s ‘BbiBbi’

By Nadine Kam I

On Jan. 19, 2019, in our beginner K-pop class, we danced part of IU’s “BbiBbi.” It’s a cute, lazy-looking dance that actually sends a serious warning to gossips and haters.

Her greeting, “Hello stup-I-D,” refers to the anonymous trolls hiding behind made-up IDs to leave hateful messages for their targets online.

In her gestures in the dance she draws a line that should not be crossed and wards off haters with a yellow card, referring to warnings used in soccer games.

I really like the strength she shows in singing this song. Korean entertainers are subject to a lot of scrutiny and nasty criticism for everything from the way they dress to the smallest of so-called infractions that veer from the mean.

They are constantly apologizing for any behavior that results in criticism, so it’s nice to see IU stand up for herself, because Korean society is particularly hard on women they expect to conform to a strict code of feminine behavior and appearance. Through this song, she shows she’s no one’s easy target.

👁  IU’s music video

👁  IU’s dance practice

Dance diary: A walk through Black Pink’s ‘As if it’s Your Last’ and BTS Home Party

By Nadine Kam I

Through this dance class, dated Jan. 12, 2019, I wanted to share the process of learning and creating a formation to show that it’s not a scary endeavor at all and to encourage any closet dancer to come out and take a chance on learning something new.

For a year, I’d been inviting some sedentary friends to come keep me company and get some fun exercise, but a little aerobics is one thing and dance is another. Dance tends to make people feel intimidated. And videos are the bane of dance teachers. On the one hand, they love to show their work and accomplishments, partially as a way of enticing people to come out and dance. But when people see the end result, their first thought is, “I can’t do that.”

It’s the same way I feel at the start of each class. Every time I’m shown the K-pop videos, I think, “I can’t do that.” But rather than stopping there, my second thought is, “Oh well, let’s give it a try.”

Each teacher, here Sarah Replogle, is able to break the dances down into bite size chunks, so non-dancers will be surprised how much they can actually do when taking it slowly. K-pop dance is one form in which anyone with no dance background can jump into without risk of injury.

Alas, I used to invite friends to also join me in beginning ballet, modern and jazz classes, but it’s weird to say that even though I’m still a novice in all these forms, I’ve advanced in a year to the point that they could not join me in the same classes, at risk of hurting themselves without a foundation in technique.

The one thing I’ve learned through ballet is that the exercises never end. Even the pros continue to perform the same exercises as we do as beginners to maintain their form and balance, and build strength.

This video shows how slowly we walk through the moves to get to the end.

A slow walk-through of Black Pink’s “As if it’s Your Last” chorus after about 30 minutes of learning the choreography. I don’t care that I’m lagging in this first attempt at a formation.

👁 Watch: Black Pink “As if it’s Your Last”

Around this time, because of all the modern dance I had been doing, I was feeling more confident and when I watched this BTS Home Party dance practice video featuring J-Hope, Jimin and Jungkook, and other of their raw practice videos, I felt like if I were in the same room with them, I would be able to pick up choreography just as quickly as they do with their 10-plus years of dance and stage experience, often putting 11 to 16 hours a day into rehearsals vs. my four or five hours a week. Of course they are far more brilliant in their presentation than I am as a beginner much older than them, but their process is the same and watching them helps me set goals.

I am in no way a natural dancer. I move in strange ways and am totally uncoordinated, but I always felt as if anyone could learn choreography. It’s looking good doing it that’s the problem. It takes a lot of strength and technique to achieve the long, clean lines, posture and balance that Jimin maintains, plus a lot of flexibility to arch and flatten your back.

I didn’t have much of a problem with flexibility when I was taking nine classes a week and stretching daily, but now that I’m down to about four classes weekly, weighted toward the end of the week, I can feel how the body contracts and stiffens in the downtime. I don’t know how I lived 20 years as a couch potato when I feel the difference now after just three days of non-movement. Lol!

Because I never moved since childhood, and had no dance training, all the moves felt unnatural a year ago, but over time, movement grows on you. When I watch casual, personal videos of the K-pop stars, I notice they are always a second away from showing dance moves or dance hand gestures. I’ve noticed the same thing happening to me when I sit down to eat and hear music. Movement is starting to come more naturally as a matter of everyday life.

Anyway, I’ve pretty much done every move BTS does in this dance video, including hitting the floor with the kick in the air, but the longest segment of choreography I can commit to my brain is 1 minute. Dance is a challenge of memory as well as physicality. I am working to build new neural connections. In a way, I guess you could say if your strengths are elsewhere, dance makes you smarter.