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.

πŸ‘ Here are the videos:

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

BlackPink on the rise

By Nadine Kam I

When watching BTS as presenters tonight on the Grammy Awards show, let’s not forget that there are dozens of K-pop artists equal to the task of conquering America. BTS has worked hard to get to its place of recognition on the American music scene, but this is an exciting time for K-pop in general.

Red Velvet kicked off its first solo American concert tour Feb. 7 and 8 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. And EXO’s Chinese member and solo artist Lay Zhang (Zhang Yixing) is also attending the Grammy show.

But most significantly, girl group BlackPink made its American debut during Universal Music Group’s pre-Grammy Showcase concert yesterday. The group will also perform on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Monday night, Feb. 11, and fans can wake up to the group’s appearance on “Good Morning America” on Feb. 12.

EXO member Lay Zhang at the Grammys.

K-pop artists have been trying to crack the American market for 30 years, with the blessing of the South Korean government, hoping to use the soft power of music to spread love for Korean culture around the globe. The groups picked up fans worldwide, but in the United States the Hallyu Wave stopped far from shore, a niche market at best.

BlackPink members, from left, Jisoo, Jennie, RosΓ© and Lisa.

The entertainment companies, with government financial support, did their best to package group shows, and band members often stood outside venues passing out free tickets. But the timing wasn’t right to support a bunch of Asians singing in a language few Americans understood.

The future of K-pop in America brightened last year with BTS’s phenomenal success in topping the Billboard charts, and appearing at top American award shows, major magazine covers and talk shows. They also spoke up for youths and human rights at the United Nations. The message sent back to the South Korean music industry was, “This is finally our time.” It all seemed to re-energize the industry and they put renewed focus on conquering America.

πŸ‘ Watch: BlackPink’s hit “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du”

I sensed this back in September, when addressing an anti on my Facebook page. I assured her the Koreans were coming and the next group likely to make it big is BlackPink, a women quartet, part of the YG Entertainment family in Korea. They have it all, the ability to sing and dance, the looks, the style and the attitude. This is an important point because in the past, South Korean girl bands met a Korean male producer’s fantasy of the dichotomy between madonna and whore. These groups were packaged to be either sickeningly saccharine cutesy, or slutty playthings for men. I find both extremes obnoxious, and likely, so would most women in the United States.

Today, groups like BlackPink and Mamamoo are projecting a new ideal, of women who can still be beautiful and sexy, but also strong and independent.

Just one month after my prediction, BlackPink signed with Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records, which means more promotions outside of Asia for the group, already slated to be the first women’s K-pop group to perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California on April 12 and 19.

We’ll see whether a majority of the United States truly has become more open to outside cultures. In the past when it comes to Asians in the mainstream, it’s been demonstrated that Americans can only tolerate one or two minority actors at the same time, one woman, one man, because in mainstream eyes, sadly, all Asians look alike.

What’s different today is there’s a younger generation who grew up with the world in their palms, and thanks to social media, groups that would have been obscure in the past are finding a way to reach a global audience and seduce adoring fans by showing up and sharing their abundant talent.

πŸ‘ Watch: BlackPink Jennie’s “Solo”

Some are speculating the deal will mean a possible English-language release from the group. That’s quite possible considering Lalisa (Lisa) Manoban is hapa Thai and Caucasian and grew up in Thailand fluent in both Thai and English languages. RosΓ© (Park Chae Young) was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and raised speaking English and Korean in Melbourne. Jennie Kim was born in South Korea, but lived in Auckland, New Zealand, for five years and is also fluent in English and Korean. Only Jisoo (Kim Ji Soo) speaks no English.

Having the English speakers will be very helpful for the group because interviews with K-pop bands in the past have been few and awkward because of the language barrier. This makes media more open to have them as guests and interview subjects.

Taemin is studying English, having set his sights on the United States.

πŸ‘ Watch: Taemin’s “Danger” dance practice

I’m hoping there will be a place for SHINee’s maknae Taemin (Lee Tae-min), who’s pursuing a solo career while his hyung Key (Kim Kibum) and Minho (Choi Minho) join Onew (Lee Jinki) the South Korean military in March. His solo album “Want” drops Feb. 11 (10th in the Western world).

And everyone’s waiting to know what Big Hit’s TXT (Tomorrow X Together) will sound like when they debut March 5 (4th in the West). There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this band, only the second from Big Hit, the company that spawned BTS.

πŸ‘ Watch: Mamamoo’s “Egotistic”