What do you need to know about K Pop Dances

K-Pop in Germany: Also trendy offline

I struggle for balance as I rock my hip, circling my face with my right hand, and crouch to throw my left leg in the air. The fact that I've never trained synchronous dance doesn't make things any easier. Not even that I'm the oldest person in the room and the only man. The twelve teenagers dancing next to me smile at each other because I obviously can't keep up.

I just want to find out what the hype about K-Pop, i.e. pop music from South Korea, is about. That's why I signed up for a K-Pop dance course in Bonn.

Big business from South Korea

A few days ago I thought I didn't know anything about this trend. I only remembered the singer PSY with his "Gangnam Style" and the strange horse rider dance with which he hit the summer charts in 2012. Since then, his video has been clicked on YouTube 3.5 billion times. Today I know: It wasn't an isolated incident.

The band BTS is the world's most popular K-pop group

South Korean pop music is now one of the country's biggest export hits and is a business worth billions. Hundreds of groups successfully compete for an international audience. In the "Social 50" ranking of the US weekly Billboard, which measures the worldwide popularity of artists in social networks, eight of the top ten places are currently occupied by K-pop bands. The band BTS - also known as the Bangtan Boys - has been in first place for 154 weeks, three years.

In Germany, where international trends often arrive a little slower, the market for K-Pop is only just beginning to develop. But there are more and more fans, dance courses and parties, and more and more big bands appear in this country. When BTS announced their first concert in Berlin in 2018, 30,000 tickets were sold within nine minutes.

Dance lessons to new pop hits from South Korea are also popular in Germany

You don't have to understand the lyrics

Jiwon Kang is thrilled with the development. That evening she is leading the dance workshop that I am attending on the premises of an old wallpaper factory in Bonn. The 24-year-old comes from the South Korean island of Jejudo. She studied contemporary dance in Seoul. One and a half years ago she came to Germany to deepen her dance education in Europe. She makes a living with dance lessons to the latest Korean hits, which she gives several times a week.

Dance teacher Jiwon Kang in Bonn

"So many people want me as a coach because I'm from Korea," she says happily. The "Hop Spot" dance school, for which she works, has been offering courses for three years, and there are now around 500 participants in North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin. "I take pride in bringing Korean music to people," says Jiwon Kang. K-pop dance is a colorful mix of different styles, with elements from hip-hop and jazz.

Apart from me, Jiwon's classes are exclusively teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. When the teacher played the song "Hip" by the band MAMAMOO, some girls screamed with euphoria (later I found out that the song is not even two weeks old, but has still been seen 20 million times on Youtube). With a fast beat and saxophone tones in the chorus, it sounds like many other pop hits to me, only in Korean.

It's like in your own youth, when you didn't understand the hits from the USA and still sang along with made up words. The language differences don't seem to matter that much here. Also for Jiwon, who is still learning German. We just imitate her movements.

There are also downsides

Whereby: It's not easy. We have to repeat even short sequences of steps slowly several times in order to be able to perform them simultaneously. I have to think of the notorious education systems of the South Korean music industry. Children, sometimes twelve or thirteen years old, are recruited and, under years of observation in dance, singing and behavior lessons, welded together to form bands. "Idols" are supposed to be made, as the K-Pop artists are called. Forget the Backstreet Boys: K-Pop takes the old boy band standard to a new level.

It's not just the drill. The Korean K-Pop scene is currently attracting attention with a lot of negative headlines. Recently, two female interpreters committed suicide, allegedly for cyberbullying; two men have recently been sentenced to prison terms. You are accused of being involved in gang rape. These are the downsides of a scene that might otherwise look perfect, like the best of choreography. But these reports seem to do little to detract from the fascination of K-Pop.

Follow the "Idols" around the clock

Blackpink - one of the most popular Korean girl bands

What do the participants in Jiwon's dance class like so much about Korean pop? Lea is 14 years old and says: "I like how lovingly the group members treat each other, there is nothing like that in American bands." Solin, 17, also appreciates "the values ​​they want to convey to us, like BTS who sing a lot about self-love." Celin, 15, simply thinks "the language and the people are beautiful". Galina, who is the same age, has even started to learn Korean.

They name the names of bands - as fast as you can shuffle a deck of cards. The girls follow their "idols" on Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and VLive, a Japanese website. The bands are not only represented there with music clips, but also in reality shows, with impressions of filming behind the scenes, they act in live chats with the fans. How much time does it take to follow all of this? "24 hours a day!" Three of the girls exclaim enthusiastically.

"As if you were friends"

Lisa-Sophie Scheurell can understand them well. The 23-year-old budding journalist from Munich "fell into the K-Pop hole" herself a year ago after hearing the music from BTS. Together with a friend, she did the first German-language podcast this year about her favorite band "K-Pop Pardon?" started. I called her before the workshop because she can explain well to outsiders like me where the huge popularity of the Korean bands comes from.

K-pop band BTS

"Because the stars are in front of the camera so much, you get to know them in a completely different way. Although I find the word 'star' difficult in the context because with all the videos you get the feeling that they are are completely normal people, "says Scheurell. This is how you get to know the different character traits of band members. "It feels like being friends with them."

I'm watching an episode of Run BTS myself. The seven boys with perfect hairstyles and snow-white smiles spend a day in the aquapark: They slide, jump into the water, run through an obstacle course. Although they are competing for points, there are no negative emotions, everyone is nice and in a good mood. The video is 30 minutes long, has subtitles in 25 languages ​​and has been viewed over 11 million times. I have enough time to think about the question: is this the future of the music industry?

K-pop parties in more and more cities

In my search for answers, I also turned to Samghun Lee. Just a year ago, the 27-year-old from Munich with South Korean roots threw his first K-Pop party with a few friends, which quickly became a success. Today they organize regular K-Pop nights together in twelve large cities in Germany as well as in Zurich, Vienna and Prague. Lee is the managing director of JIN Entertainment, the company the friends founded. He also likes to hang up himself.

"The scene in Europe is not yet as big as it is in Southeast Asia or South America," estimates Lee. But he also sees further growth potential in Germany: "We get a lot of inquiries from minors who want to come to the parties with a Mutti note (permission from the parents - editor's note). but when they come back at 18 there will be many more people. "

At the end of the lesson: the main thing is to record

Jiwon's dance classes are also an example of how popularity on the Internet inspires offline activities. At the end of the class, long after I've got sore muscles and stopped, the girls record their newly learned choreography with smartphones. It's still too early, but the goal of many dance groups is to post the perfect choreography on the internet at some point.

It wasn't until the next day that I realized how contagious K-Pop can be. When I catch myself humming MAMAMOO's song at breakfast. With made up words.

 

Deutsche Welle reports cautiously on the subject of suicide, as there are indications that some forms of reporting can lead to copycat reactions. If you are having suicidal thoughts or are in emotional distress, do not hesitate to seek help. You can find help in your country at the website https://www.befrienders.org/