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Many people have been exposed to the wonders of South Korean pop music for the first time through PSY’s UK number 1 hit ‘Gangnam Style’ but with so many new bands debuting all the time, it can be hard nowadays for a new K-pop fan to find the best music, so we are launching a new feature guiding you into the best of K-pop. Each week we will look at a specific area in K-pop and introduce you to it’s finest examples. This week we’re going to look at some of the best dance groups!
PSY is, in many ways, very different from the majority of K-pop acts but one thing he has in common with the rest of the K-pop world is fantastic dance routines! The K-pop industry is definitely one of the leaders in the commercial dance world right now and K-pop groups are known for their highly synchronised, catchy routines. So if you love the horse-riding dance and are looking for some more amazing K-pop moves you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to show you ten of the best dance groups in K-pop right now.
Wonder Girls – Be My Baby[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fy4cqWMhyI&w=480&h=270]
Around since 2007, the Wonder Girls are one of Korea’s longest running and biggest girl groups. They are known for their catchy, and often retro sounding, pop melodies and memorable dances. This song, released at the end of last year, was a huge hit in Korea, topping the charts for weeks. It was choreographed by American choreographer Jonte Moaning who has worked with Beyonce and is very popular in Japan. The dance is fun and classy and, in typical Wonder Girls-style, combines easily copied moves with more complex choreography.
Other recommendations: Their most recent Korean single Like This and one of the songs that started the worldwide craze for K-pop dance covers, from 2007, Tell Me.
SHINee – Sherlock[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8VRaGe3Cqs&w=480&h=270]
SHINee are one of K-pop’s biggest bands and are famous for their difficult choreography. This dance was choreographed by Tony Testa, who has worked with Janet Jackson amongst others. More and more international big names from the dance world seem to be coming into K-pop wanting to work with Korea’s biggest stars. This is one of my favourite routines from this year. It’s high energy moves allow SHINee to showcase their powerful dance moves and perfect synchronisation.
Other recommendations: Check out Hello to see more of SHINee’s cute side or Lucifer for some more challenging moves.
Infinite – The Chaser[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTXmhKapmCI&w=480&h=270]
You can’t talk synchronisation in K-pop without mentioning Infinite. They debuted in 2010 and since then they have often been named as some of the best dancers in the industry. Technically speaking, this isn’t their most impressive dance but it shows off their amazing group work with perfectly in-sync moves and really interesting formations. Plus the song has a really fun 80’s sound.
Other recommendations: To really see Infinite’s skills, check out the ‘scorpion dance’ from their 2011 single BTD (Before the Dawn)
Brown Eyed Girls – Abracadabra[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4wJGWcHzVA&w=480&h=360]
An antidote to the saccharine-sweet cutesy dances often performed by K-pop girl groups, Brown Eyed Girls’ performance in the Abracadabra music video is mature and sexy and the ‘saucy’ dance (the hip swaying at the beginning) became very popular in 2009 and was often imitated on Korean variety TV. The music video has been criticised for it’s racy content but the song was a huge success on release winning the “Best Dance/ Electronic Song” at the Korean Music awards.
Other recommendations: BEG’s big single from last year Sixth Sense also features very strong yet sensual moves or check out maknae (막내: Korean for youngest member) Ga In’s newest single Bloom for an even racier video.
Girls’ Generation – Gee[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7mPqycQ0tQ&w=480&h=360]
Girls’ Generation or SNSD (from the Korean 소녀시대: So Nyeo Shi Dae) are Korea’s biggest girl group. They often perform for the South Korean military and are hugely successful in Japan. This is the song which skyrocketed them to the top of the K-pop girl groups and is pretty much the definition of the cutesy style of dance previously mentioned. ‘Gee’ is about the feeling of falling in love and many of the dance moves involve acting out the lyrics, complete with cute hand gestures and winks.
Other recommendations: Their debut Into the New World features for a still cute but much more energetic and complex routine or for a slightly more grown up dance try Genie or The Boys.
Super Junior – Sorry Sorry[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4okKSigjyc4&w=480&h=270]
One of Korea’s biggest (at one point they had 13 members!) and longest established boybands from the same company as SHINee and Girls’ Generation, Super Junior have been releasing hit after hit since their debut in 2005. Sorry Sorry is one their biggest songs to date. Their dances are popular for often being easy to replicate and this particular dance has been seen performed at dozens of flashmobs around the world.
Other recommendations: Later hits Mr. Simple and Bonamana are sometimes criticised for sounding too similar to Sorry Sorry but they both also have really memorable dances.
T-ara – Lovey Dovey[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s64J9Qfz6ZM&w=480&h=270]
Aside from being known for their controversies, T-ara are a
5- 6- 7- 9- 8- 7-member girl group who are known for their ever changing concepts (and line-up). Each new single always features a quirky new concept with dance moves and costumes to match. At the end of last year just when everyone thought the shuffle madness caused by LMFAO had died down, T-ara came out with this ridiculously catchy song and dance number and brought it back to life again. Beware, Lovey Dovey will get stuck in your head and it will stay there! Yes, most of T-ara’s music is really cheesy but you have to admit that this dance looks like it’s a lot of fun!
Other recommendations: T-ara as disco divas in Roly Poly or as robots in Sexy Love
BEAST – Fiction[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9sgvUcaTOE&w=480&h=270]
BEAST are another band known for their memorable dance moves and this may be their best known. Fiction is a dramatic song about not being able to forget someone that you love and the contemplative foot shuffling move, known by many different nicknames, the ‘penguin dance’, ‘floor painting dance’ etc., captures this feeling perfectly.
Other recommendations: Latest single Beautiful Night for a fun party anthem or for more complex moves check out 숨(Breath).
B.A.P – Power[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBSaX3jvyEc&w=480&h=270]
B.A.P were one of the first new groups to debut this year and have gained huge popularity since then. They also seem to have a really big following amongst UK K-pop fans. Their powerful, at times almost violent, dance moves, bravado-filled lyrics and aggressive rap skills make them stand out against many of the other prettier boy groups. “Power” is a perfect example of their aggressive style and check out the interesting use of spray cans in the choreography towards the end.
Other recommendations: Their debut single Warrior and most recent single No Mercy for more of the same.
BoA – Eat You Up[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cthQfJ_Sbk0&w=480&h=360]
Nicknamed the “Queen of K-pop”, BoA is one of the longest-running still active K-pop acts around. She debuted in 2000 at the age of 13 before going on to have huge success in Japan. Since then she has maintained her success in Korea with her recent single ‘Only One’ doing extremely well. Released in 2008, this is one of the first K-pop songs I ever heard and I still think it’s one of the best. The song is completely in English and the video features amazing, dramatic choreography and cinematography.
Other recommendations: Her most recent single Only One. Check out the live performances to see BoA dancing with the best dancers from some of K-pop’s biggest boybands.
If you are a new K-pop fan we hope you enjoyed this article, and that we helped you learn more about K-pop find some new music to listen to.
Let us know in the comments: Did you enjoy this article? Did you know all the bands already? Did we make the right choices? If you are an established K-pop fan and you felt that there is another band that deserves to be on the list, write in the comments who it is and link to an example of one of their best dances so that new fans can find new groups or performers to listen to.
You can check out the other articles in this series here.