Low-quality videos, casual looks and outfits, tacky practice rooms and the high-pitched squeaks of sneakers scraping on floors. These elements have been typically associated with K-pop idols' dance practice videos, which were often released as a bonus for fans, apart from the much more glamorous and publicized official music videos.
BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" dance performance video became the first of its kind to surpass 500 million views on YouTube this month and the feat has made it evident that dance-centered videos have evolved as an important part of the K-pop phenomenon.
What distinguishes such dance clips apart from music videos or onstage performance videos are the noticeably minimized visual effects as well as camera movements and cuts, which allow viewers to concentrate solely on the performative aspects in one take.
Recently, these clumsily shot videos released as a bonus have evolved into clips with high production value in terms of visual and sound quality, after talent agencies recognized their marketing potential and the growing demand among fans for them.
"In K-pop, the element that is as significant as the music itself is the group dance. When idol groups get a chance to introduce their new releases on non-music TV shows, they often don't sing the songs but simply play them in the background, while showing off their perfectly choreographed moves," Lee Gyu-tag, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at George Mason University Korea, told The Korea Times.
"Because the dance is essential to the genre, dance practice videos have naturally become a component that fans came to anticipate as much as the music video."
Niki Chen, a K-pop fan who lives in New York City, added that the rehearsal videos are also seen as visually realistic proof of the artists' efforts and skills. "Showing a less polished side of idols than what's seen in music videos is proof of how hard they work as you can see the whole performance more clearly and notice little aspects of the dance. Something about that is appealing; it makes you want to become a bigger fan," Chen said.
In BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" performance clip, fans can see the details of each member's movements and costumes in an aesthetically pleasing studio imbued with pink lights. The dance practice video featuring EXO Baekhyun's title song "Candy" takes it one step further with extravagant lighting and more dynamic camera movements using 180-degree turns and sudden tilts according to the song's beat.
Sometimes, the artists collaborate with other YouTube dance channels. After the release of the group's hit song "HIP" in 2019, MAMAMOO members performed with the key choreographers in the famous dance account 1MILLION Dance Studio. The clip was uploaded in addition to a more standard practice video, where members danced in "plain clothes" inside their talent agency's building.
The trend of releasing multiple versions of dance rehearsals for the same song is becoming more common as well. Girl group TWICE showcased two choreography videos for "Cry for Me" with different lighting and camera movements, while new all-female quartet aespa also released two separate videos of the choreography used in "Black Mamba": standard and "techwear" versions.
For the Billboard chart-topping "Dynamite," the megastar group BTS released an additional dance practice video, in which the septet performs the "dance break" version, which includes an instrumental break with extra choreography that was not featured in the music video
The popularity of such content even led to the birth of a YouTube channel called Studio Choom operated by CJ ENM's cable music channel Mnet. The channel only features one-take dance performances of a number of K-pop idols from multiple angles and under different lighting.
The growing demand among fans for such content is related to the proactive cultural consumption trends of Gen Z, who are the main consumers of K-pop, according to professor Lee. These devotees are used to watching cultural content and also voluntarily produce, edit, upload and discuss their own versions.
"The fan culture of producing various secondary, derivative creations from actual K-pop music and videos took root in the late 2000s, helping K-pop become more viral as a result. The most important parody content would be dance covers and reaction videos. Fans would upload and react to each other's versions, thereby using YouTube as a kind of giant K-pop online community," Lee said.
But in order to produce dance cover videos, fans have to be able to learn and follow the moves. Music videos and onstage performance videos are not ideal for this purpose, Lee explained, with their constant insertions of other shots driving the narrative or the frequent interruption of alternating close-ups and long shots.
In the end, dance practice videos, which only showcase the performative aspects with no dynamic visual interruptions, provide a solid base material for choreography enthusiasts.
Chen added that dance cover videos also offer a chance for international fans to form a psychological attachment to the idols as well as fellow devotees.
"One of my friends who is part of a dance group learns these dance moves as a way to get closer to the K-pop group, because such an experience makes them even more knowledgeable about the performances of their favorite idols. They can also enter online contests that might be noticed by the group," she said.
"It also means you get to have a set of people who are really interested in the same group and idols as you. It's an automatic bond you can build."
No mention of the iconic SM Cloud Room? Tragic. Those Studio Choom videos are done so nicely. What's your favorite dance practice video, Omona?
source: The Korea Times