Photo courtesy of Annika Vande Kool ('19)
“To me, dance is something that really allows me to express myself,” Ga-Young Kim (‘22) said. “Being in a group that not only challenges me and pushes me to presemt a difficult art form, but also shares it with people who maybe don’t know much about K-pop, is very rewarding, and so ꓘ-project is truly very special to me.”
Luther college’s K-pop dance group, -project, is a student founded and led organization. Itconsists of over a dozen members of many different skill levels and backgrounds, all dedicated to exposing the Luther community to a new cultural experience. -project seeks to share not only their love of dance with campus, but also their interest in Korean pop-culture.
“K-pop offers a lot of expressive art in costume, dance and music,” -project member Esther Choo (‘22) said. “K-pop is a huge umbrella term that covers more than just the stereotypical boy or girl groups, and I think sometimes people don’t realize that. While there are definitely countless idol groups that fall under the K-pop category, there is a lot more to the world of K-pop than just one specific image. ”
The group was founded by Nam Nguyen (‘18) and Namuun Tsend-Ayush (‘17) in 2015, and was originally called Koreality. They started dancing as a pair and were later joined by Kien Dao. People came and went, but Nguyen, Tsend-Ayush, and Dao were the primary members until 2017. They started the group out of mutual interest in dance and love for K-pop music and the dance style. After they graduated, Morgan Seemann (‘20) and Iris Johnson (‘20) became the new leaders.
“K-pop is multifaceted, so we do not really try to define anything,” Johnson said. “[We] provide a space where people can become more familiar with the K-pop culture, and talk about what’s happening with artists and groups. What’s nice about this group is that it’s open ended. We’re about inclusivity, and we hope that it gets people interested in engaging with media that they are unfamiliar with.”
K-pop, also known as Korean popular music, is a musical genre that incorporates elements of hip hop, pop rock, electronic, and R&B music into a new format, originating from South Korea. Popular groups include BTS, EXO, and BLACKPINK.
As the art form has grown in popularity, the word “K-pop” has begun to be said in a different context. Accourding to Vox, “K-pop” has been increasingly used to describe a global subculture among young people that is particularly interested in the fashion, entertainment, and “idol” culture of eastern Asia, which centers around the veneration of specfic performers by their fanbase.
Dance is an essential component of K-pop. Like the music it is choreographed to, K-pop dance is a combination of several different styles, including mainstream movements, hip hop, modern dance, and some jazz. Some believe the dances fall into a “feminine” or “masculine” binary, which -project has been attempting to address with their performances.
“Sadly, Asian culture works in a way that there are boy choreographies and girl choregraphies,” Nyi Myint Nora (‘22) said. “We’re trying to really break that norm by assuring everyone that regardless of gender identity, they can dance, and we are being more experimental in our dance arrangements, and mixing the different components of each dance style.”
ꓘ-project had its first public performance of the year at the International Students and Allies Association fashion show on Oct. 26. The dance was choreographed and rehearsed over a 48 hour period, before being performed in front of the large audience. Some attendees found it to be the most exciting part of the show.
The next ꓘ-project event will be the BTQ talent show, which they placed second in last year.
“We want to definitely go for gold this year,” Nyi Myint said. “We are working really hard, and I think people will be shocked.”