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Learn K-Pop Dance

Benna Crawford
Dance

The dancers are beautiful, the moves are jaw dropping, the music is engaging, and the fandom is voracious. K-Pop, the Korean performance phenomenon, is a genre-bending, social media, entertainment juggernaut with choreography that drives its slick and appealing style.

South Korean Phenom

K-Pop is shorthand for Korean popular music, a hot mix of R&B, pop rock, hip hop, and electronic music out of South Korea, performed by meticulously styled youthful singer/dancer groups. K-Pop, first introduced in the '90s in South Korea, has a global following thanks to the Internet. It's a visual display with frequent music video releases, most with strong narratives and themes; moody, romantic, or energetic songs and dancing; insanely challenging and highly synchronized choreography; and suggestive but "clean" content that bridges East/West cultural considerations. K-Pop is aimed at an audience ranging from pre-teen to young adult, but its legions of fans include anyone who appreciates the aesthetics, polished presentation, intriguing androgyny and above all, the amazing dance moves.

K-Pop Moves

Pick up some K-Pop choreography by watching the wealth of videos on the web. Then work those steps into your next club appearance or kill your friends with your K-Pop awesomeness at a party.

Dabb

A good idea knows no borders. K-Pop dancers dabb. They do it with style. You can, too.

  1. Stand, facing front, with attitude.
  2. Fling your left arm up and out at shoulder height as you bend your right elbow.
  3. Bring your right forearm across your face. Dip your head forward into the crook of your right elbow, almost like a sneeze.
  4. Return to upright, arms-down position.

Small. Not subtle. Happens fast.

Jello Legs

  1. Step legs apart with toes either parallel or pointing out (away from each other).
  2. Sit down into your hips, a slight squat.
  3. Relax and bend your knees.
  4. Bend elbows, make the hands into fists, and hold arms at shoulder height in front of you.
  5. As you "roll" the forearms and clenched fists around each other, snap the knees in and out, almost touching and wide apart - very rapidly and keep it loose.

It's not a difficult move, but it looks impressive when you have it down after a lot of practice. Varying the arm movements and the speed of the in-out leg moves (as Crayon Pop does below) means you can slouch or pop this one, depending on the emo of the dance. Jello Legs is a quick maneuver to fill a beat, a slo-mo hip-swiveling move, or a rapid-fire way to travel between kicks and showy steps.

Chest Thrust

This one uses upper torso articulation to deliver sharp thrusts right on the beat.

  1. Stand tall with feet slightly wider than hip-width, weight resting on the balls of your feet.
  2. Clench your fists, relax your elbows so the arms are not stiff, and pull back with both hands, rolling the shoulders hard.
  3. At the same time, push your chest forward, thrust your head a bit forward, and keep your chin pulled in toward your collarbones.
  4. Repeat the pullbacks on the beat -- a one / one-two beat (one slow followed by two rapid chest thrusts) is very hip hop and street.

Scorpion

  1. Assume push-up position on the floor (supine, elbows bent, palms to floor under your shoulders, legs extended, toes curled under).
  2. Straighten your arms to raise yourself as you bend the right knee. Pull the knee under your torso as you shift your weight to it and kick your extended left leg up.
  3. Dip your arms (almost like a plie for your arms) and push up strongly to raise yourself from the ground onto your feet and standing.

Yeah, it's simple, but it's hard.

Backpack Kid

Global fusion is beautiful thing. Backpack Kid, first performed on SNL as a Katy Perry back-up dancer scene-stealer, is now a rage with both boy and girl K-Pop groups and their screaming fans.

  1. Face front, standing with legs hip-width apart and relaxed.
  2. Make fists and let your hands hang down, arms parallel.
  3. Keeping arms parallel, move them to the left and up to about shoulder height as you thrust your hips to the right. (The hip move happens naturally as you shift your weight from leg to leg without moving your feet.)
  4. Reverse the move in a pendulum swing -- arms down, front, and to the right and up as the hips move through to the left.
  5. On the next swing of the pendulum, bring the right arm behind the torso and the left in front as both move to the left and the hips shift to the right.
  6. Then execute a pass right with both arms coming in front.
  7. Next a cross-body arm swing in front, followed by the right arm in front and the left arm behind the torso.

It's like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Do it over and over until you get the rhythm and your peeps will be screaming at you, too.

Whip

Whip is primarily an arm move that is often used in walking or with any kind of close footwork, like prancing in sneakers.

  1. Thrust the "whip" arm forward from a retracted, bent-elbow, close-to-the-body position.
  2. Keep the fist tight or clench your hand as if it's wrapped around a whip.
  3. Leave the opposite arm back, either on the hip, in a pocket, resting against the small of the back or just behind the torso.

The move is aggressive; fling the whip arm to the front as if unleashing a real whip.

Baby Doll Walk

Girl groups do a lot of Beyonce-style posing, but Black Pink puts a spin on their music videos with sassy moves you can emulate.

  1. Walk forward with arms tight to your sides, elbows bent and forearms out, away from your body.
  2. As you step on the left foot, twist your lower torso to the right but keep the upper torso facing almost front.
  3. Bend the right knee, flex the right foot, and step the right foot down on the heel, foot still strongly flexed so the toes point up.
  4. Allow this step to thrust your left hip out naturally. (Or exaggerate it.)
  5. At the same time, straighten your elbows, flex your hands, thrust your chest down and forward, and turn your face to the front, left ear to left shoulder.
  6. Bend the right knee as you lower the entire right foot flat to the floor.
  7. Shift your weight to the right foot and step the left foot up to meet it, straightening the torso.
  8. Repeat the bent-knee step on the right foot, but this time, as you bring your left foot to meet it, turn to face the left side.
  9. Continue for another Baby Doll step or two in that direction.

Confusing, right? Not. Just watch Black Pink pull it off (about 1:14 in).

Shoulder Shuffle

Here's one to add to your slinky footwork, a quick sexy shrug to the beat that slows the action for a nanosecond. That's about how long it should take for you to learn it, too. The trick is to isolate shoulders as you raise and lower them.

  1. Raise your right shoulder.
  2. As you drop it, raise your left -- just the shoulder.
  3. Embellish the move: Lean your torso to the right and raise your right shoulder.
  4. Lower the right shoulder and smoothly shift your weight to the left, lean left and raise the left shoulder.
  5. Now give it some swag. Turn your head to look over the shoulder you are raising; this looks tough when you are trading shrugs and looks with a dance partner.

Your feet remain in a solid stance for Shoulder Shuffles or you can "wiggle" them back and forth as you shift weight, bouncing a little, from side to side. Tasty pulls it off with attitude at about 1:40 in their You Know Me vid.

Hallyu -- Catch It

Wanna B fabulous? Park yourself in front of a mirror with your laptop on view and practice a few dances until you can do the moves in your sleep. Now you can do them in public -- and kill it. Hallyu is a Korean word meaning "the Korean wave," the popular aspects of Korean culture sweeping the planet. Don't be left high and dry. Here are a few K-Pop dance sites to get you started.

  • RPM is your friend. Totally. Check their channel for a series of tutorials.

Not enough? Then find a few more samples of iconic dances DIY :

Daebak for K-Pop Dancers

Face it. K-Pop dance is seriously cool. So are you when you work a few moves you've secretly perfected in the privacy of your bedroom. Now you can teach that awesomeness to your friends, who will still envy you for your scorpion but like you for showing them how it's done. Daebak means "big win," great success," or "something impressive." Don't waste another 8-count before you get your K-Pop dance on and score an abundance of daebak for yourself.

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Learn K-Pop Dance