Nine-member dancing group I' Generation from Indonesia dances to Girls' Generation's "I Got a Boy" at the K-pop Festival in Gangwon 2013 on Sept. 28. The team took the first place in the competition. / Courtesy of Visit Korea Committee
‘Creative stage arts and performances are best selling point'
By Park Jin-hai
Johnny Sevas, 20, from Australia, recalled the first time he saw SHINee's "Ring Ding Dong" music video a few years ago.
"The colors were really vibrant and dancing as well. And the songs were really catchy."
Soon, he watched one K-pop video after another and that eventually brought him, Alicia Chua, and four others to participate in the K-pop Cover Dance Competition held in Wonju, Gangwon, on Sept. 28.
They danced to the song of Korean boy band EXO, replicating the band's every moves in front of 10,000 spectators.
"We just walked out there and saw 10,000 people. It was like a dream-come-true for me," said the Sevas and Chua. Their team didn't win, but that didn't diminish their excitement.
They came from the same dance studio in Melbourne and have undergone three months of practicing before the competition. Asked about the charm of K-pop, they say that it is about the music that keeps on changing. "The industry is going where it should be," said Sevas.
Chua noticed that girl groups now feature more variance in dance moves unlike in the past. "Slowly this year, we see very strong girl dancers. Boy groups, as well. More urbane, R&B style and hip hop style," she said.
They said K-pop is getting a lot more popular in their country. K-pop events, thanks to many K-pop events held there like the one celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and Australia.
"Last year we had J-pop singers. This year, it's K-pop," added Chua. "It's slightly more and more. It's building up."
Nine-member dancing group I' Generation from Indonesia took the first place at the competition by dancing to Girls' Generation's "I Got a Boy."
Korean drama matters
They said their first interest was K-dramas.
"It was ‘Endless Love' series — Autumn in My Heart, Winter Sonata, Summer Scent, and Spring Waltz — that started the K-drama boom in my country. When I was looking up their sound tracks, I happened to see the pretty faces of K-pop singers," said Silvia Muryadi.
She said the creative stage arts and performances are the best selling point of the K-pop. However, she says the lack of communication skills of K-pop stars in general, is something that needs improvement.
"Except, 2NE1, I see few of them have the ability to communicate in English. As their fan base is fast expanding globally, I think they need to improve it," said Novita Gabriella, another member.
Heather Vaughn, 23 from Arizona, said what drew her to the K-pop is its uniqueness. She danced with her partner Vincent, who is from Texas, to the song "Trouble Maker," winning the 2nd place at the competition."
"Some of the choreographies can be really similar, but every now and then you see one specific move, like wow it looks really cool," she said. "Like ‘Lucifer's hand movement. That is so unique and something that you don't see in American music videos. I never thought that could be a dance move. But, it works perfectly."
The duo met at the regional finales in Los Angeles. He got first and she got second. And then they decided to participate as a team.
"He lives in Texas and I live in Arizona. We had about two weeks to decide what dance we do and then practiced alone by ourselves and then the three days together before the competition."
Vaughn thinks that K-pop and K-dramas go hand in hand.
"We're here for K-pop songs, then became interested in dramas. And then we would like both so much." She started to watch K-pops on the YouTube and now she also watchs K-dramas, including her favorite teenage music drama "Dream High."
She said Korean fashion also has a great influence on Americans. "Korean fashion is different than American fashion. It's more like shorts and long sleeves in Korea, whereas in America, long pants and tank-tops," said Vaughn. "I see people are trying to follow Korean fashion, recently. Korean hair style, too. You have this pony tail up here. I see them a lot."
As for the downsides of K-pop, she referred to some stars' "unnaturalness" stemming from too many plastic surgeries.
"Some stars get too much plastic surgery and they look unnatural. Daeseong's nose look so natural, Taeyang's eyes are natural. And they are super popular and super cute. I wish more groups wouldn't have pressure to be look really skinny and have perfect everything. Be more like themselves."