Double Standard: Dancing in Kpop

As with most genres whose premise is based on the superficial, Kpop is a fickle and seemingly diabolical business. There’s a very loose focus on the actual talent of a group or artist; however, label owners and CEOs are not exactly noblemen. They’re more princes of profit, advertising svengalies who pull in audiences with the hypnotizing sex appeal of their top idols.

The standards are inexplicably high, nigh on unattainable. However, the grueling work ethic and thirst for perfection creates a seismic divide between those stars who make it and those who get passed around from group to group in a perpetual torrent of judgment and dissatisfaction. For those who reach that pinnacle, there’s a greater emphasis on certain aspects and expectations.

The competition then becomes a veritable battle of the sexes when you take into consideration the preparation and standard to which certain idols are held. Vocally, there are those whose talents are obviously astronomical, to the point of overshadowing even those artists lying outside the Kpop craziness. However, dance as a visual artform is semi-instantly gratifying. When the complexities of choreography are broken down, it becomes more about what dancing is going to get the most attention and for what reasons. Thus the double standard set in society entrenches itself in pop culture in stark fashion.

Camiele

As unexpected as my path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is my ability to get attention for writing about the stuff.

17 Responses

  1. amy says:

    As a Brown Eyed Girls fan, I really think it’s unfair to illustrate girl-dancing in Kpop with them. xD I think I read BEG’s dances are purposely simpler because JeA is not that coordinated or something. I swear I’ve read that explanation somewhere and I just believed it because of this. Can’t fight with that.

    Having said that, I miss 90s girl dancing when it was more about stomping, energetic and sometimes angry (in the case of Scream) dancing – even Britney used to move while dancing to Baby One More Time or Crazy — than the sway sway jiggling your junk style of dancing that people do now. Having said that, also LOL, at least I’m glad Korea still puts some emphasis on their idols dancing… I don’t think any pop idol in America can dance now… so we only have Madonna LOL who did that awkward press in the Sexy and I Know It sequence of the Superbowl show. xD

    Oh man, I miss Janet… and TLC. And, of course, MJ.

    Btw, have you seen Kahi (from After School) dancing a la MJ. She does it pretty good. I think that if companies weren’t so intent in selling women as sexy thangs, Kahi could do promotions with kickass choreography. A similar thing with BoA – but people are so intent in selling them as sex symbols that they wash down their dancing skills for a couple of strut, strut… bend and snap! LOL

    I hope BoA’s dancing film has, at least, some cool dancing. In general all these dancing movies have quite good dancing… it’s the bad script or acting that ruin the film for me haha.

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, The only reason why I mentioned BEG wasn’t to diss them dancing-wise. As I mentioned, their focus (as with some other idol groups) isn’t on the dancing at all. However, as far as the idea that the choreography is geared for a specific audience for specific reasons is more or less what I’m going for. I didn’t exactly illustrate girl dancing with BEG, but mentioned them as a means to show that there are other groups who concentrate on other things besides dancing, yet the guys STILL have choreo that’s more tehcnically sharp, or at least less about being overtly sexy. Choreo can be simple, doesn’t mean that it has to only focus on shakin’ ass and dippin’ it low. Like I said, Teen Top’s chreo was mad simple and cute, but it took advantage of the skill set in the group and focused on the dance aspect.

      And, yes. Dancing from the 90s was ALWAYS ferocious… even if at times it was silly. But the choreography always highlighted some sort of dancing talent, not just jigglin T&A. In fact, that was the only thing I actually respected about Britney Spears. She can’t sing and her songs sound the same, but she could always move like a BAWS! You’re right, you’d be hard-pressed to find an idol in the US that can actually dance. Janet’s still fierce when she performs and from what people have said so is Madge… but, I mean, where are the yungins to represent the new generation? Nowhere to be found. It’s sad, really.

      I don’t even do dancing films. Like you said, the script and acting always ruin it for me. They may as well just do a dance special and save the script for something else… like Breakin’. Classic dance film from the 80s… that script and that acting SOOOOOOO~ bad!!! One of the worst… HaHa.

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, oh did you ever get to watch Take the Lead? That had some good dancing. Plus, the director had a lot of experience with music videos, so the pacing of the film wasn’t bad. I think that’s one of the better dance films I’ve seen… it doesn’t hurt that it’s also a true story xD

        I think in terms of who dances… let’s call it “more energetic” – it is a matter of gender. The female dancers in MJ’s dance as ferocious as MJ when they had to (and with heels many a times!!!), I never really saw them as “female dancers”. I don’t know when the shift happened… maybe it was a transition between Britney One-More-Timing, Aguilera Dirrrtying, Britney Slaving 4U, and Beyonce’s Crazy in Loving xD

        In between that, Aaliyah passed away… Left Eye too – TLC was gone. Even Destiny’s Child choreography was less about the shaking in tracks like Survivor.

        I think a lot of the focus went into becoming a singer/songwriter, so everyone began strumming their guitars… but not everyone is a songwriter and just because one can strum their guitars, it doesn’t mean I’m a master at it, so the pop scene was left with a lot of mediocre lyrics and lame emotional pop rock about unrequited love or something.

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, AAAAANDDDD you pretty much broke down the decline of pop music for in the US for the last 10 years. You’re right. When it came to dancing, you never differntiated gender… there were no “male” dancers and “female” dancers… there were just DANCERS! Not so much anymore. Take the Lead… was that with Antonio Banderas and about him teaching the kids ballroom? Because that movie was actually quite entertaining. It didn’t hurt that Rufio from Hook was in it… HaHa.

        • Rodrigo says:

          @amy, While some of the deaths you mentioned did affected the pop scene, I remember another reason why it went downhill: around early 2000-2002, the pop scene was starting to get overcrowded. There was more boybands than just N*SYNC and BSB and not all of them were memorable as those two. Then, spanish-speaking singers were trying to get into the English market and some of their songs are hit and miss. Not to mention that boyband members started their solo careers and some were successful, but others didn’t.

          It’s a long story for the downfall.

  2. Camiele says:

    @Rodrigo, there were a number of gradual factors that led to it, but the overall point is that it all became real monotone and uninteresting. And as goes the music, so goes the dancing (or, at least, the highlighting of good dancing).

  3. Evan says:

    I think that this article could have been really great, and I agree that there is a discrepancy between how male and female dancing is perceived (in both kpop and american music), the only real problem I have with the article are the examples you posted for the girl groups.

    Since I am not a big follower of all the boy groups, its not in my place to say whether or not you were right with which groups are the best dancers, although for me SHINee comes to mind immediately with all-around good dancers. However, for the girls, I have different opinions.

    First was when you compared After School and 4Minute. Truthfully, I was surprised that you decided that 4minute was the better dancing group. In that particular performance, 4minute was much better than After School, but you are ignoring other performances by After School, and 4minute, which are more precise and less than par respectively. For instance, there is After Schools cover of Shinhwa’s Wild Eyes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVWLvQRtAO0&feature=related) and they were pretty “crisp” and “intricate” there. I tried to find the least sexy After School performance I could, and while I admit that was hard, I wouldn’t say that any of their “sexy” performances are badly danced. Quite the opposite, I would say that they are great sexy dancers, I mean you wouldn’t consider Shakira or Beyonce to be a bad dancer, right? (Not that I’m comparing After School to Shakira or Beyonce, I’m just saying). Also, I tend to find that as a group 4minute doesn’t seem to be all that organized, and that often times they are missing beats or just completely unaware of the choreography whatsoever. Take Hyunah’s performance with Kahi (coincidentally from After School) and Yuri, when they performed Womanizer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSjKRRHEbnI&feature=related). Frankly I was embarrassed for Hyunah, because it was obvious she had no idea what the choreography was, and was just dancing whatever she wanted. I find this tends to be the case with 4minute performances, although they are good dancers, they happen to be more on the disorganized side than anything else, but I will give them credit for being powerful dancers when they are in sync. Take this performance of their dance battle against Miss A (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKNUd-9r_Hs). Sure, at the end 4minute pulled their act together and managed to have some pretty good dancing, but in the beginning they were all over the place. Which slightly contradicts your point of them being “crisp, intricate, and accurate”. Miss A, on the other hand, was, for the most part, on beat the whole time, with the exception of Fei being late on her turn at the beginning. They did have a lot easier choreography, but all in all Miss A is quite a better dancing group than say 4minute and After School.

    Which, coincidentally, is my next point. Why wasn’t Miss A mentioned as one of the best dancing groups? And for that matter, why were they mentioned as a group that didn’t put a lot of focus on dancing? Just think of all of their album title songs, they are all intricate, technical dances. Breathe (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16sfLHXAASU) and Touch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EbNrj4Bd7Y) are probably more technical than BGGB or GBB, but all of them are technical dances, and much more demanding then say The Boys or Volume Up. In my opinion, they are probably the best girl group in dancing, and I was surprised to say the least when you said that they spent more time focusing on vocals and song writing.

    I know that this has been a long comment, and if you have read this far then thanks, I would like to know what you think of what I have said. I do agree with the idea behind the article, that there is much more of a push for just “sexy” girl dances rather than actual technical ones, and that boys are always held to a higher bar in comparison, I just think the examples and evidence could have been done a bit differently. Anyways, thanks for writing!

    • amy says:

      @Evan, thank you for your comment! I personally would put Kahi on top of my dancing list xD But I’ll let Camiele discuss the merits of Miss A in here.

    • Camiele says:

      @Evan, Hey, Evan. Yeah… I just realized that I didn’t respond directly to your comment and seeing as this is almost six months old, I’m truly very sorry. The response is below this one, though, if you were interested. I just didn’t want you to think I brushed you off.

      Have a good one and, again, thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment ^__^

  4. Camiele says:

    @Evan, Hey, Evan. Thanks for responding. :)

    Firstly, the point of “choosing” 4Minute over After School. In the first place, I didn’t pick 4Minute over After School at all, it was actually quite the opposite (“The end result was that After School won this dance battle — based mostly on the reaction from the audience and the group’s overall connectedness throughout”). I actually agree with you regarding 4Minute’s performance (“The second half of their performance, however, was geared towards entertaining the crowd more with the girls’ supposed sensuality. Instead, the dancing was lackluster, lacking in precision, timing, and any real sense of synchronicity.). However, I didn’t, in fact, choose either group. The person who posted that particular dance battle stated in their description that at the end of the contest After School won. As far as my examination of the dancing, I commented on what I noticed and what I perceived to be the reason why After School won that particular dance battle.

    As for the videos I chose, I sifted through battles between girl groups and pretty much found all of them dancing the same: focus on being sexy rather than anything technical or powerful. At least for the sake of the audience and the battle in and of itself, I couldn’t find much to go on. I didn’t use MVs or individual performances because I wanted to show two groups dancing against each other and from what I was made to understand 4Minute was one of the best dance groups. In terms of overall performance, After School seems to be the better group from what I’ve seen. However, again, all I’ve seen is the attempts at what’s considered “sexy”.

    It’s not whether or not the dancers do well dancing “sexily” or not. However, what I see is that the perception of “sexy” is wiggling the hips, posing, and “walking”, all of which are easy cop-outs for sexuality. While with dancers like Janet Jackson, Madonna, Ciara, even, the choreography that they use and the way their bodies interpret the dancing informs their sexuality and not the other way around. For the record, I actually don’t find Beyonce to be that impressive of a dancer — she’s alright, but nothing special in my eyes. Shakira, while her movements are sharp, is a bellydancer and her movements and choreography are indicative of that type of dance. Bellydancing in and of itself is sexy; Beyonce’s dancing is “meh” for me.

    Regarding MissA not putting a lot of focus on their dancing, it’s more their focus is their powerful vocals and their great songwriting. Their choreography is interesting at times from what I’ve seen; however, as far as dancers in the group, I can only see one that is really impressive to me and that’s Min. The others are alright at the chreo they’re given, but it’s nothing incredibly interesting to watch. In terms of overall dancers in an entire group, with MissA being a group of four, if I were to focus on them as a dance group, I’d expect all of them to be impressive, and in my humble opinion, I don’t. I will say this, I did make a slight to the group in terms of the type of chreography they use, and I’ll admit that. Whoever does their choreography does focus more on highlighting something besides just the sexiness. So I’ll definitely give it to them for that much.

    In all fairness, as far as being intricately involved with girl groups, I’m not so much because I find so many of them to be fluff. I know more about guy groups for two reasons: 1) I’ve always been closer to guys in general all my life and 2) the boys (for the most part, every group has their exceptions) seem to just have an all around feel about them. Everything is done to such precision that I’m constantly shocked at the amount of talent in all those groups. I was mostly depending on another Kpop fangirl’s advice regarding girl groups and I went from there and tried to form my own opinions from what I saw.

    I’m sincerely happy you responded. I like long responses (if you can’t already tell) and long conversation — ask Amy, I LIVE for that stuff!

    • amy says:

      @Camiele, in defense of Beyonce (gasp! shocking, huh?), I thought she danced pretty good in Survivor – then again, I MISS THOSE DAYS. xD But she danced quite decently in Run the World.

      And remember when TLC did their No Scrubs MTV performance, and they did some tap-dancing and karate-chopping? I think the way the dancing goes has also to do with the things they talk about in their songs… I mean, comparing songs like MBLAQ’s This Is War, to Miss A’s Touch xD It’s easier to do a more physically demanding choreography with a song called This Is War… and a more sensual one with a song called Touch. ~~~

      The question is… why can’t girls sing a song called This Is War!!! Aggressive-dancing wise, the only one that comes to mind is BoA’s Eat You Up (even though it’s super silly) – I feel like that was the last time I saw a girl dancing that powerful. After School’s Step Up was quite aggressive too, but in a different way. xD

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, It’s not necessarily that the dancing has to be aggressive, per se. It’s just the idea of “sexy” is pretty uninspiring. Just because a song is sexy doesn’t mean that the choreography has to be all hip rolling, flinging the hair, and catwalking. I keep going back to Janet and Madonna. Even… if you look at Ciara’s video for Promise (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESeHoGDKHM4), sure the song is sexy and so is the dancing; however, the chreography is more engaging than simply shaking her ass and rolling her hips. The movement is sexy, the way she carries the choreography is sexy, but there’s more substance to it than just what is considered “sexy” choreography.

        The way sexy is defined is pretty boring, one-dimenionsal, and almost a slap in the face to those who actually use the movement to define the sexuality and not let the prescribed view of sexy define the movement. That’s the problem with much of the female choreogrpahy that I see. It’s all one dimesional and wtih very little meat… there’s nothing there.

        • amy says:

          @Camiele, I know what you mean. I’m just referring “aggressive” as a trait we relate for to “the masculine” concept. I think Ciara shows the difference between boys and girls in the video for Like a Boy [MV] where she dances in both ways. So maybe it’s more about labeling stuff… putting female dancing as sexy or more “delicate” of strutting and swaying hips – because that’s feminine, and as a society we’ve become uncomfortable with anything that doesn’t fit the idea of feminine.

          Advertising and selling one’s image have done two horrible things to women xD they make us criticize women who accept their feminine side and enjoy being that way, and then others criticize other women for not adhering to it… accusing them of acting like a guy.

          But to be honest… it’s harder to get a group of girls who would have the technical skills and swag – not all can keep being sexy for guys and have the swag girls want them to have. Like I said, Kahi could do it if she wanted to, she’s done many different types of dancing (some shaking, strutting and even ballroom dancing LOL) – the thing is the market. Executives (who are mostly male) need girls who can make girls and guys swoon. It’s easier to find women who would accept other girls — girly or boyish — than guys. Which makes me wonder how many male fans Amber from f(x) has. As far as I’ve noticed, it’s all girls swooning for her.

          Then there’s the whole discussion on whether couple dancing can be between females or males, or whether there needs to be a female and male form (I think I found a topic for the LGBT Blogathon LOL). To some they’re inherently different styles of dancing, and there needs to be a difference in form. I wonder if that means a woman could take the form of the male while a man could take the form of the female. There’s a lot of Yin/Yang thing going on xD

  5. Camiele says:

    @amy, I see what you mean. I also agree. That’s why I think discussions like this become more pertinent. Is there even a way for us to redefine sexy? Should we? I think that it becomes so uninteresting to see that the same old same old is what we define as sexy. I suppose I should be less stuck up about it… there are, after all, different ideas of sexy and mine just so happens to be only one in a few.

    This is a very interesting and valid point you make. And it also takes into consideration gender labels and assignments. Amber (the ONLY member I actually know from f(x)… HaHa) breaks the mould of what it means to be “female”. I think that’s why I wrote this. The societal norms that we hold so dear to have (obviously) bled into our music and into what people are selling us. It’s always been this way, so it’s not like this is a new thing. But I think it’s something people should think about as far as gender and even music theory goes.

    What do you think? I think you just hit the nail on the head.

  6. Camiele says:

    @amy, and, by the way. Kahi definitely did her thing to Dangerous. I gotta give the girl mad props for that one.

  7. Just wanted to say that this was a great article. I love the reviewer’s language choices in making the observations.

  1. May 18, 2012

    […] Double Standard: Dancing in Kpop (YAM […]

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