Double Standard: Dancing in Kpop
Now, generally speaking, labelling anything “best” or “worst” is all a matter of objectivity. However, in the context of breaking down, not only the level of intricacy of the choreography, but also the technical skill of individual members of a group, these labels are apt insomuch as they inform to what degree society’s roles are ingrained into pop culture. That being said, there are those groups who may have one (maybe two) standout performers, but whose overall dance skill is lacking. Groups like SHINee and Big Bang [MV] — for the guys — and miss A [MV] and Brown Eyed Girls [MV] — for the girls — rely more on vocal ability and songwriting, while groups like 2PM [MV] (guys) and T-ara (girls) rely more on attitude or personality.
However, even within this dichotmy one can see the difference in terms of style of dance and how it’s expressed. For the guys, it’s more fire and precision; for girls, it’s more about sex appeal or an (uncomfortable) amount of cuteness. For example:
SNSD vs. SHINee:
In this video between one of the best female dance groups, SNSD, and one of those whose main focus isn’t necessarily the dancing, SHINee, note how the female choreography is centered around being “sexy” — winding, shaking the hips, strutting around — while the two members of SHINee (Taemin and Minho) are focused on the precision and pop of their movements.
Even when the hard-hitting choreography accompanying Michael Jackson’s Jam became the focus of this on-stage collaboration, the more precise movements came off a bit loose-limbed and uncoordinated between the members of SNSD while SHINee’s Taemin and Minho found a balance of masculine charm and pinpoint accuracy.
In the end, it seems that it’s not even a matter of who dances better, per se. In a real sense, particularly regarding SNSD, the dancers in these female groups may outclass their male counterparts technically. However, it’s a rare occasion when that precision is highlighted. The choreography will always call for the females to use their sensuality and feminine charms to impress an audience while the choreography indicative of male pop groups will highlight every aspect of their performance, including bring forth the best abilities of each member no matter how unspectacular their actual technical skill.
In the long run we have to ask ourselves, what do we expect of our men and women? As Kpop fans we expect to see the guys use routines that highlight every aspect of their appeal, that includes their ability to carry powerful choreography and balance it with each member’s natural charisma. Does it follow, then, that we expect our girls to be sex symbols, devoid of anything other than the ability to sway their hips? How is it that we can consider the fire, pop, and sharp intricacy of the guys equivalent to the shake and shimmy of the girls? Do we consider dance in a different light when thinking of men and women? In my mind — and as I find in my favorite female dancers — precision, power, and technicality is all part in parcel to the inherent sexiness of the dancer. Those who I respect the most don’t cop-out behind “being sexy” in lieu of being great dancers, rather they embrace both and find a way to balance intricate movement with natural sex appeal.
In Kpop there seems to be a sharp contrast between the two. So now I’m left questioning how the consuming population at large manages to justify praising the guys’ technical dominance with the same ardor as the girls’ ability to move their hips. Or am I just thinking about it too much? I don’t know. What do you think?