K-pop takes Grinnell

Maddie  Howland
howlandm@grinnell.edu
As part of the International Student Organization (ISO) Cultural Evening, Kat Scott-Nevros ’18 and Jarren Santos ’17 performed a Korean Pop dance routine last semester. The two had such a great experience that they didn’t want their Korean Pop experience to be limited to just that night.
“We thought, well, this is fun, we should expand it a little, because there are actually a lot of people on the campus who want to learn [Korean] Pop dance,” co-leader Scott-Nevros said. Thus Grinnell’s new Koreagraphy club was born.

From top: Jarren Santos ‘17, Peiyun Zhang ‘17 and Jun Taek Lee ‘18 at the ISO Cultural Evening last spring. Photo by Frank Zhu

From top: Jarren Santos ‘17, Peiyun Zhang ‘17 and Jun Taek Lee ‘18 at the ISO Cultural Evening last spring.
Photo by Frank Zhu

Korean pop, more widely known as K-Pop, originated in South Korea and encompasses a range of pop music styles, including hip hop, dance pop, pop ballad and electronic. It has been gaining popularity since the mid-2000s. For those unfamiliar with K-pop, Scott-Nevros recommends watching “Eternity” by VIXX, “Expectation” by Girl’s Day and “No No No” by A-Pink as an introduction.

The group meets in the Multipurpose/Dance Studio in the Bear Athletic Center on Thursdays from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Flanagan Studio Theatre in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Thursday sessions focus on learning choreography while Saturdays are open studio sessions meant for skill building and catching up. Practices usually consist of isolation warm-ups, choreographies and opportunities for dancers to observe each other and offer feedback.

Koreagraphy is open to participants of all skill levels from beginners to those with significant dance experience.

“I’ve been dancing for seven years now, but this is the first year that I’ve actually gotten serious about it,” Scott-Nevros said. She began dancing to Japanese pop (J-pop) but later transitioned to K-Pop, which she says is more complex and more focused on dance rather than music.

Esther Hwang ’19 didn’t have dance experience prior to joining Koreagraphy but she was persuaded by co-leader Santos to sign up at the New Student Orientation organization fair. Her summer trip to Korea had prompted her to connect more with Korean culture, and “…in Korea, basically everybody knows how to K-Pop,” she said.

Since Grinnell does not offer Korean language courses, Hwang sees this as a way she can participate and learn more about an aspect of the culture.
Kai Gui ’19 didn’t have dance experience either before he signed up for Koreagraphy. His introduction to K-pop originally came through Korean dramas featuring K-pop music.

“I listen to a lot of K-pop in my free time, [but I’ve] never danced before, but it seemed like it’d be a lot of fun to learn how,” he said.

For those scared by the prospect of performing, Scott-Nevros reassured that it’s not so much about the performance but just about having fun.

“It kind of helps that the lights are really bright so you can’t see the audience very well,” she said. “But at the same time you kind of focus on the music as opposed to everyone watching you, and you’re just doing it for fun.”

Koreagraphy will perform a medley at the upcoming Mid-Autumn Moon Festival on Sept. 26. The group will also perform at the Lunar New Year Celebration, the ISO Cultural Evening and hopes to host its own Koreagraphy showcase in the future.