Famous dancer and choreographer Doris Humphrey once said “There are times when the simple dignity of movement can fulfil the function of a volume of words.” This is both true and helpful, especially if that volume of words is in a language I cannot understand. You can’t dance in a certain language, and you don’t have to be from from an American inner-city to enjoy break-dancing, or look good in a tutu to appreciate ballet. It is loved all over the word and can span from religious, to cultural, to competitive to that funny side-stepping thing you do when you are in a crowded place but the song on your iPod is just so good. In fact, even if you can’t or won’t dance, it is still easy to respect and watch. Do you really think K-pop would be as globally popular if almost every group didn’t have a huge focus on dancing? As someone who was raised on music in which synchronised dancing just wasn’t done, its importance and skill still amazes and delights me sometimes, even though when I dance each body part moves to its own beat and tempo — often completely independent of each other.
Thank goodness then, for dance MVs, music videos which shun plot to focus solely on the groups moves. Unlike live performance, what with their dodgy camera angles and risk of missteps, dance MVs make the dance look as flawless as possible and can spend the money that would go to a storyline on making the visuals extra good. Sometimes, the dancing or choreography is exceptional enough that the set and costumes don’t have to be mind-blowing. For the purpose of this article I am taking the term “dance MV” to mean a music video in which dance is the main or only aspect. No plot, not too many shots of the members doing aegyo or similar. For instance, 2NE1’s space version of “Fire” doesn’t count, but their street version does. Yet often it feels like each MV needs to be examined individually to make the assessment of quite what it can be categorised under. It’s easy to call any MV that doesn’t have a main plot a dance MV, but often these MVs feature little dancing. Big Bang are masters of what I call the action photoshoot, see “Love Story”, “Tonight”, “Monster”…everything off the Alive album. Then there are the likes of SHINee’s “Sherlock” and MBLAQ’s “It’s War”, plenty of dancing and plot, where, in each case, one aspect is often better than the other. In these cases I would prefer a straight-up plot and then a follow-up dance MV so I can pick and mix the bit I liked best, or have both. Unless the storyline is outstandingly interesting, well-written and executed —JYJ’s “In Heaven” or Brown Eyed Girls’ “Cleansing Cream.” I have always gravitated towards dance-only MVs as they tend to do away with the possible confusion of a story yet aren’t as potentially boring as MVs in which the idols do little expect pout and smoulder at the camera.
Not convinced? Well then, here are a few really good dance MVs that are worth a look:
Taeyang’s “Where U At” is simple, slick and swag-tastic. Taeyang is good, often cited as one of K-pop’s best, and YG knows all it has to do is sit back and let him work his magic; which Taeyang does admirably. A perfect example of when the talent is the most important part of the performace.
One of the few music videos to get nearly as many views as the plot MV, Brown Eyed Girls‘ “Abracadabra” is a brilliant example of how the members do not have to be dance machines to pull off a seriously competent MV. Still one of the sexiest MVs out there, the girls own the screen and your attention. Low in special effects and budget, high in attitude and leather. What more could you want?
Super Junior’s “It’s You”; lacking the catchy dance move of “Sorry Sorry” or the aggressive (but welcome) hip-thrusts of “Bonamana”, this one is often forgotten. However the choreography and execution is some of Super Junior’s best work, no gimmicks, no idol-bias close-ups, but excellent use of all the members. SM needs to pay less attention to the boxes they are dancing in and more to what they are actually doing in those boxes if this is the result that could be achieved
Basically the best bits of every street versus classical dance flick ever, BoA’s “Eat You Up” is different to my other choices: higher budget, more action and less static dancing than the others it puts to bed any doubts about BoA’s title as the best K-pop female dancer. Plus, the floor cracks! Glasses explode! Everyone looks on in shock and awe! Shamelessly over-the-top, but it works.
A few honourable mentions are Beast’s “Shock” (oh so close to making into the top four), miss A’s Good Girl Bad Girl, Infinite’s “Before The Dawn” and SHINee’s “Love Like Oxygen.”
You will notice that some of my choices are the only released MV, and some are extra dance MVs. These accompanying MVs are clever; they give their idols extra exposure while recycling costumes and sets. However, if the group’s forte isn’t dance, why bother? Take Woollim Entertainment and SM, both companies that often give their artists dance MVs on top of their plot-based or face-based ones. For Infinite it’s understandable, they are a group famous of their synchronisation and when MVs such as “BTD” and “Come Back Again” feature little dancing, the fans will want more than a practise video. Similarly, 2PM often gets and deserves both. However, SM has recently released the “Paparazzi” MV, Gold Edition. This is on top of their original dance MV. Let’s be honest here: Girls’ Generation have many fine qualities, but their dancing really isn’t good enough to merit two dance MVs. Everyone knows the real purpose of this MV is so we can all get a really good look at the girls, just in case somehow we have missed the two previous MVs of the same song. Interestingly, SM have released more dance MV’s for Super Junior (“A-Cha” got two) and Girls Generation than it has for the superior dancers SHINee and f(x). That alone suggests dance MVs are more a popularity gag than any real attempt to showcase a groups’ ability.
I will forgive SM everything though, if they continue to make dance videos a la TVXQ‘s “Before U Go.” Half extended perfume advert, half soft-core porn – you spend the entire video poised between cringing and bliss. My favourite bit is when a dancer slides to his knees and helped up by an omnibenevolent but sexy Yunho, thus accurately portraying the feeling of every watching fangirl. Was it in the choreography or did he just get overcome? Who knows, who cares, look at Changmin’s legs!