With the influx of song covers, make-up tutorials and dances covers on YouTube these days, it seems making it big à la Justin Bieber has reached levels of a pandemic. With an eye for opportunity, K-pop entertainment companies have found a way to also use video-sharing with the intent of bonus promotional efforts and after 2NE1’s success and their 2011 win for MTV Iggy Best New Band, who would blame them?

Although the wonders of the YouTube/K-pop fusion seem dampened by an amateur’s lackluster rendition or competitions sponsored by entertainment companies, video uploads that are original and worthwhile do exist especially under the keyword: dance cover. Despite mediocre performances filmed in HD resolution and Facebook hackers sabotaging international dance cover contests, it is a phenomenon within the K-pop fandom that’s given rise to both professional and amateur dance teams worth subscribing to.

Korean Pro Dance Teams

With K-pop being a Korean pop genre and practically a product fabricated in Korea, it is no surprise that most of the professional dance teams covering K-pop choreography are based in the motherland. The charm of these dance teams is that their videos are filmed within their dance studio with the only decoration being a prop or their themed outfits. Being that the only videos filmed in outdoor settings are those that occur when they’re onstage during dance tours, watching their covers and dance tutorials is a very organic and intimate experience.

MERIT  is a Korean Pro Dance Team with the scarcest presence on YouTube considering how difficult it is to find their videos. Unlike Waveya or Black Queen, MERIT doesn’t seem to have a channel dedicated to their team, yet videos of their incredible dance covers are uploaded by multiple users showing their influence and level of talent. Mainly filmed within a small, unembellished dance studio, the focus is set on their vivacious performance with their matching dance outfits being the only adornment under artificial lighting or black light.

Waveya is one of the two top Korean Dance Pro teams on YouTube. With their own channel and their own Daum cafe site, Waveya has a considerable level of online presence as a pro dance team although not on an international basis as of yet. They cover American artists like Beyonce (whose choreography is popular among other Korean pro dance teams) along with K-pop choreography from both male and female idol groups. Their videos are also filmed within their own studio. Their outfits and a bit of cinematographic effects adds rather than distracts the viewer from their performance. With most of their covers filmed “mirrored,” they aren’t only a dance team but in fact a dance school based in Korea with international scope.

Black Queen is one of the top Korean Pro Dance teams. Like Waveya, they also have a YouTube channel and Daum café site. They’ve made appearances on KOON TV, SBS and were featured with the Supreme Team at the Seoul Music Awards Show in 2011.  With an international mini tour and an invitation by Cloud 9, they’ve performed in Malaysia, China and Australia and have a larger presence outside of Korea. Their covers range from Beyonce medleys and K-pop/Pop fusions (like the Black Eyed Peas’ “Hey Mama” leading into After School’s “Ah”) to complete dance tutorials filmed in their studio. Their resume is enough to reflect their versatility and influence as a pro dance team within and beyond South Korea.

High School Dance Teams

Adding to the K-pop dance cover phenomenon, are High School Dance Teams and from the many uploading their videos onto YouTube B.girls are the most impressive. Unlike pro dance teams, their videos aren’t filmed an actual studio but what seems to be classroom at Bu Young High School where they attend. Their simple outfits as well as the song title written out across a chalkboard that hangs behind them create a singular atmosphere from that of the pro dance team. Yet, their covers are well executed portraying their dedication and interest in both dance and K-pop choreography.

Solo Cover Dancers

Apart from dance teams, there are also the solo dancers whose covers have the same appeal and energy as those done by pro or high school dance teams. With a background in ballet and self-taught in Hip-Hop, Kaotsun is a native of Perth, Australia who began teaching K-pop choreography after her dance covers (which range from T-ara’s “Roly Poly” to 2PM’s “Heartbeat”) increased in popularity on YouTube. A winner of online sponsored K-pop dance contests, Kaotsun’s videos are simple–without much special effects added and shot at home. Yet, her precision while dancing and liveliness demonstrates that the true essence of a proper dance cover lies beyond HD resolution and exotic settings.

Ahjumma Dance Teams

The covers done by the XX Dance School of Korea (Mother’s Class) may be the most enjoyable to watch simply because one can’t help to feel a certain level of admiration and respect for these women. From the Brown Eyed Girls’ “Sixth Sense” to Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby,” these ahjummas accomplish learning a variety of K-pop choreographies almost to idol perfection, conjuring to mind the phrase “If they can do it, then I can too.” Filmed on a handheld camera and beginning with a dance student running to her place after pressing “play,” their videos seem more like documentations of their progress within the class rather than instructional cover tutorials.

Along with concepts and a catchy song, an idol group must have dance choreography with the equivalency to a hook in their arsenal of sensory effects. With moves that are meant to enthrall the audience, the package is signed, sealed and ready for consumption. Yet, what is most curious is the response in form of a well-executed cover from a variety of talented dancers. From members of a pro dance team to the dance student in a Mother’s Class, the influence of K-pop choreography is a trend with scope that goes beyond age and background and acknowledged by entertainment companies via sponsored dance cover contests. Despite the aftertaste these elaborately filmed contest entries leave behind, it’s still one K-pop trend I’m completely enamored with.

(AsianMusicVideoHD, waveya2011, BlackQueenWorldTour, Newnuhify, kaotsun, freddommk1, University of Southern California: Asia Pacific Arts)