20160524_seoulbeats_monstax_clanWe’ve already discussed our favorite MVs, albums, dramas, and indie music of 2016 in the SB Mid-Year Reviews. Now, we move onto one of the primary staples of k-pop — the dances. Months of practicing goes into assembling some of the most intricate routines ever seen, but does that always make for good choreography? A couple of our writers, Cjontai and Lorenza, give their thoughts about who stood out best on the stage.

Lorenza Cjontai
1 BTS – “Save Me” BTS – “Save Me”
2 Seventeen – “Pretty U” BTS – “Fire”
3 Monsta X – “All In” Up10tion – “Attention”
1 Twice – “Cheer Up” Twice – “Cheer Up”
2 Mamamoo – “You’re The Best” Cosmic Girls – “Mo Mo Mo”
3 Luna – “Free Somebody” Oh My Girl – “Windy Day”

Honorable mentions: Got7 “Fly” and LABOUM “Journey to Atlantis”

Lorenza: It was tough choosing my top three for the year so far. From the boy groups, there’ve been quite a few groups that caught my eye, making it harder to narrow down. Many of the larger groups have started using that to their advantage by creating interesting formations. It was so difficult to not include “Attention” by Up10tion, but my top three and even “Fly” just held my attention more.

For the girl groups, though, it was harder simply because most of them didn’t have particularly interesting or complex choreo. Twice’s “Cheer Up” choreo is really cute and appropriate for the group. Plus, it uses the fact that there are so many bodies in the group to their advantage. Other than that though, I wasn’t really impressed with many of the other girl groups.

Cjontai: I agree this year definitely had its challenges in narrowing down the field. The groups are getting better at defining their styles, so when you have a plethora from which to pick, it becomes overwhelming. I considered several factors, like musicality, synchronicity, and cleanliness in execution. I also had to ask myself, “Is there another group dancing this way? Could someone else performing the same choreography pull it off?” If the answer was “no,” then that routine became a contender.

The thing that stood out most to me in all these dances was the cohesive teamwork. If anyone in these groups was a weak link, I had a difficult time finding them. It was imperative for everyone to keep up; otherwise, these routines would’ve been a hot mess.

Lorenza: Exactly. The teamwork is what made these dances work. It’s what makes them interesting!

I think the only exception to this for both our lists is BTS’s “Save Me.” To me, while there are moments of synchronization, for the most part they don’t need to all hit the moves at the same time. Both the choreography and the song feel so intimate and personal, so the fact that the choreography leans more interpretive pairs well. It gave me chills the first time I saw it if we’re being honest (but that might just be my BTS stan showing).

I absolutely love the choreography for “Cheer Up.” While it might not be as complex as some other dances, it has some great moments in the it. It also retains the quirkiness that Twice is known for and gives each member a moment to shine. I was drawn particularly to the transitions they make during the chorus. Plus the choreo for when they sing “shy shy shy” has already become a meme with at least 3 boy bands doing their own interpretations of it on music shows since the release.

Cjontai: I considered Seventeen for a minute, but I don’t know. Something about “Pretty U” fell a little short for me. It goes back to my criteria from earlier, asking myself if someone else could perform it as well or better. Watching that routine reminded me of B1A4 and BtoB. It’s probably that foot tapping move they do. Unlike “Mansae” from last year, this routine sort of compacted things by having the members in tight formations. It looked a little claustrophobic, and a group that large needs all the breathing room they can get.

Lorenza: What sold me on “Pretty U” was watching the various dance versions they put out. When they performed on the music shows, I agree that it looked a bit claustrophobic, but in the LOVE version, you get a clear picture of what each member is doing.

Interestingly the foot tap that they do is my favorite part of the choreography. It works really well for the music and the overall attitude, I think.

Larger groups tend to get more intricate and entertaining choreography purely because of the sheer amount of people. Just thinking about coordinating everyone to stand in the right position at the right time sounds like a nightmare, let alone getting 13 people to hit the right moves on beat.

Cjontai: I don’t know about you, but I was surprised by who didn’t make our lists. Vixx normally puts out mesmerizing routines, yet this year has felt less exciting. Same goes for 4Minute, but I predicted Cube Entertainment to give them a less than stellar comeback. It also felt like there was a trend of dances that were mainly fan service. Did you notice anything?

Lorenza: 4Minute was very lackluster for me. Normally at least Hyuna owns it and makes the routine interesting, but that wasn’t the case with “Hate.” It was just so…boring.

There was definitely a lot of fan service in the dances on our lists. But also using other members as props. I think Up10tion’s “Attention” is the best example of this. I love the moment when one of them pretends someone else is a mic. It’s such a wonderful moment and something that doesn’t happen a lot.

I think since there are so many groups with larger amounts of members choreographers have needed to play around with how incorporate all of them in interesting ways. Everyone knows how much fan service pays off and I think having choreography where members need to interact more is going to become more common.

With some of the larger names coming back soon, I’m excited to see what new trends start to show up.

Cjontai: I should probably clarify the fan service quip. What I meant to critique was this trend of dances that rely more on freestyle than planned steps. Once in a few performances and at concerts, it’s cute, but to nix actual choreography in lieu of hoping the members are creative enough to freestyle is a risk that didn’t pay off for many groups. Ikon would be a prime example, and I hear the same criticism regarding their routines. They have members who can dance, so I don’t understand why YG Entertainment wouldn’t allow them to do choreography when it was their strength on WIN.

Aside from a few disappointments, I’m thankful to see girl groups stepping it up. Oh My Girl, Laboum, and Lovelyz really surprised me this year. Oh My Girl was definitely a treat with “Windy Day”, and “Liar Liar” wasn’t too bad either. They kept things light and playful, but the steps were still intricately tied to the theme of the songs. I hope this trend of integrating fun and complexity in girl group dances continues because we’ve been begging to see this forever.

(YouTube[1][2][3][4][5], Images via Starship Entertainment, Rainbow Bridge World)