Dances are so ingrained in K-pop that we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss it in our End-of-Year Reviews. Continuing from the Dance Mid-Year Review, choreographies remained strong, resulting in diverse choices from Hannah, Kaitlin, and Pat that reflects how many strong candidates there were. 

Pat: We all have very diverse lists! For me, it was definitely a hard choice between Seventeen’s “Home” and “Hit.” These two are so very different yet showcase Seventeen’s attention to detail and fluid dance style. 

What makes it different are the levels of energy — there are parts where it slows down and then speeds up, building into the third chorus where they break the barrier with a final blast of energy. Meanwhile, there is still the attention to detail that Seventeen are known for. The opening choreography of Jeonghan leading select members into domino effects sets the tone. There is no rhyme or reason as to why it’s this clump of members, and the organized mess is visually stimulating. There is the contrast of jumps and arm movements with the fast footwork and the simplicity of the flick move. Taken all together, this is why “Hit” is my favorite.   

Kaitlin: Seventeen’s choreographies were my favorite of any group in 2019. “Hit” was released as a stand-alone digital single, which makes sense because it is crafted to be a high-impact performance piece.“Hit” shows Seventeen’s synchronization, control, and maturity on top of being slick and dynamic. 

However, I ultimately stuck with my top pick from Mid-Year Review, “Home.” The choreography gives the members space to imbue their moves with feelings of restlessness and isolation, as well as hope and warmth. It also delivers the interesting formations, subtle gestures, and triumphant energy that consistently make Seventeen’s choreographies so great. 

While I picked a more sentimental Seventeen dance, Ateez’s “Hala Hala” is more of a swaggering performance piece like “Hit.” What made it your top pick, Hannah?

Hannah: Hype choreography has definitely become an expectation for male groups, which is what makes it so hard to choose! Seventeen made their name as rookies for their stellar performances and tight teamwork, and this year Ateez has done the same. I picked “Hala Hala” because the song’s energy really gives Ateez the opportunity to show what they can do.

The use of formations is very creative, especially during the chorus when they form a shifting domino effect to move across the set – each member crosses that space in a different way, creating this dramatic wave of movement. My favourite part has to be when Seonghwa, Mingi, and Yunho march forwards together, with their heads down, gloved hands hiding their faces. It’s such a clever way to combine costume and dance to create a memorable moment in the performance. I think the creativity and power in “Hala Hala” is a great showcase for Ateez’s potential as dancers.

You both chose Itzy’s “Icy” as your second pick. What about this dance stood out to you?

Pat: “Icy” has this quirkiness in sound and choreography! From the first note, there is a variety of movements and formations, with attention to detail that extends to their fingers. This allows their lines to be clean despite their jaunty movements. My favorite choreographic moment is also from “Icy,” specifically the moment in 1:17 during Yuna’s second verse. 

Not a moment goes by without something interesting choreographically. But more crucial to why they are in my top three is that the dance fits with the shifting tones of “Icy.” The beats and the general vibe of the song match, creating one cohesive picture. 

Kaitlin: Many girl groups kept things simple this year. Some routines had impactful moments, but no other girl group dance was as energetic, surprising, and skillfully executed from start to finish as “Icy.”

The choreography is quite difficult, with Itzy constantly changing levels, even dropping halfway into the splits in the breakdown before popping back up again. But Itzy are precise and athletic enough to make it look easy and continue to perform with fantastic facial expressions. 

There are no throwaway moves. Yuna’s neck-snapping move at 1:17 is definitely one of the coolest of the year. This moment is representative of how the choreography contrasts playful moves with aggressive ones, matching the shifts in the song. 

Hannah, how did (G)I-dle manage to grab your nod for top girl group choreography of the year?  

Hannah: What I love about “Uh-Oh” is the way it veers away from standard girl group choreography. While Itzy excels at high energy routines, (G)I-dle showcase their confidence by keeping things simple. The song is packed with attitude and the choreography reflects this. There are moments when “Uh-Oh” veers towards more masculine movements, all stomps and kicks, and the girls really own this bravado.

There’s also an interesting use of levels to set up solo moments, such as when the girls lead into Miyeon’s verse by parting for her in perfect sync, before dropping to one knee while she sings. This creativity, combined with (G)I-dle’s attitude, makes “Uh-Oh” impossible to forget. 

We’ve all picked TXT’s “Crown” in different positions. What did you like about the choreography for this song?

Kaitlin: TXT had a strong debut, in part because of the whimsical, crisp choreography for “Crown.” The rookies start and end the dance on the floor, but in between, they explode with energy and create eye-catching, intricate formations using different levels. Their combination of playfulness and precision reminds me of early Seventeen dances in the best way.

The wing-like ripple behind rapper Yeonjun, the “bow and arrow” formation in the hook, and the arm-linked “rollercoaster” move are some of the moments that compliment the musicality and meaning of the song. 

Pat: The reason why it’s at fourth place for me is that it’s simply too busy for my liking. While “Crown” is so very intricate with sharp movements and fast formations, it’s too much for the actual song. In the end, I always end up focusing on the dance and getting tired. For me, dances should boost the song, should not take the attention away. That being said, there is a vibrancy and lightness that suits the image of the group. “Crown” still comes ahead due to the energy and the complex choreography. The images formed are perhaps the most creative this year. Every single image the members form tells a story and enhance the themes of the song.  

Hannah: The choreography for “Crown” is fiendishly complex, but it made second place on my list because TXT owns every move. This kind of dance requires not only perfect synchronization, but the energy to separate each step and make it stand out. The ever-shifting formations that define “Crown” could have made this dance look messy, but TXT execute everything with an electric energy that accentuates every element. For example, when the members create the “bow and arrow” formation during the chorus, it’s the tight shapes of their hands that make the move so strong. The creativity of “Crown” succeeds because TXT focus on defining the details. 

Pat, what about NCT Dream‘s “Boom” stood out to you?

Pat: Previously, they had energetic choreography to accompany their youthful image. But “Boom” marks a mature NCT Dream in sound and choreography. “Boom” is sonically smooth and, likewise, the dance features mellow movements.  

Despite the ease in movement, there are pops of energy, such as the moment in 0:58 to 1:05. As Haechan moves forward, there is a movement through windows and quick steps that involves them clapping the balls of their feet and their hands in a quick succession of action. And yet, this fast-action smooths out into the chorus in fluid movements. 

This continues throughout and suits the way the track develops. The choreographers chose good moments to highlight the energy, creating a cohesive picture. It looks easy, but there is still the sharpness and speed of movement that one associates with an NCT group. 

You’ve also picked “Boom” but in a higher place, Hannah.

Hannah: The choreography for “Boom” is brilliant. To complement the song’s spiky bassline, the dance incorporates lots of strong angles to create a routine that is graceful but precise. Even the rippling movement that accompanies the hook is actually a series of tiny jagged shifts. With its kicks and claps and sudden level changes, “Boom” should feel disconnected, but NCT Dream execute each movement with a finesse that smooths out the edges and makes this dance seem easy.  

Kaitlin: Skill and energy are definitely what made “Jopping” one of my top picks. Super M is stacked with some of SM’s best dance talent, and they completely sold me on the group concept and silly English chorus with the intensity and power of their performance.

Though the choreography in the verses feel like filler, the rest of the moves are oversized and theatrical. The drum-banging move in the opening and the “put your hands in the air” hits in each chorus use each members’ full wing spans to make the members seem powerful and larger than life. 

Pat: Finally, we each have a song that is unique to our lists. 

Hannah: “Movie Star” might be CIX’s debut song, but the choreography proves they’re a talented rookie group to watch. All five members stay perfectly in sync throughout, which shows impressive teamwork, given the fast level changes and floor work in this routine. And the different moods in the choreography – from the sharp details in the verses to the smooth groove of the chorus – prove their versatility as dancers. It’s the boys’ confidence that really makes “Movie Star” memorable. From those slick, spinning shifts in formation, to the cheeky nod and beckon to the audience in the chorus, CIX have this dance down, and they know it. 

Kaitlin: Stray Kids’ “Side Effects” deserved a nod for me because it was one of the most ambitious, unique choreographies of the year. The dance suited the polarizing track, conveying the jarring, unstable mindset of the music and lyrics.

The contrast in the chorus between the members frantically flailing and then stopping dead in their tracks and casually strolling to their next position was arresting. Swaying and swirling as a group, which was especially effective in the breakdown, was balanced with small precise movements that communicated struggle on an individual level.

Sometimes backup dancers just feel like extra bodies, but the extras were thoughtfully incorporated into the routine while wearing black, making them look like dark shadows or a void swallowing members whole. This piece had some weaknesses but its creativity was undeniable. 

Pat: My final choice was U-know’s “Follow.” The reason for its high placement is the use of the whole stage, the smooth transitions in and out of formations, and each backup dancer is part of a larger picture while still keeping the spotlight on the artist. The choreography of “Follow” also avoids one of my pet peeves: having female dancers that are there to look pretty. 

The choreography matches the song’s beat and plays into the strengths of U-know Yunho’s dancing: a stage presence that extends even with small movements, well-held lines throughout, and uses the quieter moments (“Don’t be afraid”) for softer moments that show his command. Each movement feels strong as if there is a purpose to each and every tick of the head, shrug of the shoulder, and point of the finger. It’s so second generation K-pop, but in a modern K-pop packaging that makes it one of my favorites. 

This has been a great year for dance, one that has given us a variety of choreography. It once again proves that no matter what K-pop will sound like, the dances will always be improving on the last year as artists grow into their own. 

If you enjoyed this discussion, be sure to check out our past dance picks here:

(Youtube [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8], Images via Big Hit Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, SM Entertainment)