2020 has been a hectic year for many reasons, but K-pop comebacks did not slow down giving us many dance choreographies to pick from. K-pop is known for its fantastic and elaborate dance choreographies that manage to “wow” their audience at every turn.

This year, we have a diverse list of choreographies that have for one reason or another captured our attention. Celina and Siena discuss the reasons why these dance choreographies landed on their lists for the top five dances of the year.

Siena: I’m excited by how diverse our lists are. However, we do have one choice in common, and in the same position as well! Let’s talk about TXT’s “Puma”. 

“Puma” is an extremely literal choreography. It finds endless creative ways to translate its feline concept into dance. This means that “Puma” is filled with unconventional, even weird moves. In the hands of less committed dancers, the song could have been a train wreck. But TXT rises to the occasion and executes everything with admirably straight-faced enthusiasm.  

Speaking of TXT, they have always been spectacular dance technicians. There are times though that I’ve found their choreographies to lack emotional resonance. Thanks to the animalistic intensity of “Puma”, that’s not an issue here. The dance itself helps TXT to reach new heights as performers, and if that isn’t a sign of a good choreography, I don’t know what is. Celina, what did you enjoy about “Puma”? 

Celina: I definitely agree with you. I have not followed too much of their career, so I have nothing to compare it to. However, when I saw this routine, it reeled me in. I like that even if they were dancing to no music, you can still catch the tone and subject of the song by looking at their dance moves. There are many amazing moments but my favorite is when the boys created a cage with their arms and legs. Literal interpretations of a song can sometimes be cheesy, but they nailed it and understood how to bring the drama to it.

In Dreamcatcher’s “Boca”, they also have a literal move when they create a mouth with their hands during the word, “boca,” which means mouth. However, it’s subtle and not overused throughout the dance routine which is filled with other complex choreographies. I have always liked Dreamcatcher’s dance routines because they are always fast, complex, and customized for every moment of the song. For instance, “Boca’s dance routine goes hard, but slows down and becomes more delicate during Sua’s and Siyeon’s parts. Those are some of my favorite moments because it lets every member shine through with their own style.

I see you also have a girl group for your number three spot. What about them caught your attention?

Siena: Girl crush isn’t an original concept, but Weki Meki make it feel fresh in “Cool”. The choreography balances more expected powerful moves with moments of gracefulness and fluidity. It also never settles into repetitive patterns, instead constantly introducing new formations and tweaking the steps that do recur. This ever-evolving quality gives “Cool” tons of momentum. Its three and a half minute run time speeds by, leaving you both totally satisfied and wanting more.

Weki Meki do a great job connecting all the varying parts of “Cool” into a cohesive whole. Whether twirling through the first pre-chorus or stomping through the final refrain, the group dance with stylish confidence. I particularly love the nonchalant way Suyeon strides forward with a dramatic flourish at 1:25. The first time I go to a big post-pandemic social gathering, that’s how I’m going to enter the room. 

In “Cool”, Weki Meki are cool indeed. I’d say the same adjective applies to your number five pick, “Naughty”. What earned Irene & Seulgi a spot on your list?

Celina: Irene & Seulgi totally surprised me with their choice of concept with their initial debut with “Monster.” I didn’t expect them to go for a gothic theme and I thought they tackled the image well.  “Naughty” was actually their second single and it was just as hard-hitting but with an even more intricate dance routine. Their angular hand and arm movements, referred to as tutting in dance, fit the song so perfectly.  I liked the way the dance was choreographed at different angles with them facing each other, standing behind each other at different heights, and standing diagonally from each other. It spins you around but manages to still keep the focus on the two of them. I just loved the whole thing from beginning to end. 

I see you chose “Dawndididawn” as your number five spot. So far, I have been loving his solo songs. What did you like about his dance routine?

Siena: Several of my favorite 2020 choreographies belong to male soloists and I wanted to represent that on my list. Dawn beat out a trio of SM standouts (Changmin, Taemin, and Kai) for a spot because of how distinctive “Dawndididawn” is. The dance has an aggressive yet relaxed energy to it. Every second has clearly been choreographed and timed to perfection, but many of the moves feel almost spontaneous. That’s a really hard affect to achieve and “Dawndididawn” has it in spades.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a good solo choreography is diminished by mediocre backup dancers. “Dawndididawn” does not have that problem. Dawn’s backup crew are incredible, particularly in a very long dance break during Jessi’s feature in the song. The synergy between Dawn and his dance companions is what truly makes “Dawndididawn” special.

Like Dawn, CIX is a newer K-pop act that I think shows a lot of promise. What put “Jungle” at your number two spot? 

Celina: I definitely agree that back-up dancers can improve or take down a choreography. CIX has an amazing set of back-up dancers that help bring to life the drama of “Jungle.” However, even in the dance practice with just the members, the choreography still carries the same energy. This song was actually recommended to me, and I was captivated by the entirety of the MV. With a song title like “Jungle” I was expecting more of a hip-hop vibe and cliché jungle theme. Instead, the MV is a dramatic retelling of Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” and the dance incorporates that theme. Much like “Puma,” I enjoy when I see dancers create their own props with their bodies. In “Jungle” the boys gather up around one member to creating the illusion that he is tied to a cross. They bring the drama and tone needed for tackling such an audacious concept. 

I had a hard time narrowing down my list to five and then putting them in order. I think there were a lot of strong contenders this year. How did you end up choosing Loona’s “So What” for your top dance choreography?

Siena: I agree that choosing only five dances to highlight from 2020 was tough. “So What” landed in my number one spot because of how relentless and detailed it is. There are no peaks and valleys of energy in this dance, and no difference in intricacy between the verses and choruses. Loona start the choreography at full throttle and then they just stay there. I also love how almost all the movements in the dance are precisely timed to compliment the beats and vocal flourishes of “So What”. This might seem like a no-brainer strategy for a K-pop choreography, but it is surprisingly rare to see it executed this consistently. 

Loona is a group that knows how to capitalize on their large size. Throughout “So What”, the members smoothly transition from one complex and unique formation to another. One of the best is the stunning v-shaped ripple effect which kicks off the final bridge. That move alone might have earned Loona a spot on my list, but “So What” has so much more to offer, and that’s why it is my top dance of 2020. 

Stray Kids’ “Back Door” is another choreography with tons of creative formations. What made it your number one pick? 

Celina: Yes, it is! It actually reminds me of Loona’s dance in that aspect. I like that every performer’s dance is tailored to their part creating a collection of different choreographies. Even with the differences, they still keep the same cool tone and come together nicely for the chorus. 

There is a lot going on but it moves together both quickly and seamlessly. My favorite part is when they come together during the chorus and, sort-of like the London Bridge game, go under each other’s arms. It’s a fun dance that manages to keep a casual vibe while still being really structured. I had a hard time choosing my number one but ultimately this dance was just all perfect from top to bottom. It’s also one of my favorite songs from Stray Kids thus far.

NCT 127’s “Kick It” is the second on your list! What about that dance did you enjoy?

Siena: “Kick It” is one of those dances that feels instantly iconic. The combination of its martial arts inspiration, catchy chorus “new thangs” point move, and NCT 127’s distinctive dance style is a slam dunk. If I had one gripe, it is that some of the routine’s verses don’t match the glory of its choruses. That being said, the last minute of “Kick It” is undoubtedly my favorite choreographic sequence of 2020. Taeyong starts things off with some gasp-inducing fast footwork. The whole group then brings the song home with an exhilarating dance break and final refrain. It doesn’t matter how many times I rewatch that 60 seconds, I’m always blown away. 

We’ve reached the end of our lists, but as we discussed earlier, 2020 was packed with incredible dances. Perennial dance superstars Ateez and GFriend just missed my top five with “Good Lil Boy” and “Apple” respectively. SF9’s “Good Guy” is intricate and inventive. And last but not least, BoA proves simple can be spectacular in “Better”. Celina, who are your honorable mentions?

Kai (Exo) | KAI

Celina: Those are definitely some good ones. This year was packed with great choreographies, it was so hard to choose. I’d have to give a shout-out to Kai’s “Mmmh” and Taemin’s “Criminal.” Both were sexy and had a great flow that complimented their songs. I hope that 2021 will also have a great list of dances to pick from. 

Let us know in the comments if you agree with our choices or if there are any we missed out on.

(Youtube [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8], Images via Blockberry Creative, Big Hit Entertainment, Dreamcatcher Company, P-Nation, and SM Entertainment.)