For our next End-of-Year Review, we take a look at some of our favorite choreographies of 2021. Fourth-generation groups like Stray Kids and Oneus, who impressed with their MVs and comebacks, continue their streaks on our lists.

Sara, Xiao Qing, and Celina shared a record three out of five picks. They discuss how the year was full of unique concepts, and how the use of background dancers and props enhanced the overall artistic vision of each release.

Sara: Is it just me, or does it feel like 2021 just began? It was honestly a struggle to remember the early 2021 releases. Like how did I forget that Shinee came back with “Don’t Call Me”?

Anyway, there seem to be three choreographies that stood out to all of us! Hoshi’s “Spider” was high on my list, but what pushed it to capture your top spots?

Xiao Qing: “Spider” topped my list because the overall performance was so memorable. The dance matched the lyrics and the mood of the song, with Hoshi aweing us with his charisma and charm, trapping us in his web, and let’s be honest. None of us are complaining. 

The use of lights and props definitely elevated his performance even further, and it allows for replayability, as I found myself noticing new details each time I watched his performance. One thing I also really liked was how his backup dancers did not feel like they were backup dancers. Rather, the entire group moved like a colony of spiders, further enhancing the performance.

Celina: I found the choreography to be incredibly unique, and it was a stand-out among all the other choreographies. On top of being different, it was a great interpretation of a “spider” without being too on the nose. The set and monochromatic colors were all kept simple, letting the dance routine completely be the center of the MV.

I also liked the use of backup dancers at different positions to make use of the elongated background setting. Additionally, the use of such a simple prop added so much dimension to the setting, as well as the ability to add more dynamic dance moves. I knew from the beginning that this would be my number one.

Sara: I agree with all of your points! It is an incredibly memorable performance. I’ve only watched the choreography video a few times, yet there are many moments that just stick.

Hoshi immediately catches viewers off-guard by starting upside down on one of the metal beams. These are not just pieces of the set; they are integral to the performance as Hoshi and the other dancers twist and turn around them, building on the alluring nature of the choreography. Plus, this dance would not be the same without the backup dancers, who are crucial to telling the story of “Spider.” As Celina mentioned, this dance excels in capturing the essence rather than the literal, creating an even more intriguing piece of art.  

The other dance that made it into the top three of our lists was Stray Kids’ “Thunderous.” I loved how the track and dance has “Stray Kids” written all over it–from the unique point choreography, to the subtle humor woven into Han’s second rap section, and the intense coordination and trust needed for the final chorus. Plus, it’s just really fun to (re)watch.

What about it caught your attention? 

Xiao Qing: One thing I love about watching dance videos, especially for groups, is how all the members come together to create a dynamic performance. Stray Kids definitely do that in “Thunderous”, and I can only imagine their unwavering trust in each other, and how strong their bonds with each other are. 

Throughout the dance, we see members getting hoisted up by the others, most notably towards the end, where Changbin and Hyunjin are sitting on their members’ backs. It’s moments like these where I find myself even further captivated by the dance, replaying parts that I really enjoyed to look for more details. 

Stray Kids have never shied away from powerful dances, but they are also extremely enjoyable to watch because you know that they are having fun while performing as well. Their energy is infectious, and I totally have not attempted to follow the choreography for “Thunderous” at all. Absolutely not.

What put “Thunderous” in third place on your list, Celina?

Celina: Stray Kids have always been great with putting together intricate dance choreographies that are somehow both chaotic and structured. “Thunderous” is no different, with fast and crazy moves that all seem to flow together perfectly. Along with the fast-paced song and amazing clothing design, there was no way I couldn’t add this one to my list. My favorite part, although there were many, was when they interlocked their arms behind themselves and connected with each other.

The turbulent dance is almost the opposite of Oneus with “Luna.” With this choreography, I enjoyed the sleek dance moves that they all completed in unison. There was also a great use of props like fans and ribbons throughout the set.

However, what I think really pushed “Luna” onto my list was the dance breakdown at the end. What a great use of background dancers to fill the screen, and add more dimension to the choreography! My favorite part was when they combined to do the spinning circle. 

“Luna” also made both of your lists. What did you enjoy about it?

Sara: I wrote about the “Luna” MV, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful dance. It flows from one part to the next, while also capturing a pleasing auditory element with the use of the fans to hide and reveal. The traditional aesthetic of their costumes and the dance weaves seamlessly with that of the song.

Oneus have mentioned that they worked on the choreography pretty much up until the day of the MV shoot, and this attention to detail definitely paid off!   

Xiao Qing: Oneus have consistently impressed with their ability to maintain a sense of elegance and chicness throughout their choreography. Like you both said, they used the props well to create a performance that intrigued the audience, and paired with the costuming, everything looked seamless and neat.

Also, I absolutely loved the sound of the fans fluttering open, and it definitely gave more dimension to the song–I won’t lie, I’m a sucker for the use of fans (VIXX’s “Shangri-La” immediately comes to mind).

It was a struggle picking between Oneus and Enhypen for third place on my list, but I ultimately settled for Enhypen, because their performance for “Drunk-Dazed” had me floored (I know I used this pun during the Mid-year Review, but the opportunity was there and I just had to take it).

Even though they only debuted last year, the group is very much in sync, and they bring in energy to their performances that left me wanting more. “Drunk-Dazed”’s choreography is definitely more erratic, but still powerful and strong. 

How did other artists make it onto your lists?

Celina: I actually chose “Drunk-Dazed” for my favorite in the MYR! While it did not make my End-of-Year list, the MV is still a favorite of mine. 

The other group choreography on my list is Ateez‘s “Deja Vu”. I hadn’t really checked out this group before, but I heard a lot of chatter about this MV, and I had to watch it. I was absolutely wowed by the dance routine!

I like the entire vibe of this MV, which pulls the whole dance together. The dance itself has a sensual appeal, with various body rolls and other fluid moves. However, on top of being sexy, it is elaborate, with some impressive footwork and a confident attitude to go with it. Overall, the music’s melody, the dark tone of the MV, and the shiny outfits were all a perfect combination to go along with the choreography.

Sara, you have a couple of girl groups on your list. How did Aespa’s “Savage” make your list?

Sara: I’m generally more of a boy group stan, so this year surprised me! I remember Aespa’s debut; while “Black Mamba” was catchy, nothing really stuck for me. “Next Level” took my interest in the group to, well, the next level, but it was “Savage” and Aespa’s choreography that sealed the deal.

I love the members’ swagger and infectious confidence, especially during the hook where they almost sumo squat, twisting their bodies with sharp precision. Plus, I love listening to the strange and grating production while clearly picturing the four settle into the point choreography. Honestly, Karina, Winter, Ningning, and Giselle don’t seem real when they dance, and it’s mesmerizing watching them in “Savage.” 

Purple Kiss is another girl group that caught my attention this year because of their song “Zombie.” First of all, the resonating bassline is too good not to dance (or at least move) to. The group balances the refreshing track with cute and humorous choreography—like when members jump out with the surprised, “Ah, you gave me a shock!”—that maintains a sophisticated edge. They take the image of a “zombie” (hands out in front of you) and mix it in with other accentuated gestures that also emphasize the rhythm of the song. 

While Purple Kiss are rookies (they debuted in March 2021), you highlighted a K-pop veteran, Xiao Qing. What about Sunmi’s “You Can’t Sit With Us” caught your eye? 

Xiao Qing: If there’s one thing I love, it’s seeing artists having fun during their performances. Although the choreography for “You Can’t Sit With Us” is simple, Sunmi’s energy with her dancers was so infectious that I could not stop smiling as I watched her performance. The choreography is fun, cute, and flirty, embracing the carefreeness that comes with high school–or at least, the version of high school that is shown to us in the media.

It’s also always fun to see artists interacting with their dancers, and having all of them come together to create a powerful performance, and Sunmi and her clique seemed to have so much fun that I wanted to join them as well. It has become one of my favorite performances to watch this year, and even though it’s nothing flashy, it still warrants a spot on my list.

Speaking of powerful performances, Taemin’s “Advice” was definitely powerful and sensual. How did he make it onto your list, Celina?

Celina: I have always been a fan of Taemin’s solo comebacks, and he never hesitates to bring a powerful dance performance. He always seems to have a certain sensuality about him which adds to his individuality. “Advice” is no exception with its quick and sultry movements and the great use of background dancers. I know we have talked a bit about background dancers, and I like that Taemin uses male and female dancers to further emphasize the black and white concept. He switches back and forth with them, and does both black and white outfits. Finally, he unites them in the final dance scene. 

One of my favorite parts is a quick, sort-of domino effect. He does a fist pump move, and one more dancer does it, and the rest do it until they are all dancing together. It adds a nice effect to the already elaborate choreography. There were other special moments like the intro choreography and, overall, I knew I had to add this routine to my list. 

I would also like to give an honorable mention to the crew of the show Street Woman Fighter with their collaboration with Jessi on the MV for “Cold-Blooded.” 

It looks like this year’s list was full of unique concepts for choreographies. Readers, let us know if we missed any of your favorites for this year!

(Youtube [1][2][3]. Images via HYBE Labels, JYP Entertainment, RBW, SM Entertainment, Abyss Company, and P-Nation.)