South Korea has built an entire industry from the iconic and imitable choreographies of its K-pop idol groups. Despite their ever-growing influence worldwide, being an idol has become extra challenging, especially with all of the physically demanding dance routines involved.
In fact, the Korean Cultural Center once said, "The songs and choreography of the idol groups for perfect performance are not built in a day or two. They are attributed to years of thorough planning in conjunction with systematic training programs and sweat during their trainee periods."
Still and all, this never stopped fans from learning all the moves to the songs of their favorite K-pop groups. Aside from a treasure trove of free dance tutorials online, a recent trend is the rise of K-pop cover classes offered in local dance studios.
Among the most visible and affordable is Quezon City’s Zero Studio PH. Here, members of world champion Filipino dance crew A-Team personally teach students of all skill levels, including a total beginner like this author.
Coach April Antonette is one of the pioneers of Zero, serving as one of the few first teachers when it started in 2019.
“Zero Studio offers beginner, intermediate, up to advanced classes. Like me, I’m not only teaching K-pop cover classes, I also teach dancehall ‘cause that’s my main style. But because of my love for K-pop, the coaches like pushed me to teach K-pop as well,” April tells PhilSTAR L!fe.
@april.antonette Students never failed to hype up. 🔥#moonlightsunrise #twice ♬ MOONLIGHT SUNRISE - TWICE
Her fellow K-pop stan and cover dance instructor, Coach Josh Decena, joined A-Team and Zero a bit later. His qualification is rooted in his personal-turned-professional dance covers for the Filipino K-pop community.
“Before I joined A-Team, I used to do K-pop covers like as a hobby with my friends. We had cover groups and we would compete. I think that I was able to make somewhat a name for myself in the K-pop community, because we were able to represent the Philippines in South Korea for the global competition,” Josh tells L!fe.
@joshuadecena_ studio B lookin good!! 😩 #tomorrow_x_together #SugarRushRide #txt ♬ Sugar Rush Ride - TOMORROW X TOGETHER
When he got into A-Team, he was even asked by the coaches if he wanted to share what he learned from doing K-pop covers. He was then offered an opportunity to teach at Zero, where he is now a consistent instructor for the weekly K-pop cover classes.
How to start dancing
Zero holds each of its classes at a standard 1-hour-30-minute session. It even caters to everyone’s convenience by letting customers choose only the classes and schedules they want rather than requiring a strict subscription plan.
The studio uploads its K-pop class schedule on a weekly basis on Facebook, including the name of the dance instructor as well as the song to be covered.
Interested customers can then reserve a slot online for a full payment of P350, or just pay face-to-face at Zero Studio PH for a walk-in fee of P450. The former option is recommended as certain classes can quickly sell out due to the high demand.
For K-pop cover classes, the instructors usually teach the chorus, choreography highlights, and other dance moves that are trending at the time. Best of all, lesson coverage is based on audience input, rather than what the instructors want.
“Usually it’s the chorus, but it actually depends. ‘Cause what we do, what April and I do is we actually ask the students what they want to learn. We basically like crowdsource. We don’t just pitch right off the bat. Because, of course, we want to know what our students are willing and are interested to learn. So usually it’s the chorus. Sometimes if it’s too short or it’s too simple somewhat, we add more. But it all depends on how they want to take it,” Josh explains.
The two coaches related their hilarious approach to choreography by demonstrating complex dance steps with unusual yet effective visual metaphors.
“The gulat factor!” April jokes, “‘Cause not everyone knew like dance vocabs so I tend to like for example, there’s a fast twitch, there’s pocketing, you need to like milk the steps. So you need to explain to them for example, a flow of water. I would tell them, ‘You need to flow like water!’ or like ‘You need to circle your hands like driving!’ Something like that to enable them to get the idea of the movement.”
Aside from K-pop cover classes, Zero offers femme, house, krump, and even basic dance foundations. “We also have open choreography-based classes here. It’s actually open for everyone and all levels and all ages,” April invites.
Effects of Hallyu wave on the dance art form
Asked what the most requested K-pop songs are for cover classes, the pair of instructors both immediately said NewJeans. “Maybe NewJeans. NewJeans. But the popular ones are BTS, Seventeen, Blackpink, Twice,” April recounts.
The group’s Hype Boy, in particular, was taught at least seven times with these “always full” sessions selling out due to the demand. Zero’s biggest room, Studio A, can accommodate up to an average of 70 to 80 students, depending on the choreography with boy group songs usually consuming more space per person.
NewJeans is seen as the spiritual successor to its labelmate and senior, BTS, the group that paved the way for the Korean wave internationally. The latter also indirectly inspired Zero to start offering K-pop cover classes circa 2021.
@ratzielsanjuan Had the fortune of learning (to the best of my limited abilities) the choreo of "OMG" at #zerostudioph ♬ original sound - Ratziel San Juan
“I feel like it’s because of the…they call this the Hallyu wave. So I think K-pop became really big. I think it’s mostly under the influence of BTS. They became such a ‘BIGHIT.’ And I feel like, I mean K-pop was there before. Pero it was such a different influence especially when people were more open to it,” Josh analyzes.
He admits getting into K-pop “actually recently” during BTS’ IDOL era in 2018.
“People wanted to learn. People were eager to learn how to dance. They wanted to dance like these idols. People were asking, ‘Oh, when are you going to teach K-pop in your dance studio?’ So I feel like studios were now open to that. And I think that’s how it started this whole like K-pop cover classes in studios locally,” Josh recalls.
From Korea with love, the Philippines has launched an emerging industry from the iconic and imitable choreographies of its favorite K-pop idol groups.
Learning how to dance may be hard, but everyone starts at Zero.