Wednesday, May 27

Dance Break: Koreos workshop embraces inner K-pop star, adventurous movements

Columnist Christi Carras attended a workshop by Korean dance group Koreos on Oct. 2. Though new to the K-pop inspired choreography, Carras eventually immersed herself in the carefree, flirtatious nature of the dance moves she learned. (Photo by Habeba Mostafa/Daily Bruin, photo illustration by Michael Zshornack/Photo editor and Hannah Burnett/Assistant Photo editor)

Daily Bruin columnist Christi Carras’ limited dance background consists of bingeing episodes of “So You Think You Can Dance,” grapevining her way through high school show choir and stumbling through rehearsals at a daycarelike dance studio until the age of 8. As a personal experiment, she attended workshops and lessons for 10 campus dance groups fall quarter and documented her experience as a nondancer for Dance Break.

I didn’t realize I dreamed of being a Korean pop star until I lived it out on a Monday night.

On Oct. 2 I attended an audition dance workshop for Koreos, a dance group on campus that learns and performs choreography inspired by popular K-pop music videos.

Admittedly unfamiliar with K-pop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But several sassy hip pops and body rolls later, I’ve decided K-pop is a genre of dance every adventurous 20-something should add to their repertoire.

Before the workshop began, I approached the Koreos team members to introduce myself and asked what video we would be emulating during the workshop. The instructors directed me to the YouTube music video for Kim Chung Ha’s “Why Don’t You Know.”

Although I had personally never heard of the song, the upbeat, catchy tune has more than 12 million views on YouTube, so I clicked on the first link to do some research before the workshop officially kicked off.

Watching Chung Ha and her troupe of female backup dancers tear up a dusty desert landscape in booty shorts and crop tops reawakened my 16-year-old self, who often danced in the mirror while pretending to be flanked by her fellow girl-band members. I had no idea at the time that I was training for this moment.

Shortly after watching the video, I took part in the group stretch led by the Koreos instructors. Most of the exercises were nothing new – lunges, toe touches, the works – but others, like the roundabout chest and booty pops, were less conventional.

Their necessity became clear, however, by the time we learned the first move. To begin the dance, we extended our arms directly above the head and swung them around in a circle, committing the entire body to the movement by simultaneously thrusting and compressing the chest.

While our arms swung in the air, our legs bent and pivoted toward the back, engaging the chest, the hips and – you guessed it – the butt, all in one eight-count. There was hardly a move in the entire dance that didn’t involve popping, thrusting or rolling at least one of the three body parts.

However, not every movement was quite so fluid. The step I found to be the most challenging involved putting my right hand out in front of my body and crossing it over to my left shoulder while bending my left leg inward, before retracting both back to the center. The instructor made the quick, bouncy move look easy as she lowered into a squat position to demonstrate.

But ensuring my hands, legs and head were pointed in the correct direction while sticking to the fast-paced beat at all times took quite a few practice runs. Eventually I managed to nail down the general path of movement, but I had to accept my hand pointers and head pivots were never going to be quite as sharp as the instructor’s or Chung Ha’s.

The instructor wasn’t flawless either, though. She giggled periodically and apologized when she accidentally skipped a step, keeping the atmosphere light and making it difficult to retreat too far into my mind during even the most mentally demanding sequences.

As a result, I was able to immerse myself in the carefree, flirtatious nature of the movement without always worrying if my head and toes were facing the correct way.

Toward the end of the dance, the sensual choreography forced me to sink into my hips and embrace my femininity with a dip to the ground. I had no choice but to imagine I was the star of a girl-powered music video as I and the hopefuls around me dropped slowly and seductively to the ground before pulling ourselves back up at the waist to finish the routine.

I left the workshop feeling ready to launch my girl-band world tour, coming to a mirror near you and featuring my invisible backup dancers with plenty of fresh moves.

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