Korea, the home of K-POP, which is now an industry worth over five billion dollars, has quickly become a Disneyland for dancers in recent years. In the center of it, there is 1MILLION Dance studio, the biggest dance studio in Korea based in Seongdong-gu, East Seoul. They have garnered over 23 million followers on YouTube only as of February 2021 and have created iconic choreographies for world-famous K-POP stars such as TWICE, SUNMI, I.O.I, Jay Park, Jessi, and Mamamoo. Prominent international artists like Sean Lew and Jason Derulohave have visited the studio before to collaborate as well. Recently, 1MILLION have been pushing the boundary of their creativity by collaborating with Sweet Home, a sensational Korean horror Netflix series. On Nov. 19 2020, Ewha Voice sat down with 1MILLION Dance studio dancers to talk about the power of dancing and what dancing means to each of them.
Ara Cho answers the question: Why is dance so powerful?
Based on the 11-year career in the dance industry, Cho shared her experiences in dancing and how she first cultivated her interests in dance.
Cho was a student majoring in the Department of Child Care at Hyupsung University, when she witnessed a B-boy crew dance by chance. She felt a strong desire towards dancing, thus took a leave of absence from school and buckled down to learn how to dance. However, as her affection fordancing grew deeper as time passed by, she extended her leave of absence to focus more on dancing. In turn, she used up the limit of absence, and decided to transfer to the College of Arts and Physical Education at Myongji University.
“Looking back, taking a leave of absence was my turning point,” Cho reminisced. “I repeated to myself over and over that it is the fastest when you think it’s already late. I wanted to give myself a chance even if I regret it in the future.”
Cho commented that her years of studying child pedagogy helped her to teach dance in many ways. While studying education at Hyupsung University, she learned that it is easier to convey information to others when you have a systematic curriculum, and therefore established her own modules. Starting with music selection, she prepared the class by meticulously planning different delivery methods considering the position and age of the audience.
Cho joined 1MILLION Dance Studio three years ago. She has originally been a member of a performance-oriented B-boy team, creating various genres of performance contents. In that team, she had danced mainly for stage performances, but now she mainly choreographs for video productions.
When asked about her personal methods of choreographing, she replied that she mainly creates movements that use the angles of the hands.
“When it comes to dancing itself, inspiration comes from so many different places. However, I mostly get inspired from structures,” Cho said. “I observe the interior and architecture, focusing on the angle. Even when I go to a café, I find myself carefully examining the patterns on the wallpaper.”
In addition, Cho elaborated that she pays attention to the overall composition of the song. She emphasized the importance of matching the flow of the choreography with the flow of the melody. It is also vital to embody the message in the lyrics.
“I am often surprised to find myself changed so much ever since I started dancing,” Cho said. “I was originally an introvert, but as I moved my body, my timid personality gradually changed into an outgoing one. Being honest with my emotions, I came to feel and express naturally through incorporating various emotions into the dance. I was starting to break the mold without even knowing, which definitely turned out to be a positive change to me.”
As an experienced person who felt the power of dancing, Cho once accepted an offer to open a class for the intellectually disabled, with the ambition to help others gain the positive energy from dancing. Cho singled it out as one of the best memories in her life.
She shared an episode that happened at a small party at the end of the program.
“On the day of the party, the party agency urgently called and offered metomakeupaplanincasethe intellectually disabled students do not enjoy the party and create an uncomfortable atmosphere,” Cho said. “I quickly planned a recreation program. When I arrived at the venue, everyone was already dancing, which made my preparation meaningless. I learned that our prejudice has scared us needlessly in advance. We were the ones trapped in our own stereotypes.”
Cho expressed her desire for people to break down their boundaries and feel free while dancing. In the society where obedience is considered as a virtue, Cho believes people can follow the essential rules and still express their opinions, just like the intellectually disabled students she had taught.
Youjung Lee reveals the secret of joy: “ Put down your goals for a moment and look around "
Accumulating over 906 million views with her choreography video, “The Ocean,” and working as an influencer of well-known brands, Youjung Lee, a renowned dancer in 1MILLION Dance Studio, interviewed with Ewha Voice.
Lee came across an opportunity to dance when she was only 17 and this experience became the catalyst for her career as a dancer. After this special experience, she realized that dancing brings happiness and joy in her life.
She admitted dancing had not always been easy. She went through a dark period of time during her college years when she no longer felt joy while dancing and stopped.
“Dancing alone without anyone by my side in university made me lose my motivation and energy while dancing,” Lee said. “However, at that period of time, my professor encouraged me to dance again by teaching me and providing practice rooms for me. This worked as a big turning point in my life and made me realize that dancing was inseparable from me. It is no exaggeration to say that I would not have been able to keep dancing without the help of my professor.”
Thanks to her professor, Lee was heartened to start dancing again in Seoul after graduating from university. She came to know the existence of 1MILLION in Seoul and decided that it was her place to continue her career.
It has been six years since she became the crew of 1MILLION. She is currently expanding her career as a dancer and a teacher to those who come to the studio to learn dancing. Recently, she has also created her own YouTube channel where she posts her daily life and her routine as a crew of 1MILLION.
Lee also explained the characteristics of her dance styles by sharing the kind of inspirations that she is imbued with and how she gets them.
“Unlike other dancers, I tend to get inspiration from the song itself when it comes to making choreography,” Lee said. “The lyrics, beat, melodies, and music videos of songs help me gather my thoughts. For instance, I am currently mesmerized by songs in pop and electronic genres. Recently, I created choreography with the song “Hope,” which turned out to be my favorite choreography after ‘The Ocean’ which generated approximately 906 million views on YouTube.”
When asked about her experience as an influencer of Acuvue in 2018, and Puma in 2019, Lee answered that she is not quite sure if she is an influencer.
“I do not consider myself as an influencer,” Lee emphasized. “ All I did was focus on what I really wanted, which was dancing, and working as a choreographer. However, before I knew it, I was taking advertisements, photos, and magazines. I am sure that I influence my students, but I am notquite sure about others. I just hope that more people encounter dancing and realize its charms from me.”
Additionally, 1MILLION Dance Studio is currently trying to evolve and provide more opportunities for students online due to the pandemic. They have created live classes and applications to provide online tutorials for students who do not have the opportunity to come by.
Accordingly, Lee expressed her opinions of COVID-19 influencing 1MILLION studios.
“Students attending classes have decreased dramatically overall because they have to wear masks while dancing indoors,” Lee claimed. “With less people, the class itself lacks realism and the feeling of liveliness, which is difficult for both the students and the teachers. On the other hand, with less students, I have more time to focus on each individual, which generally benefits the students.”
Lee emphasized the situations in which she feels pride and satisfaction as a dancer.
“When I see my students enjoy dancing wholeheartedly, it gives me a sense of accomplishment,” Lee said. “I feel most proud when I am satisfied with the choreography that I created.”
Lee concluded with a piece of advice for the readers of Ewha Voice who are striving to achieve or find their dreams.
“Following your intuition and interests is the most important,” Lee stated. “The youth tend to live competitively. It might be better to think of joy and happiness in one’s life without worrying about one’s goals and objectives. It hurts to think of people who are discouraged from experiencing failure. Goals might be helpful at some point, but please do not forget that happiness and joy is essential in life.”
“If dancing makes you blank, it is yours”: Amy Park’s desire to dance
Amy Park was only in middle school when she knew she was destined to become a dancer. Unintentionally put on a school festival show as a solo dancer despite having prepared as a team, she still remembers the rush of adrenaline, the rhythm of the thumping stage speakers and the spotlight.
Currently, she is an instructor, a choreographer and a dancer at 1 MILLION Dance Studio. Numerous videos on YouTube of various dance studios, as well as her own channel “Amy Park,” feature Park dancing her choreography. TV advertisement choreography, such as Ggaesooggang which is a Korean hangover recovery drink is one of the most popular works of Park.
Unlike today where individual choreographers gain fame via social media, when Park began to dance, dancers were not as widely recognized.
“I used to dance as a participant of a club,” Park said. “It was far from contemporary dance studios with structured curriculums. They were more like a group of passionate people who dance to their instincts.”
Due to the stigma against dancers as poor artists, she reminisced when her parents attempted to persuade her to do otherwise. However, Park stood by her desire to dance explaining to her parents that dancing is what makes her the happiest.
“For some strange reason I had a gut feeling that I would be fine by myself regardless of my occupation,” Park said. “I also want to say that no dancer I know thinks about money when they dance. We’re all here to dance and have a good time.”
Now a renowned choreographer, Park explained how her works are formulated. To Park, her mood during the day is one of what impacts her work the most.
“I try to finish the work when the inspiration strikes because it depends on the daily mood,” Park said. “I’ve had instances where the dark, dope choreo I was creating one day to an end the next day since I don’t feel the music the same way then.”
Coming up with specific movements concern music in many ways. For example, when dealing with a melodic part of a song, Park would focus on the natural flow of the body hinted by the song. However, facing a part with strong beats she would meticulously count the exact terms so that the choreography can pull out the impact of the rhythm.
Nonetheless, in the midst of confusion brought by COVID-19, Park is undertaking various challenges for herself. One is setting up her own YouTube account and posting a refined version of her choreography videos.
“Most choreography videos are filmed right after a class ends,” Park explained. “By then I am usually tired which makes it hard for me to concentrate solely on dancing.”
Another challenge she has been working on is making a remix of the original music. Recently, Park uploaded a remix version of “Ice Cream” and “How You Like That” by BLACKPINK, the biggest K-Pop girl group in 2021.
Park is currently in the process of creating her own music as well. However, she wants to develop her skills further before achieving the goal of creating an entire production of music and choreography by herself.
Park explained creating music for herself has great similarities with structuring her choreography. Park depends on the natural flow of the body along with a piece of music and its rhythm when devising dances. Likewise, when writing music, she begins with the melody which she thinks becomes the main thesis of the song.
“Although it is recommended that one begin with the beat, the harmony and then the melody, I prefer the opposite,” Park said.
For instance, in her dance video featuring her remix of “How You Like That,” Park described how she went back and forth adding in more beats and counts to grasp a richer sound and for the sound to uphold the impact of the dance moves.
Lastly, Park elaborated what she wished to have known earlier. “I realized later the importance of pushing towards my desire. I spent the first few years of my 20s considering other people’s opinions that I did not need,” Park said. “Just do what makes you feel right.”