While the idols are in practice rooms perfecting each dance move and then wowing the audience on stage, K-Pop fans in Sydney are learning the same moves and heading out into the city to film cover dance videos.
In Sydney’s Darling Square, Amelia and Michella from the K-Pop dance group, Horizon, were filming the cover of VIVIZ’s ‘Pull Up’. Horizon was formed in 2017 by the K-Pop Society of the University of New South Wales, but now that most of its members have graduated from their degrees, they are independent of the university.
Near Dancers’ Alley at ICC, Tiffany and Kai Li from the K-Pop dance group, Orbit, got together with the other group members for a practice session. Similar to Horizon, Orbit was formed in 2019 under the University of Sydney Korean Cultural Appreciation Society (now Korean International Culture Society). They also became independent from the university shortly after its creation.
K-Pop dance cover groups have members from different backgrounds and journeys with K-Pop. Some may have fallen under the spell of K-Pop in recent years, but some are lifelong fans whose interest started at a young age.
Amelia is one of those longtime fans. Her love for K-Pop started in 2009 and says:
One of my Korean friends showed it to me in elementary school and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing’
The energy and choreography of second-generation groups like SHINee and SUPER JUNIOR also attracted them. As Tiffany says,
The production value of a lot of music videos is very high and I feel like the energy really looks very different from western artists…it’s just such a different vibe.
She goes on to explain that SHINee’s Taemin, arguably one of the best second-generation K-Pop dancers, is one of the idols who inspired her to start dancing.
He is so good at his craft. Not only is he good at the technical side of dance, but as an artist he really knows how to capture someone’s attention and the details he puts into the dance are so beautiful to look at and good to learn.
As fans, watching their favorite idols perform captivating choreography and consistently honing their dance craft motivated them to try them out too. Already having dance experience, learning K-Pop dances was not completely unknown to them.
I used to do ballet when I was in elementary school, but I stopped doing it in high school.
Kai Li also started dancing from elementary school through high school, experimenting with all different styles of Chinese dance (both traditional and modern), ballet and hip-hop.
The more fun they had learning to dance K-Pop, the more the hobby grew in scale. They liked it so much that the idea of joining a dance group with other people seemed like the natural thing to do.
When Amelia joined Sydney’s K-Pop cover dance scene in 2014, she found that team-building was common among K-Pop fans in her city, which sparked interest in making her own team with some of her friends. . Later, she joined Horizon in 2019.
Despite being a fun pastime, group dance covers require time and energy from the members who already lead busy lives with their studies or full-time work. About three to four weeks are spent preparing each cover, with the frequency of hands-on sessions varying based on member availability. There may also be rushed projects that are fast-tracked to complete within a week or there may even be preparations for multiple covers happening simultaneously.
Life doesn’t stop for these dancers with studies, work and other commitments that also demand their time and energy. What initially is a hobby can become stressful and lead to burnout, so the members mutually agreed that their studies and work are their top priorities.
We don’t try to force it (preparing for covers) if it’s really hard for the members.
We just do it when we want to because it’s more of a hobby than a heavy commitment. This is how we want it to be. Just for fun.
In addition to actively doing what they love, being part of a group for an extended period of time has resulted in them gaining close friends that they otherwise would not have found.
Tiffany and Kai Li agreed that the members tend to become closer with the amount of time they spend together.
Even though your personalities are very different… you connect through dance and share so many experiences together.
It’s a different kind of friendship.
The time and effort invested in creating something and being able to share the feeling of joy in achieving a common goal is what has formed special friendships within the group.
There’s more to it than just being friends and hanging out because we spend a lot of time together where we’re focusing on a project. It’s such a valuable thing to do together and see it come to fruition in the end.
As much as a shared love of dance helped overcome individual differences as they got to know each other, it also helped newcomers to Sydney feel settled, creating a sense of belonging.
Michella, who is originally from Indonesia, moved to Sydney in late 2019. For anyone, moving to another city or country can be stressful and trying to socialize in a new place can be difficult. However, Michella has made close friends within the group and being connected to a group where the members have the same interest in K-Pop is meaningful to her.
After I joined Horizon, I made some friends and met a lot of people in the community.
The shared love of K-Pop dance not only led to camaraderie and rapport within the group, but also formed a wider dance community with other K-Pop dance cover groups from across Sydney.
Many members of different dance cover groups know each other and sometimes outsource between groups. When a group doesn’t have enough dancers to match the amount of members in the song they are singing, they source as many members as they need from groups they have friends in. Horizon members have been outsourced by other groups to join them on a project.
K-Pop dance cover groups also deliberately collaborate on unique projects with each other. They may have friends in these groups or they may have their own members in these groups, as it is common for K-Pop cover dancers to be part of more than one group.
The formation of a wider dance community in Sydney was facilitated by Dancers’ Alley at the ICC in Darling Harbour, Sydney.
As the name suggests, Dancers’ Alley is an alley of passionate dancers practicing routines and developing their dancing skills. It’s a modern outdoor space equipped with mirrored walls and it’s free for all types of dancers to gather. Dancers surround themselves with people who are also involved in the art form, whether of different genders or the same. Having a common place for dancers allows them to be inspired by what they see around them. It also raises their energy just by the atmosphere of everyone doing the same thing.
As Orbit was arriving at Dancers’ Alley for the start of their practice session, many groups had already danced throughout the day and one group was filming a routine to check their progress so far. In the meantime, people passing by the ICC became interested in the dance crews alley. Many took photos and videos or simply took a minute to appreciate the groups working together.
Dancers can also communicate with each other and socialize.
You see them day after day in this alley, so you get to know the people.
If we see other groups, like other friends around, we just walk up to them during breaks and say hi.
K-Pop dance cover groups perform in public for the “K-Pop In Public” videos that form the core of their work. Almost everyone interested in K-Pop is aware of the plethora of “K-Pop In Public” videos, where fans go to top venues in their city to dance and spread K-Pop. Even in Sydney, individual dancers are brought together in groups by a common passion for K-Pop dance and bring life and art to the city. The activities of these groups are all centered around Sydney’s hottest spots.
The ICC, the main location where practical sessions are held, is located in the heart of Darling Harbour. Darling Harbor is a harborside residential, commercial and recreational area in Sydney and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
When it’s time to shoot their cover in a “K-Pop In Public” video, the top locations they head to include Pitt Street Mall, Darling Harbor and Chinatown. With their vibrant and eye-catching performances, they make Sydney’s hot spots their stage and attract passers-by, some of whom take a quick look as they go about their day and others stay to watch until the end of the song. In doing so, dance cover groups expose audiences to a musical genre they may never have heard of.
As Horizon filmed its latest cover in Darling Square on a Sunday afternoon, many families, couples and individuals were sitting at the tables and benches outside The Exchange enjoying a relaxing afternoon. As the members of Horizon took their positions to begin filming their cover, many people turned their heads and passers-by stopped to watch behind the camera and record on their phones.
These groups’ devotion has also led them to showcase their talent in K-Pop dance cover competitions.
Orbit has participated in some competitions and placed second in the 2022 “IMI KPOP LIVE Competition” and the 2019 “JK Ent Sydney Superstar” competition. They are also busy preparing for more competitions in the coming months.
Horizon has also placed 1st and 2nd in various competitions.
They have also worked with the Sydney Opera House and performed ‘No Air’ by THE BOYZ as part of a series entitled “Shortwave”, which focuses on Australian artists beginning their careers in digital performance. As part of his work with them, Horizon was allowed into areas of the Opera House that are normally closed to the general public and performed his cover. By working with such a large institution, they were able to take their skills to the next level while promoting Korean pop culture to a wide audience.
It was really interesting to experience the back end of what it takes to produce something for commercial use.
It was a very big opportunity for us. It was a fun project too.
These dancers started their K-Pop dance journeys as fans fascinated by the idols’ energy and remarkable artistry. That fascination has expanded and now they are doing their part to continue bringing the sound and flavor of K-Pop to the world. Making the city your stage and bringing the fun and vibe of K-Pop to Sydney is your way to contribute to K-Pop’s popularity as a fan, but also to live out your own passions for dance.
Special thanks to Horizon and Orbit for their time and the chance to interview them.
Check out each of her latest cover dances below.
Check out his social media below and follow his incredible work in progress.
Horizon: Instagram / Facebook / YouTube
Orbit: Instagram / Facebook / YouTube