How Do JPop and KPop Treat Choreography Differently?

s**t kingz‘s shoji and GANMI‘s Sota recently had a conversation for Natalie with the translated title of “Choreograph Study Group 2021”, where they talked about their favorite dance performances of 2021.

The conversation continued though with them talking about their experiences as choreographers in Japan and aboard. Topics in this conversation included why KPop is able to make an impact overseas, while JPop continues to be made for domestic consumption. Also discussed are Johnny & Associates (which continues to eye overseas activities), Perfume (who has a large international fanbase), and BE:FIRST (who made a great debut last year).

shoji said that KPop is now the center of the dance world. He noted that the top people in KPop companies are artists and other creatives themselves, and that KPop has been able to gain momentum in dance by discovering new talent, while following trends and hiring more young creatives. He noted that more and more younger people are appearing in the industry as dancers and choreographers.

He added that this is only a recent change though. He noted that even though it may be rude to say, but the background dancers in older KPop music videos weren’t that good. In Korea, it was originally popular to just do KPop dance covers, mimicking what was being done in the music videos. Many dance studios appeared to serve the growing demand. Street dancers didn’t like this, but the scene has now further developed to where you can learn dance that isn’t just KPop music video covers. More and more dancers who are creating their own dances are appearing and the scene is booming.

Sota, a newcomer to KPop choreography, notes how detailed the choreography orders in KPop are, with there being requests such as “I want a pose here.” This is all communicated well in advance and the choreography is based around these requests. He says this make his job easier because the image of what is wanted is very clear. In KPop, the performance director is more powerful than the choreographer. They know exactly what they want, and then they ask choreographers to accomplish it.

In KPop, shoji sees an industry that is interested in dance and one that is hiring a lot for choreography jobs, which excites him. He told the story of his dealing with a Japanese company, that now believes choreography is important. This was a shock to him, since he’s been dealing with this company for a decade and they never really fully utilized him.

Sota commented that KPop has a guide for choreography built into the songs. Even if he is told by the company to make the choreography catchy, the songs already have rhythm built into them that makes his job easier. Just listening to the song, he can see a rough choreography.

He also thinks that KPop is getting bigger and bigger due to synergy. There is the feeling that dance culture is booming in Japan, but he doesn’t think younger people are trying to make it their career.

shoji laughs, saying that their generation has been dominate for too long (they’re both in their 30s, I believe). He believes that there are many good young dancers, but the next creatives aren’t prominent. The opposite is true in Korea, where the next creatives are appearing. He is thankful though that for the next generation of Japanese dancers, the world is open to them due to YouTube and social media. Overseas acknowledgement is very important for dancers, and it has become kinda a brand. This is what led to s**t kingz working in KPop.

He notes that there is also Nakasone Rino and RIEHATA, who gained popularity after becoming known in the US. People who think of going overseas are now able to, as opposed to just dancing in Japan. KPop is gaining attention internationally, so teaming up with KPop will make creatives who deal with them gain attention overseas as well.

Sota believe that if a Japanese dancer wants to be big, they they need to go overseas. There is a limit to how much success a dancer can have in Japan.

shoji says that for better or worse, JPop is a local product made for local consumption, and that is how the Japanese industry sees it. However, KPop has become so internationally oriented because the domestic market can not fully support the industry and it is saturated. KPop has gone to Japan, the US, and Europe looking for expansion opportunities.

Unlike Korea he notes, the Japanese market is self-sufficient, so it is easier to create something that resonates with the domestic market first, as opposed to something with a more international flavor. When it comes to JPop exports, Utada Hikaru is amazing. He watched a YouTube video where a “Kingdom Hearts” character was added to “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate”, and the foreigner gamer who made the video heard the “Kingdom Hearts” theme song Utada sang, and said their name and began to cry. Utada has made music that they wanted to make and it has touched the hearts of people around the world. Their debut song was like Western music, but even the ones that aren’t so Western-leaning have also resonated with people overseas. That’s a way to have JPop fight overseas.

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