San Diego State University (SDSU) will be launching a first-of-its-kind K-pop dance course in the Fall 2023 semester with author and associate dance professor Chuyun Oh.
Oh, who has been a professional dancer and holds a Ph. D. in Performance Studies from The University of Texas at Austin, authored a book that explores K-pop dance and its evolution and presence on social media.
The book, “K-pop Dance: Fandoming Yourself on Social Media,” is based on five years of Oh’s ethnographic fieldwork, interviews and participant observation with amateur and professional K-pop dancers in New York, California and Seoul. It delves into K-pop dance from the 1980s to the present and explains “gestural point choreography,” a distinctive feature of K-pop dance that Oh lists as an example of “social media dance.”
Oh’s book, which became an Amazon new release bestseller, is reportedly one of the only academic resources published about K-pop dance.
In July, Oh’s learnings will be offered and taught to students through California State University’s Summer Arts program.
In the intensive summer course, students will master famous dance choreographies, including those of leading idol groups BLACKPINK, BTS and Stray Kids. Oh’s students can also look forward to meeting esteemed guests, including well-known choreographers, dance influencers and a mystery K-pop boy group Oh will reveal in the coming days.
“I think it’s going to be very inspiring having the idol group sitting right in front of them in the small studio because K-pop is not just about music and dance. It is also about social statements and entrepreneur opportunities because a lot of young people are using K-pop as a source to enrich their creativity,” Oh tells NextShark.
According to Oh, the program will challenge students to create their own performances as well as “work with teammates to perform professionally onstage” as a way to build their own portfolios.
Marlene Baldonado, a student at SDSU, will be assisting Oh in the summer course.
“One of the things I’m most looking forward to is the community I feel we’ll be able to build in this class,” Baldonado told SDSU. “People come from different dance backgrounds — you don’t necessarily have to be a dancer to take this class. Also, it will be interesting to learn more about dance and grow as an individual with others, really sharing ideas and your own perspectives.”
While the K-pop summer course focuses on physical activity, Oh’s K-pop Dance Theory class at SDSU will be 80% theory-based and open to students of all majors.
“I made a decision that the class will be valuable to all students so it is not limited to dance majors,” Oh says. “The reason is that K-pop is already a popular dance, so the classroom would be accessible and relatable to all.”
Using her book to guide the class, Oh looks forward to offering students her perspective and knowledge.
“K-pop is more than a physical movement,” Oh says. “It is a combination of the makeup, hair, facial expression, singing the lyrics and the costume because all those visual elements should match the concept of the song. So it is functioning like… a sort of movie trailer or a trailer of a musical.”
There are no prerequisites to Oh’s Fall 2023 general education course. The three-unit class will count toward arts, humanities and diversity credits. Oh tells NextShark that she plans to have students make 15-second dance videos.
As the Korean wave continues to sweep the globe, Oh notes that K-pop has not been considered a serious dance genre because it has been treated “as nothing but a fandom.”
The dance professor is actively exploring K-pop cover dance as a form of intercultural performance. She suggests that fans are eventually “fandoming” themselves by imitating and idolizing K-pop dance.
“I approach K-pop as an educational infrastructure — an uncountable number of styles that melt within K-pop dance categories. And I think that is one of the reasons why K-pop appeals globally is because there is sometimes Latin America-style tango, there’s a lot of hip-hop and there’s ballad,” Oh shares.
Oh hopes her book and classes will help students understand K-pop as an independent dance genre that is “not only geographically global, but stylistically transnational and transgressing.” Her studies currently focus on performance ethnography, activism and racial and gender identities in transnational popular dance.
“I’m very honored to be able to offer the class for the first time in a university — it’s a big deal,” Oh told SDSU.
It makes a very positive statement in terms of diversity. I think another reason is that K-pop has been a symbol of youth activism, including ethnic minority and LGBTQ-plus communities. So I think it is also creating a platform where students better identify or see themselves through the official course’s subject.