K-pop community hosts dance competition at UI

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Nandika Chatterjee

ItzUs performs at Lincoln Hall for the first K-Pop dance competition on Sunday. The K-Pop dance group Truth and Beauty hosted the competition that featured a variety of groups such as ItzUs, Express Your Seoul and more.

By Nandika Chatterjee, Staff Writer

A microcosm of the energetic universe of Korean pop was displayed at Lincoln Hall on Sunday when Truth and Beauty, a K-pop dance team at the University, organized the campus’ first K-pop dance contest.

TNB was started in 2019 by co-President Julia Cima. Since then, the group grew and expanded its outreach so much so that the club was able to have local businesses sponsor the cash prizes for the contest. The group’s sponsors included Mercy Cosmetics and Caffe Bene.

To make the competition more dynamic, TNB was joined by guest judges Julia Martinez, the director of dance to access at the University, and Kate Insolia, the director of the Urbana Dance Company.

The afternoon buzzed with anticipation and comradery. Eleven teams selected from 24 auditionees were selected from all over Illinois to perform some of their favorite K-pop selections.

Neha Arun, junior in LAS, is a co-president and video production director for TNB. Arun said K-pop dance brings people together.

“One thing I’ve noticed about people who dance, people who like K-pop, is we all have similar mindsets,” Arun said. “We all love bringing together the community in a COVID-19 safe way. Everyone is very open to learning about different cultures and different viewpoints.”

As the performances began, strobe lights flashed, music filled the air and the audience leaned ever so slightly forward. Despite the competitive setting, the crowd cheered on each group like they were a part of each team. 

“Because K-pop, as you know, is in Korean, you don’t understand the words,” Arun said. “Performers made an effort to learn what the lyrics mean and things like that. So, these are all driven passionate people, and that sort of brings us together.”

Devon Jackson, former member of TNB who graduated from the University in 2021, said she hoped the group can continue to grow in the future.

“I am excited to see how they grow, and I saw them at Urbanite last night and I’m very proud of them,” Jackson said.

Brandon Snipe, sophomore in AHS, is the artistic director for K-Project. Snipe said he enjoys the aspects of performance that come together in the world of K-Pop.

“I think K-pop brings like a little bit of everything,”  Snipe said. “There are good vocals, good dancing, outfits and everything. Just like a lot of ways of expressing the song or the dance. Having so many variables in one place is very cool.” 

Everything from the coordinated costumes to the synchronized dance moves ensured that participants and audience members alike were engaged. The hosts interacted with the audience members before each team took the stage. Upon each group’s entrance, the crowd would explode into applause, cheers and encouraging hoots.  

Jackie Vergez, senior in LAS, is the president of K-Project and a member of Project Dream, both dance groups.

“Watching K-pop is like an entire performance,” Vergez said. “There’s not only music videos or just art, but also the outfits, the vocals and the dancing. But even if you go to a concert, the entire thing is a whole performance, it’s very interactive. You see so much more effort.” 

Nina Banks, a high school student from Chicago, was in the audience with Lina Pham, an incoming freshman to the University. They were a part of the management crew for a dance team called Helix. Helix was one of the eleven groups selected to perform, an achievement Banks said she’s proud of.

“It’s a dream come true (being here),” Banks said.“Just recently we won our first competition, late last year. This is just another opportunity that we can use to improve ourselves, that’s the best way to describe it.” 

Attending the competition allowed Pham to get a taste of campus life before coming to the University. Pham said the experience made her even more excited to attend the University in the fall.

“I can definitely say, especially as someone who is going to be here next year, the environment here is so supportive,” Pham said. “Like all the teams, even during tech rehearsal, were all cheering for each other, and even during the performance, you can hear everyone screaming and singing along to the lyrics. It’s just really welcoming. You really feel like a part of the audience.”

Kira Diaz, freshman in ACES, is a part of K-Project and also a member of KP127. Diaz said the experience that events like this embody can only be explained by those who find layers of appreciation for the music.

“I think K-pop is just so unapologetically a fun immersive world,” Diaz said. “That like when you are in it and find people you have like stuff in common with, there’s so much to go off of. Because you can sing lyrics and dance, there’s like aesthetic to it too. It’s cool to kind of get lost in it.”

 

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