“I don’t wanna be somebody/Just wanna be me, be me.” K-pop group ITZY’s song, “Wannabe,” blasted through the speaker while I tried my best to hit every beat, fervently wiggling my body in the cold autumn wind. As curious passersby and supportive friends of my fellow dance crew members gathered around the field to watch the flash mob performance, I grew extremely excited and nervous. “This is the only time you got to show people what you’ve learned over the past two months and the effort you have put into this enthralling dance,” I told myself.
Participating in a dance club during COVID-19 was a very unique experience. I signed up for Korean Dance Crew (KoDC) at the beginning of the semester hoping to learn the dance choreos to my favorite K-pop songs. At first, I didn’t expect any in-person meetings due to the pandemic, but I soon got an email about the opportunity to learn a dance in-person and to perform it on campus before Thanksgiving break. As I’ve never performed a K-pop dance in public before, I thought, “Why not give it a try?” Thus, I urged myself to sign up.
Learning the full choreography to this dance was not easy, and it took time and effort to achieve perfection. After I signed up for the performance, I had to attend dance practices every Friday afternoon for an hour. Often, I had to fight back my laziness of not wanting to go to practices on rainy and chilly days. However, once I got to the dance studio and when the music started playing, my body automatically started jamming to the music and all of my stress melted away. Even though we had to remain six feet apart, feel suffocated from wearing a mask, and sweat profusely, we were all energized by the new dance moves we learned at each practice. Nevertheless, I came across some obstacles during the learning process. There was one move I just couldn’t get right no matter how many times I tried. My body felt so stiff and my arms were swerving in the wrong direction. I felt so embarrassed when other members mastered the move with ease. Luckily, our dance teacher saw my awkwardness and offered to help me out. She patiently demonstrated the move multiple times, shared her insights on how to dance naturally and encouraged me to practice more. I was greatly motivated by her to continue practicing the move back in my dorm until I completely mastered it.
After finishing learning the entire dance, the dance crew was able to practice in harmonious synchronization. We were assigned to different positions as we prepared for our performance. The uniformity of the crew as well as the fun variations in some of our dance moves made the show an enchanting piece of art. Everyone was excited at the dress rehearsal to perform with a “black on black” outfit: black top, pants and mask. Finally, on a sunny Saturday morning, the dance crew was ready to show what we had. I put my arms behind my back, bent one of my knees and turned my head to the right, staring into my friend’s cheerful eyes as I waited for my cue. I could hear my heart pounding with the countdown and feel the tension of the dance crew in the air. However, everyone loosened up when the music started playing. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw my fellow dance crew members stretching their arms, jumping up and down and spinning around as if they had become the embodiment of those beating notes. Soon we were covered in sweat and panting behind our masks, but I believe smiles lingered behind those masks too.
As I think about the time I spend in the dance studio learning with other K-pop dance lovers, hours spent in my dorm perfecting my dance moves and the successful final performance, I feel so proud of myself for not giving up and being brave enough to try out new things. This special dancing experience will forever exist in my memory and remind me to keep exploring new pursuits.