Members of What’s K-Poppin’? rehearse on the handball courts | COURTESY OF ANDY KELLEHER
In the fall of 2019, Kenyon’s K-pop dance group, What’s K-Poppin’?, made their official Dancing with the Kenyon Stars debut. After spending months preparing the choreography for a two-song medley, the group, wearing coordinated K-pop-inspired outfits, were delighted to be greeted with cheers from the audience.
The club immediately began planning more performances for the following spring, but once COVID-19 hit, the band struggled to maintain the community interest they had worked so hard to earn. However, after a year of hosting weekly Zoom meetings and with the end of the pandemic in sight, What’s K-Poppin’? can’t wait to get back on stage.
Sasha Stroud ’21, founder and president of the club, decided to form the group in her second year. For Stroud, it was important that the club didn’t hold auditions, eliminating a common barrier for those with less dance experience. “Most of us [current members] want to dance, but without the judgment that might happen in a stricter dance [groups],” she says.
Stroud strives to inspire confidence in its members and likes to encourage others when they dance, but noted that choreography is only one aspect of the club. The group also serves as a space for discussion, focusing on a range of K-pop topics from wardrobe and aesthetics to cultural appropriation. The members aren’t shy about addressing issues associated with the genre and are encouraged to speak candidly about the “dark side” of the K-pop industry, which often includes idol abuse and unfair contracts.
As Stroud explained, K-pop is known for its diversity of fans. Likewise, What is K-Poppin’? includes members with a wide range of interests. Stroud’s interest in K-pop stems from her Asian identity and love for the dance and fashion style of the genre. Some members join for their appreciation of music and culture, while others are specifically interested in dancing. However, members are not required to participate in dances and shows.
Andy Kelleher ’22, who serves as the club’s co-vice president, initially joined the group solely because of his interest in K-pop dancing. However, the club allowed Kelleher to expand her knowledge of K-pop culture and keep up to date with new music.
Looking back on the club’s first and only stage performance, Kelleher recalled the pleasure he felt when the band was able to come together and see their hard work pay off. “I call it the power of timing,” Kelleher said. “A dance tends to look much cooler when you do it with another person.”
With constant changes in and out of quiet time, it’s much harder for the group to meet in person this semester. Kelleher hopes the group can eventually reunite and record more dance covers.
The club is looking for members who want to talk about the world of K-pop without shame and encourage a wide range of people to join. “It’s a very informal environment. If you want to come, please introduce yourself, we will appreciate you,” Kelleher added.
What is K-Poppin’? can be found on Instagram @kpoppinkenyon and meets every Friday at 4 p.m. Anyone interested in attending meetings or joining the club mailing list can email [email protected]
Andy Kelleher is editor for the college student.