Months ago, the inclusion of IZ*ONE Chaeyeon in the hit reality dancing competition Street Woman Fighter as a member of a dance crew was a hot topic among netizens. Many opined that her inclusion was a disservice to many dancers who breathe, eat, sleep, and live dancing their entire lives while she only has to perform “idol dancing.” In relation to that point, many even questioned her skills in dancing, pointing out that even though Chaeyeon is indeed a skilled dancer, her skill levels are nowhere near the level of the professional dancers participating in the show.
Moreover, show also earned additional flak for having NCT’s Taeyeong act as one of the judges of the show. People questioned what Taeyeong’s qualifications are to judge the competition, knowing that he’s part of a group that hasn’t even been around for ten years. Just like Chaeyeon, both are recognized as very capable dancers in the idol standard, but are definitely out of their depth when it comes to interacting with the legitimate dancers.
But before everybody hates on idols classifying themselves as dancers, there are a select few who may have been and still are active in the pop music scene. They are recognized even by professional dancers as having skills at par with them. Here are six widely-recognized dancers who just happen to be idols, too.
Even as an auditionee to various entertainment agencies, Rain already tried to present his skills as both a dancer and singer. Unfortunately, he had to face countless rejections because he did not conform to the flower boy image that was then (and still actually is) the preferred standard for hopefuls to be accepted into the Korean entertainment industry. He was once quoted as saying that he failed to make it in auditions because he does not have double eyelids. Eventually, JYP Entertainment recruited him, where he trained and also was a backup dancer for the company’s acts.
Although the company included Jing Jihoon in a boy band called Fanclub in 1998, he eventually debuted as a solo act a couple of years later, as the group disbanded after releasing two albums. It was then that he was introduced as Rain who released the album Bad Guy to moderate success. His second album, How to Avoid the Sun, did not suffer the sophomore slump, allowing him to release his third album It’s Raining, which became his breakthrough album as it topped Korean music charts and allowed Rain to embark on a concert tour in eight Asian countries.
THE OG KPOP DANCE KING
BI RAIN !!!!! 👌😩
— KL 🎀 (@tiffany_rose___) April 21, 2020
From the start of his solo career, Rain’s songs have constantly been in the R&B genre, which was heavily popular worldwide in the 2000s with the movement being led by artists such as Michael Jackson, Usher, and Justin Timberlake, which served as Rain’s influences. Thus, Rain tweaked the genre to suit his style and allow him to utilize his top-notch dancing skills. Even as he shifted later in his career to more hip-hop-sounding songs, the public has already long accepted that Rain will still make dance a major component of his music. And yes, he may release the most self-indulgent material such as his highly criticized GANG (which somehow saw a resurgence in popularity during the early part of the pandemic), but nobody can deny that 1) any Rain song lets you feel the urge to dance 2) Rain is a good singer, an above-average actor, and an awesome dancer.
Dancing is a common talent among the Kwon siblings, which is what made BoA’s brother audition for SM Entertainment. As with a lot of chance success stories pop idols anywhere in the world, BoA was in the auditions only to accompany her brother who wanted to join the company with his break dancing skills. However, it was the sister who ended up getting signed by the company before audition day ended, and the rest, as they say, is history.
That BoA was also a pan-East Asian star may have also contributed to her reputation as a formidable dancer. Two years after she debuted in Korea to moderate success, she was sent to Japan to establish a singing career there. At age 16, she may have already been trained in the Japanese language, but of course, the level of comfort she may have had with the language upon her arrival in a new country may not have been that high. But of course, since SM Entertainment placed a lot of confidence behind her Japanese debut, she had to present the best of her talents, which ultimately is dancing. The same thing happened when she tried expanding her career in countries such as China, Singapore, and Taiwan. She may not be a native Chinese speaker (in fact, she only recorded Chinese songs without her knowing the l language), but anybody can instantly recognize her superior dancing skills the moment they watch her perform.
And these awe-inspiring dancing skills are what really propelled BoA (and everyone on this article, come to think of it) to international stardom. Save for Taeyang who has a lot of involvement in the composition of his songs and is also known for his strong vocal skills, our dancers here, especially BoA and Rain, do have iconic songs – for K-pop’s queen, there’s Atlantis Princess, Hurricane Venus, Only One, Who are You, but more than them being recognized for their amazing vocal abilities like, for example, Taeyeon, Ailee, or Lee Hi, people remember BoA’s songs and more importantly, the unforgettable choreographies tied to them. And that’s quite an indication that BoA is indeed, not just an idol who is good at dancing, but a dancer who happens to have released several hit pop songs.
There’s just something about Taemin’s dance practices… pic.twitter.com/7hYXsYGI2A
— ᴍ. 🧀 (@TAEMdoku) May 4, 2022
SHINee is the perfect boy group. You had members who had superior vocal skills in Jonghyun (RIP) and Onew, a very able rapper who’s also the group’s visual center in Minho, all-around entertainer Key, and the holder of the title “golden” maknae before BTS’ Jungkook, Taemin. And since we’re on the topic of main dancers, let’s talk about Taemin, who from his debut, was already considered a top dancer. And he debuted at 14. So, yes, this is a case of a dance prodigy debuting as an idol.
There are a number of factors that set him apart from many of the others that are also considered as excellent dancers. First is his experience in the industry. He has close to 15 years in the industry, which may not be as long as BoA and Rain, but then considering that he’s the first on our list who is a member of a group, then that is indeed a feat. His length of experience in the industry may have contributed to his smooth and precise dancing style, which is distinctly Taemin and pretty much identifiable even if viewers can only see his shadow.
You may argue, well what about dancers like Eunhyuk of Super Junior and Younho of TVXQ? They’ve been in the business longer than Taemin. This is where the other factor about Taemin’s abilities springs up. Even if Eunhyuk and Younho have been in the music industry longer than Taemin, and some may even argue that the two may be more skilled in the technicalities of dance, Taemin, as mentioned earlier, has somehow used his years in the industry to develop his own distinct style of dancing, which is quite different from the rest, even from the most established idol dancers who we have already mentioned, such as BoA and Rain.
That style is tied with his initiative of incorporating elements of contemporary dance and his frequent use of androgynous fashion and heavy make-up. He popularized this starting 2017 with his single Move, where he dressed in androgynous fashion. But more than his appearance on the video, the choreography also reflected a blurring of what is commonly considered as “masculine” or “macho” choreography performed by male idols and the more “feminine” choreography characterized by more slinky moves usually associated to female idols. And it worked, as more people found Taemin’s style captivating rather than a turn-off. Moving forward in his career, he has made this androgynous style his trademark.
What’s a girl got to do when she’s the main dancer of the Nation’s Girl Group? Prove your skills to everyone, obviously. Among the main dancers on this list, it was Hyoyeon who, from the start of her career, was pushed into overdrive by SM Entertainment as a main dancer. To be fair to the company, all members were pushed in their roles for easy recognition by the public right from the start of their careers. So, as early as their debut, people already knew that, for example, Tiffany was the American girlfriend, Yoona was the center, Taeyeon was the main vocalist, and Hyoyeon was the main dancer. If that still wasn’t obvious for anyone, they gave her a full 15-second dance break in the music video of their debut track Into the New World. Obviously, after watching that video, the public was only too ready to recognize Hyo’s dancing skills. And if that still wasn’t enough, the group recorded a pre-release song Dancing Queen ahead of their I Got a Boy comeback, a Korean cover of British singer Duffy’s smash hit, Mercy. Ironically, Hyoyeon only had one line in the song and also had minimal exposure on the music video.
— jc (@214fix) January 11, 2022
Actually, Hyo has had a very diverse career. She may not have become an actress, which is the most popular side job for any idol, but she went on to become a legit DJ and a skier! But back to being a dancer, her dancing skills have made her a mainstay in various dancing shows and competitions such as the second season of the Korean version of Dancing with the Stars, where she placed second with her partner Kim Hyungsuk); Dancing 9 in 2014; Hit the Stage, where she ranked number 1 in the ninth episode; and Good Girl in 2020.
Here is another idol who is recognized throughout the entertainment industry as a top dancer: Lee Howon, formerly known as INFINITE’s Hoya. Even before getting into the idol world as a member of one of the 2nd gen’s most popular groups, Hoya was already dead set on entering the entertainment industry with his dancing skills. When he was still supposed to attend middle school, he would cut class and instead go to dance studios, practice dance routines, and check out other dancers to possibly be part of a dance crew.
He eventually joined a dance crew and auditioned for different entertainment agencies such as JYP (you can see a lot of videos of Hoya auditioning with his crew on YouTube). Although his crew unfortunately didn’t pass these auditions, he eventually entered JYP as a trainee, although he left the company and auditioned for the reality program SuperStar K, while Woollim Entertainment was already calling him after they found out that he had left JYP. As soon as he failed to qualify in the next round of SuperStar K, he trained with Woollim and later accepted a spot in the company’s first idol group, INFINITE.
Like Hyo, Hoya has also displayed his dancing skills in reality shows. Hoya was Hyoyeon’s castmate in 2016’s Hit the Stage, where he appeared from Episodes 1 to 4 and ranked first in the final episode he appeared in. He was also the dance coach of a teen dance crew in 2018’s Dancing High, which was won by the team he mentored.
Finally, we have legendary group 2NE1’s maknae and main dancer Minzy. Dancing is in Minzy’s blood, having renowned folk dancer Gong Okjin as her gradnmother. When she was young, she moved to Gwangju with her family, but then her mother brought Minzy and her sister back to Seoul while traveling between Seoul and Gwangju to work with Minzy’s father. It was then when she participated in many dance contests and competitions and was recognized for her talents as she won various awards. She then went, as 2010s language goes, viral with a video of her at a dance competition in Gwangju, where many people who watched it immediately recognized her dancing abilities. This video somehow found its way to the hompage of YG Entertainment, which prompted then-CEO Yang Hyun-suk to contact and recruit her (who was then only in sixth grade) to join the agency. She then debuted with 2NE1 in May 2009 at only 15 years old.
Minzy’s love for the craft of dancing was further solidified when in October 2015, while 2NE1 was on hiatus, Minzy founded her own dance studio (not connected to YG) named the “Millennium Dance Academy.” The Seoul-based studio is very much active with various artists, including Hyoyeon (Punk Right Now), GFriend (Sunrise), and Billie (Siyoon is an alumnae of the academy).
It is safe to say that there are idols that indeed can reach the levels of dancers when it comes to dancing. Although it may be true that idols may need more to beef up their dancer cred, the idols on this list prove that it can be done with a lot of hard work, appreciation for the craft, and connections to the dancing world.
Featured Image: Minzy Official Twitter