Tag Archives: dance

Learn k-pop dance at Dancejoa in Los Angeles

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Dancejoa studio in Koreatown, Los Angeles. SCREAMfmLondon

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that Dancejoa is one of the best things about living in LA. I only wish I had found out about the studio sooner!

It all started when I determinedly decided that I was absolutely going to learn the choreography for G-Dragon and Taeyang’s song “Good Boy.” I did learn it (eventually), but I also learned that dance is perhaps my secret passion in life, and I haven’t quite been the same since. I’ve logged a lot of hours at the studio in the ensuing years, and I like to think I’ve come a long way since I stumbled through my first dance cover video with Dancejoa LA several beats behind everyone else the entire time.


Yireh is an excellent teacher with amazing dancing talent and style. She makes everything look cool and effortless (even when I, myself, am dying and sweating profusely). But most importantly, she is a really effective teacher. Actually, Yireh is one of the best dance teachers I’ve ever had — she breaks everything down so well and teaches so clearly that I never feel confused or left behind even during difficult choreography. The classes are so well-organized and well-run. It’s really a pleasure to attend Dancejoa.

The schedule is also very well thought-out. There are two classes on Tuesdays, two on Thursdays and two on Saturdays. On the weekdays, it’s usually a one-hour girl group dance followed by a one-hour boy group dance. The Saturday classes are a bit longer (one and a half hours) and consist of one k-pop dance and one hip-hop routine.

The songs are broken down and taught in sections spread out over the course of a month so you can learn the entire choreography, which I love!!! You feel so accomplished after learning an entire full-length song. And having four weeks to work on it gives you enough time to digest the lessons and practice at home before coming back to add more.

I also love having so many varied dances to choose from. If you like cutesy Twice dances, they’ve got ’em! If you like super-intricate EXO dances, they’ve got ’em! If you like badass hip-hop dances, they’ve got that too! And if you like it all, you can just come learn everything. The schedule is posted in advance on Facebook.


Last year, Dancejoa moved to a new location. It’s easy to find and has its own (very small) parking lot out back. Some of the classes get quite crowded, so I’d recommend coming early to make sure you can find parking (but what else is new, LA?). There’s also a weird random wall in the middle of the studio that limits the space a lot, but Yireh is great about moving around so everyone can see and splitting big classes into groups so everyone has a good chance to practice.

I really can’t recommend Dancejoa enough. I’ve discovered a love for dance that I didn’t realize I had, and it’s made such a big difference in my life. Thanks, Dancejoa!

Students practicing GD and TOP's "Zutter" choreography at Dancejoa in LA. SCREAMfmLondon

Students practicing GD and T.O.P’s “Zutter” choreography at Dancejoa in LA. SCREAMfmLondon

Dancejoa Dance Studio
3859 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, Calif.
For more information, visit www.dancejoa.com.

Live: WAPOP [Collaboration of K-Drama and K-Pop]

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Dance performance team Blue Whale Brothers performs in the WAPOP concert at Children’s Grand Park. SCREAMfmLondon

When a friend offered me free tickets to a “k-drama k-pop concert thing” called WAPOP, I, of course, just had to go see the live combination of these forms of entertainment.

WAPOP is an ongoing event that takes place at 8 p.m. every single Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The name comes from some strange combination of “Wow Pop” and “World & Asia,” and the event is clearly marketed toward tourists specifically from China. The website is offered in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, but a lot of the pre-show content deals with the relationship between South Korea and China, and a lot of the dialogue is in Mandarin.

The performers change from night to night, but the current players frequently include 24K (my favorite rookie group from last year’s Dream Concert!), A.Cian (my favorite rookie group from this year’s Dream Concert!), Bloomy and Minx.

In addition to the k-pop concert, WAPOP also offers live k-drama performances, b-boy dancing, and wild laser light tricks. The whole thing is virtually hosted by actor Lee Byung-hun, who escorts the audience on a train ride through space and time via incredibly deluxe 260-degree panorama video projection.

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The duo Meivley performs a song from the original soundtrack of the popular drama “Descendants of the Sun.” SCREAMfmLondon

When I imagined “live k-drama,” I basically just figured they’d show an episode of “Boys Over Flowers” on the big screen and be done with it. However, the k-drama bits are, in fact, very cool. The big screen is used to show key scenes from popular shows like “My Love From Another Star” and “Descendants of the Sun” while live musicians and dancers perform dramatic scenes on the stage.

When Lee Byung-hun first drops us off in the Joseon Dynasty for some Korean culture, the historical drama is augmented with hip-hop dancing to the tune of a traditional Korean stringed instrument, the gayaguem. The k-drama scenes make great use of the stage and the theater’s technology.

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Minx performs T-ara’s “Roly Poly” onstage at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

In between each k-drama performance, a different rookie idol group takes the stage to perform a few songs — usually two original songs and one cover.

On the night I attended, girl group Bloomy performed first, introducing original songs “흥칫뿡” and “Because of You,” which are both surprisingly excellent. The group is really new (they debuted in February), but the performance was legit. The second girl group, Minx, was less impressive, but they performed a fun cover of T-ara’s hit song “Roly Poly,” so that was something.

A.Cian, the only boy group that night, closed the event. I remember loving their catchy single “Touch” the last time I saw them live, and they delivered again at the WAPOP concert. Their dancing is over-the-top cute, their outfits are over-the-top stupid, and they are overflowing with fanservice. The perfect combination. They, naturally, closed the show with a cover of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” because that’s what you do when you’re targeting an audience of tourists.

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A.Cian performs their single “Touch” at the WAPOP concert. SCREAMfmLondon

I actually really enjoyed the whole show, and I ended up downloading both A.Cian’s and Bloomy’s albums when I got home. Loved it and would totally do it again.

That being said, I have no idea who the hell would pay $70 for this experience. There are a million opportunities to see huge k-pop stars perform for free. So why would anyone pay this price to see some random rookie acts perform two songs alongside a video projection of Lee Byung-hun? If they sell any tickets at all, that blows my mind.

But WAPOP is a cool experience, really. I would pay, like… five bucks to see it again.

WAPOP
238 Neungdong-ro Gwangjin-gu
8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
Tickets range from 50,000 to 70,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.wapophall.com.

Live: Epik High and JYP (separately, of course)

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Epik High appears onstage at Olympic Hall in Seoul on Dec. 12. SCREAMfmLondon

My favorite hip-hop trio Epik High played two high-profile shows at Olympic Hall in Seoul on Dec. 11 and 12 as the final stops of the “Legends 3” concert series. The concert teasers featured Epik High’s Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz hilariously parodying old-school k-pop groups, as well as the heads of SM, YG and JYP Entertainment. And they kept the joke going throughout the concert — Tukutz even bravely came out onstage wearing JYP’s infamous plastic pants. It was one hell of an entertaining show.

The two concerts featured a wide array of guest artists. On the night I attended, performers included JYJ’s Junsu, Nell’s Kim Jong-wan, and Younha, among others. Junsu performed three songs: “OeO,” “Flower,” and a really boring one from the musical “Dracula” that he stars in. The band members’ families were also in attendance, including Tablo’s daughter Haru who appears alongside him on the reality show “The Return of Superman” and has become a celebrity in her own right. At one point, Tablo suddenly appeared beside me in the crowd, rapping his lines as he made his way over to Haru to have her scream into the microphone for him. But the best moments were, obviously, Epik High’s excellent live performances of songs like “Don’t Hate Me,” “New Beautiful,” “Born Hater” and “Burj Khalifa.” My high is epik. So good.

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The first stop on JYP’s Naughty Party “STRIP” was Incheon’s Samsan World Gymnasium on Dec. 5. SCREAMfmLondon

JYP’s Naughty Party “STRIP” show certainly lived up to its name. I don’t know what I was expecting. I definitely was not expecting it to be 44-year-old Park Jin-young himself who was stripping, but hey. I had never before seen anyone take off all their clothes in the middle of a passionate piano solo — only you, JYP.

The concert featured songs spanning the musician/producer/CEO/lecher’s 23-year-long music career, including his most recent hits, “Who’s Your Mama?” and “I’m So Sexy,” as well as a cover of Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.” JYP danced impressively and was reasonably entertaining. In between songs, he presented several scenes inspired by “Fifty Shades of Grey,” including one in which he simulates sex with a woman in an elevator and another in which he’s handcuffed inside a metal cell with a dominatrix. At one point, he called a couple from the audience to join him onstage, tied them to two separate beds and grinded all up on the woman while her boyfriend was seduced by backup dancers. I was pretty scandalized, and I don’t think I’ll ever get that image of topless JYP out of my mind. Thanks a lot.

SMTown: Studio and dance class

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The studio on the fourth floor of SMTown at COEX Artium, guarded by Jonghyun. SCREAMfmLondon

SMTown Studio: Music Video, Photo, Recording, Hair & Makeup, Vocal, Dance, Dress

As you ascend to the top floors of SMTown at COEX Artium, the services become more deluxe. While you can purchase k-pop merchandise on the second floor, you can actually star in a k-pop music video on the third!

At the SMTown Studio, fans can be professionally styled with SM-approved costumes, hair and makeup; trained to create an audio recording of their favorite song; taught the corresponding dance moves; photographed and photoshopped to their hearts’ content; and filmed in a duplicate of their favorite music video. It honestly all looks like a ton of fun — especially if you have slight delusions of grandeur and a lot of money to blow.

The SMTown Studio packages range in price from about $30 (for a simple tour of the space and a commemorative photo) to $500 (for a two-hour video recording session). Most packages hover around the $100-200 range. A one-hour, one-on-one dance class costs about $100 (while a group class is around $80). A one-hour vocal training and recording session is $150, and it costs $200 (and, apparently, one and a half hours) to have your hair and makeup done.

I took a tour of the studio space that culminated in a one-hour dance class.

The tour begins at the makeup station, where marble tables are piled high with rows upon rows of blush, eye shadow, brushes and more. The walls are all covered with mirrors and “the best selfie lighting ever” (their words — not mine). I do not doubt, though, that SM Entertainment’s makeup artists could work some serious magic on us all with their superior beauty knowledge. It’s a tempting package, for sure.

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SMTown photo studio. SCREAMfmLondon

Behind the makeup station is the photo studio. It’s a pretty cavernous room decorated with yet-unreleased photos of SM artists for the guests to ogle. If you’re a fan of photoshoots, I’m sure this is a good one. I am not a fan of photoshoots, but they took a few photos of me anyway — and specified which way I should stand to make it easiest to photoshop.

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Some of TVXQ!’s costumes on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

My favorite stop on the tour is the wardrobe area. It’s a beautiful room full of costumes SM artists have worn onstage or at special events, all grouped by band and labeled with the individual members’ names. It was amazing to see these outfits up close and to examine all the details: every epaulette on SHINee’s jackets, every rhinestone on TVXQ!’s sleeves. Everything is so pristine, except for the scuff marks on the fabulous shoes. I loved it so much.

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The hard-working shoes of a k-pop star. SCREAMfmLondon

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SHINee’s outfits on display at SMTown. SCREAMfmLondon

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So much beautiful crushed velvet. SCREAMfmLondon

Next, we visited the vocal recording rooms. Allegedly, the rooms are really, really used by actual SM artists. This was emphasized many, many times during the tour. There are a number of different recording booths equipped with what is supposed to be the best, most advanced audio recording technology out there. I would not know the difference, so I’ll have to take their word for it.

From there, we journeyed through the hallways to the music video studio. The room is divided in two halves: EXO’s “Growl” on one side and Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” on the other.

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Music video set for EXO’s “Growl.” SCREAMfmLondon

This room was a little awkward for a few reasons. First, there were quite a few people sitting right in the middle of it doing some work on their computers while we’re just traipsing around, taking pictures of stuff.

Also, I happened to be there not long after Tao officially announced his departure from EXO and his subsequent lawsuit against SM Entertainment. It was a little too obvious that his name had been hastily painted over on a few of the walls while it still appeared on others. Awkward.

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Tao’s name hastily painted over at bottom right. SCREAMfmLondon

Once we departed from there, it was time for our dance lesson led by a professional SM choreographer. We stashed our belongings in fire engine red lockers that read “DREAMS COME TRUE” across the front and took our places to learn the dance for EXO’s song “Call Me Baby.”

The pace of the dance was very quick, but the instructor was patient and helpful. One hour was not enough time for any of us to master any of that, but we worked hard, and it was a blast. It seemed to go by very quickly, especially since a lot of time was taken when cameramen came in to record our practice and interview a few of us (including me, for some horrifying reason) about our interest in k-pop.

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Inside the SMTown dance studio. SCREAMfmLondon

It was a great class, though, and I was sad to leave. I could definitely imagine spending hours every day trying to perfect those dance moves, if I only could afford it.

The SMTown Studio experience was an interesting one. To be honest, the studio tour is a little boring and doesn’t offer much beyond selfie ops (and not very spectacular ones at that). I would recommend heading straight for your area of interest (singing, dancing, fashion) to maximize your enjoyment of the studio.

Check out my guide to SMTown’s SUM Celebrity Shop and LIVErary Café here.
Check out my guide to SMTown’s 3D printing theater here.

Theater: Blue Square presents ‘In the Heights’

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Seoul’s production of “In the Heights” in the Samsung Card Hall at Blue Square. SCREAMfmLondon

“In the Heights” is a much-acclaimed musical centered on a Dominican-American neighborhood in Washington Heights in New York City. So you might’ve guessed why it’s slightly weird to see this musical put on in Seoul in the Samsung Card Hall at Blue Square.

Seoul’s “In the Heights” production is highly entertaining, of course. The cast even impressively weaves Spanish and English (as well as hip-hop and salsa dancing) into the all-Korean script. The show is executed flawlessly: the singing is superb, the acting is charming and the dancing is lively. All it is lacking is the emotional connection, because so much of the story is deeply connected to the characters’ ethnic backgrounds.

The original Broadway production of “In the Heights” was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won several Tony Awards for his music, lyrics and acting and is currently performing on Broadway as Alexander Hamilton in the hip-hop musical “Hamilton” for which he also wrote the music and lyrics.

“In the Heights” centers on Usnavi, a character born in the Dominican Republic and named after a US Navy ship (one of the first things his parents saw in America). With his comic relief sidekick, Sonny, Usnavi runs a bodega that is frequented by the neighborhood residents.

These include: Benny, the aspiring businessman who works as a dispatcher at the cab company and is the play’s only non-Latino character; Nina, who has returned home for the summer to reveal to her parents that she dropped out of Stanford University; and Vanessa, a hairstylist who dreams of getting an apartment of her own and moving away from the Barrio.

The Seoul production features a rotating group of k-pop stars and actors in the lead roles. The performance I attended saw Infinite’s Jang Dong-woo and Kim Sung-kyu as Usnavi and Benny, Oh So-yeon as Vanessa and Kim Bo-kyung as Nina.

The cast’s talent and passion is unquestionable. The best moments are the musical’s large, ensemble numbers that fully utilize the backup dancers — “Carnaval del Barrio,” “Blackout” and “96,000,” during which the entire neighborhood comes out to fantasize about winning $96,000 in the lottery.

The main cast was, overall, very impressive. So-yeon and Bo-kyung both demonstrated powerful vocals (although Vanessa is an infinitely more interesting character than Nina, who is kind of a drag).

Dongwoo and Sungkyu were incredibly charming in their roles. Dongwoo had great comedic timing and command of the stage, and Sungkyu developed excellent chemistry with his co-stars and was very likeable throughout. It was a pleasure to watch them explore the personalities of their characters. However, this was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen fans rush the stage at the end of a musical theater production, like we were about to open up the mosh pit. I was all but clutching my pearls.

It was worth it, though. “In the Heights” is a good show, and although it makes less sense overseas than it would in the US, the Seoul cast and crew have done nice work with the material. I hope we’ll get to see “Hamilton” next!

‘In the Heights’
294 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu
Weekdays at 8 p.m., weekends at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday through November 22
Tickets range from 70,000 – 130,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.interpark.com.

August 23: Architecture, art and more

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View of Mapo-gu from the 34th floor, overlooking the Han River. SCREAMfmLondon

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Infinite kicked off their Infinite Effect world tour with a concert at Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul on Aug. 8. SCREAMfmLondon

  • Before the Infinite concert on Aug. 8, we were caught in a torrential downpour and had to take shelter in the subway station, where concertgoers had set up little makeshift refugee camps to dry out. We were ridiculously drenched, and my Sungkyu stickers got all warped. But everything was wonderful once our seven boyfriends took the stage. They go above and beyond to create a fantastic experience for the audience: flying signed paper airplanes into the crowd, riding cloud-shaped carts around the arena to hand out actual roses to fans, performing unbelievably in-sync choreography (including the famous scorpion dance move during “Before the Dawn”), and Woohyun’s top coming “”accidentally”” unbuttoned. Also, we did the wave! It was the perfect concert.
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Such picturesque architecture in Samcheong-dong. SCREAMfmLondon

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A collection of Amedeo Modigliani’s portraits are on display at Seoul Arts Center from June 26 – Oct. 4. SCREAMfmLondon

  • The Modigliani exhibition is housed on the uppermost floor of the Hangaram Art Museum within the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-dong. It is organized into seven themes: Paul Alexandre (Modigliani’s first patron), Portraits of Men, Caryatids (based on the female-shaped columns often present in ancient architecture), Jeanne Hébuterne (Modigliani’s lover, a fellow artist), Portraits of Women, Nudes and Moïse Kisling (a friend of Modigliani’s and another fellow artist). The exhibit is well laid-out and emphasizes Modigliani’s portraits as a means of self-reflection. The subjects of his paintings are usually characterized by their long necks and dark, vacant eyes colored in with no pupils. Modigliani is quoted as saying “When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes”  — a quote that is displayed prominently in the gallery alongside his work.

I performed at the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival

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Infinite closes out the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival with a performance of their recent single, “Bad.” SCREAMfmLondon

I hear the roaring applause of thousands of k-pop fans as I’m nailing every moment of my chicken-inspired choreography. I land my final jumps, and the crowd goes wild. Then, I have to hurry off the stage because world-renowned pop superstar Psy is up next.

That’s (basically) (more or less) how it went down when I performed as a backup dancer for Korean comedian Kim Young-chul’s set at the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival on Aug. 4. The four-hour concert boasted performances from artists such as GOT7, Infinite, T-ara, Crayon Pop and Psy.

And me, of course.

SM Entertainment, sign me up

The adventure began around 7 p.m. the night before the concert, when the dancers were all herded en masse through several crowded subway transfers until we reached our stage at Seoul City Hall.

At the venue, we were quickly taught the moves and positioned onstage, where we ran the dance until 9 p.m. We had no idea what song we were dancing to until the next day, but, boy, were we dancing. We danced and danced, were given disapproving looks, and then we danced some more.

The choreographer seemed quite exasperated every time we failed to perform our dance in perfect synchronization, but I’m pretty sure that the steps were different every time we ran through it. I’m also pretty sure that they were making it up as we went along.

He was terribly intimidating (even when he congratulated us on a job well done at the end of the concert). I felt like I was in an audition for a Very Serious entertainment agency. Which was actually super fun for me. I was having a blast. I could do that all day every day. SM Entertainment, sign me up!

SM Entertainment, don’t call me — I’ll call you

The next day, we arrived bright and early to our dance team holding tent backstage while fans were already staking out spots on the lawn to watch their favorite groups.

“We just saw some k-pop stars!” one of the girls exclaimed excitedly as she ran up to our group. “I think it was Infinite!”

‘No way,’ I thought. ‘I am sitting around in this sweltering tent backstage for six hours because I don’t actually have a life, and what else would I be doing? If I was an actual k-pop star, I’d show up like five minutes before I had to be onstage. And I’d demand a dressing room or something.’

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Super Junior’s Zhou Mi gets ready backstage before emceeing the concert on Aug. 4. SCREAMfmLondon

But no sooner had the thought occurred to me than Infinite themselves popped out of their own black tarp tent and made the glamorous journey toward a shared porta-potty. Along the way, they resignedly waved at the jittery fans who were intently watching said journey to the porta-potty.

Amazing! Not only were they, in fact, sitting around in their backstage tent longer than I was, but they also had a lot more pressure surrounding the general porta-potty experience than I have ever dealt with. Possibly, I do not want to be a k-pop star after all. SM Entertainment, don’t call me — I’ll call you.

Make it happen

Once the seats were beginning to fill, we went onstage for our soundcheck. This was the first time we’d heard the song we’d be dancing to — a remix of Kim Young-chul saying “Cheer up, superpower” on an episode of “Infinity Challenge.” It was also the first time we’d met him, but we were pumped. I was pumped. I was ready to roll, ready to party, ready to dance on the very floor where Nam Woo-hyun would also dance.

I felt even better when we came off the stage from our soundcheck, hurrying down the right side of the staircase because Infinite was making their way up the left for their own soundcheck. ‘Yes, this feels right. This is where I belong. Me and Psy — we’re like peers, really.’

Finally, the time came for our official, broadcast-ready performance. We waited patiently in the wings while MCs Zhou Mi of Super Junior, Lee Hong-bin of VIXX and Park Ji-yeon of T-ara gave an introduction. As they passed us on the stairs, Zhou Mi gave us a thumbs-up and whispered, “Fighting!” I grinned. We’re totally peers.

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Why aren’t there any better-quality videos of my moment?! Yours truly, second from the left. SCREAMfmLondon

I felt so alive with all of those confused eyes on me as I wildly flapped my arms in tune to the song. ‘Yep, this is the life,’ I thought. My face was projected on the screens at both sides of the stage as I danced my heart out. I hope Psy saw it, and I hope he appreciates my passion. My face was broadcast on SBS MTV throughout South Korea as I danced my heart out. I hope everybody saw it, and I hope they appreciate my passion.

It went great. The crowd didn’t know what to do with themselves. It was the greatest thing they’d ever seen, I assume.

The Summer K-pop Concert

Exhilarated from the performance, we eventually took our seats in the audience to watch the rest of the concert clutching towels and posters painted with the phrase “I LOVE K-POP.”

It was awesome. Psy was electrifying, and he got the entire crowd up and dancing to “Gentleman” (such a jam) and other hits that shall not be named. He played an unprecedented four songs, and I loved every moment of it. He’s such an incredible entertainer — I’m absolutely certain that I screamed louder for him than any of the boy bands.

GOT7 was awfully super adorable with “Just Right,” which was tragically the only song they performed at the show. The bubbly you’re-perfect-just-the-way-you-are vibe is the cutest and will never fail to warm my heart. I also love the accompanying dance. Watching professionals like GOT7 command the stage really reminded me what dancing is supposed to look like after spending so much time looking at myself dance (or try to, anyway).

Infinite was wonderful, as always. They performed “Bad” from the recently-released mini-album “Reality,” and then closed the show with a more somber ballad. “Bad” is a really awesome song with a theatrical, Hans Zimmer-style introduction and a dark, sexy overtone. It shows off the strengths of several band members — namely Dongwoo, whose rap verse and featured dance were some of the highlights of the performance.

Altogether, I had a blast at the concert. It was one of the most entertaining strange situations I’ve ever inserted myself into. I sincerely hope I get to do it again. SM Entertainment, I’m back onboard.

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Psy performs at the 2015 Summer K-pop Festival. SCREAMfmLondon

Theater: Sejong Center presents ‘Chess’

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The musical “Chess” at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

This June and July, the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts hosts the musical “Chess,” marking its debut in Asia.

The musical was composed in the early 1980s by two former members of ABBA. The story follows a Cold War-era chess tournament between the American grandmaster, Freddie, and the Soviet grandmaster, Anatoly. The two men conflict not only over chess but also over their mutual attraction to Freddie’s manager, Florence. It’s a story of betrayal, ambition and… chess.

I feel like there was a rather weird phase of pop culture interest in chess during the 1980s and ‘90s, traceable back to the brief fame of Bobby Fischer. I definitely studied a disproportionate amount about chess while I was in school (compared to how useful it’s been in life, which is not at all).

During my lifetime, I have seen exactly zero evidence that the paparazzi and/or the general public would ever care about chess championships, but it comes up all the time in literature.

Unfortunately, chess is not actually that exciting as a subject for musical theater.

The Seoul production was basically carried by the ensemble dancers and the spectacular choreography from Seo Byung-goo and Hong Yoo-sun. The cast made interesting use of the stage, set and props to keep each scene at its most visually stimulating. And “One Night in Bangkok” is a total jam. But there’s only so much dancing rooks can do for your show, y’know?

The main cast rotates throughout the week and includes a number of well-known k-pop stars. The performance I attended featured Ken from the band VIXX as Anatoly, Shin Sung-woo as Freddie, and An Si-ha as Florence.

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Fans leave well-wishes for VIXX’s Ken outside of the theater on the day of his performance. SCREAMfmLondon

Ken has a powerful voice, which was particularly evident during his cynical solo song “Where I Want to Be.” This number was definitely one of the highlights of the show and showed off his smooth vocals.

However, Ken’s acting did not seem on par with his singing — he struggled to come across mature enough to accurately portray Anatoly. His musical talent is certain, but his acting failed to bring any emotional depth to the character. He also failed to create any real chemistry with the other actors; certainly not with Florence, for whom he was supposed to feel some heart-wrenching passion.

I’d be curious to see the performance again with a change in cast to see how the different actors would alter the experience, or if “Chess” is just unsalvageable. I dunno. Let’s call it a stalemate.

‘Chess’
175 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu
Weekdays at 4 and 8 p.m., weekends at 3 and 7 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday through July 19
Tickets range from 40,000  130,000 KRW
For more information, visit www.musicalchess.co.kr.

Live: 2015 Dream Concert at Seoul World Cup Stadium

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The Seoul World Cup Stadium aglow with the passion of k-pop fans. SCREAMfmLondon

On May 23, I attended the 21st annual Dream Concert. The concert is a k-pop smorgasbord: emceed by Leeteuk from Super Junior and featuring performances from more than 30 k-pop groups from rookies to chart-dominating stars.

Yeah, I know. More than 30 bands. I feel like everyone who’s ever had a song in their heart was invited to perform at this event. So, strap yourselves in for this intensive band-by-band recap of the 2015 Dream Concert:

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24K performed “Hey You,” and the moves for the chorus of this song were some of my favorites from the whole event. That’s a pretty suave dance and a catchy beat. But I want to know why two of the band members were wearing facemasks during the red carpet procession and through the entire performance. Is this their concept? Who cares about a boyband that doesn’t have faces? Don’t they know that the faces are like 70 percent of the appeal of a boyband?

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4Minute and EXO stand together awkwardly at the end of the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

4Minute

4Minute was one of the groups I was most looking forward to at the Dream Concert. Their performance of this year’s hit “Crazy” was excellent, but the second number (“What’s Your Name?”) was kind of uninspired. HyunA, I still love you, though, girl.

9Muses

I found “Drama” to be a boring song with some boring costumes. And I know they’ve gone through a lot of lineup changes, but it kind of bothers me that there are only eight members of 9Muses.

B1A4

B1A4 put on a really engaging performance — probably one of the best of the night. I was not feeling their outfits (nice shorts, y’all), but the live show sold me on the song “Solo Day.” Quite adorable and good stage presence.

BTS

BTS (short for Bangtan Boys) performed “I Need U” and “Fun Boys.” BTS is more on the hip-hop end of the spectrum (one of the guys is named Rap Monster), but, like, as hip-hop as you get wearing Bermuda shorts with suspenders. “Fun Boys” is kind of a jam, though.

Berry Good

Berry Good was probably my favorite of the rookie groups. Definitely my favorite outfits of the night with flouncy pink miniskirts, matching pink ties, chunky heels and glittery wrist cuffs. “Because of You” was also a good song: I was into the juxtaposition of the sweet verses against the weird dubstep pre-chorus.

Boys Republic

Boys Republic was one of several groups working the sexy schoolboy angle at the Dream Concert. Unfortunately for them, the sound was pretty screwed up during their set (although the sound mixing was pretty awful throughout). However, they put on an amusing show — by that, I mean that they came out with the kind of drippy “Hello” and then switched it up by ripping off all their clothes during “The Real One.”

BTOB

Man, am I the only one who has a hard time telling the difference between BTS, BTOB and B1A4? Not enough variety in these band names. BTOB performed “Wow” and “Beep Beep,” which were fun songs, but not that memorable.

CLC

CLC performed a remix of the song “Pepe,” but it was not anything to write home about, so I will refrain.

EXID

I was quite looking forward to EXID’s performance — as was everyone else, I think. Both “Ah Yeah” and “Up & Down” are excellent songs with really recognizable trademark dances, and I especially love LE’s unique rapping voice. For their set, EXID covered the stage with about 5 million backup dancers, but they had to perform a watered-down version of “Up & Down” to appease the family-friendly audience, I guess. Still, EXID put on a great show and had the entire venue buzzing.

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EXO at the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

EXO

EXO is a fantastic band, and both “Call Me Baby” and “Growl” are phenomenal songs. EXO’s fanbase at the Dream Concert was also kind of awe-inspiring and terrifying. I’m not sure why exactly EXO didn’t close the show, as they clearly should have. The well-orchestrated fanchants during EXO’s set could be heard clearly outside of the venue, across a few streets of traffic. All of the band members looked great (Chanyeol’s styling was particularly cool), but I’m just afraid they’re going to drop dead of exhaustion at any moment.

GOT7

GOT7 came to the Dream Concert straight from some rigorous promoting schedule, and it showed. The sound quality was also pretty wack during their set, which affected the show. Mark still did a lot of sweet acrobatic moves during “Stop Stop It” and “Girls Girls Girls,” but it wasn’t the best performance. It was a bummer because they looked visibly frustrated coming offstage, and they’re usually so affable and charming.

HALO

I don’t remember HALO’s performance of “Grow Up” as much as the impression they made walking the red carpet. Nice shorts, y’all.

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This is a crummy picture of Infinite standing dramatically during the intro to “Back.” SCREAMfmLondon

Infinite

Infinite was such a delight. I was really looking forward to Infinite, and I’m still stoked about it. They looked sharp in sleek black-and-white suits as they performed “Back” and “Paradise.” And what’s more: while some bands look so dead behind the eyes while going through the motions of their dances, Infinite seemed so glad to be there. Literally no one was having more fun than Dongwoo. They couldn’t get him offstage after the show. They had to cut the sound from his microphone, and he still kept jumping around and playing with the fans long after everyone else had left. It was so damn endearing.

Hyoseong

Jun Hyo-seong of Secret performed her solo song “Into You.” She is super attractive, but she appeared creepily robotic during her passionless performance. I was very scandalized, however, when one of her dance moves included having a female backup dancer reach around from behind and give her breasts a firm squeeze. Whoa! And EXID can’t do their “Up & Down” pelvic thrusting?!

Kara

Kara revealed “Cupid,” the first track from the group’s newest mini-album, “In Love,” for the first time at the concert. They also wore some white, fringed vests. I felt ambivalent toward all of it.

LABOUM

LABOUM was another of my favorites from the rookie stages, but I took off points for the sexy baby concept. “Sugar Sugar” is such a cute bubblegum pop song, though. It’s very reminiscent of American girl group sounds from the 1950s — even the adorable, simple dance.

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Lovelyz at the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

Lovelyz

Lovelyz performed “Hi~” in cute mismatched schoolgirl outfits and released a ton of multicolored balloons into the sky during their set. It looked cool, but, damn, that’s a lot of litter.

MFBTY

MFBTY’s performance was a pleasant surprise at the dream concert. The hip-hop group consists of Korean hip-hop greats Drunken Tiger/Tiger JK, Yoon Mi-rae and Bizzy. Together, they played “Bang Diggy Bang Bang” and “Monster” with guest appearances from many of the other Dream Concert artists — Chanyeol from EXO, Wendy from Red Velvet, LE from EXID, Baro from B1A4, and Rap Monster and Suga from BTS. The songs are good and the collaborations were interesting, but they actually messed up their set and had to start all the way from the beginning again, which killed my buzz, as well as the illusion that this was a live concert.

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Monsta X at the 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

Monsta X

Monsta X was so much fun. The performance of “Trespass” began with a guy popping out of a trap door a few feet from my face and aggressively ripping off his shirt. He was then joined onstage by his bandmates — as well as a slew of backup dancers dressed in cheap police uniforms. Hell yeah, is this the Dream Concert or a bachelorette party? I don’t even remember what the song sounded like, but who cares?

Oh My Girl

OMG performed “Cupid” dressed in cheerleader uniforms. I feel like there are a million bands who have performed a song called “Cupid” dressed in cheerleader uniforms, but at least the chorus of this song is catchy.

Red Velvet

Red Velvet opened the show, for some reason. I was really looking forward to their performance, but I wasn’t ready for it when they began — and then it was over just as quickly. Plus, they released some giant Red Velvet beach balls during this set, so I had to concentrate on not getting bonked instead of watching the show. “Ice Cream Cake” is a jam, though, and Red Velvet should’ve performed a bit later on in the evening.

ROMEO

I had the best seats in the house, I think — especially for backstage insight. One of my favorite behind-the-scenes moments was when Romeo was running onstage to perform: one of the guys tripped over the plastic mats covering the soccer field and totally ate it right in front of me. Also, they performed “Lovesick.” But that guy fell down! Comedy gold.

Secret

In addition to Hyoseong’s solo stage, Secret performed “Magic” and “Madonna.” Neither were very interesting! Moving on.

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SHINee closing the 2015 Dream Concert like pros. SCREAMfmLondon

SHINee

SHINee closed the show like pros. They performed “View” and “Love Sick” from their latest album, “Odd,” which was just released on May 18. “View” is a really catchy, kind of clubby song that is (dare I say it?) probably my favorite SHINee song to date. The band executed their moves flawlessly, and Jonghyun and Key looked super cool. But Taemin… Taemin wore a strange oversized sweater and a pair of oversized pants with the phrase “OPEN HERE” printed boldly down the fly. It was a killer performance, but somebody needs to dispose of that outfit.

SISTAR

A great behind-the-scenes moment came after Sistar’s techno remix of “Touch My Body.” When the backup dancers climbed offstage before the group’s second number, Bora casually left right alongside them while her bandmates were introducing the next song, “I Swear.” Somebody had to grab her by the arm and throw her back onstage to finish the performance. Anyway, I think I enjoyed the re-imagined rendition of “Touch My Body,” but the sound was so blown out, I could barely hear anything. C’mon, Dream Concert.

Sonamoo

When you see 30 bands in one sitting, it can feel like you’re seeing the same thing over and over again… No, wait, I’m sorry, that’s just Sonamoo performing “Deja Vu.” Ha. Ha ha.

SPEED

I thought Speed was cool. The boys looked casual yet powerful, and like they were having a lot of fun. They wore schoolboy uniforms and shoes equipped with skates, so the dance for “What U” could incorporate some effortless gliding as well as their typical acrobatic tricks. Throughout their set, they skated back and forth across the stage in backwards caps. Kind of a “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” aesthetic.

T-ara

T-ara performed “Little Apple,” followed shortly by Eun-jung’s solo performance of “I’m Good.” Eun-jung, the lead vocalist and rapper in T-ara, made her solo debut as Elsie at the beginning of the month. Her solo stage was an unusual change of pace — more lyrical and easy-listening than the pop and hip-hop that dominated the Dream Concert.

Topp Dogg

What I really enjoyed about Topp Dogg was that the band name was misspelled as “ToppGogg” on the official Dream Concert poster. There are also like 500 people in this band. They performed “Top Dog” with some impressive pyrotechnic effects that coincided with the song’s chorus (“T. O. Double P. / D. O. Double G. / Topp Dogg!”). Their set was highly entertaining.

VIXX

VIXX is such an embarrassing breed of ultra-adorable that it’s kind of likeable. Their style is almost too cutesy for me, but I found their Dream Concert performance to be one of the best. They performed “Love Equation” and “Error,” and I was officially sold on the goofy move where they spell out their band name with their arms. Also, Leo’s voice is beautiful, and I enjoy how vaguely uncomfortable he always looks because I’m hoping he feels as conflicted as I do about that VIXX choreography.

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The 2015 Dream Concert. SCREAMfmLondon

Live: Big Bang at Olympic Gymnastics Arena

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Fans arrive at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena to see Big Bang’s first concert of the 2015 MADE World Tour on April 25. SCREAMfmLondon

Approaching Olympic Park in Seoul this weekend was like arriving in Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. The expansive sidewalks were lined with banners billowing in the wind — each one depicting a member of the five-piece K-pop group Big Bang sporting a ridiculous hairstyle. Above them floated giant, luminescent balloons displaying phrases like “빅뱅 IS BACK.” It was magical.

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Big Bang’s official light sticks are so cool until you’re trying to see around them in the crowd. SCREAMfmLondon

The moment had finally arrived for Big Bang’s much-anticipated comeback after about three years of the members focusing on solo work and not releasing any new group material. The momentous occasion was marked with two consecutive concerts at Seoul’s Olympic Gymnastics Arena on April 25 and 26 — and I attended them both.

The MADE 2015 World Tour dates in Seoul served to usher in a new era for the band. Here’s the plan: Big Bang will release an EP on the first day of each month from May to September of this year (“M,” “A,” “D” and “E”). Each EP will feature two new singles — until September, when the full-length studio album “Made” will finally be released. It’s kind of complicated. I love it.

The first two songs — due to be released May 1 — were introduced at this weekend’s concerts. And they are both killer tracks.

The group presented “Loser” first by screening the official music video, which was filmed just a few weeks ago in downtown Los Angeles. One scene shows G-Dragon sprawling out despondently across Spring Street as the ol’ Metro Rapid lumbers past. Truly a merging of my favorite worlds.

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T.O.P rocking that hairstyle like only he can. SCREAMfmLondon

The video is exactly the kind of music video I love — a classic strung-out, rock ‘n roll aesthetic to match the song’s maudlin theme. Taeyang spray paints messages about sin at a trailer park, Seungri smashes some furniture, Daesung gets his ass kicked out front of a convenience store, T.O.P wears his pajamas outside. It’s perfect, and it perfectly matches the song’s gorgeous lyrics. In the first verse, G-Dragon admits, “Honestly, I’ve never fit in… / Love was already forgotten to me, who was alone. / I’ve had enough of hopeful love songs.”

After screening the video, the band reappeared onstage in a revolving platform of windows and mirrors to perform the song live for the first time. In fact, they performed each of the new songs about three or four times each (if you count some of the a capella bits) both nights, which sounds like it would be annoying but was actually wonderful and super effective in harnessing the excitement for the first EP release. Now I don’t want to listen to anything else. ‘Cause I’m just a loser, loner, a coward who pretends to be strong~

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Seungri in the foreground with T.O.P on the big screen. SCREAMfmLondon

During the live performance, Seungri really sold “Loser,” carrying the chorus and adding emotional flourishes to his act. Seungri’s overall performances really stood out at both of the Seoul concerts. In between “How Gee” and “Feeling,” he appeared onstage with a set of turntables to try his hand at DJing, which was a cool way to introduce yet another style of music to Big Bang’s already eclectic repertoire. Seungri was terribly affable and charming during all of his spoken interludes too, but the real highlight was the unexpectedly sexy dance he delivered during “Strong Baby.” Also, his is the only 2015 Big Bang makeover that doesn’t look kinda stupid.

At the midpoint of the band’s three-hour long concerts, each member took the stage solo to show off their individual strengths.

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G-Dragon, Seungri and Daesung perform in Seoul on April 26. SCREAMfmLondon

T.O.P made an impression with his intense rendition of “Doom Dada” in a Piet Mondrian-print suit. Definitely in the running for best wardrobe change, but slightly edged out by G-Dragon in calf-length fur, combat boots and gold, glittery jackets for his “Good Boy” duet with Taeyang and solo performance of “Crooked.” G-Dragon is an incredible artist, and it’s pretty awe-inspiring to be in his presence while he’s doing his thing. What a joy it is to be in the same universe, the same country, the same room as Kwon Ji-yong.

Following G-Dragon’s solo, the band premiered its second new song, “Bae Bae,” with a lyric video followed again by a live performance. “Bae Bae” is another brilliant track — so different in tone from “Loser” but nonetheless cohesive. It’s a more seductive, R&B-style track with a mellow, guitar-driven chorus. G-Dragon and T.O.P both deliver killer verses (GD’s intonation on each repetition of “bae bae” is so perfect — I don’t know how he does it). My favorite line is GD’s “Is she a person or an angel? / Oh, Jesus, bae bae!”

There was never a low point at either of Big Bang’s two Seoul concerts this weekend. Both shows were exceptional from beginning to end.

For two days, I had the pleasure of spending three uninterrupted hours watching pop music at its absolute best. It’s truly a sight to behold. I feel like I have seen a lot of things, but I have never seen anything like Big Bang. Onstage, they bare it all: the dedication and work ethic, the unique talents of each member, the genuine enjoyment of the craft, the fun-loving energy, the limitless creativity, the catchiest hooks of “Fantastic Baby” and “Stupid Liar,” the powerful range of “Blue” and “Bad Boy,” the outfits, the dancing, the special effects, the thought put into every moment.

You may have seen a lot of things, but you have never seen anything like Big Bang.