In the fall of 2019, Kenyon’s K-pop dance group, What’s K-Poppin’?, made their official debut at Dancing with the Kenyon Stars. After spending months preparing choreography to a mashup of two songs, the group, wearing coordinating, K-pop-inspired outfits, was delighted to be met with audience cheers.
The club immediately began planning more performances for the following spring, but once COVID-19 hit, the group struggled to maintain the community’s interest that it had worked so hard to gain. However, after a year of conducting weekly meetings over Zoom and with the end of the pandemic in sight, What’s K-Poppin’? is eager to get back on stage.
Sasha Stroud ’21, founder and president of the club, decided to form the group during her sophomore year. For Stroud, it was important for the club not to hold auditions, eliminating a common barrier for those with less dance experience. “Most of us [current members] want to dance, but without the judgement that might happen in stricter dance [groups],” she said.
Stroud strives to instill confidence in her members and enjoys cheering others on when they dance, but noted that choreography is just one aspect of the club. The group also serves as a discussion space, focusing on a range of K-pop topics from wardrobe and aesthetics to cultural appropriation. Members do not shy away from addressing the problems associated with the genre and are encouraged to talk candidly about the “dark side” of the K-pop industry, which often includes the mistreatment of idols and unfair contracts.
As Stroud explained, K-pop is known for its diverse range of fans. Similarly, What’s K-Poppin’? includes members with a broad range of interests. Stroud’s interest in K-pop stems from her Asian identity and her love for the genre’s style of dance and fashion. Some members join for their appreciation of the music and culture, while others are specifically interested in dancing. However, members are not required to participate in dancing and performances.
Andy Kelleher ’22, who serves as the club’s co-vice president, initially joined the group solely because of his interest in K-pop dance. However, the club has allowed Kelleher to expand his knowledge of K-pop’s culture and stay up to date with new music.
Reflecting back on the club’s first and only on-stage performance, Kelleher recalled the enjoyment he felt when the group was able to come together and see its hard work pay off. “I call it the power of synchronization,” Kelleher said. “A dance tends to look a lot cooler when you’re doing it with another person.”
With constant shifts in and out of quiet period, it is much more difficult for the group to meet in person this semester. Kelleher hopes the group will eventually be able to meet and record more dance covers.
The club is looking for members who want to talk about the world of K-pop without shame and encourages a broad range of people to join. “It’s a very informal environment. If you want to come, please show up, we’ll appreciate you,” Kelleher added.
What’s 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’s distribution list can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Kelleher is chief copy editor for the Collegian.