K-pop dance classes oversubscribed in Britain amid growing popularity

Jamie Johnson
Dance students take part in a high energy K-Pop dance class in London. - John Nguyen/JNVisuals

For many adults, the members of the world’s best ever band are John, Paul, George and Ringo. 

But if you were to ask a teenager the same question today, they might well reply: Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook. 

For those unfamiliar, these young men are members of BTS - a South Korean pop group who sold out Wembley stadium last summer and became the first band since the Beatles to have three number one albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than a year. 

And they can dance. 

In fact, their dance moves alone are so popular, that a new wave of classes have sprung up around the country specifically for people who want to emulate their K-Pop idols, and some industry insiders say it could become more popular than ballet or tap.

Louise Quan, 32, founded Love K-Pop Dance London 18 months ago and now hosts two classes a week at Base Dance Studios in Vauxhall. They are almost always oversubscribed.

“We have a capacity of 30 in the class, but there can sometimes be another 30 on the waiting list,” she said.

The crowdis “mostly female” and aged between 18 and 30.

“But we get all types of people. We have had students, lawyers, there was even a BBC journalist in our last class.

“There will always be a place for classical dance, but this is very commercial, very popular among young people and very popular on the internet. I see no reason why it couldn’t be as big as ballet or tap dancing,” she said.

Ms Quan became interested in K-Pop in the early 2000s but has recognised the recent explosion into mainstream culture.

Boy band NCT DREAM perform on stage during the 9th Gaon Chart K-Pop Awards Credit: Getty Images

According to the French Institut national de l'audiovisuel, the genre is a "fusion of synthesised music, sharp dance routines and fashionable, colorful outfits". The dancing part is non-negotiable.

“Early on, I enjoyed it because there was not a lot of representation of Asians in mainstream music. I was born in Britain but have Chinese and Vietnamese heritage, so I felt a connection to the genre,” said Ms Quan.

“Now, there are at least five different schools in London specifically teaching K-Pop dancing, which is incredible.”

“In K-Pop, you have to dance, so to sing and dance the way they do is amazing. People come to our classes and think it’s tough, so they really respect the artists who do it.

For many people, their first introduction to K-Pop was in 2012, with Gangnam Style, by PSY. The rodeo-style dance moves were wheeled out at weddings, discos and playgrounds all over the country. The video was the first to ever reach one billion views on YouTube. Today, it has nearly three-and-a-half billion. But these dance moves are much slicker, with punchy hip-hop and contemporary moves mixed with some break dancing.

Caroline Stacey, 30, works in finance, but once a month hosts a K-Pop dance class in Elephant and Castle. Recently, she had 75 people turn up for a 7-hour Sunday session.

“We have people coming from all over. Bristol, Wales, one man even brought his daughter all the way from Switzerland because there isn’t a K-Pop culture over there,” she said

“We host masterclasses and learn the dances that have been specially choreographed for the song. One month we were doing a dance from the band NCT and it sold out in five minutes.”

NCT is another boyband, made up of a staggering 21 members aged in their late teens and early twenties. They too, are global, and will be playing at the 72,000 seat NRG stadium in Texas in March. They sold out Wembley arena last summer.

K-Pop’s popularity is only going to continue to grow, and artists have been quick to get on board. BTS collaborated with American rapper Nicki Minaj and a girl group called BlackPink have made a song with Dua Lipa.

Queen’s Brian May was in South Korea yesterday and told reporters: “I’ve learned about K-Pop in the UK and we always welcome people who use their own ways to spread a new influence to this generation. I’m sure they are going to continue to do great.”

Despite generational gaps, “even we can feel just how great this movement is,” he added.