Bring Back Messy Dances Practices: Fan Chant

Welcome back to Fan Chant, our weekly column for K-pop fans, stans, and newbies alike. This week, I’m digging into a recent content change, and the overarching trend it signifies. Also, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to my companion newsletter!

Getting into K-pop often involves becoming familiar with a whole new vernacular. What’s the “center” of the group? Why are we calling something a comeback if the group released music just a few months ago? What is Weverse and why do I have to download it?

Maybe one of these days I’ll put together a newbie’s guide to K-pop terms, but today I want to talk about one piece of the fandom puzzle — dance practices. Learning about a group tends to feature a spiral into the mountains of content waiting (it typically does for me, at least). In addition to getting to experience a new discography, becoming familiar with many K-pop groups can include backlogs of variety shows, travel specials, behind the scenes recordings, and dance practices.

Dance practice videos were conceptualized as a way for artists to share a true behind-the-scenes look into the preparation process. To my knowledge, the first act to release a dance practice video was SHINee, but sound off if you have knowledge of an earlier example; from there, it wasn’t uncommon for groups to provide a look into their rehearsals, and, prior to 2019, these videos were often pretty messy.

Dance practices used to be characterized by uncoordinated outfits — the artists were in their actual rehearsal clothes! — and took place in unadorned studios. The audio was from the speaker in the room, and you could hear the sound of shoes hitting the floor. Camera quality wasn’t always great, and the vibe could be anywhere from casual to extremely silly.

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