The hip-hop dance scene has been going strong in Korea for over two decades. The style was adapted from New York’s exploding hip-hop movement in the 1990s. Korea quickly made the music it’s own with artists such as Seo Taiji incorporating traditional music forms like pansori into his hip-hop style.
Local hip-hop dance instructor Hyun Woo Jin says, “[the real flash point] for hip-hop dance in Korea came with the rise of the Internet and easier access to seeing different styles of movement on the Web.” The origins of hip-hop go back to the 1970s when the funk scene in New York City was pushed underground by the United States’ obsession with disco and dance music. Disillusioned with the glitz of ABBA, people started to meet in parks and community centers to hear the old funk tunes.
Around the world in the mid-1970s DJs began to pay special attention to the percussion breaks in records like Jimmy Castor’s “It’s Just Begun.” The people into the drum breaks started calling themselves B-boys. A wild acrobatic style of dance grew in parallel and became known as breaking, or physical graffiti. DJs began to mix records together, making the drum breaks last longer. They also started to experiment with electronic sounds coming out of mixes from European DJs.
Pioneering DJ Afrika Bambaataa is credited for naming the movement. Hip being slang for current, and hop after the movement of the dancers.
The popularity of hip-hop exploded internationally and was solidified in 1979 by the song “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang.
Over the next few years, five elements became synonymous with the scene: DJing, MCing (rapping), graffiti, breaking, and beatboxing.
Hyun Woo Jin opened his school “Reaction” six years ago in Jeju City Hall and has been dancing for 17 years. He says, “Hip-hop is still popular today because of the freedom of the dance form.”
“Like all dance forms there is a large set of basic movements to learn, but unlike most other forms, improv is a main element of the dance,” says Hyun.
▲ Photos by Sarah Delroy
There are also many forms of dance within hip-hop. They have developed in different parts of the United States, as well as internationally and are all folded into the dance. Different forms, like popping, locking, and krumping, can be seen in a single performance.
Hyun says that the most important thing he tries to teach his students is the ability to feel the music. He says this is crucial to for all dance forms, but especially true for hip-hop.
At “Reaction,” Hyun also has instructors that teach K-pop dance forms.
When asked about the difference between the two styles he said, “Hip-hop is more free-form and full of power, whereas K-pop dance is derived from LA’s urban dance scene and is more choreographed, cute, and sexy.” He says the different forms follow the different music styles.
Since 1990 there has been an inter-national B-boy dance competition called “Battle of the Year.” Beginning in Braunschweig, Germany, it is now held in Montpellier, France. B-boy groups come from all over the world to compete. Korea’s B-boy teams have won every year but one since 2007.
Hip-hop’s base in international sharing of styles and evolution of form seems to guarantee its future in Korea.
For a demonstration from one of Jeju’s own B-boy teams, “Burst Storm” (put together by Hyun) will perform at Samyang Beach on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 7:30 p.m.
For more information on Hyun’s school “Reaction,” please call 010-727-3370.
(Interpretation by Baek Hee Youn)
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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