Kick off your year with Kpop

Minnesota Kpop Dance Crew practices at the University recreation center on Thursday, Sept. 3. The group is hosting Minnesota Kpop Festival 2015 this weekend.

Minnesota Kpop Dance Crew practices at the University recreation center on Thursday, Sept. 3. The group is hosting Minnesota Kpop Festival 2015 this weekend.

Nathan Lemin

Despite being ousted from the University of Minnesota dance department’s practice rooms and rejected as an official University Sport Club, Minnesota Kpop Dance Crew is spending tens of hours each week preparing to put on the largest Kpop event in the Midwest.
 
This year, the Minnesota Kpop Festival — featuring a dance competition, games and Kpop covers — migrates from the Great Hall in Coffman Union to the much larger Carlson Family Stage in Northrop Auditorium.
 
The crew practices as much as 50 hours per week to prepare for events.
 
“It’s funny. We all started as a hobby, [and now] we are part-time students, part-time workers, full-time MKDC,” said family social science senior Haewon Jun, Minnesota Kpop Dance Crew’s secretary. 
 
The dance crew is a University student group that was founded two years ago by its executive producer, computer science doctoral student Kyungyoon Kim.
 
Kpop is varied in style, with emphasis on the whole rather than featuring a part.
 
“The easiest way to explain [Kpop] is ‘Gangnam Style,’ but then people have wrong idea,” Kim said. “It’s similar to NSYNC or One Direction.”
 
MKDC is a small student group with just 18 members, but winning first place at the 2014 homecoming lip sync competition boosted awareness for the dance crew. It has performed at many local events since, including one at Target’s headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.
 
“We’ve set the bar pretty high,” Jun said.
 
The first Minnesota Kpop Festival took place last year, when Kim and company decided they wanted to put on an event specifically for local fans of Kpop.
 
This year, the festival has expanded — and the size of the venue reflects that — but the crew still aims to please its core fans.
 
“We want them in the same space as all of the other Kpop fans loving the same thing,” Jun said.
 
Finding an adequate dance space has been tough for MKDC.
 
Because it’s a small student group, the crew struggles to find a home. Members often stake out the University Recreation and Wellness Center multipurpose rooms to meet their demanding practice routine.
 
“We have contracts. We have commitments,” Kim said.
 
The group relies on mirrored practice rooms because Kpop dancing requires careful synchronization.
 
“Kpop is more about the team  … It’s really hard,” said music junior Zilu Chen, an MKDC member, who Kim saw in a hip-hop workshop video and recruited.
 
Like a well-running machine, a good routine takes time to piece together.
 
“Learning the [choreography] takes three days, but making everyone in sync takes about three months,” Kim said.
 
After the festival, the group wants to slow down.
 
“We’re overloaded. Everyone is tired,” Kim said. “I feel bad for them.”
 
As MKDC spends its last full week preparing for the second Minnesota Kpop Festival, the group keeps the importance on its fans.
 
“We’re trying to give them a chance to have a good time and be proud to be Kpop fans because we don’t get a lot of those opportunities in the Midwest,” Jun said.