Behind the Scenes: Class preparation as a K-Pop Dance Teacher

Hello, DGC-ers! Sarah here! I know a lot of our DGC Dance K-Pop dance community are super curious about what instructors do to prepare for classes. I have had students ask me questions such as:

  • “How long does it take for you to learn a dance?”
  • “How do you know how many parts to make?”
  • “When do you find time to learn the dance?”

Today, I’m excited to take you behind-the-scenes to show you my step-by-step preparation for my classes as a K-Pop dance teacher!

Get familiar with the song and dance

I start by watching dance practice MVs or performances and use these as guidelines on how many parts are needed.

First, I pick out the dance breaks of the song and allocate it as the last part because it’s typically the most difficult part. For example, if I need 4 parts for ATEEZ “Pirate King”, then the dance break would be part 4.

(NB: dance break part allocation may vary from instructor to instructor)

Next comes working out the rest of the parts based on:

  • the length of the song,
  • if there are repeated choreographies, and
  • the level of difficulty.

The usual rule of thumb is around 40 seconds per part, but this can change depending on the complexity of the choreography!

The dance practices and performances that I use are mirrored versions.

Music preparation

To save time in class, I cut the song into smaller sections so I can put them on repeat (for drilling the choreo). I have an order to naming these clips so I can easily jump to the clip that I need.

For my recent classes teaching Mamamoo “Hip”, for example, I have Hip 1.1 Intro, Hip 1.2 verse Solar, Hip 1.3 verse Solar 2… and so on. These clip names reflect the idols who are at the centre during that specific part and serve as reminder for me in class on what to teach.

I also cut music while using dance practice videos as guides. If a choreography is slightly more advanced, I would teach that in 8 counts only. If the choreography is slightly easier or involves several counts of walking/formation transitioning, then I teach in 16 counts.

My music clips are cut according to what “musical counts” I’ll be teaching for that song. One of my top tips is to always allocate 5-7 seconds of “free time” in front of the music clips. This leaves me plenty of time to walk from the sound system to the front of the dance studio instead of making a mad dash every time before the music starts. 🙂

What program do I use to play music in class? OPlayer Lite. It’s free to use, it’s convenient and it offers different playback speed settings.

Learning the dance

After I finished music preparation, I then learn the choreography!

I usually begin by putting the dance video on 75% speed to watch the breakdowns of the moves. It is useful (and fun!) to also watch fan-cams.

The amount of time I take to learn a dance really varies. For more intermediate/advanced pieces like Monsta X’s “Follow”, I practice a lot on the weekends. For easier pieces like Sunmi’s “Lalalay”, I learned the entire song in under 2 hours. For difficult pieces like A.C.E. “Under Cover”, it would normally take around 4 hours of practicing per part.

As for when do I find the time to prep between teaching and rehearsals? I generally prep before class on the day 😛 (for easier songs!). Note that I would already have completed music cutting and have watched the dance multiple times before I start to learn a piece. I watch dance videos on the tube everyday to help me memorise the choreography.

Bonus tip!

I like to use the original choreography as reference. This is because idols have different dance capabilities, so watching the original choreography gives me a better understanding of what certain moves should be.

That’s it! So please have faith in yourself and be confident in class. It takes time for me to practice too, so please sign up for each part at least twice and practice, practice, practice!

Click here to join our K-Pop dance classes!

Written by Sarah Yu

Sarah Yu is a K-Pop dance instructor at DGC. Her current favourite K-Pop group is ATEEZ. She also enjoys listening to A.C.E., Monsta X, IU, BTS and more. You can follow her Instagram @dancingbella_

Mamamoo -- Hip K-Pop dance class with Sarah