Photo courtesy Lisa Rhee
A Rhee Revolution
A group of bright-eyed fans huddled together in a wide circle, all flaunting their most fashionable attire. Under the crisp and drizzly air, music from a speaker sputtered to life with the first few beats of the song. Fans adjusted their flashing chain belts, embellished denim jackets, and towering heels and shifted into position.
As the speakers spouted randomized songs, the fans followed along to every memorized beat. I smiled from afar, watching them twirl and dip and have fun doing what they loved seeing their idols do most: dance. Though their synchronization was not quite at par with their idol counterparts, what was most emotive was the connection these strangers had made in only a short amount of time. Each fan’s eyes shimmered bright when a song he or she recognized boomed from the speakers, with some even running to the center to dance.
This bizarre dance-driven runway? It’s nothing other than the beautiful realm of a K-pop concert.
I checked my phone quickly. It was nearing the time of the concert. That energy these fans exhibited would be doubled in only a little while. Butterflies bloomed in my stomach, and I glanced up at the rainy sky, content perhaps more than I had ever been.
Suddenly, the sharp morning call of “Time for breakfast!” punctured through the shimmering dream, and I found myself sitting up in bed, glancing at the mask on my shelf, and sighing. The very energy from my memories was swept away by this new reality, and with a last glance at the only lasting memory of that concert night, a small frayed ticket, I pushed out the door and into the unknown that was 2020.
Covid-19 has perhaps stolen from K-pop fans their concerts, friends, and random dance plays, but the fans’ passion for dance has remained unscathed over the course of quarantine.
If anything, the newfangled time sparked interest in dance even more so.
K-pop has become so uplifting for so many, from the comforting songs to harmonious bonds with friends. But perhaps one of the biggest reformations came in the form of dance.
A staple to K-pop is the rigorous choreographies poured into every song the boy groups or girl groups perform. After endless hours of practices and sweat-drenched nights, each group returns to fans’ Youtube screens to showcase their best intensive choreography, every time. Not only do the idols have to make sure every coordinated move is synchronized with the rest of the members during comeback shows and performances, but they also have to uphold stable vocals throughout all of the (quite literally) breath-taking choreography.
This passion for dance has obviously transcended to the fans as well. Dance cover accounts boomed across all social media platforms as more and more choreos flourished and allowed for an abundance of eager learners. Dancing became a form of self expression and of confidence.
To say the least, K-pop dance has revolutionized the music industry.
One of the leading figures of this revolution comes from the ever-growing media outlet Youtube. Youtuber “imlisarhee” is celebrated for her swiftness and fervor for dance. The K-pop dance community greatly reveres Lisa Rhee who has over 2.64 million followers as of October 23, 2020.
Although most of the entertainment seemed to be drowning under the bleak waves of socializing restrictions, Rhee has been able to continue her frequent dance videos on Youtube despite COVID-19’s outbreak.
Rhee’s channel features videos ranging from dance covers to tutorials to behind-the-scenes vlogs. Her most viewed video, “‘SWALLA’ – BLACKPINK LISA SOLO DANCE – Lisa Rhee Dance Cover,” has amassed over 20 million views and 364,000 likes.
Rhee’s dance growth has also led her to opportunities to work with various K-pop groups themselves, including VAV and Everglow.
I obtained the honor to e-meet Youtuber/Dancer Lisa Rhee and ask her what she loved most about being an influential Youtuber.
Rhee wrote, “I love that I can engage with such a supportive community, which is full of like-minded individuals who share a similar passion for K-pop and dance.”
K-pop undoubtedly represents a seasoned mix of diverse sounds, exhilarating choreographies, and prestigiously talented group members. Right alongside the idol sensations are their devoted fan bases which showcase people of all languages and ethnicities.
The K-pop fan bases represent one of power and life-changing bonds. Just as Lisa Rhee notices within her own Youtube fan base “Lisarangs,” K-pop fans embody minds that are down to earth and free of judgement. This unity allows for a touching connection among fans and their idols, and in this case, even Youtubers.
The impact of K-pop is eye-opening just as the numbers are staggering. K-pop was estimated to regulate over 99.9 million fans according to the 2019 report by the Korea Foundation. K-pop is even one of the most popular music genres in the world, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s Music Listening 2019 report.
What draws in so many fans of this curious industry from South Korea? With not even touching base on the incredible artistry of music, the vigorous dances alone are enough to leave one starstruck.
The result from K-pop groups’ 9-10 hour daily practices is flawlessness on the stage. The back-breaking work to get to that level is unimaginable.
For fan dance coverists, such as Rhee, there are no extravagant practice rooms or choreography teachers to assist them in learning the moves. Typically there is only the comfort of homes or local dance studios to practice in front of large mirrors.
For well-experienced and whirlwind-speed Lisa Rhee, she learns quickly from the upload of dance practice videos of whatever group she is covering. Breaking down steps and slowly learning the dance is an intricate process that requires full attention to detail.
For Rhee, it takes about 2-3 hours to learn boy group choreos and 1-2 hours for girl groups. Rhee’s routine is typically learning, filming, and uploading her dance covers the day the music video and practice videos are released.
“I also like that [being a Youtuber] allows me to share my passion for K-pop and I love that Youtube allows me to be creative by filming and editing my own videos,” Rhee stated.
Lisa Rhee is currently 25 years old and was born June 15, 1995. Although Rhee comes from a Korean family, she was born in the United States. Her love for dance stemmed from a very young age, but she only began dancing to K-pop in the 6th grade. Although it started as a form of workout for Rhee, K-pop dance quickly became her spirited lifestyle.
During Rhee’s freshman year of college, she launched her fledgling Youtube channel as a way to improve her online presence. As a communication major, she was educated on the importance of having a reputation online.
From this first step in 2014, she began covering a wide variety of groups and styles, securing her a rapid growth in subscribers and coverage across many social media platforms.
“K-pop has always been part of my life. I started dancing by learning K-pop dances. So, in a way, I can say that K-pop has motivated me to start dancing and to challenge myself to learn other types of dances, such as hip-hop and waacking,” Rhee stated.
One can quickly notice this expressive variety when scrolling through her many dance covers.
Rhee brings out her innocent, flowy dance style in covers such as IZ*ONE’s “Secret Story of the Swan.” These dances consist of wide, elongated movements and delicate symbolic details.
Contradictory to this style are Rhee’s covers such as SuperM’s “Jopping.” The high-intensity choreography mirrors the same energy within the song, the dance featuring powerful jumps and feetwork to ally with the song’s resonant beats.
Groovy covers including j-hope’s “Chicken Noodle Soup (feat. Becky G)” are more hip-hop derived, featuring Rhee sporting baggy green cargo pants and white sneakers.
As easily seen from Rhee’s diversity of dance outfits, K-pop has influenced many parts of her life, including her closet.
Rhee tends to match outfits appearing in her covers to those of the idols’ attire in music videos or performance shows. She personally experiments with different aesthetics to complement the vibe and sound of the song she covers, helping her deliver an even more outstanding performance: one that shows real effort.
Rhee likes to play off popular Korean fashion, including grunge, minimalism, cutesy, and accessory-overloaded streetwear. Rhee’s varying outfits add a flavorful flair to her covers, something that makes them all the more riveting to watch.
Rhee’s assorted fashion senses are perhaps best noticed in her monthly dance medleys, which cover popular K-pop songs.
In these medleys, Rhee styles everything from dainty dresses to decked-out black gear. Examples of these fashion trends can be viewed in Rhee’s June 2020 medley.
Rhee appears in a flowing red patterned dress, distinctly similar to the one Twice member Dahyun sports in the “More & More” music video. A quick fading transition reveals Rhee in comfy boyfriend jeans and a white tee and cap to suit the laid back aura of Seventeen’s song “Left & Right.” Rhee then materializes into streetwear black, matching the EDM chorus of Stray Kids’ “God’s Menu,” showing off her sleek leather jacket and black sweatpants.
“Not only dance, but also K-pop idols’ fashion has inspired my own fashion styles,” Rhee said.
Rhee has truly left a lasting impact on the K-pop and dance community, encouraging many to embrace their bodies and let the energy of music steer them. Music is a force that is able to change people and provide emotional comfort, just as dance gives people a source of energy and purpose.
Whether it be the passion for dance, the renowned fashion sense, or even just simply a feeling of comfort, K-pop has gifted astonishing empowerment and self-love to its fans.
Within this time of being cooped up within the confines of our home, feel free to pull up one of Rhee’s many dance tutorials, kick off your house shoes, and just move!
Just as Martha Graham wisely stated, “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”