2017 was an impressive year for choreography, especially as high competition among rookies encouraged younger groups to deliver more intense and exciting performances. Gone are the days when groups could get away with hiding a few members who couldn’t dance in the back or give them easy formations to follow. The new generation is pushing for perfection, and this push resulted in some truly thrilling performances this year. Here are my personal favorites.
Honorable Mentions: GFRIEND—Fingertip; VIXX—Shangri-La; EXO—Kokobop; PENTAGON—Critical Beauty; Sunmi—Gashina; NCT 127—Cherry Bomb; ASTRO—Crazy Sexy Cool.
10. Red Velvet, Rookie: The ladies are typically at a disadvantage when it comes to choreo rankings because the industry’s expectations of cuteness from girl groups usually demand simpler and more easy-to-follow routines. Red Velvet doesn’t let that stop them, though, delivering an elegant performance with a chic point dance and as many powerful moves as there are pretty ones.
9. A.C.E, Callin: A.C.E just might be the most criminally underrated group of dancers in K-pop today. They fill up the stage with their professionalism every time they perform, even though there are only five of them. The intense and often extremely difficult choreography of “Callin” has a “whoa!” factor in numerous moments that helps pack the punch into their performance.
8. The Boyz, Boy: Yep, I’m still raving about brand-new rookie group The Boyz. They’re just too good. A week or two ago I heard someone say that The Boyz’ biggest strength is their “showmanship,” and I can’t think of any better word to describe this group. Most groups have only a few standout members with this kind of presence, but poise and self-assurance just radiate from every one of The Boyz’ twelve members. They implement their debut’s vibrant choreography with a style that’s not impressive only for rookies, but for K-pop as a whole.
7. Taemin, Move: Lee Taemin, the dancing king, Lee Taemin the icon, Lee Taemin the trendsetter, Lee Taemin the gamechanger changed the game once again with his performance of this year’s “Move.” Taemin has always been known for stepping outside the box, but the choreo for “Move” gained a lot of attention this year for the touch of femininity with which Taemin executed it. It’s a delight to watch, not only because it challenges the societal division between male and female expression in dance, but because of Taemin’s endless panache.
6. SEVENTEEN, Clap: All right, let’s take a second to talk about SEVENTEEN. The thing about this group is that when they start to dance, they suddenly transform from a motley troupe of teenage-to-early-twenties guys into a single thirteen-limbed creature. It’s like they’re all linked together by some sort of central hive mind. Their stage presence and inventive self-choreography are enough to set them apart, but their synchronization is like a magic ingredient that makes their every performance mesmerizing.
5. BTS, Spring Day: This performance is pure art. BTS uses their bodies to symbolize different aspects of relationships, leaves blowing in the wind, walls, snowflakes falling—every creative touch amplifies the emotionality of the performance. Bangtan executes the choreography not just with grace, but with passion, making it one of the most moving dance performances in the history of K-pop.
4. Energetic, Wanna One: Okay, I mean, the human piano in “Energetic” is one of the neatest things ever. Admit it. The best thing about this choreo is the recurrence of visually interesting moves that give a sense of originality, a sense of “wow, I’ve never seen that before.” Wanna One’s got some spectacular main dancers, and together with the impressive stage presence of all the members, they make the performance unforgettable.
3. NCT Dream, My First and Last: This is another one of those groups with not a single dance hole. You can focus on any member, and they’ll be nailing every move with spectacular precision and plenty of infectious grins besides. The choreo for “My First and Last” is both lighthearted and insanely intricate, with cute hopping moves followed by astonishing on-the-floor formations that make you wonder just how long they must have practiced to get it so perfect.
2. SEVENTEEN, Lilili Yabbay (The 13th Month’s Dance): If you thought SEVENTEEN were alarmingly good dancers as a whole, you’re going to have a heart attack when you see their performance unit go off. These four are some of the best dancers in K-pop, and they’re still barely out of their rookie stage. Unit leader Hoshi’s fluid choreography for “Lilili Yabbay” is full of minute details that evoke a kind of otherworldly beauty, and performed by these guys, it’s simply spellbinding.
1. SEVENTEEN, Don’t Wanna Cry: A masterpiece. The amount of work that was must have been put into this choreography is, when you see the end result, almost invisible. It looks effortless. But this was the most elaborate choreography of 2017, demanding meticulous precision, flawless teamwork, and tons of endurance (I don’t know how they made it through months of practicing and promotions falling onto their knees a dozen times a day like that). For me, “Don’t Wanna Cry” sealed SEVENTEEN’s status as K-pop’s current number one dance group, and I’m sure that they’ll just keep getting better.
View these videos in a playlist on YouTube here.
Take a look at rankings for other categories of KAYBOP’s 2017 Best of K-pop here.
Did we miss any great choreographies that you would put in your top 10 list? Let us know in the comments!