By: Lillian Lema, Staff Writer
Before K-pop music became a global phenomenon, a group of USM students were already aware of the South Korean beats. This group of friends would come together and rigorously try to learn the dance moves they saw in K-pop music videos. What started off as a pass time for a group of friends soon became a dance crew, Krush Dance Krew.
Cherlline Ouch and her sister Michelle Ouch, both senior media studies students, Aira Marie Setimo, a senior media studies student, Skylar Lon, a junior business analytics student, and Moutwei Chap Senior, a former USM student studying software engineering, are the original members of the dance crew. New members include Mariah Anderson, a sophomore exercise science student, Hunter Lon, a freshmen marketing student, Linda Trinh, a sophomore business management student, Kevin Li, a graduate business student, and Ilham Mohamed, a junior health science student.
Krush Dance Krew officially formed in 2018 after creating a dance cover video to BTS’ “GO GO.” “After making the video we posted it on YouTube and it was just for fun,” Ouch said. Back then, KDK was only a five member crew but now they have doubled in dancers. Ouch, Setimo and Lon recall crowding in front of a laptop screen watching K-pop music videos to learn and replicate the choreography. Now, one of the original members will usually take the lead on creating the choreography for the crew.
The crew dances to K-pop songs that are geared to both girl and boy bands, such as Blackpink, Girls Generation, Twice, BTS, EXO, or Big Bang. They have also performed to hip hop songs, such as “Pick It Up” by Famous Dex ft. ASAP Rocky. “K-pop style comes from American hip hop… it’s the same it’s just in a different language,” Ouch said.
KDK appreciates the respect and love that k-pop is receiving especially through the mainstream media. The Ouch sisters, the Lon brothers, Setimo and Anderson remember hiding the fact that they were k-pop lovers in high school the fear of being made fun of. Their classmates would describe k-pop as “weird” and “uncool,” which was enough to keep KDK’s fascination with k-pop in the closet.
Now as young adults, KDK sees the importance of representation through their performances.
“I am happy that people started to realize that there is a lot of good music outside the English world… One does not have to learn the language to appreciate the art,” Setimo said.
Although one doesn’t need to learn the language to appreciate the art, they need to practice to perfect the choreography. Practice for KDK is at least two hours long two, three times a week. However, the week before performances, they will practice for three to four hours everyday. Anderson states that there isn’t a leader in the group because their crew consists of a lot of teamwork. “We all work well together, which makes it easier to listen to each other,” Anderson said. All ten members have busy schedules with school, extracurricular activities, work, which makes it hard to schedule practices, but they have been able to manage.
Deciding on who or how to recruit members for KDK requires scouting and an application. According to Trinh, the crew asks people to join or if they’re interested. If so they are then asked to send a 45 second audition video of them performing a solo dance to a song of their choice. “After we have seen their audition video, the group will have a vote or a meeting to reach a decision for the person,” Trinh said.
Trinh is one of the newer members of KDK. She was asked by Michelle Ouch to join the crew after bumping into each other at the Practice room in the gym. “Dancing to K-pop was a hobby for me, but it’s different when it’s a group… I joined because I love dancing and dancing with others is even better, especially when we get to perform. Hearing the crowd cheer is like a reward. New friends, fun times, and hard work paying off,” she said.
The hard work has paid off for KDK. This past summer, they were asked by DJ Jon to perform at his K-Pop Dance Party at PHOM. They’ve also performed at the River Jam Fringe Festival in Biddeford, XPOSURE, USM’s Social Justice Summit, and at an event at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. Recently, KDK performed at the Newbury Comics: BTS Album Listening Party at the Maine Mall.
Despite their success, the members of KDK don’t see themselves pursuing this path professionally. Each member is hoping to get a job in the career path they are studying. So for now, KDK is a significant part of its members’ lives and their college years. “I love dancing as a hobby and way of having fun with my friends,” Setimo said. “These are really fun days, but also really stressful and tiring days, yet we get through them together,” Trinh said. “I want us to be able to perform more often… and I hope that Krush will be a name that is more widely known and a name that we’re all proud of.”
Music has a way of bringing people together, maybe because it’s universal. K-pop brought a group of strangers together, transformed them into a dance crew, but ultimately, created a family. “I go into practice and say, ‘finally, I am reunited with my family,’” Setimo said.
Krush Dance Krew can be followed on Instagram, FaceBook, and YouTube @krushdancekrew.