Flashy costumes, catchy hooks, and gorgeous entertainers are all part of the magic formula that makes K-pop so delightfully addictive. But another crucial element that sets K-pop apart from the rest of the world music scene is memorable dances that make you want to get up and shake your booty. Whether you’re new to the Korean Wave or a long-time fan, odds are you’ve noticed there are some dances everyone seems to know and love: the kind of dances that have made the leap from average to legendary. So, put on your dancing shoes and dance along with these 15 iconic K-pop dances.
1. “Black Cat Nero” – Turbo (1996)
Turbo is one of the original idol groups that shaped the Korean entertainment industry into what it is today (not to mention, brought us the glory that is Kim Jong Kook). “Black Cat Nero” is one of their best known and most beloved songs. The legendary and exciting choreography has been performed by countless idols over the years, including GFRIEND at KCON LA 2016.
2. “Coming of Age Ceremony” – Park Ji Yoon (2000)
Park Ji Yoon’s “Coming of Age” was quite controversial when it was first released due to the sensual dance and forward lyrics. But Park Ji Yoon and this iconic dance broke boundaries for women in K-pop by paving the way for them to perform sexier and more adult concepts. That’s why “Coming of Age” is still used today by many female groups, like 9MUSES, to make a statement and show off their sexy charms.
3. “Tell Me” – Wonder Girls (2007)
“Tell Me” is a K-pop classic and became the Wonder Girls’ first number one hit in Korea. With many memorable and fun points in the dance to choose from, fans and idols alike always have to get up and dance whenever this song comes on. AOA did a cute and coy cover of “Tell Me” a few years ago, showing how timeless the dance really is.
4. “Gee” – Girls’ Generation (2009)
“Gee” made a gigantic splash in the K-pop scene and launched Girls’ Generation to their status as the queens of K-pop. The song stayed in first place on the Korean charts for a mind-boggling nine weeks. “Gee” became the gateway through which many fans found K-pop, and nearly every fan (and idol) has done the infamous “crab leg dance” for themselves at some point. Even BTS’s V did an adorable rendition of this classic dance!
5. “Sorry, Sorry” – Super Junior (2009)
2009 was the year for legendary K-pop dances. After Girls’ Generations success with “Gee,” Super Junior quickly followed with another mega-hit that shook not only Korea, but all of Asia. “Sorry, Sorry” became a phenomenon, sparking thousands of dance covers across the internet (who can forget that viral video of inmates in the Philippines dancing to “Sorry, Sorry”?). It’s still common today to see idols bust out this classic dance and put their own spin on it, like SEVENTEEN did a couple years ago.
6. “Abracadabra” – Brown Eyed Girls (2009)
Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” was the turning point for BEG, taking them from a cute girl group to a powerful, sexy group instead. They nailed the concept, and their memorable “arrogant dance” caught on like wildfire. It’s the perfect dance to bust out when you’re feeling fierce and confident. Even BIGBANG’s T.O.P has been known to shake his hips like a boss to “Abracadabra.”
7. “Mister” – Kara (2009)
When talking about iconic dances, you can’t leave out Kara’s “Mister.” This song was, in part, made famous thanks to the eye-catching and mesmerizing ‘butt dance’ at the very beginning of the song. How do they get their hips to move like that? This dance became popular among idols and fans alike and is still performed by groups today, including girl group April.
8. “Before the Dawn” – INFINITE (2011)
“Before the Dawn” was a ground-breaking dance that started the trend of “knife-like” (sharp, perfectly in-sync) dances that still persists in K-pop today. INFINITE’s perfect synchronization throughout plus their famous “scorpion dance” right at the climax of the song makes “Before the Dawn” a memorable and influential dance that holds its own in the competitive K-pop world. WJSN challenged this difficult choreography not too long ago and killed it!
9. “Gangnam Style” – Psy (2012)
“Gangnam Style” took the world by storm in 2012 thanks to the addictive beat and entertaining choreography. It’s still one of the most recognizable K-pop songs today, and is danced to around the world. Psy was even invited on the Ellen Degeneres show to teach Britney Spears the dance’s main point himself!
10. “NoNoNo” – Apink (2013)
“NoNoNo” peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s K-Pop Hot 100, showing this is a favorite dance of K-pop fans all over the world. The simple but infectious choreography is easy and fun to dance along to for fans and idols of any age. Even Gary did a hilarious and surprisingly good performance of the dance with Apink members Naeun and Eun Ji while on “Running Man.”
11. “Up & Down” – EXID (2015)
Originally, EXID’s “Up & Down” looked like it would be a flop. But after a fancam of EXID’s Hani performing the song went viral on social media, the sexy and fun dance slowly began gaining steam in Korea and abroad. Now this dance is a K-pop classic, and it’s hard to imagine a world without the famous “Up & Down” dance in it. Anytime it comes on, K-pop fans and GOT7’s BamBam are sure to bust out into charismatic hip thrusts.
12. “Bang Bang Bang” – BIGBANG (2015)
BIGBANG’s “Bang Bang Bang” lit the world on fire when it dropped in 2015 and, rightfully, won Song of the Year at that year’s AMAs. With easy-to-learn choreography and a killer beat, when the chorus comes on, you just gotta dance. “Bang Bang Bang” is not only loved by fans, but is also the favorite of tons of idols, including Jungkook and V of BTS.
13. “Cheer Up” – TWICE (2016)
TWICE’s song “Cheer Up” became an instant hit among fans because of the memorable, fun point choreography, like the “shy, shy, shy” dance. No matter who you are, it’s almost impossible not to dance along with this cheerful choreography. Just ask the boys of Romeo!
14. “Fire” – BTS (2016)
BTS is known for their precise and powerful choreography, and “Fire” is no exception. This dance has become the golden standard in K-pop to measure someone’s dance ability — if they can pull off “Fire,” they’re awesome. Recently, Epik High’s Tablo even revealed his own plans to learn the difficult dance. But, even if you’re not a great dancer, “Fire” includes some cool points of choreography that anyone can learn and enjoy dancing to. Maybe Tablo can also get some pointers from gugudan’s Hyeyeon?
15. “Ko Ko Bop” – EXO (2017)
EXO has several well-known dances, but their recent hit song “Ko Ko Bop” made news internationally by inspiring a viral phenomenon known as the Ko Ko Bop Challenge. The key choreography of “Ko Ko Bop” showed up all around the world as people joined in the challenge. With a memorable dance that is now recognized all over the world, “Ko Ko Bop” is sure to go down in K-pop history. Even Weki Meki’s Yoojung and Golden Child’s Donghyun have battled it out to the popular song!
How many of these iconic dances did you recognize? Did we miss any legendary dances you think every fan should know about? Let us know in the comments below!
erinunnie first discovered the joys of Korean entertainment during a magical summer in 2010 and has never looked back. Her current favorites include Super Junior, GOT7, SEVENTEEN, and any Korean dramas she can get her hands on. In her spare time she enjoys writing, reading, playing the piano, and singing. Connect with Erin on Twitter to keep up with her latest obsessions!