What Keeps Me Calm: Watching BLACKPINK Dance Practice Videos
When a video is on, my mind is off—all I have to do is tune into the movements and the music
Welcome to What Keeps Me Calm, a series of movies, television shows, albums, books, and other works of media that are comforting us during these incredibly stressful times. On particularly sad and disheartening days, there’s nothing better and more consoling than to turn to our favorite things to read, watch, and listen, as these offer a respite from the hardships we face collectively and individually.
Since high school, I’ve lived my life adjacent to K-pop. The girls in my class made cover videos of Girls Generation’s “I Got A Boy” and “The Boys,” spending weekends and after-school evenings learning the choreography and choosing which member they wanted to dance as. My three closest friends all bonded over their shared love for EXO, gushing and squealing over their biases: Chanyeol, Baekhyun, and Kai.
I didn’t develop a love for music until my college years (thanks largely to the arrival of Spotify), so for much of my life as a teen, my iTunes library was a mish-mash of genres: showtunes from my favorite musicals, the scores to Doctor Who and Harry Potter, Manila sound, sweeping Filipino ballads, the occasional Taylor Swift single, a lot of ’80s hits, and, of course, the previously mentioned Girls Generation songs. When I was in high school in 2011, the K-pop industry wasn’t yet the behemoth that it is today. Make no mistake: It was for sure at the time already a behemoth of sorts, or perhaps a behemoth-in-the-making, but it’s nothing—and I mean nothing—compared to just how huge K-pop’s influence is now, whether in its home country, the Philippines, or even the west.
These days, it’s getting harder to ignore as K-pop continues to entice more and more audiences all over the world. For a long time, I resisted listening to K-pop acts, whether intentionally or not, because I thought the sound was in such stark contrast to the music I enjoyed. As my taste in music evolved throughout college and through much of my early adult life, I found myself building and curating a musical DNA that represented me. This meant singer–songwriters, from Joni Mitchell to Sara Bareilles; pop princess, like Carly Rae Jepsen and Lizzo; ethereal, witchy folk like Florence + the Machine and Maggie Rogers; and an unrestrained, unabashed love for showtunes and Taylor Swift.
It wasn’t until quarantine that I finally dipped my toes into the world of K-pop, due mostly to my job but also partly because of two reasons: one, that I’d run out of coping mechanisms (rewatching the same two seasons of my favorite shows was proving to be dull and unexciting), and two, that my best friend is currently going through a full-on BTS spiral. I hadn’t heard a BTS song until the release of “Dynamite,” but one group’s songs had been so ubiquitous it was impossible not to have heard even just one: BLACKPINK.
For the past few years, whether I’m at a shoot, at the supermarket, or in the car with my niece, “Kill This Love” or “DDU-DU DDU-DU” is bound to make an appearance. These songs had been catchy enough, but it wasn’t until “Ice Cream,” the group’s collaboration with Selena Gomez, that I became truly interested. A lot of it, of course, was due to the fact that I just cannot get the song out of my head for days on end. From the opening snare to the hook, “Ice Cream” had engulfed my very being. It was a classic case of “last song syndrome,” better known as “LSS,” and can be remedied by only one thing: listening to the song again.
So I did, over and over and over. Almost immediately, my ears would long to hear more of this specific sound, so I ventured into BLACKPINK’s artist page on Spotify and re-listened to the songs I’d been familiar with. What followed was an even stronger bout of LSS, and soon enough I found myself on YouTube on a video binge, from music videos to dance rehearsals. K-pop music videos are great; they’ve been described by fans as “pop on crack,” which is by all accounts, true. But I’ve never been one for music videos. Even with my favorite artists, I preferred watching live performances over expertly filmed music videos. BLACKPINK’s dance rehearsal videos, then, quickly became a source of joy for me. There isn’t even much to go on—as of writing, the group has about under ten dance rehearsal videos on their YouTube channel.
Still, each one hits the spot for my brain that was sorely lacking simulation. The videos are as simple as they can get: the camera propped somewhere in the group’s dance studio, showing all four girls at once. Sometimes, whoever’s filming will experiment with angles, but for the most part, the camera sits unmoving, static—the only source of movement coming from the subjects themselves. After several viewings, it becomes clear that the girls aren’t necessarily the only subjects. The choreography (and choreographer!) is as much of a star as Lisa, Jennie, Rosé, and Jisoo are. It’s hypnotic and mesmerizing, learned and fluid, always prompting me into a daze. Sometimes, it’s a visual treat. Simply watching the movements and the steps makes me feel a certain kind of high; it’s electrifying and satisfying. Other times, it incites thought, like how everything that’s contributed to BLACKPINK’s success as a group—and any big K-pop act, for that matter—has been carefully and meticulously planned, crafted, and executed.
Watching BLACKPINK’s dance rehearsal videos is, without a doubt, a form of meditation. When a video is on, my mind is off—all I have to do is tune into the movements and the music. It calms me down, yet at the same time energizes me. It’s a reminder of the magic and hard work that fuels any artist’s success, and how important and life-saving entertainment is and can be especially during times like these.