Points of view

How K-Pop Choreographer Lia Kim is inspiring millions of people around the world to dance

23.12.2018 | By ELODIE RUSSO

Have you ever found yourself searching for your favourite song on YouTube only to be faced with pages and pages of dance videos? If you’ve ever clicked on any of them, chances are, you’ve heard of 1 Million Dance Studio, the South Korean dance phenomenon with over 12 million subscribers and almost three billion views. And if you haven’t, well, you should really google them right now. Just don’t blame me when you’re months deep into their YouTube channel. These videos can be seriously addictive – you’ve been warned.

Founded by Timon Youn and celebrity choreographer Lia Kim in 2014, the once small Seoul-based dance studio has now become one of the most renowned names in the industry and employs over 40 members of staff including choreographers, studio assistants and videographers to name a few. But maybe the most impressive thing about the studio is the sheer number of students who visit on average each day. Over 300, » according to Jung-Min Yu, Manager at 1 Million Dance Studio. There is no rhyme or reason to who comes to learn there either. From memory, the youngest student was nine years old and came from abroad. The oldest student was 45 years old.

And indeed, anyone who’s ever been to the Gangnam studio knows that it feels more like an international party than a dance lesson.  Waiting in line for your next class, you are just as likely to hear people speak English, Japanese, Chinese or even French than hearing locals chat in Korean. So what makes 1 Million so compelling and attracts such a wide audience all the way to South Korea?

There is no secret to popularity. Dance is a common language throughout the world, Yu says, we can communicate so I think that’s the main reason for many subscribers. Or maybe it’s just down to the talented creative team behind the videos.

You have Lia Kim, chief choreographer and popping queen who regularly teaches her students  original choreographies she regularly creates for some of South Korea’s biggest pop stars, like Sunmi, Twice or the now retired Wonder Girls. There is also fan-favourite Mina Myoung with her sexy and strong routines, Yoojung Lee, whose choreographies manage to be bright, light and yet incredibly powerful or May J Lee, whose Worth It choreography topped the YouTube charts for weeks on end. As for guys, you have Eunho Kim, who has enough swag to give Migos a run for their money, Koosung Jung, known for his sharp and precise moves or Junsun Yoo, who adds a certain b-boy flair to all his work. And these are only a few of the 20 choreographers currently teaching at 1 Million. Each instructor also has their very own unique style, meaning there is something for everyone.

But don’t be fooled by the incredible dancers you see on your screen. 1 Million is a safe place for everyone to learn new things and explore new genres, even for those who have never danced before. As a matter of fact, on average two of the five classes taught every day are targeted towards beginners, something founder Lia Kim has always felt very strongly about. When I think of what I want to do in the future, I want to encourage dance not only for professionals but for everyone and anyone, from different nationality, age and sex, she says on her own YouTube channel, everyone can enjoy dance together. I want to create a 1 Million where that is possible, which is everywhere, thanks to the internet. A quick search through the #1MillionDanceStudio hashtag on Instagram will show thousands of videos of fans dancing to their favorite instructor’s choreography.

They’ve come a long way since their first video. They’ve gone to star in major ad campaigns with international brands such Nike, Puma and Desigual, as well as collaborating with some of Korea’s hottest musical acts and teaching fans all over the world their now iconic routines.

Lia Kim once famously said: 1 Million came from my goal of gathering one million people in our dance studio.I think it’s safe to say she did it. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to go to my next dance class.