The group Bangtan Boys (BTS) has definitely become the trend among idols. Their mini album, ‘The Most Beautiful Moment in Life pt.2’, which has been released on November 30th, has topped a number of music charts with the title track ‘RUN’. BTS, who debuted in 2013, has steadily built a global fanbase, and now having surpassed the stage of growing this fanbase, has become a name commonly seen in music charts.
Since the time BTS debuted with the song ‘No More Dream’, they have been known for their charm with their intense performances and knife-like (synced) choreography. This time, with the title track ‘RUN’, a lot is also expected from the group. For this comeback, BTS’ stage for ‘RUN’ was first revealed in front of fans during the concert they held last Nov 27th~29th. In addition, the stage for ‘RUN’ will be revealed through public broadcast at the ‘2015 MAMA’ this Dec 2nd, boasting a large scale comeback for the group. There is a lot of meaning put into their first public broadcast for their performance. A performance as big as the anticipation for their ‘RUN’ stage.
The huge anticipation for their ‘RUN’ performance isn’t simply because they’ve been known as a group who performs well. With their activities for ‘The Most Beautiful Moment in Life pt. 1′ last April and with the success of their world tour, BTS has matured a lot. Their teamwork with choreographer Son Sungdeuk, who has been with them since pre-debut, has also become more solid. BTS’ ability to express themselves through their performances also improved as their experience performing on stage grew. The anticipation for BTS ‘RUN’ performance is also fused with the anticipation for the group’s growth.
On the day of my interview with Son Sungdeuk, I was able to watch BTS’ dance practice video from their “second day of practice”. It’s beyond belief that it was only for the “second day of practice” when it already looked like completed work. Son Sungdeuk nodded in agreement about BTS’ skills, saying, “They’ve gotten quicker in learning choreography.”
What picture did choreographer Son Sungdeuk paint with the choreography for ‘RUN’? We listened to him as he told us about BTS’ growth and their title track ‘RUN’.
Q1: You have been with BTS since their debut. When you look at BTS now, it seems like they’re leaving a different feeling from when you were with them at that time.
Son Sungdeuk: The difference between then and now is that they memorize the choreography a lot more quickly. They’ve really become butterflies now. In the old days, some members couldn’t dance at all–Jin and Rap Monster were even awkward with the way they walk. But now, we’re amazed at ourselves when “only two days passed but we memorized them all.” At the time of their debut, their expressions, gestures, as well as their gaze… all these had to be checked each time, but right now it’s easier for them (to reflect such expressions when needed). Also, when I need to take a break, J-Hope takes over leading the group and they all work on the parts that are lacking. With this, the practice system has become more manageable.
Q2: In a previous interview, you expressed your gratitude towards J-Hope. It looks like J-Hope played a huge role during dance practice.
Son Sungdeuk: Indeed. Even now, J-Hope still plays that huge role. Because J-Hope is good at dancing, people seem to think that his stamina is high, but contrary to that, his body is slim so his stamina isn’t really good. Haha. Even so, he has great sense of duty when it comes to practice. He leads the members a lot during practice.
Q3: RUN’s first release is at a concert. It seems that the preparations for the comeback this time around is different than usual.
Son Sungdeuk: It’s because fans are the first to see this. We weren’t doing a special showcase, were continuously doing overseas concerts, and lastly, were to come to Seoul before the comeback. So, showing it to fans first at such a time holds a huge meaning.
Q4: When you first heard ‘RUN’, how did you feel about it?
Son Sungdeuk: At first, I didn’t know what to do. When creating choreography, if an idea doesn’t hit me at once, then I’m the type to just force ideas out of my head.. Despite that, however, what makes ‘RUN’ easy is that it is a sequel to ‘I NEED U’ and we were still telling the story of youth–beautiful but sad and restless. The title is ‘RUN’, so, a lot of actions that portray the feeling of ‘running while crying’ came out while creating the choreography. The idea came from watching the Prologue, MV, and our previous videos. The ending of RUN’s choreography is a butterfly. If it was a flower last time, this time, it’s a butterfly. It ends with a butterfly, but if I only add running motion it’s too obvious, so, I couldn’t miss out on portraying how even with sadness and power, there is a sexy feel within that.
Q5: Come to think of it, Jin’s part here has a similar feeling to his part in ‘I NEED U’.
Son Sungdeuk: Yes, the composition itself is like that. Jin has a part where a close-up is done (during broadcast) and this is his acting scene where he lets go of a butterfly he was holding. It’ll be nice if this part is captured closely.
Q6: Is there another part you want the camera to capture closely?
Son Sungdeuk: The butterfly is the most important thing. Jin’s part and the ending part. People might ask, “What’s that?”, when they see it, so Jin must do well with his acting. It’d be great if people would look more closely to the story the members are telling with their dance. When creating choreography, my style is that I always match it with the lyrics, but with Bangtan’s case, their songs also contain a lot of rap. That being said, if they dance separately (from the message of the song), the dance is separate, the song is separate (meaning there is a disjunct between the two elements). I want to create a stage where people are able to see and hear the same story. It’d be great if people would look at why BTS are doing these kinds of expressions or these kinds of movements on stage.
Q7: What kind of image did you want BTS to show for ‘RUN’?
Son Sungdeuk: Rather than wanting to show a certain image/feeling, I wanted them to be a bit more energetic. If we went with a soft image for ‘I NEED U’, this time, I wanted to express something a bit more energetic, so I took the choreography a little further. It now has a feeling created with the mixture of the existing image of BTS (strong, powerful) and the softness of ‘I NEED U’.
Q8: When creating choreography and formulating concepts, do you discuss it a lot with the members?
Son Sungdeuk: Because the members are also the ones who write the lyrics, I do talk to them a lot about such matters. When I have a lot of troubles while working on choreography, the members express their opinions by saying things like, “I think this will be good.” For Individual parts, including their acting, they take care of those matters themselves. I point out things that we definitely have to do, then they research on their own and then come back. When I say something equal to 1 they do something that’s equal to 10. To be honest, I’m lucky to have met BTS out of all the other singers. It doesn’t matter how well a choreography is made, what’s important is the people who will execute it. I really like it when I create choreography that is worth a “1” and they execute it as a “10”.
Q9: Out of all the BTS choreographies you’ve worked on so far, which one are you most proud of?
Son Sungdeuk: ‘No More Dream’, ‘We are Bulletproof Pt. 2’, and ‘I Like It’ are the ones I like. Even now, when I hear ‘I Like It’ at a concert, I feel melancholic (emotional, reminiscent feelings of sadness). As for ‘No More Dream’ and ‘We are Bulletproof Pt. 2’, both of these contain a lot of history in them–the choreographies were really modified a lot of times. The kids also grit their teeth and worked hard. Personally, I feel most attached to those. Also, because of those, BTS became a (a group known for) performance appeal since their early days.
Q10: So the choreography you felt was unsatisfactory/lacking is?
Son Sungdeuk: It’s not entirely unsatisfactory/lacking, but this makes me think about ‘N.O.’ (when thinking of a choreography he feels bad about). I really like the music and the choreography for N.O., but the album didn’t do well. It seems that the album didn’t receive a lot of light, so I feel sorry about it. It’d be great if fans take a look at N.O choreography a lot. When I go overseas to conduct workshops and the like, I always show the choreography for N.O. I definitely want to show that dance a lot.
Q11: The one-take performance for ‘DOPE’ was also a topic. Rap Monster’s intro line also left a deep impression.
Son Sungdeuk: I think Namjoonie did well with his intro line, as it really matched well with ‘DOPE’s concept. I originally really wanted to use the one-take technique since their early days. It was an idea I had even before their debut. If you watch videos of foreign choreographers, you’ll see that the one-take technique was already a trend among them, so in a way, the trend came late in Korea. It seemed a bit too early for a rookie group to do a one-take-technique, so, I only got to try it later on with ‘DOPE’.
Q12: When did you think BTS has become, to some extent, firmly established (as artists)?
(T/N: when they could no longer be treated as rookies in the industry, when they secured a place for themselves as artists)
Son Sungdeuk: I feel it when I see a lot of fans in front of the broadcasting stations (T/N: i.e. for music shows). Also, the first time we went to Japan, we held a performance at a location that is just like a club. There really weren’t (a lot) of people at the time. As I looked down at them performing in that small venue, I thought, “We’ll grow even bigger someday, right?”. Then, I went to a K-Pop Goods Shop in Osaka, and there wasn’t even a single photo of BTS there. That was before their album was released in Japan. Afterward, we went to hold concerts in Japan, and in the United States as well. And as I looked at their fandom (that was growing), I realized they have also grown a lot and have reached far. Later on, during the promotional activities for “I NEED U”, I felt that they have reached a milestone in their career (improved, gotten better; literal Korean idiom saying ‘he felt the water in the cup has welled up’). As for Jimin and Jungkook, I thought they wouldn’t be able to handle internal acting since they were used to portraying straightforward, manly images (T/N: Internal acting is to be able to generate the emotion from within yourself corresponding to a performance and not just display an expression externally, which is external acting), but after seeing how they express their growth, I nodded my head (in satisfaction).
Q13: Since the opportunity is here, please tell us about the individual charms of BTS.
Son Sungdeuk: Rap Monster dresses well. He looked ridiculous when I first saw him, but he has really become stylish. Haha. He also has a lot of interest in clothes; he’s the most stylish among the members now. He’s oozing with the “leader aura” and he is charismatic as well. As for Suga, he is a person with really deep thoughts. He is well-mannered (respectable, has a gentlemanly behaviour). Among the kids, he’s the easiest to hold a conversation with (easiest for him to understand). Jin is the eldest hyung, so he was a bit sly, but we talk a lot now. He used to be the one who got scolded the most, but now we’ve become more comfortable with each other and we’ve gotten closer as well. He has matured. This guy’s also a really optimistic person. Jungkookie is really innocent. He hasn’t changed at all since debut. He’s still the same 15-year-old Jungkookie I saw the first time, though his body has become more manly now. As for J-Hope, I’m really thankful towards him. It must be really hard for him (T/N: about his role, as he previously mentioned) but he’s someone I can really rely on. Although Rap Monster is the team leader per se, when it comes to dance, J-Hope is, more than anyone, the team’s greatest strength. He takes care of putting everything in order. Jiminie really has an extremely acquisitive mindset (eager to acquire or possess things e.g. talent, skill, learning; literally ‘greed’ in Korean). He’s a practice bug. Even now, he practices singing a lot. He (works hard) to practice so that he can make up for the aspects he thinks are lacking of himself. He also stays behind to practice more. V has a bemused charm (blank/vacant/dazed). Also, thanks to him, the team gets to laugh a lot. While they are learning choreography, he thinks about what he can do/add for his parts, apart from the choreography itself. His talent is no joke (T/N: he’s saying he is a talented kid). V’s memory is also good. To a certain extent, he does have a talent in dancing.
Q14: Jimin, Jungkook, and J-Hope are the members most distinguished for their dancing. What difference do they have (in relation to their dance/dancing)?
Son Sungdeuk: Jimin, Jungkook, and J-Hope have different charms. Hobi’s style has a strong hiphop feel. He used to do street hiphop, so he went through a lot of difficulties when he was a trainee because he had to fix his (old) habits (in dancing). He’s good at technical wave and popping. Jungkook has great power/strength, his lines are pretty, and he himself knows what’s pretty. He has a taste for the correct movements to add (in his dance). Jungkook is good at doing the basics and Hobi is good at technique. Jimin was a dance major (T/N: he majored in contemporary/modern dance in Busan), so his lines are pretty. He has a soft but powerful charm.
Q15: What do you hope for BTS to be in the future?
Son Sungdeuk: Personally, I think it’s good to have mass appeal and a good approach (T/N: in terms of style/concept). From now on, it’s about the music. Beyond the stage performance, no matter what kind of music they do, it’d be great if they do music that they want to do, and music that truly contains their sincerity. Though there is a style/format for idols’ music, and though limitations exist for them as idols, I hope these guys would really want to do it (T/N: what they’re doing–music, dance, being an idol, etc.), and would want to try these things… and for the members to share a lot about life stories they want to tell. These kids are really good at making music. Things like the lyrics they write, the music they compose, looking at all those… They leave me surprised over and over again.
Reporter Park Soo Jeong @soverus
Photo: BigHit Entertainment
Trans by ARMY Base | @bangtanitl.
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