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Crews reflect on breaking barriers within dance after ‘Street Man Fighter’

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Dance crew Eo-Ddae poses for an online press interview on Monday. [MNET]
Dance crew Eo-Ddae poses for an online press interview on Monday. [MNET] 

Mnet’s dance competition show “Street Man Fighter” concluded its 10-episode journey on Nov. 8. The show saw eight teams — Bank Two Brothers, Eo-Ddae, Mbitious, YGX, 1Million, We Dem Boyz, Just Jerk and Prime Kingz — compete for a prize of 50 million won ($35,900), a brand new car and a bank advertisement deal.

Much like the female-version “Street Woman Fighter” (2021), which brought the once-obscure world of professional dancers into the spotlight, “Street Man Fighter” saw great popularity both in and outside of Korea. The show was broadcast in 12 countries.

Before the show’s final episode on Tuesday, dance crews 1Million and Eo-Ddae were the last two teams to be eliminated in the semifinal late last month. The two teams sat down for an online press interview on Monday and shared their experiences competing against the country’s best dancers.

Eo-Ddae performs on Mnet's dance competition show "Street Man Fighter." [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Eo-Ddae performs on Mnet’s dance competition show “Street Man Fighter.” [SCREEN CAPTURE]

“Perhaps we didn’t fit the concept of the program,” said Ted of dance crew Eo-Ddae. Dancers Duck, E.Jo, Quanz, Ted, and Kinky attended Monday’s interview. “Rather than to compete against others, we simply came on the show our unique dancing style.”

Eo-Ddae translates to “How is it?” in Korean, and much like the phrase, the crew is known for its experimental style that fuses masculine and feminine norms. Due to their style, however, the crew said it was often subjected to judgment, with some describing their dance style as “girly.”

“We showed something genderless,” said E.Jo. “Our masculine side also contains a feminine side, and we expressed them both. But many other dancers on the show simply thought of us as ‘girly.’ We were disappointed to see such reactions in the beginning, but we had come on the program to break that frame on TV.”

“We were told that our choreography was feminine, but we don’t think there are genders that dance moves belong to begin with,” said Ted. “In our culture, since we are babies, we are told that boys have to do boyish stuff and girls have to do girly stuff,” he continued. “It’s been so deeply ingrained in us that a lot of people see us and ask, ‘Why do they keep dancing like women?’

Eo-Ddae [MNET]
Eo-Ddae [MNET]

“But it’s just that female and male dancers have different muscle strengths,” he continued. “My older sister does ballet, and she told me her opinions on us being called ‘girly.’ She asked, ‘Well, in that case, can only girls do ballet?’”

“We believe there are no such boundaries to dancing, which is just a way of expressing yourself,” said Quanz. “There are no answers. We simply created dance routines to the songs we like, rather than intending to make them either masculine or feminine. I feel like we couldn’t show our full potential on screen, but we will keep going with our own style.”

“We want to go further and want to change the way most people think of the term ‘genderless,’” said Kinky. “A lot of people throw that word in when they see a man do something perceived as feminine, or a woman being ‘manly.’ It’s based on a premise that masculinity and femininity are mutually exclusive opposites, that specific behaviors are assigned to each quality, and that they’re simply swapped on certain occasions. I don’t see why there’s a distinction to movements.”

“We were actually one of the teams that didn’t see very positive reactions from the general public,” laughed Deok. “And we admit we were a bit disappointed to be unable to compete in the finals. But we really gave our everything, so we have no regrets about that.”

Dance crew 1Million poses for an online press interview on Monday. [MNET]
Dance crew 1Million poses for an online press interview on Monday. [MNET]

Later that afternoon, dance crew 1Million sat down to share their thoughts after participating. 1Million is a team formed by some of the dancers from 1Million Dance Studio, one of Korea’s top dance academies which has created the choreography for countless K-pop hits. Dancers Root, Nino, Yechan, Baek Gu-young (also known as Mihawk Back), Choi Young-joon and Alexx attended Monday’s interview.

“There’s always a limit to showing our best performance within a short amount of screen time,” said Baek, dubbed the “father of Exo,’ as he served as the choreographer for many of the boy band’s songs. “So looking back, we do see moments where we could’ve done better.”

1Million performs on "Street Man Fighter." [SCREEN CAPTURE]
1Million performs on “Street Man Fighter.” [SCREEN CAPTURE]

“But we learned so much from our participation; that was the best thing I got from this show,” said Choi, who is dubbed the ‘father of Seventeen.’ He is well known for creating dance routines for the boy band, as well as BTS, Twice and Wanna One. “I’m so glad we decided to appear on the show, and I hope we can keep interacting with other dancers to learn from them. It was an opportunity for me to grow as a dancer and widen my spectrum as a choreographer.”

“When I was watching ‘Street Woman Fighter’ last year, I knew there was going to be a male version in the future, because it was such a good show,” said Yechan. “Back then I thought, if there was going to be a male sequel, I really wanted to be on it and show myself. It’s been an honor to actually do that.”

1Million [MNET]
1Million [MNET]

“I’m just grateful overall that there’s been a heightened appreciation of dance and the intellectual property surrounding it, ever since ‘Street Woman Fighter,’” said Nino. “There’s also been much more awareness of dancers and choreographers as a professional occupation. It’s so motivating for the next generation of dancers.”

BY HALEY YANG [yang.hyunjoo@joongang.co.kr]