Joco 913

K-pop a hit in JoCo: 36 teams, individuals vie to win song and dance contest finals

Seung Ho Yoon, Suk Ju Ham and Ryuto Sagawa of Emporia perform with their group as part of the preliminaries for the K-pop contest at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center Sunday afternoon.
Seung Ho Yoon, Suk Ju Ham and Ryuto Sagawa of Emporia perform with their group as part of the preliminaries for the K-pop contest at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center Sunday afternoon. Special to The Star

Although the K in K-pop stands for “Korean,” the K-pop contest Sunday afternoon at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center drew participants of many different ethnicities. Thirty-six teams and individuals from across the metro and across the state competed for the chance to make the finals Nov. 9.

Most of the entrants danced to a variety of K-pop tunes, although there were a few singers and just a handful of entrants who did both.

Teams came from as far away as Emporia and Wichita to show off their K-pop routines.

For Mary Lee of Kansas City, the contest was a way to bridge differences through music.

“I really love singing, and also, I’m Korean, so I thought I’d try,” she said. “Music brings all cultures together. Everyone can enjoy themselves.”

Lenexa resident Daniela Gonzalez isn’t Korean, but she loves what she’s found in K-pop music.

“It’s about the freedom they have with the songs,” said Gonzalez, who is originally from Venezuela. “If you want something cute or exotic, they’re not the stereotypes you see in the (music) industry. The technique is powerful from the K-pop songs, where others concentrate on appearance.”

Sarah Reiser of Farley, Mo., also liked the layers she finds in the K-pop music.

“It’s more than just singing and having back-up dancers. I hope people take the time to appreciate it,” she said.

Nick Thongthavy of Olathe has a great time dancing to K-pop music with his group, Ethereal.

“It’s a good way to express ourselves. If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be dancing at all,” he said. “It’s good music. There’s a little bit for everyone.”

Songs at the contest ran the gamut from obscure to the wildly popular music of K-pop group BTS.

In the audience, Lindsay Cho of Overland Park was having a great time enjoying the music.

“I thought it would be fun to watch people perform. It’s visually-pleasing, and the music is good,” she said.

The audience embraced the performers, cheering and screaming wildly for the team of five guys from Emporia, and offering cheers of encouragement to one performer who forgot some of her choreography mid-performance.

It isn’t solely about singing and dancing. The contest is part of a larger cultural celebration put on by the Korean American Society of Greater Kansas City Nov. 9 and 10. It will also feature a parade featuring traditional Korean garments at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 9 at 79th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.

Other cultural experiences, including Korean food sampling and taekwondo demonstrations, will be at 7710 W. 143rd St. from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 9. A ceremonial music concert will take place at 3 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 10100 Metcalf Ave.

Even though it’s not on the exact year anniversary, the idea is to celebrate 100 years since the first Korean immigrant came to the Kansas City area.

“We wanted to have the community members to join and participate so they can celebrate and explore Korean culture as well,” said David Oh, who organized the event. “K-pop is popular for teenager groups, so we wanted to give them a chance to express their talent and show their interest in Korean culture.”

Oh was expecting up to 20 teams to sign up, and he was amazed at the response.

Among the prizes, to be awarded at the finals at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Hilltop Conference Center, are $500, $300 and $200 for first, second and third place.

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