K-pop finds a home at the UA

5-year-old dance club triples membership as popularity of Korean-born pop music grows 

By Brianna McCord, El Inde Arizona

The 22′-23′ performance team. 
Photo by Rosamia Fonesca

The University of Arizona’s first K-pop dance team has tripled its membership in its first five year, growing from 15 to 20 members when they started in 2018 to today’s 62.

“We were a little smaller last year,” said Kyla McDole, who manages UnderSkore, a club that performs cover dances of popular K-pop hits. “But we decided we want to do a lot more bigger groups, bigger covers, bigger performances this year, so we kind of wanted to up that a little bit to be more inclusive and be able to allow more people on the team.”

UnderSkore was started in 2018 by a group of friends at the UA who loved K-pop, the Korean pop music known for its catchy hooks, larger-than-life live shows and choreography that has spawned a devoted fanbase worldwide The friends wanted to start a dance team on the UA campus to perform some of the genre’s most popular songs. 

“They wanted to make a space for people that loved K-pop on the UA campus,” Executive Director Andrea Lee-Cruz said. “Since then, it has basically evolved to now (being) a club-funded spot at the UA and the university.”

UnderSkore performs covers of popular K-pop dances for their YouTube channel and has performed numerous public events including Bash at the Rec in August and the ASUA Clubs Talent Show in April, where they placed second.

In March, the group performed at the Rialto Theatre downtwon with a K-pop group from Phoenix.

“We got to, the entire night, just hang out with them, talk K-pop, talk about our different groups,” dance captain Naomi Aragon-Juarez said. “It was just so nice because it was just a lot of people from Tucson that enjoy K-pop coming in and enjoying our show, enjoying what we had to put on. It was really fun to see the dances that we’ve been working so hard on actually go on a stage rather than being filmed and uploaded.”

Underscore performed at the Rialto Theatre in March
Photo by Siobhan Leavy

Lee-Cruz said the experience was fun, but also provided representation.

“That was very cool because we were actually at a concert venue performing covers to K-pop songs,” she said. “A very cool opportunity got presented to us. Especially just being here in Tucson, almost everyone knows the Rialto and just being able to say that now. We were also able to represent the UA as well.”

Lee-Cruz said the group also represents for all the bigger K-pop community in Tucson. 

“I think in general UnderSkore is such a unique group,” she said. “First of all, we are showcasing dances from Korean pop music, a very niche genre of a country that has a population of about 70 million people, and we’re here in Tucson, a city that is a smaller city. It’s a place for us to come together and celebrate this art form and I think we also help the East Asian Studies department here on campus.”

Many members of UnderSkore are East Asian studies majors or Korean minors, though the Korean program is the smallest in the Department of East Asian Studies.

“That in itself is kind of my goal as director, to kind of bring light to that community on campus,” Lee-Cruz said. “That’s kind of how I see the connection between the U of A and this club specifically, kind of that connection to Korea.”

McDole also believes UnderSkore provides an inclusive community to UA students.

“We are focusing on trying to let as many people in as possible and just be a very inclusive and a large space for like-minded people to get together and dance,” she said. 

UnderSkore will hold a public workshop from 6:30  to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Ina Gittings Building, at 1737 E. University Blvd. in the School of Dance. 

To see UnderSkore’s cover dances, visit their YouTube @UnderSkoreUA. For general information, visit their Instagram @underskore.ua. 

El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

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