Students Audition for Dance Competition in Los Angeles

By Katie Chung, Video Editor

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Eight students made their way to Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 25 to compete in an upcoming dance competition and show hosted by JTBC, a prominent South Korean broadcast company. The students went as KCROOKD, an informal dance group that they created with friends several years ago, and competed as representatives for the group.

The show is Stage K, a broadcasted competition where foreign K-Pop fans around the world can participate in a dance cover contest for the grand prize of dancing with the winner’s favorite idols on stage. Stage K consisted of two preliminary local rounds before the main round starts in South Korea. The first round was an online application and a video audition, which all the applicants, Victoria Chandler ‘20, Katie Chung ‘19, Michelle Huang ‘19, Michelle Lee ‘20, Regina Nababan ‘20, George Ruhlman ‘20, and Elizabeth Wolf ‘20, passed.

“I expected [to pass the first round] since we were scouted to audition but was still very pleased that we had passed,” Nababan said.

The second preliminary round was held in Los Angeles on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27. Accompanied by Melinda Barrett ‘20, KCROOKD’s general manager, and four parent chaperones, the seven students had a lot to prepare for their audition.

“We tried to practice as much as we can around our busy schedule,” Lee said. “We met before school and stayed after to practice and synchronize.”

The students competed as one group of four and one group of three for the competition, split as KCROOKD A and KCROOKD B. As required by the show, both groups prepared two to three songs of at least a minute each for the second round.

“I practiced on my own for about two hours every other day and on the week of I would stay up late going through the choreography,” Nababan said.

After arriving in Los Angeles, the group of seven spent the next day in high anticipation for the audition later that day. Auditions were held at the Hudson Theatres, a set of theaters where Comedy Central frequently hold their shows. Once checked in, the group spent some time in the holding room practicing their dances among fellow competitors. Music played in the background as several cameras recorded the scene.

“The cameras were literally recording everything,” Lee said. “Especially when something dramatic happened.”

Before long, the group was called in to audition. Although they were auditioning in two groups, all seven went into the audition room together. Both groups were awaited by two panels of judges and more cameras. After a short introduction of all seven members, group A went up first.

“We each only got to do two songs even though KCROOKD A prepared three,”  Wolf said. “But due to time concerns, we only got to do two songs.”

Once group B finished, all seven members were asked to stand in a line to answer questions and add any extra comments. On the way out of the audition room, a camera was set up so that the seven members could talk about their feelings after the audition. To their surprise, the group was asked for an outside interview that lasted around 40 minutes.

“The interview was one of the most unreal parts of the whole experience,” Ruhlman said. “Answering their questions about our dance covers and performances made me feel really proud of us to make it as far as we did.”

To celebrate the successful completion of their auditions, the total group of 12 headed to Koreatown for some Korean BBQ. The following Sunday was spent in downtown LA, visiting various shops and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“My favorite part of the trip was probably either going to [an] album store with everyone and just getting all these albums that I wouldn’t usually be able to get, or going to the TCL Chinese Theatre and getting to see some of my favorite celebrities’ hand and foot prints,” Wolf said. “I thought it was just like really cool and downtown LA was just so spectacular.”

However, the future remains uncertain for the group. In the first preliminary round, the seven students sent their applications as groups and were accepted in their groups. Unlike the first round, the second round was judged individually. This meant that among the groups competing, only some members of the group may pass the second round.

“It’s hard to say [how we did] because I don’t know what the judges were looking for. Since this is a show for foreigners, I think being non-Korean will give you an advantage,” Lee said. “Our dancing skills were lacking compared to many of the adult participants but I think we [offered] youthful energy and fun for the show because we are all really close with each other and [made] the mood fun.”

Not much information has been released yet about the logistics of the show, but those advancing past the second round will be given an all-paid trip to spend a week in South Korea where they will participate in the broadcasted show.

“I don’t even know if I’m gonna make it or not,” Wolf said. “It’s all kinds of crazy and so surreal.”

Stage K preliminary rounds have already been held all around the world, such as Mexico, France, Thailand, and several other countries. The U.S was the last country to have preliminary auditions — one being in Los Angeles and the other in New York City. Winners chosen from every country will compete against each other in South Korea to determine the final victor that will get to perform with real K-Pop idols.

“I’m not sure about myself,”  Nababan said, “but I have confidence that some members of KCROOKD will advance to the final stage.”