Can you believe we’re approaching the two-years anniversary of when I choreographed for Riot Game’s first augmented reality K-Pop group K/DA? It’s been almost a year since I’ve worked on this project and I’m still so moved by this work and the talent involved to make this possible. From the cast, the people, and community that came from K/DA’s debut, I feel so humbled to see my work on a large-scale.
Since K/DA’s debut, there've been so many covers. And what humbles me the most is the diversity across all ages and genders. I’m seeing people all across the globe enjoy my choreography and the treatment behind it. Frankly, this was the moment I realized we were in a new era of dance - especially someone that came from the 2010s YouTube era.
I want to celebrate this work and talk about how I helped direct Riot Game’s virtual K-Pop dance group of Ahri, Akali, Evelynn and Kai'Sa from League of Legends.
Official Music Video - 383,000,000+ on YouTube
Behind The Scenes Video - 12,000,000+ on YouTube
Covers - 4.2k+ videos
Reach: 65,000,000+ reach of K/DA 'POPSTARS' Covers on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter across 136 countries
Creating the Movement for K/DA
Riot Games provided me with biographies on these characters and I studied them intensely. I wanted to understand these characters precisely so I could distinguish them in their own unique movements.
What made this stage in designing each character’s movement so fun was the excitement from the team’s animators (they were so pumped.) I was able to humanize each character’s interactions with movement. As the animators created the sprites, I would be able to fully flesh out these characters.
During this process, I wanted to emphasize how choreographing on this scale was not just about pictures; it was about creating moments that cater to the audience. For me, I’ve never just seen background dancers as sprinkles in the back. They contribute to the energy. I deeply care about how the audience would react to these moments on stage.
When I was considering the audience, I needed to figure out how to combine the cultures and styles of dance from Korea and America. It was a fun challenge and I was cognizant of how these two audiences interacted with dance. I thought to myself, “how do I bring gimmicky moves and switch it to hip-hop and groove-based?”
I took the time to find simpler movements because of the possibility of this becoming larger-scale. In doing so, I implemented beginner and advanced movements - I hope you can truly feel these characters. Body that shit. You are them! Everyone’s an artist.
Embodying the Characters
What was fun to direct K/DA was the different approaches to creating movement from animation to creating an AR/VR for the treatment.
I was able to study each character and discuss closely with Riot Games on how to build the unique personas behind each character. I was able to align my ideas to cater to Riot Game’s vision of each character. Being able to play with the choreography, while movement coaching, and also being the vessel for the choreography and utilizing those elements.
There’s a character named Evelynn and she had these long fingers and her personality was alluring but sexy. I created her movement by playing with her features. It was super fun and different for me to create movement for specific features. One of the main moves for POP/STARS was creating this ‘crown’ image. I wanted to incorporate her fingers in an interesting way and instead I tried to flip it. The move embodied Evelynn’s character and these small details went a long way. She’s a queen that thinks differently and doesn’t care to fit the mold. The mold follows her.
Another character, Akali, was the angel of K/DA and she had huge feathers. Some of the choreography incorporated her tail - so her movements were flowy and angelic.
Thinking about this girl group, I envisioned something like a girl group - like Spice Girls. K/DA reminded me of Spice Girls - and using that as inspiration to help characterize each girl was important. It was so interesting to see the singers they picked for each character too - these artists helped embody the girls from League of Legends.
Side note: for the chorus I wanted to embody Britney. She’s my pop queen (obviously.)
Designing the Live Performance
I had to travel to Korea for the opening ceremony performances hosted at the eighth world championship for League of Legends.
As soon I landed, I had to audition dancers and I eventually took PREPIX under my wing. I choreographed for two songs: K/DA’s ‘POPSTARS’ and one to ‘RISE’ - the theme song for the 2018 League of Legends World Championship. ‘RISE’ was with The Word Alive, Bobby from iKON, Mako - it was such a different vibe that I enjoyed every second of choreographing it for the live stage.
For RISE - the choreography was catered to a live performance and was full of moments and visuals.
This performance included risers as a prop design - this helped the artist get to their spots comfortably and help showcase their artist.
Creating the moments for both performances were incredible - and this is why I emphasize identity. Being able to shape movement on both video and on-stage was the most exhilarating process ever. This was a career highlight.
People were interested and seeing these intricacies on a large stage was so fascinating.
Impact to this Day
What I never imagined for my work came afterwards. I remember I saw one of the first POP/STAR dance covers on Instagram and I got so excited from seeing it. After that 100s… 1000s... of covers of my choreography were posted.
I want a big shoutout to Michelle Griffth and Lydia Paek to help in this process (love you ladies so much.) They assisted me in this process! We work so efficiently because we know how to get things done (and have fun doing so in the process!)
Not afraid to challenge one another to keep growing. They know me so well, that with one look they know exactly what I needed lol. Because we’re family, we work like family with everyone. Our core values are aligned, that’s the best.
This was an incredible opportunity and what I loved the most was being able to work with the production and crew. My biggest joy is to see people flourish in what they love and it makes the process even more rewarding. I’m very grateful too to have people cover the choreography because without you guys there wouldn’t be a community. Seeing the dance being covered and the community that overwhelmed it was so positive and powerful.
Big thanks to Riot Games for this opportunity - this led me to collaborate with so many folks (I eventually worked with Madison Beer who I was able to movement coach and act as her lead choreographer and dancer for her 2018 Jingle Ball tour.)
Stay tuned… I’ll be posting the live and dance version of K/DA next month.
Here are some bonus pictures from when I performed at Anime Matsuri 2019.