The Bowdoin dance group Reaction is entering its third year in operation and continues to be a fun space for students to learn, appreciate and practice K-pop performance.
Group leader, Bethany Berhanu ’20, has danced in Reaction since its founding in 2017. The group evolved as K-pop became more visible in American popular culture.
“I feel like our group is being taken a little more seriously,” said Berhanu. “In the beginning it was just for fun and because all of us really like the music and love to dance, but now I feel like [since] K-pop is becoming a more serious genre of music, so has our group.”
With fewer than 10 dancers, each member of Reaction plays a crucial role in contributing to the group’s fun and collaborative ethos. Katie Filiakova ’22 has danced with Reaction since her first year and enjoys the intimacy afforded by the group’s size.
“We’re a small group of people, and we’re just teaching each other and learning from each other at the same time,” said Filiakova. “It’s a very nice bonding moment when no one is superior.”
Reaction celebrates the uniqueness of K-pop, from its catchy, main hook choreography to signature dance moves that are instantly recognized among K-pop fans. During their weekly practices, Reaction follows along with videos of the dances that accompany each song and learns the moves as they are performed by the artists. With new songs from popular groups coming out as frequently as every week, Reaction is always rehearsing new material.
“K-pop itself is really different because artists themselves focus on dancing a lot,” said Filiakova. “Each song has a dancing performance to it, and artists are very good dancers, for the most part . . . Being able to articulate your love for a group or love for a song with your body—for me at least—is something really special.”
Filiakova hopes that Reaction sheds light on an artistically beautiful—but less popular—genre of music on Bowdoin’s campus.
“[There are] a lot of people from different countries here at Bowdoin, but their music is not necessarily represented,” she said.
Filiakova thus sees Reaction as a way to unite students who feel that their interest in K-pop may not be as well-received in the greater Bowdoin community.
“It was surprising for me that on campus, there are so many people who listen to K-pop that just don’t really talk about it that much,” she said.
“When we’ve performed in past years, people were like, ‘What’s the name of that song? What’s the name of that group?’” said Berhanu. “I feel like through our group, people are learning more about K-pop, which is really cool.”
Ultimately, the group is a space for students who are dancers, K-pop enthusiasts, or both to express themselves through performance. Both Berhanu and Filiakova emphasized that having fun is the most important part of dancing in Reaction.
“There are a lot of groups, not just at Bowdoin, but in general, that are very professional,” said Berhanu. “But we’re more of a casual, fun group. We just want people who enjoy K-pop and enjoy dancing.”
“I’ve been performing my whole life,” added Filiakova. “And, for me, not focusing on the ‘ideal performance’ and just enjoying the process was something to get used to at first. But when I got used to it, it made a lot of sense and I really, really loved it.”
Reaction meets weekly and performs a handful of times each semester at events such as the winter and spring showcases and during Family Weekend. New members are welcome—and encouraged—to join this tight-knit group of dancers at any point throughout the year.