Sophomore Mycayla Sawyer was disappointed when she realized that the UofA didn’t have any registered student organizations for K-pop or Korean culture. In response, she founded Honey Jam, the first K-pop dance cover group on campus.
K-pop, popular music from Korea, is dominated by entertainment companies where hopeful stars can audition to join a K-pop group, Sawyer said. Then, the artist debuts as either solo artists or in a group, which can range from 2-15 members.
Sawyer, who is majoring in English education, first got the idea to create her own dance cover group when she heard of another K-pop dance cover group called “Koreos” that was operating through the University of California, Los Angeles. One of Honey Jam’s three performance members, Sophomore Samuel Tatios, learned about Sawyer’s dance cover group when his friend walked by Sawyer’s posters, he said.
“I think it’s really important to have a group for students at the UofA who love K-pop and Korean culture,” Sawyer said.
There are about 14 members in the group who come to the practices and learn the dances for their own enjoyment, Sawyer said. Honey Jam, the performance group, has three members and teaches the dances to those who come to the HPER to learn. The dance cover group meets Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m. in the racquetball rooms. One of the three members of Honey Jam will split up the cover group and teach one or two dances. At the end of practice, the groups will perform the dance for each other.
“K-pop music is a genre that transcends language and encompasses all kinds of different styles,” said senior Dari Spencer, a member of Honey Jam.
Spencer, who is majoring in international studies and Asian studies, was introduced to K-pop in high school through her younger sister. In high school, she was a fan of One Direction. When the boy band broke up in 2015, Spencer’s sister introduced her to some K-pop groups, Spencer said.
Spencer’s first experience with dance was a K-pop dance team when she studied abroad in Korea during her junior year, she said. She lived in a dorm with a large number of international students and was invited to join a group similar to Honey Jam, Spencer said.
When Spencer learned about the UofA’s K-pop dance cover group, she was excited because she didn’t know that the UofA had anything similar to the dance cover group she had been in while in Korea, she said.
“I would learn the dances from watching the music videos so many times, so it was really easy and fun to dance with other people,” Spencer said.
In Korean, “허니잼” means “interesting.” When spoken, “허니잼” sounds like the English words Honey Jam, Spencer said.
Spencer enjoys that Honey Jam is doing fun and women-empowering dances, she said.
“We do a lot of girl-crush style dances that showcase women’s power and strength, but we also do some cutesy style stuff too,” Spencer said. “We just try to exude confidence and the dances that we pick normally work with that.”
Girl-crush style dances are based on the girls supporting and admiring other girls, Spencer said.
Honey Jam’s first performance was at the International Women’s Day events on campus, Sawyer said.
“The teaching assistant in my Chinese culture class actually invited us to perform. There were speakers and singers and then we performed. We performed to three songs that were about 30 seconds each,” Sawyer said.
“The Women’s International Empowerment performance was fun as a debut, but the sound system messed up a lot. It was a rush to be our first public performance, and we were nervous, as we are for every performance,” Sawyer said.
The style of dance that Honey Jam performs is close to hip-hop, Sawyer said. Aside from the dancing, the costumes are important for the performances as well. For their first performance, Honey Jam decided on red and black costumes.
“There are normally about five members in each K-pop group. I would like to have seven performance group members for Honey Jam,” Sawyer said.
Sophomore Samuel Tatios, who is majoring in apparel merchandising, is one of the three members of Honey Jam, he said.
“I guess K-pop was not my first time being exposed to Korean culture, because my aunts and grandmas would watch Korean dramas around me when I was growing up, Tatios said.
Tatios became interested in K-pop when one of his friends showed him a video of a K-pop group performance, he said.
Tatios started experimenting with dance when he was in high school where he would mimic K-pop stars dance moves that he would see on videos on Instagram, he said.
Honey Jam leans more toward dances that are in the audience’s face, Tatios said.
“We have different concepts that we like that we try to combine together,” Tatios said. “We really want to bring hardcore and powerful dances to the audience.”
For the future, the members of Honey Jam hope to gain more members, host K-Pop dance competitions and start a YouTube page., Sawyer said