Dance like someone’s watching: CBS Dance turns a basement in Dalgas Have into a K-pop stage
Beiza Kateh had never danced outside her living room. Now she leads the student organisation that gets students moving their bodies.
As afternoon becomes evening, Dalgas Have is quieting down. The Eco bar is empty except for two students studying at a table.
But from behind a door at the bottom of a small staircase, the music is pumping. CBS Dance’s girly hip‑hop class is about to wrap up, but many of the participants will not leave – they are staying for the next class: a K-pop dance class.
Inside the exercise room, Beiza Kateh, who is teaching the next class, is setting up at the front of the room in grey sweatpants and a black hoodie.
She is a bachelor’s student in Business, Asian Language and Culture and, since last autumn, president of the student society CBS Dance. But before she began studying at CBS, she had never even done any formal dancing.
“Since I was 13, I’ve loved to watch people dance. I would go on YouTube and, when cleaning the house, just bust in a couple dance moves – that’s what I’ve been doing. Then, I thought I should get out of my shell and make it a hobby, so I started joining CBS dance classes. I had never been to any dance classes before,” she says.
But she was hooked. She started going regularly, then became a board member and eventually president of the organisation.
By the time the class is ready to begin, ten girls have lined up on the floor.
“One of the great things about the classes is that they are free. We’re all in need of a bit of extra money but want to pursue our hobbies,” Beiza Kateh says.
There are some loyal participants who always show up, but some students come sporadically, or just once. Beiza Kateh wants to emphasise how accessible and flexible the classes are for students’ schedules.
“If you pay for a dance class elsewhere, you have to show up. Here you don’t pay, you have the freedom to come last minute, and if you get sick, you don’t lose any money, which is liberating for students economically and time management-wise.”
I would go on YouTube and, when cleaning the house, just bust in a couple dance moves – that’s what I’ve been doing. Then, I thought I should get out of my shell and make it a hobby, so I started joining CBS dance classes.Beiza Kateh, president of CBS Dance
All CBS Dance teachers are students and volunteers. They choose themselves what to teach.
This week, CBS Dance is offering ballet, K-pop and hip-hop. What makes it onto the schedule depends on the teachers’ availability and interests. After the bachata teacher graduated, Latin American dances are absent. Beiza Kateh would love to see more participants and teachers and dreams of being able to offer more dances, such as popping, or house, or why not couples dance?
Levels can vary and are announced on the schedule, but everyone is welcome regardless. Some teachers post the choreography online before so that students can practice ahead of the class.
Beiza Kateh usually runs online polls between two songs and lets the participants vote. This week’s winner was “Solo” by Jennie, a singer who normally performs in one of the world’s most famous K-pop bands Blackpink.
Counting to eight
But the class begins by going over the routine without music.
The start position has the dancers turned facing the back of the room, each with one hand on their left hip and the same leg stretched slightly backwards on the toe. As the routine starts, they slowly turn towards the front while rolling their shoulders back. The rubbery black floor squeaks as all eleven sneakers twist at the same time.
I’ve tried to convince my friends to come and they say: ‘Oh I’m not a good dancer’. But you don’t need to be. It’s just moving your body. For me it’s a way to make peace with yourself.Emma Caloi, dance class participant
The dance involves a lot of elaborate and quick movements of the arms and upper body, which Beiza Kateh goes through step by step.
“Arms cross, caress your face and if you have long hair, flip it,” Beiza Kateh says flipping the ends of her long black hair outwards while talking through the moves.
“When you do it altogether it’s gonna look so good.”
Though she calls herself a beginner teacher, she seems natural in the role and peppers her detailed descriptions of dance moves with jokes and encouraging remarks about how great everyone looks.
“Everyone ready? Three, two, one,” as they repeat the motions slowly while Beiza Kateh counts to eight and then starts the routine over.
“If you can’t see yourself in the mirror, move!” she shouts assertively.
“Great. Now it’s gonna get faster,” Beiza Ketah says.
At the front of the classroom, a small tripod holds her smartphone playing the video of the routine.
After a short break, it is time to add music, first at a slower speed.
The song starts with a drawn-out percussion and a squealing whistle effect before Jennie sings: “I’m going solo.”
The routine starts with serious and sensual faces with eyes fixed on the mirror and synchronised movements, but after the hair flip, movements speed up and suddenly dancers find themselves spinning in opposite directions, resulting in a few smiles and laughs across the room.
But the dancers are determined. When the music stops for a quick break, half of the girls keep repeating different moves to themselves following their own movements attentively in the mirror.
Then the moves are repeated over again until it is time to set the music to full speed.
At the end of each class, CBS Dance makes a video to upload on social media. Today’s class is intermediate and has run over by more than half an hour. Beiza Kateh tells anyone who needs to leave. But no one seems in a hurry.
Beiza Kateh spends a good deal of time getting everyone lined up correctly to fit in the frame.
Florine Jourdain, an exchange student from France, is sitting on one of the benches while half of the group is filming. She found the event online and just showed up. It was her first time trying K-pop.
“I’ve done other types of dance, but this was difficult. It’s really fast,” she says.
Emma Caloi, a third-year bachelor’s student from Italy studying international business has been coming to the classes for a year.
“I really like to dance. I did gymnastics when I was younger and sort of missed it and I didn’t have the space at home. These are free and near my house so I thought I would give it a go.”
She was especially attracted by the K-pop, a music style she already listened to.
“I usually know the songs. The music and the choruses are fun because usually it’s not a single style of music but a mix.”
She also likes that she meets a lot of different people and students from other universities here.
“A little bit of movement and exercise never hurts and it’s fun. I’ve tried to convince my friends to come and they say: ‘Oh I’m not a good dancer’. But you don’t need to be. It’s just moving your body. For me it’s a way to make peace with yourself.”