Singaporean dancer Mohammad Alif Bin Rais (Alif “Aircho”) made a splash last year when TXT, Big Hit Entertainment’s latest newbie group, performed his dance choreography on a live show.
Big Hit Entertainment, the record label behind worldwide superstars BTS, reached out to Alif for a partnership in 2019.
Alif’s work for TXT is the first time a Singaporean artist is working with a major K-pop label.
So far, global demand for K-pop generated at least US$564.2 million in export value for South Korea, and the industry is worth an estimated US$5 billion dollars. BTS alone is worth over US$3.6 billion a year for South Korea’s economy.
In an unprecedented turn of events, Big Hit Entertainment is planning to launch an initial public offering (IPO) for the BTS brand in October, allegedly worth US$3.9 billion upon release.
So how did Alif clinch the opportunity to work with one of the K-pop’s industry biggest players?
A Big Opportunity Out Of The Blue
“If you ask me, I also don’t know,” Alif admits.”
“They liked what they saw, and that was it. It went from 0 to 100 real quick.”
In 2018, the K-pop label saw Alif’s dance portfolio on Instagram, and reached out to ask about his interest in choreographing for TXT. Alif promptly accepted, and the rest is history.
Opportunities to work with major K-pop entertainment labels come in far and few between.
K-pop labels source for talent worldwide, but choreographers and dancers typically find their way to the big leagues through personal connections, says Alif.
Alif, however, had no connections to Korea whatsoever. Neither has he received any formal training from international dance schools like Julliard.
In fact, Alif’s interest in dance started only when he pioneered a hip hop dance crew in Juying Secondary school.
Since then, he’s been pursuing dance professionally, ditching a career in Audio Visual Technology to do so. Currently, the dancer is a co-director at a local studio and teaches regularly at schools around Singapore.
I got the (Big Hit) job off the quality of my craft, not through connections. That makes me proud.
I wasn’t scared (pursuing a dance career), and never had any doubts. You either go all in or all out. When my parents asked me, ‘do you want to go to university?’ I said ‘no need, save your money’.”
– Alif “Aircho”, dancer
Teaching TXT By Proxy
Alif literally took his dance off the streets and through the doors of one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. However, he has yet to meet TXT or BTS in real life.
“I would love to, though,” he says wistfully.
According to Alif, most choreographers for K-pop groups hardly ever meet the idols they work for. It takes choreographers at least seven to 10 rounds of choreography for K-pop groups before they actually meet.
To date, Alif has partnered with Big Hit Entertainment on two projects for TXT.
That includes the 2019 “Blue Orangeade” live performance for TXT’s first album in March, followed by the 2019 “Angel or Devil” performance for their second album in October.
The choreography creation process takes place entirely online.
BigHit provides the general framework and vision for the dance, and Alif “fills in the details.”
After several rounds of drafting, he records the choreography in Singapore and sends a finalised version over in a video file.
The choreoraphy is then learnt and retaught to TXT in Korea. Big Hit Entertainment owns the intellectual property rights (IP) to the dance, meaning that Alif cannot reproduce the choreography independently.
Alif keeps mum on future collaborations with Big Hit. “I hope we will (work together) in the future, though.”
Being A Dancer Takes Consistency And Passion
Despite his work with Big Hit Entertainment, Alif doesn’t think that he’s “made it” as a dancer yet.
There’s no end goal. It’s not fixed.
You’ve got to be the best as a dancer, and hold yourself to (ever-higher) standards. That means putting in the time to gain the right skills and experience.
– Alif “Aircho”, dancer
Alif has worked in the dance industry for over a decade, but that’s not something he considers to a long time. In fact, Alif says that he’s still “starting out.”
Ultimately, he wants to pass on his craft to the younger generation and show them that a career can be made out of the arts.
“You’ll have to work very hard, but you can do it with consistency and passion.”
Featured Image Credit: kprofiles / Recognize Studios
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