South Korean dance star Aiki brings K-pop moves to USC Kaufman

South Korean dancer, Aiki, showing USC students her dance moves
Dancer and choreographer Aiki shows some moves to USC Kaufman students. (Photo / Valerie Chen)

In a studio at the USC Kaufman School of Dance, K-pop choreographer Aiki paused her instruction to marvel at a student’s performance. Aiki had just taught a complex floor move, and fourth-year student William Okajima executed it while sending one leg skyward.

“I never thought about expressing it that way!” Aiki said through an interpreter.

The moment captured the lively exchange of movement and culture made possible by Aiki’s weeklong residency of dance workshops last month. Her classes offered USC Kaufman students a crash course in K-pop dance, a genre that puts Western dances like jazz, hip-hop and dancehall in a blender with contemporary Korean influences. In turn, the students gave Aiki a window into American dancers’ style and flair.

Aiki (Kang Hyein) is a one-name celebrity in her native South Korea. She has created signature moves for some of K-pop’s biggest musical acts, including BTS and the Refund Sisters. Her viral dance videos garner millions of views, and her combined Instagram and TikTok following numbers more than 4.4 million.

Read more about Aiki’s story