On the Beat

Senior Hyunjun Chang founded the school’s first International Hip Hop Dance Club, but the group’s audience extends far beyond the campus.

Though+he+began+performing+in+front+of+his+bathroom+mirror%2C+Hyunjun+Chang+now+regularly+performs+in+public.

photo courtesy of Hyunjun Chang

Though he began performing in front of his bathroom mirror, Hyunjun Chang now regularly performs in public.

Sally Cho, Staff Writer

When NASH senior Hyunjun Chang was a freshman in boarding school, he came across a music video called “Mic Drop” by BTS, a famous K-Pop group. That chance encounter changed Chang’s life, sparking a passion for dancing that he never knew he had before.

“I knew of K-Pop from my previous years living in Korea, but never had I been so entranced by it,” Chang said. “Soon, I found myself attempting to imitate the movements. It was addicting.”

Three years later, Chang is now the founder and president of North Allegheny’s International Hip Hop Dance Club. The now-bustling club is a result of Chang’s hard efforts to recruit members over the years. 

“I was met with many breaths of hesitation, including responses such as the following: ‘Dance is not my thing,’ or ‘I could never’,” he said. 

Dance has been my form of personal therapy, celebration, and a punching bag throughout my high school career.”

— Hyunjun Chang

Determined to share his passion with others, Chang traveled around Pittsburgh to promote his club.

“I visited Ross Park Mall, North Park, and even Heinz Hall and danced whenever I could in front of audiences, whether they were shoppers, pedestrians, or my fellow orchestra members,” he said. “Over time, some people expressed interest.”

Since 2018, the International Hip Hop Dance Club has served as a place for students who share Chang’s love for dancing to further explore their interests, no matter how much or how little previous experience they may have.

“In NA International Hip Hop Club, we learn a variety of choreographies, mainly consisting of K-Pop and hip hop,” Chang explained. “After establishing a set curriculum of dances to master by the end of the year, we meet on a weekly basis.”

Even during such an unconventional year, Chang’s passion for his club has not burned out. Instead, he has found alternate ways to run the organization.

“Currently, we practice individually with distributed resources and gather together on the weekends via Zoom in order to review the steps and dance to the songs in real-time,” he said.

In light of his admirable leadership of the club, outsiders may assume that Chang has been trained professionally by dance teachers. However, he is self-taught and has used various methods and resources to help him reach the level he is at today.

Chang practices and teaches himself at his studio. photo courtesy of Hyunjun Chang.

“Initially, I started practicing by looking at the bathroom mirrors without any form of prior experience or knowledge,” he said. “Then, I discovered tutorial videos on YouTube and attempted to follow the detailed instruction of the video creators. Gradually, I was able to reach a point where I did not necessarily need to look at tutorial videos and slow down the speed of the actual performances to learn specific moves.”

Chang has even developed his own methods of refining and improving his craft.

“I set aside a separate time for me to dance freely to any music that plays, experimenting with my body, which is helpful in developing an ability to freestyle to some extent,” he said.

He cites K-Pop artists like Jimin Park of BTS as his inspirations, as Chang has mainly been focusing on K-Pop and hip hop throughout his dancing journey. However, he also finds inspiration from American artists such as Michael Jackson.

“I was fascinated by who he was since my middle school years,” he added.

Not only does Chang share his love of dance through his club, but he also posts dance cover videos on his Instagram page where he has garnered almost five thousand followers.

Chang’s Instagram boasts thousands of followers interested in his dance covers. photo courtesy of Instagram.

I started uploading covers at the beginning of my sophomore year. I felt it would be interesting to be bold and let the world know my interest,” he said. “I befriended many other cover dancers across the globe.” 

Chang, now six months away from graduation, plans to keep dancing after high school.

“Dance has been my form of personal therapy, celebration, and a punching bag throughout my high school career, as well as life in general, and I wish to further my journey in improving,” he emphasized. “I have made sure that the colleges I am applying to all offer various dance clubs.”

Although his love for dance is an important part of his life, he is currently not planning to pursue it professionally.

“If I were ever to reach a level of expertise that I could profit well off of, then I would perhaps consider it as a prospective avenue,” he said. “However, at the time being, I am considering it as a devotional pastime, working to become a better performer.”

Chang hopes to spread a message of positivity and determination to all students with an interest in dancing, encouraging them to start practicing and to join his club if they wish.

“It is never too late to start. What matters is your dedication and most importantly, your enjoyment of it,” he said. “Take your time and realize it is something you just love doing. That will make your experience one that lasts a lifetime.”

Anyone who wants to join the International Hip Hop Dance Club can email Chang at [email protected] to become a member.