A Guide to SEVENTEEN’s Choreography
This is the third in a series of essays exploring the many dimensions of SEVENTEEN’s discography!
Era after era, SEVENTEEN’s music explores what it means to trust and depend on others, while simultaneously gaining confidence in oneself. Their songs balance messages of loneliness with togetherness, individuality with community. Visual aids reinforce these themes, and choreography is one of them. Their choreography is spellbinding for the level of talent and teamwork it demands, but also for the ways it serves as an extension of their storytelling. The members (at times literally) lean on one another, relying on each other to make their routines work. In the process, they represent how dance is an art form that can uniquely embody the themes of both solitude and camaraderie. Below are just some of the many examples of times SEVENTEEN’s choreography has crystallized the messages in their music.
Several of SEVENTEEN’s dance routines involve one member’s touch or motion seemingly triggering the events that follow it. In “HIGHLIGHT,” the fellow performance subunit members stare in the direction Jun points. After doing so, they turn around, walk away from the camera, and the scene changes, as if Jun’s pointing led to it. The once-yellow spotlights now flash red as well. Adding a second color to the light show actually represents a new level of cohesion in the relationship they sing about: “When two beams of light meet each other / They shine each other’s paths / When the sun goes down and the darkness comes, I remember only your warmth / The place surrounded by the stars / [Go] to that place, I’ll be there.”
In “Home,” Joshua walks past Jeonghan, who sits in a hallway alone. The song is a reassurance that “[t]hings might seem hard / But I’ll always be here / So don’t think [it’s too hard] / Cause I’m your home… A place you can come to.” Joshua puts a hand on Jeonghan’s shoulder in their next scene together, and this gesture is immediately followed by a scene change. Jeonghan now sits alongside all the other members, sitting on a ledge and staring out at the sunny sky. “Memories bring us closer even from afar,” the lyrics remind him.
In the performance for “Lilili Yabbay,” every element adds to the fluidity and beauty in the dance, from the way SEVENTEEN’s all-white outfits contrast with the vivid blue ground to the smooth twists and turns into and out of formations. The members begin laying on top of one another in a pile, raising their arms in unison. They move apart, but they never disconnect from one another for long and spend the majority of the routine with arms and/or hands holding each other. “My movements are all about you / I wish I could open the time / Where only we can exist,” they sing as they try to become one. The song expresses a desire to meet a loved one in “month 13,” where no one can force them to comply with the passage of time: “They can’t trap us in the four seasons.” Escaping to somewhere only they know allows them to stay together, and their movements are fittingly fluid as they sing about “flow[ing] with awe.”
“MY I” is a beautiful performance from Jun and The 8. The two of them manage to make a simple white ribbon the only prop that is needed to bring the choreography alive. The dance starts with the duo lying down with the ribbon lying in a way that touches both of them. Their dynamic constantly shifts: the ribbon at times seems to pull them closer in a way they appreciate and at other times is treated with disdain for not allowing them to go their separate ways. They sing, “Your waving hand, not sure if you want me to come or go / What does it mean, tell me about it.” The fact Jun is dressed in all black and The 8 is in all white emphasizes the conflict at play. They are opposites, both each other’s salvation and enemies. The latter theme is presented in the brief moment The 8 turns the ribbon into a leash on Jun. Whether expressing love or hate towards one another, they choose to stay in each other’s lives and take the good with the bad. By the end of the dance, the ribbon is on the ground and no longer binds them. However, after taking turns spinning further away from one another, the two voluntarily walk towards each other again and each pick up one end of the ribbon. Since “When [they] take one step closer / The flower path grows thorns / Then [they] reach out to save [each other],” they ultimately decide the trouble that comes with staying connected is well worth it. The duo completes one another, hence the name of the song that alludes to them being one and the same. The object of the song is simultaneously the person and the person’s other.
The title “MY I” implies the person being described and the storyteller appear distinct but are actually the same person. These complexities are distilled into an understandable, emotional performance for all audiences, all thanks to raw talent and the use of a single prop.
Speaking of not needing more than one prop to tell a story through dance, The 8 and Hoshi dance together while chained to one another in “Fallin’ Flower.” They manage to break the chains that join them early on, but Wonwoo is then seen tangled up too. The duo cannot win their independence without taking it away from someone else.
Jun enters the picture later to provide companionship to Wonwoo amid his plight. “To falling petals / No one reaches their hands,” they note. The members decide to be those outstretched hands for one another, seeing value where others see only chains.
Other notable details in the “Fallin’ Flower” choreography: the group-wide formation that resembles an unraveling flower and the focus on Joshua. He is the member seen with withered bits of flowers taped to his face, an attempt to salvage something beautiful and find a way to repurpose it. This effort is praised through the members’ circling of him, and through lyrics like “Between the time when flowers bloom and scatter, scars heal and sprouts emerge.” Nurturing the potential left over from a previously blossoming flower is their metaphor for seeing value in even the final moments of their time together: “We are living our first and last moment / So I won’t take you for granted / Because you loved me as I am.”
Lastly, “Don’t Wanna Cry” is exceptional for its synchronization, varied settings, and the way these two things combine to send a message. As they sing about holding back tears while searching for a lost loved one, each member stands in a separate setting and is later seen sprinting through it. The video is an endless quest for a reunion, one that could be as perfect as the synchronization on display in the choruses, when all the members return to a shared setting. The video ends with the members split up in separate locations again, walking their separate ways, as their desire to stay clear-eyed to find someone faster persists. The group has moments where they feel close to a perfect reunion, but their story ends as ambiguously and as solitary as it began. It is a fittingly up-in-the-air ending to a song about holding back tears, hesitating to openly process emotions.
Each member of SEVENTEEN contributes an essential role to the dance routines in which they perform, reinforcing both the importance of them as individuals and the ways their story is incomplete without thinking about the group as one collective. SEVENTEEN’s stories are incomplete without each other. The moments where they walk towards or away from each other, guide each other’s movements, and bring metaphors to life through formations emphasize how their stories of complex, relatable emotions are intertwined.
For more analyses of SEVENTEEN’s work, keep an eye out for new issues of this newsletter later this week, and read the essays released so far below!