In this post about dance formations, I’ll cover one of the most common layouts for dancers, how it is used by groups, and how the number of members can affect the dance’s blocking.
When you have choreography for a large group of people, the dancers must be directed in a way that is not sloppy and is well organized and in perfect unison. Pretty militaristic when you think about it.
In case my first choreography post wasn’t clear enough, a good dance piece theatrically should not have the dancer(s) standing in the same, tiny area for the entire number. So the performers have to move around during those 3 minutes, but how should they be standing? And when they know the answer to that, where should they end up after that? And after that? It must be difficult, especially with (x) number of people on stage! Remember, reader: take away the arm movements and stepping in the same, small area, and you’ll see practically every group has the same blocking in their routines.
Dance formations take all shapes and forms. And the number one common formation in any choreography with any number of people with or without back up dancers takes the form of this symbol;
The triangular formation no doubt is the choreographer’s go-to, and every group dance in k-pop uses a triangular formation at least four times one way or another. Need evidence? I can give 13 pieces of evidence.
BoA is a soloist, therefore she can’t make a triangular formation all by herself. Bring in a diverse selection of back up dancers and you’ve got a triangle fit for a queen.
It’s slightly tricky with duos such as Trouble Maker and TVXQ (post-split), because when one person is leading the triangle (like BoA is up above), what does the other person do? One idea is to have A and B sharing a point in the triangle. Here, each of the coupled male dancers are two points of the three points, and Troublemaker at the back make the top of the triangle. The point of the triangle doesn’t always have to be downstage center.
For Ladies’ Code’s first proper comeback as a trio, their production team got the idea to stick triangles all over the video. Talk about symbolism.
The thing about having three members in one group is you don’t need back up dancers to make a triangle. If you pay attention to Ashley, Sojung, and Zuny, that’s what I mean. But k-pop choreographers add more people anyway. I assume it’s because the stage would look empty.
Meanwhile it’s easy as pi for Broadway choreographers/directors to use the bare minimum of triangular formations. Yunho’s triangle up above is an example of this as well.
If I had to pick one line up that has the most disadvantages blocking-wise, it’s a quartet. It’s the minimum number for k-pop choreographers to believe the stage won’t be too empty if they don’t add back up dancers, so in that scenario the four guys/gals are on their own with formations. It’s an even number, which means the image above is the best triangle four people can make. Despite the fact it’s more like a trapezoid.
Or they can use levels to their advantage. If all the members here stood up straight, Jisoo would be completely blocked from sight, apart from her arms. This way, everyone can get their fair share of the limelight AND make a 4-person triangle that actually is a triangle.
Sure, I guess you can say this is exactly like the Ladies’ Code one above, as well as Changmin’s triangle even higher up, but this one is more similar to the earlier years of both Ladies’ Code and TVXQ. Because each of the five people in the triangle are the main performers. This triangle is also the most used triangular formation out of all triangular formations. Not a 5-piece triangle only, but a two-sided triangle. Two-sided because two sides each have 3 people, but one side only has 2. Odd numbered triangles (BoA’s too) are the most comfortable line ups to use this. Even numbered line ups use this too, but they often end up looking like…
…this. Doesn’t that look, off, to you? You’ve got Eunji leading the triangle in Row 1, Bomi and Naeun in Row 2, Chorong and Namjoo in Row 3, then there’s Hayoung. If you drew a line between Hayoung and Namjoo, you wouldn’t get an equilateral triangle. Choreography practically demands perfect symmetry. The only reason why even numbered groups would use this exact formation is so that one person can still get seen on stage.
This is what I mean about getting seen onstage; Junhyung is practically blocked on all sides from an audience POV. But letting the other 5 get the spotlight is worth the sacrifice to make the best triangle formation in dance; 1 in the front, 2 in the middle, 3 in the back. Groups with 6 members may be the usual criminals in making scalene triangles, but when they decide not to, it’s oh so pleasing.
You’ve already seen the BoA one for a 7-piece, 2-sided triangle, but the one displayed by BTS is quite common with septets. Pretend Jin isn’t in the picture. (Hard, isn’t it?) On stage right, we have Jungkook leading his triangle with Jimin and J-Hope behind him. On stage left, we have V leading his triangle with Rap Monster and Suga. (See what I mean with symmetry?) That’s two, mirroring 3-piece triangles right there. Now we add Jin back in, and who is he leading first? Jungkook and V. He’s leading the leaders. Plus it’s still a whole triangle when you connect him, Jimin, and Suga.
8-piece groups would also use the reverse of this one here; by having the leading point downstage rather than upstage. (Lion Heart does have that as well, even though Hyoyeon’s a bit off center.) No matter which one is used, one person will always get the short end of the stick.
The formation above is exclusive to nine-piece members only and it’s easy to see why. Firstly, We have three groups of three here, stage right led by Nayeon, stage left led by Momo, and center stage led by Tzuyu. Secondly, if it was only those three, you’d have a spread out trio. Give each of them two girls behind her, and we have an upgraded version of the formation BTS offered earlier; Tzuyu leading the leaders. Thirdly, each group represents one point in the triangle. It’s like there were three invisible orbs for each group to shield from the outside world. Or the choreographer didn’t want to make another 2-sided triangle. Fourthly, you still have one triangle with Chaeyoung, Tzuyu, and Sana at their corners. The asymmetry of having Tzuyu copying what stage right is doing, rather than do her own thing and have four pairs of reflections, is a bit eh though. But they could do worse.
We’ve reached the border between ‘staying faithful to what a triangle actually looks like’ and ‘making all kinds of shapes and occasionally adding a 2-sided triangle outline to prove they remember the importance of triangles’. If you thought any of the above was complicated, brace yourself.
There aren’t many groups with 10 members in k-pop. So finding a triangle exactly the way I wanted was and is hard. The one I wanted to display was the triangle displayed by Beast plus 4 members in the back. (1, then 2, then 3, then 4. 1+2+3+4=10. Like bowling pins.) When researching choreography for 10-piece groups, I was surprised they didn’t do much of that at all. Sometimes they’d make a diamond (the jewel, not the shape) by having a row of 2 in the back. The most faithful triangle I’ve seen is having all the members make a complete outline of a triangle. It’s like the 2-sided 5-piece triangle, and then adding 5 more people to fill in the third side. A full triangle! I came to the conclusion the triangle I wanted to see might be too crowded for the dancers as they could bump into each other. The one above kind of looks like a combination of the “1+2+3+4” triangle I wanted and the “complete outline” I just mentioned.
There also aren’t many groups with 11 members either. As far as I know, Produce 101 is the only ‘company’ making them. Other than that, 11-membered groups usually didn’t have exactly 11 when they debuted.
The fact it’s pretty crowded is a good reason why that is. See how there are two girls left out of the 2-sided triangle’s outline? Why can’t they have spots at the ends? Here’s a hint; Notice how little room of the blue tennis court is left at both ends? Especially when you count the boundary line? If you add a member to each end, they might be stepping on the green, or at the least, “out of bounds”. Now pretend the blue is a stage platform and the green is the audience section. A performer should never be too close to the stage and must also have elbow room. This formation is just fine when it all comes down to keeping the performers safe.
This one takes the example given by 2NE1 earlier, but has enough members to make an actual triangle out of it. The lack of a triangle tip does give the impression it’s really a stretched out trapezoid. Lucky for Cosmic Girls, that’s not how trapezoids work. Well played, WJSN’s choreographer. Well played.
It’s also worth noting the ‘two people share the center and everyone else follows diagonally’ triangle is also common among sextets and octets, even numbered groups in general.
You should now what a triangle is at the point. Sadly, pure triangles become rare as groups get bigger. The one above might not even be a triangle. When looking for Seventeen triangles, I kept having to start over because there would be a couple guys upstage center further upstage than the two members standing in corners. Making it a jewel diamond. (Of course Seventeen would do this.) Music show versions of Pretty U show the jewel as clear as day, but you can hardly find it in the photo above. The couch might have influenced the members in the back to not step back any further. Full triangle or not, we still have an outline. And that’s all you can hope for with large groups.
In case it needs saying again, dance pieces love triangles. Completely straight lines are too plain (and straight lines that are used aren’t purely straight) as well as too long for the stage when it comes to larger groups. The triangle formation is one of many formations used, but it sure is the most common. Even with larger groups that tend to not use a pure triangle, they’ll still have dance points that are triangular one way or another. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Now you can show your k-pop friends how smart you are when watching dance practices with them. Or not. Play me out, boys!