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Navigating dance at Princeton as a first-time dancer

Group of dancers sitting on stage posing with four fingers being held up.
KoKo Pops dance company on stage.
Courtesy of KoKo Pops Production Team

I have scattered memories of dancing as a child. My twin sister and I would imitate Candace and Vanessa in “Busted” from Phineas and Ferb as the segment from the TV show played behind us. I recall stealing the dance floor at a family function, freely moving to’s “#thatPOWER” with my cousins cheering me on. I still remember stomping my feet to the futuristic, echoey beat. And I ingrained the choreography of “We’re All In This Together” from High School Musical at a house party — well, the Just Dance version, at least.

I can't necessarily recall the steps of those dances, but I do remember how they allowed me to express myself. While my childhood dancing experience was grew out of my love for the Just Dance game series, I never had any formal dance experience. As I grew up, my dedication to the arts was firmly planted in piano and violin, skills I’ve honed for 15 and 12 years now, respectively. With piano pedagogy and classical music occupying my brain, dancing was relegated to a pastime, always in the background — a refuge to which I could retreat when I needed to relax.


The music has continued to flow through my body and my spirit.

As I began to focus on college applications in my junior year of high school, my investigation of Princeton as a potential home introduced me to KoKo Pops — a K-pop dance cover company. I was initially allured not by the music genre, but by the intricate and powerful choreographies that came with the musical promotions (specifically BTS’s “Not Today”). I began to follow KoKo Pops’s Instagram account, despite being far from the Orange Bubble.

Fast forward to my second week on campus, and I received an email from KoKo Pops about auditioning for the company. Several years of piano auditions should’ve prepared me for the jitters, but I was shaken by the artistic director’s impressive skill. They had a distinct openness that was flowy yet sharp, varying with the style of the piece. The audition process was both daunting and exhilarating. However, I was most worried about finding a community among such strong and experienced dancers.

However, my fears slipped away at pickups. Everyone was so supportive, assuring me that I would adjust well to the dance company. Meanwhile, we bonded over our shared love of K-pop with a random playlist of popular K-pop choreographies that tested our knowledge of dances.

While K-pop music fits a range of different dance styles, I was particularly drawn to the songs “Bite Me” and “Glitch,” dances which implemented partner work and Vogue Femme elements, respectively. These pieces helped me understand the foundations of these dance styles, widening my musical repertoire. On the first day of “Glitch” rehearsal, we drilled our catwalks, focused on our arm shapes, and introduced waacking, skills that required constant attention and practice. On the other hand, “Bite Me” taught me power and stage presence.

Then, there were weekly rehearsals in front of the entire company. They forced me to pay attention to the tiny details of other dances, as well as my own. Knowing the choreography wasn’t enough: level changes, symmetry, facial expressions, and synchronization became priorities. My greatest struggle lay in formations. Since I’ve always learned K-pop choreographies in one position, I found it difficult to recalibrate my spatial awareness, which was integral to improving the image of the choreographies. However, my piece leaders and fellow dancers helped me address these details quickly and precisely, and I always felt supported in improving my style.


Over the past few months, I’ve learned about my dance preferences, strengths, and which styles I want to continue with in the future. The KoKo Pops provided me with a supportive environment as I stepped outside of my comfort zone and discovered new aspects of myself. The dance community at Princeton is here for you, waiting for you to show us your moves, regardless of your previous dance experience. 

Brianna Melanie Suliguin is a staff writer for The Prospect. She is a part of the Great Class of 2027 and is from Toms River, New Jersey. She can be contacted at bs7122[at]

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