How This S’porean Choreographer Got Scouted By BTS’ Agency Big Hit Entertainment

Singaporean dancer Mohammad Alif Bin Rais (Alif “Aircho”) caused a stir last year when Big Hit Entertainment’s latest debut group TXT performed his dance choreography during a live performance.

Big Hit Entertainment, the label behind BTS global superstars, reached out to Alif for a partnership in 2019.

Alif’s work for TXT is the first time that a Singaporean artist has worked with a major K-pop label.

So far, global demand for K-pop has generated at least US $ 564.2 million in export value for South Korea, and the industry is estimated at US $ 5 billion. BTS alone is worth over $ 3.6 billion a year to the South Korean economy.

In an unprecedented turn of events, Big Hit Entertainment plans to launch an Initial Public Offering (IPO) for the BTS brand in October, allegedly worth US $ 3.9 billion upon release.

So how did Alif seize the opportunity to work with one of the biggest players in the K-pop industry?

A great unexpected opportunity

“If you ask me, I don’t know either,” Alif admits.

“They liked what they saw, and that’s it. It went from 0 to 100 very quickly. “

In 2018, the K-pop label saw Alif’s dance portfolio on Instagram and asked about his interest in choreography for TXT. Alif quickly agreed, and the rest is history.

Opportunities to work with major K-pop entertainment brands are scarce.

K-pop labels seek talent all over the world, but choreographers and dancers usually find their way into the big leagues through personal connections, Alif says.

Alif "Aircho" BTS BigHit Dancer
Alif “Aircho” / Image Credit: Facebook / Alif Aircho

Alif, however, had no connection to Korea. He also did not receive formal training from international dance schools like Julliard.

In fact, Alif’s dance education began in her freshman year at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in an after-school club.

He has since practiced dance professionally, abandoning a career in information technology (IT) to do so. Currently, the dancer is co-director at a local studio and regularly teaches at schools in Singapore.

I got the job (Big Hit) by the quality of my job, not by connections. It makes me proud.

I was not afraid (I was pursuing a career as a dancer) and I never doubted. You go all or nothing. When my parents asked me “do you want to go to college?” I said “no need, save your money”. “

– Alif “Aircho”, dancer

Teach TXT by proxy

Alif literally took his dancing off the streets and walked through the doors of one of the world’s largest entertainment companies. However, he has yet to meet TXT or BTS in real life.

“I would love to, though,” he said wistfully.

According to Alif, most K-pop group choreographers hardly ever meet the idols they work for. It takes at least seven to ten rounds of choreography for choreographers for K-pop groups before they meet.

To date, Alif has partnered with Big Hit Entertainment on two projects for TXT.

This includes the 2018 live performance “Blue Orangeade” for TXT’s debut album, followed by the 2019 “Angel or Devil” performance for their second album.

TXT BigHit BTS
Image Credit: Pinterest

The process of creating the choreography takes place entirely online.

BigHit provides the general framework and vision for the dance, and Alif “fills in the details”.

After several rounds of writing, he records the choreography in Singapore and sends a finalized version as a video file.

The choreography is then learned and re-educated at TXT in Korea. Big Hit Entertainment owns the intellectual property (IP) rights to the dance, which means that Alif cannot reproduce the choreography independently.

Alif remains silent on his future collaborations with Big Hit. “I hope we (will work together) in the future, however.

Being a dancer requires consistency and passion

Despite his work with Big Hit Entertainment, Alif does not think he has “succeeded” as a dancer yet.

There is no final goal. It is not fixed.

You have to be the best as a dancer and meet (always higher) standards. It means taking the time to acquire the right skills and experience.

– Alif “Aircho”, dancer

Alif has worked in the dance industry for over a decade, but it’s not something he considers for long. In fact, Alif says he “always starts”.

Ultimately, he wants to pass his craft on to the younger generation and show them that a career can be made from the arts.

“You will have to work very hard, but you can do it with consistency and passion.”

Featured Image Credit: kprofiles / Recognize Studios

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