Two years after Mnet's "Street Woman Fighter" shook the nation, the dance survival show is back with a global lineup.
The original series was a megahit, leading to a relay of similar dance survival programs -- including its own spinoff of "Street Man Fighter" and "Street Dance Girls Fighter."
The TV channel is set to launch the second season of its dance survival show on Tuesday, with eight top-tier female dance crews from in and out of the country -- 1Million, Bebe, Deep N Dap, Jam Republic, Lady Bounce, Mannequeen, Tsubakill and Wolf'lo -- set to vie against each other through missions and battles.
The show's producer, judges and contestants on Thursday held a press conference in Sangam-dong, Seoul.
Kim Ji-eun, the program's producer, said her main focus with the new season of "Street Woman Fighter" is going global.
"I wasn't so familiar with the dance scene, so I received a lot of advice from the season one contestants. Based on that, we held meetings with numerous dancers. Here, we decided to expand into the international scene and reached out to Tsubakill and Jam Republic," the producer said.
Tsubakill is a Japan-based dance crew that has worked with numerous top singers, including Janet Jackson, Namie Amuro and Takuya Kimura. Jam Republic is a multinational body of creative artists who will be led in the Korean variety show by Kirsten, a renowned New Zealander dancer of the dance crew the Royal Family.
"I think the advantage that we bring to this show is the international flavor and sauce," Jam Republic's leader Kirsten said, adding, "The first time hearing about this show, 'woman' was such a strong thing for me, and really connected with me. It's a great platform to show the power of women and what we can bring."
Speaking in Japanese, Tsubakill's leader Akanen said, "The first season was a sensation in Japan. The reputation of dancers is still quite low there and there aren't any TV shows centering on dancers yet. We hope to spotlight Japanese dancers and the talent we could bring through this opportunity."
Another major change has been made in the judge system, with a panel of special judges added to the regular "fight judges." Dancer Monika and Monsta X's Shownu will sit through the program as the main judges, joined in by different special judges at different missions.
Monika, who had contested in the first season with her team Prowdmon, expressed a great excitement and returning to the show, this time as a judge.
"I can remember my clothes, bag and even hairstyle when I was here back two years ago. I'm very proud and grateful," she said, adding, "These are very talented dancers that I respect and I even wonder who am I to sit here and judge them. I'm doing it out of a great courage and can feel layers of guilt piling up inside me, but thanks to the dancers hearing me out sincerely, I'm doing okay with the program until now."
Shownu, who had been a dancer himself before debuting as a K-pop idol as the main dancer of Monsta X in 2015, said that rather than judging the dancers as an expert, he hoped to represent the viewers' perspective.
"I felt quite burdened at first, to be honest. I'm not a better dancer (than the contestants), nor am I more experienced. But I'm a huge fan of the show. I've watched all three seasons, and I'm trying my best to enjoy everything as a fan," said Shownu.
Two special judges, Aiki and Rie Hata, attended Thursday's event. Aiki is from the first season and Rie Hata, also a star K-pop choreographer, has worked with a myriad of major K-pop groups including BTS, NCT and Red Velvet.
"There are many hard workers in the Korean dance scene. ... The time and effort Korean dancers put into completing a choreography is unmatched by anyone in the world. It was a pleasure to work with them. I hope that more people worldwide could see such passion and devotion of the dancers through this program spotlighting the dance scene," Rie Hata, who hails from Japan, said.
Aiki, leader of local crew Hook, also shared her respect for her fellow dancers and expressed her hope that they get the same opportunities that she has received so far.
"I've felt myself how rough the competition is, and as they are all dancers I've liked in the first place, I've just come to respect them even more," she said.
Other special judges of "Street Woman Fighter" second season are K-pop's legendary choreographer Bae Yoon-jeong and American choreographer Mike Song, the latter of whom had also starred as a special judge in the "Street Man Fighter."
Singer Kang Daniel is hosting the new season again, his fourth time on since being the emcee of the initial season and its spinoffs. Kang himself is a winner of an Mnet survival show, "Produce 101," through which he debuted in 2017.
"I'm also a performer, so every season and every moment have truly inspired me. This time, I felt like I was watching a documentary. There are many fierce competitions, like a real battle," he said.
Expounding on his role as the emcee, Kang added, "I might seem like just a person who reads the script and announces the results, but I personally hope to be someone who can encourage the participants. Even after calling out the winner, I want to say, ‘You've done well' to the others, but as an emcee it's not easy. I hope I can empathize with them and help them the best I can."
Along with Tsubakill's Akanen and Jam Republic's Kirsten, Lia Kim of 1Million, Bada Lee of Bebe, Funky Y of Mannequeen, Nob of Lady Bounce, Halo of Wolf'lo and Mina Myoung of Deep N Dap attended the press conference on behalf of their crews.
Lia Kim, a popular dancer-choreographer herself, said she had been offered a spot in the first season, but had rejected it.
"I had some bad memories from survival shows, so I had felt reluctant. I also didn't feel ready to thrive in a competition then. But watching the first season, I realized I had to star in it no matter what. Midway through the shooting, I can say that I'll never get another opportunity like this in my life again," the 1Million leader said.
"Street Woman Fighter," which was first aired just around this time in 2021, was a phenomenal success. Scenes from the episodes and songs featured in them became massively viral online, with all of the crews and their members making a name for themselves. Until now, some of the show's most popular members, such as Monika and Aika, are starring in TV shows and advertorials.
What's more significant than such commercial success was the shift in public perception of dancers.
"Although we can't define exactly what a dancer is, the fact that we can now specify 'dancer' as a job itself has opened up to so much possibility for us," Monika said.
Aiki also spoke on a similar note. "Before starring in the show, all I did was dance. But through the show, my scope of activity has expanded beyond what was imaginable before. Through the different activities we took up, we've come to prove that we are capable of more than just dancing. I expect many dancers here are in similar situations, and I hope that, like I said before, 'You guys should get the same,' or even more. I really hope you can experience much more than what we could."
Monika, who also teaches younger dancers at colleges and her dance academy, shared some honest advice for her fellow dancers taking part in the competition.
"For the whole scene to make a true breakthrough, the success has to continue into the second season. One thing I want to say to the dancers here are to be real. Be honest to yourself and just show who you are. That's how we were in the first season. We didn't really know what we were stepping into and how we'd be portrayed in the show, but that pulled out the real side of us and won the viewers' hearts. I hope that in the second season, members also tell their real stories through their dances. I hope that this can go on, as it's also connected to my team's survival," Monika said.
"Street Woman Fighter 2" is set to air every Tuesday at 10 p.m. starting next week. [TheKoreaHerald]