theme: o41. Dance Practice.
One. Two. Three. Four.
He ate his food at a steady pace as his foot tapped on the floor in a metronomic way. He was the first one to eat, the only one to eat dinner at that hour actually, but he had plans. He had to eat fast and leave soon. He was halfway done his food when he was pulled out of his reverie,
“Shindong! Stop tapping your foot!” Kangin exclaimed from the couch, “Over and over… Are you even keeping time for a reason?”
Shindong paused, the fork still in his mouth. He looked beneath the table and realized for the first time that yes, his foot was tapping out a beat. He was about to apologize when he caught a glance at the clock,
“Leave him be,” Eeteuk nudged Kangin, “Just watch the movie.”
“It’s annoying,” Kangin defended, looking back at the television.
“You’re annoying,” Eeteuk countered as he slid down on the couch putting a big space between him and Kangin.
“Stop fighting, I’m done,” Shindong said as he took his dishes to the sink and headed for the door, “I’ll be back later,” he said as he slipped on his shoes and before he could be questioned about his plans, departed swiftly, the door closing after him.
Thirty minutes later, Shindong was running up a set of stairs to the specific dance room he had arranged a meeting. Once on the floor, he sprinted down the hall, slowing down as he began to hear the muffled sound of one of their singles playing. As he neared, the song got louder until, finally, he was outside the door. He paused as he glanced through the window in the door through to the room.
Inside the dance room by himself was Kibum. He was moving in a stoic manner, almost robotically in measured time. Unawares of his watcher, Kibum did the dance routine for their upcoming single in front of the mirrored wall.
One. Two. Three. Four.
He chanted the words aloud as he executed each step, moving in time with the music. Suddenly he felt as if he were moving free from the song’s beat and let out a frustrated sigh. He had lost the beat - somehow - despite counting out loud. Exasperatedly, he walked back over to the sound equipment and started the song over. He redid the dance again and lost the beat once again. He ran both his hands through his hair in frustration as he walked back to the sound system,
“You start speeding up.”
Kibum looked up from the sound system, “Ah, hyung.”
Shindong nodded his greeting as he unzipped his sweater and tossed it on the ground by the wall. He came before the mirrored wall and stretched out his limbs. The running he had done up the stairs and down the hallway had loosened his muscles out considerably, but he decided to do some light stretching just in case.
Kibum restarted the song and came and stood near Shindong before the mirrors, “Okay, dance again while I keep count for you,” Shindong instructed as he stood akimbo, turning to look at Kibum, “Don’t count in your head, just dance to my counting; you keep slowing down at the same part.”
The music came and Kibum waited for the part of the song with the dance sequence to play. The moment it came on, Shindong began to count and Kibum started to dance on the third beat.
One. Two. Three. Four.
Slide to the right; right elbow jab to the side; left fist uppercuts as right arm drops to the side; left hand drops with a snap of the fingers as feet come together.
Five. Six. Seven. Eight.
Hands together before the knees and pop, feet jumping to shoulder length apart; hands moving together to the abdomen and popping; hands moving to the heart and popping; remaining at heart and popping once more; the sections of his body where his hands hovered above, moving with each sudden jolt of his hands.
One. Two. Three. Four.
Left arm punches forward and swings to the side, body turning with the arm; left hand on hip, right hand hovering above heart, popping once as -
“Right there!” Shindong stopped counting. Kibum straightened and turned to face him as he continued, “You’re fine at the beginning because the beat’s so obvious in the melody; breaking was always easy for you; but during the second segment when you transition from sudden-erratic movements like popping,” Shindong tapped the beat with his foot before catching the beat and doing the break sequence, “When you transition from this, to this,” he immediately went into the second segment of smooth, flowing movements, “you still move quickly as if you’re breaking. That’s why you’re time always gets slower after this part.”
Kibum watched quietly as Shindong restarted the song and returned to his side. Shindong sang along with the song for a bit, his left hand snapping out the beat until the part for the dance sequence began. He counted out loud as he danced out the sequence. He executed all four segments of the dance with perfection, ending where he was supposed to. When he was done, he turned to Kibum, the song continuing on,
“See my smooth progressions through each segment of the sequence? If you’re not smooth during the transitions, your timing can speed up or slow down; in this case, you’re speeding up and getting ahead of the beat.” Shindong explained as he stretched out his limbs again, still feeling stiff even after dancing, “By the time you realize you’re off the song’s beat, you’re already about… one and three-quarter steps ahead of where you’re supposed to be.”
Kibum turned to the mirror and began redoing the steps in a lax way, counting twice as slower than the dance required, “One… two… I can’t believe you figured that all out after watching me once.”
Shindong smiled at him in the mirror, “It’s not that hard to count from one to eight.”
“But… five… six… Even figuring out the amount of time I get ahead of the… three… four… beat,” Kibum said between segments. He sighed as he realized he was once again, ahead of the beat (and now he knew the exact amount he was ahead). His arms dropped to his side as he gave Shindong one of his world-class smiles, “Apparently it’ll take more than observing you once to get this right.”
Shindong shook his head as he went over to the stereo equipment and turned off the music, “Okay, we’ll break it down together. Do each segment alone at half the speed. After you’ve perfected all four parts, we’ll do the segments at full speed. Once you get them right at full speed, we’ll back track again.”
Kibum cocked his head in confusion, “Backtrack again? You mean break down the parts again?”
Shindong waved his hands in a negative answer, “No, no. Why break them down after we already have… by back track, I mean, dissect the segments again, but this time, the transitions. There are three transitions all together in the dance sequence. If we go through them at half speed and perfect them; then we can try them at full speed until you’re able to do the transitions perfectly.”
“And then put the segments with the transitions together so I can do the dance sequence in perfect time,” Kibum concluded and Shindong nodded, smiling; “Okay, let’s do this.”
“Good to hear,” Shindong said as he turned to face the mirror so they would dance side by side, “But don’t get over excited; we’ll do this slowly, then increase the speed. Ready?”
Kibum nodded at him in the mirror, “Ready.”
Two hours later, Shindong and Kibum had finished what Shindong had planned for them to practice. They sat on the wooden floor, their backs against the mirrored wall as they drank greedily from water bottles. Shindong capped his bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand,
“So, why don’t you just join us for the dance sequence?” Shindong asked, “Why all this practice if you’re not even going to join us during practices?”
“You and the other hyungs: Donghae, Eunhyuk, Hankyung; are considered some of the best dancers of Super Junior. When we go on variety shows, the rest of us always ask you four for help with dance introductions. I was watching some old clips and… Eeteuk-sshi, Sungmin-sshi, Shiwon-sshi… the others, when they dance in a quintet with you guys, it always looks so perfected. When it’s me,” Kibum sighed as he slouched against the mirror, taking a sip of his water, “It’s obvious I don’t belong when I dance with you guys.”
“That’s why you asked me to help you practice the dance for the next music video?” Shindong surmised and Kibum nodded in silent answer, “But Kibummie, you don’t have to be good at everything.”
“But what am I good at, hyung?” Kibum questioned,
“You’re a damned good actor,” Shindong stated,
“An actor? Sure. But in Super Junior - we’re an idol group; we sing and we dance,” Kibum said, “I’m an average singer and I work hard to even be half decent at dancing.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Kibum,” Shindong insisted,
Kibum shook his head, “I’m not; I’m being honest. Everyone in Super Junior is able to sing live, I… I can, but I don’t have enough confidence in it. My voice isn’t as honed as everyone else’s and I’m sure if I sing live, my voice will crack or be out of tune. That’s why I always refuse to sing live on shows,” he paused, taking a long sip from his water before continuing; “I trained in dancing, but I pale in comparison to you and Eunhyuk and the others…”
“So I teach you the dance, what are you going to do with it?” Shindong asked as he watched Kibum quietly, patiently as his dongsaeng fought an internal war.
“Earn some recognition…” Kibum’s words came so quietly that Shindong had to strain to hear. When he did piece together what he had said, Shindong remained silent, expectantly awaiting an elaboration of some sort, “If the others see me dancing the sequence to near perfection, then maybe they’ll think of me as more than just an actor. Maybe they’ll think: ‘Hey, he’s pretty decent as a dancer; why don’t we use him as a dancer more often?’.”
“You’ll work yourself to the bone just for recognition from people who’ve already given it?” Shindong inquired,
“I’ll work myself to the bone so I don’t fade into the background,” Kibum corrected in a quiet, yet steady voice, “In a group meant for singers and dancers, a person like me will soon become expendable. Being an actor is good and all - it’s what I’ve done all my life; but I want to stay with Super Junior and if that means having my nose to the grindstone day in and day out, improving the areas I’m weak in… then I’ll do it.”
“How come this is the first time you’ve come for my help?” Shindong asked quietly, tentatively, “It’s been three years since we debuted and you’re only asking for help now? Are you going to ask Kyuhyun for help in singing next?”
Kibum shook his head as he finished his water, “I don’t like asking for help; it… well, to be frank, it hurts my pride. When I ask for help, it’s acknowledging I’m weak and no one likes to admit that. I only asked for help now because I was getting frustrated; no matter how much I practiced the dance, I couldn’t get it right.”
“Asking for help doesn’t mean that,” Shindong insisted, “it means you’re strong enough to acknowledge your limits. It means you’re strong enough to say: ‘yeah, I do need help’. Asking for help doesn’t weaken you, Kibummie - it makes you stronger.”
Kibum sighed heavily, sceptical of his hyung’s words. Finally he asked, “Isn’t it pretty late?”
Shindong looked at the clock, surprised to find it was already midnight. He got up and stretched out his back, “Ah, I should get going. I have to be ready for six for my schedule.”
Kibum stood along side him, “Then please go home. I’m sorry to have kept you for so long.”
“It’s not a problem, Kibum,” Shindong insisted as he walked over to the opposite wall and picked up his sweater, slipping his arms into the sleeves and zipping it up, “Anytime you need my help, don’t hesitate to ask. What’s the point of being a hyung if I can’t help out my dongsaeng?”
Kibum gave him a brilliant, toothy smile, “Thanks hyung,” he said sincerely. Shindong made his farewells and left the room.
Shindong made it halfway down the hall before he turned on his heel and walked back to the practice room. He paused outside the door and furtively peered inside. The music was playing again as Kibum stood before the mirror, going over the dance sequence once more. He smiled bitter sweetly as Kibum continued to practice, then turned around and left him alone.
A few days later during the first day of shooting, Donghae approached Shindong on set during the lunch break.
“Hyung, after you’re done eating, could you practice the dance sequence with me? I’m finding some difficulty with the final transition,” Donghae asked as he took a seat beside Shindong.
Shindong shook his head as he swallowed, “If you want help with the dance, ask Kibum,” he stated as he took another spoonful of food. The other members gaped at his words, glancing at Kibum confusedly; even Kibum was shocked at the words,
“But… hyung,” Kibum began, “You choreographed this dance.”
Shindong swallowed his food and explained, “You can do the dance perfectly, certainly better than me,” he said simply, “So if Donghae is asking for help, why shouldn’t I point him towards the person who can teach him the best, even if it is my dance?”
As Kibum blinked at the words, startled and flattered, Donghae grinned at him, “Kibummie! You’ll help me, right?”
“Ah… sure; I’m done my lunch already, now?” Kibum suggested as he stood up,
Donghae jumped to his feet and headed off to the set to practice. Kibum followed him, glancing back at Shindong, he turned back and quickly gave him a hug - an awkward one, but a hug nonetheless.
“You worked hard,” Shindong muttered as Kibum straightened.
Kibum pivoted on his heel and headed back to the set, tense at the thought of helping out Donghae with the dance. He looked back after a few steps and caught Shindong watching him protectively. Immediately, Kibum felt himself relax and he let out a breath he hadn’t realize he had been holding in. Before completely disappearing from view, he threw his hyung one more bright, world-class and - of course - thankful smile.