Ever since I made Aliyah in 2017, I have always been a staunch fan of K-pop, which is short for Korean popular music, an important aspect of South Korean culture and a worldwide sensation.
Along with the music, K-pop artists also create eye-catching dances in their music videos, which many K-pop fans love to recreate in their own dance covers.
I often listened to K-pop and watched dance cover videos on the bus or while walking to class in my Israeli high school. I even blasted K-pop while on kitchen duty during basic training in the IDF, and made new friends thanks to our shared music tastes. There weren’t a lot of people around me in Israel, though, who actually liked K-pop.
Recently, I was ecstatic to discover a K-pop dance cover group in Israel, REWIND, and immediately reached out to them. K-pop, and South Korean culture as a whole, isn’t very prevalent in Israel. REWIND is the first group I’ve seen that is publicly and consistently involved with K-pop, and I feel like they have filled the K-pop void that I first experienced when arriving in the country.
Last week, I had the opportunity to interview 18-year-old Michal, the founder and leader of REWIND. Their most viral dance cover, “Pretty Savage” by Blackpink, has over 100,000 views on Youtube. They are the most popular Israeli K-pop cover group as of today; pioneers in the South Korean cultural scene in Israel.
The interview below consists of questions that Michal answered in person, as well as some input from other REWIND group members which can be found at the end of the article. Michal talks about several topics, including how Israelis react to K-pop, how the group was created, and more.
So Michal, can you tell me more about the REWIND dance crew as a whole?
The group consists of Israeli dancers aged between 15 and 25. I’m currently serving in the IDF right now, but there are also girls who are still in high school or are working full time jobs.
I established the group back in 2020 as a way to do what I love, dance, while sharing K-pop with other people. Since then, the group now has 25 members that switch in for different dance covers. Some members are more active and some are busier, so not everyone is involved at the same level at all times.
Right now I don’t have that much time to dance because I’m in the military, but I still manage the group and upload to our social media accounts. Sometimes we participate in dance competitions, but mainly we upload new K-pop dance covers once a week.
From what I’ve seen on social media, REWIND is currently the most popular K-pop dance cover group in Israel. Why do you think this is?
According to the number of YouTube subscribers, we currently have the largest following. I think that it’s because we upload covers consistently — about once a week — and it helps boost our pages and advertise us more often.
We also greatly improved as dancers in the last few years, which has definitely helped as well. There are only about five K-pop cover groups in Israel as of now.
What’s the overall goal of REWIND’s dance covers?
We want to continue performing and sharing our covers as much as possible. We love to dance and want to keep improving. Also, we want to share aspects of K-pop with Israelis, who aren’t exactly too familiar with the genre.
Practicing for and filming K-pop covers is fun. It’s also very social for us, and we have become a tight knit group. Right now, REWIND is one of the main social groups in my life. Oftentimes, we go out to eat or hang out after filming together.
One of your videos went viral on YouTube, with over 100,000 views. How did the group react to this?
It was definitely a shock to see that the Blackpink dance cover got so many views. We mostly noticed the amount of comments that we received on the video. A lot were very supportive, but there were also a lot of negative ones as well. We used the negative comments as constructive criticism in order to improve as dancers and keep our dances varied. The meaner comments we simply pretended didn’t exist.
And how do Israelis react to the K-pop cover group?
Most of the time, Israelis simply don’t understand K-pop. They can think that it’s weird to like K-pop, and it often makes people shocked. It can be annoying that people don’t understand it enough. I hope to expose more Israelis to K-pop, though. I think that people simply aren’t used to this kind of stuff. Our families are very supportive of the group, however.
We actually receive a lot of compliments online or when dancing in public. It’s mainly the younger crowd, people under 30, who truly appreciate K-pop in Israel. I think that people will slowly open up more and more in Israel to K-pop.
Is it awkward dancing in public? How long did it take to gain confidence?
At first it’s awkward to shoot covers in public, but then we quickly forget about it while we’re dancing. Israelis have taken videos of us from the side or behind, sometimes in a good way and sometimes with malicious intent.
It took years to become confident as a dancer. We are usually nervous before dancing, but mainly from excitement.
Besides K-pop, are the members of REWIND interested in other aspects of Korean culture?
Certainly. Some of us want to study Korean or are already studying it. Some have also been to Korea, and I would like to fly as well when I have the chance.
What’s the origin of the group name, REWIND? What does it mean?
Back when I founded the group, we were thinking of a good impactful name that had something to do with K-pop. Then, I thought of the song “Rewind” by the K-pop group CIX. It’s a song that I really liked at the time and thought that it was a good name since we as a group wanted people to see our dance videos, rewind, and watch them again.
What’s the workflow like in a K-pop dance cover group? What work goes into the production of the videos, and how do you coordinate?
There’s a lot of logistics that go into making dance covers. First of all, we assign a director for every dance cover. They are in charge of organizing dancers from the group and for the overall production of the video.
Once the dancers are assigned, we hold around three rehearsals a week, each two hours long. Then there’s the shooting of the actual cover, which takes around four hours.
That’s a lot of commitment! How do you have the time to do all this work?
So we usually rotate through dancers and cover directors, and we have to stay very organized in order to make the dance covers happen with our busy schedules.
We usually film on Friday mornings in Tel Aviv, as it’s the easiest city to travel to for most of the group members. We dance in public places such as Habima or Sarona, and try not to block any walkways or important places where a lot of people need to walk through while filming.
Do you earn money from the dance videos? And do you handle the production from start to finish yourselves?
No, we don’t earn any money from the dance covers, and we actually pay out of pocket for equipment, studio space, and clothes.
Every video requires a whole new set of outfits, depending on the K-pop group and the song. First, we look at different concerts online and choose a style that would be the most realistic for us to replicate. Sometimes we borrow clothes from each other, buy new clothes at the mall, or even sew new outfits ourselves.
We also shoot the dance videos ourselves. Most girls in the group know how to use a gimbal, and some of us know how to edit videos and such. We pretty much do everything ourselves.
Our goal is to break even and not lose money every time we make a video. We are waiting for the right opportunity to make this possible, such as through a sponsorship from a fashion brand.
And lastly, Michal, are you accepting new applicants to the dance group?
We are always open to people who want to try out and audition for REWIND. We do have a new age requirement, 17, because we need mature, professional members who are also good at dancing.
In addition to Michal, I received input from other fantastic members of REWIND, including how they joined the group, how their K-pop dances influence Korean culture in Israel, and what they think of Israel’s relationship with K-pop as a whole.
Lia, 17, is currently a high school student in Israel. She joined REWIND because she loves K-pop and dancing. She saw REWIND’s dance covers on YouTube and decided to participate in one of their random dances held locally, after which she was personally invited by Michal to join the group.
She believes that more people in Israel have been exposed to Korean culture thanks to the dance covers. For example, people on the streets have begun speaking to the group, interested in learning more about Korean culture. However, Israelis are still very close-minded, and they aren’t very open to different music genres. Israelis often judge too quickly, which is why many don’t connect to any K-pop songs.
Keren, 23, finished her military service and currently works at a climbing gym. She thinks that people who do see their K-pop dances take some sort of interest, even if it’s just watching a video on YouTube or reading about them online, and that’s all that matters.
She hopes that people in Israel will grow more interested in K-pop by watching their videos. Like Lia, Keren also shares the sentiment that Israelis are very close-minded, which is why they aren’t open to aspects of foreign cultures such as K-pop.
Shira, 19, currently works in the Israeli Ministry of Justice for her National Service. She grew interested in K-pop dances over the years and eventually started learning Korean. She stumbled upon the REWIND Instagram page and sent an audition tape of her dancing to “Loco” by Itzy.
Afterward, she was offered a spot in the group and participated in her first cover, “Blessed-Cursed” by ENHYPEN. Again, Shira echoed that Israelis are not the most open-minded people. Foreign cultures seem bizarre to them, and K-pop is considered something weird that Israelis don’t understand.
“It’s a pity how people mock such beautiful cultures and rituals just because it’s different from their own. Of course, not all Israelis are like this, some love Korean culture and even study it in universities, and even those who were never exposed to Korean traditions or K-pop go and cheer for us while we’re dancing in public and compliment us.”
Natalie Sun is an Olah Hadasha from NJ and author of the IsraelSu:n blog. Reprinted with permission from IsraelSu:n.