Jennifer Archibald Reflects on Choreographing ‘KCON’ for Boston Conservatory Dancers

The acclaimed artist discusses the creative process behind her work KCON, which was performed by Conservatory dance students at KCON Los Angeles this summer.

October 19, 2022

In August 2022, 13 Boston Conservatory at Berklee dance students took the stage at KCON Los Angelesthe world’s largest convention for Korean culture and music—opening for K-pop headliners ATEEZ, ENHYPEN, INI, Kep1er, LIGHTSUM, and others. They performed a piece entitled KCON, which was choreographed by acclaimed guest artist Jennifer Archibald through a special commission by Boston Conservatory and the CJ Cultural Foundation, and premiered at the school’s 2022 spring dance concert, Limitless. Here, Archibald reflects on immersing herself in K-pop culture and working with Conservatory’s dance students, whose “incredible versatility” allowed them to deliver a groundbreaking performance that brought together a unique mix of cross-cultural dance styles.

A goal of this commission was to celebrate Korean culture through dance. What kind of research did you do to inform KCON?

It really began with conversations with my students, who are huge K-pop fans. I engrossed myself in K-pop music and videos for months. Speaking to fellow Korean artists to truly understand the content of the work was imperative while researching the language, the clothing, and the movement. 

How was this piece different from work you've done in the past?

When you're asked to make a piece for a huge venue like the Staples Center [now called Arena], the stakes are high. That’s not the norm for commissions in academia. I wanted to showcase the incredible versatility of the dancers at Boston Conservatory.

I’ve spent years dissecting different cross-cultural genres of movement and their technique. Crafting a work that exposes the potential of fusing exciting dance aesthetics from ballet to modern to hip-hop is challenging. If you have dancers that can do it all, it's exciting.

WATCH: Boston Conservatory Dance Students Perform Jennifer Archibald's KCON 

When conceptualizing a new work, how do you pick the featured music?

I make playlists of about 30 songs that move me and then begin the editing process of the top picks. Many drafts of the score are made to ensure the choreographic structure is complemented. 

When casting a piece, what do you look for in a dancer?

I look for dancers who are versatile and technically sound; dancers who take risks and move with conviction are extremely important when owning space on stage.

What did you enjoy most about creating this piece with Boston Conservatory students? 

The dancers in this cast worked incredibly hard while respectfully supporting each other in the process. They were able to laugh through the challenges and honor the standard of excellence that was asked of them. 

Jennifer Archibald’s residency at Boston Conservatory and the culminating performance at KCON Los Angeles in August 2022 was made possible with support from the CJ Cultural Foundation. Learn more about Boston Conservatory’s leading dance programs, including its groundbreaking three-year B.F.A. focused on commercial dance.