If Girls Planet 999 is the story of Mnet uncomfortably trying to jam a “fair play” peg into a “scandal-infested” hole, then Street Woman Fighter is them thriving in their natural, tawdry habitat. After a single episode we are already rich with big dollops of juicy drama, shit-talking, and tears. And it seems that everyone, from the judges to the contestants to the viewers at home, is having a great time with it. Everyone except people who really follow dance culture, that is.
Street Woman Fighter brings together eight all-female dance crews to do battle. The casting is top-notch: mentors and upstarts, friends and rivals, b-girls and idols. Multiple juicy plot threads are thickly woven even before the contestants set foot into the arena. Just like Unpretty Rapstar, the hosts, the prizes, the competition structure, are all ultimately unimportant. This show is 100% about two things: dancing and spicy beef.
Prior to the premiere, the most publicized plot line was IZ*ONE’s Lee Chaeyon’s involvement. Chayeon joins the WANT crew (led by 1Million choreographer Hyojin Choi) in order to prove that idol dancers can hold their own against the pros. So far it… hasn’t gone well.
Second to this is HolyBang vs CocaNButter. HolyBang is the team of HoneyJ, AOMG partner and and pioneer for girls’ hip-hop dance. The crew she pioneered it with is CocaNButter, formerly the rest of PURPLOW, until they split with HoneyJ non-amicably. The other crews find palpable tension in the mere fact that both teams are participating.
LACHICA is Chung Ha’s dance team, and they have beef with Aiki’s H.O.O.K, first because Aiki beat them out for gig with the Refund Sisters, second because uhh Aiki clowns them when they do sexy stuff.
PROWDMON are the sunbae’s of the show; Monika has been in the dance scene forever and literally taught many of the other contestants as a professor of dance. Lip J is a world-recognized waacker with ample battle experience.
WayB features Noze, who recently went super-viral for looking better than Kai.
YGX are dance instructors/choreographers from, yes, YG Entertainment. Leader Lee Jung Lee is probably one of the hottest choreographers in K-Pop right now, working with TWICE and ITZY, as well as training Rosé and Somi. YELL is also a world-class b-girl, winning contests both domestic and abroad.
With talent and experience of this level it’s safe to assume that pretty much everyone is already familiar with everyone. Just a quick perusal through any one of these dancer’s social media shows them at each other studios, in each others practices, performing together. Searching on YouTube you can easily find battles almost a decade ago between, say, Monika and CocaNButter’s leader Rihey. Guarantee you that most of them know Chaeyeon in a professional manner as well. It’s probably best not to take things like Monika’s shit-talking too serious (besides the HoneyJ / CocaNButter stuff, that looks real as hell) but it’s fun to indulge. Safe, even!
More importantly, with Street Dance Battle show format taking off all over Asia, it’s cool and good for South Korea to finally give the people behind K-Pop the spotlight. I do not have to feel bad for the “losers” because they are all professionals and will make money hand-over-fist due to their presence on the show. They can cry among the dozens of trophies from real competitions they have at home.
And I think that’s ultimately the perspective you need to take with SWF. If you were expecting Mnet to deep dive into the world of Street Dance Culture, well you just went looking for Peking Duck at Panda Express my foolish friend. SWF, even with it’s ghoulish Mnet-style editing, makes it very obvious that everyone is an insanely good dancer. And like I’ve said, these dancers have battled time and time again over the last decade, in competition pools and arenas with way more legitimacy than a rental house in Garosu-gil. Do you think they’re gonna let NCT Taeyong be the final word on who’s better? This is an exhibition.
Yes, if you’re deep into the scene you’ll probably be angry at how much of a farce the actual competition in the show is. You’ll be angry at the fake drama, the bad judges, the weird rules. But maybe, just maybe, you should be happy money is flowing into the right pockets for a change, the artists. The potential for a person with Monika’s resume to be a real red carpet celebrity (like Cheetah from Unpretty) is a great thing. That’s why they’re not judges.
Anyways, onto the show. Mnet might not know how to run a fair election but they sure do know how to start shit. Before the teams even meet each other, they’re interviewed on what they think the other teams’ strengths and weaknesses are. Then they’re asked to predict the final result for each team. THEN they’re asked individually to pick a single other dancer on the show, saying they can definitely beat them in a battle.
The ranking predictions are immediately shown in the green room; YGX is an expected frontrunner, WayB picked for the bottom. As each team walks into the main room, their highlight reel is shown, along with spicy comments from the other teams. Blood begins to boil. Hair is flipped disrespectfully. God bless the evil edit.
In addition, for every “vote” a member gets they’re made to wear a sticker that says “NO RESPECT”. Chaeyeon, predictably, gets the most of these at 6 stickers. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone! If you asked 46 English professors and 1 Grad Student who would write the worst poetry amongst all of them, I’d wager a handful would say the student. Chayeon getting the most stickers is also for drama’s sake; if this was a real competition you’d probably go for a couple of the teens in H.O.O.K. Chaeyeon is Mnet’s darling, she’ll be fine.
Anyways, all the teams are here, the judges are here (hi BoA), and the host, Kang Daniel, is here. It’s time for 1v1 battles. Basically they’re asked to cash in on their underdog picks and go toe-to-toe with the ones they have no respect for. Many win. Chaeyeon loses. LACHICA’s Peanut and Lip J have a very cool waacking / vogue battle. And the episode ends right before we get HoneyJ vs Rihey, the most anticipated battle of the show.
Even though Episode 1 was two hours, it flew by. That’s a pretty good indicator that I enjoyed it.
- Lots of cool dancers with little or no screen time yet. Don’t overlook WANT’s Rozalin. she choreographed Aespa’s “Next Level” which is probably the most viral k-pop dance of 2021 so far. Thought it seems she has a not-so-great time next episode.
- Funny how Mnet’s subs for a lot of what Kang Daniel says is wrong, seems Daniel knows his shit and Mnet just mis-captioned.
- I really like LACHICA Gabee‘s confidence, not just in her look but in her work. Like the way she checked the stage out before filming to see what she could use in her performance.
- I could listen to Monika talk shit all day.
- There was already some global performances with some sort of effect on the rankings/outcomes but again, I really don’t give a crap about the actual outcome. YGX’s stage is incredible.