It's a group of people who love Korean pop and hanging out together. When they gather, they show off their excellent moves. 

TIA SAGAPOLUTELE Mālo Terina and Ava-Jaye. I'm a big fan of all the K-Pop events you've been creating around Tāmaki. Want to introduce yourselves?

TERINA WHAITIRI Yes, I'll start. I am Terina and I'm from Whakatane. I came up to Auckland in 2019 and would hang out with a group of friends who danced to K-Pop together. After a few months of hanging out and dancing together, we decided to create a group called KDA.

AVA-JAYE My name is Ava-Jaye and I would say I'm the backbone of KDA. I joined after the group was established and thought it was a little scary at first but once I joined I was hooked. Ever since then, we've all been dancing together.

TIA That's cool. What is KDA and how did you two meet?

TERINA KDA originally stood for K-Pop Dance Auckland but we've extended it to NZKDA because we want to expand outside of Auckland. We're a community who loves K-Pop and are open to anyone and everyone who love the genre or wants to join in and dance. We run events such as Random Dance Play, where you listen to different songs and if you know the choreography, you jump in and dance. We also perform to a lot of different K-Pop tracks. It's a safe space where we can have fun and be ourselves.

AVA-JAYE One day, I was in town and I saw a group of people at a birthday in Chancery Square dancing around. I sat on the stairs a couple of metres away from them and watched them have fun. Later on, I found out they were an actual dance group and since I'm a fan of K-Pop, I got excited! They told me to follow them on Instagram and to come to their next events. Ever since then, I've been with KDA every weekend.

TIA For someone who may not be familiar with K-Pop, can you explain what it is and how it connects with the work KDA does?

TERINA K-Pop is known as Korean Pop and is a music genre from South Korea. It's an umbrella of music styles that include Hip-Hop, Pop, R&B, and more. I think what sets K-Pop apart from other music genres is its focus on choreography, teamwork, energy and attention to detail. 

AVA-JAYE Yeah, I'd say it got popular worldwide when PSY came out with Gangnam Style. Everyone was doing the moves and it blew up which got people's attention on Korean music. For me, a friend of mine in high school liked BTS and I wasn't interested but then I went home and watched their song DNA and lowkey got hooked. I ended up learning the choreography of their song Go Go with my cousins and got into more groups ever since.

TERINA When I was in high school, I listened to second generation of K-Pop. They call it the Golden Age of K-Pop which were Girls Generation, BIGBANG and 2NE1. My friend pulled out a video of a group called SHINEE and showed me their debut song Replay. To me, it was so different and fresh because at the time boy bands sort of died out by then. I ended up going down this rabbit hole and went searching for more groups. That's how it all started for KDA, just a group of people who love K-Pop and hang out together.

TIA K-Pop feels inclusive and welcoming. How has the music created that amongst fans?

AVA-JAYE K-Pop gives people an opportunity to feel part of a community that's non-judgemental. A lot of the artists open up and spark up important convos like self-love, depression, anxiety and other issues they face through their music. It makes people like us resonate with what they're talking about.

TERINA Yeah, it's not just about the music but it's about the artists being vulnerable and showing that they're human too. A lot of people who feel they don't fit in a box or represented anywhere else connect with K-Pop because it's for anyone and everyone. It's helped so many people find themselves and it's nice knowing you're part of a community who support each other.

TIA I love that music brings people together, I've made friends because of our shared love for K-Pop. How has it been creating a community like KDA?

TERINA When KDA started, I was the only one who was doing stuff. I was organising all the events and projects for the group and it's been super rewarding. I've had K-Pop fans join our community and tell us they didn't fit anywhere else. They tell us how grateful they are so it's an amazing feeling knowing we've created a safe space for them.

AVA-JAYE I think since putting on these events, you get to see different members open up so much. When you first meet them, they're so closed off and shy until they perform on stage dancing so confidently. It's so nice to see their growth and be a part of the journey. It's a comfortable atmosphere in our group and you can just be yourself. We're glad we can put on our events at Britomart and everyone be excited to come. It's been a big flex!

TERINA Definitely. I had one of my old workmates send me a post from Britomart about K-Pop Sundays and asked if it was us. He was so nice and said how cool it is to see us grow so much. It felt cool being recognised for the work we do. We've been operating for a few years now and to come by people who are willing to support us is quite difficult. We feel super lucky that Britomart reached out to us, it's been significant for our group and community.

AVA-JAYE Being at Britomart gives us a platform to share our love for K-Pop which is what we try to do with the KDA community. I think if you came down to K-Pop Sundays, you'd see a big group of different people who love to cheer each other on. Everyone's really supportive and comfortable with each other. It's really nice.

TIA Lastly, for anyone who want to know more about the events you put on, where can they check it out?

TERINA The best place to look into us would be our Instagram which is @NZKDA. Otherwise we have Facebook and Youtube with the same handle.

The next K-Pop Sunday at Britomart is on Sunday 26 May in Takutai Square from 2-5pm. Free for all ages. You can come through and participate in Random Dance Play, but most people just like to stop by and enjoy watching the dances.

Photos by Geoffery Matautia @southsides