Consuming the K in Sydney: Cover dancing, Emplacement, and the Production of “K-pop Spaces”

Miss Kathryn Phillips1

1Macquarie University, Australia

The consumption of South Korean popular idol music (K-pop) has rapidly grown within Australia over the past two decades, with concerts and fan-run events now occurring frequently in major cities throughout the year. Within this broader K-pop community, many fans engage in a practice known as ‘cover dancing’, where K-pop dance routines are studied, replicated and uploaded to social media by individuals and groups, or performed at local showcases. While previous research on K-pop has predominantly focussed on the impact of technology on fan experiences, my work uses ethnographic and autoethnographic practices to examine how the Sydney cover dance community’s training and performances, and the subsequent embodiment of K-pop idols through dance emplaces K-pop within Australia, and affects the ways cover dancers construct their fan identities and engage with the city. This research comes as Australia’s engagement with Asia through trade, immigration and international relations continues to develop. Consequently, I argue that cover dancing, as part of the broader consumption of K-pop and importation of Asian popular culture, has the potential to play an important role in ongoing discussions concerning Australia’s possible future within Asia.


Kathryn Phillips is a PhD student in the Department of International Studies, Macquarie University and a member of Sydney’s K-pop cover dance scene. Her Masters thesis, K-Pop: Its Social and Spatial Influence on the Tokyo Cityscape, was completed in 2018. She is now focussing on expanding K-pop research within Australia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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