At Tomales, syncopated moves, South Korean-style

David Briggs
Tomales High School juniors practiced “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” a dance performed by the South Korean band BTS, over lunch on Monday. The hip-hop troupe will debut the dance during the school’s winter sports rally later this month.  

Santiago Gomez was practicing dance moves with Tomales High School’s new hip-hop dance group when the 11th grader tried one called “the worm,” in which you drop to the floor and wiggle your body like an invertebrate. He lost control and ended up in a face-plant. 

“I went for it, but my left arm gave out on me,” Mr. Gomez said. The other members of the troupe—Jae Kim, Razi Wallof, Mayra Mercado and Manuel Sandoval—dusted him off and put him back on his feet. 

The student-run dance troupe, a first in the school’s history, has just two weeks before their debut at the winter sports rally, and they’ve been diligently practicing since early September. 

They spend most lunch hours learning a dance designed by the band BTS, Mr. Kim’s favorite K-Pop ensemble. (K-Pop is a South Korean genre that often blends pop music with elaborate and theatric dance moves; think Psy’s 2012 super hit “Gangnam Style”.) 

Earlier this year, Ms. Wallof sent Mr. Kim a link to a YouTube video of fans performing BTS choreography, and it sparked the idea for a troupe. “I had learned a few dances, but I had no one to do it with,” Mr. Kim said. 

He recruited four of his friends, including Mr. Mercado, who has taught himself hip-hop and ballroom dance through YouTube videos for years. “These dances are about energy and movement,” Mr. Mercado said. “They also use more agility. You need movement and fluidness. Plus, the persistence to stay in this.” 

The students use exuberant syncopated moves that often act as a backdrop while one member takes the lead with arm-flailing gusto. Recently, they put out a call for large mirrors or a local space in which to practice (they’re happy to work in trade for the latter). 

This week, the group is using the Dance Palace Church Space to prepare for their debut performance on Nov. 16. The private rally will be an opportunity for the group to introduce their school to a new but growing dance phenomenon, and they said they wouldn’t back down from any friendly competition. 

“We sometimes joke about the cheerleader dancers,” Mr. Mercado said. “We appreciate their effort, but if they challenge us to a dance, they’ll get wrecked.” 


To donate mirrors or space to the group, contact Razi Wallof at at (415) 827.5471 or