Idols of DevelopmentTransnational Transgender Performance in Thai K-Pop Cover Dance
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Idols of DevelopmentTransnational Transgender Performance in Thai K-Pop Cover Dance


Abstract Inter-Asian cultural flows are transforming everyday Thai gender practices and performances in unexpected ways. The most striking example is the way in which Korean popular music, or K-pop, is molding contemporary beauty and dance aesthetics through cover dance, the copying of choreographed movements from music videos. K-pop cover dance has become a definitive social activity among Asian sissies (young feminine gay men) and is organized into an extensive contest circuit leading to an annual competition in Korea. Thai sissies are among the most enthusiastic and skillful practitioners of K-pop cover dance, and some practitioners, such as the members of the group Wonder Gay, have become national celebrities. I describe how cover dance demarcates a new social arena for feminine Thai males to express themselves through the idiom of modern Korean female embodiment. Semiprofessional cover dancers constitute a class of “hyper-fans” who become “demi-idols,” with fan followings in their own right. I argue that Thai K-pop cover dance can be read as both an aspiration for personal and national development that indexes participation in a new cosmopolitan Asian sphere. The cover dance phenomenon in Thailand highlights recent shifts in Asian regionalism, idol fandom, and transgressive gender performance.

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