Five talented Dargaville High School K-Pop enthusiasts are set to star in a television series next month showcasing dancing, singing and rapping.
K-Pop Academy is returning to TVNZ On Demand for season two on August 9. The series features the Dargaville girls over eight episodes, following their journey through auditions, forming a group, training in Dargaville, travelling to Auckland for boot camp, undergoing styling, a photo shoot, shooting a video clip and, finally, performing live on stage - along with all the ups and downs in between.
Team Dargaville comprises Mikayla McKenzie, 15, Mereana Kahui, 15, Waimarie Tokomikahere, 14, Measina Raeli, 13, and Te Rau Aroha Chase-Amoroa, 13, who, surprisingly, auditioned individually and were the only Northlanders to enter.
Auditions were carried out through video clips of themselves dancing, singing or rapping. Successful entrants were invited for call-backs to audition with K-Pop Academy's presenter Rina Chae and vocal coach Turanga Merito.
Mikayla, a K-Pop fan of about four years, had previous experience from season one of the show and said they gelled easily as a group.
"We did know each other prior so gelling was a lot easier. We got to know each other a lot better being surrounded by each other for trainings and shows."
Filmed over the summer holidays, the girls had waited with great anticipation for the series to debut while fielding questions among their school mates.
"I don't mind explaining the fun experiences but they'll have to wait for the show to air to listen to the songs and find out the winners," said Mikayla.
"I have been excited to watch with my friends and family and watch my K-Pop friends show some moves on the series."
Producer Kate Peacocke said: "Five very talented girls from Dargaville all made the final cut so we decided to make them a team of their own – Team Dargaville. This was coincidental, or maybe Dargaville has its own underground K-Pop following?!
"There were no other Northlanders in K-Pop Academy, which was disappointing as no one else from other parts of Northland auditioned for what we thought was an amazing potential opportunity. Hopefully there might be more interest if there is a further season."
She said, while Mikayla had been in K-Pop Academy season one and Waimarie takes part in kapa haka, the other girls had no formal dance experience and learn K-Pop dances from YouTube.
"We sent one of the dance assistants up to Dargaville for four Sundays during November/December to work with the girls and choreograph their dance in preparation for boot camp in Auckland in January. They all have a lot of natural talent."
Peacocke said the season two series has twice as many dancing, singing and rapping recruits to train which results in more twists, turns, fun and surprises as "New Zealand K-Pop Queen"/presenter Rina Chae - who has danced with Justin Bieber and Beyonce - and her team audition and then train more than 50 tweens and teens into eight unique teams.
"Combining the best from the lower regions, we have Team South with members from as far away as Rotorua and Hastings. From the north, five talented girls who make up Team Dargaville bring small town dreams into the big city lights."
Throughout the K-Pop Academy journey, the back stories of some of the K-Pop stars are told, discovering the source of their inspiration; art, drama, singing, song-writing, kapa haka, martial arts, golf, football and, of course, K-Pop.
"Our teams take part in a seven-day boot camp where their dances, songs and raps are fine-tuned to be performance-ready and they undergo styling to create superstar costumes that match the vibe of each of their songs. They're taught how to create a K-Pop makeup look, get to take part in a photo shoot and shoot music videos that will be released on Instagram in sync with the music tracks being released on TikTok, Spotify and iTunes – so watch out for them!"
Said Mikayla: "The process can sometimes be hard as you're having to complete dance numbers in a short time and learn lyrics in another language but it all comes with putting in the mahi and succeeding. Personally, the experience made me work better under pressure and, of course, better my dancing overall."
Alongside the eight episodes, are eight tutorials where Chae and dancers from each group break down and demonstrate each dance so viewers can learn it at home and perfect their own moves.
The series culminates with a finale at The Pumphouse Theatre when all groups compete against each other on the big stage in front of their whānau, friends and an international judge from South Korea.