Producer of 'Street Man Fighter' stands behind her show

Dancer 5000, also called Ocheon, during a scene of Mnet's dance survival program ″Street Man Fighter″ [MNET]

Even before airing its first episode, Mnet’s ongoing all-male dance show “Street Man Fighter” has been in and out of hot water for issues including the qualifications of the show’s panel of celebrity judges — singer BoA, boy band Super Junior member Eunhyuk and boy band 2PM member Jang Woo-young.

“This season of ‘Street Man Fighter’ is certainly proving to be full of both anticipation and anxieties,” said Choi Jung-nam, the producer of the street dance survival series, in an interview in Mapo District, western Seoul, on Wednesday.

Following a string of hate comments about the judges’ evaluation after the first round of eliminations on the episode that aired Sept. 20, BoA’s agency SM has declared it will take legal action.

Choi adamantly defended the judging trio during the interview.

“As we edited the footage, we ended up emphasizing the more impressionable parts of the dancers’ performances,” she said, “but the judges consider the entire performance in their evaluations, and I think this created a diversion of opinions between the viewers and our judges.

“It isn’t the judges’ lack of competence that brought on this criticism but rather, it is the production team’s fault for not being able to convincingly relay the actual performances and atmosphere on set. And for that I take full responsibility.”

She added that the channel is looking for ways to handle inappropriate hate comments and better protect the shows’ cast.

Singer BoA speaking as a judge on Sept. 20 episode of ″Street Man Fighter″ [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Choi also stood by her team’s decision to cast K-pop stars as judges of the show, even after similar backlash related to last year’s female version of the show “Street Woman Fighter."

“BoA’s comments on the show were accepted and respected by the contestants on ‘Street Woman Fighter’ which was why we decided to cast her again for the male spin-off,” she said. “Woo-young was in the street dance scene during his early days and so, knows a lot about the genre. Lastly, Eunhyuk is not only an excellent dancer but he also had experience directing K-pop groups which was an appealing quality to us.”

Despite the criticisms, the series is proving popular with the public, becoming the most-talked-about non-drama TV show for the past five consecutive weeks in Korea, according to analytics company GoodData Corporation.

Members of dance crew Eo-ddae during a scene on Mnet's dance survival program ″Street Man Fighter″ [MNET]

“Street Man Fighter” isn’t Choi’s first time working on a successful dance reality show. She also worked behind the scenes on all three seasons of Mnet’s “Dancing 9” (2013-15), “Hit The Stage” (2016), and of course, “Street Woman Fighter” which was the first in the street dance show series.

It saw high ratings and is considered to have shed light on street dance, a once-obscure genre in Korea. Its teenage spin-off "Street Dance Girls Fighter" also saw success when it aired between November 2021 and January 2022.

Producer of "Street Man Fighter" Choi Jung-nam [MNET]

Choi’s original decision to create a street dance show with just females stemmed from her years of working on dance shows.

“As a director, I am always wondering how audiences can connect with the show and relate with the participants on the program, and I came to the conclusion that for our viewers watching dance shows, it is harder to concentrate when there are both female and male dancers,” she said.

“After working with both male and female dancers, I experienced the same sense of professionalism and incredible talent,” she said. “An interesting difference was that males tended to be more sentimental and seemed to tear up more often than female dancers.”

Prime Kingz leader Tricks speaking after his dance crew was eliminated on the Sept. 20 episode of ″Street Man Fighter″ [SCREEN CAPTURE]

When it came to casting the dance crews for “Street Man Fighter,” Choi said she opted for groups that had consistently been active over the years in the local dance scene in order to recreate the sense of solidarity and friendship that had proved popular among viewers of “Street Woman Fighter.”

The female show also taught Choi the importance of music for dancers. So, for the ongoing male spin-off, she worked on getting new music made solely for the performances.

So far, “Street Man Fighter” has given birth to hit songs like “New Thing” sung by Zico and “Law” sung by Yoon Mi-rae and Bibi. More new music specifically written for the dance crews is set to be released as the program continues.

Vata, the leader of dance crew We Dem Boyz, in the music video of the song ″New Things″ [SCREEN CAPTURE]

“New Thing” ranked No. 1 on the Melon Chart for the ninth day as of Oct. 6. It has also sparked the “saebbing” challenge, named after its Korean title, which saw a wave of K-pop idols upload dance cover videos of the song.

“It is refreshing to hear new music through dancers,” said Choi. “I feel that our show is introducing a new way of listening to music.”

After working on the street man series, Choi was positive about the future of street dance in Korea, so much so that she is willing to continue the series.

“Seeing the popularity of all three street dance shows, I feel they can continue to garner popularity and that the public can become more familiar with different genres of dance,” she said.

“And dance has no language, so it can reach people all over the world!” Choi added. “I hope our dancers can garner some foreign fans as well.”

“Street Man Fighter” airs on cable channel Mnet every Tuesday at 10:20 p.m.