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Fan meeting offers 'Break Time' for 'Dream Academy' trainees on their way to debut

Hybe x Geffen's girl group debut project hosts first meet-and-greet event with fans in Seoul

Oct. 4, 2023 - 19:05 By Choi Ji-won
The contestants of global girl group debut project "The Debut: Dream Academy" pose with Hybe chairman and executive producer Bang Si-hyuk (center) for a photo during their recent trip to Seoul ahead of their first fan meet-and-greet event, "Break Time," held here on Wednesday. (Hybe x Geffen)

The 18 trainees vying to be part of the group who debuts with Hybe and Geffen's joint girl group project held their first gathering with fans in Seoul on Wednesday.

Hybe and Geffen's joint girl group project, "The Debut: Dream Academy," held its first fan gathering in Seoul on Wednesday and came face-to-face with their fans for the first time.

The 18 trainees of the project, "Dream Academy" in short, took the stage at the event held at a local theater in Gangnam, Seoul, on Wednesday afternoon. A handful of fans from around the world attended in person while many more joined in remotely through an online live-streaming service via Weverse.

The event, namely "Break Time," offered a momentary respite for the trainees amid the competition to be part of the new global K-pop group to debut under Hybe and Geffen's joint label, Hybe x Geffen. Hybe is the K-pop powerhouse behind mega-hit group BTS and Geffen is a subsidiary label under American music giant Universal Music Group.

On Sept. 2, a total of 20 female contestants aged 15-21 from 12 countries around the world began the 12-week audition program. Two members have been dropped following the first mission and four more are set to be eliminated from the current 18 after the second mission on Oct. 9.

Wednesday's event kicked off with live performances by the 18 trainees, who divided into teams to showcase their second round mission songs: Le Sserafim's "Fearless" or "Antifragile." Witnessing the girls' passion onstage, families and fans cheered and called out their names in support.

Fans were also given a chance to get to know the girls better through a talk session that followed the performances. From here on, Ua and Yoonchae, both 15, sat out the event according to the labor laws for minors in California, where the audition program is based.

Sophia, a 21-year-old Filipina, shared that it was her parents who inspired her to start singing.

"My mom sang to me a lot growing up and my dad used to dance. Music was always playing in the house. I think that is what really fueled my passion and drove me to this day," Sophia said.

Iliya was quite deep about her ideas on the type of group she hopes to be a part of.

"I want a group that is not afraid to change the world through meaningful and catchy songs and a group that aims to be perfect and the best version of themselves but who are also not afraid to be vulnerable and open about their insecurities," the 21-year-old from Belarus said.

The 18 candidates have already come far on their journey, having been selected out of the initial pool of 120,000 applicants who initially auditioned to take part in the debut project. A yearlong training preceded for the final 20 trainees before "Dream Academy" began in September.

The 18 contestants of global girl group debut project "The Debut: Dream Academy" pose for a photo during the program's first fan meet-and-greet event, "Break Time," held in Seoul on Wednesday. (Hybe x Geffen)

They must all have a few words of advice for those dreaming to take their paths, and among them, 17-year-old Emily urged people to "pursue your dreams."

"What's cool about the 'Dream Academy' is that we're from all around the world and we share that passion. It's never late to find your passion and finding your passion is one of the most exciting and rewarding moments you'll ever get in your life. If anyone tries to knock you down, don't let them, because you're the most important part of your story," the American contestant said, adding, "If you love it, please pursue it."

Nayoung, who has experience singing solo in South Korea, said she enjoyed being part of the team the most in the project.

"The whole process of making the performance together was definitely more fun than doing it solo and it made me feel more connected with the other members and realize that I wasn't alone. It's all an unforgettable and invaluable memory for me," Nayoung said.

The members read out letters from fans who attended the event that day and comments from others watching through Weverse.

The final winners of "Dream Academy," who are set to debut under Hybe x Geffen, will be decided at the program's final episode on Nov. 18.

The 18 trainees who attended "Break Time" on Wednesday are as follows: Brooklyn (US), Celeste (Argentine), Daniela (US), Emily (US), Ezrela (Australia), Iliya (Belarus), Karlee (US), Lara (US), Lexie (Sweden), Manon (Switzerland), Marquise (Thailand), Megan (US), Mei (Japan), Nayoung (South Korea), Samara (Brazil), Sophia (Philippines), Ua (Japan) and Yoonchae (South Korea).