BTS on What Inspired Their 'Permission to Dance' Challenge: 'We Knew This Song Will Uplift Everyone'

In July, YouTube announced it was teaming up with the music superstars to help promote YouTube Shorts with a worldwide dance-off

Photo: courtesy YouTube

You may not need BTS's permission to dance, but the stars are scoping out their fans' moves as part of a social media challenge — and opening up about what it means to them.

The members of BTS have teamed up with YouTube to promote its new short-form video format, YouTube Shorts, and promote their new single "Permission to Dance," by asking fans to share 15-second clips of themselves performing the choreography from the music video. The members will even choose some of their favorite submissions to be included in a compilation.

PEOPLE asked RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V and Jung Kook about what inspired the Permission to Dance Challenge, which launched July 23 and runs through Aug. 14, and how they hope it will spread some positivity around the world.

"We knew that this song will uplift everyone the minute we heard it," says Jung Kook, 23, of the track, which was co-written by Ed Sheeran and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July. "We want to tell everyone that they don't need to ask anyone for permission to dance. Just show your moves!"

The dance is fittingly joyful — and surprisingly simple.

"Since this is a song that we wanted to enjoy with everyone, the performance is easier to dance along to," says RM, 26. "Our choreographies reflect our message, so each has its own charm and fun aspects. Choreographies that are easier to emulate do enable us to have bigger fun since you have all these people dancing with you."

At the end of the music video, for example, a crowd including BTS's bodyguards, makeup artists, video producers, and managers jump in to dance it out with the group.

The approachable choreography also incorporates International Sign Language hand gestures meaning "joy," "dance" and "peace," an inclusive move that was important to the members.

"'Permission to Dance' is a song that we wanted to share and enjoy with as many people as possible. So naturally, we got to think about how to make this more enjoyable for everyone," explains j-hope, 27, the group's dance leader. "Incorporating the International Sign gestures enabled us to spread the positive energy of our music to a wider audience that maybe we haven't reached before."

Should you still need a little help with the steps, the members have offered up a handful of tutorials, available to view on Shorts alongside the countless fan submissions.

The members say they have already been surprised by the Shorts rolling in.

"We noticed that people of all ages and professions hopped on this challenge. It was a pleasant surprise!" says V, 25.

Adds Jin, 28, "I didn't expect for this many people to participate. I could see from the backgrounds that they all come from different places. Thank you for all the love!"

The "Permission to Dance" music video includes nods to Covid-19, frontline workers and the hopefulness of having a possible end to the pandemic in sight. And the message of goodwill isn't unfamiliar to ARMY, BTS's fanbase, who after much of the group's 2020 world tour was canceled or postponed by Covid, followed the stars' lead in redirecting their energy to things like supporting those impacted by the pandemic and social justice causes. (In June, they famously raised $1 million for Black Lives Matter in a single day after BTS made a donation in the same amount.)

"It's always been mutual—ARMY are inspired by us and vice versa—and it will always be," says SUGA, 28, of their relationship with their fans. "We prioritize our fans when it comes to our music and performances, so I think naturally, ARMY really connects with what we do. Seeing them enjoy our works, that in turn, inspires us to do more."

Adds Jimin, 25, "Thanks to ARMY's love, we got to see these amazing things happen with "Butter" and "Permission to Dance." Getting unbelievable feats on the Billboard charts and launching this fun challenge is because of them."

The Permission to Dance Challenge runs through Aug. 14. Download the YouTube mobile app to participate.

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