While working part-time at a meat barbeque restaurant, Daniel saw artists on music shows on TV and aspired to perform on stage like them.[s] Daniel told MUPLY, “Realistically, [pursuing music] was the only thing that I could do. I wanted to grow myself. It just happened to me without a plan.” He wound up at one of the initial agencies he auditioned for due to an acquaintance’s suggestion. Daniel divulged on MBC’s Radio Star the trainees received little support and lacked formal training for the 2 years he was a trainee. His social media at the time was peppered with basement practice videos of him learning YouTube dance covers, which were eventually taught to other trainees. The trainees were occasionally used as backup dancers for other idols, but there was no official debut imminent.
When Daniel participated on Produce 101 in 2017 as his last chance, he first appeared as a pink-haired smiley trainee without much of a glimpse of his audition. He gained attention for his dance ability when he quickly learned the choreography of “Pick Me” during the B Class practice, earning the trust from the dance trainer and becoming one of the designated trainees to teach others. His capabilities helped him move to A Class later. In a show where others aimed to be the center, Daniel opted to be a leader for the “Get Ugly” and “Open Up” choreography practices. His Naver TV fancams from all of the team missions became trending topics, and he went viral for his clean detailed dancing and ability to digest concepts. A spur-of-the-moment thigh sweep became an iconic move people emulated.[s] Additionally, Daniel contributed to the “Get Ugly” dance and was in charge of choreographing “Hands on Me” from start to end.[s] [s] Daniel eventually made his long-awaited debut through the show. Since then, some of his individual performance videos made Naver’s top viewed videos in 2017 and 2019.[s] [s] Even after debut, he had a hand in creating performances. His thoughtfully-designed 2018 year-end solo stage was highly discussed, where rather than showing showmanship, he wanted to do something he could think about and remember with fans who followed the temporary group’s journey. He wrote in the fancafe, “I wanted to deliver a story.“[s] [s] His soloist performances have continued to become hot topics of discussion. In particular, the technicalities in “Who U Are” and storytelling execution in “PARANOIA” had resoundingly positive reception among professional dancers and viewers.[s] [s] [s] [s] [s] [s] [s] [s] [s] [s] [s]
Daniel’s dance teacher sincerely congratulated Daniel on his success. Per Weekly Dong-A, instructor Lee said it was “thanks to the past where he practiced more diligently than anyone else” as the reason for Daniel’s debut and popularity.
After his debut, Daniel shed further light on what he thought about dance in general.
According to a 2018 photo essay, when asked what was the force that made Kang Daniel who he is today, Daniel coincidentally echoed his dance teacher’s sentiment with, “You can’t b-boy well if you’re not fit, so I learned to dance while developing my muscles. And I always stayed until the academy closed to practice. I think that effort had been my foundation.”[s] [s] His photo essay interviewer remarked he had an excellent reputation at expressing song lyrics with his gestures and asked how he interpreted song into dance. Daniel responded, “When I learn a choreography, firstly I memorize all the moves. Then I give thought to the reason why some specific lyrics are going with specific moves. I also observe subtle gestures and facial expressions attentively, and quickly catch what is needed in that part. Rather than expressing the mood of the whole choreography, I try to deliver the story hidden behind the lyrics. I consider dance as a kind of sign language.” On Radio Star in 2021, Daniel was asked his secret behind how the same dance can look so different. Before debut, he had a fan who was hard of hearing who loved the way he danced. He realized that people who can’t enjoy the sound of music can view dance like a sign language using one’s body. So from then on, Daniel put care into the small details to even his fingertips.[s] [s]