Asako Hara is a professional Japanese street dancer based in Los Angeles. She has appeared in music videos, danced at major events and toured with big name artists such as Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, Cheryl Cole and rap legend Snoop Dogg. Weekender contributor Kevin Jungnitsch finds out more about this rising star in the entertainment world.
When I was six years old, my mother saw a poster advertising a children’s dance class and she decided to enroll me. From my first class I fell in love with all things having to do with dance. I spent hours practicing and studied different styles, such as jazz and ballet. Then when I was 12, my parents took me to New York. It was my first time in America, and I had the chance to see the famous dancer Brian Green. I was so impressed by his dancing that I decided right there and then that I wanted to be like him―a dancer who has the power to influence others.
It was at this point that I signed up for street dance classes. I also watched all the latest American music videos just so that I could learn new moves and techniques. My dance teacher was so impressed by my hard work and dedication and my natural ability that she encouraged me to enter the many dance competitions that took place all over Japan. I performed solo and also as a group with two other girls for fun and ended up winning several championships. I was featured in many articles in Japan and started to make a name for myself. I even had the opportunity to dance onstage with the world famous Japanese saxophonist Sadao Watanabe.
Why did you decide to move to the US? Do you think you will ever return to work in Japan?
I love Japan. It’s my home and my family and friends are there, but I wanted to build a career for myself as a dancer and there are so many more opportunities for dancers in America. Whilst here, I’ve met people from all over the world who share the same dream, and they all come to America as it’s a huge center for the entertainment industry and that sort of influence has a big impact all over the world. It’s also a place where dreams can come true.
Also I find that being away from home takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to work harder and push yourself more, and in America you need that. There is so much competition here in LA that you can’t afford to sit back and rely on past successes. You always have to be better than you were before. I will definitely come back to Japan. It’s my home and I’d love to be able to share the skills, knowledge and experience that I’ve learned with other young dancers there. There’s some incredible dance talent in Japan, and many of us learned from each other.
What challenges have you faced as a Japanese dancer in Los Angeles?
The language was the biggest challenge for me at first. People think that it’s not so important, as you’re a dancer and working with your body, but that’s not true. You have to be able to communicate verbally under extreme pressure with fellow dancers, choreographers and the recording artists, and if you can’t do that then there are hundreds of other dancers who can and are willing to take your place, so I had to make a big effort to master the language. I felt shy at first, but I forced myself to take classes here and to speak to everyone just so that my English improved. I also made friends with many American dancers, and this helped me a lot.
I’m working on various music projects, including a music video for hip hop artist Baby Bash’s new song Fantasy Girl. I’m also about to start rehearsals for a world tour with a well known artist, but I can’t say too much about that yet until the official announcement is made. It’ll be incredible to be able to dance around the world. I’m really looking forward to it.
In the meantime, I also have a number of major dance events and award ceremonies that I’ll be dancing at in Los Angeles. It’s something that I never expected, but my dancing has also opened the door to other opportunities, such as acting. I will be appearing in the dance movie Boogie Town, which will be released in the US later this year. It’s my first film and I really enjoyed the experience.
I have also recently formed a band in the US with three fellow Japanese artists. We were put together by a record label here as an all singing and all dancing group. The singing is a first for me, but it’s an exciting project and it’ll be interesting to see how things develop. Lastly, I plan to launch an online dance academy teaching people choreographed routines that they can learn in the comfort of their own homes. I’m excited by the possibilities, as I’ll be able to reach a global audience.
Have you been to Japan recently? Please tell us what you like most about the country.
I’ve been working so much so I haven’t had the chance to visit Japan for about two years. There are a lot of things that I love and miss about Japan, and just thinking about them make me homesick. I miss TV, J-Pop, and I miss Japanese food, too! There’s a large Japanese community in Los Angeles and there are Japanese supermarkets and restaurants here, but the food just isn’t the same. I sometimes dream of conbini. That’s one of the first places I’ll go to when I next visit Japan!
Find out more about Asako and her work at www.asakohara.com
Photos courtesy of The Brit Factor