When Gwen Stefani introduced her Harajuku girls to the world, we woke up to the fact that there were some very skilled street dancers popping and locking their way out of the Far East – it wasn’t all about American dancers dominating hip hop style. Now, Flavour introduces you to the latest dance sensation coming straight outta Japan: Asako Hara.
Twenty-one-year-old Asako Hara moved to LA three years ago with the dream of making it as a dancer. Having trained for years in her native Japan she knew the next step was to get on the dance circuit Stateside. Since the move Asako’s feet haven’t had time to touch the ground. Quickly making a name for herself with her fresh moves, unique look and style, she has become the dancer of choice among many of America’s biggest music stars from will.i.am to Justin Beiber – even our own Geordie princess Cheryl Cole couldn’t resist Asako’s skills featuring her in the video for 3 Words.
Recently Asako toured with Snoop Dogg. ‘I’ve always loved his music and I used to dance to it all the time at dance school in Japan, so it was an amazing experience to be on stage with him. In fact it was standing on stage with Snoop that made me realise how far I’d come – you forget when you’re caught up in the midst of things.’
It took a lot of hard work and determination to reach this point. Asako taking hip hop classes at the age of seven, but soon realised that it was important to cover other genres too. ‘I started to take ballet and jazz alongside the hip hop. Those areas help build your technical ability. A dancer needs to be well rounded.’
Asako never stopped pushing herself. Luckily she had a good family to help her along the way. ‘My parents were extremely supportive of my decision to become a dancer. They were very understanding and encouraged me to pursue the dream.’ One thing she knew would give her an edge and help turn her dream into a reality was entering competitions.
By the age of ten Asako wasn’t content confining her skills to the classroom. She had to move to the stage. With the encouragement of her dance teachers who recognised her amazing ability, Hara saw competitions as the perfect opportunity to showcase her talent to a wider audience.
‘In major competitions and championships you compete at a high level and have to show innovation in your choreography to stand out. You get the experience of dancing in front of tons of people, literally thinking on your feet and you get to check out the competition!’
She came third in her first foray into the dance battlefield and from that point, she didn’t look back. Shortly after her third-place win, she took first place in a dance competition in Nagoya, Japan. More wins followed, and Asako started gaining some heat in the dance world – soon people were approaching her to perform. ‘I was asked to dance on stage for Sadao Watanabe, a very famous Japanese saxophonist. He’s amazing and I just felt so privileged to be asked to grace the stage beside him!’
The fiercely independent Asako prides herself on always seizing opportunities and this trait led her to hang up her dancing shoes in Japan at 18, hop on a plane to LA and put them straight back on again. At an age when I was debating whether I should move 50 miles away from home to go to uni, knowing I could store up all of my laundry for mum to do during university break, Hara was a million miles from her parents, training for several hours six days a week, living independently, and finally closing in on her dream.
‘I’d always loved all things American – many of my inspirations in the dance world like Brian Green [choreographer to stars like JT] were based there. And of course I loved hip hop! I just knew that I had to be there to take my career to the next level.’
Living the dream
Having just wrapped on her first movie Boogie Town [a modern hip hop version of West Side Story], Asako can definitely say her dream is now a very exciting reality. ‘I’m part of a dance crew in the movie – I loved the experience and definitely can’t wait to get more film roles! So much is happening for me at the moment. The tour with Snoop was so surreal and fun, I’m a founder member of a dance troupe called Honey Pot and I’m getting parts in new videos all the time!’
But like anyone with a passion for their career, there is still so much more Asako wants. ‘I definitely want to dance with Missy, Usher and Beyoncé – she’s amazing!’ Will Bey ever pick up her videophone to dance with this diva? We wouldn’t be surprised – watch this space!
Boogie Town will be released later this year
Interview by Mary Bello