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Rino Nakasone Vital Stats
Rino Nakasone
Birthplace: Okinawa, Japan
Birthdate: June 11, 1979

ABDC Week 3


Harajuku Girls Interview


The Dance Reel


Beat Freaks Rehersal


Culture Shock Dance Center



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Rino Nakasone Interview

Rino Nakasone - Photo by Steven Khan - click for full size When Gwen Stefani needed someone for the role of "Music" for her Harajuku Girls, one name rose to the top. Rino Nakasone is fast becoming one of America's premier dancers. Born on the Japanese island of Okinawa, she's gone from being a high school exchange student in the US to performing with superstars like Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and Janet Jackson, appearing in the movie "You Got Served" and competing in MTV's America's Best Dance Crew.

So do yourself a favor and come take a look at this amazing talent in the Dance World of "breaking, popping, locking and house" and hear the story of how a little girl from Okinawa made it to the big time.

On January 29, 2009 (while her dance crew Beat Freaks were competed on MTV's 3rd Season of ABDC) Rino Nakasone was kind enough to give an interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. Rino also gave us a follow up interview on March 12 after the competition, which can be found at the end of the regular interview. All photos courtesy of Rino Nakasone with credits to Kurt Kim, Steven Khan, Khoa Bui and Mike Quain.


Your journey in life began on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Can you tell us a little about your hometown?

Rino Nakasone - Photo by Kurt Kim - click for full size Okinawa is one of Japan's southern prefectures and consists of hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over 1,000 km. The population is roughly 1 million people in the area, primarily Japanese with some Americans because there are so many military bases. It's so beautiful and peaceful. We have our own culture, music, dance, and language. I would say Okinawa is like Hawaii in the U.S.

Can you share some of your memories growing up there?

I remember going to the beaches and Kokusai Street in Naha. It's a small town and everything is on a smaller scale so I always wanted to go out to bigger places. However, now that I am away, I realize how amazing everything is!

What was the school like that you attended?

Strict. Almost every school in Japan requires students to wear uniforms. You can't wear make-up or dye your hair. No prom or homecoming or any stuff like that. Yet Japan has a great and very reliable school system. High school was the best because that's where I found my best friends. We had good times dancing together and performing at school events.

What was your family life like?

Rino Nakasone - Photo by Kurt Kim - click for full size My family is very family oriented but in an urban way... My parents are separated but I get a lot of love from Dad and Mom. I have a younger sister, who has a totally different personality from me (she is the good one)! We have a big family because both of our grandparents are very supportive of us and we all keep the family tight.

I was so lucky. They trusted me so I could do whatever I put my heart into and they weren't in too much of my business. All of us do our own things... doesn't mean we are not close, but that's the way we are!!

When did you first fall in love with music and dancing?

Ever since I was born!! It's was so natural in me.

In 1996 you moved to Atlus, Oklahoma where you attended the local high school. What prompted the move?

I was an exchange student at Altus High School. Ever since I became a fan of Michael Jackson I got so interested in the U.S. and wanted to experience what it's like to live out here.

What did you think about moving to the US at the time?

I was so excited and I remember getting emotional when I first saw the city looking down from the airplane. I loved how people were so open, nice and willing to help other people. I never missed home because I was living my dream.

What about America surprised you the most?

The fact that I fit in here. I didn't feel strange or out of place.

Rino Nakasone - Photo by Kurt Kim - click for full size You spent the next four years at Santa Monica College in California. What was your major?

My major use to be dance but I realized that I could do it outside of school and instead had to have some other skills just in case I didn't make it. So I changed it to cosmetology which was the most interesting subject out of all the other majors. The college lifestyle was cool but I am glad that it's over!!

How did you meet Dante Harper and how important was he to your future in dance?

I met him at the BLOC talent agency audition where he was the choreographer for the Hip Hop section. He asked if I could come take his class and then after taking his classes, I became his assistant for about a year. I have learned so much from him because he was already a successful dancer and teacher.

He is so detailed when it comes to teaching his choreography, which is very important in this industry. He also really believed in me which was the biggest support for me to let go of my own insecurity. He is so proud of everything that I have done so far and it makes me happy to know that I had a mentor like him in such an early stage of my dance life.

You also work at the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio?

Yes! I teach class with Maryss from Paris every Thursday at 2pm!! Debbie Reynolds has always been supportive and amazing!! That's the studio where a lot of old school movies and music videos are rehearsed, including Thriller and Breaking!!

What is Geminiz?

Geminiz is the name of Rino and Maryss from Paris! We are choreography partners and dying to work for Michael!!

You've danced for some of the biggest names in American music, including Janet Jackson and Britney Spears. What was the story about you almost performing in the Super Bowl?

Rino Nakasone - Photo by Khoa Bui - click for full size It was an interesting situation. I had to choose between the Super Bowl with Janet or Britney's world tour. I am a huge fan of Janet so I was going to make the decision to do the Super Bowl, but then I had a talk with Gil (who was the choreographer for Janet at that time), and he suggested to go for Britney because it would be a huge and amazing opportunity where I would be able to grow a lot as a dancer.

Since I respected him, I made my final decision to go on the tour and it turned out to be a perfect experience and I am so thankful for Gil that he gave me such a smart and thoughtful suggestion.

What was Britney like to work with?

She was funny and fun to hang out with. She treated us so nice and I had an amazing time with her.

How did you feel when you were on stage performing in front of such a huge audience?

It's crazy when you see all these people screaming, waving hands at you and knowing the choreography. I feel for them because I am like that when it comes to Michael. It's amazing how this one person can affect so many people.

What did your family and friends think of your growing career?

It took a while for my mom to really be ok with my career because it's not stable. After I got my visa she became more relaxed and started to believe that I can do anything. My friends were just so excited through every step of accomplishment. But they knew I could make it. They are so proud of me and happy!

You worked on the 2004 film "You Got Served". What was that like?

So much fun!!! It was a lot of dancers with different groups and I was just so excited and inspired to do my first movie. But nothing makes me happier than the fact that my crew in this movie was my future crew, "Beat Freaks!"

Rino with Gwenn Stefani and the Harajuku Girls - Photo courtesy of Rino Nakasone - click for full size From 2004 to 2005 you became "Music" of Gwenn Stefani's "Harajuku Girls." How did that come about?

I was just lucky that Gwen found me!

What was it like working with Gwenn?

One of the best experiences ever. I mean, EVER. I became a fan of hers after working with her because she is so talented and beautiful inside and out. She is very professional, down to earth and always puts her heart into it.

How different was it being in this Japanese fashion inspired dance team and entourage compared to your previous work?

Schedule-wise, I got to experience what superstars go through. Working all day, doing interviews or press and fitting in a meeting etc.... I have never done that before so it was very tiring but I learned so much because of it. This business is no joke! But I love it!

Some Asian-Americans have been critical of the group for displaying "negative stereotypes" of Asian women. What did you think about the criticism?

Gwen was so inspired by the Japanese fashion culture and I felt very honored by that. People always talk and as long as you know what it really means, you can't really put your thoughts on stuff like that. She loves us and we love her! That's it.

Gwenn Stefani's fans clearly loved the awesome performances the Harajuku Girls brought to the shows and videos. Do you have some favorite memories of those times?

My favorite time was during the "Sweet Escape Tour." By then all of us were so close and we got to go around the world together. That was the best!

Some of your other projects include Best Kept Secret and Beat Freaks. Tell us a little about each.

Best Kept Secret was created by Chonique and Lisette, who have been some of the biggest inspirations in my life, and we use to perform every week at this event in Santa Monica. It's a funky and sexy style at the same time and I really enjoyed and learned a lot from them.

Rino with Beat Freaks - Photo by Mike Quain - click for full size Beat Freaks is my crew which is formed by 8 female dancers. Everyone brings a different style of Hip-Hop such as breaking, popping, locking, house and some of us are even technical in modern and ballet. We are all good friends and I am a fan of each and every member. We are currently on America's Best Dance Crew on MTV.

Rumor has it that you're married. Can you share a little info?

Yes, I got married on July 6th 2007. He used to be a dancer and taking Dante's class as well! He is Filipino American.

How did you meet and how did he (or you) pop the question?

He proposed to me at my b-day party in front of all of our friends and I had no idea that he was going to do that!!! He was giving me his present and started showing me this video that he had made which had pictures from my childhood to American life. Then all of a sudden it started showing him and my best friend calling my mom in Okinawa (it was the first time they spoke to each other) and he was asking her if it was ok for him to propose to me. That's when he stopped the video and asked me to marry him. It was amazing!!

Any thoughts on having some baby Harajuku girls or boys in the near future?

Yes!! For sure!!!

Professional dancing is one of the most physically demanding jobs a person could choose. Have you ever had any injuries that challenged your performances?

Nothing major, thank God!!

Do you follow a specific diet to stay healthy?

Sometimes I am good, sometimes I am bad...

Could you give us an idea of what a typical day is like for you?

Rino Nakasone - Photo by Kurt Kim - click for full size It really depends. Sometimes rehearsals (could be 5 to 8 hours a day), sometimes making choreography or teaching class, or taking classes or practicing. Besides dance, I love to sleep in, watching movies, and chill with my family and friends.

How often have you gone back to Okinawa? What do you miss most?

I try to go back as much as I can, but maybe like 1-2 times a year. I miss my family, especially my grandparents getting older and older or seeing my cousin's babies growing up so fast. I feel like I am missing a lot and not being there for them when they need me.

Let's end with the big question: what does dancing mean to you?

Passion!

Do you have anything else you want to bring up or comment on?

Michael!! Find me!!!!!!!!

What do you have planned for 2009?

ABDC Beat Freaks baby!!!!

Do you have a final message to all your fans?

Thank you so much for your support!!!! Please visit Okinawa when you get a chance!!


Rino also gave us a follow up interview after the competition on March 12.

Congratulations on making it to the final show. Although second place wasn't your goal, how does it feel to have gone so far in the competition?

It was an honor to be one of the final crews on the show. No female crew had ever made it this far and it's great to know that America recognized what females can do along with our message and skills.

Looking back to the beginning, what thoughts and feelings were you experiencing during those first few shows?

"Is this real???" It was interesting because we were living in the moment. It's not like we shoot it and see it 2 months after knowing the result. It was in real time! We never knew what was going to happen or what we were going to do or come up with for each challenge that was provided. So seeing ourselves on MTV every Thursday, we were like "Oh my goooosh we are on ABDC!!!!! It's real but not real!!!"

Was there one dance routine that was the hardest to pull off?

Episode 7, the hip hop decathlon. It was hard mentally, physically and doing 5 different styles that I am not used to doing, the hardest. Thank goodness for Maryss because she knew some of the styles, but overall to make something up that we didn't really know the styles for and trying to stay true to the challenge was tough. Plus we had to make up another number as our final routine. That week was the hardest but we were happy with what we came up with!!!

What type of response have you gotten from your family and friends about being on the show?

They were just proud of me and the rest of the Beat Freaks. They cried, laughed and voted!!! It was really cute to see my husband's dad voting for us!! (He was voting to my phone! I was like, no dad! It's to 22444 not to my phone!!)

What are the future plans for Beat Freaks?

Hopefully a lot to come! We still need to figure some things out but of course we will be teaching and doing some shows in different states or countries, etc. So please stay in touch with us at thebeatfreaks.com We also teach at Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio.

What did you learn most from the experience?

Life is more than a title. Yes, we wanted to win, but our message, "Freak the Dream," touched people's hearts. I have read so many amazing stories based on what we did on the show and to me, that's all that matters. It was an amazing competition with Quest and we are so happy for them! It was for a reason they won and we didn't and that's ok. We will keep it going and so does life. I just felt bad for people who voted for us like crazy and believed in us, but we are hoping to get back to them in different ways! Let's keep freaking the dream!!!


For more info checkout Rino Nakasone's official site and MySpace page. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments