By MANA OTOMO
When Asako Hara was all of seven years old, hanging around her mother’s aerobics class in Nagoya, she had little interest in what would eventually become her career.
“I did not really want to dance at that time,” Hara recalled, “But as I started, I began to like it.”
Her mother had signed her up for a kids’ dance class, to keep young Asako busy and active while her mother took aerobics.
Now at age 21, Hara is in Los Angeles and pursing the urban dance dreams she developed as a girl.
“Since I was a child, my parents liked hip hop,” she explained. “They loved watching videos, and I would imitate the people dancing in them.”
Her parents’ influence steered her toward hip hop, not ballet nor jazz, although she has studied those forms as well.
Though she started dancing just to kill time, she entered a national competition a the age of 10 and won third prize, opening the new door to great possibilities as a professional dancer.
“That prize gave me a lot of confidence, especially the fact that we could finished better than the adult teams. This provoked in me a feeling of passion for hip hop.”
What further stimulated her interest is when her parents took her to New York at age 12. There, she had the chance to see the renowned dancer Brian “Footwork” Green. She was instantly impressed with his skill and performance and decided at that moment that she would someday go to America.
After she graduated high school, there was no hesitation as she headed for the States, the stage for achieving her goals of being a professional street dancer and establishing her career there.
Three years later, she has danced at a number of events in Hollywood, performing with artists such as Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg, and teen heartthrob Justin Bieber. Hara cites as one of her role models Rino Nakasone, who rocketed to fame as one of the Harajuku Girls, who backed Gwen Stefani on a global tour.
Her own rise will receive another huge boost this summer, when she will be a featured dancer in the film “Boogie Town,” a modern “West Side Story” tale with an urban edge.
Hara is also preparing for a tour with her own Pussycat Dolls-style, all-Japanese dancer troupe, Honey Pot.
Looking beyond her own dancing, Hara seeks to help develop other young talent, much in the way someone influenced her. She is ambitious about choreography and is working on a DVD of dance exercises.
Her success comes at a time when street dancers are popping up–literally–on every corner in L.A. Hara said she doesn’t spend time worrying about the competition.
“There is no anxiety about my future,” she said. “America, especially Los Angeles, is a city of entertainment that is full of chances. Everyday I can feel I am living with my dream. All I need to do is to seize a chance and show who Asako is in my performance.”
While she continues performing in America, she emphasizes her identity as a Japanese dancer.
“I want to be appreciated as someone from Japan, who made an effort to come here. I am also hoping to help Japanese dancers achieve their goals like me and perform on the same stage.”
–Rafu Arts & Entertainment editor Mikey Hirano Culross contributed to this story.