I finally got the chance to speak to the Beat Freak and former Harajuku Girl Rino Nakasone, and what a great experience it was. In search of the dance flavors that originally inspired her to break out from the mold, the Okinawan-born performer came to Los Angeles ten years ago and has traced out a colorful and accomplished career for herself. What you see on stage is pretty much what you get in person: a boisterous and vibrant personality. What you may not get the chance to see on television, however, is her endless reserve of hearty laughter (and equally enthusiastic arm slaps). Even after only speaking briefly with her, it was apparent that she’s bubbling with warmth and personable energy:
TJL: What brought you out to LA originally? Dancing?
RK: Oh yes, dancing.
TJL: Were you ever involved with the Okinawan talent schools, or were you just doing your own thing?
RK: Mm, yes and no. I did it when I was like 12-years-old, but I quit, and I just started doing my own thing.
TJL: Yeah, the schools seem very manufactured.
RK: Yeah, I became different mindset, and then I became more into American entertainment, like I’m a huge fan of Michael. So, I wanted to be all that. It was quite different.
TJL: Definitely, it’s very poppy over there. What’s your biggest inspiration when it comes to dancing?
RK: I mean, Michael Jackson! Besides him, whenever I see people having a real passion—to me, that’s like really inspirational.
TJL: What are some of your favorite spots in LA, and how long have you been here?
RK: I’ve been here ten years. I like Disneyland, of course. [laughs] I became more fan of Japanese food when I came here.
TJL: What are some of your favorite spots [Japanese eateries] here?
RK: Oo, I like Iroha!
TJL: Iroha—where is that?
RK: It’s in Studio City, Sherman Oaks’ish? It’s on Ventura [blvd.] and Coldwater [ave.]
TJL: What’s your favorite dish?
RK: Japanese, all Japanese.
TJL: When it comes to dancing, can you give me five words to describe how you feel about it?
RK: Five words?!
TJL: Five words to sum it up.
RK: Passion… Passion. [laughs]
TJL: [laughs] You can say passion for all five.
RK: Love… Desire. Dream. [I realize she's looking at her wedding ring, where she pauses to smile lovingly] And my Life.
TJL: Will you be touring with Gwen Stefani in the future, or is that [Harajuku Girls] all done?
RK: I mean, like, I was cryin’ the first tour, but the second tour I was more excited for my future. I don’t know—it wasn’t sad. I knew it was the end, or you know, it was more new start for me, so I was more excited, but it was amazing experience.
TJL: What do you picture for yourself in the future? I’d imagine you want to keep dancing, but—
RK: Oh yes!
TJL: But would you like to open a [dancing] school or venture into something else?
RK: I would love to do more work with Beat Freaks, like choreography, teach, or—you know my dancing partner is Maris from Paris, we teach together—or I’m more open to any other entertainment, like anything. I want to be… [makes gesture with her hand] sky’s the limit.
TJL: How did you meet all the girls from Beat Freaks?
RK: Oh my god, after I came here I started practicing with Groovaloos—and most of them are from Groovaloos—and I would go in there and practice with them, and then I started working on some jobs with a couple of them, and then they just asked me to be in it [Beat Freaks]. I was always a fan of them, so I was like, “Oh my god, you’re crazy, of course!” I was honored.
TJL: I heard from Maris that you guys actually ran into each other at a club once, and you didn’t know you were dancers and were like, “Hey, whoa!”
RK: Oh yes, I was performing, and she was just free styling, and then we were like, “Yooo, you’re dope!” [laughs] That’s how we started. Ever since, we are best friends.
TJL: Since all of you bring a different flavor, what would you say is your specialty within Beat Freaks?
RK: I bring Michael flavor. [laughs] Michael flavor, and I do choreography.
TJL: Knowing you’re interested in doing anything in the future, what else are you interested in besides dance?
RK: I love—I’m so interested in any entertainment, like anything, even clothing or music or acting—anything! Like, I don’t even know! I’m not good at it, but I just love them, so I wanted to try.
TJL: As long as you put your heart into it, anything can happen, right?
RK: Yeah! So, you never know. You never know. If I can—I’m living my dream. So amazing. Man, life is—you just never know until you do it, you know?
TJL: And what’s your experience been like with ABDC?
RK: Ah-mazin‘!! No way, seriously—I’m a fan of my crew Beat Freaks, and I get so emotional to think I’m on stage with them and be able to create like whatever we come up with and just show the world what we love to do. That’s just… incredible.
Off the top of my head, here are five words that describe Rino: Humbleness, Talent, Laughter, Spunk, and—to borrow a word from her—Passion. Of course, there are many other possible words, but these five in particular illustrate a winning combination that has carried a lively spirit across various national and cultural lines. More than that, they’ve helped carry her to the success she experiences today and undoubtedly to the triumphs to come in the future.
Rino pictured with ABDC buddy Eric Hurd.
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