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BLOG | The rise of female Asian dance choreographers

Probably the most difficulty I’ll ever have writing would be about dancing. I can’t even begin to describe what’s it like to watch dancers perform, how they use their bodies to create art as a painter would with oils and a brush — the dance floor their canvas. So I’m going keep this introduction brief and just showcase three prominent female, particularly Asian, dance choreographers I’ve been gawking at.

I believe the following barrage of videos will speak for themselves.

Jessica “Jeka” Kalotkin

Jeka Kalotkin, promotional photo for Movement Lifestyle.

After years of training in ballet and contemporary, Jeka Kalotkin fell in love with hip hop dancing after meeting choreographer David Moore and started working with Funkanometry SF in San Francisco. Currently, she’s training with The Company, a branch of the choreography management company Movement Lifestyle (mL), with directors Patrick Cruz and Shaun Evaristo. Jeka has performed and showcased her choreography at the huge conventions as Body Rock, World of Dance and Norcal Prelude.

I adore her dancing because there’s something deep and revealing about Jeka’s concepts. She doesn’t need flashy moves or back flips to express the emotion behind her routines. She could take slow rhythmic songs of artists like Alicia Keys and Letoya — music you didn’t think could be danced to — and recreate their lyrical meanings with moves that are poignant, that mattered.

Check out just how well she keeps up with her fellow male dancers in the video below:

Also, her solos:

Video below: Jeka performs at the Enkore 2010 concert alongside mL. According to their website, mL consists of “upcoming and established artists and focus(es) on creating ways to expose their art using media, production, music and dance.” You can follow mL on Youtube and Facebook to better understand their mission statement: that “movement is a lifestyle.”

You can watch her crazy fluid solo to Maroon 5’s ‘Give a Little More’ at 4:15.

Keone and Mari

If you’ve watched the whole video above, you will see mL’s last concept at 6:17 choreographed by fellow mL members Mariel “Mari” Martin and her long-time boyfriend Keone Madrid and performed with their own group Choreo Cookies. I’ve never seen two partners as synced as Keone and Mari. They’re so intimately connected to each others styles and pulses, it has come to the point where I’m literally blushing from watching them dance:

Their group choreography is absolutely gorgeous, highly influenced by their strong Christian beliefs. Just watch them and you’ll know what I mean:

So, who’s Mari?

Mari Martin, promotional photo for Movement Lifestyle.

Before I veer off into blabbing about the couple as though they’re one of the same (Which I feel I can go on about forever), I do want to showcase one part of the Keone/Mari duo. Mari is pretty amazing herself. According to the Youtube description from BZ Community, after four years at the Funkanometry SF, “she choreographed many pieces for stage and classes and eventually was appointed Co-Artistic Director. She has been lucky enough to travel internationally to teach in Columbia, Norway, Canada, Finland, and Singapore as well as various places in the U.S. like Chicago, Boulder, Las Vegas, New Jersey and all over California.”

She’s a ball of perpetual energy who’s able to balance her loud, kinetic moves with a level of unchallenged grace. And from some of the interviews I’ve seen so far, she’s also a very adorable girl-next-door.

Watch her footwork (green T-shirt) at a workshop for Culture Shock!:

She has also recently choreographed for the popular Korean pop (K-Pop) girl group, 2ne1, in their comeback. You can get to know her better in the Movement Lifestyle’s documentary on their trip to South Korea, produced by Kanauru Productions, here:

Rino Nakasone

Promotional photo of Rino Nakasone.

Rino Nakasone Razalan is a freakin’ force of nature. She was one of four members of pop singer Gwen Stefani’s controversial Harajuku Girls back-up dancers as the pseudonym ‘Music’ and made her debut on the third season of America’s Best Dance Crew placing second with her all-female dance group Beat Freaks.

According to the description from the BZ Community Class, “she has been working with top choreographers in the industry and have done 3 world tours, and appeared in Awards shows like Grammy’s, AMA’s and VMA’s to name a few. Her credit includes Britney Spears, Missy Elliot, Mary J. Blige, Avril Lavigne, Chris Brown, Ciara, Rihanna, Janet Jackson. You can also find her in film ‘You Got Served‘, ‘Dance Flick,’ commercials like iPod, Nike, and Hard Tail.” Her influence has also spread outside of the States.

Even though I’ve been a huge Korean pop (K-Pop) fan since high school, it was only a few months ago when I learned that Rino is the genius choreographer behind the South Korean boy band SHINee‘s (pronounced “shiny”) insanely complex dances. Her concept for their first single “Noona is so Pretty/Replay” in 2008 made SHINee a household name for K-Pop fans around the world.

Rino teaches her routine for SHINee’s ‘Juliette’ at the BZ Community workshop below:

Rino has also choreographed for other popular Korean groups like DBSK (Dong Bang Shin Ki, translated as “The Rising Gods of the East”) and the 9-member Girls’ Generation (better known as SNSD, or So Nyeo Shi Dae), bringing the K-Pop dance scene to whole new levels. And I’ve been following her ever since.

This is her most recent video she has tweeted for ‘The SHINee World’ performance. Just look at the way she moves so intensely (center, purple sweats) — can anyone, or even your eyes, keep up with Rino?