Behind the powerful performance and dance skills of many manufactured K-pop bands, there is a woman: Rino Nakasone, a Japanese dancer and choreographer. She is best known for choreographing several songs of popular Korean music bands SHINee and Girls' Generation but also recently choreographed one of songs of SM Entertainment's new girl group f(x).
Nakasone was first recognized by Korean music fans in June 2008, when she gave SHINee dancing lessons for their debut with "Replay." At the time, she had been a backup dancer for the Harajuku Girls and featured in stage shows and music videos for Gwen Stefani in the States, earning some attention for her brilliant performance.
Born in Okinawa, she moved to the U.S. when she was 19. "I am a huge fan of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson," she says. "They're like my teachers. I never took any dance classes when I was in Japan, I just watched them and started copying what they do. And I knew I had to move to America, so I did in 1999. I had to be close to Michael Jackson and all the inspiration was in the U.S. I got to meet, learn, and work with people that I was fan of and respect, so it really has been a dream come true being here in Los Angeles."
She says becoming a dancer or choreographer was a "natural step." "It didn't happen overnight. I just kept doing what I love to do, which was taking classes, going auditions, or teaching my own class. Then many opportunities came to me."
She says it's fun to work with Korean artists. "When I was in Seoul working with SHINee, I was very impressed how hard they worked. I love their songs. They were great at picking up choreography fast and were able to do anything that I taught them."
She also created the choreography for Girls' Generation's popular song, "Tell Me Your Wish" in collaboration with SM Entertainment's dance team. "They learned off the video tape that I dance in and we all went over it together later. Soo-young of the band speaks Japanese and Jessica speaks English, so I had no problem communicating with them, but I just listened to the song first and the move came up. Music tells me what to do. When I look back, it could look like tango or salsa inspired. That's what I do. I see some dance movement that I like and I tweak it and change to make it my own."
Nakasone says Girls' Generation's music and dance "make people want to do what they do. It's unique to see nine beautiful girls performing on stage. It's a lot for a band, but their formations are well-organized and they all look together, which is very important in a group."
Personally, she is more of an old school lover and always will be. "I still listen to Michael. Any good music that catches my ears, I listen to it," she says. "I'm learning Korean because I want to be able to sing their songs at karaoke. Working with SM Entertainment, I got to know Korean entertainment a little bit. I think I know more K-pop than Japanese pop these days. I love dance and I love watching any dancers. I enjoy challenging and trying new things to bring different flavors on each artists and each songs."
Nakasone says she would love to keep working with Korean artists when opportunities arise. Currently she is focusing more on doing some stuff with her crew Beat Freaks and her dance partner Maryss from Paris.