Tag Archives: Hip Hop Dance

Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 2 Miss Hitoe from SPEED Interview Pt. 1

SPEED – 4 colors

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Nippon Hip Hop Nation – 2

 Miss Hitoe from SPEED – Interview Part 1

I met Hitoe through a mutual friend while she was in New York City and I was immediately impressed by her passion for Hip-Hop dance, music and Black culture. She graciously granted me an interview for Harlem2Nippon.

H2N: SPEED made its debut while you were still in O.A.S. (Okinawa Actors Studios in Okinawa, Japan) in your early teens. Can you describe O.A.S. back then and who attended the school?

Hitoe: They were from young kids to young adults around 20-years old. We studied acting, singing, dancing and performing and we showcased our performances on stage every 3 months.

H2N: Why did you decide to attend O.A.S.?

Hitoe: I loved dancing since I was a little girl and I danced to then popular Brazil’s La Banda music every day. I came to know about FM Radio broadcasted by the American military base in Okinawa and listened to American pop music. I guess my aunt knew that I loved dance so she arranged the audition for O.A.S.’ gifted kids program. I felt so special and happy that a country girl like me could get dressed nice and commute to the studios in a big city (Naha City) even though it took me an hour to get there.

H2N: What made you want to be an entertainer?

Hitoe: It’s funny, I never thought about becoming an entertainer or anything. I just wanted to dance. I was blessed that I could do what I wanted to do. I thought, “I want to be a fashion designer” back then, but I wasn’t serious. I still can’t believe that I am a part of SPEED! When I was told that I was going to be a member of SPEED, the sense of responsibility weighed heavy on my 15-year-old mind. From then on I started to understand gradually what being an entertainer was all about.

Hitoe

H2N: Your dance and fashion style seems to reflect Hip-Hop influences from artists such as Aaliyah and TLC. Who you were inspired by?

Hitoe: My mother taught us, “Be yourself,” so I was drawn to unique and self determined artists. I was watching MTV a lot and I went to school with outrageous braided hair. At the time when I was in elementary school, Janet Jackson was so huge and we practiced New Jack Swing and Jazz dance. While we were at O.A.S. we were desperately searching for our own style. When we saw TLC, we fell in love with them. We had never seen the way they danced before and the way they moved with such a groove. It was shockingly fresh to us. We are like, “From now on our goal is to become the Japanese TLC.” Among other members I was drawn to Left Eye for her creative energy. I played their “Crazy Sexy Cool” album more than million times! It was so cooool! We imitated their dance moves. I also loved Aaliyah for her beauty because she was so mysterious sometimes and she possessed originality in dancing. In terms of dancing style, I also love Beyonce, Ciara and of course Miss Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson! On a male side, Usher is my favorite artist as he knows how to show his talent as a dancer and performer. I was inspired by so many artists like Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Monica, Brandy……their fashion statements and artistic direction……. I love Black music in general and I listen to them all.

H2N: Did the members of SPEED ever criticize you for being too “Black”?

Hitoe: No way (lol.) Everybody in my group loves different kinds of music and style so it was OK that I was in a certain way. They accepted me for who I was. But one time when I changed my hair to an Afro for our music video shoot, “White Love,” my manager got furious! He almost fired me!! (lol). From that point on I became fearless!!! (lol). At the time, people were like, “Pop idol with Afro? Hell no!” but I thought an Afro was so sexy. Why not? I don’t understand why people wouldn’t get it.

H2N: I heard you are a professionally trained dancer. Did you take dance classes?

Hitoe: Yes. After we were signed we practiced with a choreographer. I was a really good dancer when I danced free style but I was having a hard time learning all the moves my choreographer taught me. I had to practice more than anybody else! We got a chance to appear as semi-regular performers on a TV show called “Yoru Mo Hippare” and while we were on that show I got the hang of it and got better. It was almost like taking a dance class every time we were on the show. I felt like I was in school even though that was a job. It was the good old days.

H2N: You are a principal dancer in SPEED. Which dancers or music videos inspired you?

Hitoe: That’s hard ‘cause it’s too many. As a group SPEED, our goal was to be like TLC and their “Creep” video was our learning material. We copied all the moves, even the way they dressed while rehearsing! The artists and videos I was personally influenced by include “Alright” by Janet Jackson which I tried to mimic the steps and choreography while I was still on O.A.S. “I Get Lonely” by Janet and “If Your Girl Only Knew” by Aaliyah were also my favorites. “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige was so street and I thought that was so hip-hop. “You Make Me Wanna” by Usher motivated me so much that I y danced really hard so that I could dance like him. He’s a great performer as well. I think I saw the new dance move called Harlem Shake when I saw Eve’s “Who’s That Girl.” I’m good at it. (lol). I love “Move Your Body – Official Video” by Beyonce ‘cause it has a strong Old School feel to it and has all the dance elements.

I got to know the dance crew named Elite-Force through a friend of mine. They are the best!! When I saw their dance video, I was kind of crushed that my dancing was nothing compared to them.  If you don’t know them you should check out their “Wreckin’ Shop Live From Brooklyn – ALIVE TV.” Believe me, it changed my world. They are also featured on Mariah Carey’s “Honey (Bad Boy Remix)” featuring Puff Daddy, Mase & Jadakiss. Real cool!!

SPEED’s new album, 4 COLORES is being released on November 14. Please check it out!

(Interviewed by Yasuko Ito)

To be continued…….

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Harlem Haberdashery – Urban Traditional Fashion Boutique

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Urban Traditional Fashion Boutique–

Harlem Haberdashery

245 Lenox Avenue
(between 122nd & 123rd Street)
New York, NY  MAP
Phone: (646) 707-0070

“I just love Harlem. I eat and sleep Harlem. It has such great flavor,” says Guy Wood, the owner of the new men’s boutique, Harlem Haberdashery. The store is operated as a family business specializing in selling upscale men’s and women’s clothing. Price range is from $20 to $1,000.

Now, after more than 20 years in the design business, Wood, who started 5001 Flavors with his wife Sharene, has opened his first retail location on Lenox Avenue and 122nd Street in Harlem where he grew up.

 The store carries designers such as Search and Rescue, who find vintage items such as jeans and suitcases and put their own spin on the items. Other new designers include Sophistifunk from New Jersey and Poetik Designs. Wood’s son, Guy Wood Jr., also has a clothing line featured at the shop called Black Billionaire.

Biggie Smalls a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.

I was inspired to walk in Harlem Haberdashery because of the huge mural of the shop’s logo outside of the store. I was greeted by a very hospitable young lady who told me that her father, who was in the clothing business for 20 years, started this store. I was very curious because I thought he must be somebody I know. It turned out that person was Wood, one half of the creative force of 5001 Flavors, the famous hip hop brand in early 90’s. I was the first person to introduce their signature logo T-shirts, jeans and jerseys in Japan. I brought one of the top hip hop dance teams from New York, the Elite Force, to Japan and dressed them with 5001 Flavor gear on stage. Young kids in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, and throughout Japan fell in love with this brand new cool urban style.

Elite Force in Japan

Harlem Haberdashery opened just four months ago and quickly became a hot spot in the neighborhood with its super fashionable weekly Thursday networking party. You can just walk in. No guest list, no cover charge!

For more information about the boutique, check out their site:

http://www.harlemhaberdashery.com/#!home/mainPage

Yasuko Ito

Hip Hop Dance Nation – 2 : MAHO from OSAKA

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The Amount Boyz – Maho

Maho is a very successful dancer from Japan working in New York City. He has appeared in music videos, danced at major events, and has performed on tour with several superstars including Madonna.

Anthony ‘Antboogie’ met Maho while working with Madonna on her “Sticky & Sweet Tour.” He was so impressed by Maho’s hard work, dedication and natural ability that he asked Maho to join his dance crew The Amount Boyz.

H2N finds out more about this rising star in the entertainment world.

H2N: Please tell us about your background and why you decided to become a professional dancer.

Maho: I am originally from Osaka. I signed up for a famous agency in Japan when I was 12. I was trained to sing, dance and act there. I fell in love with all things having to do with dance. I spent hours practicing and studied different styles, such as jazz and Hip-Hop. At the age of 18 I came to New York. I think I had the quiet confidence that one day my dream to dance would be realized. I spent the first 2 years taking the street dance classes by Ant (Anthony ‘Antboogie’ Rue) at Broadway Dance Center. After I obtained an artist visa, I decided to become a professional dancer. I was really lucky that my first gig was to dance for Madonna.

H2N: That is a very big accomplishment. How was working with the queen of pop? Was she a perfectionist as she is known for?

Maho: At the beginning I thought she was a really serious all-about-business-type-of-person. But she actually spends time with each dancer finding his uniqueness and trying to take the best out of it. I was very impressed and I respect her very much for that.

H2N: Where do you go from here since you almost conquered the world?

Maho: I was one of the dancers for Madonna then, now I am focusing on my craft as a performer.

See his performance as one of the Amount Boyz:

Find out more about Maho and his work at www.maho-udo.com