You might know Rino Nakasone as the tall, beautiful Asian girl of the group Beat Freaks on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, but did you know that Rino was also one of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku girls? I got a chance to speak with Rino, sometimes called Rinokinawa, on her least busy day of the week, in between dance rehearsals for the hit MTV show and teaching classes!
You might know Rino Nakasone as the tall beautiful Asian girl of the group Beat Freaks on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, but did you know that Rino was also one of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku girls? I got a chance to speak with Rino, sometimes called Rinokinawa, on her least busy day of the week, in between dance rehearsals for the hit MTV show and teaching classes!
ASIANCE: Wednesday is your day off?
Rino: Today is the least busy day of the week. We always are creating stuff.
ASIANCE: You recently got married, is that correct? Congrats!
Rino: Yes. Yeah I got married last July 2007. My husband is from California. He’s from here but he’s Filipino American. His family is from the Philippines.
ASIANCE: Is your hubby very supportive? Does he go to the shows?
Rino: Yes. He’s always got my back! He came for the first one and now he’s in the Philippines doing business. He is full out! When he gets excited, like me, he makes so much happen as far as supporters. He really believes in Beat Freaks and we are so thankful for that.
ASIANCE: You are from Okinawa but came here ten years ago?
Rino: I came to California in 1999.
ASIANCE: Will you go back to Japan after the show to visit?
Rino: Yeah. I would love to see my family. I was originally going back in January but this started, so maybe after this I can go back.
ASIANCE: Does your family back home in Japan watch the show?
Rino: I think they watch on the internet but I don’t know because my mom doesn’t know how to use the internet. I think my sister watched it on the internet. They have MTV Japan you know, and dance is huge in Japan. They should start airing it in Europe.
ASIANCE: How would you say you developed your original dance style?
Rino: I don’t consider it an original style because I mix everything I’ve learned, especially my big influence who has always been Michael Jackson. I came to Los Angeles for school and found information about auditions. Then found out there was a dance studio and found out there was a dance agency. So whatever information I was looking for, I found.
ASIANCE: So what is it like when you hear Beat Freaks called out as a remaining contestant on America’s Best Dance Crew?
Rino: Oh my god, it’s always nerve-wracking every time we wait for the answer but when they call our name, the first thing is like, “Thank you! Thank God!” And it’s always a great feeling because nobody wants to be in the bottom of it and potentially go home. Seriously, the first thing is “Thank you!” And I appreciate it.
ASIANCE: What makes Beat Freaks such a strong crew?
Rino: I think all of us are pretty much professionals and I think that already helps because it’s what we have to do for every job. Not only that, we are so happy to be here and perform with each other, so the energy we come up with explodes with different styles. We create and face every challenge.
ASIANCE: Do you hang out with the crew outside of your dancing?
Rino: Maryss is one of my best friends – she was a bridesmaid at my wedding. We are both Geminis, so she is like my other sister. We are such busy individuals but on special occasions, we see each other or at practice. We are friends.
Here’s a video of Rino and Maryss. Includes dancing by Beat Freaks!
ASIANCE: Are there ever conflicts within the team?
Rino: Yes. Since we all created it, we bump into each other but the bottom line is we have to make the best for the show and try to focus on what is the best.
ASIANCE: What is the typical rehearsal day?
Rino: Pretty much all we do is rehearse, get together and watch the tape, criticize what could be better, watch videos of the song to get ideas or history. That’s pretty much it for a rehearsal day.
ASIANCE: When you get time off how do you spend it?
Rino: You know I haven’t had the relaxing time to be honest. It is really nonstop. It is a full time thing but it has to be because we always keep creating. Meanwhile, I try to talk to my husband or family, go on the internet, email, all that. And eat and eat.
ASIANCE: Now that you are married, do you think you will start a family? How would you make it work with your dance career?
Rino: I think when the time is right, I will get pregnant. I truly believe when the time is right God will make it so I get pregnant. Right now, I have to focus on my career. But you cannot dance forever. Opportunities like these are huge and we’re really trying to focus on our careers right now and trying to be good. And we will have kids in the future.
ASIANCE: When and how did the crew form?
Rino: I think Beat Freaks has been together for 6 years so far and I came in 2004. So I am the second to the newest. A lot of the members are from a group called Groovaloos. Every week I would go to their practices. So that’s how we kind of know each other and that’s how some of us work together. I was a fan, so it was an honor they asked me!
ASIANCE: Did you ever talk to Mario Lopez backstage?
Rino: Not really. I talked to him a little in the rehearsal but we’re so separated that we don’t really know each other, but we’ll talk.
ASIANCE: Just curious if he was AC-Slater-ish..
ASIANCE: Can we talk about you as a Harajuku girl! When did you first meet Gwen?
Rino: Ah, when I first met Gwen it was our first day of the photo-shoot for the cover of “Love, Angel, Music and Baby”. I remember I was so exhausted from flying from the US (She met Gwen in London). I was just chilling with the other girls when Gwen walked in and was like, “Hi, I’m Gwen Stefani.” Ever since then she has been so down to earth. She really is an amazing person. I am serious. I can say she is amazing. She inspired me so much. I became a huge fan after working with her. At first I knew “No Doubt” but when I started working with her and how much work she put into everything, how talented she is, I became a huge fan. She’s very beautiful inside and out.
ASIANCE: How did she pick you as the dancer ‘Music’?
Rino: Oh my god. I was so happy. Before we met Gwen, the four girls were fighting for Music and I was like, ‘I think I’m Music’ and then the first person she came up to she pointed at me and said, ‘You’re Music.’ I was like, “Yeaaah!!”
ASIANCE: It was a special connection?
Rino: She just knew my vibe. And in that way the first thing she came up with was something for me. But every name went perfectly for each girl.
ASIANCE: Is it kind of like acting, the different dancing roles you have had like sexy vs. tough?
Rino: I think it goes both ways. Like, I love dance and that’s my life, the air I breathe. So dancing is me and it’s natural. But when it comes to certain things, for example Harajuku Girls, I had to act. I had to dance sexy as Music and stuff like that, so yeah it’s acting. It’s still Rino but I had to become somebody else. So I think it goes both ways.
ASIANCE: What do you say to the people who have said the Harajuku Girls are perpetuating some stereotype?
Rino: I never heard that! Ok, well I see the Harajuku girl as different from the girls we know in Japan because it was an image created by Gwen and she just took the idea from people she would see. It is true that Japanese people come out with crazy fashion styles. Harajuku is not just one style there is like Gothic Girl, High School Girl, everybody has mad different styles so I mean, you know, it was completely Gwen’s version about how she would see the Harajuku Girl.
See Rino in the pink headband
ASIANCE: You are the perfect Harajuku girl!
Rino: When I first started I was like, “I’m from Okinawa!” But Gwen let me be who I am so then I learned how to become ‘Music’. It took a while but I adapted to my character.
ASIANCE: Do you wear the perfume then from Gwen’s Harajuku line?
Rino: I love LOVE, G and L
ASIANCE: So what’s in the future for you?
Rino: Oh my God, I honestly don’t even know what the future holds. I want to continue dancing with Beat Freaks and Harajuku but I have no idea and am excited about it. And I really, really want to work for Michael. That’s my goal, working for Michael Jackson.
ASIANCE: When did you first see him on tv?
Rino: Oh my god I don’t remember. My mom was the one who got me in, watching the Moonwalk video. I happened to be there and when I watched it I was like, “Who is this guy, why are people going crazy after him?” And it didn’t take long to become his fan. He got me, his voice, his music, that’s all I can say. He helped me as a dancer because I’ve always loved to dance but he taught me to perform. When I perform I think of Janet or Michael.
ASIANCE: And that’s when you perfected the Moonwalk for the first time?
Rino: Yes. I think when I was in the fifth grade. I was just trying to perfect dancing like Michael. I just copied Michael, Janet Jackson and watched MC Hammer and TLC.
ASIANCE: So you inspired your classmates back then to dance too?
Rino: Yeah, I made them. I would like, create Okinawa’s TLC. I would get the classmates together to do like a Sister Act 2 Musical- it was fun. I don’t know if I did inspire everyone but it was definitely fun for everybody, I know that.
ASIANCE: Is your crew ever influenced by moves from the other teams or vice versa?
Rino: We have to do both because we don’t want to recreate what other crews did but at the same time we don’t get to see the others during rehearsal. We are so excited and entertained just to watch but we have to also be serious about it and learn from it. We can’t get caught up with what other people do too much and I think that’s what every crew has to do.
ASIANCE: So what two teams do you think will be the last?
Rino: Oh my god. To be honest, everybody’s so different. I cannot do what Ringmaster does, for example, my bones would break! It’s hard to say. I mean it’s so unpredictable because everybody is so different.
ASIANCE: I bet you’ll win!
Rino: Thanks! We hope so.
ASIANCE: Do you think there are any limitations or differences based on being female or male with any dance moves?
Rino: I mean of course guys’ muscles are bigger than ours. There is some stuff we can’t do but at the same time, we represent strong females. And we have two amazing B-girls who can like smoke any guys. It’s about skill, not being a female or a guy. It’s about dance so we try to do that and represent females. Also Ringmaster grew up in that style. So it is comparing different cultures and styles. I love their style so much. Of course we can’t do Ringmaster’s stuff but we represent our own skills. That’s why I enjoy this season so much because everybody brings so many styles. I think it will be so interesting to have one competition with the same choreography, my idea.
ASIANCE: That would be so cool, you should suggest it!
Rino: Haha, yeah!
ASIANCE: So who have you admired in your life, dancing wise?
Rino: There are so many people who inspired, admired and influenced me! Groovaloos, Electric Boogaloos, Rock Steady Crew, Tone and Rich Talauega, Hi Hat, Tina Landon, Anthony Thomas, Travis Payne, Shotyme, Jamaica, Ro Ro, Super Dave, Ed Moore, Dante Harper, Swoop, Jason Wright, Chonique and Lisette, Ciselly and Olisa, Flo Master, Flea Rock, B-boy Legacy, Jeskillz, Go Go brothers, Lockadelick, U-min, Hamutsunsabu, and list goes on….. Too many talented people……. and Thanks to them so much!!!
ASIANCE: Do you practice at home too, in the mirror?
Rino: I have a little dance studio in my house and I teach class, so I use that to create choreography. I get caught up with watching my stomach trying to flex.
ASIANCE: What inspires your choreography when brainstorming?
Rino: I think Michael is the most awesome one. Nobody can mess with Michael. Nobody. Sometimes I just start to freestyle and the move comes up. But I would say music is the most important thing. I listen to it 100 times and start imagining what kind of move it goes in my head or body.
ASIANCE: So what’s the next show going to be like?
Rino: I’m just excited! I don’t even know what we are going to do yet but the theme is hilarious and I can’t wait.
ASIANCE: Are there any other things you wanted to add?
Rino: All I can say is I am so thankful for life. I have a wonderful family and friends who have been supportive of me 100%, and I have been so blessed to be living my dreams. Right now, I am on MTV’s ABDC which has been an incredible experience for Beat Freaks.. Thanks to MTV! I am so happy to be with my girls doing a once in a lifetime opportunity! and Thank you so much to those who have been voting for us, supporting on our website, youtube, and giving us amazing comments! Big love to 5 and A Dime thank you for making “Freak the Vote” shirts! (please get it at their web at www.5andadime.com)and all the companies that gave us dope gear and shoes!!! Thank you!!
Also, I have my website but I really don’t have any upcoming events except the show. I teach class too. Maryss and I and actually, a lot of the Beat Freaks, we teach at this dance studio called Debbie Reynolds Studio!
ASIANCE: Thanks so much! Break a leg!!!
Rino: Thank you so much, thank you!!
Main photo above by Kurt Kim