Japanese kids tear up the dance floor and win 1st place in the youth category of the World of Dance competition

RocketNews 24:

There was an overflow of talent, skilled dancers, and amazing performances at the World of Dance competition held in Los Angeles last month, but this boy’s dance group from Japan made a particularly strong impression on the audience. Not only were their moves awe-inspiring and beautifully synchronized, but the fact that everyone in the group was of high school age or younger made their dance all the more incredible.

Watch the full video below and be blown away by the high-flying flips, spins, and awesome soundtrack!

The World of Dance competition was held on August 16 in Los Angeles, and the youth break dancing group Kyushudanji Shinsengumi (九州男児新鮮組) from Japan really stole the show with their number, taking first place in the youth category and inspiring waves of awe throughout the Japanese community on Twitter.

Taiwanese-French-American ballet dancer Mickael Jou’s breathtaking self-portraits

Mickael Jou is a unique self-portraitist. A Taiwanese-French-American living in Berlin, he takes self-portraits combining two arts: photography and dance.

A trained dancer, I used to perform ballet and modern dance in the streets of Paris. Tourists would quite often photograph and film me in action in Paris, and after seeing the pictures taken of me, I decided that I should try it out. Ad so I bought a camera and read the instruction manual. 

My self-portraits help me express the emotions that I feel while dancing. Dance is a very powerful art form, and I try to translate my emotions into my photography.

Mickael plans to take 365 dance self-portraits and has already been working on this project for more than 3 years.

More info: Tumblr | Facebook | Instagram | mickaeljou.com

Photo source: mickaeljou.tumblr.com

Stella Abrera becomes first Filipino American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre 

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Audrey Magazine (by Ethel Navales):

The American Ballet Theatre has been releasing quite a handful of exciting news lately. You’ve probably already heard about Misty Copeland becoming the first African American principal dancer with the company, but Copeland isn’t the only one making history in American Ballet Theatre, which is now in its 75th year.

Stella Abrera has just become the very first Filipino American to rise to principal ranking, the highest position in any ballet company. Abreba will be performing the title role in the American Ballet Theatre’s  production of Cinderella. Sound like a real-life fairytale? Abreba seems to think so too.

It is a dream come true,” she said of her new position and role. “Every young dancer who joins a large company has dreams of becoming a principal. Once you’ve spent a few years in a company, you realize how much it takes to get to that level.”

Abreba has been studying dance since the age of 5 and joined the American Ballet Theatre at the age of 17 in 1996. Despite her many years with the company, she admits that becoming principal dancer can be an overwhelming and sometimes unrealistic goal. Instead she focused on the joy she felt while dancing and strived to give her very best during every performance.

I feel extremely lucky and blessed that I’ve been granted this recognition,” she said. “I always had a hope, but it was never my ultimate goal at this point in my career. My ultimate goal was to present the best art that I could every time . … I’m completely over the moon.

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It seems Abreba succeeded in impressing audiences during her many, many performances. According to the American Ballet Theatre’s press release, Abreba has an incredible amount of experience under her belt:

Her repertoire with ABT includes Calliope in Apollo, Gamzatti in La Bayadère, the Ballerina in The Bright Stream, the Fairy Godmother in Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, Gulnare in Le Corsaire, Mercedes and the Driad Queen in Don Quixote, Helena in The Dream, Giselle, Myrta and the peasant pas de deux in Giselle, Manon in Lady of the Camellias, Lescaut’s Mistress in Manon, His Friend’s Wife in The Moor’s Pavane, Clara, the Princess in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, Emilia in Othello, the Older Sister in Pillar of Fire, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, the Lilac Fairy and Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty, the pas de trois in Swan Lake, leading roles in Airs, Bach Partita, Baker’s Dozen, Ballet Imperial, Birthday Offering, The Brahms-Haydn Variations, C. to C. (Close to Chuck), Fancy Free, In the Upper Room, The Leaves Are Fading, Petite Mort, Sinfonietta, Les Sylphides, Symphonic Variations, Symphonie Concertante, Symphony #9, Symphony in C, Thirteen Diversions, Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison, Without Words. Abrera created the Spanish Dance in Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, the Fairy Violente (Temperament) in Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty and leading roles in Pretty Good Year and Seven Sonatas. Abrera received the Gold Medal at the Royal Academy of Dancing’s Adeline Genée Awards in London in 1995. She has performed as a guest artist across the United States and Europe, as well as with The Australian Ballet, The Royal New Zealand Ballet and Ballet Philippines.

Despite her inspiring achievements, her parents, who have always been her biggest supporters despite the fact that she is the very first dancer in the family, admits that she will always be their little girl who is simply doing what she has always loved.

We really don’t realize how famous she is,” her parents laughed. “We just think of her as just our daughter.”

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12 year old Filipino kids, Lucky and AC of hip hop dance duo “Lucky Aces” perform on Ellen

Their names are Ac Boni­facio and Lucky Ancheta! Both are 12 years old from Vancou­ver, Canada. They started dancing when they were pretty small kids; about 3 and a half years old and called their duo “The Lucky Aces”. The director of Fresh Groove Production Cesar Tan­toco and Coach Mark Doguillo saw the kids dancing in differ­ent events and competitions and saw a dancing talent in them.

They decided to start a duo with these two talented kids and named them “Lucky Aces” Taken from their first names “Lucky and Ac” Since they started dancing, they joined different big Hip Hop dance competi­tions locally and internation­ally.

KoreAm: South Korean ballerina Hee Seo dazzles in ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

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KoreAm (by James S. Kim):

There are a few perks to being an artist in New York City. Hee Seo is always surrounded by classical arts performances, many of them featuring her friends, with whom she goes out for drinks and food. There’s also the occasional Broadway show she can pop into as well.

Seo (pronounced “Suh”) sees herself as a “normal 28-year-old girl” in the city. But not many can claim to be a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), one of the world’s most renowned classical ballet companies located in NYC.

The Seoul native began ballet lessons at age 12 without any thought of going professional, but after being awarded a three-year scholarship to attend the Universal Ballet Academy (now the Kirov Academy of Ballet) in Washington, D.C., Seo’s career took off. She studied at the John Cranko Ballet Academy in Stuttgart, Germany on a scholarship before being invited to join the ABT Studio Company in 2004.

It wasn’t easy: Seo had trained under a Russian syllabus, and the American styles and approach to dancing made for a difficult adjustment. But with the help of her mentors, she was able to adapt, even battling through a back injury. Seo climbed the ranks, beginning as an apprentice, then joining the corps de ballet.

Seo had been performing soloist roles since 2006, but she really had her breakthrough year in 2009, performing lead roles in Romeo and JulietLa SylphideOn the Dnieper and Desir. As Pointe Magazine put it, she was already demonstrating the mark of a true ballerina with her “ability to carry a ballet and imbue it with her distinct aura for an audience of nearly 5,000 people.”

Hee SeoHee Seo. (Photo by Gene Schiavone)

Seo was promoted to soloist in August 2010, then to principal dancer in July 2012. Each ballerina brings her own style, personality and expertise to each role, and the New York Times’ Gia Kourlas described Seo’s dancing as “[exuding] an unhurried purity that sums up all that is lovely about ballet. But while dramatic, Ms. Seo is also unassuming: as her delicate back and arms melt into place, Ms. Seo fills the stage with serenity. You see a person as much as a dancer.”

This past weekend, Seo reprised one of her leading roles as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty alongside longtime partner Cory Stearns (Prince Charming) for a rare West Coast swing. Seo spoke with KoreAm by phone last Friday, a day after the first of two performances of The Sleeping Beauty before packed audiences at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Seo discussed her preparation for the role, and how her love of classical ballet allows her to tackle the physically and emotionally demanding challenges of professional ballet. She also mentioned how her family, particularly her parents, continue to fuss over her—and how she has no problem with it.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

As a ballerina, what is the most important aspect of yourself that you bring to a performance like this?

Seo: A lot of people ask me, “What do you want audiences to feel when they see your performances?” I want them to be completely lost in the ballet, the show, and not think about what they have done that day, or the stress or the problems they had before—just enjoy. Ultimately, ballet is about love and human feeling.

The Sleeping Beauty is a beautiful ballet. I had an opening-night dinner with some donors of ABT, and the placement setting said, “A kiss can change everything.” It’s true, and it’s so nice.

I love to dance, and I think people can just simply enjoy it.

ABT The Sleeping Beauty - photo by Doug Gifford (15)Seo as Princess Aurora, center, with partner Cory Stearns as Prince Charming.

Regarding the theme, do you “lose yourself” in that as well?

I try to. That’s my ultimate goal. There’s so many things that I need to be aware of: the lighting, the set, costumes, people around you, the steps. The ballet itself is very challenging. You try to be on pointe, on your toe, on balance. There’s a lot of things going on in my head.

I’ve been working with ABT for almost 10 years now—nine years. I think over the course of that time, I tried and learned how to lose myself in that and not think about other things—just like what I ask of the audience. Just come in and enjoy yourself.

Who have been your biggest influences?

Many people. My coach, Irina Kolpakova, she’s a legendary ballerina from Mariinsky Theater in Russia. She’s my coach, and I’ve been working with her since I joined the company, she’s my biggest influence and mentor. I think she knows more than I know about myself, because we really share a lot of time in the studio and outside of the studio. I tell her everything. She’s 80 years old—she just had her birthday. She’s the most positive, energetic person I’ve ever met in my whole life.

When I come into the studio, sometimes I’m tired and I don’t want to do anything. But when I see her, she’s like, full of energy—she fills you with that positive energy. I learned how to carry myself with positive energy from her.

Also, all the dancers from ABT—people who just stand on the side, or who aren’t even dancing on pointe, they’re always supporting me when I’m dancing. They always do their best to bring the best performance on stage.

Also, there are three [principal] ballerinas who are retiring this year. … [They] were great dancers who made this company very famous and on the top level. Now, they’re on their way out, and there’s a new corps of principal dancers, and I have to carry that weight on my shoulder.

I loved working with them. They have been so helpful and taught me what they knew—how to be a principal dancer at ABT, how to communicate with people, how to be normal and not a big-headed diva. (laughs)

Did you think you were a big-headed diva when you first joined ABT?

I think everybody who comes into ABT at first, everyone has a huge ego. They were first in their own class, or they did great in competitions. They were always treated as princesses or princes. When they come to ABT, you have to start from the back of the line, and then you slowly learn where you really stand in the professional ballet world, not back in school.

I know some people get annoyed when young dancers come in and they do their own thing, and they aren’t aware of senior dancers, but I always think, give them a little time. They will learn by themselves, and I think I was like that. I just didn’t know; it’s not that I was a big-headed diva, but I just didn’t know what to do and what it was like to be a professional dancer.

I only knew from my own school. I came into the professional world, and everything changed. Everyone adjusts, and that takes some time.

The company is filled with great, kind people. Everyone is willing to help each other. I think the environment is very healthy and happy. People adapt over time. I don’t think…there are big-headed divas in the company. (laughs)

ABT Sleeping Beatuy- March 3 by Doug GIfford (3)Sleeping Beauty

What are some of the strengths you recognize in yourself?

Actually, yesterday afternoon, Kevin McKenzie, our artistic director, came in and told me, “You could improve your [emotional gestures].”

I saw myself on video, and I thought that I was doing extra gestures. I thought I was losing the [grace of] classical ballet, so I actually wanted to hold it back a little bit. Kevin said, “It’s impossible not to be graceful for you, so I think you can do a little more.” It was a big compliment.

I have the grace of classical ballet innately, because I was trained in classical ballet. But I think I need to work on powerful steps, like out of my box, more excitement in my dancing. That’s what I’ve been working on with my coach.

I think it’s all about how you present yourself. That’s something I work on all the time, rather than the technical stuff. A lot of things I could do, without a problem.

What keeps you moving forward and constantly trying to improve?

I love what I do. (laughs) It sounds so cheesy, but I really do. I love waking up in the morning, going to the ballet studio.

We begin our day at 10:15 at ballet class, when we warm up all together. We have a very old studio in New York, but it has a big window overlooking Broadway. The sun shines in, and there’s always light and music playing.

Even though sometimes I don’t want to go to work, when I get there, it gives me such comfort. It feels really good. Without class, I don’t feel like my day is starting.

After the show last night, I was so exhausted, but I went into class this morning. I love working with my friends, I love going into the studio. I think it’s really a gift that I get to do what I love to do.

After a performance like last night, how tired do you get?

It depends on the ballet, and for the ballerinas, every performance is challenging. In particular,Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, they’re really hard on the body because the steps are really challenging. The hours—running full force for a few hours is quite tiring, with the costume changes, and my nerve is going. Our legs get shot.

For me, after the performance, I still have that excitement, it’s still going. Last night, I couldn’t go to bed until like 4 a.m. My body was tired, but I woke up at 7.

You get used to it, like how basketball players, they run and work like crazy. But they train that way. Their body works like that. And we are the same way—we work hard, and we train this way.

Sometimes, I’m amazed at what our bodies can do when you train it. Sometimes—this is out of my own curiosity—I love what I do, and also I’m curious how far I can go with my own body. Every day, every performance, I want to push it a little more.

How do your parents react to your performances now? Do they still worry over you?

They do. They actually visited me in New York a couple of weeks ago. All my family lives in Korea, so it’s a long trip to see me, and it was only for four days. They wanted to see my new apartment, see how I live. I left for ballet school when I was 12 or 13, so they still think of me as that teenage girl.

They’re always concerned about me day to day. We have our family group chat on KakaoTalk, and my mom always says, “Have a good show! Are you eating properly? How’s your body?” They take care of me. That’s their job.

Sometimes, I’m like, “Mom, I’m old enough.” I’ve lived by myself for a long time, so I’m OK, but sometimes I like that. When I got to work or elsewhere, I have so much pressure, and I have to be on top of everything. When I go home, I can be their daughter, I can be taken care of. At first, I didn’t like it, but now I love it. When they visit me, they clean my apartment for me, laundry, cook—I love it, I enjoy it.

Disney’s Baymax appears in curry, hot pots, and more, thanks to cheesy food-based pun

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RocketNews 24:

You might not guess it, given the country’s well-known acceptance of stoicism as an admirable virtue, but Japan absolutely loves puns. In fact, the characteristics of the Japanese language, such as multiple potential pronunciations for the same kanji character, make it a veritable pun-producing machine.

For example, the character for “rice,” 米, is usually read as kome. When it’s combined with other characters, though, it’s read as mai or bei, with the latter being pronounced like the English word “bay.”

Of course, that also means bei is pronounced like the first half of Baymax, the loveable caretaker/combat robot from Disney’s Big Hero 6. And now that Japanese fans of the film have figured out how to put a little rice into Baymax, they’re also coming up with ways to put a little Baymax into their meals by making Baymax curry rice, rice balls, and nabe hot pots.

You can thank pop idol Haruna Kojima for kicking off the culinary trend. Earlier this month, the AKB48 member found herself with some extra time on her hands, so rather than make a plain old plate of curry rice, she decided to shape the fluffy white grains into a likeness of Baymax, adding two small, connected circles of dried seaweed to recreate his simple facial expression.

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Identifying her creation as Baymax, but written with the kanji for rice, Kojima posted the above photo to her Instagram account, where it put smiles on the faces and rumbles in the stomachs of all who gazed upon its appetite-stimulating cuteness. Even better, in contrast to the difficulty in trying to craft an edible version of Pokémon’s Pikachu or Yo-Kai Watch’s Jibanyan, Baymax’s soft, simple form and almost entirely white color scheme means that just about everyone can manage this cooking project, as proven by the steady stream of Rice-max photos that have been popping up since.

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View image on Twitter

Even six weeks after its release, Big Hero 6 is still going strong in Japan, wherepositive word of mouth about the films variety of action, comedy, and heartfelt emotion made it the highest-grossing movie in the country last weekend, just like it was for the three weekends before that. It’s a testament to the film’s broad appeal that stretches beyond just the kiddie demographic, and includes fans old enough to enjoy a little alcoholic refreshment with their Baymax curry.
View image on Twitter

Of course, Japan has a lot more ways to eat rice than just covering it with curry roux. How about a Baymax oyako-don, a rice bowl with chicken, egg, and the cuddly robot?

View image on Twitter

If you’re after even lighter fare, you can combine rice and miso soup, which is also a great way to make use of leftovers of the two Japanese staples.

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It’s also worth bearing in mind that the rice/bei/Baymax pun still holds up even if you’re not using plain white rice. For example, mochi (rice cakes) are just as appropriate for adding a dash of Disney to your hot pot.

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