Osaka born and bred dancer Kyoka possesses otherworldly skills. After studying karate as a kid, she made the jump to freestyle dancer and quickly became a meteoric force on the scene.
She applied her martial arts mindset in the studio and elevated her technique to new heights. By the age of eight, her unique musical prowess and experimental flow had already caught the attention of formidable freestyler and hip-hop dancer Maika. That same year, the duo formed their iconic crew, Rushball.
Kyoka quickly gained traction with Rushball, thanks in part at least to her fierce confidence. She carved out a name for herself as a chameleon of her craft, someone who could master any genre she put her mind to. All this led her to train with top dancers and martial artists across the globe and remix a broad range of styles, including capoeira, flamenco and shorinji, with her hugely original flavour.
Kyoka learns shorinji
Having trained with a kung fu master, hip-hop dancer Kyoka shows off her new shorinji martial arts skills.
On an average week in Osaka, you can catch hip-hop heads and new-gen dancers queuing down the block to jam with Kyoka in the studio and learn a piece of her hype choreography at one of her classes.
A quick swipe through her Instagram proves the dexterity of her skillset and artistic finesse. Behind the lens, she captures her students and routines in highly-stylised frames of pure aesthetic appeal. She swerves from '90s R 'n' B to old-school hip-hop, funk, chopped-up synth to afro-beats in front of the lens with intoxicating feminine energy, bold confidence, explosive creativity and an enigmatic flow.
The opportunity to catch Kyoka for a chat is rare, to say the least. Since starting out, she's clocked up clout within the scene, a host of battle wins, a worldwide fanbase and locked down fashion campaigns with the likes of Calvin Klein, Nike Air Max, adidas Superstar and BABY-G.
Kyoka's schedule is packed, but she's quick to confirm she's got no interest in getting caught up in her hype. In light of all that went down in 2020, she's keeping her focus on having fun, being open to new challenges, doing what she wants to do and dancing the way she wants to dance.
All in all, Kyoka's a dancer from whom you can always expect the unexpected. Here she shares a glimpse with us about her journey thus far and why she's a dancer you can't afford to sleep on in the future.
1. Karate led Kyoka to dance
"When I was a child, I had to do karate. After I quit karate, I tried to find something else, another hobby. At the time in Japan, in the late '90s there were a lot of Japanese "dancing" idols who were a big trend. That, with hip-hop, got my attention, and that's how I started dancing. There was a particular group of idols, this girl group who were pretty major called Morning Musume (which means 'Morning Girls' in English) who got me into it and were one of my early influences you could say."
2. It runs in the family
"I do bring the karate essence into my dance style. I remember a lot of the form, precision, positions and the way I move my feet from karate, so right now I kinda mix that in and combine that with my dance. I learnt capoeira and my family is really into contact sports, mixed martial arts and wrestling as well. So it's in my blood. I take all of that as an influence and bring it into the way I move."
3. She's shut down stereotypes
"The style I started dancing with was freestyle, but you could say my base style or the one I'm tethered to is hip-hop. What makes my style different is that I've always been open-minded to incorporating other genres into it and be out of the box with my freestyles. It's hard for female dancers to dance powerfully and be respected for that, so my goal with hip-hop is to be very powerful and shut down the stereotypes. As for genres, I'm really into Afrobeat right now."
4. Her inspiration and influences come from culture and traditions
"There are two things that I get a lot of my creative inspiration from and that influence my dance. One is movies. The films that inspire me artistically are not always the expected ones like action or arthouse or something, but more movies that bring deep emotion. The other is getting in touch with Japanese traditions whether that comes from architecture, fashion, culture"
5. She sees her future on the stage
"I'm not super-motivated by the idea of becoming a back-up dancer for artists, but I have had a reoccurring goal to take on the challenge as choreographer or dancer with the right one. I'm currently planning on doing something really dope by back-up dancing with a legendary singer in Japan. But if I had the opportunity to be a backing dancer for an international artist, it would be Beyoncé or Usher. Real legendary R 'n' B singers who've been on the scene for a long time."
6. She's motivated by fun
“My first goal was to beat and be better than Maika. Setting the goal to beat your own partner was the best way to improve. Now, the next challenge coming up is a big battle that I'll do with my students that I’m choreographing as well and is really chill. The biggest thing that motivates me to keep dancing is to have fun”
7. She's out to create her own fashion line
"My favourite brands are Ralph Lauren and Evisu. I've loved the fashion scene for a while now. Another one of the big challenges I want to do next is to make my own line from scratch. It wouldn't necessarily be street wear and definitely not the typical dance fashion that's out there. Not luxury either, but it will have an edge that represents my style."
8. Kyoka follows the flow
"When it comes to fame or getting hype as a dancer, I just happen to be here. I love to dance. The only thing I could ever do is dance, but I never really had a dream that I could have a career from it. You know, there weren't any big moments when I knew I was "making it" or that it would become something like what it is now. I've just always done what I wanted to do and danced the way I wanted to dance. "
9. It's about expressing herself
"I used to be shy, but I followed the advice of one of my teachers to give in to the beat, let myself go and be free and that woke confidence in me that changed the way I danced forever. I realized dancing shows your personality like a mirror and how much I could express myself through that. Right now, I don't really have specific competitions I want to win. I'm not into battling, but I'm really into creating content, showing my roots and traditional Japanese culture."
Check out the example below:
10. She knows the importance of broadening your horizons
“My advice or words for upcoming dancers are to try to expand your horizons. Challenge everything and experiment. There might be things that you like or that you don't like, and when you don't like something, try and think of why you don't like this specific style or move. Don't think only in the box and focus on getting better and better at what you like. Push yourself out of the box, expand your vision and this will elevate and change your dance style into different forms.”
“The new-gen dancers in Japan lack that now and tend to only dance one style like pure hip-hop, or only locking or only popping. And not just Japan, but I think all the dancers coming up should not just do one style, but challenge themselves to experiment with as many styles as possible. That will make your skills greater, make you more technically diverse, get you booked for more gigs and lead to more opportunities. More than that, your dance and you will become more creative and original.”