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How hip-hop dancer Kyoka went from Osaka to lighting up the global stage

Hailing from Japan, Kyoka is an outstanding dancer from the hip-hop culture. Starting at the age of eight, she developed self-confidence through her dance and now shines on stages worldwide.
By FraGue Moser-Kindler
4 min readPublished on
Kyoka is a 21-year-old dancer, born and raised in Osaka, Japan. Together with her partner, Maika, she won the hip-hop category at Juste Debout 2016, defeating Jeems and Lil'Blade in the final. They founded their crew Rushball in 2004 and have been competing together since then. We met up with her to find out how she's gone from her roots in Osaka to exploding onto the global scene.
Hi Kyoka, how did you first get into dancing?
My two older brothers were doing karate when I was about six years old and both of them were very strong. Watching them win and get all these trophies motivated me, and made me start karate also, but I couldn’t become strong and win trophies like them. It was getting too frustrating, to the point I had to quit karate.
After that, when I was eight years old, I was looking for something to do and I found a dance studio near my house. So that's how I started dancing. At the studio, there was Maika, who was already an outstanding dancer as a first-grade student. I practised every day as much so I could to be able to dance like her.
It's been 13 years since I met Maika and we've been dancing together since then. As we’ve been together since we were little, she's like my sister to me. I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t met her, so she's one of the most important people to me. We're in the same crew, Rushball, which we founded in 2004.
Kyoka during a photo shoot for the production of Spring from the Vivaldi Series
Kyoka in the Gardens of Ninfa
Who were your teachers and inspiration?
My first teacher taught at the studio I practised at near my house, and since then I've been learning from WILD CHERRY and D‘OAM.
The biggest inspiration came from my partner Maika, Ibuki and Kazane. I can think of so many names, but they're the ones who I feel the closest and look up to.
What are your thoughts on the dance scene in Japan?
I feel like the Japanese dance scene is getting bigger and bigger every year, especially the kids‘ scene. I think Japan has the biggest kids' dance scene in the world.
The community is as split as everywhere. Sometimes we’re supporting each other, other times competing. I feel, with the Japanese personality, there are more people that are supportive of you and fewer people that want to fight.
Dancer Kyoka and choreographer Yaman in italy during the production of Spring.
Kyoka and Yaman
Tell us about your dance
I do mainly hip-hop, jazz and soul (party dance). I enjoy dancing soul the most. My style is based on old-school hip-hop laced with a softness coming from being a woman, as well as powerful dynamics.
Before I was a dancer, I had a hard time communicating with people other than my family. I improved this through dancing, and that changed my personality to be more open. I feel that dancing made me who I am now.
Routines or freestyle?
I used to do practice routines before, but I realised that it was making me think too much about the routine, rather than enjoying my dancing. So lately I’m all about freestyle as if I am searching for a different side of me and it's really fun.
What have been your career highlights so far and where do you want to go from here?
Winning Juste Debout gave me the most significant boost of confidence. After the competition, I started getting many opportunities to go abroad. We were the first Japanese crew to win the hip-hop category and since then the number of Japanese dancers that participate in French qualifiers have started to increase each year, which made me want to think I had an influence on the Japanese dancers challenging abroad. At the same time, I feel Juste Debout was only a single phase of my life, and that dance battles aren’t everything.
I was really surprised to be chosen as part of Red Bull Dance and really appreciate it! At the same time, I feel some pressure, but positively. My challenge is to use this opportunity to expand my career further!

How was the collaboration with Neguin?

It was a fantastic experience collaborating with him on the opening for the Juste Debout final. I was nervous because I didn‘t know him that well before the event, but he took the lead to support me and it was constructive.
If you could give any advice to upcoming dancers out there, what would it be?
There are only a handful of Japanese dancers going overseas now. I want more dancers to go abroad to see and feel the different scenes because it‘s so amazing to be able to sense it yourself, instead of just watching it on screen.
So my advice is: travel when you have the opportunity. 
What are your passionate about, outside the dance world?
I love music, photography, design and puzzles.