To say that Kevin “TOKYO” Inouye is in demand as a teacher and choreographer is an understatement. Just listening to him describe his hectic schedule can induce a serious case of jet lag—he travels between three to seven cities per week. Dancers across the globe can’t get enough of his unique style—a blend of contemporary technique, body undulations and staccato hip-hop-inspired moves. But his biggest influence is martial arts. “About a third of the movements I teach in class are inspired by martial arts,” says TOKYO, who holds five black belts in disciplines from karate to judo and has trained in wrestling, Muay Thai, boxing and mixed martial arts/cage fighting.

 

Born in Honolulu, TOKYO didn’t begin taking dance classes until he was a senior in high school, but his background as a competitive martial artist paid off in the dance world. Early on he learned that his heart was in teaching rather than performing. Quickly gaining a following, he went on to become co-director of the Hall of Fame Dance Challenge competition for four years, and he’s currently on faculty with several conventions. His main teaching ground is Millennium Dance Complex in L.A., where he focuses on helping students dance in a way that feels organic, similar to the instinctive movements of a martial artist. “Trying to get dancers—who have been trained since they learned to walk to do unnatural things—to do natural things is very difficult,” he says. “I use a lot of analogies, so instead of dancers doing a plié, we’re just human beings bending down to pick a bag up off the floor.”

 

And, to help students let go, TOKYO includes improvisation in his classes whenever possible. “The problem in the dance industry is that you can spend your whole life doing what somebody else tells you to do,” he says. “Improv is the best way for an artist to get back to who they really are.” Here, TOKYO shares the music that inspires his dancers to be themselves.

 

Artist: Mateo

Album: Mateo Music

 

“Mateo’s music is the best warm-up music in the world. He sets a beautiful tone and vibration for class. It’s his own genre, similar to R&B, which creates a lovable tone that calms everybody down and takes them to a peaceful zone.”

 

Artist: Sigur Rós

Album: Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust

 

“I use Sigur Rós for contemporary choreography. It has a slower pace, which I like for pieces in which I’m trying to build a story. And the songs are patient with how they build, so it’s great when I choreograph longer works.”

 

Artist: Jónsi

Album: Go

 

“Jónsi is the lead singer of Sigur Rós who also has his own album. I use his music for improvisation, since it has a lot of instrumental layers. We’ll concentrate on dancing just to the guitar, for example, and not the other instruments. That way, students work on musicality. Also, whenever we work with slower, more delicate movement in class, I turn to Jónsi. His songs are rich, warm and conducive to softer dancing.”

 

Artist: Drehz

Song: “Run Away With Me”

 

“Recently I’ve been working with music producer Drehz, an old high school friend. I’ll give him my ideas for choreography, and we go from there. Rather than trying to throw my choreography on top of music that’s already made, we’re able to build the emotion of the story as we go along. His music, which is now on iTunes, is mostly instrumental with a wide variety of rhythms, so it’s perfect for class combinations and improvisation.”

 

Artist: Ade Obayomi

 

“For my more aggressive jazz contemporary, I’ve been using mixes by Ade Obayomi (from So You Think You Can Dance). He remixes other artists’ music, adding in beats and rhythms. The songs are stressful. You think, ‘Oh my God, I have to hit all that?’ But it’s a good test—both choreographing to it and dancing to it challenges your musicality.”

 

(photo courtesy of www.ASHProductions.com)

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via Instagram

Happy Father's Day to all of the dance dads in the world! Whether you're professional dancers, dance teachers, dance directors or simply just dance supporters, you are a key ingredient to what makes the dance world such a happy, thriving place, and we love you!

To celebrate, here are our four favorite Instagram dance dads. Prepare to say "Awwwwwwwweeeeeee!!!!!!"

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Teaching arabesque can be a challenge for educators and students alike. Differences in body types, flexibility and strength can leave dancers feeling dejected about the possibility of improving this essential position.

To help each of us in our quest for establishing beautiful arabesques in our students without bringing them to tears, we caught up with University of Utah ballet teacher Jennie Creer-King. After her professional career dancing with Ballet West and Oregon Ballet Theater and her years of teaching at the studio and college levels, she's become a bit of an arabesque expert.

Here she shares five important tips for increasing the height of your students' arabesques.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jennifer Kleinman, courtesy of Danell Hathaway

It's high school dance concert season, which means a lot of you K–12 teachers are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed. The long nights of editing music, rounding up costumes and printing programs are upon you, and we salute you. You do great work, and if you just hang on a little while longer, you'll be able to bathe in the applause that comes after the final Saturday night curtain.

To give you a bit of inspiration for your upcoming performances, we talked with Olympus High School dance teacher Danell Hathaway, who just wrapped her school's latest dance company concert. The Salt Lake City–based K–12 teacher shares her six pieces of advice for knocking your show out of the park.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: I'm looking to create some summer rituals and traditions at my studio. What are some of the things you do?

A: Creating fun and engaging moments for your students, staff and families can have a positive impact on your studio culture. Whether it's a big event or a small gesture, we've found that traditions build connection, boost morale and create strong bonds. I reached out to a variety of studio owners to gather some ideas for you to try this summer. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Sam Williams and Jaxon Willard after competition at RADIX. Photo courtesy of Williams

Self-choreographed solos are becoming increasingly popular on the competition circuit these days, leading dance teachers to incorporate more creative mentoring into their rehearsal and class schedules. In this new world of developing both technical training and choreographic prowess, finding the right balance of assisting without totally hijacking a student's choreographic process can be difficult.

To help, we caught up with a teacher who's already braved these waters by assisting "World of Dance" phenom Jaxon Willard with his viral audition solos. Center Stage Performing Arts Studio company director Sam Williams from Orem, Utah, shares her sage wisdom below.

Check it out!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance studios are run by creative people with busy schedules, who have a love-hate relationship with props and sequins. The results of all this glitter and glam? General mass chaos in every drawer, costume closet and prop corner of the studio. Let's be honest, not many dance teachers are particularly known for their tidiness. The ability to get 21 dancers to spot in total synchronization? Absolutely! The stamina to run 10 solos, 5 group numbers, 2 ballet classes and 1 jazz class in one day? Of course! The emotional maturity to navigate a minefield of angry parents and hormonal teenagers? You know it!

Keeping the studio tidy? Well...that's another story.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox