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Meet Eri Chikusa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eri Chikusa.

Eri, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It is such a ride when I think back about it. Each one of the experiences and events shaped me to this date. My first gateway to dancing was getting to the ballet classes, which my mom put me into when I was five years old in my hometown in Japan. I was a ballerina for five years; however, my life busy because of school, so I ended up quitting. When I was in middle school, my dream was to become a backup dancer for this one artist group there that I really liked at the moment; they have dancers and singer in a group and perform as a whole. Eleven years later, after I quitted ballet, I restarted my dance journey with Hip Hop, Jazz, Contemporary, Lock, House, and Krump. I trained those genres in three years of my high school.

I moved to Tokyo to attend university (it was my excuse to be in the Tokyo dance community), and started to train with various worldwide known teaches such as s**t Kingz, a dance artist team consisted with four people, Yoshiki, a dancer who experience so many stages as a backup dancer, and many more. Eventually, I discovered the LA dance community LA through YouTube, such as Brian Puspos, Shaun Evaristo, Ian Eastwood, Jonny Erazme, Amanda Grind, Lyle Beniga and many more. I gradually developed the feeling of wanting to train in LA, and first, I decided to travel back and forth Japan and LA from 2013 to 2015 to train myself there.

In 2014, I met Keone and Mari Madrid, who are choreographers/dancer from San Diego, in Japan. I came to admire their dance approach and wanted to train/dance with them. So when I was visiting LA, I made my way down to SD just to train with them. After I established a relationship with them, the idea of moving to the US came to my mind.

In 2016, I made the big move; relocated myself to the states. I was training in LA at first, but I ended up moving to San Diego because I wanted to train with Keone and Mari, as well as, wanted to join Choreo Cookies, which is a professional dance team that they were on. I worked really hard to be in the San Diego dance community, but at the same time, it was such an organic process. Eventually, I was given opportunities to perform with San Diego community dancers in many places, worked with Keone and Mari, trained both in SD and LA, thriving to be a better dancer.

In the end of 2017, I became a member of Choreo Cookies, which is my dream team as a first international member. Through this accomplishment, I want to tell all international folks who want to achieve their dream that nothing is impossible. From there, many positive events came into my dance journey. I was invited to Singapore to perform a dance show and teach there, went to Canada as a guest performer, performed in many competitions, such as Vibe Dance Competition and Arena Dance Competition, and winning or placing them and many more. Aside from achievements as a member/choreographer of Choreo Cookies, I was able to work with Sorah Yang, a choreographer, Ian Eastwood, Keone and Mari, and many more.

I signed with one of the greatest agencies in the US, Go 2 Talent Agency in 2019. I’d like to think that this whole journey of mine is connected to this moment. My work ethic and personal philosophy resonate with GTA, and I truly look up to all the talents there; I became one of them. From there, I was given paid job opportunities here in LA, such as being a part of Daddy Yankee’s Music Video, which has 672 million views, performing at Latin AMA with Daddy Yankee, performing with Amber Liu at Unforgettable Gala, and so on.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
To be completely honest, no. Language boundary was a huge part of it as a person from Japan. Even though I’m more fluent, sometimes, it was hard to keep the conversations going until I got the humor here as well as, I didn’t have reachable friends here when I moved. The only people I had a connection with was choreographers because I’ve met them prior to moving here. Therefore, there are only few people I could hang out with outside of the classroom setting or rehearsal setting. To sum up, the hardest part of me was trying to be in the community and connecting with them.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
In the LA dance industry, I am represented by Go 2 Talent Agency, one of the top agencies in LA. The most-proud of being on GTA as a professional dancer/performer and their strength is that they personalize the job they give to me. This means they understand what I desire to do as a dancer in the industry and how I wanted to be represented by them. In my opinion, it is hard to find an agency which fits your persona right away, but I was able to find the right one. As well as, they actually believe in my talent. They trust me.

What really unique about me is that since I have been on a professional dance team, which is consisted of 25 members and more for years, I can see the situation with a bigger picture and be selfless. Meaning that I know how to dance clean, but also I know how to express myself when it is appropriate. Nowadays, they are so many dancers who are good at self-expression, which is important. However, there are fewer dancers who can dance clean, which is the skill required in professional jobs; you need to know how to do both. With those experiences that I have, I know how to dance as a unit, and that sets me apart from others in the dance industry.

What were you like growing up?
I was an outgoing, competitive, creative, and always striving to be better when I was a kid, and still am. The interests that I have really shaped my personality, or maybe I was this type of person so I had these interests. I was really interested in painting, brush writing and creating, but also always liked to be outside and play when I was little. All these interests I had was carried from my mom when I think about it now.

My mom was in a painting class and also was taking me to the museum frequently when my parents had jobs in New York. I don’t think I was feeling something when I was in the museum or painting, but I remember I was purely enjoying it. When I was creating something from scratch, it excited me because the idea of my vision/imagination is going to become real was really cool to me.

For brush writing, there is no specific reason, but I was the type of kid who is going to be really into stuff if I like something. Brush writing requires a lot of focus and need to be in the meditational state. In my brush writing class, we need to pass tests in order to learn the next step, so my personality came in, and ended up continuing for 12 years.

My loving physical activities led me to start basketball when I was in middle school for three years. This happened the gap years when I wasn’t dancing after I quit ballet. I belonged to my middle school basketball team and trained. Not only that, I purely enjoy playing basketball, but I loved the feeling of me getting better the more I practice. And “there is no I in team” mentality really spoke to me at the time. I still use what I learned from these interests into my dancing or the way I see the world. As well as I do feel that it all connecting to me started to admire dancing.

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Image Credit:
Ibuki Kobayashi
Rita Mae
Getty Image

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