We had the good fortune of connecting with Kozue Kasahara and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kozue, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my success is not giving up. Fortunately, I could get a visa that allows me to work with my dance company, but the process of getting the visa was not easy at all. When I came to Los Angeles, I knew nothing about the LA dance industry and I was unknown to its dance scene since I spent most of my life in Japan. I also have never attended any dance competitions, so I did not have anything to prove that I am a great dancer, which made everything harder when applying for the artist visa. I graduated from college, then was allowed to work legally in the US for a year and there was an interesting story about how I could obtain the artist visa. As I mentioned in the previous article, I was afforded the chance to train with the Lula Washington Dance Theater after performing the International Association of Blacks in Dance in 2018. Lula Washington Dance Theatre is one of the biggest LA based modern dance companies and they hosted the conference that year.They invited dancers who performed to the after party. I decided to attend because I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet someone who might be able to help my situation and it really happened. I had to go back to Japan after the show because my student visa would expire in a few months and my lawyer told me I still did not have a well enough established career to be qualified for an artist visa. A few days after the party, my boss at that time called me and said, “Lula Washington is interested in working with you.” The reason they contacted me was because they liked my dancer’s physique. I laughed when I heard that, but I still think this was a miracle for me. If I did not attend the party, I would not be here. I did not give up pursuing my dream even when I went back home to Japan. I was back in Japan after my student visa expired. I still remember how nervous and unsure I was about whether I could get an artist visa or not while I was in Japan. Most people do not know how hard it is for us international people to work in the United States. To apply for a visa, you need to have tons of documents to be qualified. It took almost a year to obtain a visa. If I gave up looking for dance companies and completing visa works, I would not be here in LA dancing professionally. Also, I have confidence that I am not an ordinary dancer, so I kept believing that I could make it happen and one day become a professional dancer. Not giving up and believing yourself is a key to succeed in your career.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As I said, thanks to my company I could be a versatile dancer. I am still not satisfied with what I can do as a dancer yet, but I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to perform many kinds of dance styles such as African, house, hip hop, contemporary, ballet, and modern. Since I have been training classical ballet, my alignment is too clean for other genres, but I learned I can do something new if I believe in myself. I used to focus on precise movements as my teacher expected, but after becoming a professional dancer, I also realize I have more ways to express myself besides following what my teacher told me. While I like my discipline and respect towards my boss or teacher, I can add my own spice (ideas/stories) to it and play around, which I could not do when I was a student. There are many technical dancers in this world and I see many crazy dance footage on social media, but to me technique is just a bonus because you tried hard to become a better dancer. I want to focus on my artistry and value my experience to show who I am through my movements while inspiring others. When I performed at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills for the LWDT 40th anniversary, my family came to see the show all the way from Japan and that was one of my best moments in my life. I was so blessed that I could show them my American dream come true and show the new Kozue. Also I am so proud of myself to be the only Asian dancer in the company. I am definitely a minority in this company when it comes to race, but race does not matter here, but personalities do. I really love how they care for black culture and we respect differences in each other. Being in this company is a good learning opportunity for me as a human being. We don’t just dance, but we inspire the audience by showing our authenticity. I think people these days see being different as a bad thing, but difference is one of the strengths in this world. Since I was from Japan, people around me were mostly Japanese, same race, but when it comes to physique, I was quite muscular compared to other Japanese girls and I always wished if I had a body like others. After I joined the company, I learn that being different is beautiful and I really love my muscular physique that was built because of dancing. I hope America will be united more when it comes to race and realize being different is amazing. I am with the Americans that are saying black lives matter and I will always be. At LWDT, a black-owned and operated dance company in America, we are facing so many obstacles right now between COVID-19 and the fight against racism but we know that there are people out there helping us. The kindness of people donating money online and Lula paying the company staff and members out of her love in this difficult time shows how much we need to be together right now. Lula has shown me, during this time, how important it is to be united and share our difference to make the world a better place. I hope Americans will see the work we are creating and think the same. END RACISM

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love beach side,so I would take them to the beaches in Los Angeles and have lunch at the seafood restaurant.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a shout out to Lula Washington Dance Theater and two artists, G Madison the 4th and Derrick Caldwell. Firstly, I would like to thank my dance company, Lula Washington Dance Theater. Before I began training with them, I was just a dancer who was good at classical ballet, but you can not be in this company if you only can do one certain dance genre…. I still remember how I cried everyday, from being out of my comfort zone, when I went home from the rehearsals and even after I had a tech rehearsal on the stage. This company is also theatrical, so you have to be able to express yourself verbally. I, obviously, have a Japanese accent and have to speak as loud and clear as possible on the stage. That was a challenge for me and still is. You have to be able to express yourself not only by movement, but it is worth the challenge and they love when I express myself with Japanese. When I started working with Lula, I was really scared to perform in front of her. I was always nervous and lacked confidence. However, they told me that I have infinite possibilities with the way of expression. I am sure many dancers would be intimidated once you are in front of Lula and showing your talents, but as I said, you can not give up for what you want. What I wanted was to be a professional dancer. Thanks to her, I could get out of the comfort zone and evolve from just a ballet dancer. Now I can feel they believe me as an artist. I have no fear and I am really proud of myself as a company member of the LWDT. Thanks to Lula, Erwin, and Tamica, I have many opportunities to perform on stages all over the US. I can not wait to be back to the stage once the world is safe enough to perform for an audience again. Secondly, I would like to thank G Madison the 4th. After I met G Madison the 4th, one of the greatest artists in LA, he became my mentor. I think every LA dancer knows of him. Thanks to him, I could keep working with Lula. I saw his performance in Las Vegas and I thought I want to be like him, inspiring the audience. Whenever I had the chances, I took his class even when I was busy working with Lula. He teaches not only the combination but also life lessons. Every time I take his class, I can be the best version of me. He also cares about his students and he told me once “You need a great personality to be a great dancer.” He helped me find new challenges as a dancer. I am still training when it comes to hip hop, but I hope someday I can work with the commercial industry soon. I am in my late-20s already, but I still don’t give up on my new challenges. Thank you G Madison for showing a new world. I would like to give one last shout out. I have been working on a beautiful photo project with Derrick Caldwell, an amazing dancer and photographer. Most people know him as a dancer, but he is also an amazing photographer. Thanks to him, my way of expression through art has expanded. His bodyscape project is extremely beautiful and fierce as you see in the photos. The project shows how beautiful women’s bodies are, and they made me proud of myself as a woman and also as a dancer. I used to have a hard time accepting my body. I didn’t like my muscular physique because it is far from a ballet dancer body, but thanks to this project I can appreciate what I have. I also take his hip hop class to train. His movements are really clean and organic. I could say he was born to groove and I wish I were like him when I dance freely. His class definitely helps my career. I am really thankful to him for working with me and I am excited for our future projects. A special shout out to my coworker and fellow company member Quron Clarks and my best friend, Sarah. Thank you for helping me with this article!!!!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kozueholic/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFwYY_pNtvI-aMkmtVsxP6w/
Other: tiktok account www.tiktok.com/@kozueholic

Image Credits
Alex Budin Derrick Caldwell

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