It usually takes practice to get dance moves right but it’s even harder to get the performance right, especially when you’re combining male rhythmic gymnastics with street dance routines. As the first professional performance unit selected from the Japanese men’s gymnastics team, Blue Tokyo is a team of former athletes-turned-performers that managed to defy the impossible by taking both male rhythmic gymnastics and street dance to a whole new level of entertainment.

Founded in 2010, Blue Tokyo embodies the evolution of athlete to artist as they combine their well-trained bodies with art to create a fresh and unique body expression. The group is named after Blue of Aomori (Ao means blue in Japanese) and Tokyo, which is one of the most well-known cities in the world. It contains their hope “from Aomori, Japan and go to the world.”

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After receiving numerous awards and winning multiple championships, the member of the dance group stepped into the world of dance upon graduation from Aomori University and Aomori Yamada High School. They have a lot of performing experience because they worked as performers for Ayumi Hamasaki, Daichi Miura, Lead, Hiromi Goh, and other top artistes. One of the biggest achievements for the group was when they were asked to perform as part of the cast of “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque Du Soleil”. They were even invited to perform on the French TV program, “The Best” in January 2014.

Whenever they had spare time, the members would return to their respective alma maters to train the next generation of championship-dominating athletes. Even until today, the group continues to expand their theatrical work so that they will be known worldwide. Having developed their body strength during competition, the group creates highly artistic performances in which they express a world refined through acrobatics.

Blue Tokyo Press Conference
© James Quah Dance Photography / DANCE DANCE ASIA

Just recently, Blue Tokyo came to Malaysia with Time Machine and Wrecking Crew Orchestra for “Dance Dance Asia: Crossing the Movements”, a project presented by the Japan Foundation Asia Center. The event was held at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) from 6th to 8th Feb and it aims to promote exchange and collaboration among street dance groups in the ASEAN region

We attended the press conference last Thursday and spoke with Kyohei Ohshita, the leader of Blue Tokyo about their journey into the dance scene. Here’s what went down during our one-on-one interview:

As the first professional performance unit from the world of Japanese men’s gymnastics, what are some of the common misconceptions that people have about your group?

There are not a lot of misconceptions because the audiences are usually amazed by our performances. Our choreography is very much synchronised and it’s from one aspect to another aspect of gymnastics. Our acrobatic movements usually require us to jump over a person so our audiences were really amazed by our movements because of how smooth we move. We usually have different performances for different productions, so the theme is always different. And because the theme is different, some audience members would cry when they watch an emotional performance from us.

Credit: The Japan Foundation, KL
© James Quah Dance Photography / DANCE DANCE ASIA

One of your early breaks came after performing as part of “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque Du Soleii”. How did you guys end up performing for the show? What did it lead to?

Someone from the organiser side saw our performances and because it’s a unique style of performance, they approached us and asked us if we could perform at their show. So far, we were asked to perform at 2 stages for the world tour and we’ve already completed one of them. For the next tour, we are asked to perform for them again. Actually, I think we just performed our 2nd stage few weeks ago.

At what point in your life did you realise that it’d be fun to combine male rhythmic gymnastics with street dance?

We liked dancing even before we started our performance unit. As former athletes, we incorporated the skills we learned from being a gymnastic athlete into street dance routines and we felt that it’s very fun to do so. We enjoy doing so because it allows us to express our creative side too. Different type of movements are needed for both routines so sometimes it’s difficult to move in a very smooth way. Rhythmic gymnastics is stronger but there’s more flow to street dance routines.

Blue Tokyo Opening Performance
© James Quah Dance Photography / DANCE DANCE ASIA

During the press conference, you mentioned that the theme for your performance will touch on the aspects of sexuality, why did you choose this theme and can you tell us more about it?

By using Beethoven pieces as background music, our performance will start off with a very mysterious atmosphere. There’s a lot of mixed feelings involved as someone starts to think about something very deeply. Gradually, the feeling becomes heavy, causing him to become confused and worried about his feeling. As we continue to dance, his feeling blends with our emotions when we perform.

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One last question! How did you form the performance unit? Tell us more about the formation of your team 🙂

All of us met each other through university because we went to the same university and trained in the same gymnastic stadium. But when we were about to graduate, we had to think of some other directions that we can go. Some of us wanted to venture into the entertainment industry and since we are a bunch of really good friends who are doing rhythmic gymnastics, we got together and formed “Blue Tokyo.”

For more information about Blue Tokyo, visit their official website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Adrina
Adrina was our former writer and now contributes to Hype. Find out what she's up to on her IG: @moonsglowslow.