FEATURE- Akira Uchida

This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Akira Uchida.  

The dance world is no stranger to the skill and artistry of Akira Uchida. Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Mr. Uchida made the move to Toronto at the young age of 18 and has since pursued a successful career as a dancer and choreographer. He is trained extensively in jazz, hip hop, contemporary, lyrical and ballet, and has numerous credits both commercially and theatrically. Mr. Uchida’s film and television credits include programs such as Canada’s Got Talent, Degrassi, The Next Star, The Strain, Over the Rainbow and Canada’s Smartest Person. He can be seen dancing in the Much Music promotional video for Sam Smith’s hit track “Stay With Me,” as well as in the Lifetime film “My Daughter Must Live.” Mr. Uchida’s credits also include multiple music videos for a-list artists such as Dragonette, Young Avz and Blake McGrath. He danced for the Canadian Opera Company in their rendition of “Don Quichotte” at the Four Seasons Centre. He recently worked with choreographer Stacey Tookey in a workshop for an upcoming musical called “Dancer”. As a choreographer, his credits include music videos for artists such as Lights, The Lovelocks and Tyler Shaw. In 2015, he was awarded the Audience Choice Award at the emerging choreographer’s showcase “Fresh Blood,” hosted by the Chimera Project. In the summer of 2016, Mr. Uchida was the choreographer for the upcoming indie film “Jazz Hands”, which is set to be released in 2017.  He was most recently chosen to present work as a finalist at the prestigious Capezio Ace Awards in NYC. He has taught at large scale conventions and workshops such as JUMP Dance Convention, 24 Seven Dance Convention and Canadian Dance Expo. Akira’s creativity as a choreographer is complimented by his passion for teaching. He continues to train, teach and choreograph through the Grand Toronto Area and his students have gone on to win numerous awards at various conventions and competitions. Every day, Akira Uchida continues to thrive and leave his mark on the world as a passionate, driven and innovative young artist.

Bio provided by Akira

Akira Uchida

Instagram: @akirauchida
Facebook page: @akirauchidachoreo
Twitter: @akirabuchida
 
Check out what Akira had to say in this week’s feature…
 

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?

Akira: I started dancing at the age of three. My mom enrolled me in dance classes to develop fundamental coordination in preparation for hockey, of which the age of enrolment wasn’t until two years later. I loved dance so much that I stuck with it and never ended up in sports.

 

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)

Akira: I’m not too sure if I can pinpoint the first song I ever choreographed to as I started exploring choreography at a very young age, purely for fun at the time. Me and my brother (Keanu Uchida) would make up dances and performances as kids, so I think it was always something we liked to do before we even knew how. I attended a performing arts high school in Ottawa where I lead an extracurricular dance program for middle school students. That was probably the first time I’ve choreographed on a larger scale.

 

Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?

Akira: I think it’s extremely important to know your body and become familiar with your movement in a safe space; exploring dance free of judgment and apart from other dance influences. I believe that there is always something to learn from other dancers, but improvisation can become recycled if one never comes to appreciate and understand their own body. Try not to overthink and let the movement come spontaneously and authentically. I’ve been fortunate enough to live alone for most of my time in Toronto – I’m always playing music, moving my body in new and bizarre ways, and have made discoveries that I probably wouldn’t have found with others. I do think it’s important to specify this was my unique path to creativity. What has worked for me may not be relevant to another dancer. That said, getting together with other dancers to create and share is more than often an awakening experience.

 

Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?

Akira: I usually engage in some sort of warm-up, varying in intensity depending on the day and how I’m feeling. This gets the energy and heat flowing and helps me mentally transition into the creation process. I enjoy listening to music that has recently inspired me and will occasionally shift into lapses of improvisation to further the warm-up. Once I feel prepared and awakened, I buckle down and begin to workshop choreography to my song of choice.

 

Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?

Akira: Over the years, I think Teddy Forance and Dee Caspary have been my biggest influences. They both have incredibly unique ways of moving their bodies and connecting steps. I’ve always been drawn toward the fluidity in their choreography. It takes a significant amount of body awareness to connect movement so seamlessly and to adopt beyond-human dance qualities as they do with such passion and intent. Dee’s movement sits in the body in a completely different way than any other choreography I’ve ever done. His classes are always extremely mentally challenging, mainly because the movement pathways are so far from instinctual. However, when properly executed, his choreography gives you a feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration like no other. Teddy has always blown me away with the creative shapes, transitions and musical interpretations in his choreography. Watching him perform his own choreography is truly a unique experience.

 

Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?

Akira: I always love working with Bree Wasylenko and Caroline Torti of Collective Elite. You can always count on their rehearsal process to be efficient and organized. They are also extremely professional, talented and all-around great people, so working with them has only ever been a wonderful experience! I had the pleasure of working with them on a short dance film they choreographed and artistically directed called “Ruin”. It is a stunning piece of work featuring Jordan Clark, Justin Lopes, Devon Brown, Andrew Kyrzyk, Zenon Zubyk and myself. The full video is posted on Collective Elite’s Youtube channel.

 

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (It does not have to be a pop star. Any type of artist that a Dancer would work with i.e.; another Dancer, Choreographer, Musician etc.)

Akira: One of my favourite artists to work with is Sydney McManus. She is currently in Montreal working with Rubberband Dance and consequently hasn’t been involved in my recent projects… nevertheless she is an incredible mover. Her deep understanding of body is apparent, as is the phenomenal range of texture in her movement. She always brings a positive attitude to the rehearsal process and her willingness to accept any challenge thrown at her is admirable and exemplary for any dancer looking to achieve high artistry.

 

Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?

Akira: I believe Toronto dancers are extremely versatile. You can often find Toronto dancers who are able to work and audition in many genres and subdivisions of work within the dance community. I think this is so wonderful and I hope this convention of versatility continues to thrive in the Toronto dance scene as I’m a firm believer that proficiency in each style of dance benefits all the others. However, I do believe Toronto dancers could hold training in the fundamentals of each respective dance style to a higher value. Don’t get me wrong – there is so much to be learned from taking different combination classes from a multitude of teachers! That being said, if you aren’t taking the time to learn the foundation of each dance style, you are likely to be missing out on a vast range of important knowledge in which resides the key to unlocking your true potential as an artist.

 

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?

Akira: I would firstly stress the importance upholding a strict training regime. Though job opportunities can be few and far between and vary in frequency over the year, training will always ensure that you’re prepared when the right opportunity comes your way. I believe that it is important to inform yourself about the community, its members and contributors. Find out which dancers and choreographers are working in areas that feed your interests, go see as many performances as possible and constantly search for artists that you want to be surrounded with. A passionate, driven, yet humble mindset paired with the ability to seize opportunities as they present themselves will take you just about anywhere you’re looking to go!

 

Nikki: Are there any upcoming projects, shows or classes you would like to share/promote to the T.D.O.T. network?

Akira: I just finished shooting a choreography video that is very special to me. The piece explores the mental states I consecutively experience as a choreographer during my creative process. I will be releasing the video sometime in the next month or so… The dancers featured in the video are Kelly Shaw, Amanda Donato, Chantelle Good, Paulina Macias, Aysia Ianiero, Dedra McDermott and Ashley Coulson. Stay tuned and be sure to check out my Facebook page/Youtube channel for the release!

 

THANK YOU AKIRA FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE AND PASSION WITH T.D.O.T.  XO

CHECK OUT SOME FOOTAGE AND CHOREOGRAPHY FROM AKIRA

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