By Wayne Harada
Mark Kanemura, a former contestant on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” two seasons ago, is returning to the reality show as one of a dozen all-star partners for this year’s crop of competitors. He’s cut short his touring gig with Lady Gaga.
The series’ seventh season premieres with a two-hour special at 7 p.m. Thursday (May 27) on KHON2.
“I was on tour with Lady Gaga two months ago when I found out about returning to the show,” said Kanemura, 26, one of Hawai’i’s marvels of contemporary dance. “I think my reason to go back is simple; the whole process (of competition) is challenging.”
Kanemura, the most celebrated alumnus of Marcelo Pacleb’s Kane’ohe-based award-winning 24/VI DanceForce, also wanted “to challenge myself, take it to a new level. We’ll be working with different choreographers. Lady Gaga is touring through 2011; I suppose I can always go back, but I wanted this different experience.”
Kanemura and other returning all-stars from previous “SYTYCD” seasons will be partnered with each contestant through the dancing and elimination ritual.
He can’t recall when he didn’t have dance in his heart.
“I think I got hooked the first time when I saw ‘Phantom of the Opera’ here, when my parents took me,” he said. “Or was it ‘Cats’? I was blown away by the aspect of people performing, with lights, costuming, movement. So much to be taken in, and I knew I had to get involved some way, so I got into musical theater and fell in love with the whole process. But I was always more into dance; my voice changed and, well, I wasn’t a singer.”
While the audition process to become a professional dancer was the essence of his life, Kanemura never tried out for the pinnacle of the backstage musical, “A Chorus Line,” because he knew he had to sing.
His Hawai’i roots are an asset, whenever and wherever he dances
“When you grow up here, you really have a good nature about yourself, and work-wise, it helps. You feel good about people, you respect them, and mention you’re from Hawai’i, you always get ‘I love it there, I want to go there,’” he said.
It’s here, too, where he found his raw energy through Pacleb’s guidance and direction. “This rawness, this passion ... was developed from that studio. You bring it with you when you dance.”
His stress level is beginning to mount, as the “SYTYCD” countdown looms, but there’s a twist: “The pressure is there, definitely, but in a different sense; I’m not competing (he had earlier partnered with Chelsea Hightower), but I still will be judged,” said Kanemura. “I feel there will be a lot of critique, with everyone watching and judging. The expectation level will be higher (for him), because people know what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been dancing.”
With Lady Gaga as this generation’s most original and creative icon, Kanemura’s visibility and expectations are high because of his Gaga association.
“She puts so much into her craft, and what she does is incredible,” he said from his first-hand perch as one of Lady Gaga’s 10 dancers. “What she puts into her career, she’s getting back; she’s earned respect from her fans, and she’s kind of a leader of this big fan base,” he said.
“Her whole lifestyle is original, different. As an artist, no one works as hard as she does.
So, so, so hard. You want to do things for her. A lot of artists sing songs written by other people; she writes everything that she sings. She plays piano; she’s involved with the crafts, the costumes. I have never seen her wear the same things twice; her costumes are pieces of art, very architectural.”
Kanemura said when you dance with Gaga, the choreography is so intensive, “very physical, very high-energy, you do your workout in the show, you don’t have to go to the gym. Whenever my friends see me in photos (on his website, www.markkanemura.com), they say, ‘Oh my God, you’re losing so much weight.’ It’s the dancing, the tour.”
But he’s loved the journey. “I just finished working with her in Japan, three weeks ago, and I just did ‘American Idol’ with her. And shot her upcoming video, ‘Alejandro,’ which should be coming out in a few.”
Kanemura also has danced with Janet Jackson and said “I admire how kind and generous she is to her dancers; she respects her dancers. It’s a very genuine thing; I’m not shocked, but that was such a nice surprise from someone in her place.”
And where does he see himself 20 years from now? “I definitely want to do choreography and specifically do tours and work with artists in commercial films,” he said. “I’m also intrigued by the dance company aspect (forming his own company), but that’s later, later on.”
'SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE'
7:30 p.m. Thursday (May 27)