The right moves
Choreographer Marven Payne has a thriving career in Japan
By Toshiya Fujii
Sometimes when you pass by a train station or walk between
buildings in Shinjuku at night, you can see kids practicing
their dance routines in front of big windows. Its
good that dancing has become a major thing in Japan, but at
the same time it is also bad that a lot of these kids do not
have the basics, says Marven Payne.
One of the originators of the LA style jazz, Marven
is considered one of the best choreographers in the business,
with 20 years of experience under his belt. The list of Japanese
artists he`s worked with is impressiveSeiko Matsuda,
Gekidan Shiki, Namie Amuro, Speed, Max, Da Pump, Kumi Koda,
SMAP and the ST Kinki Kids, just to name a few. He is the
only foreigner to hold the position of artistic director at
a major Japanese dance company, in his case Hiromi Dance Company.
Believe it or not, I was a geek in school, he
says. Dance was a way for me to communicate with the
rest of the world. From dancing in his room, his hobby
became more serious when he began taking jazz and ballet lessons
as a kid. By the time Marven was 15, he had turned pro. In
1985, he had just started his first year in university in
Philadelphia, aspiring to be a fashion designer, when a man
from Japan asked him if he wanted to choreograph for Matsuda.
I didnt have any idea who Matsuda was or what
Japan was like, he says. Nearly 20 years on, Marven
claims Yokohama as his home.
In demand internationally, he travels around the world to
teach. He says the best feeling is watching his students grow.
Aside from his regular classes in Yokohama and at Tokyo American
Club, he is currently working with two artists: Ellie and
Hitomi Ono. Both are under Emerge Records, a record label
he owns. Like many recording artists, they never received
the proper support from their previous labels. I basically
started the label so that they would get the right push that
they deserve, he explains. From time to time, Marven
gets away from the dance world and works as creative director
at Xenn, a company that creates mobile phone and Internet
content, teaches motion graphics at the Apple store in Ginza,
and manages a production company, Body Emotions, in addition
to the casting office, Emerge Casting, all at the same time.
He is also a model occasionally, and a designer. His dream
is to build a performing arts high school in Japan. The
education system here is set up so that when you get to a
certain age, you either have to choose a career in the dance,
or you have to study and go to juku (cram school), Marven
says. Japanese dancers could be among the best in the
world. They have strong, flexible bodies and a work
hard mentality. I want to set up a proper school, so
children can get both kinds of education at the same time.
Its been my dream ever since I came to Japan and I intend
to see it through. www.marvenpayne.net
The voice of PRIDE has a lot to shout about
Actor, narrator, singer and comedian, Lenne Hardt is perhaps
best known for her decibel-defying announcements at PRIDE
that energize the crowd and the fighters.
Why did you come to Japan?
To see how Manhattan sushi stacked up against the real thing.
And to DJ at BAY FM.
What keeps you here?
My work, my brother and his family. Theyve been here
over 30 years.
Which of your many jobs do you enjoy most?
I was made for performing live, whether singing with my jazz
band, doing improv with Spontaneous Confusion at the Tokyo
Comedy Store, or performing in plays. In my next show I play
Sleeping Beautys evil witch. My brother calls it typecasting!
What has been the highlight of your career?
Calling out the names of those gorgeous hunks at PRIDE! How
do you get in the screaming mood? I dont scream! I announce,
I intone, I amplify, I troll, I trillbut I dont
scream! Its the excitement of performing in front of
tens of thousands of people. What a rush!
Which famous people do you work with?
On Thursdays, I enjoy a few laughs with Tamori-san and Surube-san
on Fuji TVs Warate Ii Tomo. On Fridays, over at NTV,
I wrestle for the mic with Music Fighter hosts Sayaka Aoki
and King Kong. My athletic regimen keeps me in touch with
Bob Sapp, Wanderlei Silva and Kazushi Sakuraba. For laughs
I hang out with comedy teams London Boots and 99. Do you need
What does your husband say about you working with so many
He says hes still the only guy who can talk to me without
a cue sheet.
How do you relax?
I walk my dogs, scuba dive, ski, rollerblade, read, dance,
sing, study Japanese, clean my house and do my nails.
What are you reading this week?
Besides Metropolis? The novel behind Howls Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones.
Where in Tokyo do you live?
I have been in Shibuya most of my 17 years in Japan. I guess
Im a Shibuya girl!
Do you plan to stay here forever?
Indefinitelyis that the same thing?
PRIDE Final Conflict takes place
Aug 28 at Saitama Super Arena. See www.pridefc.com
for details. Catch Tokyo Comedy Store on Sep 8 and the Lenne
Hardt Jazz Cabaret on Sep 16, both at Oh! God Cinema Play
Café in Harajuku. See www.tokyocomedy.com
for information about both events. The Tokyo Theater for Childrens
Sleeping Beauty will be staged in November. AV
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