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Kozue’s New World

Kozue Kasahara

Kozue Kasahara and her sister dreamed of being professional dancers. But her sister had to take up a traditional profession (banking) for the sake of her family. When Kozue saw how unhappy her sister was, she realized she had to fulfill the dream—for both their sakes.

Looking for colleges that could prepare her for a career in dance, Kozue found Santa Monica College, half a world away from her native Japan. After graduating from Aoyama Gakuin University in Shibuya, Japan, with a BA in Literature, Kozue enrolled as a Dance major at SMC in 2014.

At Santa Monica College, Kozue found the world, literally. “Japan was kind of monocultural, but here in California, I made so many friends from different countries.”

Kozue became a member of Synapse, SMC’s contemporary dance ensemble. Though she had started training in classical ballet with the T.K. Ballet Academy at the age of four, this would be Kozue’s first time training in modern dance. She also danced for one semester with Global Motion, SMC’s world dance company.

America, and SMC, also reaffirmed another of Kozue’s reasons for leaving Japan. “I’m not the type of dancer with the ‘dancer body type’: you know, thin and skinny,” says Kozue. “In Japan, I did not have the confidence that I could make it.”

“American culture made me learn that who I am is beautiful, both physically and emotionally,” said Kozue. And audiences at The Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center had the chance to see that confidence transformed into an energy—combined with near-flawless technique—that brought to mind poet Rumi’s saying, “Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

“As a dancer, Kozue is a standard-bearer for discipline, dedication, and passion,” says SMC Dance Professor Mark Tomasic, co-director of Synapse. “It has been an honor to witness her develop into a fearless and inspiring artist while at SMC.”

“When Kozue dances, she projects her own voice and color—she never just dances. There is always a reason for her dance, and she finds an answer through dance,” says Synapse co-director and SMC Dance professor Jae Lee. “And, of course, she perfectly executes every kind of choreography.”

Kozue was featured in Interrumpere—a dance film by Jae Lee—which was selected for the Glendale International Film Festival 2016. Kozue also attended the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Summer Intensive in 2016, and has performed at events like the International Day of Dance at California State University, Los Angeles. She is also an apprentice at the Los Angeles-based contemporary dance company Kybele Dance Theater.

Kozue says she would like to obtain an artist visa and continue to dance in the country that gave her a new confidence. If she goes back to Japan, she wants to be a sort of “cultural ambassador” to her own people. “I want them to know about all the cultures I learned about in California,” she says.

“As a dancer, Kozue is a standard-bearer for discipline, dedication, and passion.”
– SMC Dance Professor Mark Tomasic

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