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So Many Questions: 'Step Up' actress says dance translates around world

| Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Music isn't just about hearing. It's about feeling.

Embracing that mentality has equipped actress-dancer-instructor Mari Koda with the ability to make music look good. Seeing it as a way to connect people in a more physical nature than we're probably used to these days, expressing herself through dance is an extension of the happiness and love that she hopes to share with others. For Koda, the power of dancing lies in its ability to transcend cultures, religions and languages by uniting all — without ever saying a word. Koda will be reprising her role as Jenny Kido when the newest installment of the popular dance movie franchise, “Step Up: All In,” is released Aug. 8.

Question: Dance movies seem more popular than ever. What do you think precipitated that change?

Answer: I think it's because people just need something to have more connection with other people. And I think that dance is the best way to make friends and really physically ... I feel like it helps to connect with other people and appreciate their own culture in any country. Because, with dance and music, it's all over the world, and that's something that is easy for us to connect together — not on the Internet or TV games or all that kind of stuff. Physically, it brings more happiness and more love. … That's how I feel.

Q: For you personally, what is dancing an expression of?

A: I started dancing just because I love the music so much. Some people pick the instrumental, like the piano or flute, to express their feelings, but I think I picked dancing to express myself with how much I love music. For example, if somebody can't hear ... I want to make music look good when I dance, and even people who are not able to listen to the music, if they see me, (say), “Oh my God, the music must be really good!”

Q: When you're prepping for a movie like “Step Up,” how many hours a day do you practice?

A: Everybody asks me how many times I practice. … I do yoga and swimming, and for the dancing, I go out to a club or to parties or I'm in the living room or kitchen just playing the radio or listening to the music I love, and just dance and freestyle. So, I don't really go to a studio where there's a mirror. … I won't do that, not really.

Q: Why is dancing such a powerful medium?

A: I think it's just an energy. ... Like, when you go to a nice park and you see the nice sunrise or sunset, you feel a really great energy. It sort of is like that. It's an energy thing. I'm Japanese, and I know that dance used to be for a god or Buddhism — it was more spiritual. And people danced asking for the rain for the farmers, and really spiritually connected to nature. I think that dance, even though the styles change so much these days, I think they still carry on that type of energy when you dance to the music.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at kbenz@tribweb.com, 412-380-8515 or via Twitter @KateBenzTRIB.

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