STEP UP Series Dance Star Mari Koda Chats About Her Career And New Moves
One of my favorite current film franchises is the Step Up series. Hear me out – it has amazing dance moves, stars some of my favorite dancers from So You Think You Can Dance and the dance community at large, and hits all the right notes when it comes to balancing the story that’s needed with the dancing we crave.
I had a chance to chat with Mari Koda, the supremely talented dancer and actress. Originally from Japan, Koda is an accomplished dancer in many styles including Hip-Hop, Popping, Locking, Jazz and Salsa and is also trained in classic ballet. From winning 1st place on BET’s 106 & Park Freestyle dance competition, to dancing at the MTV VMA opening with Jamie Foxx and appearing frequently in music videos including 50 Cent, Skrillex and Missy Elliot, Koda is the first person from Japan to be granted a performing arts visa in America for hip hop dancing and she hasn’t looked back since.
In Step Up All In , Koda brings her unique and refreshing dance moves and the comedic relief as fan favorite ‘Jenny Koda.’ In this 5th installment of the STEP UP franchise, the all-star cast reunites in Las Vegas and battles for a victory that could define their dreams and their careers. Keep reading to see what she had to say about the film franchise, her work in dance and on the screen, and more!
1. When did you start dancing and when did you realize you were going to pursue a career?
I was a little kid who always started moving when I listened to good music, I can’t really say it was “dancing” because I was just jumping around. I didn’t realize I was going to pursue a career in dancing until later because dancing for me was always a hobby, but when I booked a TV commercial I felt like, “wow, maybe I can keep doing this.” Lol.
2. Could you tell us a bit about how you came to be cast in your first STEP UP movie – what was the audition process like?
I went to an open call audition, but I went there without knowing it was for the movie Step UP. I was just happy to meet my friends and learn the choreography and dance at the audition; I had so much fun. But when they called me for the job I told them, “I can’t do the job because I have my best friend’s wedding in LA and she asked me a long time ago.” I went to LA and my friend said to me, “Are you crazy?! It’s a f*#!ing movie Mari! You have to call them back and tell them you will take the job!!” So I went back to New York to pack by bags and went to Baltimore for the film.
3. Were you a fan of the first STEP UP movie before you joined the cast?
I hadn’t seen it until Adam G Sevani’s father got me a DVD of STEP UP. One day during rehearsals he said, “Mari, you should see the movie this weekend, it’s a good movie.”
4. Which of the STEP UP movies was your favorite to shoot? Do you have a favorite one to watch?
Step Up: ALL IN is my favorite to shoot because I was super excited and happy that I got to work with Briana Evigan again, we have been friends since Step Up 2.
Step Up 2: The Streets is my favorite one to watch because it was the first big film for everyone.
5. What other dance movies or TV shows do you enjoy?
I enjoy watching the cooking channel and documentaries.
6. Who are your favorite dancers right now?
Luis “Luigi” Rosado who plays “Monster” in Step Up 2, 3, and 5. Ricardo “Boogie Frantic” Rodriguez who is in Step Up 3D, and Celestina Aladekoba who is in Step Up Revolution, and David “Kid David” Shreibman who also dances in the Step Up films.
7. What’s your current dance playlist look like?
Brazilian music, house music, and 90s hip hop R&B. My DJ friends send me different mixes all the time.
8. Would you want to do any acting that doesn’t involve dance – more dramatic roles or comedy?
YES! I think my fans would like to see me in some different movies now. A comedy film would be fun for everyone.
9. You’re obviously very skilled in hip hop dancing – but what about other styles of dance like contemporary or ballroom? Is there another style of dance you’re interested in pursuing?
I dance salsa, hustle and house. I love these styles a lot and it would be amazing if I could get an opportunity to show them in a film or tv show.
10. What do you have planned next? Will there be another STEP UP movie or dance movie in your future?
My next plan? There are so many things happening right now that I haven’t even made any plans yet, but I really hope that a Step Up 6 will happen for sure. Also, Jenny Kiddo needs a love interest for the next STEP UP! She always cares so much about her friends but she still hasn’t found love yet.