Real Life

Dancing with the stars

Being offered the chance to perform with Beyoncé was the opportunity of a lifetime for Auckland dancer Rina Chae - and having to turn it down almost broke her heart

Being offered the chance to perform with Beyoncé was the opportunity of a lifetime for Auckland dancer Rina Chae – and having to turn it down almost broke her heart.

After two years of chasing her dream of becoming a dancer in LA, Rina has had opportunities most dancers in New Zealand can only dream of, appearing in music videos for some of the world’s most famous stars.

But she was double-booked for the Beyoncé performance and had to film a commercial instead. Rina, who’s in her twenties, grew up in Auckland and attended Kristin School and ACG Senior College.

Although she had ballet lessons as a child, she didn’t take them seriously – and her parents wanted her to become a doctor – but at 16 she decided she wanted to dance for a living.

Telling her parents she was going to town to hang out with friends, Rina would be secretly attending hiphop and jazz dancing lessons.

She studied for a degree in dance from the University of Auckland and set up her own studio in Glenfield before deciding to try her luck in LA. Within two weeks of arriving, Rina had been cast in a vodka advertisement.

The producers wanted “robot” dancers and, although Rina had never learned the technique, she won the part ahead of other more skilled dancers. She says success is not all about how well you can dance. “I was really lucky to have landed a national commercial as soon as I got there. It was pure luck.

“Most of the time it’s not about how great you are, because everyone is talented. It’s about looks, personality and chemistry. “Eighty percent is how you look, how you fit in and luck. Having said that, I have come close and missed out on some.”

Rina has starred in music videos for Enrique Iglesias, LMFAO and Kanye West, has performed with Ne-Yo, and just missed out on performing with Kesha, who decided she wanted an all-male cast of dancers at he last minute.

However, her chance to perform as a backup dancer for Beyoncé hit a wall when she was double booked on the night of the American Music Awards, where the singer was performing.

Initially, Rina wanted to ditch her commercial for Bundaberg Rum, but, as it was a Screen Actors Guild-approved commercial, her agent strongly advised her not to pull out because it would be such good money.

“I was thinking I was going to do Beyoncé. But I was told I was going to get triple the money for the commercial and normally in LA it’s money over fame, but I was like, ‘This is why I came here – I need to do Beyoncé!’ “But my agent said, ‘No, you’re going to do the commercial.’ I cried over it.”

To keep getting work, there are a few non-negotiable rules she’s been advised to follow – always wear makeup (even at the gym), always wear her hair down and never gain weight.

“You’ve got to present yourself as if you know what you’re doing. The moment you walk in with a little bit of doubt, they can smell it miles away and say, ‘We don’t want her.’

“Anything like insecurity, nervousness, laziness or boredom can count against you. You need to be eager, but not too geeky. You have to be classy, but pleasant enough for them to like you.”

Being a dancer means she also gets to hear the Hollywood news before it hits the press. “I hear gossip all the time,” she says. She knows Casper Smart, Jennifer Lopez’s new dancer boyfriend, and heard they had began dating before the tabloids reported it.

“He’s definitely a performer and has a dancer’s character and personality – he’s very ‘out there’,” she says. Rina herself is single and admits LA can be a hard place without a partner.

“It’s a really lonely city, because everyone’s there for work and there’s an element of competition. You’ve got to look after your body so you can’t really go out drinking all

the time,” she says.

The Korean-born beauty has been able to make a living out of her dancing, but Rina doubts it will make her millions unless she becomes a top-class choreographer in the future.

For now, becoming a successful dancer in the US is enough for her. “It’s amazing what you can do once you put your mind to it.

I used my pocket money for dance lessons. My parents wanted me to be a doctor but they’re really happy I’m a dancer now.”

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