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Michiko Sasaki: “Hoofers and the rythym tappers”

Wow. There is so much I’m passionate about, yet too much to talk about. One recently I’ve been thinking alot about is Thrive over Survive. What I mean by this is, when I see society working our hard driven lives just to survive. Everyone is in survival mode. We are taught and brought up this […]

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Wow. There is so much I’m passionate about, yet too much to talk about. One recently I’ve been thinking alot about is Thrive over Survive. What I mean by this is, when I see society working our hard driven lives just to survive. Everyone is in survival mode. We are taught and brought up this way as children. This goes hand in hand with our worldly issues today. We are too busy trying to survive in this world, which sometimes we need to be on survival mode, but when we adopt that mentality too long, we become desperate, needy, about ourselves, needing to hurt others for the sake of surviving. We forget to serve no matter what our circumstances. It’s when we are at our lowest, we need to push to serve harder. Whether that’s through volunteer, helping a friend, working an extra shift to relief another, paying for someone’s drink, or simply opening a door for someone. We don’t need more time or money to serve. We just need a switch in gear to be open for change. I think this simple thought can change so many people if taught effectively. Change doesn’t need to be elaborate years of therapy, big money spending on a new device or education. We need to thrive on “what can I do to serve today?” So today, I encourage you to a small act of Thrive over Survive.


As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michiko Sasaki.

Michiko Sasaki, born and raised in Kyoto, Japan and Denver, Colorado was brought up in a Mormon bilingual family where she took after her father’s talents as a young child in dance, singing and acting. Michiko is the first Japanese native to make it professionally as a RADIO CITY ROCKETTE IN NYC! Thereafter she is recognized as one of the few Asian Americans to represent diversity in non stereotypical roles and shows on Broadway, National Tours, Off Broadway, Television and Film.


Thank you so much for joining us Michiko! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Sure..I was the shyest child you will ever encounter. After my first grade teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to go to lunch unless I spoke a word, my parents challenged me into every after school activity available! After being introduced to dance and music at the age of 5, I found myself memorizing every dance/song number on the Sound of Music, Annie and every other kids dance routines in my dance schools recital pieces by watching and rewinding the VCR tapes over and over all day everyday! Over the years of being obsessed and winning numerous competition titles, my parents knew I was serious and landed my first paid performing Equity show at the age of 16 in Denver, CO at the Country Dinner Playhouse. It was a small cute dinner theater where many stars came about. From there on, performing was all I wanted to ever do.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I was always into auditioning for roles I never thought I could play. One day I decided to audition for an African American Musical (solely stated in the breakdown: People from Africa only). I should have taken that note, but I didn’t. When I went to the audition, there were like 25 true African women from Africa in their daishiki dresses, turbans and language. I definitely felt out of place, but I thought why not? First round of auditions was a African dance number which I nailed and got a callback. The second round was singing and chanting, but in African. The ladies all had an authentic African chant prepared and improvised together. I freaked out, since I never thought I’d be asked to do a chant, but I mustered up my confidence to just do something without hesitation, and I sang “In the Jungle the Mighty Jungle” from the Lion King in a chant like manner. I think I embarrassed everyone in the room. But because I was brave enough to just make fun of myself and be myself regardless, the Casting Director just happened to keep me in mind for another project I was right for. What I learned was, never underestimate your opportunities even though you may be completely wrong for it!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

I remember in my young early days as a performer in a show called “Grease, I played the role of Cha Cha. I learned that the show must go on no matter what. One day, I had a high fever with bronchitis. I had no understudy so I had to go on regardless on a 2 show day. In one number there were partner flips, jumps, and some major swing like partner dancing! As I was flipped over and spun around, I threw up and it kinda splattered all over the stage. I didn’t know what to do, so my partner and I kept going and we walked off in character right after the number, of course justifying the scene! I have made it through the best and the worst in all of my shows since then somehow! You just make it work and I guess the show must always go on!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Since the Covid Pandemic, because the industry has been on a shutdown, it’s been tough getting back into the work scene, especially now that I have a 8 months old baby boy, I am juggling acting and being a full time mommy as a priority. But I have couple of opportunities in the works right now! I was called for a new ABC series called “THE BRIDES,” the week before Covid hit, so we will see if it continues to shoot. Currently being considered for a possible Recurring role on a new TV series called PACHINKO (still in very beginning stages), and another new TV Network series called “FOR LIFE” on ABC. I had been working on the TV series “FBI Most Wanted,” as Dr. Amy Ko before covid hit, so let’s see if she will come back for another season soon!

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Back in my professional dancing days, when I came to visit NYC as a young 20 year old, I would go hang out with the “hoofers and the rythym tappers” at a so called cotton club Swing 46. Once a week they would host a Tap Jam Night with Buster Brown and some of the most renown tappers in NYC. I was a huge rythym tapper back then! I spotted Savion Glover from the back of the room, and I awkwardly approached him when he was high on pot! It was awkward because I’ve never smoked pot and didn’t know what to expect from him. He asked me if I wanted to hoof and improvise with him on stage, and so I did! I never felt so privledged, yet so scared at the same time, knowing there were so many best of the best tappers in town watching me dance with Savion! He was super inspirational in his work, but I learned that in our conversation, he loved being high and kicking it on stage. I guess it was his way of getting out of his own way!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The number one thing I’ve learned how to stay thriving is learn to say NO and have fun with whatever you’re doing. If it’s not fun, even the preparation, the auditions, creating relationships, upkeeping your financials, then life becomes stressful which then affects every part of your career. I learned to say NO to things, projects that don’t mean much, people for the sake of more people in your life, taking readings and shows that don’t resonate with you, etc is just more of a distraction than you think. Always think long and narrow road. Think laser focused, simple and quality. You always want what will be the best thing for you at that time that will create meaning. If you have meaning, you have a rich life full of lots of magic and inspiration, which keeps you thriving in all aspects of your life and career. It is a balance. Learn to say NO, have boundaries, values and create meaning in all that you do while having FUN!

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

You cannot succeed without a ton of failure. No one is gifted with success without the work. No one. If you want it, you have to go and get it by doing the work and willing to fail every single time. Nothing will ever turn out the way you want or how you want because you can only control your actions and not the result. With that in mind, as long as you are going in the direction you want with a positive attitude, something one day will reveal what you can call your dream. Learn to love and tackle the obstacles, discouragement, failures, haters, rejections and all the negativity, because that just means you are getting closer to what’s called the open door! Don’t take things personal, keep focused on your well being, your life and what you’re creating for yourself!

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I LOVE to Dance! I no longer dance 7–16 shows a week but I dance everywhere I go! Mostly dance now just for fun, and it motivates people to learn your dance moves while keeping your body in shape! If not dance, I go swimming and anything that works my body on all levels in a dance like movement, because it’s gentle on your body, works the deepest part of your muscles, fun, cool, prevents injuries, inspiring to the human soul! Im a firm believer of music, movement and story. Unlike the gym! As for my mind, I thrive when I sleep a lot. I mean a lot! But these days, with a baby it’s quite difficult. But anytime I get a chance to nap, I’ll choose to sleep over anything else! Being tired is the number one issue that will prohibit you from being inspired and executing at your best. I also keep my heart full as possible by surrounding myself with my few best friends I’ve had all my life. We all live in different parts of the world, but we talk, leave long voice notes about many many topics, inspirations, all sorts of stuff, silly Tik Tok exchanges etc, on a weekly basis. It’s like our own live podcast without the work! Life long friends have kept me with a full heart. I don’t care for acquaintances or short term friends. I’m one of those few people that only have like three lifelong friends, and most of the time, that is all I need.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

There is so much, but here it is!

  1. To never take any negativity, rejections, criticism personal. But take them as new opportunities for yourself! I remember when I used to think that an Asian girl could easily get cast in an Asian show. Such as a Miss Saigon, King and I etc etc. I tried couple times and I couldn’t get past the first cut..ever! I also just didn’t like auditioning for those shows that was considered “Asian.” I quickly learned that as long as I stuck with the stereotypical roles and shows, I will always be representing stereotypes. It just wasn’t me. I always aimed to be the token in a cast or ensemble, and that’s how I carved that path for me.
  2. Just because someone has a degree in Acting or Theater from any University, doesn’t mean they will work and guaranteed a career. I kinda actually knew this before I went to college. Otherwise I would’ve studied it in college, but I just knew the industry was more than just talent. I wanted to be well rounded as a performer and study business in college. Nothing beats having the outer knowledge of show business. If you don’t know the business of show business, the relationship building, grit, tenacity and professionalism it takes, your talents will never be seen. I went to BYU-Hawaii for the business program, and went to college for free. Because I had no school loans, I never struggled to pay off loans for college. Which meant less side hustling and more time on career. The performing arts does not require a degree to be successful! Save your money and get a education!
  3. Break the rules. When I say this, I mean take every little thing you learn in classes about the “To Dos and Dont’s” in the industry as a grain of salt. We are taught to be perfect, to look good, people please, what’s in it for me, did they like me? It’s not about perfection. Perfection kills you in this industry. My very first co-Star I booked on Network TV was “Bull” on CBS. It was like my 50th Network audition and could not book a single show until I flubbed the two lines I had on this audition! Not only did I mess them up completely but I asked to do it again, which in classes you are always told not to ask to start over! Well, I did everything wrong, even walked out with a concerned face and I booked the job that same day. This happens all the time! So Be You. And Break some Rules!
  4. Take the weekend to focus on other things important to you. I don’t mean go party, get trashed or go do drugs. I mean have something that adds value to you and your work as a whole, but is stress free. I’ve learned that when I take the weekend to just do nothing, or sleep a lot, cook, go to church, meet a friend, travel to see a new place nearby, pet sit or anything that is enjoying your life, I feel much more rejuvenated and reinspired for the week. I used to hard core blaze through my weeks with no sleep and audition audition audition all week and classes in the weekends that Id fall short sometimes. It’s important to focus on just what’s most important and keep life simple.
  5. Stay away from permanently toxic and draining people. But occasionally it’s good for you. You know why? Because some are great inspirations to great comedy bits and characters you can create from! I’ve created monologues, scenes, and even characters from drama and negative people. It’s the only way you’ll get through life and still serve you as a creative human being. I used to be in a terrible relationship. It started to wear me down. But I finally had the guts to leave, I manifested a full character and life that I ended up using towards a character in a audition scene. I didn’t book the job, but I got helluva laugh and a callback. I learned to make what you’ve experienced with people work for you! Just remember, that anything in life is usable towards your work as an artist. Life is art and art is life!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You’ll Never Walk Alone”

I grew up in the Mormon Faith. I wasn’t Mormon practicing my faith throughout my life, but I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of God. And that can mean in many ways to many people. However it resonates with you, just know that there is a higher power always watching over you, protecting you, guiding you, and leading you through your life’s path. It’s easy to forget that this life is bigger than us and our own ego. Anytime I’ve felt like I was controlling my own destiny, or have become impatient with my results, I try to remember that God or so called your higher power is always with you, and there is absolute reason for everything that happens. You cannot do everything by yourself. You will never go through all your trials and challenges by yourself even if you feel like you are. There is always someone there to understand your circumstances during that time. Do not have blind faith, but through action, you will have faith to overcome all things. Therefore, “ You will never walk alone.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Gosh, there are so many people, but if I had to choose, I would say my Father. He is the root of my career path, success, and the kick ass yet hard life I’ve been given. My father not only helped foster my talents by the right people in the industry as a child, but he lead me to performing opportunities no matter where or what they were. I remember when I was 15, he entered me in a Tap Jam competition hosted by the famous tap company called TAP DOGS from Australia. I was one out of many contestants to perform at a local mall and I was lucky enough to win first place and to perform with the TAP DOGS cast at the renowned Temple Buell Theater in Denver, CO! This was just one of many opportunities my dad introduced me to. He always watched me excel in dancing every year, put me in as many classes with the advanced kids, took me to many different auditions, experienced NYC for the first time and always told me that anything is possible, to keep looking up to those ahead of me, to teach those behind me and keep myself open minded to all opportunities. If I hadn’t learned his teachings as a child, I would have never pursued something I would have been great at.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Wow. There is so much I’m passionate about, yet too much to talk about. One recently I’ve been thinking alot about is Thrive over Survive. What I mean by this is, when I see society working our hard driven lives just to survive. Everyone is in survival mode. We are taught and brought up this way as children. This goes hand in hand with our worldly issues today. We are too busy trying to survive in this world, which sometimes we need to be on survival mode, but when we adopt that mentality too long, we become desperate, needy, about ourselves, needing to hurt others for the sake of surviving. We forget to serve no matter what our circumstances. It’s when we are at our lowest, we need to push to serve harder. Whether that’s through volunteer, helping a friend, working an extra shift to relief another, paying for someone’s drink, or simply opening a door for someone. We don’t need more time or money to serve. We just need a switch in gear to be open for change. I think this simple thought can change so many people if taught effectively. Change doesn’t need to be elaborate years of therapy, big money spending on a new device or education. We need to thrive on “what can I do to serve today?” So today, I encourage you to a small act of Thrive over Survive.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Omg..I get excited just thinking about the many I’ve wanted to meet in an array of industries! But if I had to choose right this moment, I’d say Betty White. I pick her because she is like a historical figure, maybe an encyclopedia! Not only is she in entertainment, but she is an all-around one of a kind kinda gal who served as an activist, entrepreneur, actress, host, a brand, and now an icon for still representing storytelling as a woman in her 90s. And still sharp as a knife! I mean who still does what they do at this age and looks at their work as a way of saying, I’m living life to the fullest till the day I die. She’s a prime example of the movement of create, Thrive over Survive. She has clearly survived because she has always thrived. No matter what she does, she is always in service to the world. It’s not just your work or talents, but who you are, just as you are can do much service to this WORLD.

How can our readers follow you online?

I don’t post much online or social media myself, as I tend to keep my time and life pretty private, but I occasionally have career/personal information on my website @ www.michikosasaki.com

Personal:

Michiko Sasaki on Facebook

@tapgirltap on Instagram

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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