Thirty-three-year-old Kazunori Kumagai started tap dancing when he was 15. Four years later, he went by himself to New York to attend special training for a role in “Noise/Funk,” a Broadway show that traced black history in the United States through tap, hip-hop and funk rhythms. His Broadway dream was thwarted by visa issues, but that didn’t stop him from getting experience on a different stage — the clubs, lounges, streets and subways of the city.

It wasn’t long before Kumagai was attracting serious attention for his artistry, with weekly newspaper The Village Voice dubbing him Japan’s Gregory Hines (referring to the U.S. dancing legend) and Dance Magazine naming him one of “25 to Watch” in 2006, saying, “Tapper Kazunori Kumagai dances like the American Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock painted.”

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