[Exclusive] “Rain’s Coming” Lead Dancer Menina Fortunato Speaks—And Cloud USA Listens
[NOTICE: Please DO NOT post this article on another blog, forum, or fan-site. It is an exclusive, and should only be posted on Cloud USA. I worked very hard on this original article, and I would like it to be read in its entirety and exactly as I have it posted here. If you would like others to read this work, then please feel free to grab a couple of photos and the full headline, and then link them back to this post here on Cloud USA. Thank you very much. Terri :-}]
~Written by Terri :-} @ Cloud USA
Here at Cloud USA, you know we are always scouting around for fascinating stories about Rain for you, right? As you can imagine, much of our investigation requires us to watch countless hours of Rain videos. Yes, yes, we know it’s a terribly tedious task. Sigh. But it’s a sacrifice we are willing to make—all for you, of course. :-}.
Recently, I was cruising around on YouTube and watching some videos of Rain’s “Rain’s Coming World Tour.” You know. The one from 2006-2007, where Rain splashes into town via a super submarine that ultimately blasts open to reveal “His Hotness” at center stage? Now, granted, as distracting as Rain can be, I sometimes manage to retain my professionalism long enough to notice other things around him — like his amazing concert staging, his spectacular openings, and even, sometimes, his lovely (or hot, if they’re the “men behind the man”) back-up dancers.
Which brings me to the focus of this article: Menina Fortunato.
Who is Menina Fortunato, you ask? Well, for those of you who don’t know, Menina D’Amours Fortunato is an incredibly talented model, producer, choreographer, and international freelance dancer. She also happens to be the Lead Dancer I had the good fortune to spot in those world tour videos I mentioned earlier—and the even better sense to e-mail and ask for a feature interview for Cloud USA.
And guess what, Clouds? She said yes! Sorijiluh
An accomplished entertainer and industry expert, Menina’s resume is world-class. I was going to list her many achievements as a lead-in to our interview, but after a while I realized that if I was going to keep this article to a manageable size, I would have to do something different. So, I finally gave up and decided to link you directly to her website HERE. If you’ll click on the link, you’ll find a veritable treasure chest of information about her and her work, as well as a stunning gallery of stunning photographs to peruse at your leisure.
I was so excited about this interview that it was extremely difficult for me to keep quiet about it. In fact, several times I logged onto Cloud USA’s forum to chat and found myself throwing out a “rhetorical” question: if you were able to ask one question of someone who knew what it was like to work with Rain, what would that question be? As the answers rolled in (albeit along with some suspiciously raised eyebrows), I frantically wrote them down and added them to my list. Some of you may even recognize your questions in the interview below. :-}
I hope, Clouds, that you will enjoy reading this piece as much as I enjoyed preparing it for you. As you will see from Menina’s responses to our questions, she is as kind as she is gracious–and she likes Rain just as much as we do.
Please send her a thank you as soon as you can, to let her know we appreciate her and her hard work.
“Rain’s Coming” Lead Dancer Menina Fortunato Speaks—And Cloud USA Listens
Menina, a Portuguese and French Canadian, grew up in Vancouver and started her dancing career when she was a mere 12 years old. First, I asked her to share some details about her early life.
Tell us something about your childhood. Where did you grow up? What was your neighborhood like? Your school? What was your favorite haunt?
I was born in Revelstoke, BC, Canada, but I spent most of my childhood in the Vancouver area. Since my mother is French Canadian, I went to PROGRAMME CADRE, which is a special French program for French children. There were only a handful of schools in the city who offered this program. Unlike French immersion programs, all the kids were already fluent in French, and all of our studies were in French. We weren’t even allowed to speak English in class. I didn’t really start learning in English in school until Grade 8.
My classes were really small (5-10 kids per grade), so all of our classes were split with 2 or 3 grades. I really felt like I got the best education. Aside from school, I spent most of my time at the dance studio, since my father was my dance teacher. It was my favourite place. Every day after school, I would be there. I took classes, did my homework and ate there. I probably spent more time there than at home.
We know you started your dancing career when you were 12 years old, but when did you “decide” you wanted to become a professional dancer? How old were you then? How did you know that this was “it” for you?
I actually started dancing seriously when I was 8 years old. I started working and making money in dance when I was 12 years old, as a dance teacher. I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer when I was 16. I earned a scholarship to The Edge Performing Arts Centre in Hollywood and trained there for a summer. At that time, I knew this was where I wanted to be. This was what I wanted to. Every summer after that, I came back to L.A. for more classes.
Where were you when you made the decision to become a dancer? Do you remember?
There wasn’t a particular moment when I made the decision to be a dancer. It was always on my mind as a teenager. I think the summer in L.A., when I was 16, was definitely a turning point for me. Any time I watched a music video, an award show, or a live concert, I kept thinking about how I wanted to dance on TV and on tour with a major artist.
Where did you train to become a dancer? How did that training fit into your young life? Did you attend dance classes after school? Before school? On weekends?
I trained at many studios. I took a class wherever my dad taught, since he was my main teacher. When he opened his own studio, I took classes, as well as taught, there. As I mentioned earlier, the studio was my 2nd home. I would even leave school early, so I could make it to my dance classes. I spent every day at the studio. On weekends, I would attend dance workshops, conventions and competitions.
Was your family always supportive of your career choice, or did you have to convince them?
My parents were supportive of me dancing as a kid, but I don’t think they really wanted me to have it as a career in my adult life. Even though they are both in the dance business, they knew how tough it is. I think, still to this day, I am still trying to convince them that dance is a good career choice for me. I’ve traveled the world, doing what I love and getting paid for it. It some ways, it’s a dream job, but it can also be really tough. One day you’re hot, the next day you’re not. One day you have a job, then the next day you may not. It’s unpredictable, challenging, competitive, cut-throat…it’s survival of the fittest.
What did you peers think about your dancing?
My peers always thought it was cool that I danced. I had a reputation of being “the dancing girl” in school. I rarely went to school functions or parties because I was dancing. Dance sometimes got in the way of my social life, but it kept me out of trouble and focused. I learned time management, since I had very little free time. I was focused on school and dance. That’s it.
Tell us about your start in the business of dance. What was your very first job as a professional dancer? What did you love about it? What did you hate about it?
My first professional job was a dance teacher at age 12. My first professional job as a dancer was when I was 16, dancing in a parade at our local fair. At the time, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was getting paid to dance, hang out with my dance friends and go on rides in between shows. I couldn’t believe I was making money doing what I loved. I thought it was amazing.
The only thing I hated was the music. I heard the same song 7 times in 1 show. We had 2 shows a day for 2 weeks, plus 2 weeks of rehearsal time before that. I must have heard that song hundreds of times. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was ready to shoot myself. Well…not really. HA! You get what I mean ;-)
Who was your greatest mentor? Is that person still in your life today? (You may have more than one. Feel free to list as many as you like.)
Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I don’t think I had just one mentor. I had many over the years. My parents were definitely always a very influential part of my life, and they still are today.
We learned about you through your fabulous work as Lead Dancer for Rain during his world tour. We’d really like to know what it was like to work so closely with Rain, and some details about what it was like to be involved in such a fantastic showcase.
How did you land the job as Lead Dancer for Rain’s world tour? What exactly does the Lead Dancer do?
My agent got me the audition. I went to the audition and was filmed dancing. It was short, sweet and to the point. Probably one of the shortest tour auditions ever. The video was sent to Jamie King, JYP and Rain who all made the final decisions. A week or so later, I got the call that I was booked. All the female dancers had a few moments throughout the show dancing solo with rain as his “leading lady.”
We understand that the choreography was designed by Jamie King. Is that correct? Did you ever get to work with Jamie King? If so, in what capacity? In any other besides Rain’s world tour?
Jamie King was the director of the show. Carla Kama was his assistant. Tone, Richmond and AJ were the choreographers. Rain and his male dancers also choreographed a lot of the show. The choreography was definitely a team collaboration. I had never worked with anyone who was on the tour. It was a great honour to work with everyone, especially Jamie King. I had followed his dance career and I was a huge fan of his work.
How quickly did you have to learn the choreography for Rain’s world tour before you went on the road? Was the choreography difficult, or challenging and fun? Was it cutting-edge, innovative? Please elaborate.
We had about a month of rehearsal time learning and perfecting the entire show. The choreography was amazing. Some sections were a lot more challenging than others, especially the Tango. Everyone, including Rain, struggled with it when we first learned the routine. Rain’s male dancers were street dancers and had never done ballroom dancing. So, there were many occasions where we stepped on each others toes in rehearsals. It was funny. Overall, I really enjoyed the choreography. We did so many different styles, which kept it fun and interesting. We danced with flags…on moving conveyor belts…sexy in heels (the girls)…we were serious, we were happy, we were sad…there was never a dull moment.
What was your favorite song to perform during Rain’s world tour? What was your second favorite? And why?
Well…I don’t think I really had just one favorite. I loved performing “11 days.” It was slow and sexy—the girls [fans] went nuts when I was dancing with Rain. “It’s Raining” was the opening number of the show, and that was always fun, because it was high energy. The crowd at the beginning of the concert was always insane. It was such a rush. “Instead of Saying Goodbye” was the finale, and we got a chance to act goofy and be silly with each other and the fans.
What was your tour schedule like? How quickly did you move from city to city, from show to show? Was it exhausting? On a scale of one to ten, how grueling was the tour in comparison to other tours you’ve been on?
The schedule was actually pretty relaxed. We would spend a few days, sometimes a week in every city. There was plenty of down time to rest and sight-see. It took a long time for the crew to set up and take down the elaborate set, which is why we had down time between cities. There were many occasions where I was flown from L.A. to a city in Asia, then back to L.A. for a few days or a week, then fly out again to the next Asian city. Other tours I’ve been on, usually go from city to city with very few days off. So, it was nice to be able to go home so much.
What was your favorite stop on the tour, your favorite city? Did you get to try any foreign/exotic foods/beverages? If so, did you have any favorites?
I really loved every city we visited. I spent the most time in Seoul during rehearsals. I loved the shopping, the karaoke bars and the spas…oh the spas were amazing. I thought Singapore was absolutely beautiful. It was so clean and I loved the weather. Ho Chi Minh was a unique city. I loved going to the market and bargaining with the locals.
Everything was soooo cheap. I love a good deal. I remember they had the craziest drivers I had ever seen. They don’t stop for pedestrians. There were families with babies driving, 3 or 4 on a moped, no helmets…nobody drove in lanes. It was a free for all. Sydney was one of my favourite cities. It reminded me of Vancouver (where I grew up).
Everywhere I went, I tried new foods. We usually ate as a group, and we always seemed to go to a Korean restaurant in every country. I loved bul-go-gi, galbi….beef and rice was my favourite meal.
When did you meet Rain for the first time? What was that first face-to-face meeting like?
I first met Rain on the first day of rehearsals in Hollywood. He was very polite and friendly—and kind of shy at first.
During our lunch break, he took all the dancers out to a Korean BBQ restaurant in Korea-town, so we could all get to know each other. My first impression is that he was so down-to-earth. I had never worked with a singer who cared so much about his dancers.
How did Rain handle rehearsals for the tour? Did he attend every single rehearsal, or just some of them? In other words, how hands-on was he? We’ve heard he’s a perfectionist about his work and that’s he’s pretty involved with the day-to-day, if he has the time. Is that true?
Rain was at every rehearsal. He missed a couple, but only because he had other work to do (Ie. press conferences, etc.) He worked harder than everyone. He had the best work ethic. He out-danced his dancers. Yes, he is a perfectionist. We would rehearse until late hours of the night, until he and the choreographers were satisfied.
What was he like as a “boss.” Was he a taskmaster or a pushover? Was he firm but fair? Bossy and irritable? Or just downright annoying?
Honestly, I never looked at him as a boss. He never told me what to do. He had so many managers and other staff who seemed to be in charge of everything. The choreographers took care of the dancers and usually [they] were the ones who told us what to do. They were tough on us and expected nothing but the best from us.
Is he as handsome in person as he appears to be onscreen? (We know the answer to this question, but tell us anyway. Just for the heck of it. :-})
Every girl can answer that. Yes, he is very handsome. He looks just as good in rehearsals, on stage, traveling, or just hanging out with friends.
What is Rain’s personality like? We’ve heard he’s got a good sense of humor and likes to play practical jokes on the people he works with (which sometimes drives them crazy). We’ve also heard that he thinks he’s funnier than he is. Is this true? Do you remember any funny (and harmless, of course) stories about Rain on the tour that you think his fans might enjoy hearing about?
Rain has many sides to him. When he is at work, he is very serious and very seldom goofs around. When he is just hanging out with friends, he can be pretty silly and playful. Because of the language barrier, I had a hard time understanding the jokes. The guy dancers and him always seemed to pull pranks on each other.
We’ve heard that in spite of his incredible talent, Rain is still a humble person. Is this true? Are there any examples you can give us from the tour where he chose to behave in a humble way, when he probably could have gotten away with behaving like a diva instead?
It is so true. He is sooooo humble. On stage, he is super confident and bold. Offstage, he can be quiet and reserved. He was NEVER a diva.
He had his own dressing room at every venue, but would rarely hang out in there. He would rather hang out with us (the dancers) in our group dressing room. He would eat with all the cast and crew before and after every show.
He would take us out…to restaurants, bowling, karaoke bars, etc. He was very generous. He never came off that he was too good to hang out with the dancers or any of his staff. He treated everyone as an equal.
Is Rain as intelligent as he seems to be?
He is a brilliant artist and multi-talented. He can sing. He can dance. He can act. He is hard-working, very humble and very dedicated to his career.
What is Rain like as a dancer. Is he as spectacular at it as he appears to be? What type of dancing does he perform the best?
He was not a formally trained dancer, but he had a natural ability. He is a strong hip-hop dancer. I think he is better than many other male pop artists, such as Usher, Omarion, Chris Brown, and Justin Timberlake.
He is a very strong singer. I was impressed by how well he sang live, in concert, especially considering he danced at the same time. That is really hard to do. He never lip-synced, unlike many pop-stars out there.
Unfortunately, the last shows of Rain’s world tour were canceled. This was a sad circumstance. We would really appreciate it if you could say something in support of Rain with regard to the show cancellation(s), as an insider and as part of the dance crew “on the scene.” If you would rather not comment about it, we will understand, and we won’t even mention that we asked you about it. However, it would be really nice to see someone else who was involved in the tour make a public statement in support of Rain. FYI, recently the chief director of Rain’s world tour, Mr. Lau Sing Ho, made a statement in Rain’s defense, because of some recent rumors about some of Rain’s alleged activities during the world tour. You can read our article and Mr. Lau’s statement HERE. In any event, anything supportive you can say would be greatly appreciated by his fans.
I honestly can’t comment on it, because I wasn’t there. My last show with Rain was in Sydney, Australia. I was on tour with Luis Miguel in Spain at the time of the L.A .show. I had heard many different stories, but I don’t know what really happened. It was very unfortunate that the show was canceled on such short notice.
As for the article above, I was shocked to read that. I NEVER saw or heard of Rain gambling. I think that rumour is a load of #$%.
Is there anything else about your work with Rain that you would like to share? If so, please feel free to do so.
It was a true honour to work with Rain. I didn’t know who he was until I booked the tour. I got to know him as a person and not as a star. I was blown away by how big he was in Asia. He has the best fans.
I have worked with many celebrities, and none of them had such loyal fans. They would wait for him at airports, outside the hotel, even at restaurants. I would see some of the same faces in multiple cities. It was nice to be recognized out in public.
I will never forget arriving in Hong Kong. Nobody warned us that Rain would have hundreds of fans waiting at the airport. Once, I had no make-up on and wearing sweats after traveling all day/night. I was in the arrivals area, and all of a sudden dozens of fans start following me, asking for photos. It was so sweet. Even a camera crew followed me, and I was on the news in Hong Kong the next day. I had never experienced anything like it.
Performing with Rain was a memorable experience. I am proud to say that I am the first and only Caucasian and Canadian to ever dance with him.
In closing, I’d like to briefly spotlight your current and future activities. Are there any, in particular, you’d like to share with our members? Also, do you have any charitable activities you’d like to promote to the group? We Clouds love to hear about charitable activities.
I am always working on various projects…TV shows, music videos, tours etc., but nothing could be more exciting than my newest and most exciting new job—being a mom and a wife. I got married this year and had a beautiful baby girl in August 2010. Go to www.babysoraya.com to see my daughter. If you want to know what I am working on now, visit my website at www.meninaonline.com.
As a final note, how about a word of advice for the young dancers out there just starting in the business? Would you care to share any inspirational words with them?
My advice to any young dancers out there is: diversify your training and learn many styles of dance. If you want a career as a dancer, learn how to market yourself.
Understand that talent is never enough. Who you know will get you in the door. What you know will keep you there. This business is all about relationships.
For the last 8 years, Menina has been based in Los Angeles, California. She stays extremely busy with her many activities all over the world.
Thank you, Menina, for giving us a glimpse into what it was like to be a part of Rain’s world. You truly are an inspiration and a positive role model for young dancers everywhere! Best wishes to you and yours, wherever you may be. Please let us know when you get to work with Rain again, so we can be watching!
And that’s not all folks! Below are a few more insights into Menina’s work: Some of it with Rain, some not, but all of it interesting. Enjoy! Terri :-}
Here’s a video Menina made just for you, Clouds. You may have seen it before out there in cyberspace, but now you can enjoy it here on Cloud USA, courtesy of Menina herself.
[All videos credited to: meninaf on YouTube]
Menina dancing in the Rain’s World Tour Premiere:
Menina teaching the Rainism choreography to her Master Class students:
Her amazing Dance Demo Reel:
And finally, we have a behind-the-scenes look at one of her latest projects: Jordan Setacci’s You Got Me music video, featuring The Hollywood Summer Tour (HST) Dancers. Menina produced, choreographed and directed this music video, which has not yet been released. (Isn’t she amazing? :-})
[All images credited to www.meninaonline.com]