Former Atlanta Hawks dancer Chika Takai (@chika _ takai) is now making waves as the Hawks’ first female DJ. Here, the multihyphenate gives the inside scoop on the team, her experience growing up in Japan and what Atlanta means to her.
Where are you from and what led you to Atlanta?
I grew up in a typical Japanese household right outside Tokyo. As a teen who idolized the American music and dance scene, I had dreamed about coming to the U.S. Seven years ago, I boarded a plane to Atlanta to turn my dream into a reality. My first music love was hip-hop, and I saw Atlanta as the epicenter of that, making it my perfect match. So many Atlanta artists have a distinct style, sound and energy, and their impact on the music landscape could be seen all the way from Japan. That is what I fell in love with, and it made Atlanta the only possible destination for me.
Tell me about your time dancing for the Hawks.
To be honest, dancing for the Hawks was never on my radar until I went to my first game. In Japan, dancing for sporting teams is a separate community from other forms of dance. Aided by a serendipitous meeting with the dance team’s director, my passion for dance led me to the Atlanta Hawks dance team, despite speaking very little English. During my six seasons, not only did my English improve but I was honored to be named rookie of the year and veteran of the year, whereafter I eventually became the first Japanese dancer to be named head captain of an NBA dance team. From performing with Ciara during the Super Bowl to countless hours working in the Atlanta community, the Hawks dance team experience allowed me to grow not only as a performer but as an Atlantan as well.
How did you come to be the Hawks’ first official DJ?
Many may not know this, but the Hawks have been voted as the best fan experience in the NBA for the past few seasons. The organization is obsessed with creating engaging experiences for their fan base, which perfectly aligns with my love of passionate interactions with audiences. When they learned that I DJ in addition to dancing, it seemed like the ideal match. What could be better than to watch an in-arena DJ break out into impromptu dance performances throughout her set? It’s more than just playing music. It’s about entertaining, which I mastered through my six seasons as a Hawks dancer and my experiences spinning for corporate clients that include Porsche and Bloomingdale’s and international special event clients such as 1 Oak and CÉ LA VI.
What distinguishes you from other entertainers?
I like to say that I am not a DJ, but I am an entertainer that DJs. I’ve become known as the ‘dancing DJ,’ a name that has grown on me over time, and I would say is most appropriate. Drawing from my roots as a dancer, I always try to make my performances visual as well as audio experiences.
What has been your most exciting experience as a DJ?
I would have to say it was the Atlanta Hawks vs. Philadelphia 76ers halftime show during the 2020-21 playoffs—over 20,000 frenzied fans in one of the most competitive postseason series the Hawks have been in for a long time. It was amazing!
Photography by: Michael Noel