After graduating with a New Zealand Diploma in Dance, Todd Williamson quickly began carving out his place in the New Zealand dance scene. He was accepted into Parris Goebel’s dance crew, The Royal Family, and moved to Auckland, where he found a passion for teaching and choreography. Now an International Choreographer and Teacher, Todd’s career has taken him to 22 countries, earned him a silver medal at Hip Hop International in the US with The Royal Family, he’s worked with K-Pop artists such as Le Sserafim, Hwasa, Aespa, and local artists such as Benee, Stan Walker and Lorde.
We spoke to Todd about his career, where his passion for dance began, his experience studying at Whitireia, and more.
What does your work involve?
I don't have one single workplace, just many different jobs that change from week to week. This means a lot of travel, new environments, and people which I'm very grateful for.
In my role as a choreographer, I create the movement, formation work, staging and sometimes camera movements for a live performance or music video for a major artist. This means a bit of prep work for me plus a lot of rehearsal hours for the dancers involved in the project. The workload can pile up from time to time, but I love what I do so much that it makes it all worth it in the end.
Tell us a bit about your background
I grew up in Churton Park, Wellington, and started learning dance in Porirua. I trained there for most of my adolescence before doing my full-time training at Whitireia. I then made the move to Auckland after successfully auditioning for Parris Goebel’s Royal Family Dance Crew. I spent three years training, learning and upskilling.
This is where my passion for choreography and teaching began to flourish as I taught many open classes at The Palace Dance Studio which gave me the platform to create routines and teach some of the most talented dancers in New Zealand. I was then signed to my NZ agency 3wj+boy and international agency Jam Republic and my choreography career began to take flight.
Where did your passion for dance start?
When I was young, I loved musicals and Michael Jackson. My grandma began making me little costumes that I could wear to perform at family gatherings. I would have only been three or four. I loved pop culture from the get-go and watched music videos all through my teen years.
What made you choose Whitireia?
I knew that if I wanted to make a career out of dance I was going to need to train full-time. Whitireia offers a full-time training programme with a diversity of styles which was exactly what I needed at that time! I needed to learn what a full-time career as a performance artist felt like physically and mentally and I knew this programme was going to offer me that insight.
What was your study experience like?
It was amazing, for the first time in my life I was dancing around the clock. I learnt so much about nutrition and fitness which is a giant part of maintaining a career that demands you be at your best physically. I also made some amazing connections and friends during the whole process, ones that I still have today. The learning environment was safe and supportive, there was a lot of growth happening in those classes.
Did you learn anything invaluable while studying that has really helped you in your career?
The jazz technique I was taught by the tutors has made a massive impact on my choreography today and was a really solid foundation for me moving into the commercial choreography world!
What do you love about your job?
I love that it doesn't feel like work for me. That might sound cliché but it's the truth. I wake up excited to go to rehearsals and challenge myself to create something better than my last project. I have been exposed to so many different parts of the world and have met so many incredible creatives who have inspired me so much, it’s truly priceless.
What are some of your favourite moments from your career so far?
Being involved in the opening ceremonies of the Women’s Rugby World Cup and the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup, in particular being able to work with Rita Ora. I was also lucky to not only dance but also provide the choreography for Six60s concerts at both Mount Smart and Eden Park.
What would you say to someone considering studying dance at Whitireia?
Absolutely go for it! It sets you up with a solid foundation of knowledge about the commercial dance industry. You develop a work ethic that will stay with you for years to come and valuable knowledge about maintaining your instrument, the body.
Check out one of Todd’s latest pieces of work, choreography for “Puppet Show”, South-Korea based girl group XG’s single:
Study Dance at Whitireia
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