Wellington-born choreographer Todd Williamson has worked with Parris Goebel, Lorde, and Rita Ora, as well as some of K-Pop’s biggest stars. He talks to YOUR EX about falling in love with dance, coming out as a teenager, and getting his big break!

Where did you grow up in New Zealand and what was the experience of growing up there like for you?

I grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. I had a really solid upbringing, my parents are incredible, and I’m very grateful to have such a strong support system in my life. They backed my dancing from a young age. I had a strong sense of self from the get-go in the way that I knew I was inspired by music, dance, and theatre! Performing at any family gathering I could. Being interested in performing arts had its challenges as it wasn’t considered ‘normal’ for young men to be interested in these things at that time. This was never going to stop me though and all I can say is thank God it didn’t. 


What did coming out look like for you?

I started by telling some of my close girlfriends when I was around 16, they made me feel safe and gave me the space to express what my sexuality looked like for me at that age. A few more friends around me started coming out as well, so I was lucky to find queer friends in my teen years that I could be openly gay with. Then as I got older I began to move with more confidence around my sexuality and told everybody I was close to and cared about by 18. 

When did you fall in love with dance and what element of dance made you love the artwork the most?

I fell in love with dance when I was only a toddler, I was super inspired by musical theatre and loved Gene Kelly, my Nana bought me a DVD box set of his most famous films. I danced as a hobby for most of my adolescence and then began to take it more seriously around 17. This reignited my love for dance even more so, discovering the world of choreography. I became obsessed with choreographers from around the world posting dance concept videos on YouTube. I also fell in love with choreography in Music Videos. I knew one day that I would choreograph for pop stars. I was too obsessed for it not to happen!

When did you know that choreography was the path you wanted to go down and what do you love about choreographing music videos and live performances?

I spent my early 20s working as a dancer. I then began to teach open classes at The Palace Dance Studios which gave me the platform to create choreography on a weekly basis and teach the routines to some of New Zealand’s most talented dance artists. I would say that was a turning point for me as I realised my choreography spoke to people and brought out an energy and spark in dancers, it was compelling. 

I love choreographing for music videos and performances as it challenges me in a new and different way almost every time. There is something new to learn no matter what the job is and that’s exciting for me. 

What did your big break look like?

My big break was more like a series of events over a long period of time. So not really an overnight success story here. I was signed to my international agency Jam Republic who connected me to many artists in the K-pop world where I developed my reputation, choreographing many viral dances for the group LE SSERAFIM and other groups and artists.  This continued to build my social media following which opened many doors for me and led to work with artists such as Rita Ora and Lorde. My unique choreography style has grabbed the attention of many other creatives in the industry which has also played a big part in connecting me to notable artists. 

How hard do you think it is for New Zealand-based choreographers to break into working with international bands?

I would say New Zealand may be far away geographically from the rest of the world but we definitely have what it takes to make it in the international dance industry. My favourite choreographers and dancers are born and bred Kiwis. The training and style of dancing in NZ is very memorable and the rest of the world wants a slice. So it’s definitely achievable with some belief in your craft and perseverance. 

Is it easier for NZ choreographers to work with K-pop groups over US and Europe-based artists?

K-pop artists are somewhat easier in the way that the choreography is exchanged via video submissions. This means a choreographer can create and send the submission from anywhere in the world. Whereas US and Europe-based artists prefer to work in person which involves some more moving parts. 

How much has the success of Parris Goebel put NZ choreographers on the map?

Parris Goebel is an undeniable force in the dance Industry, so her emerging from NZ has done so much for the dance community here. We are now recognised internationally thank you to Parris and her incredible gifts. 

What is your favourite music video choreography of all time and why?

My favourite music video of all time has to be ‘Alejandro’ by Lady Gaga. The visuals are sickening, the styling is superb, the camera work is stunning and the choreography has such a clear direction and personality. I just love it!

If you had to pick one music video that you have personally choreographed that you are most proud of, which one is it and why?

It may be because it’s my most recent choreography but it has to be ‘Puppet Show’ by XG. The creative direction for this music video had me astonished. The artists executed my choreography perfectly, I was so happy with the way it turned out! 

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