- Dancing With
Meet Isaac Tualaulelei
In the Studio
With a patient teaching style and strong rapport with his students, IsaacTualaulelei strivesto challenge dancers without overwhelming them. Class members say they love learning his groovy style, so different from Los Angeles hip hop. To keep them on their toes, Isaac switches up his choreography stylistically from week to week—every class, he has a surprise in store!
Isaac is oriented to the dancer who comes to class to train. He refers to fundamentals of performance in class, and most of his routines are advanced. But he also teaches something with simpler counts once in a while. The easier routines are a lot of fun, he says, and provide balance for both him and his students.
Isaac encourages dancers to speak up and
respond to him in class.
Isaac encourages dancers to speak up and respond to him in class. It’s important to him to answer questions, and to adjust his pace if necessary, so people can get the routine. As an instructor, Isaac believes he’s responsible to be attuned to his students and teach so that they can learn well and walk out of class having accomplished something.
While he feels it’s important for dancers to be able to take direction and perform a dance as the choreographer intended, Isaac also usually leaves a couple of counts in his routines for self-expression. He’s passionate about music, and he loves to see how other people interpret and respond to it!
Selected Dance Experiences
America’s Best Dance Crew
At the beginning of 2010 Isaac and his crew, Heavy Impact, competed on Season Five of America’s Best Dance Crew.
Isaac enjoyed working with his crew to meet the show’s tight time constraint: each week, the group had only about three or four days to create, clean, perfect, and perform a one-minute routine that had to incorporate many different elements.
He also enjoyed meeting new people from different regions of the US, and even Canada, who all share a passion for dance. What Isaac feels viewers may not realize about the show is that the competing crews become good friends.
“It is a competition show, but at the end of the day . . . there’s this bond that’s ridiculous that we have all formed,” Isaac says. “So that’s something that I’ll forever take away.”
In summer 2010 Isaac choreographed an all-girls set for the crew Varsity, performed on a Friday night at Hollywood’s Highlands club. The dancers are an amazing group of girls, Isaac says, and delivered his choreography really well. The project was one of his favorites since moving to L.A., and he felt it was a big stepping-stone for him in moving into the area of choreography.
Dancing with Isaac Tualaulelei
IsaacTualauleleishares his deep connection with groove through his teaching. Groove can’t really be taught, Isaac says. But by sharing his own in class, he hopes to bring people more in touch with it.
“As long as they can catch the choreography,” he says, “they have a sense of what my groove is, Isaac’sgroove.“
“See if your body learns a different movement
or a different style or a different language.”
To Isaac’s thinking, groove is universal, natural movement, the most important foundation you can have in dance. Any song can be a groove song, he says, if you bring your groove to it.
And his passion for music embraces the full spectrum: Isaac may find inspiration in jazz, African, or even a symphony. He often choreographs to R&B and hip hop, but one week he might teach a routine to alternative, or rock.
Because of the profound power of music to inspire and influence movement, if his body feels a certain way with certain music, Isaac feels it’s important to take heed and move that way.
“I feel like that’s where beautiful choreography is created,“Isaac says, “is when the body is moving exactly how the music is pulling and pushing the body.“
Valuing Learning over Comfort
Isaac’s teaching is geared to the student who wants to learn and progress. He strives to bring something different each week and keep his class members guessing, so they don’t settle into a comfort zone.
At the same time, even if you’ve done a routine three or four times in one of your classes, Isaac feels it’s still worth looking for something new you can get out of it.
“For me, it’s not about about being comfortable, it’s about learning,” Isaac says. “Because class is where you come to train. So if you’ve learned it before, then hey, maybe try to learn it all over again, see if your body learns a different movement or a different style or a different language this time.”
But as far as his own class, Isaac says, he jumps around stylistically so the students get a fresh challenge when they walk in the door.
Where It All Started
Isaac didn’t study dance technique while he was growing up.
“I started off old school, music videos, where you would just learn, like Michael and Janet,” Isaac says. “My first videos I learned . . . Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ and Janet Jackson’s ‘Pleasure Principle.’
“So I was all about mimicking and mocking what I see in front of me. And I have no jazz, no ballet, anything. But I push my body to try to reach those lines.”
Michael and Janet each definitely have their groove, Isaac says, and both of their styles are very iconic. They changed it up as they grew as artists, and brought different things—but they always held onto their stage presence and performance quality.
“What got me was their choreography,” Isaac says. “The fact that it was so captivating and so—what’s the word I’m looking for?—just so out there. So different, just so different.Innovating.There you go.”
Next came the 90s era, where everything was just full out. Very basic counts with big movements.
“That’s like my foundation and my base,” Isaac says. “I definitely have respect for those eras, because that’s where my foundation comes from.”