Kiel Tutin Shares His Journey to Creating Work for K-Pop Royalty
April 24, 2024

Choreographer Kiel Tutin was destined to be a creator. “I was a choreographer before I was a dancer,” he says. He grew up creating pieces in his bedroom and setting the work on his older sister and her friends. “We used to rent space, and I would mix music and teach them routines before I had any kind of formal training.” Tutin has come a long way since then. Now, he’s a sought-after choreographer in the world of K-pop.

Around age 11, Kiel started his first dance classes—community ballroom lessons at a local church hall in Nottingham, England, and street-dance class as an extracurricular activity at school. At 13, his family unexpectedly moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where his true love of dance emerged. He joined Nicola Wheeler Dance Academy, a competition studio, where he trained primarily in street styles and a little jazz. Two years later, he moved his training to Parris Goebel’s famed empire, The Palace Dance Studio, where he joined the junior team.

Tutin spent five years as part of Goebel’s Royal Family, where he focused much of his time on competitions like The World Hip Hop Dance Championships. He started as a dancer, but by his second year he was helping to lead the sorority crew. “I became Parris Goebel’s main assistant for almost everything at the studio,” he says. “When she would leave for jobs, I was in charge of holding down the fort.”

In 2015, Tutin was ready to chart his own path beyond The Palace, and he began teaching and choreographing at studios nearby and abroad. “I was in full hustle mode organizing teaching tours,” he says. “It was the main thing that was available to me in terms of making a living and keeping the momentum I had from The Royal Family.” Slowly, choreographic opportunities trickled in, and Tutin began working with artists from various parts of Asia in particular, including Taiwanese artist Jolin Tsai. In 2018, choreographic duo Nappytabs saw a clip of Tutin’s work online and recommended him to none other than Jennifer Lopez. “I got my American visa and worked closely with Jennifer for the VMAs and the Grammys,” he says. “Those jobs pinballed into working with Blackpink, which opened the door to many other Korean artists. Since 2020, I have done roughly 30 songs per year for different Korean acts.”

Tutin at the NMDF Dance Convention. Photo courtesy Tutin.

You’d think a choreographic career was always Tutin’s life goal, but if you ask him, it’s not something he put much forethought into. “It literally just happened,” he says. “I always work hard and fight for success, but I never set goals. I just go with the flow. If I am having a good time, enjoying the music and the people, I’m happy. Whatever happens, happens.” As a teacher, Tutin strives to challenge his students. “I like to push people to use musicality and be one with the music, and to play with speed and size,” he says. “I realized a long time ago that my passion isn’t teaching people how to dance, it’s teaching people how to dance better.” 

Here he shares his teaching warm-up, teaching attire, how he maintains his energy on long teaching days, and more. 

Best-loved teaching warm-up: “Before teaching I always do two songs of cardio and one and a half songs of stretching. I choose that method because it’s important to get your blood pumping before you stretch. It kills me when teachers don’t do that.”

Favorite teaching attire: “I usually wear baggy track pants or basketball shorts from Nike. I like a chunky shoe, so Air Force 1’s are a staple. I also like to wear high-tops because I need support for my ankles.”

Long-rehearsal energy booster: “I’m a sucker for a Red Bull.”

Nondance activities: “I really like going to the beach and swimming, and I really like high-adrenaline activities like skydiving.”

Photo by Mataara Stokes, courtesy Tutin.

Ideal day off: “I like going to the mall and a nice restaurant. Malls are kind of the most consistent thing around the world. It is a safe space wherever you are.”

Recommended reading: “The most recent book I read was Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s also a movie, and I enjoyed experiencing the story in two different mediums of creativity. I think that translates to music and dance for me. I like hearing something and seeing something either separately or together and getting the same kind of emotional response.”

His guilty pleasure: “Pizza Hut.” 

Subscribe to our newsletters

Sign up for any or all of these newsletters

You have Successfully Subscribed!