Leilani De Marco is bringing her internationally successful dance career to the States. Born and raised in Australia, De Marco started dancing at 8 years old. In her youth, she trained at Vision Dance Studio in New South Wales, Australia; Mad Dance House in Brisbane, Australia; and Davidia Lind Dance Center (DLDC) in Mansfield, Australia. At 19 years old, she moved to New Zealand to dance with the legendary Parris Goebel and The Royal Family at the Palace Dance Studio. During her time with the group, she danced in Justin Bieber music videos and performed across the U.S., Hong Kong, Korea, and India. “My overseas work started to take off and it was really exciting,” De Marco says. In 2017 she left The Royal Family and started dancing for Kiel Tutin’s NZX, but the COVID-19 pandemic halted the group’s progress in 2020. When pandemic restrictions loosened, her career picked back up, and she danced with a New Zealand–based group called Six60, booked a music video with a Taiwanese artist named Tia Lee, and toured with a different Taiwanese artist named Jolin Tsai.
This year, Tutin offered De Marco a job of a lifetime: to perform at Coachella with the 2023 headliner, BLACKPINK. “It’s definitely the peak of my career so far,” she says. “I still can’t find the words to describe how incredible it was.” But the beauty of the opportunity didn’t stop there. Shortly after, De Marco was invited to join BLACKPINK on their world tour, which finally wrapped in mid-September 2023. With a resumé like that, it’s easy to wonder what De Marco could possibly want to do next. For her, the answer is easy: She’s moving to join the American dance scene in January 2024.
Here, she spotlights one of her favorite teachers, gives advice for up-and-coming dancers, and shares her dreams for the future.
The most helpful correction she’s ever received “Growing up, I wasn’t a natural performer. I was more of a clean, detail-oriented dancer. I put all of my energy into that, rather than my stage presence. I often got notes on that. To this day, it’s something I practice and keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m onstage. I’ve gotten much better at it, but it’s not something that happens organically.”
Putting the spotlight on one of her most influential teachers “I worked with Todd Williamson while at The Palace and NZX. He always puts the performance and that X factor at the forefront of his work. If someone is a little messy or needs work, he doesn’t mind as long as he can see they are a star. He wants a great performance. I just love his choreography—it’s my favorite way of dancing. Also, I’d like to give a special shout-out to my very first dance teacher, Jill Wehner. She was a bit hard on me, but it paid off. She was the best.”
Her advice for students who aspire to a career like hers “If you are hungry and you want it enough, all you really need to do is just keep that passion at the forefront of your mind. Work really hard and don’t give up. The feeling I get when performing pushes me to keep moving forward. If that’s how you feel about dance, I would encourage you to chase it no matter what.”
Her goals for the future “I’m in the process of getting my visa for America which is exciting. I’m planning to move there in January and work in a lead role at Steezy Studio as a principal dance instructor/assistant to their choreographers. My plan from there is to just keep dancing. I want to book some big world tours with amazing artists, and to keep working in the industry for as long as I can.”