Sharp, dynamic, intricate. To sum up the rhythmic physicality of a dancer and choreographer with a style so distinctive is near impossible without staring in admiration at a man whose body responds to music in an almost unnatural way. Tobias Ellehammer is a phenomenon.
At only 25 years old he has taken the world of dance by the tap shoes, starring in both blockbuster-esque dance videos and choreographing for artists such as Liam Payne, Olly Murs, Kylie Minogue, and K-Pop superstars Super Junior (their latest collaboration with him has 36 million views on YouTube to date.) A true creator of dance, his artistry is apparent in each one of his videos. Pause at any moment, and his body is beautifully contorted.
Growing up in Copenhagen, the son of a circus performer-turned-stage manager, and a musician, creativity is in his blood; “I’ve been dancing since I was born, but it was when I saw a dance performance as a child where there was this solo, a break dancer who switched between Breakdancing and Ballet. This whole contrast and versatility with the storytelling element of the art form of dance just caught my eye, and I thought it was fascinating.”
Known for his conceptual choreographic style – as praised by Ne-Yo, Derek Hough, and Jennifer Lopez on American TV dance competition World of Dance – Ellehammer’s fluid and energetic style earned him international acclaim and a huge fandom following his dance trilogy tribute to the Jackson family. Part II has over 40 million views on Social Media. Part III took him 2 years from initial concept to its release in January 2019.
I’ve been dancing since I was born
A career defining project, Ellehammer is philosophical in his approach; “I love to tell a story with it, that’s why I do the videos that I do as I have something in my heart that I want to share. It could come in the shape of choreography or in the concept of direction.” Such is his passion for sharing his art that each one of the videos were self-funded. Music is a focal point, an anchor in the creative process, him citing Prince as his biggest inspiration. “I love who he was as an artist, it was all about how everything worked together in one concept, music and dance.”
A revolutionary who craved originality, Prince himself trained in Classical Ballet. His movements are so beyond his music that the lasting effect this had on Ellehammer is obvious in his attitudes towards his own creative process;
“Thinking back, I have always been very intrigued by honouring the music in the best way possible. It really annoyed me when I was dancing that I would hear things and my body would not be able to react how I wanted to emphasise the music. So at a very early age I started to put little phases together where I would attack the instruments and music with different dynamics. So you could say actually that I started choreographing before I started free-styling and that’s when I fell in love with the art of creation.”
It really annoyed me when I was dancing that I would hear things and my body would not be able to react how I wanted to emphasise the music.
Multi-talented in a number of different dance styles, from Tap to African, Ballet to Popping, “over the years it’s become clear that when I’m incorporating all these different styles into my own movements I’ve found my own style that people recognise, and that’s always been a big goal of mine.” He seems to embody the very way in which he describes the London dance scene; versatile.
Although now London based, his global appeal has seen him spend time in Seoul – where the success of his Jackson trilogy saw a demand for his unique style be applied to the notorious dance-heavy K-Pop videos (“dance is appreciated on a whole other level”) – to the incredible locations used as backdrops to his own show-stopping videos; Part II of the trilogy saw him dance in 12 countries over the space of 16 days.
Social Media has had a massive role to play in this, with Ellehammer finding it both a positive and negative experience; “I love feeling exposed sometimes, but a lot has changed with Social Media, there’s this whole thing of putting something out there just to get instant validation. We should try to embrace feeling uncomfortable and feeling awkward and put that out there. It affects the class environment and ultimately how you learn to dance and push yourself.” Yet, his videos on YouTube and other channels are precisely how he has gained such a devoted global fan base.
When asked who he would choose to join on stage, Ellehammer smiles; “Justin Timberlake. I love his music, I love the way he puts a performance together. He helped define my own intricate dance moves. I remember watching ‘My Love’ and thinking, woah, you can dance like that?!”
Forever occupied by creating, he points over to One Canada Square in Canary Wharf, “I’d love to go up there, have people lay out, and then I would do a top shot with a drone while their arms are moving like this…”