Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

Sienna Lalau: The Dynamite Dancer and Choreographer Helping BTS Make Magic

At just 20 years old, Sienna Lalau is the living definition of "dynamite dancer": bold, confident, almost addicting to watch, and, at her core, overflowing with pure passion. From her work with The Lab Studios to Video Music Award–winning choreography for BTS, there's no stopping this starlet from bringing her love of dance to the global stage.

"Dance is something that can truly connect people," Sienna tells Dance Spirit. "It's a universal language. We may not speak the same language physically, but when we dance, there's a connection where we understand each other on another level."

Sienna Lalau poses in front of a pale blue background. She stares directly at the camera, her hands behind her head. She wears blue jeans, a red zip-up jacket, and her hair in two buns.

Photo by Joe Toreno

All for the Love of K-Pop

That sense of a universal language is a large part of the reason Sienna has felt so deeply moved by K-pop and its influence on the dance world. A longtime fan of the genre—a love so deeply rooted that Korean dramas have become her obsession throughout the pandemic—Sienna's first experience choreographing for a K-pop group was with Exo. With one day to put together the full routine ("I was up until about 5 am," she recalls), it was a stressful experience, but one that showed her the possibilities that could arise ahead.

That moment eventually led to her work with global superstars BTS, with whom she's developed a close relationship over the years. "Being in the same room with them is just so amazing to witness, because you instantly feel their passion and their energy, and you feel how much they care about their fans and their work," Sienna says. And as she talks about BTS, her voice lights up with clear admiration for what the group has accomplished, and for how proud she feels about the work she's created with them, as she rightfully should.

Photo by Joe Toreno

"It was so amazing to see her work with BTS and help bring them to life through her choreography," says Valerie Ramirez, founder and creative director of The Lab. "Even with a language barrier, it was pretty amazing to watch her work with them and see what she could do with their art form."

Sienna clearly has great synergy with the boys, given her similar sense of love and passion for dance and the art community as a whole. "Just seeing people that have never even heard about it before starting to listen to it now and starting to appreciate these different groups and the music itself, even if they don't speak the same language as us, is so wholesome to me," Sienna says. "And I think K-pop has literally just taken over the world."

Photo by Joe Toreno

Growing Roots at The Lab

Sienna's work with BTS largely stems from her roots at The Lab, a training studio for world-class dancers. She began working with The Lab back in November of 2016, while still living in her home state of Hawaii. Traveling back and forth between the island and California, Sienna began to grow her reputation with the organization before officially making the move to the West Coast in late 2017, after helping The Lab win Hip Hop International's Varsity Division.

"She's always been special and brilliant," says Ramirez. "Her ability to create with a team of peers at The Lab has allowed her creativity to fully bloom."

Making the move was far from an easy decision, though. Sienna's mom deeply wanted her to finish high school in Hawaii, but didn't want to discourage any opportunities that could come her way. And while moving to L.A.—or New York City—is often a young dancer's dream, it comes with an unspoken level of anxiety that Sienna experienced firsthand.

"I came up here by myself at first, and the first month alone was pretty tragic," she remembers.

Sienna Lalau poses in front of a pink background. She wears a brown matching set with "The Lab" printed on it, white sneakers, and her hair in french braids. She looks directly at the camera, and holds one braid in her hands.

Photo by Joe Toreno

Thankfully, Sienna's mom went out to L.A. a month later, but that time period—stripped from her family, home and everything that felt so natural to her—was an immense challenge in and of itself. In that moment, she turned to God for comfort.

"I knew that if I kept having faith, and I knew that if I just put my trust in God and really leaned on Him, I knew that he was going to provide for me, and he was going to take care of me, and I didn't have to worry about it," she says. And looking back now, that couldn't have been truer.

Sienna's work with The Lab quickly picked up steam, with headline-making moments popping up what felt like every couple of months. And still, it's impossible for her to pick a favorite. When pushed, though, she reveals that there's nothing as special as preparing for a competition with her fellow dancers.

Photo by Joe Toreno

"When we're preparing for a competition, it's so, so, so stressful, but it's helped me grow the most. The one thing that we really cherish at The Lab is our chemistry with each other," Sienna says, "There's days where we're literally just cleaning the same eight-count for hours, and still, the energy that you feel in the room is so amazing because everybody has each other's back. It really feels like a family."

She adds, "It feels like it's been a long ride, but I look back now, and it hasn't even been five years. But with the number of things that we've been able and blessed to do, it feels like the best crazy long ride."

And that ride is only getting started. Ramirez only sees success in Sienna's future, saying, "I think a world tour would be something that she is so ready to create for. She's ready to express herself on a higher level and a bigger magnitude of creativity."

Photo by Joe Toreno

The Future Couldn't Be Brighter

Despite the ways 2020 has thrown the dance industry into a spiral, Sienna is staying positive and hopeful, knowing that the universal language of dance will never fade. Through the pandemic, she's been able to choreograph for Black Pink, Treasure, and for a visual album for "Changes" by Justin Bieber. And as if that wasn't spectacular enough, she also found the time to choreograph a special promo for March Madness to Selena Gomez's "Dance Again." Clearly, not even a global shutdown can stop Sienna's star from rising.

Like most of us, her go-to form of self-care during this troublesome time has been a Netflix binge. She's resting a lot more, as well, an uncommon thing for a dancer normally constantly on the move.

When it comes to the album she has on repeat, Ariana Grande's Positions instantly comes to mind. And when she's in the mood for some more K-pop, "Dynamite," by BTS, is the first to come on shuffle.

Sienna Lalau poses in front of a pale blue background. She wears blue jeans, a red zip-up jacket, a white bralette, and her hair in two buns. She looks at the camera, holding the zipper of her jacket with one hand.

Photo by Joe Toreno

Looking ahead with so much up in the air, one thing is clear in Sienna's mind: Dance has never been so important. "Dancing in general is more important now than ever before, because it's something that makes people feel good at the end of the day and brings a lot of joy. And we all need that right now."

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