Youtuber Matt Steffanina is not only a content creator and choreographer. To many, he is also an educator and role model. Known for the high-energy dance videos he shares on his channel, he also teaches up-and-coming performers.
Last month, Steffanina was in town for the annual Youtube FanFest performance held at the Kowloon Bay International Trade & Exhibition Centre on August 3.
In between rehearsals for the show, Steffanina chatted to Young Post about his love of dance, social media, and his students.
“I grew up doing ‘boy’ sports: snowboarding and football etc,” he said. “It was only when I turned 18 that I realised my love for dance.”
As a teen in his home state of Pennsylvania, the American would spend countless nights freestyling to tunes with his friends, who found his moves mesmerising.
“It really motivated me to pursue this dream of mine and spread the joy of dancing with other people,” he said.
Steffanina moved to Los Angeles – the world’s entertainment capital – in the hopes of turning his hobby into a profession. At six feet tall, he stood out amongst his competitors, and was quickly spotted by a talent agency. “Many dancers have to change their image to stand out; I am lucky to be a tall white guy,” he admitted. “It helped me get jobs.” (He pays it forward, though, and often pairs up with minority dancers in his hugely popular choreography videos.)
Very soon, his work as a dancer and choreographer caught the attention of big names such as TV host Ellen DeGeneres, singer Jason Derulo and comedian Kevin Hart. While this recognition was flattering, it more importantly opened up opportunities to collaborate with other creative minds.
“It would’ve taken a comedian years to be in a skit with Kevin Hart, but after watching me dance on social media, Kevin and his team [contacted] me and we did a video entirely about comedy,” he said. If it weren’t for platforms like YouTube, he added, he would never have been spotted by someone like the famous comedian.
Steffanina’s relationship with Derulo has gone beyond the “office”, and the pair have regularly hung out. “We see each other when I’m in Los Angeles or Miami. I would say we’ve established a friendship through work.”
But no matter how many other projects he takes on, Steffanina remains dedicated to teaching, a job he finds incredibly rewarding.
“There are students that start out in the back of the studio, being shy and all that. Some struggle to do the whole dance or catch the drift, but it’s so rewarding to see them try and slowly move to the front of the studio over the course of a year.”
Steffanina says the road to success in his industry has evolved over the past 10 years. A single viral video, for instance, can help a dancer secure multiple jobs, and he has seen
his own students achieve internet fame.
“Many of my kids, who are about 13 to 15 years old, have résumés longer than actual professional dancers on the market.”
But even with the help of social media, dancers can’t afford to rest on their laurels. After all, YouTube can’t make you talented; as Steffanina puts it, “it’s the opportunities that [social media] provides that bring forth possibilities for creative people.”