Image courtesy of Cherie B Tay photography
Meet Matt MancusoBorn and raised in New Jersey, Matt started dancing at the age of 14. He is a dancer, actor, choreographer & you can find him on YouTube assisting his coach, Anna Trebunskaya, in her dance tutorials. Did we mention his eyes just make you feel like melting?
What got you into dance?I always liked dancing and performing but the thing that got me into dance was actually my Dad. I’m an actor and I was doing a lot of musical theatre when I was younger but I had no dance training. My dad knew that I wanted a career as an actor and a performer so he asked me if I wanted to be successful and I said yes and then he said, well you gotta be in dance.
What is your favorite part about dancing?My favorite part of dancing is the performing. The getting into the character of each dance and story. You get to live through something when you get into the story and the expressions you get to do in the dance is just so much fun.
Do you have any dancer role models?I always loved the great actor/singer/dancers like Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. I marvel at my boss/coach Anna Trebunskaya every time I watch her dance. Like Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, she is not just dancing she is performing, there is a whole experience happening and that’s what I love. You have to act a dance as well not just move. That is when the dance gets elevated.
What is your choreography process like?It always starts with the music for me. If it’s fitness choreo, then I’m going for high energy mixed in with some fun moments where my students can be themselves and feel free to express whatever they want. If I’m choreographing for a wedding then it comes down to the couples dance ability and also who they are as a couple and from there I craft story. For personal choreo, it’s all about the story. I am constantly thinking what I want the audience to feel when I choreograph a section. The music helps with that. I am not just going for shock value or big movements. A movement of the hand can be just as expressive as a big move.
Have you had any challenging moments with dance that you can share? If so, how did you overcome that challenge?My early dance life was hard because I was starting, in my opinion, late in life. I was so behind the curve when it came to other dancers. So I just worked extra hard. I would practice outside of class. I remember when I was trying to learn some tap steps, I would do them in the lines and in the aisles of grocery stores just so I could get the steps. I knew that I wanted to improve and make the best out of every situation so I would push myself and ask questions because that would help me achieve my goals.
Many young dancers worry about their body types. What are your thoughts on body types in the world of dance?Well, I will be honest with you, I used to be much bigger than I am. One point in my life I was 225 lbs, but I was dancing. I think any body type can be a dancer as long you have rhythm and can express a point of view. But dance is exercise so that’s why most dancers have smaller body types. They spend hours dancing and working on their bodies so that the can create their best instrument. Much like acting, certain body types will make you certain characters. You have to be ready for that type-casting. I’ve had to deal with that my whole life. I was still a good dancer when I was bigger but it put me into a different type of character. When I lost weight then people saw me in a different type. That is just the world we live in. I tell people that if you are happy with yourself then that is what counts. Bring a part of yourself to every dance and you can’t go wrong.
If you are happy with yourself then that is what counts. Bring a part of yourself to every dance and you can’t go wrong.