YouTube stars, Matt Steffanina and his fiancé Dana Alexa just wrapped the latest season of The Amazing Race, which airs Friday's on CBS.
Despite having the No. 1 dance channel in the known Internet world and millions of fans, the couple always had dreams of participating on the popular show.
Dana: For us the experience was so surreal because Matt and I had been watching it for four years since we've been together and we applied for it four or five times. Once we even slept outside overnight in San Francisco to get on the show. I'm so excited to see how it all plays out.
Matt: We were really shocked at how difficult it actually was to compete on the show. Its no joke. You're sleeping outside, You're not eating very much and running around constantly. It’s like high stress and high pressured. It was challenging but also cool to see there's no camera tricks, no taking a break. It’s a real race.
It may be shocking that they are the tandem that supreme boogie masters such as Chris Brown summon to add some spice to a masterful dance routine. “I think Chris Brown is the best dancer artist ever, Matt told TSL. “He does every style and I was really impressed when I got to spend time with him.”
Matt and Dana’s journey to iconic social media choreographers wasn't typical.
Matt: I grew up some in DC and then we moved out to basically a farm. I was living in the woods and there wasn’t lot of hip-hop exposure there. I had so much admiration for Michael Jackson, of course and then when Usher and Chris Brown videos came out, I was like, “Man. Those are guys doing hip-hop dancing, but doing it like dudes.” It really connected with me and it looked like a lot of fun and cool. I just started watching music videos and tried to teach myself, then I moved to LA and got some of the old school hip-hop fundamental training that’s hard to get if you don't live in New York or LA.
Dana: I started dancing in a studio with classical training from the age of 2. So I had some exposure to it, mostly the stuff you see in music videos and on TV. I didn't get too much training in hip-hop and street styles until I moved to LA. Actually one of the first hip-hop classes I took in LA was Matt’s class and a lot of my training and the style I do now I got from Matt in the last four years
YouTube is the driving force behind Matt and Dana’s success. The social media giant also drives the current dance craze that now dominates hip-hop. W'eve seen hip-hop go through different stages, from the DJ in the 70s and 80s to the rapper in the late 80s and 90s to the domination of viral dance videos.
Matt: YouTube has really been a big part of helping people connect to the songs before they even see the video on TV. People google the song looking for the video and our dance routines pop up. We teach a lot of kids and there are 8, 11 and 13-year-olds that are just destroying these dances and it's just great for the culture.
Dana: It’s all about people connecting. When we started posting on YouTube we were really just doing it to have some creative freedom and express ourselves as we wanted and post what we wanted. The fact that a few people were watching at the time was cool but that wasn't the goal. To see that the audience has grown and we get so much positive feedback inspiring people to dance all over the world gives it all a purpose so every time we put up a video and it gets positive feedback and people are sharing it, it's a great feeling and really a labor of love
Matt originally began using YouTube as a file sharing service (pre-Dropbox) to share content with friends and other dancers. Once live, his videos were being shared by millions including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Will.I.Am - currently, he has over 3 million subscribers and his videos have seen upwards of 30 million views. In addition, Matt has danced for artists like Lil Wayne, Tyga and Snoop and has made appearances on TV shows Ellen and So You Think You Can Dance.
He also recently just launched an app called JusMove.
Matt: It’s basically a dancer’s Instagram almost. You can post any type of dancing video and what makes it unique is that we have contest on the App and we just had our big LA contest and we flew out the winner, had dinner and filmed a YouTube video and he came to one my classes last night and we spoke about his life goals and how he wants to move out here to pursue his dancing more seriously. So the App connects dancer son another level, not just posting videos but they can collaborate with each other on the App, enter these contest and vote for each other and support each other.
Together, Matt and Dana are also debuting a new project called Dance Con where they fly to a random city, organize a dance class on the fly through social media and film dance content for YT - Matt’s been approached by other brands like Beachbody and DC Comics to create cutting-edge video content.
With so many choreographers on social media posting and promoting, it’s Matt’s channel that has risen to the top of YouTube’s subscriber’s list. Why?
Dana: We were both dancers and choreographers and teachers individually. I was living in New york and Matt was living in the Virginia/DC area. I moved out to LA about four years ago and I met Matt right away. We were on the set of a music video together and working together right away. From there we just started teaching together and kind of just started growing the channel slowly by putting up dance content and class videos and connecting with people all over the world.
Matt: There were a few key videos along the way that went viral and got picked up by blogs and different networks, but it’s mostly been in the last couple of years that it’s really gotten crazy.
I think there’s a couple of reasons:
One is that I’m pretty consistent about posting and I also have a very good relationship with the record labels, so I don’t get as much trouble from them as some people do and I think the other thing is just keeping it authentic. I don't edit my videos too much. They are raw. One camera usually and you get to see the dancing and feel like you are a part of it.