The Man Behind the Effortless, Viral Grooves

Dancers sometimes talk about finding the pocket — a kind of flow state where rhythm and movement are so perfectly married that the dancing is not just on the music, but in it.

The choreographer and dancer Shay Latukolan lives in the pocket. His deceptively simple dances have an effortless groove, yet attend to every detail of the pop hooks they’re often built for. And like those hooks, they get stuck in your head.

That catchiness acts as a lure in the rapper Childish Gambino’s “Little Foot Big Foot” video, released this month. Latukolan’s choreography blends old-school Nicholas Brothers-style showmanship with TikTok dance vocabulary, an irresistible mix. Its charm makes the video’s dark second-act twist — a signature move for Gambino (alter ego of the actor Donald Glover) — all the more shocking.

The tone is lighter but the dance imagery is just as vivid in the electronic band Jungle’s “Back on 74,” the video that earned Latukolan worldwide recognition when it went mega-viral last summer. Part of Jungle’s “Volcano,” an album also available as a motion picture, it features a cast of phenomenal dancers. Latukolan’s infectious choreography, with its silken “Soul Train” funk, makes full use of their considerable skill. Yet it was accessible enough that a chunk of social media started dancing along. The dance in “Little Foot Big Foot” has a similar pull: Monyett Crump Jr., a performer in the video, said even the extras on set were determined to learn it.

“That’s what’s really cool about what he does,” said Joshua Lloyd-Watson of Jungle, known professionally as J Lloyd. “He makes everybody want to do it, and believe they can do it. I certainly don’t dance, but I think I can, when I watch the videos.”

Latukolan, 31, may be behind multiple viral sensations, but he has little interest in generating social media buzz. “The TikTok generation, I have no idea what that is about,” he said, laughing. And he’s not caught up in the churn of the commercial music industry. After a brief time in Los Angeles, he now lives in Amsterdam, not far from where he grew up, and closer to the European art scenes that frequently inspire him.

Back to top button