There has been something extra–powerful and transformative about dance over the past year and a half – especially the spirited moves coming from the Instagram and TikTok feeds of Donté Colley. The 24–year–old dancer and digital content creator has become famous for his brightly coloured outfits, exuberant choreography, cheerful graphic–loaded videos (floating emojis are a common occurrence) and seemingly infinite optimism – so much so that Vogue tapped him to dance through the Metropolitan Museum of Art alongside Anna Wintour for the 2021 Met Gala. He’s collaborated with Ariana Grande, danced with Doja Cat and works with brands like Pandora, Diesel and Calvin Klein. But it’s the joy and positivity he spreads to his hundreds of thousands of followers that has the biggest impact: “I’m so grateful for my audience and a community of people who are looking for a little more light on the Internet,” he says. We caught up with Colley to chat about meeting Tracee Ellis Ross, what he loves most about TikTok and why he’s comfortable grooving to his own beat no matter where he is.
With his exuberant, endlessly positive videos, the Toronto–based dancer and social–media phenomenon lights up the Internet, one move at a time.
enRouteWhen did you first start dancing?
Donté ColleyI’ve been dancing ever since I could stand. That’s what my family always says! I enrolled in some dance classes when I was younger, but I never felt that I belonged – so I stopped going and just learned from home. The awesome thing about growing up in this era is that we have access to social media, which for me at the time was YouTube. I could make mistakes and learn from them, and just figure out my own way of movement.
ERWhy did you feel like you didn’t belong?
DCWell, I was the only Black boy. And at that time there was this weird stigma around guys dancing. I felt that I couldn’t be a part of it because of what other people thought of me. It wasn’t until I got older and learned who I am that I realized it doesn’t matter what people think. I did what I needed to do for me – and hopefully, I’m able to share that with others to do the same.
ERWhat’s your process for choreography?
DCHonestly, it’s all in the moment – it’s just how I feel. And even when editing the content and adding the effects, I love being spontaneous. It makes it more exciting when I hop on my computer to edit, and I don’t know what story I’m telling until I get there. But dancing allows me to just enjoy time and space. I love learning other people’s choreography too, and doing side–by–sides on TikTok, which is a great tool to have now on social.
ERIs there a TikTok dance that you struggled to learn? That was just too hard?
DCThey’re getting a little bit more intense now. And I’m like, “Yes, let’s get some advancing going on!” There was a “Renegade” remix last year and I thought: I don’t know if I can get this down right now. But that’s the awesome thing about TikTok – it’s giving people the opportunity to learn wherever they are in their own way.
ERWho are your favourite musicians to dance to?
DCI love Snoh Aalegra. I love a Britney moment! There are so many artists, and that’s the beauty of music and movement – you can go anywhere and there’s no rulebook. Music and movement are like a formula for self–care.
EROkay, let’s talk about the Met Gala! What was that experience like?
DCOh my gosh, it was a dream come true. I’m so grateful to have been able to do that and be a part of that team. And coming into this big production world again and seeing people passionate about what they do, it felt like a big warm hug. We’ve been so isolated, it’s been challenging to feel that passion and drive from other people that keeps you going, so it was a nice comeback.
ERWas there anyone you were excited to meet?
DCYes! Frank Ocean. And I met Tracee Ellis Ross and I almost fell down. Those two are just so special to me, and I appreciate them so much for what they do. It was a surreal experience.
ERHow does dance fit into your travels?
DCDance is always a part of me. It doesn’t matter if I’m at the bar with my friends or in a studio or in my hotel room, I’m always listening to something and grooving a little bit to get my body flowing. I’m usually in the U.S. for work, but sometimes Europe, too – doing what I love and sharing it with people in all different places is a dream.
ERAny cities or places that really inspire you?
DCI always feel inspired when I’m in New York or L.A.! I think it’s just the kinds of people there and where everyone’s minds are at. If I’m able to, I’ll walk for a while with my headphones in and just observe and get to know my new environment – that’s a big part of my inspiration.
ERYou’ve already teamed up with Anna Wintour. Any other dream collaborations?
DCI would love to work with Beyoncé or Rihanna…
ERYou and Rihanna, I can picture it!
DCOne day! It’s just doing the work until then. But I’m excited for whoever I cross paths with – you never know who you’re going to meet on your journey.
Carry–on essentials I have an awesome Calvin Klein tote that is the perfect carry–on bag. It’s a square and I can stack things up in it: My laptop and iPad, a pair of wired headphones in case my other headphones die, snacks – a bag of Miss Vickie’s and a Gatorade – and some hand sanitizer and lotion.
Dream seatmate I’m such an introvert that even if they were sitting next to me, I don’t know if I would even talk to them, but I feel like Adele would be funny. She would probably rip the introverted–ness right out of me, causing me to talk to a seatmate for the first time ever.
First travel memory Well, it’s not really my own memory, but I remember my mom saying, “We went to Jamaica when you were a kid, and you cried the entire flight – bawled your eyes out.” I always think about that when I’m on flights.