Matthew Pasterisa is a Black, Cuban dancer and choreographer living the dreams of thousands due simply to his immense talent and dedication to hard work. Beginning in a basement in East Harlem, he now has a VMA under his belt for his iconic Kanye music video with Teyana Taylor, and is on tour with rapper, Azealia Banks. SOULE was able to speak with Matthew in between tours and get to know how he rose to acclaim and what inspires him.
SOULE: Hello Matthew, and thank you for taking the time to hang out with SOULE today! We are so stoked to have the opportunity to speak with a Black choreographer such as yourself who’s earned much acclaim, and has a VMA under his belt.
Tell us about your journey as a dancer/choreographer. When did you first start dancing, and when did you know you wanted to pursue it as a career? Did you ever quit?
Matthew Pasterisa: When I was younger, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do because I was also a great artist, so I had to decide between the two. I used to dance outside where I lived, and gather with other young kids and dance from dusk ‘til dawn. My mind just kept me going Then I began classes in this Basement in East Harlem (which was beyond nasty), but I needed to start somewhere.
Around that time, I definitely wanted to quit because it was a struggle that I was very tired of. I didn’t get paid for anything so I was barely eating. I was starving but I made sure I went down to that basement and taught what I needed to teach. I went from two students in my classes to one year later with a packed basement. I met this guy named Billy Green from where I grew up at, and he began to mentor me. He took me on college tours at Harvard, SUNY New Palts, and Key Stone College just so I could develop my teaching skills.
During that time, I was creating with Teyana Taylor. My twin brother introduced me to her and instantly we began to click and create for her project with Pharrell Williams. My first real industry work was Teyana Taylor’s “Google Me”. Then a producer named Polow Da Don gave me and Teyana a great opportunity to develop an artist named Ester Dean, a songwriter, singer, and actress.
Do you remember the first piece you created where you truly felt for the first time that you were a choreographer?
The first piece I created that I truly felt like I had it was Beyoncé and Janet Jackson’s “Feedback”. The track sparked my soul with the drums and the hi-hats. I knew I had the juice when I was working on the Azealia Banks’s “1991” video choreography and legendary choreographer, Fatima Robinson, tells me how she loved my style and how she watched our performances. I couldn’t stop smiling. Right there, I knew this is it for me.
List your top 3 dance icons and 3 songs you can’t stop listening to this week.
My Top 4 Dance icons are: FATIMA ROBINSON, JONTE MOANING, TINA LANDON, and TONY TZAR.
3 songs that I can’t stop listening to this week are: “CHI-CHI” By: Azealia Banks, “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” By: Travis Scott, and “You don’t know me By: JAX JONES FT. RAYE
You’ve worked very closely with rapper, Azealia Banks, another Black, queer artist. How do you respond to the negative reactions she’s received in the past from LGBT audiences, being a part of that community yourself?
I don’t want to answer question about my best friend Azealia Banks. But one thing I can say is that we all have our own opinions and what’s done is done. We should all respect one another Period. I love my Community, but we have to grow thicker skin.
What is your affiliation with Showbiz Media NYC and the DCity Dancers?
ShowBiz LIZ was one of the first people who believed in my dreams. She did anything she could to get me to the next level with classes and promotion. Liz Ortiz also gave me an outlet to teach her kids at the Boys and Girls club. They are now young adults working in the industry for artists such as Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson and Drake. We trained some BEAST DANCERS‼️
After winning a VMA for choreographing Teyana Taylor’s ICONIC piece in Kanye West’s ‘Fade’ music video, how did you feel and who was the first person you called to tell the news to?
Winning the VMA for Best Choreography with Teyana Taylor really felt unreal! I cried so much that my shirt was wet! The first person I called was my Mother and she cried right along with me. All I could think of was how could this little black boy from the ghetto hit the jackpot?! I’m truly blessed that God is watching over me.
Where can folks look to find out how to take classes from you?
To find out where to catch my classes you can go on my Facebook: Matthew Pasterisa, Twitter: @SwaggMatt, Instagram: Bornready_matt
What are you currently working on? Do you have projects underway besides touring with Azealia Banks?
I’m Currently working on a T-SHIRT LINE that I’m dropping this fall called “STEEZ” (Style with Ease). My twin brother came up with the name and he’s also designing his own jeans that are pretty dope. I’m currently touring with Azealia Banks and we are heading on a North American Tour.
What artist who is currently alive would you most like the chance to choreograph for?
Some artists that I would love to choreograph for are Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Ciara, and Justin Timberlake.
What does dance mean to you?
What Dance Means to me is ENERGY-Healing !!! When I’m stressed out the most I create some crazy shit. A lot of the times when I’m making up choreography it can’t be just to any song. iIt has to relate to how I’m feeling at the moment. I have to feel it in my Soul.