Yanis Marshall: Man In Heels


yanisbuttWhen did you start dancing? What’s your background?
My mom is a dance teacher. I studied dancing since I don’t even know… The first memory I have of me, I’m dancing.

When did you start doing choreography?
It was in school. Not dance school, but regular school. During lunch breaks, I would harass the other kids, saying, “Let’s do choreography!” I was always very creative with dancing.

Where did the idea for dancing in heels come from?
It wasn’t planned. It was 2010 and I taught a class to the film, “Burlesque.” I said to the girls that they should bring heels because it would look better. One girl had shoes my size and told me I should try them on and I did. I went solo and everyone loved it. After that, everyone kept telling me, “You should do it. There’s no heels class. People would love it!” It went from there and I guess that bitch was right. I’m not the first one to teach a heels class. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been people doing it before me, but I made it popular with YouTube. After me, everybody started doing it, not because I was the first but because I made it popular.

Were male students hard to find at first?
I didn’t find any people, they just came. I had my two boys, Mehdi and Arnaud. They were the first ones to come. I taught them my way of dancing and they stayed with me and we stayed faithful to each other. Then more boys came. I had many boys but they wouldn’t wear the heels at first. In Paris, I don’t have that many boys who wear them. It’s really when I go to Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan or America.

yanisbrazilWhat’s it like teaching your classes all over the world?
Let’s just put it this way, I’ve been doing it for a long time now. I’m not enjoying the flying, the jetlag—at all anymore. It’s always nice to be in a different culture, to see people, to travel. It’s really nice. But I go to really horrible places and I go to really amazing places. It’s not that I complain, but in a month I’ve done twelve countries. People have no idea what it is. You’re so exhausted from the travel that you don’t visit or see a place anymore. You go from studio to studio to studio to hotel to studio.

Is Paris your favorite place?
I’m French and English and Algerian. Paris is definitely my favorite city. I’m very French. Very Parisian.

Who do you think has the best dancers: France, the UK or the US?
Definitely America. But I will tell you, if you look at Madonna’s dancers, half of them are French. If you look at Beyoncé, she also has French dancers. France is everywhere. But for the level of dance, America is the best. We have something different here in France. We have a different way of dancing. It’s less “So you think you can dance?” Less demonstrative, more subtle. Europe is more subtle in the way they do art, which I love. America for me is a little too obvious. The way they do art, their stories, it’s a little too much for my taste. But I like to mix both. The European subtle and the American too much.

yanisdaniWho do you think dances better in high heels, men or women?
It depends. My two favorite dancers are women and they’re killing it in heels: Danielle Polanco and Aisha Francis. Danielle is the absolute woman. Everything I explained in class tonight—the hips, the way to put the leg—it’s natural for her.

How was it to know you’d gone viral?
It went one video after another one. The first that went viral was “Magazine.” I did a choreography with magazines and my boys. That was 5 years ago. Then it was Spice Girls, then it was Britain’s Got Talent, Beyoncé, Britney. And then a lot after that.

It was weird at first. I’m still not used to it now, but it’s less shocking than it was back then. When I had 2.5 million views in one month, I was like, ahhhh! Now I know almost all my videos will go to one million because I have a million subscribers. It’s amazing! I’ve had my channel for 5 years. I personally use social media only for work so I have fun with it. Nobody really knows me. Even if people think they do, nobody knows me.

What’s it like being known as this incredibly innovative artist?
[He actually blushed at this question.] I don’t know how to answer that. I do me, that’s all. I try not to focus on people who love me or people who hate me. I try to just keep going. Because people can love you and the next they can hate you. You can’t depend on how people feel. I’m just doing me and following me.

yaniskidYour mom must be so proud of you!
She is. Now. [Laughs.] At first, she was like, “Whyyy?”

She didn’t want you to be a professional dancer?
No, she made me do every kind of shit before I did dance. She made me do football, basketball, tennis, karate, everything. And then she knew that it wasn’t happening and she understood it was dance.

What are your next plans?
I don’t know. I’m very patient. I say no to a lot of things. Let’s just say money talking, I’m good. I have jobs. I have my money in my own way by doing what I do. I only say yes to things I really want to do. Because it takes time when it’s a project from someone else—time I don’t really have. So I say yes to things like Cirque du Soleil, not just because it’s a big project but because I want to do it. These are things I would do as much as if it was my mom’s name on it. Not working for a bullshit artist just to say I did it. Usually, the artist doesn’t even really want to dance so it’s going to be annoying, it’s going to be complicated. I can’t be bothered.

Who are your favorite artists?
I’m a Madonna bitch. Everybody knows. I LIVE for Madonna, I grew up with her, literally grew up with a poster of Madonna, obsessing. I think everyone in pop today comes from Madonna’s influence. She clearly opened the doors in the pop world. She did things back in the 90s that people are trying to do now and it’s not working. But I love Janet, I love Prince, I love Diana Ross, The Supremes, Etta James. I love Beyoncé, also. Everyone thinks I’m crazy about Beyoncé… No, I love her, I think she’s great, I think she’s talented, but I need real divas. If you haven’t had, I don’t know how many hits on Billboard, you’re not a real diva. I need Mariah Carey. Not Ariana Grande. I’d rather listen to Cher than new bullshit.

Images via Yanis Marshall

Want to know what it’s like to take Yanis’ class? Comedian Sarah Donnelly did! Read her story here.

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Maggie Kim is a writer, musician and the founder of LES LOLOS.


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