Matisse Rainbolt grew up unable to use social media until she was in college. Her parents would not allow it. Today, the 21-year-old has 1.3 million followers on Tik Tok. She has taken her skills as a professional Folklorico dancer to her social media platforms. In her account @Matisseazul she has been able to showcase her art. Rainbolt posts about her culture and gives step-by-step tutorials based on the dance style she practices.
The journey of showing her culture and art to the world began in
Her specialty, ballet folklorico, is a traditional Mexican dance. The dance includes many styles of dance, music, steps, and dresses from each state or region in Mexico. This dance became popularized in the 1950s by the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez, the world’s most well-known folklorico group. The group performs an array of traditional and stylized folklorico. Traditional folklorico is the dance style that one would see in the pueblos in Mexico, while stylized folklorico has contemporary and ballet integrated into the dance.
Rainbolt started her dancing career as a hobby at the age of three with ballet and tap. However, Rainbolt’s grandmother and grandfather advised her mother to put her in folklorico, and she has been dancing the style since age four.
Rainbolt danced folklorico as a hobby until she was in high school. The pursuit then became something she could do to make money and share her culture with others by teaching. Rainbolt now professionally teaches in-person classes ranging from private lessons to group lessons and conferences for large groups. She has also taught summer programs and YMCAs. Rainbolt has online classes coming soon, so individuals can follow along virtually, where she will post step-by-step tutorials on her website.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
WHY DID YOU START SHARING FOLKLORICO ON TIK TOK? WHERE HAS THIS JOURNEY LED YOU?
It’s actually kind of funny because I was never allowed to have social media growing up. So, I didn’t have any social media until my second year of college and TikTok was the first social media app I downloaded. I always said that I would never post on it and I didn’t even want to get TikTok because I had heard so many people say, “Oh my gosh, it’s for middle schoolers. It’s not for adults.” My friend convinced me to get it and then the pandemic hit and my group stopped practicing because we couldn’t. I needed a way to keep myself accountable for practicing. So, I started recording videos and said, “I guess I’ll post this and see what people think.” That was the first video that had gotten more than 30 views on my page and I thought, “Maybe I like doing this. Maybe I should start doing this a little bit more.” So I posted a step-by-step tutorial video, which was my first viral video and received around 80,000 likes. Since then, I have been sharing my culture with the world and educating people more about the diversity in Mexico because there are so many different dance and dress styles and people are unaware of it. It is an effective way to share my culture.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO SHARE THIS DANCE WITH SO MANY PEOPLE ON SUCH A LARGE PLATFORM?
I think it’s important because people need to see things like this to be made aware of it. I know growing up, I was scared to dance this style of dance in front of people because I got made fun of so much for it and a lot of people looked at me weird if you were in the traditional dress. My grandmother and the older generations, in general, couldn’t express their culture the way they wanted to when they came to the U.S. because they were told to be more American. So, I do it for those people and I do it for the little me who was scared, too. I do it for the younger generation who needs somebody to look up to to be more comfortable in themselves and share their culture. So, I think it is essential for representation.
SINCE THIS DANCE IS A STRONG ROOT OF THE MEXICAN CULTURE AND YOU HAVE A STRONG FOLLOWING ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA, WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOLLOWERS AND THOSE THAT COME ACROSS YOUR PAGE GAIN FROM YOUR CONTENT?
I hope people want to learn more about Mexican culture and their cultures. I think it is so important to learn in general and I believe education is so important. I guess awareness and representation and the acceptance of everybody is so important. I hope that they will want to try it out as well. I get so many people commenting on my videos saying, “Oh my gosh, I got into folklorico because I saw your videos.” or I get older people commenting saying, “I wanted to dance like this when I was younger and it makes me happy that people are still dancing like this.” So, it’s really cool to see that kind of stuff and that’s what I hope to gain from it.
DO YOU HOPE INDIVIDUALS FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES EXPLORE FOLKLORICO?
Yeah definitely! We have a lot of different ethnic backgrounds that come and try folklorico. I think it is so cool because folklorico has different cultural backgrounds mixed into it. We have a lot of African-based sounds and moves in the music and dance. We have German influences, and so many different influences come throughout the world that comes into this dance. So, I think it is excellent when people of different ethnic backgrounds come and try it out because they hear or see a piece of their culture in it, too.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF FOLKLORICO IN AMERICA?
I hope more people want to try it. I wish more people think that it’s just as beautiful as it is. I don’t want people to be criticized for expressing their culture. It’s so sad when I see people expressing their culture online or just in person and they get made fun of for it because I see myself growing up doing that and it’s discouraging. That’s why I am doing this to show that it’s okay to be yourself and to show your culture. I hope in the future, more people will accept it, appreciate where it comes from and sees its beauty.