Tell us about yourself.
My name is Matthew Gibbs, also known as ET. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, but now I’m based in L.A. I came to L.A. around 20 years old, and I’m 25 now.
Growing up, I didn’t have very much materially. There were certain circumstances in my life that caused frustration and pain. One time, I was living in an apartment that was roach infested. Sometimes I’d be looking at the TV, and I’d fall asleep on the floor. [One time] I remember I was watching Animal Planet, and I woke up on the floor and had something on my mouth, and it was a roach on my mouth and a roach on my neck. And I hate bugs.
I took that circumstance, which was embarrassing for me at the time, it killed my self-esteem, and I put it into my dancing. There are certain movements that I do or a certain style that I tap into, which reminds me of when I flick bugs off of myself or the feeling that I get when my skin is crawling like it’s sporadic or whatever.
“When you’re expressing yourself through your art form, you’re expressing yourself; your life, and your circumstances, how you feel.”
How did you get into dancing?
When I was younger, I saw a rerun of a show that was playing in the ’70s and ’80s called Soul Train. As I was watching, I think I was ten years old, I saw them dancing on it, and that inspired me, seeing old school poppin’ and lockin’ and stuff like that. It made me want to dance.
At first, I was just dancing on my own whenever music came on. I started taking it seriously when I was around 12 years old, and I saw the movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. I started entering dance competitions around my city, trying to gain respect from the street dance scene. At first, I was getting smoked. At first, it was terrible. Thankfully, I got with a couple of friends, and they helped me out by labbing (practicing dance) with me. I learn the most through [dance] battles, battling my friends– they would tell me what I need to work on.
There were a lot of people on the outside who didn’t really like my style; they didn’t identify with it. As I was dancing, I would hear people in the background saying, ‘Yo, that’s whack’ or ‘Yo, that’s not real dancing.’ For me, that discouragement didn’t cripple me; but instead, it fired me up and made me want to get better.
You teach dance as well; what is your theory on teaching your craft?
I can teach you a pattern, and that’s it, right? You will look at me as if I’m the master. However, that’s not actually the truth. Everybody in the room is a master, and there’s no one person above the other because it’s all just movement. It’s just the way that we apply it.
So I might teach you a pattern, but the purpose of the pattern is for you to deconstruct it and just create based on what you feel on the inside because when you’re expressing yourself through your art form, you’re expressing yourself; your life, and your circumstances, how you feel.
Whenever I’m called on to teach or give advice, I always praise the artist and the creative within everybody, so they have a realistic viewpoint of themselves and others, which helps them create and elevate and become unique as artists themselves.
That’s a great perspective on life. Do you have any specific advice for that artist/creative in us all?
What I would say, especially in times like these, is don’t trip. Whatever the case is, if you’re an artist, just keep creating your art. We artists live in our imagination. Spending time in your imagination and not giving up on your passion will keep you sane throughout troubled times. As somebody who has been through plenty of troubled times, imagination has definitely kept your boy sane. So I would say don’t trip and do what you got to do to keep creating.
“Spending time in your imagination and not giving up on your passion will keep you sane through troubled times.”
What are your plans for the future?
My main focus outside of the commercial realm is making myself better, constantly growing. My only goal is to keep progressing in my craft. Right now, I’m thankful that I’m able to use my craft to pay my bills and buy the things that I need and might want. What I really want to do is keep practicing and showing my art. In time, the things that relate to my art will come to me.
When some people think about the [dance] scene, they think about gaining notoriety and using that notoriety to create an empire for themselves. For me, it’s less about the notoriety; I just want the skills to create an empire. The notoriety will come anyway, so I wouldn’t make that a focus. And even if it doesn’t come so long as the skills put bread in my pocket and I can eat every day, I’m thankful for that.