Ilyas Afzali knew he was on to something when Michael Jackson’s brother, Jackie Jackson, started following him on Instagram. He posted Michael Jackson-inspired dance videos on the platform for some time, generating a healthy following from Michael Jackson fans. With the flame of inspiration lit, Ilyas found a passion for sharing his love of dance with social media.
Ilyas soon tired of the MJ-centric feed but didn’t want to abandon his social media presence altogether. Taking a cue from some of his favorite dance influencers, such as Ayo and Teo, Ilyas decided to focus on trendier dances. With many dancers and other creators expanding to TikTok, Ilyas broadened his horizons as well.
“It was the best decision I ever made in my dance career,” Ilyas says of the move to TikTok. With dance videos generating some of the most attention on the platform, Ilyas was striking while the iron was at its hottest.
Ilyas’ Instagram and TikTok accounts began to grow in engagement quickly, hitting milestones of 10,000 to 50,000 to 500,000 followers in nine months. The lockdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic helped increase his following on both platforms.
“I had time to record and post more frequently,” Ilyas says.
Part of the draw to Ilyas’ accounts is his unique style. He tackles each post as a way to not only show off the latest dance moves, but his creative approach to fashion and art.
“I look to my audience as a way to show my artistic vision,” he explains.
This artistic flair led to a collaboration with the F2freestylers for their clothing line Rascal. He’s also received attention from other well-known influencers and social media stars, like British rapper and YouTuber KSI.
“I waited two hours in the rain with my friend (fellow dancer @clbromeo) to meet him, and when it was finally our turn, I couldn’t believe he was in front of me! We asked if we could show him our dance routine to his song “No Pressure” and he said, “Of course!”
A video later showed up on KSI’s Instagram stories of Ilyas and his friend performing.
Ilyas also works to innovate and create unique content on his feeds. Recently, he started a viral TikTok dance challenge to the song “Classic” by MKTO. Many top creators, such as @brycehall @blakegray @jack.wright and @noahschnapp, have tackled the challenge.
Ilyas honed his video creation and editing skills through a high school program centered on leadership and unity through football and film. He was introduced to concepts such as lighting, proper filming equipment, and effects through the program. Swapping football for dance, Ilyas could leverage what he learned and apply it to his career as a dance influencer.
If you check out Ilyas’ accounts, it’s clear why he garners so much positive attention. His smile is infectious, and his style is as effortlessly cool as his dance moves.
Even though he’s branched out from his Michael Jackson beginnings, he still revisits the King of Pop’s catalog from time to time. When you come upon these posts, it’s evident what initially drew people to Ilyas. His moves and energy are uncanny tributes.
Ilyas’ career seems to have a thread of connection to one of his favorite artists to this day. His most popular TikTok post to date gathered an incredible 8 million views and 500,000 likes. The video featured Ilyas performing one of Michael Jacksons’ most iconic moves, the Moonwalk.
These days, Ilyas is willing to give other musicians attention, from Ariana Grande to Pop Smoke. His videos are a high-energy testament to Ilyas’ love of dance, and his vibe is unmistakably positive.
When he’s not dancing in public and online, Ilyas is in his second year studying Biomedical Science at Middlesex University in London.
Even though the shutdown may have slowed his tendency to film his slick moves in crowded public places, Ilyas hasn’t slowed his consistent content creation. With his follower base growing larger by the day, he has tapped into something people will want to continue to see.
Ilyas can be found online at: