Coming across a @cost_n_mayor TikTok on your "For You" page is like meeting a new bestie at competition: You instantly connect. From creating (and crushing) viral dance challenges to sharing the #relatable struggles of dancers (and couples, and dancer-couples) everywhere, the social media duo appeals to pro dancers and amateurs alike—and it shows, considering their 1.5 million-and-counting following on TikTok.
Between gracing the official @Hamiltonmusical Instagram with #Non-Stop grooves to collaborating with Matt Steffanina and @Happykelli on TikTok, quarantine has kept Austin Telenko and Marideth Batchelor #BookedandBusy. But this charismatic (and newly engaged!!!) couple—and professional dance duo—is just getting started. Dance Spirit got the chance to chat with them about how they're leveraging the TikTok universe to springboard their careers IRL.
Dance Spirit: How did the two of you meet?
Marideth Batchelor: We met in 2019 doing a Halloween dance contract at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, NJ. It was an amazing, 20th-anniversary show choreographed by Theresa Stone.
Austin Telenko: After that ended, we kept showing up to all the same classes and auditions back in NYC.
MB: And we were both actually on the cleaning crew together at Broadway Dance Center, which I think is where we really bonded, staying there until midnight cleaning studios together.
AT: So we started dating around February 2020. When COVID first hit and everyone was leaving the city, Marideth suggested we go stay with her parents in South Carolina. We hadn't been dating that long so it was kind of odd, but like everyone, we really thought it was only going to be two weeks...and now here we are.
DS: What led to you two starting a TikTok together?
AT: We were very bored.
MB: I remember my mom actually saying "All the kids are dancing on 'the TikTok' these days, why don't you guys try it?" So we started learning some of the dance trends that were popular at the time. As dancers and choreographers, we couldn't help but put our own flair on everything, and then eventually we started sharing our own original choreography.
DS: What was the first video you can point to that made your account go viral?
MB: It was actually a trending dance at the time, Nathan Lusts' "Funky Town," but we tacked on this foundational locking ending of our own. It was so quirky and everyone seemed to love it.
AT: After that, our "Magic in the Hamptons" video went viral. It was a big trending sound at the time, but we came up with our own dance to it, and it was the first time that other people started trying to do our choreography. The more we were credited for that choreo, the more traffic it brought to our page. That's when we got more into creating our own dances for others to try.
DS: Do you have a specific audience in mind when you create new TikToks?
MB: We've had really simple dances go viral, as well as really difficult ones. We definitely try to keep a balance between what's impressive and what's accessible, which is something our followers seem to appreciate.
AT: We never go into choreographing a dance with the goal of it going viral. But if we hear a sound, and it sounds like something everybody would enjoy and want to try, we'll try and put in some easier grooves, just so everyone has at least one part of the dance they can feel good about.
DS: Do you ever feel any pressure to be perfect on TikTok, since you're both professional dancers IRL?
MB: Sometimes I get so wrapped up in things looking perfect and forget that TikTok isn't that serious. Doing easier dances reminds us both that we do this for the fun of it, and a dance doesn't need to be super-complex to be considered "good."
AT: What I love about TikTok is how, even with harder dances, people feel comfortable enough to try it out and tag the creators, and put themselves out there, which takes some of the pressure off us. It's a lot different than Instagram, where it seems that everything has to be filtered and look perfect.
DS: Do you ever get "TikTok block" and not know what to post next?
MB: Sometimes it's hard to keep doing stuff that's unique because we're pumping out so much choreography at such a high volume. But having two of us definitely makes things easier—we push each other to try new ideas and keep moving forward.
AT: What we've seen a lot of others do, and what we've utilized as well, is reimagining our most popular TikToks in different ways, like switching outfits or locations.
MB: It's like how as dancers, if a teacher does a combo you love, you'd want to take that class again.
AT: Basically, we try not to force anything, because if the creative juices just aren't flowing that day, it's not going to turn out well.
DS: What does your offline life look like?
MB: This question always exposes us...we're so uncool! Think of anything a 9-year-old would enjoy doing in their downtime and that's basically us.
AT: We've been playing through video games first on our Wii and then on Nintendo Switch. We also like working out together, and being outside going for walks or hikes.
DS: What have been some of your favorite TikTok collaborations so far?
MB: We got to go to L.A. recently and work with @HappyKelli and her husband. We related as dancers instantly, and they were so fun to work with because Kelli's done it all, from "Hairspray Live!" to Broadway. We also collabed with Matt Steffanina to redo some popular choreography of ours to his remix of "Milkshake" and "Losing It" by Fisher.
DS: Do you have any networking tips for dancers on TikTok?
MB: Networking happens pretty organically on TikTok, which I love. The more you're creating, the more you'll find the people that are in your same niche and creating similar things, which leads to following each other, and so on.
DS: Who's your dream collaborator?
MB: Nappytabs. They're our icons forever.
DS: How have you leveraged your TikTok following for your own dance careers?
MB: We might have a lot of followers and a big platform, but we never set out to be "media influencers" or anything like that.
AT: No matter what, we're dancers and choreographers before anything else.
MB: That being said, since we started on TikTok together, we've developed this comedic and quirky choreographic style that we really like. And that's led to all these conversations and opportunities; like, what if we choreographed for an animated series or did something with motion capture? We've broadened our thinking about the direction our careers can go. I never really considered those things until we were forced to get off the stage and get onto a two-inch screen.