It only takes 15 minutes for Kara Cannella to choreograph a dance seen by millions.
Addison Rae Easterling and Charli D'Amelio, the two most-followed creators on TikTok, recently performed Cannella's choreography to Megan Thee Stallion's "Cry Baby," granting Cannella a few thousand extra followers and bragging rights.
“It was definitely crazy to have the two biggest female creators do my dance," Cannella says.
It wasn't the first time Cannella's work got major attention on the app; D'Amelio danced to Cannella's choreography in June.
TikTok seemed like a natural fit for Cannella, who has danced all her life. The 22-year-old was an officer on Plano East Senior High's drill team and is now finishing up her dance degree at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Choreographing, which is a different skill set for a dancer, was something Cannella started exploring her sophomore year in college, and now it's what she's known for on TikTok. Her TikTok bio reads "ceo of choreo."
Of course, there's a formula to creating a widely popular dance. First, make it doable.
“I try to make it as easy as possible but also not doing the same moves consistently," Cannella says. "I feel like TikTok can be repetitive sometimes, so I always try to think of if my mom could do it and learn it, then I should post it, because the app can range from 12 years old to like 25. Everyone wants to learn it."
TikTok has been so successful for Cannella that she plans to take the social media route when she graduates.
Black creators are the backbone of TikTok. When Easterling and D'Amelio — who are both white — participate in a trend, they typically tag the person who created it and, more times than not, the creator is Black. But they didn't always give credit to these choreographers. When the "Renegade" dance shot to popularity in 2020, its creator, Jalaiah Harmon, a Black teenager in Atlanta, never received proper credit until publications profiled her. Today, Harmon has nearly 3 million followers on TikTok, while D'Amelio has 104 million followers. Even though Cannella has created some of the app's most popular dances, her follower count sits at 280,000. Yet when D'Amelio wanted to thank her fans for reaching 95 million followers, it was a Cannella dance she chose to celebrate with.
It's something Cannella, who is Black, notices, she says, and she thinks Easterling and D'Amelio do a good job of crediting creators.
"Some of the biggest trends are made by Black creators, and it is a little frustrating because we love to get them the credit they deserve," she says. "I just try to think positive and encourage a lot of younger creators and be like, 'Keep posting your content, tagging people, letting people know that this is your dance that you created.'"
“I think it’s also these young kids look up to what they want to be like or what they want to look like and I also feel like that’s a part of it," Cannella says, "and especially even males, too, not just females. It’s like what they want to date or what they find attractive, and I feel like that’s also why Charli and Addison are very, very big."
Christopher Manning, a 21-year-old singer from Dallas, started a trend on TikTok in which he sticks out his tongue to the beat of the music. Easterling recently took part in the trend, which helped amplify it.
"There are a lot of trends started by Black creators, and they don't really get any recognition for starting it," Manning, who is Black, says. "A lot of people start doing it and no one can ever find the original person," he says. "They don't ever tag the original creator. It just becomes a random TikTok trend and no one knows who started it."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.