‘I have a name.’ Tayvis Akpan is more than ‘dancing guy’

Tayvho Handstand

Sarah Ladd

You’ve seen him dancing— or, as he prefers to call it, “vibing”— around campus, but don’t call him “The Dancing Guy.”

Tayvis Akpan prefers to be called by his self-appointed nickname “Tayvho” and he has a message for people around campus: “I have a name.”

In high school, Tayvho felt like he was alone in a lot of ways, mostly because of his kind nature. Because he was willing to help people and be available to people, he said he felt that they took advantage of him, looking past who he was. He said he feels that people are making the same mistake at UK of looking past him and focusing on what he does instead of who he is.

“Basically, I wasn’t really respected in high school. I was basically an outcast. What that means is where people throw you away, basically isolate you,” he said. “It was never ending…. But it didn’t change who I was.”

Overcoming these feelings of isolation was a journey he worked hard at to remain true to himself, and it’s a journey he feels his “favorite college,” UK, helped him with.

He feels that in a lot of ways, people are making the same mistake in Lexington that people did from his high school.

“The fact that people kept calling me dancing man, I was like ‘Hey I have a name.’ The same people who call me dancing guy, they don’t try to get to know my background,” he said.

Referring to his popular nickname around campus, he said, “I’m more than just that.”

Akpan is from Owensboro, Kentucky, and is a Bluegrass Community and Technical College sophomore student who is dual-enrolled at the University of Kentucky studying filmmaking and cinematic art. He wants to pursue a career in the arts and do something performance-related.

He lives on campus in Jewell Hall, and he said coming to UK was like a dream come true. He made the decision before coming to let go of all the weight and struggles he’d faced in high school and just focus on “living that dream” and open a new chapter in his life.

“At that point,” he said, “I didn’t know who I was.”

Coming to UK and being on his own helped him discover his love of music and performing and gain an identity away from his roots at his favorite school.

“It was just an experience for me. Just to be able to stay in the dorm, be independent, and try to figure out who I am,” Akpan said.

His journey to local fame began early in his college career. He described his maiden dance as a time that he was just “drunk in the music” that he was listening to. He found himself dancing down Euclid and Avenue of Champions and losing track of time and distance.

He described himself as “oblivious” sometimes and said that he didn’t realize then, and sometimes still doesn’t, how many people are drawn to his moves and cheer him on. He attracted a following during that first dance and hasn’t been at a loss for audience or even engagement requests since then.

Since that first dance, Akpan has been dubbed “the dancing guy” on campus and has been on the receiving end of publicity calls, autograph requests and newspaper clippings that he sends back home. He’s never short of fans. His Instagram account (@liltayvho) has more than 13,000 followers, and he hosts visual updates for his fans on his dancing.

He got to dance at halftime in Rupp Arena when the Kentucky men’s basketball team played South Carolina in January.

He described that “special” experience as “the best moment in my entire college experience.”

Akpan chose “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson for his song to get the UK fans hype that night. He said he draws a lot of the inspiration for his own music from the musical icon.

After the game, he said he gave out a lot of autographs and was overwhelmed by how many people wanted to meet him.

“I gave them my autograph and gave them a hug, and a handshake,” he said.

He said it was inspiring, and everybody else said they felt inspired, too.

“They felt so happy because they never saw anything like that before,” he said. “They never saw somebody just come out and just do their own thing, not caring about what people say.”

He said that the compliments that night humbled him and made him speechless, but the whole experience gave him a lot of joy because there on the court, he felt freedom from judgment.

“That’s a day I’m never gonna forget,” he said. “And it’s on my birthday!”

It’s not about the following for him, though. He said he enjoys inspiring people, but wants people to get serious about interpersonal friendships. He enjoys talking with people and engaging with people at events. He especially enjoys his trips to visit schools and speak with preschoolers all the way to sixth graders.

Akpan said he gets drunk on music and feels that it “tells a story” that can sometimes place you in “outer space.”

He doesn’t put his focus on what people think of him, but he wishes that people would get to know who he is, his background and what he’s really like instead of calling him the dancing guy.

He’d prefer to be called Tayvho, and for people to get to know the real him: a guy who makes his own music, ran cross country and track in high school and plays several instruments, including the violin, the guitar, the keyboard, the piano and the harp. He’s the guy who likes gaming and loves Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario Cart.

“I’m also human too,” Akpan said. “I’m not just this guy that’s nonexistent.”