Who is Maddie Ziegler? You oughtta know.
Ziegler is the young star - and I mean it when I say 'star' - taking the world by storm after appearing in that costume in Sia's video for Chandelier last year. She had boundless, yet almost possessed energy, dancing as if for survival, on a subject which far matures her young 12 years.
Who can blame Sia for wanting her again?
She appears in the singer's latest video, Elastic Heart, alongside Shia LaBeouf. Her dancing this time is literally caged as she and LaBeouf have a sort of caveman dance-off, he growling and griping in an oaf-like stance, while she uses him as her springboard, literally cartwheeling around him and laughing in his face.
There is a part of me that is begging to see Ziegler on the silver screen. With her wide doll's eyes, her look is comparable to the seemingly ageless and obscenely talented Chloë Grace Moretz. But there is also a part of me that really isn't. For, contained to the dance world, Ziegler could become an icon.
Ziegler's dancing, for a commercial pop video, is unlike anything many viewers might have experienced. Choreographer Ryan Heffington has created something mimetic and gestural at times. It is full of raw, committed facial expression. And yet, Ziegler's performance is highly committed to the point of frenetic, with enviable flexibilty and strength emphasising rigorous training. Of course the choreography is brilliantly refreshing, but even Heffington claims Ziegler 'nailed it in one take' (in his interview with The Guardian, here: http://bit.ly/1BXtKRl).
Watching Ziegler on Dance Moms, the US show that got her the job (Sia tweeted her after watching, no audition necessary), it's clear she trains heavily in a variety of styles. But, seeing her perform a musical theatre number, it is evident that contemporary is where she belongs. Her manner is more free, her limbs almost desperate for more to do, her theatre technique not always as tight as the genre demands.
And so you see, Ziegler - with the help of Heffington and Sia - could change the world. For every child or pre-teen who watches music videos as religiously as I did growing up, will see this girl of their age, dancing like there's no-one watching. There's nothing sexy about it (and rightly so - despite the apparent upset at supposed notes of paedophilia in Elastic Heart, which Sia has apologised for. I don't believe there is any sexual intention in the choreography at all). This is about artistry and performance, and expression. Pointed toes and blank faces it ain't.
And these children will see what contemporary dance is, and finally have a young performer to aspire to. It is difficult to think of a renowned contemporary dance 'icon' at household-name status. When we think dance stars, we tend to think ballet - Bussell, Nureyev, Baryshnikov. Akai Osei, the tiny street dancer and winner of Got to Dance back in 2010, was surely an inspiration for youngsters wishing to pursue street dance, a genre for which there seem increasing avenues today... even movies.
But for those kids who want that something a little different - that something perhaps less rigorously stereotyped than ballet or street, for which contemporary dance fits the bill - there are few role models available, especially on their TV screens.
Ziegler could be that role model.