Tween dancer shoots to stardom with Sia, ‘Dance Moms’

By Maria Sciullo
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

PITTSBURGH – Fame might well be fleeting, but Maddie Ziegler is keeping pace.

It has been quite the year for Maddie, who has a global following from her appearances on Lifetime’s “Dance Moms.” She dwells in that fuzzy realm of reality television, which often crosses from “actually real” to “not-at-all-real,” but there’s little doubt her star is ascending.

“I have a lot of hopes,” said Maddie, 12, who lives in Murrysville, Pa., with her mom, Melissa Ziegler-Gisoni, little sister Mackenzie and stepfather Greg Gisoni. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone in the future.”

Here’s a start: Maddie, her mother and sister are in Los Angeles for three weeks shooting “Dance Moms.” The show – starring studio owner Abby Lee Miller – will shoot in Ireland next month. Then it’s on to Australia and more time in Los Angeles as Miller works on establishing a West Coast version of her Abby Lee Dance Company.

“It’s crazy; I feel like I spend more time on airplanes or in the car than at home,” said Maddie, who studies with a tutor.

Much of her recent time in the spotlight can be attributed to Australian singer-songwriter Sia. The notoriously camera-shy artist, who often dons a blond bobbed wig as part of her public persona, was planning the music video to her single “Chandelier.”

Reportedly a fan of reality television, she chose Maddie as the video’s only actor. Directed by Sia and Daniel Askill, with contemporary choreography by Ryan Heffington, “Chandelier” has been viewed on YouTube almost 500 million times.
Rolling Stone named it the top video of 2014, noting, “… it’s not only Ziegler’s charisma that makes this video mesmerizing. Her dancing makes your memory tingle, with every gesture recalling ordinary activities that you cannot exactly place,” wrote Jessica Suarez. “Each familiar movement is repeated until it becomes grotesque and threatening.”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live” gave her two spots on the show. She swung to “Chandelier” last summer with two other dancers when Sia was a guest and also made good-natured fools of the host and his sidekick, Guillermo, in a how-to video.

Maddie has worn the platinum wig and the signature beige leotard for other performances, including “Dancing With the Stars” in September, a performance at the Hollywood Bowl and, biggest of all, Sia’s musical guest appearance on the Jan. 17 “Saturday Night Live.”

The show that parodied Sia’s look at Halloween when Jim Carrey hosted “was a really big deal. I didn’t realize how big a deal it was until I got there,” she said.
This time, she and an adult dancer, Denna Thomsen, whirled around Sia to her more recent single, “Elastic Heart.”

“It was a little difficult because the stage was super small and Sia was in the middle of it, but it was fun,” she said.

The official video for “Elastic Heart” has been viewed more than 80 million times since it was posted to YouTube Jan. 7. Shot in one day, it stars Maddie and actor Shia LaBeouf and has become somewhat of a sensation. It’s just the two of them, trapped in a cage, and while Sia has said the two are “werewolves,” others have interpreted it as the depiction of a father and child in turmoil as she grows up.

As both are dressed in minimal, flesh-colored clothing and covered in dirt, there also were some complaints of pedophilia. Sia said this wasn’t the intent.

“All I can say is Maddie and Shia are the only actors I felt could play.”

Maddie said the incident and its fallout taught her “so much about show business, that what one person can say actually goes a lot further than they meant.”

“Maddie still worries about kid stuff ¬– she is a kid – but she’s very mature,” Ziegler-Gisoni said. “When she gets in the real world, when she doesn’t have her mom to be with her, she’s going to be so amazing.”