Dance Moms fans who have watched Maddie Ziegler grow up to become that "dancer in the Sia music videos" feel proud of the young powerhouse finding mainstream success. Since she's only 12 years old, it seems ridiculous to ask this, but is it possible that Maddie Ziegler is the most famous dancer working today? With Ziegler having over 800,000 Twitter followers, the young dancer is definitely a celebrity. But, can she really be the most notable dancer in the year 2015?
It's rare that a person who is just a dancer (as a dancer myself, I write "just a dancer" with contempt) will reach extreme success — unfortunately, usually dancers have to also be actors or singers to become super famous. And, just because someone stars in a dance movie does not make them a dancer (sorry, Jennifer Grey and Julia Stiles). If Patrick Swayze was still alive, I'd venture to say that he could hold the title of most famous dancer. But, with a long film career that didn't always include dancing, it's difficult to say if he could even qualify as simply the most famous dancer of his time. While I would undoubtedly put men like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in that category, the entertainment lines have continued to become blurry over the years, and does a double or triple threat get to count as becoming famous for their dancing? What about the people who strictly dance for a living?
Unfortunately, most dance company stage dancers don't get the same notoriety as people who entertain us in movies and television. Ziegler herself has started to venture into acting, but I think it's safe to say she is known for her dancing above all else at this point in her young career. Other dancers I can't say the same for. For example, while the couple of Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum met on set of their dance film Step Up, the Tatums are now more well-known for their film and TV work than their dancing. Although both make sure to include their dance skills in their work occasionally, I don't think Channing Tatum could qualify as the most famous dancer currently — even with Magic Mike XXL in theaters.
Though I get upset at the lack of famous dancers in general, TV programs like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have helped make dancers famous. One particular standout is Julianne Hough, who began her entertainment career as a professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars only a year after she graduated high school. But, even though Hough will always be known as a dancer, she has moved on to becoming a country singer and film star. So, yet again, her other forays are heavily responsible for Hough being so well-known.
As for the stage, Broadway star Sutton Foster started as an ensemble dancer for Thoroughly Modern Millie, before taking over the lead role of the musical, which earned her a Tony. She's continued to dance on stage in Broadway shows and she brought dance to television with the now-canceled Bunheads, but she's known for her singing and acting along with her dancing.
The only true dancer "dancer" whom I feel comfortable saying can be considered one of the most famous dancers other there now — besides Ziegler — is Misty Copeland. The famous ballerina was recently made the first African American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater (ABT). She was on the cover of Time magazine, highlighted on 60 Minutes, and was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance. Copeland is also a spokesperson for Under Armour, where she highlights her amazing body and dance skills.
While I think it's a given that Copeland is the most famous ballet dancer working today (Mikhail Baryshnikov is still famous, but beyond his ballet years), that doesn't mean she beats Ziegler in popularity. Copeland will continue to gain fame, but she is in her dancing prime and must focus on her extremely difficult job. And Copeland's 68,000 followers on Twitter certainly pales in comparison to Ziegler's. But, Twitter is not the end-all-be-all to popularity. While younger people may love Ziegler for her youth-friendly dancing, true ballet aficionados are sure to follow Copeland's career for years.
That's not to take away from Ziegler's dance success at such a young age. She has made competition dance and modern dance accessible to an array of ages. Her technique is incredible, but she also knows how to emote and convey a story through her movement. Although I wish there were more dancers that were household names, Ziegler being at the top of that list isn't a bad thing and I hope her fame can help other dancers achieve similar success — because they certainly deserve it.