More Than Just Backup Dancers


Story by Valeria Munoz, Staff Writer

Although music videos usually consist of big production sets, movie effects, and outrageous storylines as evidenced by One Direction’s Steal My Girl, recently dancers have become the protagonists even more so than the singers. I believe that the reason dancers are being used over actors or even the recording artists themselves as central characters in music videos is because they are so well rounded and disciplined with their performance.

Dance requires you to engage every muscle of your body not just your feet. For any style of dance, performers must maintain musicality, and give their all to the character they are trying to portray.   This includes committing with their facial expressions as well. A common term used to define the use of physical features to convey a message along with choreography is “facials.” While the intensity of the facials may vary depending on the dance style the fact that there must be some kind of emotion present is crucial to completely captivating the audience.

Take Dance Moms star, Maddie Zielger in Sia’s Chandelier music video for example. She channels a younger Sia with a bleach blonde wig and showcases artistry through contemporary choreography. Her bizarre faces also play a key role in conveying an eerie tone to the entire video. Choreographer Ryan Heffington was the mastermind behind the moves for both, Sia’s Chandelier and Elastic Heart videos.  The critically acclaimed Elastic Heart presented its own challenges since actor Sia Labeouf was not exactly trained in dance. However, the contrast between Ziegler’s graceful ballerina poise and Labeouf’s rugged looks and rough movements. In Elastic Heart, Ziegler playfully mocks an older and troubled side of Sia. While the singer’s dark side portrayed by Labeouf tries to recapture the innocence and carefree attitude Ziegler exuberates.

Taylor Swift also utilized dancers in an innovative way in her recent hit video, Shake it Off. Tyce Diorio, known as a featured judge on So You Think You Can Dance, was one of the many on-set choreographers who Swift reached out to for the video. In fact, the country singer turned pop princess gave a new meaning to the word back-up dancers.   The dancers created a setting full of professionalism and grace for Swift’s clumsiness to stand out.  “Each dancer is so proud to be able to represent their style of dance,” said Swift. The contemporary and modern dance performers faced perhaps the hardest challenge having to maintain an angst and sadness in their enactment to the upbeat chorus.

Swift’s tour buddy and fellow colleague, Ed Sheeran doesn’t get left behind. In fact he puts his best foot forward as he dances with Brittany Cherry, SYTYCD Season 10 alumni, in his Thinking Out Loud music video. Both, Sheeran and his partner, tell a beautiful story of two people falling in love and growing old together. While he lacks Ziegler’s bizarre costume choices, he makes up with passionate and a heartfelt contemporary routine For his single Don’t, former America’s Best Dance Crew champion and SYTYCD choreographer Phillip Chbeeb dances his way through a rags to riches transformation in the video. Using his main style of dance, hip hop, to illustrate his rise to the top Chbeeb communicates emotion as effectively as a contemporary routine.

It seems these recording artists have discovered a far more effective outlet of expression than strobe lights and intricate outfit choices.  They’ve discovered that the beauty is in the simplicity and rawness of the movement exhibited in dance.

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