I would like to thank Ami for informing us of a rising star in dance who deserves attention on Pigtails. As neither Pip nor I are knowledgeable about dance, we asked Ami to put together the research and images for this post.
There are a lot of little girls who can be seen dancing on YouTube and every one is like a beneficent gift. But whatever charms they may have, most are a bit clumsy and awkward; it takes time to develop the skill and discipline to be an effective dancer. Every once in awhile a prodigy comes along, and at the tender age of 11, the moves of Autumn Miller have been called star magic.
The video that inspired me to feature her on this site is “I Was Here” where she performs a moving dance routine using paint as a prop and white mats and a body suit as canvas.
Known as Autie to her friends, she has become something of a phenomenon, with tens of thousands of followers on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a conglomerate of Autie fan sites affectionately known as “Autie’s Army.”
Girls’ dance has become mainstream since the appearance of Dance Moms on Lifetime Television Network featuring starlets like Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler and Chloe Lukasiak. Some episodes featured skin tone outfits and performances inspired by Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman, creating a stir. Rumored to have been invited to star in Dance Moms, her show-biz savvy mother Krista apparently declined the offer; nonetheless, it was into this milieu that Autie first appeared in the media during the “Single Ladies” scandal, when a very well-rehearsed and energetic girl’s dance routine performed to Beyoncé’s hit song caught the attention of major news outlets including Good Morning America. Host George Stephanopoulos interviewed some of the girls’ parents asking if the performance was too sexy for little girls. Autie’s father Cory—no stranger to the spotlight as a former pro-skater—defended the World of Dance/Dance Precision performance, arguing that it was the media who were sexualizing the little girls by taking the dance out of context and focusing in on small parts. Autie herself remarked, “Not really sure why we got so much attention but it was fun.” Even before I had heard of Autie, this performance was brought to my attention by some teenage girls who were impressed by the performance.
The little dirty blonde may not have stood out at the time from the “Single Ladies” troupe as a whole, and it was more than a year later before she reemerged in the media on YouTube with a dance channel called Autie’s Freestyle Friday (AFF) and on her mother’s channel, KBM Talent teaching Trick Tip Thursdays. Here we see an example called “Front Attitude Turns.”
AFFs often take place at the Millers’ home in Brea, California in the third-floor loft studio. The productions are a family affair; Autie’s dad is credited with much of the sharp videographic work, her toddler actor brother Harbor makes guest appearances and Autie’s mother Krista also deserves special mention. Here mother and daughter appear in one of their duets.
Krista Buonauro-Miller operates KBM Talent, a small dance company she started to work in her home with young people she really loves. A former ballet dancer and LA Lakers cheerleader, Krista danced with Jim Carrey in The Mask, in Saved By the Bell, Jackass 2 and for performers Prince, Elvis Costello and The Pussycat Dolls. Her sincere manner and technical knowledge have helped bring the weekly Trick Tip Thursdays co-hosted by Autie thousands of subscribers.
Autie cites Jesus as her inspiration and when asked once why she dances, she replied, “God gave me the heart to dance.” She names Shannon Mather as another of her inspirations; Shannon is owner of MDC, co-owner of Coastal Dance Rage and Autie’s main coach. Autie also frequently appears in duets and has performed with choreographer Todd Flanagan, dancer Chaz Buzan and ex-Lakers cheerleader DeeDee Williams.
Autie’s infectious glee and super-fast tight moves garnered an almost immediate following. Some of her uploads have had more than one million views. Inspired by both ballet and it’s rebel antipode, modern dance—perhaps inspired by Isadora Duncan—Autie’s AFFs tend to be solos featuring falls, contraction & release, collapse and other classical techniques. More modern ideas like Dance Parkour, Tilts, Front Attitude Turns and Stag Leaps are also incorporated.
Her “Off with Your Head” AFF illustrates this dichotomy when at first she appears in classical ballet costume and then breaks that up by appearing barefoot in tight glittery gold pants, leaping and whirling, hair a muss from a huge fan and displaying her signature facial expressions.Autie has described her style as “fierce.” For example, she plays a super-charged dynamo in her Dubstep “Cinema” AFF, where she seems to pantomime a short-circuiting android spasming on a (dis)assembly line, a departure from the slick dance covers of the 20th century commercial entertainment industry. She also plays the tormented beauty of a will to survive in her Katniss Everdeen Hunger Games-inspired AFF, and her precise and explosive performance to “Blow” at the 2012 Dance Nationals at Bally’s in Las Vegas won her second place overall.
Only the hard-bodied technical virtuoso Sophia Lucia, famed for her fifty-four consecutive pirouettes (and having appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show) scored better. Though Sophia’s performance to “Requiem for a Dream” was flawless and chilling, the two dancers are not so much competitors as co-spirits and friends, having danced together many times.
Autie has presented the work of numerous other legends of girls’ dance in her AFFs such as Charlize Glass, Larson Thompson and Sarah Shepherd. She hasn’t limited her career to completion dances and online uploads; she was in Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” 2010 music video. Willow—actor Will Smith’s daughter—also produced “21st Century Girl,” the kind of image Autie hopes to create for an upcoming AFF. A post-modern star, Autie is featured as a character in the Nintendo video game “Just Dance Kids 2” for Wii.
She showed up at the last Los Angeles Auto Show and this picture of her in mid-leap was published in The Los Angeles Times.
She has also been on TV’s Dancing with the Stars, Shake It Up and Mobbed and recently had the opportunity to interview the hip-hop star Nelly. She showcased her teaching skill at 2013 Velocity Dance, where she lead mass dance classes. Rounding out her achievements, Autumn and her mom are branching out into prêt-à-porter fashion: marketing KBM Talent gear and Autie’s Freestyle Friday T-shirts, which can be purchased online.
Autie Miller has done a great service advancing girl’s dance and demonstrating that little girls are capable of virtuosity as dancers, intellectual brilliance as home-school choreographers and can display spiritual depth as artists. A freestyle dancer can uniquely serve as both painter and canvas—practically a poster-child for Pigtails in Paint.
KBM Talent (official website)
David Hofmann Photography (official website)
David Hofmann (Webstagram)