David Hofmann: Dream Job

David Hofmann is a photographer of girls’ dance.  He’s a commercial photographer based in Los Angeles who has worked on seven feature films, does nature photography, editorial photography and has become well known in certain circles for his characteristic photography of girls’ dance under the name “SharkCookie”.

David Hofmann, David and Friends (2014)

David Hofmann – David and Friends (2014)

David prefers to use natural light and aims for an “uncontrived” style that stands out from typical studio sessions.  He capitalizes on the natural assets of his SoCal environs, often working with the urban backdrop of LA or on seaside beaches for his shoots.

Many of David’s subjects are superstars within the world of American girls’ dance—the foremost being Maddie Ziegler who has become well-known after appearing in three of rock-star Sia’s videos, Chandelier, Elastic Heart, and Big Girls Cry.  In fact Maddie has previously been featured on Pigtails in Paint.

David and Maddie Ziegler (2013)

David Hofmann – David and Maddie Ziegler (2014)

Maddie started dancing very young with the notoriously loudmouthed and domineering Abby Lee; Abby’s dance company would later be featured on the popular American television show Dance Moms which has now run five seasons.  The success of the show rocketed not only Maddie, but several of her co-stars to relative fame and contributed greatly to the mass appeal of girls’ dance around the world.

David Hofmann - Maddie Ziegler (2013)

David Hofmann – Maddie Ziegler (2014)

Chloe Lukasiak is another of the Dance Moms stars to grace David’s lens.  She too started dancing for Abby Lee at a very young age.

David Hofmann – David and Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

David Hofmann – David and Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

Like Maddie, Chloe has also made numerous other television appearances besides Dance Moms and has performed in several music videos.

David Hofmann – Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

David Hofmann – Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

Sophia Lucia, while not a regular on Dance Moms, nevertheless made four appearances on the show.  She is arguably the most technically virtuosic of American girl dancers having won mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for performing fifty-five consecutive pirouettes.


David Hofmann – David and Sophia Lucia (2013)

Like the other girls, Sophia has made numerous television appearances including Dancing with the Stars, Shake it Up, So You Think You Can Dance, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and even a McDonald’s commercial.  She has her own line of dance gear marketed via “California Kisses”.

David Hofmann – Sophia Lucia (2014)

David Hofmann – Sophia Lucia (2014)

Unlike the above girls, Autumn Miller declined to participate in Dance Moms, her mother apparently rejecting the overture.  Still she has followed a similar career path, appearing on Shake it Up, Dancing with the Stars and so on; she was featured in Willow Smith’s music video Whip My Hair and various commercial and modeling gigs.  Autie too was also featured on Pigtails in Paint.

David Hofmann – David with Autumn Miller (2012)

David Hofmann – David with Autumn Miller (2012)

Although Autumn never had the television exposure some of David’s other stars did, she is perhaps the most popular and well-known in girls’ dance due to her repeated successes at Dance Nationals and her creative YouTube show, “Autie’s Freestyle Friday“.

David Hofmann – Autumn Miller (2012)

David Hofmann – Autumn Miller (2012)

While David has photographed numerous girls who dance, a few others are popular and worthy of mention.

David Hofmann – Mia Diaz (2013)

David Hofmann – Mia Diaz (2013)

Mia Diaz appeared only once on Dance Moms but is very well-known and liked in the world of girls’ dance.  Like the other girls, she began dancing as a toddler and has won oodles of dance competitions.

David Hofmann – Jordyn Jones with David’s camera (2014)

Jordyn Jones is another popular young dancer who moves in the Hollywood set.  Incidentally Jordyn has produced a series of high quality music videos showcasing her dance covering a number of current pop songs such as “Fancy“, “Lip Gloss“, and “Banji“.

David coincidentally has a young daughter himself, Avaree, who is a dancer and whom he often photographs.

David Hofmann – David and daughter Avaree (2014)

David Hofmann – David and daughter Avaree (2014)

While Avaree may not be the super star dancer that some of David’s clients are, it seems she has at least one die-hard fan!

David Hoffman – Daughter Avaree (2015)

David Hoffman – Daughter Avaree (2015)

David’s professional site can be found here and his very active Instagram account is here.  There are several behind-the-scenes videos of David’s photo shoots, one of which can be viewed here.

Paint in Motion: Autumn Miller

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.

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller - I was Here (April 20, 2012) (1)

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller – I was Here (April 20, 2012) (1)

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.

Good Morning America clip (December 1, 2010)

Good Morning America clip (December 1, 2010)

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.”

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller - Front Attitude Turns (December 20, 2012)

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller – Front Attitude Turns (December 20, 2012)

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.

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller - Autumn Miller and Mother Krista Miller Duet (December 24, 2011)

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller – Autumn Miller and Mother Krista Miller Duet (December 24, 2011)

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.

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller - Autumn Miller [Off with your Head] (April 28, 2012)

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller – Autumn Miller [Off with your Head] (April 28, 2012)

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.

David Hofmann - Via Dolorosa (2012)

David Hofmann – Via Dolorosa (2012)

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.‭

Nintendo - Just Dance Kids 2 (2011)

Nintendo – Just Dance Kids 2 (2011)

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.

Gary Friedman-Los Angeles Times - Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center (November 28, 2012)

Gary Friedman-Los Angeles Times – Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center (November 28, 2012)

‭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.

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller - I was Here (April 20, 2012) (2)

Autumn, Krista & Cory Miller – I was Here (April 20, 2012) (2)

Autie’s official website

KBM Talent (official website)

David Hofmann Photography (official website)

David Hofmann (Webstagram)