A dancer’s dream: medals, touring and teaching

Maddison Barnett, 20, is currently on tour with musical sensation Jolin Tsai. Photo Kiel Tutin.

A young local dancer has continued to make her mark overseas.

From learning at a Howick dance school to dancing on stage in front of tens of thousands, 20-year-old Maddison Barnett has built up an impressive résumé.

“I started dancing when I was five,” says Barnett. “I played a lot of sports but liked that dance was slightly more challenging.”

She was predominantly trained in jazz until she turned 10. Then she started learning hip-hop.

“It felt right in my body,” she says. “I liked the music more in style.”

At the age of 12, she auditioned to be a part of world-renowned choreographer Parris Goebel’s junior hip hop crew Bubblegum.

“It definitely taught me a hard work ethic and working in a team, really learning at a young age to prioritise my career,” Barnett says.

Barnett, who went to Saint Kentigern College, won several world titles and medals at the World Hip Hop Championships in the US. She claimed silver in 2013, silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016.

Under Goebel, Barnett expanded upon her skill-set and had many opportunities.

One was being chosen to feature, along with a select group of other Kiwis, in videos for songs from Justin Bieber in 2015.

Barnett performed in clips for ‘Sorry’, ‘Children’ and ‘What do you mean?’.

“Filming was really fun,” Barnett said. “It was a good experience to learn what we have to do if we want to make it in dance.”

In 2018, she left Palace Dance Studios and is working with NZ choreographer and fellow east Aucklander Kiel Tutin, who has choreographed for superstars JLo and Black Pink. She is a part of Tutin’s 3WY+BOY agency.

Barnett has danced commercially for the Chinese artist Cai Xukun, or KUN.

Hearing about the event through Tutin, who is the head choreographer of the tour, Barnett auditioned for Taiwanese singer and ‘Queen of C-Pop’ Jolin Tsai’s ‘Ugly Beauty World’ tour.

At the end of 2020 and start of 2021, Barnett and the rest of the dancers travelled to Taiwan for six sold-out shows.

“There was around 20,000-30,000 people in each show,” she says. “It was amazing.”

Before the opening night, Barnett had a slew of difficulties: her grandfather had died two days earlier, she was overseas during Covid-19, and she’d had to learn the dance quickly.

Then she performed on stage.

“Just seeing the crowd and everything, it’s probably one of the best moments of my life,” she says.

The tour is currently on hold.

Dance has taught her to keep herself cool under the pressure and adapt to change quickly, Barnett told the Times.

For the future, Barnett has received opportunities go to US and teach dance.

“I want to inspire people to take a risk and give dancing a go,” Barnett says.

“Dancing in NZ is big but it isn’t as normalised as other sports. I want to create a position or show people that you can really dream big and go overseas and break that stigma.”