The music video for Missy Elliott’s “Work It” came out 17 years ago. It’s so old that it opens with Timbaland using a freaking payphone, something that many in the audience of last night’s MTV Video Music Awards have never actually used.
But all these years later, the most memorable part of that video was the dancing of Alyson Stoner. She was just seven years old when she beat out hundreds of other kids to land the gig. In front of a set that looks like a post-apocalyptic playground, her light pink outfit and pigtails made her stand out, as did her energetic dancing and advanced breakdancing moves that would be impressive for even an older, more experienced dancer.
So when Elliott performed a medley of her hits on last night’s VMA’s in celebration of winning the Video Vanguard award—basically a lifetime achievement honor—it was delightful to see Stoner, now 26, reprise her role as Elliott’s most recognizable dancer.
In the years since her music video debut, Stoner has amassed credits across media, from the Cheaper by the Dozen movies to voice work in the Kingdom Hearts video game series to a bunch of different Disney Channel productions. But it’s only her dancing as a kid that’s been called iconic.
In a 2017 interview with Vibe, Stoner had only nice things to say about Elliott.
“She created an atmosphere of easy-going, good-natured fun, and I think it allowed us to not even consider that we were performing in front of a camera that’s gonna be syndicated to the world. It really kept us, in a very palpable way, engaged with each other and focused on the dance. That’s something that I think the best artists retain—the ability to invite you into their small, intimate inner space, and let that be what radiates.”
All these years later, the two women clearly hold each other in high esteem. Stoner made a video tribute to Elliott a few years ago, and Elliott expressed her admiration on Twitter.