A photo of five men standing on the left side of a room and five young women stretching on the other side of it.
Maia Wagler and her classmates from the VCU Department of Dance + Choreography (right) teach members of The Steel Wheels – led by Maia’s father, Trent – heroic dance moves in the band’s video for its new single “Hero.”

VCUarts dancer shows off movement with a message in music video for her father’s band

Maia Wagler and fellow students teach the old guard some new tricks in ‘Hero,’ the first single off The Steel Wheels’ latest album.

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Trent Wagler, frontman of the Virginia folk-rock band The Steel Wheels, had been waiting a long time to feature his 19-year-old daughter, Maia, in a music video.

But it wasn’t until he penned “Hero” that he knew he found the perfect vessel for Maia, a sophomore dance major at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts.

Not only did Maia star in the video with a few friends she enlisted from the Department of Dance + Choreography, she also choreographed the dance with input from her dad.

“The song was the main inspiration for the movement,” Maia said. “It’s a group of five white men. I think they wanted to make fun of the stigma with ‘mansplaining’ and also privilege and stuff like that. But they wanted it to come across in a lighter, fun way. He [her dad] said he wanted the band to be dancing but learning from us, the dancers, and he had time stamps laid out of ideas of where certain things would be happening. But he had me create all the movement.  … We worked together to piece it together.”

The sweetly vulnerable song, the first single off the Harrisonburg-area band’s recently released “Sideways” LP, depicts the masculine stereotype of wanting to be the hero by rushing in and fixing a problem, when that’s not always possible or ideal.

“‘Hero’ pokes fun at anyone who always barges into a situation and takes over,” Trent said. “It’s a reminder to me that sometimes my best role is to be supportive. And yes, I’m that way. It’s a jab at a certain kind of toxic masculinity. … The meaning of the song allowed for the dancers to show the band how much they have to teach us.”

A photo of a woman standing on the left holding a guitar and a man standing to the right of her. Both people are smiling.
VCU sophomore Maia Wagler often sings and plays guitar with her father, Trent, frontman of The Steel Wheels. (Courtesy photo)

The video features the five middle-aged members of The Steel Wheels strutting around tongue-in-cheek, showing off their masculinity, before being checked by the five young-adult dancers who teach the band a few things with their dance moves.

“The message is to just let go — especially of your ego,” Maia said. “We can all be students and we can all be teachers and we can learn from each other.

"We can take from every group of people and make something probably much greater than we would have if we were isolated and didn’t stay curious and reach out and let our guards down.”

Not everyone in the band can dance, and they didn’t have much time to rehearse, so Maia had to keep the movements simple.

“And I wanted it to be funny,” she said. Her dad joked that the band could flex their muscles, and Maia took the idea and ran with it. “They’re a goofy group of people. So I felt like it’ll be fun to throw that in the video. And it took [off].”

While this is Maia’s first music video, it is not her first collaboration with her dad.

She started out playing the ukulele with him — when her hands were too little to hold a guitar properly — before graduating to the six-string. Through the years, she has performed with him onstage — playing guitar and singing — at the annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival, which The Steel Wheels has presented for more than 10 years.

“Hero” was shot in one very long day at Spring Creek Town Hall, outside of the Waglers’ hometown of Harrisonburg. Rounding out the dance team were Emma Wynkoop, Jayden Bidle, Olivia Gwinner and Eliza Seaton. In addition to Trent, The Steel Wheels are Jay Lapp, Eric Brubaker, Kevin Joaquin Garcia and Jeremy Darrow.

“I was so impressed by all the dancers from VCU,” Trent said. “They brought such a high level of professionalism and excellence. The opportunity to be taught by Maia was great for me. I’ve always had a respect for dancers, but it was such a treat to be in her arena, out of my comfort zone.”

The Steel Wheels are currently on tour and play The Broadberry in Richmond on March 27.

"Hero" from The Steel Wheels' album Sideways