Who is Brahim Zaibat?
He’s a 25-year-old dancer and choreographer.
Why is he in the news this week?
It was revealed on Thursday that, after a three-year relationship, pop superstar Madonna had broken up with Zaibat, amid rumours of jealousy and rancour.
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The couple had drawn attention mainly for the glaring, three-decade age gap between them (she is 55), and for the fact that Zaibat used to be one of her back-up dancers.
The two first met when Madonna launched her “Material Girl” clothing line with US retail giant Macy’s in 2010, and Zaibat became one of her back-up dancers, most notably at the 2012 Superbowl, and on her MDNA tour later that year.
When the dust had settled on the tour, however, Madonna returned to her base in New York, while her “toy boy” went back to France.
Zaibat and Madonna wading through paparazzi in Rome in 2012. Photo: LadyPK/Flickr
Is that where it went wrong?
It seems like it, but according to reports this week, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Earlier this year, Zaibat got a lucrative gig on primetime French TV, as a dancer on “Danse avec les Stars” (the Gallic version of Dancing With the Stars).
While he’s little known in the English-speaking world apart from his relationship with Madonna, this reality TV gig has made him something of a household name in France.
He came second in the competition, despite being the object of the audience's amazement (and lust), each week, for his logic-defying dance moves as much as his raw virility.
Things had become strained between the inter-generational lovers over the last 12 months, and the 50-something pop icon recently virtually insisted that Zaibat spend a week with her in New York, in order to resuscitate the relationship, according to Le Figaro.
Zaibat, doing what he does best. Photo: Image Amplified Official/Flickr
A spokesperson for Madonna was quoted by the French daily as saying: “Their story has had its day. Before, they were dancing and working together constantly, but recently they’ve barely seen each other.”
However, US gossip website PerezHilton.com, which broke the story on Thursday, quoted acquaintances of the Queen of Pop as saying that she felt she had been “used” by Zaibat for her fame, and that she didn’t approve of the artist integrity of his career choices, so to speak.
“She thought [Dancing With the Stars] was too cheesy,” the source claimed.
And it gets juicier. Le Figaro also postulated on Friday that Madonna had been none too pleased with the growing warmth of Zaibat’s relationship with on-screen dance partner, Australian Katrina Patchett.
Did Australian dance partner Katrina Patchett play a role in the break up? Photo: Brenda Clerkin
Who was Zaibat before he was “Mr. Madonna”?
A bit of a legend in French dance circles, really. He grew up with an Algerian father and French mother in a poor part of the eastern city of Lyon, and started break-dancing at the age of 10, according to the French Premiere magazine.
Without much of an interest in education, the teenage Zaibat devoted himself more and more to dance-offs and competitions on the streets and in the council estates of Lyon.
He moved between ever-bigger and better dance crews, competed in regional, national, and then international competitions, and was crowned break-dancing world champion in 2003 and 2010.
Here's a great video montage that shows off his fairly mind-boggling, limb-twisting, break-dancing skills.
He’s also turned his hand to choreography over the years, most notably for the French musical “Robin des Bois” (Robin Hood), which opened in Paris in September.
2013 may have ended on a sour note for Brahim, but he does at least have the consolation of being voted Sexiest Man of the Year, by French gay magazine Têtu.
Furthermore, his sudden re-release into romantic ecosystem, so to speak, will no doubt set pulses racing across France.