Hey dance family. How are you doing? The world has seemed like an especially tough and scary place over the past few weeks, and it's okay to feel rattled. Fortunately, we're lucky enough to have dance—it sees us through good times and bad.
So, for your #FridayFeels, please enjoy this beautiful video of Kent Boyd and Will Jonhston, choreographed by Tyce Diorio. It shows two men in a relationship, maybe on the brink of breaking up. As they dance to X Ambassadors' "Unsteady," it becomes clear that the couple is going through a lot right now.
Grab your tissues, give this a watch and then go hug someone you love.
From YouTube to the boob tube, Keone and Mari Madrid seem to be everywhere these days—and that’s just the way we like it. Recent highlights for the husband and wife team include choreographing for “So You Think You Can Dance”; receiving an MTV Video Music Award nomination for their choreo for Kendrick Lamar’s “Never Catch Me” vid; and continuing to break the internet with their dance shorts and class choreo clips.
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
Even though their careers have taken off in a big way, the Madrids are still the humble, adorable couple that won our hearts on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” back in 2013. And that wasn’t too long after they fell in love themselves: They first met at an Urban Legends dance workshop back in ’08 and married in 2012 following an uber-romantic surprise proposal from Keone. The pair have stayed true to their roots, opening a new dance studio called Building Block in their hometown of Carlsbad, CA. And they haven’t deviated from the upbeat, fun-loving, smooth dance style that put them on the map.
Since Keone and Mari know each other better than anyone, we asked them to have a conversation rather than doing a typical Q&A. Find out what they had to say about their secrets to success…and whether a mini-Madrid might be on the way!
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
Keone: We have so many memories from working together—what’s your favorite so far?
Mari: It would have to be the Hyundai commercial. We just thought we were making a YouTube commercial, but…
K: …a few months later, we got a Tweet from someone saying, “Keone and Mari are in Times Square!” It ended up being on a huge electronic billboard that played 24/7, right underneath the Coca-Cola sign. It was incredibly humbling, and pretty wild for us to have that opportunity.
M: I’d say the most challenging job we’ve done was definitely “The X Factor.”
K: Same here, because it’s live television. There were several times when we had to change the choreography on the stage, on the spot—in a span of 30 seconds. It caused some stressful moments, but also helped us to be prepared for the worst if we’re ever presented with that challenge in a different dance setting.
M: It’s also difficult to separate our work and our personal life. They tend to blend into each other.
K: That’s the hard part—since we work together not just creatively, but also business-wise.
M: We always say we should relax and not talk about work, and then it turns into, “Did you answer that email?” Being married three years, we realize we have to make our personal life a priority.
K: That’s why the Fourth of July this year was so great—we decided to just stay home with our dog, watch Netflix all day and have our own mini barbecue.
M: With Chicago-style hot dogs!
K: But 80 percent of the time, we’re working or dancing. How would you describe our choreographic process?
M: Usually, we’ll talk a little bit first and then just start moving; sometimes, we’ll map out a piece to make sure it has good ups and downs.
K: Yeah, it’s definitely a good mixture of freestyle and pre-planning. It’s almost like a game of Twister, putting together different ‘pictures.’
M: Yes on Twister! Sometimes I’ll be in a terribly uncomfortable position while we figure out the arms, and I’ll have to take a little breather. But it’s all worth it.
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
K: I’d describe our choreography as urban dance—it’s a fusion of styles with a strong base in hip hop, but definitely not pure hip hop. Storytelling is a big part of it.
M: It’s also rooted in musicality, with lots of detail and precision.
K: Our choreography is all about grooves! The feeling is the most important. We brainstorm moments we want to bring out of the song, but a lot of times, the flow creates itself and new ideas come to the table.
M: One of the pieces I’m proudest of is “Orphans,” which we performed with our dance team Cookies at the VIBE XX Dance Competition in January. We got first place and donated our winnings to World Vision, a huge charity organization dedicated to helping children and families. There was a ripple effect, with the team that won second place also deciding to donate. It was such a cool moment, seeing what dance can do beyond the stage.
K: Our faith plays a big part in the choices we make, the songs we choreograph to and the messages we decide to share. With “Orphans,” it felt good to raise awareness and give a voice to people who don’t have one.
M: Looking ahead, what would be your dream dance job?
K: It’s hard to say—I think we’re living it right now! We’re getting into theater, doing more film stuff and traveling and teaching, so I can’t complain. But having a family will be the ultimate prize. That’s what all this dance stuff and the opportunities we take are for—to provide our family with a better future.
M: Yeah, that’s the next big step, and the real dream job: being a mom and dad.
The Next NappyTabs?
It’s no wonder people are constantly comparing the Madrids to Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo (aka “NappyTabs”). Married couple that works together? Check. Sick choreography? Check. “So You Think You Can Dance” creds? Check. “We totally get it, since they’re also married and do hip hop and partnering,” Keone says. “But we’re in different worlds—they’re very much in the industry, while we’re somewhere in between the industry, the competition/community scene and YouTube.”
Even though they draw a distinction, Keone and Mari are extremely flattered by the comparison. “We respect and are inspired by them, especially seeing how hard they work for everything they have,” Mari says. “They’ve also shown us it’s possible to have a family and work in choreography!”
In the House
For Keone and Mari, the creativity doesn’t stop on the dance floor. Their home in Carlsbad, CA (near San Diego), is full of touches that show just how artistic these two are—from a wedding portrait Mari drew herself to artwork they picked out together. “Our place has everything from a poster of Marty McFly in Back to the Future to a giant map of the world to pictures of our dog,” says Keone. “It’s a mixture of things we enjoy and things that inspire us.”
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
As with any successful partnership, Keone and Mari both bring different strengths
to the table—which make their work that much more awesome. Mari says Keone is particular, which helps take their ideas to the next level, while Keone says Mari helps him stay calm, cool and collected.
Mari: “Keone is a good initiator when we get stuck—he’s always pushing to find out what the piece is supposed to be. He has a very high standard. At moments when I’d just settle for something, he’ll push to go a little bit further.”
Keone: “Mari is all about patience and allowing the space to just figure things out. She’s really good with keeping things in perspective, and that translates to our personal life, too.”
Mari on Keone
What’s Keone’s biggest food craving?
Meat and rice, always.
If Keone weren’t a dancer/choreographer, what career would he have chosen?
What’s Keone’s biggest phobia?
What song would Keone say is “yours” as a couple?
We have several, but Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight" was our first dance at our wedding.
If Keone were a superhero, what would his power be?
Flying, pending he gets over his fear of heights.
Who would play Keone in a movie?
Haha, James Franco.
(Photo by Joe Toreno)
Keone on Mari
What’s Mari’s favorite flower?
What’s Mari’s biggest pet peeve?
Grammar, specifically "you're" versus "your" and "apart" versus "a part." And when I'm on my phone.
What item(s) of your clothing would Mari like to steal for herself?
My hats and hoodies.
What’s Mari’s hidden talent?
It's not really hidden, but cooking and writing.
What does Mari think is the best gift you’ve ever given her?
The "Raff the Giraffe" story book I made her. And marriage.
You admire each other in convention classes. You enjoy watching each other compete and perform. You start talking, and you hit it off. You exchange contact info, and you keep in touch. Soon, you realize you have a crush—or something more. The only problem? You train at competing studios. Is your relationship doomed from the start? What if your teachers disapprove? What if your friends accuse you of being disloyal?
Going out with someone from a rival studio can make you feel like you’re living a real-life version of Romeo and Juliet. Here’s how to give your star-crossed relationship a fighting chance.
(Photo by Heidi Ann, courtesy the Di Lellos)
Communicate with Each Other
“Acknowledge the challenges in your relationship up front,” says Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who often works with dancers. “For instance, if you feel jealous watching your significant other do a pas de deux with someone else, admit that. You need to be able to talk about what’s OK and what’s not OK.” Going over the tough stuff ahead of time can make it easier to handle those situations down the line.
Stay Committed to Your School
When “So You Think You Can Dance” alums and professional ballroom dancers Ashleigh and Ryan Di Lello, now married, started dating, they were dancing for rival schools in Utah: Ashleigh for Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, in Orem, and Ryan for Brigham Young University, in Provo. Ryan remembers initially feeling an unspoken sense of disapproval from his director, so they both worked to show they were still devoted to their home studios.
“Your director needs to know that you’re not sacrificing your commitment to your team,” Ashleigh says. “When I stepped out on the floor, it was competition time. I was there to dance my best, even though I was also cheering for Ryan.” How can you prove your commitment? Don’t miss classes or rehearsals to hang out with your boyfriend. Show up on time. Give every bit as much to your studio as you did before you started dating your significant other.
The same advice applies to your friendships, too. “If your peers are critical of who you’re dating, make it clear to them that you still value their friendship,” Kaslow says. “If you don’t want to choose between your friends and your partner, show them you can find a way to have both.”
Celebrate Success Together
Part of being in a relationship is celebrating when your partner succeeds. That can be hard if their win resulted in your loss. “A major challenge in dating a rival is that you want to beat them, but you’re also happy if they win,” Kaslow says. If you’re the loser, make an effort to congratulate your partner. If you’re the winner, be respectful of your partner’s disappointment.
On “SYTYCD” Season 6, Ashleigh and Ryan both made it to the Top 6. “We were competitive—we knew there would only be one winner—but it was still special to have a built-in support system,” Ashleigh says. One of the season’s most touching moments came when Ryan asked the audience to vote for his injured wife, who couldn’t perform the week of the Top 8. “She’d worked so hard,” Ryan says. “I’d been in the bottom; she hadn’t. She deserved to be there.” His gesture of love went viral, and voters sent the couple through to the finale.
Remember What You Share
It’s not uncommon for two dancers to fall for each other. After all, “you share a passion,” Kaslow says. “A partner who is also a dancer understands that life. He or she knows why you can’t always go out on Friday nights.”
But chances are, dance isn’t the only thing bringing you together—and it’s important to share experiences outside of the dance realm, too. Early in their relationship, Ryan and Ashleigh talked about partnering up for competitions, but they ultimately made the decision to stay with their other dance partners. “We said, ‘Let’s just date, so we can focus on our relationship and keep dance out of it,’ ” Ryan explains. “So even though we shared a passion for dance, we fell in love with each other for all of the other reasons. Dance was just the cherry on top.” And that’s how their Romeo and Juliet story turned into happily ever after.
Now that we've met each rank of the company, this week's installment of "city.ballet." delves into the good stuff: relationships. Apparently, dating at work is pretty common at New York City Ballet. And this episode gives us all the juicy details.
FUN FACT: Principal dancers Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck started dating when they were only 14! They met in a jazz class, dated on and off for years and are now the cutest engaged couple ever.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I tell people I just got married because I couldn't deal with how awkward it would be if we broke up. I was gonna have to see her everyday!" —Andy Veyette on marrying fellow NYCB principal Megan Fairchild
Watch every episode now or join in on my one-episode-per-week challenge at dancemagazine.com (Click “Related” in the upper right hand corner of the video to navigate between episodes.)