Two-Stepping: Keone and Mari Madrid's Dance (and Love) Story
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.
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.
Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.
OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.
Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.
Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:
You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.
What do you get when a hoard of dancers collaborate to the catchy tune of "Love Somebody," by the band Frenship? The most epic dance party ever, of course! Said dance party was produced by the talented Michael Riccio, who's performed in feature films, including "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" and "Shrek Forever After."
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.
Are you a high school senior who's been accepted to a four-year accredited college or university program? Congrats! Within the 2017-2018 season, have you competed in events run by at least two of the organizations in the above graphic? Double congrats, because the Association of Dance Conventions and Competitions, or ADCC for short, wants to give you $1,000 (!!) towards college tuition.
From dancing in music videos (including Katy Perry's "Swish Swish") to performing on reality TV shows (including "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Voice"), 17-year-old Amanda LaCount is already conquering the commercial scene. If you've ever seen her dance, you understand why: She's a hard-hitting phenom with major stage presence. But in an industry where not having the "right" look can jeopardize your career, Amanda's also blazed her own path by accepting her beautiful curvy body the way it is.
Amanda's never let body-shamers discourage her from going after her dreams. She hopes that by breaking the "dancers are skinny" stereotype, she'll give others the courage to highlight their own unique features rather than hiding them or changing them to fit repressive industry standards. She's even started a campaign, #breakingthestereotype, to inspire artists of all shapes, colors, and sizes to dance for themselves.
We caught up with this dancing maverick to get her advice on cultivating body confidence in a world that's obsessed with the "perfect" body.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
All the dancers in my level auditioned for a prestigious summer intensive—but I'm the only one who got in. Now everything is incredibly awkward at the studio. I'm really excited about the program, but I don't want to make my friends feel bad. What can I do?
Can't get enough of the dance party T. Swift throws herself in her "Delicate" music video? Take a look at the two making-of clips Taylor just shared on her Instagram, showing her practicing the vid's charmingly awkward choreography.