Cover Model Search Finalist: Maddie Swenson
Out-of-this-world feet, magnetic stage presence, astonishing control: 19-year-old Maddie Swenson has gifts that should inspire all kinds of envy. The problem is, she’s just so adorable. Case in point: Half the time she looks like she can’t quite believe how talented she is. When she executes a flawless développé à la seconde, her wide eyes ask, Is that my leg, up by my ear? No way! Or, after blazing through a jazz routine, she’ll crack up, unable to come to terms with the fact that yes, that was her out there, killing it. If you feel any lingering twinges of jealousy, just wait until she flashes her beyond-contagious smile. (“But it took three years of braces!” she groans. “They called me Punky the Beaver all through elementary school.”) Yup—there’s no way not to love this girl.
The rising Juilliard sophomore is an alum of Northland School of Dance in her hometown of Champlin, MN. She was one of those competition kids who could easily have been a professional-track ballet dancer, but she felt more at home in jazz and musical theater classes. “I loved anything where I could be silly and fun,” she says, “and bonus points if I could make people laugh.” Not that she took her training lightly. At 16, realizing that she needed to bump her technique up a notch, she enrolled at the prestigious St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists—a not-so-convenient two-hour bus ride away from home—while continuing to dance at Northland. Thanks in part to the change, Maddie had a banner senior year: She was first runner-up for Senior Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals and then earned a coveted spot at Juilliard.
Maddie has been absorbing Juilliard’s diverse dance offerings like a sponge. During her freshman year alone, she rehearsed new pieces by third-year students, worked with guest choreographer Matthew Neenan and understudied Eliot Feld’s Skara Brae for the school’s spring dance concert—all on top of her rigorous daily class schedule. “It was a big transition for me to go from a jazz-focused competition studio to this place where everyone’s been doing modern and ballet their whole lives. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nerve-wracking,” she says. “But it’s been healthy for me. It’s really broadened my horizons. And I still can’t quite believe that I get to dance all day, every day!”
After Juilliard, Maddie hopes to dance on Broadway—or to follow in idol Joey Dowling’s footsteps and become a Radio City Rockette, fulfilling a lifelong dream. “But really,” she says, “as long as I’m out there performing, I know I’ll be happy.”
Birthday: December 25, 1991. She’s a Christmas baby!
Dance crush: New York City Dance Alliance executive director Joe Lanteri. “There’s something about him that makes me dance bigger. He knows so much, and he’s willing to share it all.”
Three words that describe your dance style: Expressive, energized, effortless. “Apparently I like the ‘e’s.”
Non-dance hobby: “I love designing clothes, especially dresses. My older sister and I want to run our own clothing business someday.”
Secret talent: “I have this weird thing—don’t judge—where I can make my ‘innie’ belly button an ‘outie.’ ”
Favorite food: “Anything my Grandma and Grandpa cook—especially Grandma’s heart-shaped waffles, and Grandpa’s baked carrots. He grows the carrots in his own garden.”
Do you have a boyfriend? “I do. We just celebrated our four-year anniversary! He’s a dancer from my hometown, and we’ve been dance partners since we were 10.”
What People are Saying About Maddie
Corrie Rolf Dunn, Maddie’s Teacher at Northland School of Dance: “She’s a very technical dancer—absolutely flawless technique—and her passion comes out in her dancing. She has always been a really hard worker. Maddie was in the studio seven days a week, and not just taking advanced classes. She’d take beginning classes, too, just to go over the basics. She never felt like she was too good to learn. She was also such an inspiration to our younger kids. When she left Minnesota, she was definitely missed.”
DS photographer Erin Baiano: “I was really taken with Maddie’s range. She’s got a beautiful facility and she can do everything from ballet to hip hop. She has meticulous lines—and those feet! One of her most intriguing qualities is what’s going on inside, just beneath the surface. She seemed quiet, but once she started moving she was electric.”
Joanna Numata, street jazz and hip-hop teacher at Broadway Dance Center: “She looks like she’s trained, but she has to let go of that when she’s taking hip hop. It’s really amazing when people have training because it helps them with everything. Use it when you need to and then let it go when you don’t.”
Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.
Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.