Dancer to Dancer

Keone and Mari Madrid on Their Groundbreaking New Projects

They're blazing new trails in the dance world—and beyond it. (courtesy Keone and Mari Madrid)

Trailblazer (noun): a pioneer in any field of endeavor.

It seems like choreographic duo Keone and Mari Madrid are always exploring uncharted territory. The husband-and-wife team have a well-earned reputation as dance pioneers, starting a decade ago (long before dance videos were a thing) with their mind-bending YouTube clips, and now with their impressive multidisciplinary work. Having an open mind about where their interests might lead has allowed them to seize opportunities within the dance world—and beyond it. "We stay curious and try not to be fearful," Keone says. "We take the risk and see what happens."

We caught up with the creative couple to talk about their latest projects: a unique dance e-book, Ruth, and an innovative full-length show, Beyond Babel.




A New Medium

Ruth topped the Apple iBook and Google Play charts when it came out in June—probably because there's nothing else quite like it. A dance-centric e-book, it combines choreography, illustration, film, original music, and a touching story. Mari has a degree in creative writing, and for years the couple had searched for a way to incorporate those skills into their dancing. "It was always a recurring joke," Keone says, laughing. "I would say 'Babe, we've got to do something. These student loan dollars can't go to nothing!' "

Putting the book together was a huge, collaborative, multi-year undertaking, and the couple made a conscious effort not to get overwhelmed by the process. They realized that it's OK to fumble when you're trying something totally new. "Maybe you don't speak music yet, or the person you're working with doesn't speak dance," explains Mari. "It's about doing your best to communicate, working on problem solving, and not being afraid of not knowing how to do something."


Beyond the Conventional

Keone and Mari's next creative feat is Beyond Babel, an immersive full-length dance show set for a 10-week run in San Diego this fall. And they had a hand in almost every element of the production: They directed, choreographed, wrote, and will star in the Romeo and Juliet–inspired piece. "We feel most proud of our work when we're able to be involved in every aspect," says Mari. "It's when we feel like we have ownership and can express our true voices beyond just choreography."

That's not to say the show isn't a collaboration. Like most of the Madrids' innovative works, Beyond Babel features contributions from many talented artists, including Josh Aviner and Lyndsay Magid Aviner of the Brooklyn-based production company Hideaway Circus. It'll be presented in its own downtown space, "Beyond Babel Theater," with an elite cast of 12 and crochet set pieces designed by London Kaye. "I feel like the chance to see these dancers, and London's art installations, up close is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity," says Magid Aviner.

(From left) Josh Aviner and Lyndsay Magid Aviner with Mari and Keone Madrid (Carlo Aranda, courtesy Matt Ross PR)

The theater's orchestra sections will also move during the performance, allowing the audience to experience the show from multiple perspectives. "Keone and Mari's style of urban dance hasn't been presented in a live format like this before, and it's a very exciting opportunity to develop material and scenes with this unusual and immersive seating layout," Aviner says.

The Madrids have long dreamed of creating a full-length dance show, and with Beyond Babel, the timing finally felt right. "Current social issues and conversations are a huge motivation to this story," Keone says. "In the times that we're in, with social media and its instant gratification, we noticed that people are starting to put more value on experiences. Providing an unforgettable experience is such an important aspect of this project."


More Trails to Blaze

Where do the Madrids find inspiration for their diverse projects? Outside the dance world, much of the time—from reading, watching TV and movies, being around nature, and training as athletes. "Life somehow introduces ideas," Keone says. "We have absolutely no blinders on to any inspiration." Mari agrees. "We're constantly people watching," she says. "The human experience inspires us, and we try to express that through dance—to express how humans are."

"Wherever stories can be told with dance," Keone says, "we're going to try find a way to do it."

Show Comments ()
Cover Story
(photo by Jim Lafferty)

Amanda LaCount was born to move. The second the music comes on at her Dance Spirit cover shoot, the bubbly 17-year-old is shimmying her shoulders and tossing her hair. When she launches into a full-out freestyle to Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," you can't take your eyes off her.

And yet with every gig she lands, Amanda is challenging some of the dance world's longest-held biases. "I'm curvy," she says, "and I like being curvy. My body is not a bad thing. It's who I am." Here's how Amanda went from talented tot to hardworking pro—and from insecure preteen to body-positive role model.

Keep reading... Show less
Giveaways

It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are Artists AND Athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection, and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Rylee Arnold and Miles Brown were standouts this week. (via YouTube)

We still can't get over the talent on "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors"—like how many YouTube tutorials do we have to watch to become half as good as these mini dancing machines? And just in case you forgot how skilled these prodigies are, this week's theme was sure to remind you: Last night, the ten couples performed to songs that came out the year they were born. (But let's be real, most of these songs aren't really that much of a throwback.)

Keep reading... Show less
Ava and Emma Blaser performing their duet to Coldplay's "Fix You." (via ellentube)

It's safe to say that the bond between dancing siblings is one of the strongest out there. But for sisters Emma, 16, and Ava Blaser, 10, that bond runs deeper than most can even fathom: The pair continued to dance together throughout Ava's treatment for kidney cancer remission, and they say it helped them heal.

Keep reading... Show less
Editors’ List: The Goods
San Francisco Ballet soloist Koto Ishihara stretches in her warm-up boots. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Dance Magazine.

With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
via giphy.com

Costumes: We look amazing in them but, boy, sometimes they're the actual worst. Whether they don't fit correctly or they rip right before a performance, here are 10 wardrobe malfunctions all dancers unfortunately suffer through at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
Dear Katie

Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I don't know what to do about my chest! Over the past year, I've gone from a 32B to a 32D, and it's awful. No leotards fit me, I'm self-conscious in all my costumes, and I even feel like it's affecting my sense of balance. Is there any hope for a well-endowed dancer?

Cassandra

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
(photo by Jim Lafferty)

Amanda LaCount was born to move. The second the music comes on at her Dance Spirit cover shoot, the bubbly 17-year-old is shimmying her shoulders and tossing her hair. When she launches into a full-out freestyle to Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," you can't take your eyes off her.

And yet with every gig she lands, Amanda is challenging some of the dance world's longest-held biases. "I'm curvy," she says, "and I like being curvy. My body is not a bad thing. It's who I am." Here's how Amanda went from talented tot to hardworking pro—and from insecure preteen to body-positive role model.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
via giphy.com

Costumes: We look amazing in them but, boy, sometimes they're the actual worst. Whether they don't fit correctly or they rip right before a performance, here are 10 wardrobe malfunctions all dancers unfortunately suffer through at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Summer is here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.

Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Cardi B broke out her best moves during her performance. (via IHeartRadio)

ICYMI, one of music's biggest events happened last night: the American Music Awards (aka, a chance for the industry's best singers to strut their stuff—usually with a squad of the fiercest dancers around). The show always brings some fabulously dancy performances, but the ones below were our top faves.

Keep reading... Show less

Showstopper Magazine is your source for exclusive content on today's most talked about dancers! It features major influencers in the dance community and the latest dance news, fashion trends, and life-changing advice.

Keep reading... Show less
Giveaways
Photo by Jayme Thornton

We're giving away this Bloch jumpsuit that's featured in our October fashion story. Enter below for your chance to win it!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Screenshot via YouTube

Y'all already know that the lineup of "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors" pros is stacked with DS favorites. So, how to pick our absolute favorite number from Sunday night's premiere ep? A few crucial factors weighed in Artyon Celestine and Ariana Greenblatt's favor.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Major Yule Ball vibes from "Harry Potter" alumna Evanna Lynch and her pro partner Keo Motsepe (screenshot via YouTube)

Televised dance competitions are downright notorious for mercilessly manipulating the emotions of contestants and audiences alike. But there's perhaps no other reality-TV phenomenon with the tearjerking potential of the Most Memorable Year tradition on "DWTS." The always-emotional episode comes around super-early each season, letting us get to know intimate, often painfully sad details of each celeb's life, just moments before an unlucky couple gets eliminated. That's right: It's only Week 3, but here come the waterworks already.

Keep reading... Show less
Dear Katie
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm so tired of my teacher playing favorites. I'm a strong dancer, but there's another talented girl in my class who's always the center of attention. I feel like the rest of us get fewer corrections because the teacher's focused on her. Should I switch studios?

Rachel

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways