For the past few years, when Keone and Mari Madrid would try to explain their next big idea to people, they were often met with confusion. The pair—known for their viral dance videos and stint on "World of Dance"—dreamed of making a dance ebook, where text, video, audio and illustration would combine to create an interactive storytelling experience.
Now, years after conceiving the idea, they've done it—and they're on their way to opening the door for more artists to explore the medium. Their ebook, Ruth, follows an elderly woman who has left her retirement home for the first time in years, and is transported to an alternate universe—filled with dance, of course.
We caught up with the duo to hear about the project—and what it was like to work with over 200 dancers in five different countries.
Where the ebook idea came from:
Keone: It started with Mari having a creative writing degree. It was like, Hey babe, we're paying off these student loans so we gotta do something with it! We were trying to brainstorm how that could make sense. It dawned on us because my little brother is in middle school and my little sister is in elementary school, and the way they receive education is so much more immersive and digitally driven. This sparked an idea of wanting to incorporate dance into that. We realized there are a lot of opportunities with how writing can live side by side with dance.
What to expect from the dancing:
Keone: The movement in general is just our style, but we tried to stay within the bounds of that moment in time—sometimes the story doesn't need a backflip here or footwork there. There were moments where something becomes cultural; Ruth is transported to different cultures and you'll see some influences in that. You can expect to see some guest choreographers including Tessandra Chavez, along with some of the most incredible dancers in the world.
Going from viral videos to ebooks:
Mari: We've always wanted to do more long-form things. In the past we'd have 90 seconds to tell a story so you can only be very simple with what you're trying to say. With the book we could have a more complex story and have moments that build and characters that we present in different ways.
Finding dancers in foreign countries:
Keone: We would go specifically to film for the book but we would have to put it on the low to look for dancers. We did workshops and then we would audition dancers then have a day or two to put things together. Things were crazy because of the language barrier and finding locations in a foreign country. But we didn't settle. We weren't like, Let's just film it in a dance studio. In order for the audience to feel like they're being transported, things have to feel a little bit magical.
Developing their app, Dance Book:
Mari: The app is being built right now. Eventually we want it to become a platform for other creators to house their own books and long-form work. We wanna open that door to other people now that we've made one and gotten a grasp for how the process works. We want to have a platform where it's curated in a beautiful way and people can own their work.
Keone: As we got close to the finish line it was like, Wow, this really does work. What a shame it would be if we just created one and that was it.
What Ruth means for their future:
Keone: Passive income is something we've been trying to strive for because we're looking for ways to create and also to be home. A lot of it has to do with setting ourselves up for the future. Eventually our bodies will go but our minds won't, and we feel so passionately about creating. We wanted to be able to show the capabilities of not just us, but dancers and choreographers in general and what we can do when given the opportunity.
Working on Ruth and their new immersive show, Beyond Babel at the same time:
Keone: We have this chalk wall in our house with our goals on it, and the book and the show happened to collide in the same year. We can't complain—this is what we asked for.
Mari: Thank God there's two of us!