Keone and Mari Madrid. Photo by Carlo Aranda, Courtesy Matt Ross Public Relations

Keone and Mari Madrid's First Full-Length Takes on the Border Wall

Keone and Mari Madrid are hardly strangers to the spotlight. Together, the powerhouse partners have performed in a Justin Bieber music video and on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and have choreographed for "So You Think You Can Dance." With around 250,000 subscribers, you could say Keone and Mari are "YouTube famous," but, thanks in part to a successful stint on NBC's "World of Dance" last year, they've become much more than that. Case in point: They're currently co-creating, choreographing and starring in their first full-length production, Beyond Babel. The immersive show will debut in San Diego this month; Keone and Mari hope to eventually take it on tour.


You two are always on the go. Where are you right now?

Keone: We're actually home for a while! This year, we chose not to do much traveling so we could work on the show and a few other projects.

What is Beyond Babel about?

Keone: It's loosely based on a Romeo and Juliet theme. Two lovers from two cultures embark on a forbidden love, and there are a lot of things we want to say alongside that storyline. The seating arrangement will be on bleachers that move forward and backward on motors—that's what makes it immersive.

Mari: We're collaborating with some awesome people, including London Kaye, who's an amazing crochet artist, and the Hideaway Circus production team. We're excited to finally have more than five minutes to tell a story!

So Romeo and Juliet—does that make you two the star-crossed lovers?

Mari: For now, yes.

Photo by Carlo Aranda, Courtesy Matt Ross Public Relations

There are also 12 other dancers. What roles do they play?

Keone: The two groups of people that don't understand each other. We're looking to tell a story about diversity and the separation of mind-set. That's what's happening right now in our culture.

The show opens in San Diego, which is, of course, your hometown. Is that why you wanted it to originate there?

Keone: Yes, but it's more than that. We live right down the road from where the prototypes for the border wall are being built. Part of the story is based around that—about a wall being built between two cultures.

Mari: We want to take a timeless story and interpret it and address the things happening now. It's very powerful to speak on what people are living through and experiencing and reading about.

Earlier you mentioned "a few other projects." What can you tell us about them?

Keone: We've just published an enhanced e-book called Ruth. It's about this old woman who is stuck between two worlds—the one she knows and an alternate universe. It's a nine-chapter multimedia book, so as you go through each chapter, you go from reading to watching videos, all of which incorporate dance.

How did being on "World of Dance" impact your lives and career?

Mari: We were already working professionally and making a living with dance, but the show exposed our work to more people. It also gave us more confidence. We realized people respond to and understand what we're trying to say. If we can make that connection in 90 seconds, we can do it in bigger ways.

Keone: And we found our voice within the storytelling realm. Right now, we're at our physical and creative peaks, so we want to maximize our performance time. We can teach when we're older.

Latest Posts


Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021