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.
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It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.