Rock Church attenders, Keone and Mari Madrid, take their curtain call under the spotlight of the theater they built in Barrio Logan, home to Beyond Babel, their theatrical dance show loosely based on Romeo and Juliet—and they can hardly believe it.
The road to their vaulted place in the dance world could have never been anticipated and nothing they could have ever dreamed. In fact this road wasn’t even something they knew to get on.
In 2010, they were two dancers in love and considering getting married. As they took stock of their earning potential to support a life together, the financial responsibilities of setting up a home didn’t seem to leave room for two dreamers who just wanted to dance. They had hoped and prayed God might lead them to dance careers, but when nothing seemed to be materializing, it was with heavy hearts that they began to turn the dream off.
Life, apart from dance, was slowly and sadly coming into view.
Keone began shadowing physical therapists to gauge his interest in a career in sports medicine, and Mari was researching nursing schools.
As they had produced and posted a string of dance videos over the years, which had garnered a small but enthusiastic following, they thought it a good idea to do one more—a final goodbye video. When they sat down to mull over ideas, one seemed top of mind for both. Even though any faith-oriented expression gets highly ridiculed online, they knew that the gift given to them—the forgiveness of sins by Jesus’ death on the cross—was the perfect subject matter. Praise to Him had to be expressed. Nothing else felt right.
The day came when they were to make the video and the feeling they received as they stepped on to the set confirmed their decision. They felt such gratitude to have spent their lives as dancers. They had loved every moment. Each injury, tired muscle, and late night rehearsals had been a gift. To be dancers was such a privilege and confirmation of a loving God. He had allowed their bodies to express and feel and reach those who watched them for many years. When they danced, they felt God’s pleasure. In this, their final video, it felt perfectly right to give Him glory. That many churches find dance to be a sinful expression seemed so otherworldly—so removed from what was in their heart. Each move was overflowing with praise and gratitude.
When the video was completed and the final version was edited, there was one last move to complete—to push the upload button. Then they sat back and waited to see if among the scoffers there might be a few who would like it. There were. Comments of gratitude came back, people who were not scornful but profoundly moved. Keone and Mari’s eyes widened. Then more comments came, and then more. A deluge appeared on their Facebook page. It seemed they had struck a nerve.
Then came the comment that changed everything. A man wrote that he had been contemplating suicide…until he saw their video.
Keone and Mari looked at each other. Could this be God telling us something?
It seemed God was whispering, Look what I can do through you. Keone and Mari, just keep dancing.
Suddenly everything seemed clear. They would shelve their other career pursuits to roll the dice on Jesus and what appeared to be His calling on their lives. He has responded by opening more doors than they ever thought possible, from choreographing for So You Think You Can Dance, to being division finalists on World of Dance, to choreographing and staring in Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself video, to being the creative vision for the dance sequence behind the latest Serena Williams commercial for the 2018 U.S. Open, to teaching dance around the world (resulting in the online hit dance book, Ruth), to performing live at Pastor Miles’ Third Option simulcast, to receiving rave reviews for Beyond Babel—the dream continues to make them shake their heads in disbelief.
The spotlight they stand under during the curtain call of their show may be the result of a carefully placed lamp by the house lighting technician, but in a way, it’s much more. God has shown down a bit of light from heaven to make this all possible. And that is something to dance about.
See Beyond Babel at the Beyond Babel Theater through November 25th. Click here for tickets and more information.
Click here to watch the video that changed everything.
Keone Madrid, Mari Martin & Vinh Nguyen - Where You Are
Click here to watch Keone and Mari Dance on World of Dance