Keone and Mari are dancers, a duo, and married. Yep, this couple impressed the judges of NBC’s World of Dance enough to make it through the qualifiers in episode 1 (see our recap here), and they’re ready to take the competition to the next level. See them in action here:

We can’t wait to see how they progress, and we couldn’t wait to chat with them about their experience on the show. Here, they tell us what they’re listening to, why they love dance so much, and more.

Keone and Mari

Style: Urban Dance: Duo

Category: Upper

From: San Diego, Calif.

WOD: What was the best part of competing in World of Dance?

Keone: Just the opportunity to showcase who we are in front of so many people we respect, not just as dancers and creatives, but as people and husband and wife.

Mari: My favorite part of competing in WOD was getting to meet and share this platform with other dance genres. The dance world is huge, but we’re often in our separate communities. It was really refreshing to meet new people and see the incredible things that are happening in other circles.

WOD: Who was your favorite judge, and why?

Keone: I’m genuinely between Ne-Yo and Derek Hough. They both offered such valuable perspectives and commentary, not just to me and Mari, but to all the contestants. I loved Ne-Yo for his honesty and willingness to be honest with how he felt about performances—no matter how hype the crowd may have been. And, of course, Derek with his valuable experience as a dancer and offering his technical perspectives.

Mari: I am kinda 50-50 between Derek and Ne-Yo. I really valued Derek’s feedback. He always felt so genuine in his reactions and his enthusiasm. He obviously cares for and respects the craft of dance very much, and I appreciate that his love for it resonated as a judge. And what I love about Ne-Yo is that he actually didn’t know as much about dance, but I still felt an honest appreciation and respect for it. He was also not afraid to ruffle feathers with what he said, and that transparency is really great.

WOD: What do you love most about dance?

Keone: It’s truly a gift. A gift that you just hope to share with anyone and everyone.

Mari: Haha, that is impossible to answer because there are so many things I love about dance. But one thing that I find I value more and more as time goes by is that it connects people. Whether on a big show or at a family party, dance connects humans to each other. And I think that’s needed.

WOD: Why do you think the world needs dance?

Keone: It’s engraved in us as humans! Think about this: As babies, we know how to dance before we even know how to speak or sometimes walk. Turn music on in front of a baby and they know what to do.

Mari: Just like why I love it, dance connects people. I have traveled to many places, been around many different cultures, ages, races, and belief systems, but one thing that is consistent is that dance brings people together. And not only that, but with joy, freedom, and celebration. It’s incredibly beautiful and profound to see.

WOD: What songs are you obsessed with right now/why? 

Keone’s picks:

1) “Love” by Kendrick Lamar ft. Zacari

His whole album is incredible, but I think this one just sits at home with me. He wrote the song for his fiancé, so I think we have something in common there haha.

2)  “Da Art of Storytellin’ pt. 5” by John Givez

Another album that I’m just obsessed with and can still play over and over. Not many people know about it, but he’s also an SD native!

3) “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges

I’m a big fan of older music, and this man just made new music that feels that way. Feeds my soul!

4) “I Need It” by Johnny Balik

I actually just choreographed to this song, and a good test for how much I really love the song is if I still love it even after I choreograph to it (since in the creative process you listen to it a million times over).

5) “Tell Him” by Lauryn Hill

It’s so hard to narrow this down to 5, but I’m gonna give a nod to one of my favorite songs on one of my favorite albums.

Mari’s picks:

1) “Redbone” by Childish Gambino

I still can’t stop listening to because it’s not only hauntingly gorgeous but humbles me and speaks to the social climate in our country.  It feels like an anthem to me that will always bring me to this time and challenge me to be a more aware person.

2) “Elementary Trill” by John Gives

This song but really just the whole album Soul Rebel. I kind of stopped listening to hip-hop for awhile, but when I heard this album I fell back in love with it. I wish I could give him a Grammy because it’s so well put together on every level.

3) “Favourite Worry” by The Milk

I LOVE their music. Their sound and that lead vocal just makes my little music heart melt.

4)“Drown” by Chance the Rapper ft. Kirk Franklin

It’s the second part of the song “Finish Line” and feels like a gospel/worship song. When I listen to it, I leave feeling uplifted and wanting to get off my butt and do good things.

5) “Koffi Anan” by Yemi Alade

It makes me want to DANCE. I’ve been listening to more reggae/afro-pop music lately, and it always, always, always puts me in a good mood and makes me want to dance.

WOD: Anything else before we go?

Keone: I’m super pumped that the show is finally going to air soon!!!

Mari: Super excited for the show to air! I hope that when people watch they can gain an appreciation for this art form and support its existence. We’re just a handful of people on the show, but there are many more talented dancers, choreographers, and artists who are fighting to have dance as a career and a life. Please support the arts, friends!

TO KEEP UP WITH KEONE AND MARI, FOLLOW THEM ON INSTAGRAM@keonemadrid /  @_marimadrid AND CHECK OUT THEIR YOUTUBE CHANNEL.
For more World of Dance goodness and interviews:

Love dance as much as us? Tune into NBC’s World of Dance Tuesdays at 10/9 central to see the world’s best dancers battle it out for a whopping $1 million prize. (Here’s everything you need to know about the show, from the competitors to the rules, in case you’re out of the loop). Don’t miss exclusive interviews, performances, and more from the definitive source for all things NBC World of Dance.