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Meet tween ballroom dancers Ivan & Madelyne
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Thumbnail image for ivan&madelyne.jpgWe seem to be in a dancing state of mind over here at IML. Maybe it's the heat, or maybe it's all the great summer music out there, or maybe it's another great season of "So You Think You Can Dance." Watching the show's latest episode, we were reminded of some other talented dancers we met and interviewed last year. In case you missed them on the blog back then, here they are again...because they're that awesome.

Madelyne and Ivan are just 9 years old and have been dancing together for 3 years. They placed 1st the last four times they competed. What's it like to be dancing the Samba and Rumba and Paso Doble -- and winning medals for it -- before you're even out of elementary school? Read on!

IML: It was exciting for us to first meet you in the practice room at the USA Dance Nationals, then watch you compete, and then see you win first place! What did it feel like when you won?

Ivan: When there's two couples left, just you and another one, and they call their names for second place, you know you've won first place. We were happy before we even got our prize!

IML: How did you first get started in ballroom dance, and how did you get paired up together?

Ivan: I started when I was 4. I was pretty much with different partners every single day in my dance studio. Everybody else was lower or higher in level and age than me, and then I met Madelyn and she was the perfect age and height. Our birthdays are only 20 days apart!

Madelyne: I got started in ballroom dancing when I was 3 years old. When I was 4 or 5, I was dancing with a boy named Robert who was taller than me so I only danced with him for a little bit. Then the dance studio put Ivan and me together to try it out and practice together, and finally we decided that we could be partners.

IML: When you first started dancing together, what did you think of each other?

Madelyne: I really didn't know him at first. I wasn't sure if he would be a good dancer or a bad dancer...then I saw him and his partner dance together and he was really good!

IML: It seems like you have a lot of fun dancing together, which is important. Do you ever have arguments?

Ivan: No, never! Not even one time.

IML: Glad to hear it! Do you spend time together outside of dance?

Madelyne: Yes! Last year we went to the same camp so we were there together. Sometimes we have playdates together.

IML: Do your parents dance, too?

Ivan: When my mom was a little kid, she danced. I have three reasons why I like to dance. The first reason is that I was born to dance. My second reason is that I've always had the feeling that I want to dance. The third reason is because my mom danced and her hobby went to me when I was born.

IML: Does it feel special for you to share this hobby with her?

Ivan: Yes, definitely!

IML: Madelyne, does your older sister Michelle give you advice?

Madelyne: It's really cool to share dance with her. When I need help with something or if I want to get better at something, she's there for me. 

IML: Do each of you have a favorite dance style?

Ivan: I have more than just one. My favorites are Waltz and Paso Doble.

Madelyne: I like Rumba, Paso Doble, Waltz and Quickstep. In Quickstep I like to run and it's really fast, so it's like running but you're not running. And I like to dance Waltz because it's a very slow melody and I like the sound of it. With Rumba, you've done these other dance styles that are very hard but Rumba kind of relaxes you. I like Paso because you have to try really hard, and I like putting a lot of effort into my dancing.

IML: How much time do you spend dancing?

Madelyne: We dance Monday through Saturday, every week.

IML: And you never get sick of it?

Ivan: No!

IML: Dancers in the older age groups get to wear fancy dresses, and Madelyne, we watched you collecting lost sequins off the dance floor after they performed. Do you do that at every competition?

Madelyne: Yes! I collect sequins for when we get older and I can make a nice costume! I want to put some things on a dress to make it prettier. And I like to see how they sparkle.

IML: What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you during a competition?

Madelyne: Once I was at a competition regional. We were doing Samba and my partner forgot the whole routine, so I had to basically do all the steps by myself. It was really funny because you could see that we were messing up. We still won first place!

Ivan and Madelyne are proof that when it comes to being really dedicated, hard-working, and talented at something, age doesn't matter.

Check out Ivan and Madelyne dancing their way to first place at the USA Dance 2010 National DanceSport Champtionships. One of the things we found interesting about ballroom dancing for kids is that there are strict rules about what they can wear in competition, which puts an emphasis on what's appropriate for certain age groups.

Meet tween dancer Jade Chynoweth
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jade.jpgJade Chynoweth, age 11, is a big fan of TV dance shows like "So You Think You Can Dance." Maybe that's because she's spent a lot of time in the past few months actually dancing with choreographers from those shows, like Mia Michaels, Tyce Diorio, and Wade Robson. Jade was chosen to be an "Elite Protégé" with The PULSE On Tour, a traveling dance workshop featuring the top choreographers and instructors in the industry. In other words, this girl most definitely CAN dance!

As you probably know by now, we love talking to tweens who are doing something extra-cool, and Jade is no exception. Her talent and commitment are truly inspiring, and we're glad we got to meet her on her way to a very bright future.

IML: Jade, can you tell us about how you first got started in dance?

Jade: I started dancing when I was 2 1/2. My aunt owned a dance studio, and I took ballet and jazz classes there. My mom was a teacher back then, and she was really the one who got me interested in dance.

IML: When did you know that you wanted to be more serious about it?

Jade: When I was about 9 years old, I pretty much decided that this was what I wanted to do when I was older.

IML: What do you love so much about it?

Jade: I really like acting out characters in dances, and I like the adrenalin of going on stage and performing in front of people.

IML: How much time do you spend taking classes and training and all that?

Jade: I go to school from 8:30 to 3:40. Then after that, I go to dance every day until 9pm.

IML: Wow! How do you have time to do schoolwork?

Jade: I do my schoolwork after dance, and I stay up a little later!

IML: You do a lot of dance styles. Do different styles make you feel different things when you're doing them?

Jade: Yes, definitely. Even different styles of hip-hop or jazz or contemporary make me feel different things. I dance what I feel. Hip-hop's my favorite, just because I like to get down, I like that hard-hitting grungy kind of stuff. And the characters in the songs and dances are really fun!

IML: What are your favorite music artists, or a particular song you like dancing to these days?

Jade: There's this one song that just came out, "Jar of Hearts," by Christina Perri. Sometimes I just feel more emotional and inspired when I listen to that kind of music. But I also like fast songs that I can dance hip-hop to.

IML: You participate in a lot dance competitions. Do you choreograph your own routines?

Jade: The past couple of years, my solos have been choreographed by Gev Manoukian from "So You Think You Can Dance." He's a really cool guy, he teaches me all my tricks!

IML: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be a Elite Protégé with The PULSE.

Jade: The PULSE has come to Las Vegas every year and we go there as a studio, and we've had the chance to learn from amazing different choreographers and different styles. They gave a lot of different scholarships out. They travel all around the world. To get chosen as Protégé, you take all the classes and the teachers choose Protégés based on people who really connect to the dance or get the moves but still have style. They also give normal scholarships out to people who really try hard and are improving. When I got Protégé, I got to go to New York, and try out for Elite Protégé. It gives you free tuition to the PULSE convention in each city. I've gone to seven of the cities so far, and I assist on stage or go in front so people can watch.

IML: What have you gotten out of it so far?

Jade: I've learned more about being a better dancer and understanding the dance, and my body and my moves. I think along the way I've also learned leadership and how to be a better person.

IML: Are there other dancers as young as you?

Jade: No, I'm the youngest! But it's cool, because I've learned so much from everyone. And as people say, kids are like sponges and they soak in all this information. I think that's true, because even though I'm so young, I try to understand the moves. I try to dance mature and still have fun, and I look up to all the older people that also got Elite Protégé. It really teaches me how to focus and learn better and quicker.

IML: It sounds like an amazing experience! What's your advice to other young people who want to make dance part of their lives?

Jade: My advice is just to be yourself and have fun, get style, and take little pieces form everyone that you see. You can't be someone else. You have to just learn from them. Something that the choreographer Mia Michaels says is that you're born a legend, because you're not like anyone else. You have to use that.

IML: That's good to keep in mind for everything, not just dance.

Jade: Yeah, you have to realize you're unique, no matter what you do!

IML: Thanks, Jade, and good luck!

Jade: Thank you!

To learn more about The PULSE On Tour, visit And check out one of Jade's most awesome performances, called "Creature":

DVD Review: "Step Up 3" and "Strictly Ballroom: Special Edition"
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If you're a dance fan, these are long months when neither "So You Think You Can Dance" or "Dancing With The Stars" is on TV. Fortunately, a pair of new home entertainment releases should help cover the rough patch. As you may know by now, here at IML we are big supporters of dance because of the amazing creative and self-expression outlet it can give young people, and how anyone can do it. You may want to re-visit our interviews with Lauren Gottlieb, Legacy Perez, and the "Ballroom Kids" to see what we're talking about!

So you can imagine how excited we were to be able to check out the DVD/Blu-ray combo of "Step Up 3" and the DVD of "Strictly Ballroom: Special Edition." The perfect cure for winter blahs, indeed.

stepup3.jpg"Step Up 3," like its predecessors "Step Up" and "Step Up 2," is heavy on dancing and light on story and characters, but that's okay if you accept that going in. "Step Up 2"'s Moose is headed to college in NYC, along with "Step Up"'s Camille (played by teen dance queen Alyson Stoner), and finds himself in a new world of awesomely sick dancers and heated rivalries. There's some romance and betrayal, a big competition, lots of humor, the joys of forging a virtual family among people who all love the same thing, and dancing, then some dancing, and more dancing, and extra incredible dancing...and oh yeah, great music too. You'll recognize some familiar faces along the way, including "SYTYCD" stars Twitch, Legacy, and Joshua, and "Glee"'s Harry Shum Jr.

The Blu-ray includes some cool bonus features such as deleted scenes, a faux documentary on dance by the character of Luke, a bunch of music videos from the likes of Flo Rida and Trey Songz, and "extra dance moves" that were cut out of the finished film. (The DVD has all bonus features except the deleted scenes and Luke's documentary.)

So get comfy with a BFF or two, fire up the popcorn, and turn off your brain...your heart and body are all you need for this one!

IML's Rating: B+

strictlyballroomse.jpgBack in 1992, before today's tweens were even born, a quirky Australian film about ballroom dancing made a big, sparkly splash. "Strictly Ballroom" was the first movie by director Baz Luhrmann, who went on to make "Romeo + Juliet" starring Clare Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio and "Moulin Rouge" with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Some people say it was the film that revived a worldwide interest in ballroom dancing. Whether that's true or not, "Strictly Ballroom" is definitely a funny, heartwarming, still-fresh-and-original flick that your whole family can enjoy.

Like "Step Up 3" (and many other dance films), "Strictly Ballroom" focuses on a big competition; this time it's the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship. Our hero, Scott Hastings, has been training his whole life as a competitive ballroom dancer and it's his dream to take home this big prize. However, he wants to do it using his own personal dance style and not the "strictly ballroom" steps everyone else does. His parents are former ballroom dancers and now help run a dance studio, so the pressure is pretty high for him to win, and everyone wants him to just do the regulation moves. Everyone, that is, except awkward beginning dancer Fran, who convinces him to take her as his partner and teaches him some new moves of her own.

With all its flash and dazzle, some of it wonderfully weird compared to what we're used to seeing these days, the film explores timeless issues that you may relate to...such as: doing something to win versus doing it because it makes you happy, trying to live up to other people's expectations, and the classic Cinderella/Ugly Duckling story of a girl searching for self-confidence and identity.

The Special Edition DVD includes a "making of" documentary, a dance featurette, deleted scenes, a design gallery, and audio commentary.

IML's Rating: A

One of our favorite moments in "Step Up 3" occurs early on and sums up what people love about dancing: "I feel most like myself when I'm dancing," says one dancer. Then another says, "Dancing lets me be someone else for a few minutes." In other words, it can be whatever you need it to be!