The Mejia siblings, who achieved fame on “America's Got Talent,” have returned to Minnesota to celebrate diverse dance styles gleaned from their world travels.
They style themselves “Irish” twins, since they’re 16 months apart. And their closeness extends to their chosen career.
Dario Mejia and his sister, Giselle, have been moving in sync since they were tots. The siblings, who grew up in Mahtomedi and Rogers, got the dance bug from family. Besides being an emergency-room surgeon, their father, Luis Enrique Mejia, is an avid salsa dancer who won trophies in his native Ecuador and in Puerto Rico, where he lives. Their Minnesota-based professor mother, Patricia Schaber, is a modern dancer.
Dancing took the Mejia children to college in New York (he at Juilliard, she at SUNY Purchase) and then to a national stage. In 2011, their fancy footwork led to a third-place finish on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” That launched them on a world tour and an off-Broadway engagement in “iLuminate,” a dance show performed in the dark with light suits.
During all their adventures, the Mejias kept up their Minnesota connections through their company, Curio Dance.
The two were first scouted for TV in an earlier production of their dance-centered variety show, “Drop the Mic,” at the Guthrie Theater. Two months ago, they moved back to the Twin Cities to prepare for the fourth installment of “Drop the Mic,” which opens Friday at the Cowles Center.
“We’re global citizens, and this show reflects our tastes, our interests, our travels,” Dario said last week amid a rehearsal at the Cowles. He was talking about the “Mic” lineup. The 40-plus dancers perform in styles as varied as Latin and hip-hop, ballet and ballroom. There is some rumba and African dance thrown in, as well.
The dancers include ensembles with names such as Shapeshift, Secret Weaponz and the 20/20 Collective. DJ Los Boogie will set the score while Daniel Zhu’s short videos will be shown between dance numbers.
Mambo and cha-cha
Giselle said she was proud of the roster because so many of the dancers, who hail from New York and California, are highly rated, even if they are not as well known in Minnesota. She held up Yeniel “Chini” Perez as an example. A Cuban native, Perez danced and choreographed in Afrocuban de Matanzas for 20 years, performing and teaching salsa, mambo, son, cha-cha and other styles.
At the Cowles recently, he rehearsed a duet with Giselle. The number, which includes snippets of rumba, was a playful, light seduction. He spun her around, then fell on his knees. She used her foot to push him off, forceful enough but not quite a kick.
She twirled into him, and he, in quick succession from behind, grabbed her hips and waist. At another moment, she, smiling, mimed a long-distance kick to his groin. He grabbed his groin, and pretended to double over. All of this happened in sinuous rhythms at a rapid clip.
“The show has a wildly eclectic mix, but the look and feel is of a piece because the choreography has a through-line,” said Giselle. “We choreograph it, working with the dancers.”
Her brother, who often finishes her sentences, gave an example. American Indian fancy dancer Larry Yazzie has performed in ceremonies and at venues across the country. “But it’s always been improvised,” Dario said. “We filmed his improvisation, then choreographed it, which really surprised and pleased him.”
The “Mic” lineup includes b-boy break dancer Jose Figueroa, a martial-arts master and member of the influential b-boy ensemble the Rock Steady Crew, which has international affiliates. Figueroa marries hip-hop dance and martial arts.
“The theme of our show this year is a celebration of sole,” said Giselle. “It’s the soles of our feet and the sol of the sun and the souls that we all are. If there’s a through-line, it’s a celebration of the life forces that carry us in our diverse environments.”
The TV exposure was good, she said, even if it’s a flash in the pan. It brought their work to millions of people, in 90-second increments. Now, with “Mic,” they get to showcase their work in a full-length evening, and without commercial breaks.
“We grew up [in Minnesota], and have lived in New York and elsewhere,” she said. “There’s a lot of life and experiences in between those places, and we want to shine a nice light on that.”