The Belle of the Ballroom

For many teenagers, a typical day involves cramming for a test and meeting up for pizza after school. But for Madelaine Widgren, life is a dance. At the young age of 15, Madelaine has mastered more than 13 different styles of ballroom dance and become a national champion—and she’s accomplished all of that in merely two years.

This bright-eyed, spunky young lady began taking jazz and ballet lessons at the age of nine. As fate would have it, though, it was Madelaine’s parents who inspired her to try something different. Joyce and Jeffrey Widgren ballroom danced together recreationally when Madelaine was young, and watching them dance was just enough to peak her interest. In January of 2010, Madelaine took her first ballroom dance class, and hasn’t stopped twirling since.

“I immediately loved it,” Madelaine says. “It was so different from any other type of dance I’d done before. Ballroom isn’t the same kind of movement or music as jazz and ballet.”

One of the distinctions in ballroom dance is the requirement of a male dance partner. As Madelaine learned the steps and rhythms, she discovered the pool of male partners to choose from was a shallow one.

“There aren’t a lot of teenage guys who are ballroom dancers around here,” Madelaine laughs. “My partner is my coach.”

That coach is the award-winning Louis Bar, owner of the Louis & Company Ballroom Dance Studio in Overland Park. Although Louis recognizes the limited number of young male dancers, he also knows his protégé is being modest.

“I am constantly trying to find her a partner,” Louis says. “But I won’t give her a partner who is not of her caliber. She has the working skill and I don’t want to have anyone hinder that. There’s nothing worse than to have a partner who doesn’t work as hard as you do. When I dance with Madelaine, I give 150 percent to make her a better dancer, and she does the same for me.”

Madelaine’s mother is delighted to have found an instructor who will push her daughter to become better than she dreamed possible.

“Louis really took Madelaine under his wing and saw what she was capable of,” Joyce says. “He has been so great with her, encouraging and challenging her. They work very hard together.”

The partnership’s work has truly paid off. In less than a year after learning ballroom, Madelaine won the Heart of America national dance competition for her age bracket in 2010. In addition she placed first in the Pro/Amateur Junior Rhythm Scholarship Competition in 2011. This November Madelaine will once again participate in the Heart of America competition, dancing more than 15 routines in the course of four days.

Though Madelaine is a dancer extraordinaire, she still finds time to be a teenager, hanging out with her friends and enjoying the freedom of homeschooling.

“I like English and enjoy math, but I can’t wait for dance to be my career for the rest of my life,” Madelaine says, turning the conversation back to her passion. “I want to go to college for this. I want to become a professional.”

Louis Bar knows that Madelaine’s dreams of being a professional are not far away.

“Sometimes with young people, drive is not always there,” Louis says. “When I saw Madelaine, her drive amazed me so much. She has a gift. She is respectful and beautiful. In one year of teaching, I watched her go from a girl to a young lady because of ballroom dancing. It is a transformation.”

It’s easy to imagine that the choreography of Madelaine’s life will be nothing short of spectacular.