'World of Dance' Competitors Ellie & Ava Shine a Light on "The Larkin Legacy"
Updated: Jul 14
Sisters Ellie and Ava Wagner nailed their Duels round piece last week on World of Dance. Their success comes as no surprise though. The sister duo hails from a legendary dance studio, Larkin Dance Studio, in Maplewood, Minnesota, where Season 1 runner-up Eva Igo, and Season 14 So You Think You Can Dance finalist Taylor Sieve, trained.
Their dance ties run even deeper. Their grandmother is Michele Larkin-Wagner, who co-owns the studio with Molly Larkin, and who was honored in Tyce Diorio's famous breast cancer piece on Season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance. Ellie & Ava shared with Dance Dish when their love of dance began.
"I started dancing when I was four. So for this generation, it's kind of old," laughed 16-year-old Ellie. "But after that, I knew I always wanted to dance.”
"I knew I wanted to start dancing right away because watching Ellie motivated me to start dancing," said 13-year-old Ava.
The idea to audition for World of Dance was an easy one because they watched Eva's rise to success in Season 1. They knew they wanted to pursue that same opportunity when the time was right with Ava bringing her "tricks and aggression in performance" and Ellie bringing "her emotion and technique" to the show.
"I think what made us audition was watching Eva Igo go on the show and that really inspired us,' shared Ellie. "That was also a big dream of ours. We wanted to be on the world's biggest stage to perform in front of those three judges."
Ellie & Ava had a lot to live up to — not only because they were following in the footsteps of Eva and Taylor, but also because they are a part of "The Larkin Legacy." Great-grandmother, Shirley Larkin, founded the studio in 1950 and helped to create a multi-generational love for dance in their family. It was their grandmother Michele, who offered them some words of wisdom before they went on World of Dance to keep them grounded before they performed in front of Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough.
"She told us to go out there, be ourselves and show the judges what we can do," Ellie explained. "She wanted us to perform and let the training take over because our bodies knew what to do because we've had so much training. Our goal was to get past the first round and see what happens after that."
That advice worked as the sisters sailed through both The Qualifiers and The Duels. They are now headed to The Cut where only the top three highest-scoring acts in each division move on to the Divisional Final.
"We really wanted to the judges a different side of us and we worked 10 times harder," said Ellie. "Our choreographer just happens to be our cousin, Mackenzie Symanietz."
"She was with us every step of the way and we would collaborate," continued Ava.
"Mackenzie would choreograph most of it," Ellie jumped in. "It was so hard putting that many moves out. If she got stuck, we would tell her what felt good and what other tricks we could do to impress the judges."
The duo is grateful for the experience they had while taping the show last fall, but the most surprising thing about the competition had nothing to do with dance at all.
"What surprised us was how close we got to the other competitors. We feel like family now and we're all super close. We didn't expect that at all because we knew it was a competition," Ellie concluded. "We know that dancers can be competitive against each other, but at the same time, they can still be friendly and show respect. That's exactly what happened."
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