Isabella Xtravaganza has been dancing since she was 4. Since then, she has danced for about everyone you can think of. She appeared in the hit show “Insatiable” on Netflix, danced in some music videos (with popular comedian Blameitonkway), appeared in a Calvin Klein commercial, and even danced for legendary singer Madonna. She is also a member of House of Xtravaganza, a dancing organization that has spanned several generations.
Like most hobbies, dancing was a way for Isabella to let go of her stress. Dancing, for her, is an art as much as it is her passion. The power she feels while dancing made her commit to it as a career. Her childhood dream came true when she was given the opportunity to dance for Madonna in her concert documentary “Madame X.” Isabella’s father, Jose, choreographed for Vogue and had a personal connection to Madonna, and he received a call from the singer herself asking if he knew anyone who could dance for her.
During that performance, Isabella — who was only 15 — danced in front of several different famous people ranging from Miguel to Gwyneth Paltrow. While dancing with her father and a couple other performers, Isabella started whipping her hair that had a ponytail extension in it.
“The next thing I know, it comes off,” Isabella says. “And I didn’t even realize it, so when I lifted my head, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ And I see Madonna with my ponytail, and she hands it to me like the Holy Grail from the audience.”
She recovered by grabbing the hair from Madonna and swinging it around like a lasso. Later on in the night, she saw that Madonna was getting ready to leave. Isabella walked up to her and apologized for the mishap. Madonna comforted her and told her that it happens to the best of people, and that moment is one that Isabella will never forget.
“That was like all the validation and recognition I needed in that moment,” Isabella says. “That literally made my entire life. Just knowing that someone with as big of a following as her could see me as a person was just so surreal.”
One thing that Isabella struggles with in her industry is the oversaturation of what dance should mean, meaning that dance is no longer the art it used to be. To her, dancing is art. It is a way of expression. The internet craze with TikTok has a different interpretation, however, so anyone can throw a few moves together and call themselves dancers. This trend has resulted in less professionalism and the industry is becoming more cutthroat rather than enjoying the art.
“That’s how they are at submissions and auditions,” Isabella says. “They want you to have TikTok experience. If you have TikTok experience, they want you to audition for their stuff.”
Not only that, but the dance world has become more remote, like most of the world during the pandemic. There are rarely any live auditions now, and that is a loss in Isabella’s book. While auditioning remotely helps calm nerves, the authenticity of the recordings do not have the same effect as live auditions do.
While Isabella was building herself up in the industry, she was a personal assistant to legendary movement coach Ebony Tye. She taught Isabella how to help other dancers create the right movements. Now, as a movement coach herself, Isabella tells dancers what moves would look best, what moves to avoid and what movements bring flair to dancers’ overall performances. Isabella is currently working with artist, model and seamstress Alexis Jae, who she met through the House of Xtravaganza.
Battling the politics within the dance industry today takes a lot of heart. Another obstacle Isabella faces daily is staying true to herself. She struggled with the fact that people around her were trying to use her as a way to get famous and take advantage of her popularity.
“I have this saying where I would rather have zero friends than a hundred fake friends,” Isabella says.
Isabella’s goal is to help up-and-coming artists find their true passion for dance. She encourages women to keep fighting for respect in a small-minded world.
“Women can do a lot of things,” Isabella says. “We are not just one thing. People need to stop looking at us like we can just do one thing because we are multifaceted people.”
You can follow Isabella on Instagram @_ixthewiz_.