Minnesota's Ellie & Ava Wagner Reveal How 'World of Dance' Made a Huge Impact on Their Dance Careers

Kristyn Burtt

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Photo credit: NBC.

If you've been following the Minnesota dance scene over the last few years, then the names Eva Igo, Savannah Manzel, Taylor Sieve and Ellie and Ava Wagner are familiar to you. Larkin Dance Studio in Maplewood has become the hub for talented, technically trained dancers, who have found great success on dance competition shows like So You Think You Can Dance and World of Dance.

We were first introduced to Ellie and Ava during the third season of World of Dance, where their elegant lines were matched by emotional performances each round. At the time, Ellie was 16 years old and Ava was only 13 years old, and they found themselves as the second runner-up at the World Final. They credited "The Larkin Legacy" for their success — it was their great-grandmother, Shirley Larkin, who founded the Minnesota dance studio in 1950 and helped to create a multi-generational love for dance in their family.

Now that two years have passed, Ellie and Ava are looking toward the future. Ellie had to make big decisions about heading straight to the professional world or going to college while Ava is putting in extra hours to make it to The Dance Awards in Las Vegas this summer. The pandemic might have been a challenging year for them, but it only solidified their commitment to the art of dance.

Watch the full video interview with Ellie & Ava Wagner:

Have you had the opportunity to process what you accomplished in Season 3 on World of Dance?

Ava: It's so hard to process because we came in not even knowing that we were going to make it past the first round, and then we made it to the final round and we thought, "Oh, we're really doing this." It's so crazy...

Ellie: And we are grateful for the opportunity.

How did the two of you keep each other grounded during the World Final?

Ava: Honestly, I think it's just about us as sisters, it's in our blood.

Ellie: We just trusted each other. We were doing it more for us. We knew that we needed to impress the judges, but at the same time, we decided to do this for us and make it a big moment for us as sisters.

How did that experience help your dance career?

Ellie: I would say that World of Dance has made us train even more because we've gotten so many opportunities from it. Now, it's more training, especially right now during the pandemic.

Ava: I just want to get back to the studio to train.

Ellie: Yeah, we've been training a ton this year, and last year.

Now that you are both back competing this year, who choreographed your solos?

Ava: I have our choreographer from World of Dance. Our cousin Kenzie [Symanietz] has choreographed one of my solos. And the other solo... and his name is Travis Wall, you don't know him. [Everyone laughs.]

[Editor's Note: Travis Wall has been nominated for an Outstanding Choreography Emmy for 10 consecutive years for his work on "So You Think You Can Dance." He has won twice.]

Ellie: I got my solo done by Travis a couple of weeks before the pandemic hit, so I'm keeping that one for this year because I never did it. I've done it at a couple of Nuvos [Dance Convention] this year, and then I just learned my last solo from Kenzie last week.

Ellie, you recently had to decide whether to start your professional dance career or go to college because it's your senior year of high school. What did you decide?

Ellie: I'm going to Ohio State University and I'm going to be on their dance team. I definitely thought about it a lot because I always thought I was going to go to LA or New York to be a professional dancer. But then the pandemic hit and it was really hard for me, so I started applying to schools. I wanted to have an option in case I changed my mind, but I just wanted the best of both worlds. I wanted to dance, but then I still wanted a really good education, the college experience, and I thought the best place I could do that was at Ohio State. I love kids and I want go into nursing and do pediatrics — I love to help people, especially kids.

To learn more about Ellie & Ava Wagner's experience on World of Dance, what it's like working with Travis Wall and Ava's future plans, watch the full video interview.

For more behind-the-scenes stories about the dance community, check out our recent interview with Mira Quién Baila pros Jonathan & Oksana Platero about their fourth season on the show and their new roles as supervising choreographers.

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Kristyn Burtt is a commercial dance journalist, TV host and producer. She was the West Coast correspondent and host of "To the Pointe" on Dance Network for five years. Her coverage of "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing With the Stars" and "World of Dance" is popular with dance fans across the globe. Kristyn's love of dance began early in her life. She trained at the Boston Ballet School, danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in "The Nutcracker" and won a dance scholarship to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She currently serves on the American Dance Movement’s Marketing & PR Committee and is a member of the Television Academy and SAG-AFTRA.

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