Dance Informa speaks with Choreographer Mandy Moore.
By Deborah Searle.
Mandy Moore is an inspirational Emmy nominated jazz and contemporary dance artist. Recently enjoying growing recognition for her powerful work on So You Think You Can Dance USA, Mandy is a renowned dance teacher and choreographer across the US. Choreographing for Celine Dion’s Taking Chances World Tour, American Idol, SYTYCD and even That 70’s Show, Mandy Moore has a long list of stage, film and television credits. A highly respected teacher, her classes at Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles are always full and she travels the US 22 weekends a year to teach at the popular JUMP Dance Convention where she has a loyal following of young dance fans.
Busy with Season 6 of So You Think You Can Dance and the current JUMP tour, Mandy shared a few moments with Dance Informa’s Deborah Searle to tell us about her life as a successful choreographer.
As Mandy is a dance teacher, performer, choreographer and even actor I asked her about her favourite artistic avenue. “I think luckily I have been able to find joy in all the things that I do. I think it’s a very lucky thing because I don’t know if everybody gets to do that in life. I really truly love everything I do”. However, with such love for all the performing arts forms, she did highlight teaching as her favourite. “I don’t want to sound crazy, but I love teaching children. It’s the most rewarding thing to see a child or any dancer that doesn’t understand start to understand something. Teaching has been so much a part of my life for so long that I’m no longer a beginner at it. To see somebody experience it and then want to learn more about it, I think is just the ultimate. Just to see the light in their eyes…it is so cool”.
Excited about SYTYCD 6, now airing in the US, Mandy spoke about this season. “It’s been so crazy that this season happened so quickly after the summer, but the dancers are really good kids and they have been working hard. I’m really excited about all the changes that have happened, with Adam Shankman now on the panel, and also the new stage. Things just continue to grow, which is great”.
As we have enjoyed many seasons of SYTYCD so far, the focus tends to be on the dancers and how the television show has changed their lives. But what about the choreographers?
I spoke with Mandy about working on the show and how it has changed her life. “The funny thing is that as choreographers, we tend to just be in the background. No one really thinks about who created the dance. Most people just think about who’s performing and how well they did. SYTYCD really has put choreographers into the light”, she explained. As a teacher and choreographer for many years, with a long line of credits other than the hit television show, Mandy shared that “the weird thing is that I have been doing this for a long time before the show came about, in different ways; with children, working in the industry and creating movement for television and movies. But it has definitely changed my life. I’ll be walking in the middle of Kansas City and someone will stop me and say ‘hey aren’t you that choreographer from SYTYCD?’ So in that way it’s been very strange. I used to walk around the airport kind of incognito and that doesn’t happen anymore”. With such recognition I enquired as to whether the show has brought about new opportunities for her. “The show has of course opened up doors because now I have that footage of my work or I can tell a producer or show a producer what I’ve done. Of course that’s going to help work wise”, she shared.
So how does she enjoy working on SYTYCD? “I definitely think it’s always a challenge. With the dancers, it’s such a gamble. Some weeks you go in there and the style that you have works with the kids you have and then some weeks you go in and you’re like ‘oh this is going to be a little bit of a challenge!’ I might have a Krumper that I have to teach how to do Contemporary, and they haven’t worked on that before. So that is a huge challenge, but it can also be so amazing when you actually see somebody who doesn’t do that style give their all and do well. That’s really neat”.
With the pressure on to produce an amazing number in only a few hours Mandy exclaimed, “There are many sleepless nights, I’m not going to lie. It’s a challenge to be always coming up with new concepts and thoughts and you have very little time with them really. If we had 25 hours with them then of course you could do anything but you really only have 5-6 hours with them and you’re trialling new styles, which is a little stressful. There are 6 million people watching!”
And as for good old Nigel Lythgoe, “I love working for Nigel” she says. “I think he’s a brilliant man when it comes to television and what people want to see”.
With so many credits to her name I asked Mandy about her career highlight so far. “I’d have to say, the first time I got called to work on SYTYCD. That was a really huge moment for me”, she shared. Mandy also spoke about her work with Celine Dion. “Working with the Celine dancers was a highlight as well. Those dancers were not only my peers and people that I have a huge respect for, but to be able to have Jamie King the director basically give me free reign was incredible. He gave me this prop and said ‘I want you to fly with it. I want you to do whatever you want with it in the round’. I was having to deal with 360 degrees of people watching, so it had to look good on all sides. It was really an incredible experience to have eight hour days to just create and see what you can come up with, with very little parameter”.
Talking about her choreography Mandy shared about her inspirations.”I think for me I find that I’m most successful if I get an idea first. That idea could be anything from a vision I’ll have in my head or a colour. Sometimes I’ll just listen to a song and visualise an actual picture or a costume I think somebody should wear. Then from that point I try and create movement that is in tune with whatever that first vision of mine was”, she shares. “I’m very exploratory. I really like a lot of lifts and a lot of movement that makes you go ‘wow, how the heck did they just do that?’” To create such exciting and new movement Mandy explained that there is a lot of trial and error. “I find that in rehearsal we have a really good time because we all just beat it so bad so many times and fall and try all these new things and then through that process you come up with these wild things that you never would have thought of. Really a lot of things come out of just messing up, and then you kind of whittle it all down to what you want the movement to be. I guess I kind of create through a lot of mistakes, a lot of exploring”.
So just how does she pull the best out of her dancers? “First of all I have learnt that I’m someone who doesn’t like to work in negativity. For me it doesn’t work. I don’t feel like I flourish in a negative environment and I don’t feel like others would benefit in my negative environment. So I try and work in a very positive, yet firm, way with people. I’m clear usually about what I want. It may take a little bit to get there but then once I know what I want I will stop at nothing to get that. I really try to find out who I’m working with, who is in front of me and how they are best going to respond. Everybody learns differently”.
With such choreographic success I asked Mandy about what she’ll do next. “I really would love to do a Broadway show at some point in my life”, she said. “I think I’m a closet Broadway person, I just love it. I grew up around theatre, my parents are in theatre and I used to do a lot of theatre when I was growing up and I would love to make my way to the Broadway stage at some point, either performing or choreographing. I would love to do that!”
So even Mandy Moore wants to make it on Broadway! But what is her advice to aspiring dancers who also want to taste such success? “I guess the thing that’s worked for me is to never take no for an answer. There are a lot of things in the industry, in the world really, that tell you ‘no’ in a certain way. I think the most important thing you can remember is to keep going and that one person’s ‘no’ could be another person’s ‘yes’. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So you have to whole-heartedly believe in what you do”, she said. When teaching, Mandy gets a chance to give students across the country advice. “You know, I talk to the kids a lot about the fact that you have to really love it or it’s not worth it. Find something that you love because if it’s not dance then there is something else out there that you will love, so don’t waste your time. If you don’t love it it’s not going to happen. I do truly believe that good things happen to people that are very passionate about what they are trying to accomplish. I try telling myself that everyday too”….
To see Mandy’s work check out the current season of SYTYCD US. Australian readers – you will just have to wait, but it will be well worth it. Mandy’s work is quite heavily featured in the current season, with some breathtaking numbers.
Or catch Mandy at JUMP Dance Convention.
Jump – The Alternative Convention
Date: Currently touring
Location: 22 cities across America