Choreographer Mandy Moore Gives Advice for Dancers

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That choreographer Mandy Moore can make anyone look good is a distinct possibility. In 2013 alone, the much-in-demand Moore has seen Jennifer Lawrence take home the Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” (after choreographing the actor’s ballroom dance sequences); earned her third Emmy nomination for her work on “So You Think You Can Dance”; and provided the choreography for musical “Nobody Loves You,” seen last year at the Old Globe Theatre and running Off-Broadway at Second Stage through Aug. 11. Her work has thrown her in proximity with the full gamut of proficiencies, but no matter your skill level, she has one piece of advice.

“It’s important to get well-rounded right off the bat,” she says. She points to her own career as proof that being versatile can pay big dividends. “A lot of experienced dancers can get pigeonholed into one thing,” Moore says. “I’ve been hired for a lot of different gigs simply because I can do a lot of different things with different levels of dancers. And it’s sad to me that some dancers don’t do more.”

Moore doesn’t want dancers to abandon their favorite form, but she stresses that the key to a healthy career is branching out, especially at a time when dance is “less separationist than ever before” because of fusion choreography popularized by TV dance shows. Stay with that teacher or class you love, Moore says, but enroll in classes in forms of dance with which you might not be as comfortable—or that you might even dislike. “We are in a culture where it’s so easy to just turn things off that you don’t like,” she says. “And I think that doesn’t make you a well-rounded person or artist. You have to be able to take the good with the bad and have opinions on things!”

Beginners shouldn’t think that they can get away with focusing on one form, though. If you’re looking to move beyond being an actor who moves well, Moore advises taking ballet, first and foremost. “It’s so good for coordination and core strength,” she says. “I would also highly recommend a tap class for rhythm and counting, and a jazz class or a hip-hop class. Both styles teach you how to attack movement and how to have strong accents when you move, which the other disciplines don’t necessarily do.”

Moore is thrilled by the advent of YouTube, which makes choreography and dancers instantly accessible to mass audiences. “It seems to me that there is an understanding of different kinds of dance out there, and it’s accessible to people,” she says. “Dancers are typically coming into the room with a bit more knowledge of different styles because they’re being exposed to different things over multimedia.”
Although people seek out Moore’s work on YouTube, Moore herself is casting an eye further back. “I think a lot of kids are searching for ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ ” she says, “but I’m searching for old MGM musicals!”