A Star Is Born
Melanie Moore, Photo by Nathan Sayers
Most dancers only get one “moment” per season of “So You Think You Can Dance.” But Melanie Moore seemed to have a “moment” every time she stepped onstage. Her first audition in Atlanta left judges Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Lil’ C tongue-tied and blown away; Lythgoe threatened to hunt Melanie down if she didn’t succeed in Vegas. “Turn to Stone,” Melanie’s Travis Wall duet with partner Marko Germar, established her as an early frontrunner. The duo’s lyrical hip-hop number “I Got You” featured an electrifying kiss. In “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Melanie flew across the stage into All-Star Neil Haskell’s arms. And then there was Melanie’s powerhouse Top 6 solo, “Cracks,” which had the judging panel on its feet.
But it wasn’t until she made Season 8’s Top 4 that Melanie let herself think she had a shot at the title. “The judges had been calling me a favorite, but favorites don’t always win, because people like underdogs,” she says. “I knew that I couldn’t stop fighting, that I had to give my best every week.”
Now, the 20-year-old “SYTYCD” champion is pondering her next move. NYC or L.A.? Return to college at Fordham University, or hit the audition circuit? Concert dance, musical theater or commercial work? With Melanie’s killer blend of top-notch training, born-with-it talent, perseverance and positivity, why can’t she have it all?
Born This Way
“I’ve always been a performer,” Melanie says. When her older sister enrolled in dance classes, Melanie begged to sign up, too. She started at age 3 at Centre Stage School of Dance in her hometown of Marietta, GA, and went on to study ballet, tap, musical theater and lyrical. She began competing at age 10.
Even though Melanie enjoyed dancing, it took a tragedy to show her that dance was her life path. “Dance became vital when my dad passed away when I was 12,” she says. “I threw myself into dance as a release. That’s when I knew dance was something special. I was in the moment, and I could deal with my life through the dancing.”
Eventually Melanie moved to Rhythm Dance Center. RDC co-director Becca Moore (no relation to Melanie) says Melanie showed up ready to learn. “She was so technically strong—her legs would do anything you wanted them to do,” Moore says.
At RDC, Melanie started studying contemporary dance, and she fell in love with it. “It’s a mix of all styles of dance,” she says. “You can just be yourself and use your personality in the movement.” She also started attending conventions. “Conventions changed the way I looked at dance,” she says. “When I was just competing, I was focused on getting a trophy, but conventions are devoted to learning, sharing and performing.”
Melanie was the 2010 National Senior Female VIP at JUMP Dance Convention, and in 2010/2011, she spent weekends touring with JUMP as a demonstrator and assistant. On tour, she says, “I realized I was going to make a career out of this.”
NYC and “SYTYCD”
Melanie Moore, Photo by Nathan Sayers
Melanie chose to attend college so she’d have a back-up plan if performing didn’t work out. She found her way to NYC’s Fordham University after visiting a friend who was in the Fordham/Ailey BFA Program. “It seemed like the best of both worlds, to be training in NYC and going to school at the same time,” she says. She majored in art at Fordham and studied dance at Steps on Broadway with Lauren Adams, Joe Lanteri and Jason Parsons. But she still felt like something was missing. Enter “SYTYCD.”
“Becca really encouraged me to try out,” Melanie says. “I figured I didn’t have anything to lose—they could say they didn’t like me, and then I’d go back to NYC and continue what I’d been doing.”
But the judges adored her, and she soon found herself performing on her biggest stage yet. Week after week, choreographers and guest judges praised her strength, flexibility, artistry and presence. “Melanie gives inspired performances,” says “SYTYCD” judge Mary Murphy. “She moves with passion, nuance and precision. You can always see her love of dance, and that connects with audiences.”
Marko adds, “Melanie is an amazing dancer with a great personality. She was always happy and lively, on camera and off. She’s a very positive person, and America had every reason to love her.”
Melanie will be the first to tell you that winning “SYTYCD” was hard work. “Nigel told me in my first audition that I was beautiful in my own style, but he didn’t know how I’d fare at everything else. I knew I had to show the judges every week that I was working hard and giving them my best.” She and Marko even booked extra rehearsal time each week to polish their routines. But it was all worth it for that moment when host Cat Deeley read her name as the winner. “I was truly so surprised,” Melanie says. “I had to lean over and compose myself, to try to hold back the tears. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment.”
The Sky’s the Limit
Melanie Moore on "So You Think You Can Dance," photo by Adam Rose/ Fox
Melanie may have received unofficial on-air job offers from both Lady Gaga and Kenny Ortega, but she isn’t ready to commit herself to a single career path just yet. “I do want to end up in NYC,” she says. “There’s an energy there that I’ve never felt anywhere else. I’ve always said I wanted to do Broadway. I want to go back to school, as well, to study dance and choreography. But I also want to see what opportunities come my way.”
Murphy certainly believes that Melanie has the talent to follow her dreams—wherever they take her. “I could see her on Broadway, dancing for Lady Gaga or being in a major dance company,” Murphy says. “She has a good head on her shoulders, she has a solid foundation in her dance and she’s focused. She’s got the full package.”
As the “SYTYCD” Season 8 tour wraps up, Melanie reflects on the whirlwind past six months. “The best part of this experience was the choreographers we got to work with and the people I got to know,” she says. “I learned that my body can do so many more things than what I’m comfortable with. And I’ve realized how much more I have to learn! I can’t wait to take more classes, to get back into the studio and work.”
Full name: Melanie Kathryn Moore
Birthday: September 17, 1991
Hometown: Marietta, GA
Favorite color: Royal blue
Favorite food: Chocolate
On her iPod: Mumford & Sons
Non-dance hobby: “I’m an artist, and I sing. Also, I love to collect socks.”
Dream company: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Favorite “SYTYCD” numbers: “Turn to Stone” with Marko Germar, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with Neil Haskell and “Game On” with Sasha Mallory
Dance idol: “Lauren Adams is my choreographer idol. Her movement is so organic, and pulls from her heart. Jaimie Goodwin is probably my ideal dancer.”
Dance crush: “Robert Roldan—and I got to dance with him!”
Greatest inspiration: “Life. Life is so beautiful, and if you really enjoy it, it’s going to show in your dancing.”
Advice for DS readers: “Never doubt yourself. If you walk offstage feeling like you did a good job, that’s all that matters. Also, never get comfortable. Keep pushing yourself. That applies to everything, not just dance!”
The Top 4 On Melanie
“Melanie’s very blunt. When you do something amazing that intrigues her, she’ll tell you. When you do something wrong, she’ll tell you that, too—but she’s never rude. That’s what made our partnership great.” —Marko Germar
“Melanie is so consistent, not just in her dancing but in everything she does. She’s constantly there for the people she cares about, and I really admire that.” —Sasha Mallory
“Melanie is a true artist. She never ceases to amaze and inspire me, not only as a dancer but also as a person. She has such a genuine heart and her strong soul reminds me to never give up and to keep pushing toward my goals.” —Tadd Gadduang
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽
Guys, we all knew this was coming—"World of Dance" was eventually going to eliminate someone. But man, is it brutal to watch these talented dancers give their all, only to be sent home. It's the name of the game, though, and after last night's episode, only two dancers per division remain. (At least Misty Copeland guest-judging was a silver lining!) Here's what went down last night:
They've impressed the judges, now it's time for the Top 100 dancers to enroll at The Academy—and to impress the All-Stars. Welcome to So You Think You Can Dance Academy!
The 100 dancers who made it through auditions in NYC or L.A. are now at The Academy, which is basically a beautiful building with floor-to-ceiling windows. The show opens with that Mandy Moore-choreographed Academy routine which, even after watching it 12 times and trying to learn all the choreography at home, is still delightful.
This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. First up: Isabella Torres from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts in Baltimore, MD, who competed at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals for the first time this year. (All photos courtesy Shannon Torres.)
Merritt Moore is a ballerina who just so happens to be graduating from Oxford University with a PhD in quantum physics. Is she even human? The jury is still out on that - but the 29-year-old, who earned her undergrad degree from Harvard, has actually found dance to be a powerful tool that assists her in her studies.