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
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.
If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.
Almost a month out, Puerto Rico continues to suffer the devastating aftereffects of Hurricane Maria. Many of the island's residents still lack power, clean water, and safe housing. Ballet classes? For Puerto Rican dance students, they must feel like an impossible luxury.
But a dance studio in Florida is working to allow a group of young Puerto Ricans to continue their training. And it needs your help.
Yes, I am a dancer, and yes, I am fat.
There's nothing quite as soul-crushing as the reactions I've received when I've told people I dance. They can range from disbelief to confusion to shock. To many people, it's somehow incomprehensible that a plus-size person like myself could grace a stage. While the body-positive movement has been trucking along at full force over the past few years, it hasn't made much progress in the dance community yet. In fact, the words "body positivity" and "dance" are almost never used together in the same sentence.
Despite that fact, dance is what helped me learn to love my larger frame. In honor of National Body Confidence Day, I wanted to talk about my first time in a studio, and about the tremendous progress I've made since.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?