If, like me, you've ever wondered (and wondered) how that stunning opening scene in La La Land came together, do we have a treat for you.
It's funny to hear the New York Times describe choreographer Mandy Moore as "not a household name"—because, in our dance universe, she's basically THE household name. But that's why we're excited the Times just put out a great profile of Moore, talking about her work on the drop-dead gorgeous song-and-dance film La La Land. If a major newspaper is talking about her, hey, she's one step closer to mainstream fame, which she richly deserves.
What makes the Times story especially fun? We get to hear more about how, exactly, she taught stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling to dance. Well, OK—she wasn't starting from square one, given Stone's star turn in the jazzy Cabaret on Broadway and the video evidence we have of baby Gosling's insanely adorable dance moves. But Moore had to bring out their Fred and Ginger side, a kind of graceful naturalism. That involved training them in the fundamentals of tap, ballroom and jazz. “I tried to instill a general love of learning how to dance in them, because I thought that that was going to go a lot further than just teaching them steps," Moore told the Times.
Other tasty nuggets: She played Frank Sinatra for Gosling's training sessions, and Haim for Stone's (lord, could Emma GET any cooler?). Moore's choreo inspirations for various scenes included "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story and "Rich Man's Frug" from Sweet Charity. Moore herself trained in belly dancing growing up, which is amazing.
It's the perfect read to get you through this pre-holiday hump day. And once you're done, go ahead and watch the La La Land behind-the-scenes featurette again, because you know you want to:
As if last night's Oscars didn't feature enough dance goodness (still obsessed with that swoon-worthy Justin Timberlake opener), "Good Morning America" gifted us with another fab show this morning—featuring a few of our fave dancers.
The performance on "GMA" was set to La La Land's catchy opening song "Another Day of Sun" and featured some fantastically old-Hollywood-esque choreo by Mandy Moore (she choreographed the film) and Al Blackstone.
How American in Paris-y is the poster? LOVE.
You guys! We need to FREAK OUT talk about La La Land. It's out in select cities December 9, it stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, it's already getting Oscar buzz—and it's the most fabulously song-and-dance-y thing to hit the big screen since, oh, the movie musicals of the 1950s.
Which is exactly the idea. Writer Damien Chazelle wanted "to take the old [movie] musical but ground it in real life where things don't always work out." The result is a modern-day spin on the classic genre, telling the story of an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician through song and—hooray!—LOTS of dance.
There are no fewer than 15 musical numbers in La La Land, with choreography by the ever-fantastic Mandy Moore. And you'll see almost literally every dancer in Hollywood onscreen at some point. In addition to High Strung's Sonoya Mizuno, who has a speaking role, the movie's IMDB page credits—take a breath before you start down this list, because it's a doozy—Melinda Sullivan, Dana Wilson, Khasan Brailsford, Montana Efaw, Galen Hooks, Jeremy Hudson, Ryan Ramirez, Bryan Tanaka, Mallauri Esquibel, Martha Nichols, Robert Roldan and Chelsea Thedinga. (And that is a VERY PARTIAL list.)
We already knew Stone and (especially) Gosling were triple threats, and the peeks we get at their dance scenes in the movie's various teasers are verrrrry intriguing—lots of Fred-and-Ginger vibes. Take a look at the film's official trailer and a great behind-the-scenes featurette, which includes an interview with Moore, below.
It's Halloween week, which means..."Dancing with the Stars" is doing things that make us miss Wade Robson's Ramalama (Bang Bang).
I know, I know—sorry to get sidetracked in the "So You Think You Can Dance" universe during what is ostensibly a "DWTS" recap. But the over-the-top zombie hair and makeup, tattered-chic costumes and spookily spastic choreography in Mandy Moore's fun opening number last night were giving me Robson flashbacks in the best way possible. (COME BACK TO US, WADE.)
The narrative of the Halloween Night episode of "DWTS" centered on the dreaded team dance, which divided the remaining star-pro partnerships into Team Itsy Bitsy and Team Creepy. And there was an extra twist: All the members of Team Creepy were up for elimination. (Way to stack the deck there, "DWTS.")
Derek Hough's "Black Widow" freestyle for the Itsy Bitsys—Bethany Mota, Michael Waltrip, Lea Thompson, Janel Parrish and their partners—was legitimately great, to the extent that I occasionally had a hard time distinguishing the stars from the pros. (Also, I love the heck out of that song, which never hurts.) The Creepys—Alfonso Ribeiro, Sadie Robertson, Antonio Sabato, Jr., Tommy Chong and their pros—gave it their all in a high-energy number to "The Time Warp" from that old Halloween favorite, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But let's be honest: Any group that includes Tommy Chong is at an immediate disadvantage (sorry, Tommy—love you!). Team Itsy Bitsy ended up outscoring Team Creepy 36-32.
In the non-team portion of the night, Bethany, Janel and (as always) Alfonso all gave strong performances. Note to America: Please, please stop putting Alfonso in the elimination danger zone. He's fantastic! His wife's going to have another baby! He gave the world the Carlton Dance! SAVE CARLTON!
Ahem. Anyway, at the end of the night, it was Antonio Sabato, Jr. who was sent packing. Domo arigato, Mr. Sabato. I'll miss your abs you.
What did you all think of last night's episode? Did Team Itsy Bitsy earn its victory? Who's going home next week? Should everyone just chill out with the guyliner for a while (YES)? Let us know in the comments!
Man, does "Dancing with the Stars" know how to put on a results show, or what?! Last night, we said goodbye to track and field Olympian Lolo Jones and her partner Keo Motsepe—but not before we were entertained by some seriously impressive pro performances.
First up was a smokin' hot girls' piece to Fifth Harmony's "BO$$"—choreographed by none other than Mandy Moore. I dare you to try to keep your eyes of Allison Holker in this piece. Seriously, it's impossible. Get it, girl.
Then, we got a little sugar to tame all that spice. Pros Mark Ballas and Witney Carson performed a sweet duet to "My Girl," performed live by Smokey Robinson and Aloe Blacc. Talk about a whole lot of talent on one stage.
And finally, the evening ended on a spicy note: A group routine to Pharrell Williams' "Come Get It Bae" featured the lovely Allison Holker and two (very shirtless) male partners, fellow pros Keo Motsepe and Artem Chigvintsev. (Umm, tWitch, are you watching this?!)
If last night's show is any indication of how the rest of the season's going to go, we are so in.
I've gotta say, " So You Think You Can Dance," last night's show was a little underwhelming. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Top 16's talent level is about a 13. But the choreography—on average—scored close to a 6 in my book. Obviously, there were the exceptions, like Mandy Moore's routine to "Foolish Games" by Jewel (#throwback!), and Nakul Dev Mahajan's spirited Bollywood number, "Dilliwaali Girlfriend." But a lot of the show was just, eh. So, let's just skip to the good, shall we? Here are my top five highlights from last night's show:
Bridget, Carly, Jacque, Jessica, Marcquet, Ricky, Rudy and Teddy in Travis Wall's routine to "Love Runs Out" (photo Adam Rose/FOX)
1. The group routines. Beginning with Mandy Moore's jazzy and sultry "Take Me to the River," the large and mini group pieces were the clear highlights of the evening. Travis Wall's band of outlaws dancing to One Republic's "Love Runs Out" was particularly captivating: The grittiness and raw intensity read really well on screen. After the performance, Nigel mentioned the Emmy Awards—could this be Travis' year (again)?
Work it, Tanisha! (photo Adam Rose/FOX)
2. Tanisha Belnap. This girl. Like guest judge Misty Copeland noted, it was clearly Tanisha's night. Not only did her performance in Dave Scott's "Good Kisser" completely kill it, her featured role in Sonya Tayeh's group number to Bjork's "So Broken (Live)" showed a completely different side of this young artist. She may have been in the bottom six this week, but this firecracker clearly isn't going home anytime soon.
3. Cat Deeley's one liners. It seems like Cat always knows just what to say, even when a duet totally tanks. But when things go well, Cat's humor is on point, and her jokes last night did not disappoint. From the line after Travis Wall's "The Leaving Song"—"Talk about getting up on the wrong side of the bed!"—to her Waynes World-esque scene change and her note about Ricky Ubeda's "guy-liner," the British babe had me laughing through it all.
Mary Murphy, Nigel Lythgoe and Misty Copeland (photo Adam Rose/FOX)
4. Misty Copland as a guest judge. Last night, the American Ballet Theatre soloist continued her reign as best guest judge. Her criticism was spot on, and her corrections were specific enough for each dancer to apply next week. Also: Can I please have your arms, Misty?
5. Baby pictures! The episode included footage of each dancer as a tiny mover and shaker. Needless to say, everyone was adorable. But I'd like to make two special shout-outs: Jacque's pink fur get-up and Emily's march to her own drum. Awwww!
Bridget and Emilio—and the bed. But why was it even there?
(photo Adam Rose/FOX)
We'll miss you Marcquet and Brooklyn!
(photo Adam Rose/FOX)
Of course, there were also a few awkward moments last night. And I'm not just talking about Brooklyn and Marcquet's untimely leave from the show. (I know, I know, almost everyone has to leave at some point. But Marcquet had the chops to go all the way, and Brooklyn's hip-hop performance in Willdabeast's choreography showed her jaw-dropping versatility. #Unfair.) But the real awkwardness? The useless bed post in Travis Wall's "The Leaving Song," as well as the chair in Dmitry Chaplin's "I Put A Spell On You." We've asked what competition judges hate to see the most in dancers' routines, and uncorrelated and unused props almost always rank near the top. So what gives?
Next week, four(!) dancers will have to leave at the end of the show. Bummer, right? In the meantime, what did you think of last night's episode? What was your favorite moment? Let us know in the comments, and come back next week for our recap of the Top 14 episode.
It’s not easy being a competition judge. These dedicated dance lovers sit on a panel for hours at a time, carefully analyzing every move onstage. Sure, it’s a rewarding job—they get to see so much incredible talent—but it can also be frustrating making the same comments all weekend long. So what are these judges tired of saying? We got industry pros Mandy Moore and Ray Leeper to spill.
(Photo by Break the Floor Productions)
Mandy Moore’s Most Common Critiques
What emotion are you trying to convey?
“What am I supposed to feel from this routine? If I turned off the music, would I be able to understand what you’re doing? So many times, dancers rely on a great song or concept and fail to bring any artistry to the routine themselves. Just because it feels good to you doesn’t mean the audience is feeling the same thing. Be a storyteller, not just an athlete.”
Learn how to dance together.
“One of the best things a dancer can learn is spatial awareness. If you can move in a formation onstage, that will help you stay on your mark when you’re on set for a TV show or a movie.”
Listen to your music.
“Get into the music and swim around in those accents. Find the beat and don’t rush. Learn how to count music—not just boom, boom, KA! There are always counts, and when you find them, they’ll help everyone stay in sync.”
Clean your routine.
“Please don’t perform a routine for the judges until you’ve put in the time to make it great. Sharpen your skills together so you can understand when something is off. If everyone understands where the movement is coming from, the routine will almost clean itself.”
Work on your basics.
“I feel silly saying this: You and your teachers pay too much money to get to competition only to have me tell you to point your feet, lengthen your necks and pull up out of your hips. All that should be mastered before you hit the stage. I want to make you better artists—I don’t want to have to spend my time discussing things you should already know.”
(Photo by Break the Floor Productions)
Ray Leeper’s Most Common Critiques
Use your props.
“I’ve seen routines where the dancers began on a prop that was placed upstage center. They did the intro of the routine on the prop, came forward to dance and didn’t go back to the prop until the ending pose. It’s important to remember that if you bring a prop or a large set piece onstage, it should be integrated into the entire routine. Otherwise, the judges will begin to wonder why you aren’t using it—and to lament the wasted time, energy and effort it took to build the prop and preset it at competition.”
Work your feet through your transitions.
“Dancers are trained to point their feet and turn out when doing an extension, pirouette or any position where the foot is off the floor. But I find dancers aren’t paying enough attention to their feet when they’re actually on the floor. For instance, when stepping out of an extension or battement, you should be turning your foot or leg out as it’s placed back on the floor. This attention to detail during transitions is the true mark of a dancer who is aware of her technique.”
There’s too much stuff.
“I see so many routines that are overchoreographed. There’s no need to create movement for every accent, lyric and syllable in a song. It’s important to leave time to breathe—not just for the dancer, but for the audience, too. As dancers, we express ourselves with our bodies—but if too much is being said movement-wise, it’s difficult for the audience to understand. Sometimes our strongest statements onstage come from moments of stillness.”