Dancer to Dancer

Contemporary Dancer Melanie Moore has come a long way since being named America's Favorite Dancer on Season 8 of "So You Think You Can Dance," where she became known for her captivating presence and elegant, fluid moves. In recent years, the 25-year-old has been blowing up Broadway: She originated the role of Peter Pan in Finding Neverland and starred in the most recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof as Chava. Moore started dancing at age 3 at Centre Stage School of Dance in her hometown of Marietta, GA, and later switched to Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, where she fell in love with contemporary dance. She attended Fordham University for a year before leaving to compete on "SYTYCD" in 2011. These days, you can catch her in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly! —Courtney Bowers

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What can Amy and Fik-Shun expect now that they’re officially the winners of “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 10? We caught up with all 10 former champs to find out about their post-“SYTYCD” lives.

Eliana with Dmitry Chaplin on an episode of "Bones." (photo by Patrick McElhenney/Fox)

Eliana Girard, Season 9

Eliana started rehearsals for Taylor Swift’s Red Tour just a few months after her win. “The show made me more inspired to grow as an artist,” says the ballerina, who will spend this month performing with T-Swift in Australia.

(photo by Gilles Toucas)

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, Season 9

Talk about branching out—this ballet boy-wonder has got acting (a guest-starring role on “Bones,” plus several commercials), clothing design (an upcoming “CheForce” line for dancers) and choreography projects (alongside Mia Michaels) in the works. He’s also launched his own dance convention, CheForce. “I couldn’t be more grateful that America gave me the chance to grow on the show,” he says. “The journey completely changed me.”

(photo by Jonathan Ressler)

Lauren Froderman, Season 7

Lauren had just graduated high school when she made it onto the show, and she put off college to tour as the “SYTYCD” champion. She then danced full-time for a while—teaching master classes and performing on “Glee” and at the Kids’ Choice Awards. But now she’s a full-fledged college girl! Lauren will graduate from Loyola Marymount University in 2015 with a BA in liberal studies. “Then I’ll get back into the grind of auditioning,” she says.

(courtesy Russell Ferguson)

Russell Ferguson, Season 6

Krumper Russell recently choreographed for Ukraine’s version of “SYTYCD,” started his own company called SideStreet and snagged a featured role (alongside Chehon) in the new dance flick East Side Story. Bostonians can catch him in Tony Williams’ Urban Nutcracker, December 6–22, at John Hancock Hall.

(photo by Josh Williams)

Jeanine Mason, Season 5

“SYTYCD” was the first of many TV appearances for Jeanine. In addition to her former recurring role on “Bunheads,” she’ll appear on TNT’s “Major Crimes” this month and recently shot pilots for MTV and Fox. She’s also been attending University of California—Los Angeles. “Graduating this year will be a proud moment!” she says.

(courtesy Joshua Allen)

Joshua Allen, Season 4

In addition to being a Season 10 All-Star, Joshua’s pursuing a career as a triple threat. He was featured in Step Up 3D and Footloose, appeared on “Community” and “American Horror Story” and plans to release his first album this year.

(photo by Quinn Baston)

Sabra Johnson, Season 3

Since her win, Sabra has been dancing all over the world. She spent a year with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in NYC, danced in Mexico City and Germany and is now a member of dance theater company Staatstheater Darmstadt in Austria.

Benji Performing on "Dancing with the Stars" (photo by Adam Taylor/ABC)

Benji Schwimmer, Season 2

Benji’s been busy choreographing for the stars: He created and danced in Paula Abdul’s final “American Idol” performance. Staying true to his swing-dance roots, he’s also won the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championship the past four years in a row with partner Torri Smith.

Melanie and Nick performing at The Dance Awards (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Melanie Moore, Season 8

If it seems like Melanie’s all over your TV screen, that’s because she is. She burned up the dance floor as a Season 10 All-Star, danced at the Primetime Emmy Awards in September and played a New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts student on Season 4 of “Glee.” She’s also a member of contemporary company Shaping Sound.

Nick Lazzarini, Season 1

Besides his fame as the very first “SYTYCD” champ, Nick is probably best known as a founding member of Shaping Sound. He’s also a beloved faculty member at JUMP dance convention. How can future contestants achieve his level of success? “Make sure you’re open to anything and everything,” he says.

Dance News

In my imaginary second life, I am best friends with Kathryn McCormick and Chantel Aguirre, and we are all members of Stacey Tookey's newly-formed company, Still Motion.

In actual life, Kathryn and Chantel (and a host of other former Dance Spirit cover stars, including Melanie Moore) really are members of Tookey's company.

Sure, I'm jealous. But I'm sure a spot will open up in the company—and the friendships—for me soon enough.

In the meantime, I am so into this just-released video from Tookey showcasing a bit of the incredibly talented dancers from Still Motion in Moments Defined.

Dance News

Planning on spending the holiday weekend catching up with your DVR? Make sure you don’t miss Tuesday’s episode of “Dancing With the Stars.” In addition to sending two couples home (no spoilers here!), there’s an awesome number by hip-hop superstar Parris Goebel, a creative performance by Paula Abdul and, my personal favorite, a beyond stunning contemporary piece choreographed by some DS favorites, Derek Hough and Allison Holker. Some highlights:

Choreographers Allison and Derek set the mood.

Oh hey, Kathryn McCormick, looking gorgeous as always.

I see you, Melanie Moore.

Is that a slow motion jump? Mind blown.

Love the use of water. This gives “dancing in the rain” a whole new meaning.

Best. Closing pose. Ever

Forget to record the episode? Never fear, abc.com is here. Click here to watch.

 

Watch This

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.

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Dance News

So, I think I speak for everyone when I say it took me a solid five minutes to stop CRYING after I saw Jim and Megz cry during their elimination on last night's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance." I sent numerous #SOS texts to my fellow DS editors but they were too distraught to respond—so I was left alone with Megz and Jim's goodbye montages. Dramatic? Nah. It's a cruel world and this is just how "SYTYCD" goes. We knew this was coming, people—the Top Six would become the Top Four: Hailee and Gaby for Team Stage, and Virgil and Jaja for Team Street.

My. Heart. (Screenshot via FOX)

But enough blubbering. There's still a lot of dancing to process, and the remaining four are an incredibly gifted group of artists. Behold, my Top 5 moments from last night:

1) Just the fact that everyone had to dance THREE ROUTINES this week. Coupled with the fact that they apparently only have 7 hours to learn each one, including time with the choreographer, their partner (if they have one) or the entire group if it's a group routine. THAT'S SO MUCH CHOREO AND SO FEW HOURS! Add on the pressure of a live show, a title on the line and the fact that they're constantly being critiqued not only by the judges, but by all of us—yeah, that's a lot. Bravo, dancers.

2) Hailee's solo to "Elastic Heart" was a really touching moment (as were all the solos and their inspirations). Hailee has secured her spot in the Top Four, due in large part to the fact that she's amazing at adapting to so many different styles. But watching her solo was special because she was truly in her element—yet no different than when she performs in a genre that isn't her favorite. That's the sign of a great dancer, especially this far into the competition—one who is always convincing, no matter the circumstances. Hailee's got that ten times over.

3) Jaja's robotics solo quite literally took my breath away, because I kept saying "no way" every single time she hovered, isolated, popped, locked, dropped and clicked her body around. It was NUTS. She's a radiant person and it's so apparent in her dancing that it's no wonder she's in the Top Four.

4) Virgil's routine with All-Star and champion Melanie Moore was not only a high note of the episode, but of the season. These two have an absolutely lovely chemistry, and very contrasting qualities of movement—something that worked in their favor. They complemented one another as Melanie's sweeping legs and fluid transitions intertwined with Virgil's precise and punctuated articulations of the choreo. The judges clearly felt the same way, with Paula describing Virgil's performance as "mature and vulnerable," so mature, in fact, that she had basically no criticism to offer.

5) Gaby and Jim's Joshua Bergasse-choreographed Broadway routine was not a huge hit with the judges, it was definitely one of my highlights. I love Bergasse—how could you not? The man is super-skilled, as are the two dancers he worked with this week. Even though Nigel said the routine felt "jazz club-esque," Gaby and Jim grabbed the fever/hallucination theme and ran with it. Their commitment was 1000% (as it always is with these two), and while the judges recognized this, the dancers still weren't met with the response they deserved.

As they say, it's not over till it's over. But in two weeks' time, we'll have a new "SYTYCD" champion and that's just crazy. What have you thought of the season so far? Are you still crying about Jim and Megz? (Yes.) WHO DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO WIN?!? Tell us in the comments below and check back here next week for our review of the finale.

Melanie Moore bursts onto the Finding Neverland stage with a gigantic center-split leap the moment the curtain rises. She’s dressed as Peter Pan—yet over the course of the two-and-a-half hour Broadway retelling of J.M. Barrie’s path to creating Peter Pan, Moore dons nine costumes, six pairs of shoes and four wigs. In fact, her backstage quick-change choreography is just as intense as Mia Michael’s high-energy onstage choreography. “My fastest costume change is about 45 seconds,” Moore says. “It’s certainly never boring!”

What does it take to prepare for such a whirlwind? And what does this season’s most buzzed-about Broadway show actually look like backstage? To find out, we followed Moore as she prepared for an evening performance at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

Melanie Moore (as Peter Pan) flying over the cast of Finding Neverland (Carol Rosegg, courtesy Richard Kornberg & Associates)

1. Once Moore arrives at the stage door, she signs in before heading up to her dressing room. “We have to be at the theater 30 minutes before curtain, but I tend to get here about 45 minutes before that,” she says. “I put my wig on at the half-hour call, and I like to be basically ready to go once I’m wearing it.”

Moore's dressing room (photo by Matthew Murphy)

2. Moore shares a dressing room on the fourth floor of the theater with three other dancers. They all do their own makeup.

3. Next, Moore gets her hair wig-ready. She twists tiny sections and pins them close to her head.

4. Moore warms up wherever she can—often in her dressing room, or, if there’s room, onstage. “I do so much jumping and running around in the show,” she says. “I usually start on the floor, stretching out.”

(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

 

 

5. The wig master helps Moore put on a wig cap that she wears throughout the show. Her microphone is attached to the top of the cap. “I wear four wigs, starting with the Peter Pan wig,” Moore says. “But my favorite is the mullet I put on for the pirate scene at the end of Act I. I requested to wear that wig. I’ve decided that my pirate name is Mandy Jo.”

6. The stage is kept really cold because of the dry ice used during the show. “The floor is freezing, so I usually keep my Uggs on before the show,” Moore says. “I start out barefoot, so I need to keep my feet as warm as possible.”

(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

7. Finally, it’s time to put on the first costume and become Peter Pan. Moore actually has two Pan costumes: “This is my regular one—it’s really tight so I can be lifted and do a lot of partnering,” she says. “The other is my Flying Pan costume. It’s big enough to fit a full-size harness underneath.”

When the Tinker Bell lights aren't onstage they're stored in four buckets off stage right (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Dance News

Today marked the last of Broadway Week on NBC's "TODAY." And while we were treated to performances from many shows on The Great White Way—including On the Town, Chicago and Something Rotten!—one giant, dance-filled production was missing: Finding Neverland. As luck would have it, rival show "Good Morning America" took care of that over on ABC yesterday.

Matthew Morrison (with a swoon-worthy Scottish accent as Peter Pan playwright J.M. Barrie) led the Broadway cast in the number "Believe." Hooked? It gets better. The legendary Mia Michaels set the moves for Finding Neverland—which becomes pretty apparent as the number gets going and her signature style shines through. Like she said back in our March issue, "You’ll definitely see 'Mia' in there...it’s 'Mia' with more of a theatrical, Broadway-esque feel."

Watch the video below, and look out for "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 8 winner—and Dance Spirit cover girl—Melanie Moore!

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