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.”

Fast Facts

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

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers by clicking on their names here:

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