From the most famous choreographers to the newest of dance newbies, we're all going through the same pandemic-related struggles right now. So, how are the pros coping with it all? To find out, we're doing an interview series, #SocialDisDancing, in which we catch up with some of your favorite dancers to see how they're step-ball-changing their way through this unprecedented moment in dance history. This week, we chatted with Mandy Moore, the Emmy-winning choreographer of La La Land, NBC's "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist," and the just-released film Valley Girl.
Where are you currently social distancing?
I'm with my younger sister in L.A. She moved out about a year ago to live with me, and then this pandemic hit, so we've been together ever since it all started. We haven't lived together since we were kids, so it's actually been fun!
What were you up to right before social distancing was advised?
I had just wrapped up filming for "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" up in Vancouver. We were starting our press tour for the show and I had traveled to a couple different places for that, but then everything shut down. Within two days, I went from having multiple projects in the next year to having nothing. It was crazy.
What have you been up to while social distancing?
There are so many projects around my house that I never had time for, from digitizing my VHS tapes and CDs to organizing all my photos and harddrives. My sister and I plan out all of our meals and take turns making dinner together.
Being in the business, you're used to doing lots of jobs at once and then having time off, so going from 100 to 0 wasn't bad at first. Like everyone else, though, it's scary when you have no jobs lined up in the future, especially because I'm so used to hustling from job to job and have been, fortunately, so busy the past five years. But I trusted the universe, believing that something would come through, and sure enough it did: I shot a commercial and two television shows last week all on Zoom, which was crazy. I never thought I'd be choreographing, rehearsing, and producing via Zoom, but that happened.
What virtual content have you been loving during this time?
I love that people have been using this time to look back. They've been going into the archives and pulling out old dance rehearsal videos and pictures, and it's been fun to be tagged in things from a long time ago and remember them. We shot Valley Girl a few years ago, so seeing throwback pictures that the dancers have been posting from the set has been neat. I'm stoked that the film is finally coming out. The songs and dancing are incredibly fun.
You also taught virtually for Break the Floor Live—what was that like?
When the pandemic started getting serious, I was approached a lot to teach virtually, but it didn't feel right at first. I felt sad that our whole business and industry had just stopped, and the last thing I wanted to do was dance. BTF founder Gil Stroming is a dear friend of mine, and I've been teaching with BTF for 20 years now. When Gil called me about his plan for hosting a virtual convention, I was finally in. I thought it would at least be fun to teach and know that dancers around the world would have access to it for free, but it ended up being way more of an emotional experience. Oddly enough, even though I couldn't see everyone from L.A., I could feel everyone dancing together. It was so heartwarming, and just what I needed at that moment. I didn't expect to get as much in return from the dancers, but receiving all the videos of themselves doing the combos, seeing them dancing in all of their different spaces, and getting comments from teachers on how much it meant to them, was amazing.
Getting to judge virtually was also a cool experience. It felt like a very new process, but still rooted in an old, familiar one. Looking at something, giving feedback, that's what we always do. But now, we weren't just doing it on a tape—we were doing it with each other, live. It was so fun, and kind of combined all my worlds of teaching, judging, and being on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars."
Have you picked up any new social distance hobbies?
We've been baking! I love making all kinds of pies and dropping them off as surprise social-distance deliveries for my friends.
How do you think the dance world will change once this is over?
People will remember for a very long time what it felt like not to be able to dance the way they'd like. I think when we can go back, we'll jump at the chance to be in those rehearsals, to take class, and to perform, and not ever feel like it's something that we can put off. There might not be a "tomorrow" with this for a while, so I think we're all learning to love it again, and not take it for granted. Hardship always creates beautiful work, and I think there will be some great work to come out of this too.
Who's the first person you want to see after social distancing?
My mom and dad. I miss them both.
What's the first project you want to get back to?
"So You Think You Can Dance." We're going to have to go full-force into our next season as soon as we can.
First place you want to go?
Colorado. That's where I'm from, so as soon as this all gets relatively better, we're going to head back there for a couple of weeks. I've missed seeing the mountains, and need to hug a tree!
Any last words of advice for your fellow dancers?
Always keep your eye on the prize. This won't last forever, so it's all about keeping that passion and love for dance alive. Research old dance films, take online classes, listen to music, and dance in your room. All those things feed into your love for dance and keep your fire ignited.