Teaching Tips
Benny Simon's students performing at Dance New Amsterdam. Photo courtesy of DNA

Choreographer Mandy Moore is perplexed about the way students in her convention classes transition from standing to the floor. “It's like kids turn off their brains!" she says. “Why would you take the most difficult route to the floor? Why would you ever try to do a triple back flip to get there?"

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Robert Roldan and partner Taylor Sieve (courtesy of FOX)

Robert Roldan may have stolen our hearts on Season 7 of "So You Think You Can Dance"—but it seems his heart was stolen long before that by none other than Emmy Award–winning choreographer Mandy Moore.

As his first jazz teacher at Bobbie's School of Performing Arts in Thousand Oaks, California, Moore taught him everything he knows about dancing. Now, as an all-star on this season of "So You Think You Can Dance," Roldan's applying those invaluable lessons with partner Taylor Sieve.

"What Mandy has always taught me is that you need to feel the emotion and intention of the pieces you perform, as a human, before you can apply it to your dancing. The week that Taylor and I performed Mandy's piece, I used the entire two hours of private rehearsal time to talk about what the piece was about and how we could connect to it. I believe that doing this was ultimately more valuable than any time we could have spent cleaning details and making the piece perfect. Mandy taught me this at a young age, and I try to apply it to Taylor as much as I possibly can when I teach her. People won't connect to how high your leg is or what crazy tricks you can do. They want to feel something. And when you feel it, they feel it."

Watch Roldan on "So You Think You Can Dance" tonight on FOX.

As a dancer and choreographer, I watch the Oscars less for the glamorous dresses and thank-you speeches and more for the always-paltry-in-number dance clips. (The Tony Awards are really where the dance performances are, amirite?) But last night’s Academy Award broadcast—in addition to a real-life, surprise-twist ending that I believe lit’rally no one saw coming—actually had a few dance bits worth mentioning. Here were my three favorites:

1. Justin Timberlake’s opening dance scene. Somehow, despite its massive overexposure, I’m not yet tired of this catchy tune. (Probably because I danced in it with the Pantsuit Nation, but still. It’s fun.) I definitely daydreamed for a minute or two about the chance to be one of his backup dancers—the choreography was fun, everyone got to wear fancy clothes, and a through-the-audience stroll is always a pick-me-up. I don’t care who you are.

2. Moana star Auli’i Cravalho getting hit in the head by an errant flag during her performance. Girl kept right on singing like the professional she is, of course. But it’s so much fun to watch this clip on repeat:

3. The dancers who performed in the La La Land “Best Song” nomination montage number. Thankfully, we got to see professionals onstage (no offense, Emma and Ryan—you were great, but it’s a real treat to see the real dancers feeling out John Legend’s soulfulness), albeit all too briefly. It’s easy to see why everyone’s obsessed with Mandy Moore’s genius work on this film.

Did you have a favorite dance moment? We want to know!

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

We’re still buzzing with energy from our Dance Teacher Summit this weekend. From the special session for studio owners on Thursday to the Closing Summit panel on Sunday, incredible material was shared. Thank you dance teachers—you inspire us every month!

Here are my favorite Dance Teacher Summit 2014 moments:

• The absolute silence of a packed Grand Ballroom while Twyla Tharp’s class performed 11 sections of The One Hundreds, Tharp’s work from 1970 that is made of 100 11-second sequences, separated by 4-second pauses. The work is performed with no music, and on Saturday, you could hear the sound of the dancers’ feet brushing the floor as they slid in unison into a low lunge.

• Tharp’s generosity at the end of class, when she gave each teacher the 11-second sequence they performed in the final showing. “I want you to consider it yours,” she said to the group.

• Franco De Vita, when accepting the Dance Teacher Lifetime Achievement Award, demonstrated his wry sense of humor with an anecdote about becoming a U.S. citizen. He said he was sure that he’d lost his accent and now sounded like an American. We’re all happy this is not the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• When she accepted the Dance Teacher Award for Higher Education, Karyn Tomczak called out her former teacher Tom Ralabate, who received the same award in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• When I turned around at the A.C.E. Awards to find seated behind me the actress Georgia Engel. She’s so recognizable from her role as Georgette on the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s. She was De Vita’s guest, along with Charles Kelley, the acro master teacher.

• When Judy Rice, during her pointe class, took out a Sharpie and drew circles on the insides of her knees and ankles to demonstrate the very specific placement required for coupé and passé. “Someday I’ll just get tattoos,” she said.

• When Rice cued up the sexy music of Gershwin (Concert in F, Adagio) for centerwork. Her playlist also included “One” from A Chorus Line—so fun! It’s all on her Behind Barres, Volume VI, By Request.

• The moment Gil Stroming announced the second runner-up for the Capezio A.C.E. Award. Emma Portner stepped forward and visibly fought back tears for a second or two. Then she regained her composure and accepted her award for Let Go, Or Be Dragged. We couldn’t help but fall in love with her. Here's a sample of her work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• And of course we all love the suspense and excitement when the A.C.E. Award winner is announced. Here’s Talia Favia’s reaction to hearing her name. Check out a video clip of the work here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• Mandy Moore’s Sunday afternoon class was beyond full. She’s become such a big name since Dance Teacher featured her on the cover in October 2009 (as she was choreographing the opening number for the Dance Teacher Summit fashion show that year). And at the Closing Summit panel, she reminisced with her first teacher, Kim DelGrosso of Centerstage Performing Arts Studio in Utah. Kim said Mandy was born with an old dance soul. She was a clear talent from day one.

Mark your calendar to join us in Long Beach, California, July 28–30, 2015!

all photos by Kyle Froman for Dance Teacher magazine.

You can catch this lady teaching at this weekend's Dance Teacher Summit in NYC! We hope to see you there. Check out Mandy Moore's thoughts on tricks, "floppy anger dancing" and more in her interview with DT:

Moore (right) teaching at JUMP

To her fans, Mandy Moore is a pioneer of contemporary dance. But the “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer doesn’t think her work belongs under that heading, and she’s not sure anyone knows what does. She says the popularity of dance on TV has created bad habits among dancers when it comes to the trendy but nebulous genre. Between commitments on the convention and competition circuit and her latest gig—creating opening numbers on “Dancing with the Stars”—the outspoken DT Summit faculty member spoke about the contemporary style conundrum and how to create meaningful dance, no matter what you label it.

Dance Teacher: What style best describes your work on “So You Think You Can Dance”?

Mandy Moore: Most of what I do on that show is lyrical. We could debate contemporary versus lyrical, but I was taught lyrical was a mix between ballet and jazz. It has jazz principles—the shapes, the quick direction changes—with beautiful ballet lines. When contemporary came, it was this mixture of shapes that couldn’t really be jazz and weren’t ballet. It became an umbrella for everything you can’t define.

So many people don’t understand what’s going on with contemporary, and rightfully so. We don’t even know, and we’re the people doing it! I feel like a lot of teachers get so confused, thinking, “What am I doing with my kids? Are we just doing a new version of lyrical and calling it contemporary?”

DT: Whatever we call it, what’s the harm in imitating the style?

MM: When people don’t have knowledge about something, they go to what’s easiest. Just because it’s easier to stand in parallel with no muscles engaged and flop your arms around in the air doesn’t mean that’s dance.

Dancers are hypermobile in their hips because of what they see on YouTube and TV—they think dance is about throwing your leg up in the air. They’re soft in their cores because there’s a lack of traditional jazz technique. They don’t have texture or a grounded feeling in their bodies. It feels surface-y, like they’re ice-skating.

Contestents on “SYTYCD” perform a Moore routine to “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

DT: How can teachers end this trend?

MM: Kids think emoting is floppy anger dancing. I’ve done that, and I understand why it would feel good. But as teachers, we need to explain that’s just one piece of the pie. There are so many other ways to move. And if students could learn to move from a place that’s connected in their centers, when they did movement like that it would have a whole new meaning.

DT: As a competition judge, how do you suggest a teacher create a so-called contemporary number that’s evocative without being “floppy anger dancing”?

MM: Think about what you are saying, and what I [the judge] am supposed to get from the number. If you pick a song that means something to you, why would you put a random fouetté section in the middle of it? Why have your dancers flopping to their knees doing something you saw on “So You Think You Can Dance” last week when there’s nothing that supports it musically or story

wise? I’m up for all of it as long as it’s done with tact, integrity and knowledge.

DT: But aren’t tricks required to score well in competition?

MM: I get it. You’re like, “I have to put 55 things in a number.” That happens on “So You Think” all the time. Our producers tell us we have to put in more tricks, so I try to find the best, most authentic way to do it, because I’ll feel like an idiot choreographer if I don’t at least give it a transition or a build. I’m often asked to do these ’80s love ballads on “So You Think,” so usually there’s a great build in the music. I try to match it and give [the trick] a good in and a good out, so it doesn’t feel like, “Abort the mission. Stop dancing and do a trick.” It’s a challenge to transition into and out of something spectacular. It takes a lot of thought.

Photos from top: courtesy of Break the Floor Productions; by Adam Rose/FOX

Congratulations to Derek Hough, who picked up the 2013 Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography on “Dancing with the Stars,” presented for the first time as part of the event’s live broadcast! (Watch Hough’s acceptance here.) Also a first was the nominated choreographers’ collaborative effort to stage and perform the show’s main dance routine. The result was a SYTYCD-style contemporary interpretation of some of the evening’s nominated shows—from "Mad Men" to "American Horror Story"—anchored by host Neil Patrick Harris and set to a medley of “Lady Luck” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” With the skills of Hough, Allison Holker, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, NappyTabs, Warren Carlyle and their friends, the number was sure to be a showstopper! See for yourself. Can you spot all the famous faces?

Derek Hough, Neil Patrick Harris, Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo, Sonya Tayeh, Travis Wall, Kathryn McCormick, and Mandy Moore and others, prepping for the Emmys

It’s one small step for the Emmys, one grand jeté for the commercial dance world: This year, for the first time ever, the Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography will be presented as part of the event’s live broadcast. Furthermore, the eight nominated choreographers have been invited to create the evening’s main dance number, featuring TV’s best host ever, Neil Patrick Harris. (Seriously. Remember the Tonys?) This means Derek Hough, Allison Holker, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo and Broadway’s Warren Carlyle (who choreographed Carousel for PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center) have been working together on one epic showstopper. According to TV Guide, the artists have attempted to meet once a week, convening other times by Skype and working alone on their individual sections. Tayeh also mentions “thousands of dancers” will be onstage for the performance. Whether that’s an exaggeration or not, we’ll have to wait to find out.

Are we in the midst of a new golden age for dance on camera? Signs point to yes, and Holker agrees. “The dance world has taken off and grown,” she says. “Just like it used to be in the Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse time. I feel like that is our time now.”

Photo: Primetime Emmys

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