Summit County dancer turned pro returns
Ryan Summerlin June 19, 2010
Since its inception three years ago, Mandy Moore has been key to the success of Summit’s hospital fundraiser, Dancing with the Mountain Stars. This weekend, she returned to lend a hand, after choreographing the finale of the hit television show, “Dancing with the Stars.”
Though “Dancing with the Stars” professional ballroom dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy is known as the “Bad Boy of Ballroom,” he needed some help incorporating lyrical and contemporary dance into his final partner dance with Erin Andrews. So he asked a friend, who called Moore. It was a last-minute kind of thing, but Moore ended up appearing on the show, as part of the exposition package depicting the couple’s progress.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” Moore said. “I didn’t think it would be that magnitude. It was really exciting to work with them, because it’s a different world (since they’re professional dancers, as opposed to up-and-comers on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’).”
Moore grew up in Summit County, studied dance at Summit School of Dance in Frisco, and graduated from Summit High School in 1994. The next summer, she moved to Los Angeles, where she has built an impressive resume: She works as a choreographer for “So You Think You Can Dance” and has danced professionally in “Malcom in the Middle,” “Austin Powers in Goldmember” (as the mojo girl in pink behind Mike Myers) and, most recently, in “Did You Hear About the Morgans,” where she acted as the assistant choreographer and partnered with Hugh Grant.
Though she’s always nervous when she works with celebrities, it’s not because they’re stars. She feels the same way when watching Summit’s local celebs performing at Dancing with the Mountain Stars. She knows she can only do so much as a choreographer – then it’s up to the “dancer” to fly – but still, she feels a bit like a mother hen, intensely hoping a person like Grant, whose passion clearly isn’t dance, feels comfortable and moves spectacularly.
Since Moore last worked with Dancing with the Mountain Stars, she has stepped up her list of accolades. She choreographed an interactive kids’ dance movie, due out in October, called “Oogie Loves in the Big Balloon Adventure,” which she loved because of its creative opportunities. The film, featuring costumed characters and such stars as Toni Braxton and Christopher Lloyd, includes a variety of dance styles, as well as themes – for instance, Moore created a predominantly circular dance to pair with a song about circles, complete with polka dots decorating the set.
Her trip to Summit County is bookmarked by shooting season 7 of “So You Think You Can Dance” – she flies back today to work on another episode. Then, in a couple weeks, she flies to Southern Italy, where she’ll represent the United States by teaching a contemporary master class.
“That’s why I love dance,” she said. “Dance takes me to all these different places.”
She’s also working on a Nickelodeon kids’ show, “The Fresh Beat Band,” where she choreographs big dances that teach kids life lessons, such as how to work together. One of her favorite aspects of that job involves revamping dance tunes she grew up to, like “Singing in the Rain” and “Greased Lightning.”
And this January, she’ll return to Colorado for a month – the longest she’s visited her home state since she moved – to direct and choreograph “The Wedding Singer” at the Aurora Fox Arts Center. Though she grew up in and around the theater with her talented parents, Wendy and Bob Moore, this is her debut as a director. And it seems like a perfect fit. Not only does she love musical theater and 1980s music, but also, she’ll be working alongside her actress/director sister, Missy Moore, who will be the assistant director.
“I’m excited about bringing my own experience … a different vision, a new eye,” she said. “It will be bright and alive and colorful and fun. I want people to leave it feeling like they just went to a concert.”
She also admits she’s been “kinda wishing” to return to her “home” for a while.
“I’ve always considered Colorado my home – the mountains, the people,” she said. “You find that peace, to be near my family and experience things I used to (being older now) … growing up in Summit County was something that shaped me completely. I feel I am who I am because of my experience in Summit County.”
And that’s why she flies back (with professional dancer Mike Riccio) to donate time and expertise to Dancing with the Mountain Stars.
Friday, she worked with Breckenridge Mayor John Warner, among others, blocking the dances she choreographed for them. With just the name, age, height and profession of people, she intuitively chooses a dance style and routine for them. She’s been successful, but last year she began to second-guess herself when she assigned former ski racer C.J. Mueller the jive, with attitude.
“He was resistant at first and had a hard time with the style,” she said. “But by the end, he was amazing. He opened up so much to a part of himself that he forgot he could do. By the end of it, he was a wild man. I had to calm him down.”
And by Mueller’s own self-admission, he gained so much, he was terribly sad to see it end – but he encouraged everyone who read his journals in the Summit Daily News to reach out and dance and enjoy life.
“Everyone learns about themselves,” Moore said. “By the end of the show they say, ‘Wow, I had no idea I could do this,’ (they just) hoped they could do it, but they didn’t know.”
And the local participants appreciate her assistance immensely.
“It was definitely a pleasure, a really unique opportunity, to be trained by someone of that high caliber,” said Lisa Cheek, who competed last year.
“With even a very challenging dance move, she makes you feel like you can actually do it,” said Dan Gibbs, who won the event last year and will return this year for an encore.
Moore will fly in two more times to fine tune the Mountain with the Stars dance routines before the fundraiser this fall, set for Sept. 25 at Keystone.