Choreographer Mandy Moore, best known for her work on Fox's hit dance competition show "So You Think You Can Dance," was in Utah last week creating a new piece for Odyssey Dance Theater's upcoming performance.
Moore's accolades include two Emmy Award nominations for "SYTYCD," choreography for "American Idol," Celine Dion's 2007 world tour, and numerous television, stage and film performances. But Moore seemed particularly satisfied last week after finishing her newest piece for Odyssey Dance Theatre and plans to come back for the opening "Shut Up and Dance!" show at Kingsbury Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
"On the show, I have 90 seconds to make a choreographic statement," Moore said. "So it was an absolute luxury for me to take my time and let the music lead me through this 20-minute piece."
Eldon Johnson, the company's associate artistic director and principal dancer, said the unnamed work is based in movement from the 1940s, '50s and '60s and incorporates mambo steps and jive, as well as a boy-band style influenced by the groove of The Temptations. "It's unique and will stand out from the rest of our rep," Johnson said.
Choreographing for the stage is different than for the television camera, Moore said. "The things the camera appreciates are not the same things a live audience appreciates," she said. "The camera takes something 3-D and turns it into something 2-D. So the camera likes movement that is very linear and sharp those elements pop on television a bit more."
In contrast, she continued, stage is 3-D and choreographers fill the space. "The eye can follow many different things as they're happening onstage where the camera tells you exactly where you should look," Moore said. "Onstage, the eye can gather a feeling from the actual movement. On television, the camera focuses on the face, and whatever emotion we are drawing or not drawing comes from there. Stage also has color, lights and scenery and the depth of the stage. Television is so flat I'm always so surprised how flat things look on television after I've seen it live."
Because Moore was a dancer before becoming a choreographer, she understands the dancer-choreographer relationship, Johnson said. "Mandy knows how to make the process enjoyable, full of life, and still be completely honest," he said. "She is very open and listens to dancers, which makes creating work so much more interactive and easier for movement to flow naturally."
Moore chose Johnson and some of the more experienced company dancers for the duets but also called the company's younger dancers "really impressive."
"At first, I wondered how they would share the stage, but the maturity they brought to the movement was remarkable," Moore said.
This isn't the first time Moore has been to Salt Lake City. In 2007, she choreographed a piece for ODT titled "Soul Catchers," and her connections to the commercial dance culture in Utah extend back to when she was a child growing up in Colorado.
Moore, now 35, began taking dance classes at age 8 in her hometown of Breckenridge, Colo. from Kim DelGrosso. In 1988, DelGrosso moved her family and her studio to Orem. The Center Stage Performing Arts Studio become known for producing many of the regulars on TV shows such as "Dancing With the Stars" and "SYTYCD."
Moore and DelGrosso have remained close, and when DelGrosso stopped by ODT's rehearsal last week, she said she "fell in love" with Moore's newest piece.
"I've known Mandy since her mother brought her to my studio in Colorado and told me she had a daughter who was an amazing dancer," DelGrosso said with a laugh. "And, of course, every mother thinks this, but in this case it was true."
All six of the DelGrosso daughters dance, and DelGrosso refers to Moore "as the blonde DelGrosso daughter I never had." Like any stage mother, she openly brags about the humble Moore's accomplishments.
"She is an amazing artist and we haven't even begun to see where she will go," DelGrosso said. "She was in England last year with 'So You Think You Can Dance' and teaches in Italy in the summer, and at the very prestigious EDGE Performing Arts Center in West Hollywood. And then she still finds time to help out her hometown by arranging the routines for the annual hospital fundraiser in Summit County, Colo."
With so much professional experience, you wouldn't think Moore would have "Shut Up & Dance!" opening-night jitters. "The five pieces of music I used Motown, R&B and blues music made me want to move and groove and create a feeling between people rather than just shapes and lines," she said. "I'm a little nervous for opening, but I glad because it means I still really love what I do."
Odyssey Dance Theatre's 'Shut Up & Dance!'
The Salt Lake City-based dance company presents its spring repertory season of three programs, featuring "So You Think You Can Dance's" Tadd Gadduang and Ryan Di Lello, in a revival of "Romeo + Juliet"; plus new premieres, including a new work by SYTYCD choreographer Mandy Moore.
When • Wednesday, Feb. 1-Saturday, Feb. 11
"Dancescapes" featuring SoulEscape's "Beyond the Canvas" • Wednesday, Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 4, 2 p.m.; Tuesday, Feb. 7, and Friday, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m
"Sledgehammer" and three new works • Thursday, Feb. 2, Saturday, Feb. 4, and Wednesday, Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 11, 2 p.m.
"Romeo + Juliet" • Friday, Feb. 3, Monday, Feb. 6, Thursday, Feb. 9, and Saturday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $20, $25, $30, $35, $40 (plus handling and facility fees); http://www.kingtix.com; student rush and multiple show discounts available at 801-581-7100.
Also • April 12-14, the dance company will present a workshop, competition and showcase at Dixie High School, St. George. As part of the event, there will be a round-table discussion about show business for parents featuring artistic director Derryl Yeager and Christina Aguilera's mother, Shelly Kearns.
To register • odysseydance.com