Weekly Q&A

Choreographer Mandy Moore on building on ‘Fantasy’ and working with kids on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’

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Mandy Moore is working with the cast of Luxor’s Fantasy for the second time.

You might recognize Mandy Moore from her work on competitive dance shows So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars, but the four-time Emmy-nominated choreographer keeps busy long after the cameras stop. Having already choreographed Shania Twain’s Caesars Palace Colosseum show You’re Still the One and the opening to the 2015 run of topless revue Fantasy at Luxor, Moore returns to Vegas to give Fantasy some fresh moves. Moore’s new choreography will debut during the show’s calendar release event in the fall.

How did you get recruited to do the closing number for Fantasy? Funny enough, I’ve known [producer] Anita [Mann] for a long time, and she and I are both involved in the Television Academy here in Los Angeles. I did an event there a couple years ago and ran into her again. She had seen my work on Dancing with the Stars and said, ‘Hey, I would love for you to come in and do a new opening number for my girls over at Fantasy … would you be interested?’ So I went in and redid the opening last year, and she was really happy with it, so she asked me to come in and rework the closing and another number as well … I’m coming in the next couple of weeks to do [the other] number that involves projection screens [and a] magic wall.

Mandy Moore

The new closing number features “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. Who picked that track? Anita is super hands-on with the show and is always thinking about how to change it and always listening to new music, so she sent me the track. It’s a great song, it’s super popular right now, and I think it’s the kind of song that leaves people wanting to dance and party, which is the best way to leave a show.

Did you come across any challenges when creating the choreography? When she first called me and said it was a topless show, I don’t have any experience doing that. It’s not that it’s incredibly complicated, but it’s definitely a different aesthetic. You want to make sure you’re being respectful of the girls and how they move—there’s a certain kind of way you have to create a number for them. Luckily the girls are amazing. They’re so kind, they work so hard, they’re really good dancers, so that was really easy. It was just a matter of finding the right moves that would look good for them. Obviously once you try something it’s a lot easier the second time. [Now] we just know each other. Dance is so much that exchange of vibing off each other and feeling comfortable in the room together.

Were you ever hesitant to do the show because it was a topless production? No, because I know what kind of reputation Anita has. People love her, and she puts together really amazing show. I knew it would be something [where] I felt comfortable with her and I could communicate with her. She just really wants these girls to feel beautiful and confident and amazing, and that’s something I definitely believe in for women. Of course there’s that initial, ‘Oh, I don’t know, I’ve never done that before, hopefully I can do it, I don’t want to mess it up.’ Also I’ve always been someone who enjoys all different kinds of choreography. My career has run that gamut as far as what I’ve been hired to do, so for me it’s just another challenge of trying to figure out how to create something that is entertaining for an audience.

This season of So You Think You Can Dance is totally different in that kids are competing against each other. Is creating choreography for them more difficult, or easier, than previous seasons? It’s a very difficult show. We turn around brand new pieces of art every week. Every week there’s 13 new pieces of dance that have never been seen before, so that alone is difficult. Funny enough, most of my day job is teaching kids, so I’ve traveled around a lot over the last 20, 25 years teaching children.

This next generation has been really fun, because it feels like, ‘Oh yeah, I know how to do this.’ With kids it’s hard because some of them retain the movement better than others or some of them learn faster than others. But for me the biggest challenge is just the turnaround. If we had seven days to be in rehearsal a lot and really finesse things, some of those numbers would turn out a little different. But those kids have been killing it. What they do just week after week is crazy.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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