By Kim Fuller Published in The Denver Post
It’s been over 20 years since Mandy Moore graduated from Summit High School, and she’s been evolving in her industry ever since. The professional choreographer is based in Los Angeles, California, and just recently completed the biggest project of her career as the choreographer of “La La Land,” a romantic musical comedy-drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle.
For Moore, and for many, success in this industry takes time and tenacity, a lot of practice, long hours and networking. The true magic for this mountain-born talent was a passion for dance and the faith to follow her dreams.
Since packing her bags and moving out to Los Angeles in 1994 at age 18, Mandy attended EDGE Performing Arts Center with the help of a scholarship from The Summit Foundation. She continuously developed contacts in the industry which eventually led her to work on shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With The Stars,” as well as on commercials and sitcoms. She choreographed the main dance scene in the film “Silver Linings Playbook” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
“La La Land” was her biggest project yet — what she said has been the “Super Bowl” of her career. It’s an on-screen musical with scene after scene of small- and large-scale dance numbers.
“It was huge,” shared Moore from Los Angeles on a phone interview. “But then once I started working on it, you know it’s like any other job or anything — you just kind of start to attack it bit by bit … you are able to pick it apart piece-by-piece and then all of a sudden you have it; you understand what it’s supposed to be.”
GROWING UP DANCING
Mandy’s mother, Wendy, said Mandy “was dancing from birth.”
“Even before she could walk she was really bouncing to the music,” Wendy said. “And I would change the tempos and she would adjust to the new tempo.”
At age 7, Mandy started studying dance with Kim Delgrosso, founder of the Summit School of Dance in Breckenridge.
Wendy, who has worked in Summit as a teacher, high school assistant principal and middle school principal, would go with her husband and Mandy’s dad, Bob, to watch Mandy dance all day every Saturday. Wendy would bring papers to grade as the couple would sit for hours and observe.
For three years, Mandy attended the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp in Steamboat. This allowed her to stay in the public school system and enjoy diverse activities offered within it, and then still really specialize her dance training in the summer.
“We had talked about taking her out of the schools and sending her to a performing arts school,” Wendy said, “but that was really against everything we believed.”
Mandy and her sister, Missy, participated in gymnastics, basketball and track, and were in the school plays.
“She’s a public school kid, and she is a Summit school kid, and we are awfully proud of that,” Wendy said of Mandy.
As a young dancer, Mandy would choreograph her own dances for competitions. It was Delgrosso that encouraged her to do so.
“She thought if you were a dancer, well, then you have to come up with the dance,” Bob said of Mandy. “So she got that experience very early of learning how to choreograph.”
Mandy continued with Summit School of Dance all the way through her senior year of high school, and had also started dancing at the Shelly True Dance Academy in Denver three times a week.
When it came time for high school graduation, college wasn’t the path for Mandy.
“I think from a very, very young age, Mandy said, ‘This is what I want to do,'” Bob said. “And, of course, Wendy being in education her entire life, and me being an educator by proxy, we really wanted to push Mandy to go to college and get a degree.
“And she said, ‘Nope, I’m going out to California and am going to give it a shot,'” Bob added, recalling the conversation with Mandy. “And she did.”
“YOU JUST DO IT”
Mandy graduated in June, and was in California before that summer ended.
“I think I didn’t know any better,” she said. “Honestly, I think I was just ignorant. And maybe that’s a small town thing, too. I didn’t know that there was an option not to succeed.”
Mandy said growing up where she did helped to instill her family and community’s core values, which was grounding for her when she moved to the city.
“It helped me navigate the business because I knew who I was and I knew that I had come from a good family and I knew how to work hard,” she said, “and I think those are the pillars for success.”
It was also Delgrosso, and Melanie Frey — who bought the studio from Delgrosso in 1988 — who Mandy said helped her cultivate a real sense of “you can do anything you want to do.”
“When you experience that as a young dancer or a young artist and you don’t know the word ‘No,’ I think it builds such a beautiful foundation because you just don’t understand how to not do it — you just do it,” she said.
Mandy is currently working on choreography for the Golden Globes, and she said she has some commercials coming up and hopefully a film in the near future.
“But the thing about choreography is you kind of just go right back to doing what you were doing. Day-to-day working on things and teaching and waiting for the next job,” she said. “I don’t know if another ‘La La Land’ will ever come around again, but man that was really fun. It was super cool.”