The many sides of a "Dance" champion

OK, I've been obsessing lately on "So You Think You Can Dance."

You can tell that by reading the recent blogs. (Hey, I promise to move on now.) You can also tell that I'm happy Melanie Moore won. Here's the interview I sent to papers:


As the “So You Think You Can Dance”
season began, viewers figured they knew Melanie Moore.

She was the Georgia teen-ager with the
warm face and vintage hairstyle. She was kind of shy, maybe a dance
nerd, right?

Well, not really. Moore – the show's
new champion – has more sides to her than viewers might guess.

She was her high school's Homecoming
queen, “which was really exciting for me,” she told reporters in
a phone interview Friday.

She's a social sort, rarely shy. “I'm
a lot more talky and chatty than people think,” she said.

And her college choice wasn't what
people might have expected. Moore – who grew up near Atlanta and
whose boyfriend goes to the University of Georgia – enrolled in
Fordham University, in the Bronx. There, she majored in visual arts,
not dance. “You always need something to fall back on,” she said.

Or maybe not. At 19, Moore has become
an instant dance star.
That started with her first performances.
“I think Zeus himself would invite you to dance on Mount Olympus,”
Lil' C, the judge and choreographer, told her then. “That was

It was a stunning audition, another
judge, Mary Murphy, said this week. “She took our breath away.”

Moore was considered front-runner and
didn't budge. She was never in the bottom two or bottom three of
viewers' votes. For the finale, host Cat Deeley said, she got 47 per
cent of votes, with Sasha Mallory getting 32 per cent; that left only
21 per cent for the two guys, Marko Germar and Tadd Gadduang.

Some of that may just be a personality
thing, Moore granted. “I always laugh at myself …. I hope that
I'm relatable to people.”

But this was no popularity contest, no
homecoming vote. Judges kept praising Moore's technique, which she
attributes to her teachers and her mother. “She instilled a work
ethic in me.”

Moore's dad was an analyst; her mother
was a nurse who became a supervisor and a consultant. The dad died
after a liver transplant when Moore was 12, but the family was
comfortable financially.

Growing up in Marietta, Moore started
dancing at 2-and-a-half. She did the competitive dance circuit and
built an intense focus. “I need to have things in line,” she

For five “Dance” weeks, she was
paired with Germar, another favorite. They were the only duo, she
said, that rented separate rehearsal space; when they finished their
sessions at the “Dance” studio, they kept going. “Marko, half
the time, was going to kill me, I was so nit-picky.”

That was particularly true when they
had to do a difficult tango, she said. “We were there until 11:45
every night, pounding away at it.”

That sense of detail was mixed with a
sense of adventure. One number required her to leap into the arms of
one of the “all-star” dancers, Neil Haskell. They started with a
few modest jumps, Moore said. “Then I was across the room, running
and jumping …. We were sort of daredevils.”

Now she's leaping into life. Her plans

– She has 10 days off, so she'll help
her boyfriend move into college. (“It's going to be about him, for
a change.”) Still, she'll also be taking dance lessons then. “I
can never sit still for that long.”

– Then she starts preparing for the
“Dance” tour, this fall.

– Afterward? Moore was excited by
comments from director-choreographer Kenny Ortega, who will be doing
a “Dirty Dancing” remake next year. She jokes that that
constituted “a verbal contract.”

She's planning on mostly banking her
$250,000 prize money. “Everyone has said I should indulge myself ….
I sort of want to get nice carry-on luggage.”

And when she does return to school, she
said, she'll probably switch to a dance major. She may not need that
fallback position after all.




"Dance": A non-surprise can be nice

Sure, surprises are nice. Sometimes, however, the lack of one is fine.

I had predicted (see previous blog) the finish -- Melanie Moore first, Sasha Mallory second, Mark Germar third, Tadd Gadduang fourth. Chances are, many people did.

From the beginning, Moore stood out. She had:

-- The talent. As Mary Murphy mentions (see two blogs ago), judges were impressed from her first audition.

-- The look. Her roundish face is distinctive and retro, suitable for any 1923 calendar. People notice her instantly.

-- Great routines. That was obvious tonight, when the show repeated its best routines. Time after time, Moore was performing. Chances are, she's not celebrating now; she's collapsing.

-- And the track record. Moore spent zero tome in the bottom two or bottom three. That sort of pointed toward a victory.

Still, the size of the win was startling. If the numbers Cat Deeley read were correct, Moore got 47 per cent of the viewer votes; Mallory, an underdog capable of spectacular things, had 32 percent. The two guys, combined, totaled only 21 percent.

Melanie Moore had won big ... just as we figured she would. Sometimes, it's nice to not be surprised.

"Dance": Slow start, strong middle

As the opening number ended in Wednesday's "So You Think You Can Cance," I muttered to myself: "OK, they've evened the field."

Melanie Moore and Marko Germar were the favorites as the night began. They were soon doing a disco, a problem because:

-- It wasn't a particularly good disco dance; and

-- Disco peaked in 1977, when "Saturday Night Live" debuted, then vanished in time for kids to go back to their studies. It faces huge disadvantages here.

Still, these two dancers are terrific. I'm guessing that Moore will still win, with Mallory second and Germar third. We'll see; the season concludes from 8-10 p.m. today (Thursday).

Dance finale: An impressive front-runner and room for surprises

A strong "So You Think You Can Dance" season wraps up Wednesday and Thursday, with four sensational young dancers.

My previous blog looks at the two who just missed the finale. I'll also blog after the Wednesday and Thursday shows; here's the story I sent to papers, previewing those shows:


Even in a room stuffed with TV stars,
Melanie Moore gets noticed.

She has a face that seems borrowed from
a vintage kewpie dolls and a tight hairstyle to match. “I got this
right after I graduated from high school,” said Moore, 19. “but
I've always worn it short.”

Moore was at a Fox network party with
Sasha Mallory, 23. They smiled easily, the way young friends do –
even though they're competitors in this week's “So You Think You
Can Dance” finale.

“It surprised me how quickly you
become friends,” Moore said. “We don't feel like we're

On Wednesday, the final four – Moore,
Mallory, Tadd Gadduang and Marko Germar – will perform and viewers
will vote. On Thursday, one of will win $250,000, a magazine cover
and a role in commercials.

Last week, Mallory was in the bottom
two females; she seemed stunned that Caitlynn Lawson was sent home
instead. “I'm always surprised,” she said with a grin. “I
always expect to be sent home.”

Moore can't relate to that. She's never
been in the bottom and was a favorite from her first audition, “She
just took our breath away,” said Mary Murphy, one of the judges.
“It was a very visceral thing.”

Here was a teen from Marietta, Ga., who
already seemed to have it all. “She had such tremendous power and
amazing technique,” Murphy said. “But she also was able to act
the characters.”

By comparison, Murphy said, Mallory
didn't get as much attention at first. “Sasha is that fighter, the
underdog. She doesn't have the technique that Melanie has, but you
can't underestimate her.”

Last week, Mallory faced another
hurdle, when the show introduced a style (whaacking) viewers hadn't
seen. Ricky Jaime, her fellow whaacker, was voted out; she survived,
partly because of a steeply emotional piece she did, requiring her to
crash into a soft wall.

That was a tough one emotionally,
Mallory said. “It's hard to go back to a dark place like that.”

She drew a standing ovation in the
studio, Murphy said. “Sasha is a tremendous performer.”

So are the two guys, she said “There's
that spiritual quality that just radiates from them.”

Germar, 22, a jazz dancer from Guam,
has brought tears from the judges and himself. Gadduang, 25, is a
“B-boy” (break-dancer) from Salt Lake City who keeps surprising.

“When you get a 'B-boy' who can
transform that quickly, we just sat up an said 'Wow,'” Murphy said.
“Week after week, that happened.”

– “So You Think You Can Dance”

– Finale is 8-10 p.m. Wednesday and
Thursday, Fox

"Desperate Housewives" starts its final lap

"Desperate Housewives" has done wonders for ABC and for TV viewers, bringing fresh style to a tired landscape. Today, it confirmed that this is its final season; here's the story I sent to papers:


For “Desperate Housewives,” the
farewell phase is beginning.

“The only thing harder than creating
a hit series is knowing when to end it,” Marc Cherry said.

Now he's decided. On Friday, Cherry –
the show's creator and producer – called cast members, to tell them
that the upcoming season will be the last; on Sunday, he made it
official. “I want to go out in the classiest way possible,” he
told the Television Critics Association.

Paul Lee, the ABC programming chief,
called the upcoming season “a victory lap” for the series. ABC
will have had an exit strategy for the two shows that revived it.

Within 11 days of each other in 2004,
“Lost” and “Desperate” debuted, bringing buzz to a low-buzz
network. A half-year later, “Grey's Anatomy” joined them.

For “Lost,” the problem was a
sprawling story line that needed an end date; its finale was set
three years in advance. “Desperate” had a familiar problem for a
long-running show: Salary costs increased, ratings dipped slightly
and the stars' contracts were endIng after the upcoming season.

Lee had asked if he wanted to wrap up
the show, Cherry said. “I was ambivalent.” When he finally
decided, plans for the new season had already been made: Key
details, Cherry said, include:

– Like other years, this will have a
mystery that spans the season. Unlike some years, that won't have to
divert attention from the main characters. It will re-visit the
murder of Mary Alice Young.

– The final episode may tie in many
of the past characters, directly or indirectly.

– There will still only be the usual
23 episodes. “I never want extra episodes.”

– And his attention will be diverted.
This season, he wrote and filmed “Hallelujah,” the pilot for a
series in a small Tennessee town; now Lee is having him rework it,
possibly for next season.

“Hallelujah” will be in the
“Housewives” style – a complex comedy-drama-mystery that builds
an entire community. That's what revived the career of Cherry –
then an out-of-work situation-comedy writer – and the ratings of

It's also the hardest kind of show to
write, Cherry said. “I told (“Housewives” star) Eva Longoria:
'I'm just going to put you in a van and have you solve crimes.'”