Folk festival weekend -- great music, great variety

If you live near East Lansing, Mich. -- and you really should, you know -- here's an assignment. This weekend (Aug. 13-14), definitely catch the Great Lakes Folk Festival.

(I know I usually prattle on about TV here. Please catch the previous blogs on "So You Think You Can Dance," including an interview with the winner, Melane Moore.)

The festival is a marvel of free-form fun. There's no admission fee -- donations are encouraged -- and many options. You stroll between three music areas, plus food, crafts, a kids' area and people talking about old-time skills. There's even a talk (4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, Re-skilling Stage B) on hanging out the laundry. Really.

The festival was damaged by the closing of the Valley Court Park stage, which provided the charm of under-the-stars music on Friday and Saturday nights. The rest, however, remains vibrant.

The event opened Friday with Feufollet, a terrific young Cajun group from Lafayette, La. You can catch Feufollet on the MAC Stage at 6 p.m. Saturday and twice on the Dance Stage -- 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 4:20 p.m. Sunday.

After savoring the Cajuns, I tried to enjoy Skalmusik, from Minnesota. Yes, I'm half-Swedish, but it's definitely not the enjoying-Swedish-music half. Or Swedish food. If it weren't for liking the "Wallander" TV mysteries, I'd think all my Swedish DNA has been misplaced.

Two of the Skalmusic guys were also at the "accordion traditions" sessions, trading licks with guys from Feufollet, the Steven Greenman Klezmer Ensemble and a witty chap from the Irish group Teada.

Those "traditions" sessions -- blending talk and music -- tend to be great fun. There are more on the City Hall Stage at 1 p.m. Saturday (fiddles), 5:30 p.m. Saturday (guitars) and 3:20 p.m. Sunday (pending).

I'd also strongly recommend Calvin Cooke and his sensational "sacred steel" music. He's on the MAC Stage at 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday; he'll also receive a Michigan Heritage Award at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on Re-skilling Stage A.

Yes, the festival needs better stage names. Yes, it needs to get the Valley Court Park stage back on Friday and Saturday nights. Still, this is a splendid event. Here's the schedule for what's left:

– Saturday, MAC: Johnnie Bassett
(blues), noon; George Kahumoky Jr. (Hawaiian), 1 p.m.; Cooke,
2; Gao Hong (Chinese pipa), 3; Los Bandits (Tex-Mex), 4; Cats and the Fiddler,
(bluegrass, via three 16-year-olds), 5; Feufollet, 6; Elizabeth
LaPrelle (old-time ballads), 7; Reveillons (French-Canadian), 8;
Detour, 9:05; Teada, 10:10.

– Saturday, City Hall: Cats and the
Fiddler, noon; “fiddle traditions,” 1 p.m.; Teada, 2:15;
“community sing, led by Joel Mabus, Sally Rogers and LaPrelle,
3:15; “guitar masters,” 5:30; Detour, 6:35; Hong, 7:40; Greenman,
8:45; Kahumoky, 9:45.

– Saturday, Dance: Los Bandits, noon;
Nadim Dlaikan (Lebanese music, primarily with the nay), 1:30;
Reveillons, 3; Skalmusic, 4:30; Greenman, 6; Laufman, 7:45;
Feufollet, 9:30.

– Sunday, MAC: Cooke, noon; LaPrelle,
1 p.m.; Detour, 2; Kahumoky, 3; Reveillons, 4:05; Teada, 5:15.

– Sunday, City Hall: Greeman, noon;
Hong, 1 p.m.; Teada, 2:10; traditions (details pending), 3:20;
LaPrelle, 4:30.

– Sunday, Dance: Reveillons, noon;
Pan Franek & Zosia's Polka Towners, 1:30 p.m.; Laufman, 3;
Feufollet, 4:20. 

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