Choreographer Mandy Moore Brings Her Creative Vision to Vegas

July 3, 2024

After choreographing the highest-grossing stadium tour of all time (you’ve never heard of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, have you?), the always-busy Mandy Moore remains as in-demand as ever. A few months ago, Moore took her creative vision to the neon lights of Las Vegas to rework portions of Awakening, a spectacle at the Wynn Las Vegas that includes aerialists, acrobats, puppetry, and, of course, dance.

The Emmy Award–winning choreographer and producer—a newly minted member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—took a moment out of her wild schedule to discuss Awakening, how she’s shaped her career, and the issues facing choreographers in 2024.

You are doing so much these days. How, at this point in your career, do you choose which projects to take on?

First and foremost, does the project get me excited? Do I like the music or the people I’d be working with? Is it a medium I haven’t worked in before? The real problem is that I’m down for all of it. A lot of times I just do what comes up first, because I really love what I do.

For Awakening, the fabulous [producer/director] Baz Halpin is my good friend, and he invited me to rework the “Earth Section” of the show. When I saw the team that had already been assembled, I immediately said yes.

What was your approach to this big Vegas spectacle?

I watched the show before I went into rehearsal, and saw these humans in costumes that looked like trees. I thought it would be cool to create more of a structure and rework the staging so they could become a root system. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube about how trees move in the wind, and researched what trees do in both storms and sunlight so that I could picture shapes in my head. Then I tried to make a language of movement that matched. For example, a root system through the soil, or a branch shaking in the thunder—those analogies were really helpful. The dancers are a team of krumpers, lockers, and flexers who are hypermobile in their joints, so it was really cool to work with them and bring the vision to life.

How do you create a distinctive movement vision/vocabulary for each project you do?

A huge part of my job is researching and understanding the world I’m trying to create. A lot of time and effort goes into that. Is it a live performance? Is it televised? Is it a film? Is it in an intimate space? Is it vast? What are they wearing? It’s the who, what, where, when, and why. I have to be able to answer those questions before I create. If I can do that, I understand the lane we are in, and the work ends up being unique and the best it can be.

As an active member of the Choreographers Guild, what are your thoughts on the progress the group has made so far? And what are the most pressing issues that even well-established choreographers like yourself continue to face in the entertainment world?

There have been some big steps forward in terms of visibility. What comes along with that is the ability to have bigger meetings. We can go to SAG, or the press, or a studio and say, “Hey, this has come up for our community—are you willing to talk about it?” But there are many protections we still need—health, pension, residuals. We are at the start of the climb now that we are unified.