This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Melanie Mah. Melanie is a passionate and dedicated dancer from Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. She began her ballet training at the age of 5 years old and has since then earned her Advanced Foundation from the Royal Academy of Dance (R.A.D.) with distinction and her Pre-Professional certification in Vaganova ballet. Melanie has studied jazz, lyrical, tap, and hip hop for 9 years as well, and has enjoyed much success as a dancer. In the summer of 2009, Melanie was a top 6 competitor on the second season of So You Think You Can Dance Canada where she got to work with choreographers such as Stacey Tookey, Lil C, Luther Brown, Gustavo Vargas, Sean Cheesman, and Jean-Marc Genereux to name a few. She also travelled across Canada on the SYTYCDC Season 2 Top 10 tour. Since SYTYCDC, Melanie has traveled with The PULSE dance convention and was Mia Michaels’ assistant for the 2010-2011 tour. She had the opportunity to assist Brian Friedman, Laurieann Gibson, Wade Robson, Dave Scott, Gil Duldulao, Tyce Diorio, Desmond Richardson, and Cris Judd with The PULSE classes, as well. She has also assisted Blake McGrath, Jean-Marc Genereux, and Mia Michaels with their choreography on So You Think You Can Dance Canada’s first and third season. In addition to her experience with assisting choreographers, she has worked for companies such as Coty Cosmetics, Mattel Inc., 19 Entertainment, DanseTV, and Disney, and has performed with artists such as Bass Hunter, Keshia Chante, Blake McGrath, Aleesia, Fefe Dobson, Katy Perry, and Kanye West for both live performances and music videos. Currently residing in Los Angeles, California continuing to train and pursue her career as a professional Dancer. Check Out what Melanie had to say in this weeks shout out.
Bio provided by Melanie
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Melanie: I was 5 years old when I first started dancing. My mom put me in ballet class so I’d have good posture and hopefully gain some coordination… I was definitely that clumsy kid that tripped all over herself haha
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Melanie: I remember choreographing to “Spice World” at a friend’s birthday party when I was probably 12 years old. We stayed up the whole night staging the piece, designing costumes, and lip syncing was obviously involved. It was a full out production!
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to freestyling?
Melanie: I’ve learned that freestyling is something you can’t try to control. If I start thinking about my freestyle, that’s when it becomes unnatural. I try my best to just tune out my other thoughts, focus on the music, and let my body take over… listening to the music is key!
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Melanie: I’m inspired to choreograph to something when a song moves me in a certain way and makes me feel something, whether it’s the beat, the voice of the artist, or the lyrics. Once I’ve found that song, I like to listen to it over and over again so I get really familiar with the music. Then once I get into the studio I’ll just try freestyling to certain sections before I set anything.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Melanie: Some of my biggest influences in the dance industry are Brian Friedman and Mia Michaels. I have so much respect for both of them because they have established themselves as successful choreographers through hard work, passion, and determination. Both of them have changed me as a dancer since assisting them on The PULSE convention tour. They really pushed me to work harder than I ever had before (frequently to the point of puking) and by the end of the tour, I was a completely different dancer.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Melanie: I absolutely love working with Luther Brown. He’s always so focused and knows exactly what he wants. Whether it’s on set or in class he always pushes his dancers to the limit and his choreography is like no other!
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Melanie: I really enjoyed working with Kanye West. Out of all the artists that I’ve worked with so far, he was the most involved with the dancers and the most interested in our work. He would literally sit at a desk during our rehearsals and watch as the choreographer (Yemi Akinyemi) created. Kanye had a huge say in a lot of our choreography and it was very inspiring to see him work. I definitely respect him so much more as an artist and as a person after working with him.
Nikki: What was it like being part of SYTYCDC Top 10 season 2?
Melanie: It was absolutely a dream come true. To this day, it seems surreal to me that the show happened because it all flew by so quickly. I’m so grateful for all the people I got to work with and all the lifelong friends I made on the show. I can’t begin to explain how much I learned on SYTYCDC and I can confidently say I would not be the same person or dancer without that experience.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Melanie: Since moving to LA in February, I’ve been working on a couple different projects: I worked on a Disney pilot, I performed for Kanye West at Coachella, and I also danced in Aleesia’s new music video. I’ve also been working with several choreographers in LA (Sean Cheesman, Gustavo Vargas, Chantal Robson) on their submissions for projects like Dancing With The Stars and the Britney Spears tour. Other than that I’ve been going to auditions, taking lots of class, and getting my face out there in the LA scene… loving every second of it!!
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess that dancers from other parts of the Country and States may not?
Melanie: I think Canadian dancers in general have a different drive than American dancers do. Especially in LA, you see a lot of dancers, who didn’t really have to work too hard to get here, take it for granted and not take advantage of every opportunity. Because Canadian dancers have to work their butts off to get there in the first place, being in LA is something that we won’t ever take for granted. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many hardworking and talented American dancers, but I definitely do believe Canadian dancers stand out from the crowd. Always proud to be a Canadian!
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Melanie: Stay determined, hungry, and inspired. I think at the end of the day, your passion and your drive is what’s going to take you places. Technique and ability is just a product of that. Dancers need to constantly be inspired to take class and train every day if you’ve made the choice to have dance as the number one priority in your life. I also think it’s important for dancers/choreographers to realize that everyone has their own individual path. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing in the dance industry and to feel like you’re a step behind from everyone else, but it’s important to stick to your own beliefs and have the confidence to focus on yourself. If you have the work ethic and passion it takes to get there… it’ll happen 🙂
BIG THANK YOU TO MELANIE FOR BEING A PART OF T.D.O.T. XO
Check out Mel’s SYTYCDC Journey…..