Kathy Liu is a dancer and performer based in NYC. Her dance exposure began at the age of four with ballet, but soon expanded in high school during a period of style experimentation. Liu went on to put her violin background to use at school in orchestra and lend her voice to the choir and acapella group, and after a series of summer camps at a local community center, she fell in love with musical theatre. With training from The Ailey School and Fordham University, her resume now boasts credits such as Cabaret at Goodspeed Musicals, Apple TV’s Dickinson, and Watch Night workshop at Pearlman PAC – but you can catch her right now touring the country on the Funny Girl National Tour! Liu is a huge advocate for JChen Project, “ a small contemporary company based in NYC run by Jessica Chen” that prides itself on having an Asian-led company. Her advice to young artists? “Embrace your creativity and uniqueness, then try to be as clear as possible with your goals so that they feel reachable… Don't be afraid to just be a human and exist sometimes.” Read on to learn more about Kathy Liu and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Kathy Liu
Hometown: Fremont, California
Current City: New York based, but currently touring!
Current project: Funny Girl National Tour
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Funny Girl (!), Cabaret at Goodspeed Musicals, JChen Project with Jessica Chen (one of my favorite choreographers to work with!!) Watch Night Workshop for the Pearlman PAC, Apple TV's Dickinson.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
The hardest part is working up the courage to get started! Embrace your creativity and uniqueness, then try to be as clear as possible with your goals so that they feel reachable. Your work becomes more layered the more life you live. Don't be afraid to just be a human and exist sometimes. And breathe as much as possible.
How did you get your start?
It was a long, winding road – very non-linear! I started dancing when I was 4, training almost exclusively in ballet until I was 16. I attended a few dance summer programs during my high school years which really expanded my perspective on different disciplines and styles. I also grew up playing the violin/playing in my middle school orchestra, which further connected me with music. Then I became interested in singing and musical theater by doing summer camps at my local community theater as well as singing with the choir and an acapella group at my high school. After graduation, I moved to New York to study dance at The Ailey School and Fordham University, and I've been New York based ever since!
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
It's hard to know when you feel like you've "made it". People have so many different reasons for doing what we do and the successes for me feel few and far between. But these were some pivotal moments where the impostor syndrome faded away!
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Consistency. Having worked in so many different facets of the industry, it's been hard to really establish myself in one lane and work consistently. It is something I'm still working on, through making connections, taking classes and showing up at auditions. The problem is that I also pride myself on being able to work in so many different avenues so it's hard to focus on one thing when you're finding moderate success in a couple different veins.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
Working with JChen Project, a small contemporary company based in NYC run by Jessica Chen, was the most humanizing dance company experience I've ever had. She treats her dancers as working professionals and as humans (!!) and knows that we all have lives outside the company. She works in different facets across the industry so she is aware and understanding. Also her company is made up of Asian artists which is always a grounding community to have access to working in this crazy business. Can't say enough good things about working with Jessica!
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
Quite early on in high school we did an aptitude test that would help us figure out a good career path. I can't remember my exact results but it said something about performing. At that point, I was already so invested in ballet and dance that it just seemed natural that would be the path for me. My high school was very, VERY STEM oriented and being who I am (always wanting to do something different than everyone else) it kind of solidified my choice to pursue dance and the arts. It gave me a lot of drive knowing that I would be pursuing something people didn't think was practical, it made me want to work even harder to prove that I could do it. (Mostly to prove it to myself 😅)
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
So. Many. Jobs. I worked as a Physical Therapist's receptionist, lululemon "educator", waiter, brand ambassador, yoga instructor, showgirl, extra on TV shows, model, coat check attendant, the list goes on and on!
If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?
Both my parents work/worked in corporate fields but always encouraged my sister and I to pursue our passions. As I was growing up they both modeled dedication to their careers while raising 2 kids and I think that's where a lot of my work ethic comes from. They both have had multiple careers in their lives so it made it easier for me to accept that although I love dance, I know I'm not going to be able to do it forever and things will be okay if I start over with something new. But mostly, they see how much I love what I'm doing and have been so incredibly supportive throughout the MANY ups and downs.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Dream bigger. The world is infinitely larger than you can imagine!
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
The ability to listen and observe. When you are able to actually listen to what people want for you and from you, you can understand how your relationship with them can further your growth in your career but also as a human! People want to work with people they enjoy being around!
Where did you study at?
I started studying dance at Rachel's Ballet in Fremont, CA and then went on to get my BFA in Dance at The Ailey School/Fordham University. I also went to a few summer programs during those years, Northwest Dance Project, Lines Ballet, Joffrey Ballet Chicago.
What do you love most about what you do?
At the moment, being able to bring a very important story about self-empowerment, heartbreak, and joy to people who need to hear it. When I'm not employed full-time, (which has been most of my career) I love the freedom of being able to plan my days however I like. It allows space to be inspired but also to rest and rejuvenate which is just as important as working!
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
In dance, we face rejection everyday. (I can talk about this topic for days!!!) But the way I've learned to cope with rejection has been to understand that the things that are meant for you won't pass you by. If you are wishing and hoping for a specific job or role and you don't get it, it can feel like the end of the world. But in reality, it's just another number in the books that is leading you toward a project that is meant for you. I don't know that I've experienced a biggest failure or mistake and I think in this industry it doesn't normally manifest like that. I think the hardest part is believing in yourself and your skills everyday, bringing that energy into the audition room and trusting that someone on the other side of that table will see the gifts you bring in you enough to give you a break. (It's hard fucking work!!!) You have to put a lot of faith into things that you can't control, I think that's the hardest part.
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