Sometimes putting a face on an idea brings it all home. Well, press the link below for a 1:30 look at our first Dancer To Watch. We are pleased to introduce to you KATE HARPOOTLIAN.
Best Known Credits:
Dancing with the Stars
Carrie Underwood “Something in the Water”
Intro: She was the redhead who could do it all on 2015’s SYTYCD. By turns fierce, poignant, hard-hitting, soft as silk, classically jazzy, funky, lyrical ... She dazzled us in the top 14.
Originally from South Carolina, Kate moved to Virginia Beach to train with pro-dancemaker Denise Wall (aka Travis and Danny Tidwell’s Mom.) At the young age of 18, she made the big move to NYC by herself. Now, at 28, she feels she’s hitting the peak of her career. It hasn’t been an easy road, but she’s happier than ever before. Below we ask Kate questions you'll want answer to!
25 questions with Kate
Suzy: How did you decide to pick up and move to NY at 18?
KH: I knew I was going into the business for so long, college wasn't really discussed. This was before youtube and websites; I had no idea what college could offer me. I thought Julliard was just where Julia Styles went to school!
Suzy: "Save the Last Dance"! Ballet dancer goes hiphop on the big screen. What was the hardest part?
KH: Of being 18 in NY? Focus! Definitely, being on my own for the first time. Being a kid but not having school to go to. My schedule was a free-for-all.
Suzy: How did you deal with that?
KH: I had mentors constantly pushing me. Like parents, but really cool parents. "Girl, why didn't you show up to this rehearsal, or that class?!" You have to grow up fast on your own in New York.
Suzy: You were a cute blonde for the first part of your career. At some point you went crazy colors. Tell us why and how it affected your bookings?
KH: It started as streaks, then one day my colorist was like "I want to do a dusty rose, pink and purple." I said go for it. I love it. But it's a slippery diving board, once you start, you want to just keep doing crazy colors. Bookings - it separated me a little bit, you know, there are 20 blondes at the audition, but no pink and purple! It made me memorable, which is what you want at an audition.
Suzy: Did it hurt your chances for conservative jobs?
KH: I made sure they knew that I'm definitely willing to change my hair. If they asked, I'd show earlier pictures.
Suzy: I remember back when Carrie Ann Inaba booked Madonna's "Girly Tour"... but only if she'd shave her head. She didn't bat an eye, and she looked amazing. The fiercest one on that stage. What made you audition for SYTYCD?
KH: In 2014, I moved to LA and joined "Shaping Sound". During the second leg of our tour, I felt a little stagnant. I decided it was time to ‘go big or go home.’ So I went big. I didn’t think they'd necessarily go for a dancer like me since I’m a little less tricky and more about entertaining.
Suzy: Was there a downside to SYTYCD?
KH: It's a tough show on your psyche. You're trying to make a lot of different people happy; the choreographers, the judges, the behind the scenes people. Sometimes each different voice wants different things. You don't really have your own voice much of the time.
Suzy: Well major kudos to you, because you looked like you brought your whole self to every show. Was the physical schedule as grueling as it looks?
KH: Yes! Plus you always have to be camera-ready in full makeup. Makeup call might be 7 am, after you were up crazy late practicing with your partner in the hotel gym.
Suzy. How did you find the time for that?
KH: You just make the time. I had difficult partners at times, so I had to have a really good work ethic.
Suzy: What did you do with challenging partners in rehearsal?
KH: I just kept pushing them, and pushing them.
Suzy: Did your acting help you on the show?
KH: It was weird, because off the show, performance is my strongest quality... but on the show, wanting more was commented on the most. Maybe because I'm not a loud performer, which that venue seems to favor.
Suzy: Where did you train in acting?
KH: I do a lot of private coaching, because I like to move fast. In classes I'm impatient, I just want to get up there and try different things.
Suzy: Has dance helped your acting?
KH: It makes memorizing a lot easier. And in acting, you have to think about how this person stands, walks, and moves; it's not just about how they speak.
Suzy: You also sing. How many more jobs does being a triple threat qualify you for?
KH: In NYC, I'd say you qualify for 80% more jobs than if you just danced. It LA, maybe 20% ... but musicals are coming back, the Disney channel is huge; it's becoming more relevant.
Suzy: As I'm talking to you on the phone, they're loading the bus behind you for another "Shaping Sound" tour. Thoughts?!
KH: I'm really excited, it's our first day. I love touring. Seeing new places, plus these people are my best friends. If I ever had a birthday party, this cast is who I'd invite!
Suzy: When did you know you wanted to be a performer?
KH: I just always thought this is what I’m gonna do. It never seemed like I was supposed to do anything else. It was like a continuation of what I was doing since I was 4 years old. My parents were very supportive, they always told me to follow my dream and did all they could to help make it happen.
When I graduated high school, I took a year to train with Denise Wall in Virginia Beach. Other friends took a 13th year as well, and I had good friends at the studio. I was planning to do 6 months and then dance on a cruise ship, but I canceled the cruise ship because I realized I had so much more to learn. I also knew I had to learn to live on my own, like doing laundry, dishes, paying rent - before moving to New York.
Suzy: That was a bold choice, turning down a paid gig.
KH: I've turned down a lot of things in my career; certain jobs that would take me other places, or things where I intuitively knew my heart wasn't in that direction. It's a big risk, but I knew I wanted to be happy.
Suzy: What was that process like?
KH: Getting the job, then freaking out cause I knew I didn't want it! Feeling like I should take it, then taking the time to ultimately figure out it's not what I want.
Suzy: You really seem to know yourself. Name a personality trait that's helped you … and one you've had to overcome.
KH: To overcome: self-confidence and perfectionism. That can really take a toll on you. I had to learn to let there be room for error, that's important. What's helped me - my comedic side. I have a way of keeping the energy light, and making sure everyone's okay. A motherly instinct.
Suzy: Are you a mentor for anyone?
KH: The kids at my home studio. And at SYTYCD, they called me "Mama Kate" because I'm so much older than everyone.
Suzy: I forgot that you were 28.
KH: Yes, they all forget, even Nigel. I had full career prior to the show.
Suzy: Any disadvantages to being older at SYTYCD?
KH: My body didn’t recover as quickly, and I didn’t have that raw energy that comes with being young. I have a more mature sense of how I want to do things. My energy is not always in your face.
Suzy: What are your goals?
KH: I love choreo and teaching. And my acting has been on the back burner for a while now. It's hard to think long term in this business. I'd like to establish my voice as a leader, treat my dancers the way I want to be treated, and create a community where dancers get paid.
Suzy: As you know, there’s no one way to use our A4D website. How did you use us to help your career?
KH: A4D was a lifesaver in NYC. It had the most comprehensive list of auditions I could find. As a dancer who did both theater and company work, it had all the auditions in one place. I love real life information, it's not like someone who worked twenty years ago giving you cookie cutter advice. It's people in the industry, right now, speaking openly and truthfully.
Suzy: Like yourself. So what’s your advice for our members?
KH: Don't stop, don't give up. I'm twenty-eight, I've been working since I was eighteen, and for the first time in my career, I feel I’ve finally arrived and all the hard work has paid off. You can't compare yourself to the success of others who seem to achieve more in one month than you did all year. You have to keep going and realize others will recognize the hard work and dedication, and your time will come. It took me eight years, but I never gave up. It's made me that much more grateful for my achievements.
TOP 10 THINGS KATE DID TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS:
1 - Kept going no matter what
2 - Tried out for many things, including the scariest and biggest
3 - Switched up her look
4 - Found ways to self-market herself
5 - Knew her strength and limitations, and how to use both
6 - Learned to deal with rejection
7 - Rehearsed extra hours by herself to catch up
8 - Guided her career by turning down jobs that weren't right for her
9 - Adapted to challenging work environments without losing herself
10 - Took the time to prepare and mature before moving to the big city.
TOP 3 CHALLENGES KATE HAD TO FACE:
Challenge #1: CONFIDENCE
Kate insists she’s not gifted with dance.
SOLUTION: “I make up with it for perseverance and performance. I always had extra self-rehearsals after shows to work on my routines, because I knew I needed more time than most people.”
Challenge #2: REJECTION
Moving to New York at the age of 18, she’s had 10 years to learn how to deal with being cut at auditions.
SOLUTION: “I‘ve had so much rejection in my career, “but that determination to go on has kept me going. Young dancers need to know: it’s not the yes's and awards that will make them successful, but the rising above the no's and losses.”
Challenge #3: PERFECTIONISM
Part of Kate's confidence issue was her perfectionism.
SOLUTION: She recognized the connection between the two, and adopted a new philosophy that makes room for error.
5 QUICK FUN FACTS FOR KATE:
We gave Kate 15 seconds to answer each question. Ready? Go!
1 – Most embarrassing outfit you ever wore to an audition?
KH: When Victoria's Secret was hiring pointe dancers, I came dressed as a Victoria's Secret model. Everyone else came dressed as pointe dancers!
2 – What’s your go-to power snack?
KH: I like a lot of protein, so Epic bars; very pure beef bars.
3 – What was the last text you sent?
KH: Telling someone about their comp tickets for our show.
4 – Who is your Celebrity Crush?
KH: What?! No. Okay, Ryan Gosling's pretty hot, I'm gonna go with him.
5 – What’s in your dance bag right now?
KH: Oh my gosh, shoulder brace, dance sock, a bunch of stuff! I'm on tour, so basically my whole life.
You can follow Kate on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Kate Harpootlian has been a proud member of Answers4Dancers since 2008. To learn more about Kate, go to: