Today we’d like to introduce you to Cat Cogliandro.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born in Houston, Tx, and grew up in a little town called Humble. My parents threw me into dance when I was about three …and when I turned six, they took me to a studio in Kingwood, TX. There, I began training in ballet, jazz and lyrical…and when I was eight, I auditioned for the competitive dance team (think Dance Moms without the abuse.) I made the junior team…and I remember feeling like, wow. I love this feeling. I need to do this forever. I also, from a young age, knew I was different. My artistry, my integrity, my drive. Dance was EVERYTHING to me. Still is.
Time passed, and I continued to train as a competitive dancer. At the age of 13, I was invited to train with a pre-professional ballet company, so I traded in dance competitions for pointe shoes and six days a week of ballet. This was hard for me…I struggled with my weight, body image, and ideas of perfection. After a year or two, I went back to the competition team. My senior year of high school, I talked my parents into letting me audition for dance schools. I knew that was what I wanted and they knew…I wasn’t going to budge. They have always been, and still are, the most supportive people in my life. I auditioned for a few schools, didn’t get into my dream school, cried…and days later, got an acceptance letter to Purchase College in NY. I decided to go there.
That was even harder for me. I was a big fish in a little sea…and dance school challenged my ego. My safe space. For four years, I struggled. I struggled with drugs, alcohol, body dysmorphia, an eating disorder, horrible self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. My teachers were hard on me, and I didn’t have an easy time making close friends…I was lost. The summer between my junior and senior year, I did a summer internship with Broadway Dance Center, and for lack of better words, it changed my life. I went back senior year with a new head on my shoulders and graduated proudly. One of my teachers called me “a success story.”
College was hard. I trained in ballet, modern and composition—which I fell in love with. I knew I had a gift for choreography and that it was my calling to work with people. I knew I had a lot to teach from my struggles, and never felt shy about sharing openly. When I graduated, I moved to NYC, where I did every odd job I could to make money. One day, an old friend from the BDC internship called me and asked me if I wanted to interview for the retail store. I said yes…the rest is history.
I started, truly, from the bottom up. From working retail at BDC, I met my (now) best friend, who was also the director of the Children/Teen program at BDC. She asked me to teach a private for a kid at 7:30 am one day, and I said yes, and after she saw me teach…hired me for the CTP where I worked for three years. I loved working with kids…and through them, I discovered and evolved better self-esteem for myself. One day, I was working late (still doing retail and teaching for CTP) and one of the teachers didn’t show up to teach their professional class…or as we call, open class. I stepped up…and that was it. It was my chance to prove my teaching abilities, and I did. I was given my class a few months later…and have been teaching professionally ever since. My classes have been called spiritual, inspiring, life-changing, and “there’s nothing like a Cat class.” I now teach nationally and internationally…and at some of the most famous dance studios of our time.
I also created my own Dance company, CATASTROPHE! The dance that celebrates self-love & uniqueness. I’ve always been different. I’ve always done things “My” way…and have always learned things the hard way. I’ve always been a hard worker, highly passionate, and fearless when it comes to speaking my mind. Especially when it comes to children. I worked with a youth protection advocacy in LA for two years called YPAD, and they were the final switch for my “need to awaken.” I owe a lot of my education and self-awakening to them…I LOVE teaching and helping people connect with their souls via dance. My dream is to help heal a broken world, to give children a voice/resist being sexualized and commodified, to remind people of their worth. To help them with self-love& self-acceptability.
Today, I travel the world teaching…children, adults, whoever wants to listen. My main genre is contemporary…but I often train in hip-hop. Now, I work at the world-famous Millennium dance complex in LA, Movement Lifestyle in LA and Broadway Dance Center in NYC…I’m currently based in LA and am working (trying, dreaming) to become more involved in the commercial industry—i.e., commercials, music videos, tv, and movies. I believe my message needs to be heard…and have watched it save people time and time again, including myself. The training and experience I’ve gained (am gaining) along the way are too much to write here…but more than anything, my uniqueness comes from my ability to speak up — something we don’t see a lot of in our industry. And my dance style…it’s its own thing for sure 🙂 I’m a storyteller, a human connector. I am unique, unapologetically me.
Please tell us about your art.
My art= dance…my passion=dance music. Rather than calling myself a “choreographer” I like to think of myself as a facilitator of movement. I drive dancers to tell stories based on their own experiences, and from there, we create. I usually always start my process by choosing a song. From the song, I let myself become reminded of something… whether it be a bad break up, an embarrassing moment, a silly thought, etc. From the story I have then imagined, I “typecast” or pick my dancers, based on the story I want to tell. After choosing my dancers, I schedule a few rehearsals…….We spend hours in the studio listening to the music, talking about what it means to us, creating movement, changing it, rearranging it…. The work is also much improv based, which means the dancers have the chance to put themselves into the work. The more personal the process, the more our audience feels it 🙂
I hope people take whatever they want from my work…my goal is to connect. For people to see my work and be like, “ohhhhh wow. Yep. I know exactly what that feels like…what that is…wow, am I crying right now?” More than anything, I want my work to allow people to feel. To escape their worlds and join mine. I always think of my mom when I create b/c… dance is for PEOPLE, not just for dancers. Sometimes she’ll see shows and be like, “what the heck was that even about?” and that’s always in my mind…b/c I WANT people to understand. I want them to be touched deeply and to be “triggered” into thinking about their own lives. Dance is meant to heal…and that’s always been my goal.
As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
Great question. Growing up in the industry I thought success meant how many jobs I got, who I was working for, how much money I made, etc….but now, as I’m getting older, I’ve realized success just means my happiness. Am I truly doing what I love? What I want to do? Am I keeping my integrity? Is my art expressive or am I watering it down for the masses? I feel the most successful when I am authentic, calm, and understanding….
This is a hard concept b/c our industry wants you to feel like you’re replaceable. Like…everything comes and goes in style…but I disagree. Success is just…doing what you love and without worry of what others might think. What do I think is essential to the success of an artist? Confidence. Self-Love. High self-esteem. Do I think artists can create through the darkness? Of course. Some of my best work came from some of the darkest times in my life……..but I was miserable. I guess realizing your miserable and being ok with that is accountability…. So maybe it requires awareness and accountability more than anything. Knowing where you are and being able to create from there without TRYING to impress, or TRYING to do your best work, or just TRYING b/c you want to be approved of.
Success, also to me, is watching people’s lives change. I had had mothers contact me after some of my classes saying, “my kid was suicidal before she took your class…you changed our lives.” That shit…man. There is no feeling like that. To know you’re helping others……
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
We perform live shows here in LA… sometimes in NYC…or wherever we are called to perform. But living in LA means most of the work is on camera….so you can find some of my stuff online…mostly on YouTube and Instagram.
- Website: catcogliandro.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @cat_cogliandro
- Facebook: facebook.com/catcogliandro
- Twitter: @cat_cogliandro
- Other: youtube.com/catcogliandro
Dakota Elizabeth, Bruno Lopes, Ernna Cost, Gage Crismond