LOS ANGELES – Katy Tate is currently a teacher/choreographer/creative team member at Nappytabs Creative and on faculty for The PULSE Dance Experience, and has most recently worked on Super Saturday Night for Jennifer Lopez at the Super Bowl and World of Dance Live.
Prior to signing on with Nappytabs, she was dance master at The Beatles™ LOVE by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas for seven years, and before that was a dancer in Bette Midler’s 90-minute revue, “The Showgirl Must Go On,” Vegas revues, fashion shows and Walt Disney World. She has performed around the world as a dancer and model and now shares her talents through teaching and choreographing.
Q: How old were you when you started dancing?
Katy: I started at 3.
Q: Where did you grow up?
Katy: Longwood, Fla.
Q: Where did you learn to dance? What class or technique proved to be most beneficial in your professional career?
Katy: I continue to learn to dance every day but I started at Showtime Dance Studios. Then convention brought me a lot of knowledge. School of Performing Arts, Turning Pointe, Tremaine Dance Center in LA, Edge and Millenium – all of them and more. I can’t say that any one style was MOST beneficial, aside from maybe the pure foundation of ballet, but pushing myself to become skilled in every style was most beneficial. They all supported the growth of the next and allowed me to be the dancer who could do whatever was asked of me.
Q: How many years have you been a professional dancer? What and where was your first professional gig? How old were you?
Katy: I started doing more professional gigs around the age of 15. My first paid gig, however, I was about 10. It was a silly little gig being a dancing model at the mall for a faux jewelry company called Imposters. I remember getting a check for my “work” and thinking I was so cool.
Q: What was the key takeaway from dance competitions that prepared you for a professional career?
Katy: I grew up in a competitive studio. I found the experience to be quite valuable. Many lessons were learned, yet if I had to decide on one, it would be hard work and practicing the art of overcoming adversity. Whether it was a loss, not being cast in a number, not getting a scholarship … all of those were opportunities to learn positive ways to allow that to fuel me. Motivation from disappointment.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue this field?
Katy: I loved it. That’s all. You have to love it or it’s just not for you; it’s too tough.
Q: Your mom has been very successful in the modeling profession. How did this influence your career in both dance and modeling?
Katy: She knew the realism of the industry. She never gave me bubble gum dreams or pumped up visions of how good I was. She also wanted me to have a clear vision of my body image. We struggled with that as a mother/daughter relationship for a while. I took everything very personally while she was simply trying to prepare me for a world that was not as kind as my parents would be. She wanted me to be as strong as possible. Now that I have grown and am able to see myself more objectively, I’m pretty amazed by how she managed it all.
Q: Your dad and your brother are steeped in music. Has this affected your choices of music when choreographing, or in other ways?
Katy: Having our whole family involved in the arts made it much easier for us to not have any questioning about why we wanted to pursue such a career. Everyone understood the undeniable passion. We are each inspired and motivated by each other to this day.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received about dance?
Katy: Don’t take it personally. You will just get in your own way and waste valuable time.
Q: What classes, groups or training would you recommend for people interested in dancing professionally?
Katy: I have always been one to feel convention is beneficial for the amount of styles and influences you encounter. It also pushes you to challenge your mental capacity. Ballet, ballet, ballet, though. It will help you everywhere, even Hip Hop-based styles. Taking as much class as possible, that’s what it takes.
Q: How do you stay current on trends?
Katy: To be honest, I wouldn’t say I stay too up on trends. I am surrounded by the mainstream all the time now, but usually I am more of a studier of the past. Old Hollywood musicals and dance films, poetry, life experience, art … those are things that inspire my creativity.
Q: Do you have a favorite book, movie, song, musician, poem/poet or artist?
Katy: I could go on for days.
- Books: Code of the Extraordinary Mind, The Four Agreements, A Return to Love
- Music: Aaliyah, N.E.R.D.’s “No One Ever Really Dies,” anything Jason Mraz, Phantogram, Kanye, Gallant … the list goes on
- Artist: Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Degas, Van Gogh
Q: You have danced and modeled for every sector, and have traveled and lived around the world performing and teaching. Do you have a favorite place to dance, and do you prefer teaching or performing?
Katy: At this point in my life I prefer teaching. I loved performing when I did, but teaching makes me feel like nothing else. It’s an exchange of love and learning on both sides. It is one of the most beautiful escapes I have discovered in this life.
Q: How many classes, on average, do you teach per month, being a featured instructor/choreographer on many national rosters? Do you have a favorite place to teach, or a favorite group to choreograph?
Katy: I currently teach for The PULSE Dance Experience. Teaching is my favorite thing to do. It takes me back to the hunger I had when I was the one on the floor. I am so lucky to share in that with these new talents. There is no place specific, just any room where people gather to share in the love … that is my favorite place.
Q: You’ve left your indelible mark on The Beatles™ LOVE by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, serving as the dance master for seven years. What were some highlights from your experience there?
Katy: I learned so very much in that medium. I was exposed to new cultures and communication, inconceivable abilities and creative construction that made me think differently. I was also a student to the trials that come with a long-running show of that magnitude. I am very grateful for my time there, and I don’t doubt that I may return to work for the company again in the future.
Q: You were often the spokesperson at various news outlets during your reign at LOVE. What percentage of your job is devoted to business and marketing, and how do you prepare for interviews?
Katy: At LOVE, I did quite a bit of that. It comes with the push or advertising of a new project. I just make sure I am up on the information I need to speak on and then, I have found, it’s better just to relax and have a conversation. Makes it easier on everyone.
Q: It would be difficult to count all the celebrities with whom you’ve worked. Do any stand out?
Katy: At the end of the day, everyone is just working hard and most times the ones I put on more of a pedestal are not the “celebrities.” Of the celebrities I’ve worked with, Bette Midler is the one who left me most in awe. She works SO hard. She is a legend; watching her incredible history and groundbreaking, never-before-seen talent from the roots to her unbreakable drive now, you see exactly why. The work she continues to put in and how she owns the stage, I could never watch her and not just be a fan.
Q: You are respected for being an inspirational, creative and patient dance instructor and choreographer. Do you have a process for understanding your students, and how do you encourage them?
Katy: We are all the same. I see myself in them, and I hope they do the same. We are all there because we love it. We share the same desires, insecurities, challenges, fears, loves. We are all one tribe, growing and learning together.
Q: Do you have any pet peeves about the dance world?
Q: You have recently relocated to Los Angeles to start a new journey with Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo (widely known as Nappytabs). Can you share a little about what you’ll be doing, and how this opportunity came to be?
Katy: Napoleon and Tabitha came in to work on LOVE’s refresh about two years ago. Throughout the process, we built a very close working relationship, and at the end of it all, they offered me the opportunity to assist them on all their projects if it was a jump I wanted to take. I saw the chance to learn so much and challenge myself in new ways, so in August of last year I moved to LA to start this new chapter with them. Our projects are always different. From TV to stage to film, it’s always new, fast-paced and challenging.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Katy: Every day presents new challenges. Lack of sleep, unknown working environments, challenging people, technical challenges, creative problems, disagreements … they all come. You just have to roll with them.
Q: How high of a priority is it to collaborate and network in the entertainment community? How do you form friendships in such a competitive world?
Katy: It’s all about relationships. How you speak to people, how you respect people, how you treat people, how you appreciate people, how you learn from them. I try, as much as possible, to not view people as competition but as inspiration and teachers. Everyone will teach you something if you are open to it, and that just makes you and the team you work on better.
Q: What advice do you have for people wanting to move to L.A. to pursue a similar career?
Katy: Work hard, be humble and be persistent.
Never get too involved in yourself. Look outside of YOU.
Q: Do you have an agent or manager? How did you decide who to sign with, and how important is it for dancers to sign with an agency in L.A.?
Katy: I do have an agent. My agent is someone who has known me since I was very young, and I am so lucky to call her a friend. She and the team help me to see where to move my career and do the legwork in negotiation and promotion. I’m very thankful for their belief in me and their vision. In L.A. and NYC, you absolutely must have an agent; in Vegas, no. It depends on the size of the industry and type of work found in those places.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career?
Katy: I suppose still being in it and continuing to grow. Every new day is a blessing in this career. It’s a tough one, and I have been very blessed.
Q: To what or whom do you credit for your success?
Katy: Oh my goodness, too many to say. All my dance teachers, friends, family, inspirations. Most all of them instilled in me the benefit of hard work. If I had to choose anyone specific, it would be my parents. They have been my support, my realism, my motivators, my shoulders to cry on, my tough love. They have been everything I’ve needed in every facet of my life, and I could never thank them enough. You can’t lose if you don’t stop trying.
Q: What is next for you? What goals have you not reached yet?
Katy: I would love to build my personal life. Build a family. I will always want to push for more growth in my career, yet my personal life has certainly taken a back seat. It’s time for that now.
Q: Do you have any other important stories, advice or information you would like to share?
Own yourself, know yourself, accept yourself. Don’t fight against.
To hear Katy share some more of her story, watch this interview from 2016 with James Hsu:
Follow Katy on social to stay up-to-date with her journey: