Find Out What Inspires Choreographer Cat Cogliandro

Photo by Gage Crismond, courtesy Cogliandro

Cat Cogliandro's genius is turning paradoxes into powerful art. In her gestural contemporary choreography, vulnerability becomes strength and imperfection is beauty. Born and raised in Houston, TX, Cogliandro earned a BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase before moving to L.A. Cogliandro now teaches in L.A. and nationally, and choreographs for her company CATASTROPHE!, which was the second runner-up at the 2015 Capezio A.C.E. Awards. Here, Cogliandro tells DS where she finds inspiration. —Helen Rolfe

Traveling with family (courtesy Cogliandro)

Three years ago, I went on this great cruise around Asia with my parents. It was the first time I'd really traveled with my parents as an adult. I wasn't with any dancers; I was just being a totally normal human. I remember looking off the back of the ship into the water and being so inspired. I'm a Pisces, so it's my calling to be by the water. That was when I started to create to the indie rock group alt-J. I made a piece right after that trip, called Esmeralda, that was in my A.C.E. Awards show. It was about drowning, and probably one of the most powerful pieces that I've ever created.

Usually, it's that first moment of 'This song is talking to me!' that convinces me to choreograph. Sam Melo, the lead singer of my favorite alt/indie band Rainbow Kitten Surprise, is a dancer, too. There's something about their music where I'm like, 'Yeah, I know what he's talking about.' That's the music I connect to most, where I feel like the artist and I have experienced something very similar, or like they're singing to me. I also love Regina Spektor and old-school Ani DiFranco—just anyone poetic who speaks to me.

With Mike Esperanza (courtesy Cogliandro)

My favorite choreographer I ever worked with as a dancer was Mike Esperanza. I love the way he treats his dancers, inside and outside the studio. I bring snacks for dancers now, because that was something he did. We worked harder for him because he cared so much about us as dancers. I don't like to scare dancers. I've learned I can push them without making them question who they are as people. I want to up their self-esteem as much as possible.

Rehearsing "RIPE&RUIN" (photo by Joseph Spelman, courtesy Cogliandro)

Comedy really inspires me. My favorite movie right now is Just Friends. I love how kooky and weird Anna Faris' performance is. And I actually made RIPE&RUIN right around when I saw Wet Hot American Summer. The movie's quirky humor fed right into the opening of RIPE, where they're chanting and running around in the birthday hats.

Assisting Sonya Tayeh (courtesy Broadway Dance Center)

I have to give so much credit to Sonya Tayeh for where I am today. She taught me so much about how to be a professional choreographer: how to prepare, how to treat and push your dancers. Watching how she'd talk to and prep herself during "So You Think You Can Dance" was really inspiring. Working as her assistant was definitely one of the hardest and most educational moments of my career. I'd never really seen the commercial world before because I'd never been to L.A.­—I was a born-and-raised ballet, modern, and jazz dancer. I love her so much for what she taught me.

A version of this story appeared in the December 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Choreographer's Collage: Cat Cogliandro."

Dancer to Dancer
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

Keep Reading Show less
Cover Story
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)

If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.

Keep Reading Show less
Musical Theater



Get Dance Spirit in your inbox