When Kathy Liu thinks about what drew her to the Ailey/Fordham BFA in Dance program, she recalls the strong technical dance training at the Ailey School and equally rigorous academics at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.

But just as important was a gut feeling.

“There was this moment when I visited Fordham after I had gotten accepted, and I was going down the escalator” in the Lowenstein Center, Liu says. “There was the ‘New York is my campus, Fordham is my school’ sign, and I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, okay, I think I can spend four years here.’ It was very clear to me that this was the place I belonged.”

Liu not only got the dance training that prepared her for her current role in the national touring production of Funny Girl, but she became an orientation leader on campus—in part to help students find their own “escalator moment.”  

A headshot of Kathy Liu in front of a red background.
Photo by Julianna McGuirl

“I loved the fact that everything was in its own little radius,” she says. “I was like, ‘Okay, I feel like there’s a little community for me here. Even if I am in this huge city where there’s a million things to do, I know I have this little pocket.’ I wanted other people to have that experience.”

Finding Structure—and a Spiritual Connection—Through Art

Growing up in San Francisco, Liu knew she wanted to attend college in New York City

“For me, it felt like a mecca,” Liu says. “This is where art is. This is where art flourishes. This is where art is appreciated. This is where we feel like we can be fully who we are and not have to hide anything, and just be allowed to be in community with the people who are the best at this in the world. There’s just really no other place like it.”

As she settled into the BFA program, she decided to pursue a minor in business administration “to have skills to bring to the table if I own a small business or help someone else with their business,” she says. And the first-year course Faith and Critical Reasoning was a formative one for her.

“Seeing how people create structure in their lives around religion almost reminded me of how I create structure in my life around art,” she says. “Regardless of what religion it is, it all comes down to the same thing: wanting to feel alive, wanting to feel appreciated, wanting to feel love, wanting to give love. I think that is my philosophy around art as well. It’s just sharing human experience.”

Since graduating from Fordham in 2019, she’s been sharing that experience with audiences as a dancer, actress, and model at places like the J Chen Project dance company, on Apple TV’s Dickinson, and as a cast member of Cabaret at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House. Now, she’s bringing her talents across the United States on the Funny Girl national tour, a yearlong job that began last August and will take her through this summer—and that has brought her to some new favorite cities, like Des Moines and Memphis, and to San Francisco for a hometown run. She says the Funny Girl tour feels like a culmination of what she’s been building toward. “I remember just crying, being like, ‘Okay, everything that I’ve been working toward and wanting and manifesting is finally coming to fruition,’” she says of finding out she landed a role in the tap-heavy musical. “It feels like a step in the right direction toward the rest of my goals.”

Creating Community on Campus

While dance and academic studies keep BFA students plenty busy, Liu also wanted to get more involved on the Fordham campus outside the classroom. She gave campus tours for prospective students, was an orientation leader, and served on the Senior Week Committee, which planned events and celebrations for her class’s upcoming final year—from a boat cruise and Dave & Buster’s night to information sessions on housing and personal finance workshops.

“It was community building and preparing yourself to be an adult and spending time with friends,” Liu says of her experience on the Senior Week Committee. “I just wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities that I had to connect with people and create relationships that were not solely focused on dance.”

Fordham Five

What are you most passionate about?
Sharing my art and being accessible to people who feel like I can be of help to them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Two: It’s not all about you, and everything happens for a reason.

What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
Oh, that’s such a hard question! I have to say Sheep Meadow in Central Park. It’s a little cheesy and basic, but it’s real. New York is my favorite place in the world. Once you leave New York, you’re like, ‘Oh, thank God I left,’ but then you’re like two, three days out and you’re like, ‘Wait, now I miss it!’”

Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. I did my senior choreography thesis based on it. It’s this somewhat fictional, somewhat based-on-fact short story collection. He theorizes how Einstein was imagining how time moves. It is so much about questioning reality and questioning your perspective on things. That’s been a basis for how I take things in and how I see the world, for sure.

Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
I loved Dean Milton Javier Bravo, who taught Faith and Critical Reasoning. I appreciated that he didn’t just see me as a student, he saw me as a human. He was like, “Okay, you’re on your own journey and this is my class, but what you bring to the class is more important than you just showing up and sitting here.” He was always trying to get everyone else involved in the class. On the Ailey side, the one who’s closest to my heart is one of my ballet teachers, Caridad Martinez. She’s a former Cuban ballerina, incredible technician. I loved her class so much. It was always the hardest class. I would make sure in my schedule that I could get into her classes, because she knew the way I worked. She was able to push me and be like, “Kathy, is that really your best? I don’t think you’re giving me your best today. I know you can do better than this.” I hope she knows that she’s been a big influence.