Today we’d like to introduce you to Randi Liberman.
Hi Randi, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, I was a very active kid, playing on many sports teams, attending summer camp and most of all, ALWAYS dancing. As far back as I can remember, dance has been a part of my life; from running around my living room performing for my dad’s video camera to taking classes in my after school program, to eventually training in my craft every day of the week. As a kid, my mom tried to put me into technical classes like ballet, tap and jazz although I was not interested and opted into a class called something like “Funky Steps” instead. I believe my little heart knew what it was waiting for, and when Hip Hop classes came around at the age of 15, I knew I had found my true passion in dance.
I have been teaching almost as long as I have been dancing, and I feel I am as much meant to perform as I am to teach & share. Growing up, every single birthday party of mine became a full-blown show which I choreographed and “staged”. I remember being in the 5th grade, and my dance teacher asking me to assist her teaching at another elementary school. She said, “If anybody asks, you are 13 and go to ‘So and So’ Highschool” since I was about to be assisting her with the 6th graders. I was already choreographing my own numbers and teaching them to my peers at the age of 14 at my community youth group and running a full dance program & end of summer show at my sleep away camp at 17.
By the age of 21, I was training with some of the best dancers in the city, teaching & coaching dancers of all ages, and attending McGill University in their Management/Business program. My parents have always supported my extracurricular activities but made a point of being clear that school always came first. They were therefore not thrilled when I decided to take on a lighter course load at school and less thrilled when I eventually decided to leave University to be able to focus on my true passion which was dance. Montreal has quite a small dance industry and so my focus was always on performing & competing with my crew, teaching and coaching other dancers, and eventually taking performing opportunities within my city.
It was at the age of 25 that I realized I wanted more and started to understand that this would mean venturing out of Montreal and ultimately out of Canada. I began doing my research on what this would entail and it wasn’t long before I was making trips out to New York and LA to begin training next to pro-level dancers from across the globe, all coming to these cities to learn from the best of the best. I also became familiar with the O-1 visa process and began my journey to apply for my 1st artist’s visa. For those who may not be familiar, the O-1 visa in a nutshell entails getting an immigration lawyer to put together your package which includes proof of all of the prestigious work you’ve accomplished in your field, reference letters from people you have and have not worked within the industry, an agency to petition your case as well as someone offering you work in your field for the three year duration of the visa you are applying for. It also costs approximately $5-6,000 USD, and then you must do it all over again in three years time. The idea of all this was definitely scary and overwhelming but something deep down told me that I would regret it if I never tried.
I was 28 when I finally received my visa acceptance and was making the move to LA to pursue my dreams of dancing with some of the greatest artists, next to the best dancers, in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Arriving in LA a bit older than many other dancers who move to Hollywood, I felt the pressure to catch up and to do it quick. Having already lived a chunk of my adult life in Montreal, I was grateful to know who I was as a person, to understand my boundaries of the things I was and was not willing to do and to be mature enough to humble myself from previous experience and start at zero in a brand new place & industry. Coming from a background of dancing with a crew for many years, I quickly needed to learn the Hollywood mentality of “Being the Star”, and this was definitely an adjustment. It would be eight months before I would book my first job in LA, meaning I spent months training in classes, hearing No after No in auditions and budgeting my every penny. Having an artist’s visa meant I could not work in a Starbucks to make ends meet when dance jobs were scarce, as I could only legally work in my field of expertise.
The first couple of years were not the glamorous LA life you might imagine. Sleeping on an air mattress for months before I could afford a real bed, scrounging to pay my rent while on my first (not yet paid) job and babysitting to make a few extra dollars were just a few of the hurdles. I knew that I had not chosen this crazy artists life for the money, but instead for the reward of knowing I’d followed my dreams and got the chance to experience certain opportunities I would never have otherwise, and it is my gratitude for these beautiful moments that allowed me to survive the extremely tough ones. Things didn’t necessarily get easier along the journey, but I got to know myself better than I thought possible and learned how to navigate my world in such an unstable and uncertain terrain as this one. Being able to persevere through difficult times, be resilient in the face of challenges while remembering to enjoy the journey are a few of the characteristics which allowed me to live out some of my wildest dreams. I’ve now had the opportunity to dance on some of the biggest stages across the world, doing what I love with some amazing people, and I would not change a thing about the crazy journey it took to get here.
Ever since I can remember, when others would ask “What do you want to do when you’re older?”, I’d reply with “Help people”. I didn’t know exactly what that meant or how I was going to do it, but I knew that was the goal. Thinking about this response in my life now, it has begun to make more and more sense. I believe dance for me is a means to an end. Performing is of course a personal joy but it also brings happiness to the audience. Teaching dance allows me to use my knowledge and expertise to help others better understand their bodies and ultimately to feel good about themselves through this new skill. I hope to be able to take all of the knowledge and experience I’ve acquired over the years and use it to help others pursue their true passions and reach towards their goals, whatever they may be.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I was just coming off of tour and was amped to hopefully have the opportunity to jump on another one in the new year. Obviously, the universe had other plans, and the world (of entertainment especially) came to an abrupt halt. I’m not the type to spend too much time waiting around for things to change, and instead, from all of my previous experience with obstacles being thrown my way, I rose to the occasion and decided to create my own online training and mentorship program. I called it The Virtuous Movement and based it around the key elements I’ve discovered and utilized along my journey in order to achieve some of my biggest goals. Why not take these tools I’ve acquired along my own path and share it with the next generation of dancers and non-dancers alike?! What started as a one-month, eight-person group of young hungry dancers grew to eight months, four program versions, and over 25 dancers of all ages ranging from 10-40!
There is really nothing more rewarding than helping others become more confident in themselves, believe in their own personal dreams, and then watch as they start accomplishing them!
Now having had the opportunity to check many of my dance goals off the list, I have begun diving into the world of artistic direction, production and choreography. The tools I have fought to acquire and used to get where I am today have shown me that truly anything is possible if you’re willing to believe in it and then put the work in to achieve it. I have begun teaching my own classes out here in LA and am also often asked to teach workshops and judge competitions back in Canada. Being able to give back in this way is one of my greatest pleasures, and I know this is only the beginning of my journey towards helping others. I believe the definition of success & goal of life is to be happy, and therefore we must strive for happiness on the daily. Yes, there will be obstacles, challenges and setbacks along the way, but if we can continue to pursue the things that truly light us up, find a way to keep on truckin’ when things feel tough, and to enjoy the process along the way; we’ll know we’ve made it.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Budgeting and staying out of the red zone can be a tricky thing when living the artist’s life, especially as a visa holder. Not being able to get a job as a barista to cover basic expenses, and having a job which can often be few and far between, means you must get creative in bringing in income as well as learn to budget. I quickly learned what my priorities were in terms of expenses and would often sacrifice a night out with friends to be able to afford dance classes that coming week. This will also reinforce the importance of balance in your life because restricting yourself from things you love isn’t always the answer either. Sometimes grabbing your favorite coffee with a friend can be more beneficial than forcing yourself to take another class that week because it “might book you that next job”. In my opinion balance is key, and by knowing this about myself, I can more easily bring myself back on track when I feel I might be heading towards one extreme or the other.
Something else that will often feel like an obstacle along the journey is the fact that not everyone in your life will understand your choices and be rooting for you. My parents were never hoping I would choose dance as a career, as they knew how unstable and uncertain the lifestyle could be. Although this was meant with good intentions, only wanting what was best for me; a more stable and less worrisome path, It was clearly not what was right for me. Over the years, it has been difficult for them to understand many of my choices in pursuing a career in dance and has lead to much heartache as every daughter wants approval from their family. But over time, they began to see how rewarding it was for me to accomplish these goals, live these once in a lifetime experiences and even use these tools to give back and help others.
I’ll leave you here with a little story depicting the type of risks you must sometimes take in order to reap the potential rewards that may (or may not) follow. As a dancer, being seen or known by the working choreographers can be a difficult task in of itself, but is often one of the more important aspects in being booked on the job. There was a particular choreographer I knew I wanted to work with, although I had never actually met in real life! When a contact I had from work back in Canada offered me the opportunity to audition for this choreographer for a Canadian award show, I knew I had to find a way to make it work. Making it work meant booking my own flight from LA to Toronto, sleeping on a friend of a friends couch for a week, canceling teaching work (and pay) I was scheduled for that week in Montreal, missing my best friends wedding and all for an audition, no guarantee of booking the job. Some may not be willing to give up paid work for potential work or risk ‘wasting’ time and money on some things that is so unsure, but as they say; the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, and I’ve grown to understand that sometimes you’ve just gotta take the leap. Not only did I end up booking this audition, but I ended up working with this specific artist on many more shows and with this choreographer on many amazing projects. Being a risk taker is never an easy road, but it can prove to be oh so worth it in the end.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was more of a shy kid when in public, but when in the comfort of my own home, you would have to try and stop me from singing and dancing my way around the house. The home videos of my sister and I performing are endless, and I believe that dance taught me to leave my shyness behind and eventually feel much more confident when in public settings.
From a young age, my parents instilled in me the concepts of patience, hard work, and treating others kindly. I believe that these qualities which I acquired quite young, definitely helped shape who I am today. They taught me that sometimes you must wait for the things that you want, that you must put in the work to achieve the expected results and that treating others with kindness and respect will lead to you being treated accordingly. These three things are in large part how I’ve navigated and persevered throughout my journey thus far, and without them I don’t think I’d be where I am today.
I remember always wanting others to feel included and accepted. Whether at school, dance class, or summer camp, I remember wanting others to feel happy by being a part of the team or activity that might be happening, and I think this is where my first inkling of wanting to help others came to be. I think it is a beautiful thing that the energy we can bring to a room can shift a group of people to a higher frequency and ultimately just brighten someone’s day. I try to take this concept with me everywhere and to everything that I do in my life now.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @randiliberman