I first saw junior Frank Pu’s dance moves at homecoming, where he gave an impressive street dance performance. As he stepped into a student dance circle, he kicked his right foot forward then quickly pulled it back, slid onto the ground, and started spinning. Afterward, he hopped back up and started moving in sync with the music. Then, in a burst of movement from his hands, he punched the air, leaving the audience wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
His performance at the Choreographers’ Showcase further demonstrated his talent. In the Showcase, he performed an impressive ballet number. Frank spun his fellow dancer around and seemingly pushed her forward while grasping her tightly. He sprung forward as lightly as a swan, gliding over the slick board on the stage, and did an incredible move with his hips. He threw his arms out and waved them from side to side, perfectly in time with the beat. Needless to say, the audience was enthralled by his performance.
There is no doubt that Frank is talented, seeing that he’s a versatile dancer who switches between different styles easily. He has made a name for himself at KO as a key dancer in both the Choreographers’ Showcase and the winter musicals. On top of that, he won the Dance Molinari Scholarship, which provides 12 consecutive weeks of classes, both online and in-person, taught by professional dancers and Broadway choreographers in New York. Despite his talent, Frank is a self-effacing guy who thinks he’s not that good at dancing in real life.
When I asked Frank about his scholarship and the program he’s attending in New York, Frank repeatedly emphasized to me that he’s not that talented at dancing and he’s just lucky. “It’s because of the Choreographer’s Showcase and the musicals which were able to give me the chance to show what I got,” Frank said. “I was just in the right place at the right time.” That is simply not true. Frank is not just good at dancing, he’s great at it. His moves, sometimes graceful, sometimes fluid, sometimes rigid, leave the audience amazed. He also works hard and earned every part of his scholarship.
I interviewed junior Johnny Kung who participated in the winter musical with Frank to get a different perspective on Frank’s dancing. He told me that Frank is a hardworking dancer. “Frank dances beautifully by putting in a lot of hard work and time,” Johnny explained. “That’s why I always see him practicing before and after rehearsals.” As I talked to Johnny, I told him that Frank sees himself as overrated. Johnny laughed. “I think if you have taken BC Calculus or AP Chemistry with us,” said Johnny, “you can agree with me that Frank is very modest. He downplays his efforts.” There is no doubt that Frank is a humble person. Imagine how difficult it must be to dance for hours and hours and get straight As in class. Seems virtually impossible, right? But somehow Frank gets it done.
Prior to his success in the U.S., Frank started dancing at a young age in China. He credits his interest in dancing to his father. “When my dad was young, he liked to go to nightclubs, and he learned a lot of dancing,” Frank said. “Whenever my dad’s showing off in front of me, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s so cool. I wanna be like that too’.” But Frank actually started dancing because of his mother. Frank explained that he struggled with his weight when he was young and that his mother put him in dance classes when he was thirteen because she heard that dancing is a cardio activity that can help people lose weight.
Losing weight is a hard process for many, but for Frank he found a passion through dancing. He has always enjoyed perfecting his dance moves, syncing them to the beat, thinking about ways he could improve himself, and even choreographing dances for hours without stopping.
Despite his enthusiasm for dancing, Frank does have some regrets. “I never got a chance to attend a formal dance competition,” Frank said. “I just missed a lot of opportunities to improve myself and to see a bigger world.” He was unable to take part in any formal dance competitions during his time in China because he was busy at the time preparing for his journey to the United States to further his studies.
Thankfully, he was able to continue his dancing career in America under the guidance of Director of Theater Kyle Reynolds, who introduced Frank to the world of musicals. “I only knew hip-hop dancing and street dancing before coming to the U.S.,” Frank explained. “But over here, it’s mostly musicals or ballets, so I needed to transition from hip-hop dancing to musical dancing. Mr. Reynolds was a huge help since he directed most of the musicals.” Frank credits Mr. Reynolds for opportunities where he could display his talent in dancing. For example, the scholarship that he earned.
However, Frank told me that his scholarship is a double-edged sword. On one hand, he gets to meet with so many talented dancers from Broadway. He was coached by the dancers from “Hamilton,” “MJ: the Musical,” and “Mamma Mia.” These have been great learning opportunities for him as a dancer.
In addition to his dance, Frank has a very rigorous academic schedule, which isn’t flexible. He spends a lot of time in New York City on the weekends to dance, which results in less time to learn and do homework.
How does he handle these kinds of situations? Well, his experience with dancing helps him. “I think about the big picture when I dance,” said Frank. “As a dancer, you cannot get everything perfect at the beginning. So I would practice over and over again. It’s also applied to how I’m studying, you know, trying to just really go over what we have to learn and practice what I’m not good at continually until I get it.” He also tries to squeeze in as much as possible in the time he has. He does his schoolwork during breaks between dances, while going to rehearsals, and even when he’s eating meals.
Dancing has been a big part of Frank’s life, and it will continue to be. He already has big plans for the future. Frank talked about how he wants to continue dancing in college, and hopefully finding a spot on Broadway. He hopes to become an inspiration for other students who love to dance at KO and beyond. He even talked about encouraging his kids to dance and enter competitions.
Frank’s continued dedication to his love for dancing when he has so much to do is admirable. As he dances across the stage in Roberts Theater, the KO dance studio, or studios in the heart of New York City, he finds joy and happiness that many still search for. Whenever he’s dancing, his worries slide away from him, letting him star in the center of his own show.