Meet Abby Chung: From Janet Jackson to Bloc LA
19-year-old Abby Chung is leaping into her own professional dance career with her first big move—signing with major talent agent, Bloc LA. Dance Writer caught up with Abby exclusively to chat about her flourishing dance career.
You have recently signed with Bloc LA, which is a great achievement. How hard was it to land a prominent agent? How has your experience been working with this agency?
Thank you! Bloc LA has always been my dream agency. They represent some of the most respected and talented artists in the industry. I feel so honoured to be joining their agency. I found representation through Bloc’s annual open-call audition. An insane amount of talent showed up to compete for spots—it was honestly a little intimidating! I put all my focus into trusting my body and the training I’ve put it through, and I was fortunate enough to be chosen in the end. Working with them has been incredible—it’s so comforting to know that in an industry that I am still learning to navigate, there’s a team of experienced professionals who have my back! Bloc has been an incredible support to me on my career journey—I’m so grateful for our partnership and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Not many dancers can say they have performed alongside Janet Jackson. When did you perform? How intense was the audition process for this role? And, how was the experience performing for one of the greats?
In September 2015, I danced back-up for Janet in my hometown of Edmonton for her Unbreakable World Tour! I was only 15 at the time, and now that I’m older and more established in my career, I can really appreciate just how pivotal that opportunity was for me. Her assistant choreographer taught a masterclass at my home studio—none of us had any idea it was really an audition. We learned her original choreography to Rhythm Nation and performed the routine in groups. Afterwards, the choreographer asked a handful of us to stay back and asked if we’d be interested in performing with Janet the following day! It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Dancing alongside such an iconic artist in the arena I’d grown up attending concerts in was a huge full-circle moment for me. It really reinforced my dream of pursuing a career as a professional dancer.
You have also worked on the screen as well. Can you tell us more about Undercover Cheerleader? How was the transition from stage to screen for you?
Yes! I recently appeared in the Lifetime Movie Undercover Cheerleader as a featured dancer. The film is about a transfer student who goes undercover as a cheerleader to expose the toxic culture of the school’s cheerleading team. It was released on September 15 and is currently available to stream in the United States! It was the first time I’d been part of a large-scale film production, and I really enjoyed the experience! It’s something I’d love to do more of in the future.
Where did you grow up and train? What made you want to pursue a career in dance? What type of dancer do you consider yourself as – commercial, hip hop, contemporary?
I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. I’ve been dancing for more than 15 years, ever since my mom enrolled me in local classes at age four. Initially, dance was a hobby for me. I took more and more classes on each year and by the time I was 10, dance became my passion. I was undertaking an intense training regime, dancing up to 20 hours per week across a variety of styles. I wanted to gain the necessary tools to pursue both commercial hip hop and contemporary dance opportunities should they present themselves to me—training in every style I could felt like a way of keeping my career options open. Performing with Janet Jackson was the first time I truly felt that my dream of dancing professionally was attainable. Ever since, I’ve been working hard to bring those career dreams to fruition.
The dance industry in the US is far more substantial than in other countries. From your perspective, how hard is it for dancers to land decent paying dance gigs?
The dance industry in the US is certainly competitive. I feel no shame in admitting it—I have some adapting to do! It’s harder to land gigs in a market that may be more saturated, but the highly competitive nature of the industry here builds up incredible dancers. It’s definitely helped me to establish a stronger work ethic and thicker skin. I believe connecting and networking with other artists/choreographers is a huge factor in booking work. Say you’ve assisted a choreographer on-and-off for a few years—maybe they get asked to choreograph for a world tour and need someone to fill positions/refer former clients to. They’re far more likely to turn to you than a stranger. Social media could also play a role in finding work as a dancer. If someone has established a strong presence online—it could be of benefit; think of your Instagram profile as a sort of portfolio for potential employers or agents. Above all, I think opportunities come to those who work hardest for them. If you have a genuine love for this industry, and you’re willing to put in the work and determination necessary to succeed, the opportunities will come.
Who has been most influential in your dance journey? Why?
Alexander Chung, hands down. He’s my older brother, an incredibly talented dancer and choreographer in his own right, and has been my mentor since day one. He’s trained me, advised me, and provided for me more than any other artist I’ve worked with. He’s invested in me and inspired me for over 10 years, and is a huge reason I am where I am today. In terms of innovation and genuine love for dance, there’s a number of artists inspire me. For urban choreography, I love artists like Diana Matos, Caetlyn Watson, Mecnun Giasar, Kelvin Tu, and Joe Tuliao. For Jazz Funk, I look to Brian Freidman, Hamilton Evans, Blake Mcgrath, and Dana Alexa. In Contemporary, I’m most inspired by Shannon Mather, Talia Favia, Megan Lawson, and Travis Wall. I could go on!
What has been a big setback or challenge for you that you have had to overcome? Perhaps it was an injury, maybe you didn’t land a role that you really wanted, or something else that affected your dance journey…How did you bounce back?
Aside from circumstances I can’t control, such as an injury or a job I don’t land, my biggest obstacle in my dance career has been myself. Pursuing dance means living and breathing that art form, seven days a week. I can’t show up to one class and consider my work for the day done. I have to eat three clean, healthy meals a day to fuel and care for my body. I have to spend my time outside of classes and gigs working out and building muscles to aid my craft. I have to train in anything and everything to prepare myself for any potential opportunity. I have to embrace rejection. I have to constantly push myself to step out of my comfort zone. I have to give my mental health as much attention and care as I do my physical health.
But pursuing dance also means waking up everyday and truly loving what you do. In my dance journey, I’ve found that being consistent and persistent with my goals on a day-to-day is the challenge for me.
My advice to other dancers would be to work hard for what you want. Nothing worth having comes easy. Making the choice to pursue professional dance isn’t easy. An agent won’t come easy. High profile gigs won’t come easy. You have to truly love this art and be willing to work harder than you ever have before to have a shot at making those dreams come true.