If ever there was a case for blazing your own trail to success, Kat Cunning’s rising stardom is certainly one of them. Back with a new single called “Stay On The Line,” Cunning is a study in fluid adaptability; time and time again, she’s made opportunities for herself in all the spaces where she once found walls – by tearing them down completely. “I think a lot of the stuff I do has been bred out of survival,” says Cunning. “Its been bred out of a lack of opportunity for me.”
Cunning understands first hand what it feels like to lose something you love because you don’t adhere to a stereotype. She’d dedicated her early life to studying dance, only to feel shame around her body after she hit puberty and suddenly didn’t fit the body type of the typical dancer. Moving to New York City after graduating from the Purchase Dance Conservatory – one of the best dance schools in the country – Cunning struggled to find work as a ballerina with a body type that didn’t fit the mold. Frustrated, she decided to break the mold entirely, eventually performing off Broadway with burlesque theatre troupe Company XIV and Cirque de Solei’s Paramour.
In New York’s burlesque community, Cunning was finally celebrated for her body, rather than shamed for it. “I shouldn’t have to hide my body because it is a dangerous form of arousal for people who can’t control themselves,” Cunning says. “I’ve spent my entire childhood in leotards, and tights, and less than that, and I grew up to be an adult in the burlesque community where I’ve felt more safe and celebrated than anywhere I’ve ever worn clothes.”
Cunning’s singing roles with Company XIV (in Nutcracker Rouge and Rococo Rouge, particularly) earned her major accolades when the New York Times gushed that her voice brought “an exquisite, indie-siren quality to a series of covers.” It was one of those fateful moments where it felt a new path had suddenly opened up, and Cunning could see a smidgen of hope in a forest of doubt. Even her family, who had originally told her not to quit her day job, realized her potential then, and Cunning forged forward, beginning to write and sing her own songs as well. She quickly found freedom in making her own music; it allowed her to create the kinds of worlds she wanted to exist in, as opposed to the structured, more patriarchal industry of classic ballet.
“Nina Simone wanted to be a classical pianist, and I feel like her relationship to piano is similar to my relationship to ballet,” Cunning says. “