Courtney Liu spent her pre-college life working towards a professional ballet career; she started performing with the Cincinnati Ballet at age 14 and moved to San Francisco to train at age 16. However, when the time came to start her career she made the life-changing decision to abandon the ballet world for Duke, in search of a well-rounded education.
She remembers calling her mom after the first day of class at Duke, amazed that her professors assumed she was intelligent. “They treated to me as if I was a thought leader and in turn I became one. I developed the eyes to analyze large systems built on inequality and the confidence as a leader to create a better world. It is from this place that I navigate my post-graduate life as an arts entrepreneur.”
Courtney seems to have done it all as an undergraduate, maximizing her decision to engage in a liberal arts education. She was a Resident Assistant on East Campus and the co-President of Sabrosura, the premiere Latin dance performance organization at Duke. She taught dance in China through DukeEngage, became a certified yoga instructor, taught ballet in Durham, performed in over forty dance performances at Duke, and volunteered as a Crisis Hotline Advocate with the Durham Crisis Response Center.
She majored in Psychology, earned a certificate in Markets and Management Studies, and completed a senior thesis related to her service on the effectiveness of dance for domestic violence intervention. Courtney was inducted into the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society for academic excellence.
After commencement, Courtney secured a research position at Bellevue Hospital/ NYU, studying heroin addiction. After a year of squeezing dance auditions and rehearsals into her free time, she asked her manager to work flex-time, and eventually gave her notice to pursue dance full-time. She has since toured with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Busch Gardens. She has performed in New York for Terra Firma Dance Theatre, De Funes Dance, Ballets with a Twist, Monica Hogan Danceworks, and BalaSole Dance Company. Courtney is currently a contracted dancer with the Peridance Contemporary Company, the “ballerina” for The Ride, and a vacation swing for Queen of the Night. Courtney also works part-time for the boutique PR firm, In the Lights, and continues to teach dance, yoga, and fitness classes.
Courtney credits her mom as her most important role model. “She is smart, kind, compassionate, and strong but most importantly she is resilient. When life throws her curveballs, she works harder, smarter, and with an extra dash of creativity. I owe all my successes, big and small, to her mentorship, love, and guidance.”
Piecing together a life that you love can be stressful and uncertain but Courtney tries to maintain perspective. She advises first-year Duke women to close their eyes. “When you feel stressed or diminished or disappointed, recall a time when you experienced those emotions as a freshman in high school. And then remember how you felt about that moment four years later as a senior. Know that whatever is happening now will pass and you will come out stronger and better than before. Just like high school.”