Today for our “10 Questions With” feature, we have a dancer from the Joffrey–Joanna Wozniak…
1. How did you become involved with dance?
Becoming involved with dance can happen in a number of ways, but the way it started for me as a little girl, was probably in my kitchen and around the house. Once I had gone to a few dance lessons at the ripe age of childhood, it became my walk. I danced around the house instead of walking. I also loved music, and that I could express what I heard and felt from it through my dancing.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I am currently a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet. We just returned home from a two week tour in California as well as a stop in Colorado.
3. Would you share a special moment from your career with readers?
I think one of the most special moments was when I had the opportunity to perform “the Chosen One” in Nijinsky’s “Sacre du Printemps”. This is for a number of reasons, when I first started dancing with the company, this was the first ballet outside of the Nutcracker that I performed. I was in awe of ballet, and in love with it, as well as the company and the experience of it. Being the smallest part was exciting. Nearly ten years later, I was able to perform the incredible part, in essence nearly coming full circle to something that meant so much in my life. Beyond that, I was fortunate enough to receive recognition in the part from Hedy Weis, in Pointe Magazine as one of the standout performances of the year. This was and still is such an honor in the difficult world of dance, especially to be amongst artists from around the world in multiple top companies.
4. What is the best advice you have ever received from a teacher or mentor regarding dance?
Over the years I have been told a number of things, I think it all helps. So I am having a hard time narrowing down that “best advice”. Two things that I think of are, “you really have to love ballet to succeed” which I think can translate into anything. You have to love and be passionate about what ever it is you are doing. The other would be the simple, “eat space” which is something to make you move and dance to your fullest potential. Also the idea helps one let go.
5. What has been your greatest challenge?
I think there are so many challenges in so many different ways, it becomes hard to rate them. One that could be, was getting into a company and being able to be a professional dancer. As a little girl, a part of me feared that it would not happen. Beyond that, I think there are challenges in our everyday. Everything from maybe a step or move, to emotional, musical, physical, and even just social challenges and financial. The challenges are throughout life, and in every different part.
6. Do you have any advice for dancers who want to go on to a professional career?
Have fun, and make sure you love and enjoy what you are doing. If that is gone, then rethink possibilities. Learn as much as you can from life and people, stay grounded, keep a good head on your shoulders, and above of all, laugh a lot and try to look at the positive side of things. Enjoy the little things.
7. Do you have a special routine that you go through prior to a performance?
Sure there can be routines, it mostly depends on the performance and what parts I am doing. Nothing though that is completely consistent before every show. Although before class, I like to do my foot and arm exercises, this is called injury prevention, I recommend that to any person that has had an injury or who has a part of their body that is weaker.
Do not let the social and environmental factors that are negative effect you too much. I feel that as a younger person, men may find themselves having to deal with negative surroundings and circumstances from peers, family, to stereotypes, etc. You are not a cookie cutter person, accept and enjoy what you do. If you are passionate about it and love it, then it is the right place and thing for you.
9. What do you enjoy most about your life in dance?
Where do I start? I am very lucky to be able to do what I love and am passionate about, even if that means being a character role, or standing on the side of the stage. The company I dance in is my extended family, we all care about each other. We just came home from a tour, and that aspect I love. Traveling and dancing on many stages, the audience, emotionally moving people, teaching dance, working with kids, music, live music, the list really goes on and on. Even with pain, disappointment, injury, and setbacks, it is such a wonderful place to be in.
10. What is next for you?
I am not exactly sure, but I do believe I will know when it is right. I have been going to school, and will be graduating soon with Associate in Science, which I am very excited and proud of. Then I will be transferring to another University in order to finish my Bachelors. This has been a lot of work for me, outside of my job since I can only go part-time, but if you keep chuggin’ along, you will get there eventually. Other then that, I am going to keep on dancing and I will let you know in the future.
BIO: Joanna Wozniak joined The Joffrey Ballet as an apprentice in November 2001 and became a full company member in August 2003. Raised in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, Ms. Wozniak trained with Sherry Moray, The Chicago Academy of Arts, and Harid Conservatory.
Ms. Wozniak has performed feature roles in The Joffrey Ballet’s production of Celebration, Crossed, Confetti, Le Sacre du Printemps, Light Rain, Lilac Garden, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Suite Saint Saëns and Viva Vivaldi. She has also performed in Sir Frederick Ashton’s A Wedding Bouquet and monotones. She has performed in Balanchine’s Square Dance and Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto.
She can be seen as a dancer in the feature film Save the Last Dance and performed for a year with the Alabama Ballet. Her other interests include music, books, teaching, and traveling.