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NU alumna continues to shine in the Joffrey Ballet’s latest performance

Members of the Joffrey Ballet rehearse for ‘Modern Masters.’ Joanna Wozniak, a dancer in the production, said her time at NU largely shaped her identity.

Members of the Joffrey Ballet rehearse for ‘Modern Masters.’ Joanna Wozniak, a dancer in the production, said her time at NU largely shaped her identity.

Source: Todd Rosenberg

Source: Todd Rosenberg

Members of the Joffrey Ballet rehearse for ‘Modern Masters.’ Joanna Wozniak, a dancer in the production, said her time at NU largely shaped her identity.

Charlotte Walsh, Reporter

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Joanna Wozniak (School of Professional Studies ’16) describes the course of her education as “unconventional.”

She left her home of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, when she was 14 to go to the Harid Conservatory in Florida, a professional training school for young dancers. She dropped out of high school when she was 17 to begin dancing for the Joffrey Ballet full time. When she enrolled at Northwestern University for her undergraduate degree in business leadership, she was 30 years old and still working full time for the Joffrey.

“Many dancers forge unique paths for their education because the demand in this industry and the success of it happens often at a very young age,” Wozniak said. “I had always admired Northwestern and thought of it as this unreachable goal, and I just knew I had to do something with all the knowledge I had attained over the years.”

Wozniak is currently dancing in the Joffrey’s “Modern Masters,” a mixed repertory program that showcases works of revered modern choreographers alongside those of rising artists. The program runs from Feb. 7 through Feb. 18 in the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.

The show features pieces from two legendary choreographers: George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments” and Jerome Robbins’ “Glass Pieces” in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Robbins’ birthday.

These are performed alongside dances from two up-and-coming choreographers: “Body of Your Dreams” by Myles Thatcher and the world premiere of “Beyond the Shore” by Nicolas Blanc.

Ashley Wheater, the artistic director of the Joffrey, said the company is strong in technique and ready to take on the challenge of these dances.

“These are really iconic pieces that deserve to be seen,” Wheater said. “(It’s) about giving young choreographers the opportunity to have a platform alongside two iconic giants.”

Wozniak is a lead dancer in “Body of Your Dreams,” which she said plays on society’s obsession with physical perfection and fitness. She said the piece satirizes the idea that quick fixes can be used to achieve the body of your dreams, and features music that’s spliced with audio from advertisements for easy weight loss and exercise solutions.

Wozniak is currently attending the University of Chicago to pursue her master’s degree in business analytics. She said she feels the field is relevant to the future of business, and she hopes her education in analytics will allow her to have another career after dance.

School of Professional Studies Prof. Marina Davis taught Wozniak during her time at NU. She remembers her as a hard worker who constantly pursued excellence in both her academics and her dance career.

“Normally people choose to go to Northwestern because they want to better themselves,” Davis said. “Joanna was at the top of her profession already, but I think it says something about her that she wanted to continue to improve and become the leader that she can be. She doesn’t rest on her current success.”

Davis said she could see Wozniak’s aptitude as a leader when she saw her applying some of the leadership and conflict resolution skills she learned in class to her work at the Joffrey. She said younger ballerinas in the company look up to Wozniak, and seek her help in working out interpersonal conflicts.

As for Wozniak, she said she’s excited for “Modern Masters” to premiere to a Chicago audience. She added that NU makes up a large part of who she is no matter where she ends up in her career.

“When I was younger, I never knew if I would actually get a degree, because I knew I wanted to dance,” Wozniak said. “It’s great that Northwestern allows people to pursue those dreams.”

Twitter: @charwalsh_