Posted by: D.A.S. Chicago | March 7, 2011

Interview With UIC Dancing Flame, Kelsey Zakrzewski!

by Maria
March 1, 2011


Kelsey Zakrzewski (zak-reh-ZOO-skee), 19, is a full-time student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she studies Kinesiology. She is also a dedicated member of the UIC Dancing Flames, the official performance and competitive dance team at UIC. I sat down with Kelsey, and we discussed her everyday responsibilities. Kelsey revealed how she is and has been involved in dance, music, and theater for the majority of her life. Here at D.A.S. Chicago, we give young adults ideas for how to use dance, music, and theater to take their minds off of everyday obligations. Though Kelsey is mostly involved in dance, she gives excellent tips for using the three performing art styles to release the tension that comes with those everyday rigors of life.


Maria Thiakos: Everyone, whether a student, a full-time employee, or a parent, has daily obligations and obstacles they must face. As a full-time student at UIC, what are your everyday commitments?
Kelsey Zakrzewski: Well, I definitely have to commit to waking up every morning for class. It’s my responsibility to attend classes and learn information that is necessary for me to do well on assignments and exams. Plus, my exams and papers are never scheduled around the same time, so I always have something to prepare for.

MT:  You sound like a busy and hard-working student! I’m aware that you’re a dancer. What is it about dance that you like so much? How did you get involved with it?
KZ:  My parents took me to my first class when I was much younger just to get me interested in something, just as other parents put their kids in gymnastics or tee ball. As I got older, I found that dance became a way for me to escape to a happy place. (smiles) If I ever had a bad day or felt angry, I would hurry home and to go to dance practice, and later I would naturally forget about what I was mad about. It just makes me feel so good! Also, not to toot my own horn, but dance is a natural talent that I have. Knowing that I’m good at dancing makes me happy, and I’m motivated to keep doing it.

MT:  It sounds like a real passion for you! Do you continue to dance now that you’re a busy student in college?
KZ:  Oh yeah! I feel very fortunate to have been on the dance team here at UIC. If I had a schedule that didn’t involve dance, I don’t know what I’d do with my free time, or my life!


MT: I feel the same way! I need that sort of release too. Tell me more about being on the dance team. When and where did you perform?
KZ:  I came on the team during my freshman year. I definitely do not regret joining the team. The atmosphere is pleasant and energetic with no drama, and all of the girls get along very well. We performed at the UIC men’s home basketball games, and I had so much fun cheering for our team, as well as performing during time-outs and half time shows!

MT: Do you ever get nervous for a performance?
KZ:  I always get nervous before I perform! Since I’ve dance in front of many crowds, you’d think by now I would be used to performing and not get nervous. Once I get out on the floor and see all of the fans I’m comfortable because I stop thinking about what mistakes I might make. Even if I make a mistake I just shake it off when I’m done performing.

MT:  I understand that most of your dancing is done during practice. What are practices like?
KZ:  First we usually do a quick warm-up with stretching and then work on technique. For most of the time during practices we work on routines for competition and game performances.

MT: Does learning new tricks and routines come easy to you?
KZ:  Well over the years I’ve discovered that I’m a quick learner, so for the most part I am able to pick up a variety of new tricks, technique, and routines. However, whenever a particular move or routine is hard for me, I still have the motivation to learn how to do it.

MT:  Do you ever dance outside of practice or basketball game performances?
KZ:  Certainly! Whenever I’m in a bad mood, especially, I’ll grab my music, come to the studio, and just let loose! I like to goof around with choreography or make up new moves. Sometimes I’ll come to the studio with a friend and we’ll create new routines together or even try and compete playfully with one another. Coming to the studio to dance on my own or with a friend for an hour or two is quite the stress reliever. It definitely distracts me from my everyday obligations for a period of time, and when I’m done dancing, I am ready to go back and study.

MT:  Besides the dance team and in the studio, there are other ways or places to be dancing. How and where else do you dance?
KZ:  Actually, if you ask any of my friends or family members, they will tell you that I don’t stop dancing. At the cafeteria at the dorms they play popular music, and I’ll be dancing in the line while waiting for my sandwich! (laughs) I’ll dance on my way to class, in my room, or even during a test! To some people it may be distracting, but for me it’s enjoyable and sometimes therapeutic. It just relaxes me and is a huge reason to make me happy.

MT:  Besides dancing, I’m aware that you have a talent for singing as well. Tell me how you became interested and involved in singing.
KZ:  I actually first got involved during Jr. High when a former dance teacher of mine asked me to help with the choreography for a theater production she was helping to put on. I ended up auditioning for the musical, thanks to my mom. (laughs) This was my first theater production that I performed in, and after I started to take voice lessons. I took voice lessons for about seven years. After high school, I had performed in four community theater shows and three productions in my high school.

MT:  Impressive! Tell me about your theater experience!
KZ:  Well it usually wasn’t a problem for me to get parts in the shows because my dance teacher was the choreographer for the productions. I mostly had dancing roles, but as I got older and better at singing, I was given more speaking and singing roles!

MT:  Are you still involved with singing and acting now that you’re in college?
KZ:  Not really because school and dance take up all of my time, so I don’t generally have time to partake in any other activities. But I definitely sing when I’m in my dorm room, in the shower, or on the way to class. I use singing in the same way that I use dance to calm me for when I’m angry or upset. Sometimes I’ll blast my music, lie on my bed, and belt out a tune.

MT:  You seem to have a talent for each of the performing arts that D.A.S. Chicago talks about. Which of the three would you say is the most successful in taking your mind off of your daily obligations?
KZ:  I would definitely say dancing because it’s a physical movement where you can literally release all of the tension in your body. You can move every limb in your body to a further degree than you could with singing or acting. Plus, I’ve been dancing for most of my life and I naturally enjoy it more than singing or acting.

MT:  With school as your main commitment and dance as part of your life to take your mind away from school for a temporary period of time, would you say you have a balanced life-style?
KZ:  Absolutely! Now that the dance season is over, I have to make my own schedule that involves dance. This isn’t really too hard because doing homework all the time is frustrating and boring. After class, I usually do some homework, come to the studio to dance and later return to my room and finish my homework. I have definitely created and been maintaining a balance between my education responsibilities and my dance hobby. Dance will always be a part of my life-style, and I will always find a way to make it fit into my schedule. I will never stop dancing!

MT:  Well I can see it definitely makes you a happy girl!
KZ:  Oh yeah, totally!

MT:  Between dancing, singing, and acting, which would you recommend to others who are looking for something to give them a break from their everyday commitments?
KZ:  Honestly, all three are a great way to relieve tension. However, I would personally recommend dance. Like I said before, it’s a way to physically get away. Thought many people may not have the technical skills to dance, everyone can still move their body to music or sounds however they want. Dancing is definitely my number one choice.

Be sure to check out Kelsey and the rest of the UIC Dancing Flames next Wednesday, March 9th during the UIC Women’s basketball playoff game during the half time show at the UIC Pavilion at 5pm!

The Dancing Flames and UIC Cheerleaders at a Chicago Bulls game 1015/10


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