Stick With It
Jessica Gwozdz '99
In dance, phrases are composed of quick steps, leaps, and turns that are designed to complement music. A good dancer is someone who has sound musicality and the ability to do choreographed movements to the music as they hear it. However, the best of dancers are those who freely take calculated risk to personify what they hear as they actively listen to the music. It is this very idea of flow and risk-taking that has led Jessica Gwozdz ’99 to open her own dance studio and experience great success.
Since the age of nine, dance has been a passion for her. In the fourth grade, a friend asked her to join a dance class for recreational purposes and, since then, she has been hooked. From dancer to studio administrator to instructor to studio owner, her passion for dance has provided her with various experiences in arts administration. Surprisingly, even though she loved dance so much, she didn’t commit to it as a profession until later in her life.
“While in college, I actually started out as a journalism major and wrote for The Beacon, but quickly realized that it wasn’t for me,” she admitted. “Following that experience, I decided to pursue theatre and focused on arts management.”
Alongside her studies, she managed to keep dance in the background.
“When I was a student, I was a cheerleader for both the basketball and hockey teams and made sure to take a few dance classes on the side. The College didn’t have a dance program, but I wanted to remain an active dancer.”
After she earned her degree, she found herself dabbling in different professions, but soon realized that she was unhappy. The lack of dance in her life created a void. Eventually, she was scouted for a dance administration position at Berkshire Dance Theatre by her former dance instructor and studio director, Susan Hakes '71, based on the skills that she acquired in arts management at MCLA.
“Sue knew what I studied while I was in college and offered me a job. It was great to be back in the studio and be in that environment,” she said.
After nearly a decade of working at the same studio, Gwozdz wanted something more.
“I wanted to go beyond where I was. I had a lot of ideas for different programs and recitals, but was never really presented the opportunity to act on them,” she revealed. “I decided to resign from my position and take a break from the dance lifestyle with no real intention of returning. However, surprisingly enough, I stumbled upon this space at 145 State Street in North Adams, MA that used to be a dance studio back in the early ‘80s; the studio was fully intact and didn’t require much investment, so I took it as a sign and just went for it!”
It has been nearly three years now since Gwozdz opened Studio North Dance Arts. Using what she learned as an undergrad at the College, along with her connections, set her off on a career path that has brought her great happiness. At one point, she felt like a glass ceiling and self-doubt were in the way of what she wanted to do, but once she found out there were those who believed in her, she realized that she was fully equipped to take a leap on her own.
“I didn’t think that I could open my own studio, but I had people that believed in me, so I took the risk and here I am,” she explained. “Working in the arts is tough, but if you stick with what you’re passionate about and use what you know, then you will be able to go to bed happy.”