Senior Kayleigh Schadwinkel is looking forward to the future with her Put On Your Dancing Shoes project.
Kayleigh Schadwinkel ’16 couldn’t get it out of her head.
The same four words just kept following her around during her first few semesters at Doane: “Do what you love.”
No matter where she looked or what she heard on campus, something or someone kept saying it to her.
She was busy, sure. A business administration major pursuing minors in leadership and accounting, a member of three national honor societies and a Tiger Volleyball student-athlete.
But ask her if any of those activities was her true passion, and she knew, in her heart of hearts, the answer was no.
Dance and choreography—talents Kayleigh uncovered in high school—were what she truly loved to do, and it was more than just a hobby. She choreographed the 15-minute dream scene in the musical “Oklahoma” as a junior at Gering High School and, as a first-year student at Doane, helped a religious studies major develop and perform an interpretive dance for her senior capstone project.
The reactions of both the Gering and Doane communities to her work were so positive that it gave her the confidence to finally commit to doing what she loved in college.
“I realized that my passion is with dance,” Kayleigh said. “So I took a risk, decided to quit volleyball and sent out a mass email to the whole student body saying, ‘Come to the dance studio.’”
Two years later, she’s glad she hit send on that email. If she hadn’t taken the chance, Doane wouldn’t know her as the catalyst, president and founder behind Put On Your Dancing Shoes, one of the most popular student organizations on the Crete campus.
Out of those initial auditions in the George and Sally Haddix Recreation and Athletic Center’s dance studio back in the spring of 2014, she cobbled together a group of 20 dancers and five stage technicians and at one of their first meetings, harnessed their inspiration to build something together.
“I remember telling my dancers ‘A dance project like this has never been done before on campus. We have no idea what this is going to turn out to be, but we could be setting a standard and a precedent at Doane by developing this dance production,’” Kayleigh recalls. “You could just tell the passion in the room was ignited.”
Those were the humble beginnings of POYDS. Three years later, it’s expanded into a dance theatre production bringing 150 students together from all over the Crete campus.
• Acting and directing students from the theatre department.
• Speech performers from the nationally ranked Doane Forensics team.
• Doane Music instrumentalists and the Doublewide men’s a cappella group.
• Varsity student-athletes from sports like basketball, cheerleading, dance, track and volleyball.
• Representation from eight out of 10 Greek Life organizations.
• And dancers of all skill levels, from those with no experience to a lifetime in the spotlight.
“We definitely have people who come from all different walks of life and all different creative outlets,” says POYDS Vice President Michaela Steager ’18, a Fremont native who was a two-year dance team captain at Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo. “We have people who have never danced a day in their life…and then people like me and Kayleigh who’ve been dancing ever since we could walk. It taps into people’s creativity.”
POYDS—as Kayleigh can recite by heart—is here to educate, instill confidence and bring people together. Dancers, no matter their experience, are welcome to join.
The group spends each academic year developing, practicing and performing a year-end production. In 2014, its first established year, POYDS put on a movie-inspired performance show including references to “The Great Gatsby,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Titanic.” Last year the show was an ode to Nebraska’s history, specifically its involvement in World War II with an homage to Doane’s V5/V12 training programs for U.S. Navy officers.
In its final year with Kayleigh, the group looked back while looking forward at the process of growing up in the 2016 production “That’s Life: The Rhythm of Life: The Beat Goes On.” It integrated performing arts beyond dance including acting, slam poetry, vocal arrangements and musical medleys.
Over time, POYDS has become a perfect exercise in leadership for Kayleigh. She’s discovered, along with her own talents, some shortcomings but capitalized on each of them as an opportunity to share the spotlight with other performers at Doane.
“I’ve been trying to be really in tune with my strengths and weaknesses and delegate tasks to fellow POYDS members and others on campus to utilize their talents and showcase them,” Kayleigh says.
She’s surrounded herself with the talents of others. Kayleigh teaches many of the dance portions but also seeks mentoring from Rhea Gill, an adjunct professor at Doane with an extensive dance career. They’ve taught the group how to incorporate elements of ballet, contemporary, country, East Coast swing, hip hop, jazz, tap and several other dance styles into their choreography.
In the creative process, Kayleigh involves anyone and everyone.
“Just watching her dance or talk to anybody, you can see those cogs turning in her head. At the same time, she’s super laid back and just loves having fun,” Michaela says.
“She gives off such incredible energy.”
On the business side of things, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Carrie Lovelace Petr and former Vice President of Advancement Kevin Meyer mentored her on starting, sustaining and fundraising for the group. She’s worked with several other faculty and staff members to make the production into what it is today.
“The ‘College of doing what you love’ is one of my favorite sayings because it’s so true,” says Kayleigh, referencing one of Doane’s marketing taglines.
“So many faculty members have helped me attain my goal and even reach beyond it. I’ve been able to share my ideas and what I’d like to do with the dance projects with faculty and staff at Doane, and they’ve provided avenues for me to achieve my goals and to aspire higher than the standards set before me.”
And on a small campus like Doane’s, just about everyone knows someone involved in the project. Community is the esprit de corps.
“It creates a sense of family and home,” says Carl Santiago ’16, a theatre major from Bellevue and the director of the production’s acting segments. “It’s just a group of people who love dancing and being with each other and having fun. I think that’s what makes it so impactful. Doane is supposed to be a family, and POYDS represents that.”
Aside from the 25 hours a week Kayleigh worked on burnishing the group’s performance, she planned for her future after graduation. The Gering native doesn’t want to leave this group in the past—at Doane or in her own life. Michaela wants to keep dance projects going on campus after Kayleigh graduates in May, and Kayleigh wants to continue to educate and share her passion for dance with others.
She’s already reaching out to professional dance performers and business owners, writing a business plan and looking for jobs in performing arts venues that will allow her to utilize her skills in choreography, event planning and marketing. In the future, Kayleigh wants to put her own dancing shoes back on and make POYDS into a dance company and choreography business.
It’s all been one big learning process for Kayleigh, but you wouldn’t know it by the way her POYDS family follows her.
When she’s dancing, they can tell she’s doing what she loves.
“She is passionate, she is caring, she has a drive and she just has a spirit that gives off a good aura,” Carl says.