By Kate Luce
For eight years, the IU South Bend Tap and Kick Line has been dazzling the community with their tap performances. The dancers are all IU South Bend students, representing a variety of majors, but with one thing in common—the love of dance. Participating in the Kick Line has given these students the opportunity to rehearse and perform together and has offered a special bonding experience that they all agree has contributed to their success in both academics and in the world beyond the Kick Line. The Kick Line has proven to be a vital piece of each of their success stories.
Jillian Rucker, BA General Studies ‘14, is currently a dance instructor for the YMCA in upstate New York. As a dance instructor, she is using the experience she learned with her time with the Kick Line in her profession.
Originally, she joined the Kick Line because her parents encouraged her to join.
“My biggest cheerleaders in my life are my mom and my dad. I was interested in the Kick Line, but they really cheered me on. I auditioned the day after my father died because I knew that’s what he would want me to do,” Rucker says.
While in Kick Line, she gained many friends that supported her through it all.
Sam Angelina, BFA Musical Theatre Performance ‘19, originally joined Kick Line because she was into tap dancing and wanting to continue working on these skills. However, as she continued to stay in the group, it was much more than extra practice.
“Kick Line gave me an outlet outside of my degree requirements and motivated me to do well in classes, so I can stay with the group,” Angelina says.
As of now, Angelina is a full-time graduate student at Ohio University pursuing a master’s degree in Costume Design and Technology.
Nich Sikorski, BFA Theatre Design with a concentration in Lighting Design ‘19, did not have to go too far to find a profession that he thoroughly enjoys. Currently, Sikorski is working as the Performing Arts Director at Penn-Harris High School.
Originally, Sikorski was in the IUSB Dance Company and performing in West Side Story at the Morris Performing Arts Center. Karen Pajor, Tap and Kick Line instructor, wanted to expand the group into a co-ed group, so he and two others joined the Kick Line.
“At the time, I was exploring different types of dance styles and tap was one that really spoke to me, so I enrolled in Tap 1 and have been tapping ever since. What made me join the group was my friends, they also were recruited to the Kick Line,” Sikorski says.
His time with the Kick Line proved to be much more than just dancing. With Kick Line, Sikorski became a more disciplined student, showing up to class on time and completing his work. In all, it helped Sikorski graduate. It was because of the group’s positive attitude, and the view that nothing is impossible that carried on past college life.
“If it wasn’t for how close we all become from being in the group along with Karen’s guidance and care for her students, I probably would not have finished school. Before Kick Line, I was not the best student in terms of completing work or coming to classes regularly. It wasn’t until I joined the Kick Line that I became more disciplined, and I have Karen to thank for that,” Sikorski reveals.
In addition to graduating, Sikorski also met his soon-to-be wife, Rebecca Kenna, through the Kick Line. Kenna joined in 2014 and met Sikorski.
“There was just something about her that stood out from any woman on the planet, she was and still is absolutely stunning. If it wasn’t for Kick Line I would have never met the woman of my dreams,” Sikorski says.
Rebecca Kenna, BFA Integrated New Media Studies ’17, is currently the lead graphic designer for Coach Guard in Elkhart.
The decision to join the IU South Bend Kick Line came easy for Kenna. At seven years old, she began tap dancing. As it came time for college, Kick Line was a way to keep up with her tap skills.
However, Kick Line brought Kenna much more than new dance routines and tap skills. It provided her with much needed positivity that made college enjoyable.
“Joining the Kick Line helped me as a student because I was surrounded by such positive people, Karen Pajor especially. She's such a great role model and genuinely wants each one of us to succeed. Starting off the day, three days a week, with an instructor so full of energy and positivity really helped me to enjoy my college experience.
Kenna was a shy person, but with the positive energy of Pajor and her fellow students, it was easier for her to open up and create lasting friendships. One of these friendships happened to be with Sikorski, who now is Kenna’s future husband.
“I think it's safe to say that Kick Line changed my life for the better, and I wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't joined and met the best friends that I have now. I love the path of life I'm on right now, and I have to give a lot of credit to Kick Line. I found the love of my life, my soon-to-be husband by joining. Nich and I may not have been the close in the beginning, but I'm thankful that Kick Line brought us together and closer as the years went by,” Kenna says.
Leeah Killingbeck, BSED Elementary Education ’15, is now a second grade teacher at the Success Academy South Bend.
Killingbeck was introduced and fell in love with dance in high school. When it came time for college, she was involved with dance classes at IU South Bend.
“In my first couple classes, I was introduced to Karen and her tap classes were amazing! Her energy is electric! She brought up an opportunity to audition for the IU South Bend Tap Kick Line. I didn’t know if I would be good enough then, but I’m so glad I took a chance and went to the audition anyway,” Killingbeck enthuses.
She got into the Kick Line, soon becoming a major highlight of her entire college experience.
“I felt like I belonged there. It offered camaraderie, and dance was great stress relief when school got tough. We were truly a team,” Killingbeck says.
During her time with the Kick Line, she learned that joy is infectious, stress management is important, and doing something for yourself is never a selfish thing to do. She now brings to her classroom a “let’s try again attitude” that she learned while involved in the group.
Jane Farrand, BSB Entrepreneurship and Small Business ’17, had always wanted to join the Kick Line because of her love of tap dancing, but due to her schedule, she had to wait until her senior year to become involved with the group. Although she wishes she could have joined sooner, her involvement with the Kick Line was memorable and positive. Currently, she is a costume coordinator and dance teacher at Premier Arts in Elkhart.
During auditions she was nervous, but with group’s encouragement and help, Farrand was able to feel at ease with her abilities.
“I remember being super nervous about being able to pick up choreography quickly enough. When I joined Kick Line, I was currently in my first tap class with Karen. I had taken tap before, but not with her. Her style was different and I wasn’t confident in many of her favorite moves. Everyone was very encouraging and helpful and in no time I felt like I’d been dancing with them forever,”
Dancing allowed Farrand to have something to look forward to on-campus. It helped her have an outlet that did not have the stress of a class.
“When I was in rehearsal I was able to just have fun and not worry about anything else. I also was a commuter and it helped me feel like a part of the school more than I had before,” Farrand said.
The IU South Bend Tap and Kick Line fosters much more than the choreography that awe the community during their many events throughout the year. The IU South Bend Kick Line builds bonds among the performers, allows a way for them to express themselves, stay involved on campus, and have a support system for more than just school.
Many students who have joined IU South Bend’s Kick Line have left with a sense of purpose, enhanced creativity, and a new-found artistic expression. These students have made life-long friends, learned a way to escape from the stress of college life, and have incorporated the things they learned in Kick Line to their current careers.