Chantelle Mrowka: Dancing Her Way from Chicago To LA
You might recognize the face above from your television. That’s right — Chantelle Mrowka most recently graced screens across America as part of the dance company, Diavolo – finalists on this past season America’s Got Talent. Before she flipped her way into Diavolo and AGT finals, Chantelle spent her life in Illinois and began her professional dance career with Chicago Dance Crash as a high school sophomore. What’s more, she’s a trained and award winning gymnast, with training from Olympic gymnastics coach, Bélá Karolyi. In the midst of Chantelle’s jam packed touring and performance schedule, DancerMusic’s Kristi Licera got a chance to ask her about moving across the country, Diavolo, her advice on bouncing back from injuries, and more. Check out what Chantelle had to say, and keep your eye out for her on stages across the US and abroad!
Kristi: You found great success performing in Chicago with companies like Chicago Dance Crash and made quite a name for yourself as a teacher and choreographer. Like many of us in this industry (including myself), you could only squeeze so much out of a city before knowing that you needed to move forward and onward. You recently made a huge career change, moving from Chicago to Los Angeles. Can you tell us a about what that experience was like for you, especially at this point in your dance career?
Chantelle: Breaking my comfort zone and making the huge transition from Chicago to LA has been a roller coaster of an experience, but truly one of the best decisions I think I have made in my career so far. There is something about allowing yourself to take risks and take the plunge into a new and unfamiliar chapter in life; it reveals things about yourself that you might not have otherwise discovered and opens up the door for new connections and new experiences.
There is something about allowing yourself to take risks and take the plunge into a new and unfamiliar chapter in life; it reveals things about yourself that you might not have otherwise discovered and opens up the door for new connections and new experiences.
For the first 23 years of my life I lived in the same state surrounded by my wonderful family and an incredible group of friends, dancers, peers and employers. I was blessed that life took me on a path where I got to do what I loved everyday, both in my youth where I spent endless hours training and as an adult where I started my professional dancing career and teaching/choreographing. I absolutely loved my time spent performing with Chicago Dance Crash and all of its incredibly talented dancers, as well as the hours spent getting to teach and share my knowledge and passion with the younger generations. But I feel like there is a constant internal drive in every persons life to expand horizons and strive to achieve greater or even just different experiences. But familiarity and comfortability have a funny way of holding you back from taking a jump into unknown territory. For a short period that was the case for me, I knew with the limited time frame of a dancers’ career that I wanted to branch out and try something different but the security of being “home” and near all of the people I loved made the decision a little more difficult.
Kristi: You had a job opportunity awaiting you when you arrived in Los Angeles with a company called Diavolo. Many of our readers may recognize the name of this company from the most recent season of America’s Got Talent, where they made it to the Finals. I hesitate to call Diavolo a dance company, only because what you and these artists do entails much more than that. Can you tell us about what it was like to become part of this athletic and acrobatic family?
Chantelle: When the opportunity was presented to work with Diavolo I honestly didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. I knew from a few classes, the audition process and word of mouth that working with the company entailed a great amount of both physical and mental strength, but its something you can’t fully comprehend until you start working with the company. Diavolo is most often represented as “Architecture In Motion” and can most simply be described as an acrobatic modern dance company that combines movement with moving structures. The founder and director of the company, Jacques Heim, is a mastermind in what he does; the creativity and beauty of his vision for his work is quite evident, but with that creativity comes insanity and he stops at nothing to make his vision come to life. With that being said he pushes us to constantly become better dancers, artists and human beings and with that comes endless hours of literal blood, sweat and tears.
During the America’s Got Talent process we danced 12-14 hours a day for 30 days straight in order to accomplish what we needed. It was hands down one of the most intense and exhausting months of my life both physically and mentally.
Our contracted rehearsal schedule is set from 9-5 Monday through Friday but more often than not it gets extended to 9-9 for six or even seven days of the week. During the AGT process we danced 12-14 hours a day for 30 days straight in order to accomplish what we needed. It was hands down one of the most intense and exhausting months of my life both physically and mentally but getting to see the results and how much the company grew together during that time was indescribable — that feeling of overcoming something that at times seemed impossible was truly amazing. The past few months of touring have also continued to bring many challenges but even more and greater rewards.
Kristi: I actually ended up meeting you through Chicago Dance Crash prior to your departure to Los Angeles, and during that time, you were recovering from an ankle injury. In our industry and profession, injuries are common, but more often than not, we and many others in our position have a tendency to push through the pain, even when it may not be best for us. In observing your recovery both in person and on social media, it really seems like you found a way to truly make the best of your recovery process and came out of it stronger than ever. What were the things that got your through the difficulties of your injuries?
Taking the correct steps of resting and rehabilitating are necessary in the healing process, but your mentality in the healing process — remaining optimistic and staying focused on recovering — is what I believe is equally necessary to a successful comeback.
Chantelle: Obviously injuries aren’t something people look forward to. As a dancer, not having full use of your body to move and create is one of the most devastating things. You put endless hours into your craft and it can all be brought to a halt when an injury occurs. But I’m a firm believer in mind over matter. Taking the correct steps of resting and rehabilitating are necessary in the healing process, but your mentality in the healing process — remaining optimistic and staying focused on recovering — is what I believe is equally necessary to a successful comeback.
When I sprained my ankle, I didn’t regain full use of it for about two and a half months, but I rehabilitated like crazy and used the time to focus on upper body strength and handstand gains in the process. Vice versa when I injured my shoulder, while taking it easy on upper body impact I took the time to further leg strength. Although there was setback in one area there was growth in the other. Being in a career field that demands so much from your body, you really can’t expect to ever be “injury free”. Old injuries have a way of resurfacing and its likely new injuries will eventually develop but being in tune with your body, knowing how to manage an injury and how much you can push yourself are key to the longevity of one’s career. There is never a setback too great to overcome if you have the right mind set.
There is never a setback too great to overcome if you have the right mind set.
Kristi: Your dedication and determination are so apparent not only in your dancing, but also in the social media presence that you have created. For those of us who follow you on social media (and if you don’t, you really should check this super woman out!), we see just how passionate you are in regards to your training and your craft. What fuels your drive, and what advice can you give to those who want to walk a similar path as you?
Chantelle: My main goal with my page is to share my craft with the world, to be an inspiration to those who have similar career goals and to make connections. For aspiring dancers, don’t get comfortable with where you are at, take as many classes as you can, take critique and find a way to apply it even if you might not agree. Understand as an artist that there are always going to be people who have different visions and opinions — that’s the beauty of art. Learn from people’s different movement qualities and focus and apply them all to your own development, always knowing that hard work and dedication will pay off.
Understand as an artist that there are always going to be people who have different visions and opinions — that’s the beauty of art.
I suppose it’s cliche, but honestly I think the greatest advice to anyone in life whether, it’s a similar path or not, is to believe in yourself and know that you have the ability to take control and conquer each and every obstacle in life no matter how great it seems. Every challenge you overcome creates a new part of yourself and makes you a stronger person. Take risks, don’t get comfortable, constantly challenge yourself, know that you are never alone, show love and compassion to all those around you. One of the most amazing things about dance, art and movement is that they connect people from all walks of life together in a beautiful way.
The greatest advice to anyone in life whether, it’s a similar path or not, is to believe in yourself and know that you have the ability to take control and conquer each and every obstacle in life no matter how great it seems.
With the greatest risk comes the greatest reward. The phrase rings true for Chantelle, and for the new home and family she has found with Diavolo. Keep up with Chantelle as she continues her journey by following her on Instagram, and find her on stage by visiting diavolo.org.
Featured Photo: Head Shot by KC Hatfield • Photo 1: Chantelle in Chicago Dance Crash‘s Tron: End of the Line, by Johnny Nevin • Inset Photo A: Chantelle with Chicago Dance Crash, by Johnny Nevin • Photo 2 by Chantelle in Diavolo Rehearsal, by George Simian • Inset Photo B: Chantelle with Artistic Director Jacques Heim and other Diavolo Performers Pre-show, by NBC/ Kevin Polizzotto • Photo 3 by Luis Pons • Inset Photo C by Drew Geraci • Photo 4: Chantelle’s Eagle Fly from Diavolo’s 25th Anniversary performance, by George Simian
Special Thanks to Madeline and Diavolo for providing additional photos.