Dance News

This 17-Year-Old Dancer Commutes 36 Hours a Week to Dance

Photo courtesy of The Chicago Academy for the Arts

Although at first glance Zachary Jeppsen looks like your typical teenager, he's quite extraordinary. A junior at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, he travels from his farm near Whitewater, Wisconsin, to Chicago six hours a day, six days week. Yes, you read that correctly: six hours a day, six days a week!

Defying most of the usual suspect stereotypes associated with your average teenager, he seems to be ingrained with the dream trifecta—an abundance of discipline, passion and talent. He's the kind of student any dance teacher craves to have in their classes. But where does all that motivation come from?

DT talked with Jeppsen about his love for dance, his supportive parents and why that grueling commute has been worth it.


Dance Teacher: When did you know you wanted to pursue dancing as a career?
Zachary Jeppsen: I started dancing when I was 4 years old. I would ask my father to make me music playlists, and I would dance around the house. Whenever guests came over, I would always ask them if they wanted to see me dance. My mother's friend used to be a dancer, and when she saw me dance, she told my mother that I needed to be signed up for dance classes. I've danced ever since. There was a long time where I didn't know whether or not dance was something that I really wanted to invest in as a career. As time has passed, I've always continued to look into more and more dance opportunities, but I don't think I was completely sure that I wanted dance to be my future until around a year ago.


DT: Did you have to convince your parents to go the Arts Academy or have they always been supportive?
ZJ:
My parents have always supported me in whatever my interests have been. When I first looked into the Chicago Academy for the Arts as my high school, I wasn't entirely sure that it was what I wanted to do, and my parents would tell me that it was OK, and that if it wasn't what I wanted, we could look into more options. However, after I saw one of the school's performances, I knew that CAA was the place I needed to be, and once I told my parents that this was what I wanted most, they made sure it became a possibility.


Photo courtesy of The Chicago Academy of the Arts

DT: You live a unique life compared to most teenagers. Do you ever feel like you're missing out on regular teenage activities?
ZJ: I attended the public school in Whitewater, Wisconsin, so I've experienced some of what it was like to be a "regular teenager." However, I never quite felt like I fit in, and near the end of middle school I was bullied. I'm actually incredibly glad that I get to live this unique and amazing life as an artist. I wouldn't give it up for the world.

DT: Was there an influential teacher you had before going to high school who inspired or encouraged you?
ZJ: There wasn't any specific influential teacher who I had growing up to inspire me, however there was someone. His name is Garth, and he went to the same small studio as me called The Dance Factory, in Delavan, Wisconsin. He is also an alumni of the Chicago Academy for the Arts. He was the one who inspired me to go to CAA, and from there my inspirations and motivations have sprouted form every corner of my school life.

DT: In general, what motivates you?
ZJ: In addition to my friends, fellow dancers and teachers, the two things that motivate me to get up in the morning are the community that I get to experience, and the pure joy that I feel when I dance. There's no other place like this one, with all of my friends having the same dedication and interest in art as myself, and there's no place I'd rather be. Lastly, dance is the most incredible thing that I've ever done. The feeling of performing and moving my body to music is incredible, and there's no other feeling like it in the world. When I dance, time freezes, and all that matters in the moment is the dance.

Check out a video of Zachary dancing below:

Show Comments ()
Viral Videos
Photo by Kyle Froman

Do you know how to teach this classic tap rhythm?

Keep reading... Show less
Via @kyle_vanny on Instagram competing on "World of Dance"

Kyle Van Newkirk is a tap dancer you probably remember from the premiere season of NBC's World of Dance. In case you missed it, he is also one of Showstopper's incredible convention teachers. What makes Kyle stand apart from some of today's other incredible tappers? He isn't afraid to change what tap means to his audience and even himself. This modern view of tap dancing is important because it shows us that tap dancers are just as versatile and dynamic as dancers of any other genre. We sat down with Kyle to get his advice on bringing tap dancing into the 21st century.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon and pro partner Jenna Johnson snatched the coveted mirror ball trophy at the "Dancing With the Stars" Season 26 finale. Although it's not that surprising (everyone was rooting for the skating darling, who basically won the Olympics), it's still nice to see his hard work pay off.

Keep reading... Show less

"When we come together and start talking, everyone starts sharing so much and it's just great. That's my favorite thing to do all year long." – Denise Wall, Dance Teacher Summit Ambassador

For years the Dance Teacher Summit has been offering opportunities for studio owners and dance instructors of all levels to work with world-renowned faculty members to improve their teaching methods, learn new styles of choreography and discover ideal ways to convey choreography to students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

Q: I'm looking for out-of-the-box teaching tools to use with my students. Do you have any recommendations?

Keep reading... Show less

Purchasing a Harlequin floor is now easier than ever!

Get a new marley/vinyl floor, sprung floor system and installation with convenient monthly payments. American Harlequin Corporation has partnered with Allstate Capital to offer comprehensive, easy to understand financing packages customized to meet the needs of our customers.

Apply for an Allstate Capital Financing account today and receive a decision within 24 hours.

Click here to learn how you can buy a Harlequin floor today!

Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Even the most disciplined dancers admit to weeping in class sometimes. Sorrow and fear are human expressions, but teachers may not always know how to navigate a sudden burst of waterworks.

"Stress is in the body," explains Linda Taylor, a school psychologist in Idaho who has taught ballet to all age groups, from toddler to professional. "Sometimes the release of it can bring on tears, especially for older students."

"We all need to cry sometimes," says Joel Hall, founder and director of Joel Hall Dancers & Center in Chicago. An instructor who has taught for 46 years, he admits he used to feel panicked at the sight of watery eyes. Now, he has a better understanding of students' feelings and how to work with them.

Here are five expert tips from Taylor and Hall for navigating grief in dance class.

Keep reading... Show less
Josephine Lee on the road. Photo Courtesy Lee


Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop is taking her wares on a tour of the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. Lee is visiting dance schools along the way in her mobile pointe shoe van to fit ballet students. Check out her first five vlogs from the road, filled with picturesque scenery, fun facts and fitting tips—and stay tuned for the next round.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored