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Abriana Willis

Abriana Willis

#PeopleofNIU Photo by Danielle Guerra/Institutional Communications

Hometown: Hazel Crest

Major: Dance major

What are you studying and why?
I study dance because I absolutely love it, and I wish to further my career in dancing and become a professional dancer and teach little girls that they, too, can dance.

What do you like most about NIU?
The community. It’s very close-knit, especially in the dance department. I’m with these people every single day for hours at a time and, honestly, I feel like they are my family away from home.

Who are your favorite professors and why?
Paula (Frasz) and Judith Chitwood and Richard Grund—all of my professors are my favorite! Each of them bring out something in me that I didn’t know I had. Paula brings out a confidence and a sassiness in me that she wants me to explore. Judith brings out that technical aspect that I need. Rich brings out the performance aspect and consistency that I need. They all bring out something I know I’ll need if I’m going to become a professional dancer.

What excites you about your major?
It’s so challenging, and people don’t know what it takes to be a dancer and the things we go through on a daily basis. When we’re on stage and we’re in performance mode, it’s like the most exhilarating thing that happens to me, and I love it. It’s what draws me to come to class every day through the aches and pains and cold weather and the hours on hours of rehearsals. It’s that performance.

What most surprised you about NIU?
The other dancers. Coming from a smaller recreational studio to study with people who have been classically trained was a big jump and a shock to me. To see—this is how ballet classes are run, how modern classes are run, these are how tap classes are run—it was a culture shock to be around different people and different skill levels. It was a cool wake-up call for me. This is the real thing. This is what it’s like to be a professional.

Why should other students choose NIU?
That home feeling. It’s your home away from home and everything is a tight-knit community.  It’s not that much of a large campus, so you can walk everywhere and get that good exercise.  …  We have great sports, great faculty and a great kinship with the faculty. It’s all-around a good school.

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