Judith Chitwood

Professor and Coordinator of Dance, School of Theatre and Dance

Judith Chitwood

What year did you start working at NIU? 1991.

Where is your hometown, and where do you live now? St. Charles, IL.

What do you like about working at NIU?
I have been fortunate to work in a profession that allows me to collaborate with great artists. My early career at NIU, I was able to still perform professionally so I was able to maintain and connect with other artists and bring that experience back to the classroom. Now I am mostly responsible for bringing artists onto campus to work with students to teach and develop their growth as dance artists.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
From my own experience pursuing a dance career, I tell students that you must avail yourself to all the experiences and opportunities you can to create your art. There are so many ways to engage on campus and because we are close to Chicago, there are exciting workshops, intensives and programs to take to network and see where you might fit in.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I worked with Joe and Barb King of the Penguin Project to establish an internship for a dance major to serve as the choreographer for the Penguin Project's performances every semester. This opportunity has been amazing for the students and has opened a whole new world of possibilities to work with special needs population. Some of our dance alumni continue to work in this area after graduation. When the spring semester ended due to COVID-19, two of our dance graduating seniors took it upon themselves to create virtual classes and a virtual performance for the Penguin Project.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
A sense of accomplishment, self-discovery, exhilaration, humor and a bit of sweat.

What is your favorite campus event?
I would have to say the School of Theatre and Dance's graduation ceremony. It is a chance to celebrate every graduating senior with a personal and sincere tribute of their work and accomplishments while at NIU.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
Being granted full professorship.

Who has influenced your professional path?
I have had quite a few very strong mentors in my life — my aunt who was very involved in Chicago Theatre and my first ballet teacher and dear friend who opened a whole new career for me. I am a certified instructor in Romana's Pilates, a traditional training method true to the teachings of Joseph Pilates. The master teacher trainer in Chicago continues to teach and mentor me as I continue to explore this powerful mind/body training tool.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I was a math geek so my first two years of college was in business to be an accountant. I switched universities and became a dance major, and ended up dancing in a professional ballet company and pursuing my master's.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education Recreation and Dance, and the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. Both organizations keep me current in my role as a teacher to the safest practices for a healthy dancer.

What community organizations are you involved in?
I volunteered for years teaching Pilates to cancer survivors. NIU keeps me quite busy.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I am an avid swimmer and continue to train in Pilates. I am fortunate to teach off campus to both dance studios and Pilates studios that keep me connected and current in my own work.

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