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Meet Kayleigh Schadwinkel of Highlands Ranch & Sterling Ranch

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kayleigh Schadwinkel. 

Hi Kayleigh, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My dance journey began like many young ballerinas with their parents enrolling them for dance for better coordination, flexibility, and balance. My parents enrolled this little three-year-old to help me be a better volleyball player, but little did they know that this decision would ignite a passion within me that would change my life forever. Growing up in beautiful Gering, Nebraska, I was heavily involved in athletics, musicals, church, show choir, school clubs, academia in addition to dance. However, out of all the activities I did, dance was always secretly my favorite. I took all the styles of dance – ballet, tap (love tap!), jazz, lyrical, hip hop, pointe… you name it, I did it, however, when I graduated from high school, I never thought I would have the opportunity to dance again. I went to Doane College in Crete, Nebraska to play collegiate volleyball and study Business Administration & Marketing when a simple question posed by my Liberal Arts Professor, Dan Clanton, would alter my college career and ignite a campus to put on their dancing shoes for the next four years. I was approached as a freshman to choreograph a senior comparative religions capstone project of an interpretative dance of the book of Genesis and was later cast as Eve for the show. This interpretation dance project was the first of its kind on Doane’s campus would later lay the foundation for my two companies. 

After the success of our production, I took a leap of faith and quit playing collegiate volleyball even though I was playing and subbing on the varsity team, to create the first-ever student-led dance theater program on Doane’s campus that grew from 18 dancers my freshman year to over 100 dancers. In four years, POYDS had over 10% of Doane’s student population of all dance backgrounds, skill levels, and social groups a part of the program and our annual dance productions to become known as one of the top must-attend events on Doane’s campus. On April 28th, 2016, at the final evening of my senior dance production, I was so honored to announce to a sold-out audience that POYDS was now an official business in the state of Nebraska. Many professors joked around and shared that I was literally running my own dance company on campus for these four years and in retrospect, it was true! This dance club gave me extensive knowledge and hands-on experience in organizational management, marketing, leadership, and large-scale event production/event planning.

This experience from POYDS, in turn, led me to receive my college senior internship to be the Steering Coordinator for the first-ever Crete’s Great Pumpkin Festival for the Crete Chamber and City of Crete. My work was noticed by the local city officials and business executives which led me to apply and accept my first post-college job as the Executive Director for the Crete Chamber of Commerce. At the age of 22 years old, I could proudly say I was the youngest Executive Director in the State of Nebraska. During my three years as the Crete Chamber Executive Director, I had the unique honor to work alongside some of the great local, statewide, and national minds in business, human resource, and community development and gain extensive knowledge and experience in community event planning, business start-ups and management, marketing, and strategic planning. This knowledge helped me build up and grow both the Chamber and my dance companies. 

During the day, I was the Chamber Director, and in the evenings and weekends, I was a traveling choreographer and dance teacher, even using my vacation time to travel for off-site gigs. At the height of my time at the Chamber, my community event planning work for our local Crete’s Great Pumpkin Festival was: – Featured in the Food Network Magazine as Nebraska’s Fall Pumpkin Celebration – Featured in Midwest Travel Magazine and Omaha Magazine for must-do fall midwestern events (audience reach of over 4 million readers) – And to be acclaimed by Governor Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska Tourism Industry as one of the top 3 start-ups festivals of attendance under 10,000 in less than four years. I absolutely loved my job at the Chamber. To this day, I am extremely humbled to have had the leadership and business experiences I did at such a young age and to serve my local community, county, and state in this amazing capacity. However even despite my success, all the while during my directorship, dance was always in the back of my mind. 

In July 2019, at the height of my Chamber career, I took a leap of faith to make dance and choreography my full-time career. It was one of the hardest and scariest decisions I have ever made, but absolutely worth it. Since then, POYDS Dance Company and Kayleigh Schadwinkel Dance & Choreography have grown to connect dancers of all ages and dance backgrounds across the US and world to put on their dancing shoes and enjoy the wonderful art of dance in our weekly studio classes, musical theater dance workshops, and traveling choreography gigs!

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
In addition to the standard growing pains of overseeing and managing a small business plus the handling ever-changing demands of COVID, one of the main hurdles I have had to overcome when transition full-time to POYDS Dance Co has been the preconceived dance stereotypes and doubters. My journey to dance and musical theater is much different than that of the standard artist. I am self-taught and have gained my knowledge through immense hands-on choreography experience, extensive personal dance & musical theater training through workshop attendance, and taking regular classes through our CLI Studio partnership based out of Los Angeles and New York City along with being mentored by some of the best dance and business minds in Nebraska and Colorado. With that being said, I personally had to overcome some of these mental roadblocks several doubters put in my mind like…. you can’t make dance a career, you’re too old to dance, you don’t have the degree, you’re just a dance teacher, or your online dance classes will never work. I felt constantly in the middle of these two worlds until I personally came to grips with the fact that my journey to dance, choreography and musical theater is different from others and you know what… that’s okay! I still remember my senior year of high school when my calculus teacher told me, “Get your degree in something that will pay the bills while continuing to doing your hobby on the side so that eventually when the timing is right, you can seamlessly transition to doing your hobby full time.” I took this advice to heart by getting my Business Administrative Degree with double minors in Leadership & Accounting with an emphasis in Marketing & Event Planning at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska while developing my dance storytelling and training on the side through POYDS. I am so grateful for these life experiences and advice. It has taught me to think outside the box and redefine myself. I am not your typical dance studio owner, dance teacher, or a small business owner. I am a dance entrepreneur. By approaching my companies through both a business and artistic mindset, it has encouraged me to think differently and strategically position POYDS differently than other dance businesses. During COVID, it has also given POYDS an advantage to quickly pivot, adapt and grow my dance companies in new innovative ways I never could have imagined or done without having extensive knowledge of both dance and business.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a dance entrepreneur and traveling choreographer with over 24 years of dance training and 12 years of choreography experience. I am the proud founder and owner of POYDS Dance Company, an innovative multi-branch dance studio, and Kayleigh Schadwinkel Dance & Choreography, a professional mobile traveling choreography business that provides dance & fitness training and musical theater choreography for individuals of all ages and dance backgrounds across the Midwest portion of the US. Each day I get the privilege to put on my dance shoes with individuals locally and across the country through safe in-person and LIVE online musical theater choreography gigs and dance lessons! I have such a passion for business development, storytelling through dance, and musical theater choreography in which at the age of 27, I am so grateful to be doing my dream job! In less than five years of establishing my two dance businesses, I am humbled to have choreographed over 275+ dances and 25+ musicals across the Midwest portion of the US including my choreographed work being featured in the: – Harlem Globetrotters World Tour Event’s Halftime Performance in Lincoln, Nebraska – A music video in Chicago, Illinois – Live Online Kids Dance Club Choreography in Oceanside, California – And the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Invited Scene Showcase – “Mermaid Outta of Me” of “Peter & The Starcatcher” performed by Doane University in Des Moines, Iowa. As a young innovative dance entrepreneur at the age of 26 years old, my studio, POYDS Dance Company, was the first studio in the state of Nebraska to have a LIVE virtual dance program established prior to COVID-19 in 2019. During the height of COVID, POYDS connected more than 23,000 individuals of all ages and dance backgrounds in 17 states in the US and 44 countries worldwide to put on their dancing shoes in our weekly online community dance classes. During COVID, I was able to expand POYDS to have not one but four branches of the company to be established in Crete, Nebraska, a full-service Online Dance Studio and a physical studio located inside Honor Yoga in Highlands Ranch, and a mobile traveling dance studio doing remote on-site dance classes at the Sterling Ranch Community Center. 

Individuals can take any of our beginner – advance dance classes available in over 20 different dance styles and available in three different class medians: LIVE online, hybrid, and safe in-person classes. Styles range from acro dance,

kids’ creative movement, ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop, musical theater, country line & swing dancing, stretch & strength, basic ballroom, and more in both annual year-long programming and seasonal short-term classes! What makes POYDS (P-O-Y-D-S) also known as Put On Your Dancing Shoes different than the typical dance studio is that we have strategically positioned ourselves to serve a niche market of individuals who are being underserved in the dance and musical theater industry. In addition to our standard 2 – 18 years non-competition & recreational based dance classes, we have created specific dance programs for: -young boys and young men who wish to use dance to improve their athletics skills sets; -adults ages 19 – 49 years who are wanting to continue their dance training; -aspiring & working musical theater professionals who are wanting to become a triple threat in the industry; -50 years+ dancers who are motivated to find a creative and exercise outlet that best fits them. We particularly love first-time dancers who claim they have two left feet! Along with our regional dance studio branches, Kayleigh Schadwinkel Dance & Choreography is another branch of POYDS Dance Company. KASH Dance & Choreography is our professional traveling choreography and dance provider for the Midwest portion of the US. Kayleigh Schadwinkel Dance & Choreography mobile and traveling choreography services include: -Musical Theater Dance Choreography -Dance Theater Workshops & Clinics -Audition Prep Dance Technique Lessons -Show Choir Choreography -Music Video Choreography -Dance Studio Guest Artist Featured Pieces Choreography -Dance & Cheer Halftime Performance Routines -After School Dance Program Creation & Instruction -*Available for professional theaters, schools, community theaters, summer groups, and more! I am most proud and humbled to have the opportunity each and every day to work with and put on her dancing shoes such amazing individuals of all ages, dance backgrounds, and skill levels to enjoy the wonderful art of dance together. 

What does success mean to you?
I firmly believe that failure is one of the key ingredients that lead to success. Failure gets such a negative tone in society, however, all of the most iconic innovators, artists, athletes, and influencers failed at some point on their journey towards success. They all failed, but they chose to keep trying, take risks, and learn from their failures to rise above their circumstances to be known for what they are today. I feel the first step towards success begins when we change our mind towards failure and give ourselves permission to step out of our comfort zone to try and fail as we work towards our goals and dreams. One of my favorite

quotes is from Samuel Beckett… “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” I personally like calling failure a “learning opportunity” – an opportunity to develop, grow and refine myself to become a better version of me. I have noticed that when I approach failure as a learning opportunity and have personally been determined to adapt myself to change my perspective on the outlook of my circumstances, that I have been able to rise up and take charge of the situation at hand. Within these moments of personal growth and accountability are when my most instrumental business developments, positive life-changing decisions, and greatest accomplishments happened. In full, I believe that success is not a destination defined by your awards or promotions. But success is an ongoing journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and risk-taking that is demonstrated in times when faced with adversity, failure, and disappointment. It’s in these moments when we have the choice to quit or press forward that true success is made. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Madison Yen-Collins, Peter J Fiumefreddo III, Doane University Marketing Department, Cassandra Kennedy, Lincoln Community Playhouse – Ticket Office

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