Name: K.C. Shonk
Hometown: East China, Michigan
Current Location: Los Angeles, California
TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to dance for a living?
Shonk: My parents always told me to do what I love and the money will follow. They instilled the value of happiness over monetary wealth at a young age. I love dance and it has made me happy my whole life so it only makes sense for me to want to pursue dancing professionally for a living.
TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Shonk: I saw the contemporary company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, perform when I was 12 years old and was blown away by their artistry, performance, athleticism and beauty. It was also the first time I had seen a professional dance performance and I put it together that if I could get good enough, I could make dance my profession.
TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as a dancer? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Shonk: I have always just focused on getting better, surrounding myself with the right people, making good connections and taking it one step at a time. In my training at Spotlight Dance Works in Chesterfield, MI in competitive dance, my university level training as well as what I am currently doing… taking all kinds of classes at the EDGE PAC and Millennium Dance Complex, I always try to watch the dancers I perceive to be the best in the room and I try to match or exceed their talent out of a healthy mental competition, which helps me get better. When I’m the only one in the room I push myself to be better than I was before and to achieve the level of ability I see in my role models and I’ve had some fantastic ones.
Breaking into the industry isn’t easy but this is where calling on the connections I’ve made along the way has become important. Recognizing that the teachers I’ve learned from, friends I’ve made and professionals I’ve brushed paths with in the industry, may be able to, or know other people in the industry who might be willing to help me, has become increasingly important. I have always known being nice to everyone was important in order to be a decent human, but that and continuously conducting myself in a professional manner, in other words building a good reputation as a student, friend and person in the dance world, has helped me immensely to build the network necessary to become a professional.
TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue dance as a career? How old were you at the time?
Shonk: As a junior in high school I began to “audition” colleges. I wanted a good dance program that would put me in front of good people and I needed the academic environment to address that side of me. (Confession: I love math.) So I applied to approximately 12 schools, was accepted at 11 and received two offers for full scholarships out-of-state, but the University of Michigan was my match as well as my reach school. It is highly selective and I thought I would be very lucky to get in. I did and they offered me a scholarship. It was one of my happiest moments, receiving a call from the School of Music, Theater and Dance at the University of Michigan to offer me a scholarship. My first day of college was really my last at home. I have been home to visit a handful of times but my schedule rarely allows for me to sit still for long. I am currently (age 22) in the process of moving away from Michigan to pursue dance as a career. I recently graduated from the University with a degree in Dance, and an additional minor in Business Administration and was a Student-Athlete on the Michigan Dance Team. Right after graduation I started auditioning and narrowing down where I want to be in order to dance professionally. I spent a month in Los Angeles to get a feel for the dance scene there and to attend the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Intensive at University of Southern California. I loved my time in the dance scene in California because of the immense variety and abundance of dance styles and projects happening there. I have invested time in New York and Chicago while doing intensives and I am ready to make the move now and plan to be settled in Los Angeles by the end of August.
TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Shonk: The move thus far has had its fair share of challenges. It’s no secret that California is expensive and thankfully I have the world’s most supportive family helping me to afford the big move so that I can follow my dreams, but as a college student I learned to be smart about money and if I have to spend it, I make it count. Although I’ve only spent a month in LA so far, it’s already starting to feel like a second home. The dance world has a magical way of bringing the right people together and I’ve loved meeting LA-based dancers from all over the world. It is such a diverse community and there are lessons to be learned from everyone. We all bond over our similar goals and reasons for being there. No matter where I’ve traveled, I’ve found the best way for me to adapt is to get busy usually by dancing, taking class and meeting people. If I stop and have too much time sitting still I sometimes feel lonely or homesick, but getting busy right away helps me make friends and build a new normal wherever I am. It also helps that technology allows for us all to be so connected now. I love Facetiming my friends and family who are all so interested and supportive of me taking this big leap.
TrunkSpace: What has been your biggest break in terms of a particular opportunity thus far?
Shonk: I suppose one of my biggest breaks thus far has been making the Michigan Dance Team. It was a prestigious position but I consider it as one of my biggest breaks because it completely changed how I thought about dance. I used to look down on commercial dance somewhat or consider it a lower art form than concert dance as I think many other dancers are taught to do, however joining the dance team showed me that just because the movement is different that it’s still movement, it’s still dance, it’s an art form and a sport and it’s so much fun to do, especially for an audience of 109,901 screaming fans in Michigan Stadium because it’s relatable to almost all audiences and they truly enjoy watching it.
TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of project you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Shonk: I am a very versatile dancer and love doing most styles of dance. I gravitate towards contemporary dance first but I also enjoy hip-hop, ballet, heels, jazz, modern and ballroom.
TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength a dancer can have outside of dance ability itself?
Shonk: I’d say the greatest strength a dancer can have outside of dance ability itself is, beyond passion, really a combination of three seemingly non-related skills: great networking skills, a strong and unyielding work ethic, and self-advocacy. My passion for and to dance, and the combination of those three entities are the core of what propels me forward.
TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your dance career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Shonk: Two ultimate dance dreams for me would be to tour as a backup dancer for Beyoncé and to be a company member in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. These dreams seem extremely different from each other because they fall completely opposite on the concert vs. commercial dance spectrum, but I’m in love with both. I want my path to lead to a place where I can combine my passions for dance and business to blend the worlds of concert and commercial dance… where both can be experienced and appreciated for what they are. Dance is so much more than an awesome art form. Dance is what makes my heart sing, and for me it is a trait. It is the quality and characteristic of how I define myself. I am always open to new experiences, but through dance I have learned to be tenacious; I have learned to persevere through pain, exhaustion, frustration and ultimately reap the reward of the “high” on the other side of that mountain—performance— the “it” of dance. It feeds my soul. There is always risk involved in trying something that seems too hard or too new, but the opportunity for success lies within that risk-taking and I love the challenge.
TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring dancer who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Shonk: Build your support team. Make connections. Be good and kind to everyone. Be ready. Be prepared for failure, it will happen and do not let it break you. Let it fuel you. Work hard. Take educated risks (aka, think). And DANCE!
TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Shonk: Please feel free to check out my website, https://kcshonk.wordpress.com/ ,which has a few of my dance videos, photos, resumes and a contact section as well as on Instagram @k.c.shonk and Facebook.