Agility, precise footwork and flexibility are all qualities of a successful soccer player. For Bradley University's Wojciech Wojcik (Elmwood Park, Ill./Elmwood Park H.S.), they are qualities of a successful dancer as well.
Wojcik (name pronounced VOO-cheek, VOY-teck) has played soccer for most of his life. After having a solid career with his club team, he was recruited to play for Bradley as a freshman in 2010 and made an impact on the team almost immediately by scoring a game-winning goal in the Braves' season opener that year.
However, a few years before he joined the Braves, Wojcik was introduced to the world of dance during his junior year of high school, when he decided to do a favor for a close friend.
His friend, Agniezka Barnak, was a dancer at her parents' studio in the Chicago area. The members of the dance company, JUMP, were preparing for an upcoming show when they found themselves in need of a few stand-ins.
"At first I hated dancing, so it was kind of weird for me to do something like this," Wojcik said. "Her parents needed an extra for just one dance, so I came to practice and learned all the dances, and I just stayed."
JUMP is a family-owned dance studio. Husband and wife team Wacek and Ewa Barnak founded the company in their home country of Poland in 1989. Since moving to the United States, the family has orchestrated many shows and performances showcasing Polish culture through song and dance.
The performances Wojcik participates in with JUMP incorporate all different types of dancing. Some shows are modern, while others focus on more classical styles of dance, like the waltz. The company puts on shows seasonally, so Wojcik is able to balance his Bradley soccer career with dance.
"Every year we have a summer and a winter performance, and in between we do some extra shows around," Wojcik said. "It's harder to do it now, but whenever I go back [home] I learn the dances. This summer we have a show in June and I will be doing a couple duets and a few dances that I can learn in time."
His next performance with JUMP will be at Mother Guerin High School in River Grove, Ill., June 9, when the group performs Powróćmy jak za Dawnych Lat.
While Wojcik enjoys many of the modern dances he does with the group, dancing duets with his partner and girlfriend, Agniezka, is where he excels the most. She has been his dance partner since he joined JUMP.
"I met her once, and decided to do whatever I could to go see her," Wojcik said. "That was kind of why I did the whole thing. It started because of her."
The duo gained local recognition for a stunt they did during their first show together. The two performed a duet to an Aerosmith song.
"One day we were in the studio practicing when she asked if I could do the lift from 'Dirty Dancing'," Wojcik said. "It took us a couple tries, but we threw it into the dance and ended up making the front page of a local paper. That was when I realized this was something awesome."
According to Wojcik, JUMP has recently brought things to a new place stylistically.
"We've taken things up to a whole new level," he said. "Things are more technical and more professionalized, I guess you could say."
A few things Wojcik works on while dancing have translated over to his soccer performance as well.
"Dancing has improved my sense of balance, but mainly my flexibility," he said. " They always tell me to stretch. I'm on my toes more often now."
The most significant things he has gained from dancing, however, aren't of a physical or technical nature.
"In a way it's opened up my creative side," Wojcik said. "This is a whole different side of me I never thought I could do. I've met a lot of cool new people, and I'm really close with the [Barnak] family."
While dancing has become a hobby for Wojcik, he admits his soccer teammates are never short on jabs about his off-the-field pastime.
"They make fun of me all the time for dancing, not only on the Bradley team, but for the Chicago Fire when I played for them," Wojcik said.
One Bradley teammate in particular, fellow sophomore Jason Coon, had his own skepticisms about Wojcik when he found out the two were to be roommates for their freshman year.
"At first I had no idea who my roommate was, I couldn't even pronounce his name," Coon said. "I started looking at Facebook pictures and the first one to pop up was one of him dancing with his partner on the front page of some Polish newspaper. I was like, 'I'm rooming with this guy?' I didn't know what to expect, to say the least."
After meeting for the first time, Wojcik explained his hobby to his roommate. Since then he and Coon have become good friends.
While soccer is his first love, dancing is a hobby Wojcik intends to continue. He plans to perform with JUMP in its upcoming summer performance this June. Bradley soccer fans can look forward to watching Wojcik perform on the pitch in the fall as well, as he begins his third season with the Braves in August.