Student Spotlight: Mary Bajek Read

Mary Bajek Read

Mary Bajek Read
Major: Associate in Arts

It was Noelle, the girl next door, who inspired Mary Bajek Read to dance.

“Noelle had spina bifida. This condition limited her ability to walk but she always loved watching the performing arts,” she said. “I trained in gymnastics as a child, but Noelle saw that I had potential in dance and believed that I should pursue it. When I was 15, she passed away. A year after her death, I started dancing and I have been dancing ever since. I dance for Noelle and for anyone who cannot dance. I want to inspire others to face their fears and accomplish their dreams.”

Read, who has four sisters and five brothers, wanted to remain at or near home for college so she could stay involved with her family. She selected College of DuPage, which also kept her from building up student debt.

“COD is a great place to start your college career,” she said. “There are qualified teachers and many opportunities available for any area of study. I felt I could approach my teachers and receive honest and useful answers to my questions. No matter what the subject was, I learned a lot about time management, perseverance and creativity, which are all useful attributes to obtain in one’s life.

“The fine arts program provides classes in a nurturing environment and has multiple showcases for students to perform in or choreograph – or possibly both. Whether you want to dance for fun or pursue dance as a career, the COD dance department treats you like family, which is a priceless experience.”

Read performed and choreographed for several showcases and participated in master classes with professional companies such as Thodos Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street, Paul Taylor and Diavolo. All of these experiences helped her grow as a dance artist.

After earning her Associate in Arts degree, Read transferred to Northern Illinois University, where she performed in several showcases including mainstage productions, student-choreographed shows and fundraisers. She also had opportunities to choreograph and attend master classes with River North Dance Company and Alvin Ailey.

She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance performance, along with the Dean’s Award for the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts. The Dean’s Award is presented annually to one senior student who demonstrates academic excellence, a positive attitude, strong work ethic, leadership and versatility in their art.

Read stayed at NIU and completed her master’s degree in Physical Education. She currently teaches dance at COD and at Rockford Dance Company. She is also a full-cast member with the Meraki Dance Company in Naperville, where she soon will start her fourth year.

Regardless of her career path, whether it’s performing, choreographing or teaching, Read is enjoying it.

“There are long nights, tears and confusion while pursuing your passion, but in the end, it is worth it,” she said. “If you dedicate yourself and truly persevere, you will see your progress and others will, too. And that is the point at which others become inspired by you to pursue their dreams, and that is an extraordinary feeling.”

More about the Fine Arts

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