Dancer thrives despite COVID-19 pandemic


Jana Lipowski practices a piroette by the ECC bush in front of El Camino College’s bookstore on Wednesday, Nov. 18. She started her journey here on campus three years ago, rekindling her passion for dance after six years after dance without it. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)

She perfected each dance combination throughout the semester, put on her costume and make-up and performed in El Camino College’s dance performance, Lo Tech, No Tech, one of her favorite memories on campus.

Now, the 30-minute bike ride to campus from her Torrance home is an empty journey, one that once prompted the excitement of social gatherings among friends and dancing together.

As the end draws near for the 2020 fall semester and despite the pandemic, she lives amidst, she hasn’t slowed down. In fact, she was recently cast into two dance roles for Lifetime’s The Pom Pom Murders and Cheer Camp Killer.

Jana Lipowski is a 26-year-old dance and music major at El Camino College. In recent years, she has found the campus to be a platform to grow as a performer and uncover new qualities within herself.

Jana Lipowski, music and dance major at El Camino College, practices he pirouette while on campus on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Doing a pirouette is harder than it looks because you have to incorporate several techniques and have good focus and balance, Lipowski said. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)
Jana Lipowski, music and dance major at El Camino College, practices the pirouettes while on campus on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Doing a pirouette is harder than it looks because you have to incorporate several techniques and have good focus and balance, Lipowski said. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)

An Illinois native, Lipowski was drawn into the entertainment industry during her childhood, following her mother’s lead who was an actress and model.

“When I was growing up that’s all I knew was my Mom going to fashion shows, going to set, going here and there and I remember being a child and just wanting to go everywhere she did,” Lipowski said.

At 10-years-old, Lipowski and her family then moved to California where she described the golden state as a destination that sparked her interest further in the entertainment industry.

“This is where dreams come true; this is where stars are made, this is the land of stardom,” Lipowski said.

It wasn’t until Lipowski enrolled in theater classes and pep squad, a mixture of song and dance performed throughout the academic year, at North High School in Torrance that her love for dance and performance was discovered.

Lipowski started her journey into the fine arts division at El Camino three years ago, after a six-year hiatus from dance while focusing on acting and modeling upon graduating from high school.

“I got to college and was like, ‘you know I want to dance, dance is something I love to do,’” Lipowski said.

She began with a personal trainer certification in which she completed all five classes in one semester and landed a job as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Manhattan Beach, but admittedly she “hated it.”

Lipowski then began to rebuild her dance skills “from the ground up” using what was taught to her in high school and applying it to ECC classes such as intro to ballet, contemporary, modern and jazz which were available to her for free with the help of financial aid.

“The education that the teachers give you, it’s no different than something you would learn in Hollywood, it’s just at college,” Lipowski said. “I’ve figured out on my own like, okay I can gain these same skills that I would pay thousands of dollars for in Hollywood for free and it’s just as good as an education, maybe it is just not as renowned.”

Full-time ECC dance professor Daniel Berney, who teaches Lipowski in beginning ballet appreciates her eagerness in sending in videos of dance combinations for critiques during an unforeseen environment of teaching.

“For Jana, I feel that it is still as enriching and valuable of an experience as if we were on campus because she is determined to be engaged,” Berney said.

As classes transitioned online and the COVID-19 pandemic remained unwavering, Lipowski continued to find success and job opportunities amid uncertainty by attending virtual casting calls one-two times a week if “lucky,” she said.

“But really and truly it’s very hard to get castings right now, so if you get one it is something you should really honor and cherish and really put your all into because not many people in LA right now are getting castings,” Lipowski said.

One of her most recent gigs apart from her two dance roles on Lifetime was as a video game character which included a full head and body scan, following the current health and safety guidelines in place due to COVID-19.

It was in these moments that Lipowski knew the countless hours of beating on her craft at ECC “has paid off,” she said.

Lionel Taplin, a 28-year-old dance major and Michael Jackson impersonator share commonalities with Lipowski not only as dancers and singers but as friends.

“Jana is a loving, kind, human being that I should’ve known [better while] in person, not in social media and all that stuff,” Taplin said. “She is a lovable person, a very good dancer and a singer as well.”

As the backdrop stays lit for her next at-home audition or ballet combination rehearsal, Lapowski plans to finish the semester adding to her portfolio more career-building skills in dancing than she thought could ever be a reality.

“When you get older people [telling] you, ‘oh you are too old for this, you missed your deadline, oh you had to do that as a child,’ but going to [ECC] has taught me that is not true.”

Editor’s note: A picture was added on Nov. 19.

Editor’s note: Fixed grammatical errors and a sentence was changed in the first paragraph on Nov. 19.