Posting Date: March 21, 2010
Meet John Welker: Proving it’s never too late
By Tabatha Wahlquist
Photo by Cheryl Anderson Brown
Kennesaw State University freshman John Welker is a professional dancer with Atlanta Ballet, and now, at the age of 33, he has decided it is time to go to college. With a desire to secure an education that will continue to make him marketable, John joined the ranks of fellow dance students in the Program in Dance at KSU. This spring John will complete his freshman year.
“I am excited to be back in school,” says the Columbus, Ohio native, whose professional career in dance began at age 17. John is both nationally and internationally trained, having performed for several companies throughout a career spanning more than 16 years. He is currently in his 15th season with Atlanta Ballet. In a special partnership with KSU, Atlanta Ballet has provided John with the opportunity to return to school as well as an opportunity to share his experience with members of KSU’s dance program.
John explains, “There is a mutual friendship through which KSU dance students get access to classes and a chance to perform with Atlanta Ballet. In return, Atlanta Ballet performers earn advanced professional credits toward a degree in dance.” This partnership, coupled with a need to have other options after dance, brought John to KSU.
“I started asking myself, what after dance?” he says. “I’m 33, and I see my career coming to an end. I would dance for the rest of my life if I could, but I need to get started with school now.” The transition to KSU, while still working full-time as a dancer, could have been a lot more challenging for John, but he credits the students and faculty of the KSU Program in Dance for making it easier.
“I have a lot of respect for the faculty at KSU, and the students are so kind and welcoming,” says John, who so far has successfully balanced dancing full-time with being a college freshman. Director of the Program in Dance Ivan Pulinkala says, “John is the consummate professional. He is dedicated to his craft, and he is a true artist. John is hard working and has a great attention to detail.”
Last fall, John performed in “Lost,” choreographed by Pulinkala, with the KSU Dance Company. This work has now been commissioned by Atlanta Ballet for their production at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in May.
Sharon Story, dean of Centre for Dance Education at Atlanta Ballet, also recognizes John's unique skill. She says, "John has a rare extraordinary talent that very few professional dancers possess. He is an ultimate artist approaching every role and step with his vast unique gifts. He possesses a keen sense of musicality, poise, athleticism and a fierce work ethic admired by all."
After graduation, John would like to attend graduate school and complete a terminal degree in dance, with the possibility of work in arts administration. John reflects, “I am truly blessed with the dance career that I have had. I am glad to see another side of the dance world and to further my horizons.”