Professional Dancer Recovering from Car Accident


Professional Dancer Recovering from Car Accident

By Deena C. Bouknight

The former head of the dance program at Western Carolina University and a former Rockette, Karyn Tomczak, was in a major car accident as a result of extreme weather conditions caused by the recent Hurricane Florence. She suffered a fractured pelvis, broken ribs, and more. 

On Sept. 25, Tomczak, who is currently assistant professor of theatre at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, was driving through an intersection on her way to work when a car coming across the intersection failed to stop. 

“They did not see the officer that was directing traffic [due to traffic lights out because of a power outage] and smashed into Karyn’s driver’s side, t-boning her car,” shared friend and Franklin resident Arledge Armenaki, who has worked as a cinematographer alongside Tomczak and also started the Karyn Tomczak Recovery Go Fund Me to assist her with the financial aspects of her recovery. “Her Prius was ferociously crushed, she was unconscious, and she was pinned in the car. It is truly a miracle that she lived. The blunt force from side collisions is brutal. Karyn had to be cut out of the car with the Jaws of Life. The emergency workers could not believe that she survived the car wreck.”

Tomczak began teaching dance at age 14; she managed her own dance studio and taught at three others in the Buffalo, N.Y., area. After achieving a Master of Arts Degree in Dance Education from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Tomczak worked as a professional dancer for more than 15 years. She has not only danced as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, but she also performed in the United States and abroad in shows such as “42nd Street,” “Sophisticated Ladies,” “Will Rogers Follies,” and “Funny Girl.” Besides performing and teaching, she has choreographed productions, including “Unto These Hills” in Cherokee. 

Tomczak has worked with such notables as Tyler McKenzie, a Broadway performer, and American actress legend Carol Lawrence. She was also presented in 2014 the Dance Teacher Award for Higher Education at the Dance Teacher Summit in New York City and in 2016 became the Lifetime Achievement in Dance recipient at the Broady Ball Fundraiser at Columbus State University in Georgia. 

Tomczak has had to undergo visits to an orthopedist, a neurologist, physical therapist, and specialists at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York City – which is a facility that helps rehabilitate dancers who experience injuries. 

Her goal is to be able to dance again. 

“I am a very hands on and active dance teacher and choreographer, especially because I work with beginner dancers,” she said. “I feel it’s so important to do, especially when it comes to classic dance styles.” 

Further, Tomczak said that although she has not been performing as much as she did at the beginning of her career, she still desires to “… perform with former Rockettes in productions,” which she has done annually. “My goal is to be no less than what I was, and I am learning so much going through this; I hope I am even better!”

Until she recovers, Tomczak explained that she is currently teaching classes at Coastal Carolina University from her wheelchair, with former WCU student, Darius Williams, assisting and demonstrating.

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