100 Creatives

How Slawomir Wozniak of Phoenix Ballet Works to Make Timeless Art

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 23. Slawomir Wozniak.

Slawomir Wozniak has danced Zorba the Greek on five different continents. 

It's a show he describes as incredible and "filled with an array of emotions leaving the audiences filled with happiness." And soon, Wozniak will present the U.S. première of the work through Phoenix Ballet, the company for which he has served as artistic director since 2007. "It's an honor to present this and work closely with the original choreographer, Lorca Massine," he says, adding that it's coming to the Orpheum in February 2017. 

This is one of those full-circle moments to which the dancer and choreographer has become accustomed. Not that he's a stranger to pirouettes. 

The Polish-born dancer and choreographer has danced since he was a child, moving into dorms at the age of 10 to study at the State Ballet School where he stayed for nine years. Wozniak went on to dance as the principal dancer at Teatr Wielki in Lodz and Warsaw's National Opera.

Thirty-nine years later, Wozniak is as passionate about dance as ever. He serves as the artistic director of the Phoenix Ballet and is the funder of Master Ballet Academy. "I pursue my mission to make ballet an important part of human culture," he says. "By creating new works and teaching new generations of dancers with amazing technical skills and artistry, I hope I am capable of changing other people's lives through the power of art."

While his career has been full of accomplishments as an internationally performing dancer and choreographer, Wozniak is particularly inspired by seeing his students succeed. "At this point, I've had over 20 students win top awards over the last few years, plus appear on multiple TV shows," he says. 

His advice to his proteges — and other aspiring artists? "Dream big, never give up your ideas, and stay focused on your goals."

I came to Phoenix with my wife Irena and two pieces of luggage, but if you asked my wife the same question, her answer would be I came to Phoenix with three pieces of "baggage." :-)

I make art because art is the only thing that unites people, and makes people live through a full spectrum of emotions.

I'm most productive when I create new things! I really don't like to have "free time," that's why every morning I wake up with new ideas and goals, some of the ideas are more crazy than the others but keeping myself busy makes me hungry for more challenges. Some people would call it workaholic, but this is what makes me happy and productive.

My inspiration wall is full of memories. Based on the past experiences, I look at subjects from a current point of view, and I am trying to create things the way they will be understood 100 years from now.

I've learned most from life! Meeting new people, experiencing new situations, and getting to know myself with the age is the best school.

Good work should always bring satisfaction to yourself, benefit others, and last forever.

I think not enough people realize how important an aspect of life is ART. I wish the Phoenix government could support culture more, by understanding the power of arts. Economically, for sure, this is something that costs money, but in the long run, the creative art scene in Phoenix has a huge impact — especially on young people, who are looking for a sense of meaning in their existence.

I believe the more people who are touched by the arts, the less violence, crime, unhappy, and lost people there will be. Just like religion is supposed to be the medicine for soul, arts are supposed to be the food for the mind.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen
24. Tess Mosko Scherer
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski