Tag Archives: GoPro

Madison Chizek’s Dancing Ambition

February 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Madison Chizek slips on her tap shoes, throws her light brown hair in a ponytail, and laughs at herself in the mirror.

“Ok, ready.”

Her mother, Dawn, pushes play. The song “Are You That Somebody?” fills the cold studio with warmth and energy. Or maybe it is Maddy’s moves. Her mint green and black shoes beat their own melody against the smooth vinyl floor. Maddy flips, flaps, and shuffles in dark leggings.

“The 30-second notes are like death, but I love it,” she says.

The words on her T-shirt are written backward so the reflection reads, “Get Out of the Mirror.” The saying is a reminder to be mindful and enjoy the moment.

This moment.

It shows when Maddy finishes, tired but exuberant.

Dance is her release.

“Whether overflowing with happiness or if I am just having a bad day, I can channel that into movements,” Maddy explains.

The 16-year old sophomore from Millard South High School runs through a contemporary routine next, this time barefoot, to “Unchained Melody.” She is past the point of embarrassment and will try anything thrown at her. Her body takes a beating whether it is bruises on her knees from spins, carpet burns, or blisters literally on top of blisters. Basically her feet are horrendous, but the teenager doesn’t let it stop her.

“Bruises are a sign of hard work, and scars are just cool,” Maddy says.

Her mother cheers her on from the sidelines, recording her performances. Dawn wanted her daughter to be physically active, so she enrolled her into dance classes when Maddy was just 3 years old. Maddy, though, crossed her arms and pouted in her pink tutu. 

“She hated it,” Dawn says laughing.

It was just too girly for a tomboy more interested in John Cena and skateboarding than pirouetting. Yet, Maddy continued attending Studio D and entering competitions. At 12, Maddy found her calling at Shockey Dance Co. in southwest Omaha. And workshops, such as Talent on Parade, drew the shy teenager into a world of opportunity. Maddy opened herself up to critiques, listening to tape after tape on ways to improve. Professionals and choreographers exposed her to intensive training at a young age. She met members from the reality television show So You Think You Can Dance, including tapper Gaby Diaz and hip-hopper Fik-Shun. She soon put in 20 hours a week or more, all with the intent of pushing herself to become better.

“It’s like a part-time job,” she jokes.

Maddy now wants to dance professionally.

Rachel Shockey—her contemporary, jazz, and musical theater coach—believes Maddy has a real shot at turning her dreams into reality.

“She is strong and determined,” Shockey says.

Maddy is versatile in many different forms, from ballet to tap to clogging and others. Her positive personality adds to the vibe in the studio where Maddy also teaches when she isn’t dancing.

Yet, it is a very competitive world. Maddy has to sometimes fight her way to the front. Luckily, she keeps getting noticed and pulled out. Her effort earned the attention of GoPro’s director Don Mirault. GoPro is an intense program, seven days in the summer, where dancers train, perform, and live like professionals.

Admission to the workshop is by invitation only—just 40 or 50 of the best from around the nation are selected. In October 2015, Maddy received the news she would be attending. But in December, Maddy complained about back pain, a sore throat, and a fever. She had a very extensive bout of mono. Her top grades plummeted since she could barely get through classes. Maddy just couldn’t function, let alone step on the dance floor. In practices, Maddy watched from the sidelines or marked (practicing the routines without full physical exertion). When her team went to nationals in St. Louis, she came down with strep throat, but still came in fourth place for her tap solo.   

Dawn had to make a difficult decision. She would not be sending her sick daughter to GoPro. Physically, she needed the recovery time, but mentally it took a toll.

“When I am angry or frustrated, I let it out when I dance. When I can’t do that, I get angrier and it feeds off itself,” Maddy explains.

Sitting on the sidelines gave her a new appreciation. Now, fully healed, Maddy has once again been invited not only to GoPro but to professionally choreograph Tokyo’s academy. And people can check her out at the Omaha Jazz and Tap Festival this summer.

Maddy does have fun whether hiking, playing board games, or hanging with her family. She squeezed time in last year to audition for the book Dance Across the USA. Jonathan Givens, formerly a master carpenter for the Oprah Winfrey Show, made it his mission to photograph dancers in all 50 states. Winfrey reminded Givens to photograph what he knew. The former performer and choreographer selected Maddy out of a pool of thousands to shoot stunning moves in gorgeous natural parks and settings.

His idea was to combine the beauty of dance with the beauty of America. Representing Nebraska, Maddie executed a contemporary jump in the cool waters of the Missouri National Recreational River and tapped on the Meridian Bridge.

But it isn’t about the trophies, books, or even the invites. Many times, Maddy will just listen to the music and let it move her.

“There is a genre of dance for every mood you are feeling. It is not a sport. Dance is an art. It’s what I love,” Maddy says.

Visit shockeydancecompany.com for more information about the dance company where Maddy Chizek performs and works.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Droning On

July 28, 2015 by
Photography by Scott Neal

This article published in B2B Summer 2015.

It’s not every roofing repair estimate that draws a crowd of gawkers. But when Luke Hansen of White Castle Roofing gets on site and starts flying his drone, people often stop and watch the show.

“Everyone gets super excited,” says Hansen, also the company’s marketing director. “Neighbors come out—kids. It’s really cool.”

Fun though it might be, Hansen is all business when operating the drone. He started using it in January 2014, primarily for two purposes: to investigate the condition of roofs, and to market and advertise his company by capturing video of his crews at work and their finished projects.

Getting started was easy, and relatively affordable. Hansen bought the unmanned aircraft—a DJI Phantom 2—on Amazon for about $1,500. It features four propellers, enough battery for a 25-minute flight, and a remote control with 7-inch screen to show what video is being captured. Hansen’s Phantom 2 is equipped with a GoPro camera that records HD video and saves it to an SD card.

Hansen estimates the drone’s flight range to be about a mile. He says FAA rules limit flight to no more than 700 feet, though he’s seen YouTube footage of his model going higher than 2,000 feet. Hansen says he typically keeps his drone no more than 100 feet from his position.

Training was a breeze. He only had a small crash or two when he first tested it in a field. “It’s really, really easy to operate,” Hansen says. “Really easy to fly.”

That’s good considering the hard-to-reach places White Castle often encounters. “There are a lot of places, especially in roofing, that are just hard to get to,” Hansen says. “Things that would be time-consuming or dangerous to climb.”

Like the 50-foot-tall church steeple in Raymond, Neb., that Hansen inspected for hail damage using the drone. Estimators otherwise would have used a massive ladder or perhaps a crane. Hansen also used the drone to inspect the damaged roof of an 11-building Lincoln apartment complex with hundreds of units. Typically, that would have taken six hours. Hansen did it in 10 minutes and only hours later he shared the video with the complex manager.

If there is a drawback to using the drone, it’s uncertainty regarding FAA regulations on the use of unmanned aircraft. “There are all sorts of legal things going on right now, so it’s in a bit of limbo,” says Hansen, who gets homeowners’ consent before flying his drone over their property. He stays current with FAA regulatory news and has consulted with Director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Drone Journalism Lab Matt Waite.

White Castle numbers about 100 employees during its peak season, including Luke’s brothers, Jake and Dane. The 30-year-old company frequently embraces technology. For some time it has measured roofs via a service that plugs aerial photographs into mapping software. “We measure every roof on a computer,” Hansen adds.

And this year White Castle began selling Company Cam, an app it developed with Lincoln software developer Agilix. The app compresses job site pictures and uploads them to a private, secure cloud site. The images are time-stamped and tied to their real-world address via GPS. Photos can be drawn on, annotated, and shared live from the field in the office.

“The whole point of tech is to make things easier,” Hansen says. “Sometimes you start using a new technology and it only makes things more complicated. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

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