Like many professional dancers, vivacious redhead Karen Ziemba began taking tap, jazz and ballet lessons at a young age. Firmly committed to her art, she nonetheless began to branch out as a high school student, singing in the chorale and playing piano. In her junior year, Ziemba faced the dilemma of choosing between ballet classes or playing the lead of Maria in the school's production of "West Side Story," eventually opting for the latter. She did not abandon dance, though, enrolling at the University of Akron in part because of the school's affiliation with the Ohio Ballet. In 1977, she was given a solo spot in the Ohio Ballet's performance of "Reflections" followed quickly by three other works. Whether it was too much pressure on the youngster or a combination of other things, the company director asked her not to return. Hurt and unsure of whether to complete her education, Ziemba continued and completed her degree.