BW: Hello Ilona! Thank you for allowing me access to a very special lady... and No blushing!
I see you as a very enlightened, high-spirited, talented lady - and though we have not met in person, I already know you as a friend. Your support has been genuine and timely for me!
BW: What can you tell me about yourself - Where are you from - What has influenced you?
ITW: I was raised in both US and Germany. My love of music and dancing comes from my mother, who, gave me my first ball-room lessons. Continued with an instructor, while a student in Germany, during my high school and early college years. I returned to the US to finish my studies and with adulthood came responsibilities which placed ball-room dancing on a shelf for many years.
BW: I imagine you have many fond memories of your early dancing - especially with your mother giving you your first lessons. I am not familiar with ballroom dancing, but many of the better line dancers I know have ballroom experience. Movement with grace! Bringing new “class” to line dancing and choreography. How did you become interested in line dancing?
ITW: It was about 6 1/2 years ago when a friend asked me to go "line dancing". "What is that"? I asked. She encouraged me to come along and I even participated in the Beginner's class. I stayed to watch the 2nd hour and couldn't imagine ever dancing intermediate level. That, however, was mastered quicker than I thought---in part due to some very nice people on the dance floor pointing which direction to turn or calling out a restart/tag.
BW: I find that most people that truly enjoy line dancing are also wonderful mentors. We have all been “there” - at a class wondering which foot, which direction, sailor step what? Its important to learn in a supportive environment - it can make or break your love for it! I held a workshop last February and the thing I tried to stress when promoting it was that it would be a “safe learning environment among friends - no embarrassment allowed”. I had only been dancing for just less than a year at that time and knew this to be important. I’m rambling again - sorry! I have to say you look great! I am sure it isn’t just line dancing that is keeping you looking fit and youthful…
ITW: Thank you for saying that . I have always felt it was important to take good care of myself and to help others do the same - as I did while working as a Fitness Instructor - Personal Trainer.
BW: I can see that you were very successful! Now, lets see - where were we…
ITW: After a few months of becoming an Intermediate level line dancer, I returned to ball-room lessons. I also found a teacher in the area whose classes were only country line dance. New friends asked me to join them in outdoor festivals, country bars, clubs, etc. I had the opportunity to become acquainted with instructors within a 50 mile radius via work-shops, fundraising dances,Christmas Dances, etc. I was very busy! Some of my non-dancing friends realized that Friday night was dance night "somewhere" and that is where I would be! My availability was limited. (both of us laugh at this one!)
BW: Its amazing how a new or revived hobby like this can take over … If you love it, and its good for you - physically, mentally, emotionally - why not enjoy it! I am so pleased that this was not left dormant on “the shelf” for you…. and I love the way you have embraced it full out.
ITW: LOL My reputation was - and still is - "she never sits down”. I had years of missing out on dancing while raising a family with a non-dancing husband, community volunteer and working part-time. Add to that the stamina developed from 18 years as Fitness Instructor/Personal Trainer at the YMCA. I just simply love to keep moving! By the way, this energy level of mine indirectly led to my becoming a choreographer for line dances. If I didn't know a dance to a song being played, I wouldn't sit still - I would just dance "my" steps. I was asked "what dance is that"? My answer "just made it up”. A line dance instructor of a nearby town suggested that I submit my original choreography to the websites.
BW: How cool is that? Its really neat to be recognized for a talent! I love to hear of support back and forth within the line dance community. Very cool! Speaking of energy levels - I imagine that your physical fitness experience helped in line dancing?
ITW: For everything. Balance, stamina, safety, memory… As it happens, my experience as a Fitness Instructor came in handy for many reasons - for dancing but also for choreography. First of all - I was part of the choreography team for the dance aerobic program, so I was familiar with dance patterns & flow. Secondly - we had to memorize all the steps to 9 songs, every 6 week session. These weren’t little songs! There were no less than three 32 count patterns for ONE song.
BW: That is incredible to think of. Brain power in action! Tell me about your dances. I have seen a couple of them on YouTube and looked the steps up on Copperknob. I watched classes from all over the world displaying your dances! Very cool! Quite an honor :-) I hope to use a couple of your dances for classes that I am in.
ITW: Oh, I am glad to hear that! Its fun to see my dances enjoyed. My first dance, " I Like To Cha Cha" was submitted in January 2015. I had the usual beginner fumbles: My video had counts, but no music demo. Its nice to include at least part of the music when you can… when we are allowed. Also, I didn't know about CopperKnob's top 100. I received an email from a friend saying that my dance was in the top 20 - I had no idea. That was neat. When I posted my dance, I did not network on social media or other websites to promote it. I have learned much since then. You mentioned that you saw it being danced by groups all over the world - well - This dance has 6 videos of which I'm aware with combined views of over 12,000 to date. Very thankful that other dancers are taking note.
BW: Yes, that must be the one that I saw so much of online. Great exposure even without you having promoted it - that says a lot about the quality of your dance. I see that “I Like to Cha Cha” is a Beginner level dance - I will definitely have to locate the music on I-Tunes and work on this one! I don't know if I told you this yet, but I had been thinking about starting a line dance class to fill one of the mornings that is currently a void.... I am not an instructor, though I have taught dances... I actually had one class on Thursday (08/13) and it was fun! I intended for it to be an interactive, casual 2 hours of dance. We talked steps, moves, danced a few old ones and a few new ones. One of the new ones was yours - your newest "Easy Beginner Dance". As it was new to me also, we had to work at it, but we danced it through and will conquer it this next week. Very nice!! I am very happy that you alerted me to this new dance on its first day posted! Will we be seeing more dances?
ITW: Absolutely! And thank you for teaching my dance! I will be keeping busy in all aspects of line dance. I still take lessons from 2 local instructors in addition to becoming a published choreographer. I have been asked to teach on a private basis, which I enjoy tremendously. These new dancers are exploring the world of line dance, want to dance at their wedding, would like to attend a country fest, etc. At times the request is for very basic ball-room in Waltz, ECS or Rumba. The variety is great for me, too.
BW: I wish I lived closer to you - though I prefer my Florida sunshine. We would have a blast with classes. and learning?... Actually, I expect to learn much through our new Thursday class - being a mentor reinforces your own knowledge and experience. Just like back in school... way back - (gotta laugh here)
ITW: It is fun for me as well as for my new dancers and yes, we are all learning. Line Dancing is excellent for mind, body and social interaction.
BW: That is so true. Especially as we are getting older - this is a wonderful outlet. Well, Ilona, thank you very much for consenting to this interview. I really appreciate that you have shared so much with us. Is there anything else you would like to add?
ITW: We sure have covered a lot of territory and its worth it to repeat just how much benefit we gain from line dancing - in so many ways... keep it up!.. and Thank you, for the interest. This was fun!
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BY THE WAY - Ilona's Dance "Easy Beginner Dance" made it to #15 on Copperknob's top 100 list - a wonderful experience for a choreographer - Bravo!! Watch for more of Ilona's work in the years to come!