Someone who embodies this motto is Ivonne Pronovich. She got a start to her dance journey a little later in life, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a powerhouse. She runs one of the most successful Bachata groups in the United States. It is obvious just from talking to her that one of the things that is most important to her is the happiness and success of her students. We had the opportunity to face-time Ivonne and ask her all about her dance journey, the inspiration behind her routines, and what she would tell herself if she could travel back in time to when she first started.
Ivonne got her start at the age of 20 in Hungary, “I started dancing 11 years ago, so I was already an adult. I love to travel, so at that time I was living in Hungary. I am originally from Argentina, but I was traveling a lot. I wanted to dance because I have always loved dancing, but I always thought I was too old to start, so that’s why I never did it before. I thought it was too late! I wanted to do some latin dance, but the only thing they had at the time in Hungary was ballroom dancing. I didn’t have any choice, but I did it and I loved it so so much that when I went back to Argentina, I looked for a school. At that time, they only had one ballroom school there, so I started there and I did it almost everyday. I was fortunate at the time that they were starting a teacher college, a ballroom dance instructor college, and I said ‘ok, I have to do this even if I am too old, because I want to learn more.’ We didn’t have any other instructors or many places to learn ballroom dancing, so my only option to learn technique was to do the instructor college.”
Even though she now is a master teacher, Ivonne didn’t always feel that way, “They forced me to teach at the end of my schooling, and I never thought I was going to like it. Long story short, I don’t see myself not teaching. Teaching is my passion. Of course, dancing, but teaching brings me so much happiness. I love bringing happiness to people, I love seeing them grow and achieving their goals through me, and to help them do that makes me the happiest person that I can be.”
Teaching also led Ivonne to the United States, “Someone saw me competing and they asked the director of my school who had a teaching certificate. I was one of ten people in the whole country who had one, so they gave me the opportunity to come to the United States to teach at that time in a studio in Florida. All of us in Argentina, it’s a big dream to come to the U.S. because there are so many opportunities here, you can grow and I love traveling, so I didn’t even think twice. I said yes, so that’s how I came to the U.S. I love this country, I love the people. It gives me so much joy and people are so great. When they want to learn, it’s like the perfect opportunity for me to say ‘I’m here, I can help you. I can try to do what I love for you.’”
Ivonne runs a highly successful bachata team, “My proudest accomplishment to date is having my own team, my own company now. When I think back to when I first started dancing, if someone had said to me ‘You’re going to have your own company, and you’re going to be a professional dancer, and people are going to like what you do and follow you.’ I would have said ‘You’re crazy.’ Now here in New York, I came here not knowing anyone and just wanted to find my way myself and that’s what I’m doing. I’m working for me, having my ladies team and partner work team. We work for competitions, we perform everywhere we can, and I love them. They are my family! They probably don’t know that, but I love them. All of my family is in Argentina so I spend most of my time with them. I try to be the nicest I can be. After going through not wanting to teach at all in the beginning and then working for other studios, all of that made me grow and gave me the strength to do what I want to do and love to do.”
The world of Bachata and their competitions vary slightly from traditional ballroom competitions. Ivonne was able to elaborate on what makes a Bachata competition so unique, “We take classes together, mostly group classes. I know that ballroom has a lot of private lessons, but here we do mostly group classes. So I have my open classes where everyone can join. We divide them by levels. In order to form my teams, I will hold auditions twice a year, so I select people to join the teams. I create choreography and the people who are selected will join and we start training them. We finish the routines and then we’re ready to go to events. We go to socials that they have, they invite us to go to other states. We travel a lot to all the dance congresses, from bachata to salsa, they invite people to perform, and we love it. That’s one of the things that I want to talk about. It’s not that we just learn and then we go social dancing. It’s also about having the costumes, creating a character, like we can do our hair, our makeup with the super long eyelashes, and we can be someone else for 5 minutes dancing. That is something that I love too. I want to express it and make my students feel so confident being there on the stage. Also, having the opportunity to go to a competition, it’s something that I love and I want them to love it too. The competitions are just like a performance for us. The team goes to the stage or the dance floor by themselves and they do their routine. There are different categories, just like in ballroom competitions, like pro-am, amateur, professional, so I try to make them dance as many times as they can. People who don’t feel like they’re ready, we always try as a family to make them feel comfortable and do it too. We also have some private events too. For example, sometimes we may show up in the middle of a wedding and do our thing there. It’s so much fun having the chance to do so many different things with one routine. Every year, I do two or three routines per team, so that we can offer a variety to the organizers.”
Since Ivonne does so many routines each year, she has to find inspiration, “I start by choosing a song. So when I listen to a song, I have to love it. If I’m not completely sure, then I end up not liking it anymore once I start to do the steps. So I have found that I have to love it, and then because I love it so much, the steps come to my mind easily. My routines are bachata routines, but I try not to close myself to just bachata steps. I try to move and express the way I feel it in the music, so I do a mix. I know ballroom dancing, I have done ballet before, I have done some Argentine tango, so there’s always a temptation for me to mix things together. I also think that’s why my students choose me as well, because I am not just doing one thing and they can learn more. My inspiration comes just from the music. If I listen to a song and nothing comes to me, I think to myself that that’s ok and I keep trying. It’s also how I feel that day. My emotions can lead me to one kind of dance and I play with it. I record myself so on another day I can see myself from another angle or perspective, so I can say ‘this is good material, we can use this,’ or ‘No Ivonne, this wasn’t that good today, we’re not going to use this.’ It’s just playing with the song and trying to find the steps that feel easy to the music, organic and natural. Once I teach it to my students, I try to bring as many coaches from other disciplines to put their own vision on it. Sometimes I feel that if it’s only my vision, I’m close-minded. It’s not just for me, I want them all to have the opportunity to grow, so that’s why I bring other people to check it out and give their opinion. I’m always open to changes in a routine because the goal is always to make it better and more intricate. Sometimes making it simpler is what I need and I always learn from that. I never stop learning.”
When the pandemic hit, Ivonne had to adjust to not seeing her students in person. She said, “When the pandemic started, I had to stop teaching completely. Everyday I was in the studio, so it was a big change for me. There was one month where there was nothing to do. Then when all of the online classes became popular, I was completely opposed to them. I didn’t want to teach online. First because I thought it was going to pass quickly, but also because one of my favorite parts about teaching is to be with my students face to face. I like to be with them so that I can correct and pay attention to them. This was I can show them what I’m doing super clearly. I am a perfectionist, but teaching online now that I’m doing it weekly it’s good. You can reach people all across the world. I have students from Argentina, New Zealand, Canada, and even other states that weren’t able to take classes with me before. That’s great, but I’m also missing the warmth of seeing people and I still don’t think I am teaching it super technical. The screens are so little that I can try to pay attention to all the details, but it’s so hard. I’m not blaming the ones that don’t feel comfortable in my Zoom classes either, because it’s not the same. I’m not super happy with it, but yes, I was able to expand other places and you have to see the good side to everything. I am also starting a new routine for my teams, so I can’t wait to see them face to face to see what they really learned through the screen. I think I overthink about my ability to teach over Zoom because people are still coming and the class is still packed. I think I’m not doing a good job, but then people are still there every week, so it might be just me. The only thing that I am going to miss is that there is a big competition, the World Salsa Summit, in Miami in January. We all travel together and as soon as we finish the competition this past year, everything was normal. We always come back with lots of adrenaline and dreams to do better next year. Everyone always want to start right after we compete for the next year. I didn’t want to lose that push, but then this happened and they moved the competition for the middle of 2021. We’ll see if they make it but everything stopped and I miss that because we were good, we wanted to do it better. Also, having the tradition to do it every year, it would be the fourth year that we all go together, it will be hard for it not to happen, but everything teaches us something.”
Ivonne has taken this time to grow as a person. She elaborates, “Maybe this pandemic is to teach us to be patient, to see things from another perspective, and that’s what I’ve found. I am working on myself more, not just with dancing, because that’s what I’m doing the least now. I have been working out much more, now I’m doing it every day. I am able to take care of myself and before I didn’t cook. I hated cooking, but now I find myself doing it all the time. I also bought all of this gym equipment to work out at home. I found myself learning from all these YouTube channels and found myself actually paying attention to them. I have learned a lot about how the muscles work in the body, depending on which kinds of exercises you do. I’m doing basically two hours per day, I try to rest 1 or 2 days a week. I do everything, arms, legs, butt, and I have been so happy to see the changes because I never thought they could happen at home with my own equipment. I thought it was only possible at the gym. I even invited my students to join me,. I told all of them that I was going to work out and that they were free to join me. If that gives you guys the push to do it, then let’s do it, because sometimes if you don’t have other people supporting you, you don’t want to do it. We all help each other with that. They show up and we all train together. It’s also good because I ask them what exercises work the best for them and what they think they need. The more people that are involved, the better. We’re changing it everyday, but basically we work out all of our body. I also am doing stretching classes, but I also opened that to them too. I don’t have the opportunity to give them anything right now and I always like to bring coaches so they can learn or give them a gift, so this is my chance to tell them that I’m still here and I still care about them. So you all can join and have fun! All those things bring you a piece of mind and I think that I’m growing in a different way that was needed. I find myself being stronger and I know that when I go back to teaching face to face, I will be so much better. I really needed this, so I’m happy for that opportunity. So I have to thank the pandemic for that.”
Outside of dancing, Ivonne has a passion for traveling. Her favorite place she’s ever been? The Canary Islands in Spain, “This is so hard! I think I will say right now, because I have some countries that I have not been to yet, that my favorite place is Spain, specifically the Canary Islands. I didn’t dance at the time I went, so I don’t know what I missed, but it was so beautiful. I love the warm weather and the beach. It was a paradise! When I chose to live in New York it was because of dancing. It’s one the only cities where you can find any kind of style of dance in the world. You have everything, you have any class you want to take, and some of the world’s best dancers and instructors are here, so I can fight the winter. I have been here for 5 years and I’m still fighting it. So yes, if I would have to choose a beautiful city, I would say Spain. Tokyo is next on my list. After the pandemic, I’ll be there.”
When it comes to choosing shoes, the choice for Ivonne is simple. She states, “Remember before I said I was a perfectionist? So I am like that with almost everything. One of the things that I always wanted was to feel good with my shoes. I always thought I had an issue with stability and balance. Before I used AIDA, mainly I was concerned with my balance. Every time I had the opportunity to take a class, whether it be a private class or coaching, I was always asking how can I improve my balance? I felt that it was holding me back from expressing the best of myself dancing. I was always told to do the same exercises and I was still asking the same questions, because there was no improvement. I then realized that it wasn’t that, because I had tried all the shoes on in the market and then one day I found AIDA online. I had probably seen it somewhere, and I found that they had all different sizes for the ball of my foot. That was also another issue that I had before, shoes were always too tight on my toes. I was always telling myself that the shoes were going to stretch because I was going to use them so much and then the pain would go away. This happened for years until I found Ilia and AIDA. He showed me that there was a wide and even a double wide shoe, so they saved my life because I wear double wide. Now I find that I have no pain. I found the perfect shoe. I was also close-minded. I didn’t want to change from a flare heel to a slim heel. I thought that the balance that I had found, I was going to lose it if I changed heels. Then I realized, I already gained my balance, which I am going to blame on the shoes, as well as all of the work that I put into it, but mainly the shoes. Bachata is so sexy and sensual and I love showing that, as well as passing it along to my students, and I realized that the slim heel is so sexy and sharp. It looks so good on the dance floor and the stage, so I decided that I have to try it. As soon as I tried it, another dream came true. Now I’m obsessed with the shoes. I make all my students get the shoes. I took 15 of my team members to New Jersey to get fitted. They all felt so comfortable, because AIDA can adapt to any foot and you don’t feel left out. I felt that way when I was getting my shoes before. They have all the options. I like to make my students happy, so AIDA is making my students happy for me. Ilia definitely gained some points for that! They are just sexy shoes and that’s my brand. All the hips and the sexiness, AIDA fits in perfectly with us.”
Ivonne had some advice for her 20 year old self, the one that was just starting to dance. Ivonne would tell her, “I would tell her that nothing can stop you! Whatever I want to achieve, I can. It is not crazy to think that after less than 10 years, I would be able to travel with dancing, be a professional dancer and be able to teach. To have all these people following behind me, wanting something from me, which brings me so much joy and happiness by giving it to them. Don’t be afraid to go for it, to go for your dreams. Don’t think that it is too late because the only one who is putting that idea in your head is you. That is something that I have learned through my own journey, and it is good to apply to anything in life. I chose to focus on dancing, but I think anything is possible right? It’s all about finding what you love and I am so thankful that I found it. I am also so thankful that my family didn’t stop me, because I probably looked crazy at that time saying ‘Hey, i’m going to drop university because I want to go all in with the dancing.’ I am sure my parents were thinking that I was crazy, but I am so thankful that they didn’t stop me. I wouldn’t have stopped even if they said something, but they always support me. Opportunities are all about the effort that you put in and that you keep thinking that anything is possible. Do your best because the progress is little by little. You may not see a huge improvement in one year, but if I go back, thank goodness I didn’t stop learning all the different dances, because they made me where I am today. So just keep going!”
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