Ștefan Ilieș started dancing at the age of 7 in his hometown of Chisinau, Moldova and has never stopped. He holds multiple competition titles; winning National Championships in Latin and Standard dance styles in Moldova, Romania (where he moved to continue his education). Coming to America and opening Let’s Dance Miami Studio was a lifetime dream that came true last year in 2019. His entertaining personality and passion for dancing make teaching his students the best job in the world.
Natalia Ghilașcu: Who inspired you to pursue this career?
Ștefan Ilieș: I started to dance when I was 7 years old, in Chișinău, at the Tinerețe Dance Sport Club. My first teacher was Natalia Rusu, to whom I am forever grateful for all the time she spent guiding my first dance steps. Thanks to her, I started to love the Ballroom Dance world. I challenged myself to compete, and I have had amazing results right from the beginning. I was the Silver Medalist at the Ballroom and Latin Dances Competition.
At the age of 16 I moved to Bucharest, where I continued my studies and also my dancing, at the Generația 9 dance club, guided by Constantin Vasile. I was part of the Romanian National Team for over 5 years, and I competed in all the national and international competitions, representing Romania abroad. I started competing at many international competitions and that is how I ended up traveling through Europe a lot.
In my 24 years of dancing, I have had the opportunity to meet many amazing people, who have contributed to become the person I am today. My friend Lucian Stan has had a special role in my life. He always reminded me that my purpose in this world is to make people fall in love with Ballroom Dancing.
All my dance teachers and my friends contributed to my development and also to the love that I have for Ballroom Dancing. Getting to this point was an amazing journey and I am really grateful to everyone.
N.G: What are your biggest achievements in the US?
Ș.I: My story in the USA starts in 2014, while arriving at the Miami Airport with only one bag and a big dream – to start a dance studio. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew that I would do my best to see my dream come true.
I started to teach, to train and to compete in all of the major competitions. I won the FADS World Championships and also the National Championships of Rhythm and Style. I got a Bronze Medal in the Latin Division at the National Championships. Along with my students, we became National and World Champions in the Pro-Am Division. I was blessed to have some of the best and most dedicated students ever.
One great achievement that I am proud of is my participation in several fundraising events. We raised money to help Cancer Survivors and to give them a better hope for the future. We also raised money for a Center for Down Syndrome Kids. These small things make me proud that I could contribute to the community that I was part of.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to transform my O1 visa into a permanent residency, thanks to all my talent demonstrations over the years spent in the US. This opened many doors for my future career. And November 2nd, 2019, marked the opening of my own dance studio Let’s Dance Miami located on 15400 Biscayne Blvd suite 114. Aventura FL 33160. So, in the end, dreams do come true.
N.G: What type of activities will you have at your studio?
Ș.I: Let’s Dance Miami will offer private lessons, group lessons, wedding lessons, parties, showcases and competitions for all the people who love to dance.
We teach a variety of dances from: Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, Waltz, Swing, Cha Cha Cha, Merengue, Tango, Paso Doble, Hustle and many more. We teach all ages, for example, one of my previous students was 4 years old and another one was 99 years young. Also, all levels are invited. If you have never danced before or if you have had prior experience in the ballroom dancing world, we will make sure to make your dancing experience fun and enjoyable.
We have 2 groups that practice a variety of dances every single week. Every month we have a party for our students to practice their dancing and also meet and socialize, and have a great time. Let’s Dance Miami is more than a dance studio, it is a family where everyone is welcome and everyone has a great time.
We also go to local, national and international competitions all year round. We have a great time competing, and we get to visit amazing new places and have such a good time together. Our students also get to dress up, put on their nice dresses, some makeup and have the time of their lives. On December 7th, we had our first competition, with our student Eva Serditova, where we got 1st Place 15 times in single dances, and we won 2 Championships. We already have many more competitions planned for next year.
Depending on your preferences, we have a variety of activities that you can try and have fun with. So, for all of Miami residents, we are waiting for you to come by and try out our dance studio. Dance is the best activity that anyone can have.
N.G: What are the lessons you teach your students?
Ș.I: We have a program that helps anyone to start from zero experience and get to a more confident, then to a more advanced dancer. We start with very easy steps and gradually make it more challenging and more fun.
According to a study published by Stanford University, dancing is the best activity for anyone. It offers the cardio exercise that everybody needs and also the brain exercise. It is the best activity for preventing Alzheimer’s and it’s proven to keep you younger, for a longer time. If working out is not your cup of tea, dancing is the activity that will offer you the most fun steps and you won’t even notice that you are exercising.
Dancing also teaches one patience. In a time where everything is fast, dancing takes time and practice to become the dancer that you wish to be. It takes days, weeks and sometimes years to master some steps. But because dancing is so much fun, you won’t even notice it.
N.G: What type of dances do you teach?
Ș.I: We teach a variety of dances from Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, Tango, Swing, Waltz, Cha Cha Cha, Bolero, Mambo, Merengue and many more. Some of the dances I have learned in Europe, those being the Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Cha Cha Cha, Jive and Samba. And some others were completely new to me.
In America, there is a special American Style of Ballroom Dancing that has been implemented. Some of the dances have a different form from the International Style. With the help of my coaches, I could make a really fast transition to understand and learn those styles. Dancing is universal on all continents and in all styles. It just takes a little adjustment to learn and practice those styles.
N.G: Your biggest challenges since coming to the US?
Ș.I: The biggest challenge that I think I have had up until now was obtaining my Green Card. Especially because it was a long process with a lot of paperwork and a lot of waiting and stress. Receiving a Green Card opened a whole lot of new doors with a lot of other opportunities.
Opening my dance studio was possible only by obtaining my Green Card. After that, in the buildup for my studio, I had some new challenges. I had to learn how to install a floor, how to install a sink, and how to install many fixtures in the studio. This experience made me a better handyman. I am looking forward to all the challenges that we will face with our new Dance Studio. It will be a fun journey!
N.G: What are you most proud of?
Ș.I: I can be proud of many things, but I am most proud of my family. My wife is my rock, she works double than I do and at the end of the day has more energy than I do. Our families are from Moldova, with our parents in Chisinau and they helped us a lot. I have a brother in Chicago, Mircea. Him and his wife Maia, have a wonderful daughter, Elizabeth. I am proud of my friends, my students, my dancing studio and many other things.
N.G: What do you wish for the future?
Ș.I: For the future I wish to be healthy and able to achieve everything that I have on my mind. I want to grow my studio to become one of the biggest in Florida. To create a nice and friendly environment so every dancer can have a great time. And I think once I have that, everything else will come and will happen.
N.G: Did the degree that you received from the Academy of Economic Studies help with your studio?
Ș.I: The degree I got helped me a lot. Even though when I was a student, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the importance of it. Right now, it has proven to be a big help.
It created the mindset for me that helped me develop as an entrepreneur and grow my business. I want to thank all of my teachers I’ve had in my life, from dance teachers to my school and university teachers that have contributed to who I am today.