Women in FRAME
She starts her day with a twirl and ends it with a dance, and what happens in between is anyone’s guess. But for Dilone, a born and bred New Yorker, her long-term aspirations are finally becoming a reality—thanks to Urban Dove, a charter school that gives young adults access to arts and sports programs who normally wouldn’t have the chance. As someone who dances whenever she can, Dilone shares her love of movement with at-risk students who need stability, honesty, love, and a chance in their lives to express themselves. While taking a break from a writing session (yes, she loves to write), Dilone explains what fuels her energy.
Is it true, you’re one of ten siblings?
It’s true. I’m one of ten. It was so incredible growing up with so many siblings surrounding me. We grew up on Long Island, so my family had space, as opposed to growing up in the city. We each have very strong personalities and when I look at myself, I’m very much a product of my brothers and sisters. They’ve shaped who I am. I’m number eight. I’m one of the three little piggies.
Dance has had a huge impact on who you are. Can you describe why it is such a powerful medium for you to express yourself?
I express myself with my body. Sometimes I think words aren’t enough—even though I love to talk. For me, dance is an incredible release of expressions. Whatever I am feeling, no matter what it is or where I am, I can move my body to express myself. It’s a little bit like being in love to me. It’s the way I show off my mood, and what I’m feeling. When words aren’t enough, dance is always there.
Do you feel like dance centers or grounds you?
You won’t believe me when I say this, but I dance all the time. I mean it—all the time! I get out of bed every single morning and I start dancing. It’s my way of giving gratitude and giving thanks to both the universe and thanks for my body. I wake up and do a twirl when I get out of bed.Easy as that.
Tell us how you got involved with Urban Dove
I have a passion for working with kids and seeing their impact on the world. I always have. It’s just something that I am drawn to. My dream is to open an arts program—a place where kids and students can come and express themselves freely. David Bonnouvrier of DNA Models invited me to a gala for Urban Dove. I didn’t know much about it but he urged me to come as Constance Jablonski was involved—she might have even been honored that night. He wanted me to come and see what was going on so I could get a sense of what they do and what they offer. I went and I was like, “David! These are students! These are adults!” A lot of the students are dropouts around my age. Many are in high school. What Urban Dove does is helps get these people back on track when nobody else will take them. This concept spoke to me because this age group is so important. I realized this group loves sports so why not explore dance and that’s how it started. I teach these kids dance whenever I can. My schedule is kind of hectic and especially right now it’s very chaotic. But I like to teach and dance with these kids as much as I can.
I express myself with my body. Sometimes I think words aren’t enough—even though I love to talk. For me, dance is an incredible release of expressions.
You always had this idea that you wanted to do something like this, where did it stem from?
I Think of the movie Honey —remember? Well, I love that movie so damn much. For one, Jessica Alba is the hottest thing on earth and two, I love the way that it’s about the passion of dance and how those who can’t necessarily afford it, they were able to express themselves through movement. I love the community aspect—everyone got involved. I think this is something that we need to do because it’s so important to the community. Dance brings people together. And I want to continue bringing people together. Even people who don’t think they want to dance—their souls want to dance.
That’s funny because that’s just like me. I want to dance and I know I should dance, I’m just a little too pent-up to let it out.
Then that’s exactly why you need to. You gotta let it out and shake it out and feel it move through your fingers and your toes and let it come out through all your pores. It’s the best feeling and it truly is a form of gratitude.
It’s quite incredible the result that you have had on these students, but what impact have they had on you?
You know, in the beginning, it was a little tough. I didn’t tell them who I was. My approach was very much like, let’s be friends and hang out. I had never taught a dance class before. When I came to take on the “teacher” role, I truly wasn’t prepared for it. It’s a totally different skill set. This group taught me so much. Once I started to be more of a “teacher” and less of their “friend,” they appreciated it more because they’re looking for something stable and honest. They want something that is reliable.
I am very much a spiritual girl—I pray and meditate, and I think that feeding my mind and my body and my soul empowers me the most to keep going, and in doing so, it empowers other people.
Tell me about the first class you taught.
It was more of a warm-up class. You know, getting to know their names. The students change throughout the years and, in fact, their lives are full of change. In the beginning, it was just for seniors but we’ve since opened it up to juniors too. Next year I can’t wait to see their progress. The students didn’t take it as seriously in the beginning. I remember I showed up five minutes late for the first class and one of the girls came up to me and said, “Well, damn. Had I known you were going to be late for this we would have asked someone else to teach.” They weren’t wrong—like I said, they were looking for something concrete and stable. I definitely learned my lesson. Building a relationship with them is important to gain their trust. The students are loving it and so am I.
You’re empowering a group of females and a few males. Who or what empowers you?
I’d have to say that God empowers me. I am very much a spiritual girl—I pray and meditate, and I think that feeding my mind and my body and my soul empowers me the most to keep going, and in doing so, it empowers me the most to keep going, and in doing so, it empowers other people.
What else is in your spiritual universe?
I write a lot. I write about everything—songs, raps, poetry, script writing, because I would like to do some filmmaking in the future. It’s all developing and it all feels very personal to me. I can’t stress enough how much meditation helps. In fact, I really don’t stress anymore. It helps to feed my mind and the way I react to situations. Plus, I am vegan now— which I am loving. And I dance! Whenever my friends sleep over, they say I wake up with so much energy and they don’t know how I do it. I guess they’re right—I don’t know where it comes from. But I start every morning with a spin. I get out of bed, spin, and I envision it clearing negative energy and starting a new path. It’s the way we should all start our days.