Back in 1990 Diane Fotino heard music coming from the Brookfield Community Center and decided to investigate. Little did she know what she stumbled into would be the start of her career. Only 10 years old at the time, Fotino discovered a dance class being held by Sue Wagoner of Impact Dance, now at 6B S. La Grange Rd., La Grange and a second location in Countryside.
“I think she was walking home from a baseball game,” Wagoner told me, and went on to say, “I told her to come back tomorrow wearing comfortable clothes.”
Fotino did just that. She returned in comfortable clothes the next day and got hooked on dancing. “After my first dance class, I just kept coming back. I loved it,” Fotino said with a smile.
It’s obvious these two women have a more than just a friendship as they each took turns telling their version of the story.
“At one point Diane didn’t have a ride to class so I told her she could come to the studio with me after school but she would have to stay through the other classes,” Wagoner said, as Fotino interjected, “That’s when I started assisting Sue with the other classes. I became a teacher’s assistant by the age of 12, I think.”
The rest of this story really impressed me. By the time Fotino was 19, Wagoner wanted to spend more time with her twin daughters. “I realized that all my evenings were spent at the studio teaching classes and I was missing out on so much with my daughters that it was time to take a break,” Wagoner, who was born in London, England said with her English accent. According to Fotino, Wagoner told her, “I’m going to close the studio or sell it to you.”
Fotino immediately went to banks securing loans for the studio at the ripe old age of 19. She bought Impact Dance and started running it just two days before she turned 20 in 2000. Wagoner stayed on teaching a few classes until 2002 and then "retired" for good.
Impact Dance has grown from one to two locations with Fotino opening the Countryside location in 2007, and offers more than 100 classes per week specializing in adult dance and yoga, ballet, ballroom, pre-dance, hip hop, jazz, kinder combo, lyrical/contemporary, modern, pom technique, dancing with special needs, tap and classes for tiny tots as well as a competitive dance program.
Wagoner decided to come back and teach a few classes in the past few years but this year she decided it was time to return full time. Fotino was thrilled to hear those words from her mentor and put her in charge of the preschool classes. It was obvious to me why Fotino gave Wagoner the preschooler program the day I visited the Countryside location.
After taking a couple of quick pictures of the two women in the studio I asked if we could take a few shots with the students who were waiting in the lobby. Once Fotino asked the girls to come into the studio, they flocked to Wagoner, known as “Miss Sue.” Seven little girls were jumping and hugging Wagoner while she tried to get them to turn around for a picture.
Impact Dance is a wonderful part of our community with a terrific story of two woman who share their love of dance and an amazing friendship.