Art & Culture

#PostaDance with Yulia Prokip: exclusive interview with famous dancer Donnie Burns — 14-time World Professional Latin champion and Guinness World Records winner

русская версия | english version
Донни Бернс и Юлия Прокип

Donnie Burns, born in Scotland, is a 14-time World Professional Latin champion and a true world-class star. His name is included in the Guinness World Records (undefeated in nearly 20 years of continuous competition!). Donnie Burns and his partner Gaynor Fairweather are the best couple in ballroom dancing history. And today Donnie is the President of the World Dance Council and a fantastic coach, who knows how to raise real stars.

Донни Бернс и Юлия Прокип

Yulia Prokip: How does it feel to be a 14-time world champion in the Latin American program (and this record has not yet been broken by anyone), tell us what is your success secret?

Donnie Burns: Success is something you don’t really think about the following morning after winning though of course it is imprinted in your memory. You actually feel good that you executed your plan of winning. The only time you really do think about it is only unless you lost the championship. I can truly recall that my partner and I were only really satisfied three or four times after winning. The other times were spent critiquing that we didn’t dance as well as we wanted. In addition, if you won, but didn’t achieve your specific dancing goals would make you just feel relieved that you won, but still a little disappointed.

Юлия Прокип и Донни Бернс

— How have you not lost your passion by doing the same profession for so many years?

— Yes, I have, I have actually lost it. The most difficult part of teaching and practising dancing is literally getting into the studio because once you go into the studio and turn the music on it’s a different atmosphere. I have told my youngest student dancers that they set the atmosphere, I get charged off their energy. The problem is, my energy and enthusiasm used to only be from within, but now its both internal and external.

— What gets easier in the profession over the years, and what has become more difficult?

— Very good question… What actually gets more difficult is the people. People tend to get jealous and indifferent in that they start showing negative attitudes and this includes mostly people that I have helped. People in general are hard to deal with. What gets easier is the fact that dancing competitions become your entire life. The perspective you have is that it is life and death and anything else to distract you, you automatically block it from doing so. You only, ‘keep your eyes on the ball’, ruthlessly. The other thing that becomes easier is that your whole perspective on life changes for example life teaches you different lessons. You lose some people in your family, health challenges, and your perspective changes. I have a life, a family life, a beautiful wife, a gorgeous eight years old son. His name is Domenico.

Донни Бернс

My mother was Italian and my grandfather was called Domenico. Sadly, he died when my mum was two, so she never got to know her dad. When I was six my mum told me the story of my grand dad and I promised her that I would have a son and I will give him the name Domenico. To be honest, when I got to fifty, I didn’t think it would ever happen.

When I was fifty-four I had a son. He was the most beautiful gift. Therefore, my life is so easy now because when people get upset in the dance world I tell them it’s not important, it ain’t a nuclear war. I now have a healthier balance in my life. I am just so focused on the fact that God has been so good to me. I have everything: career, family, and son. Most people sacrifice one for other. I am one of the lucky ones, I have got both. I deal with things in life a lot differently now. I now consider things more and for that I take a longer time to make decisions.

Юлия Прокип и Донни Бернс

— What has changed in the profession? What are the differences between young people back then and young people now who dance?

— Great question. There is mostly good. In the old days if you wanted to get information about dancing you had to book a plane and fly to London and get some license. This was a hassle which was very expensive because you had to book a hotel, rent a car and book a license. It was so inconvenient. Today, it is the opposite, within a studio or Starbucks you can click a button and have access to all the information within seconds. It is way more convenient. The drawback to all of this is that it is superficial knowledge. it’s like watching a magician and all you see is the rabbit, you don’t get to see the trick. We have a saying in California that states, if you think you are dying, google two causes and you will find it and will be definitely be convinced you are dying. You can’t trust the Internet. I was born in Scotland and I had to move to London to get deep knowledge, because superficial knowledge is not the same as having the depth of knowledge.

Донни Бернс
Донни Бернс

— What is your most memorable victory in dancing?

— There are a few victories, a long career of twenty-three years which most of it was like being at the top. We won for about fourteen or fifteen years and then we retired after two years. We then re-enter and won again. There are so many memories, one of them was our first black pool finals when we came second, but the crowd was really cheering for us. I remember also getting the MBE from Her Majesty the Queen for outstanding services in Performing Arts. It was a great day in my life.

On the other hand, there were some disasters as well, disasters which were embarrassing. I remember a European championship in Austria. We went up against a very good dancer from Norway. We would win alternatively. Normally we would always win the paso doble which was our best dance. He would normally win the Rumba. We were competing and it was like two for one for him. I remember there was a big fat Austria man who was sitting in a chair with a gorgeous woman beside him. The woman would hold up the number at the end. We got to the paso doble and I had this shetty where I would jump up into the air and land on the floor. The dance was live on television and I remember thinking when I hit this shetty I will jump to this roof because I will be the European champion. So, I ran at it and threw myself into the air, came down, slid right across the floor hit the fat guy out his chair, the chair was gone and he was in the air. He landed on top of me and was looking at me while the music was still playing. My partner was behind me and she was looking as if to say how stupid I was. I then looked at the fat man and said, just don’t give us six and he did give us both six. That made us lose the European because we lost that paso doble. It was a disaster. When we got back to the practice in London they called me the flying Scotland. Everybody was laughing in London.

Юлия Прокип и Донни Бернс

— What changes have you discovered in the dance industry, now that you no longer compete, but instead sit in a different capacity — as the President of the International Dance Committee?

— One of the things that really has changed is the pro am side. When I was competing in my time, the pro am side wasn’t so big and a lot of the top dancers may have looked down on it. However, now in the pro am side, it is a much bigger industry because some of the top dancers are a part of it. For example, now one of the sponsors of the WDC and business partner is of a dance studio that has grown out of six hundred world wide and in about twenty countries.

Юлия Прокип и Донни Бернс

— You have not been to Moscow for 10 years. What are things that have changed globally for you in this city?

— I used to visit Moscow every month because I lived in London then and it was really easy. Now, I live in California which is a twelve hour flight, ten hours time difference. I now have a wife and a son which means my life is different. COVID then came and for the first time in my life I didn’t travel for a year and a half. Before then, when people asked me where I lived I told them British Airways.

Донни Бернс

I am now having a fabulous time here in Moscow. It is now the third day and I’m here on invitation of Sergey Ryupin and his dance school. Moscow has changed. There are different buildings now, not some of the old Soviet buildings, but now there are some younger buildings with glass, just an ecliptic differential between the traditional and the cutting edge which I find fascinating. The traffic has decreased which is a little bit of culture shock. Now I am in the studio and it is only ten minutes from my hotel. In the old days, it was like a two hour drive to the center and now it is ten minutes which is so much better. What has not changed though is that I still find the young dancers here are very much the same. They are very respectful, intelligent and immensely unbelievably talented.

Юлия Прокип и Донни Бернс

— What in your opinion distinguishes Russian dancers from dancers of other nationalities?

— When I first started coming to Moscow in the time of the Soviet Union, people who were outside Russia had this concept of the Russian dancers as being very disciplined, rigorously military disciplined. I however didn’t find them that disciplined in those days. I just found them to be talented. In some ways today, I think they are more disciplined. They are very quick to gain the momentum and, ‘go like rockets’.

— With the new approach to education which includes: empathizing with children and listening attentively to them instead of being too strict; do you think it is possible to raise real athletes in this way if you do not push them to maximize their full potential?

— I used to just tell children what to do, but now I ask them more questions. I allow them to feel that they have navigated themselves to their conclusion. In the past, I used to just present things, ‘with a spoon’. It was a natural process within me. On the other hand, now I like to just try and manipulate their mentality and their thought process to get to the conclusion.

Донни Бернс

— As a Scottish man, what national traits would you highlight that have helped or hindered you in sports?

— First, never ever give up even if you are lying on the floor and you think you are dying, don’t give up. Though I was not close to my father like I was to my mother, he gave me a mentality. He was very clever. When I was leaving Scotland to go to England, I was 19 years old; he said to me that he wanted to give me some advice. He asked me if I wanted it and I told him no thanks, but he gave me it anyways which made me roll my eyes. He told me when I get my dance teachers there will be different ones and whatever they tell me, I should never be afraid. Do not hesitate to ask why. He went on further to say that one day most teachers will tell you something rude out of anger —that’s when I will know that I have reached the end of their knowledge. For me, those two things combined, the determination beyond common sense is just like requisites together. It’s like keep your head down and just keep going. I thank my dad very much.

— Healthy lifestyle trends have turned dancing into a leisurely fitness routine: many learn to dance just to keep in good shape — and for fun. What dances do you think are the most suitable for such varied needs?

— We do both in the gym, we workout and we dance. But lets take into consideration the feel-good factor when you are finished dancing. When you go in the gym, you burn the calories, but with dancing it is a different feel good factor. It is a deeper factor, you have moved to music, you have expressed yourself, in burning the calories. Many times it is with a member of the opposite sex, with your lover, with your partner which is a much greater feel good factor. Research recently in the States has shown that to delay or to prevent Alzheimers and dementia because of the spacial relationship of dancing, it is in the top three things to do. Some health insurance companies now in America are thinking to connect with dancing: they believe that if people are members of a dance club or do dancing, their premiums get a discount.

Юлия Прокип и Донни Бернс

— In your opinion, how is dance generally useful in raising children especially if there is no desire for a professional career.

— Raising children is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward. You have to find your own way with raising them. Studying body language is a big help. I know immediately within the first five minutes whether my son Domenico is in a good mood or bad mood because of his body language which is a general language.

Юлия Прокип и Донни Бернс

— Should dancing be brought back to education on a regular basis?

— I do think that. For example, in some regions in Сhina, they are considering that. Even when I was dancing as a kid, we had dancing taught to us in school. They taught us the quick step, the cha cha cha and it was our Physical Education teacher. His name is Mr. Riley and he said to me that if he didn’t do it properly I shouldn’t tell him. Dancing teaches children respect and how to relate to each other. It also teaches them certain values, a little bit of discipline, respect, etiquette, and social integration. We home school Domenico during COVID, we took a teacher to the house and home schooled him just to be safe. However it is not something that we want to do as we are sending him back to school now because the social integration part is a huge thing.

Донни Бернс и Юлия Прокип

— In your opinion what should a modern dance school look like today?

— I think they are more multi dance centers which seem to be almost a mini cultural center. It is definitely connected with fitness more and more. They are also brighter, more user friendly. This is a medium for people to go and socialize. Our son Domenico wants to do hip hop, soul, a little bit with a partner and we just let him find his way. We later told him two weeks after that he needs to find which genre is his passion soon.

09 августа 2021
Yulia Prokip для раздела Art & Culture