The interview with Mirko Gozzoli and Edita Daniute took place in Blackpool the day before they were to make their first appearance as a couple in the British Open dancing from the first round. Mirko and Edita represent Italy. See their results and photos.
...when a couple practise the correct elements, the technique, the footwork and using their musicality then they should be able to do what they want
We are very pleased to see you. Congratulations on your dancing and it must be very challenging for you as you are reaching the top of the World again. Edita, we have recorded your history from previous dance career so if you could please tell us about the recent years.
[Edita] I had a baby and I stayed happily with the family but I was very miserable in my career (laughs). I started a dancing club and was teaching kids and judging and everything was fine and I enjoyed that but not as much as competing. I suddenly started missing competing very much. When I was competing I was tired of all the lessons and competitions but then I realised just how much I was missing it. I would burst into tears when I watched better couples dancing. There was even one occasion where I was judging and I started to cry! (More laughs and a pause).
Thank you. We will come back to your career but if I could now ask Mirko how, when and where he started dancing.
[Mirko] I started dancing in 1982. I remember it very well because Italy won their first World Cup in football in Spain.
Yes, and Poland was third - I won't forget that.
[Mirko] Yes, I remember because Italy beat Poland to reach the final.
Do not remind me of that!
[Mirko] I started dancing because my brother had started dancing and I usually followed him and my parents. So I followed him especially to look for a dancing school to start to dance for fun. In the summer it was especially good when they organised shows. I remember well my first show because it was a disco dance routine and I was the small robot in the disco dance.
How old were you at that time?
[Mirko] I was 7 years old. I was born in 1975. Then one year later in 1983 I found a partner at the same dancing school and we started to dance together. She was from the same region but a different town. I was lucky because I danced with this partner from 1983 to 1989 and then, directly after her, I began to dance with Alessia. I was very lucky, only 2 partners. Now Edita is the third partner in my entire dancing career. I danced with Alessia from 1989 to 2009 - 20 years. I began this new partnership with Edita in November 2009 and I am very glad to find a lady as clever as Edita. She opened my mind because we had two different styles of dancing. For me it was a new challenge to start again in Professional competitions with a different partner. So that is a very brief version of my dance history but I could say a lot more as I have a long dance history.
Which is the competition that you most remember?
[Mirko] The first competition that I remember that changed my mind about dancing was Blackpool. I competed there with Alessia in 1991 and I was dancing Under 21. When I walked into the ballroom it was a very good stimulus and I remember I was very excited. There were so many great champions, people like Marcus and John Wood. When I went home my mind had changed about dancing and it was like it switched on some light in my mind and I began to work much harder, I began to practise more to achieve all that I would like to achieve in dancing.
Edita, in your case what is the competition you most remember with Mirko?
[Edita] I have only danced one competition with Mirko. The United Kingdom Championship and then the Team Match.
(General laughter) So we can safely say the competition you most remember with Mirko was the UK Open. You look so good together it seems that you had done several competitions already.
[Edita] Well we practised very hard. We got together 2 months before UK and worked very, very hard. The UK was the first but we have not done any competitions since then. The team match was the second.
But the Team Match is not the same as a top Professional competition. What do you find the most interesting in dancing?
[Mirko] It is interesting for me every day to go into the studio to try and discover something new which will help me to become better and better. This is for me very interesting in dancing. It is not like any other sport. For instance, when you score a goal then you scored the goal but in dancing there is the challenge and discovery of new things. You never finish learning.
Our usual question now what is the best and the worst thing about your partner?
[Edita] The best and the worst is possibly that he is so accurate. Accuracy is very important in what he wants to achieve but sometimes when you are demanding something from your partner it is very tough.
[Mirko] Edita wants to be a leader. This is good but sometimes it can be the worst thing. In dancing there cannot be two leaders in the couple, there has to be only one and I want to be the leader too (laughter). On the other hand I like that she is very strong in her mentality and because she wants to be the leader, she will never give up.
(To Edita) You have a very complicated private life for dancing. Are you able to tell us how you manage this?
[Mirko] (laughing) We had a very good dinner together on Valentine's Day.
[Edita] (laughing) My husband has not sent me the divorce papers yet (general laughter) so I guess I am doing fine. No, it is complicated and difficult I must admit I miss my family and I miss my daughter very much and it is hard but I am getting something that will stay with me for all my life. I have my career and there is a choice. In the 2 years I stayed with my family I missed that very much and I regret that I lost my career. I could be getting old and sitting and crying I could have been this or I could be that but I did not do it or, instead, I can do what is right for my own satisfaction. Maybe they will not see me for one year or one year and a half, nowadays I decided not plan anything at all, but afterwards I will be satisfied. There is nothing worse in life than someone who is not satisfied with their career. There are people who do not care about their career they even do not want a career and they concentrate on the family but I think for most dancers this is not the case. We are sportsmen, we are competitors and dreams which have not been fulfilled leave us angry and even change your character and therefore I decided to give it a go. It is not easy but I try to spend one week in every month with my family.
So your family are not travelling with you to the competitions?
[Edita] My husband is a lawyer and he has just opened his own legal firm and he is working very hard indeed. The crisis you know has been a good time for lawyers (laughter). The beginning of a business is always the most difficult point and therefore he cannot travel. I took my daughter once to Italy but she is like me and is not the kind of character that can sit still and watch us practise. She goes into the middle of the floor and causes a lot of trouble. The travelling is difficult too because she is not shy and not sticking with her parents, she is running around and I can be going through the security and I hear “Who has lost a daughter”. It was tough and I decided to wait until she was older, more than 3 years old, and understands a little more. Now she is 2 and maybe when she is a little older I can take her with me more often.
Mirko, and how are you managing with your private life?
[Mirko] For me it was very easy in comparison to Edita. My wife was also dancing and in the UK, she danced in Professionals with Valerio Colantoni. After that he changed partners and immediately got another good result. Sara decided to stop competing because in Italy we have a very big dancing school and club and she wanted to concentrate on that and also to have a family. Now we try to start a family together and I am hoping that soon we will have our child as Edita has already.
So you copy Edita's footsteps (laughter)
[Edita] But for the man it is much easier.
[Mirko] But I am OK and for the moment Sara is happy that I try to achieve my goals once again.
You do realise there was a lot of gossip when Valerio and Sara split that you two would split because you would be dancing with your wife.
[Mirko] No, no. Sara said that if we were going to dance together then we would have done so already. We have been married for 5 years and engaged for 7 years. My wife says she likes me as a person but not as a dancer. She knows my character as a dancer. As Edita told you I am very accurate and sometimes I become too strong in the practice.
You are not so strict in life.
[Mirko] In life too, but maybe we have the right ingredients together.
[Edita] In life he is much softer, and Sara too is a leader.
Do you think your children will also dance?
[Edita] I am sure I will have to take my daughter to basketball (laughs) My husband is very tall and already my daughter is tall.
[Mirko] If the children want to dance then for sure they can. They can do what they like. We'll help them.
[Edita] I think that what is best for children is that they find their own path and not that they do something and be unhappy. My daughter, if she dances, would have great pressure because her mother was a good dancer. Always this pressure would be on her but if she wants it then of course I would not stop her.
Do you have any special preparations before a competition?
[Edita] Not really, we just practise like crazy as always.
[Mirko] We are always in preparation for a competition. I like the way Edita takes the system of my practice. She is always ready, always does as I ask her, what I want. She is never lazy and she is not saying "not now, I don’t want it, I feel tired".
[Edita] I won't say that before I feel tired (laughs). In my previous partnerships sometimes I felt lazy and did not work so hard. I am missing time with my family, so now I must do it. I want to achieve my goal.
You say "crazy practice" so how much do you practise?
[Mirko] When we are together then we practise every day.
[Edita] Once we practised 5 hours. Sara said that was not good because at the end I had cramp.
[Mirko] Now we practise 2 or 3 hours each day. Often Edita is in Lithuania. It never happened before but now, when we are somewhere teaching, we require our space to practise.
[Edita] We will teach and then we have 2 or 3 hours of practice.
[Mirko] It is our advice to the couples to keep the practice strong because it is very important.
So can you advise what proportion of lessons to practice a couple should have.
[Mirko] A couple should have 2 or 3 days practice of one lesson. As always when a teacher gives us information then we feel we need 2 or 3 days practice to take this in.
[Edita] Practice is very important. Mirko is so great because of how much he practised. He is never tired, he never loses shape. So often when people achieve the result and they start to earn the money teaching and doing shows and they forget the main essence of the performance. That is really practice.
[Mirko] But practice is not just like going to the gym and doing dance exercises. You have to use a lot of brain to find the correct way in practice and in dancing.
[Edita] There must be accuracy.
(To Edita) Mirko was always known to be a perfectionist. Everything is perfect in execution and if it wasn’t he seemed very angry at small details so I am not surprised at what you are saying
[Edita] If we stand like this and my head is to the left and I blink my left eye, he feels it. (Laughter)
And if he has not lead it...
[Edita] If he is not leading it there is trouble.
If you were given the power to change anything about dancing what will it be? What do you not like in dancing at the moment?
[Mirko] In a way there is a part in dancing now that does not give the couple the opportunity to improve. I think there are too many competitions now and the couples have to stay competing and they do not have the time to improve their dancing. When each weekend you have a competition and you have to practise for that competition you do not have the time to work and for me this stops improvement in the quality of the dancing.
[Edita] I think that now in dancing the dancers are involved too much in the politics, and I mean even Youth. Everyone has started to think they are dancing great and they are not trying to improve themselves. The political side of dancing has become too important and not the quality of the dancing, the ability of the body - how much can I stretch, how can I make a gorgeous line. Dancers are concentrating on too many things at the same time. I hope that soon the problems can be resolved and the dancers can do the dancing.
There'll be no politics.
[Edita] That would be the perfect world.
[Mirko] I agree.
[Edita] Let us hope they find a way that the dancers do not suffer, that the quality does not suffer and couples can concentrate on how to do the best natural turn they can. For dancers to concentrate on the perfect rumba walk and not which competition they must attend so they do not offend anyone.
If I understood you correctly earlier Mirko you feel it is better for a couple to dance fewer competitions and in between time think about their dancing. Not just compete, compete. It is not the competing which improves the dancing but rather your own training.
[Mirko] Yes. Our plan is to not compete so much. We did just the UK then a long time practice to concentrate and improve our dancing. When you arrive at the competition it should be like a test of what you did in the practice. The goal in dancing must be to try to improve to the maximum. To give to your body the opportunity to achieve the maximum and not think about the result of the competition. Of course the result is important to satisfy yourself but I remember in the past there have been a lot of World Champions but I recognise a few good dancers who did not win the Championship and some who did. To be a Champion and to be a good dancer is not the same. I have won the title I am a Champion but I want to be a good dancer.
[Edita] I want you to continue to be a champion (laughter)
[Mirko] To be the champion is not the same as to be a good dancer. If I think about Ballroom then I think about Marcus and Karen Hilton. If I think about Latin it is Bryan Watson and Carmen or Donnie Burns and Gaynor. There are a lot of Champions in the history of dancing but there are not a lot of dancers who you recognise as special.
Yes you have a Champion every year by definition. Can you mention someone who in your mind was a great dancer but who did not become a Champion.
[Mirko] Wliiam Pino and Alessandra Bucciarelli, in Latin I remember Alan Tornsberg and Serena Lecca
[Edita] Sandro Cavallini
[Mirko] Yes, Sandro Cavallini was very good.
[Edita] For me he was my idol when he danced Amateur with Carmen.
[Mirko] But unfortunately they arrived in the period when there was some other good champion. Then also there is a difference because the dancing in a competition is different to the dancing in a show. I think that in a show you can appreciate more the quality of the dancing and when you watch a competition then the competitive side is very important.
You almost stole my next question which was what do you think is more important a show or a competition.
[Mirko] It depends.
[Edita] Every couple it is different. For some it is more the show and others the competition. Sorry to go back to it, but we spoke about too many competitions. Some couples I know are preparing, preparing and never arriving at the competition because they split before they get there. There has to be a balance.
[Mirko] I like the competition very much because I am competitive. In my career I did a lot of shows but I have a better memory of the competitions than of the shows. That is why I think I am a competitor more than dancer maybe.
[Edita] Before, I used to hate the show but now with Mirko I enjoy the show. He is energetic and I like the show.
[Mirko] I just need the number on the back (laughter). In a competition everything is very real. I like to change the routine I like to feel the other couple, to change the step even at the last moment. I like to improvise. When you dance a show you cannot do that because you have selected the music and you have to follow the beats, the bars, the entry and the end must be very calculated. I do not think I am so calculated.
[Edita] I will explain in a show if he forgets then he forgets but in the competition he improvises and does whatever he wants and I have to follow.
There is that ability to be able to do it and it does not show and there are some couples you see who are not doing what they want because someone is in the way and they panic.
[Edita] He is very good and can lead and you can never see. Before I never had that ,now I am getting used to being the partner and to follow. I do enjoy that in the competition but sometimes it is too much when he changes many things and I ask for some rules. In a show I feel safe because he cannot do it.
[Mirko] Yes, she feels safe but now she is getting used to it. In the UK she was shocked because I was changing everything.
[Edita] Sometimes, when we are practising I say why are we practising because you aren’t going to do it anyway (laughter).
So when you change the choreography when you are on the floor is that because you feel like it or because of other couples or is it coming to you naturally?
[Mirko] It is natural and becoming more natural but often because of other couples I use floorcraft and I would like to use the floorcraft in such a way that nobody can see it is my floorcraft but it seems like it is part of my routine.
[Edita] What about foxtrot that you started in a completely different way. That is not floorcraft.
[Mirko] When you dance in competitions like UK or Blackpool where you have to dance 7 rounds it is very tough to dance all 7 times the same dance the same routines. This is getting boring for me. I prefer to just change and do something different. I become more alive more easy to keep dancing.
[Edita] He changed it around and he did the lady's steps and I did the man's steps in foxtrot and I never tried it before (laughter). We walked onto the floor we took the positions the man, the lady and then he switched and we danced the opposite.
When you have other couples who are not at this level yet do you think it is something they should include in their practice routines to learn how to improvise how to use floorcraft.
[Mirko] I think when a couple practise the correct elements, the technique, the footwork and using their musicality then they should be able to do what they want.
[Edita] I think it depends on the speed of the lady. The lady must have the ability to adapt and get used to what the man has done. Mirko is very strong on this. That is why he does not like the show so much because he cannot demonstrate this ability in a show.
I think that this is what distinguishes a very good dancer from a Champion. If you look at the floor even in the top rounds you see some couples going through their routines like a tank and it does not matter if there is anyone in their way. I have observed several times that no one is hitting you and you are not hitting into others.
[Edita] We spin and spin and then we arrive without knocking anyone down (laughter). No, really after the UK I had one eye looking this way and one eye looking that way. He noticed it and he said look at your eyes and I said yes because you were changing the choreography.
Which of the dances is your favourite?
[Mirko] It depends on the mood and on the day. I like all dances.
[Edita] I like Foxtrot.
[Mirko] I like best the Latin, I like Samba, Cha Cha but I cannot dance it (laughing).
You could do it it would be a sensation to dance Latin. Remember one of the names you mentioned Marcus and Karen danced Latin.
[Mirko] Yes, but today it is much more difficult.
[Edita] I think the styles today are so very different. Before, if you were talented in one style then you were talented also in the other .
So are you happy at the direction in which dancing is going.
[Edita] Latin and Ballroom? Yes, this is great. We have two styles of dancing which are so very different but it is still called ballroom dancing. The Latin became more earthy, more sexy. Ballroom has not changed so much although the movement has developed but Latin has changed a lot.
[Mirko] Yes, I agree.
So do you think in 20 years time there will be even more specialisation. World Championship in Tango or Swing?
[Mirko and Edita]. No. No.
[Edita] No, I do not think so and I noticed during the two years I was judging that when a couple was good in one dance then they were good in all. If a couple are good in Tango I did not find that Tango was first and Waltz was only semi-final. Latin and Ballroom are different but within the quality is the same.
[Mirko] Yes, I feel the same.
So you mentioned you have no competed a lot and if I understood you are not planning to compete a lot.
[Edita] (Laughing) But we are planning to compete a lot. It is just now, this period.
[Mirko] Our first competition was the UK. And we made no plans as to what would happen after the UK. After the UK there were some competitions that we could do but we wanted to see after our first competition and then decide. We have planned some competitions after Blackpool.
[Edita] But our plans change a lot.
[Mirko] Yes, our plans do change a lot because of different things.
So is it a secret, your next competition after Blackpool?
[Mirko] No. Our next competition is in Italy, Rimini. With my new partner I have never danced an Italian Competition then of course I have to dance there for my country and also for sure for our business.
Do you plan also to dance in Lithuania?
[Mirko] For sure if there is some competition.
[Edita] If there is a suitable competition or we will dance a show.
[Mirko] We did plan to dance a show in Lithuania on Saturday after Blackpool but then we decided that instead we should dance the competition. We prefer the competition to the show (laughs).
[Edita] Mirko would love to dance in Lithuania.
You will be coming to the International?
[Mirko and Edita] Yes.
Can you tell us what is your favourite competition in the World the one you would never miss?
[Edita] Blackpool of course.
[Mirko] The UK for me. Of course Blackpool is a very good experience, the place is amazing, but I have very good memories of the UK. It was my first competition as a Professional where I reached the final and I still remember that. I like the floor, the dimensions, the atmosphere, I like the UK. Of course Blackpool is great and so too is the International I think it is the most beautiful place in which an artist and dancer can perform.
You mean the Albert Hall.
[Mirko] Yes, the Albert Hall it is beautiful.
[Edita] We will have to do all the rounds this years.
[Mirko] Then there is the German Open that is very good competition. I have not missed a German Open from 1992. That was my first one.
What is it that makes a competition special for you as a dancer
[Mirko] The audience, the atmosphere. If you go to the German Open the audience is great. I remember 2 years ago I did basic quickstep and at the end of the dance everybody stood up to clap for me. I was very surprised because the people at the German Open expect something very exciting, something very special. I had bad thoughts about these people that they did not recognise the quality of the dancing but then when they stood up and clapped for basic dancing then maybe they do know the quality of the dancing and I was very surprised. I want to say "Sorry" to everyone, that my idea was so wrong that they only want to see something tricky or some spectacular step. Of course in my heart there is the atmosphere when you are in the Winter Gardens, the Royal Albert Hall and, as I told you, I have very good memories of Bournemouth International Centre for the UK Open and that is why I like to dance in this place.
[Edita] I would also like to say that something very important for a good competition is the quality of the judges. I would advise the couples to look for those competitions because the quality of the judges means they are the people who done it. Not some business man who organises competitions and is not into dancing. The quality of the judges who really understand about dancing is important. I think the better the quality of the judges the greater is the event.
So you cannot have better than the quality at the Albert Hall for the International, 76 good judges.
[Edita] Or of course Blackpool. It is not the quantity but the quality of the judges. (laughs).
So if you had to give advice to the organisers – I mean it is difficult to organise atmosphere. Have you ever danced Dutch Open?
[Mirko] Yes, I danced Dutch Open and it is very nice atmosphere. I have also danced many competitions in Italy at which there was very good atmosphere. One of my good competitions I always remember, maybe because I dance in front of people I know, even my parents, was Italian Championships. It was a normal sports hall but full of people, people that shouted, people that supported the dancers. It was and still is one of the competitions that I like.
So to give an organiser advice. What are the things to give the dancers to make a good competition?
[Mirko] Of course it is important to try to have the best couples because it is the dancer that makes the competition.
[Edita] But to have the best dancers then you have to give the best facilities to the dancers.
[Mirko] You say it is more important to have a good panel of judges.
[Edita] Of course.
There are two approaches to this one. One is to always publish the panel of judges before the competition and the other is to never publish the panel of judges.
[Mirko] Never publish.
[Edita] The competitions normally have a history so the couples dance one year, see great judges, people you believe in, you believe what they have done, you believe what the teach then next year you will come to the same competition because I thought I got a fair result, I was fairly judged and there was no politics. There is no need to publish the judges. The competition is building up a history. What is also important for any competition? Good floor, big floor
[Mirko] You forget good prize money (laughter).
[Edita] That's on top of it, but nice place, nice music, good judging panel and then of course nice prize money.
Even for Amateurs
[Edita] Of course. Amateurs today are the same as Professional there is no difference. Amateurs have to take lessons and travel so what is the difference.
[Mirko] It is important that the competition has a history.
[Edita] You take Blackpool. It has a great history, a great tradition for all the years passed. There is no prize money but everybody appreciates this competition because through many years it has built history and reputation.
Winning this competition is more difficult than winning a World Championship. You have every one World Champions plus other good dancers.
[Mirko] As a dancer, for me the live music is wonderful.
[Edita] It has everything, great floor, great music, the judging panel absolutely everything and it has proved it for many years.
Important question. Do you like Italian cuisine or Lithuanian cuisine.
[Edita] Italian of course.
[Mirko] Edita likes the Italian cuisine very much.
[Edita] I just like to eat (laughter). I always say when we stop dancing we will get very fat because we both like to eat.
Do you have any special diet or are you just so slim because you dance so much?
[Mirko] Of course we try to eat the right things and not have a lot of chocolate and sugar and things which contain a lot of fat even things we like, e.g. French fries, and of course not to drink alcohol which is not good even for the energy that we need to dance.
[Edita] I am always on diet. My dressmaker always says "I am scared to make a dress that might make you look fat and then you will want to kill me".
Who makes your dresses?
[Edita] They are made in Lithuania. I have known the lady who makes them for me for a very long time. For a few years I was with another company but now I am back to the girl who has made by dresses from the beginning.
Do you discuss your dress with Mirko?
[Edita] I like original ideas and Mirko likes more traditional ideas and therefore when the original is too original Mirko does not like that. Generally, though, he likes them.
[Mirko] I like the dresses generally. We are not always co-ordinated for the correct dress for the round. Sometimes Edita wants one dress early and then another dress for the final
[Edita] For tomorrow I have 3 dresses but it has not been decided what I will wear.
[Mirko] It is very important to have the right dress for the right round.
So may we wish you the very best for tomorrow and for the International. We wish you every success in your career and thank you for meeting with us.