We talked to Morten Lowe and Roselina Doneva after their victory in Blackpool, in May 2016. They won the Amateur Latin championships and since then they won pretty much everything else including WDC World Latin and the International. Morten and Roxy live in Hong Kong.
Dancing is who we are. It is what we breathe. It is what we love doing
Let me start with congratulations. I am sure that becoming Blackpool Amateur Latin champions is an unforgettable moment, something to cherish for ever.
[Morten]: Oh, yes
Tell me how did you start dancing?
[Morten]: I started dancing when I was 7 years old. In Denmark. As my parents thought it would be a good upbringing, a part of raising me I guess. I remember I tried football first because it seemed like a natural thing for the little boy to do. My Mum said we were there for no longer than 15 minutes when I came and said: I want to leave now. When she asked why, I replied: because male coach has an earring and I don't like it! (laughing). And that was it and that's how I finished my potential football career and ended up in dancing g (laughing).
That's interesting! What kind of dancing did you start with?
[Morten]: I have an older brother who started before me, doing Latin American and Ballroom. I started with the Ballroom. I did not like Latin because of men wearing high heels.
I can see a pattern here: you did not like men with earrings, high heels...
[Morten]: Something like this (laughing). It took me a while to get past it. I did my first competition in Juvenile and I did not move. I stood still until the song finished and they told me to come off the floor. It is a miracle that I am still here!
Yes, how come you are still here?
[Morten]: I guess I started to get competitive, slowly. I kept moving on and on, had a few partner changes. It definitely helped that I had an older brother who was constantly in front of me. So I was always looking up to somebody. It was easier for me to have somebody walking the same path and clearing it up for me, somebody who I admired and looked up to a lot. When I was about 15 years old I decided to do the Latin only.
Even with the high heels?
[Morten]: I grew to love Latin, and high heels are still a bit of an issue (laughing). Then I moved to Aarhus and danced with Zia James until 5 years ago when I started dancing with Roxy.
[Roxy]: When I was really young dancing Lambada was very much the hype of the day in Bulgaria. One day, when I was about five, I was at my Grandmother's place and I started moving to the music. She saw it and said: we must do something with this kid, need to find some dance classes for her to dance. So she found this tiny dance club for children and I was the youngest one there. They almost did not want to take me...
I danced for some time and then when my normal school started I stopped it. But my Mum wanted me to continue, so we found a proper, professional dance school for me. My first competition was an international open event, outside of my country. We all went together on the bus. Everybody kept saying to me, don't worry too much, it is your first competition, so don't cry if you won't qualify. But actually, I was the only one from this bus who got to the finals!
[Roxy]: I did not have that many partners but all my partnerships were really successful. After finishing the last one, Morten and I go together and here we are (laughing)!
How did you meet?
[Morten]: We actually started dating before we danced together. We were still in our previous partnerships... Actually there is a funny story. Few years earlier we were both looking for partners and we had a try-out. Roxy came to Denmark for the try-out in 2007. It was good and we were both...
[Roxy]: ... different
[Morten]: ... but excited about it. But at the time I studied in Denmark and Roxy was living in Hong Kong. I remember she was saying, great, now you going to come to Hong Kong to work there and live there. And I was like, I don't think so!
[Roxy]: (laughing) his Mum wasn't happy about it.
[Morten]: It was not possible because I was still studying. I had to finish that before I even considered relocating anywhere else. Then Roxy went to dance back with her previous partner again. And I went to dance back with my previous partner. And we both continued with our previous partners for a couple of years.
[Roxy]: He won Blackpool in the meantime. And I made the finals in the Amateurs in the meantime.
[Morten]: Of course, we stayed in contact after this try-out and after a while we started seeing each other privately. When the we split up with my partner, I decided to go to Hong Kong.
[Roxy]: He split with his partner within days I also split up with mine. Literally 3 days.
[Morten]: It is true. I called Roxy and said to her, you know what, it is done. My partner left, we split up. Of course, she could not believe it. She said, as a joke, why don't you come to Hong Kong then? And I said, yes, I will, I don't have anything else to do. It was Friday afternoon. Monday morning, I arrived in Hong Kong. Roxy met me and said, I also split up with my partner, we are also done. And that was back to the situation we are both without a partner. But we did not start to dance together then. I stayed in Hong Kong for couple of months, had a number of try-outs there...
Why didn't you start dancing together there and then?
[Morten]: We were not sure we wanted to go that route. First of all there was a big gap between us, Roxy just made her first final in Amateur, while I was breaking into top 24. Being in the top 48 was my partner and mine expected, normal result. So there was a gap. Also, we come from very different backgrounds in dancing. We grew up differently, we were taught differently, we had different set of teachers. We were very much in love but were afraid that dancing together would get in the way of that...
You wanted to keep your private and professional live separate?
[Morten]: I guess we did not even think about it that way, we did not really think of dancing together at that point. We enjoyed our time together in Hong Kong. We went out, enjoyed life.
[Roxy]: Before our first try-out together my Mum found his picture on the internet and said, you have to try with this guy! She did not know him, she just liked his picture. So I went for that first try-out. When Morten came to Hong Kong, my Mum kept saying: you have to go practice together.
[Morten]: Yes, it was Roxy's Mum. She kept asking, what are you doing? And Roxy was saying, oh we don't want to rush anything, just enjoying being together. I was saying I wanted a little bit of time off after my previous partnership. And she was like: stop wasting your time, get in the studio and practice together! Of course, I was up for that (laughing)!
So Roxy wasn't sure she wanted to dance with you, but you were?
[Morten]: I guess... yes (Roxy laughing). I think I was sure I wanted to dance with her. But I did not want to push her in any way, or make her feel that now, because we are together privately, we have to dance together. It has to be mutual feeling.
[Roxy]: Of course I saw the talent in you, Morten. After all, I came to you to Denmark first, not you to me!
So your private life is more important to you that dancing?
[Morten]: I think you should not forget what brings you two together. We met through dancing. If it was not for dancing, we might have never met. Dancing is everything to us. We share a love for dancing which is so important and so deep in our hearts that it also makes personal connection. Sometimes people try to separate it, you know, you have dancing and you have private relationship. I understand why, and maybe they are very professional about it....
I never understand how it is possible though.
[Roxy]: It would be difficult.
[Morten]: It is who we are. Dancing is who we are. It is what we breathe. It is what we love doing. It is only natural that two people find each other through it. So I wouldn't think we should prioritise our relationship or prioritise our partnership. For me, it is the same thing. One will not work without the other. I really believe that because a part of who Roxy is which I love and adore so much, is what dancing has made her.
You mentioned before your relationship is even stronger now. I can see a ring on your finger.
[Roxy]: Yes. The ring was a surprise for me. It happened in Paris after winning the Worlds in 2015 in December. Morten had a plan obviously. He arranged we stayed few more days in Paris after the competition.
[Morten]: We both are very much in love with Paris.
I guess not the Disneyland necessarily?
[Roxy]: No, but... on the day of engagement, we were in Disneyland (laughing). I wanted to spend a day there for fun. In the evening we had a very romantic dinner and he said, let's go for a walk. But we were in such a nice place, having nice food and I was having wine while Morten did not drink as he was a driver. And I was like, come on, let's go home. And he was insisting, no, let's go for a walk now. So we went for a walk, on the river bank, having a view of the Eiffel Tower.... And that was when it happened.
Did you kneel in front of her?
[Morten]: Yes, I did. We always loved walking there, on the river bank from Hotel de Ville to the Eiffel Tower. We had this thing, that every time we visit Paris, we have to find time to take a walk there. So I always knew that when the time comes it is the place I want to do it, after this long walk.
[Roxy]: In my very high heels...
[Morten]: Yes, this is what I did not take into consideration (laughing). That walk was longer that I expected.
Roxy, were you surprised?
[Roxy]: I knew something was up, when he got serious. His face changed.
[Morten]: I was sure she expected it... You know, I played this images on and on in my head how am I going to do it. I had a box with the ring in my pocket. I am starting to take my gloves off to take the box out and feeling it got stuck in the pocket, and I am fumbling with it, paranoid now that my face already gave it away before my big speech...
[Roxy]: I think I knew then...
[Morten]: I drop down to one knee, start my speech opening the box.... and she is backing away, one step, two steps and I am thinking this is going the wrong way! I said, stop walking backwards and will you marry me? And she said, yes, yes, but get up now (laughing)! It was exactly at midnight.
[Roxy]: It was beautiful.
So when are you getting married?
[Morten]: We are still planning the wedding. Initial plan is for it to be next year (2017) in the summer time. In Denmark. But there is a lot of procedures and it takes time.
[Roxy]: So we are flexible with the dates.
[Morten]: So we haven't decided the date.
I hope you will share the news and photos from the day with dancesportinfo and all our visitors.
[Morten]: Oh, yes.
What is so special about marriage for you? You are together anyway, probably close to 24 hrs a day.
[Roxy]: Morten, you go first! It is because you wanted to get married and I just said yes (laughing).
[Morten]: This is not your usual answer!
[Roxy]: That is true.
[Morten]: Well, I think that I've always had the feeling since we got together. For me there is no doubt where it is going. I knew she was the person I want to spend my life with. No matter which way we would go with dancing, no matter what else happened. She was the one. So for me, it was already long time overdue that I proposed. I was thinking that you shouldn't do it straight away, you should wait a bit, let a few years pass, don't rush into things. I was looking for a ring for three years already. So, you know, it was not an impulse (laughing). It was something I planned for a very long time.
OK, but why getting married is any different to you than just being together, living together. Is there a different type of commitment?
[Morten]: You know, I never thought about that. I never thought of trying to prove commitment to myself or to her. I feel that from day one we were 100% committed to each other. I never doubted that and I never thought that I had to prove it to her. When it comes to our private relationship nothing has really got in the way of our relationship or how we feel for each other. For me it was such a natural thing that I never considered living together but not getting married. I love her, I want to be with her and spend my life with her. So why wouldn't I want to marry her? Anyway, this is how I am brought up. It is such a beautiful thing and something that I will be able to remember for the rest of my life.
[Roxy]: I can make it very short answer: my Mum loves him (laughing). Of course, since I was a girl I wanted to get married one day, just as every little girl dreams of, and to have a beautiful white dress. So when I met the right guy, the dream can come true. When you love somebody you don't have any questions or hesitations... It is a perfect time for us, we are young, beautiful and in love (laughing).
I wish you all the best for your life together! Let me go back to the dancing. How did you feel when you walked to the floor to dance this final?
[Morten]: I think we have never ever been so well prepared as we were for this competition. In every aspect of competing. Mentally as well. When it came to dancing, not just the final, but from the very first round, I've never felt so good dancing as I did in this competition. I've never felt so, in a good way, sure of myself, with no negative thoughts, no feeling of pressure. We just danced, just enjoyed ourselves. I said to Roxy, before we danced, that if this is the day we succeed, this is the day I want to remember for the rest of my life. I want to remember how I enjoyed dancing it. I wouldn't want to remember if we felt we needed to fight with everybody, if it felt like a struggle, like live or die moment. And it was so enjoyable.
Was there a party afterwards?
[Roxy]: My Mum was here. I slept with my Mum in the room and he stayed with his brother. Imagine, the night after the competition (laughing)! But it felt great to be able to hug my Mum after winning a competition, because I live far away from her and I miss her...
Do you live in Denmark?
[Morten]: No, in Hong Kong. So yes, we both are far away from our families. It was great to celebrate and share a bottle of champagne in the hotel room with my brother and Roxy's Mum. And then we tried to go to sleep...
[Roxy]: Which did not happen until 6 in the morning. And we felt totally fresh.
[Morten]: We were in separate rooms for that night. When I woke up in the morning I went to knock on her door and she said: you know, I practically did not sleep that night. And I said: me neither (laughing). We were so exhausted, and so tired, and when we went to bed, nothing... couldn't sleep.
[Roxy]: Crazy.... But I guess it was all the excitement.
Now there will be pressure on you as Blackpool winners to keep winning wherever you go
[Roxy]: Yes. We know that.
[Morten]: I don't think any pressure can be greater than the pressure we put on ourselves. We have never felt pressure actually...
[Roxy]: I had never felt pressure from others, it was always myself. I only compete with myself. And this is the biggest challenge for me, to satisfy myself. When I am happy with my own dancing, in my head, this is the best feeling. If you are happy with yourself, the result, sometimes even bad result, doesn't matter that much. And again when you get a good result, but you are not satisfied with your own dancing, it feels bad.
So your own satisfaction is the most important thing for you?
[Roxy]: It is number one.
What kind of music do you like?
[Roxy]: I love pop music.
[Morten]: She loves anything new.
[Roxy]: Yes, because the world moves on and I move on.
[Morten]: She has to have the latest of the latest, the new releases ...
[Roxy]: In music, in fashion, make-up
What about the newest phones, gadgets?
[Morten]: No, she is not into technology whatsoever.
[Roxy]: One month before Blackpool competition I went to Miami, to Beyoncé concert. We actually danced a competition in Miami, and a day after we went to see Beyoncé. And that was inspirational. I love people who are great performers. It was amazing, 34,000 people.
What kind of music do you prefer for dancing? Modern, vocal, classic Latin music?
[Roxy]: Not Beyoncé, for sure.
[Morten]: It is very hard to answer that question. Because every music has its own character... I love to dance to great music. It is hard to define what great music is. It could be something very, very old. But there are old tracks I hate dancing to. And there are some, not so classic, which are nice to dance to. So I don't want to narrow it that way.
Which competitions do you like to go to?
[Morten]: Blackpool will forever be the number one.
[Roxy]: Any competition can be amazing. There are some I love to go to because of the audience. And there are some I love, because the hall is beautiful. Or at some competitions the music is really different and I love the music there. Wintergarden in Blackpool is special on a spiritual level as well. It is the history...
[Morten]: And people who come here to watch dancing. They love dancing. And having the audience like that makes this competition so extra special. Lately, we enjoyed dancing the competitions in the States. You tend to get the audience who love dancing and are not afraid of showing their love. Even if they don't know us as we don't come there very often, we get received very well.
I wanted to ask my usual question which is what don't you like about each other, but it wouldn't be fair to ask the newly engaged couple. So let me ask a slightly rephrased question: what would you like your partner to change? And, please, don't tell me your partner is ideal.
[Morten]: No, I won't (laughing). Somebody asked Roxy one day: would you change something because he asked you to do it, to make him happier? And she had one answer, the last thing he will be happy about if I changed something because of that. It is spot on, it is so true. Sometimes we want to change something about each other, based on our own personality, but we won't be actually happier if that person has changed. The best thing about Roxy is also the worst thing about Roxy. She is too honest. Would I ever would want to change it? Absolutely not.
Well done, you avoided the question! Now your turn Roxy.
[Roxy]: He is perfect (laughing).
[Roxy]: He just said I am too honest.
[Morten]: Go ahead, say it.
[Morten]: ... he is too Danish! That's what I normally get (laughing).
What does it mean?
[Roxy]: He is too smart. Thinking too much.
[Morten]: Yes, definitely.
[Roxy]: Yes, and I would like him sometimes just to go with the flow. To believe in himself. But at the same time, I don't want to change anything in him, otherwise I wouldn't choose him... Hold on a moment, there is one thing. Remember, I always ask you to warm up before the competition...
[Morten]: OK, I get very nervous when I warm up. I tend not to warm up. I must do better next year.
[Roxy]: Yes, but it actually worked so well here without it, so maybe don't change it after all (laughing). So maybe it was a good thing! So I don't want you to change anything. You are amazing (laughing).
I guess I will have to ask again after you won the Professional Latin in the future
[Roxy]: And I hope it will happen very soon (laughing)!
Who is cooking at home?
[Morten]: Roxy is an amazing cook.
[Roxy]: I lived in Italy for 6 years. I have a lot of knowledge about the Italian food. I do a lot of Bulgarian foods as well, all kind of stews and a lot of fresh vegetables. Everything must be fresh and organic. I take good care of what we eat.
But now you live in Hong Kong, do you cook Chinese food?
[Roxy]: Unfortunately, I have no knowledge about it...
Do you follow any special diet to keep fit and slim?
[Roxy]: I always say, eat more (laughing). But practise more.
[Morten]: She does amazing vegetarian food. We are not vegetarian but we enjoy that sort of food a lot. And Roxy is cooking a lot of organic, vegetarian dishes.
Who is usually a dedicated driver?
[Morten]: The one who can. And that is me, she doesn't have the driving licence.
[Roxy]: I never had time, I left home when I was 15 years old... And now, he doesn't want me to do it so I cannot escape (laughing).
How do you use Internet?
[Morten]: It is like breathing (laughing) for her. She is on her phone from morning till evening, 24/7.
[Roxy]: Instagram, Facebook
[Morten]: Twitter. Anything.
What about you Morten?
[Morten]: I am not that great on sending updates, or emails, or in general replying to anything. I am working on that (laughing). But I like very much to stay updated. I love things like Instagram or Twitter, so when you wake up in the morning you can quickly check you haven't missed out on anything. I think it is very important part of how we develop nowadays. And the way the world works today. You have to be current.
What kind of phones?
I guess you book your flights or hotels via Internet. Who takes care of that?
[Morten]: I do everything. I am the organiser. The only thing she has to be concerned about is to dance.
And chat with friends and cook....
[Roxy]: He told me: baby, I will do everything, you just stay pretty (laughing). I am busy anyway.
What dancing websites do you visit?
[Roxy]: Dancesportinfo! Other than that, I don't know...
[Morten]: I find dancesportinfo informative enough about results and news. My brother who recently retired was a Professional 10 Dance World champion in IPDSC, one of the other federations. I am pretty well aware what is happening all over.
If you had a power to change anything in the dancing world, what would that be?
[Morten]: Not sure if this will make sense. But there is something we became very well aware of recently. There is a tendency for young dancers to grow up with a negative mind-set. I find this very worrying.
In what sense negative?
[Morten]: People tend to have some preconceived ideas about what it is to succeed in our dancing world. People think about politics and focus on what, who and where ... and I think they lose the important bit which is why you do it, the love of dancing. So if there is one thing I would like us all to remind each other of is how much we love dancing. This is what keeps our community together and makes that 10 days in Blackpool so special. We all want the same thing. We have to allow ourselves to realise the love we have for dancing, and not let anything or anybody to shadow it. It upsets me, because I love what I do with all my heart. There is nothing I rather do with my life. I have no money, my bank account is in red all year round, but that's OK that's my choice because I keep doing what I love to do. Perhaps you can call it dedication.
You mentioned money... How do you finance your dancing?
[Morten]: We don't cope very well but we are very lucky that we can live off our dancing. We teach and we perform. And this is enough to support our own dancing to the level we do now.
How do you find time to work and to develop your own dancing?
[Morten]: You have to have your priorities. You have to limit the time you spend working, teaching to the absolute minimum you need. You should not be tempted to make a penny more than you need for instance to go to Blackpool. In our case, we make few pennies less than we need. But I am not afraid of that, not afraid of coming home and spending few months getting back to my feet financially.
Roxy, you have not said much...
[Roxy]: I really trust Morten with these things. I almost always know what he is going to say. I cannot remember one time he made a decision which we both did not agree with. I never had to compromise. All the big decisions in our lives, big problems, major important things in our lives, we always made together and never really had to discuss because we knew what each other thought of that.
[Morten]: I make decisions about where we go and what we dance and what we don't dance. We never even talk about it. On the dancing floor Roxy is Roxy, and I am very well aware of that. I would never be able to change her as a dancer.
[Roxy]: And as a woman.
[Morten]: We never really had an argument in our personal life about personal stuff. And we are almost six years together.
[Roxy]: But instead we very often disagree when dancing.
[Morten]: Yes, we nearly split up several times before Blackpool (laughing). At practice we are very passionate and we get into arguments quite often.
[Roxy]: Always about dancing. But we often find out afterwards that we were talking about the same thing but using different words!
[Morten]: We argue about nothing really (laughing).
What do you do in your free time?
[Morten]: We are very boring, we don't go out a lot. We don't party a lot. We go to the gym, it is all we have time for.
[Roxy]: I catch up on new movies on the long flights.
Flying first class?
[Roxy]: No! I wish though....
Who designs your clothes?
[Roxy]: I love fashion, I would look things up like couture and look for inspiration for my future dress. Then he will come up with some designs which I don't like and then in the end we will work out something which I love. I am absolutely happy with this. I loved my Blackpool dress as well. Well done, Morten.
Who is doing your choreography?
[Roxy]: My number one teacher: Morten Lowe. And of course, we have a lot of help from teachers as well.
[Morten]: When we started dancing together, I was always told it will be my fault if she did not look good. I found it very hard to cope with that kind of idea. But then I turned it around. Is it also thanks to me if she looks good? And the answer is yes. So I take entire responsibility for how we look together, for good and for bad.
Do you have many teachers?
[Morten]: We don't have very many teachers. Before we danced together, we both had separate teachers and I had very many because in Denmark it is a normal thing to invite many as a part of training in "Team Denmark". So you get the knowledge from a broad range of teachers. Now, we have a handful of teachers. And we have a clear idea what we want.
What do you think is a difference between Amateur and Professional dancing?
[Roxy]: Well, nowadays Amateurs are extremely professional. They approach dancing with the same dedication and this is their career. There is no much difference in that. It shows because many Amateurs who just moved to Professionals already making career there, they fit.
[Morten]: There was a lot of controversy about Amateur's teaching as they are not supposed to live off dancing. There was a discussion recently online. In USA, Amateurs are sometimes not taken very seriously, their dancing is looked upon almost as a hobby. And that is a problem when dealing with officials, with government, with matters like visa or permits. You are just an Amateur, it doesn't count. And it is a problem because I would say that nowadays the top 48 couples are like Professionals, they spend all the time in dancing, and the probably live off dancing by teaching or doing shows.
OK, I hope to see you soon at UK Open in Bournemouth. And best of luck for the future. Thank you for your time.