Sara warned us that her English was not good so she would say very little. There were many nods of head in approval from her, and a lot of smiles but unfortunately the mike could not pick that up. Joshua Keefe and Sara Magnanelli won the Professional Rising Star Latin event at the recent UK Open 2010 championships. See their results page and photos in our galleries.
But the good guidance I received kept me focused with just a very clear road. It was simple you go to practise, you work hard you get results
Welcome and can we say we were very impressed, really impressed yesterday and from the quarter-finals we were expecting you to win
[Joshua] (laughing) that's a good sign!
So please would you tell us a little bit about yourselves. How and when you started to dance?
[Joshua] I started dancing when I was about 11, a long time ago (smile). I started just doing general classes, kids classes, things like that. Then, I think it was almost by accident, one of the girls Mums approached me and asked "Do you want to dance with my daughter in a competition?" and I was like "OK" and that's how it all began, It was very slow and very gradual though when I was a kid.
So when would you say you really began competitive dancing seriously?
[Joshua] I think when I was about 14 or 15 I decided that was my life. I was quite decided as a 14/15 year old kid, that that was what I wanted to do, and it is what I have been doing.
Sara, and what about you?
[Sara] I started when I was 8 and I danced for 10 years and then I stopped for 6 years, until Josh.
How did you meet?
[Joshua] On the internet, actually it was on your website. I had broken up with my previous partner and Sara's cousin saw that I had put the notice on dancesportinfo. All the contact details were there and so we messaged back and forth for a couple of days and then we had a try out. It was my first and last try out. We met in London and said "OK, let's give it a go".
Did you know each other before?
[Joshua] Yes, well, we knew of each other because we had both been in World Youth Finals and Blackpool Finals and Sara always finished much higher than me. She was winning or 2nd and I was 4th or 5th. It was strange for me when we met because it was a case of "where have you been for 6 years". Actually she had still been in the dancing scene teaching and things and she had had some other partnerships which had not gone to the floor. So we came to London to have the try-out and it was pretty good and it was "OK. Yes, let's give it a go".
Judging by the results, and especially yesterday, it is a good partnership?
[Joshua] Thanks. It's about 2 and a half years and probably for the first year it was pretty good. Then we got a bit lost in the first half of the 2nd year and so we decided to make some changes so that we would have more direction in our dancing. Probably more location, teachers, things like that in our dancing. So we made the changes and it's all been good for us, positive. A push for us, both physically and mentally, and now the results are starting to come and it is great because that is what you are after. We really love our dancing at the moment, before we did not seem to know where we were going, but now it is different and we love what we are doing and this is nice.
What do you love in dancing the most. Fame, money, something else?
[Joshua] No. No I just really love the artistic side of it. There is so much I love about dancing. That's true for both of us. I suppose it is also the glamour.
(laughing) Sara you realise that the microphone does not record all that nodding?
Josh and Sara break into laughter
[Joshua] Sara does not speak much English. She does not speak much anyway... (laughing)
Sara, You let your dancing do the talking!
[Joshua] (laughing again) That's the most she has talked all day!
[Joshua] Yes, the movement, the creative movement, the music. It is everything about Latin American dancing from the basics. I suppose it comes from when you are younger and there are your Gaynor and Donnie, your Alan Tornsberg and Vibeke and Bryan. I love the energy, the environment, the music, the movement. It's dancing.
Being professional now do you see the difference between dancing in Professional and dancing in Amateurs?
[Joshua] Yes, but how do I explain it. It is more (pause) relaxed. Is it relaxed? It's a different feeling. Sara, What is the feeling?
Josh and Sara confer in Italian, then ...
[Joshua] Yes that's it. It is more mature. We feel freer to have our own style. We don't like following anything simply because it is fashionable. We have our own ideas as to what we want and we like doing that regardless of whether anyone else is or is not doing it. Whether that is right or wrong I do not know but it seems to be working at the moment.
Yes it certainly seems to work and I hope that you will get the same results tomorrow at the Open championships
[Joshua] First place! (laughing) No, but we will see how we go tomorrow. It should be interesting.
[Dancesportinfo note: Note Next day they were thrilled to reach the semi-finals of one of the best Latin competitions for many years]
As a professional do you have a studio to which your pupils come or are you trying to find a place wherever you are?
[Joshua] Actually, at the moment because we are fresh Professionals we are teaching everywhere. We have been teaching in Australia and in Hong Kong. Sara did have a studio in Italy but we have had to more or less leave that to follow our own dancing. To be honest, in Italy there really was not enough work for us because we were not on the Italian Team and doing the Italian competitions. Now it could be different but the money in Asia is really good.
Where would you like to settle? In Europe, Australia, Asia?
[Joshua] Sara in Italy. Me, no. I don't know but probably Asia.
In Italy you would be one of the few people speaking English!
[Joshua] I do speak Italian so that would be fine. I like Italy but I like the opportunities in Asia. Asia moves quite quickly which is good and I like that.
... and not Australia?
[Joshua] No. Australia is like Italy, You have to be there and to have a studio and there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that. You virtually have to stay put so that travelling, competitions etc. is not possible.
The political scene in Italy must be quite difficult for dancers
[Joshua] We don't really go near it at all. Our teachers are not Italian, actually one of them is but he is not in Italy. We have seen the political scene in Italy and it is scary because they have their groups and some of it is really quite obvious. It has not really touched us because we are so focused on what we are doing so we are happy for them to do whatever they want so long as it does not come near us.
When we interviewed Riccardo he said that he was happy he was not in Italy because of the politics
[Joshua] I suppose there is this whole IDSF, WDC thing.
[Joshua] I guess if we were both Italian it would be really scary.
To me, what was very clear you love what you are dancing and you are not afraid to show it. "Wow, that felt good" kind of thing
[Joshua] (laughing) Yes we do love what we are dancing. We do not want to finish our career having had all these years, all these lessons and come out of it, maybe with a result, but not having experienced something that we really believed in. Yes we are in to what we are doing and when we are in that Cha Cha or Samba we are enjoying the music, the dancing and we love dancing together and we bounce off each other's energy all the time. I think to be honest we are really lucky to have found each other and the situation we are in with our teachers, we are just really happy about it all. I guess you can see this and we are focused just on ourselves and no one else at all. I understand what you are saying. You can see couples who are totally into each other and really enjoy what they are dancing and what they are creating..
What would you say is your favourite dance?
[Joshua] I like (pause)... I hate practising Paso Doble but I love dancing it in a competition. I love Rumba we both love Rumba. That's because it is slow and we are getting old (laughter). No. Sara loves Samba, she has always loved Samba. It's like she is always saying "lets practise Samba, lets practise Samba". Me - "No we are doing Cha Cha". So for Sara it is Samba, together - Rumba. For me? I like Cha Cha, in fact I like all of them.
If you danced ballroom which dance?
[Joshua] For Sara - Tango. For me - I like Foxtrot there is something about Foxtrot.
If for some reason dancing was forbidden in the world what would you do?
(long pause, both deep in thought)
[Joshua] I don't know but maybe I would be in the fashion industry.
[Joshua] Yes designing, maybe extreme couture or something like that.
And you, Sara?
[Sara] I don't know.
[Joshua] I know, you would be in the kitchen. She loves cooking absolutely loves it. She always says if she gives up dancing she will become a chef. You know. An Italian Restaurant in Hong Kong (laughing) we cannot find decent Italian food in Hong Kong. She really is a very good cook and I am lucky. (laughing) Wherever we go I want a kitchen.
There you are, we can open a new section. The Dancers Kitchen. Sara's recipe for this week (general laughter)?
[Joshua] Yes, the dancer's diet.
Do you have a suggestion for the visitors to our website as to what they should concentrate on? What they should eat?
Josh and Sara consult in Italian and then...
[Joshua] Diet food.
Do you yourselves eat a lot of pasta?
[Joshua] She likes pasta but is very strict on herself with food. Lots of fish and vegetables, soups like minestrone. Simple food without rich sauces, very little salt and oil. Me on the other hand (with a laugh) I sneak in all that stuff, which I shouldn't.
Could you say what is your biggest virtue? That's in dancing, not your private life.
[Joshua] The love for it. That will keep you going. If you genuinely love something it never really goes away. Sometimes it does get a bit difficult and then you need to remind yourself actually there is something I really love about this. It's not all doom and gloom but you do have those off days especially when you are travelling and you just think "Oh I want to go home to Australia where it is 30 degrees". I really love dancing; I am very passionate about it. Whatever gets in the way, gets in the way but I will always dance.
Sara is very passionate she is also very determined. Especially in the last few years she has overcome a lot of obstacles to come this far and especially after such a long break and being out of competition. Sara has come back, and she has not come back half hearted, she has come back 110%. I have been in it all along so for me it is just continuing but Sara has had another life outside. A life that was not as demanding as competitive dancing and then she has said "I do not need this I am going back to dance". So it has been practising, and lessons, competitions, travelling. Sara has returned and gone in head first.
When Sara was not competing did she miss the competitive side?
Very definitely, we can see how that was said with passion (laughter)!! 6 years was a long time. It is very impressive because normally if they are away for so long people change their life style.
[Joshua] ... and they lose their dancing as well, It is hard to maintain it. As I said, when we had our first try out it was amazing and I said "Oh God” because she was faster and stronger than I was. And I had not stopped competing.
Most of the visitors to our web site are not as good as you so they are interested how you achieved your position. You are proving you do not have to start at 5 years of age; you do not have to practise every single day
[Joshua] But you do. You need to work and practise
Yes, but there was the long gap and then the partnership was formed when you were both adults, so what is the magic?
[Joshua] It is good guidance. There are so many people having so many lessons off everybody I think it is terrible. I think you need to have 1 maybe 2 teachers that are on the same page, maybe even a man and a woman, and then just stick with them.
So is that your case?
[Joshua] When I was young I had one teacher for 10 years and Sara was the same and also had only one teacher for about 10 years. Sara was very accomplished and won the World Youth Championship, the German Open, phenomenal things for a young person and the quality of dancing was amazing from her and her partner. I had similar guidance from my teacher all the way in Australia who had not been to London or on the European scene for about 20 years. But the good guidance I received kept me focused with just a very clear road. It was simple you go to practise, you work hard you get results.
Do you want us to mention your teachers?
A brief consultation between Sara and Josh then...
[Joshua] Sara was with Carolyn Smith and I was with Michael Baker in Australia. I think both those teachers were responsible for our Youth level of dancing and it was a very high standard of dancing.
[Joshua] Now we follow Gaynor and Mirko (Fairweather and Saccani). We have received very good guidance from them. It is so clear. It is focused on hard work, creative hard work. We really believe in them and they believe in us and that is very important. So long as there is this mutual belief you have a good balance and, of course, there must be respect between the 4 people, or three if you only have one teacher, and there is. We have really found ourselves with them and we will continue to find more of ourselves.
If you were going to give young dancers advice what would that be?
[Joshua] The harder you work the luckier you get and that's it!
That is very good advice. It's interesting, that you are not in favour of going from teacher to teacher, and especially those who are going to judge.
[Joshua] No, it does not work. It might work for some people but then they have to ask themselves why it is working for them, I would not like to get to the end of my career and not to have learned anything profound, to have not really understood something. I do not think you can really understand with this running around from teacher to teacher. Who are you listening to? You are not listening to anyone or, if you are listening to someone, are you wasting your time and money.
Are you a couple in private life?
Do you have a private life outside of dancing?
[Joshua] No, (and laughs) no way. Not at this level there is no time. We do not even have time for family let alone friends and my family being in Australia I am limited to only seeing them once or twice a year. I do have a few really good friends and we always keep in contact. Even if we don't see each other for 2 years it does not change anything. Sara has the same thing, great friends that stay in touch.
You two are proof of things I have said to young people. If you are going to dance you are going to get some bad results along the way don't let them worry you. You have believed that you can and now it has happened
[Joshua] We believe in each other. Sara is a fantastic dancer and (laughing) I hope she thinks the same about me (Josh looks at Sara and then to much laughter "I don't like that look you gave me").
You were semi-finalists at the International, were you not?
[Joshua] Yes and that was really good because before that we were searching and thinking are we on the right track here. Just before that we had changed our ideas and had said we are going to do this, we are going to give it 100% and see what happens. So the result was very good and confirmed what we were thinking, which was nice, and so now we are a bit more relaxed and confident about it (laughing) not too relaxed though.
Have you thought about Blackpool, whether you will dance Rising Stars there?
[Joshua] Yes unless something dramatically changes we will dance Rising Stars at Blackpool, we would like that one too.
With the two titles than your star will have risen
[Joshua] (laughing) Yes and now we will stick to the Open.
At this stage the conversation moved to age and how Josh and Sara seemed to have been in Dancing for so long, 15 plus years, and then on to Donnie and Gaynor.
[Joshua] They are amazing. Have you seen them? My God it is phenomenal. I love it. I remember seeing them, and it was the first time I had seen them dance together. It was at a workshop at Assen 3 years ago. Donnie did a lecture at the camp the week before and at the end of it he spoke about their whole partnership, how they got together, their beliefs, how it ended up. The whole lecture had been about partnering and then he and Gaynor did a Rumba. Oh God everybody was crying, the moment they began touching each other I was crying. They had obviously worked so hard and it did not matter how many years they had not been dancing together, "it” was still there. Everything was so understood, what needed to happen between them. It gave me chills; in fact I still get chills when I think about it. I love it.
Age does bring maturity which gives you something more.
[Joshua] Exactly. I think as you get older and you start teaching you improve as well. You start understanding things that maybe you did not pick up as a competitor. You are learning from other people if you know what I mean. So that's something I have to look forward to (laughter).
Have you done technical exams, Associate or Member that sort of thing, or have you concentrated more on the competitive side?
[Joshua] I have done a Level 1 in Australia for teaching which I think is like an Associate with the Imperial and I have started looking into those qualifications now. It is good for judging etc. And we are definitely going into it but for the next 6 months to a year we will focus on our competitive work because that is going to be quite heavy, just to make sure that our ranking in the Professional field is quite high.
So we can expect to see you in lots of ranking events this year?
So we will see you in Blackpool and also Dutch Open
[Joshua] I love that comp. Dutch Open. The maracas, everything. It is amazing and so exciting, even if you are dying at the end of your dance, you get all this energy because the people are giving it. Even from the first round the audience is there supporting you and you really don't get that at many comps. I love Dutch people.
Do you have a next competition planned? What are you doing between now and Blackpool?
[Joshua] We have a few comps that we plan on doing (then looking at Sara) but we cannot confirm yet as we have not decided. We might be doing some comps in Italy. We have the Italian Championships to do at the end of February. We might be heading to France and then back to Italy in May for one. We will be in Hong Kong for a month so we might do anything that is around in Asia.
Will you be dancing any of the upcoming Asian Tour events?
[Joshua] Unfortunately, because we want to dance for Italy in World Championships etc. we must go home for the Italian ranking events. We have to be in Italy for the 27th February and I think that is a couple of days after the tour starts. Plus there is another competition we must do in Italy which cans the whole Asian tour for us. We would have loved to have done the tour as we have heard they are great competitions. We have never done them before but there are high quality judges, a very high level of dancing, good money, all are involved. It is all good competition because all the best in the world are there and it is great to be bumping heads with everyone.
This Italian Championship you are dancing in is that the FIDS version?
[Joshua] It is the Italian Dance Council to select the couples for the World Dance Council Championships. We were Amateurs in the World Dance Council too, the Amateur League.
So what's your impression at the moment with all the problems?
[Joshua] As I said before we don't get too much involved in it because we want to stay focused on our own thing.
So may we now thank you first for your beautiful dancing and then for this chat which we have enjoyed very much.