Ballroom lovers around the world were happy to see the return of Mirko Gozzoli and Edita to competitive dancing at Bassano del Grappa in Italy exactly 11 months and 28 days after they split, and I had particularly wanted to explore how they got back together. Normally I hate telephone interviews — if you get a sullen subject, these can be as much fun as a tooth extraction — and I had cursed the editor quietly when she refused to pay my fare to Lithuania for a face-to-face.
But as things turned out, it was painless. Edita was forthcoming, talking frankly about her at times fiery relation with Mirko, and about her feelings at being compared to Mirko’s former partner, Alessia Betti. Here are some excerpts — some of it could not be carried in DT for want of space — that provide interesting insights into one of the most-watched ballroom partnerships in the world:
How did you and Mirko get back together again?
He came to my training camp in the summer and we practiced a bit. We still have some business that we were supposed to do together – like teaching trips. And we did a few of those and we practiced. We enjoyed that. We didn’t fight as much as before. Actually we didn’t fight at all. So we kind of– we found again the joy of dancing. And that was partially to do with not competing.
Did you miss competing?
No. I was okay even without competition. Mirko was the one who wanted to compete. He never wanted to retire. He decided to split with me because I was asking him to travel more, to come more to Lithuania, and he needed to stay in Italy. This was the main disagreement.
In an earlier interview, you had said you missed competing so much that you were crying while judging, and that was why you decided to compete again after you had your daughter. But this time, you didn’t miss competing. What had changed?
Then I felt I had not competed in professionals. I hadn’t finished my career the way I wanted. Then I felt really bad. But this time, when Mirko decided to split and I retired, I didn’t feel too bad. Absolutely not.
Why was that?
Before this time, there were a lot of fights. When you are struggling to win, to get to the first place, there are many people who give their advice. Normally people try to find the person who is guilty. So my dresses were wrong, my dancing was wrong. Obviously because Mirko was a champion with Alessia [Betti] and not the champion with me, the whole world tried to improve me. I got a lot of pressure and I wasn’t enjoying my dancing. That was why I felt quite a relief, instead of sadness and missing the competition. Because my personality is very different from Mirko’s previous partner. And I am who I am. And as a dancer you have to find your own personality. You cannot copy because that will be worse.
How did the decision to compete again come about?
Mirko wanted to compete in WDC, to come back, to prove something to Arunas [Bizokas], to beat him. Since I retired, I have taken some business with WDSF. In Lithuania we have a strong WDSF federation. So I had already made a choice. It’s sad that somebody has to make a choice. I really do not think it should matter which federation you belong to, but sadly you have to choose these days. And I have chosen WDSF because I was already judging there. I suggested to him to take part in the WDSF competitions. And he agreed, and that’s how we ended up in Bassano.
Another aspect we spoke of was the enthusiastic support the partnership always seemed to elicit from spectators. Why, I asked Edita, did the crowd love watching them? She attributed it to the “risks” they take on the floor:
“The ability to risk is something that is very attractive to the audience. To play with your dance and enjoy it – but you can suffer for it. Some people choose to have a safer way, and the safe way guarantees winning. But the safe way will not always guarantee the love of the crowd.”
What plans for the future? On that, I am afraid I couldn’t get much. Edita went all diplomatic on me. They wanted to see “what everyday brings”, she said, “not worry about results”, but “focus on improving quality”.