Interview with Donnie Burns:

Okay, I'm sitting here with Donnie Burns, the former 14 times world championship's winner. You already won everything you could have won and again won tonight the German open championships, your first competition when you decided to compete again. So, how long was your break in between?

Since the end of October 1997, so I think about one year and eight months.

But you never stopped training in the meantime?


What was the reason for you to compete again?

(laughing) There were rumours about this, you know? There were rumours that I was bankrupt, there were rumours that I had a skiing accident or a jetskiing accident. Probably because the truth is too simple for people to believe. So I tell you the truth. The reason is we came back because we wanted to and we think we can and the time of "think we can" is not forever. So we do it now.

What was the reason that you stopped dancing before, that you said we retire? There must have been a change in this reason then?

Yes and no. Before we won for 14 years, the record was a couple who won for five years. And I remember, I was a kid, when this couple were winning after three years, people were saying it's time to go out and to get somebody else a chance. It's a strange thing because everybody wants to see Cesar on his knees. Nobody wants that Brazil don't play in the world cup or France but in some sports or activities or arts they think if you're winning for a long time you shouldn't be in it anymore. So you can imagine if we beat the three years and then we were there for five years and then we were there for eight years and then we were there for ten years and then it was like: "Oh my god, are they never going to go?" People didn't think, when we started winning as profis I was only 22. So they don't think like that. They just think it's time that somebody else gets a chance. It's not France's fault that they won the world cup. So after 14 years, well really after 10 years, after 6 years everybody was saying: "Oh, they stay too long." I don't remember back then 16 years ago before we won, but a friend of mine in England said: "You're going to win too quickly." Because when we turned to professionals from amateurs before two years was finished we were winning the pro. And I remember that a friend in London said: "This is a problem for you, Donnie, because when you're in your twenties people are going to want you to retire!" Of course I didn't really get a sh** about that and I just thought, well, I want to win.

My way of looking at it is that every time we dance they have a chance. No, they don't take it. That's not our fault.

Your big advantage was that you never became boring for the audience. You always did something different. You create something new, create a new style. That leads me to my next question. Is that right that you danced the - I think it was the first Jive - in sport shoes today? Was that a gag?

No, it wasn't a gag. I mean I'm sure people thought it was a gag. It is unfortunate that in competitions people think that you have to wear the same costume for all five dances. For example, the Samba is Carnival, happy Brazil. A Paso Doble is Matador, Cape, bullfight. And a Jive is Jive, Boogie-Woogie, just about Rock'n'Roll. Now in character these three dances for example are completely different planets. So, how is it possible to wear the same costume for a Paso Doble as a Jive. I f you wear a Bolero it's Paso Doble, it looks silly in Jive. Or if you wear Bobbysocks and a tennis skirt in Jive, it looks silly in Paso Doble. So I don't see it just because for many years everybody has worn the same costume for all five dances, that doesn't mean that we have to do it!

So you think, people should become more flexible in their thinking?

Well, you know, I think that people should always try and push the frontiers from before. And if we come back I don't want to do just what we used to do. I want to give it something. That means, when you experiment you make mistakes! But that's the only way you get progress.

Coming to tonight. The audience was split. They still love you, they want to see you dancing and they love your dancing but there are some critics about: "Why do they come back?" You see many rumours for instance and the other thing was that mostly the audience wanted to see Allan and Carmen in first place and was not satisfied with the judges' opinion. So, what do you think about the reaction of the audience?

Well, what can I say? Really, of course it can be hurtfull. It's very difficult you know. I mean, when you think, I would like to see anybody come to Scotland with 6 Scottish judges out of 11 and 5.000 Scottish people and see if the crowd support Donnie and Gaynor (laughing). So you can say to Allan and Carmen or to Brian Watson - you know we danced everywhere, when we were champions we danced everywhere. Ralf Lepehne was a champion here, we danced in Germany. Johan Eftetal was a champion from Norway, we danced against him in Norway. Brian Watson is the champion in South Africa, we danced against him in South Africa. But nobody ever comes to Scotland (laughing).
But we do. We are going to the joys of death always. And I respect the people if maybe they thought Allan and Carmen were better. Maybe they just think they love the underdog, you know? I don't know.
I admire the judges. Really, a judge has to be strong and I think if you have a lot of people screaming for one couple that they are not marking or booing it takes a very, very strong character. Especially you know I was a little bit concerned after the Rumba because it's the third dance. And by the time the Rumba was finished we were the winners because we won 3 dances. And I thought, well now is the dangerous period if anything can happen because anybody who wants to give the first places away, that was a good opportunity if they wanted to, but they didn't. But then again you know it is easier to dance than to judge because all we have to do was trying to dance and be the best. The judges are the ones who have to be strong.

That's right. And what do you think about Allan and Carmen? Are they hard competitors to you? Could they be dangerous for your next world championship title?

Obviously, well, that's not really a fair question but I'm trying to answer it anyway. I'm Donnie Burns and you're asking me that question, so my answer really has no value- a logical person would say that the couple for Germany at the German Open with 6 German judges and 5.000 German people for example in Donnie and Gaynor's first competition would have their best chance to beat them and they didn't. Not even in one dance. It wasn't even close, so I think the best chance they had was here. That's logic. No, maybe I'm wrong but a logical mind would say, well, their first competition is the one that people don't know, maybe they've lost it, maybe they keep it. So I don't think they will have a better chance in South Africa. But that's just logic.

You came back to win again and you go to the world championships?


How many world championships you planned to dance? You talked about the five times winner when you were a teenager - then you made a new record of 14. Are you're going to complete the 20?
(both laughing)

No, of course. That's what I said to you in the beginning of the interview. The reason we came back is because we think we can. But that's not for long because we're getting older.

Ok. But on the floor you showed everyone tonight that you still can and if this is the point you can go on for a few years. So will you definitely stay now or do you say we don't know how long we stay again? - Just to keep any rumours out!

We have no set plan. We do it if we think we can but as long as we feel we can we don't want to loose our bright or our standards. I'm eleven kilos lighter than I was two years ago. We have been to the gym 4 times a week. We practice still more than the others. So we cannot do any more than we do. We didn't come back to loose.
(laughing) I'm telling you, I'm telling you, we didn't come back to loose and so we will do it as long as we think we have our standard. And if we feel that we would loose that standards even if we're not loosing the competition, we'll stop.

What will you do to convince those persons who're critical about your return?

I don't have to. The result's there! Everybody has a right to an opinion. It's not easy to come back when you've been winning for 14 years and you stopped for 2, I tell you! Maybe they are right, I don't know. All I can tell you is that, if there was a danger I think that another couple were better, if would have happened tonight. They didn't! So, they're in a minority!

I interviewed Allan before and he said: "Yes, I think it' s not fair that Donnie and Gaynor got this reaction, these boos, even if they are not against them but against the judges but I think they didn't deserve that, because they're Donnie and Gaynor and they were my heroes for many, many years. They have been world champions 14 times and they know what it means to be first and retire, then come back. It's a risk - you're bringing your head to the guillotine."

Yes. (nodding)

So, has that really been the feeling for you that you were going to the guillotine tonight?

That's a hard question to answer. Yes - No. That thought is always there. That thought is there every time you dance! Now, every time you go out you have to prepare yourself physically and mentally for the next one. We say in English when you're second and the winner is already the winner from before the guy who is second is cycling downhill and the winner is cycling uphill. But the winner has the advantage because he has the history. So there was that thought that we are going into the joys of death, putting our head in, we say putting our head in the lion's mouth just hoping that it doesn't bite. Whatever, it works. As that thought was there, what you have to do is trying that that may not destroy you. I think in the first round in the Cha-Cha-Cha the first dance in the first round this afternoon, I think we were nervous and I don't think we danced very well. When I came off and I thought, well, I thought I have to get control of this otherwise we could loose it. Not to Allan and Carmen. It wasn't anything to do with any other couple. It was only to do with Donnie and Gaynor. We didn't do our job and I think that you have to try and, you know, fear is a terrible thing. It can destroy you. I think you have to try and be mentally strong! I don't know how mentally strong I was.

But now you have had a break, obviously retired and come back, and I think that is a slight difference in these feelings, even more complex, more intensive?

Yes, it is. And you know, the reigning champion, the world champion always has a small advantage:
he is the world champion and some people in dancing think that somebody else really has to be 20 % better before they will kill a champion. If it's equal or a little bit they will give the champion the benefit, the advantage. When we stopped, somebody else becomes the champion, we no longer had that advantage. So for example. If you don't like my dancing or you don't like me, and maybe if you're 14 times world champions and we're still dancing, you want to mark me second but you don't have the guts, or it takes guts. Suddenly when we are no longer the champion because we stopped, now that's your great opportunity, that's your chance. So, that is also more of a risk for us.

Do you regret that Hans and Bianca don't compete with you anymore?

No, I regret it when anybody stops, any great champion. We were there when they won. And I shed a tear because I hate to see the end of an era. I don't like it when Frank Sinatra dies or Elvis because I hate to see the end of an era.

Ok. I hope then that your real, real final end of your era won't come so early and you stay with us, let us be a part of your dancing and your competitiveness for many years still.

Thank you very much.

Good luck to you, to Gaynor and good luck for the world championship, you dance or you dance not??


Maybe. You won't say any more?

I won't say. (laughing)

Ok. Thank you for this interview.

You're welcome. Thank you very much.

Interviewer: Daniel Reichling for TNW Online!