Interview with Emanuel & Tania – Part II

Continued from Part I


Emanuel & Tania at the 2008 Grand Ball. Photo courtesy of David Marasigan.

Joel: Who does most of your choreography? Is it William, or do you put it together yourselves?

Emanuel: It’s mixed. Sometimes I experiment on my own, and then if I find something that I like, I go back to William and we try to make it work… maybe different shape, timing… but I need to like it. I need to enjoy the step. Otherwise of course, there is no point to do it. If you don’t enjoy your steps, it’s not going to work. But it’s a combination between William and us, working together. It’s good. I enjoy it… new choreography.
Tania: It’s more like parts nowadays, isn’t it? Lots of figures we like… lots of old figures. It’s more like we change one step. It’s not like when we were younger, you get a [whole] new Foxtrot routine. We don’t really do that anymore.
Emanuel: We change maybe 4 bars or 2 bars. We look at a lot at old videos. I really like it, enjoy it. I really also enjoy to take this step and do it 5 different ways, and then to find a good one. You can test a lot, and there are no mistakes. It’s all by yourself.
Joel: Yes, even if you look like this… (Joel strikes a terrible pose… and everyone laughs.)
Emanuel: Yes! Nobody sees you so you can do whatever! In the studio, you’re on your own. [It’s] the testing place.
Tania: Lots of stuff never comes to the comp.
Emanuel: You cannot believe how many steps go out of the window. You try after 2 weeks, and it’s impossible, then bye bye! I enjoy it. You get the experience.
Joel: Definitely.

Clara: So how many hours a day do you usually practice?

Emanuel: Depends if it’s before Blackpool or for a big comp, [then] of course we increase the practice. But when we don’t have a comp, we practice at least 3 hours dancing. Plus, we do extra, like a little bit of gym or exercise.
Tania: We are not big practicers. I think it’s very different from some other people. William would send us home. Sometimes he would say, “This is enough.”
Emanuel: Also sometimes I can be at the studio 1 hour just on my own, because I really want to work on this step. I really like to be in the studio. I enjoy it. [But] sometimes it can become too much.
Tania: Sometimes you can become so deep into things, that you’re not really doing anything anymore.
Emanuel: You lose it. So sometimes it better to be a little bit more compressed, and then go to another thing… a bit of gym or…
Tania: I’m the structured one. He just goes on.
Emanuel: Yes. She’s the one that takes care of the timing. I’m a little more… I let it go. I can be there 3 hours, just goofing around.
Tania: Yes. ‘Is it good enough… this Natural Turn? Can we go to the Spin Turn please?’ (laughing)
Emanuel: I don’t like to be in the studio really maybe 2 hours, and just sit, for example. [Some people] do 15 min, then half an hour they sit, and then 10 min and 20 min sit. I am quite active in the practice. I like this. And I think that this is also what brings us success. I really believe in practice. I know lessons are important and lectures, but if you don’t practice, you can have millions of lessons, but if you don’t put in the work to get this, it doesn’t work. I think the practice is the key.
Tania: Of course everybody is different, but for us, this is it. You see many people nowadays, the balance of lessons and practice can be uneven sometimes.

Joel: Have you found that things have changed for you now that you are in the finals all the time?

Emanuel: Yes. It’s changed the approach. How you prepare for the comp is different.
Tania: But unfortunately, I still have to wash his underwear when I get back! (everyone laughing!)
Clara: That hasn’t changed, eh?
Joel: That’ll never change. (laughing)
Emanuel: But the approach is different. When you are fighting to make a final or fighting to win, it’s different how you plan the comp… the strategy. I enjoy it, I have to say. I enjoy to prepare for Blackpool or International or the World Championship. It’s good.
Tania: What’s definitely changed is the amount of traveling.
Joel: So now that you’re in the final, you’ve got all these invitations.
Tania: Yes. Big difference from when we made our first final at Blackpool. The month of June, we received I don’t know how many invites for the following year. That’s a big difference.
Emanuel: And the goal is different of course. If you have to be in the final, it’s a different goal than if you want to win, in the sense that in the mind, you have different ideas. It’s a challenge. What can you do to make it better, to get to reach the top. You want to beat the other couple, and the other tries to beat you of course. It’s a competition, so you have to try to forget this. You have to always be clever.
Tania: I think when you’re actually in it, it’s sometimes too much. When you’re not in the final, you’ve gotta make that final. Once you’re in, you’ve gotta be 5th,
Emanuel: You never finish. Always next, next. And I’m sure when you win, you have to defend the title. And then you have to think about Professional or think about how to keep the others away. So it’s good. Different challenges.

Joel: And that’s what keeps motivating you?

Emanuel: Yes. I think also it’s not only the result that’s important. You want to become a good dancer as well. Not everybody can win at the end of the day. They are not all champions. You try to be the best. If you win, it’s good; if you don’t, you still try to impress.
Joel: Exactly. There are a lot of top, top dancers that were never World champions.
Emanuel: Correct.
Joel: You think wow! They were not world champions, but such great dancers!
Tania: For sure. Some of them are more remembered than some champions.
Joel: That’s true.
Tania: For me it’s really important to enjoy the moment. Because we travel so much, sometimes we fear that our life is all planned out so far ahead. So for me, it’s very important that I enjoy what I’m doing… both in the dancing and in the life.
Emanuel: It doesn’t have to become like a job. Like the person going to the office. It’s different. It’s more like, tomorrow we have the comp, so we just enjoy the comp. You can’t think the next day we fly from here to there. Otherwise, if you think like this, it’s going to be hard. It will be tiring and then you’ll want to stop. If you don’t enjoy it, you have to change. Fortunately, we still enjoy it, so it’s good.

Emanuel & Tania at the 2010 Snowball Classic

Emanuel & Tania at the 2010 Snowball Classic. Photo courtesy of Ivo Dimitrov.

Joel: If you had time away from dancing, even just for a few hours, what would you usually do?
Tania: We love to go to the theatre. Every time we go to London, we will go once to see a show… like Cirque du Soleil or…
Emanuel: Yes, this kind of show or concert. I really enjoy live shows… [to] get inspiration for the dance.
Joel: Yes. Especially the performance aspect of it.
Emanuel: Yes. It’s good. Different acts – you can learn from this. And then we like sometimes to relax.
Tania: Sleeping. (laughing) He’s still running around, and I sleep.
Emanuel: Really sometimes it’s good to do nothing… sitting, watching TV or movie. Tania more than me. I like…
Tania: Playstation!
Emanuel: I really like computers, Playstation, this kind of technology. So when I’m on the flight, when I have my computer, iPOD, iPhone. I really like it. And then I like also sports. I like to see live sports… [like] tennis, running.
Tania: When he has some time, with the evening off, he will go and play football. Then it’s very active. That’s how he likes it.
Emanuel: I like to be with friends and go out. I go to the stadium and watch football. I’m not this kind of person, always sitting and relaxing. Tania more than me. But we try to switch off sometimes, not only dancing, so we get recharged again, so the next day you are ready. Although sometimes, we download music and think about the shows or think about the practice… still towards the dancing… booking flights [etc]… 80% of the day towards the dancing; 20% to other things, like maybe the sports.

Emanuel: Good question. I really don’t know. The thing is, I was never good in studying, so I don’t think I was going to [go to] University or something like this. I really don’t know. There is a University of Sports [where they] teach about physical activity. I was going towards that, more than studying law or something like that.
Tania: I never had a break from dancing. The longest I’ve been without a partner is one week. I never actually considered not dancing.
Emanuel: Never came to my mind.
Tanya: I never had to decide…

Clara: How old are you now?

Emanuel: 27
Tanya: 26
Clara: So when did you start together? You said that you’ve been together for about 9 years, so you started at…?
Tanya: I was 18, he was 19.

Clara: Are you together as a couple as well?

Emanuel: Yes. After 6 months we started together, we became a couple also privately.
Clara: Do you find that this gives you challenges sometimes?
Emanuel: In the beginning, I’ll tell you what was different; it was the culture. Tanya is Danish and I am Italian, so we have different habits. At the beginning it was not easy. We were young, but then… we got used to each other.
Tania: I think nowadays, it’s only advantages for us… [especially] because you travel so much. It must be really difficult if you have someone else. Either you don’t have anyone, or you need someone who is really understanding. It was difficult, because actually, at the beginning I was really against it, very Danish. This is dancing, and this is private. You stay away! (smiling) I think at the beginning, it was quite difficult. Like Emanuel said, the bigger difficulty was the culture and more the language. When we started together, Emanuel didn’t speak a word of English, seriously. And I spoke like 3 words of Italian.
Joel: Buongiorno. Ciao.
Tania: Yes. The first time he came to Denmark, the President of the Club came to practice. [He] gave him his hand and said, “Hello. How was your trip?” And Emanuel said, “Yes, Emanuel Valeri.” And this guy just looked at him and said, “Right.”
Emanuel: Yes. I didn’t speak one word. I couldn’t understand anything. (laughing)

Clara: How about your warm-up before a comp? Do you have a specific way that you go about it?

Tania: We actually have this new system that we got a year ago from a Team Denmark physiotherapist. She gave us this system that we’ve been using for the past year. It’s been working very, very good.
Emanuel: Basically we do 10 minutes of light running. Just to get the body warm.
Clara: just on the spot, or running somewhere?
Tania: Well if we can’t get out, we do it in the room or in the ballroom or hallways.
Emanuel: I try to have the body really warm, a little sweat, so the body is ready. And then after that, we start to do a little bit of stretching and then dancing.
Tania: It was a big thing for us, because we had big problems in the beginning. Up until a year ago, we thought because we always got better throughout the day, the longer the comp, the better. So like in Blackpool, it was fantastic for us, because there are so many rounds. So we asked her [about it]. [She said that] for our body types, we need to have sweat before we walk onto the floor.
Emanuel: As a dancer, we want to feel really warm before we go. We don’t like to just change and then go onto the floor. The body is too stiff, so we try to really sweat before we get dressed. This is our main thing.
Tania: So far it’s been good for us.
Clara: So how long is the warm up in total?
Tania: 5 minutes light run, and then 5 minutes where you get your pulse up high and you sweat. Then we do some stretching, and then maybe get changed, and then after that, normal warm-up with the dancing.
Emanuel: Maybe open hold with a few swings. It takes about half an hour [for] the warm up.
Tania: Normally, we never warm up in position. Because it restricts you, and then you start correcting things instead of just letting it go.
Emanuel: With open hold we do a few swings, then we take a few positions. But not dancing in position, and then that’s it.
Tania: We dance separately then.

Clara: So does the Danish Club pay for the Physiotherapist?

Emanuel: Yes. The Danish federation pays for this. We are lucky.
Clara: What other things do they provide for you?
Emanuel: Massage.
Tania: Basically, in the whole system, you can use whatever you need. So there is Sports Pyschologist if you need that… gym, massage, anything… dietists.
Emanuel: If there’s anything you want to use, you can use. It’s good.


Emanuel & Tania at the 2010 Snowball Classic. Photo courtesy of Ivo Dimitrov.

Emanuel & Tania at the 2010 Snowball Classic. Photo courtesy of Ivo Dimitrov.

Clara: So do you work with a dietician as well? Do you watch what you eat?

Emanuel: Yes. Every year, we try to have a check, how is the body condition, which part is stronger than the other. And then there were two girls, dietists, checking out what we eat. They followed us.
Tania: It was 2 weeks in Italy, and 2 weeks in Denmark, and 2 weeks when we were everywhere else. We had to write down everything. We had these machines on, which measured everything. [They measured] how much energy we were using when we were practicing, when we were teaching, all the day. It was very tough. If I was cooking pasta, I had to write down how many grams of tomato, how much onion, [etc.]
Emanuel: They wanted to know everything. They were checking to see how you were eating before you went to a comp, and of course we gave the list to the dietists and they were shocked. We were mixing everything, because we didn’t know. So they guide us a little bit… what to eat before the comp, what is good, what is bad.
Tania: We got this whole report: 30 pages of report. We don’t follow all of it because it becomes too restrictive. But the main ideas we learned from.
Emanuel: We try to be careful with what we eat, because for myself, I feel it. If I eat bad, I feel it in the body… a little bit heavy. So especially for the comp, or when I have to practice, I’m careful what I eat. Of course, I try to eat a bit of everything.
Joel: But it’s difficult when you’re travelling all the time… trying to eat properly.
Emanuel: This is difficult at the airport, when you’re flying. It’s not easy.
Tania: Generally, just good sense of health. It works…which we weren’t doing before. We were eating just anything!
Emanuel: Of course, you need to eat a bit of everything. It has to be complete. You need a bit of chocolate, ice cream, you need that. (Yeah, says Tania and myself!) Not just plain pasta and chicken, vegetables and sometimes a bit of fruit.
Tania: Epecially when you’re travelling with the time change.

Joel: With all the travelling that you do, do you still get jet lag?

Emanuel: Especially when you have competition, a little bit you feel it. It’s not so bad dancing in Europe where the time is the same. When dancing in USA or Canada, you feel it. The body is different.
Tania: We take Melatonin. Did you take that?
Joel: Yes. We used to when we were travelling a lot. However, when we stopped travelling, and then went to visit Luca one time, we felt really bad. For days, we were in bad shape. And then when we came back to Canada, it took about a week for us to get back to normal. But we never felt that when we were travelling and competing regularly.
Emanuel: Yes. The body gets used to it.
Tania: I was very bad at first… not going to North America, but more to Asia. I had fever, bloody nose. Everytime it was the same thing… throwing up. This was before we knew about melatonin. Melatonin helped a lot.
Emanuel: Also we prepared more. We calculated when we had to fly, if we had to sleep less so we can sleep on the flight. We calculated so when we arrive here, we were a bit more ready.

Clara: If you have rounds all day, what do you snack on in between?

Emanuel: I will drink a lot, water, and then I will eat bananas, bites constantly. Depending how long is the break, if it’s let’s say 2 or 2.5 hours, then I’ll have a little sandwich, just bread and ham, just plain. Like at UK, where there’s 3 hours… and [I may have] some cereal bars.
Clara: How about sport drinks?
Emanuel: It’s not a sport drink.
Tania: It’s salts and minerals that you put in water. Keeps the salt balance when you sweat.
Emanuel: We don’t drink energy drinks like Gatorade or Red Bull, because this Dietist and Physiotherapist recommended us to not take this.
Tania: they actually say it goes against you. Because you go high, and then suddenly you drop down.
Emanuel: So you think you’re ready, but when it counts, you feel like your body stops.|
Clara: Some people eat chocolate bars. What do you think of that?
Emanuel: For some maybe it works. I prefer cereal bars or fruit. Chocolate makes me heavy.
Clara: It’s a delicate balance, because you need the food for energy, and yet you don’t want to eat too much or the wrong food to be too heavy.

Clara: Do you do your own hair Tania?

Tania: Yes.
Clara: Does Emanuel help?
Emanuel: NO. I’m not the best. I see a lot of boys helping the girls. I never did it, I don’t know why.
Tania: Did you Joel?
Joel: Yes. The reason why I did it was because she would take so long doing her hair, that her arms got tired… and I didn’t want her arms tired for the competition! (laughing)
Tania: (turning to Emmanuel) My arms get tired!
Emanuel: Oh no, no, no! Don’t use that! (everyone laughs)

Clara: Do you help design the costumes or does Chrisanne just design them for you?

Tania: I do everything. Sometimes if I have no ideas, I can ask the designer if she has something… [This happens for] maybe 1 out of 20 [dresses].
Emanuel: We see a lot of the models, on the catwalks [to get ideas].
Joel: And your suit is from Italy?
Emanuel: Germany. He’s Slovakian, but he lives in Germany. He was doing Latin dresses for girls, and then I was in Blackpool, and he was starting to do tailsuits, but not so much. He said he would make one tailsuit, and “If it is bad, you just throw it out, because I want to sponsor you.” Just try… slowly, a bit of mistakes here, and now he has good business. I’m happy with it. Now he’s doing a lot. He’s doing Marat, Karabey, and Victor Fung.

Joel: Do you try and do a lot of comps before the majors or do you not do them? I know everyone is different.

Emanuel: It depends. We don’t want to arrive at a major comp, [feeling that] we don’t want to dance… feeling no energy. We try to see how many comps we did the last months. If we didn’t have any comps, maybe one we do it. If we already have 2 comps, maybe the last 2 or 3 weeks, we try to take it easy to get ready for the major.
Tania: It also depends if there is something we want to try, like new choreography [that] we want to test it out. But normally we don’t. We like to arrive excited.
Emanuel: Yes. That is the main thing. We don’t want to arrive… like oh my god, tired out.
Joel: Do you ever find yourself in that position because you have so many competitions to do?
Emanuel: It happens. We prefer not to get overloaded with comps. Sometimes, we try to take some out. We try not to arrive dead. Otherwise, it’s not fair for the organizers and for your body and mind to feel off. It’s no good. You can’t please everybody. But especially before the major, we try to make a good plan.


Thank you to Emanuel & Tania for sharing their experiences with us to help inspire up and coming local dancers, as well as dancers from all over the world. From this hard-working and dedicated couple, we can conclude the following:

1) You must truly believe in the system of dance that you are embarking on. Trust and believe in your coach; train wholeheartedly; be patient and success will come.

2) Have a holistic approach. Although most dancers do not have access to the facilities that Team Denmark offers, if you’re serious, you need to go out and research on how best to train and compete. This includes finding out more about physical training, warming up, mental preparation, diet and nutrition, costuming, etc.

3) Train smarter, not necessarily harder. It’s not always about how many hours you put in at the ballroom. It’s about how focused and effective you are during your practice… by which chances are better when you lead a more balanced lifestyle.


4) Keep challenging yourself. There is always tonnes to learn. Keep it new and interesting; have a fresh outlook; and enjoy the moment every time.

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