It was high time to dedicate a fitting memento to the people who moved ballroom dancing to where it is today,” says Brigitt Mayer-Karakis of the beginnings of this remarkable project.
This book was eight years in production, a labor of love that you'll appreciate having on your coffee table or book shelf. To ensure that the legacy lives on, Brigitt insisted on the finest quality craftsmanship in producing the book itself, using acid-free archival paper and the highest quality print production.
Initially, when first contemplating the effort, Brigitt visualized a beautiful book that would tell the stories of icons, past and present, from the world of ballroom dancing. With interest in dance growing around the world, she felt there would be a market for such a work.
Selecting the icons
She needed to find out more about the icons who were going to be featured. As a long-time champion dancer, teacher and adjudicator, she had known many of them through her own dancing career.
Yet she realized that she didn't really know them at all. What did they do before? What were their life stories?
Some were her own teachers, coaches and mentors. Others were “gods in ballgowns,” legends from around the world whom she had seen lifting their scorecards to tell dancers like Brigitt if they were any good. Still others she had heard about but never seen or met.
She embarked on a plan to get in touch with them, but first she needed to determine who to include.
Her initial list at first was too small. As her research continued, it became apparent that many more people had a sound basis for inclusion. Being a champion was not the issue, it was about their influence on the world of dancing. But so many had made a significant impact that now the list was much too long!
So now a process began to narrow down the icon parade to a manageable number.
Age and accomplishments were key considerations. Those who were frequently mentioned by people being interviewed became obvious choices. Access to information on those who had passed away was difficult, because so many interviews were required with colleagues and family members and even there might not be enough relevant information.
For those still living, there was the challenge of arranging the schedules for interviews, since they lived busy lives all over the world.
There are many powerful and influential figures who are no less important for having been left out. These decisions are never easy, and no matter where you cut the list, there will always be others who deserve to be in, just as in a dance competition those left out of the final by a single callback often are just as deserving — and sometimes more so — than those seen in the final round.
Collecting the information
Brigitt used video interviews to record the stories of the icons, as this allowed her to gather the information she needed in a way that captured the nuances — emotion and passion and concern — in ways that simple audio recording would not have done. Hundreds of hours of such interviews were analyzed and the relevant details pulled out and condensed to a form that made sense for the book.
Since ballroom dancing is so glamorous, Brigitt knew that the book needed images from the past and the present, to enable the reader to picture what the lives of these people were like.
A photographer was needed to capture the present. Brigitt comes from a family of photographers, and her father, U.H. Mayer is a master. He agreed to work with her on the project.
All the icons had to sift through their private collections to give her what was needed to illustrate the past. This was a time-consuming project, with their photos stored in alcoves, closets or garages around the world. Ron Self, a well known ballroom dancing photographer, was helpful in providing many photos from his own archives.