Interview with Luca Urso and Alessandra Tripoli
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Interview with Luca Urso and Alessandra Tripoli

Posted on lunes, 25 jun. 2018, 12:29 by admin
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We spoke to Luca Urso and Alessandra Tripoli, the lovely couple from Italy who won the Professional Rising Star Latin in UK Open in January and it was their first competition as Professional. They repeated that result in Blackpool in May in 2018.

But life is like this. You may not get what you wanted but at least you tried.

Happy faces (laughing)! Congratulations, great result.

[Luca]: Thank you very much

Can I ask how you started to dance, what are your individual histories?

[Alessandra]: Actually there are no individual histories.... We started dancing together 25 years ago.


[Alessandra]: Yes (laughing).

And all that time together?

[Luca]: Yes!

[Alessandra]: He was five and I was six years old. We started dancing together

[Luca]: We were in the same school, we did everything together. DSL: You are the second couple I know who are like that...

[Alessandra]: Yes, after Andrea Ghigiarelli. They beat us only because they are a little bit older.

OK, so how did you start dancing?

[Luca]: Actually our parents were friends before we were born. They knew each other. They brought us into the dance school. I was to start modern dance, and she was to start ballet.

[Alessandra]: I did not stay in ballet and we did a little bit of modern together, maybe for one year. Then we saw a couple dancing, I remember, Cha Cha Cha and we loved it. Our Mums thought we can try it but we would make an odd couple. Luca was quite fat and I was super skinny. So it did not look that good initially.

How old were you at the time?

[Luca]: I was six and she was seven years old. Until of age of fifteen I was still quite fat. So people were saying we had to split. At the time we also danced Ballroom and ...

[Alessandra]: ... in certain positions you could not see me (laughing)! But we he reached the age of fifteen, his metabolism changed and everything changed. But anyway, we never even thought about splitting, we thought we were a good match.

Luca, looking at you now, I cannot imagine you being fat

[Alessandra]: We can show you some pictures (laughing). Anyway, he grew up and it changed. So when we started dancing, we never stopped.

[Luca]: Of course, during your career, there are ups and downs. The easy way, for some people, is to split up. It never was an option for us because we liked each other, always talked to each other, and now we are husband and wife. Communication is very, very important.

[Alessandra]: In life generally, if you really want something you will find a way to make it work. You will even change for the other person if you want to make the relationship work. That's what happened in our life, and in our dancing. In private life, we are perfect for each other (laughing). In dancing, we have to work on it.

Where are you from?

[Alessandra]: We are both from Misilmeri, near Palermo in Sicily. It is a nice little place.

Oh, I have to ask about the infamous Mafia. Any relation to them?

[Alessandra]: No, no (laughing)! I guess if we were, we would be champions much earlier (laughing).

Sorry, I was joking! These silly stereotypes!

[Alessandra]: I know, I know. And I don't drink any wine even if I am Italian...

Luca, why did you continue with dancing even if you were maybe not built for it as a young boy?

[Luca]: I always really loved it. Especially the music. Music, for me, is the most important thing. My Mum shown me a video where I was maybe a two, three year old kid and dancing to the music. Any kind of music. At the time I started dancing, I also played football because my father was a football player. But it was good, because he never forced me. He was not one of these Dads who force their son to play football because they do. But when I had my first dance lesson, I said to my Dad this is what I wanted to do. At the time, in Sicily, it was not really a thing to do for a boy. Boys were supposed to play football and all my friends were teasing me. But my answer was always that when I play football, I am surrounded by men, when I dance, I have lots of girls around me (laughing). After a while some of these friends joined my dance classes (laughing)! For that exact reason.

[Alessandra]: Yes, they grew up a little and they got it!

[Luca]: They may not like it, but they will do it.

[Alessandra]: We were an odd couple. He was fat but he was really musical. I was the rational one, the cool headed one. I had to analyse every single thing. But at the competition, he was better than me as he was really free and I was constrained. But we helped each other.

Which one of you, in your couple, makes decisions?

[Alessandra]: I do. I am Sicilian, I am the boss.

So is he!

[Alessandra]: Actually, in Sicily, it looks like the man is boss, but it is always the woman. I have a strong character. I always was the strongest one. It was me who decided we move to Hong Kong 5 years ago. He was a bit scared but I pushed him. It was because I believed in it. I am not a person who gets scared easily. If I want something I believe I can work hard to get it.

[Luca]: She is a very strong person.

[Alessandra]: Sometimes Luca wants to step back because he is scared things may not go to according to plan. But life is like this. You may not get what you wanted but at least you tried.

Who is cooking?

[Luca]: She is cooking. I make decisions of what she is cooking (laughing)!

[Alessandra]: I push him to eat healthy food because I really love it.

[Luca]: She really is into healthy stuff, I am pretty opposite. I love pizza, I love pasta, I love everything which make you fat (laughing)

[Alessandra]: We fight a lot about it

[Luca]: I have a tendency to put on weight, I have to watch it. She is good because she controls me. If I want pasta, she says, OK but whole wheat not white pasta.

[Alessandra]: I am a little crazy about gym and fitness and healthy eating. My lifestyle was always like this. I like to get up early in the morning and go to the gym before I eat, because I know I will eat later. You cannot say “I cannot have pasta” to your Grandma! She would take it as you don't love her (laughing). So I run first for two hours!

[Luca]: I like to stay at home and relax...

You currently live in Hong Kong far away from your families, so what happens when you come back to Italy?

[Luca]: It is actually quite stressful. In Sicily, even if you were away for a week, you are expected to visit every relative when you come back. You have to say hello to everyone. If you don't they make you feel guilty!

[Alessandra]: So you need few days just to say hello to everybody. And they you need another few days to say good bye (laughing). So whenever we come back just for a week, guess how much time we have to relax! It is dinner after dinner with members of family and they don't accept we need to be on diet! It is getting better now, finally they understood after twenty years, we need to watch what we eat (laughing).

[Luca]: Only after we married and got our own house, we could make decisions of what we eat

How was the wedding?

[Alessandra]: It was amazing, it was huge. I took part in Dance with The Stars, and my first celebrity partner was a wedding planner. So I let him do it. It was like a dream come true, fairy-tale wedding. We felt really blessed.

When was it?

[Alessandra]: Last year in July.

[Luca]: We were ten years in a relationship

What is the most important thing in dancing for you?

[Alessandra]: I love how I feel when I dance. I love the music and the emotions it brings.

[Luca]: I love music but I also love dancing with her. It is special. I tried dancing with another girl, but it wasn't the same. Maybe it is because we are together for such a long time, but we have that passion together, we love each other... Especially the Rumba, I love to dance Rumba with her.

[Alessandra]: It is the chemistry between us. And the emotion it brings, you cannot get that from anywhere else.

What is more important for you on the dance floor: winning or performance?

[Alessandra]: It was always the performance. To be able to show the art. That's why we were misunderstood for years, that we had a strange style. People were saying we were too contemporary.... But we like dancing in general so we danced other styles as well and always combined what we did in Latin with others...

[Luca]: Like salsa, flamenco, contemporary... We like dance in general. So we learned other styles as well.

[Alessandra]: Maybe our Latin technique was not that strong... but people said we were too different. But now I am glad we pushed and believed in it, because it is something special we build together.

Did you dance Ballroom as well?

[Alessandra]: Yeah... but don't say it to Markus (laughing). We stopped when we were fifteen.

[Luca]: We were not good in it. For me, staying in that Ballroom position, it was a disaster. I need to move (laughing). In Ballroom... I cannot express myself.

[Alessandra]: We love to watch them

[Luca]: I love to watch them because I can really feel what they try to portray. But for me, it is too restrictive. I need space (laughing).

[Alessandra]: Freedom

Which dance do you like the most?

[Alessandra]: Rumba?

[Luca]: Rumba.... Actually, I like every dance for different reasons. I really enjoy Cha Cha Cha and Samba, for the rhythm.

[Alessandra]: We tried to do a lot of rotations, because Luca enjoyed the rollercoaster of movements.

[Luca]: But Rumba brings the passion. When I dance Paso Doble I feel like a real man

[Alessandra]: We know a guy who taught us Flamenco and Argentine Tango

[Luca]: And we incorporated both these dances in our Paso Doble. However, I am not a fan of Jive.

But it is so much fun!

[Alessandra]: Yes, if we could we would do Swing all the way. But we can't. West Coast Swing... we love it. But to find a compromise between the jumps and the rhythm is hard.

[Luca]: We are not up to level with the others.

Are you saying that Jive is too restrictive for you?

[Luca]: You would like to put different things in it, but the teacher says you must show more of a Jive action...

[Alessandra]: Like classic Jive action. So we have to find the compromise, and I feel we are getting it now.

[Luca]: It is getting there

What is the difference in dancing between Professionals and Amateurs?

[Alessandra]: For us it was a big difference. For the last two years we felt a little out of place in Amateurs. Lot of energy is going on... Not that we do not have the energy but we did not feel we want to push in that direction. We always felt that everything we did had to be done for a reason. That it cannot be a copy of anybody but extremely unique. We felt that in Amateur it was about how much you do, not the quality you do.

[Luca]: In Professionals it is more about the individuality of the couple. In Amateurs you have more competition, in Professionals you have more difference in style.

[Alessandra]: So it suited the couple like us, who believe we can bring something different to it... So you do not have to compromise all the time to fit into that format and you can be appreciated for your different style. It is quite exciting for us.

Did you dance in WDC or WDSF in Amateurs?

[Alessandra]: WDC.

[Luca]: One of the reasons to turn Professional was that we were not getting anywhere for the last three years. We were in the semi-finals and we wanted to break into the final but we did not want to wait so long. We felt maybe it was not the right place for us with our style.... Many judges were telling us that we look more Professional. That our style is suited more for Professionals. We did feel out of place in Amateurs...

Do you have any friends outside of dancing?

[Alessandra]: Yes, we do. Since we were kids. But we don't see them much nowadays as they are in Sicily and we live in Hong Kong. When we come back there is a big party.

[Luca]: We really like each other. They are very understanding and supportive. They understand we don't have much time to call and chat. Some people might get upset but our friends understand how hectic our life is.

[Alessandra]: Luca is my best friend and always will be. We were best friends before we fell in love. Our relationship is special because it is not just we are husband and wife but also best friends.

Do you have any plans for expanding your family?

[Alessandra]: Yes, very much so. We just need to find the right moment. We don't want to wait too long, like to the end of our career.

[Luca]: You never know what life has for you.

[Alessandra]: We are enjoying our life now, and planning to have children a little later but not too late.

What are your expectations for Blackpool? Get to the final of the Professional Latin?

[Alessandra]: No, that's very different to the Rising Stars. To get there is very difficult.

[Luca]: There are really, really good couples there.

[Alessandra]: We will be glad to compete against such great couples, but thinking of getting to the final would be too much of a wishful thinking (laughing). We admire them, watching them is a pleasure

Do you have time to watch other couples when you compete?

[Alessandra]: No, but we work with some of them. And we watched them when we were Amateurs.

What would you change in dance world right now?

[Alessandra]: I would love every couple to have the same chance of getting lessons with great teachers and then the real talent will come out. When we were young we did not have any money, no money for the hotels so we were living in a car at the competition. I would change and do make-up in the petrol station toilets. We had to make a lot of sacrifices. Now, as we built our own business, we are able to pay for lessons. But I know many Italian dancers who struggle with that... It would be a real miracle if everybody with the same passion as we have, had the same chance.

Did your parents cover the costs of your dancing when you were kids?

[Alessandra]: Sort of, we started working when we were fifteen. And we were in school as well.

[Luca]: We explained the situation to our dance teachers that we cannot pay for the lessons and they were very kind. They let us teach the small kids, the beginners, only basics. It was small money but for us it was great help. Both our families had more children to take care of and dancing is very expensive.

[Alessandra]: We started with 2 lessons a week...

[Luca]: I remember our first competition in London, we were twenty three years old and first time out of Sicily.

[Alessandra]: We started very late because we did not have money. Our first Blackpool was at twenty three. Some people had already many Blackpools behind. We were not that lucky. Also, we did not have many good teachers in Sicily, somehow it did not work for us. I remember when we first met Caroline Smith 8 years ago, something just clicked and changed. We finally found somebody with a lot of knowledge. She pushed us to go to London. She is great, always on our side. She is like our Mum and a very strong person.

[Luca]: She helped us a lot. In few years we moved from top 100 to the semifinal.

What can the young dancers do when they struggle financially?

[Alessandra]: I can see a lot of people complain that they do not have money but they do not do much to change this situation. I believe that if you really are looking for work, you can find it. And if you are determined enough you will find a way to pay for your lessons. We did when we were young, and it was even more difficult then because there was a different mentality. If you really want something, you will push and find a way... At the beginning you don't need that many lessons, you need a lot of dedication and practice. Even now, I write down every bit of information the teacher gives me because I don't want to miss anything from that lesson.

[Luca]: She's got a book

[Alessandra]: Yes, I use my book to write it all down. Maybe because I was trained that way that everything is precious. You have to care.

So what is the best proportion of lessons to practice?

[Luca]: One lesson, ten hours of practice.

[Alessandra]: When we were young that made a difference. I remember when we were kids we were practising 5 hours a day and then we did some lifts, something else. It was our way to rest. We just practised all the time. We made one lesson worth more than ten lessons!

[Luca]: We are the proof it can work

[Alessandra]: I see many couple who have lots of money taking hundreds of lessons but they are getting maybe 10% out of it.

[Luca]: This is the first thing we teach our students that practice is the key. My uncle has a studio in Sicily, where we started, and we always give our students a possibility to use it for free for their practice whenever they want. Some people understand it, some just don't get it. They want more lessons. But we always teach our students that without practise your results will never come.

Did you continue your education at the University or college?

[Alessandra]: I started the Uni but haven't finished it. I was always very good and I had very good grades. But the exams were often at the time we had to go to England for the competitions so I was pushing and delaying them. And of course, I did not have time to study. I was passing but not with the grades I wanted. I was really picky, I wanted maximum points. So I gave up. My teachers were really surprised but I felt I cannot just continue with no 100% commitment to it.

What subject?

[Alessandra]: Biology. I have this problem that whatever I do, I want to do it with 100%.

[Luca]: She loves studying. She wants to continue studying Biology when she finishes with dancing.

[Alessandra]: I love my books. I read a lot.

Any favourites?

[Alessandra]: Anything from biographies, historical books to thrillers.

[Luca]: I am the opposite. I don't really like to read. Some time ago she put me to read a book, it was about the guy, a rich guy, who spent time in jail, a real-life story, and it was very interesting.

[Alessandra]: Since then he read a number of books about this kind of thing! That book was about a banker, well-educated and rich and his life in jail, what he had to do to survive. Amazing.

Do you like any movies?

[Luca]: Oh yes, we love cinema.

[Alessandra]: And TV series. Addicted (laughing)

[Luca]: Maybe because we are dancers we do not need and do not like going out to discos and clubs.

[Alessandra]: I do not like to drink. I never liked alcohol in my life.

[Luca]: I like to drink. I like gin and tonic.

[Alessandra]: I never drink alcohol, never really drank. I tried because it was embarrassing not to at certain occasions but after one glass of rum I was already drunk!

You have to try different drinks then

[Alessandra]: Believe me, I did try, just don't like the taste. I have been to so many parties where I was the only one to remember anything afterwards. The only one who did not drink (laughing). In Hong Kong I tried the very best wines, and expensive, but did not like them at all. I don't know why.

So what TV series do you watch?

[Alessandra]: I've seen so many. The most recent one is called The Good Doctor. It is about this autistic guy who is an amazing doctor. He is a genius and can see things the other doctors cannot see. But because he is autistic he struggles with relationships with people.

Is it on Netflix?

[Alessandra]: No, it is not on Netflix. On Netflix I watched Stranger Things, How to Get Away with Murder and Ozark. We saw so many things like... Grey's Anatomy, The Walking Dead...

Do you like horrors?

[Alessandra]: OK, not all of them. I like zombie style. This is the only thing I am not afraid of (laughing).

[Luca]: She likes them because they cannot be real.

Did you see The Man in the High Castle? It is an alternative history where Nazi Germany and their coalition won the war.

[Alessandra]: No, but it sounds very interesting. I will look it up.

You can even read a book first

[Alessandra]: No, I never do because when you read a book first and watch the film later you always disappointed. I read the Da Vinci Code first, in one day like 24 hours. And then I saw the movie and I was so disappointed...

Yes, I know what you mean. But they have to pack everything into 2 hours so...

[Luca]: That's true.

[Alessandra]: That's why I push Luca to read books. You can get out of it so much more. He did not want to believe me, but you have to try and see. We are fans of Harry Potter and we have seen the films. So when it finished it was like a big drama (laughing). And then I read the books and there were so many things you cannot find in the film!

[Luca]: That book about prison we talked about earlier Animal Factory, they also made a movie out of it. When I watched it I realised how the movie is different. Of course, they had to cut a lot of things.

[Alessandra]: I told you! You have to read books!

You have mentioned the books, the TV series... What about your favourite movies?

[Alessandra]: We watched everything, all the Oscar movies, all the nominated to Oscar movies as well...

So when do you practise?

[Luca]: We work till late, so when we are back home, before going to bed, we watch something.

[Alessandra]: It is our time together. Other times I don't have my husband really. We do not eat together, we don't do dinner together because we work at different times. We practise together but then we teach at different times. So the evening is when we have 40 minutes or an hour to do something together and that's when we watch a movie or TV series.

[Luca]: In Hong Kong we have to have a schedule: in the morning we practise, then gym, then I teach, then tea dances and so on.

[Alessandra]: It has to be like this because we have to work in a day as much as we can. This is our chance now. My Mum always told me you never know what will happen tomorrow so grab a chance today... Life changes, don't waste your chances. Do not refuse any work today as you may not have it tomorrow.

What would you do if you couldn't do dancing?

[Alessandra]: I guess I would be a surgeon. I always dreamt of being a doctor. I did not get the Medicine at the University but I did not try. I had my dancing and I wanted to choose something which will keep me there with the books but will not be so demanding. So that's why I chose Biology. But in the alternative world I am not a dancer, I am definitely a surgeon.

[Luca]: For me it is very difficult to imagine life without dancing...

[Alessandra]: I know! You could be a judge at the MasterChef. That way you can taste all the different foods (laughing)

[Luca]: Maybe! Because I love food. I would like to do something related to the Hospitality, like tourism, hotels... Or fashion. I love that as well.


[Alessandra]: He loves buying! I am not that kind of wife that goes with her husband shopping and asks him to wait. No, we go together and he always finds something really amazing for me. He has good taste.

I guess you can afford nice things now, but it was not always the case?

[Alessandra]: No, we started with no money and gradually it changed. The biggest change was when we moved to Hong Kong. It gave us so many opportunities to earn good money. In Sicily people generally do not have much money.

[Luca]: As we said, we started off very poor. We slept in the car... it was like this for many years, 15 years. In Sicily there is no much work, not just in dancing but generally. So we started off teaching in gyms, earning a little here and there. But we always found a way to get to England for competitions. After the competition all money was gone so we would start again. We realised if we do not find something better we would have to stop dancing.

[Alessandra]: Hong Kong changed this for us.

[Luca]: Luckily, Hong Kong was our destiny. We had the first offer to go there five years ago and we had to give it away.

[Alessandra]: At the time The Dancing with the Stars happen to me. It was important to us.

[Luca]: Especially as we wanted to open our own studio. Before she did that, people were saying that to open your own dance studio you must become famous just like one of the faces from The Dancing with the Stars (laughing). It doesn't matter how good you are, but you are famous.

[Alessandra]: So The Stars and Hong Kong changed it all for us. We do not have to struggle anymore...

I think you can appreciate more what you have now

[Alessandra]: Of course! For instance, we like shopping but we are reasonable. We try to search for offers or sales and so on. Our parents first, and the live later, taught us the value of money. In Sicily we bought a beautiful house and we are proud of it.

Do you plan to return back to Italy after you stop dancing?

[Alessandra]: I hope so, with all my heart!

[Luca]: We travel a lot, really a lot, and we would like to settle.

[Alessandra]: I would love to raise my kids there. When I was a little kid we lived in a tiny house, I had my bed next to my parents' bed and I remember them holding my hand... It was the happiest time in my life. We had nothing but I remember that as the best time. When I was older we moved to a bigger house, my brother was born. He is six years younger than me. I also have a sister who is sixteen years younger. But I loved that little house, even if it was not enough for us.

[Luca]: It Sicily, family is very important. You can have no money and many people don't but people are happy.

[Alessandra]: Life is relatively cheap, not like in Hong Kong. You can be happy with nothing.

[Luca]: It is a beautiful place to live. Great food, beautiful sea. The only problem is some people...

[Alessandra]: Mafia is not like it was 20 years ago when you could get killed on the street. They operate now in a more professional way (laughing).

Are you saying it is better now (laughing)?

[Luca]: It is very safe. Of course you have to take reasonable caution, just like anywhere else.

You mentioned earlier that you travel a lot. Who is taking care of organising flights, hotels?

[Luca]: Me

[Alessandra]: All that stuff is on him. He does all the computer related stuff. I am not a technology-loving person at all. I am good on Instagram or Facebook because I have to do it.

Who is driving?

[Luca]: Me. She cannot drive

[Alessandra]: I am scared. I have my driving license but I just drive in my little country. If I have to go on the motorway I am scared of other cars.

[Luca]: It is stupid because whenever she needs to go to the hairdresser I have to go with her.

[Alessandra]: In Hong Kong I don't have to drive because we do not need a car. So I do not have a chance to practise!

You are certainly not a stereotypical couple! Totally mixed up (laughing)

[Alessandra]: Yes, we are a strange couple and always have been.

What websites do you use?

[Luca]: Dancesportinfo.

Thank you very much, very nice of you (laughing)

[Luca]: Really, for dancing we mostly use dancesportinfo. We also watch videos on YouTube. We use Facebook and Instagram.

And for booking flights, do you use Sky scanner?

[Luca]: No, actually I always prefer to search separate flight companies. I do not trust the comparison sites.

[Alessandra]: We are always after saving money. We are the only people in Hong Kong who do not have a silver card because we always switch companies. I don't care if I have to travel 16 hours, I can sleep anywhere. I have that talent. It is crazy. Even if it is a 10 minute journey by car I go to sleep. I am such a bad company.

Do you use phone or laptop for accessing internet?

[Luca]: We access Facebook and Instagram on the phone all the time. Also WhatsApp.

What can we improve on dancesportinfo?

[Luca]: Hard to say. Whatever I am looking for I find there...

[Alessandra]: As I am not a technology-loving person it takes me longer to find what I want. He goes there and instantly finds what he is after.

[Luca]: Because you don't know the site structure. I know it better. I know where things are.

[Alessandra]: So sometimes he finds things for me.

[Luca]: Our parents knew everything, the results and all, from your sites even before we called them.

Great! Thank you very much it was very kind of you to talk to us.

All the photos taken on the day by Peter Suba