An interview with Craig and Evgeniya Shaw
31 January 2019
Malcolm Hill caught up with the British and World Professional Ballroom Showdance Champions
Evgeniya started dancing when she was 9 years old in her hometown of Omsk in Siberia. Her parents brought her to the dance class to develop flexibility, grace and general co-ordination. They could never have foreseen that she would become so hooked on it. From day one Evgeniya was in love with dancing, you didn’t have to talk her into it.
Craig started dancing at 12 years old in Liverpool. His older sister was dancing at the time and his parents also enjoyed social dancing. He was spotted very quickly and whirled away into the competitive world.
Evgeniya studied a little bit of classical ballet when she started dancing but it has pretty much been full time Latin and ballroom for both of them.
Evgeniya had choreography sessions, rock ’n’ roll, polka and even aerobics later on at university. She was also pretty serious about figure skating. However, the time came when she made a choice in favour of dancing.
Craig straight away got very busy with 10-dance, however, the reason he was so eager in the first place was an opportunity to hang out with all the pretty girls, drink cola and eat sweets! At the same time he was doing very well at football but there were no girls there and the choice was made.
A typical day
Typically we wake up at 6:30am to the sweet sounds of our four year old daughter Annabelle. She has started school this year so we are very busy every morning making breakfast, preparing her for a day of school and ourselves for a day of work.
We try our best to practice after we drop Annabelle off at school so then we can either have lessons with our coaches, go to the gym or run some errands and then later on teach ourselves. Normally we alternate as one of us will pick Annabelle up from school and be with her. If we both have to be away we ask grandparents for help. But we don’t have many typical days like this.
We travel a lot to compete – we try our best to compete with the best in the world in the numerous International events, to fly the flag and always be in the front line. We live by the mantra: you either commit 100% or don’t do it at all.
We also have a lot of work trips so there is never a dull moment in Team Shaw life. That’s where both parents come to the rescue. We value their help immensely and we definitely couldn’t do what we do without their support.
Inspiration and motivation
Our family is the biggest motivation to us. Annabelle is just our pure joy and happiness and indescribable inspiration. She is a ray of light, watching her learn, dream and play is such a privilege. She has no fear, she commits to everything she does, and she can be whomever she wants – only imagination is her limit. We have never been the same since she came into our lives. Time became so much more valuable, the efforts became greater, because if we have to be away from our child we’d better make sure it’s worth it. And our parents of course, they have invested so much in us, and they have been there every step of the way. The least we owe them is to try our hardest and believe 100% in what we do.
We call those ‘white moments’. Doing our first Invitational British Open Professional Team Match in 2012 was so special and nerveracking. Becoming World Champions was an absolute dream come true, realising we’ve joined a very special club was a huge honour. And finally, making a British Open Final in Professional American Smooth in May 2018 was so surreal, we never dreamt we could achieve that result in two years of studying this beautiful style.
Dealing with the injuries is always hard and through many years of competing you learn that there is no point in being a hero. However, sometimes you have to push through the pain even knowing the potential risks – there have been plenty of those moments in our career and we are proud that we have dealt with them the way we did.
However, the biggest challenge was the decision to have a baby and carry on competing and reach for the stars afterwards. There definitely have been examples and people who inspired us and showed that it is possible. We are so very grateful to them and happy that we made that choice and were blessed to give birth to a healthy and gorgeous baby girl.
Of course, before, during and after your head is full of questions and there is a fear of unknown. Therefore always supporting each other and trying to surround each other and our bump with the maximum amount of oxytocin gave us strength. And of course there is that realization of something bigger then you, that miracle of life just blows our minds.
In Evgeniya’s words: “I have always believed in the power of the energy and the rules of the universe, if you like. If you mind your own business, don’t stress easily and push away negative thoughts, feed your body and mind right and in general don’t spit in God’s face, everything will be fine as you don’t put too much importance on anything. I guess it is some sort of unconventional meditation that I live my life by. And Craig has such a big heart, and he has this tremendous quality of dealing with things that will normally stress me out a lot very quickly and easily. From the very beginning of our relationship I was amazed by it, as it never happened to me before. I guess that’s one of the biggest reasons why we are such a good team.”
Winning the first AmericanSmooth European Championship in June 2018
We first discovered this style in America (surprise, surprise). However, we believe our interest in making shows and show dances lead us to it. We wanted to acquire the tools to express ourselves better and more clearly once we were not in ballroom hold. We wanted to challenge ourselves as dancers and learn how to tie it all together and blend the best of both worlds. And then of course there was Blackpool, it was coming to England and we wanted to be at the forefront of the gate to welcome it and to help to build a bridge.
We would like to advise every dancer to love the process and enjoy the journey. Nobody will remember your ups and downs in 20 years. Ask yourself the most important question – how do you want to remember your career and how do you want to feel about the choices you made? Value your partner and colleagues, and treat everyone with respect. Changes need to be made in the dance world so let the change begin with you.
Interview by Malcolm Hill