ship crews never admit to watching Love Boat. But when
Michael and I were on the show, crew members were coming up to us
saying, Hey, I saw you on TV," Berna Miller, a dance
teacher of 30 years laughs. For over a decade, she and her
partner, Michael Donovan have taught ballroom dance to passengers
aboard the Crystal Harmony. As the ships salaried dance
teachers, the couple enjoys opportunities such as studying Samba
in South America and hiking up Montreals Mount Whitney in
partners met over a decade ago at a Salsa hotspot with the unlikely
name of Sportsmens Lodge in Studio City, CA. Miller
was on the lookout for a new dance partner when she spotted Donovan
and asked him to dance. Then he invited her to midnight coffee and
offered free lessons at his ballroom classes held at the Hilton.
Eleven years later, the sparks are still flying. Miller and
Donovan hold hands, call each other "honey" and stare adoringly
at one another during the course of our interview.
close relationship helps them to keep the classes fun for the many
traveling couples on board. One of their many challenges is to keep
these new dancers from taking this part of their vacation too seriously.
To maintain the holiday mood during their daily morning and afternoon
classes, they try to steer husbands and wives away from serious
disagreements about the steps by explaining, "There are no mistakes,
for technique, Donovan answers that, "You have to camouflage technique.
For instance, for men, I use the idea of blocking in football-
right shoulder to right shoulder - for creating correct frame."
were at sea, we compare the dances to the environment," continues
Donovan. "The waltz is like a wave. We show the heel lead of one
starting from the ground. The crest of the wave is the rising action
on two and three, coming back to the ground by the end of three."
Miller, the romance of The Red Shoes led her to take ballet
classes as a child. "Talented, but too tall" was the teachers
verdict. Not one to give up, she studied modern and jazz with Merce
Cunningham and Welland Lathrop, a Northern California modern dance
aficionado. After graduating from the University of California at
Los Angeles, she put her skills as a dance major to work by teaching
at various California colleges such as Pierce, Oxnard and Ventura.
She also taught jazz and modern dance at her own Westlake School
1988, a car crash nearly immobilized Miller. Dutifully heeding her
doctors admonitions, the teacher said good-bye to her modern
dance classes and jazz routines. To keep movement in her life, she
signed up for a series at the neighborhood Arthur Murray studio.
One of her instructors, Lloyd Pauze, was so impressed with her aptitude
for ballroom that he asked her to be his dance partner. The liaison
lasted a year and led to her new career as a dance teacher on cruise
entered the world of dance in a circuitous route. He earned
a living as an engineer until friends prompted him to participate
in classes at the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association with the Stevens
Sisters. Additional classes with Latin champion Enio Cordoba encouraged
Donovan to change his career from engineer to dance instructor.
meeting Miller, he taught ballroom for 10 years at various California
dance clubs through the states Parks and Recreation Services.
The former engineer finds his background is still useful in
the classroom. "In class, Berna usually sends the engineers or those
with a linear bend to their minds over to me. I know how they
think," Donovan chuckles.
the pair truly enjoy what they do. Building classes around cruise
themes such as, Samba Serenade, Seas of Splendor and Latin Romance
keeps them challenged and lets them continue dancing. According
to Donovan, job benefits include, "teaching, meeting people from
different countries, performing on board, and traveling to splendid
ports of call." Miller adds that, "The crew is made up of people
from 37 different countries and cultures and the cruise lines treat
us quite well with generous accommodations." Miller and Donovan
still dream of scheduling Argentine Tango sessions with the masters
of Buenos Aires in the future.
now, however, the dancing duo is content to sail the seas, leading
a romance novel-like life of adventure and dance. An outsider might
say the couple literally dances on water. But Miller may be closer
to the truth when she explains, "When you dance, you glide like
an elegant ship on the water and magic happens."