Karen, married to husband Conrad Murray in August 2003, saw their love of dance grow when together in 2008, they took the leap of faith to launch the first ever luxury, lifestyle ballroom dance studio in the Chelsea/Fulham district. Recognising the demand for a dance studio where luxury, glamour, service and importantly, quality of dance was needed, they were successfully awarded in 2012 by Hammersmith and Fulham Best Business Awards.
Winner Of World Masters Championships
International Open to the World Championships
United Kingdom Open To The World Championships
British National Championships
Open Italian Championships
Yankie Classic Championships
Osaka World Trophy Championships
“The Most Outstanding Professional Latin American Couple”
By The Ballroom Dancers Federation
& “For Services To Dance” The Carl Alan Award
Crystal Palace Teacher of the Year
Winner Strictly Come Dancing – Series 4
My Amateur Career
Born and raised in Bournemouth on the South Coast of England I started my dancing career at the age of five. Since then I have travelled the world and been part of many wonderful experiences that are open to those lucky enough to achieve success in the world of dance.
At 16, choosing dance as my career was a worrying time for my parents. They made it clear I had to choose to either further my education in college and not pursue my dancing dream or I had to get out and earn money as my parents had already supported me for many years. It was my turn to start chasing my dream and put my money where my mouth was! I have since travelled the world and been part of many wonderful experiences that are open to those lucky enough to achieve success in the world of competitive dance.
At the age of eighteen, and after believing I had achieved as much as I would be able to in the UK, I decided that I was going to move to America, where I felt all my dreams would come true. I had never been away from home before let alone overseas however, so were my desires to win, my parents nervously let me go. Competing extensively throughout the US I achieved both East and West Coast Amateur Championship titles.
After two successful years in America, my career brought me back to England. Here I teamed up with a partner already established as a rising star of Latin American Dance, Mark Lunn, who regularly appeared in semi-finals of all major championships. After only six months together we broke straight into world famous finals, the first being at the International Championships at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The partnership was very successful for four years, where we finished in the top six of all, World, European, International, British and United Kingdom Championships.
My Professional Career
In August of 1994, I turned professional after being asked by Bryan Watson an already well known and highly respected South African dancer. Our partnership was an overnight phenomenal success.
During my five years together with Bryan we battled against the greatest champions of the World to date representing England, namely; Donnie Burns MBE and Gaynor Fairweather MBE, Sammy Stopford and Barbara MaCall, Corky and Shirley Ballas, Jukka Happalinan and Sirpa Suttari, Hans Galke and Bianca Schrieber, Allan Tornsberg with Vibeke Toft and later with Carmen Vincelj, Paul Killick with Karina Killikova and later with Vibeke Toft and Jason Gilkison and Peta Roby. We travelled extensively throughout the world to destinations such as Asia, Europe, the Americas, Scandinavia and South Africa all in our efforts to be champions of the world.
Respect was gained through our teaching, demonstrating and lecturing worldwide and in 1996 the Ballroom Dancers Federation, a leading authority associated with the ballroom and Latin dance profession, named us as “the most outstanding professional Latin American couple” for 1995/96, and we went on to receive the prestigious Carl Alan award for “services to the dance world”.
Before my retirement from the competitive world of dance in March 1999 my successful partnership with Bryan saw us as undefeated, United Kingdom, International, British National, World Masters, Open Italian, Yankie Classic, London Open, Osaka World Trophy Champions of Latin American Dance.
Life After Death…
In 2006 I was in a completely different world to where I left my rollercoaster career back in 1999 as a competitive dancer, representing my great country of England and travelling the world doing what I love most “dancing”.
At the time of my retirement it seemed life just stood still for an eternity. I guess this would only be experienced by a small minority of people who have dedicated their lives to their sport or art and reached the heights that so many can only dream of to find that eventually it all has to come to an end. Nobody prepares you for that moment when you wake up in the morning feeling numb and lost and wondering where had your life gone?
It took a couple of years for my mind to grasp the idea that life was no more about trying to be number one in the world anymore, but just about surviving each day that came along. And without realising it there was a person in my life that was standing by me more than I noticed at the time. A person that stood by me through good times and bad times was Conrad, who after over a decade together, is now my wonderful husband.
Largely owing to his guidance and seeing obviously that life was just a blur for me, Conrad insisted that I should go with him every week to watch him play rugby and meet HIS friends. This was just a concept I thought ridiculous, in my mind I was a champion of dance whose life definitely did not include sitting on a rugby field in the cold and rain with no high heels or designer clothes on…what would I even say to these people.
Looking back now I can only feel ashamed of my feelings. I did go to the rugby club every week, and I sat in the corner not having anything to say to the other wives or players. I did put my killer heels on every week and tip toe on to the field to watch Conrad play. And as I stood there I did keep standing and dreaming of my days when I was dancing and that I was missing so much, until one weekend two of the ladies there started to say “hello”.
That was however about as long as the conversation lasted, until I began to talk to them about their children, their jobs, their family lives which to me was so alien as life had always been about just “me and my dancing”. I cannot thank the Mitcham Rugby Club enough for helping me to start to wake up and see that there was a new life out there with lots of really great people to share it with. As a result of this newly found friendship, several years later most of the rugby team, their wives and children joined us for our wedding on the island of Santorini in Greece.
The second and quite demanding change in my life was in October of 2001 when on my husband’s guidance he once again challenged me to move on in life and some how persuaded me to walk the Inca Trail in Peru! Most people in the dance business don’t even know what the Inca trail is, I certainly didn’t! And when I looked at the pictures I thought my husband had lost the plot. It involved “walking”,”sleeping in a tent”, “eating from a make shift stove” and “climbing” to the sumit at 4,200 meters in the Andes… How was I going to do this in 3inch high heels? And where was I expected to change my clothes, wash and do my makeup?
Well, I did it, and there are many amazing stories to tell you of my journey to the top of the world. Everything from, blisters to bleeding feet, breathlessness to violent stomach upset and being air lifted by helicopter. These stories I will hold for another day but let me tell you once I had achieved that climb to the top, I never looked back.
Many great things have happened in my life now. I am proud to be the wife of my wonderful husband Conrad Murray and back in March 2005 we were delighted to welcome our gorgeous son Callum, into this world.
I am also honoured and say thank you to so many people who now invite me to adjudicate all the competition I had once fought so hard to win around the world. Every time I judge I stand and I look into the eyes of the dancers who are in that place that I once was, where nothing exists for them but their dance. Of course there is always that pang inside me as I see the passion, the drive and dedication of the students in front of me but that is not my life anymore.