Christine McDonald, or Kristi is she known but most, grew up in Glasgow, and was introduced to ballroom dancing by her parents. They sent her to dance school were her first teacher was Jim Graham. She enjoyed it so much, she decided to try competing. Her first [artner in the Amateur field was Jim Oliver, and by 1965 they came 7th in the British Open Championships Amateur Latin division. Kristi was 18 at the time. they stopped dancing in 1966, and Kristi found herself looking for a new partner.
In 1968 Kristi met Brian McDonald at the British Open in Blackpool, and they decided to tryout. It felt promising, so Brian left Sheila, his partner, to dance with Kristi, sensing that she would be the one for him, and not only for dancing! Within six weeks they were in the top six in the Scottish Amateur Championship and became Scottish Champions in 1969-1970. During aspirations, but now it was time to make this their They tuned Professional in 1971.
When Brian McDonald and Kristi made the final in the Blackpool Dance Festival Professional Championships in the 1976 they felt it was time to get more teachers and more exposure. They started to commute to London, a seven hour drive, to work with Benny Tolmeijer and Bill and Bobbie Irvine as their core coaches. They also had some lessons with Anthony Hurley and Peter Eggleton.
As Scottish representatives, they made the final of the European Standard Championship three times, and in 1977 when Richard and Janet Gleave took a one year hiatus, Brian and Kristi came second. Richard and Janet had won the European six times. The same year Brian and Kristi went to U.S and fell in love.
“At that European Championships in Germany, Byron Charleton, fellow competitor and second in the British Championship with his wife Darothy asked them: what they were doing the next couple of weeks. “He wanted them to fill in for him in a show at the Telemark Ball in Washington D. C. so they gave their pre-arranged lecture for the Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance and then flew to Washington. They Loved the whole experience and on the flight back they decided to come back on a tour. They had been invited by John Morton a Los Angeles promoter to do some show.
Before they went back to the U.S. though, Brian and Kristi joined the ranks of their peers as finalists in the World Professional Championship in Tokyo in 1977, and in 1978 in London. In 1978 they went back to the U.S. on a tour of shows they had organized. This took them from coast to coast, and they knew for sure that this was where they wanted to live.
“One of their students in Great Britain came from Oklahoma City and Suggested them to come there and open a dance school. So they did, and it was a nightclub/dance school, much like today’s Salsa clubs, that they called Kristi’s. They would teach in the morning and have the club going at night. Occasionally they got people like Vernon Brock in to coach. They hired bands like “Buddy” Rich’ and Woody Herman, and also had their own band .” Running a club and teaching was very stressful for Brian and Kristi. They were up until 3:00 a.m. at the club, got up early the following day to clean and set up again, and then teach. It isn’t surprising that they decided to give the club up.
“They took the two boys, Gary and Jason, and drove to California and “that’s where we stayed”, Brian says. They started teaching there, and in 1979 Brian became a delegate to the National Dance Council of America, (NDCA).” Brian never missed meeting despite the fact that he and Kristi were still competing. From 1979 to 1982 Brian and Kristi were U.S National Professional Standard Champions.
In 1980, Brian and Kristi started to organize their own competition in California, the Embassy Ballroom Championships, with John Kimmins and Sam Sodano as co-organizers since 2005. Over the years it has become one of the biggest international events in the U.S. Gary McDonald, Brian and Kristi’s son, followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and became a competitor and studio owner. With his partner Diana McDonald, he became 10 times undefeated U.S National 10 Dance Champion, and in 1997, World 10 Dance Champion.
Another family with three generations involved in ballroom dancing and in the Mcdonald’s case, also bridging the old world with the new.