For the Love of the Dance
By Danielle Rivera
Victor and Burju Perez, founders of Burju Shoes, are one of salsa’s most well-known and successful married couples. I had the pleasure of chatting with Mrs. Perez who dished on how she and her hubby became an item.
Victor and Burju met at a college frat party thrown by a Latino Student Organization at Harvard. At the time, Victor was a Senior at UMass Amherst and she was a Junior at Boston University. He asked her to dance, nothing professional. They exchanged numbers at the end of the night and he called a week or so later. According to Burju, he came off like a player and she was not in the mood to play games. After a brief and awkward conversation, they terminated the phone call and parted ways. He went back to his school, which was about an hour and a half away, and she stayed at hers.
About a year later, she joined the Latino Student Organization at her school. The club decided to do a dance performance for its cultural showcase in the spring, but they were short on guys. One of the girls in the group claimed she knew some pretty good dancers, so she invited them to practice. Victor showed up-it was fate.
On their two-year anniversary, they went to New York City and stayed in a beautiful room overlooking Times Square. It was then he asked her to marry him. They were about to go out to dinner when he pulled her to the window and popped the question. Burju was stunned and absolutely thrilled! The couple spent the rest of the night talking about how to tell their friends and family; meanwhile, he already had it all planned out! He invited all their friends and family to a dinner the next day; they all surprised her. He followed protocol and even asked her father's permission in advance.
In keeping with tradition, they got married on the same date as their anniversary (eight years later). They had a judge (someone Victor knew since childhood) come to their house and, with just parents and best friends, they got married on the date of their ten year anniversary of being together. Later that summer, they went with fifteen family members and friends to Mexico to have a ceremony on the beach (something they both dreamed of for their wedding).
Since the Perezes both loved to dance and to be creative, they decided they needed an outlet to express themselves. They starting teaching Latin dance after their regular jobs at a local nightclub, but it was still just a hobby; it grew from there. It was an accident and not something they planned. They just fell into the business and are still in it today.
I asked Burju how she and Victor separated their personal and professional lives and she laughed! At first they didn't at all; it was almost impossible! It was (and still is) a work in progress. Now, almost thirteen years into it, they have found a way to turn off "work mode” and have found balance. They take days off and time for vacation, which they feel is important to nurture both their relationship and themselves. It's a lot easier now. The couple has moments when the stress of work is so intense that it spills into their personal life, but these instances are now fewer and far between.
When it does get bad, they remind themselves of their priorities: the relationship comes first, even if it means stopping the business. That is what keeps them sane. It reminds them not to sweat the small stuff and take it out on one another. Burju feels the business has probably helped to strengthen the relationship because it has forced them to learn to communicate effectively with one another. They are the best of friends and talk about everything-that's why it works.
Most of the strong and healthy relationships that I have had the privilege of being a part of, continue to grow and flourish for two reasons: clear communication and constant respect. Yes, trust is important, but I feel that it grows out of respect for your significant other and communication of your expectations. Victor and Burju Perez are a case in point.