When Tarcisio Teatini-Climaco began his now famous Latin dance school in Brisbane 25 years ago, the most recognised partner dance styles in the country were rock'n'roll and the wedding waltz.
Few locals had heard of styles like Samba, Lambada or Forro, and for most men especially, a night on the dance floor meant shuffling their feet shyly as their partner swayed or twirled.
“Not long after arriving in Australia I was at a party and a few people were up dancing so I thought I’d ask someone to dance (going out socially and dancing was one of my favourite things back home in Brazil). I asked a lady who I’d seen dancing with someone and she said “oh no, I can only dance with my husband because we learned the steps together”. I couldn’t understand, for me partner dance was social and you could do it with anyone!.” said Tarcisio, Rio Rhythmics Founding and Creative Director.
He began Rio Rhythmics Latin Dance Academy in 1994 with just 6 students. Now, a quarter of a century later the Rio Rhythmics team has taught social Latin dance to over 43,000 people and employ a team of 17 to deliver classes 7 days a week in their two West End Studios.
What began as wanting to share his culture and dance has grown into something much bigger. Tarcisio said “our mission is to improve as many people’s lives through social Latin dance, culture and community as we possibly can” because he says “the benefits I’ve witnessed people enjoy have been life-changing. From improved mental health, losing weight, better lifestyle habits (less drinking and more dancing!), life partners found, a strong sense of belonging, improved confidence and life-long friendships to name a few.”
Tarcisio was the first person to start teaching authentic Latin dance (not the European Ballroom kind) in Australia and he’s seen a huge shift since he first started. He said “When I first started there was no authentic Latin dance being taught in Australia, now you can find many Academies, schools, classes and social nights in every major city and in many smaller towns also.”
Jada, Tarcisio’s wife and Rio Rhythmics Managing Director says “Brisbane is no exception with a strong social Latin dance scene. We offer classes 7 days a week and social dance parties every Friday and Saturday night”.
With Australian culture pretty heavily in the ‘I don’t dance’ category we’ve seen a huge shift over the years with popular TV shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars’ showcasing non-dancers giving it a go and showing that swinging your hips and taking a twirl can be ‘manly’ and a lot of fun.
When people come along to learn Latin dance moves their most common reasons are “for fun” and “I’ve always wanted to learn”. The next thing they usually say is “I wish I’d started sooner!” says Jada.
The effects people have enjoyed dancing with Rio Rhythmics have spread far beyond the dance floor. Giving people a sense of belonging, increased self confidence, improved communication skills, deeper cultural understanding and acceptance not to mention a whole new way to party.
Tarcisio left us with one final thought “Everyone can dance, we guarantee it, if you can walk, you can dance (and even if you can’t!). Look at any baby, before they’re walking they’re dancing. We help people discover this and feel comfortable dancing and connecting with other people in a healthy way.”
They’re all about “dancing for life” and we reckon that it’s time more of us got on the Salsa train too!