Rio Rhythmics has been the beating heart of Brisbane’s Latin dance scene for the past 20 years. From samba to tango, Rio Rhythmics has spent two decades inspiring rhythm in Brisbane locals and showing them how to communicate through dance.

Two of the Rio Rhythmics in-house instructors, Elise Azar and Bruno Ferreira, are amongst the talented team. Recently the pair was pulled into the Brazilian dance spectacular, Brazouka, to replace two cast members who were injured. Incredibly, Bruno and Elise started performing on stage the same day as their audition, to the praise of their fellow performers and the show’s choreographer.

Both are passionate about teaching, yet both are extremely accomplished performers and this was a chance to really show what they are made of. “Showing the full energy of dance and movement for an hour and a half is incredible. It is an opportunity to tell a story and use emotion,” says Elise.

To sum up Elise’s dance career in one sentence would be impossible. Her experience is a story of international dance companies, solo performances, television appearances and the mastery of multiple disciplines of dance. From the tender age of four, she began her ballet training. Elise was a natural talent and went on to dance for the Australian Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet.

It was not until moving to London that she had the experience of learning Latin dance. In the rooms of the Pineapple Dance Studio, she discovered a new rhythm which would see her to her current position as instructor at Rio Rhythmics. “I taught ballet for a long time and teaching Latin dance is all about the conversation and connection between two people,” says Elise. “It’s about having the ability to understand more about people.”

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Bruno is Rio Rhythmics’ resident Brazilian instructor, whose raw talent for dance was realised when he was very young. Like Elise, he is an incredibly accomplished performer, choreographer and instructor. He taught dance and performed with the Brazilian Mimulus Dance Company for 20 years before moving to Australia. Although his Australian story begins in Melbourne, Rio Rhythmics directors Tarcisio Teatini-Climaco and Jada Teatini-Climaco de Goey found him there and invited him to move to Brisbane to join the team. He took the position and moved here in July 2014. From that point, Elisa and Bruno have been working together teaching Brazilian focused courses.

For Bruno, teaching is something from which he derives as much satisfaction as performance. “It’s great seeing students so happy when they learn some steps and finally start dancing,” he says. “It’s great seeing them go through the challenge and see the progress.”

Observing the passion with which Elise and Bruno describe their work, it is easy to see that Latin dance is more than the culmination of learned steps. Latin dance has a history, is built on passion and is something we can still use to carry on our own stories. Elise sums it up beautifully, “A huge part of what we’re about is not just learning steps on the dance floor — it’s cultural, it’s the connection, it’s that intangible thing that brings people together.”

Words by Alice Thompson | Images by Alex Jackson Photography