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“Dance is a conversation” is something our Founding Director, Tarcisio Teatini-Climaco, has been saying for over two decades. So we decided to get him to spill the beans on exactly why, and this is what he said…

For the past 28 years I have been teaching in Australia, and have always said that partner dance is a conversation. In fact more than a conversation it is a communication, because a conversation can be unilateral. Communication is more comprehensive, it’s from two sides, it’s not one sided.

Dance is a non verbal ‘conversation’. It’s quite amazing that this communication does not rely as much on the vocabulary. As a good communicator you can communicate well with children, adults, people of all backgrounds – you do not rely on your vocabulary but on your ability to communicate well. Similarly, as a great partner in dance your ability to communicate does not rely on the steps you know, but on your leading and following – your communication skills.

I have been told that I am a story teller, so I will tell you a story about when I opened Rio Rhythmics in 1994. I engaged a solicitor to get advice about opening a business, the first one I went to used all his law jargon and fancy words I didn’t know, I guess trying to impress me (I think), and seemingly not caring if I understood properly or not. Then I went to someone else who understood I could not understand the lingo, who took the time to explain everything clearly and in a way I understood. To me this means he was a better communicator. We had a ‘dance together’, if I can put it like that.

In the same way a leader and a follower are engaged in this two way communication. A good follower is just the most amazing thing, you cannot have a rich conversation with someone who isn’t understanding you, or who doesn’t respond well or at least in a pleasant way. The responsibility for quality of the conversation/dance falls equally with the follower as it does with the leader. To have a good conversation, or to communicate really well with someone, relies on both people.

It’s quite unfortunate that a lot of people think the quality of a dance comes more from the leader and relies on the amount of steps the leader knows. It has nothing to do with that. It comes from inside, it’s not an outside thing. It doesn’t come from the step. The music goes through the dancers and is transformed into steps, into what you see happening on the dance floor.

It’s like a picture being painted in the moment, that vanishes when the dance finishes. Each dance will be very different.

People say, “that’s my style, I dance like that”. You can’t say, “I talk like that”, you don’t talk the same way with an adult, a child, a solicitor, at your work, with your family. You don’t, you need to be able to communicate differently with different people.

When social dancing, the communication with your partner is unique, it’s only with that person, it should not repeat with another person. Otherwise you are saying the same thing to everyone!

So enjoy and savour each and every conversation and as you would in your other dealings, be respectful, thoughtful, considerate and ‘listen’ to your partner no matter if you are the leader or the follower.

As always, dance for life!

Tarcisio Teatini-Climaco
Founding Director of Rio Rhythmics Latin Dance Academy

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