Maui’s own starlet—dance professional Rita O’Connor, instructor and member of the National Dance Council of America—has changed lives by bringing the joy of dancing to our community.
This award-winning competitor is Maui’s only dance professional with over 20 years of ballroom and Latin dance teaching experience, from New York to Maui.
In 2002, Brian O’Connor co-founded with Rita the Aloha Ballroom Dance Academy, an educational nonprofit, to give back to the community through “the art and culture of partnership dancing and to promote quality ballroom dancing through professional instruction.”
Dancing diva Rita O’Connor dances the Rumba on Maui with revered pro Sergey Nekrasov of Russia.
They have made donations to organizations such as Hale Makua, Kaunoa Senior Services, Keiki Kokua and many others.
Aloha Ballroom gives everyone the opportunity to learn life skills, exercise, make new friends or enjoy a “date night.” No worries if your technique isn’t on-point—go with the flow and let the dance move you.
“Dancing is more about the feel of the movements,” she said. “I love seeing the light bulbs go off during this learning experience.”
Rita specializes in technique and partner dancing, but said everyone is “different how they learn and fall in love with a dance.”
Although men may have fears about tarnishing their “tough guy” image, and ladies may shy away due to memories of nightmarish high school dances, all can be easily overcome with Rita’s gentle, non-intimidating teaching style.
“In the ballroom world, men lead and delegate the choice of steps,” she said. “Many women have problems accepting this and celebrating femininity.”
Along with her statuesque frame and ravishing features, you will discover Rita’s charm, warmth and inspiration. She has touched many lives by becoming a “dream-maker” of sorts.
“The thing I hear most is, ‘I wish I would have started years ago,’” said Rita.
Maui’s dancing queen loves that DWTS has prompted a resurgence in Latin and ballroom dancing. “The show celebrates it, making it look fun and fabulous—which it is,” said Rita.
Classes also features contemporary music and traditional songs to make it easier for people to recognize a particular dance.
The spring dance series includes the smooth simplicity of the Foxtrot (beginner), the open embrace of the Argentine Tango (Level 2) and the racy romantics of the Rumba (intermediate).
Rita instructs at the air-conditioned Kīhei Community Center, on Wednesdays, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., for $50 per person to attend all three months. Open registration is offered throughout the course.
“We’re trying to make partnership dancing a fun and social event for both couples and singles,” said Rita.
Couples can share a new, relaxing activity together, maybe even fall in love all over again.
“It’s cheaper than a psychologist,” said Rita.
Don’t be afraid to come on your own—no partner is necessary. Rita allows a rotation, and people pair up in an orderly fashion in a nonjudgmental environment.
Rita noted that “singles, or those without a dance partner for the evening, can enjoy the company of others who want to learn to dance without feeling social pressure to have a steady partner.”
From beginner to advanced, singles and couples (same-sex and heterosexual), and teens through adults are all welcome.
“I love to take them on the journey of self-discovery,” said Rita. “I’ve experienced magic while dancing. Cherish these moments in time, when your soul comes alive.”
There are also quarterly potlucks, dance parties, theme nights, elegant affairs and more. Cinderella Day anyone?
If you can’t attend on Wednesdays, “become the dancer you’ve always dreamed of” with Rita’s expertise at the Private Image Dance Studio.
For over a decade, the studio has taught dance on Maui, coaching newcomers, wedding couples, advanced performers, competitors, and many more club, social and ballroom dances, including Swing, Argentine Tango, Hustle and Salsa. Fun keiki and teen (ages 5–17) classes are available, too.
The studio sponsored a “Love of Dance” essay contest recently, and judges from the Mainland chose Maui 10-year-old Sol Singer as the winner.
“As I hear that music, that rhythm, I am overcome with the urge to dance,” saud Sol. “My feet start to heat up with anticipation as I eagerly make my way to the dance floor… I am instantly filled with happiness.”
“When they [students] get it, it emotionally tugs at my heart strings,” said Rita.
The Academy’s spring series began April 14, but students can join anytime and not miss a step—each class offers a new experience.