Rita Okeane, founder of Tropical Tango, has been teaching classes and hosting the Sunday Milonga/practica at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center since 2007.
Dancing from as far back as her memory goes, Rita began formal lessons in tap at 5 years of age. Always beyond her age group in technique and rhythm, at seven years old she was moved into classes with 12 and 13 year olds.
Attending Portland’s smallest and predominantly black parochial grade school, the upper grade students spent the rainy lunch hours dancing to the R&B of that time. In 1962 the school received an infusion of non-English speaking teenage boys from Cuba. This compounded and raised the level of their close embrace social dancing much to the dismay of the nuns. Rita feels she gained her proficiency in rhythm and ability to follow from these two soulful, movement rich cultures.
Rita’s love affair with tango began on Maui 10 years ago. Back then no one had digital video cameras in their pockets and progress was slow. But that lack of instant replay made her have to learn both sides right from the start, as no one could remember any thing that the visiting teachers had taught after they left.
For the three years Rita assisted as a follow model in local classes. In 2005 she traveled to Bangkok and took 30 hours of privates lesson in leading close embrace tango from Andreas Lehrke. It was an intense and overwhelming experience, but it catapulted her into teaching. Rita feels she owes her proficiency in leading to him and the blossoming Maui tango community who encouraged her to take the lead.
“Tango, for me, is endlessly fascinating.
I love nurturing the beginners and guiding
them through the many gates of accomplishments
and leading them onto the social dance floor.
To sit on the sidelines and view
their joy of tango is deeply satisfying”.
Private and semi private classes available upon request
Rita @ 808 281-8595