Their students can be a bit shy to begin with but Irina Kapeli and Rene Olmos soon have them dancing the light fantastic.

Kapeli and Olmos, who formerly lived in Auckland and are originally from Russia and Argentina respectively, run Dance Whanganui.

They began their Whanganui classes in salsa, bachata and rueda in June 2017, with Olmos based in Whanganui and Kapeli spending six months travelling from Auckland at weekends to run different classes to test the Whanganui market.

Kapeli then also made the move to Whanganui and Dance Whanganui became a professional dance school offering 12 styles of dance and fitness classes.


Kapeli teaches pilates and dance workout classes as well as adult burlesque, chair burlesque, jazz, ballet workout, youth salsa for 9 to 14-year-olds, kids' dance classes for 4 to 8-year-olds and "ladies only" salsa.

They also offer private coaching and choreography for competition dance, not only for the styles they teach but to help with movement in other dance styles.

"There's been a lot of excitement in Whanganui about the classes," Kapeli said.

"For some styles people are a little bit shy - for example, burlesque. But if a group of friends come then people will often come along and try it and then they come back.

"Salsa and dance workout are our most popular classes and pilates is also popular."

The "ladies only" salsa classes allow women to continue on from the beginner classes to learn more moves.

"There are solo salsa competitions and there's also 'men only' salsa but we don't feel Whanganui is ready for that," Olmos said.

"Men come along to the beginners classes because women drag them along but then they don't want to do any more."


Hen's party sessions are also available.

"I did a lot of hen's parties in Auckland; sometimes up to seven a day," Kapeli said.

"By the end of the day I'd have no voice left. I teach a fun burlesque class for a hen and her friends. It's a bit naughty and it's a lot of fun."

Olmos and Kapeli also run workshops and private classes outside Whanganui, and Kapeli still regularly teaches workshops in Auckland.

"We hope we can get more people interested in competing at entry level," Kapeli said.

"We want to run more regional competitions and get people from smaller towns to compete. There's lots of potential to start bringing talent from smaller towns into the scene."

Olmos says there is also potential to bring big competitions to Whanganui and the pair are ensuring they remain connected nationally to those big events.

They are amazed by the support they receive from students and the Whanganui community.

"Some of the students helped me put together the mirrors on stands for the hall because we couldn't put them on the walls," Olmos said.

"If you did that in Auckland, they would expect something in return but here the students were just happy to help."

Kapeli said Dance Whanganui had helped with some fundraising events for the revitalised Castlecliff Bowling Club where their studio is based.

"You can just give businesses here a call and get sponsorship and prizes," she said.

"I can't believe it. People have been really generous."

Dance Whanganui supports community events, such as the Whanganui Festival of Cultures and the Latin America and Spain Film Festival, where Kapeli and Olmos have performed.