Dancers are beauty in motion
ONLY the neon Danceland sign in the top window hints at the flamboyant interior of a Tweed Heads industrial shed.
Outside, mechanics and wholesalers ply their trade in the grey-walled industrial precinct.
But inside this Ourimbah Rd studio, fairy lights and chandeliers light up red curtains and walls lined with massive mirrors and glossy pictures of dancers tripping the light fantastic.
Welcome to the sparkly world of Tweed Heads ballroom dancing partners – on and off the dance floor – Rhett and Emma Salmon.
Theirs is a world of pearl chiffon, Swarovski diamantes and elegant dancers in 6cm-high satin heels and flouncy dresses who twirl in the arms of men resplendent in tailed suits and slicked-back hair.
The blinged up shed is the couple’s training base for Australian and international dance competitions as well as where they teach dance students.
The pair, who have only been competing together for a couple of years, recently made the top 12 in the prestigious London Ball and the quarter finals in the International Championships Rising Star event at the Royal Albert Hall, pitted against 200 couples from around the world.
A local audience was treated to a stunning display when the pair were among the performers at the sold-out 2015 Tyalgum Dance Spectacular at the Tyalgum Hall this month.
It’s the same venue in which the couple were married in November last year.
Rhett and Emma met six years ago after she signed up for classes at what would be her future father and mother-in-law, Ray and Shelley Salmon’s, ballroom dancing studio.
After a lifetime of training in ballet, tap and jazz, the then 18-year-old was looking to get comfortable performing in high heels after she was contracted to dance at the famous Moulin Rouge in Paris, France.
The couple conducted a long-distance relationship for 18 months before Emma returned home from Paris.
It wasn’t long before the pair moved overseas together to Hong Kong, where Emma worked as a princess at Disneyland while Rhett taught ballroom dancing.
They eventually returned home to make a go of competing on the international circuit.
To an outsider the camp ballroom dancing subculture can seem bizarre.
Both Emma and Rhett too can see the humour in the fake tan, even faker smiles, and melodrama that was successfully mined for laughs by the hit Australian movie Strictly Ballroom, released in 1992.
“It was a documentary,” jokes Rhett.
They hint at a dark side to the ballroom dancing world. Not all collisions on the dance floor are accidents, for instance, and the competition can be cut-throat.
But they say fellow dancers are mostly supportive of each other and when they’re competing overseas, there’s a strong bond among the Australian contingent.
Long-term, the couple hope their triumphs on the dance floor continue to fuel the success of their dance school.
But for now, they’re happy waltzing and foxtrotting their way around the world and using their gift to brighten people’s lives.
The couple was chuffed to receive the following feedback from an audience member earlier this year: “There is so much ugliness and mediocrity in the world today and to see them dance and look so elegant and beautiful filled my heart to the brim.”