Born and raised in the suburbs of Goiânia, Brasil, Iury Smith considers Atomic Ballroom his dance home, despite still living thousands of miles away in his native Brasil.
ATOMIC is home to people from all over the world. Sure it helps that Orange County’s John Wayne Airport is literally right across the street! But ATOMIC also attracts international clientele for a number of other reasons besides the airports incredible proximity.
Iury was surrounded by dance and music growing up, so it was only a matter of time before he’d catch the dance fever that inundated him. At age 14 he began taking classes at his local studio (known as an Academia de dança). He began with popular Brazilian partner dances such as forró, bolero and samba de gafieria, as well as solo dances like axé. He then joined a local dance company in his early twenties, and hasn’t looked back since.
During his first visit to the US in 2015, a family friend who is also from Brasil brought Iury to ATOMIC for the first time. Despite his not yet speaking English or knowing much about local customs, Iury quickly found himself at home, making fast friends with just about everyone he encountered. His soft spoken yet enthusiastic nature made it easy for non Portuguese speaking ATOMIC regulars to get to know him in spite of the language barriers. It was heartwarming to witness the bonding and sharing of cultures that transpired due to the amiable atmosphere known to permeate the ballroom.
Like many ATOMIC regulars, Iury found himself drawn to go out dancing every day when possible. Sometimes to practice dance styles that were new to him like salsa, bachata and cumbia, and other times just to convene with his new dance family, as they’re affectionately referred to.
During his initial visit to the States, I partnered with Iury to perform and teach a series of special dance workshops. Combining a variety of Brazilian and International styles, we also taught in both English and his primary language Portuguese; providing a unique, enriching learning experience for participants, who were able to get a language class and dance lesson all rolled into one!
While sharing Brazilian culture with those he encountered, Iury was bewildered to learn about one aspect not uncommon in American culture. He was stunned to learn that there is still some stigma towards males who dance in certain communities across the U.S. To hear testimonies of men who were labelled as effeminate and bullied as young boys, (some still as adults), simply for dancing, shocked him to his core. Where he comes from (and in most nations throughout the world) dance is an integral part of society, a reflection of ones cultural traditions and an fundamental part of manhood and becoming a man. In fact, dance is an integral part of courting rituals in many cultures, and thus goes hand in hand with essential traditions in many societies. Iury encapsulates this by stating, “Pelo contrário. Na visão das mulheres, o homem que dança, possui algo a mais.” Translation : On the contrary, in the woman’s view, the man who dances has something more.” Which pretty much sums it up, as I know most ladies would agree!
While)on the subject of dance and romance, Iury is so serious about his dance studies and maintaining a healthy environment in his community that (much like at the workplace), he generally avoids mixing business with pleasure. However, adding that he’s seen many people find love and even marriage amongst fellow dancers, so he isn’t entirely opposed to it, and it all depends on the circumstances. Also adding that he dances for the sake of learning and not chasing women or other pursuits. Now in his early thirties, dance continues to be a big part of his life, and he assures that it always will be. He has already even passed the torch to his young song who moves with such a natural ease to music.
Speaking of moving with ease as most athletes do, To those who don’t think that dance is a sport, this former soccer player responds with, “As pessoas podem entender como quiser. Maybe that person has never danced, or played many sports, but dance can be just as physical and demanding as any other sport.”
The welcoming staff, friendly dancers, well maintained studios and the infamous and tasty complementary snacks are just some of what keeps bringing Iury (all the way) back to ATOMIC after so many years and across thousands of miles.
Although Iury still lives a ways below the equator in Brasil, without a hitch, he always makes sure to stop in ATOMIC for a dance, and to reunite with his beloved American dance family.
FAST FACTS ABOUT IURY:
Was a football player. Oh and that’s futebol as in soccer btw!
3 adjectives best described by : “Dinâmico, perspectivo e feliz”. Translation : Dynamic, happy and has perspective.
Michael Jackson fanatic! His all time favorite singer, dancer and overall entertainment icon.
Inspired to become a police officer only after watching the film “Bad Boys” with Martin Lawrence & Will Smith!
Starting to learn some English but still mostly speaks Portuguese and some Spanish. Go practice with him, he gets a kick out of it!