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SPOTLIGHT:
WEDDING DANCES
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First Dance - A look at the trend towards choreographed wedding dances

by Julie Hatfield
November 12, 2008
Boston, MA
Married for about an hour, the bride and groom head for the empty dance floor and the once dreaded First Dance. All alone out there, embarrassed at their four left feet, most couples start the awkward Newlywed Shuffle, which consists of rocking back and forth slowly to a painfully slow beat, hoping nobody notices that they've never danced a real dance together before this and that everyone will think that they look romantic and loving instead of just dumb.

Guests, expecting the worst, stretch and yawn, head for the restrooms or tuck into their dessert, hoping to get this over with as fast as possible.

But wait! This couple is doing moves that no one knew they knew how to do! They're moving around the floor in a choreographed, speedy, slightly difficult series of steps that are lovely to behold! They're actually doing a routine! They're…..dancing!

In a trend that started quite awhile ago but had recently sped up, partly because of the Internet presentations such as Rock the Reception and television shows such as Dancing With the Stars, couples who are planning their weddings are taking the time and effort to also plan their first dance to be an entertaining one for their guests and themselves. They're taking lessons and/or practicing their steps as well as their vows, and the results are wonderful for them and for those who used to watch with some trepidation.

Take Virginia Russell of Naples, Florida, for example. Virginia had a ballet background and had danced much more than her husband-to-be, Tim Russell of Boston, when they became engaged. Tim, who claims two left feet, had never tangoed in his life, his wife recalls, but he was willing, at her suggestion, to take five private lessons, each an hour long, to learn a few steps of that dance, including the dramatic final dip. "It was hard work" learning the tango together, she admits, but it paid off at the reception, when the Julio Iglesias tango song came on to the loudspeaker and the two sashayed into a wonderful tango, complete with final dip, in front of their several hundred guests. "Everybody was impressed that Tim could dance so well," she laughed.

Rachel Metz of Charleston, South Carolina, and her fiancé, Sasha Leland of Boston, decided just a few weeks before their spring 2008 wedding to wow their family and guests with an original, choreographed dance because, as Sasha recalls, "Some people see the first dance as an antiquated and a little nerve-wracking experience, especially if you don't know how to dance. Back in the 'old days,' when most kids were schooled in dancing as a regular part of growing up, it wasn't a big deal to jump up and do a foxtrot or waltz. But these days your options are to either shell out a bunch of money to take dance lessons, or forego the lessons and look foolish while rocking back and forth like a Weeble-Wobble with a couple hundred people staring at you, or do something completely silly and choreographed so people are laughing less at you and more with you."

They decided to do the latter, so less than a month before their wedding, "We rented the British version of the tv show The Office' during which all the characters dance at a fund raising event," explained Rachel, and bought a copy of the dvd of "Saturday Night Fever" and "spent five or six nights watching and trying the moves of John Travolta to the 'More Than A Woman' song over and over."

She said that 15 minutes before their wedding they were still practicing. Her husband added, "The dance was more stressful than the wedding ceremony."

But the dance, which was a complete surprise to their families as well as their guests, was delightful, and impressive to all, even though, as Rachel recalled, "the lace of my dress caught on the button of his jacket, so it was stressful, but relaxing."

The Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Boston has always offered basic waltz/foxtrot/swing quickee lessons for engaged couples who want to look as if they know how to dance at their wedding, but lately, notes Kristen Belcher, the studio's new student department counselor and director, more couples are asking for specialized lessons in a choreographed dance that they can present at the reception.

"Before, we called these last-minute lessons the 'get-by' lessons," she notes, "but in the last three or four months we've had couples who want to learn the 'Lawn Mower,' the 'Worm,' the 'Water Fountain' the 'Running Man,' and 'The Robot,' for example, to the Will Smith song 'Getting' Jiggy With It.' " Another couple wanted to learn a choreographed dance to the love duet from the movie "Moulin Rouge," which they did. "I think this is going to continue," she notes. "There are no more traditional weddings."

The studio director, Mark Lightner, says "We have seen some really creative routines" from these couples who want more than the old basic three dance steps, "and we can usually help them with either kind of dancing in the course of between six and 12 lessons."
The Russells perform their tango

The Russells perform their tango

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


The Russells perform their tango

The Russells perform their tango

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


The Russells perform their tango

The Russells perform their tango

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


Sasha and Rachel Leland perform their first dance

Sasha and Rachel Leland perform their first dance

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland


Sasha and Rachel Leland perform their first dance

Sasha and Rachel Leland perform their first dance

Photo © & courtesy of Timothy Leland

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