1st Dance, Wedding or Ballroom?

By Ron Algood

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a future bride say, “My fiancée has two left feet.” In my 26 years of teaching dance in Tampa Bay, I’ve never encountered two left feet. On the contrary, I’ve found that most grooms are very capable dance partners. Often the problem is that wedding couples seeking a memorable first dance have had their nerves shattered by the notion that their wedding dance needs to be a complicated ballroom routine, like on Dancing with the Stars. Unfortunately, those that are lured into one of many franchised dance studios by a free introductory dance lesson become frustrated by high prices and a ballroom dance routine that doesn’t match their song. And more often than not, they are forced into choosing another song that they didn’t want in the first place. I’ve witnessed that scenario played out numerous times. The fact is, a good wedding dance doesn’t have to be a competition ballroom or Latin dance routine. And that’s one of the many reasons I left the high-priced franchises more than a decade ago and became an independent.

I don’t want to berate ballroom dancing in any way. I love it. As a former competitor with trophies ranging from 1989 to 2006, I worked hard to achieve my professional status, and I have the State Championships (along with many national 2nd places) to back up my record. But even while I was competing, I always enjoyed exhibition dancing more than competitions. Exhibition dancing allows for more freedom of expression; whereas, competition dancing is often riddled to death with relentless dance moves packed into a 90 second routine. In the same way, I find that a good wedding dance tends to the simpler version as compared its ballroom predecessor. And as a teacher for over 26years, I find it more rewarding to give couples what they need instead of a trophy they can hang on a wall—a memorable wedding dance.

The first problem most couples encounter is the song. The fact is, even if it’s the bride’s favorite song, a ballroom studio will often try to change it. Why? Because it doesn’t fall into their familiar category of Waltz, Foxtrot, or Rumba. Unfortunately (even though they’re broken hearted on the inside), brides and grooms alike fall into the trap of discarding their favorite song. They do this in order to appease the franchised ballroom teacher, who has convinced them they must do so in order to save their wedding dance. Hogwash, it doesn’t have to be this way.

I was first introduced to The Nightclub Two-Step (not to be confused with the country western two-step) about 20 years ago. Buddy Schwimmer, who is the father of Benji Schwimmer, the 2006 season winner of So You Think You Can Dance invented the dance in the 1960s, so couples could dance to songs with slow to mid-range 4/4 timing. That timing happens to be one of the most popular timings for songs chosen by wedding couples. Hence, the Nightclub Two-Step (NC2S) has become one of the most popular dances taught by instructors who are willing to venture into uncharted territory, in other words independent teachers.

One of the benefits of being an independent instructor is the freedom to think and execute outside the box. I discovered this long before I started specializing in wedding dances. Ask any successful ballroom competition dancer, and they’ll most likely tell you their coach is an independent teacher. My wife and I are no exception. While competing we found that independent coaches often had years of experience that outweighed their franchised counterparts ten to one. Moreover, they often went outside the box and were more current on dance styles. And that’s where wedding dances come in. The Nightclub Two-step and wedding couples make the perfect marriage.

I have also found that the Introduction (also called the intro) of the dance is the most important. Most songs are phrased out, and many wedding dance intros have a 32 count phrase, regardless of the type of dance. It’s those first 32 beats of music that captures the audience. For that reason, if I had to choose any part of the dance to be perfected, it would be the intro. I can guarantee by the end of that first phrase, the bride’s mother will be displaying tears of joy, as well as the groom’s. If a boo-boo happens afterwards (and it always does), no one will even notice! And the good news is that most dance intros can be learned in just a few lessons. Unless the couple wants unique choreography, three hours of instruction is usually enough. I know many of my former ballroom competitors will disagree. But I recently developed a 32 count intro that proves my point. Additionally, one can use it for any type of dance. I demonstrate it with a Viennese Waltz, but you can substitute it with any style, like an NC2S, by just changing the last 8 count to a basic step or an under arm turn that’s relevant to that particular dance style.

Ron Algood is a certified Gold-Level independent dance instructor. He resides in Tampa, Fla. where  for more than 25 years he has taught numerous couples the gift of dance. He teaches all types of partner-dancing, including ballroom, Latin, Swing, Nightclub Two-Step and social dancing. Over the last ten years he has specialized in wedding dances and unique choreography including theater arts.  His website is www.foreverweddingdances.com He can be reached at info@foreverweddingdances.com or  813 417-DANC.


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