If you’ve ever typed the words “wedding dance fail” into YouTube, you know how horribly wrong things can go. I don’t mean to freak you out or anything, but not being fully prepared for your first dance as a married couple is a major risk. Not only will you have to deal with some unexpected nerves, but also you’ll be surprised by how the length and style of your dress, the height of your heels, and even the position of your guests can affect your moves. The last thing you want is to trip on your train in the middle of “At Last” and take a tumble backwards, am I right? (Believe me, it has happened!)
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So what’s the best way to prevent a first dance disaster? By taking a few lessons before the big day. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment—we’re talking five or six lessons max, unless, of course, you’re planning to do the Dirty Dancing lift (in which case, more power to you, though I wouldn’t recommend it). To get some basics down, I tapped New York City-based ballroom pro and instructor Stirling Taylor of Taylor’D Dance, who introduced me the American-style rumba—a dance that works with “literally any piece of music that’s ever been written.”
And while you might feel like a pro after watching the video above, Taylor actually advises against learning your first wedding dance online. “It looks really easy because professionals have worked really hard and put a lot of effort into making it look simple,” he said. “Plus, you may have differences of opinion. I’ve seen that happen before. You may see it one way, and your fiancé may see it another way. So you don’t want this situation of where now you’re fighting over a dance. This is the fun part of organizing your wedding. It shouldn’t be something you argue with."
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Taylor’s other crucial piece of advice? Make sure you chat with your instructor before you get started so you can tell them about your dress, shoes, and the overall vibe of your wedding. Your teacher needs to know if you’re wearing a mermaid-style gown, for example, because some moves can’t be executed in something so form-fitting. If you end up feeling limited by the style of your dress, you can always switch it up. “A lot of my clients have had multiple dresses,” Taylor explained. “They’ll have their full ball dress for the ceremony, and then for the first dance they’ll have something like the one you’re wearing from Miari Dancewear.”
Miari Dancewear has a number of beautiful dresses for both practice and performance—most of which are machine washable, which is alway a bonus. And for your man, Stirling recommends SRDJAN Practice Wear Line. Because even if you can’t master the steps like the pros, at least you can look the part, right?
From In Style Weddings. I have a very special guest here with me today. His name is Sterling Taylor. He is a ballroom pro and instructor and we're going to learn how to do a first dance for your wedding. It's actually a very versatile dance that we're learning today, it could be a father daughter dance, it really could just be dancing at a wedding with your date. So I'm gonna let Sterling tell you a little bit about himself before we get started. Good, yes. Thank you. So yeah, pretty much as she was saying, I'm a professional ballroom instructor, I also compete professionally. I'm right here out of the you know, lovely New York City. My studio is right next to Macy's at the Ball New York. You can pretty much find me on every social media outlets. Taylor Dance it's the name of the company. You know I constantly have specials going on. You can email me at email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. So We're pretty much gonna take it up from there. Yeah, and the next important thing, obviously, is to make sure that you are wearing the right thing for your ballroom lesson. Absolutely. So today, I'm wearing this beautiful dress from Miari. And the great thing about it is, it's washable, it's super versatile, you can wear it to your dance lesson and then out to dinner afterwards. So, all right let's get started now. [LAUGH] Absolutely, so the first thing that we do want to talk about is always wardrobe seems to be the very first question that we always want to approach. You know, what to wear during a ballroom lesson? Or what to To wear during practice or things of that sort. Your first dance, obviously you're going to be wearing your wedding dress, so making sure that you talk with whoever your instructor is going to be with about, important things about your dress. First off your shoes, whether your dress is a mermaid dress, whether it's the bell cut. If there's a long train you may want to get it bustled up. Also talk with your tailor making sure that your dress is not gonna be dragging too much on the floor. As you're about to find out, you are gonna be walking backwards probably fairly often, so you don't wanna step on that really nice dress. Or, of course, same thing, go ahead and switch it up. A lot of my clients in the past have had Multiple different dresses, so they will have their full length ballroom dress for their wedding and then afterwards, during their first stance, they'll have something like with this, dress that have here, which is perfectly designed of course by Mireia, which you can find of course at mireiadancewear.com, all of their stuff as you were seeing being before is hand wash. We want you to turn around actually a little bit Very comfortable, the material is wet resistant. So, it's absolutely brilliant. I can tell the materials, it's great and very functional, you can sweat in it and it's machine washable, which is important to remember that. It's elegant, it's beautiful, you can dance in it, sweat in it, do the groceries, walk around in the subways, all these kind of things. Same thing with the shirt that I'm wearing by Sir John. Sir John is Pretty much leading the way as far as men's active wear. You could literally go to the gym with this thing on, okay. It's very comfortable, material is brought in from Italy, has a lot of really unique and fun designs. But the same thing for guys as well, you wanna be able to feel comfortable, you wanna sweat but not destroy your really nice clothes in the process. So yeah, all right cool. All right, let's learn some steps. Let's learn some steps, so we're gonna go ahead and jump right into that, right so first thing's first. We wanna start with whomever you're gonna be dancing with you wanna start getting a physical You know, understanding of how your bodies are gonna click with each other, right? So making sure that you're gonna be grabbing your husband, whomever you're gonna be dancing with, and just kind of moving with them forward and backward, is gonna be the first thing. You just kinda used to their body weight, their body language, how they're gonna be moving, okay? So nothing too fancy just yet. And now from here what were gonna do, you know just to get you warmed up. Were gonna take some sidesteps. All right? Were gonna take sidesteps with me though. With you. There we go. There you go. Okay. So taking these basic sidesteps forward and backward. I know its not that impressive yet but you will realize that the reality of most of the dancing That you're gonna be wanting to do is gonna be really relaxed, really chill. I love the KISS system, the keep it safe and simple fact especially for our first dance. We see all these disastrous YouTube videos of these people trying, they're looking down, they have this horrible posture, so we wanna make sure they're always standing upright. You know a smile on the face, not looking down. That's kind of insecurity and fear and things of that sort. Right? So the next thing we're gonna do, I'm gonna bring you over here actually. We want to think about basic frame. It doesn't have to be these over the top luxurious ball room frames that we need. This is your first dance and we wanna keep it really chilled and really relaxed. First thing, you want to always have the guy put your hand very gently on the woman's shoulder blade and then with her hand just have it rest down wherever his arm is gonna be. There doesn't need to be any specific points. Just having it very nice and relaxed. Everything is very comfortable, and this is where most of the leading is gonna come from is gonna be this arm right here. Now, for this one Very gentle. Once, again, it doesn't have to be over the top. A very gentle, very relaxed downward action, upward action, doesn't matter. We don't wanna get too technical when it comes to your first dance. You don't wanna look like you've been taking lessons. The whole point of it is you just wanna look chill like you've been doing this since you met on your first date, right? So, this is what we're gonna do now, when it comes to the feet and the movement, we're going to be doing a very basic American style rumba. The reason why we're going to be doing this dance, pretty much the most versatile dance that you could come up with. You're gonna be able to do whatever song that you pretty much choose for your first dance, is gonna be one of the American style rumba dances. So, we're gonna go over the basics of that first, yeah. Mm-hm. So As with you, as with anybody else, the same thing I'm gonna have all of us start with a right foot to begin with. So, we're gonna take a right step backwards. Okay, good. So good so far. [LAUGH] Side and then, together. So, the basic actions that we were doing at the beginning of this, we're just, all we're doing is associating it now, forward, backward, step side, together, nothing too fancy. Now we're going to take a step forward with our left foot and we're going to go side and then close. They call this the box step for this very clear reason, right? Back with your right foot, we've got you're side step and then a close. Forward with the left, side and then close, good. Back with the right Side and then close. Very good. All right, now we're gonna go ahead and put that into a frame. See how we can get this. Now, for the mean that are actually going to be watching or for girls, if you wanna kinda side teach your guy a little bit, always make sure that he's gonna be starting with the left foot. We have a little saying in the industry Men are in fact leading the dance. So because we are leading the dance we are always gonna start with our left foot, right? This is the one place where men are still 100% in charge is on the dance floor. Outside of that, I can't really say anything. But, and then ladies are always right about everything, so you're always gonna start with your right foot. Easy enough. They love that one, yes of course. So we're gonna go ahead and start with our little box step so we have a forward step. We've got side. We've got together. We've got a back step for the guys, forward step for the ladies, side, and then together. Step, side, together. You just want to allow your natural rhythm to kick in with this. It doesn't have to get too fancy. By having this basic Step. You're already starting to improve and look like you're kind of are flowing a little bit. Try not to do this. This is unnecessary, there's no answers down there. Again, stick it up here, allow the guy to kind of lead. Now, when it comes to ballroom, the thing that really differs our styles from a lot of the other dance styles is we have And amazing versatility but also we have a 360 degree audience. So, very different from like, let's say, ballet to where it's a staged dance to where you have a two dimensional audience here, we actually have to pay attention to where our adjudicators are. 360 degrees, so they're behind us, they're over there, they're over here, they're over here. So, we have to really think about You know what we're gonna be looking like in all angles so in the same thing is gonna go for your first dance. It's very possible that your audience and all of your guests are going to be at maybe a horseshoe shape, they may be mostly over the corner. You don't wanna do any kind of dancing facing your band or if it's over there, over there so having a. Understanding on where you're going to be out in the room is going to be very important. And these are going to be questions that you want to ask your instructor. Regardless of where you are in the US, always make sure that you do your research as far as your instructors are concerned. Make sure that they ask you about your dress, about your shoes, about your music, about your timing. About how you wanna walk out on the floor, how you wanna look when you get on the floor, how long you wanna be out on the floor, all of these questions are gonna be very, very important for them to ask these people, right? And feel free to email me too as well if you want to. You can ask me any of these questions. My sphere of influence all over the United States with borrow instruction. It's crazy, I've got friends everywhere, so feel free to email me. And then I can answer or direct you to any of the best instructors that we can have. Next thing, so what I wanna basically show you now is how we're gonna rotate. So imagine we're dancing like this. It's our first dance, and I'm just gonna do this the whole time, right? It's very flat, very [LAUGH] two dimensional, and so as you can see, This isn't really gonna be very good for your photographs, for your you know all of your memories. The guy standing here and she is standing there, so what we wanna work on is getting some basic rotation that kinda makes this a little more 3-dimensional, alright? I have a very quick, really quick let me just put you over here. I have a very quick. Understanding of how these alignments go. In the ballroom community, we have these crazy names like backing line of dance diagonal center facing wall, all these crazy alignments to keep it very very very simple. Of course that KISS system that I will always go back to. Keep it very simple. Think of your degrees of a compass. Okay, you've got your north, your south, your east, your west, but also the eighth rotations, northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast. With that, with your guys, what we wanna think about is rotating, forward step. If we're facing north right now, we're gonna go northwest, close, northwest. Now we're gonna face west, close west, you got it. [LAUGH] Southwest. Close southwest, rotate south, close south. Southeast, closed southeast, east, closed east, northeast, and so on. So, now, as you can tell, now we've kinda got that little fairy tale feeling of going on a ballroom, gliding across, rotating. Rotation is very big when it comes to dancing. You don't want to keep it too flat, especially with all our guests. You wanna show that you've got some really thick Versatility when it comes to your movement. So rotation, I always like to say, is very,very key, very,very important in dancing. Making sure you look really natural for all of your guests. All right, so are we ready to spruce it up a little bit? There's more? [LAUGH] Get a little fancy? Yeah, there's definitely a lot more than just your basic box step. I was like that's easy. [LAUGH] It is a little bit simple, yes. Some people will find it to be challenging, but that's okay. Keep with it, work with it, work with your instructor, and practice, of course, as they say practice makes perfect, but make sure you practice perfectly. So as I always tell my students, make sure that you have some adult supervision before you start practicing too much, because you'll learn all these bad habits. Yeah? All right. Yeah. Kick it up. Next thing that we're going to be doing, okay, is your basic underarm turn. So again, What I want to think about is breaking everything down into a very basic component. Pretty much all she's gonna be doing is walking forward, right. So when she's walking forward she's walking forward, one foot in front of the other. Nothing too fancy just yet, yeah. All right. Yeah? Very very good. I got this. Now what we want to think about Starting with her right foot, she is going to actually be taking seven steps. We are going to go ahead and start you with your seven steps with your right foot, I'm sorry with your left one. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven and then aside and together action. Okay, that's absolutely perfect. Be sure that you can walk seven steps forward and then go side together. Now here's the reality of the situation, or the actual end result. What we're gonna be doing, we're going to go back to the box step that we have, very basic box step. Now, just discussing the woman's part first, when she steps forward with her left, that's when the seven steps begin. So she's gonna have one Two, three, four, five, six, seven, and then side together. Your basic underarm turn that looks a little bit more flashier than what is actually happening, but it gives it just that healthy comfort level for all of your guests to view. So we'll try that again. Your step You've got your side together, you've got another step. Side together, adding that basic in there. And then from here we're gonna do those seven steps again. So we have one, two, three, four, five, six, final step seven and then go side together. So it's fairly simple. Breaking down everything into your basic actions of really, walking forward Walking backwards, side together actions. You can pretty much do a full routine with just those basic motor skills. If you can walk, you can dance. It's very, very just gotta be organized well, right? Yeah. So once again, now what we can do from here, I'm gonna discuss the guy's part. Essentially very simple, the man will continue to Do as box step. Right as soon as he is about to step backwards with his right foot, he lifts his left hand up and then he just lets her go. We all know that, sometimes it's just good to just let them go, let them do their thing, they will come back they always do. And then we'll move on from there, so just doing the guys part really quickly. You've got your basic step. Forward with the left, side together. When you go back with your right, your left hand will extend upward and you just let them do their thing. Continue your feet, continue the box. So really, all you're doing, guys, is doing a box and then when you step back with your right foot, you lift your hand in the air Continue with your box and then magically, as soon as you step back with your right, it closes off. And that's the end of [UNKNOWN] turn. Great. Now, I have a question. The lady, as you're doing your seven steps. Yes. What should the upper body kind of look like as you're doing that? Because I think it's easy to think like, I'm going around. And how do you keep your chest open? And keep presenting yourself to your crowd? Absolutely, these are all very, very, very important questions. How to display yourself in a very natural manner. For a man and for a woman in dancing it's gonna be very, very important. So the best thing that I would always suggest say, and your instructor will also give you some other tips and trick based on your learning style, your level of ability. Things of that sort. But what we definitely want to avoid is this whole shoulder, like, slumping forward thing. We want to have the shoulders rolled back and relaxed. What I like to tell my students is imagine that you're carrying a tray and it's a little heavy, just a little heavy. Okay, so you're gonna lock down your lats down in here, your pectoralis majors and minors muscles. But really to keep it simple, thinking about shoving your shoulders down to the floor and holding out a tray in front of you. This will give you that nice long, yes this beautiful long neck line that's very exposing. And as you're gonna be walking Make sure that you're looking into the cameras, into your audience members, that makes people feel so special and it makes you look like a rock star even though you may not be. When you have that confidence to really look at your guests and to present yourself in that way, that's what makes part of what we do so magical. So let's go ahead and give that a shot. All right, let's try that. So we'll do our first basic box just to kind of get it warmed again and then from there what we're gonna do we're gonna initiate the under terms. So, as soon as the ready is ready to step forward with her left, the gentleman back back with right. He will lift his hand up left. Now, perfect example, so we notice what almost happened right there. Always the key system, keep it safe and simple, we do not want bride falling on their faces, that is not good. So, what we wanna thin about, although it may feel a little uncomfortable or a little scary, we do want to have the woman step forward into the man's space and then have her start to walk throughout the turn, if not, that is a perfect opportunity To trip and have somebody fall. That's not what we want on your first dance. Have we avoided that? [LAUGH] Yes. All right, so we've got the step. We're gonna that basic box again and we've got the side together. Now, from here we got one Two, three, four, five, six, seven, and then slide together, right? Very good! You're doing pretty good on this. Thanks. I'm liking this. This is my first ballroom lesson. This is actually very much her first ballroom lesson. So this is pretty much what you're basing yourself on. When you have a really nice foundation, just like with anything else, you can really have the opportunity to build up, build up, build up, build up. Into anything. My clients, even if you go on to my sites, you can find me at a Taylor Dance on Instagram or also on Facebook. Look at the testimonials, look at the photos of all my wedding couples that I've had in the background, that options are absolutely unlimited. I have done... Dirty Dancing verbatim routines- [LAUGH] The lift and all. The lift? Absolutely. [LAUGH] I have a lot of international training from world class theater arts dances, which essentially is all the lifts and the Cirque du Soleil stuff. So that is where dancing can get very dangerous. Again, keep it safe and simple. So, yeah. Yeah, now, I have another question for you. So this Particular dance, what type of song would this be a good fit for? The brilliant part about this dance is the American style Rumba is so versatile that literally almost piece of music that is ever been written. Okay. [LAUGH] You can dance into it. Now, when it comes to musicalities and things like that again, always ask your instructor about that but you wanna make yourself look natural, don't, if you start to stress especially if Whether the future bride or the future groom seemed to pick up music and they're a little bit tricky with it. You don't want them to stress out. Let him run to the rhythm of his heart. That's a very natural thing to do as well. We all have natural rhythms. Sometimes we hear the music differently. Until you go out to a ballroom competition and they will judge you on your timing there Relax, look good, it's more important to look comfortable than to be correct. Nobody is gonna be like, my God did you see his timing? His timing was fantastic at this wedding, nobody cares about that, none of your friends did. Right, and I have another question, so how many lessons? Traditionally do couples have to take or should they take before they're ready for their big debut? Very good question as well. Again, going back onto my site, you will see different levels of things. I have clients that are actually still taking lessons with me. But I've had clients getting ready for their big day that have taken lessons, I think They were up there, about a year and a half, taking lessons. Wow. But, now, mind you, what you have to understand is, they had lifts, they had tricks, they had two different songs, and then, three different dances involved in it. So, it was a very big theatrical event. So, you can go really, really crazy with it, or keep it very simple. I just had a When a couple recently, they had five lessons. I taught them some basic movements, some swing, some things of that sort. And they picked it up like that. They went out there, they showed me the video of their first dance. I posted it on my site, so check it out, you'll love it. And they're so relaxed and so chill. They remembered everything. He even made up some stuff. But listen, just as long as you and her do the same thing at all, I'm giving you the options to do that. So it's fairly easy. And another question, some people say I don't think I need lessons. Or we're just gonna kinda go out there and wing it. What would you say to those people? [LAUGH] Well, they have a whole YouTube channel, I believe, on wedding first dance disasters gone wrong. [LAUGH] I think one of the more recent ones is a man actually did some front handsprings and knocked his bride down. Did you see this? No, I missed that one. It's hysterical, it's hysterical. I mean, not for them, that's terrible. But Yeah you want to make sure that, you know, if you feel comfortable and you do then that's fine. Once again, dancing is dancing, it's an art form as well it's a sport so it is entirely subjective. What I would strongly recommend against, don't go onto YouTube and copy what you think you're seeing in on a video, get professional opinions about these things. You don't want to, it looks really simple on there because a lot of the professional dancers have worked really, really hard and put a lot of effort into making it look simple. So don't just think that you can go out there, you think you understand what's going on and then you can lay it out. It shouldn't work that way. Also, you will Have differences of opinions. I've seen it happen multiple times. So you may see it one way, your fiance may see it in another way, so you don't want these situations. Yeah. To where now you're gonna be fighting over a dance. This is the fun part about organizing your wedding. It should not be something you argue with. Yeah, that's a really great point. I hadn't thought about that. Yeah. Yeah. It's really amazing to see what Happens with these couples and how amazing it actually can be. It gives them an opportunity to have another date night. Gives them an opportunity to actually physically touch, we forget to do that a lot. Right. So it keeps that intimacy going, rolling and especially well into after the wedding dance. I have couples that so come to me after they'd had their first dance, they still come by and they're like we love it, you're fun, you're crazy We'll go out, have a lesson, and then go and have margaritas afterwards. It's really amazing. Nice. It's cool. It does a lot of good things. Let's run through the whole thing one more time and then we'll wrap it up. And good luck to everybody. Definitely. Congrats. One more try. Very good. So you've got your basic box step. Gonna rotate back. With our basic box stepping completed, whenever the man feels comfortable enough, he's gonna step back with his right foot, still rotating. When you get to that level and feel confident enough, then you can add your own little turn that way. Always have a nice little bow after as well. [LAUGH] And the bow and the curtsy in the back. [LAUGH] I don't know the choreography to that one. All right, well thank you guys I hope you enjoyed it and see you soon. [BLANK_AUDIO]