Being able to ballroom dance is just one of those things that identifies you as a guy who can do anything, like change a tire, carve a turkey and leap tall buildings. Your wedding is a good time to learn. Taking classes is the best way to start.
- Get into the process. Learning to foxtrot, waltz or swing dance is not easy and it’ll take time. Being surrounded by a lot of beginners, who are as clueless as you, will give you comfort. Although it may not seem that way when you first walk in the door, a class will help to diffuse your fears.
- Dance with other partners. Everybody dances differently. Partnering is a basic dance skill and the only way to learn partnering is to mix it up with a variety of partners. If you only dance with your fiancé, then you will reinforce bad habits. Even if your fiancé likes the way you dance, others will find you difficult. (Need I remind you—you’ll be dancing with your new in-laws during the wedding reception.)
- Dance in the spotlight. It’s natural to feel like everybody is watching you, especially if you don’t like to dance. While it’s generally not true that you’re the center of attention—people watch the best dancers, not the worst—it’ll be true at your wedding. While dancing in the spotlight is awkward at first, the tension will lessen over time. Classes are a good way to ease into the spotlight by getting a bit of exposure. Heck, why not: maybe after class (see #5 below) slip on your wedding dance song and ask people to watch you do your first dance choreography.
- Time on the floor. You need practice, really. Classes count for time on the floor.
- Learn to dance spontaneously. Practice music is usually played at the end of class. This is an excellent environment for learning, especially to practice dancing spontaneously. Spontaneous dancing is what you want to do on a social dance floor—you’ll do a series of moves on the fly—which is how you’ll dance with your wife and guests during the reception. After class you’ll get: easy music, familiar partners, partners who are at about your level, partners who are more forgiving with mistakes, step patterns that are fresh in your mind, a supportive group that likes to experiment with new moves—this is a practice session so do-overs are allowed—and a teacher who is available for questions.
- Ask questions. Class is a good time to ask questions. After class can be an especially good time to grab your teacher. You might sneak in a wedding dance question like, “My wedding is next month. Could you quickly demonstrate an easy dip I can do?”
- Dance with your teacher. I believe that “dancing up”—dancing with partners better than you—is critical when learning how to dance. After class, go up to your teacher, say you didn’t understand the underarm turn from class, and ask to be shown the move. Don’t worry about your teacher’s gender, a teacher knows both lead and follow and can easily swap roles.
- See what you like. If you pick wedding dance choreography that appeals to you—i.e., if you do dance moves that are easy and that you like, which will give you a look on the floor that you think is cool—you might enjoy dancing more. A beginners’ class is a good place to learn a bunch of easy step patterns. Also, the practice music after class is a good time to check out other dancers. If you see something you like, approach and ask how to do it. Other dancers love to show off.
If you’re going to do serious first dance choreography, you’ll probably want private lessons. Still, classes are an easy way to start the process and I recommend them even if you’re going to do privates. If you fear taking a class, then start by watching one; at least you’ll know what to expect or, if the class is not for you, decide not to take it. For the severely reluctant dancer, consider a private lesson before the first class.
For more info on the first dance, check out “Surviving the Wedding Dance.”