The first dance. Even the words sound wonderful and that’s before we’ve seen any of the magic on the dance floor. The bride and groom, close together, holding onto each other, surrounded by friends and family – oh yes, the first dance is a very special wedding moment indeed.
It’s made more special by the fact that there is something incredibly romantic about dancing with the one you love. It’s a connection, it’s a feeling and it’s rather symbolic of marriage – you’re both playing your own role in creating something really rather fabulous.
Of course, the other side of the story is the panicky prospect of having to style it out for three minutes in front of everyone you care about when you’ve never danced ‘properly’ with anyone in your life, you don’t know your cha-cha from your foxtrot and you’re terrified of treading on your beloved’s feet, falling over or just swaying in circles like a punch-drunk boxer until the music finally ends.
With all of this in mind, it really is no surprise that more and more couples are bringing in the experts to help them turn their first dance into something that’s memorable for all the right reasons. And, frankly, you won’t find more of an expert than Karen Hardy.
We all know Karen from Strictly Come Dancing where she lit up proceedings with her red-hot choreography, infectious personality and her love of dance that felt that it was transmitting to you in waves through the TV and of course she won with Mark Ramrakash in 2006.” It’s no surprise to learn that Karen’s been dancing since she was five but her first foray into the world of kicks, flicks and pirouettes didn’t go entirely to plan.
“My first experience of dance was when my Mum signed me up for ballet. I hated it – I felt like the duck at the end of the row of swans. But then I saw adverts for Saturday ballroom and Latin dance classes and that was it, I was hooked. I loved making friends, seeing everyone every week and of course, I loved the medals! And even now, the social aspect of dancing is really important to me. I am so lucky because I get to coach all over the world, I have friends all over the world and whilst I adore the freedom of dance, the connection you have with your partner, it’s the people that make it so special and on a wedding day, there’s no-one more special than the bride and groom.”
So, where do you even start putting together a dance for a wedding? Doesn’t it take hours and hours to perfect the type of moves that will have your Gran beaming proudly at you? Not at all with Karen and her team by your side.
“In just one lesson, we can give you the basics, the steps that will get you around the floor and impress your guests. In three lessons, we’ll add in some dips or a lift at the start of end of the dance and in five lessons, well, that’s the whole production where you’d learn the whole routine with more complicated moves and sequences but really, it’s much easier to learn that people expect and then that’s it, they’re hooked. It’s always driven by the couple – some people come along for five lessons but keep the dance simple, others want an entire routine, it’s always their choice. We’re here to make it magical, whatever they choose.”
“We start off with the music. Couples bring in a few choices and we listen together, pick out the strong beats and decide what dances would work. Once we’ve got the music, we focus on the couple because it’s really important we understand exactly what the aim of the dance is. Do they want to show off a little or are they more reserved, what’s their idea of the perfect first dance? And we really work with the guy – he’s got to lead the dance, there’s so much pressure on him so we work hard to make him comfortable, the bride is always going to shine but it’s really important the guy is happy with the dance. He’s marrying the woman of his dreams and he doesn’t want to let her down!”
In all of the magic and romance, the practicalities of the first dance aren’t forgotten either and knowing that everything has been thought of is a huge reassurance to Karen’s couples. “We do everything we can to make practice as realistic and as personal as possible. We’ll mark out the size of the dance floor the couple will be dancing on onto the studio floor so they get a real sense of the space they’ll have, we consider the height of the ceiling, the surface itself and where guests will be standing so the whole dance is completely bespoke. We ask couples to bring along the shoes they’ll be wearing to practice in, we think about the dress and the outfits that will be being worn and consider those. Brides will often bring a long skirt to wear and if anyone is doing anything outside of basic steps, we advise that hooks are sewn into dresses so invisible straps can be added before the dance for extra re-assurance!”
If you’re absolutely in love with the idea of dancing up a storm at your wedding (and why wouldn’t you be?), don’t think it’s ever too late or too early to pull on those dancing shoes. “Some people come to us very early, get the routine together, practice at home and then come back just before the big day for a booster. We’ve even flown an instructor out to an overseas wedding to give the couple a last minute boost! Others leave it until much closer which is great, especially for the guy – there’s less waiting, less time to get nervous but then, it can be tricky if you want to squeeze in more lessons. The average is around six weeks before the wedding but we’ll go with everyone’s dream and make it work. It might be harder for us but our aim is to give everyone what they want. It’s a bit like Strictly in that sense – we’ve got a deadline to hit and we absolutely will.”
And, if you needed proof that planning your moves well in advance is a good idea, Karen’s own wedding day tale might be the perfect story for you… “We completely forgot about our first dance! We got on the dance floor and made it all up on the spot which was so lucky because when we finished, all our guests held up scorecards!”
Now, unless you’re a world champion dancer and you’re marrying a dancer too, like Karen did, this probably isn’t the best solution so, what are you waiting for? It’s time to Keeeeeeeeeep Dancing! Wedding dance lessons & packages at Karen Hardy Studios start at £99.00, you can also see her helpful first dance tips video here.
One lucky Love Scarlett reader can win a 45min lesson which Includes, a glass of Champagne on arrival, what better way to calm those nerves before taking your first steps onto the dance floor?
During your lesson your teacher will be able to evaluate you abilities and create the choreography accordingly to your music choice. This session will give you a simple understanding of basic manoeuvring around the dance floor and build your confidence for your first dance.
So for your chance to win, please answer the question below.
Image 1 Karen Hardy Studio
Words by Tamryn Lawrence Love Scarlett