One of the most memorable aspects of our wedding day was our first dance. And what made it really fun was the completely unexpected way it all came together…
My husband has been friends with Bruce and Cathy Callahan since he went to Bernards High School in Bernardsville. I knew that Cathy is a professional dance instructor, but I was really surprised and thrilled when, out of the clear blue, she asked, “Do you guys want me to choreograph your first dance?”
We needed to think about that for all of two seconds. “Yes, please!”
It turns out that Cathy has 35 years of tap dancing experience and she’s a certified instructor through Dance Educators of America. She also teaches at Broadway Bound Dance Center in Lebanon where her students rack up dance awards.
Our first step (no pun intended) was to decide on our musical selection. Since our entire event – the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception – would feature vintage tunes, Robert and I decided to perform something completely out of the box. One of our favorites is “Taste of Honey,” the fun 1967 classic by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. When we told Cathy, she knew the song and was excited about it.
So, one Sunday afternoon, we visited her at Broadway Bound and were delighted that our competent (and patient) dance instructor had already downloaded the song and worked out the basic choreography. It all felt very “Dancing With the Stars” since we were surrounded by mirrored walls and ballet barres. After practicing a couple of hours and including our own ad libs, we started feeling comfortable with it. (I should mention that Robert and I both performed in musical theater during our school years, but this first dance was a completely different animal.)
We rehearsed with Cathy two other times – a few weeks before the wedding and right before our big day, adding our own bits of musical-theater comedy throughout. During our last rehearsal at the studio, we got a big thumbs-up from our teacher, which really boosted our confidence. But still, we were a little nervous to perform this surprise routine for our family and friends. We listened to the song a lot, practiced at home right up until our wedding, and even made a pact not to drink at our cocktail party. Instead, we would wait until after our first dance, and then the wine could flow ; )
Once our band, Matthew Friedman and the Uptown Sounds, started setting up in the dining room of the Vanderbilt Mansion, we decided to skip the last 20 minutes of our outdoor cocktail reception (since we weren’t drinking anyway) and Cathy joined us inside for our final “dress rehearsal” as the band watched. It went well. Cathy smiled. The band applauded. We were ready to roll. Even the DWTS judges would have approved.
If you plan to choreograph your first dance, be sure to nail down the details early on. For example, we rehearsed to the original 1967 version of “Taste of Honey” and decided well in advance to give the band our CD to play through their sound system. We all agreed that using a CD would be better than asking them to play the song live – because we were so tightly choreographed to each note that if the band had improvised even for a beat or two, it would have thrown us into oblivion.
Happily, our comedic dance went off without a hitch and we got a lot of laughs and compliments. In fact, we decided to reprise our first dance each year on our wedding anniversary.
If you want to work with a professional choreographer, Cathy Callahan can make it fun and easy, whether you perform a traditional first-dance song or something crazy and unexpected like we did.