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Tips on Choreographing Your First Dance

Posted on August 17 by Susan Brierly Bush

Choreographing first dance. Jason Rhee Photography

THINKING OF SURPRISING YOUR WEDDING GUESTS WITH A PROFESSIONALLY CHOREOGRAPHED COUPLE’S DANCE? Whether you move like a pro or have two left feet, an experienced instructor can make it fun and memorable.

 “When I choreograph a first dance, I start by assessing a couple’s natural athleticism and musical ability,” says Cathy Callahan, instructor at Broadway Bound Dance Center in Lebanon. “Then I see if they can dance on the beat. What some lack in rhythm, they compensate for in personality and passion.” 

Callahan notes that your first step (no pun intended) is to choose a song that has special meaning and high entertainment value. Decide early how your tune will be played on your big day. This is critical. If you rehearse at home to a CD, but then ask a band to play the song for you, they should be instructed to not ad-lib even a few beats. Any variation could throw off your choreography. 

New Jersey Bride—Choreographing first dance. Jason Rhee Photography

Leigh Scheps and Matthew Hirsch (above) danced to Frank Sinatra’s “Cheek to Cheek” at their September 14, 2014, wedding at Ridgefield Regency in Verona. “We picked this song because Matthew loves my cheeks,” says Leigh. “At first, he wanted something more modern, but I insisted on Frank Sinatra. After all, we do live in Hoboken.” Leigh, who’s been a dancer her whole life, made up the routine with her mom, who owned Bayshore Academy of Dance in Holmdel for 35 years. “The challenge was to teach Matthew how to move like Fred Astaire,” Leigh says. “Our friends and family were in awe of the performance. It added another touch to our Old-Hollywood glamour wedding.”

“Just be organized,” says Scott Hornak of Craig Scott Entertainment in New Jersey and Manhattan. “If you want a band to reproduce your song, let the band leader know well in advance that your dance will be choreographed and send an MP-3 of the exact version you’re using for rehearsal.”

“At some point during cocktail hour, we recommend that the bride and groom run through their dance one time with the band,” says Hornak. “This gives the couple added confidence.” Another option, he says, is to choreograph just the first half of the song and then invite guests to jump in.

Need a little inspiration to make the first move? Head to YouTube (search for “viral first dance wedding”), and check out some of our favorite clips.

And be sure to check out “10 Steps to the Perfect Choreographed Wedding Dance.”

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