EATING PLANS are hard. Inevitably, someone is going to end up next to your drunk uncle/overly chatty cousin/weepy motherin-law. So do the kind thing: give guests a reason to pick up their drink, possibly their pudding — and skip off to the dance floor.
THE DANCE PERFORMANCE
It’s hard to surprise at a wedding. With photo booths, high class magicians and sushi making now firmly in the mainstream, the newest way to really get the party started is by having a dance performance. Ilai Szpiezak, director of iDance, explains why: “I grew up and trained in Argentina, where there is a strong tradition of dance performances at weddings. When I came over here to work as a dance teacher and choreographer, it was disappointing to discover that there were no dance productions at weddings. So I put together a company of professionals, from dancers from West End shows to tap dancers and hula-hoopers, as well as technicians, circus performers and costume designers, and we are creating a menu of shows.
“Our dance shows come in two parts. The first part is a performance, with dancers, acrobats, costume changes, wigs; it’s like a mini Broadway show. Then the guests get involved, led by the dancers. It’s all about getting people on the dance floor. They are of the highest standard, but designed specially for a private event and to get the guests involved. One of our shows is to a Fiddler on the Roof Israeli remix. We always aim to surprise and excite, but keep it friendly and suitable for all ages.”
THE FIRST DANCE
Sure, the traditional way to start the dancing is for the happy couple to take the floor. But this doesn’t just have to be a gentle sway to “your song”. A specialist teacher can help you put together something spectacular.
Paul Bottomer, tango champion and director of The Dance Matrix, says: “Some want to impress with spectacle: dips, lifts and drops and we can do that. Some of the more unusual dances we have choreographed included a wedding dance for a Baroque costumed ball in a French château; an Argentine tango for an opera singer; and a romantic rumba to be danced in a Roman Palazzo.
The number of sessions needed depends on whether the couple wants to do a showstopping spectacular wedding dance for the audience or something more personal and about their relationship. I would suggest at least three, hour-long lessons. But in America, where a lot of ‘wedding dance’ YouTube clips come from, they often spend several months preparing.
“There’s a myth that slower music means an easier dance. Slow music requires greater control and the movement can look laboured and awkward. Middle-tempo music is the safest and gets the guests in the mood for dancing themselves. Some tracks that work well are Lady Antebellum - Run to You, Just a Kiss or I Need You Now; Over the Rhine - I Want You to Be My Love and Shania Twain - From This Moment On.
“Unless you have a ballroom, lessons at home are rarely a good idea. It’s alarming how different it can feel being in the spotlight on a hotel dance floor if you’ve previously been shuffling around the sofa.”
THE SWING DANCE LESSON
A swing dance lesson is a playful way to help guests get to know each other. Scottie Cupit, director of Swing Patrol, explains: “There’s this awkward time after the ceremony but before the party starts when photographs are being taken and everyone is waiting for the couple to arrive, so we run this great interactive fun swing lesson.
“I usually teach something Charlestonrelated, because that’s normally thought of as the easiest under the swing umbrella and you can look really good with some basic steps. I rotate people, getting the families to know each other, so when the couple turns up everyone’s had a bit of banter. It’s a lovely ice breaker, getting friends mixing.”
Israeli dancing is great for bonding; it’s energetic and it’s easy. Julia Kay, director of the Leeds Israeli Dance Organisation says: “Strictly has meant a massive uplift in the popularity of dancing. For a wedding I invite people to a class or workshop in advance. Many are quite traditional in their music choices, but we always try to offer some modern materials, perhaps some line dances and something surprising, as well as Moshiach and Hava Nagila. Instead of having just one set after the meal, before the disco, I think the best party atmosphere comes from starting the dancing as soon as the couple arrive— and then dancing between courses helps keep the mood up. It also helps the caterers by providing time to clear the tables.
“We try to involve everyone and choose dances that are easy to do immediately — we don’t want to break up a function by ‘teaching’! We sometimes organise a rondo — a set piece involving everyone at the function. We can work with 50 to 250 people at once, making patterns, arches, swirls. If they are really brave, we do adventurous things like skipping with the tablecloths — they don’t forget that in a hurry!