Sent: December 17, 2014 6:48 PM
Subject: Private dance lessons--we need help!
I getting married next March, and both Jill and myself
have 2 left feet. Can you help with private lessons? All
we want to do is a slow dance. We are not teenagers. We
will have a DJ for entertainment and my guess is that
our guests will make us dance.
seriously considering the Four Season's 'Can't take my
eyes off of you'
Do you think this would work for 2 people with four left
From the "four left feet" comment, I assumed there was some
anxiety about this.
I also took
notice of the statement "My guess is
that our guests will make us dance."
From that, I
assumed that Mark was concerned about dancing in front of
everyone. That made sense because typically it is the
man who worries the most.
When I first met
Mark and Jill, to my surprise, Mark seemed okay with the
idea. But I wasn't completely wrong. It turned
out Jill was the worrier. She wasn't so sure this dancing stuff was a good idea.
So, yes, occasionally the lady is the one who is more
serious reservations about her dancing ability. I smiled and reassured her.
"Don't worry, this is a lot easier than you might think."
Jill wasn't so
sure. "You may change your mind after you see us
Mark said they
wanted to dance to the Frankie Valli classic Can't
Take My Eyes Off of You.
I listened and
told them a Foxtrot would work the best. Mark nodded.
"Okay, let's give it a try."
So of course we
started with the Box Step. Mark and Jill did fine with
the Box Step, but the "Turning Box Step" gave Mark
considerable trouble. That was a surprise to Jill
because she assumed Mark was "The Dancer" in the family.
It was a real eye-opener that dancing did not come
effortlessly to him either.
I explained to
both of them that the Turning Box gives everyone fits, but
not to worry, just keep doing it till the move clicks.
Mark was okay with that idea. He kept dancing the move
over and over and over till finally it began to work.
I was impressed with his determination.
Jill on the
other hand slightly panicked when the Turning Box didn't
work right off the bat. She seemed so glum. My impression was that she was
convinced something was going to go wrong and this first
obstacle proved her worst fears were correct.
I do not know
what happened to Jill to cause her to fear partner dancing,
but I could tell someone had damaged her confidence along
Let me tell you
a story, ladies. My wife Marla gets compliments on her
dancing all the time. Marla is an excellent dancer.
However, her previous boyfriend was very critical of her
dancing. He had her convinced she was terrible.
The mind is such
a funny thing. Once some negativity sneaks in there,
it can be very difficult to cure.
The funny thing
is that Jill had no reason to worry. She was picking
up the moves at exactly the same rate as most other women.
I told her that, but she didn't believe me. Someone
had put a negative thought in her brain about dancing and
that thought wasn't going to be dislodged very easily.
At the end of
the lesson, Mark asked how much they owed me. I said
he had a choice. The rate for an hour was $50.
However, if he paid me $200, that would cover five hours of
lessons. I told Mark that most of my couples opt for
the five hours. Not only was the price fair, by paying
up front there was a psychological benefit that comes from
committing to five lessons as opposed to one at a time.
Five lessons it would be.
lesson went better. Mark had practiced that Turning
Box during the week and seemed closer to mastering it.
However I still had to make some adjustments. By the
halfway point of the lesson, Mark had it. This
breakthrough allowed us to make better progress.
We had time to
learn the Diva Walk and the Back Step Basic as well.
The third lesson introduced the Peekaboo and the fourth
lesson introduced Sliding Doors. They now had enough
material to fit the music.
The fact of the
matter was that Mark and Jill had equal talent when it came
to learning to dance. The difference was that Mark
wasn't intimidated when a move didn't work immediately while
Jill was. Jill would go "Woe is me!" and Mark would
simply roll up his sleeves. Mark assumed he would get it eventually and
Jill worried she might never get it... but she always did.
One day Jill
said she just couldn't go through with it. Her nerves
were shot. She was too old for this kind of stress.
Mark looked to me to rescue things. Mark knew better
than to say anything. If someone had to die, better it
So I explained
to Jill that a Wedding Dance is a social ritual. It is
there to demonstrate to the world that two people love each
interjected, "I love Mark, but this is an ordeal!"
I said I agreed
some social rituals were tough. I told Jill about the
Tlingit Indians in Alaska. One of their ancient coming
of age rituals was to drop a teenage boy on a deserted
island for an entire week with nothing more than a hunting
knife. It was up to the boy to survive the test.
turned to Mark, "Mark, darling, would you be upset if I went
to live on an island in Alaska for a week instead of dancing
with you? Would that be enough to convince you of my
"Sure, honey, I
would go with you. That would give us an entire week
to practice our dance."
I held my
breath. How would Jill react? Thank goodness,
Jill laughed. We got back to work.
marked the turning
point. I had discovered a secret... Jill liked sarcasm.
I found if I could make Jill laugh during her struggles,
things went much better. However, I could tell the
thought of performing in front of her friends still had her
During the third
lesson, Jill and I had a long talk about the benefits of
wine and dancing. She seemed much happier when I said
a glass or two of wine would probably be a good idea.
Anything to calm the nerves. Jill tried to mask her
thoughts, but I could tell she was still dreading this dance.
By the fourth
lesson, Mark and Jill had their wedding dance pattern locked
in. All they needed now was practice and polish.
We videotaped their routine and Mark said he intended to
study it between now and our final lesson.
The fifth lesson
went very well. I made them do their pattern over and
over again until it began to move from their brains to their
muscles. Mark's work ethic was excellent. He
didn't seem to mind the repetition at all.
As for Jill, she
seemed hopeful. She was still worried some catastrophe
might befall her, but she sensed they had a fighting chance
to make this work.
So now it was
time for "The Talk". I got their attention and told
them to keep two things in mind.
The first thing
was that they were bound to make a mistake. I told
them everyone makes a mistake during their wedding dance.
It's true... everyone flubs something!
Heck, I made a
mistake during my wedding dance. I heard someone
whisper a compliment on one of the moves that Marla and I
did. I wanted to see who liked my move and looked up.
In that instant, I forgot where I was in the pattern.
I think I ended up stepping on Marla's dress. Oops.
followed my own advice. Rather than try to "rescue the
move", I simply stopped and started the move over again.
Best of all, I smiled.
I have learned
that the guests are ridiculously forgiving at wedding dances.
They don't care if people make mistakes. No big deal.
In fact, some people think it's cute when the dancers flub
up. I'm not sure why, but the mistake seems to endear
the dance couple to the audience... as long as both dancers
laugh about it.
Indeed, it isn't
dance perfection that the
observers really care about. What they want to see is how the couple reacts to their
mistake. As long as the wedding couple smiles and laughs about it,
then everything is okay. I believe how each couple
reacts to a wedding dance mistake is a considered an omen
for how a couple will handle the inevitable problems of
second point was to always smile. I told Jill that no matter how nervous she
was, all she had to do was smile. The guests don't expect the dancers
to be perfect and they don't expect a "Dancing with the
Stars" caliber routine. What they want is to see the
wedding couple look happy out there. That is the
purpose of the First Dance ritual... to demonstrate two
people's love for one another.
Yes, it is a
burden to be expected to put on a show, especially
for people like Mark and Jill who don't generally dance in
their daily life. However,
the rewards are wonderful... the First Dance makes everyone
smile and laugh and cry. It is a good ritual.
I might add that I am glad Mark and Jill picked a cool song.
In future years, the Wedding Song assumes an unusual
importance in the relationship. It reminds both people
of how hard they worked to make a success out of their first
dance despite their lack of experience. It is
rewarding to overcome an obstacle together.
I say rather
than fear the First Dance, embrace it. Pick a song
that makes you happy and enjoy the process of learning to
dance to it.
There is an old
saying that we fear what we don't know. Most people
assume the Wedding Dance is going to be an ordeal to learn,
but it is actually nowhere near as difficult as people
seems to get it done for everyone. Yes, I
remember one couple that failed. They gave up and
didn't come to all five lessons. What they didn't know
is I would have donated more lessons if they had just stayed
this couple was the exception. Five lessons may seem
like a lot, but I have
never had a couple fail if they were willing to take their
time. The five lessons are well worth it. Five lessons
allows us to learn at a
relaxed pace and give the moves plenty of time to sink in.
The patient approach makes all the difference in the world.
So how did Mark
and Jill do? Well, they say a picture tells a story.
Let's have a look.