By Patricia Campbell
Blame it on Strictly fever. Blame it on the outlandish wedding dance routines going viral on You Tube. Or just blame it on that obsessive reflex that sees us striving to ensure every last detail of our wedding day is flawless.
The fact is, more couples than ever are booking in for wedding dance lessons; and it's a trajectory Karen Hardy, former Strictly Come Dancing champion and host of the show’s red button coverage, is all too familiar with. Her popular wedding dance tutorials, delivered at her West London dance studios, attract a steady stream of nervy novices hoping to become sure-footed ballroom pros by the big day. I’ll be giving them a go in the spring; for now, Karen shares her top tips for a faultless First Dance...
1. Get the groom onside
You might think that your greatest wedding dance hurdle will be learning the steps. In fact it’s getting your fiancé to agree to take a dance lesson in the first place. ‘Be sensitive to the fact that he’s probably petrified of making a fool of himself in front of his mates’, Karen suggests, ‘and remind him of the numerous Alpha male sporting types who have found glory on the Strictly dancefloor’. Failing that, inform him that Karen’s studio also has a pretty decent bar.
2. Stick to a formula
Karen will enthuse about the ‘daring’ couples she has worked with, such as the ‘unique’ pair who broke into a hip-hop routine mid-Foxtrot, or the ‘very special celebrity’ she recently helped create a ‘Frank Sinatra meets Bollywood routine’. But for classic wedding dance choreography, she adopts a tried and tested TV entertainment formula: ‘a nice little beginning, a peak in the middle and a great end’. Make your dance as complicated as you like, but this structure should be your foundation.
3. Choose your song wisely
Your wedding song will dictate the rhythm, mood and style of your dance so it’s worth sharing track ideas with your dance instructor. Having a band at your reception? ‘Bear in mind that the live version of your song will sound very different to the recorded version you have been practicing to’, Karen warns, ‘as the strong beats you were looking for might not be there’. The solution? 'Start your dance to the official recording and let the live band kick in later, or ask your band to send a recording of the live track to practice to'
4. Avoid wardrobe malfunctions
Strapless bustier-style wedding gowns and flamboyant dance moves don’t mix. Avoid embarrassing Grandma by asking your dressmaker to sew bra hooks on the inside of your dress, Karen suggests, allowing you to add temporary dress straps while you dance. If you have a train, have a drawstring added so that you can gather it up into a romantic bustle, leaving your feet free for fancy footwork.
5. It’s your moment. Show off
Years of delivering stellar performances, both on the punishing professional dance circuit and on live TV shows with global audiences, has not diminished Karen’s infectious sense of romance about the magic of partner dance: ‘That moment on the Strictly dancefloor is all about the couple. And that’s what a wedding day is about too –the glamour, the beauty, all eyes on you’. Revel in it.
6. Dance for fitness
Finally, if you’re still struggling to justify adding learning to dance to your ever-increasing wedding to-do list, remember that dance practice could chip away at those pre-wedding fitness goals. Dance is great for an overall workout, and particular styles will also target specific body areas. For toned arms go Latin: ‘the Cha Chas and the Salsas typically involve lots of arm decorations’, says Karen. Equally, ‘the classic ballroom top line, which requires holding your arms up at the right position, and keeping those two elbows in the same spot throughout, is a real burner’. Tango and Jive are ‘perfect for lower body shaping’ as the constant knee bending ‘really works your thighs and buttocks'.
Karen Hardy’s Wedding Dance packages start from £99. Click here for more info.
Photos: IMAXTREE, Guy Levy 2012