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Baltimore Sun - June 2, 2011 By Jennifer Broadwater (reprinted in part)
Ballroom Fever
Newlyweds make the most of their dance floor debut

... Ryan and Cristin McMichael, of Ellicott City, performed a rumba to Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” at their May 1, 2010, reception at Turf Valley Resort.

“Neither of us are very good dancers, and we wanted our first dance as a married couple to be something memorable,” says Ryan. “It was a great feeling. We can watch it over and over since it is on video.”

Special dance elements can add not only a romantic touch, but also can set a fun-loving tone to break the ice on the dance floor.

At Marianne and Michael Hussle’s reception, the plan is to involve a dozen members of Michael’s family in — what else? — the hustle.

Bri and Matt decided to take lessons to add an “element of surprise” to their wedding. Since their friends and family would expect something zany from this pair, they chose to do something decidedly traditional. And after their time in the spotlight, Bri and Matt will lighten the mood by inviting the wedding party to join them on the dance floor for a simple line dance to Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried.”

Redman calls dance lessons “a real trust exercise” for couples.

“We teach them how to hear the music and how to lead,” she says. “When all that’s going on, you’re going to be nervous. You have to just step out of yourselves and forget about everyone else.”


  • Whether you prefer 3-inch stilettos, ballet slippers or Chuck Taylors, wear your wedding day shoes to all lessons.
  • Grooms should consider practicing in a suit jacket, while the bride should consider the n and length of her veil.
  • Practice at home. This helps develop muscle memory.
  • Schedule several lessons. The more lessons, the more intricate your dance can be.
  • Dance TV shows can be misleading. Few people can master an elaborately choregraphed dance in a short period of time.


The Wedding Dance Specialists

Big dreams vs. economy - Visitors to bridal expo react to tough times in different ways
By Arin Gencer | Sun Reporter
reprinted in part

Tennille Stokes started planning more than a year ahead of her wedding so that she wouldn't have to draw from her savings. She's nixed a limo, planned the ceremony and reception in one location and reduced her guest list from 250 to 100 - and even contemplated a smaller ceremony with only a dozen people at one point.Some of the brides, like Stokes, remained firmly rooted in economic reality... They were already looking to life after the wedding - looming house payments and other necessities that would be placing demands on their bank accounts...

...But for others, tough times have done little to dim their radiant plans."Weddings are a vibrant industry whenever," said Marc McIntosh, the show's producer, who organized the event at the hotel. Weddings being planned now often have been budgeted for a year or two, unaffected by recent economic developments, he added. Still, McIntosh said, there might be some cost-cutting in light of the economy's current state: opting for a $20 entree instead of one for $22, or spending 90 percent of what one would normally have budgeted. He recalled one reception venue saying more people were booking on Fridays and Sundays, instead of the popular Saturday.

"(Some aspects of) wedding planning are economy-proof - brides are going to spend the money (for sentimental items or priceless memories)," said Deborah Joy Block, who runs Wedding Dance Specialists with her husband, Brian. "They want to remember their wedding as a great day."

..."We have to live after May 2," said Wilson, referring to her wedding date. So she and her entourage were scoping out ways to do certain things, such as favors, themselves - at a lower price.Yet as the Wilson sisters and friends Tonya Blue and Keshawn Golson studied the elaborate, multicolored rose arrangements from florist Ann's Garden, they seemed to agree that this would have to be an exception. "We'll have to splurge for this one," Crystal Wilson said...

...Nicki Gonzalez, a vocalist with Elan Artists, which provides live music, said she has noticed people are not "indulging in the extravagance" as much."Music ends up being one of those things where, if they can downsize to a DJ, they will," Gonzalez said. Downsizing has been a factor in the kitchen, too, with more orders of cakes for shorter guest lists, or bakers offering to make a smaller version of a multi-tiered showpiece, along with a less expensive sheet cake on the side, to accommodate larger weddings.

...Some people are simply planning much further in advance, so costs don't overwhelm them, said Christopher J. Sikora, general manager of Sweet, an Ellicott City-based bakery and cafe."Most of these brides planned their weddings even before they met the groom," said Sikora, as one prospective customer after another snatched samples of almond, chocolate-chip and vanilla cake at his booth. "They're not going to be willing to compromise on a lot." The price tag did not seem to be an immediate concern for Tara Lacidonia, 21, who is planning an April wedding. "My dad said there's no budget," she said - although, her mother added, that might change once he starts seeing the bills. Still, Lacidonia said, if she sees something she likes, she'll go for it. After all, it is her wedding day.

Gotta dance, just gotta
By Abigail Tucker Sun Reporter
copied in part from August 6, 2006 in the Arts/Life Section

The left-footed crowd needs help for weddings, so businesses now exist to teach short-term dancing By Abigail Tucker Sun Reporter Originally published August 6, 2006 The trouble is the dip. Not the raspberry yogurt dip to complement the assorted melon slices; the wedding caterers have that under control. It's the dancing dip, where 25-year-old Michelle Rabovsky is slated to recline, resplendent, in her new husband's arms, as 100 guests wildly applaud.

And yet, at a fox trot lesson three weeks before the big day, the dip remains a low point for the couple, neither of whom has really danced before. The groom, Jonathan Keck, 24, is supposed to signal its approach by gently squeezing below her shoulder blade, or murmuring in her ear. Instead, he barks, "Diiiiiiiip!" as though calling in an airstrike. This alarms Michelle so much that she barely bends backward, her spine as stiff as a shower rod.

"The good news" - a calm, reasonable, Ukrainian-accented voice interrupts - "is that it's not a long song."

This is Valery, the couple's dance instructor. She works for the Wedding Dance Specialists, one of a new breed of businesses specializing in the growing market for prenuptial ballroom lessons, often for total beginners who just want to squeak through the first dance without shattering each other's toe bones. This is peak season for the classes, when the most organized couples rehearse for autumn ceremonies, and procrastinators cram for the glut of summer ones. All want to spare their grandmothers the sight of the nightclub-style grinding and bear-hug swaying that passes for dancing these days. A few, inspired by the recent run of television dance contests, even want to put on a show.

The Wedding Dance Specialists - which is based in Virginia but steadily expanding up the coast, renting space in dance studios - just opened a Baltimore location; there are others in Jessup and Columbia, and the one in Towson opened last year. That's where Valery, 26, is working this Wednesday night in July, teaching the rhumba, the cha-cha-cha, and all the rest.

This is Michelle and Jonathan's second and final private lesson, and they're wearing casual clothes with their wedding shoes: his lace-ups are patent leather, her heels are oyster-shell white. Both pairs are being broken in as they fox trot to the tune of their song, Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable." Gently, Valery guides them. "Jonathan, it has to at least look like you're leading," she says. "You're taking her into the dip. You're taking her out." She draws imaginary boxes on the floor. She shows them how to clasp hands."It's a lot to remember, I know."

Unforgettable" plays again and again; the Columbia couple - he's a police officer, she does pricing for J.C. Penney - gaze into each other's eyes, and for a moment, the dance clicks. But a few too many traveling steps later and they are stuck in a corner, entangled with a fake tree, giggling helplessly.

Other parts of the cavernous, mirror-walled studio are being used by instructors from different companies, and women in their 50s and 60s take lessons to perfect their technique. They stomp through the tango, hair slashing through the air, moving fast enough to leave skid marks.Such women are the last generation for whom formal dance was a cultural must; rest assured, most did not need to take lessons before their weddings. And yet they are the mothers of today's brides, who are part of the most dance-deprived generation yet.A phone call to USA Dance, a national association of ballroom dancers, points to two causes: feminism and rock 'n' roll. "In the 1940s, there was swing music," says Ken Richards, a spokesman for the group, recalling the days when elegant couples minidragged and cuddle-dropped. But rock 'n' roll drove a wedge between partners (the twist is not danced cheek to cheek), and with the 1960s came "the whole freedom thing, and the feminist movement, and the music reflected that," he said. "So we tore ourselves away from pairs and danced freestyle."

Today's mothers of the bride came of age during this period; many learned the waltz and the jitterbug but abandoned them for Woodstock-style mass gyrations, and later the delights of disco. Then came the free-wheeling dances of the 1980s, the grunge era, and also - hit it, Billy Ray Cyrus! - the line dancing craze. It seemed as if ballroom had bowed out for good. Yet through it all, "the wedding was the one place where it hung on," Richards said. "That first dance, with Mr. and Mrs. Whatever, is just integral." Faced with this tradition, couples winged it as well as they could. But no longer. The American wedding is more extravagant than ever, and brides recoil at the slightest imperfection, let alone an amateurish dance in the spotlight. Also, a spate of televised contests - America's Got Talent, Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance - has whetted bridal appetites for more polished performances, and couples are happy to pay $80 or so for a private lesson.

"The need was there, and it was not being met by traditional studios," said Deborah Joy, who started the Wedding Dance Specialists five years ago. "These are short-term clients with short-term goals, and we accept that reality." Couples with four left feet are stampeding for the service. They don't want to just sway from side to side. They want to look refined.

First steps
Refined is a lot to ask for. Some of the young couples - like Tom McCarthy, 25, and Mackenzie Bard, 24, together for nearly half a decade - have never slow danced together in their lives, or danced much at all, with anyone.

"Well," Tom says, "I guess I danced at my senior prom."

Mackenzie: "I didn't."

Valery purses her lips.

It's another lesson later Wednesday night. The Owings Mills couple haven't taken the advice of the Wedding Dance Specialists Web site, which - along with practical tips, like not scattering rice on the dance floor - suggests easy-to-dance-to classics: Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Etta James. Instead they've picked Dido's "Thank You," which has a quickened beat. Valery listens to a snippet. "Rhumba," she says warily. Good thing the wedding isn't until November and the couple have a six-lesson package. She starts teaching the slanting steps to Tom, a Wachovia bank teller. He imitates them, hands in his pockets. This looks less like dancing than divot-stomping. His betrothed, a YMCA swim instructor, suppresses a snort.