Teaching Non-Dancers to Dance

Photo Credit: Santiago Murillo Photography

Photo Credit: Santiago Murillo Photography

At the beginning of August, my friend Katie got married to her fiancé Charlie.  They are so cute together that it makes you believe that love actually exists.  For their first wedding dance, they asked me to choreograph a routine for them to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”  I was super excited, nervous, and terrified all at the same time.  I love to choreograph, but my biggest fear wasn’t choreographing the dance; it was creating a piece that they were going to be comfortable doing in a room full of people.

Needless to say I took the approach of teaching these non-dancers as I would a five year old.  This doesn’t mean that I treated them like a child.  It means that I wanted to see what they would do with only a little direction.  I started by showing them a basic step and once they would understand a step I would bring it to the next level by tying that step in with something a little more difficult.  For example, everyone knows the square box step that you did when you were at a middle school dance.  When the guy had no idea what he was doing and he kept stepping on your feet.  That step was the first step we worked on.  They mastered this very quickly, so, I started teaching them how to turn it.  From teaching Charlie how he needed to hold Katie’s back, to where each one of them had to step to make the circle turn in a specific direction.

The thought process behind choreographing their first dance was to make it flow, as well as have them change direction and throw in some tricks.  In most cases, the audience isn’t going to notice if a step has been repetited or not because they are too memorized and impressed by the awesome skills the bride and groom have come to obtain.  Throwing in some one handed spins so the bride’s dress flowed, a follow the leader sequence, and some hand connecting twists and turns can make any dance ignite into a show.

I think the most important factor teaching non-dancers to dance is how dedicated they are to learning.  Katie and Charlie were so determined to get everything I taught them perfectly in sync that we met once a week for a few hours for three weeks to learn the dance.  Once it was taught and choreographed it was up to them to perfect it without me.  They both took the initiative to practice a lot leading up to their wedding.  On their wedding weekend it seemed like every time I saw them they were telling me that they were leaving early from a gathering to go practice.  When I saw the final piece at their wedding I was so proud of the two of them that I could not contain my excitement.   As soon as it was done, I had to jump out of my chair and hug the both of them.

In the end of it all, it is not about teaching someone anything, but how hard they are willing to work to perfect it.


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