Making Your First Dance Memorable

Dance like a star at your own wedding.

My husband and I can do a mean hustle. At our wedding, it was the only dance we knew. But that was okay because it was 1979; Travolta was king, and Donna Summer was queen. My new husband, hot stuff in his white suit, danced me around a mirrored ball, not a videographer. Those guys weren’t in business yet.

Thirty years later, they are, and so are YouTube and Facebook. You need to look good for your guests, for your exes, for your old bunkmates at Camp Minnehaha. You want your future kids to know that Mommy could do a hot rumba. So don’t delay. Westchester has many experts ready to get you started, and the most important thing, they say, isn’t aptitude. It’s time. “Your dance is a highlight of your wedding and should be treated like a highlight,” says Dmitri Ostashkin of New York Dance Center. “It must be planned for, not last minute.” The goal is muscle memory, the ability to dance on automatic pilot in the face of nerves and stress, and most studios recommend 10 lessons to accomplish it. Often, the first one is complimentary.

Bring your wedding-day shoes (open-back mules won’t work, ladies) and your chosen song (if you don’t have the shoes or the song, the studio can advise you), and a teacher will assess your goals, skills, and recommend a particular dance. Usually, it’s a foxtrot or swing. “They are the basic American dances,” says Westchester Ballroom’s Barbara Antes, though Latin, she adds, has become very popular. You can learn basic steps, of course, but most teachers recommend memorizing a routine—“so you know you look good,” says Fred Astaire/Tarrytown’s Sasha Bylim. His choreography tends to finish with a camera-ogling dip or kiss. And if you don’t mind sharing the spotlight, consider some practice for your bridal party, or for that inevitable tear-fest, the parent/child waltz. You can get more practice in at the frequent socials all studios offer. “They help build confidence,” says Smith’s Dancing School’s Desiree Smith, though supreme confidence, she adds, takes about eight months. Well, that’s fine if Bruno, Len, and Carrie Ann are going to be wedding guests; otherwise, most studios feel 10 lessons are sufficient. “Any less than that won’t make much of a difference,” says Ostashkin, citing nerves and unfamiliar surroundings. “It’s like the Olympic Games, you have just one chance—unless you’re planning another husband in four years.” Um, I say go for the 10.

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Ballroom Dance Studios

Arthur Murray Dance Studios
> 100 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains (914) 948-5929
> 2616 Central Ave, Yonkers (914) 337-8008
Basic package: Five half-hour lessons—$450

Dance New York
565 N State Rd, Briarcliff Manor (914) 762-9577
Five 45-minute lessons—$395; 10 for $735

Fred Astaire Dance Studios
> 15 N Broadway, Tarrytown, (914) 366-4695
> 451 E Boston Post Rd, Mamaroneck (914) 381-2562
> 25 W Hartsdale Ave, Hartsdale (914) 949-2553
> 172 Harris Rd, Bedford Hills (914) 242-9240
Prices vary by studio, but on average: Five 40-minute lessons: $490; 10 for $880

New York Dance Center
645 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley (914) 478-8844
10 half-hour lessons: $630

Smith’s Dancing School
26 Broadway, Hawthorne (914) 747-6286
Half-hour lesson: $50; buy 10 lessons, get one free.

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Westchester Ballroom Dance Studio
160 Marble Ave, Pleasantville
(914) 773-7773,
Basic Package: Five half-hour lessons—$200

All price quotes are for private lessons

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