Thursday, September 2, 2010

Man Twirls* and Marriage Prep

There's just something about that oh-so perfect ballroom dip. It gets me every time.

Luckily, my mister willingly agreed, early on in our planning process (don't forget, hive, we had a practically-infinite-and-good-Lord-will-it-ever-end 20-month engagement) to assist with what would end up being one of the last DIY(ish) "projects" we could fit in before the wedding.

I'm talking, of course, about private dance lessons, and the choreographed number that resulted, and would transition our guests from cocktail hour to dinner and dancing.

Our goal: Master moves we could polish and perform during the just-over-two-minute-long song we'd selected. We didn't want to look overly stiff or obviously cheesy (subtly, sure), but also hoped to become familiar enough with the sequences that no amount of nerves, elation or tipsy guests could break our rhythm. So we signed up for 10 sessions, to be stretched over the eight weeks remaining before our wedding.

At the first of our weeknight, hour-long lessons, Mr. Bruschetta and I met Kate, who would instruct us right up through the final lesson just days before the wedding. She asked if we'd selected our song -- we did, and shared the title and group** -- and as she played the tune and started marking steps, moving, swaying, twisting and turning, an enormous grin crept onto her face.

"Oh, this is going to be great," Kate gushed. "I'm thinking a mix of swing and foxy -- a less formal version of the foxtrot," she rushed to explain, when met with our puzzled faces.

Both ballroom novices, we started out v-e-r-y slowly, learning the proper frame, and how the right amount of pressure -- hand-to-hand, and the connection between his other hand and my back -- was crucial to the entire equation. How else would we know where the other was planning (or hoping) to move?

During our first meeting, we didn't get beyond the proper way to execute the box step. Seriously. One hour on hand pressure and four straight-sided steps. Pushing aside the panicky feeling that we'd never perfect a performance before the wedding, we practiced our "snazzy" moves at BIL & SIL Bruschetta's June 20 wedding -- along with several overenthusiastic, embarrassingly unskilled dips.

And at our next lesson, we began learning the elements of both dance styles. At first, the sessions consisted mainly of stringing together counts to create some semblance of continuity across the floor. Soon, though, we had enough material to begin actually creating something. We offered input about when we wanted to transition from foxy to swing, and willingly agreed when Kate suggested more complicated moves that, themselves, took entire lessons to learn.

All the while, Mr. Bruschetta and I practiced diligently between our weeknight jaunts into Old City. (Immediately after our sessions, too. Summer's lingering lightness -- anyone else going to miss daylight saving time as much as I will? -- encouraged us to continue drilling our new moves on the way to the car each week. That giggling, lovey couple none-too-shyly performing along the brick sidewalks of Front and Lombard Streets? Yup, the Bruschettas.) We put in three to four hours each week, and soon, I was confident enough to strap on my reception wedges during our lessons and nightly run-throughs.

If one of us faltered on a new move, the other offered encouragement. When we performed a flawless sequence, we acknowledged the small milestone. Almost from the start, we joked how the entire exercise -- taking all these private lessons -- was like its own form of marriage prep. Communication, trust. Hard work and fun. We laughed at how many parallels there were between the step we were preparing to take, and the steps we were learning each week.

But the best part about our lessons, the reason spending all this extra time -- driving into the city, parking, practicing, heading home and dancing the same steps again and again, with our furniture pushed aside to create as much open space in the apartment as possible -- didn't drive this time-crunched bride-to-be crazy was this: When we stepped into the studio each week, the wedding stress stayed outside. We had to focus on our routine, on each other -- and in doing so, what started out as something we hoped would wow our guests ended up being more of a treat for ourselves. A weeknight date, a haven from the otherwise chaotic weeks counting down to the wedding.

I'd love to share a video snippet with the hive -- and definitely will, once we have it. My post-wedding hiatus extended beyond the 'bee, though, and so we've only very recently finalized things with our videographer, and are anxiously awaiting the finished product.

Did (or will / would) you take private lessons to prepare for your first dance?

*Our nickname for the first move of our dance, which involved Mr. Bruschetta stepping through my upstretched arm.

**So what was this mystical, mysterious song to which we spun, dipped and (man) twirled? Ah, that, dear hive, is a post for another time.

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