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Tipsheet: Dancing Lessons

Amy Garcia Phillips, the wedding-program coordinator at DanceSport on the Upper West Side, has been coaching the soon-to-be-wed set for five years. "Dancing is such a telltale of the relationship's dynamic," she says. "As an instructor, I learn a lot about a couple and how they deal with each other." And as a recent bride, she's been there, too: "When I felt like my husband wasn't doing enough of the wedding planning, my saying to him 'You need to do more on the dance floor' really meant 'You need to call the florist, too.' " So, before stepping into the limelight, take the following lessons with you.

Let him lead.
In traditional dance, the man leads the way. Take a sympathetic stance, ladies. "It's hard for the men because they have so much more to do-listen to the music, remember the steps, negotiate around other people, and come up with the next move." Amy says. Wait for him to catch up, see what he's going to do, and let him make mistakes.

Find a balance.
Ballroom dance may enforce old-fashioned gender roles, but it's an equal partnership. You both have to let go of a certain amount of control to find your rhythm. "It's the coming together of your strengths and weaknesses as a couple," Amy says. "Dancing is a skill-it takes more than one lesson." Have patience with each other, and get started early: Five months is a good rule of thumb.

Calm her fears.
"One word of advice that I tell my men: From the moment you get into an embrace, you have to have complete control; even if you're not sure of what you're doing, pretend that you are," Amy says. The idea is that if you hold your partner with authority, she'll let go; if she senses fear, she'll take over. Shore up that confidence early on or it's never going to happen.

Set the tone.
Dancing is a social skill, a nonverbal conversation. If the conversation is going well, those around you will want to join in. Some couples prefer a fully choreographed number; for others, a little improvisation means the dance can be more in the moment. "Whatever you do, the first dance sets the tone at the reception," Amy says. "If you get out there and have a great time, your guests will want to rush out onto the floor with you."

Dance on.
Learning how to dance with each other is a lifetime investment. Long after your wedding is over, the dance will carry on, at every special event, in your living room, on an anniversary. As Amy says, "It will take you so much farther than your wedding day."

From the Fall 2005 New York Wedding Guide

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