The Dance Instructor

Melanie LaPatin of Dance Times Square

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

Last summer, everyone was crazy about that couple who choreographed their entire processional to Chris Brown’s “Forever” and then posted it on YouTube.
I loved it. Why not? Dance makes a wedding exciting and memorable.

Has anyone come into your studio and asked you to help them do something like that?
They talk about it, but they don’t want to duplicate it. Our goal is to make the couple not look like they’ve had lessons; we want everyone to think they just happen to be fabulous dancers. Some people get so freaked out—especially the guys—but when they get here, it’s much easier than they thought, and they love it.

What’s the recommended course of study?
I suggest ten private lessons, starting three months before the wedding.

That sounds … comprehensive.
Well, in one lesson—which I do not recommend—you can learn to be comfortable in frame. In five lessons, you can master a nice little something simple, especially if you practice at home. Some couples want to do a lift and a spin and a dip; others just don’t want to look like fools. It all depends on how much time they want to put into it, and how much talent they have.

What if one person is talented and the other isn’t?
We get that all the time. Talent helps, but it’s not necessary. As long as the more proficient partner remains friendly and supportive, they get through it together.

You must be able to tell a lot about a couple from seeing them dance. Can you make predictions about the success of the marriage based on how they interact?
Absolutely. It’s a good sign if they’re accepting of each other. It’s a bad sign if there’s blame, if they say, “That’s not how Melanie did it.” Believe me, if your partner could do it perfectly for you right away, they would.

Are you married?
My partner, Tony Meredith, and I were married for fourteen years.

But not anymore?
We separated nine years ago. We get along much better now that we’re not always in each other’s faces.

Did you dance at your wedding?
We did. We were always on the road back then, going from one country to another, competition after competition, so we didn’t have time to plan anything. We just danced around like normal people.

Do you have any simple tips for a couple who can’t come in for lessons?
Good posture will help you look elegant: Keep your shoulders down and your head straight, and do not claw at your partner. Find out in advance what the dance floor feels like; you don’t want to discover at the last second that it’s very slick. And pick your favorite song. It doesn’t have to be something typical. If it’s special to you, that will come through. The audience is always very nurturing and supportive.

The audience?
I mean the guests.

Change Your Shoes
“Buy a pair of white ballroom-dance shoes; they’re more flexible than a typical high heel, and they have suede bottoms, so you won’t slip.”


The Dance Instructor