Erin’s Engagement: Dancing the Night Away

Erin and Randy prepare for their first dance by taking a lesson.

Erin and Randy, doing the dip.

My fiancé is a man’s man. He loves football, cars, beer, and anything you can cook on a grill. So when I first approached him with the idea of taking a dance lesson to prepare for our wedding, I was sure he’d be against it.

Surprisingly, he agreed with minimal groaning. Neither of us wants to look silly or awkward during our first dance as husband and wife, so we definitely needed help. We didn’t want a series of ballroom-dance lessons, but we needed to practice dancing to our song so that we aren’t simply swaying back and forth for four minutes while our friends and family look on.

I got in touch with Penny Cupina, a well-known personality among Washington brides. Penny has been a dancer and choreographer for 25 years. A few years ago, her daughter was planning a wedding and noticed on a message board that a local bride wanted to take one dance lesson before her big day. Penny has a dance studio in her basement, so her daughter asked her if she’d be willing to give a lesson. Penny agreed, and a flourishing business was born.

I contacted Penny a few months ago, and she told me to wear a dress that moved similarly to my wedding dress and to wear the shoes I’d be wearing on my wedding day. Randy was to wear dress shoes as well—no sneakers. We also had to bring a CD with our song on it.
Both of us were acting like nervous teenagers when we arrived. We have danced together before but never in a structured way. I wasn’t sure how clumsy we’d be or how willing Randy would be to endure an hour of dance instruction. Penny led us into her studio and turned on our song: “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. We began by walking back and forth to the music to get a feel for the beat: slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick. After we felt comfortable with that, Penny showed us my basic stance: one hand on Randy’s shoulder and the other in his hand. She explained that I needed to hold my arms firmly so he has something to push against as he guides me around the dance floor.

We learned one step, then another and another until we had a routine. We practiced the routine to our song several times—stepping on each other’s toes occasionally—until we felt comfortable dancing the entire way through. When we made a mistake, I’d make a face, which Penny warned me not to do. No one but us will know if we make a mistake. We just have to go with it.

At the end of the hour, we weren’t ready for Dancing With the Stars, but we were moving much more gracefully than when we arrived. Finally, Penny taught us an entrance, and—my favorite part—an ending dip. Before we left, she gave us a typed description of our routine from start to finish so we can practice at home. We’ll see how we do without someone patiently calling out the next step.

In the end, we may end up doing a mix of the routine we learned and some unchoreographed swaying. I enjoyed the experience, though as well as the confidence it gave us. I also appreciated that my man’s man was willing to spend an hour twirling me around a dance floor. I guess it takes a man in love to realize that there’s a time for football, a time for beer, and a time to dance.

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