Experts: The Dance Doctors

Your first-ever romantic turn on the floor might have been awkward, but with a little practice, your first one as a married couple doesn’t have to be.


Photograph by Jessica Scranton

FOR SOME FOLKS, dancing is pure fun. For others, it’s an anxiety-inducing prospect. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, if a wedding dance is in your near future, lessons should be, too. Hundreds of couples have turned to Arthur Murray Dance Studios owner Mark Lightner and instructor Kia Kenney for help preparing for their first dance as husband and wife. These two know what it takes to get the most shine out of your time in the spotlight—and are more than happy to get you ready for the spin of a lifetime.

What is your studio’s teaching style?
MARK LIGHTNER: The most unique thing about our curriculum is probably the three phases. First, there’s no preset schedule. Our students pick the
intensity and the amount of repetition based on their availability and their passion for dancing. Second, we teach everything based on a predetermined syllabus that allows us to be a lot more efficient. Finally, we have a national board that constantly updates our lessons with new information, so when dance styles become popular, you get that syllabus delivered to you, ready to go.

What dance styles are popular these days? Are we all still doing the waltz?
ML: We’ll always see traditional, but we’ve seen amazing creativity. One thing that’s brought us a lot of information is YouTube. Students walk in and say, “Here’s what I want to do at my wedding. How do I learn that kind of thing?”
KIA KENNEY: Salsa is popular if they have a destination wedding. We’ve done Latin medleys for people. We also get a lot of requests for swing from those who want something more lively. We try to tailor it around the music, because the song usually has some meaning.

Are there any dances that are klutzproof?
ML: There are definitely dances that are easier than others. Some are less complicated in basic rhythm, and we pride ourselves on making adjustments. A lot of it depends on how much time you want to spend training. And what we find out is that often a couple’s desire for the finished product and their commitment to learn aren’t always in balance, and that’s an important consideration.

What do you find is more successful: memorizing choreography, or learning some steps to the rhythm of your song and then freestyling?
KK: If someone wants a choreographed dance, we certainly will deliver that. But if you can spend the time to actually learn how to dance, then you have ownership of what you’re doing. If you have to map out and learn choreographed steps to every beat of the music, that’s one more thing to think about. And it can sometimes detract from the partnership aspect, which is what makes watching a dance so enjoyable.

So why take classes? Theoretically, the couple could just stand there and waddle back and forth for three minutes.
ML: Your first dance is such a highlight; when you watch it after the fact and realize you did the high school sway out there and were capable of more, that’s kind of disappointing. I think there are a lot of couples that have a go-for-
it attitude and decide to make it something special. Most important, wedding planning can get hectic, and often the dance lessons are one of the few times that they can really focus on each other.