Danielle Karczewski helps couples start their marriages on the right foot.
As an instructor and co-owner of Duneland Ballroom in Chesterton, she makes sure they can find their way around a dance floor. “The first dance is a time when after all of the craziness, a couple can kick back, get in each other’s arms and have a good time,” she says. “Lessons are a time when they can laugh and really enjoy each other. What a great way to start a marriage: focused on each other.”
“The vast majority of couples have never had to get out in front of people and dance,” says Marcel Gonzales, ballroom director at Valparaiso Ballroom. “Lessons can help them find a comfort level and build confidence.”
Area studios offer a three-pronged approach: private lessons to focus on strengths and weaknesses, group classes to build on basics in a collaborative setting, and dance parties to practice in a familiar environment. “Saturday night dance parties are an opportunity to test your wings before you fly on your own,” Karczewski says. “Couples can get their first-time jitters out of the way through a spotlight performance. We treat it like a dress rehearsal.”
Instructors guide couples through the process, whether it’s just choreography for a first dance or general moves adaptable in a variety of social settings. For a first dance, lessons start with song selection. “We listen for the rhythm of the music and we can choose the appropriate choreography,” Gonzales says.
“We can provide guidance on how to make the music work for the couple,” says Keith Clinton, owner of Gotta Dance in Schererville. “We have the wealth of choreography that can build a routine with steps that a couple will most likely not have had the time or opportunity to have seen or experienced.”
While most first dances end up being rumbas or waltzes, some couples go for a unique routine. “I have couples do fake-outs where you start with one style of music and it stops and cuts to something totally different,” Karczewski says.
“I once taught a couple the hustle, as part of their goal was to surprise everybody,” Gonzales says. “The motivation for those who don’t want to try something more traditional is to create a wow factor.”
Karczewski witnesses how dancing can go beyond the wedding on her trips to Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs, Illinois.
“I see couples in their seventies, eighties and nineties, and you know they have been dancing together since their twenties. They made time to do this throughout every decade of their marriage,” she says. “It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside that they continue to share this together.”