Today I have a special treat for you. As you start envisioning your wedding day, you will start to ask the question of what your first dance will look like. Will you do a simple slow dance with your partner or a big choreographed number? If the latter is what you envision, I’ve brought in Karolina Paliwoda for some expert advice on deciding on your first dance as a couple.

Karolina is an independent latin and ballroom dancer and instructor, and is the Canadian Champion and World Championship finalist. She has spent two years working in New York for Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin from So You Think You Can Dance, and now does instructor training workshops for many dance studios in the GTA.

Here are some of her impressive competition shots and below are some questions I asked her about choosing a first dance. She provides some valuable insight on deciding what your first dance will be like given your circumstances. Enjoy!

Karolina Paliwoda on a couple's first dance Karolina Paliwoda on a couple's first dance

What styles are most popular for the first dance?

From experience, every single couple has their own unique style, and their own image of how they would like their first dance to look. Two of the most popular ballroom dances are the waltz and the rumba, however I have choreographed many different first dances, from beautiful waltzes to exciting salsas. All dances are possible to have choreographed for a first dance, and the end result is always a comfortable and impressive performance.

What factors influence what type of ballroom or latin dance is chosen?

The couple’s dance choice is influenced by their song choice, the size of the dance floor at their venue, as well as their attire.

Couples usually choose to dance to a song that has special meaning to them, or perhaps one that they heard when they first met or fell in love. The structure and melody of their song ultimately influences their ballroom dance choice, as only certain ballroom dances can be danced to certain types of music.

The size of their dance floor varies at every venue and should also be considered. Ballroom dances (for example a foxtrot or a quickstep) travel counterclockwise around the floor and require slightly more space, whereas latin dances (for example a rumba or a jive) can be choreographed to be more stationary. The goal is to choreograph a routine with steps that allow the couple to look and feel comfortable, and work perfectly with the space available to them.

Every dance style also has its own pace. If a bride is planning to dance in her long wedding gown, it is a better choice to choose a slightly slower dance. This will ensure that both the bride and groom will feel comfortable with their steps, and that fabric will not get in the way of their performance.

How many dance lessons does it take for couples to learn their first dance?

If a couple chooses to create an entire dance, including an entrance and conclusion, it takes at least 10 lessons for them to learn their choreography and some technique. If a couple perhaps does not have much time to prepare before their wedding date, it is also possible to make a shorter routine within 5 dance lessons. Overall, it is never too late to have one or two sessions to learn a few basic steps for such an important occasion.

How early do you suggest couples to start their first dance?

It is never too early for couples to start learning their choreography and perfect their technique. As the wedding date approaches, there are always last minute details that come up and other matters to tend to. It is best to have choreography memorized and rehearsed at least one week prior to the event, eliminating any stress the day of. If couples can, is it a good idea to begin taking lessons 1-3 months before their wedding, which gives them lots of time to practice their choreography, technique, and schedule any extra lessons if they need more help! Creating a first dance is truly a wonderful experience that a couple can share together. It is an opportunity to create beautiful memories, as well as an expression of love for one another through music, movement and dance.

Rebecca Chan is a Toronto wedding planner and day of wedding coordinator providing sophisticated planning for the style-savvy couple. Whether you need planning assistance or wedding day coordination, Rebecca can help you create your dream wedding day. Contact her today, she'd love to hear from you.