On Stage

The Wedding Crashers

How not to have two left feet

Spring is in the air, and that means brides and grooms throughout the land are getting anxious. They’re making extensive lists, checking them twice—and still freaking out that not everything will be picture perfect on their big day.

In an effort to squelch some of the anxiety that arises when couples are planning one of the most important days of their lives, dance instructor Janice Shepherd will be leading a “Wedding Dance Crash Course” through Whatcom Community College’s Community & Continuing Education series starting Wed., April 17 at Bellingham’s YWCA Ballroom.

For five weeks, those taking part—whether it’s the couple getting hitched, the parents of the betrothed, the wedding party crew or savvy guests who simply want to be on top of their game—will learn the ins and outs of how to waltz, swing and slow-dance to just about any type of music. Additionally, they’ll learn the fundamentals of leading and following.

Shepherd, a longtime ballroom dancer who’s taught the course many times before, says attendees can expect to learn to dance with each other as a cohesive unit.

For those who’ve been under the impression they have two left feet and will never, ever be able to dance with anything approaching style, Shepherd says she tells them to “just listen for the beat that makes you want to move your feet.

“The only rule for a beginning dancer is ‘dancing is just walking to music’—one foot after the other; left, right, left, right, etc.,” Shepherd says.

Although she’s not teaching people to join Dancing With the Stars or train for a career on the stage, Shepherd knows what she’s doing is pretty important to those involved, and she wants to ensure they have the tools at hand to both enjoy their wedding and shine on the dance floor. 

“The main goal, typically, is to be able to dance with the groom, the bride, and/or the bride’s/groom’s mother/father in the traditional introductory dance,” she says. “I encourage the couple to bring their chosen music to the class so we can learn the dance that goes with their music.”

As a teacher who enjoys dancing as much as she loves showing others how to be successful at it, Shepherd is known to be patient and relaxed when she’s giving instructions, and wants to be sure the lessons she shares have a lasting effect.

“The thing I enjoy most is seeing people learn something that will enrich their lives forever,” she says. “The most challenging thing is meeting everyone’s learning style—some like demonstration, some like words, some like pictures, some like numbers, etc.—and covering all the bases so everyone learns and has fun doing it.”

And, although she’s not typically around when the big day rolls around—when the bride and groom, bride and bride, or groom and groom finally get hitched—Shepherd has enough experience to know that her wedding “crashing” does more than just lessen the stress of getting married.

“I have found the harmony created by learning to lead and follow on the dance floor transfers into relationships,” she says. It also means anxious couples can cross one more thing off their list.

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