Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Symbolism of the Spotlight Dances for Same Sex Couples

Same sex couples like heterosexual couples are faced with the harsh reality that a wedding reception is a significant investment in many things that will only last one day but live on in your memories and photo album- with one exception - the dance lessons.  The cake will be eaten, the flowers will die, the attire will be preserved, sold or donated but learning to dance is an investment in your relationship which lives on. Dancing is a life skill useful for future special occasions or even just tender moments in your living room on a rainy night! Our students say their dancing date nights are the most fun and romantic time they have during the wedding planning process and our couples tell us that the First Dance is the most sentimental moment of the reception too!

Many same sex couples are realizing the importance of expressing their unity and growing closer through this unique learning experience. They are seizing the opportunity to proudly shine on the dance floor while personalizing their celebration through their own creative expression. For these insightful couples, the First Dance is often the highlight of the reception and the most vivid wedding memory guests recall since an image tells a thousand words. At first, there are nervous hesitations of expressing their physical affection in public or creating misperceptions about roles and gender identity but it is our job as dance professionals to guide same sex couples through the process that customizes their unique personalities and relationship dynamics so they accurately represent their signature style on their special day. The spotlight dances with the parents is also a sacred ritual to honor the parental bond and love and in return the parents are demonstrating public respect for their son/daughter, acceptance of his/her choices and pride in who their son/daughter has become. 

TWDS Students, Ken Patterson and Brian Burson, wed 9/14/13
There are lots of aspects of the wedding that can be outsourced - - the bakery, the caterer, the florist, the event planner. There are three vital components that only the couple themselves can execute in order for a wedding to demonstrate the strength of their relationships - - their vows and their First Dance and the speeches.  The public and legally binding vows verbally profess the couple’s intentions to be supportive and loyal to each other, the speeches commemorate bonds and the spotlight dances seal the deal with action. And actions speak louder than words. These public rituals are especially validating to same sex couples who have historically been denied the right to marry, felt shunned or misunderstood by family, felt stigmatized by religious organizations or marginalized by society or kept their relationships a secret from employers, colleagues, neighbors. 

Now that many states have legalized same sex wedding, more same sex couples are bravely putting their best foot forward because they realize that words alone do not a relationship make.  After all, successful relationships do not involve daily verbal vowal renewals and flowery speeches. Instead they require sincerity through your actions both big and small. Just as couples and their families attend a rehearsal to prepare for their ceremony, it is vital to dedicate some time in advance before making their public debut so everyone can sparkle in the spotlight. By exercising teamwork and patience during private rehearsals and ultimately for public display, the couple “moves as one” on the dance floor and a promise is sealed and delivered. For this reason, the "spotlight" dances are the most sacred ritual of any wedding reception regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple.

Since our doors opened for business in 2000 we have welcomed same sex couples to our studios because we believe everyone deserves the same chance to dance and romance! Our couples tell us with a little preparation the spotlight dances will transform the most sentimental moment into the most photogenic and memorable moment for them and their guests!

"We had a great time and learned a great deal! We recommend The Wedding Dance Specialists to other same-sex couples andopposite-sex couples whether learning to dance for their wedding or just for the pure fun of dancing! We give them all top scores when it comes to professionalism, quality of instruction, availability and ofcourse enjoyment! Dance lessons were definitely worthwhile and we did so much better than if we had tried to "wing it." Ken Patterson and Brian Burson, wed 9/14/13

The Wedding Dance Specialists is the premiere national expert of the wedding dance industry. Deborah Joy and Brian Block founded the company in 2000, while engaged and preparing their own "First Dance." Year after year,The Wedding Dance Specialists remain the most recommended wedding dance company according to engaged couples, wedding vendors and the media.  The company has taught over 10,000 engaged couples. Appearing repeatedly on Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Network, The Wedding Dance Specialists and their students starred on an episode of "Real Weddings by the Knot", the nation's first wedding reality show. In addition to attracting celebrity clientele, The Wedding Dance Specialists were the nations original wedding dance company and have since inspired an entire niche industry that has expanded worldwide!

Copyright 2014 The Wedding Dance Specialists. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dance Studio Etiquette for Teachers and Students

by Deborah Joy Block, certified etiquette instructor and professional dance instructor/performer
There are lots of articles about social dance etiquette and a few about ballet student etiquette but despite the fact that ballroom studios have existed in this country for over 100 years it is quite rare to find an article on the subject. Some landlords question the need for guidelines because they assume the rules should be "common sense." Unfortunately history shows that without formalized rules, societies descend into chaos. Hence The 10 Commandments, The Bill of Rights, The US Constitution, International Human Rights Law, etc.. Therefore common sense certainly does not always prevail in a room full of “divas” who often operate on incorrect assumptions or whims - so official etiquette rules are required. These tips are designed to ensure a pleasant and fair work environment with satisfied customers enjoying high quality lessons. Studio landlords, feel free to copy this and post it or distribute it to your staff. I hope you will find it a useful resource to maintain a peaceful and pleasant studio atmosphere! Feel free to add your own etiquette suggestions (without specifically IDENTIFYING individuals as that is ALSO a breach of etiquette and your comment will be deleted.) Enjoy!
  1. If space allows, set up speakers & use mirrors at OPPOSITE CORNERS of the studio NOT NEXT to another lesson already in progress.
  2. Once all 4 corners are full THEN fill in the middle sections to avoid creating a crowded, distracting and dangerous teaching environment.
  3. If you need to play music LOUDLY or NONSTOP while rehearsing alone and directly next to ongoing lessons please use EARPHONES.
  4. GROUP lessons requires MORE space and are noisier so either rent the whole room or do NOT teach middle sections. Simply swap positions with your neighbors.
  5. If you set yourself beside a privacy curtain assume that your neighbors may expect you to use it or else switch places with them so others can take advantage of the amenity.
  6. Rent space during non peak hours (anytime BEFORE 6pm) if you are teaching tap or flamenco, drumming, zills or other loud percussive dances. Anything after 6pm requires that you rent the entire back room as you are making it IMPOSSIBLE for others to teach next to you.
  7. Be mindful of volume levels and speaker location/angle or take turns if nobody is able to hear their music. If your speakers are poor quality bring A/V wires to take advantage of the many speakers the studio offers. If the bass is adjustable set it to MEDIUM.
  8. Approach management with unresolvable complaints rather than gossiping or cyber bullying on social media as that damages the studio reputation and creates a toxic work climate.
  9. Ask permission before adjusting the teaching environment –curtains, lights, fans, borrowing speakers, using overhead speakers, adjusting temperature climate, closing or opening blinds or windows, switching music, etc…
  10. Due to the high risk, direct contact nature of our jobs, use sanitizer or wash hands frequently to prevent spreading germs around the studio.
  11. Turn your music OFF when not teaching or dancing to minimize the overall noise in the room. Don’t leave music playing unattended.
  12. Don’t leave your belongings around the studio to “save” a space indefinitely. Let your neighbors know when you plan to return.
If landlords avoid creating some structure and standard expectations for everyone using the studio then landlords are setting themselves up for a situation when a disgruntled customer has a complaint about the environment or another instructor's conduct and the staff simply replies, "Sorry, we have no rules here." or "Sorry, I don't know what the rules are here." or bombards your office with all their customer complaints because "It's out of my hands." or worse, "I agree with you but the management does not respect staff concerns so perhaps you should address them directly or write a review online to get their attention." Don't waste precious time putting out fires and reinventing the wheel when you should be focused on earning a great profit from a popular studio! Please use common sense and good etiquette to be part of the SOLUTION be creating a FUN environment for yourself, colleagues staff, renters and clients that is friendly and respectful so everyone will recommend and support your studio while sharing your passion for dancing!
Deborah Joy Block is a professional dance performer and has 17 years of teaching experience with over 10,000 students. Mrs. Block is an entrepreneur, supervised 30 professional instructors including world champions. and is a certified etiquette instructor from the American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Georgia. Mrs Block is the  Director of Back to Basics Manners Social Graces Program teaching etiquette and social dance in the DC metro community, public and private school systems for 10 years. Deborah Joy Block, is also the Founder of The Wedding Dance Specialists and premiere national expert of the wedding dance industry who inspired the entire niche industry to expand worldwide. Mrs. Block is available for interviews, consulting, guest blogging and teaching etiquette and social dance instruction in the DC metro area. and