How many dance lessons to prepare for your wedding?

This question has a complex answer so bear with us while we start with a story:

If you want to read an abridged answer, click here.

After the Buddha had spent years walking from village to village answering questions about the meaning of life and how to reach a state of enlightenment, he was finally asked a question that caused even this most enlightened wise man to sit and contemplated.

A young man in fine clothing asked to meet with him in private, insisting that he needed the full attention of the Buddha.

“I’m really busy and haven’t much time,” the young man said, “and I’m getting married in a few months and I have a big problem: I don’t know how to dance, but I would love to dance with my wife and look natural moving together in our new union. How do I learn to dance? I ask you, wise one, because dancing seems very close to the soul.” The Buddha sat calmly and contemplated the question. He could not remember the last time he danced. He spent most of his time sitting, walking or laying in meditation. Then in a flash, the memory came to him: he was a child, playing near the stream by his parents’ house. He remembered the freedom he felt moving along the shore. He had never learned this movement. He was just born with the desire to explore and play. And his young friend, Govinda, whom he spent every waking minute with had the same ease of movement twirling about beside him. The Buddha realized that every child dances and then grows out of it at some point. He remembered when he stopped dancing, when his father asked him to spend more time studying the ancient texts of the Vedanta. He started spending all of his time reading and discussing these new philosophical concepts with his fellow students. Some sadness came over the the Buddha and he sat with it, contemplating for some time. When he finally spoke, he said, “you do not need to learn how to dance. All you must do is come back to a place of childlike curiosity.”

“And how do I do that?” asked the young man.

“Meditate,” said The Buddha.

“And how many hours do I need to meditate?” asked the young man.

“Until you’ve meditated enough.”

Almost every couple who comes to Ballroom Dance Chicago to prepare for their first dance asks how much time theyneed or must dedicate to learning their first dance. And as teachers, we find this to be one of the most difficult questions to answer. If only we could harness the infinite grace and wisdom of the Buddha! In our attempt to build our wisdom as a team, we’ve dedicate this week’s blog to a meditation on the age old question: How Many Dance Lesson Do I Need In Order to Dance at My Wedding?

We often find that when we’re asked this question, “how many lessons do we need?” our students are actually asking us a multitude of underlying questions that reveal much more about how they feel about learning and their expected outcomes from this process. Often their feelings and expectations are based on preconceived notions of what dance is or what a good first dance should look like. Some of the underlying statements and questions we hear are:

  1. I’m really busy with wedding planning, so I really just want to do the bare minimum. How much time do I need to dedicate to this to get by?
  2. I’ve never danced before, and I’m afraid I won’t be good at this. Please tell me what to do so that it’s at least a little bit under my control.
  3. I’ve never danced before, so I don’t want to look too choreographed. The less time we spend on it, the less choreographed we’ll look, right?
  4. We’ve already spent a lot of money on the wedding, and our budget is tight. How few lessons can we get and still look passable?
  5. We’ve never danced before, but we want to wow our guests- spins, dips, lifts, full choreography. What is the minimum number of lessons we can take to make that a reality?

In thinking through all of these underlying questions, it seems that our students are after some sort of minimum number of hours they can dedicate to achieve their end goal. The issue that we see with this mentality is that students are looking for a minimum commitment. Of course we understand that there is only limited time and/or money available for most students, but it’s often not the money and time that sets the limit, but rather the fear of failure, of the time and money not being worth the experience, of the result not meeting their expectations.

We’ve tried many different strategies to help our students see that they are capable of dancing, that dancing can bring value to their lives and their relationship, and that this is an experience that is worth their time and money leading up their wedding, but we often still fall short of helping our students see dance the way we do.

In a quick side note, we’d like to share with you how this process works:

  1. Everyone can move their body and everyone can learn, therefore everyone is capable of learning to move more effectively with their partner.
  2. 100% of couples who have come to us for their wedding preparation have been successful in learning how to move with one another. Regardless of their goals or amount of time dedicated to the process, they walk out of the studio with a better understanding of moving together. Our students never have to fear looking too put on or not being prepared enough because we work at their pace. At each step of the way, whether they are only taking one lesson or if they are taking one hundred lessons, their dancing is always at a point that looks natural and connected even if they would have to perform with just the basics for the entire song. Regardless of the number of hours a student can dedicate to learning before the wedding, the time spent will be well worth it. The only limit that is placed on their dancing is how intricate the patterns are. The amount of time spent will directly reflect in the dancing you do.
  3. We are also honest and open about what our students can expect out of the process. There are some goals that are simply unachievable given a set number of hours dedicated to the process. For example, if a couple wants full choreography done in under five lessons, that would be completely impossible.

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Essentially, you determine how the process of learning your first dance goes depending on what you’re willing to commit. You guys have thought a lot about the details of your wedding. This is like anything else. You can just get by or you can have a beautiful memorable dance.

Our job is to get you looking as good as you can in the time you give us.

Many of our students have a mindset that “Adequate is great!” In reality, adequacy should be a result, not a goal. We should try our hardest, and if we’re simply adequate, be ok with that, but strive for excellence. No one goes into making a birthday cake thinking, ‘I hope this cake tastes just mediocre, because I wouldn’t want my family and friends to think that I can bake well’. Instead, people go into baking a new recipe with a mindset of “I’m going to put the ingredients together. Perhaps things will fall into place, perhaps I won’t quite get all the techniques right, but I’m going to aim for something delicious to serve to my friends and family.”  
The same should be true of learning to dance. We will give you the ingredients and the guidance and strive for excellence, but, ultimately, you will be the one performing the dance.