Strictly savvy gets you dancing down the aisle

Dance teacher Dawn-Claire Robertson sprinkles confetti over Carrie Shepherd and Phil Mansfield on the roof terrace of Dance Base. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Dance teacher Dawn-Claire Robertson sprinkles confetti over Carrie Shepherd and Phil Mansfield on the roof terrace of Dance Base. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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COUPLES tying the knot once had no option but to practise the waltz or quickstep in their parents’ cramped front room and hope they did not end up in a tangled heap while performing the first dance at their wedding reception.

That could now become a thing of the past, with brides and grooms-to-be able to take classes tailored to give them the skills to make sure their chance to shine on the big day goes without a hitch.

Scotland’s National Centre for Dance is beginning “Save the First Dance” workshops, the brainchild of former international ballroom and Latin champion Dawn-Claire ­Robertson, who will teach the love-struck couples everything from a foxtrot to flamenco.

And for most couples, just two three-hour sessions at Dance Base, in the Grassmarket area of the capital, is all that will be needed.

Edinburgh-based Robertson came up with the idea for the classes, which come complete with bubbly and rose-shaped cupcakes, following a growing number of desperate calls from couples more anxious about their first dance than walking down the aisle.

The former dance champion said the classes were likely to be the first time many couples had ever even danced together.

She said: “Maybe they’ve danced at a night club but how often would they even hold hands on the dance floor?

“Maybe the realisation hits them and with the wedding coming up a bit of panic sets in. What they want is to feel comfortable together and dance with a bit of grace.” Robertson added that a lot of the popularity for wedding dance training had come from the US market.

“I taught over there for a few years and lot of the dance studios offer wedding dance packages. I think we’ve cottoned on to that. People have also seen clips on YouTube taken by someone at weddings.”

For a total of £80 a couple will be taken through the ­basics of dancing with a ­partner, including how to hold each other in an elegant ­manner and try out the most popular wedding dance styles.

From there they will learn how to enter and exit the dance floor with a flourish combining “travelling swivels, dips, turns, hand-to-hand steps and possibly even a lift”. Brides will learn how to dance in heels, and hold their dress and its train while navigating the dance floor.

Translating the couple’s ­favourite piece of music into dance steps will also be made possible at the sessions, which start in May.

A photographer will also be on hand during the classes to provide pictures for a couple’s cherished wedding album.

Bride-to-be Carrie Shepherd, 29, and her fiancé Phil ­Mansfield, an architect, are among the first couples to sign up for classes and admit they are both complete beginners when it comes to traditional dances.

Shepherd, a theatre manager from Edinburgh, who is ­getting married in March next year, said: “It’s quite a ­daunting thing to do in front of family and friends and this is a way of gaining confidence.

“Phil’s never danced before and I only ever did a wee bit of Scottish country dancing at school.

“It’s a nice thing to do ­together in the run up to the wedding. It sounds like it will be more social and relaxed than mainstream classes and there will be other couples there in the same position and we can swap tips and have a laugh.

Shepherd added: “There is definitely more pressure nowadays from brides ­competing on television ­wedding shows.

“But on the actual day it will just be family and friends and this is a way to preparing ­yourselves and giving everyone a nice surprise.”

Amy Noble, community dance manager at Dance Base, said a couple’s first dance had become a big phenomenon on social media and was now ­considered one of the ­highlights of any modern-day wedding.

“People have been putting all sorts of first dances, ­including quite quirky things on Twitter.

“But we are now seeing a trend away from the ­quirkiness and back to dances such as foxtrot or quickstep.

“We wanted to take away the fear factor and make learning to dance a social and nice thing for them to do at such a stressful time. The cupcakes and a glass of fizz will make them feel special and less ­intimidated.”

Dance Base formed in 1994 and moved into its new ­purpose-built premises in the city’s Old Town in 2001 with the opening ceremony ­preformed by Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay.

It offers more than 100 classes in over 40 different styles ranging from hip-hop and ­Cuban salsa to ballet, burlesque and Egyptian belly dancing.