Performing a dance from a movie

Newly married couple dancing in field

Turning fantasy into reality and performing a dance seen in a movie or television program holds a great appeal to some couples and can certainly be a thrill for your wedding dance.  The idea can seem exciting but there are pitfalls of which you should be aware before you make your final decision.

It is important that you understand that the dancers you see in the movies are professionals, many of whom have danced their entire lives. Take for example the male lead in Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze, who virtually grew up in the ballet dance studio owned by his mother and his lifetime career was as a dancer and actor.

There are various well known dance scenes from movies that are performed by actors who are not professional dancers but do have some dance skills plus abundant charisma. Often they are partnered by a more accomplished dancer to make them appear better than they are and often the dance sequence is highly glamorised by use of camera and special effects. The Tango scene with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in the movie Shall We Dance is one such example; remove the camera and special effects and the edit suite work and that dance would be reduced to relatively simple steps and would lose about 75% of its interest and pizzazz.

So you need to consider the fact that you and your partner are not professional dancers and quite likely have no dance background at all and that you will not have the advantage of movie effects for your wedding dance.


Having said that, I do not discourage those who want to learn and perform a dance from a movie but I do try to encourage a balanced reality about it, especially those who have not danced before.

A wiser and safer choice would be to commence with the idea of learning a dance ‘similar’ to the one you want with the steps and the choreography based on the movie but with room to modify or simply the dance to suit your skill level. You can always add to the dance and bring it closer and closer to the actual movie as your lessons progress and your skill develops.

I’ve had students come for lessons with their hearts absolutely set on performing a specific dance, the Tango from Shall We Dance for example, and getting upset, frustrated or disappointed when they find they don’t have the skills to be able to learn that in the time they have before the wedding, if indeed, at all and the dance becomes a problem rather than a pleasure.

The only way to discover in advance if it is possible for you to learn a dance from a movie is to have one or two lessons to establish if you have the skill or potential skill to pull it off.  This will also give some idea of how many lessons you would need to have and consequently the time you’d need to put into it.

It is much easier and certainly more practical if you are prepared to compromise and allow the teacher to adapt the dance to suit you, but you should still start your lessons well in advance to ensure you can achieve what you want.

I have frequent requests from couples to teach them the famous dance from Dirty Dancing, but very few who budget enough lessons and allow enough time before the wedding to actually learn it.

On the other hand, it’s actually a fairly straightforward and simple task to teach some basic steps of that same dance, to the same music, add one of two of the well known moves used in the movie and come up with a personalised version of the dance that is still recognisable, easy to learn, easy to perform and great fun.

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