The bride and groom’s first dance, traditionally a slow number set to a classic love song, has changed considerably. For many couples, the inaugural dance now marks the beginning of the reception festivities, an opportunity to shift from more reverent ceremonies to a let-your-hair-down party. It’s also a chance for the newlywed couple to add their personal flair within the traditional framework, with wedding planning website The Knot listing a livened-up dance as the first recommendation in having a fun reception.
No wonder then, that many couples spend months taking lessons and practicing carefully choreographed moves for the big moment. But when the bride is a professional dancer, it raises the ante.
In a mock “Dancing With the Stars” intro played for the wedding guests just before their introduction, Alysha Wheeler exclaims, “I’ve been practicing since I was 5. It’s my lifelong dream, my wedding, my big wedding dance!” Her soon-to-be husband, John Henrikson, however, is less confident. “I’m not a dancer. I’ve never done this before.”
The disparity in their experience becomes evident as they practice. While she is honing in on the polished details, he struggles to remember the basic steps. Through some stepped-on toes and drops on the floor, Alysha notes, “We’ve really been trying hard on getting me to follow, and (John) to lead,” a role that is undoubtedly difficult for a professional dancer — to acquiesce to a novice.
Still, the two couldn’t have put together a better show for their guests. In a medley that includes waltz, tango, salsa and even a move known as a “death drop,” Alysha and John reveal just how well they work together. They execute each move with style and a splash of humor that the guests love, and anyone who watches the dance can get a sense of their personalities.
In the five years since they got married, their family has grown, no doubt resulting in even more laughs and bigger smiles.
Some guests who miss the days of traditional dances might wonder about the value of such a production. But don’t mistake the showmanship with narcissism. Of the hours spent in rehearsal, Alysha has this to say, “Preparing for a wedding dance is a lot like a marriage. You need to lean on each other, you need to trust each other, you need to work as a team.”