My Chinese-American husband and I met in the competitive partner dancing world. My boyfriend/ partner at the time (Ethan) didn’t want to compete anymore. He said, “Hey, you should dance with Andy.”
THAT was a tactical error. Andy and I got along far better than Ethan and I did. I dumped Ethan and pined after Andy. Andy stuffed me into a box labeled “Friend.” Several dance competitions later, I made it out of the box, made out with Andy, and we’ve never looked back. Within a year we were engaged, and within another year we were married.
(Ethan doesn’t talk to us anymore, but “What Creates A Lifelong Grudge” is a different post. Don’t look for it. So far it’s only in my head.)
Because Andy and I already had many, many dance routines, we decided we did not want to learn a big, elaborate dance for our wedding.
We slouched into our first wedding dance choreography session with scowls and attitude. Our instructor – henceforth known as Susannah Ballroom – raised her eyebrows at us. “I’ve never seen a paso doble as a wedding dance, but it would certainly suit the way the two of you are stomping about.”
“I HATE the idea of doing one of those cheesy, choreographed wedding dances,” I grumbled.
Andy nodded. After attending nine weddings that year, we’d shared multiple wince-worthy moments when wedding dances routines went seriously south. “Once they make a small mistake, they never recover their timing.”
Susannah Ballroom laughed. “Oh, but my darlings, you cannot compare yourself to the masses. They are not trained dancers.”
“Anna and Jason were,” I said.
“So were Anton and Patty,” Andy agreed. “They still looked wooden.”
“Uh-huh,” I agreed. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about weddings that makes everyone miserable.”
“Probably paying for them,” Andy muttered.
“Ha-ha. Anyway, we haven’t seen a single wedding dance that even flowed, let alone looked fun,” I finished.
Susannah Ballroom narrowed her eyes at us. She clicked the shiny, long nails of her thumb and index finger together, and declared, “Then you shall not have a routine!”
“Yay!” Andy cheered. He made for the door.
Ballroom Susannah’s hand flashed out, wrapped around his bicep, and hauled Andy back. “I was not finished. You shall have a dance, darlings, not a routine. I shall teach you many patterns and it will be up to you—” she poked Andy with a nail – “to decide when to execute them during the dance. The order will not be important, they will all flow, one into the other, and it will be a glorious, organic dance!”
We agreed. Not that Susannah Ballroom noticed. She was already tapping her nails and choreographing in her head.
She snapped her fingers. “Your wedding guests – are they dancers?”
We shook our heads.
Susannah Ballroom sighed. “Then we must bring out the trash. The masses must have their trash. Some showy spins, dips, lifts. Is your wedding dress poofy?”
“SO poofy. And heavy.”
“No lifts, then,” Susannah Ballroom decided. “We cannot have back injuries before the honeymoon.”
Andy pumped his fist. “Whoo-who!”
Susannah Ballroom silenced him with a fingernail to the chest. “Do not cheer too soon. You have never danced with The Wedding Dress. Every time Autumn spins, the dress is going to hit you – whap, whap! – and hard. You must be ready!”
Susannah Ballroom spent an hour teaching us various rumba patterns that would work with our wedding song.
It took us six months to perfect them.
In my last meeting with the photographer before the wedding, I warned him that our wedding dance covered a lot of territory.
He pooh-poohed me. “Don’t worry, I’ve been photographing weddings and their dances for twenty years.”
“Not like this one.”
“It’ll be fine. I’m a professional.”
Our wedding dance was the one part of our wedding that went off without a hitch. I didn’t slip. Andy didn’t drop me. When twenty pounds of fabric whipped Andy’s legs, he didn’t flinch. The result of relentless practice was that by the time we danced, we knew our song and our steps so well, we could just enjoy the dance.
And the photographer? The man chased us all around the dance floor, huffing and puffing. Because we didn’t have a routine strictly choreographed to the music, Andy was even able to help the poor man out. As the guests clapped and laughed, Andy held several dips (and one tricky lean where he carried almost all of our weight plus the dress) for 10-30 seconds while the red-faced photographer scurried into position to take the perfect picture.
Afterwards, the exhausted photographer wiped sweat from his forehead and gasped, “I see…what you…mean about…covering…a lot of space!”
The best moment wasn’t the dance itself, though. Later, when Andy and I took a break from general dancing, Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister charged over to us.
“OH MY GOD!” she said. “That was beautiful! And seriously, with the candlelight, it was straight out of the Disney movie!!”
“What Disney movie?” I asked.
“What? I can’t believe you even need to ask! Am I the only one who could see it? Beauty and the Beast, of course! Look at chandelier! Look at the pillars in the ballroom! And your dress, it swirled all around, just like Belle’s! It was so beautiful!”
Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister hummed a few notes from the movie’s soundtrack, still smiling blissfully. It took her a minute to realize that Andy wasn’t smiling back. In fact, he had grown very still.
“What?” she asked.
Andy crossed his arms. “So I’m the Beast?”
Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister was quick on her feet. “No, no, OF COURSE NOT! I meant the scene at the end of the movie, when he’s a human prince and they are waltzing at their wedding! Hahahah, like you’re the Beast. Hahahaha. I’m just gonna get some wine.”
Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister fled.
I’m pretty sure Andy wasn’t truly insulted. I think he just couldn’t quite pass up an opportunity to get back at the sister who had led the charge to make us do a spectacular wedding dance.
But as I pulled my new husband back out on the dance floor, I whispered that the human prince at the end of Beauty and the Beast was pretty vanilla. And then I told him what my friends and I always wistfully said after the movie ended:
“The Beast was so much better than the prince.”