All the right moves

The first dance of the rest of your life

Cathy and Don Gustavson put their lessons to use as they have their first dance as a married couple.

Cathy and Don Gustavson put their lessons to use as they have their first dance as a married couple.

Looking for a dance instructor?
Charley Smith and Doug Roth at Dancin’ Partners, 287-5698;

Beth and Fred Suhr at Let’s Dance, 1151 Rock Blvd., Sparks, 351-1400;

Pat Ehlers at Never Enough Ballroom, 780 Smithridge Drive, 351-1779;

Starlite Dance Center, 3945 S. McCarran Blvd., 828-3600.

While wedding rites may change with current trends, the bride and groom’s first dance as a married couple has remained a constant through the years.

“Any time you see a bride and groom smiling, dancing together and enjoying their first dance, it is wonderful,” says Pat Ehlers of Never Enough Ballroom, in Reno. She has noticed a steady increase in bridal dance lessons since she opened business eight years ago. More father/daughter couples are taking lessons, and even entire bridal parties learn routines.

Scheduling time for dance lessons can relieve the tension of being center stage. Ehlers remarked that the popularity of Dancing with the Stars has made more couples aware of their presence on the dance floor. Newlyweds want to look good for their family and friends—and the video. Ehlers added that “an easy routine takes away the stress and keeps it the beautiful moment it should be.”

Often couples have a certain special song in mind, and then they learn a routine. Currently the waltz, rumba and nightclub two-step have been popular among newlywed couples. The Argentine tango has also increased in popularity throughout the dance world. For weddings, Beth Suhr of Let’s Dance, in Sparks, favors the waltz, “the mother of all dances.” According to Charley Smith of Dancin Partners, the nightclub two-step is easy to learn and works well with most current romantic music.

For Don and Cathy Gustavson, their dance lessons with Smith provided cherished time together apart from their professional commitments. The state senator’s campaign schedule and her work as a marketing assistant at EM Research left the couple little time to plan their November wedding. Though both had previously taken dance lessons, they opted for lessons in order to perfect their own wedding dance. The couple chose the bolero, Don’s favorite, for their first dance as husband and wife.

“The dance was something we worked on together, and with each lesson and practice session we grew more excited about sharing the dance with those who would attend,” said Cathy. The ceremony and reception were held in a private home with family and close friends in attendance. Cathy admitted to being slightly nervous about dancing for an audience, but by concentrating on each other when the music started, the dance happened naturally.

“The dance started the reception on a beautiful magical note that set the tone for the rest of the evening,” she said. “People gathered to watch and enjoy, and then all joined in the fun on the dance floor.”

Step by step

Unlike most wedding memories that languish in a photo album or video, dance may become a viable part of the couple’s life together. They can waltz in their living room, dance the two-step at a club, or meet new friends through group lessons. Smith said dance can expand a couple’s social life.

“Some of our couples become regular dance students because they found out how much fun it is to be the best-looking couple on the dance floor,” Suhr said.

“I think dance helps a couple think about each other,” said Ehlers. “It promotes mental and physical fitness, and it is something you can take anywhere and use for your lifetime. And besides that, it is a bunch of fun and very romantic.”

Can dance provide long-term benefits to a relationship?

“Dancing is a great way to experience and express feelings and sensuality,” said Smith. “Dancing is the ultimate way to be together.”

Trust and partnership are essential to a strong relationship both on and off the dance floor. Further proof of the long-term effects of dance may be found with Fred and Beth Suhr of Let’s Dance. The husband and wife team has a combined 61 years of dance experience between them.

“We’ve been teaching and loving each other since 1987,” Beth said of her husband.

Based on the solid instruction and encouragement she received from Smith during lessons, Cathy Gustavson recommended that couples learn a dance for their wedding regardless of their experience on the dance floor.

“It is just one more way to make your wedding uniquely your own,” she said. “Even if you are an experienced dancer, you can benefit from lessons to perfect your skill and work on your technique. Even someone who has never danced can learn basic steps that will make a beautiful dance.”