by Deborah Joy Block, Director of Back to Basics Social Graces for Youth Program
Have you heard of the fable about the Emperor with no clothes? He travels through his kingdom making proclamations but his omission obscures his message. Unaware of his nakedness and with nobody daring to inform him, his nonverbal communication speaks volumes. Watching the Homecoming King and Queen, a newly married couple or the First Couple at the Inauguration resort to the “bear hug sway” for their First Dance debut is equally awkward. These couples are royalty for the day and the dance floor spotlight is the most visibly dynamic kick off to the gala which officially invites all the other attendees to join the festivities on the dance floor. In this comparison, both the Emperor and the couples being spotlighted have missed the opportunity to put their best foot forward.
Stepping through the dance studio door and admitting you need lessons to be able to dance as a partnership with someone else doesn’t occur to most teens and is often the hardest part for people- especially males. For those who initially express opposition to lessons, I ask them what their alternative plan is and they respond “the high school prom sway.” I suggested that before settling on a decision they should videotape themselves and see if they can last the full length (a typical song is 3:45) without feeling bored or awkward then watch the full length dance on video from their guest’s perspective too.
According to proper etiquette, The First Dance is a formal obligation of honored guests to open up the dance floor for the rest of the guests to feel welcome and comfortable to dance and set the tone for the festivities. It is also the epitome of the Cinderella/Prince Charming moment at their ball. Unfortunately, many don’t realize that the awkward high school prom sway for 4 minutes in front of 200 people is not a desirable alternative to skipping dance lessons. Cutting the “bear hug sway” down to 90 seconds isn’t fooling anyone either. It just says that you are all dressed up with no place to go. There are countless reasons a person can conjure up to talk him/herself out of dance lessons but for every reason not to there are double the reason to go for it!
The dance lessons are a vulnerable space where couples learn about themselves and their partnership and where they learn appropriate boundaries or respectful physical contact unlike twerking, bump and grind or freaking which are not only degrading but will get teens kicked out of the prom by chaperones. The couples also feel pressurized because they are often juggling major undertakings such as part time jobs, full time school, hobbies, sports, and a social life. But dance lessons actually benefit and bleed into all of the above areas in useful ways that can be incorporated as a life skill for future occassions besides the prom. Can you imagine a speech with no microphone for all of the audience to be able hear? Unthinkable. Dance moves give voice to the First Dance as confident student leaders in the community demonstrating their maturity through cooperation and teamwork and setting the bar for healthy interpersonal relationships between males and females. With a little preparation, prom night has the potential to be the most magical, fairytale moment for everyone!
Deborah Joy Block is the Founder and Director of Back to Basics Social Graces Youth Program. Block’s company has taught over 10,000 students of all ages. Block is most known for being the premier national expert on wedding dance preparation and founded the nation’s first wedding dance company called The Wedding Dance Specialists which has attracted celebrity couples and national media attention. Mrs. Block is available for guest blogging, interviews and to teach social skills, social graces and life skills programs on or off site. http://www.BackToBasicsManners.com