Photo: Jack Jeffries for Christian Oth Studio
You could say that Travis Wall, dancer extraordinaire and beloved So You Think You Can Dance choreographer, knows a thing or two about taking a twirl in front of an audience. Here, the Emmy Award-winner shares his go-to tips for nervous grooms afraid to fumble their first dance.
Practice being the center of attention.
"I don't think a groom's first time dancing in public should be on his wedding day," says Wall, who suggests a couple sign up for beginner's dance classes or even hit the club so the groom-to-be can get comfortable with having all eyes on him. "If he's shy or inexperienced when it comes to dancing in public, he needs to take the time to get comfortable with it."
Take a deep breath before you begin the dance.
"I still get so nervous when I dance," Wall admits. "But I have a breathing pattern: I'll grab my partner's hand and breathe in slowly — through the nose and out the mouth — three times, and I'll ask myself, 'what's the worst that could possibly go wrong?'"
Focus on your partner.
Sometimes, the dance itself isn't the intimidating part — it's the crowd, says Wall, who regularly performs in front of a 3,500-person live audience. "Especially at a wedding, the moment you're sharing with your partner means more than anything else," he says. "You have to block out everyone who's watching, and lock your eyes with your partner."
Skip the choreography.
While a choreographed dance is always a crowd-pleaser, "I still think a first dance should be you two, dancing to a song you love, feeling the moment," Wall says. "A slow dance doesn't take much skill because it's more about the connection you have with the other person, which makes it especially good for couples who aren't experienced dancers."
Get in the right position.
Though it might be counterintuitive, a right-handed groom should lead with his left hand, Wall instructs, and place his right hand on his bride's back. "Make sure you have a nice bend in your knees, too," he says, especially if you plan to dip your bride to the side. "I've seen grooms topple over because they've had stiff knees. You want to ground yourself so that you don't fall over."
Choose the right tune.
Wall's classic favorites include Harry Nilsson's "Without You" and Righteous Brother's "Unchained Melody." But a bride and groom should twirl to whatever tune resonates with them. "My first wedding dance song is probably going to have a wild beat. I want it to be Beyoncé's 'Love On Top,'" Wall reveals. "That song makes me feel on top of the world."
Be sure to tune into the SYTYCD season 12 premiere tonight on FOX at 8/7c!