Back in the day, a wedding’s ‘first dance’ signalled the start of the evening’s festivities, and it’s a tradition that millions of newlyweds follow each year. But what makes a first dance so special and why are we still dancing? Former Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars pro Kristina Rihanoff explains and reveals why she’s now nurturing the skills of dancers of all levels, including teaching couples their own first dance wedding choreography.
My father was a musician so there was always a lot of music in the house when I was a child. He would take me to his performances – he had a band and they would play in bars. I was always surrounded by music and just had that kind of thing in me that wanted to dance and be in front of people. My parents saw that ability and took me to a dance school when I was only a child. And that’s where my dancing career began.
Strictly was always incredible. I had eight years on the show. It was very fulfilling because as a professional dancer, you do your own performances, you get to choreograph and work with people of different abilities and you are very much pushed with the teaching style of the choreography. As a performer and as a teacher, it has all the components that you need to push yourself. I’ve now opened my own dance school and love I’m doing because I work with both adults and children. It’s a big passion of mine. I’m still dancing and have nearly 25 years of experience. Yes, I just love what I do!
In a way, teaching beginners is kind of my speciality because pretty much everybody I taught on Strictly was a complete beginner. And even though it’s the hardest job, it’s also the most rewarding because you definitely see people falling in love with dance and performing, taking small steps and blossoming. I think to put together a wedding dance, whether it’s for a straight couple or a gay couple, is a really lovely thing as you become a part of someone’s some special day.
The advice I always give couples preparing for their first dance is don’t be nervous! Your first dance is your special moment. Only you know the choreography. You shouldn’t worry about anyone but you and your loved one. Whatever it is you’re doing, it’s a show for family members and also for those you care about. It’s a gift for friends and other relatives. A first dance is also about being together. It’s just a very special thing.
For first dances, I’ve had requests for salsa and even breakdancing. Often, a first dance would be a foxtrot – think a Fred and Ginger kind of feel to the music; lots of people choose a foxtrot for the first dance because it’s quite slow and a bit easier to master. But you know, I have a lot of different requests. Some couples come and say, ‘look, these are the songs we want to do’ and we figure out the style of dance from there. I’ve . There’s no limit.
A wedding first dance brings you closer. Dancing is a part of our development. When you look at history, people could dance before the could speak. Babies dance before they can speak, even before they can walk. In ancient times, dancing was used as a way of expression. It was about communicating with others. It’s something that has been embedded in us for so many centuries, from I don’t know how many millions of years ago.
There is the part of us with nothing to verbalise. A wedding dance is about that quiet moment. We just want to feel closeness with another person. I think dancing gives it to you. It brings you even closer than words when you hold each other; the movement gathers language together and the two of you can just feel and sense; and its shows your love to your loved ones perhaps that’s why it’s a tradition we like to honour.
Kristina Rihanoff has more than 25 years experience as a professional dancer. She founded Bespoke Ballroom to offer classes for all skill levels and ability. Working with her dancing team, Kristina offers private tuition, seminars, exclusive events and first dance wedding choreography. And yes, you can expect all the glamour and glitter to go with it. Find out more about Kristinia’s dance services at bespokeballroom.com.