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Wedding To Remember

Lessons: the secret behind wedding dance


Photo by Monique Schoenfeld, Town Crier

Less than a month before their wedding last April, Michelle Selber and Todd Kalbfeld decided to add something to their pre-wedding "to do" list that ultimately brought tears to their awe-struck guests.

The Sunnyvale couple hit the dance floor with a private instructor three times a week during the final countdown before their wedding to learn the two-step for their first dance as a married couple.

"We kept it a secret and didn't let anyone know," Kalbfeld said. On the big day, the two of them walked on the dance floor with carefully choreographed steps and dazzled everyone. "When we were done, I told Michelle, 'This is the best we've ever done.'"

Selber smiles as she talks about the dance, which was one of the highlights of the day.

"There's a million things to do before a wedding. This was the one time we were able to do something that we had to do together. It was fun creating a memory that we will never forget, and I think it made the song more special," Selber said.

Even though most wedding lists don't include dance lessons on their countdown of things to do, preparing for the first dance is common, said dance instructor Cozette Hileman. About half of her clients are wedding couples, Hileman said.

"It's a lot of fun to teach wedding couples," she said.

"They're so anxious to learn." And in many cases, the lessons become a family event that includes the couple's parents or the entire wedding party.

"I've never so much as come across anyone who couldn't get it," said Hileman, who has taught dance for the past four years. "It's all about technique and attitude. As long as they can get past the first lessons, they can prove to themselves that they can do it. Pretty soon they're saying, 'Can you believe it, we're dancing.'"

Selber said after the lessons, she felt as if she had one less thing to worry about on her wedding day.

Hileman is a former professional dancer who has taught independently for the past year and a half. She currently teaches at her private studio in Sunnyvale and at studios in San Francisco and Redwood City.

She teaches all 15 styles of American and international ballroom dance, which include the waltz, foxtrot, rumba, jive and cha cha. She said the American waltz and the two-step are the most common dance styles among wedding couples. For those couples who are unsure which step they want to learn, Hileman will recommend a style after listening to their wedding song.

In one 55-minute lesson, Hileman can teach couples everything from how a man should hold a woman to how a woman should follow a man's lead.

Unless she is teaching a large wedding party, Hileman provides private lessons from a ballroom in her Sunnyvale home. If there's not enough room in her studio, she will take the wedding group to an outside dance studio.

"I provide a nice, private atmosphere. Couples don't have to share the floor or music with anyone," she said. "Some couples feel very intimidated at the beginning level, when they first start taking lessons."

Kalbfeld, who had previously taken group lesson elsewhere, said Hileman was key to his and Selber's dance success that day.

"It takes the right teacher," he said. "We can't observe ourselves while we're dancing to see what we're doing wrong. Cozette can watch and tell us what we're doing. "

She personalizes the lessons, he added.

The two liked their dance lessons so much, they are still taking them. During a lesson last week, Hileman watched the two cha cha across the dance floor, directing them how to stand in order to make their turns more smooth.

Then, they were at it again, dancing around the floors as if they were pros.

Hileman's studio is licensed. Lessons start at around $55. Hileman recommends about eight, 55-minute lessons for beginners. For more information, call (408) 733-3397.

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