HELENA — June marks the peak of wedding season, which means plenty of couples are preparing for their special first dance. Last Dance Gulch is helping families get ready for the big day.
“First dance packages are something that I, you know, I work with on a regular basis throughout the year. But yeah, there's definitely an uptick during wedding season,” Amber Johnson, owner and dance instructor at Last Dance Gulch said.
Her first dance packages include four sessions, one 90-minute session, and three 60-minute sessions. The first session is longer so that Johnson and her clients can go over things like venue, shoes, and song. But for Johnson, the process is longer than just four sessions.
“So I always have the couple send me their song ahead of time. And then I'll listen to it multiple times, whether I'm at home or in my car, I just listen and absorb the music. And then I just let my imagination kind of go from there. I've been dancing long enough for 20 years, that, you know, I've got an arsenal of dance moves. But I also like to make sure that things stay easy enough and simple enough for you know, my couples getting married, that it's something that they can feel good about and accomplish… So I kind of create a vision for the dance. And then I share my vision with them. And then we create together from that point,” she said.
Another thing Johnson has to keep in mind is the importance of wedding photography.
“In every single dance that I choreograph, I always include some kind of dip, if not multiple dips, and it's fantastic for photos. And I know so many couples who have the most fantastic photos that I've seen from their wedding dances that have included lifts and dips and carries and they make for some really fantastic dramatic photos,” she said.
Soon-to-be wed couple, Lucinda Morris and Nick Franz, wrapped up their first dance package on Wednesday.
“I think that we have a certain flair for showmanship and we don't necessarily have the dance skills to do that on our own. So this was always something that we really wanted to do just to make sure we could put on a show for our friends and family,” Morris said.
With 20 years of dance experience, and experience with 17 different varieties of Latin swing and country dancing, Johnson was the person for the job. The couple decided to dance to “Walking On A Dream” by Empire Of The Sun.
“This [song] came out when we were in college about the time that we met, and the sort of thing that we danced to a lot of this kind of stuff when we were younger. And the song is all about two people coming together. So we thought it was perfect for what we wanted. And how can you not groove to this song? It's so fun,” Morris said.
The dance ended up being exactly what they were looking for.
“I was honestly surprised at how much choreography there was in a really good way. I mean that like I thought she would kind of teach us well, here are some basic steps and then you can figure it out. But this is a full on custom made dance routine for us. And I think it's exactly what we were looking for, just over the top and super fun,” Morris said.
“It gives us a chance to show off a little bit, and actually know what we’re doing so we’re not figuring it out on the fly,” Franz added.
The couple currently practices their dance for about 10 minutes a day. And with just a month left until their big day, having their dance memorized gives them one last thing to worry about.
“Suddenly, when the spotlight hits you, instead of just winging it, and not really knowing what to do, you kind of have carved out some muscle memory in your head, and then your feet to kind of know where to take you even when your nerves kick in. Because let's be honest, most people aren't professional dancers. And so suddenly, they have to dance in front of dozens or hundreds of people. And that can be quite nerve racking. So I find giving couples a structure to work with, you know, helps comfort them knowing that they don't have to just figure it out on their own.”
Not only does Johnson prepare brides and grooms, but she also does mother-son dances, father-daughter, groomsmen, grandparents, and anyone in between to prepare them for the big day.