Lilith, a self-described “fat, poly, and queer dancer,” teaches body-positive, LGBTQ-friendly dance classes in London. She's been kind enough to give us her advice about non-gendered first dances.
First dances can be anything from nerve-wracking, to romantic, to hilarious. But what many of us hope is that it will be an expression of the relationship we're celebrating. And since every relationship is so very different — and the people in it are so different — why are many first dances so similar?
Of course there is nothing wrong with the “man leads, woman follows shuffle”-type first dance, but not every wedding involves one man and one woman. And even for those who do, there are many options beyond the traditional first dance!
My brother-in-law — who has never danced himself — once told me that he thought it was “only natural” in dancing that the man leads and the woman follows. Having taught many partner dance classes, from Swing to French Folk, I can tell you that that is completely and utterly untrue.
Leading and following is unconnected to gender
Dancing is all about expressing yourself, and some people feel more comfortable leading, while others are more comfortable following, or they don't have a preference either way. This is unconnected to gender. In fact, the idea that men only lead and women only follow is a relatively recent invention. Queen Elizabeth I held women-only dances at her court, where women led and shared dances for fun. And in the early days of Argentine tango, men danced together to learn to follow in order to improve their leading skills.
So if you are a man and would like to follow, or if you are a woman and would like to lead, you are in excellent company! Of course, if you are in a same-sex or non-binary wedding, you're probably already aware that making assumptions on who leads and who follows in dance can't be based on gender.
Interchange who leads and who follows within a dance
What many people don't know is that you can very smoothly change who leads and who follows within a dance. In dance styles like Blues, and more experimental Argentine tango styles, dancers have experimented by changing the way they hold each other and taking turns leading and following. If you both have one arm around the other's waist while holding hands with the other arm, you can easily switch from leading to following and back. This means you are not stuck with the question “Who has the ‘men's' part in the first dance, and who has the ‘woman's' part?”
Multiple-partnered first dances
If you are in a non-monogamous wedding — like a triad — it is good to know that it is possible to lead multiple people at once, though it does take a lot of practice. Although it sounds fun, holding one hand of each of your partners is difficult, and makes it very likely they will bump into each other. But leading one partner and having a second partner stand right behind them, basically spooning them, is possible. Just make sure not to do any complicated moves or spins! But a simple shuffle-style first dance, or some Blues or simple Argentine tango, is definitely possible with multiple dance and life partners.
Chose a different style of dance
Of course, dancing in a classic partner style is not the only option for your first dance. Perhaps you would like to do a hip-hop routine? Bust out some boyband moves to your favourite '90s cheesy pop song? Show off your pole skills in your wedding dress/tuxedo? Or do a romantic ballet duet? You can really do whatever you want with your first dance, as long as you feel happy with it. The good thing about more non-traditional first dances is that they do not have such strict expectations when it comes to gender.